This research by Amparita Sta. Maria, LLB, LLM (Director, Urduja Women’s Desk, Ateneo Human Rights Center) is produced for the Hustisya Natin project with the support of the European Union.
Hustisya Natin is Alternative Law Group's (ALG) project that aims to enhance the integrity of the justice system through increased accountability and transparency, and improved performance of judicial and quasi-judicial bodies.
LINK TO RESEARCH: An Analysis of Supreme Court decisions on Rape and Sexual Assault Assessing their compliance with the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) mandate to eliminate Gender Discrimination and promote Gender Equality
This research paper builds on the previous study made by the Writer¹ on Philippine Supreme Court decisions on rape and other crimes involving violence against women. As with the prior study, this Paper looks into fairly recent decisions of the Court (2010-2017) with a specific focus on rape and sexual assault. This Paper assesses whether or not the doctrines and pronouncements made by the Court in these cases are compliant with the Philippine’s mandate under the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) to eliminate gender discrimination and promote gender equality.
Two of the more substantive provisions of the CEDAW and which are most relevant to this study are found in Articles 2 (c) & (f) and 5 (a), which require the following of State Parties:
States Parties condemn discrimination against women in all its forms, agree to pursue by all appropriate means and without delay a policy of eliminating discrimination against women and, to this end, undertake:
(c) To establish legal protection of the rights of women on an equal basis with men and to ensure through competent national tribunals and other public institutions the effective protection of women against any act of discrimination;
(f) To take all appropriate measures, including legislation, to modify or abolish existing laws, regulations, customs and practices which constitute discrimination against women;
States Parties shall take all appropriate measures:
(a) To modify the social and cultural patterns of conduct of men and women, with a view to achieving the elimination of prejudices and customary and all other practices which are based on the idea of the inferiority or the superiority of either of the sexes or on stereotyped roles for men and women[.]²
In concrete terms, the above obligations need to be reflected, not only in a de facto environment but also in laws and jurisprudence, for their full realization and implementation. A legal framework that facilitates the removal of barriers which cause discrimination of women by addressing the different forms of violence perpetrated against them is crucial to the achievement of gender equality. The sources of law under the Philippine legal system are statutes and jurisprudence. As far as the law is concerned, the most reflective of the country’s CEDAW obligations is Republic Act (R.A.) No. 9710, otherwise known as the “Magna Carta of Women,” which took effect in 2009. Pertaining to violence and access to justice, it provides:
SEC. 9. Protection from Violence. – The State shall ensure that all women shall be protected from all forms of violence as provided for in existing laws. Agencies of government shall give priority to the defense and protection of women against gender-based offenses and help women attain justice and healing.³
This Research focuses on the role of jurisprudence in promoting gender equality through case law. Hence, in reviewing Supreme Court cases for compliance with CEDAW, this Paper examines the language used by the Court to describe or characterize overt acts of crimes such as rape and sexual assault, the Court’s general treatment of the perpetrators, and most importantly, the factors considered by the Court in assessing the credibility of the rape or sexual assault victims. The Paper also examines the presence of gender bias
and stereotypes, and to what extent these have affected the resolution of cases.
The Paper likewise analyzes the Court’s views on the prosecution of these offenses and the ordeal the involved parties go through. In the past, the Supreme Court has expressly acknowledged that in participating in trials, rape victims suffer a generally harrowing ordeal. Our previous study has found that this adds to the stigmatization of victims and to their double victimization.
Courts have taken judicial notice that it is not easy for women and girls to report the commission of rape and other acts of violence against their persons. One of the factors to which such reluctance is attributed is the way women have been treated in investigations and trials. The lack of sensitivity, as well as gender bias, often result in the blaming of the victims or, at the very least, in their feeling exposed and humiliated. This experience of double victimization affects their ability to access the justice system. If, in the process of seeking remedies for the violation of their rights, the environment remains hostile to the victims/survivors, then the justice systems become less accessible and available for and to them, a situation that could ultimately result in the perpetuation of more gender-based violence since the system of making the perpetrators accountable is not effective.?
¹ ATENEO HUMAN RIGHTS CENTER, CEDAW BENCHBOOK (2008) [hereinafter CEDAW Benchbook].
² UN General Assembly, Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against
Women, Dec. 18, 1979, 1249 U.N.T.S. 13, arts. 2 (c), (f), & 5 (a) [hereinafter CEDAW].
³ An Act Providing for the Magna Carta of Women, [Magna Carta of Women], Republic Act No. 9710, § 9 (2008).
? CEDAW BENCHBOOK, at 85-86.