Struggle of oppressed women under the US-Aquino regime

Ang Bayan
March 9, 2013

On the occasion of the 102nd commemoration of International Working Women's Day on March 8, the Communist Party of the Philippines and the entire revolutionary movement salute the Filipino women who are struggling for national democracy as activists, Red commanders and fighters and communists. The widespread participation of women is decisive in dismantling the current semifeudal and semicolonial system and building a socialist society.

Women comprise half of Filipino society. They suffer from layers of exploitation and oppression--as part of the toiling masses, as part of a people ruled by puppet reactionary regimes, and as the progenitors of the new generation within unequal marriage and family relations.

Contrary to the US-Aquino regime's boastful claims, women's oppression has even worsened under it. The regime has stepped up programs and policies that have for decades been disastrous to the toiling masses, especially the women. Not only has Aquino continued the state's pro-imperialist policies, he has surpassed the puppetry of previous presidents.

There remains a huge gap in the labor force participation of women. Only half of women are part of the labor force, compared to 80% of men. Those with jobs are in sectors that pay the lowest wages and have the worst working conditions. One of these is the service sector where more than half or 68% are women and the majority (85%) are contractual. Women receive lower wages compared to men. With minimum wages pegged at low levels and with real wages eroded by inflation, capitalists are able to extract double profits from them.

The US-Aquino regime continues to push migrant labor as the solution to women's unemployment. According to women's rights advocates, seven out of ten migrant women are in private service, putting them in a sector where they are most vulnerable to abuse. Worse, there are growing numbers of migrant young women and children (age 15 to 24) who go abroad and work as domestic servants in private households.

Like the men of the peasantry, peasant women are exploited and oppresed due to landlessness. They are burdened by exorbitant production costs on the small areas of land that they rent. They spend up to P56,000 per hectare in producing palay. Peasants could hardly break even because merchants shortchange them in buying their produce, purchasing palay at only P12-14 per kilo, whereas rice sells for at least P30 per kilo in the market.

Women from the toiling masses suffer the worst effects of widespread landgrabbing, the plunder of natural resources and the destruction of the environment by foreign companies and their local partners. During calamities brought about by strong typhoons and landslides, up to 85% of those who are forced to stay in evacuation centers are women and children. Here, they suffer from hunger, illness and malnutrition. They are vulnerable to harassment, oppression and state violence once they stand up for their rights.

Aside from poor resources and joblessness, many women suffer from hunger and poverty due to the pro-imperialist policies of liberalization, privatization, denationalization and deregulation of successive regimes.

Because of the widespread privatization of hospitals and the commercialization of the school system, they are deprived of basic health and education services. Up to 12 women die from childbirth every day because of lack of access to medical attention. The Aquino regime's claims of addressing women's health and reproductive rights fall flat in the face of its all-out drive to privatize public hospitals and its budget cuts for medical services.

As household managers, women are being hit head-on by hikes in public utility fees. A huge chunk of family incomes are swallowed by incessant increases in transportation costs, house rentals and power and water rates. Many of the poorest families do not have decent housing. They are compelled to forego other basic needs such as education. Many mothers hardly eat, prioritizing their children instead.

Women suffer the most brutal forms of societal and state violence. Up to 5,180 rape cases were documented by state agencies last year. In seven out of ten cases, the victims were children.

The US-Aquino regime's Oplan Bayanihan systematically targets women and children in its brutal campaign against the struggling people and the revolutionary movement. In 2012, fifteen women and 12 children were killed by AFP soldiers during military operations. Sexual violence and women's exploitation are part and parcel of these military operations. Ten cases of individual and gang rape perpetrated by elements of the reactionary army were documented in 2012.

It is the duty of the revolutionary movement to mobilize more women to fight for their rights and welfare and for national democracy. It is not enough for them to be granted limited rights under the current system. Their rights to a just wage and decent jobs, to equal treatment in society and within the family, and to maternal welfare must be addressed.

The liberation of women is a function of their participation in the broad mass movement for revolutionary change. On the other hand, the victory of the national-democratic revolution relies on the widespread participation of women, especially those in the countryside where the armed revolution is being waged. Their participation and leadership in revolutionary practice is especially important, since it is in these areas when feudal culture and anti-women traditions are at their strongest.

We must ensure that the revolution advances in ways that encourage the participation of more women. We must conduct massive education drives among their ranks to raise their capabilities and consciousness and encourage them to undertake more and broader duties and tasks to advance the revolution to a higher level. They must be continuously prepared for ever greater participation in building a new society.

The struggle of women to liberate themselves is linked to the Party and the national-democratic movement's goal of seizing state power and building the dictatorship of the proletariat, which will enable the implementation of genuine changes that will ensure their rights and equality between women and men in law and in practice, within the family, the state and society.