Conference on “Women in Islam: Understanding the Rights and Identity of Women in the Islamic World”

Conference on “Women in Islam: Understanding the Rights and Identity of Women in the Islamic World”

Venue: Ecosoc Chamber
Intervention Time: March 8, 2023; 10:00-3:00PM (Intervention period 10:00-12:00)

Assalamualaikum.

I am Faydah Dumarpa, Commissioner of  the Philippine Commission on Human Rights, the country’s National Human Rights Institution and Gender and Development Ombud.  Since the Commission’s creation 38 years ago, I am the first Muslim woman to be appointed as Commissioner.

In the Philippines, women comprise about 29% of our 24-seat Senate and around 27% in the House of Representatives. These numbers are even much lower for Muslim women. I am thus among those privileged to lead and as such, I am pleased to contribute to this discussion on the rights and identity of women in the Islamic World.

Commissioner Faydah M. Dumarpa during the Conference on “Women in Islam: Understanding the Rights and Identity of Women in the Islamic World” (08 March 2023)

I wish to briefly share how the Philippines has advanced the situation of Muslim women and girls, and how our Commission on Human Rights continue to advocate for the full enjoyment of the rights of Muslim women in the Philippines.

In the Philippines, a very recent legislation was passed to advance women and girls’ human rights, especially rights of Muslim and indigenous women. Last year, the law prohibiting child marriage was finally passed upon the collective and relentless advocacy from women’s human rights advocates and girl defender networks in indigenous and Muslim communities. The said law was passed pursuant to the Philippines’ obligations under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and its commitments in SDG Goal 5.

The Commission and girl child advocates supported the passage of the law seeing that marriage before the age of 18 is a harmful practice and a violation of the rights of a child, and that it impacts every aspect of a child’s dignity and life. We also emphasized how early marriage halts the ability to realize a wide range of human rights as it denies children of their childhood, disrupts their education, increases risks of violence, jeopardizes their health and safety and limits their full participation in public life.

During the campaign for the passage of the law, there was a grounded campaign within affected communities. Girl defender networks were created in indigenous and Muslim communities. The Commission joined fellow girl defenders in rallying support for the law and stressing the urgency of its passage. We saw, with the active involvement of former child brides and Muslim women and girls, that the proposed law was actively supported by those who needed it most – women and girls.

The passage of the law prohibiting child marriage was indeed momentous. It is a measure that directly responded to the lived experiences of women and girls who had to endure traditional practices prejudicial to their health and well-being.

However, not long after the law was passed, there were claims that it did not have the support of the Bangsamoro Community and that the practice is part of culture. As a human rights commission, we stood with girl defenders and advocated the full implementation of the law.

We posited that culture is not static and that it should not be used to justify harmful practices and structures that perpetuate discrimination, abuse, and exploitation. We urged those who called for the veto of the law to listen to women and girls, to adopt a view of Sharia that promotes the protection of women and girls’ right to health, right to education, and right to be free from violence, abuse and exploitation. We also noted the CEDAW Committee recommendation that urged the country to take lessons and best practices from Muslim countries with regard to the application of Sharia in line with CEDAW.

We believe, as shown in this forum on Muslim women, that States have important roles to play in the full advancement and empowerment of Muslim women and girls.  May we continue to work together in building a gender equal society for all women and girls everywhere, especially those often left behind.

Thank you and Mabuhay!