EnGendeRights Calls for the Repeal of the Prostitution Law Penalizing Women in Prostitution

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March 17, 2012 – “The bill presented by Congress to President Noynoy Aquino on March 7, 2012 amending Article 202 of the Revised Penal Code by repealing the vagrancy law but maintaining the penalty imposed on women in prostitution (consolidated enrolled bill SB No. 2726 and HB No. 4936) should be vetoed by PNoy and sent back to Congress with his objections,” says Atty. Clara Rita A. Padilla, Executive Director of EnGendeRights.

Under the Constitution, the bill can pass into law in thirty days with the inaction of the president or can be vetoed by the president and returned to Congress with objections.  The Congress, on the other hand, can still pass the bill into law with its two-thirds vote.

Atty. Padilla emphasized, “Although the bill repeals the vagrancy provisions, the bill still unduly penalizes women in prostitution.  This proposed law can still be used by some police to perpetuate widespread human rights violations including imprisonment/detention of women in prostitution, extortion for money, theft of their belongings, and rape.[1]  The bill continues to focus law enforcement attention on women in prostitution, rather than on their exploiters.”

“Along with human rights advocates who have long been calling for the repeal of the penalties imposed on women in prostitution, EnGendeRights is urging PNoy and Congress to repeal the penalty imposed on women in prostitution to uphold their rights as protected by the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW),” stressed Atty. Padilla.

“The penalty imposing imprisonment on women in prostitution disregards the fact that many are lured to prostitution because of desperation due to poverty and lack of alternative sources of income,” added Atty. Padilla.

“Detaining women in prostitution is not the answer. Many women are forced into prostitution because they were rape or incest victims or their families were abusive to them in the past.[2] There should be legal initiatives designed to provide alternatives to women in prostitution through education, skills training and employment,” continued Atty. Padilla.

It is significant that the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003 accords legal protection to trafficked persons by recognizing them as victims who should not be penalized for crimes directly related to the acts of trafficking or in obedience to the order made by the trafficker.[3]  Quezon City Ordinance No. SP-1516 also recognizes persons in prostitution as victims, thus, imposing penalties only on the perpetrators (pimps, recipient of the sexual act, etc.) while providing services to persons in prostitution such as education campaigns against prostitution, crisis intervention service, education and socio-economic assistance, sustainable livelihood skills training, financial support for scale businesses, integration and complete after-care programs, health services, counseling, and temporary shelter.[4]

The Committee on Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW Committee), the committee tasked to monitor the implementation of CEDAW, in its August 2006 36th Session Concluding Comments urged the Philippines:

to pursue a holistic approach aimed at addressing the root causes of trafficking and improving prevention…[including] measures to improve the economic situation of women and girls and to provide them with educational and economic opportunities, thereby reducing and eliminating their vulnerability to exploitation and traffickers” and the “reintegration of [women in prostitution] into society and provide rehabilitation, social integration and economic empowerment programmes to women and girls who are victims of exploitation and trafficking.”  It urged the Philippines to “prosecute and punish traffickers and those who exploit the prostitution of women, and provide protection to victims of trafficking.

Atty. Padilla said, “Having ratified the Women’s Convention, the Philippines is legally bound to uphold its provisions, to take action at the national level, and to enact and implement laws and policies that comply with international laws and standards. The Concluding Comments of CEDAW should be used to push for reforms in our laws and ensure the actual implementation of these laws whether in the legislative, executive or judicial field.”

“Under the helm of President Noynoy, repealing the penalty imposed on women in prostitution would be a positive step towards our compliance with CEDAW and the government provision of opportunities for women in prostitution through education, skills training and economic empowerment will make a difference in the lives of Filipino women in prostitution.  It is the duty of the Philippine government to fulfill its obligations to respect, protect and fulfill the rights of women in prostitution.  To fully uphold human rights, it is high time that the Philippine government repeal the penalty imposed on women in prostitution,” Atty. Padilla stressed. ***


[2] Id.

[3]RA 9208  An Act to Institute Policies to Eliminate Trafficking In Persons Especially Women and Children, Establishing the Necessary Institutional Mechanisms for the Protection and Support of Trafficked Persons, Providing Penalties for its Violations, and for other Purposes, Section 17 (May 26, 2003).

[4]Quezon City Ordinance No. SP-1516, S-2005, Section 6 (i) & (ii), (2005).


Contact Person: Atty Clara Rita “Claire” A. Padilla

Executive Director, EnGendeRights, Inc.

Telefax: (+632) 3762578

Mobile Landline: (+632) 6645696

Mobile: (+63)918-2182682

Email: [email protected][email protected]

Website: www.engenderights.org

Blog: http://clararitapadilla.blogspot.com

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