Advocacy statements

Statement on protecting young women human rights defenders in Philippines

  • Date / 2022
  • Location / Philippines
  • Relevant Institution / UN Human Rights Council
  • UN Item / Item 3: Promotion and protection of all human rights, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights

Oral Statement

International Humanist and Ethical Union

UN Human Rights Council, 50th Session (13 June – 8 July 2022)

Interactive Dialogue with the Working Group on Discrimination against Women and Girls

[Statement delivered by Roma Hechanova – an artist, human rights activist, and member of Humanist Alliance Philippines International]


Thank you, Mr President.

And thanks to the Working Group for their excellent report.[1]

Young feminists in the Philippines are mobilizing against gender-based violence and for legislation guaranteeing our reproductive rights and bodily autonomy. While we have made progress, particularly when it comes to representation within activist groups,[2] we regret the fact that women remain largely excluded from policy processes.[3]

Advocating for our fundamental rights, in a country culturally dominated by a conservative Catholicism, remains extremely challenging.[4] Too often we are portrayed as a threat to society, and accused of undermining certain religious and cultural norms.

For over 20 years, we have been working towards a Bill guaranteeing equal protection to LGBTI+ individuals. The Bill has been denounced as a “Western import” that disregards “Filipino culture,” and for “violating the spiritual authority of parents over children.”[5]

The misuse of culture, religion and ‘parental rights’ to undermine equality is a regressive trend, and part of a coordinated global attack on the universality of human rights.

We echo the recommendations on the need to create safe and enabling spaces for women’s activism, on the importance of guaranteeing equal access to financial resources and to a meaningful education. These are the means by which we can empower women within highly patriarchal societies, while building resistance to fundamentalist reinterpretations of our rights.

Thank you.


[1] https://documents-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/G22/338/13/PDF/G2233813.pdf?OpenElement

[2] More and more organizations and activist groups are female-led. Also, in the area of legislation, thanks to feminist activism, the Philippines has passed Republic Act 9262 (RA 9262: the Anti-Violence Against Women and their Children Act of 2004); recently, the Safe Spaces Act of 2019 has also been legislated.

[3] Following the recent election, there are still only two women in the Senate (out of a total of 12 seats).

[4] https://fot.humanists.international/countries/asia-south-eastern-asia/philippines/

[5] https://www.rappler.com/nation/238780-eddie-villanueva-claims-sogie-bill-threatens-freedoms-non-lgbtq/

Suggested academic reference

'Statement on protecting young women human rights defenders in Philippines', Humanists International

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