Gender Equality in the Philippines

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Flag of Philippines
Population (in Mil.) 96.71
Gross Domestic Product (In USD Billions - WB) 250.18
Sex Ratio (m/f) 1
Life Expectancy Ratio (f/m) 1.107692308
Fertility Rate 3.19
Estimated Earned Income (f/m) 0.6
Tertiary Enrolment Ratio (f/m) 28.9
Women in Parliament (in %) 27.1
Human Development Index 114/187
Social Institutions and Gender Index 12/86
Gender Inequality Index 114/186
Gender Equity Index 26/168
Women’s Economic Opportunity Index 74/128
Global Gender Gap Index 5/68
More information on variables

Social Institutions

The Philippine Islands became a Spanish colony during the 16th century and they were ceded to the United States. In 1935 the Philippines became a self-governing commonwealth. The country’s history has been marked by ongoing political instability and insurgencies.[1] The World Bank classifies the Philippines as a lower middle income country.[2]

The Philippines has made progress in promoting gender equality in the last decade. The Government’s Framework Plan for Women emphasises women’s economic empowerment, women’s human rights and gender- responsive governance as the keys to gender equality and the empowerment of women.[3] Despite these commitments, obstacles to substantive gender equality remain. Although the Philippines has achieved gender parity in primary, secondary and tertiary education, this has not translated to equality in economic opportunity or political participation.[4]

Women in rural areas are particularly marginalised.[5] The United Nations Committee on Discrimination Against Women has noted the persistence of deep-rooted stereotypes about the roles and responsibilities of women and men as an impediment to women’s equal participation in economic and political life.[6] Women are over-represented in the informal economy which bears negative consequences for their access to basic services such as social security and health care.[7] Further, in recent decades there has been a significant growth in the number of women migrating overseas to work as domestic workers or nurses, where they are vulnerable to becoming victims of exploitation, violence and trafficking.[8]

Article II, Section 14, of the 1987 Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines recognises the role of women in nation-building, and ensures the fundamental equality before the law of women and men. The Philippines ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women in 1981.

In 2011, the Human Development Index for the Philippines was 0.644, placing the country at 112 out of 187 countries.[9] For the Gender Inequality Index the Philippines received a score of 0.427, placing the country at 75 out of 146 countries with data.[10] In 2011, the World Economic Forum ranked Philippines 8 out of 135 countries in its 2011 Global Gender Gap Report, with a score of 0.7685 where 0 represents inequality and 1 represents equality.[11]

Discriminatory Family Code

The 1997 Family Code sets the legal age of marriage at 18 years for both men and women.[12] However, the Muslim Personal Laws permit marriage of girls under the age of 18 as well as allowing arranged marriages.[13] The United Nations reports, based on 2003 data that 9% of girls between 15 and 19 years of age were married, divorced or widowed, compared to 2% of boys in the same age range. In 1980, 14% of girls aged between 15 and 19 were married, divorced or widowed which indicates that societal acceptance of early marriage has declined slowly in recent decades.[14] The mean age of marriage for women is 23.[15] In 2006, the United Nations Committee on Discrimination Against Women expressed concern about the persistent practice of early marriage amongst Muslim women.[16] With respect to other discriminatory practices against women in marriage, the Mindanao Commission on Women reports that bride abduction, forced marriage and payment of bride price still persist as part of the culturally sanctioned practices in the island of Mindanao.[17]

Polygamy is illegal for men under the Penal Code in the form of concubinage.[18] However, the Muslim Personal Laws permit polygamy. Article 27 allows a man to have more than one wife "if he can deal with them with equal companionship and just treatment as enjoined by Islamic law and only in exceptional cases", but a woman may not have more than one husband.[19]

The 1997 Family Code granted men and women equal parental authority and shared responsibility for raising their children.[20] The law also permits women to retain parental authority over her children after remarriage.[21] In 2006, the United Nations Committee on Discrimination Against Women expressed concern about the lack of a law on divorce which makes it impossible for women to obtain a legal divorce.[22] The Family Code does however provide for legal separation on the grounds of repeated violence, psychological incapacity, homosexuality and lesbianism and drug addiction.[23] Legal separation provides for separate living arrangements and terminated the marital rights of husband and wife, but the couple remained married in name.[24]

Women also experience discrimination in the Philippines under the laws relating to adultery. The Revised Penal Code defines sexual infidelity differently for men and women. A wife can be made criminally liable for mere adultery, while a husband will need to have committed concubinage. The crime of adultery carries stiffer penalties compared with concubinage.[25]

There is no legal discrimination between men and women in the area of inheritance. Inheritance follows both the male and the female line, succession norms adopt either the primogeniture system (whereby land is inherited by the eldest male or female child) or the equal sharing system (whereby all male and female heirs inherit equally). The surviving spouse, male or female, may not inherit, but holds land as a trustee for the children.[26] However, in 2004 the government reported that there is some evidence that propertied parents leave lands to sons but ensure the future of daughters by investing in their education.[27]

The Philippines has experienced a rise in the number of female-headed households in recent decades.[28] The government’s response to this shift may indicate a change in attitudes towards women’s role in the family. For example, in 2000 the government passed the Solo Parents Welfare Act of 2000 which provides for a comprehensive program of social development and welfare services for sole parents and their children including flexible work arrangements and parental leave of seven working days, livelihood development services, educational and housing benefits, among others.[29]

Restricted Physical Integrity

The Anti-Rape Law of 1997 prohibits rape.[30] The law redefines and expands rape from a crime against chastity to a crime against the person and implicitly recognizes marital rape.[31] The 2004 Anti-Violence Against Women and Their Children Act protects women and their children from physical, psychological and economic abuses in the context of marital, dating or common law relationship. The law also recognises ‘battered woman syndrome’ as a legal defense for women who have suffered cumulative abuse and have been driven to defend themselves. The law provides for issuance of protection orders to stop violence and prevent recurrence of future violence.[32] The 1995 Anti-Sexual Harassment Act specifies that a person who has authority, influence, or moral ascendancy over another and who demands, requests, or otherwise requires sexual favors is guilty of committing sexual harassment, whether or not the demand is accepted or not.[33]

Violence against women in the Philippines it is reported to be a serious problem.[34] Non-government organisations report that domestic violence is the most common form of gender-based violence in the Philippines country, followed by rape. A 2008 Demographic Health Survey found that about three in ten women report having experienced spousal violence (physical, sexual or other) at some time in their life. One in seven ever-married women report having experienced physical violence by their husbands, and 8% report that having experienced sexual violence by their husbands. The survey found that 9% of women age 15-49 have ever experienced sexual violence.[35]

With respect to attitudes that condone violence against women, the 2008 Demographic and Health Survey found that there is a low level of acceptance of violence amongst women. The survey asked women whether they think a husband is justified in hitting or beating his wife under a series of circumstances: if she burns the food, if she argues with him, if she goes out without telling him, if she neglects the children, and if she refuses to have sexual intercourse with him. Only 14% of women agree that a husband is justified in beating his wife for any of the reasons. Neglecting the children is the most commonly justified reason (12%), while the least common reason is refusal to have sexual intercourse with him or burning the food (2% each).[36]

Despite the availability of legal protections, a lack of enforcement continues to leave women vulnerable. The under-reporting of violence by women due to social stigma and women’s poor understanding of rights are also barriers to perpetrators being held accountable.[37] According to the US Department of State, in smaller localities perpetrators of violence sometimes used personal relationships with local authorities to avoid prosecution. However, the government maintains specialist help desks to encourage women to make reports and has delivered gender-sensitivity training to police officers.[38]

In 2006, the United Nations Committee on Discrimination Against Women expressed concern that the trafficking in women and girls continued to thrive in the Philippines, despite the introduction of the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act in 2003.[39] The problem of trafficking in the Philippines is linked to the high numbers of young women who seek to migrate, either internally or overseas, for economic opportunities. In the process of migrating, women face the risk of being trafficked for sexual exploitation or for forced labour due to lack of information on the place and nature of work, and inadequate travel and work documents, or both.[40]

Female genital mutilation is not a general practice in the Philippines, but reportedly exists among some Muslim groups.[41] Limitations on women’s reproductive rights also infringe upon women’s physical integrity in the Philippines. Abortion in the Philippines is generally illegal. Under the Penal Code, a person who intentionally causes an abortion with the consent of the pregnant woman is subject to a penalty of imprisonment for from six months to six years. However, an abortion may be legally performed to save the pregnant woman’s life. In addition to these provisions, the Constitution of 1987 provides that the State “shall equally protect the life of the mother and the life of the unborn from conception”.[42] The 2008 Demographic Health Survey found that unplanned pregnancies are common in the Philippines. Overall, one in three births in the Philippines is either unwanted (16%) or mistimed and wanted later (20%).[43] In the last 15 years, the use of modern methods amongst married women has risen from 25 to 34%.[44] The survey found that the 22% of married women reported an unmet need for family planning.[45]

Son Bias

Gender disaggregated data on the rates of infant mortality and early childhood nutrition do not provide evidence of preferential treatment of sons in relation to household allocation of nutrition.[46] Data from 2001 on children’s time-use indicates that girls are slightly more likely than boys to be involved in household chores. Girls are also involved in household chores for longer than boys, with girls conducting chores for an average of 8.3 hours a week, compared to 6.6 hours a week for boys. This suggests a preferential treatment of sons in the allocation of household chores.[47] With respect to access to education, the World Economic Forum reports that the Philippines has reached gender parity in primary, secondary and tertiary education enrolments which suggests that there is no preferential treatment of sons with respect to education.[48]

The male/female sex ratio for the total population in 2012 is 1.[49]

There is no evidence to suggest that the Philippines is a country of concern in relation to missing women.

Restricted Resources and Entitlements

Men and women have equal legal access to land and access to property other than land.[50] In accordance with applicable provisions on property ownership embedded in the Family Code and the Civil Code, the Agrarian Reform Department was responsible for giving wives (both legally married and common-law spouses) equal rights to own land. The Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law states that all qualified women members of the agricultural labour force must be guaranteed equal rights to ownership of land, equal share of farm produce, and equal representation within advisory or other decision-making bodies that represent agrarian reform beneficiaries.[51] In turn, the Environment and Natural Resources Department amended (in 2002) its regulations on alienable and disposable public lands, thereby granting women – regardless of civil status – equal rights to apply for the purchase or lease of public lands.[52] However, men are still perceived as – and are in actual fact – the primary property and land owners, despite several initiatives to institute land reform. In 2003, certificate of land ownership awards were granted to less than 16,000 women compared to more than 33,000 grants to men.[53] Legally, women have equal access to bank loans, however, discriminatory attitudes inhibit their financial independence. Having the greater share of property ownership, men are better able to provide collateral for larger loans, whereas women’s access to credit is limited to smaller amounts.[54] Similarly, although women have the legal right to independently enter into contracts and loans, many financial institutions still demand that the male partner co-sign any financial contracts.[55] In 1995, the congress gave the government a mandate to assist Filipino women in their pursuit of owning, operating and managing small business enterprises. The government reports that this mandate included provision that all women certified to have received appropriate training (at any government or government-accredited training institution) are eligible to obtain loans from government financing institutions.[56] In 2001, the trade and industry department reported that the programme had aided about 4,000 women nationwide.[57] However, in 2008, JICA reported that access to formal credit is low for women as compared with men, hence, they end up in borrowing from private money lenders.[58]

Restricted Civil Liberties

There are no reported legal restrictions on women’s access to public space in the Philippines. However, as described in the Physical Integrity section, the threat of trafficking, particularly for women who seek to migrate for women, impinges on women’s freedom of movement. With respect to women’s participation in political life, women in the Philippines have the same same rights as men to vote in all elections, to be elected and to participate in the political and public life.[59] However, this has not translated into equal political representation. The World Economic Forum reports that women make up 28% of The Philippines’s parliamentarians and 16 % of Ministerial positions.[60]

Labour law in the Philippines prohibits discrimination against any woman employee with respect to terms and conditions of employment (compensation, training and promotion), and requirement as a condition of employment or continuation of employment that a woman employee not get married, or discharge of women employees on account of her pregnancy.[61] According to the World Economic Forum, women in the Philippines are entitled to 60 days paid maternity leave, paid at 100% of wages.[62]


  1. Central Intelligence Agency (2011) The World Fact Book: Philippines, available at, accessed 2011.
  2. World Bank (n.d.) Online data: Philippines, available at, accessed at 11 January 2011
  3. Asian Development Bank (ADB) (2008) Paradox and Promise in the Philippines: A Joint Country Gender Assessment, available at, accessed 10 February 2011 p.xiii
  4. World Economic Forum (2010) Global Gender Gap Report 2010, Available at, accessed 20 October 2010.p.250
  5. United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) (2006a) Concluding Observations: Philippines, CEDAW/C/PHI/CO/6, New York.p.5
  6. Reference 5 p.4
  7. Reference 5 p.5
  8. Reference 5 p.5
  9. United Nations Development Programme (2011) Human Development Report 2011, available at, accessed 29 February 2012 p.128
  10. Reference 9 p.140
  11. World Economic Forum (2011) The Global Gender Gap Report 2011, available at, accessed 2 March 2012.p.10
  12. United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) (2004) Consideration of Reports Submitted by States Parties Under Article 18 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women: Philippines, Combined Fifth and Sixth Periodic Reports of States Parties, CEDAW/C/PHI/5-6, New York. p.145
  13. Reference 5 p.2
  14. United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division (2008) World Marriage Data 2008, available at, accessed 10 October 2010.
  15. Reference 4 p.250
  16. Reference 5 p.6
  17. Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) (2008) Philippines: Country Gender Profile, available at, accessed 10 February 2011. p.52
  18. Reference 12 p.147
  19. United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) (1996) Consideration of Reports Submitted by States Parties Under Article 18 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women: Philippines, Fourth Periodic Reports of States Parties, CEDAW/C/PHI/4, New York p.74
  20. Reference 12 p.145
  21. Reference 12 p.145
  22. CEDAW (2006a), p.7
  23. Reference 12 p.145
  24. United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) (2006b) Summary record of the 748th meeting, CEDAW/C/SR.748, New York.para.47
  25. Reference 12 p.46
  26. FAO (2002) Law and Sustainable Development since Rio - Legal Trends in Agriculture and Natural Resource Management: Chapter 9, Gender, available at, accessed 10 February 2011.
  27. Reference 12 p.35
  28. Reference 12 p.145
  29. Reference 12 p.145
  30. Reference 3 p.130
  31. Reference 5 p.3
  32. Reference 3 p.130
  33. Reference 3 p.130
  34. US Department of State (2010) 2009 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Philippines, Available, accessed 10 February 2011
  35. Demographic Health Survey (2008) Philippines National Demographic and Health Survey 2008, available at, accessed 10 February 2011. p.208
  36. Reference 35 p.xxiii
  37. Reference 3 p.75
  38. Reference 34
  39. Reference 5 p.4
  40. Reference 3 p.78
  41. Calsalin, S (2008) Female Circumcision among Yakan in Basilan, Philippines, available at,s..pdf, accessed 11 February 2011.
  42. United Nations Populations Division (2007)’World abortion policies’, data downloaded from (accessed 21 October 2010)
  43. Reference 35p.xix
  44. Reference 35p.xx
  45. Reference 35 p.xx
  46. Reference 35 Chapters 8 and 10
  47. Understanding Children’s Work (2001) Online data, Philippines, 2001, available at, accessed 11 February 201
  48. Reference 11
  49. Central Intelligence Agency (2012) The World Fact Book: Sex Ratio, available at, accessed 29 February 2012.
  50. Reference 3 P.13
  51. Reference 12 Pp.138-139
  52. Reference 12 P.146
  53. Reference 3 p.13
  54. Reference 12 p.35
  55. Reference 12 p.35
  56. Reference 12 p.111
  57. Reference 12 p.111
  58. Reference 17 p.31
  59. Reference 12 p.73
  60. Reference 11
  61. Reference 12 p.91
  62. Reference 11

See Also

The Women, Business and the Law

Where are laws equal for men and women? 

The Women, Business and the Law report presents indicators based on laws and regulations affecting women's prospects as entrepreneurs and employees. Several of these indicators draw on the Gender Law Library, a collection of over 2,000 legal provisions impacting women's economic status. This report does not seek to judge or rank countries, but to provide information to inform discussions about women’s economic rights. Women, Business and the Law provides data covering 6 areas: accessing institutions,using property, getting a job, providing incentives to work, building credit, and going to court. Read more about the methodology.

For detailed information on Philippines, please visit the Women, Business and
the Law Philippines


The FAO Gender and Landrights Database

The FAO Gender and Landrights Database contains country level information on social, economic, political and cultural issues related to the gender
FAO logo.jpg
inequalities embedded in those rights. Disparity on land access

is one of the major causes for social and gender in rural areas, and it jeopardizes, as a consequence, rural food security as well as the wellbeing of individuals and families.

Six categories

The Database offers information on the 6 following Categories:

  • National legal frame
  • International treaties and conventions
  • Customary law
  • Land tenure and related Institutions
  • Civil society organizations
  • Selected Land Related Statistics

For detailed information information on Philippines, please visit the report on in the FAO Gender and Landrights Database.


External Links

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