Senate to heed UN committee’s landmark ruling on Vertido rape case

Senator Pia S. Cayetano today welcomed the landmark ruling of a United Nations (UN) committee that held the Philippine government accountable for the controversial dismissal by a local court of the Karen Vertido rape case five years ago.

Cayetano said the Senate Committee on Youth, Women and Family Relations “will seriously take into consideration” the recommendations of the UN Committee on the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) which criticized in a resolution the “gender-based myths and stereotypes” used by a Davao City court when it dismissed in 2005 the high-profile rape case filed by Vertido against a prominent local businessman.

“This issue falls within the ambit of laws that discriminate against women which are currently under review by the Senate Committee on Youth, Women and Family Relations. The recommendations of the UN body will assist our committee in reviewing and drafting measures to remove provisions in our laws that are gender-biased,” said Cayetano, who chairs the committee.

She added: “Although the 1997 Anti-Rape Law already provides a broad definition of the crime of rape, there is still room for improvement to further protect women against discrimination and to make our laws in line with CEDAW principles.”

“One possible amendment includes making ‘lack of consent’ of the victim an essential element of the crime of rape, as opposed to the current wording of the law which focuses more on the mode employed by the perpetrator in the commission of the crime of rape such as through force, intimidation or threat.”

Cayetano, in her capacity as President of the Coordinating Committee of Women Parliamentarians of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), chaired the IPU’s session on CEDAW in 2008 and in 2009 to give legislators from different countries a better understanding of the international convention that upholds the right of women against all forms of discrimination.

She also delivered a privilege speech in the Senate last year to call the chamber’s attention on the need to review the country’s compliance with CEDAW, which the Philippines ratified in 1982. Compliance would necessitate a review of all gender-discriminatory laws and their subsequent amendment or repeal, she added.

In her speech, Cayetano also pointed out that barring any other legal recourse in the county, any group or individual, such as in Vertido’s case, may seek redress of gender-related grievances with the United Nations through CEDAW.

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