uphold the RH Law

I’ve never been one to hold my tongue when it comes to the RH Law. As an HIV advocate, I understand that our biggest battle is not with making people aware of this virus — what it is, how not to get infected, what happens if you do — but to educate them. I’ve always believed that knowing about HIV is very different from being educated about HIV.

It is hard to BE SAFE if condoms are not readily available and there is stigma attached to buying it; we need to educate people as the RH Law hopes to do

It is hard to BE SAFE if condoms are not readily available and there is stigma attached to buying it; we need to educate people as the RH Law hopes to do

Education, for me, is about the application of what you have learned and what you know. It is the next step after knowledge. I think there are so many people who have degrees and graduated from school but are not truly educated because they must have learned so much in school but have not applied what they know in their daily lives.

The HIV epidemic, unfortunately, is caused by a lack of education regarding the virus. People know it’s around and they still get infected because they don’t put into practice what they know. The major problem is that a lot of people don’t want to use condoms; and for whatever reason they give, it’s careless and reckless and dangerous. My goal is not HIV awareness; my goal is behaviour change. I want people to take better care of themselves and of each other. That’s a lofty and ambitious goal; but that’s my goal.

The RH Law is a step towards this goal because what it does is make condoms readily available for everybody and, hopefully, in the process, removes the stigma and negative judgments people have of pre-marital sex and the things that surround the act, like buying condoms. People don’t want to be seen buying condoms because it shocks others and they don’t want “to be judged.” It bothers me that they would rather risk getting HIV than be judged by others.

The RH Law serves to start sex education in schools (I think earlier) because based on the statistics, the parents aren’t doing their job. Teen pregnancy is on the rise and younger and younger people are getting infected with HIV. I know that sex education should be on the part of the parents, but with the statistics proving that kids need better sex education and at a younger age. Steps must be taken to ensure an HIV-free future for the world. The world is changing and we have to change along with it — adapting to the varying needs and communication strategies that need to be adapted in order to properly educate everyone.

And when people are properly educated about sex, reproductive health, and HIV; then we can have mature and serious discussions about these topics with everybody and properly pass on information that will be used and applied. We need to change the majority’s backward and medieval view on sex and reproductive health. We should be able to talk about it like mature adults without judgment and scrutiny. That way we can truly discuss the issues and properly impart knowledge.

That is an ideal society. It is a lofty goal; but it is one worth fighting hard for.

Today, I read the speech that Senator Pia Cayetano gave at the Supreme Court on the constitutionality of the RH Law. It was so moving. It got me.

After fourteen years, the RH Bill finally became the RH Law and I cannot understand how a petition to oppose it could have any merit. After fourteen years and several administrations have discussed, made changes, and finally got it to turn into a law; how could the constitutionality of such a law be in question? I don’t understand it. And the oral arguments of the petitioners have been weak and illogical.  These self-professed “pro-life” people have said, on record, that they want to protect the rights of “the unborn” but don’t respect the lives of people who are suffering from maternal deaths because “the number is too few.” They don’t care. And they don’t care about the quality of life that these people have, as long as they are alive, and I feel that the sentiment is truly abominable and wretched and non-humanist, in nature.

It’s my opinion that if you believe in life, you should also believe in the quality of life for that person. People should not be born into poverty and should be born to a family who can provide for them. I am not advocating abortion, to be precise, I am fighting for people’s right to have less children if they want. If that’s their choice. The RH Law allows for them the option to take contraceptives.

(taken from Senator Pia Cayetano's website) The senator with former Albay representative Edcel Lagman, both heroes for their tireless fight for the RH Bill and RH Law

(taken from Senator Pia Cayetano’s website) The senator with former Albay representative Edcel Lagman, both heroes for their tireless fight for the RH Bill and RH Law

There are no stipulations in the RH Law about abortion, whatsoever. And no matter how the opposition spin it, you cannot convince me that contraception is the same as abortion. It is not the same. Not for me.

But I’m not as eloquent, articulate, or as well-researched as the people who are fighting the good fight in trying to uphold the RH Law. I’d rather leave you with the words of someone who has become a personal heroine of mine since I started reading about her tireless (and probably oftentimes frustrating) work in pushing for the RH Law, Senator Pia Cayetano.

In her speech at the Supreme Court, she said:

Why? Why is it so difficult to give women the right to health? Why can’t we be given the benefit of life? Is it because the road to a safe pregnancy and childbirth includes the empowerment of women?

Or is it because of petitioners’ malicious view of women, as shown in their petition, where they say that the Reproductive Health Law discriminates against husbands and fathers because it allows their wives to have pleasurable sexual experiences with other men without getting pregnant?

This is how low petitioners view us women.

I’m a momma’s boy. I am also very close to my sister. Many of my closest friends are women. I have always tried my best to be a gentleman and I could not stand it when women’s right were never given a priority. I am against the patriarchy and the disempowerment of women. Many of my past bosses have been women, and they’ve been damned good at their jobs.

The RH Law is not just about HIV prevention and education, but more importantly, it is to protect the rights of women in the country and their basic rights as a human being. I cannot speak about maternal death and teen pregnancy. This is not a subject with which I have any close association to; but it is something that is important to me because it shows that the state of our society and our nation, with regards to women’s issues, are in severe need of scrutiny.

More from Senator Pia’s speech:

Madame Chief Justice, Honorable Justices, we held seven hearings over the span of one year and thereafter, defended it for another year-and-a-half. Eleven senators interpellated me. Eight made amendments. Seventy-two amendments were proposed.  Fifty-four were accepted. Thirteen were put to a vote.

A similar process was observed in the House of Representatives. Thereafter, we had a bicameral conference. Each provision was debated upon and passed.

This law before us today is truly a product of our democratic process. This is the legislative process in its full glory as envisioned in the Constitution. This is a product of Congress’ collective wisdom.

This piece of legislation will not solve all the health problems in our country, as petitioners appear to expect from us. In fact, it will not save every mother’s life or totally eliminate teen pregnancies and abortions. But it will – yes I am certain – it will address these problems. It will save lives and give Filipinos, especially the poor women the means to protect themselves and plan their families.

The RH Law is about choice. It is about accessibility and availability to these choices and to educate people in what these decisions are and what it all means.

I merely write entries in my blog from home, occasionally voice my opinions on Twitter, and occasionally go to schools, corporations, and public spaces to speak about HIV when I am invited; but Senator Pia Cayetano has been fighting the good fight and bringing the issues to where it matters — in the government and national level. I am in awe of that amazing determination and willpower; to continue the battle that took fourteen years.

Thank you, Senator Pia Cayetano and all the supporters of the RH Bill. This is the good fight.

Read the full transcript of Senator Pia Cayetano’s speech here.

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