The RH bill is dead. Many of us hope that the next year is our year. Many of us blame the Church for killing it, and we may be partially right. However, I that I think we have failed to acknowledge the fact that ultimately, the RH bill is about sex, and it is our attitudes about sex, particularly, the role of sex in a woman’s life, that is really what’s in the way of getting this bill passed.
How does society view women and sex? The Philippines is one of the most progressive countries in the world when it comes to equal employment of women; however, we still view sex and women in a very limited way. Our very traditional society treats women as innocent fragile creatures that need to be cared for and protected, or as old maternal figures that need to be respected. This is great to some extent, because women get first dibs on MRT seats; doors get opened; also, women are generally accepted as leaders in the workplace. However, these traditional images do not really allow for a lot of sex. The innocent, fragile archetype is expected to pray a lot, be good, and be a virgin until marriage. The maternal figures is, well, a mother. Sex is viewed in the limited context of these two archetypes – a newlywed virgin making babies; a married woman wanting more babies. Outside of these two scenarios, the imagination goes to the Katrina Halilis, Carrie Bradshaws or fun, fearless females of Cosmo – irresponsible, slutty single women who are asking for it. There is no room in between. Sex is only viewed as either a baby-making activity or the sinful hobby of whorish women. I need to state the obvious, I guess – it is not.
This limited definition of sex and its role in a woman’s life is at the root of most, if not all opposition against the RH bill. A lot of us have debated about what is or what is not an abortifacent when the true opposition is not to the tools of contraception but to the act of having baby-free sex. It implies the absence of consequences for a perceived sin. It is feared that if women have sex freely, immorality will destroy the very fiber of society; that somehow, if women had free rein to satisfy their libido, we will be the next Sodom and Gomorrah (I mean, who cares what men do, right?). What Will the Whores Do? (WWWD ™)
Of course, this also relates to the new favorite anti-RH discussion about financing birth control and sex ed in this country. It makes the opposition look like fiscal conservatives while hiding their true sexist nature. In truth, the same people questioning funding for reproductive health services will likely not question funding for cancer research or for respiratory illnesses or for pediatrics. Somehow, they have viewed reproductive health as frivolous, probably like cosmetic surgery. At the root is the view that sex is a luxury; childbirth is easy. Let’s forget the fact that babies are born every minute out of human vaginas. It seems like we will be funding the sluts of this country, giving them the tools to be irresponsible and even healing them afterwards. Abstinence is the answer, right? We don’t need to fund abstinence.
This article is not just a reproach to opposition but also an invitation for everyone to examine your own views about sex in society. What do you really mean when you say you’re pro-RH? Do you think there is such a thing as sex without consequences? What do you mean when you say you’re pro-RH but anti-abortion? How can you be pro-RH when you’re anti-RH bill? What do you really mean when you’re qualifying what you think should be allowed and what is not?
Lastly, I leave you with this: the birth control pill has changed society and has expanded the realm of what’s possible for women around the world. The pill has allowed women the freedom to work and to achieve fulfillment outside the family. It has doubled household incomes. More women are educated now than they ever were before. The collective contribution of the recent generations of women to the wellness and development of the world is astounding, all because they were free to have sex when they choose without having to give birth, allowing them to plan for education and jobs and eventually, families. The true meaning of choice – having a say in your own destiny and choosing to have sex without being imprisoned by the body you live in –is overwhelming. Just ask any of the women looking for so-called abortifacents in Quiapo. Do you think that quibbling over the science of zygotes or the fiscal implications of this bill is worth the lives of millions of Filipino women robbed of this choice?