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Reprod Health Matters. 2004 Nov;12(24):96-103.

The church, the state and women's bodies in the context of religious fundamentalism in the Philippines.

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Womenlead Foundation, Quezon City, Philippines.


After almost 500 years of Spanish colonial rule, Canon law and laws of Spanish origin continue to dominate Philippine family, civil and penal law. Most if not all of these laws place serious limitations on the realisation of women's sexual and reproductive rights. Since 2002, the current president, Gloria Mocapagal Arroyo, has increasingly substituted church dogma for state policy, i.e. revoking the reproductive health and family planning policies of her predecessor, rejecting all modern contraceptive methods as forms of abortion, limiting government support for family planning to providing natural methods to married couples, and restricting access to emergency contraception. This article reflects on which advocacy methods will best serve the goals of sexual and reproductive rights when conservative church interests dominate state policy, as is currently the case in the Philippines. Religious fundamentalists, at one and the some time, argue for religious accommodation of their views by the state on the grounds of religious freedom but refuse to entertain, let alone accommodate, a plurality of views on women's sexuality. Thus, it is not enough to base a case in support of sexual and reproductive rights on the separation of church and state since, even though the State claims it is secular, it still manages to impose restrictions and control over women's bodies.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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