Philippines leader signs law promoting women's rights

More women will be promoted to top government jobs under a new law on women’s rights signed by Philippines’ President Gloria Arroyo Friday, officials said.

The law compels the government to boost the number of women in higher-level positions "to achieve a 50-50 gender balance" within five years, said Myrna Yao, head of the National Commission on the Role of Filipino Women.

The statute also bans discrimination against women in the workplace and promotes non-discriminatory and non-derogatory portrayals of women in media and film.

"Women in marginalised sectors are better protected under the law," Leila de Lima, head of the government’s Human Rights Commission told reporters at the signing ceremony.

"Also in terms of work, in terms of employment opportunities, more recognition of women’s rights are embodied."

Yao said the statute also requires the government to provide training in human rights and gender sensitivity to all members of the civil service.

Philippine embassies abroad will train consular officials to handle concerns of women migrant workers.

Local governments are required to set up district-level desks to investigate cases of violence against women, while working women who undergo surgery for gynaecological disorders will be granted leave for two-months.

A Philippine Commission for Women will be created to draft the law’s implementing rules and regulations, as well as monitor compliance, according to the text of the legislation.

The Philippines office of the UN Development Programme hailed the statute in a statement, calling it "comprehensive human rights legislation that seeks to eliminate discrimination against women."