PH 'restricts property rights of married women': WB, IFC

By Cai U. Ordinario, BusinessMirror

Posted at Sep 27 2011 07:52 AM | Updated as of Sep 27 2011 06:11 PM

MANILA, Philippines - Despite being a haven for women in Asia, the Philippines remains to be the only country in the East Asia and the Pacific region that “restricts the property rights of married women,” according to a World Bank and International Finance Corp. publication released on Monday.?

The report, “Women, Business and the Law 2012: Removing barriers to economic inclusion,” which aims to measure gender parity in 141 economies, said the Philippines is also one of the few countries in the world who subscribe to full community of property after marriage.

The report measures indicators such as a woman’s ability to sign a contract, travel abroad, manage property, and interact with public authorities and the private sector.?

“All economies in high-income OECD and in Eastern Europe and Central Asia grant equal rights to men and women with regard to property ownership and inheritance,” the study stated. “In East Asia and the Pacific, only the Philippines restricts the property rights of married women.”

While majority of the world’s countries deem property bought or acquired before marriage as separately owned by couples who marry and all properties acquired after marriage as conjugal, only six countries deem all properties acquired before and after marriage conjugal.?

Based on the report, the Philippines, along with Burundi, Namibia, the Netherlands, Rwanda and South Africa, deem all properties acquired before and during the marriage as conjugal property of the couple.

Under the new Family Code of the Philippines issued in July 1987, once a couple marries, all their properties before they marry and after becomes conjugal. This applies to couples married 1988 and onward.?

However, this can be voided if there is a legal document like a pre-nuptial agreement that is entered into by a couple. Under a pre-nuptial agreement, couples can declare their inheritance or properties owned before they marry as their own and not part of any conjugal property they have with their spouse.

“The absolute community of property between spouses shall commence at the precise moment that the marriage is celebrated. Any stipulation, express or implied, for the commencement of the community regime at any other time shall be void,” Article 88 of the new Family Code of the Philippines stated.

However, the report said the Philippines is already moving toward gender parity, particularly in labor or employment rules.

Recently, breastfeeding mothers in the country were given breaks in the workplace to breastfeed their babies.?

Other countries which are moving toward the gender-parity direction in the workplace are Albania, Australia, Belgium, Bolivia, Bulgaria, Chile, Estonia, Greece, Japan, Mongolia, Peru, Poland, Rwanda and Syrian Arab Republic.?It can be noted that Estonia even passed a new Employment Contracts Act, which prohibits the dismissal of pregnant women and guaranteed a return to the same position after maternity leave.

Overall, the report from the World Bank and IFC found that women still face legal and regulatory hurdles to fully participating in the economy with 103 out of 141 economies studied still impose legal differences on the basis of gender in at least one of the report’s key indicators.