A #MeToo Divorce Debate in the Philippines by James Hookway
(Link): A #MeToo Divorce Debate in the Philippines by James Hookway
April 27, 2018
When the tiny island nation of Malta voted to allow divorce in 2011, Melody Alan realized that her own strongly Catholic country, the Philippines, was the only one left in the world without that right (aside from the Vatican).
Last fall, as the #MeToo movement began to ripple out from the U.S., she and fellow advocates for divorce seized the moment and tried to recast the debate.
Ms Alan’s own husband left her and their two children for another woman in 2010. He offered to support an annulment of their marriage (an elaborate court or church procedure) but only if she would pay the entire cost – more than a year’s worth of her schoolteacher’s salary.
“I wanted to be free of him and call myself a free woman, but I couldn’t,” she told legislators in February, when a parade of women appeared before a committee of the country’s House of Representatives. Some recounted abuse at the hands of their husbands, abandonment to a life of poverty and single motherhood with no chance of remarriage.
Last month, a divorce bill cleared the House of Representatives for the first time. …
Ms. Alan and her allies copies the #MeToo playbook, which has brought sustained attention to sexual-harassment and abuse allegations in Hollywood, the media and politics. They organized rallies and social media campaigns with hashtags such as #DivorceForThePhilippinesNow and #WeSupportDIVORCEPh, inviting women to share their stories of broken homes and of marriage from which they couldn’t escape.
The goal, Ms. Alan said, was to show that the activists were aiming to help desperate women, not to antagonize the Church.
… The #MeToo campaign “has made a huge difference, to be able to tap into this global movement,” said Ms. Alan. “Because of #MeToo, we came out much tougher than before, and our opponents can see we were for real and not just some group on Facebook.”
In the Philippines, where 80% of its 100 million people are Catholic, support for divorce rights has been growing for years, from 43% in 2005 to 53% in a poll last month.
Some 20% fewer couples married in 2015 than in 2005, official statistics show, with many preferring cohabitation to entering a marriage contract they can’t easily escape. “It’s too much of a risk if it goes wrong,” said Estell Morado, 28, who has a 2-year-old daughter with her partner.
But opposition to divorce remains strong in some quarters. The former U.S. colony has long been a conservative Catholic bastion…
Contraception is still contentious, and the only legal means of ending a marriage is by an annulment – which entails a declaration that the union was never valid, usually because of some pre-existing psychological impediment.
… The women’s campaign is determined, however, to win the right to simpler, cheaper civil divorce.