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Child Labor: The CBCP’s Latest Argument Against the RH Bill

07/07/2012

Image via Red Tani from Facebook.

Logged onto FB today to find a lot of people outraged at the Catholic Bishops Conference Philippines (CBCP) latest argument against the proposed Reproduction Health (RH) Bill: Child labor.

The CBCP website posts an entry where a farmer is interviewed on why the RH Bill should not be passed. Angelo Bais, the farmer interviewed, is quoted as saying:

“We are not in favor of the RH bill because having many children is not a burden. One more thing – what are we going to do with the lands if we do not have children to help us plant?”

and

“We already have the freedom to decide to plan our family. The only thing the government should do is remind and support people even a little for their needs. Couples already have freedom to decide.”

The RH Bill, if implemented correctly, is supposed to help curb the country’s overpopulation problem, as well as grant (as if it was a privilege, ha!) women more rights when it comes to choosing what happens to their bodies. It would mean citizens, both male and female, who are educated when it comes to sex and its consequences. And, in a nation that holds the record for the highest rate of teen pregnancy in South East Asia, it would mean more readily available contraception.

What this farmer is essentially saying, and what the Catholic Church is backing, is:

1. Child labor is the way to go. In a poverty-stricken country like the Philippines, many people still think that having more kids means having more hands to help with work. They don’t think of it as having more mouths to feed or having more minds to educate. Think of it as free labor.

2. If you are poor, it is the government’s fault. Well, to a certain extent, yes. But you shouldn’t expect to lean on the government entirely. You have to do your share of work too, and if you can’t make enough to feed a big family, the government can’t be wholly to blame for your plight, can it? Yes, government support is important. But it should be delivered via programs that look at the long term, big picture, and not hand-to-mouth.

3. Nowhere in the entry is the woman or her rights mentioned. The common story is of a woman who is sickly or dies young because she has been churning out babies on an almost, if not on a yearly basis, with no time for her body to recuperate. Common reasons for this include her family needs the manpower or her husband does not want to use condoms. Her needs are never put into consideration, and she is treated as a baby factory. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that this makes out women to be he equivalent of cattle, because cattle get treated better.

4. The entry doesn’t mention the rights of the children, either. If they were put on earth to help in the fields, what happens to their basic right to education, play, and almost everything else on the list of the UN’s Rights of a Child? And if they were put on earth to support their family, how are they supposed to grow as individuals and good citizens?

I’m not an expert in law, religion, or politics. In fact, I will go as far as to say that I know almost noting about all three. But as a woman, and as someone who used to be a child, and as someone who is still under the very annoying Asian trait of every child being a possession of the parent, I will say that the Catholic Church should be ashamed of itself for encouraging such antiquated and abusive ways of thinking. For a ruling body of a religion that claims to worship a God of love, they sure are stingy when it comes to doling out said love to their fellow men, women and children.

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