by: — Clara Rita A. Padilla, J.D., Executive Director, EnGendeRights, Inc.
If I were a lawyer who is out to enrich myself, I would probably say, “go ahead and support the ‘marital infidelity’ bills” (HB 999 filed by Representative Emmanual Joel Villanueva and HB 1820 filed by Representatives Liza Maza and Luzviminda Ilagan). These bills seek to repeal the adultery and concubinage provisions of the Revised Penal Code and then impose a new crime called “marital infidelity” which equalizes the penalties for marital infidelity.
The reason why lawyers who are out to enrich themselves would do this is because the effect of such a law is indeed the deluge of cases that will be filed by estranged husbands who are out there to perpetually harass their wives who have left them for a more suitable partner. Mind you, it would be the batterer husbands and those who
have sought to control their wives who would line up to file these cases and not the ones who respect their wives’ freedoms.
But I am not out to enrich myself as a lawyer. I am a lawyer who has spent thirteen years of my professional career devoting my time and efforts in advocating for women’s rights—for battered women, women who have been raped, women who are seeking protection orders against their abusive husbands and, yes, women who have long been separated from their husbands but are facing “adultery” cases filed by their husbands.
The Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) provides for equality and non-discrimination of women. But equality in law does not simply mean equalizing the penalties for certain crimes for both women and men and not especially so for “marital infidelity” cases. The essence of CEDAW provides for substantive equality such that the effect of laws would not discriminate against women. Equalizing the penalty for marital infidelity cases would discriminate women since the reality is that most marital infidelity cases are filed by men rather than women—-more men still have more money than women and men use these marital infidelity cases against their wives as a form of abuse and torture on their wives.
In the case of Sheila (not her real name), she was battered by her husband while they were living together. Eventually she left her husband and now she is living with her male partner. Since she left her abusive husband, she has never asked for support for herself and her minor daughter. What does the husband do after six years of separation? He files a case for adultery against her. Now Sheila is tormented—a clear case of abuse under the Anti-Violence against Women and their Children Act (RA 9262).
In many countries around the world, the criminal provisions imposed on adultery have already been repealed. The intended purpose of the criminal provision on adultery under the Revised Penal Code (circa 1932 and directly translated from the old Spanish Penal Code) is to protect the rights of real heirs. Many adultery cases, however, are filed by estranged husbands who have long been separated from their wives and who have no
intention to reunite with their wives nor do they have any intention to support the illegitimate child of their wives.
In the case above, you would see that this case along with many others are not filed to protect the rights of heirs but for other reasons such as continued harassment, abuse, and property issues. There are many others like Sheila who have suffered abuse at the hands of their husbands and, rightly so, have chosen to live another life with their new partners. Should women like Sheila serve prison sentence? Most certainly not, they deserve to live peaceful lives free from abuse, coercion, and discrimination.
Adultery, concubinage, and marital infidelity cases do not have any place in our law. On the contrary, these cases continue to perpetuate abuse in the family and impose torment on the children. The transitory years of the young children’s lives are put to waste since their parents are constantly feuding.
If the husband and wife cannot be together, then they should nullify the marriage. This is also why we are advocating for divorce so as not to subject the grounds to divorce on the differing interpretations of judges, psychiatrists and psychologists.
We must repeal our laws on adultery and concubinage and certainly not pass any new law on marital infidelity.