Overlooked No More: Leticia Ramos Shahani, a Philippine Women’s Rights Pioneer

Former senator Ramos-Shahani in 2016. File photo courtesy Lila Shahani. Via rappler.com

By Jennifer Jett/nytimes.com – Leticia Ramos Shahani is a name every feminist should know.

Shahani, a Philippine diplomat and lawmaker, was a pioneer in the international women’s movement. At a time when few women had a place in statecraft, she became one of the highest-ranking women at the United Nations. In her native Philippines, she made labor and rape laws fairer to women and integrated gender into all kinds of policymaking.

There were “a lot of firsts in her long life,” said Aurora Javate-De Dios, executive director of the Women and Gender Institute at Miriam College in Quezon City, where Shahani was a dean in her later years.

In the 1970s, she led the drafting of a convention on the elimination of discrimination against women, also known as the international women’s bill of rights, and defied Cold War tensions by enlisting the Soviet Union as a co-sponsor to get it off the ground.

Beyond that, she played a role in four international conferences over 20 years that put women’s rights on the global agenda.

Later, as a Philippine senator, she was instrumental in expanding the legal definition of rape, including the recognition of marital rape. She also fought for equal pay and a mandate that all Philippine government agencies allocate at least 5 percent of their budgets to gender and development issues.

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