The Ateneo Human Rights Center, through its Women (Urduja) and Children’s (Adhikain para sa Karapatang Pambata – AKAP) Desks expresses both sadness and outrage at the total disregard of a mother’s right to be with her newborn child, and the right of a newborn child to be nurtured by her mother. The fact that Reina Mae Nasino was detained does not, in any way, diminish her right to be with her newborn daughter River, and the latter to be cared by her mother. River eventually died at the age of three months, without being reunited with her mother, Reina.
While detained at the Manila City Jail for charges of alleged illegal possession of firearms and explosives, Reina asked the Regional Trial Court to let her and newborn River either stay longer at the Fabella Memorial Hospital, or for River to stay with her inside the jail but be provided with natal care facilities. 1 The RTC, however, denied her pleas. 2
The Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) provides that the child has the right to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health. It has also consistently emphasized the importance of access to breastfeeding (Article 24, GC #15). The Child and Youth Welfare Code (PD 603) likewise states that “[t]he promotion of the Child’s health shall begin with adequate pre-natal and post-natal care both for him and his mother. (Art. 11)”
The Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) also proclaims that maternity is a social function (Art. 5[b]) and mandates for States to provide “appropriate services in connection with pregnancy, confinement and the post-natal period, granting free services where necessary, as well as adequate nutrition during pregnancy and lactation.” (GR#24:12.2)
River has a right to be breastfed due to her mother’s milk which contains not only nutrition but antibodies as well that strengthens the immune system of the child. The mother, though detained, has the right to nurture and feed her infant child. We consider the right to nurture and breastfeeding as a shared human right of both mother and child. Not only is this in accordance with the CRC and CEDAW, but also in the United Nations Rules for the Treatment of Women Prisoners and Non-custodial Measures for Women Offenders (The Bangkok Rules)3 which prohibits discouraging women from breastfeeding (Rule 48) and the placing of breastfeeding mothers in solitary confinement which separates them from their children (Rule 22). Furthermore, General Comment # 28 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights provides that “[p]regnant women who are deprived of their liberty should receive humane treatment and respect for their inherent dignity at all times, and in particular during the birth and while caring for their newborn children; States parties should report on facilities to ensure this and on medical and health care for such mothers and their babies.” (Par. 15)
Clearly, the failure to heed the pleas of Reina Mae is a blatant injustice to her and to her baby, who were never given the chance to reunite, while the latter struggled to survive. We remind the Philippine Government of its obligations under International Human Rights Law and call for action to correct this inhumanity and unfair treatment suffered not only by Reina and River, but by all those who are similarly situated. We ask for the court’s compassion to grant her furlough to allow her to grieve with her family in this time of sorrow and anguish. We further call on the government for better compliance with the Bangkok Rules, especially as regards to women who are pregnant or nursing their children.
1 Rappler, https://www.rappler.com/nation/baby-separated-from-jailed-activist-mother-reina-mae-nasino-dies?s=04&fbclid=IwAR3Hnkj9tP7R_mgJvvSLVLV6gbK_mmCX2_LqDauwM-gF_fnq_zAWwRFIsYQ