The House of Representatives has approved on third and final reading a measure declaring February 1 of every year as “National Hijab Day” and mandating the government to launch an awareness program on the practice of wearing a hijab by Muslim women.
The lower chamber approved Tuesday House Bill (HB) 5693 by an overwhelming 274 votes. The bill is a consolidation of HBs1363, 3725 and 5736, principally authored by Maguindanao Rep. Bai Dimple Mastura (1st District, Maguindanao and Cotabato City), Basilan Rep. Mujiv Hataman, Mohamad Khalid Q. Dimaporo, and others.
“The State recognizes the role of women in nation- building and shall ensure the fundamental equality of women and men before the law. The free exercise and enjoyment of religious profession and worship, without discrimination and or preference, shall be forever allowed,” HB 5693 said.
“The National Hijab Day shall be observed on every first day of February to showcase hijabis’ rights and the Muslim tradition of wearing a hijab. Muslim and non-Muslim women shall be encouraged to don the hijab on this day,” it added.
The Committee on Muslim Affairs chaired by Rep. Khalid Dimaporo also approved the measure. The National Hijab Day Bill was also passed on 3rd and final reading during the 18th Congress but did not hurdle Senate approval.
According to the bill, a “hijab” refers to “a veil that covers the head and chest, which is particularly worn by a Muslim female beyond the age of puberty in the presence of adult males outside of their immediate family.”
The term is also used to describe any head, face, or body covering worn by Muslim women “that conforms to a certain standard of modesty.”
A hijabi, meanwhile, is a Muslim woman wearing a hijab.
Objectives of the bill include: to encourage Muslim and non-Muslim women to wear the hijab and experience the virtue in wearing it; to remove the misconception of wearing the hijab as a symbol of oppression, terrorism and lack of freedom; to stop discrimination against Muslim hijab; to protect the freedom of religion and the right of Muslim women to practice their religion; to promote and deepen understanding amongst non-Muslims the value of wearing a hijab as an act of modesty and dignity of Muslim women; to promote appreciation for diversity in expression of oneself and one’s; and to promote tolerance and acceptance of other lifestyles amongst the citizenry.
“Government institutions, schools, and the private sector shall be encouraged to observe this event in a manner that promotes understanding and awareness among its employees and students of the objective of the campaign,” the measure said.
HB 5693 also mandates the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF) as the lead agency in promoting and raising consciousness about the practice of wearing a hijab.
“It shall conduct activities that shall aim to deepen understanding of the hijab as a lifestyle choice amongst Muslim women. To this end, it may conduct fora, information dissemination campaigns and other educational drives to effectively meet the objectives of this Act,” the measure said.