Wonder Whiteboard Series: SOGIE Equality Bill
Say it louder for the people in the back: Pinoys sound off on why the Anti-Discrimination Bill needs to be passed
One recurring rebuttal in the drawn-out discussion on laws affecting the LGBTQ+ is: I accept them and this country accepts them…how is this not enough? While members of the community and their allies (accustomed to making a case for rights supposedly fundamental) are happy to oblige and provide answers, it’s worth looking into this mentality shared by many a Filipino first and foremost.
Our being loving, hospitable and karinyoso among other classic Pinoy traits has led us to wear acceptance of others somewhat like a badge of honor. “The Global Divide on Homosexuality” report by Pew Research Center is proof of that. Revealing impressive figures that bode well for the country, the 2013 report shows that the Philippines is the second most gay-friendly country in the Asia-Pacific region (overall, 10th in the world) with 73% of Filipinos agreeing that “homosexuality should be accepted by society.”
Acceptance in and of itself is a cause for celebration, but the fact remains that the stance on acceptance is easier voiced out than lived out. Why is it that the moment the topic shifts towards letting this materialize via legislation, the stance shifts, too? Could it be that a loose equivalent of the earlier question, then, is: I accept the LGBTQ+ for who they are, but it’s precisely because of who they are that they cannot have the same rights that I do? This line of thinking and arguments on LGBT rights only reveal that tolerance has been parading as acceptance all along and we have a much longer way to go than we think.
This is the uphill battle we as a nation are facing today, one that the SOGIE Equality Bill hopes to address, in part. “The SOGIE Equality Bill recognizes the LGBTQ++ as equals and ensures that their rights are protected inasmuch as everyone’s is,” shared DivinaLaw Underbar Associate Ma. Jiandra Bianca F. Deslate. “Other anti-discrimination bills have been filed in the past, but these were never SOGIE-specific, lumping the lesbian, gay, transgender, bisexual and queer sector (LGBTQ++ sector) with others such as the differently-abled or the indigenous groups.”
Being able to navigate day-to-day affairs—education, healthcare, employment—as a dignified human being should not have to depend on a person’s sexual orientation and gender identity and expression. That is the big picture we hope society turns its attention to. “The denial of rights to LGBTQ+ community on the basis of their SOGIE [include] their right to access public services, right to use establishments and services including housing, and right to apply for a professional license, among others. Differential treatment of an employee or anyone engaged to render services, denial of admission to or expulsion from an educational institution, refusal or revocation of accreditation to any organization due to an individual’s SOGIE will also be penalized,” explained Deslate. “The bill also deems as discriminatory the act of forcing any person to undertake any medical or psychological examination to alter his SOGIE, the publication of information intending to ‘out’ a person without his or her consent, public speech meant to vilify LGBTQ+, the harassment and coercion of the latter by anyone especially those involved in law enforcement and gender profiling.”
The violating scenarios above are just the tip of the iceberg for the LGBTQ+ community; and without national legislation, any and all discriminatory offenses can continue on without justice having to be served. This is why mere acceptance is not enough. This is why we need the SOGIE Equality Bill.
Let’s have the conversation not only amongst ourselves, but with the lawmakers who have the power to expedite the passage of the SOGIE Equality Bill. Continue to show the Philippine senators who oppose it (namely Sotto, Pacquiao and Villanueva) that #LoveIsAllWeNeed by sending them messages of love. Click here to find out how.
Art Alexandra Lara