Karapatan calls on PH Senate to pass SOGIE Equality Bill

Human rights alliance Karapatan joins the call of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Intersex (LGBTQI+) community in strongly urging the Senate to pass the Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Expression (SOGIE) Equality Bill, which seeks to assert the rights of the LGBTQI+ community and protect all individuals from discrimination on the basis of their sexuality and gender identity.

“As a national alliance of human rights organizations and advocates, Karapatan affirms its commitment to uphold and defend the basic rights and human dignity of marginalized sectors in the country. We stand firm with the LGBTQI+ community in calling for the immediate passage of the SOGIE Equality Bill,” Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay said.

Article 2, Section 11 of 1987 Constitution declares that "the State values the dignity of every human person and guarantees full respect for human rights.” Moreover, the Philippines is also a signatory to a number of international agreements on human rights such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural which have been consistently affirmed by international institutions such as the United Nations Human Rights Committee and the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, to include protection of individuals against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

“While we respect the beliefs of faith-based institutions and groups, the anchor of our State policies should be on the civil and political rights already guaranteed in our constitution and binternational human rights instruments. We must not let homophobic and transphobic rhetoric spreading fear and paranoia prevent us from pushing for meaningful reforms for the LGBTQI+ community,” Palabay added.

Despite these international instruments and despite being considered one of the most “gay-friendly” countries in the Asia Pacific, Palabay said that the LGBTQI+ community in the country remains marginalized as they continue to face the brunt of macho-feudal oppression in various forms of discrimination, hate crimes, abuse, and violence from state forces. These are perpetrated with rampant impunity.

“Discrimination of the LGBTQI+ community remains widespread. Discrimination reinforces the marginalization, stigmatization, and oppression of LGBTQI+ individuals by affirming and perpetuating heteronormative social practices which are deeply rooted in macho-feudal misconceptions of gender and sexuality. In turn, members of the LGBTQI+ community—especially those coming from the working class, peasants, urban poor, youth and young professionals—find themselves severely limited in their exercise and enjoyment of their basic rights and fundamental freedoms. In many cases, lesbian students are being forcibly expelled from schools, gay workers face greater threats of layoffs because of their sexual orientation, and transgender individuals are being barred from asserting their identity and their assertion can lead to harassment, even illegal arrest and detention. The LGBTQI+ community becomes more vulnerable to the violation of their civil and political as well as their economic, social, and political rights,” Palabay said.
While Rodrigo Duterte has seemingly expressed support for the landmark measure, the Karapatan official slammed Duterte’s support as a hypocritical form of “macho-fascist pink washing,” and urged the LGBTQI+ community to be wary of personalities posing as “allies.”

“If passed, the SOGIE Equality Bill will be a good step towards asserting and upholding the rights of the LGBTQI+ community and in penalizing and holding to account those who engage in discriminatory acts, targeted harassment, and hate crimes. The Duterte administration and personalities like Imee Marcos, however, cannot use the SOGIE Equality Bill to deodorize their fascist core and the thousands of human rights violations up their sleeve. We must be wary of those posturing as “allies” of the LGBTQI+ community. Duterte is a hypocrite to support the SOGIE Equality Bill and it’s obviously an attempt at macho-fascist pinkwashing: he is a rotting macho-fascist who has relentlessly engaged in misogynistic acts and remarks as well as homophobic slurs in vilifying his critics and opponents. The refusal of the Philippine National Police to support the bill—while ridiculously claiming to serve and protect the people, including heterosexual individuals from discrimination—is only a concrete testament to the government’s macho-fascist character and which interests it ultimately serves,” the Karapatan official said.

Nonetheless, Palabay also urged that the LGBTQI+ community’s struggle for equality and acceptance does not end with the passage of the SOGIE Equality Bill, and that their struggle must be linked to the struggle of the basic masses in their right for the defense of people’s rights, genuine liberation, economic equality, and social justice.

“The SOGIE Equality Bill has long languished in the Congress since 1999—but collective action has shown that we can advance this cause, with the bill being approved in its third and final by the House of Representatives of 17th Congress. There is still a lot of work to be done, and the legislative arena is just one avenue. While laws are good steps, may we also be reminded that the struggle of the LGBTQI+ community for equality goes beyond laws and questions of identity. It does not exist in a vacuum: it is inextricably linked and intertwined with the struggle of the basic masses in dismantling the exploitative feudal and colonial character of our society which allows various forms of oppression to thrive and flourish. A lot of LGBTQI+ activists and human rights defenders have dedicated their lives and even died in the line of struggle for genuine liberation, and we must continue to resist together for a society that is free from all forms of discrimination, oppression, and exploitation,” the Karapatan official ended. ###