IN THE past week, there have been intense discussions on LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and queer) rights in the Philippines.
This after Gretchen Diez, a transgender woman, allegedly experienced discrimination at the Farmer’s Plaza Mall in Cubao, Quezon City on August 13. In a news report by Philippine Star on August 15, 2019, Diez was arrested and then detained at a police station for 11 hours after she entered the mall’s women’s restroom.
It was reported on SunStar Philippines that on August 16, Diez filed a complaint against Araneta Center Inc., Starline Security Agency Inc., and the sanitation services agency contracted by the Araneta Center for supposedly violating the Quezon City Gender Fair Ordinance.
After Diez posted a video of the incident, a discussion was launched over social media with political figures even commenting on the incident.
Bataan first district Rep. Geraldine Roman and Gabriela party-list Rep. Arlene Brosas have filed a resolution in Congress for the investigation of the incident. Roman is the first transgender woman to be elected to Congress.
On Monday, President Rodrigo Duterte has met with Diez. Together with her was Roman. However, the Palace has yet to disclose what was discussed in the meeting.
The discussion of LGBTQ rights in the country is a sensitive matter. We can visibly see how generally “accepting” the country has been with the LGBTQ community with the presence of known icons. However, the community continues to face discrimination here and there. For example, transgender women are commonly catcalled or mocked by people when they walk along the streets. Over social media, it is also common to see slurs thrown at members of the LGBTQ community.
In a bid to stop discrimination towards the LGBTQ community, the Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Expression Equality (Sogie) bill, also known as the Anti-Discrimination Act, was proposed in the Congress and the Senate. In the Congress, House Bill 4982 was filed by representatives Emmeline Y. Aglipay-Villar, Kaka J. Bag-ao, and Roman during the 17th Congress. In the Senate, Senate Bill 1271 was filed by Senator Risa Hontiveros also during the 17th Congress.
The Sogie Bill was approved by the House of Representatives in 2017, but its version in the Senate experienced delays during the interpellation period. Hontiveros has refiled the bill in the 18th Congress.
According to its Senate Version, the Sogie Bill seeks to “address all forms of discrimination and violence on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity and to promote human dignity.”
As it is hotly debated within the halls of Congress and the Senate, the bill is also being hotly debated among Filipinos. Some oppose the bill fearing that it may step on the different religious beliefs and practices in the country. Supporters of the bill say that there is a need to pass the bill citing equal rights for the LGBTQ community.
While there are good intentions for the crafting of the bill, in a way that it calls for the protection of the rights of the LGBTQ community, the proponents must strike a balance between the needs of the LGBTQ community and the sentiments of those who oppose the bill. Proponents of the bill must also consider and respect the stance of those who oppose the bill as some of their comments towards the bill also makes sense.
One thing is sure, the Sogie Bill is facing an uphill battle in the halls of Congress just like how the LGBTQ is struggling to fight discrimination.