Mandaue City Hall
Mandaue City Hall (File photo: Mandaue City Public Information Office)

Denying right to dress based on preferred gender identity punishable in Mandaue

MANDATORY haircuts, denying the right to dress based on their perceived gender identity and expression, and making fun of LGBTQIA+ individuals in schools, companies and other institutions are punishable offenses, according to the proposed Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of Mandaue City's Anti-Discriminatory Ordinance for People of Diverse Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Gender Expression (Sogie).

The acronym LGBTQIA+ stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex and asexual, while the + is meant to include other gender and sexual identities as they emerge.

The final review of the IRR was conducted on Tuesday, February 6, 2024, at the Mandaue City Session Hall, with representatives from the Department of Education, Mandaue City Police Office, Mandaue City Council's committee on women and family, Mandaue City Government, LGBT presidents of the city's 27 barangays and Mandaue-based LGBT groups.

In December 2023, a write-shop was organized to create the IRR. The event was attended by department heads from different offices in Mandaue City as well as local LGBTQ+ groups, said Lester Ouano, project coordinator of the Kadangpan Project and the United Nations Development Program-Cebu United Rainbow LGBTIQ+ Sector (UNDP-Curls) Inc.

Mandaue City Treasurer Regal Oliva, one of the leading figures in the City's Sogie ordinance, said Tuesday that once approved, the IRR would serve as a guide for LGBTQ+ members on the legal process they can take if their rights under the city's Sogie ordinance are violated.

"It can already be a document to guide to serve as a rudder for people of diverse Sogie in case their rights are violated in Mandaue City. Then, they know what to do, what office to go to, what procedures to take, and what method to step into. You don't need to have a Regal Oliva who has to do it for you (filing of cases)," said Oliva, a transgender woman.

Oliva said it took a long time to craft the IRR since Mandaue's Sogie ordinance was approved in 2016 because it involved meticulous deliberation among stakeholders.

The revised copy of the IRR will now be endorsed to the City Legal Office for approval. After approval, a copy of the IRR will be forwarded to the office of Mandaue City Mayor Jonas Cortes for signature and implementation.

LGBTQ rights

The IRR identifies 17 discriminatory acts that must be eliminated, such as those that would impinge on the LGBTQ+ community’s right to fair treatment in the areas of employment, education, accommodation and delivery of services.

In education, the IRR protects LGBTQ+ students from unjust or onerous terms and conditions in schools. This includes prohibiting mandatory human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) testing, and imposing a mandatory haircut, particularly for male students, and use of compulsory uniforms that do not align with the student's gender expression.

The IRR also prohibits schools from denying or limiting students' access to any educational benefits based on their actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity and expression (Sogie). It also prohibits schools from expelling or subjecting students to any penalty or detriment based on their actual or perceived Sogie.

For employment, the IRR forbids denying or limiting the rights of training, recruitment, promotion, remuneration, and other terms and conditions of employment based on perceived or actual sexual orientation. It also prohibits denying or limiting opportunities for favorable terms and conditions of employment that afford employee advancement in all levels of government service and employment in Mandaue.

Moreover, it prohibits excluding LGBTQ members from membership in labor unions or similar organizations.

The law also prohibits mandatory HIV testing for LGBTQ employees and refusing employment to job applicants based on their perceived or actual sexual orientation, gender identity and expression.

Additionally, the law prohibits denying LGBTQ individuals access to private and public establishments and their accommodations, such as facilities, utilities, transportation or services, including housing, that are open to the general public, based on their sexual orientation and gender identity/expression.

All forms of abuse, particularly sexual harassment, are prohibited, including verbal and non-verbal ridicule and vilification that can lead to a loss or reduction of an individual's self-esteem. Examples include making fun of, contemptuously imitating, or mocking people with diverse sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, whether in writing, words or actions and uttering slanderous or abusive statements.

Budget

The IRR requires the Mandaue City Government to set aside a yearly budget of at least P1 million to combat discrimination and stigma against the LGBTQ community.

The budget should cover several components, including capacity building and education campaigns, studies and a databank on hate crimes, discrimination and stigma, access to scholarships, skills, employment, and livelihood opportunities, affirmative acts in employment and education, and access to legal representation.

Additionally, the IRR strongly suggests that the Mandaue City Police Office (MCPO) establish a task force to address specific concerns related to Sogie.

This task force should be created through the existing Violence Against Women or VAWC/human rights desk in all police stations in Mandaue City. The MCPO should also develop a system to document and report cases of discrimination and violence against people of diverse Sogie and provide assistance to the victims.

They should also ensure that barangay officials, barangay security or tanods, and other barangay workers, including volunteers, undergo training to enable them to respond to victims of gender discrimination and violence against people of diverse Sogie. The task force should also assist the victim in filing the appropriate complaint or report to other law enforcement agencies.

The IRR also includes granting abused transgender women a barangay protection order to prevent abusers from harassing, annoying, telephoning, contacting, texting, or otherwise communicating directly and indirectly with them.

Sogie ordinance

The City Council of Mandaue passed a comprehensive LGBT code on Feb. 11, 2016. This code protects the rights of the LGBT community based on the Philippine Constitution's Bill of Rights, existing laws and international conventions.

This landmark ordinance is the first in the country to be based on sexual orientation and gender identity or expression.

Ordinance violators will face penalties such as a fine of P1,000, attending a Sogie seminar, conducting community service, and imprisonment for at least three months depending on the court's discretion for the first offense.

For the second offense, violators will have to pay a fine of P3,000, attend a Sogie seminar, conduct community service, and face imprisonment of at least six months. Finally, for the third offense, violators must pay a fine of P5,000, attend a Sogie seminar, conduct community service, and face imprisonment of at least one year depending on the court's discretion.

Reglyn Bihag, president of the LGBTQ Federation of Mandaue City, said the city has 27 LGBTQ organizations representing the 27 barangays of the city.

Bihag said of the roughly 400,000 residents of Mandaue City, around 1,675 are members of the LGBTQ community.

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