LGBTQIA+ member welcomes new ‘welfare committee’

(File photo)
(File photo)(File photo)

A MEMBER of the LGBTQIA+ community in Cebu has welcomed the creation of a welfare committee for the sector, viewing it as a “good sign” that the country is moving in a progressive direction, but said there would be challenges from religious groups.

On Dec. 23, 2023, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. issued Executive Order 51, creating a special committee for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex, or asexual (LGBTQIA+) community that aims to “strengthen existing mechanisms to address the continued discrimination being experienced by the members of the LGBTQIA+ community.”

The Department of Social Welfare and Development will head the special committee, with the secretaries of the Department of Migrant Workers and the Department of Labor and Employment serving as co-chairs.

Edrine Durante, a researcher at the University of the Philippines Cebu and a member of the LGBTQIA+ community in Cebu, told SunStar Cebu on Tuesday, Dec. 26, that the committee is a progressive move. Durante added it is helpful that the committee has a broad scope.

“The ratification of EO 51 is a good sign of having a more progressive country for the minorities that it protects,” said Durante.

Durante, however, expressed concern that the committee may face a significant challenge due to the notion of several religious groups that may see the committee as “too much” and that the public may be hesitant towards it similar to its attitude toward the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (Sogie) Equality Bill.

In the Philippines, the SOGIESC (sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, or sex characteristics), or later evolved into the Sogie Equality Bill, which aims to criminalize discrimination, has languished in Congress for over two decades. Its first version was introduced in the House of Representatives in January 2000.

Meanwhile, the special body under EO 51 is set to meet every quarter and will submit to the President within six months a Diversity and Inclusion Program (DIP).

The DIP will serve as a guideline for the national government in implementing programs, activities and projects ensuring they do not discriminate against people especially members of the LGBTQIA+ community.

Durante added there are now current efforts in addressing discrimination against members of the community with various policies and committees such as the Anti-Discrimination Committee in Cebu City but said enforcement is still lacking.

“However, lapses in proper implementation of programs for these sectors are evident,” said Durante.

Durante said there should be improvement in addressing the needs of the LGBTQIA+ community and added that it must be scientific and mass-oriented to serve minority groups.

“If the committee will focus on academic institutions and in the workplace, their mandate to protect these minorities from discrimination would be effective,” said Durante.

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