Anti-Discrimination Bill for LGBT community in the Philippines

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Anti-Discrimination Bill for LGBT community in the Philippines
The House of Representatives kicked off the debate on Tuesday, March 14 regarding the anti-discrimination bill in the country. Image Credit : RYAN Y. RACCA

The House of Representatives kicked off the debate on Tuesday, March 14 regarding the anti-discrimination bill in the country.

The Philippines is ranked as one of the most gay-friendly nations in the world and it is also the most Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) friendly in Asia.

Emmeline Aglipay-Villar, the women and gender equality chairperson sponsored House Bill (HB) Number 4982 that seeks to end discrimination for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community in the country.

The Sexual Orientation Gender Identity Expression (SOGIE) are human rights and there is indeed a “dire need” for a law protecting the rights of LGBT members. The bill only wants equal opportunities for LGBT but it is not seeking to legalize same sex marriage in the country.

According to Villar, HB 4982:

  • Provides concise, inclusive definitions for sexual orientation, gender orientation, gender identity and sex that also cover terms such as intersex and asexuality.
  • Provides concise definitions of discrimination, marginalization, hate crimes, and stigma in a manner that allows the same to be actionable within the law enforcement and legal systems.
  • Provides an inclusive list of discriminatory practices that cover the most common acts of discrimination based on prejudice against SOGIE.
  • Makes explicit that discriminatory practices can be performed through any medium, including telecommunications devices and the internet, which proscribes some of the most common forms of discriminatory practices prevalent in modern times.
  • Proscribes parents from inflicting physical or emotional harm on their children because of SOGIE issues.
  • Protects the right to privacy of individuals, and in so doing protects both the expression and non-expression of the same.
  • Sanctions government officials who do not act in accordance with their duty to investigate, prosecute, or otherwise act on a complaint under this bill.
  • Provides penalties for those convicted of discriminatory acts, including a fine of not less than P100,000 but not more than P500,000 or imprisonment of not less than one year but not more than 6 years or both, at the discretion of the court.
  • Makes explicit that discriminatory acts need not be motivated by bias, prejudice, or hate of SOGIE to be illegal, by making such motivations into special aggravating circumstances rather than elements of the offense.
  • Renames the Women and Children’s Desks in all police stations to “Women, Children, and Gender Rights Protection Desks”.
  • Mandates the State to pursue initiatives and programs that seek to establish and maintain an environment free of stigma and discrimination.
  • Encourages positive and empowering portrayal of LGBT by media.
  • Creates a Congressional Oversight Committee to monitor the compliance of public institutions to the provisions of the bill.

A total of 144 legislators were co-author of the bill, it include Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas and Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez.

Moreover, according to Bataan 1st District Representative Geraldine Roman, the first transgender woman to be elected to congress the existing laws do not fully protect the Filipino LGBTs.

She explained that the LGBT members still being denied to have the chance to stuy, look for jobs, grow with their careers, avail basic government services or even gain access to public and comercial establishments. She also urged her colleagues to help pass the HB 4982 into law.

“We have this unique chance to uplift our brothers and sisters. What are we waiting for? There is nothing to fear. The sky will not fall and the sunrise will continue when this bill is passed,” Roman said.

On the other hand, Dinagat Islands Representative Kaka Bag-ao called her colleagues to dig deep into their hearts for the passage to vote HB 4982 or anti-discrimination bill. She then asked her fellow lawmakers to consider that there is a good number of congressional staff who are members of LGBT community.

According also to Bag-ao, the Philippines need SOGIE Equality Act as long as there are people who are afraid to be fired out from their jobs, so they just choose to hide their identity.

Thus, the bill is not seeking to legalize same-sex marriage or unions. The bill seeks to prohibit only a certain number of acts that unfairly discriminate against the members of the LGBT community. It only makes illegal for anyone who will force a person to take a medical exam to alter the person’s gender or sexual orientation. It also provides jail terms for those who will violate its provisions and for a venue for complaints and cases to be filed there will be existing desks.