Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Love Will Win at International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia

Wazzup Pilipinas!

International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia
May 17, 2017; Australian Embassy


"To Ambassador Amanda Gorely, thank you so much for inviting me today. I would like to express my gratitude to your country’s continuing support to our human rights work in the Philippines, particularly the welfare and security of our LGBT brothers and sisters.

This year’s International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHOT) is a reminder to re-commit ourselves to a future where everyone can live in peace and security no matter who we are and who we love.  In a time when gay people are detained and tortured in the Russian region of Chechnya, shot at for simply having fun in a club in Orlando, and killed because of their sexual orientation and gender identity, similar to what happened to Jennifer Laude in Olongapo City, we have to remain brave and determined as we continue to fight for human rights and equality. More than ever, we must uphold the principle of global solidarity to fight and eliminate discrimination borne out from an outdated view of human sexuality.

In 2011, when the United Nations High Commissioner was asked to report on discrimination and violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity to the Human Rights Council, the following observations were noted all over the world:

Ø  Different states had adopted or strengthened their antidiscrimination and hate crime laws. Some introduced legal protection for intersex persons. Others had abolished criminal sanctions for homosexuality, allowed marriage and civil unions for same-sex couples, instituted reforms granting legal recognition of transgender persons.
Ø  In other countries, programs had been established to ensure that the police, judges, prison guards, medical staff and teachers are receiving gender and sexuality training, that there are anti-bullying programs in schools, and that shelters are built to house homeless LGBT youths.

These were significant developments. These will certainly contribute and strengthen our David-like resistance against the Goliath-like forces of hate and violence which the LGBTIQ community continues to face. 

In the Philippines, just a few weeks after Jennifer Laude’s death, Mary Joy Anonuevo, a transgender woman, was stabbed 55 times in a club in Lucena City, Quezon. From 2008 to 2014, 29 cases of transgender killings were documented in the country, the highest in Southeast Asia and the second-highest in Asia. 

In another independent study, the UNDP reported that in the first half of 2011 alone, 28 LGBT-related killings had already been reported in the country. 

These numbers are extremely alarming. They represent a deadly and irrational prejudice against those who do not conform to the traditional notion of sexual identity and orientation and a deep-seated hate that we refuse to acknowledge and address. For a country seen by many as liberal and tolerant of different views, the Philippines still has a long way to go in protecting the rights and lives of the LGBT community.

The Duterte government’s attitude towards this problem is also troubling. While many governments chose to respond positively and pro-actively to this issue, the Philippine government has chosen to default. In the recent vote in the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) to retain the Independent Expert on Discrimination and Violence against LGBTIQs, the Philippines abstained. Citing our lack of policy against discrimination, the Duterte government has chosen to renege on our human rights obligations. We let hate win.

This problem has been compounded by the growing climate and culture of sexism and misogyny in the country.  Women’s dignity in government has been reduced to body parts, rape jokes have become tolerable, online sexual harassment is now a political strategy to shut off contrarian views and catcalling is reinforced as a perverse  ‘compliment’ to women and an exercise of the right to freedom of expression.

We cannot continue to live like this.

As a response, I filed the Anti-Discrimination bill to eliminate all forms of discrimination based on “sexual orientation and gender identity or expression (SOGIE). It lists and defines discriminatory acts which are to be proscribed and penalized. The bill mandates the creation of social protection and diversity programs that will protect LGBTIQs rights and promote equality. It will ensure that discrimination, stigma, and hate would not hinder anyone from access to education, healthcare, employment, and other fundamental rights.

My proposed measure will also compel the Philippine government to fully comply with its obligations under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR). It will give life to and uphold the equal protection clause enshrined in our 1987 Constitution.

The bill was already sponsored at the Senate plenary and is currently in the middle of the period of interpellation.  After nearly 2 decades, our bill seeking to protect the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI) community from hate crimes and discrimination has finally reached the Senate plenary, and is being debated vigorously. Imagine our senators discussing the concept of SOGIE, which a year ago was totally unknown to many of them.

However, the struggle is far from over. There are still many legislative hurdles that we need to surmount. Yet, with the unwavering support of advocates and different social movements working for equality, I am confident that we will be able to overcome the challenges and enact this landmark piece of legislation.

Aside from this, my office has started to talk to advocates and study possible policy interventions to effectively address hate speech based on SOGIE. The old idiom, “sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me” is not true. Hate speech loads guns. Discriminatory speech leads to discriminatory policies, which in turn becomes a license for prejudiced minds to assault and hurt those who they do not understand and/or those that they are taught to hate. The principle of nondiscrimination is one of the underlying thrusts of any democratic society. This kind of language has no place in our community. It is affording impunity for committing discrimination and tolerating human rights abuse.

My dear friends, our long fight against discrimination is fueled by our uncompromising belief that a world that is equal and kind is possible.  As we observe this year’s International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, let us remind ourselves not only of the reality and ugly consequences of hate and discrimination, but also of the inspiration behind our activism for equality.

The protection of the dignity of every human person must without reservation form part of our national policy. The Anti-Discrimination Bill is our commitment to the fundamental equality of all persons before the law, a fulfillment of our long and overdue promise—human rights for all.

The revolutionary and martyr Dr. Ernesto “Che” Guevarra once said that “the true revolutionary is guided by great feelings of love.” I believe this speaks well for our advocacy.

Friends and fellow advocates, our struggle for equality is revolutionary, it is guided and nurtured by love. And in the end, love will trump hate. Love will win. We will win.

Thank you."

Photo by Joseph Vidal, Senate PRIB

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