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Reviving human rights

In May 2019, the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Expression (SOGIE) bill officially became the longest-running bill under the Senate interpellation period in Philippine history (CNNPh, 2019). This bill seeks to penalize discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity or expression. The practices considered to be discriminatory are the denial of access to public services, facilities, establishment, education and work. Aside from these, it might open an opportunity for the enactment of same-sex marriage (Villanueva, 2018).  It was first filed in the Congress in 2000 by Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago and its current version was passed in the House representative but was overrode in the Senate in 2017 because of its constitutional issues (Rappler, 2019).

Just last year, it once again took the spotlight of discourse after the confrontation between a transgender named Gretchen Custodio Diez and a janitress, preventing Diez from using the female restroom in a Cubao mall. According to Diez’s post on Facebook, she was dragged to the security room and was cuffed, shamed and detained by cups. The physical nature of the incident was inhumane and beyond measure which was a clear human rights violation. However, the LGBTQ+ community did not stop there. The controversy has strengthened calls for the immediate passing of the SOGIE bill which has languished for three years in the 17th Congress.  With two decades of legal struggle, it is rightful for the Philippines to not implement the bill for it only caters special privileges, deprivation of other people’s rights and the undermining of religious freedom.

The SOGIE bill does not actually bring equality to the table but special treatment. With the existing laws, men and women, regardless of their sexual orientation, gender or expression, are already equal and are protected against any form of discrimination. Some of these are Civil Code RA 386, Anti-harassment Act of 1995 and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights Act 7 which states: “All are entitled to equal protection against discrimination.” These laws impose legal sanctions against those who engage in it such as authorizing civil actions for damages. Yet, the proposed law sanctions the same behavior. It imposes criminal penalties including hefty fines and jails.

With this, a special status is afforded to some people who are covered by the bill while it is denied to others who are victimized because of the color of their skin, appearance, economic status and many more. Creating two types of victims is invidious which can give rise to other people with specific characteristics to also ask for legislation concerning their personal circumstances (Manila Bulletin-Opinion, 2019).   That being said, it is unreasonable and is dangerous to public order.

Letting this bill be enacted would only trample the rights of other people especially in terms of security and privacy. It is inevitable that people may not feel comfortable sharing comfort rooms, locker rooms and leisure places with LGBTQ members. Frankly speaking, comfort rooms are intended to provide comfort while accessing the facility. Thus, using a room that is not in accordance with the sex is elusive and could lead to serious health problems. This is very evident to the SOGIE-country, United States which failed to address this issue. According to a report, one-fourth of the twenty-one million men and women have been affected by the law as they suffer paruresis, commonly known as shy bladder syndrome which is a form of social anxiety that prevents people from being able to go to the toilet in the presence of members of the opposite sex (International Parureris Association, 2018).

As such, people in the Philippines may take advantage of the existence of SOGIE law to commit deceptive acts that could threaten the security of their differing gender. This has already occurred in United Kingdom and Canada that have adopted SOGIE legislation. Inline, a sexual assault case was committed in Manchester, United States wherein a man named Stephen Wood pretended to be transgender (The Guardian, 2018). There was also a report in Washington about a man who allegedly undressed in a women’s locker room (NY Daily News, 2016). These cases apparently give a mirror that reflects the aftermath that Filipinos may shoulder once SOGIE is implemented. 

Moreover, it undermines the rights of parents in rearing their children accordingly as provided by the Constitution which says that the moral and spiritual values of the youth must be protected (Christian Coalition for Righteousness, Justice and Truth, 2018). As a family-centered country, this could undeniably affect Filipinos’ values and integrity in a family and thus shifting its burden to the next generation at large.

The proposed measure is a venomous bill that seeks to destroy all rights to religious freedom. In fact, it lacks a stated exemption for religious institutions in the admission of clergy and educational personnel based on policies anchored on religious beliefs and practices (House of Representative, 2019). Having said that, the bill will only put all the religious institutions and organizations in danger of five-hundred thousand pesos fines and imprisonment for six years and six months for protecting the sanctity of religion (Cosmo.Ph, 2019).

In a simple way, implementing SOGIE means the church can be sued for quoting the bible saying: “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is abdomination.” Faith-based organizations that fail to allow homosexual people to practice homosexuality can be put under contempt and harassment. Profit-making corporations such as Christian book stores, religious publishing houses, and religious television and radio stations could all be forced to compromise their religious principles.

Becoming a prey for speaking words of God contradicts the Constitutional mandate for the free exercise of religion, more specifically the Article 32 of the Civil Code (Sotto, 2019). Since the Philippines is known to be a religious country, adopting SOGIE will only put the integrity and decency of the country into question. It might then add an additional layer of stress to the already stressful lives of many of the society which could lead to dispute.

SOGIE bill does not create headway in the clamor of LGBTQ+ community, rather it uses a chainsaw that takes division among people in the limelight. There may be harassment cases reported involving gender and sexual minorities but these are not enough to compensate for the rights that might be run over once it is enacted. A special law is not what the LGBTQ+ community needs, it is strengthening their rights as humans.

Photo credit: Adobe Stock Picture


5 thoughts on “Reviving human rights

    1. I’m glad that you liked and agreed with my article. Inclusivity, humans rights, and equality should always be the top priorities!
      I totally agreed with what you said in your article as well. It was great! Thank you for providing enough news articles regarding girls’ and women’s rights and security being trampled due to the aftermath brought by transgender movements. I support LGBTQ+ community, but like I said, equality and human rights among us should always be put in the spotlight of national/political discourse.

      Liked by 1 person

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