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Call for intersex inclusion as House panel excludes ‘intersex’ in sex definition of proposed anti-discrimination law

The term “intersex” was excluded in the definition of sex in the draft of the ironically-described “comprehensive anti-discrimination bill’. Now, Jeff Cagandahan of Intersex Philippines asks for the intersex community to also be consulted when policies affecting them are developed.

A conservative politician – Deputy Speaker Bienvenido Abante Jr. – succeeded in pushing for the exclusion of the term “intersex” from the definition of sex in the draft of a more “comprehensive” anti-discrimination bill because it “complicated” things for him.

During the panel hearing to come up with the said “comprehensive” anti-discrimination bill by the House Committee on Human Rights, UP College of Law professor Leo Battad, a resource person, suggested a definition for the term “sex.” Specifically, he said: “We would rather that the definition sex refers to the civil status of a person acquired by birth, having a system of reproduction corresponding to that male, female or intersex. This has reference to the provision House Bill 7754 this definition is inclusive and encompasses intersex persons.”

HB 7754 eyes to eliminate discrimination based on one’s sexual orientation and gender identity or expression (SOGIE), age, racial or ethnic origin, religious belief or activity, political inclination or conviction, and social class.

But conservative politician Abante objected to the inclusion of “intersex” in the definition of “sex.”

“I think we can make it more simple than complicated… Sex refers to the differences between men and women that are universal and usually determined at birth that is already a complete definition… Why do we still have to muddle the definition of sex. That is too much already,” Abante said.

For Abante, “Don’t make it complicated. Doon nagkakaroon ng maraming interpretation when you begin to complicate the law.”

DEFINING INTERSEX

According to UN Free & Equal, intersex is an umbrella term used to describe a range of natural bodily variations that: may or may not be visible at birth; may or may not become apparent until puberty; or may or may not be physically apparent at all.

“Being intersex relates to biological sex characteristics, and is distinct from a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. An intersex person may be straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual or asexual, and may identify as female, male, both or neither,” UNFE added.

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PUSHING BACK

Bataan Rep. Geraldine Roman – the first transgender woman elected in Congress in the Philippines – refuted Abante.

“I think it is about time to open the eyes of the public to the scientific truth that there are people who are born intersex, that is with the gonads of both men and women,” Roman said.

The possible inclusion of “intersex” in the definition of sex would have been a landmark recognition of intersex people in legislation in the Philippines, since currently only two sexes — man and woman – are recognized.

Roman – along with other proponents of the measure – nonetheless eventually relented to a compromise where the term intersex would be defined in a separate provision.

NO INTERSEX REPRESENTATION

According to Jeff Cagandahan – who helms Intersex Philippines – “Sex is a label that you’re given at birth based on what’s in between your legs. Most people are assigned male and female, but you cannot disregard that there are people who are born intersex. You cannot erase us. Intersex is a sex.”

For Cagandahan, “their fear of making the law complicated doesn’t make sense. This can’t be a justification for excluding intersex people.”

The Supreme Court actually already released a decision touching on intersexuality in the Philippines.

On December 11, 2003, Cagandahan, an intersex person, filed a Petition for Correction of Entries in Birth Certificate before the RTC, Branch 33 of Siniloan, Laguna. Specifically, Cagandahan asked to change his name and his sex (from female to male). Cagandahan claimed that he developed male characteristics while growing up because of a condition called Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia (CAH).

Cagandahan’s case reached the Supreme Court, which sided with him in 2008.

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“Ultimately, we are of the view that where the person is biologically or naturally intersex the determining factor in his gender classification would be what the individual, like respondent, having reached the age of majority, with good reason thinks of his/her sex,” the highest court stated.

The life of intersex people is complicated as it is, Cagandahan said, and this exclusion makes it even more complicated.

Though the panel hearing is still ongoing, Cagandahan said that hopefully they would “also be consulted in the drafting of policies also affecting us.”

FOR MORE INFORMATION ON INTERSEX PHILIPPINES, CONTACT JEFF CAGANDAHAN AT 09155159819 OR EMAIL jeffcagandahan@yahoo.com.

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