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Hope floats for LGBTQI people in Zamboanga even as they face challenges

Challenges still abound for LGBTQI people in Zamboangain Mindanao. Fortunately, locals are already establishing LGBTQI organizations to, among others, “documents LGBTQI-related hate crimes, educate about (their) human rights, et cetera – all promising developments.”

Challenges abound for LGBTQI people in Zamboanga, a former province located in the western region of the southern island of Mindanao in the Philippines. These are committed by State and non-State actors, said Alvin Toni Gee Fernandez, who helms the Zamboanga City-based MUJER LGBT Organization, “particularly those who are (aligned with) traditionalistic and fundamentalist religious practices.”

Their attack of people of different sexual orientations and gender identity and expressions “promotes harm, harassment and oppression,” Fernandez said. “Nakakatakot ito kasi nagiging prone tayo sa violence (This is scary as it makes us prone to acts of violence).”

QUICK LOOK BACK

Earlier, in 2013, Outrage Magazine visited parts of Mindanao, where it was noted that gender-based violence (some leading to extra-judicial killings) among LGBTQI people were poorly reported, thereby not addressed.

This was more particularly notable in Muslim areas in Mindanao.

In the Islamic city of Marawi in Lanao del Sur, for instance, local LGBTQI people told of stories of gay beauticians who were gunned down because of their SOGIE. One Zuhawie Macud, a hairdresser, was shot with a .380 pistol by an unidentified suspect in the evening of June 21, 2012. The suspect of the shooting was eventually identified as a certain Lamualid Pamuan, a relative of the victim. No case was filed against the suspect. Other beauticians who were also shot included: Casan Ali Wahab (on January 13, 2013), and Cosary Racman (on March 29, 2013). The motives for these shootings remain undetermined.

In the middle of 2012, students from the Mindanao State University (MSU) reported the distribution of leaflets and the radio broadcasts from unidentified sources that allegedly warned gays to leave Marawi. These alleged public warnings against gays were also reported to have occurred in the provincial capital of Sulu island, Jolo. There, according to Jul-amin Hadil, a gay Tausug from Jolo, killing LGBTQI people is considered “‘Wajib’ o obligasyon ng mga Muslim (‘Wajib or obligation for Muslims).”

Jolo maybe over 215 kilometers away from Zamboanga; while Marawi over 426 kilometers away, but the city also had its talked about LGBTQI-related hate crimes.

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One Eugene Pendergat, a trans woman, was 18 years old when she alleged she was gang raped. When she reported what happened to her to the local police, she was allegedly told: “Di mo ba na-enjoy? Blessing ‘yan sa iyo! Ikaw pa nga siguro ang nagbigay ng motibo (Did you not enjoy it? That is a blessing for you! You may be the one who made the first move)!”

There were also cases of gay men who were hit in the head with “kadena (chains)”. While police reports were filed by some of the victims, no action was done then.

According to Alvin Toni Gee Fernandez of MUJER LGBT Organization, those who are aligned with traditionalistic and fundamentalist religious practices continue “not to know how to deal with LGBTQI people,” she said. And so, often, LGBTQI people are just considered as “sinful.”

LEARNING TO STAND

According to Fernandez of MUJER LGBT Organization, those who are aligned with traditionalistic and fundamentalist religious practices continue “not to know how to deal with LGBTQI people,” she said. And so, often, LGBTQI people are just considered as “sinful.”

To deal with this prejudice, Fernandez believes there is a need to educate people.

In the case of MUJER LGBT Organization, “we work with the (local government unit)” to make sure that, among others, “lahat ng barangay merong Gender and Development (GAD) desks (all barangays have GAD desks).”

Locals are also establishing their own organizations to, among others, “documents LGBTQI-related hate crimes, educate about (their) human rights, et cetera.”

These developments are “promising,” Fernandez said.

MUJER-LGBT Organization: Confronting LGBT-related stigma and discrimination in Zamboanga

FEAR NOT

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In the end, “huwag kayo matakot. LGBT rights are human rights. May karapatan tayo; hindi tayo iba (Do not be afraid; LGBT rights are human rights. We have human rights; we’re no different from other people,” Fernandez said. “Spread your wings and soar high.”

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