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House panel passes ‘comprehensive’ anti-discrimination bill

The House Committee on Human Rights approved a substitute bill to the SOGIE Equality Bill (the latest version of the anti-discrimination bill that has been pending in Congress for over 20 years now), with this version seeking to be more comprehensive by eyeing to prohibit discrimination not only on the basis of SOGIESC, but also race, color, religious beliefs, and political affiliation, among others.

Still small steps after 20 years.

The House Committee on Human Rights approved a substitute bill to the SOGIE Equality Bill (the latest version of the anti-discrimination bill that has been pending in Congress for over 20 years now), with this version seeking to be more comprehensive by eyeing to prohibit discrimination not only on the basis of SOGIESC, but also race, color, religious beliefs, and political affiliation, among others.

The “comprehensive” anti-discrimination bill (CADB) was approved subject to amendments, after Bataan Representative Geraldine Roman – the first transgender woman elected into Congress in the Philippines – moved for its approval. Roman’s motion was approved.

As late as last week, lawmakers debated on the inclusion of gender identity as grounds for discrimination. Particularly, conservative politician and Deputy Speaker Bienvenido Abante Jr. did not agree on its inclusion, though the panel eventually voted to retain it.

Abante, nonetheless, successfully lobbied for the exclusion of the term “intersex” from the definition of sex in the draft of the CADB because it “complicated” things for him.

This exclusion rankled the intersex community, with Jeff Cagandahan – who helms Intersex Philippines – saying to Outrage Magazine earlier that “their fear of making the law complicated doesn’t make sense. This can’t be a justification for excluding intersex people.”

“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,” Cagandahan was quoted as saying.

With the CADB passing the House Committee on Human Rights, it will now hopefully be deliberated.

A separate – and needed – version in the Senate is nonetheless expected to face even rougher sailing, with former actor and now Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III earlier stating that the bill that seeks to ban discrimination on the basis of sex, sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression (SOGIE) has “no chance” of passing in the Senate – at least under his leadership.

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