In a multistakeholders forum on eliminating stigma and discrimination that gathered lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) leaders and various government officials, Dangal Pilipinas, a national network of LGBTs underscored the need to enact anti-discrimination measures.
According to Jonas Bagas, who helms Dangal Pilipinas, existing discriminatory policies affect other LGBT-related efforts, such as the fight against HIV, because these discriminatory policies continue to push many in the LGBT community, particularly men who have sex with men (MSM) at the fringes, and thus unable to access available services that could benefit them.
“Changes need to be made,” Bagas stressed.
In attendance during the gathering were Hon. Etta Rosales, chairperson of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR); Hon. Teddy Baguilat, Ifugao Representative; and Romeo Dongueto, executive director of the Philippine Legislators Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD).
CHR is a staunch supporter of the passage of an anti-discrimination law. Baguilat sponsored an anti-discrimination bill (ADB) in the 16th Congress. Meanwhile, PLCPD also continues to lobby for the passage of the ADB.
“We hope that this dialogue would give birth to human rights-centric and effective interventions in addressing stigma and discrimination. We support the bills filed by Representatives Teddy Baguilat-Brawner of Ifugao and Kaka Bag-ao of Dinagat that aim to eliminate different kinds of discrimination and abuse,” said Cris Lopera of SHINE SOCCSKARGEN, a member of Dangal Pilipinas.
“The passage of anti-discrimination measures is what we need, not discrimination, to stop the spread of HIV. The more we discriminate LGBTs, the greater the chances for the epidemic to continue to accelerate,” said Ruffa Torregoza of Gayon, an Albay-based LGBT group.
Also presented were best cases that helped push LGBT issues to the fore, such as the approval of anti-discrimination ordinances of select local government units (LGUs) in the Philippines.
“In Cebu City, we worked closely with progressive city councilors to have a comprehensive local law on non-discrimination approved. It penalizes discrimination in many areas – in schools, workplace, healthcare, among others,” said Magdalena Robinson, president of Cebu City-based LGBT group COLORS. “What’s also important was the support of local city officials to speak up against homophobia and discrimination, and it gave us the necessary symbolic capital to combat stigma and discrimination.”
Currently, however, only Quezon City, Angeles City, and Davao City have existing local anti-discrimination ordinances.
“We hope that more would follow suit,” said Torregoza. “We can also eliminate stigma and discrimination one city or province at a time.”