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LGBTQI+ refugees more likely to gain asylum if they conform to stereotypes – study

Overall, asylum seekers were more successful if they could prove their ‘gayness’ by being involved in gay/queer activism in their country of origin, visiting gay bars, being members of lesbian and gay groups and attending gay pride marches.

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Photo by Matteo Paganelli from Unsplash.com

LGBTQI+ people – in this case, Muslims – who are seeking asylum are more successful if they speak, dress and act in accordance with Western notions of homosexuality, according to a new study.

The study, published in the journal Ethnic and Racial Studies, found that LGBTQI+ asylum applicants reported they were often expected to be “flamboyant” and “outspoken” in their asylum interview, and that overall, asylum seekers were more successful if they could prove their ‘gayness’ by being involved in gay/queer activism in their country of origin, visiting gay bars, being members of lesbian and gay groups and attending gay pride marches.

For the study, Dr Mengia Tschalaer, an anthropologist at the University of Bristol interviewed 15 lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer and intersex (LGBTQI+) refugees and asylum seekers from Tunisia, Syria, Lebanon, Iran and Pakistan. She also talked to asylum lawyers and judges from Berlin and Cologne, as well as representatives of LGBTQI+ refugee counseling centers in Cologne, Munich, Heidelberg and Mannheim.

She found that the vast majority of successful applicants were from middle to upper-class backgrounds, were assigned male at birth and had been actively involved in gay/queer activism in their country of origin.

People who were not ‘out’ at the time of their interview, or who found it difficult to speak about their sexuality due to fear of persecution, stigma or shame felt marginalized.
Photo by Ra Dragon from Unsplash.com

Along with class and educational background, membership of LGBTQI+ organisations and access to local queer and gay refugee organisations in Germany were the most important factors in securing a successful asylum claim.

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“In order to gain asylum, asylum seekers must convince officials of their permanent identity as ‘gay’, ‘lesbian’, trans’, ‘bi’, and/or ‘intersex’, says Dr Tschalaer. “They also need to demonstrate that their sexual and gender identity has led to them being persecuted in their home country.”

“My research showed that most successful applicants were very well informed about what is expected from them at the asylum interview – which was for their asylum story to align with Western notions of queer/gay lifestyles, i.e frequent visits to gay discos and parties, public display of love and affection, wearing rainbow-coded clothing etc.”

In addition, and despite efforts to render the asylum process safer for LGBTQI+ individuals, it was reported there were still incidences where asylum seekers were expected to answer questions about their sex life during their asylum interview – despite this being against EU law – and some interviewees stated they felt judged on their clothing, or how they acted in the interview.

The study also found that people who were more open about their sexuality and gender identity in their country of origin as well as the country of arrival were much more likely to be granted asylum, in part because they were more likely to seek out LGBTQI+ refugee organizations and receive support for the preparation of their asylum interview.

However, people who were not ‘out’ at the time of their interview, or who found it difficult to speak about their sexuality due to fear of persecution, stigma or shame felt marginalized.

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“LGBTQI+ asylum seekers who felt forced to hide their sexuality and/or gender identity, and who felt uncomfortable talking about it were usually rejected, as were those who were married or had children in their countries of origin. This was either because they were not recognized or believed as being LGBTQI+, or because they were told to hide in their country of origin since they had not come out yet,” says Dr Tschalaer.

“Quite a few of my interviewees also mentioned that they felt that their translator held a homo-/transphobic attitude or did not translate properly due to their lack of knowledge of gay/queer/trans issues. For example, one Somalian man said that his fear and shame of coming out as gay – coupled with his translator’s known negative attitudes toward homosexuals – stopped him from being able to talk openly about his sexuality, leading to the rejection of his asylum claim.”

The study also found that asylum applicants who portrayed Germany as a liberal, tolerant country free of discrimination, while portraying their Muslim countries of origin as homophobic and morally ‘backwards’ were more likely to receive refugee protection. While Germany, and Europe more generally are traditionally seen as a safe havens for LGBTQI+ refugees compared to many majority Muslim countries – where homosexuality is illegal – there is a concern that the narratives and stereotypes perpetuated by the German asylum system may serve right-wing discourses on immigration in Germany.

According to Tschalaer, the findings suggest that more needs to be done to ensure that all Muslim LGBTQI individuals enjoy the same right to asylum.

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“We need to train decision makers, judges and translators around the topic of LGBTQI+ so that they are more knowledgeable about LGBTQI+ identities and sexualities, and so as not to reproduce Islamophobic tendencies in the current immigration practices and debates in Germany.” says Tschalaer.

“Access to legal resources and support for LGBTQI+ also needs to be streamlined, as LGBTQI+ asylum seekers who had access to information on the asylum process in Germany were much more successful.”

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Sotto says SOGIE Equality Bill has ‘no chance’ of passing Senate

In a message, Sen. Sotto stated: “Anti-discrimination on persons, pwede, pero [it’s possible, but] focused on gays, which the SOGIE bill is, and religious and academic freedom impeded plus smuggling of same sex marriage? No chance!”

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Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III declared 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.

In a message, Sotto stated: “Anti-discrimination on persons, pwede, pero [it’s possible, but] focused on gays, which the SOGIE bill is, and religious and academic freedom impeded plus smuggling of same sex marriage? No chance!”

Sotto has repeatedly shown his opposition of the anti-discrimination bill, known in its current iteration as the SOGIE Equality Bill. For instance, during the 17th Congress, he was among the senators who – in essence – blocked the passage of the measure because of his insistence to want to interpellate the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Risa Hontiveros. The same interpellation didn’t happen until Congress adjourned, thereby killing the measure.

Surprisingly, in 2018, he actually stated that the ADB’s passage is “possible”. But his response even then was tempered by his position to continue allowing education/religious institutions to discriminate, and was similarly still stuck in toilet use (i.e. disallowing people to use restrooms according to their gender identity).

More recently, still confused about the meaning of LGBTQIA – coming after years of hosting Eat Bulaga, which has a trans pageant Super SiReyna, segment Suffer SiReyna, and co-hosts who are part of the LGBTQIA community, including Liza Seguerra and Allan K – Sotto suggested removing the acronym and instead just refer to members of the community as “homo sapiens”.

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The onus is not on Sotto alone, however, but those who placed him in his position of power to maneuver what will be discussed in the Senate’s session hall. Last June 4, 13 senators signed a resolution backing Sotto’s so-called leadership in the then incoming 18th Congress. These included: Sens. Juan Miguel Zubiri, Panfilo Lacson, Manny Pacquiao, Ralph Recto, Nancy Binay, Loren Legarda, Grace Poe, Sonny Angara, Francis Escudero, Sherwin Gatchalian, Gregorio Honasan, Aquilino Pimentel III, and Joel Villanueva.

Escudero, Honasan and Legarda ended their terms on June 30.

In contrast to the Senate under the so-called Sotto leadership, the Lower House/House of Representatives passed the bill in 2017.

The first anti-discrimination bill was filed 19 years ago. It was first filed in the 11th Congress by Akbayan Party-List Representative Etta Rosales. That version of the bill was approved on third and final reading in the 12th Congress, but failed to gain traction in the Senate. In 2006, during the 13th Congress, the ADB reached second reading.

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Daughter of former dictator wants to expand list of punishable acts of LGBTQIA discrimination

Among the other punishable offenses against LGBTQIA people that Sen. Imee Marcos added are: refusal to admit a child in school due to a parent’s or guardian’s sexual orientation, preventing a child from exhibiting gender identity, denial of access to public services, and exposing an LGBTQIA member’s sexual orientation without prior consent.

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Photo from the Twitter account of Sen. Imee Marcos

Neophyte senator Imee R. Marcos wants to expand the list of punishable acts of discrimination committed against members of the LGBTQIA community as stipulated in Senate Bill 412, which also prescribes measures to preempt such acts.

Marcos has said that the incident of Gretchen Diez, a transgender woman handcuffed by the police after attempting to use a women’s toilet in Quezon City, was “a blatant act of discrimination that defies Quezon City’s Gender-Fair Ordinance and makes me livid.”

So Marcos wants for the “harassment of LGBTQIA members by law enforcers to be a punishable offense in the Senate bill”, just as she wants to prescribe gender-neutral toilets, similar to those specially assigned for persons with disabilities, to protect transgender women in particular from public humiliation.

Diez recently made the news because of her ordeal while trying to access the female toilet in Farmers Plaza, a mall in Cubao, Quezon City. But Diez, who has been in the limelight following her experience and not because of her involvement in LGBTQIA advocacy, now fashions herself as the sole representative of the local LGBTQIA community/as the “face of the LGBT movement”.

The veracity of Diez’s narrative is now also put in question.

Among the other punishable offenses against LGBTQIA people that Marcos added to those in previous bills are the refusal to admit a child in school due to a parent’s or guardian’s sexual orientation, preventing a child from exhibiting gender identity, denial of access to public services including military service, and exposing an LGBTQIA member’s sexual orientation without prior consent.

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Among the other punishable offenses against LGBTQIA people that Marcos added to those in previous bills are the refusal to admit a child in school due to a parent’s or guardian’s sexual orientation, preventing a child from exhibiting gender identity, denial of access to public services including military service, and exposing an LGBTQIA member’s sexual orientation without prior consent.

If found guilty, offenders must pay a fine of not less than Php100,000 or face one to six years in jail.

“We must establish the equal footing of LGBT members as Filipino citizens and as human beings,” Marcos said. “LGBT members deserve the fullest measure of participation in society.”

As FYI, Marcos is the daughter of the late dictator Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos. Ousted in 1986, the Marcos family is said to have stolen from $5 billion to $10 billion from the coffers of the country, based on documents provided by the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG). Also, under the Marcos presidency, Task Force Detainees of the Philippines has recorded: 2,668 incidents of arrests, 398 disappearances, 1,338 salvagings, 128 frustrated salvagings and 1,499 killed or wounded in massacres. Meanwhile, Amnesty International reported: 70,000 imprisoned, 34,000 tortured and 3,240 documented as killed.

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‘Patuloy na itaguyod ang SOGIE Equality Bill’ – LGBTQIA activists

Though there are still politicians who refuse to see the merits to pass #SOGIEEqualityNow, #LGBT Filipinos are taking this as a challenge to keep pushing for a national policy that will protect the rights of all no matter their SOGIESC.

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As far as the equal protection of LGBTQIA Filipinos are concerned, “may mga gaps talaga (there are really gaps in the laws of the land),” said Anastacio Marasigan, executive director of TLF SHARE Collective Inc. “Kailangan ng SOGIE lens sa mga batas natin; yun ang nawawala sa current laws natin (Our laws need to use SOGIE lens/awareness; this is what’s not present in our current laws).”

Marasigan stressed that this SOGIE focus that is needed may best come in the form of the SOGIE Equality Bill, the current iteration of the anti-discrimination bill that has been pending in Congress for 19 years now.

Marasigan’s call was also made following the continuing confusion – and retaliation, for that matter – with passing the SOGIE Equality Bill.

At the Senate hearing on the SOGIE Equality Bill on August 20, Sen. Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa said that “you can’t just consider one portion of the society.”

Dela Rosa’s biggest concern, for instance, revolves around providing trans people access to toilets befitting their gender identity (not their assigned sex at birth).

“What if isang lalaking manyak magsuot ng pambabae at papasok sa CR ng babae (What if a heterosexual male who is a sex predator/maniac dresses up as a woman and enters the female toilet)?” Dela Rosa asked.

Dela Rosa’s comments were also triggered by the incident involving Gretchen Diez, who recently made the news because of her ordeal while trying to access the female toilet in Farmers Plaza, a mall in Cubao, Quezon City.

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Incidentally, Diez, who has been in the limelight following her experience and not because of her involvement in LGBTQIA advocacy, now fashions herself as the sole representative of the local LGBTQIA community, claiming to be the “face of the LGBT movement.”

The new senator stressed that “this is not an attack on your group (the LGBTQIA community).” But that this is a concern of “totoong babae (real women)” (sic), he added, referring to those who were assigned female at birth.

For TLF SHARE Collective’s Marasigan, “we are not expecting that the SOGIE Equality Bill will be passed smoothly,” he said. “There will be questions, there will be challenges; those will be part of the process.” The bigger challenge is “for us advocates to see to it that the version (of the bill) that we like will be the one that will become a law.”

From her end, Naomi Fontanos, executive director of GANDA Filipinas Inc., noted that there are those who say that there are already existing laws that could serve the intent of the SOGIE Equality Bill.

But Fontanos said that “wala pang batas na nagpoprotekta sa mga LGBTQIA Filipinos sa diskriminasyon at karahasan base sa kanilang SOGIESC. Kailangang malinaw na sinasabi ito ng isang batas na hindi tama mag-diskrimina at mag-abuso ng mga Pilipinong LGBTQIA dahil sa kanilang SOGIESC (there is currently no law protecting LGBTQIA Filipinos from discrimination and violence committed against them based on their SOGIESC. This has to be specifically stipulated in a law, that it is not right to discriminate and abuse LGBTQIA Filipinos solely because of their SOGIESC).”

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Sen. Rosa Hontiveros, sponsor of one of the ADBs filed in the Senate now, said that “halos 20 taon na na ang SOGIE Equality Bill ay sinusulong sa Congress (the SOGIE Equality Bill has been getting pushed in Congress for almost 20 years now).”

And yet, she added that even if discriminatory acts reach the hears of politicians, the bill continues not to be a priority.

Hindi puwedeng hanggang pasensiya na lang (It’s not enough for us to say ‘bear with us’ before acting on the SOGIE Equality Bill),” Hontiveros said.

And so “kailangan ipagpatuloy natin ang pagtataguyod para maging isang batas ang SOGIE Equality Bill (we need to continue pushing until the SOGIE Equality Bill finally becomes a law),” Fontanos ended.

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Sen. Pimentel questions need for anti-discrimination bill, pans emphasis on Diez as face of ADB

Senator Aquilino Pimentel III questioned the need to pass the SOGIE Equality Bill, the latest iteration of the anti-discrimination bill in the Senate, particularly if acts of discrimination committed against members of the LGBTQIA community are actually “already covered” under present laws.

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Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III questioned the need to pass the SOGIE (sexual orientation and gender identity and expression) Equality Bill, the latest iteration of the anti-discrimination bill in the Senate, saying that some acts of discrimination committed against members of the LGBTQIA community are actually “already covered” under present laws.

During the August 20 hearing of the Senate committee on women, children, family relations and gender equality, Pimentel expressed the need to specify what the SOGIE Equality Bill will really address.

Ang dapat nating sagutin talaga is, ano ang maitutulong ng SOGIE (Equality) Bill para mawala o ma-address ‘yung mga na-share na karanasan ng discrimination? Kasi marami nang nagsasabi na ang pakiramdam, punishable na rin naman sila ngayon by set of laws (What we need to answer is, how can the SOGIE Equality Bill help to remove or address the experiences of discrimination that were shared? Because some said that it feels like these are punishable by existing set of laws),” Pimentel said.

For instance, some of the discriminatory acts faced by members of the LGBTQIA community may already be covered by Republic Act No. 11313 or the Safe Spaces Act, which prevents various forms of sexual harassment and use of words or gestures that ridicule on the basis of sex, gender, or sexual orientation, among others acts.

Pimentel stressed the need for the identification of discriminatory acts done against LGBTQIA people in the SOGIE Equality Bill, instead of waiting for the implementing rules and regulations t identify the same, as this will avoid confusion.

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Klaruhin natin ‘yan. Otherwise there will be no need for SOGIE bill dahil ang lalabas, may confusion pa (Let’s clarify that. Otherwise there will be no need for a SOGIE Equality Bill as it will just confuse/obfuscate),” Pimentel said.

During the same hearing, Pimentel also panned the use of the case of Gretchen Diez to push for the passage of the ADB.

On August 13, Diez – a trans woman – attempted to use the female toilet of Farmer’s Plaza in Cuba, Quezon City. After an altercation with the janittress manning the facility, she was handcuffed and then detained.

After only being in the limelight following her experience and not because of her involvement in LGBTQIA advocacy, Diez now fashions herself as the “face of the LGBT movement.”

“I don’t think that the case of Gretchen (Diez) is a good example of (a discrimination case against LGBTQIA people) to promote this bill,” Pimentel said, adding that “if you conduct a survey, people will be divided.”

For Pimentel, “there would be discrimination if Gretchen (was not) allowed to use any CR.” But this was not the case, since Diez was allowed to use other toilet facilities – e.g. male toilet, and all-gender PWD toilet. It was Diez who refused to do so.

There is a need for “balancing of interests,” Pimentel stressed, particularly if may “umaangal naman na female (there are women who are complaining)”, referring to those who were assigned female at birth and who may express discomfort sharing toilet facilities with transgender women.

For Sen. Koko Pimentel, “there would be discrimination if Gretchen (was not) allowed to use any CR.” But this was not the case, since Diez was allowed to use other toilet facilities – e.g. male toilet, and all-gender PWD toilet. It was Diez who refused to do so.

Various LGBTQIA activists have repeatedly stressed that the discrimination experienced by members of the LGBTQIA community in the Philippines go beyond the issue raised in the Gretchen Diez debacle.

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Still during the Senate committee hearing, mentioned was a survey conducted by Rainbow Rights Project Inc. (R-Rights) with Metro Manila Pride Inc. from 2017 to 2019, with the results showing that 51% of 400 LGBTQIA community members surveyed claiming that they experienced discrimination in public schools, 31% in the streets, and 28% in private schools.

In the 17th Congress, the House of Representatives passed the SOGIE bill on third and final reading but its counterpart measure languished in the Senate and did not even make it past second reading. Now, in the 18th Congress, three senators filed their own versions of the SOGIE Equality Bill in the Upper House: Sen. Risa Hontiveros, Sen. Imee Marcos and Sen. Francis Pangilinan.

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‘Bato’ dela Rosa backs same-sex marriage; still can’t detach trans people from sexual misconduct in toilets

Neophyte Sen. Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa expressed his support for same-sex marriage, even as his supposedly pro-LGBTQIA support is softened by his continuing stance on not allowing people to use toilets based on their gender identity.

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Neophyte Sen. Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa expressed his support for same-sex marriage, making his position on the issue known during a Senate hearing on the proposed anti-discrimination bill (ADB).

“I’d like to manifest na ako po (that me), I’m on your side,” dela Rosa said, addressing members of the LGBTQIA community. “Ako nga (Me), I’m advocating, kung pwede magpakasal kayo parehong lalaki, parehong babae, okay lang sa akin, walang problema. Magsama kayo, magpakasal, walang problema sa akin (If two men, two women want to get married, that’s fine by me, that’s not a problem for me. If you want to live together, if you want to marry each other, that’s a non-issue for me).”

Only last May, Dela Rosa said he is still torn on proposals for recognizing same-sex marriage in the country.

But Dela Rosa’s supposedly new pro-LGBTQIA support is softened by his continuing stance on not allowing people to use toilets based on their gender identity. It may be true/documented that there are no recorded cases of any transgender woman harassing another woman inside a toilet, the former head of the Philippine National Police (PNP) raised the possibility of it happening in the future.

“You can’t detach me from my wild imagination being a retired police officer,” Dela Rosa said. “Pag in-allow kasi natin yan… hindi naman kailangang you just consider one portion of the society, kung hindi lahat i-consider mo yung mga maapektuhan na grupo din like yung totoong babae din (If we allow that…. we’d end up just giving in to the needs of one sector of the society, and yet we should also consider the other affected sectors, such as ‘real women’). Are our sisters and daughter safe in those bathroom?”

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By way of explanation, Dela Rosa said he asked his own daughter, and she expressed apprehension sharing toilets with a transgender woman.

To offer clarification, Naomi Fontanos, who helms Gender and Development Advocates (GANDA) Filipinas, said she understands the concern of the senator about sexual violence. But Fontanos stressed that sexual violence can happen anywhere, and “they don’t necessarily have to be in the toilets alone.”

GANDA Filipinas is a human rights organization that promotes the dignity and equality of transgender people in the Philippines and beyond

Fontanos added that there are already existing laws against sexual violence in the Philippines.

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Duterte pledges to work with Congress to pass SOGIE Equality Bill; still not considered urgent

Though Pres. Rodrigo Duterte vowed to work with Congress to push for the passage of the SOGIE Equality Bill, the bill was still not certified as urgent. And aside from planning to finally formalize the formation of an LGBTQIA commission he earlier pledged, the president is said to be eyeing a national conference – something the LGBTQIA community has already been doing sans government support.

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Courtesy of the Office of Sen. Bong Go

President Rodrigo Duterte vowed to work with Congress to push for the passage of the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity and Expression (SOGIE) Equality Bill that would protect the rights of members of the LGBTQIA community against discrimination.

This came after a meeting with select members of the LGBTQIA community, including Gretchen Diez, a transgender woman who was recently in the news after being barred from entering a female restroom.

As relayed by Sen. Christopher “Bong” Go, who organized the meeting, also discussed during the meeting was the possibility of creating a commission for LGBTQIA Filipinos pending the enactment of a SOGIE law.

This is – however – not a new pledge, but a delayed one, with Duterte promising the formation of the same in December 2017.

During the gathering that was also joined by 1st District of Bataan Rep. Geraldine Roman, Go also said that the government plans to coordinate with LGBTQIA groups to create a national LGBTQIA convention in September, when advocates from different regions will be represented to raise their concerns and come up with policy proposals to promote and protect their welfare.

It is worth noting that this, too, is not a new solution; in the past, the country’s LGBTQIA community already held such a gathering, with the latest, 4th LGBTQIA National Conference, co-hosted by Bahaghari Center for SOGIE Research, Education and Advocacy Inc., Outrage Magazine and Cebu City-based Bisdak Pride Inc. with funding support not from the national government, but from UNDP and the offices of Rep. Roman and Sen. Chiz Escudero, among others.

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In fact, the national gathering’s 2013 iteration, the 3rd LGBT National Conference, produced “Being LGBT in Asia: The Philippines Country Report” in 2014; it was funded by UNDP and USAID. The report – written by Michael David C. Tan – reviewed the legal and social environment faced by LGBTQIA people in the Philippines. By doing so, it already cited many of the issues besetting members of the LGBTQIA community; and the solutions that may be considered for the same.

“The (LGBTQIA) advocates… are looking forward to the passage of a law that will protect them from discrimination before the President’s term ends,” Go said in a statement.

But following the meeting, it was not immediately made clear if Duterte is certifying the SOGIE Equality Bill as urgent.

The SOGIE Equality Bill, re-filed by Senator Risa Hontiveros in the 18th Congress, seeks to penalize discrimination against the LGBT community by a fine of P100,000 to P500,000 or imprisonment of six to 12 years subject to the discretion of the court.

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