Members of the Makabayan bloc, which includes Gabriela Women’s Party, filed House Bill (HB) 5551, or the the Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, Gender Expression, and Sex Characteristics (SOGIESC) Equality Act, otherwise also known as the Anti-Discrimination Bill.
In a statement, Bahaghari – an alliance of Filipino LGBTQIA organizations – said that over 20 years have passed since the first anti-discrimination bill was filed in Congress, where it continues to languish.
But the new and expanded SOGIESC Equality Bill “is crafted in a form that accurately and comprehensively addresses the demands of Filipinos against SOGIESC-based discrimination, and we are determined to fight for the passage of this law and other affirmative measures for equality,” said Reyna Valmores, chair of Bahaghari, which helped in the drafting of the latest version of the bill.
The new version provides for inclusion of sex characteristics as a protected category, and redefines “people with diverse SOGIESC” to be inclusive of identities and labels relating to Filipino culture and social reality such as bakla, tomboy, and more.
HB 5551 also introduces novel provisions against indirect discrimination, where a policy is implemented without due effort to ensure people are not excluded—intentionally or otherwise—on the basis of their SOGIESC. One key example is the exclusion of LGBTQIA couples from ‘ayuda’.
The SOGIESC Equality Act also allows for broader implementation as complaints can now be made against juridical persons—corporations, agencies, and other legal entities—instead of just individuals.
Harsher penalties for violations are also included as well as stronger protections against conversion therapy and on the right to organize on the basis of SOGIESC.