About 200 foreign domestic workers took to the streets in Hong Kong in early November as part of the Pride Migrants’ March 2015, a first-of-its-kind gathering to stop the violence and discrimination against migrant LGBTQIs.
According to Ian Bojo, president of FilGuys Association of Hong Kong (Gabriela) and one of the organizers of the Pride Migrants’ March 2015, it is high time migrant LGBTQIs raise their voices.
“We are looked down upon by Hong Kong society as migrant workers, women and lesbians. It’s high-time that we raise our voices against these forms of discrimination and demand that our rights be recognized and respected,” Bojo said.
Hong Kong’s LGBTQI community held a Pride parade on November 7, but according to Bojo in a separate interview, most foreign domestic workers in Hong Kong work on Saturdays, and were therefore unable to participate at Hong Kong’s Pride Parade 2015.
Organizers said that approximately 9,000 attended this year’s Pride event.
LGBTQI COMMUNITY IN HK: WHERE ARE WE AT?
Dressed in a yellow sequin dress with jet-black hair, Tin Fung took part in this year’s Hong Kong Pride Parade, which was themed “Yell Out for Equality.” Fung, one of this year’s organizing team members and who held the main rainbow flag at the start of the parade, walked along with pro-LGBTQI supporters.
Recalling her secondary days when she was involved in efforts to make society more accepting and understanding to any minority, Fung said that “we need to yell out equality for people to wake up because it’s everyone’s issues. When we cannot accept differences then everybody suffers. We need a society that respects different people who have different lives and who make our society better.”
According to Fung, yellow was this year’s color scheme; this was chosen because the organizers were just following the sequence of the rainbow color. Last year, orange was used. Meanwhile, two giraffes were the selected mascots because of the animal’s symbolism. Fung said that in a Cantonese proverb, when one waits for something, one’s neck gets longer.
Consul generals and diplomatic representatives that included the US, Canada and Germany appeared onstage holding their respective flags. No representatives from the Philippine Consulate General of Hong Kong were seen at the event.
Today’s LGBTQI community faces a new set of challenges in the city. Just a few days before the parade kicked off, Hong Kong’s Catholic Bishop made a comment regarding the concepts of marriage and family as being challenged by the “gay movement.” According to Cardinal John Tong, the enactment of a sexual discrimination ordinance or approval of marriage equality would change society that “would turn it upside-down.”
In 2013, Equal Opportunities Commission chairperson Dr. York Chow Yat-ngok, the former health secretary, was pushing for the discrimination laws to cover sexual minorities. However, Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying has remained mum on the issue.
The two-hour parade from Victoria Park to Tamar Park saw a sea of yellow that represented different groups. Though no Filipino groups were seen, the LGBTQI Filipino community’s voice was heard in a recorded audio track played via a speakerphone. Bojo’s voice was heard.
OFWs, FDWs and LGBTQIs IN HONG KONG
Hong Kong is home to about 180,000 Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs), according to Philippine Secretary of Labor and Employment Rosalinda Baldoz. Most OFWs living in the city are women. The Indonesian migrant workers are the second largest foreign group in the city.
Hong Kong’s policies regarding Foreign Domestic Workers (FDWs) include a two-year contract with a six-day work week, with a worker possibly working up to 10 hours a day, living with the employer/s, and given one day off. Challenges abound, including the difficulty in seeking statutory holiday days off ; and one can even be easily dismissed, such as when simply adding more water in a traditional soup dish.
But being an OFW and a member of the LGBTQI community brings added challenges.
“Among locals, when they know that you’re a lesbian, they might discriminate you even if you have a lot of experiences and you’re qualified,” said Simon Concepcion, member of FilGuys-HK, and who has been working in Hong Kong for almost 20 years now.
Other difficulties that Filipino lesbians face include their employers’ discrimination because of their assumed influence on their employers’ daughters, who they may their “turn” into becoming gay; as well as Filipino lesbians getting raped by their male employers (though because largely unreported, cases remain untold stories in the community).
“We realize that many people in the LGBTQI community don’t understand the struggle of the migrant workers,” said Aleck Chen, part of a local group called “Grassroots Queer Concerned Group”, which also attended the Pride Migrants’ March. “Maybe there are communications (problems). So we took part in this parade and to see the advocacy of the migrant groups. Maybe at this moment, what we could do is to join and to support them.”
For Chen, there are policies regarding migrant workers in Hong Kong that are not good, including not being protected by the minimum wage, and the live-in policy. Also, “lesbian, bisexual, gay and transgender (people) have faced discrimination within their own community; some from religious forces, and in some cases, from their own government,” he said.
A LONG OVERDUE EVENT
On Sundays, streets are closed in Central, Hong Kong’s business district, while Victoria Park in the district of Causeway Bay is flooded with Indonesian migrant workers. Central is where the Philippine Consulate Generate is found.
Participants at this year’s Pride Migrants’ March wore colors from the rainbow, holding placards that expressed their condemnation of violence and discrimination against members of the LGBTQI community.
Participants for this year’s Pride Migrants’ March included the Filipino Lesbians Organization Hong Kong, FILO-HK, Dreamers, BOTF, JAM and Grander.
FilGuys-HK’s Concepcion said that – after seeing people’s faces on the streets – “there is still discrimination; we cannot change people.” But the march was “fun”, and through it, “we can prove to others that we are lesbians and are proud to tell the world.”