Rainbow Rights (R-Rights) Project Inc. and the Embassy of Canada in the Philippines conducted a series of gatherings on “Access to Justice: A Legal Discourse on Anti-Discrimination Ordinance (ADO) for Law Practitioners” in five cities and one province that have passed anti-discrimination ordinances that protect LGBT people.
Forums were conducted in Candon City in Ilocos Sur, Dagupan City in Pangasinan, Angeles City in Pampanga, Quezon City in the National Capital Region, Davao City in Davao del Sur, and the province of Agusan del Norte.
For R-Rights, with more cities in the Philippines enacting ADOs that prohibit discrimination against sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI), among others, the next step is to familiarize local lawyers with SOGI issues to help them provide legal counseling, legal advice to policy makers, and tackle cases arising from violation of rights covered by these ADOs.
“Passing legislation is a challenge. Yet after doing so, the battle is only half won. With these ordinances on our arsenal, it is now for those who are marginalized to report acts of discrimination and violence, and seek redress for those acts. This can only be done by a partnership of government, civil society, and legal practitioners to counsel and represent them, to hand their cases and bring the perpetrators to justice,” said Angie Umbac, president of R-Rights.
The forums provided alternative and mainstream legal practitioners with a basic understanding of SOGI rights and facilitated a dialogue between alternative and mainstream legal practitioners and local SOGI human rights advocates on the realities of SOGI-based violence and discrimination.
The Embassy of Canada in the Philippines values efforts of increasing public awareness on SOGI.
“The Embassy of Canada puts emphasis on the policies on inclusion, on issues of sexual orientation and gender identity under the framework of human rights. That is what we want to establish. It is and will be maintained as a priority for the next year. Here in the Philippines the Canadian Embassy would like to support projects to help increase awareness, knowledge on SOGI to prevent bullying, to prevent violence, and to establish a level playing field for everyone regardless of SOGI,” said Carlo Figueroa of the Embassy of Canada in the Philippines.
The Embassy already funded SOGI-related projects in the past.
“We started this advocacy with working with Babaylanes, going around the Philippines doing SOGI sessions. Then we continued with a project with EnGender Rights, on SOGI orientation with public school teachers and guidance counselors in Manila and Quezon City. This is another one with R-Rights. We continue to plan and look for projects such as this that would promote awareness and LGBT rights,” said Figueroa.
R-Rights hopes that the legal dialogues would be a start a partnership between civil society organizations, local government, and legal community.
“At the legal dialogues, we linked the legal practitioners with human rights advocates and the LGBT community so they could work together to provide legal recourse in cases of violence and discrimination,” Umbac ended.