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SOGIESC Equality Bill passes Lower House committee level; passage as law still unlikely after two decades

The Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, Gender Expression, and Sex Characteristics (SOGIESC) Equality Bill – the latest iteration of the Anti-discrimination Bill – was approved by the Committee on Women and Gender Equality in the Lower House.

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The Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, Gender Expression, and Sex Characteristics (SOGIESC) Equality Bill – the latest iteration of the Anti-discrimination Bill – was approved by the Committee on Women and Gender Equality in the Lower House.

This is only the first of many steps this bill needs to hurdle before it becomes a law, if at all. It now has to be approved in three readings on the House floor, which is unlikely with extremist right-wing politicians having repeatedly blocked pro-LGBTQIA initiatives in Congress.

As example, the founder of a fringe religious group, Jesus Is Lord (JIL) Church, Eddie Villanueva is a politician in Congress; and in 2019, he delivered a privilege speech stressing his belief that religious privileges trump LGBTQIA human rights. “What happens to a Christian like me… if we are to be threatened by punishment every time we share our Bible-based beliefs on matters of transgenders and homosexuals?” Villanueva asked at that time.

For the bill to become law, a counterpart bill also needs to pass in the Upper House/Senate, where Villanueva’s just-as-religious son is a senator also blocking the passage of the SOGIESC Equality Bill. In February, senators actually sided with the younger Villanueva’s move to hinder the SOGIESC Equality Bill.

All the same, LGBTQIA organization Bahaghari stated that “the House committee’s approval of the SOGIESC bill is a step in the right direction, driven by the loud clamor of the LGBTQIA community and its allies. We urge our legislators in both chambers of Congress to continue towards this path and finally pass the two-decade-old bill,” said Clarice General, secretary-general of Bahaghari.

Similarly, the organization urged the public to “continue to raise awareness on LGBTQIA issues and contribute to the fight for a society that is founded on love, acceptance, equality, and justice.” This is particularly relevant since – with Pride Month around the corner – “LGBTQIA Filipinos continue to be marginalized in all spheres of society. As such, we must continue to forge stronger unities with fellow Filipinos and defend our democratic rights. After all, our fight against violence and discrimination that run rampant under the current macho, hetero-patriarchal Philippine society is intricately linked to the people’s fight for rights, freedom, and social justice. This coming Pride, let our demands be heard: Safe spaces, higher wages, and human rights for all.”

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