Word is there are attempts made by a certain senator to delay the reading of Senate Bill 1600, the proposed Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Expression, and Sex Characteristics (SOGIESC) Equality Act.
Last December, two Senate committees—the Committee on Women, Children, Family Relations and Gender Equality and the Committee on Finance—wfiled a report on the bill, signed by 19 senators including the bill’s advocate, Sen. Risa Hontiveros.
The five other senators expressed their reservations about the proposed law.
There have been various versions of the SOGIE bill in the Senate since January 2000. It’s been 23 years, but still the bill has not found enough support to pass. If the SOGIE bill were human, it would be graduating from college this year.
It is downright inhuman that some perhaps fanatically religious and certainly close-minded people who happen to unfortunately be in positions of authority are blocking the bill that will benefit the many gay and queer Filipinos.
While I can find no estimates as to the size of the LGBTQIA community, the 2002 Young Adult Fertility and Sexuality Survey found that 11 percent of sexually active Filipinos between the ages of 15 and 24 have had sex with someone of the same sex. The study does not include other age groups, so it can be surmised just how many Filipinos have actually experienced or are practicing this.
While some of the same-sex sexual activity is experimentation, especially in the younger age ranges, yet this activity is related to queerness and the fluidity of sexual identity.
Times are changing and strict cisgender roles are no longer written in stone, particularly for the millennials and Gen Z who are the generations more attuned to and accepting of lifestyles not considered traditional.
Why should the huge LGBTQ sector in the Philippines continue to have their rights and safety be held hostage by these individuals in the Senate?
The House of Representatives has passed their version of the bill. And to think there are more congresspersons than there are senators.
That means these five holdouts must be made of some pretty powerful stuff to have their antediluvian agendas hold sway over the Senate, which is supposed to support the interests of all Filipinos.
The bill, in case people have been misinformed, is not about same sex marriage. All it does is protect against discrimination and violence based on people’s SOGIE identity.
The bill is not only for the LGBTQIA, but for everyone.
It protects all Filipinos regardless of their gender identity, including cisgender heterosexual (cishet or straight). Everyone will benefit from the bill.
It prohibits and punishes discriminatory practices on the basis of a person’s SOGIESC, such as refusing admission to or expelling a person from a school, refusing them emergency and necessary health services, imposing disciplinary sanctions that are harsher than customary that infringe on the rights of students, and refusing or revoking accreditation of organizations, groups, political parties, or institutions, among others.
What do its detractors say?
One of the common arguments against the bill is that it espouses a culture that is not Filipino.
As Sen. Joel Villanueva said in a news briefing in 2019, “Ang kultura ng Pilipino ay sapat para maging great nation ang Pilipinas. Bakit kailangan pa nating umimport ng template from Western countries just to drastically change the system ng ating bansa?”
Actually, protecting the rights of and uplifting the LGBTQIA community is not a move toward a foreign culture.
It is in fact a return to pre-Hispanic culture, where the babaylan, who were women and gender-fluid and gay men, held positions of authority and power as wisdom bearers and shamans.
Indigenous mythologies include the transgender deity Lakapati, who presided over fertility and the harvest, and homosexual gods such as Bulan of the moon, who was said to be the lover of the male god of death Sidapa.
The SOGIE bill is long overdue.
Kudos to Hontiveros and the 18 other senators who support this bill. Boo and cries of “shame!” to the other five who refuse to see reason and logic about human rights being applicable to everyone, regardless of gender identity.
I hope they see just how important this is.
To pass this bill sends a message that the Philippines recognizes human rights, and protects and supports all Filipinos.
Don’t let it take another 23 years to bring the country out of its colonial past into the modern age.
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The Cultural Center of the Philippines Intertextual Division, headed by writer and copyright advocate Beverly Wico Siy, invites everyone to participate in the Pasinaya 2023 literature program.
After three years of being held online, the Pasinaya Festival will now be conducted face-to-face from Feb. 3-5.
There will be workshops, performances, film screenings, exhibitions, and art market, and other activities, to take place at the CCP complex and selected museums in Metro Manila.
For the Pasinaya literature program on Feb. 4, literary workshops (storytelling, short stories, plays, and others) will be held, along with literary performances such as poetry readings and storytelling sessions.
On Feb. 5, a literary performance and conference will take place. Tickets are at P50 as the “suggested donation for every session.”
The Pasinaya literature program 2023 aims to showcase different ways of staging literature, and to promote a book reading culture.
The Festival is a multi-arts celebration of not only literature but other art forms such as dance, theater, music, and visual arts.
Check out the CCP website and Facebook page, as well as the CCP Intertextual Division’s FB page, for more details about the event.
* * Dr. Ortuoste is a board member of PEN Philippines, member of the Manila Critics Circle, and judge of the National Book Awards. FB and Twitter: @DrJennyO