LGBT rights in Asia: A brief case study on the Philippines

When we talk about the LGBT community and their rights, we usually only talk about the first world nations. In the USA, for example, people on both sides (those who supports LGBT rights and those who don’t) are more vocal and expressive about their views and opinions. Also, it seems that the international media is focused on the USA and Europe only when it comes to the LGBT community. But what about Asia, do we know what’s going on there? Let’s turn our focus towards that part of the world for a while, and today, we will see what’s happening in the Philippines, an Asian country.

A dotted LGBT pride Asia Map for lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgenders. Vector homosexual tolerance geographic map in LGBT flag color shades on a white background.

In the Philippines, as compared to other Asian countries, LGBTs are more accepted. In fact, a lot of members of the LGBT community in that country comes from the various upper-class part of the society, like celebrities, movies stars, media and television personalities, etc. A former reporter of ABS-CNN, who is a legislative member of Philippines right now, said that she had the opportunity to listen to their personal stories of abuse, harassment and she was able to see a lot of reports pertaining to hate crimes there in the Philippines previously. From 1996 to 2012, Philippine LGBT crime watch recorded that there were 164 cases of hate crimes and abuses. However, things are changing in the Philippines, and that legislator alone have filed three bills about the protection of the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender. Her first bill is about penalizing discrimination and sexual orientation and gender identity. Second is to create an LGBT protection desk that will help the victims of hate crimes. And to ensure them that, there should be a place for them to go for assistance if ever they experience such discrimination.

The third bill is about hate crimes against LGBT members or the LGBT community, and offenders should be penalized with a higher penalty. Though all these three bills were considered, unfortunately, the legislator was unable to pass the bills at 16th Congress. However, she stated that she still believes that there’s always a second chance, and will re-submit this anti-discrimination bill on the next Congress again, because she feels that this bill is really worth fighting for. When questioned how long she thinks it would take to pass the bill in Congress, she said that she spoke with the secretariat of the women and gender equality of the Philippines already in this regard; they are handling this anti-discrimination bill. And based on her experience, it took them nine years before they finally were able to pass the human rights bill, so she thinks it will take time too. She expressed her hope that she is still hoping that this bill will not take too long because, in the Philippines, the private sectors and government organizations are working hand in hand to stop the discrimination for the LGBT community.

However, the situation in the Philippines seems to be somewhat mixed. On the one hand, there’s a lot of acceptance for the LGBT community by large, on the other hand, LGBT advocates are having difficulty in passing an LGBT discrimination bill or act.  Also, there’s a lot of hate crimes against gay and lesbians, as reported by the news channels. It seems a paradox which is hard to explain. It would also be interesting to mention a very prominent case of Manny Pacquiao (the world famous boxer from the Philippines) where he made remarks about gay marriage and Nike dropped him from their sponsorship. But as we said already, the situation is mixed and pretty complicated in the Philippines and overall Asia as well. Eighty percent of the Filipinos are Catholic by religion, and the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines are willing to support the proposed anti-discrimination law as long as it rejects the second-class treatment for the LGBT community and only on the basis of their sexual preferences. So, of course, there are different views and opinions of the different organizations, but at the end of the day, in the Philippines, we can see that they are gearing towards a pro-LGBT direction. For example, in the Civil Service Commission in the Philippines, they issued a memorandum order to prohibit or forbid any discrimination in accepting employees. Hence, we are positive that everything will turn out good, maybe not very soon as we’d like to expect, but it’s definitely progressing in a positive direction.