The idea was welcome though it also hit a nerve for Leonardo, a 31-year-old writer from Cubao, Quezon City, who lost a close friend—and fellow homosexual—to domestic violence last year.
“If only something like this was already in place, maybe my friend would still be alive,” Leonardo said when told of a Quezon City measure that may be breaking new ground for gender sensitivity.
An ordinance backed by 26 councilors and approved on final reading on Monday called for the extension of medical, legal or psychological assistance to members of the LGBT (lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgenders) community who fall victim to abuses, harassment and discrimination, through an existing crisis center for battered women and maltreated children.
The center, which was created under a 1997 ordinance, is being run by the Office of the Vice Mayor at Quezon City General Hospital. The new ordinance basically expands its coverage to include LGBTs.
In the new measure, the councilors cited “a need for a protection center which will cater not only to women but every person who suffered gender-based violence and abuse.”
Vice Mayor Joy Belmonte, a lead proponent, added in an Inquirer interview: “We noticed that not only women are victims of gender-based crimes but also members of the LGBT community. They also get battered and discriminated against. So why not extend the service to them?”
“With the crisis center open to women, children and LGBTs, we want to show them that they do not need to be afraid and they can speak out against the abuse,” Belmonte said.
Part of the challenge of this new thrust is the lack of data about abuses committed against LGBTs, she noted.
The ordinance defines “violence against LGBTs” as criminal acts that inflict physical, mental or sexual harm and suffering on members of this community because of their sexual orientation. It includes deprivation of freedom, harassment and discrimination.
The existing center at Quezon City General Hospital will thus be renamed “Quezon City Protection Center for Victims of Gender-Based Violence and Abuse” and will provide complete intervention and protection services to the victims and their families, the ordinance said.
The center will also help ensure the victims’ security, starting with the confidentiality of their records. It warns of legal action against those who would leak or publish their personal or professional details.
The center will also double as a resource and information bank on gender-related violence in the city, again without compromising the victims’ privacy.
“It should help us a lot,” said Leonardo, noting the many unreported cases of gay men being mauled either by their partners or by strangers on the streets who simply pick on them.
Such was the case of his friend who constantly took a beating from his live-in partner during their five-month relationship until he was killed in Manila last year, he recalled. “The beatings happened whenever my friend failed to give him money.”
For starters, he said, perhaps the center could help erase the misconception that gay men actually “enjoy” being slapped and punched by their partners because it supposedly makes them feel “more womanly.”
“I disagree with that. It does not make sense. If you allow yourself to be beaten up, it only shows that you have a low sense of self-worth,” he said.