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Despite tolerance, more effort needed for LGBTQI inclusivity

MANILA, Philippines — The stories are heartbreaking: Years of hiding in closets for fear of being disowned; enduring lectures from peers and being told that how they love is “wrong”; being punished for being true to who they are.

These are some of the experiences showcased in the #RespetoNaman exhibit, in commeration of the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia, that was launched in Makati City on Friday night.

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Spark! Philippines, an organization that promotes gender equality, led the initiative, with assistance from the embassies of Belgium and Canada in the Philippines, in a bid to end gender-based violence in the country.

Duality of acceptance

In her speech during the launch of the exhibit, Sen. Risa Hontiveros shed light on the duality of acceptance of members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex (LGBTQI) community.

“On the surface, we are seen as tolerant, accepting, even happy, that there is a significant LGBTQI community here in the Philippines,” said Hontiveros, citing the acceptance enjoyed by the LGBTQI community in high society as well as in the media and entertainment sectors.

But Hontiveros, who has filed an antigender and antisexual orientation discrimination bill in the Senate, said that underneath this veneer of acceptance lay the problem of larger social systems in the country.

“There was a survey done last year of the LGBT chamber of commerce [that] revealed that out of 100 Philippine companies surveyed, [not one] implemented policies meant to protect … LGBTQI [members] from discrimination. Not one,” she said.

Hontiveros cited statistics showing that 25 percent of LGBTQI workers experienced harassment from their employers or superior officers, 33 percent were victims of harassment by their peers and 60 percent were subjected to slurs, snide remarks and jokes.

No laughing matter

“These are just cases we know about. Abuse has a way of going unreported, [that’s] why the campaign for gender rights is no laughing matter and should be given just as much importance as campaigns against poverty or any other phenomenon that makes humans suffer,” she said.

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Gender-based discrimination is “a poverty of mind, will and spirit,” she said.

The senator called out those in “the highest level of power” who continued to use their positions “to enable a culture of impunity through their misogyny, their incitement to violence and their callous disregard for human dignity and life.”

Hontiveros is a staunch critic of President Duterte, who had come under fire from women and members of the LGBTQI community in the past for his comments against them.

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TAGS: #RespetoNaman, gender equality, LGBTQI community, Risa Hontiveros, Spark! Philippines, tolerance
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