Groups to QC gov't: Enforce anti-discrimination ordinance
MANILA, Philippines – In a twist of irony, transgender woman Gretchen Custodio Diez was discriminated from using a woman's restroom in a city that passed an ordinance preventing incidents exactly like this
This was pointed out by various groups and non-governmental organizations that condemned the harassment against Diez in a Cubao mall on Tuesday, August 13.
Her arrest has triggered public outcry and calls for change not only from politicians but also from businesses alike. (READ: Trans woman Geraldine Diez: I didn't think I'd be treated like a criminal)
In a statement, Philippine LGBT Chamber of Commerce urged Philippine companies to create safe spaces for the lesbians, gays, bisexual, transgender and queer community (LGBTQ+).
"As many businesses worldwide are now realizing, promoting diversity and inclusion is not only (and fundamentally) an act of compassion and empathy, but also good business practice," the group said.
'Enforce the ordinance'
But beyond creating safe spaces for LGBTQ+ in businesses, Diez said that "it's about time that ordinances that we want to implement are not just on paper or just on social media, but felt."
Quezon City is known to have one of the most progressive anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination ordinance, tracing its approval way back to 2003. Since then, several local government units have followed Quezon City's lead and passed their own local versions of the ordinance.
The incident, however, raised doubts over the proper enforcement of the ordinance.
"We call on the Quezon City government to enforce its Anti-Discrimination Ordinance to its full power to safeguard the right of everyone against any and every form of discrimination, including those on the bases of one's SOGIESC (sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, and sex characteristics)," the Philippie Anti-Discrimination Alliance of Youth Leaders (PANTAY) said in a statement posted on Facebook.
"This is an apparent violation of the local Anti-Discrimination Ordinance of Quezon City, stating that it is illegal for business establishments to discriminate people based on their SOGIE," PNU Katolonon, a student organization based at the Philippine Normal University, echoed in another statement.
According to Open Table Metropolitan Community Church (Open Table MCC), a group that identifies itself as a progressive and ecumenical Christian Church, what Diez "experienced was one of many and daily forms of harassment and discrimination that many transgender persons experience in the Philippines."
Responding to the incident and these calls, Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte already condemned the discrimination incident and said that the Farmer's Market mall in Cubao, Quezon City violated the city's ordinance.
Belmonte assured that the Quezon City Business Permit and Licensing Department (BPLD) will check all establishments' compliance with the ordinance.
"We assure the members of the LGBT+ community that Quezon City will always protect their rights and be a home for their sexual orientation, gender identity, and expression. We do not support any kind of violence and discrimination in our city," Belmonte added.
'Pass the bill'
Beyond strengthening the enforcement of the local ordinance, the groups also agreed that the incident proved the need to pass the SOGIE Equality Law.
The Philippines is known to be one of the more tolerant countries in the world to the LGBTQ+ community, but it has yet to pass a bill prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity or expression.
"We call the attention of our legislators to recognize the urgency of passing the SOGIE Equality Bill. We will not be silenced while various cases of discrimination continue to happen all over the country," PANTAY said.
Geraldine Roman, the first transgender woman elected to the House of Representatives, vowed that there would be a probe into the discrimination incident. On the other hand, Senator Risa Hontiveros, who sent one of her lawyers to assist Diez, also renewed her call to pass the SOGIE equality bill
"For those who say that we donot need a SOGIE Equality Law because LGBTQ+ people are accepted in the Philippines.... LGBTQ+ persons face harassment and discrimination every day. This must stop!" Hontiveros said in a mix of English and Filipino across her accounts.
For so long, the LGBTQ+ community in the Philippines has lobbied for the passing of an anti-discrimination bill. The legislation can be traced back to 1995 when congressman Rey Calalay filed a bill proposing to recognize the "third sex" as a sector. – Rappler.com