Protection under law pushed after group forcibly shaved heads of LGBTQ+ in Mindanao

Various LGBTQ+ groups renewed their calls to provide assistance and protection to victims of discrimination and violence after several individuals forcibly shave the heads of members of the LGBTQ+ community in Maguindanao.

DXMS AM Radyo Bida Cotabato City reported on Tuesday, June 8, on its social media account that residents of Ampatuan town in Maguindanao, forcibly shaved the heads of several persons who were part of the LGBTQ+ community in their area. The report said the residents sheared the heads of their neighbors because they said being “gay or lesbian is against Islam.”

The report has since been deleted from the station's social media account.

‘Religion is not justification for bigotry’

Mindanao LGBTQ+ organizations Mindanao Pride, Kagay-an Preserving Life, Uniting Society, Mujer-LGBT Zamboanga, and LGBT+ Davao Coalition jointly condemned the hate crime and asked the religious sector to start talking about issues faced by LGBTQ+ community.

“We call on the religious sector to hear our plea and understand that gender and sexuality is as diverse as our beliefs, cultures and traditions. We call on the local government to respond to LGBTIQ+ issues in their jurisdiction and provide assistance to the victims of discrimination and violence,” the groups said in their unity statement.

The Mindanao LGBTQ+ groups said that “the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer (LGBTIQ+) people in Mindanao have a unique culture and have limited legal rights.” 

Muslims in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) are covered by the Islam Sharia law, which discourages homosexuality. The implementation of said law in BARMM has already been a concern for many LGBTQ+ individuals in Mindanao, who have already experienced various cases of harassment even before the passage of Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL).

Metro Manila Pride added that violence against LGBTQ+ individuals who were often “cast as transgressors for identities that do not fit a strict moral code – is often excused by faith-based groups and religious individuals as the exercise of ‘religious freedom.’”

The group called on people of all faiths, especially religious leaders, to “embrace compassion and to respect the rights of LGBTQIA+ Filipinos and refrain from reproducing interpretations of religious dogma that promote harmful stigmas.” 

They added that “freedom of faith must not trample on the rights and lives of LGBTQIA+ persons, who are often the target of vicious acts in the name of discipline.” 

National democratic organization Bahaghari also slammed the incident, emphasizing that “religion is not justification for bigotry.” They also urged the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) to hold discussions with the Bangsamoro government and stand with the rest of the LGBTQ+ in demanding justice. 

Lack of legal protections

Lakapati Laguna, meanwhile, said the incident exposed the need for legal protection for the LGBTQ+ community in the Philippines.

“This blatant showcasing of bigotry is a clear manifestation that the LGBTQ+ community is very vulnerable and far from being safe because of lack of official legislation to protect us under the eyes of the law,” Lakapati said in their statement

Lakapati and other groups such as the ASEAN SOGIE Caucus have also called for an official investigation from CHR and for the immediate passage of SOGIE Equality Bill which will protect Filipinos against gender-based discrimination, harassment, and violence. 

The SOGIE Equality bill is still pending in Congress, 21 years after it was first filed by late Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago and former Akbayan representative Loretta Rosales. Among the bill's top opponents in the chamber are Senate President Vicente Sotto III, also a devout Catholic, and Senators Manny Pacquiao and Joel Villanueva, who are avid evangelical Christians. – Rappler.com 

Joven Jacolbia is a Rappler volunteer studying organizational communication at the University of the Philippines Manila (UPM). He serves as Editor-in-Chief of Assortedge Media and Research and Education Head of Bahagsari UPM.