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Labor groups to DOLE: SOGIE workplace policy needed

MANILA, Philippines (UDATED) – Labor groups have urged the labor department to immediately implement gender-sensitive workplace policies following the arrest of transgender woman Gretchen Custodio Diez for trying to use a women's toilet in a Quezon City mall.

Moderate labor group Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) said the incident only showed the lack of awareness on sexual orientation, gender identity, and expression (SOGIE) and rights of the LGBTQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer) community.

"The TUCP calls for the Department of Labor and Employment to immediately institute a SOGIE sensitive and responsive workplace policy in all workplaces including awareness among employers and employees nationwide," TUCP Representative Raymond Mendoza said in a statement on Wednesday, August 14.

Mendoza, who is TUCP president, said that until proper policies were in place, "shameful incidents" similar to Diez's will continue to happen as "there is a brimming lack of SOGIE sensitive and responsive awareness and orientation among our people."

What happened to Diez? On Tuesday, August 13, Diez was queued at at a women's public toilet at around 1:30 pm inside Farmer's Market in Cubao when she was stopped by a mall janitress who directed her to use the men's toilet instead.

Diez first walked away to let it pass, but then decided to record the harassment on video, angering the janitress. The mall employee then called the guards to have Diez arrested. She was later detained by cops, handcuffed, and shamed. (READ: Trans woman Gretchen Diez: I didn't think I'd be treated like a criminal)

The incident happened in Quezon City, which so happened to be the first city in the country to pass a Gender Fair Ordinance. This prompted Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte to condemn the incident and order the Quezon City Business Permit and Licensing Department to check the city's establishment's compliance with the ordinance.

First a policy, then a law: TUCP said the incident highlighted the need to revisit discussions on SOGIE anti-discrimination bills filed in Congress.

"This type of discrimination is bound to happen because there is also no mandatory SOGIE sensitive and responsive workplace...policy standard that businesses and employers must abide to," Mendoza said.

Sentro echoed TUCP, saying Diez’s treatment as though she were a criminal showed the need for wider awareness on the rights of members of the LGBTQ+ community.

"Equal importance, it is high time for a national law against gender discrimination to be enacted. One that would increase penalties and protect places not covered by the ordinances," said Sentro Secretary General Josua Matta.

Sentro also reminded the government of the need for "open and honest" deliberations on proposed SOGIE bills which would ensure safe public spaces for all.

Though the Philippines is known to be one of the more tolerant countries in the world to the LGBTQ+ community, it has yet to pass a bill prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity or expression. – Rappler.com

Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers foreign affairs, the overseas Filipino workers, and elections. She also writes stories on the treatment of women and children. Follow her on Twitter @sofiatomacruz. Email her at sofia.tomacruz@rappler.com.

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