Press Release
August 31, 2016

Opening Remarks of Senator Risa Hontiveros during the
Committee Hearing on the Anti-Discrimination Bill

Today is a historical day for the struggle for equality of our lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual, intersex and queer. Today, the Philippine Senate will hear for the first time a bill that explicitly protects LGBT rights and imposes penalties on discriminatory practices against LGBTs. It was seventeen years ago when the Anti-Discrimination Bill was first filed in Congress by former Akbayan congresswoman and human rights champion Etta Rosales. Ngayon lang nadinig sa mataas na kamara.

The passage of anti-discrimination for SOGIE (or sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression) is long overdue. Cases of discrimination and inequality have remained invisible to our national policies and reduced to insignificance by homophobia and stigma. The reports document experiences of transwomen who were being denied the right to express their gender identity in schools and in the workplace; of gay men who could not donate blood because of a government memorandum prohibiting homosexuals from doing so; of gay couples who could be beside each other in the hospital. There were transwomen who were forced by authorities to appear masculine before their passports could be renewed. There were also law enforcers threatening LGBTIQs of prosecution for Grave Scandal under Article 200 of the Revised Penal Code as a scheme to harass and to extort from them. There were cases of gender non-conforming students who were being bullied in schools affecting their performance and ultimately their access to education. There were people living with HIV AIDS who were made more vulnerable by the prevailing stigma against men who have sex with men and transgenders, putting in peril their fundamental right to quality and effective healthcare.

Ang laban na ito ay para sa kanila. Ang laban na ito ay para kay Jimmy Vosotros; para kay Barbie Anne Reiley, para kay Jennifer Laude. Ang laban na ito ay para sa lahat ng batang bakla, lesbyana, transgender na nalilito, nagtatanong, binubully sa playground. Ang laban na ito ay para sa lahat ng naghahanap ng pagmamahal, pag-uunawa, pagtanggap, anuman ang kasarian. Ang laban na ito ay para sa pagkakapantay-pantay.

I firmly believe that the 17th Congress will be the Congress that will pass the Anti-Discrimination Law. The Centennial Senate will be the Senate that will finally say no to hate. Sa ating diskurso ngayong hapon, hinihingi ko ang inyong "bukas-isip" at "bukas-puso".

It is my honor to shepherd this bill to its eventual passage, as a friend and ally of our beautiful and vibrant LGBTIQ community.

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