As the nation observes the annual 18-day campaign to end gender-based violence (GBV), FamiLigtas reminds us to also address the violence and discrimination experienced by the LGBTQ+ community.
FamiLigtas is a digital campaign against GBV in the Philippines during the time of COVID-19. But because GBV is most commonly associated with spousal and domestic violence against women, the experiences of violence among lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgenders, queers, and other non-binary individuals are often left unheard.
“We advocate for the equal treatment for all persons, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression,” said Sabrina Gacad of Lunas Collective. “While there are numerous urgent challenges facing LGBTQ+ persons worldwide, there are many windows of opportunity to promote and protect their human rights.”
As the LGBTQ+ community continues to fight for the passage of the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Expression (SOGIE) Equality Bill in congress, more and more non-binary people continue to experience discrimination, and even violence, at home and in public spaces.
A lack of protection for LGBTQ+ persons
According to Human Rights Watch, only 15% of Filipinos are living in areas with ordinances against discrimination and violence on the basis of SOGIE. The same report also states that the low reporting of GBV to the community is caused by the negative messages that the victim-survivors are receiving from authorities.
Additionally, there is little to no statistical data on the cases of GBV against the LGBTQ+ in the Philippines, unlike violence against women and children, which has annual report from the Philippine National Police and other government and non-government organizations. GBV cases against LGBTQ+ are often either unreported, undocumented, or misclassified due to absence of specific laws to protect them against discrimination and violence.
That lack of legislation is emphasized by Justin Francis Bionat, Executive Director of Youth Voices Count, as problematic for youth. “Because we’re LGBTQ+ at the developmental stages of our youth, we already have a lot of things to go through. But there are barriers that you have to go through, with some big firms not hiring people just because they dress or identify a certain way.”
Kasama ang LGBTQ+ sa pamilya
The family is the most common perpetrator of GBV in the Philippines—whether targeted against women, children, or LGBTQ+ persons. According to the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, LGBTQ+ children are often verbally, emotionally, sexually, and physically abused by their own families. This is due to the notion that the children’s non-conforming gender attitudes are unnatural and immoral.
A recent survey by Youth Voices Count across Asia-Pacific revealed that 65% of LGBTQ+ youth are still dependent on their parents. According to Bionat, this indicates that many have had to go back home because of COVID-19, potentially leading to re-exposures to trauma and certain vulnerabilities.
For Melo Esquerra, a broadcast journalist and staunch LGBTQ+ advocate, and Mommy Vie, a proud Pride mom, safety at home begins with acceptance, love, and compassion from members of the family, without regard for gender.