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What does Pride look like in the Philippines? Participants demand passage of two-decade old equality bill

The Philippines remains a heavily Catholic country with about 86 percent of the population identifying as such. In this conservative environment, women and members of the LGBTQIA+ community have found it difficult to get momentum on equality legislation, but they continue to show up.

  • 8 months ago
  • July 1, 2023
5 min read
The Metro Manila Pride event took place in the streets of Makati as participants celebrated and rose awareness about the need for equality. The Metro Manila Pride event took place in the streets of Makati as participants celebrated and rose awareness about the need for equality. | Photo courtesy of George Buid
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Today’s photo gallery comes from George Buid of the Philippines. It features photos from the Manila Pride celebrations that took place on June 24, 2023, during Pride Month. Participants spoke out about the lack of progress on the SOGIEC bill, an equality law aimed at protecting women and the LGBTQIA+ community. The bill passed one committee in May but has yet to pass the House and Senate.

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The 2023 Metro Manila Pride event featured numerous demands for the passage of the SOGIESC Bill. Officials repeatedly present the equality bill to the House and Senate. Yet, for decades, they failed to turn it into law.

According to Time Magazine, “…for more than two decades, a bill that would criminalize discrimination based on one’s sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, or sex characteristics (SOGIESC) has languished in the Philippines’ Congress. Year after year, it’s practically become an annual tradition for legislation on the matter to be reintroduced and rejected, leaving LGBT people in many parts of the country with no legal recourse when they’re discriminated against.”

National survey reveals major rise in Filipino support of the LGBTQIA+ community

An NPR article recently covered the results of a national survey by the nonprofit social research group Social Weather Stations. Despite the lack of action on passage of the equality bill, the survey shows a “substantial rise in supportive views of gays and lesbians in the socially conservative country in the past decade.”

The same article, however, revealed a desperate need for more education and public awareness. The article went on, “…43% of respondents believe that AIDS is a sickness of gays and lesbians, and 40% of respondents agreed that if there was a gay or lesbian member of their family, they would like them to change and become straight.”

The Philippines remains a heavily Catholic country with about 86 percent of the population identifying as such. In this conservative environment, women and members of the LGBTQIA+ community have found it difficult to get momentum on equality legislation, but they continue to show up.

Public figures take a stand for the community

Public figures also influence the social and political tenor. In 2023, Miss Universe Philippines came out as bisexual and in 2022 a Filipina won a major international beauty pageant for trans women.

Members of the LGBTQIA+ community are finding places where they can express themselves more safely. Mayor Joy Belmonte of Quezon City in the capital region declared her city the “safest space” for LGBTQIA+ people in the country. Protections are central to her policies and platform. She even launched a mass “commitment ceremony” where same-sex couples partake in the marriage experience even though the country fails to recognize it legally. Belmonte acts as the officiant.

A major Filipino youth group called Kabataan issued a statement during the celebrations. They stated, “There is no pride in the Marcos Jr. administration’s mis-prioritization of policies in favor of the passage of bills that serve to ensure their own hold on power by silencing the youth and plundering and profiteering off public funds… In the first place, we should recognize that the equality of genders is natural to Filipino culture and history before the Spanish colonization. The SOGIESC Bill is not demonic, anti-Filipino, or a foreign manipulation.”

What’s next for the SOGIESC equality bill?

In this go-round, the SOGIESC equality bill passed the House Committee on Women and Gender Sexuality. This, however, does not ensure LGBTQIA+ people will receive protection. The bill must still pass the House and Senate.

The Kabataan youth group said, “If the Marcos Jr. administration refuses to heed this duty and cause further inequality, LGBTQ+ youth along with many more Filipino youth will take on the challenge. Together, we will fight to win our rights, in the end, not for our own selfish love but for our nation and the future generations.”

All photos are courtesy of George Buid.

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