Senate optimistic to pass Anti-Discrimination Bill

Senator Risa Hontiveros, Chairman of the Committee on Women, Children, Family Relations and Gender Equality is confident that the Anti-Discrimination Bill will become law in the 17th Congress.

Senator Risa Hontiveros, Chairman of the Committee on Women, Children, Family Relations and Gender Equality is confident that the Anti-Discrimination Bill will become law in the 17th Congress.

During the first public hearing on Senate Bill No. 935 or the Anti-Discrimination Bill, Hontiveros noted that her bill seeks to “penalize discriminatory practices such as harassment by members of law enforcement institutions and declare unlawful the act of denying a person access to public or private medical and health services open to the general public on the basis of such person’s sexual orientation or gender identity or expression.”

The Anti-Discrimination Bill, which is Hontiveros’s priority agenda, aims to expand the constitutional provision guaranteeing the fundamental equality before the law of women and men to include lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgenders, intersects, and queers (LGBTIQs).

Hontiveros also explained that the hearing is considered “historic” given that it was the first time such bill was heard in the Senate.

The public hearing was attended by resource persons from various sectors–national government agencies, private sector, and non-government organizations–who shared their position and comments on the said bill.

Although there was a positive reception and appreciation of the bill among the resource persons, some recommendations have also been raised: For Section 4 (Discriminatory Practices) to cover all national government agencies, identifying stereotypical portrayal of LGBTIQs as discriminatory practice, development of a database that can monitor violence against LGBTIQs, and the inclusion of SOGIE concerns in all Gender and Development and Budget Plan.

Hontiveros acknowledged the continuing neglect on the human rights issues of LGBTIQs in the country. Cases of discrimination and inequality, she added, have remained invisible to the Philippines’s national policies.

This was echoed by the Civil Society Organizations present in the hearing, noting that the Philippines has one of the worst records of violence against LGBT community. Since 2008, there have been at least 28 recorded murders of Filipino transgenders.

The Anti-Discrimination bill was first filed by Akbayan Representative Etta Rosales in 2000. Although supported largely by human rights and LGBTQI groups, the bill remained at a standstill in the lower house during the past congresses.

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