Does The Philippines Really Need The SOGIE Bill?

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The Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Expression (SOGIE) Equality bill is a piece of legislation which aims to protect members of the LGBTQ+ community from different forms of discrimination enacted against them. While it actually passed in the lower house of Congress in the previous session it was blocked by certain senators in the upper house. These senators were namely Manny Pacquiao, Joel Villanueva, and Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III. 

Now, the Gretchen Diez incident has renewed calls for its passage. Diez, a transgender woman, was barred from using the women’s public restroom in a mall. The violent handling of her situation incited outrage from the public and renewed discussions on the SOGIE bill. Senator Risa Hontiveros has already declared her plans to bring it up in senate once again.

(Calls For Passage of the SOGIE Bill are Renewed Amidst Gretchen Diez Incident)

But what exactly does the SOGIE Bill entail? Simply put, they afford protections on the basis of an individual’s sexual orientation and gender identity. It seeks to disallow things such as including gender identity in the criteria for hiring, promotions, and the like. Denying access to public service and imposing harsher sanctions than customary due to a person’s SOGIE will also be sanctioned. A full list of the discriminations the bill safeguards the LGBTQ+ community from can be seen below: 

Know your rights!

Posted by When in Manila People on Sunday, August 18, 2019

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Given that the SOGIE Bill simply establishes these protections, why is it so controversial? 

One concern is that the bill is seen as conferring special treatment or “special rights” to the LGBTQ+ community. Many question why the basic provisions that uphold human dignity and facilitate protections for all are not enough. CIBAC party-list Representative Brother Eddie Villanueva went so far as to claim it would disadvantage other members of society. 

“[The SOGIE Equality Bill] will not promote equality but will, instead, unduly give ‘special’ rights to some members of our society at the expense of the rights of the other members and to the detriment of the social order in our community,” He stated.

However, it is important to remember that the discrimination which members of the LGBTQ+ face are of a higher and more intense degree than non-LGBTQ+ individuals. It is precisely because of this that additional protections for them become essential. Just as the Magna Carta for Women exists due to society’s acknowledgment that women have always been and continue to be less privileged than men, so should the SOGIE bill.

Yes, the protections the bill affords may be considered ‘special’ but that does not make them unfair. It is special because it is necessary. Non-LGBTQ+ members simply don’t face the same harassment, discrimination, and hate crimes that the LGBTQ+ do for their identities. 

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Another contention from the people is that it impedes religious freedoms. There is a fear that the speech of preachers, priests, and the like will be controlled as the bill penalizes speech which is discriminatory against the LGBTQ+. 

“What happens to a Christian like me, and to the majority of the people in this chamber, if we are to be threatened by punishment every time we share our Bible-based beliefs on matters of transgenders and homosexuals?” Villanueva questioned. 

Religious institutions need not worry as long as their beliefs and actions are not discriminatory. A preacher should be able to express his views on sexuality without making inflammatory remarks against a person’s SOGIE. It would only be an issue if these sermons are aggressive enough to amount to hate speech. 

Religious freedom pertains to the ability of people to practice their faith and beliefs but only to the extent that it does not impede on anyone else’s freedoms. Meaning to say, religious freedom can be trumped if it is directly harming the rights of any individual. Since discriminating against a person on the basis of their SOGIE is not intrinsic to any religion, there is no real reason for it to be justified. 

What then is our reality without the SOGIE bill? It is incidents like transgender individuals being violently treated for going into the “wrong” bathroom. It is LGBTQ+ individuals being denied employment because of who they are. It is barring members of the LGBTQ+ from dining in a restaurant or buying a product. It is unactionable discrimination that they will have to put up with for the rest of their lives. 

Sure, the basic protections for any average individual exist but how do you address intent then? Not affording these protections makes these actions permissible. It sends the message that discrimination based on a person’s SOGIE is acceptable. 

Are you in favor of or against the SOGIE bill? Let us know why in the comments! 


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