Gender Sensitivity and Human Rights: It’s All About Respect
Last March 18 and 19, individuals and groups from different backgrounds gathered to listen and learn about LGBT issues and concerns at a gender sensitivity and human rights training organized by Rainbow Rights Project, entitled “If You Prick Us, Do We Not Bleed?” The workshop highlights the different issues and concerns the LGBT community is faced with, namely, discrimination, invisibility and biased representation in the law, legislative measures and international efforts for the protection of rights.
Attendees of the gender sensitivity and human rights training included members of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), Civil Service Commission (CSC), Commission on Human Rights (CHR), and Bureau of Immigration (BI). Women’s groups and human rights organizations also came well-represented such as Sarilaya, Women’s Legal Bureau, Likhaan, UP Center for Women’s Studies, the Ateneo Human Rights Center, UP Human Rights, and Amnesty International. LGBT groups that came were Lesbian Advocates Philippines (LeAP!), UP Babaylan – Diliman, UP Babaylan – Los Baños, Task Force Pride, and Metropolitan Community Church.
The two-day workshop started with an introduction to gender and sexuality concepts and terminologies by Rocky Gacho. Angie Umbac, long-time LGBT advocate, narrated real-life stories of lesbians and their experiences with family members, religious groups, school and workplace, and the law and government. She pointed out how each of these institutions have perpetuated abuse and violence on lesbians and how lesbians, regardless of their social class and educational background, still experience discrimination and its after effects. She also discussed the responses of these institutions in addressing discrimination of LGBT persons.
Finally, to cap the first day of the workshop, Atty. Jazz Tamayo gave a very entertaining and highly informative discourse on how LGBT individuals are unprotected by the law, the different Philippine laws where lesbians and gay men are mentioned, and the rationale behind the advocacy and need for laws specific to the LGBT community. Also discussed were issues on parenting and adoption. Atty. Germaine Trittle Leonin closed the Q & A session with a thought-provoking statement, “There is no unwanted child in a same-sex partnership.”
Day two started with an enlightening talk on transgenderism by Bemz Benedito. Aside from educating the participants on the differences between transgenders, transvestites, and transsexuals, she talked about the many issues transsexual and transgender individuals face everyday, including legal issues on changing one’s name and sex in legal documents and documented instances of discrimination on transgenders and transsexuals.
Atty. Germaine Trittle Leonin took centerstage once again and explained how certain criminal laws may be applicable to LGBT individuals, discussed the possible violations that LGBT individuals may be accused of and how to deal in the event one is apprehended by the authorities. The Pink Card and Blue Card for gay men and lesbians, both included in the workshop kit (along with other handy wallet-sized informational sheets for LGBTs), contained basic criminal procedure as well as a brief summary of the violations discussed.
From a discussion on Philippine laws, the workshop progressed into a short introduction on the different human rights laws and treaties that the Philippines signed into. These human rights assertions starting from the early 1900s have always upheld individual human rights for all yet there is a significant lack of protection for the LGBT community and individuals.
Cases of discrimination against LGBT persons from different countries have shown that there is indeed a need to reassert and reaffirm LGBT rights. Cases of discrimination globally have shown that despite these treaties and conventions upholding human rights, there is still a huge gap when it comes to LGBTs and that these need to be addressed ASAP.
As discussed by Bem Uychinco, a gathering of human rights experts in Yogyakarta, Indonesia brought about the creation of the Yogyakarta Principles, a reassertion and reaffirmation of one’s basic human rights. The document contains a preamble and 29 principles that addresses current needs within the LGBT community and the challenge that “what’s on paper (as is with the other conventions and treaties) is not the reality.”
The 29 Principles, divided into seven sub-groups, surprisingly, are not LGBT-specific. These are not “special laws” as some critics would say, rather, these are basic human rights principles that apply to all.
Finally, Atty. Leonin gave updates on current happenings within the LGBT community such as the Anti-Discrimination Bill and the party-list candidacy of the Ang Ladlad.
As a newbie in the LGBT advocacy arena, it is always enlightening and educational for me to participate in activities such as this training workshop. There are days when I think that I know much – or at least have experienced much – as a lesbian. But there are days when I realize that I do not know even half of what the rest of the LGBT community goes through.
While working on my masteral paper on lesbians and their online usage, I had to read LeAP’s published book on case studies of discrimination of lesbians. Having been interested in lesbian studies since senior year in high school (circa mid-90’s), I have conducted enough research and kept myself updated on lesbian issues yet, I was sincerely shocked to hear about the plight of our trans sisters. I realized that their situation was indeed more complicated.
But despite this, I know I can only do so much. I still need to focus my energy on my own community and circle of family and friends, much of whom need to be educated and informed. This workshop not only reaffirmed what I had sought to do as a lesbian advocate which is to educate others, particularly non-LGBT persons, of LGBT issues, and to push for laws that protect and address the needs of LGBTs, but also awakened in me a desire to empower fellow LGBTs and let them know – remind them even – that they have rights just like everyone else. There’s no room for self-pity or apathy. No one will protect and fight for our rights. And most of all, no one else can teach others that lesbians are people, too, who get hurt and feel pain when ridiculed, rejected, and discriminated on, except lesbians ourselves.
Sometimes, I still hear friends or family members who say things or even do things that they think are not hurtful to gays and lesbians. A simple joke recklessly thrown at some character or personality on TV, or a snide comment said about stranger who may appear to be gay or lesbian may prove to be innocent yet damaging. Something as simple as this must be stopped and used as a time and chance to teach others about being more sensitive and respectful of LGBTs. Letting these opportunities slide is letting the seeds of discrimination grow and bear fruit.
As I left the workshop, I have grown more aware not only of the plight of others but also more informed and enlightened that the key to a more accepting and respectful society for LGBTs lies within the LGBT community itself. The problem of discrimination and homophobia may be caused by others but the solution is within each LGBT individual who chooses to fight against it.
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Tags: gender sensitivity, LGBT rights, Rainbow Rights