MANILA - Advocates of the SOGIE (Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity and Expression) Equality Bill said Tuesday the youth are the most vulnerable to gender discrimination.
Speaking before a Senate committee hearing on the measure, Metro Manila pride co-coordinator Nicky Castillo said children are "especially vulnerable to bullying and harassment in schools because of their sexual orientation, gender identity or sex characteristic."
A survey conducted by Rainbow Rights Philippines and MM Pride from 2017 to 2019 showed that 51 percent of 400 LGBTQ+ members surveyed said they experienced discrimination in public schools, 31 percent in the streets, and 28 percent in private schools.
"Abusive treatment is endemic in spaces that should be safe, that schooling is often marred by discrimination curtails students’ right to education," Castillo said.
Atty. Jazz Tamayo, executive director of the Rainbow Rights project, cited a Cagayan de Oro regional trial court case in 2016 against a school principal who ordered a Grade 4 student to wear school curtains as punishment for violating the dress code.
“The child was made to wear school curtains as a punishment for failing to abide by uniform policy. This was done to the child no less than 6 times by the defendant principal," Tamayo said.
"The judge ruled that the child was too young to venture into a lifestyle of a gender identity that is different from the child’s assigned sex at birth."
The judge further ruled that the mother of the child was to blame for "not guiding her child better."
"I can imagine the chilling effect it will have for other parents who would have to file cases like this, if they lose this way and the judge just berating them about how they did not discipline their child," she said.
Tamayo said the Constitution's equal protection clause is not enough to guarantee equality.
"We need laws that will specifically compel if it cannot make people understand what equality is. The fight for the SOGIE bill has been too long, all these cases, all these suffering--they simply must stop," she said.
"When you give us equal rights, there is no taking from you. There is no lessening of you. No one is any less a man or a woman. The SOGIE Equality bill means simply that, an acceptance that we are different but equal."
Perci Cendaña of Babaylanes Inc., alumni organization of University of the Philippines' Babaylan, shared cases of gender discrimination in senior high schools across the country.
Quoting a popular Kadenang Ginto meme, Cendaña cited the case of alias Jay, a Grade 12 transgender man from Pampanga, who did not finish his secondary school because when he met with his principal for college requirements, he was berated for not following the school dress code.
"Si Jay po ang tulad ng maraming 'Cassie hindi ka muna papasok sa school' na nakakaranas ng stigma and discrimination," he said.
Cendaña also called out the Polytechnic University of the Philippines senior high school for telling its students who identify as transgender that they would not graduate if they don't follow the school's prescribed haircut.
Students were later allowed to graduate but did not receive a certificate of good moral character, he said.
"The Philippine youth development plan states that youth development is defined as enabled, involved, patriotic youth realizing their aspirations. Discrimination, stigma in the case of these 'Cassies' is a deterrent to development," he said.
"Today we would like to reiterate that discrimination is an issue not just of human rights but a development issue because it deters our young people from realizing their aspirations."