Child Rights Network (CRN), the largest alliance of child-focused organizations and agencies in the Philippines, called on the government to reconsider its position on the proposed Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, and Expression (SOGIE) Equality Bill.
CRN released the statement following the rejection of the Philippine delegation of the recommendation during the fourth cycle of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) to pass the SOGIE Equality Bill.
The UPR is a mechanism instituted by the United Nations to review a member-state’s actions concerning the protection of human rights periodically.
“A cursory review of the SOGIE Equality bills in both houses of Congress would reveal how comprehensive and protective the proposals are,” said Romeo Dongeto, Child Rights Network Convenor.
“At the heart of these proposals is the constitutionally-protected right of all people – regardless of sexual orientation, gender expression, gender identity, ethnicity, and other attributes – to receive the State’s protection against discrimination and violence,” he said.
According to the 2016 Philippine National Baseline Study on Violence against Children, LGBTQI+ children face higher risks of suffering physical violence (75%), psychological violence (78.5%), and sexual violence (33.8%).
“The SOGIE Equality Bill isn’t even about same-sex union,” said Dongeto. “It’s about providing a law that will protect anyone, especially children, who endures discrimination and violence for just being who they are.”
“It is ironic that we are celebrating National Children’s Month this November with the theme of strengthening children’s mental health and well-being, and yet our government rejects a proposal that seeks to address the reason why many LGBTQI+ children face mental health problems and risks of suicide – discrimination,” added Dongeto.
In a statement, CRN stressed that several versions of the SOGIE Equality Bill pending before Congress offers “holistic protection” to children from discrimination.
Several versions of the SOGIE Equality Bill include a provision on the “responsibility to promote a non-discrimination and equal opportunity environment” for all persons and in all settings, particularly schools.
The proposed bill also tasks the Department of Education and the Commission on Higher Education to promote “understanding and appreciation of cultural diversity, racial harmony and non-discrimination in schools and other learning modalities, and ensure that books, reference materials and other learning resources used in education programs, including those that portray indigenous peoples or discuss religious practices, are free from discriminatory content.”
The SOGIE Equality Bill also tasks the whole of government and society, including educational institutions, to “develop and implement information dissemination on any of the prohibited forms of discrimination.”
“How can anyone say that enriching our curriculum with gender sensitivity and lessons on respect for values is unacceptable? This notion breeds discrimination – stopping point-blank efforts to teach respect, honor, discernment, and critical thinking, especially among children,” Dongeto said.
CRN reminded the government that the principles of non-discrimination and equal protection are enshrined, especially in Article III Section 1 of the 1987 Constitution.
Various international human rights obligations in which the Philippines is a state party, including the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), also contain provisions on non-discrimination.