Gay rights advocates to launch protest march

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GAY RIGHTS advocates today marched for the first time in the swanky business district of Makati to press for the enactment of the Anti-discrimination Bill that has bogged down just as the parliament is set to close for elections in six months.

“After eighteen years of marching and shouting for our rights, we still do not have the basic law to guarantee that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Filipinos freedom from discrimination,” cried Goya Candelario, spokesperson of ProGay Philippines, the group that pioneered the first gay pride march in Asia in 1994.

The march is organized by Task Force Pride which coordinates about a hundred different organizations in Manila every year to mount marches in different cities of the metropolis.

Candelario scored both the government of President Benigno Aquino and the dominant Roman Catholic leadership for blocking the proposed bill that would outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI). Although senators are optimistic that the Bicameral Committee tackling the bill can move it along a quick track, ProGay is less than hopeful that solons can pay attention as the May elections are already distracting their attendance in Congress.

In addition to the neglect of their human rights, other government policies are worsening the conditions for their daily lives, ProGay avers. The group brought up the issue of privatization of health care that the Department of Health is implementing, citing that it will dry up public funds for free or cheap HIV treatments, and force people affected by HIV and sexually transmitted infections, mostly unemployed or low-paid homosexual and transgender men, to shoulder expensive meds.

The activists carried signs opposing the enacted CyberCrime Law, currently suspended by the Supreme Court. Unemployable transgender sex workers are wary of the measure as a threat to their livelihood, because they fear its cybersex provisions was meant to criminalize the only work they can find in the anti-transgender workplace culture of the country.

ProGay led the first gay pride march in the Philippines on 26 June 1994, breaking a long-held taboo on gay participation in politics. ProGay continues to organize political groups and grassroots health organizations among jobless transgenders, lesbians and gays in the country’s festering slums where lack of access to basic education prevents them from battling discrimination, poverty, HIV, evictions, and violence.

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