Message of UNDP Country Director Maurice Dewulf

12 May 2014

Launch of the 'Being LGBT in Asia: The Philippine Country Report', RCBC Plaza, Makati City

Mr. Brian L. Goldbeck, U.S. Deputy Chief of Mission
Commissioner Jose Manuel Mamauag, Commission on Human Rights
Jonas Bagas, Executive Director, TLF SHARE Collective
Atty. Angie Umbac, President, Rainbow Rights Philippines
Members of the LGBT community
Members of the press
Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

Magandang umaga sa inyong lahat (Good morning to each and everyone)!

I am very pleased to welcome you to the launching of the ‘Being LGBT in Asia: the Philippine Country Report’. It is appropriate to launch this report on the week of the International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia or IDAHO, which we celebrate every year on 17th of May in commemoration of the decision taken on the same day in 1990 by the World Health Organization (WHO) to officially remove homosexuality from its list of mental disorders. This was a landmark decision considered rightly so by the global lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community as a historic step towards considering freedom of sexual orientation and gender identity as a fundamental basic human right. This initial victory marked the celebration of IDAHO, and commemorates the community’s continuing struggle for acceptance.

However, after more than two decades of this historic decision, the LGBT community continues to suffer widespread discrimination because of misconceptions and systemic ignorance. So much remains to be done in securing the rights of LGBT people, and ensuring they can live lives free from violence, intimidation, and secrecy. In many parts of Asia, social and legal environments remain far from inclusive for LGBT community.

In the Philippines, while same-sex relations are not illegal and social perceptions towards sexual diversity appear tolerant, stigma and discrimination against LGBT people still exist as we will learn in the presentation of the report findings later on.

However, we remain hopeful as we begin to witness sweeping reforms and extraordinary shifts in social attitudes in many parts of the world. We note the growing number of Governments who are working to confront homophobia. In 2011, the Human Rights Council adopted the first United Nations resolution on human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity, which expressed “grave concern” at violence and discrimination against LGBT people. The High Commissioner for Human Rights published the first United Nations report dedicated to the concern, which was then debated at the Human Rights Council, marking another United Nations first.

In the Philippines, anti-discrimination legislations have been recently passed in the cities of Cebu, Davao and Angeles, while a national legislation is currently pending in Congress. The proposed Anti-Discrimination Act being put forth by Senator Aquino defines the prohibition of and penalties for discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. This enabling policy aims to remedy the long-standing discrimination against the LGBT community in the Philippines. We also acknowledge the efforts of the Commission of Human Rights in promoting LGBT rights in the country. Its Chair, Etta Rosales, is a staunch supporter of LGBT rights, continuing on with her commitment to the cause since proposing the first anti-discrimination bill in Congress when she used to be the Representative of Akbayan Partylist.

We all share a steadfast commitment to promoting and upholding the rights of every human being regardless of sex, race, religion, social status, sexual orientation and gender identity. The very first article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights proclaims that “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” This is the principle that the United Nations promotes and upholds. Without exception, human rights apply to every human being, including LGBT people. As UN Secretary General, Ban-ki Moon, rightly pointed out in his landmark speech against homophobia on Human Rights Day, “No one gets to decide who is entitled to human rights and who is not.”

We, therefore, express our solidarity with the LGBT community in claiming their rights and denouncing human rights abuses against them.

I am certain that you all agree that there is an urgent need for the government, community members, and development partners to act.

This task requires collective action and shared responsibility.

I am optimistic that this country report will be able to highlight the plight of LGBT people in the Philippines. In the same way, we are hopeful that this will facilitate forging of consensus among duty bearers and rights holders on how to move forward in terms of strengthening the response to LGBT rights in the country.

I would like to extend my heartfelt appreciation to the US Government for the partnership on this important endeavor. I also thank each one of you for participating in this event.  I hope that our partnership would be translated to meaningful and tangible results --- results that will eliminate all forms of stigma, discrimination and human rights violations against LGBT people; results that will ensure inclusive social and legal environments for the community; and results that will bring together all sectors towards achieving a just, equal and free society for all people.

Mabuhay at maraming salamat (thank you very much)!