Message of UNDP Country Director Maurice Dewulf

16 May 2014

Film Launch: 'Stories of Being Me', University of the Philippines Film Center, Diliman, Quezon City

Brian Goldbeck
, US Deputy Chief of Mission
Dr. Sylvia Estrada-Claudio, Director of the Center for Women’s Studies
Members of the LGBT community
Faculty and students of the University of the Philippines
Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

Magandang gabi sa inyong lahat (Good evening to each and everyone)!

As representative of the United Nations development Programme, I am very pleased to welcome you to the launching of the ‘Stories of Being Me.

These stories are a compendium of seven short documentaries of real life stories of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people from Asia and the Pacific.

They have been made to highlight the continuing struggle of the LGBT community towards equality. It is thus most appropriate to showcase these stories of challenges and successes of LGBT people, this evening, on the eve of the International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia.

These stories serve indeed as a testament to this struggle, often left unrecognized and neglected by the society.

With its positive messages of self-affirmation, dignity and pride against discrimination and violence toward LGBT people, these ‘Stories of Being Me’ also help usher the celebration of the LGBT Pride Month in June.

As you may well know, the 1969 Stonewall riots in Greenwich Village served as the watershed moment in the modern LGBT rights movement, and as the impetus for organizing LGBT pride celebrations in the whole world. This annual observance carries the call of fighting prejudice and discrimination against LGBT people everywhere it exists. At the same time, it is meant to recognize the impact LGBT people have suffered.

But, let us also celebrate that, after more than four decades of struggle, the LGBT community has also achieved significant victories.

Last year, the US Supreme Court made a historic decision on gay marriage by striking down the Defense of Marriage Act, which prohibited federal recognition to lawfully married same-sex couples. Now, all marriages legally performed by states will be recognized by the US federal government. More recently, U.S. district courts in Utah, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Virginia, Texas, Michigan, and Ohio have declared that state constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriage violate the US Constitution.

These rulings were landmark victories for the gay rights movements. With the majority of the population now believing that same-sex marriage should be legal, more US states are now moving in that direction.

Sweeping reforms and extraordinary shifts in social attitudes are also felt in other parts of the world.

In March this year, the United Kingdom became the sixteenth country to legalize same-sex marriage. In the Asia Pacific region, New Zealand was the first country to pass similar legislation in 2013. Now, three countries in the region – Thailand, Viet Nam and Hong Kong – are taking steps to follow its lead.

There is also a growing number of Governments working to confront homophobia. And, 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. Also, 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 ordinances outlawing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity were recently passed in the cities of Cebu, Davao, Angeles and Bacolod.

However, despite these victories, so much remains to be done in securing the rights of LGBT people, and in 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 the LGBT community. Moreover, there are 78 countries that still criminalize same-sex sexual activities.

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. This was clearly documented   in the ‘Being LGBT in Asia: The Philippine Country Report’, which UNDP and USAID launched last Monday.

According to the report, despite being signatory to relevant international covenants promoting human rights, the Philippines still faces major issues related to rights of LGBT people. There is a lack of a national anti-discrimination law that ensures protection of LGBT rights. Accordingly, LGBT Filipinos still experience stigma and discrimination in schools, family, work and communities. More seriously, LGBT people have been subject to crimes including harassment, rape and murder.

By bringing to the forefront the plight of the community, these stories thus help better understand how the rights of LGBT people can be better promoted in the region.

I would like to extend my heartfelt appreciation to the US Government for the partnership on this important endeavor. I would also like to thank the UP Center for Women’s Studies for hosting this event. Lastly, I would like to thank the courageous lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people who shared their stories of struggles, success and affirmation in these documentaries so people may know and begin to understand the impact of homophobia and transphobia on individuals and on communities.

To generate greater awareness on stigma and discrimination against the LGBT community, and leverage needed support for enabling policies, UNDP and the US Government will be sharing these stories in other countries in the region to ensure that the messages and advocacy reach out to as many as possible; to mobilize society in the fight against discrimination, and to improve the lives of LGBT people.

Mabuhay at maraming salamat (thank you very much)!