My Husband’s Lover bill. HB 2352 is more popularly called My Husband’s Lover bill after the title of a primetime TV show that depicts what the proposed legislation wants to address. “My Husband’s Lover” is about the life of a woman, Lally, who is married to a man, Vincent, with whom she has children. Later, the show reveals that Vincent is still emotionally and physically attracted to an old lover, another man named Eric. The show has become hugely popular, prompting the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines to call for a morality check on the show. In defense, the show’s creators issued a statement saying that their program depicts “real-life situations.”
To be clear, marriage in the Philippines remains exclusively heterosexual. That is why HB 2352 surprised many in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community. In media interviews, Lagman asks LGBT Filipinos to support HB 2352. After all, he said, the measure pushes for equal rights of LGBT people and is a step toward gender equality. In the bill’s explanatory note, he qualifies this support by saying: “Although I am open and supportive of gender equality, we must not limit its concept [to] the positive side of things. Just like in a marriage, equality should be present ‘for better or for worse.’ Meaning, equality must be upheld both in the rewards and as well as in the sanctions given by the society. If the LGBT group insists on equal rights, they must also be prepared to accept and carry the burden of equal liability and responsibility. That is the essence of democracy.”
In actuality, no national law has ever been enacted to specifically protect or promote the rights of LGBT Filipinos. In fact, since 1999, attempts to pass into law an Anti-Discrimination bill that would penalize discriminatory practices toward members of the LGBT community have been repeatedly thwarted in Congress. Through the years, documented cases have accumulated showing LGBT Filipinos at the receiving end of abusive and discriminatory treatment based on their sexual orientation and gender identity in their own homes and communities, workplaces, schools and in public and private institutions and establishments. Even in places where there are local ordinances meant to protect them, LGBT Filipinos continue to experience discrimination. Not surprisingly, many LGBT rights advocates have rejected HB 2352.
Legal stigmatization of gender and sexuality. HB 2352 comes on the heels of recently passed laws that rights advocates have opposed. To the dismay of many, the Philippine government under President Aquino has enacted several laws that stigmatize gender and sexuality.
The writer is Naomi Fontanos, a Filipino transgender rights advocate and cofounder of Gender and Development Advocates (Ganda) Filipinas, a Manila-based nonprofit committed to promote human rights in the context of development.