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PROGAY begs Bahrain, free jailed gays, respect street protests

in PHILIPPINES, 22/02/2011

Gay activists in the Philippines have appealed Tuesday for the release of more than 120 Arab homosexuals arrested by police a week before massive protests swamped the oil-producing kingdom of Bahrain.

Goya Candelario, spokesperson of the Progressive Organization of Gays in the Philippines or PROGAY, called on the government of Bahrain to immediately free the 127 gays as their security in detention is compromised due to the political instability in the kingdom’s capital.

He said Bahraini police raided on February 2 a private reception for an alleged same-sex wedding, netting more than a hundred men, mostly visiting from Syria and Lebanon. The party venue was a sports hall in Hidd, a village on Muharraq Island.

Police argued that the party was decadent and depraved because of the presence of male guests who wore makeup and women’s attire, and were also consuming alcohol, behaviors that are sanctioned as immoral and illegal in most Gulf countries. Later, the police conducted checks to ascertain if the men engaged in sexual relations.

PROGAY expressed concern that the police in the Middle East routinely practice increased cruelty when dealing with gay men in their custody, while citing reports from returning gay overseas Filipino guest workers.

Candelario said some Filipino workers who entertain in private parties for fun or income are also being arrested in surprise raids and spend between six months to one year in prisons, where they suffer further sexual abuse, deprivation and shame.

However, victims do not file complaints and even reapply and reenter Gulf countries for work, preferring curbs on homosexual lifestyles to the grinding poverty and unemployment in the Philippines.

Last year, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia issued a blanket ban on the recruitment of known homosexuals from the Philippines, raising protests from gay activists and prospective migrant workers.

On the other hand, PROGAY also saw hope of increased freedoms for gays and lesbians in the simultaneous uprisings of the Arab peoples against tyrannical rulers in Bahrain, Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and Yemen. PROGAY believes that democratization in these countries may provide opportunities for advancing human rights based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Candelario also scored the Aquino administration for not pursuing genuine economic reforms that would generate employment for Filipinos. The gay advocate said that Aquino should now order an immediate evacuation plan to protect thousands of lives in the Middle East and Africa who fear further escalation of violence and job losses.

Progay Philippines is a service and advocacy organization that provides counseling, training and education assistance to marginalized gay, lesbian, transgender and bisexual Filipinos, especially the youth and the ageing sectors. ProGay initiated Pride traditions in the country when it led the first ever gay and lesbian Pride parade in the entire Asian region on 26 June 1994.

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