MANILA, Philippines – On Tuesday, August 13, a transgender woman was barred from entering a women's restroom of a Cubao mall and was sent to the Quezon City Police District's Anti-Cybercrime Division in Camp Karingal after she took videos while confronting the janitress about the issue. (READ: Trans woman Gretchen Diez: I didn't think I'd be treated like a criminal)
The transgender woman, Gretchen Custodio Diez, was shocked when it happened – discrimination was banned in the city, she said, which is why she regularly visited Cubao. (READ: Farmers Plaza apologizes to Gretchen Diez, distances from errant employee)
Diez was refering to the Quezon City (QC) Gender-Fair Ordinance, which prohibits discrimination against people's sexual orientation, gender identity and expression (SOGIE).
Geraldine Roman, 1st District Representative of Bataan and the first transgender woman to be voted into the House of Representatives, called it the "most advanced" anti-LGBTQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer) discrimination ordinance in the country.
What makes the QC Gender-Fair Ordinance so special?
Prohibited vs affirmative acts
The Gender-Fair Ordinance was authored by Councilor Mayen Juico and passed on November 28, 2014 by then-mayor Herbert Bautista.
The ordinance prohibits discrimination against LGBTQ+ members in their workplace and educational institutions and in the delivery of goods and services and accommodation.
Discrimination against the community is also not allowed – whether in the form of verbal and non-verbal ridicule, harassment, barred entry and refusal of service, promotion of discrimination against LGBT, and other analogous acts.
The ordinance also lists "affirmative acts" that should be adopted in these areas, like equal pay and sensitivity training in workplaces.
Even before the Gender-Fair Ordinance was passed, Quezon City already had other gender equality initiatives.
In 2004, then-mayor Feliciano Belmonte signed the Gender and Development Code, which focused mainly on women's rights.
In March 2013, Bautista established the QC Pride Council (QCPC), which is supposed to integrate the city's programs with the LGBT community. The Gender-Fair Ordinance stipulated who the members of this council should be and what its functions are.
The 2014 ordinance took gender equality a step further by requiring that SOGIE concerns be dealt with by the QCPD's violence against women and children desk, and allocating 5% of the city's annual budget to gender and development plans, projects, and programs.
'All gender CRs'
For Diez's case specifically, QC Mayor Joy Belmonte said that the mall where the incident happened did violate the Gender-Fair Ordinance.
Section V, 1d of the ordinance says, "All government agencies, private offices, and commercial/industrial establishments shall designate toilet rooms and lavatories labeled as all gender CR."
Anyone who violates the ordinance can be imprisoned for 60 days to one year, or pay a fine of P1,000 to P5,000.
First of its kind
In response to Diez's experience, Belmonte said that QC was the first city to pass anything like the Gender-Fair Ordinance. The same was said when it was first passed.
Though there are cities, provinces, and barangays across the Philippines that have anti-discrimination ordinances, the Philippines is still waiting on a nationwide SOGIE equality bill to be passed into law.
The SOGIE Equality Bill was approved by the House of Representatives in 2017, after a 17-year long wait. It is still pending approval with the Senate. – Rappler.com