“Today, in France, we still cannot live and love freely just as we are,” said Joël Deumier, president of the association SOS Homophobie. In its annual report published May 10, 2017, the organization stated it received 1,575 testimonies of anti-LGBT acts in 2016, an increase of nearly 20% compared with the previous year. It’s possible that the increase in reported incidents reflects a greater willingness of victims to speak out. Still, SOS Homophobie believes that many victims of anti-LGBT acts do not dare come forward.

Demonstration in support of same-sex marriage in Paris, 16 December 2012.

© 2012 Olivier Hoffschir

In 2016, SOS Homophobie received 26 reports from people who said they had a homophobic, biphobic, or transphobic encounter with justice or law enforcement officials. By this is meant that an officer refused to characterize an assault as homophobic in a complaint or to even file a complaint, or that a law enforcement officer himself discriminated against LGBT people.

While these incidents remain thankfully limited, they are no less unacceptable. France should take measures to determine how widespread these attitudes are among public officials, and to prevent subversion of their duties because of this attitude.

SOS Homophobie’s report also shows a correlation between debates over equal rights and the increase of anti-LGBT acts. The organization recorded a spike in reported incidents in 2013, the year France legalized same-sex marriage. In 2016, France adopted a law waiving the requirement for transgender people to provide proof of medical treatment to amend their legal gender. That same year saw a 76% spike in reported transphobic incidents.

While a majority of the French population is in favor of allowing same-sex couples to get married and adopt children, opponents of LGBT rights are a “vocal minority,” and are especially active on social media, where prosecution for homophobic statements remains difficult to carry out.

Several candidates for the 2017 presidential election expressed their intention to “rewrite the Taubira law” on same-sex marriage and adoption. One candidate even received the support of Sens commun, an organization openly opposed to the rights of LGBT people. When political figures take stands that are hostile to equal rights, they may “rekindle hate.”

It is high time to end discrimination against LGBT people and the French authorities have a key responsibility and role to turn this into reality.

Author: Human Rights Watch
Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

This week Poland’s parliament has the chance to improve the lives of transgender people by passing a law that simplifies the legal gender recognition procedure.

Recognition before the law in your preferred gender is a vital aspect of ensuring respect for the human rights of transgender people. For example, it allows transgender people to access services on an equal footing with their peers.

Transgender activists march in the 2015 Warsaw Pride holding a banner that reads "YES to Gender Accordance Act.”

© 2015 Trans-Fuzja

Momentum on this matter is building. Earlier this year, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe issued a resolution noting “the emergence of a right to gender identity”, while raising concerns that “transgender people face widespread discrimination in Europe.”

Members of Poland’s parliament will consider the country’s Act on Gender Recognition this Friday. Parliament already passed the draft legislation over the summer, although the president vetoed it last week.

The act proposes some important advances.

First, it defines gender identity as a “settled and intense experience of one’s own gender,” which may or may not correspond with one's sex assigned at birth.

Second, it eliminates the requirement for physical interventions before gender can be legally recognized, and instead makes the process a court procedure.

Third, it spells out the various documents on which applicants are legally entitled to change their gender – including education certificates, work qualifications, and health records – and allows the possibility for young transgender people, once they reach age 16, to change their name.

Access to documents in your preferred gender and name is a key element in ensuring respect for an individual’s right to personal and private life, and also allows transgender people better access to healthcare, education, and employment.

In a recent survey, 78 percent of Polish transgender people said quicker and easier legal gender recognition procedures would allow them to live more comfortably.

There’s no doubt President Andrzej Duda’s recent veto of the act was a setback. But if parliament does vote in majority support of the legislation, Poland will take a huge step forward and transform the lives of many.

Author: Human Rights Watch
Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

Graeme Reid, director of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights Program, is an expert on LGBT rights. He has conducted research, taught and published extensively on gender, sexuality, LGBT issues, and HIV/AIDS.

Before joining Human Rights Watch in 2011, Reid was the founding director of the Gay and Lesbian Archives of South Africa, a researcher at the Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research and a lecturer in Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Studies at Yale University. An anthropologist by training, Reid received an master’s from the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, and a PhD from the University of Amsterdam.

Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

Participants take part in the annual Gay Pride parade in Jerusalem July 21, 2016.

© 2016 Reuters

This week, the Israeli government opposed a petition submitted by the Association of Israeli Gay Fathers requesting that common-law and same-sex couples be allowed to adopt. The government said that it opposed changing the law because adoption by same-sex couples would place an “additional burden” on the child.

“The professional opinion of the Child Welfare Services supports preserving the existing situation” that the adopting couple consist of a man and a woman, the brief said. The government takes into account “the reality of Israeli society and the difficulty it may entail with regard to the child being adopted.”

In short, the government is saying that social prejudice could negatively affect children of same-sex couples. But perpetuating discrimination in the name of child welfare is an untenable approach. Barring children from being adopted into loving, supportive families on spurious grounds is hardly in the best interest of the child.

There is in any case no real evidence to support the government’s concerns, and ample reason to doubt them. More than 70 peer-reviewed scholarly studies from around the world have concluded that children of gay or lesbian parents fare as well as other children. While providing a range of protections to same-sex people, Israeli law only permits adoption by same-sex couples in specific restricted situations, such as when there is a previous connection between the child and the prospective adoptive parent or the prospective adoptive parent is the partner of the child’s biological parent.

Israel is a member of the Equal Rights Coalition (ERC), an international coalition of countries advocating equal rights for LGBTI people. On June 6, the Netherlands issued a statement on behalf of all the 35 member-countries at the 35th session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. The coalition said that there is room for improvement among member countries to achieve full equality for LGBTI people: “We stand ready to learn from legislative processes and other positive examples aimed at strengthening the protection and promotion of equal rights for LGBTI persons and to share our experiences in repealing discriminatory laws, improve responses to hate-motivated violence, and promoting legal protection from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.”

There is still time for the Israeli government to reconsider its position. Keeping best practices in mind, the Israeli government should look at the 25 countries in the world that have already allowed adoption by same-sex couples, including the United Kingdom, France, the Netherlands, Canada, and Spain, and reverse its decision to continue barring same-sex couples from adopting children.

Author: Human Rights Watch
Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

The Department of Education issued a gender-responsive basic education policy on June 29 that calls for an end to discrimination based on gender, sexual orientation and gender identity in schools. The policy is an important step toward providing equal rights for all students—but history shows it is unlikely to make a real difference for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) youth unless the DepEd transforms its promise into meaningful protection.

A poster for an anti-bullying campaign hangs on a wall at a secondary school outside Cebu, November 2016. 

© 2016 Ryan Thoreson/Human Rights Watch

The United Nations reports that bullying is the most prevalent form of violence against LGBT youth in educational settings in the Asia-Pacific. But the Philippines has been a leader in affirming the rights of LGBT youth. In 2012, the DepEd issued a child protection policy to prevent and address bullying in schools, including on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Protections were strengthened in 2013, when Congress enacted an Anti-Bullying Law with implementing rules and regulations that expressly prohibit bullying of LGBT youth—the first law of its kind in Asia. 

Still, LGBT students in the Philippines face serious problems that threaten their safety, health and right to education. In its new policy, the DepEd acknowledges that LGBT youth are still at high risk for physical, psychological and sexual violence in schools, and that despite existing legal protections, many LGBT students do not feel comfortable reporting incidents to school authorities.

The policy identifies steps that DepEd personnel and school administrators should take to make schools more gender-responsive. Among these steps are: training school personnel to respond to bullying and discrimination in schools; integrating gender, sexuality and human rights into teacher training programs and school curricula; and observing and celebrating Women’s Month, LGBT Pride Month, and Human Rights Month. These not only help keep students safe from violence, but also make them feel included and welcome in school environments.

The DepEd order is a timely affirmation that discrimination based on gender, sexual orientation and gender identity is unacceptable. But it needs teeth. As Human Rights Watch has documented, existing protections for LGBT youth in Philippine schools are admirable on paper, but too often are not carried out or enforced. Years after the Anti-Bullying Law was enacted, for example, many LGBT students are unaware that bullying is prohibited and do not believe they can do anything to stop it. Similarly, many teachers and administrators are unaware of the law or are simply indifferent to abuses against LGBT students—or, worse, participate in them, creating a climate in which students are especially vulnerable.

If the DepEd is serious about curbing discrimination in schools, it should develop actionable strategies to combat discrimination against and exclusion of LGBT youth. And it should aggressively carry out those strategies, ensuring that teachers and students are aware of best practices and have meaningful redress when their rights are violated.

There are concrete ways for the DepEd to turn platitudes into protections. Instead of merely condemning it, the DepEd should issue a standardized policy prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in all public and private schools, and train school personnel to enforce it. In light of widespread abuse of transgender students—which can cause them to miss class, skip school, or even drop out—the DepEd should instruct all public and private schools to permit students to wear uniforms, sport hairstyles, and access facilities consistent with their self-expressed gender identity.

It should develop LGBT training for school counselors, issue print and web resources on LGBT issues, and foster LGBT peer support groups in secondary schools. And instead of merely affirming the value of inclusive curricula, it should incorporate LGBT-inclusive materials into the sexuality education modules that educators use.

Calling for gender-responsive education is a valuable step—but it is only the beginning of a strategy to eradicate discrimination against LGBT youth in schools. In the months to come, the DepEd should cement its position as a champion of the rights of all students by making those rights meaningful.

Author: Human Rights Watch
Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

An Indonesian man is publicly caned for having gay sex in Banda Aceh, Aceh province, Indonesia May 23, 2017.

© 2017 Reuters

The authorities in Aceh – Indonesia’s only province that implements full Sharia (Islamic law) – clearly feel stung by the international outcry they generated when police publicly flogged two gay men in May. Their solution, it appears, is to put an end to public floggings.

Instead, they’re just going to flog people indoors, away from the cameras.

Aceh’s position within Indonesia is unique. A 30-year separatist armed conflict seeded deep distrust between Acehnese and the national government. The 2004 Boxing Day tsunami led to a ceasefire that soon ended the war but wrought unprecedented devastation. A 2005 peace agreement made Aceh the only one of Indonesia’s 34 provinces that can legally adopt bylaws derived from Sharia – although such provisionsmodeled on Aceh’s, are spreading nationwide. The province’s 2014 criminal code prohibits all same-sex relations and mandates public caning as punishment.

Under its Sharia bylaws, Aceh caned 339 people last year for offenses ranging from gambling to adultery. The May caning of two gay men, who received 83 lashes each, appears to be Indonesia’s first public caning for homosexuality and sparked considerable international outrage. Flogging as punishment is also recognized under international law as a form of torture, but that doesn’t seem to have deterred Acehnese authorities so far. So what prompted the decision to end floggings in public?

Media reports suggest that Acehnese leaders are now worried that videos of May’s flogging, which were widely circulated online, make the province unappealing for investors.

In 2014, I interviewed Aceh’s former governor, Irwandi Yusuf about his white-knuckle escape from the tsunami and his 2007 election victory. A proud former rebel, Irwandi has long opposed Sharia’s more extreme laws, and he even refused to sign a draft Sharia bylaw in 2009 that would have allowed adulterers to be stoned to death.

But now Irwandi, recently elected governor for a second time, seems to be trying to gloss over a barbaric violation of basic rights. The government should be abolishing this brutal punishment and the abusive laws that allow it, not whitewashing flogging to mollify squeamish investors.

Meanwhile, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, who maintains that Indonesia is a beacon of moderation and tolerance, has failed to protect the rights of the country’s beleaguered minorities.

He should make it clear to Irwandi that hiding abuses is not the same as ending them, and that the moral outrage over public floggings was not a one-time reaction. The world is watching. 

Author: Human Rights Watch
Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

Activists raise a rainbow flag as they march during a demonstration to mark the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia in Changsha, Hunan province May 17, 2013.

© 2013 Reuters

Last week, in an unprecedented case, a court in China ruled against a public hospital that had forced a gay man into so-called conversion therapy. This ruling was the first of its kind – against a public institution in China.

The plaintiff, known only as Yu, was admitted to the No. 2 Zhumadian Hospital – a psychiatric facility – in Henan Province by his wife and relatives. He was forced to take medication and receive injections in an effort to change his sexual orientation. The court ordered the hospital to issue a public apology in local newspapers and pay Yu 5,000 RMB (US$375) in compensation.

While the verdict is significant, the ruling is narrow. The court ruled Yu’s rights were infringed by his being admitted to an institution against his will when he posed no danger to himself or others. This left the underlying issue unaddressed: that forced conversion therapy is a form of discrimination based on sexual orientation. And Yu’s compelled treatment is not unique – gay, lesbian, and bisexual people in China have told Human Rights Watch of similar experiences where they were subject to verbal humiliation, forced medication, and even electroshock in public hospitals.

China de-criminalized homosexuality in 1997, and the Chinese Society of Psychiatry declassified homosexuality as mental illness or disorder in 2001. But authorities have yet to take the next step of imposing anti-discrimination laws and practices. In 2014, a young gay man in Beijing sued a private clinic where he had voluntarily undertaken conversion therapy. The court sided with the man, and ordered the clinic to pay compensation equivalent to the costs incurred by the plaintiff. The court framed the case as a consumer rights issue based on allegations of false advertising and ineffective treatment, but nonetheless reiterated that homosexuality is not a mental disease.

China’s 2013 Mental Health Law prohibits admission of involuntary patients unless they pose a danger to themselves or others. The law also prohibits admitting or treating individuals without mental disease as patients. This new court decision should give an impetus to Chinese authorities to enforce the law and address the forcible admission of patients into mental institutes. The government acknowledges that homosexuality is neither a crime nor a mental disorder – but making that a reality requires among other steps banning forced conversion therapy.

Author: Human Rights Watch
Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

A woman wrapped in the rainbow flag is seen at the Pink Dot rally, Singapore's annual gay pride rally, at a park in Singapore July 1, 2017. 

© 2017 Reuters

Pink Dot, Singapore’s annual event bringing people together in support of its lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community, proved extra special this year when over 100 local businesses sponsored the gathering. This year, the government barred international companies – which have historically backed the event – from doing so.

Pink Dot is a pivotal gathering for LGBT people in Singapore, where sex between men is punishable by up to two years in prison and radio and television guidelines preclude plots that “promote, justify or glamorize” LGBT lifestyles. First launched in 2009, the annual event has been supported by local branches of over a dozen multinational firms operating there.

Singapore has a reputation of welcoming international companies. And unlike the government, many of these businesses – including Bloomberg, Goldman Sachs, Visa, and Microsoft, which have offices in Singapore – recognize LGBT rights in their policies.

So why were international firms barred from supporting the event?

After last year’s Pink Dot event, Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam issued a statement that “foreign entities should not interfere in our domestic issues, especially political issues or controversial social issues with political overtones,” adding that LGBT issues are “one such example.”

In October, the ministry said it would require multilateral companies to obtain government permission to sponsor Pink Dot. Shanmugam added that it would be difficult for companies to receive permission to support LGBT-themed parties, as Singaporeans had “sharply divided opinions” on the issue.

To the delight of Pink Dot’s organizers, local companies stepped in to fill the funding gap this year. By March, it had reached 70 percent of its donations target as momentum built toward the July 1 event. By May, organizers had surpassed their fundraising target with more than 100 Singaporean companies chipping in.

Earlier this year, when Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong was asked what he thought of the country’s colonial-era sodomy law, he responded: “I’m prepared to live with it until social attitudes change.”

It appears Pink Dot 2017, sponsored by local companies and attended by more than 20,000 citizens and permanent residents, has heralded exactly that shift. The government should heed this lesson and make changes to include – not discriminate against – its LGBT population. 

Author: Human Rights Watch
Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

People dance as they participate in the annual Gay Pride parade in Berlin, Germany on July 23, 2016. In Germany, same-sex couples can become registered partners, but cannot get married.

© 2016 Reuters

UPDATE: On Friday June 30,2017, the German Bundestag (House of Representatives) voted in favor of marriage equality with 393 yes, 226 no and 4 abstentions. Chancellor Angela Merkel voted against the proposal.

***

Barring any last minute political surprises, two European Union countries are poised to embrace marriage equality: Germany and Malta.

In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose Christian Democratic Union/Christian Social Union (CDU/CSU) party has historically been opposed to same-sex marriage, made a surprising comment this week. At an event in Berlin hosted by a women’s magazine, Chancellor Merkel responded to a question from the audience and said opinion polls show that the vast majority of Germans favor marriage equality. She suggested that a free vote on the matter could be held in the German parliament.

Boris Dittrich, Human Rights Watch LGBT Rights Program advocacy director, with Joseph Muscat, Prime Minister of Malta, in Malta in June 2017. 

©2017 Human Rights Watch

In the past, Merkel has said that she sees marriage as a bond between a man and a woman. A “free vote” means that each member of parliament can vote according to conscience, rather than along party lines. Merkel’s party is in coalition with the Social Democratic Party (SPD). Its leader, Martin Schulz, immediately responded to Merkel’s remarks by calling for a vote this coming Friday, prior to federal elections that are scheduled for September. If a vote takes place, it is expected to pass, as almost all other political parties represented in the German parliament support gay marriage, and at least a quarter of Merkel’s own party will likely also vote in favor.

Meanwhile in Malta, recently re-elected Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has delivered on his election promise and introduced a bill on marriage equality. The bill, which streamlines marriage legislation including for same-sex marriage, was debated in the Maltese parliament this week. The vote is likely to take place later this week or early next. It is expected to pass with a large majority, as all political parties promised to support gay marriage during the election campaign.

If Germany and Malta do embrace marriage equality, they will become the 23rd and 24th countries globally to do so. The first country to extend marriage rights to same-sex couples was the Netherlands in 2001. Marriage equality legislation has been implemented on almost every continent, for example in South Africa, New Zealand, the United States, and Argentina. Taiwan is expected to become the first country in Asia with equal marriage rights after its Supreme Court found a ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional.

This week is set to be a landmark week for marriage equality.

Author: Human Rights Watch
Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

Activists hold a National Wear V-neck Day gathering in response to seminars led by the Malaysian government on “spotting gay symptoms,” in Kuala Lumpur, September 30, 2012.

© 2012 Reuters

It was a rare positive outcome for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in Malaysia.

Earlier this month, the Health Ministry, in response to strident criticism from activists and the general public, reframed the terms of a youth video competition, removing language and criteria that stigmatized LGBT identities in favor of language that appears to affirm them. But will the rest of the government embrace this rights-respecting stance by the Health Ministry?

The National Creative Video Competition on Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health, which opened on June 1 with the stated theme “Value Yourself, Practice Healthy Lifestyle,” initially called for young people ages 13 to 24 to submit original videos on three topics: “sexual reproductive health,” “cybersex” and “gender dysphoria.” (The Bahasa Malaysia term, kecelaruan gender, has previously been translated by government agencies as “gender confusion.”)

In the guidelines for the gender dysphoria category, teens were invited to address “prevention, control and how to get help” for people including “lesbian, gay, transgender (mak nyah), transvestite, tomboy/pengkid and others.”

Civil society activists sprang into action to demand changes. Nisha Ayub, an internationally recognized transgender activist and the co-founder of Malaysia’s Seed Foundation, told the media that the competition was “encouraging discrimination, hatred and even violence towards the minorities.”

Pang Khee Teik, another activist, denounced the competition’s conflation of gender identity and sexual orientation, saying, “The very fact that they lump LGBT people under a category called ‘gender confusion’ shows that the authorities are very much confused themselves.”

Several Malaysian and international organizations, including the Malaysian AIDS Council and Human Rights Watch, issued statements or wrote to the Health Ministry in protest.

The initial response from the Health Ministry was defensive. Their initial statement accepted no responsibility for advancing discriminatory ideas about LGBT people, insisting that the competition was in accordance with the Convention on the Rights of the Child in promoting knowledge about sexual and reproductive health.

But as criticism intensified, the ministry reached out to civil society organizations to request a meeting, which took place on June 7 and included Nisha Ayub, the Malaysia AIDS Council, and PT Foundation.

Following the meeting, the ministry changed its tune. It issued revised competition guidelines, replacing the “gender dysphoria” category with a category on “gender and sexuality.”

The guidelines explain: “Gender refers to personal conviction and how one sees roles as a woman or a man as a result of social and cultural constructs or upbringing. Sexuality is important in a human's life in terms of physical, cognitive, emotional, social and spiritual aspects.”

The momentous nature of this shift in perspective needs to be lauded. Once one recognizes that gender is a social construct, laws, and policies that discriminate against LGBT people do not stand up to scrutiny. The fact that a part of the government has come to acknowledge this, as a result of open dialogue with civil society organizations, is a positive move.

The Health Ministry deserves to be congratulated for seeking dialogue with activists from LGBT communities and making an impressive turnaround. Others should stop harassing, arresting, and stigmatizing LGBT people, and try listening to them instead.

Unfortunately, discriminatory laws and policies abound in Malaysia. If the Health Ministry has indeed progressed in its understanding of gender and sexuality, other government agencies show little sign of making comparable strides.

Malaysian law criminalizes both homosexual conduct and transgender identities, and state religious department officials regularly arrest transgender women simply for wearing clothing deemed not to pertain to their assigned sex.

An Impressive Turnaround

Events in recent years demonstrate a litany of attempts by the government to shut down discussions of sexual orientation and gender identity.

In 2011, police banned the “Seksualiti Merdeka festival” (featuring workshops, talks, and performances on sexual diversity and LGBT rights), calling it a “threat to public order.”

In 2012, the Information Department prohibited radio and television programs from featuring “gay, effeminate men … because this encourages and promotes LGBT.”

And in 2013, the Information, Communication, and Culture Ministry sponsored a play called “Asmara Songsang” (Abnormal Desire) and supported performances of the play in schools and universities around the country. The explicit aim of the play was to “warn young people about the perils of being lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender.”

In February 2017, the Islamic Development Department (Jakim) endorsed so-called “conversion therapy,” claiming that gays should seek guidance from God, “repent,” and enter into heterosexual marriages.

In March, the Film Censorship Board demanded that Disney edits out four minutes of the children’s film “Beauty and the Beast” because of a “gay moment.”

Fortunately, when Disney refused to make any cuts to the film, the board eventually backed down and allowed the unedited film to be screened in Malaysia.

Private actors have also curtailed pro-LGBT speech. In May, Taylor’s University in Subang Jaya canceled a three-day Pride celebration organized by Pelangi, an LGBT rights organization.

The Health Ministry’s revised video competition – by creating space for young people to address themes of gender and sexuality, broadly conceived – could provide much-needed airing of positive images of LGBT people.

There are few openly LGBT role models for queer or questioning Malaysian youth to look to, and the few who speak out do so at great personal risk.

Nisha Ayub, the transgender activist, was attacked by two men wielding iron bars in late 2015, and the police never identified the assailants or brought anyone to justice for the brazen, daylight attack.

And on June 15, an 18-year-old Penang teen, T Nhaveen, died after a group of teenagers allegedly beat and raped him while taunting him with insults such as “pondan,” a derogatory Malay term for an effeminate male, a gay male, or a transgender woman.

The video competition’s target group includes young people who may be at the very early stages of understanding their own sexual orientation or gender identity. When government or authority figures disseminate negative images of LGBT people, they can reinforce self-stigma and self-hate among vulnerable youth.

Studies in other countries, including throughout Asia, indicate that LGBT teenagers suffer from high rates of suicide and depression – not because being LGBT is itself a problem to be “prevented” or “controlled,” but because of pervasive violence, discrimination, family rejection, bullying, and other manifestations of intolerance.

In contrast, disseminating positive images and creating safe spaces for dialogue can lead LGBT young people to feel confident, safe, and protected.

The Health Ministry deserves to be congratulated for seeking dialogue with activists from LGBT communities and making an impressive turnaround.

Others – including Jakim, the state religious departments, the censorship board, and the police – should also stop harassing, arresting, and stigmatizing LGBT people, and try listening to them instead.

Author: Human Rights Watch
Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

The following are excerpts from the Human Rights Watch 2017 World Report  that relate to the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people. The report, released in January 2017, documented events of 2016. In some cases, we have added updates from the first half of 2017.

The countries are all listed below in alphabetical order. This compilation is not comprehensive. If a country is not listed, that means there was no mention of LGBTI/SOGI issues for that country in the 2017 World Report. For example, many of the smaller Caribbean countries and some African countries are omitted due to research limitations, but most have anti-LGBT laws on the books and pervasive homophobia and transphobia. On the other hand, several countries that are not included here made progress in the 2016-2017 period: Belize, Nauru and the Seychelles all decriminalized consensual same-sex conduct, for example. Human Rights Watch has only recently begun investigating the rights of intersex people, so there are few references to intersex rights.

This is a living document which will be updated regularly to reflect new events and further Human Rights Watch research.

Last updated: June 23, 2017

***

Argentina

In 2010, Argentina became the first Latin American country to legalize same-sex marriage. The Civil Marriage Law allows same-sex couples to enter into civil marriages and affords them the legal protections of marriage enjoyed by opposite sex couples, including adoption rights and pension benefits. Since 2010, nearly 15,000 same-sex couples have married nationwide. In 2012, the landmark Gender Identity Law established the right of individuals over the age of 18 to choose their gender identity, undergo gender reassignment, and revise official documents without any prior judicial or medical approval.

Armenia

Activists reported that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LBGTI) people face discrimination, harassment, and violence. The government has not addressed hate speech or discrimination against LGBTI people. Gender identity and sexual orientation are not included as protected grounds in anti-discrimination or hate speech laws, limiting legal recourse for many crimes against LGBTI people. Following the October 2015 Rainbow forum, organized by Armenian LGBTI-friendly groups to discuss protection and promotion of minority rights, anonymous people targeted some participants with intimidation and threats, mostly on social media, including to burn and kill them. Authorities refused to launch a criminal investigation into the threats, citing lack of evidence. In June 2016, the LGBT rights group, PINK Armenia, published a survey revealing that 90 percent of the population is hostile to LGBTI people and support limits on their rights. In July 2016, PINK Armenia released a report documenting 46 cases of violence and discrimination against LGBTI people in 2015. The government has not taken meaningful steps to combat stereotypes and discrimination against LGBTI people.

Australia

Australia does not recognize the right of same-sex couples to marry. The Australian government announced a plebiscite on the right of same-sex couples to marry, but political opponents blocked it, arguing a plebiscite is expensive and wasteful and that the issue should be determined by a parliamentary free vote.

Australia continued its policy of intercepting asylum seekers and forcibly transferring them to Nauru and, until 2016, to Manus Island in Papua New Guinea. Asylum seekers or refugees perceived to be lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or intersex (LGBTI) face harassment and abuse despite the recent decriminalization of same-sex conduct in Nauru. In Papua New Guinea, such conduct remains criminalized.

Bangladesh

Bangladesh witnessed a spate of violent attacks against secular bloggers, academics, gay rights activists, foreigners, and members of religious minorities in 2016. Prominent gay activists Xulhaz Mannan, the founder of Roopbaan, Bangladesh’s first lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) magazine, and Mahbub Rabby Tonoy, the general secretary of the group, were  murdered in April. Al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) claimed responsibility for the killings. Fearing for their lives, many LGBT activists sought temporary refuge outside the country.

“Carnal intercourse against the order of nature” carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison. In May 2017, police raided a private gathering of gay and bisexual men, and allegedly paraded them in front of media, exposing them to their families and the public. Authorities said they declined to press charges under the colonial-era sodomy law because they did not catch the men in the act of sexual intercourse. The government has twice rejected recommendations to repeal the colonial-era law during its Universal Periodic Review at the UN Human Rights Council. The Bangladesh cabinet in 2014 declared legal recognition of a third gender category for hijras—a traditional cultural identity for transgender people who, assigned male at birth, do not identify as men—but the absence of a definition of the term or procedure for gaining recognition of third gender status led to abuses in implementation of the legal change. In June and July 2015, a group of hijras were subjected to harassment and invasive and abusive physical examinations at a government hospital as a requirement to join a government employment program. The Bangladesh National Human Rights Commission in 2017 agreed with LGBT civil society groups to establish a desk at the commission for reporting SOGI-related issues.

Belarus

Parliament adopted a vaguely worded bill in May 2016 on “protecting children from information harmful for their health and development.” These provisions may be used to restrict dissemination of neutral or positive information about lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people as “discrediting the institution of the family.”

Bolivia

In May 2016, the Plurinational Assembly passed a bill that allows people to revise the gender noted on their identification documents without prior judicial approval. Same-sex couples in Bolivia are not allowed to marry or engage in civil unions. The 2009 constitution defines marriage as the union of a man and a woman.

Bosnia and Herzegovina

Sarajevo Open Centre, the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights organization, documented 23 cases of hate speech and incitement of violence and hate and two crimes and incidents motivated by prejudice on the basis of sexual orientation and/or gender identity in the first three months of 2016. The reaction of authorities to these incidents is generally inadequate. There was no progress in police investigations into the 2014 attack on a film festival that Sarajevo Open Centre organized.

In its annual progress on Bosnia and Herzegovina published in November, the European Commission highlighted the failure of authorities to amend the constitution, in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights and to implement rulings by the Constitutional Court. The report also identified inadequate legal protection for LGBTI persons and the failure of authorities to protect adequately the rights of minorities and to ensure media freedom.

Brazil

Brazil’s Supreme Court approved same-sex marriage in 2011 and it upheld the right of same-sex couples to adopt children in 2015. But the Chamber of Deputies was, at time of writing, debating a bill that would define a family as a union between a man and a woman. The national Human Rights Ombudsman’s Office received 1,983 complaints of violence, discrimination, and other abuses experienced by lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons in 2015. In the first half of 2016 the ombudsman received 879 such complaints.

Burma

Burma’s national penal code criminalizes consensual same-sex behavior between adult men. In recent years police have arrested gay men and transgender women assembling in public places, and politicians have called for the “education” of gay people.

Cameroon

Cameroon’s penal code punishes “sexual relations between persons of the same sex” with up to five years in prison. The law is regularly enforced, and in previous years, the Cameroonian authorities have subjected men arrested under this law to forced anal examinations. Although the number of arrests appeared to decrease for several years, activists reported a new uptick in arrests and prosecutions in 2016.

Chile

A “civil union” bill presented by former President Sebastián Piñera in 2011 that provides legal recognition and protection for same-sex couples became law in April 2015 and went into effect in October 2015. In September 2016, the Senate Human Rights Commission approved a bill to recognize the gender identity of transgender people, with a Senate vote expected in December.

China

China has no law protecting people from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, and there is no legal recognition of same-sex partnership. Possibly because their activism is not considered threatening to the state, LGBT individuals enjoyed some success advancing legal cases in 2016. In January, a Hunan court heard a case filed by Sun Wenlin against the local Bureau of Civil Affairs, which had refused to marry Sun and his male partner. Though the court ruled against Sun in April, his case—the first gay marriage lawsuit accepted by Chinese courts—attracted wide media attention. In June, a Henan court accepted a case filed by Yu Hu against a mental health hospital that had subjected him to 19 days of involuntary “therapy” to “cure” his homosexuality. Also in June, a Guangdong university student, Qiu Bai, sued the provincial education department over textbooks that depict homosexuality as an illness. Qiu filed a similar suit in 2015, though she withdrew it later because the department had promised to look into the matter. She decided to sue again after the authorities’ pledge failed to materialize. In June, China voted against a UN resolution creating an expert post dedicated to addressing violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Colombia

In September 2016, the Council of the State—one of Colombia’s high courts—annulled the 2012 re-election of Alejandro Ordoñez as the country’s inspector general and dismissed him from office. Under Colombian law, the inspector general is charged with protecting human rights, but during his seven years in office, Ordoñez repeatedly sought to undermine the rights of women and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people.

In recent years, authorities in Colombia have taken several steps to recognize the rights of LGBT people. In June 2015, the Justice Ministry issued a decree allowing people to revise the gender noted on their identification documents without prior judicial approval. In November 2015, the Constitutional Court ruled that sexual orientation could not be used to prohibit someone from adopting a child, although a legislative proposal to hold a referendum on this issue remained pending at time of writing. In April 2016, the Constitutional Court upheld the right of same-sex couples to marry. In October 2016, FARC leaders met with conservative politicians and agreed to promote a definition of the family as formed by a man and a woman. The FARC backtracked after meeting with LGBT representatives days later. Conservative politicians and evangelist leaders had attacked the peace agreement claiming that it would “destroy families.” Between January and June 2016, the Ombudsman’s Office received 89 reports of cases of violence against LGBTI people.

Cote d’Ivoire

No law prohibits discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation, gender identity, or intersex status. Côte d’Ivoire does not criminalize same-sex conduct, but the criminal code establishes higher penalties for same-sex couples convicted of public acts of indecency. Two men were in November convicted of public indecency and sentenced to three-month prison terms after being accused of same-sex sexual acts. Two gay men were assaulted in June 2016 after a photo was published of them signing a book of condolences to the victims of a shooting at a gay nightclub in Florida, US.

Croatia

In February, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) ruled that Croatia discriminated on grounds of sexual orientation against a woman from Bosnia and Herzegovina, by denying her the right to a residence permit in Croatia to join her female partner.

Ecuador

In 2016, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights ruled against Ecuador in a case determining that it is discriminatory to punish officers who allegedly have homosexual sex on military installations.

Egypt

Sexual relations outside marriage are criminalized. Since 2013, authorities have pursued a campaign to intimidate, track, and arrest lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people, including entrapment using social media applications. Police regularly used forced anal examinations in prosecutions of those suspected of homosexual sex. Solidarity With Egypt LGBTQ+, an advocacy group, said it had recorded 114 criminal investigations involving 274 LGBT individuals launched between the end of 2013 and November 2016, 66 of which involved the authorities’ use of social media.

Estonia

The government failed to adopt amendments that would allow the Co-Habitation Act to fully enter into force in 2016. The act is progressive legislation that extends the rights of marriage to unmarried—including same-sex—couples, encompassing, among other things, child adoption and property rights.

Gambia

The government continued to resist calls to repeal laws that criminalize homosexuality, including an October 2014 law that introduced a series of new “aggravated homosexuality” offenses that impose sentences of up to life in prison. The criminalization of same-sex conduct leaves lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Gambians at risk of arbitrary arrest and detention, although fewer arrests and physical abuse of LGBT Gambians were reported in 2016.

Georgia

In August, President Giorgi Margvelashvili blocked a referendum bid on defining marriage as a union of a man and a woman, saying that the issue is already covered in the civil code. Kvirikashvili vowed to pursue a constitutional definition of marriage after the October elections, arguing that this would help counter alleged Western efforts to spread same-sex marriage “propaganda” in Georgia. Local rights groups feared this effort would further marginalize the LGBT community and intensify anti-LGBT prejudice. Authorities declined a request by LGBT activists to hold an event to mark International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO) on Tbilisi’s main thoroughfare, stating it was already booked for a procession by Orthodox groups to mark Family Day, an annual event established by the Orthodox Church in 2014. Activists refused to celebrate IDAHO in the alternative venue offered. The Women’s Initiatives Supporting Group (WISG), a local LGBTI rights group, said it documented almost 20 cases of attacks against transgender people in 2016. In October, a transgender woman was beaten and stabbed in what rights groups suspected was a hate crime. Police arrested a suspect on attempted murder charges, and the public defender urged authorities to examine a possible hate motive.

Honduras

Rampant crime and impunity for human rights abuses remain the norm in Honduras. Despite a downward trend in recent years, the murder rate is among the highest in the world. Journalists, peasant activists, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals are among those most vulnerable to violence.

In June 2016, several United Nations agencies working in Honduras urged the government to investigate killings of LGBTI activists and noted that sexual violence against LGBTI individuals forces them into “internal displacement” or to flee the country in search of international protection.

Hungary

In August 2016, a lower court sentenced a right-wing extremist to 10 years’ imprisonment for violent attacks between 2007 and 2009, including throwing Molotov cocktails at the homes of socialist MPs and an attack on a gay bar in Budapest.

In July, the ECtHR ruled that Hungary had arbitrarily detained an Iranian gay man and failed to take into account his vulnerability in detention arising from his sexual orientation.

India

In February 2016, the Supreme Court of India allowed a challenge to section 377 of the penal code to proceed, referring the case to a five-judge bench. The colonial-era provision, which the court had upheld in 2013, criminalizes same-sex relations between adults. In June, several well-known LGBT professionals filed a petition in Supreme Court arguing that section 377 violates the right to life and personal liberty, but the Supreme Court deferred the petition to the Chief Justice. In August, the government introduced a new bill in parliament on the rights of transgender persons. The bill was flawed, however, by provisions that were inconsistent with the 2014 Supreme Court ruling that recognized transgender individuals as a third gender and found them eligible for quotas in jobs and education.

India’s voting record on rights issues at the UN was disappointing. In July, the government abstained on a resolution that created a UN expert post to address discrimination against LGBT persons and voted in favor of amendments to weaken the mandate, saying India’s Supreme Court was still to decide on the issue of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights.

Indonesia

Starting in January 2016, high-ranking Indonesian officials made a series of vitriolic anti-LGBT statements and policy pronouncements, fueling increased threats and at times violent attacks on LGBT activists and individuals. In some cases, the threats and violence occurred in the presence, and with the tacit support, of government officials or security forces. State institutions, including the National Broadcasting Commission and the National Child Protection Commission, issued censorship directives banning information and broadcasts that portrayed the lives of LGBT people as “normal” as well as so-called propaganda about LGBT lives. Ministries proposed discriminatory and regressive anti-LGBT laws. An ongoing case in the Constitutional Court is considering a petition that proposed amending the criminal code to criminalize sex outside of marriage and same-sex sexual relations. During the initial hearings, the petitioners—led by a group called the Family Love Alliance—put forward ill-informed and bigoted testimony similar to the anti-LGBT rhetoric espoused by Indonesian officials and politicians earlier that year. The government, the respondent in the case, said criminalizing sex out of wedlock would make “the sinner a criminal, and the government authoritarian,” a view echoed in testimony by the National Commission on Violence Against Women and other groups opposed to the petition. At time of writing the court had not yet ruled on the petition. While president Joko Widodo, or “Jokowi” in October 2016 declared that police must protect LGBT people and not discriminate against them, he failed to uphold that principle in action. In 2017, police raided at least two private gatherings of gay and bisexual men on the pretense of the discriminatory anti-pornography law, which construes gay sex as “deviant” and prescribes increased punishments for it, and Sharia police publicly flogged two gay men for private, consensual sex in Aceh province.

Iran

Under Iranian law, many nonviolent crimes, such as “insulting the Prophet,” apostasy, same-sex relations, adultery, and drug-related offenses, are punishable by death.

In March, the United Nations Children’s Rights Committee noted that flogging was still a lawful punishment for boys and girls convicted of certain crimes. The committee noted reports that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) children had been subjected to electric shocks to “cure” them.

Iraq

ISIS’s Diwan al-Hisba (Moral Policing Administration) and online media apparatuses have publicly announced 27 executions of allegedly gay men, at least nine of them in Iraq. The main method ISIS used to execute these men has been to throw them off the roofs of high-rise buildings.

Iraq’s penal code does not prohibit same-sex intimacy, although article 394 makes it illegal to engage in extra-marital sexual relations. Due to the fact that the law does not expressly allow same-sex marriage, it effectively prohibits all same-sex relations. In July 2016 Moqtada al-Sadr, the prominent Shia opposition cleric, stated that although same-sex relationships are not acceptable, individuals who do not conform to gender norms suffer from “psychological problems,” and should not be attacked.

Israel/Palestine

There are different legal systems in occupied Palestinian Territory. The British Mandate Criminal Code Ordinance, No. 74 of 1936 is in force in Gaza. In the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, the Jordanian Penal Code of 1960 applies, and does not contain provisions prohibiting adult consensual same-sex conduct. In Gaza, having “unnatural intercourse” of a sexual nature, understood to include same-sex relationships, is a crime punishable by up to 10 years in prison. In February 2016, Hamas’s armed wing executed one of its fighters ostensibly for “behavioral and moral violations,” which Hamas officials acknowledged meant same-sex relations.

Italy

As of May 2016, same-sex couples may have their relationships legally recognized as civil unions, though they do not have the right to adopt.

Japan

A bipartisan parliamentary group established in March 2015 continued to discuss legislation to address discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, but at time of writing it had yet to come up with an agreed draft bill. Japanese law treats those requesting legal recognition as transgender as having a “Gender Identity Disorder” and requires obtaining such medical diagnosis. It also requires forced sterilization, compulsory single status, not having any underage children, and being 20 years or older. While same-sex marriage is not legally recognized in Japan, Tokyo’s Shibuya ward in April 2015 became the first municipality to pass a regulation recognizing same-sex partnerships, with more municipalities recognizing such partnerships in 2016 and 2017. Bullying is a problem in Japanese schools generally, and particularly so against LGBT students. In April 2016, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) for the first time released a guidebook for teachers regarding sexual orientation and gender identity. And in 2017, MEXT announced amendments to the national bullying prevention policy to include specific mention of LGBT students for the first time.

Jamaica

Jamaica is moving toward a revision of its rape law, which currently defines rape as the penetration of the vagina with the penis without consent. A proposal has been floated for a new law that is gender neutral. The absence of a gender-neutral rape law has been put forth in the past by politicians as justification for retaining Jamaica’s colonial-era “buggery” law, which criminalizes both consensual and non-consensual sex between men. The possible promulgation of a gender-neutral law on rape or sexual assault may therefore be a first step toward decriminalization of consensual same-sex conduct.

Kazakhstan

Surveys of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people reveal that many hide their sexual orientation or gender identity—including to healthcare providers—out of fear of reprisals or discrimination. When LGBT people report abuse, they often face indifference and hostility from authorities. Transgender people must undergo humiliating and invasive procedures—including coerced sterilization—to change gender on official documents. Without identity documents, transgender people struggle to access employment, healthcare, and education. The UN Human Rights Committee called on the government to end discrimination and violence against LGBT people and review gender-reassignment surgery procedures.

Kenya

Kenya’s penal code prohibits “carnal knowledge against the order of nature,” generally understood as consensual sex between men, and “indecent practices between males.” Civil society organizations and activists filed two landmark constitutional petitions against these sections in April and June 2016, arguing that the laws violate constitutional rights, including the rights to equality and nondiscrimination, human dignity, freedom and security of the person, privacy, and health. Kenya continued the prosecution of two men on charges of “carnal knowledge” after police arbitrarily arrested them in Kwale County in February 2015. The case remained open but was suspended pending the ruling of a constitutional petition filed by the two men, asserting that state officials had violated their rights by subjecting them to a forced anal examination. The High Court rejected the petition on the grounds that the men consented to the examination, ignoring that the men were in police custody and not able to provide free and informed consent. The men have appealed the ruling. The government appealed a 2015 High Court decision ordering the Non-Governmental Organizations Board to register the National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (NGLHRC), a civil society group. Parties were awaiting a hearing date at time of writing. The Kenya Film Classification Board overstepped its jurisdiction in asking YouTube to remove a locally produced video addressing same-sex relationships, prohibiting an alleged lesbian speed-dating event, and attempting to ban a podcast with alleged lesbian content.

In May 2017, the Attorney General established a “Taskforce on Policy, Legal, Institutional and Administrative Reforms Regarding Intersex Persons in Kenya.” Its mandate includes to “recommend comprehensive reforms to safeguard the interests of intersex persons.” The secretariat of the task force is based at the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights. The task force will be open to receiving submissions on best practices from around the world, and there is a strong possibility that it will result in the establishment of policies that protect the rights of intersex people. While it will not directly address SOGI related rights, the task force may produce a rights-based framework around intersex people with aspects that will be transferrable to the advancement of LGBT rights.

Kyrgyzstan

LGBT people in Kyrgyzstan experience ill-treatment, extortion, and discrimination by both state and non-state actors. There is widespread impunity for these abuses. On May 24, 2016, the law, order and fighting crime parliamentary committee returned Kyrgyzstan’s anti-LGBT bill, which would ban “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations,” for a repeat second reading, where it then stalled. The bill appears aimed at silencing anyone seeking to openly share information about same-sex relations in Kyrgyzstan. Following a live debate on LGBT rights on national television, Kyrgyzstan’s State Committee on National Security on June 14 summoned the editor-in-chief of Kloop.kg, an online media portal, for questioning about its coverage of the show. The television’s supervisory board also formally reprimanded its general director for airing the content. Also in June, Kyrgyzstan voted against a resolution at the UN Human Rights Council establishing the mandate of an independent expert to address violence and discrimination against LGBT people.

Latvia

According to Latvian LGBT activists, the authorities used a 2015 law on “constitutional morality education” to censor discussion about LGBT people in at least two schools in 2016.

Lebanon

Sexual relations outside of marriage—adultery and fornication—are criminalized under Lebanon’s penal code. Furthermore, article 534 of the penal code punishes “any sexual intercourse contrary to the order of nature” with up to one year in prison. In recent years, authorities conducted raids to arrest persons allegedly involved in same-sex conduct, some of whom were subjected to torture including forced anal examinations. In February 2016, a Syrian refugee, arrested by Lebanese Military Intelligence officers apparently on suspicion he was gay, was allegedly tortured while detained at Military Intelligence, Ministry of Defense, Military Police, and Jounieh police centers. In January 2017, a judge in Metn challenged the legal basis of the arrest of men for same-sex conduct, declaring that homosexuality is “not a criminal offence,” although under Lebanon’s legal system, the ruling does not create a binding precedent.

Malaysia

Discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people is pervasive in Malaysia. Article 377A of the penal code criminalizes same-sex activity between men with punishments of up to 20 years in prison and whipping. Numerous Sharia-based laws and regulations prohibiting a “man posing as a woman,” sexual relations between women, and sexual relations between men effectively criminalize LGBT people.

Both government and private actors attempted to limit expression in support of LGBT rights. In February 2017, JAKIM (the Ministry for Islamic Development) endorsed so-called “conversion therapy,” claiming that gays should seek guidance from God, “repent,” and enter into heterosexual marriages. In March, the Film Censorship Board demanded that Disney edit out four minutes of the children’s film “Beauty and the Beast” because of a “gay moment.” Disney refused to make any cuts to the film, and the board eventually backed down and allowed the unedited film to be screened in Malaysia. In May, Taylor’s University in Subang Jaya canceled a three-day Pride celebration organized by Pelangi, an LGBT rights organization. In June, the Ministry of Health, in response to strident criticism from activists and the general public, reframed the terms of a youth video competition on sexual and reproductive health, removing language and criteria that stigmatized LGBT identities in favor of language that appears to affirm them.

In February 2017 Sameera, a transgender woman, was murdered in Kuantan. In June, an 18-year-old in Penang, T. Nhaveen, died after a group of teenagers allegedly beat and raped him while taunting him with insults such as “pondan,” a derogatory Malay term for an effeminate male, a gay male, or a transgender woman.

Mexico

Same-sex marriage has been legal in Mexico City since 2010. Since then, nine states have legalized it; in 2015, the Supreme Court opened the door to recognition in all states by ruling that the definition of marriage as a union only between a man and a woman constitutes discrimination and thus violates Mexico’s Constitution. In May 2016, President Peña Nieto introduced a bill to legalize same-sex marriage, to remove sexual orientation and gender identity as barriers to adoption, and to recognize gender identity through the reissuance of birth notices, without a doctor’s involvement. Two committees in the Chamber of Deputies voted against the initiative in November.

Morocco/Western Sahara

Moroccan courts continued to jail persons for same-sex conduct under article 489 of the penal code, which prohibits “lewd or unnatural acts with an individual of the same sex.” A Beni Mellal court convicted two men of homosexuality after a group of youths on March 9 burst into the home of one and pushed the two men naked into the street, filming the assault and later posting the clip online. The two men were freed after spending one month in prison; in April, a court imposed prison terms on two of their attackers. On October 27, police in Marrakesh arrested two girls aged 16 and 17 who were reported for cuddling in a private home. They were jailed for one week and charged under article 489, then provisionally released. In December, they were acquitted.

Authorities require but often refuse to issue permits for foreign broadcast media to film in Morocco. On April 3, police detained and then expelled a crew of the French news program “Le Petit Journal” as it tried to film in a neighborhood of Beni Mellal where the abovementioned gay-bashing assault had taken place.

Nepal

In line with a 2007 Supreme Court decision and a subsequent court order, the government in 2015 began issuing passports in three genders: “male,” “female,” and “other.” Some with “other” passports have successfully traveled abroad with their travel documents recognized by foreign governments. The new constitution recognizes that citizenship is available in three genders, and protects “gender and sexual minorities” in clauses related to equality before the law and social justice. Activists remain frustrated with the lack of implementation of a Supreme Court-mandated committee recommendation that the government recognize same-sex relationships.

Netherlands

At the start of 2016, NGOs reported threats and discrimination against LGBT asylum seekers at asylum facilities, and a Dutch independent monitoring body, the Dutch Board for Protection of Human Rights, found in February that LGBT asylum seekers at a large facility face discrimination.

Nigeria

The passage of the Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act, SSMPA in January 2014, has far reaching effects on members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community. The law is used to legitimize abuses against LGBT people, including mob violence, sexual abuse, unlawful arrests, torture and extortion by police. On February 13, the police arrested a homosexual couple in the federal capital for allegedly attempting to conduct a wedding. The wedding sponsors and the hotel venue owner were also arrested. The penalty for entering into a gay marriage under the SSMPA is 14 years. Ironically, former President Jonathan who defied global pressure before signing the bill into law, said belatedly in June 2016 that “with the clear knowledge that the issue of sexual orientation is still evolving, the nation may, at the appropriate time, revisit the law.”

In November 2015, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights urged the Nigerian government to review the SSMPA in order to prohibit violence and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity and ensure access to HIV prevention, treatment, and care services for LGBT individuals.

Pakistan

In 2009, Pakistan’s Supreme Court called for improved police response to cases involving transgender people, and to ensure the rights of transgender people to basic education, employment, and protection. However, despite the court order, violent attacks on transgender and intersex women in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province surged in 2016, with unknown assailants frequently targeting those involved in activism. Official responses have been inadequate. Human rights groups in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa have recorded dozens of threats to, and attacks on, people and property, including abuses while in police custody. In September 2016, the National Commission for Human Rights called on the government to investigate the attacks, and in 2016 and 2017 local governments and parliament hearings reflected an increased amount of attention to the plight of transgender women—including a unanimous resolution in the Khyber Pakhdunkhwa assembly calling for voting rights for transgender people.

Papua New Guinea

The PNG criminal code outlaws sex “against the order of nature,” which has been interpreted to apply to consensual same-sex acts, and is punishable by up to 14 years’ imprisonment. Gay asylum seekers on Manus Island have reported being shunned, sexually abused, or assaulted by other asylum seekers.

In May, during the periodic review of PNG’s human rights record at the UN Human Rights Council, countries made more than 150 recommendations on sues including ratification of international treaties, establishing a national human rights commission, promoting gender equality, addressing domestic violence and sorcery-related violence, decriminalizing consensual same-sex relations, and abolishing or placing a moratorium on the death penalty. In September, PNG responded that it would ratify all core human rights treaties “on the basis of priorities” and that, while there are challenges to implementing reforms, it is committed to establishing a human rights commission, improving gender equality, and addressing domestic violence and sorcery-related violence. It also noted, however, that “LGBT is currently not a priority of the Government” and that the “death penalty is in our national law, however despite this, the current government directive is not to implement until further directions are issued.”

Peru

In March 2015, Congress rejected a bill to recognize civil unions for same-sex couples. In September 2016, a Congressional supporter of President Kuczynski announced that he would introduce a new legislative proposal to recognize same-sex civil unions.

People in Peru are required to appear before a judge in order to revise the gender noted on their identification documents. In an August 2016 report, the human rights ombudsman noted that courts had rejected most of these requests, often applying inconsistent criteria.

Philippines

The House of Representatives began consideration of House Bill 267, the “Anti SOGI (Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity) Discrimination Act” in June 2016. If approved, it will criminalize discrimination in the employment of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals, and prohibit schools from refusing to register or expelling students on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. The Senate has introduced companion legislation, Senate Bill No. 935, otherwise known as the Anti-Discrimination Bill (ADB), which had its first hearing in August. House Bill 267 will also sensitize police and law enforcement officers on LGBT issues and train them to attend to complaints. These initiatives are essential given that LGBT rights advocacy groups have warned that hate crimes against LGBT people are on the rise and that the Philippines has recorded the highest number of murders of transgender individuals in Southeast Asia since 2008. The bill would also prohibit anti-LGBT discrimination in access to health care.

Russia

Authorities continued to implement discriminatory policies and laws against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people. In March, police found journalist and theater critic Dmitry Tsilikin dead in his St. Petersburg apartment from stab wounds. The perpetrator, arrested a week later, confessed that he planned to blackmail Tsilikin about his homosexuality, but killed him during a confrontation. The police did not categorize the killing as a hate crime. In January, a court in Murmansk, northwestern Russia, found LGBT activist Sergei Alekseenko guilty of violating the discriminatory “gay propaganda” law which prohibits allowing children access to positive information about LGBT relationships. The court called several publications on the website of an LGBT organization formerly run by Alekseenko “gay propaganda” and fined him 100,000 rubles (US$1,300). Authorities continued legal action against Deti-404, an online support group for LGBT children. In April, a court in the Siberian town of Barnaul ruled to ban the website. As of November, Deti 404’s website remained blocked. In September, a court in Siberia ruled to block BlueSystem.ru, a highly popular LGBT news site. As of November, the site was blocked.

In February 2017 and stretching through at least the first week in April, law enforcement and security officials in Russia’s Chechen Republic launched an unprecedented anti-gay purge. They rounded up dozens of men on suspicion of being gay, held them in unofficial detention facilities for days, humiliated, starved, and tortured them. They forcibly disappeared some of the men. Others were returned to their families barely alive from beatings. Their captors exposed them to their families as gay and encouraged their relatives to carry out so-called “honor killings.” Although Chechnya’s leader, Ramzan Kadyrov has denied the round-ups, there is evidence that high-level officials in Chechnya sanctioned them. Russia’s federal government pledged to investigate, but intense and well-founded fear of official retaliation and honor killings, and overwhelming stigma will prevent many victims from coming forward.

Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia has no written laws concerning sexual orientation or gender identity, but judges use principles of uncodified Islamic law to sanction people suspected of committing sexual relations outside marriage, including adultery, extramarital and homosexual sex, or other “immoral” acts. If such activity occurs online, judges and prosecutors utilize vague provisions of the country’s anti-cybercrime law that criminalize online activity impinging on “public order, religious values, public morals, and privacy.” In February 2016, the Saudi Gazette reported that the Bureau of Investigation and Public Prosecution is considering requesting the death penalty for anyone “using social media to solicit homosexual acts.”

In February 2017, Saudi police arrested 35 Pakistani citizens, some of whom were transgender women. One of them died in detention. Her family said her body bore signs of torture, while the Saudi authorities said she had died of a heart attack.

Serbia (Kosovo)

Attacks and harassment of human rights defenders continued. According to local LGBT and human rights organizations, the majority of attacks and threats against members of the LGBT community go unreported with only known LGBT activists filing complaints. In June, in Vojvodina in Northeast Serbia, an LGBT activist was attacked and kicked in the head by four unidentified perpetrators. No one had been prosecuted at time of writing. In August, LGBT activist Boban Stojanovic, one of the Belgrade Pride organizers, was punched and called a “fag” in downtown Belgrade by two unidentified men. Police were investigating at time of writing. Hundreds of police officers deployed in Belgrade to protect the LGBT Pride march in September, which occurred without violence. This was a marked improvement from previous years when protesters attacked the parade, or the government had cancelled the event citing security concerns instead of providing adequate security.

The Kosovo Constitution protects against sexual orientation-based discrimination and a 2015 anti-discrimination law enumerates protections for both sexual orientation and gender identity; however, implementation remains weak.

Singapore

The rights of Singapore’s LGBT community are severely restricted. Sexual relations between two male persons remains a criminal offense, and there are no legal protections against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. The Media Development Authority effectively prohibits all positive depictions of LGBT lives on television or radio. The annual Pink Dot Festival in support of LGBT rights celebrated its eighth year in Hong Lim Park in June 2016, supported by the sponsorship of corporations including Google, Barclays, J.P. Morgan, Goldman Sachs, BP, Bloomberg, Twitter, Apple, and Facebook. A few days after the event, the Ministry of Home Affairs warned multinational companies to stop funding the event, saying such support constitutes “foreign interference” with domestic affairs. In October, the Ministry of Home Affairs announced that, under newly promulgated rules, any entity that is not incorporated in Singapore and does not have a majority of Singapore citizens on its board is now required to apply for a permit to sponsor an event in Hong Lim Park.

Associations of more than 10 people are required to register with the government, and the Registrar of Societies has broad authority to deny registration if he determines the group could be “prejudicial to public peace, welfare or good order.” The Registrar of Societies has refused to allow any lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transsexual (LGBT) organization to register as a society on the ground that “it is contrary to the public interest to grant legitimacy to the promotion of homosexual activities or viewpoints.”

All films and videos shown in Singapore must be pre-approved by the Board of Film Censors. Theater productions must also obtain a license under the Public Entertainment and Meetings Act, and to do so must submit their scripts for approval. In June 2016, a production of “Les Miserables” was forced to delete a scene containing a same-sex kiss.

South Africa

South Africa has a progressive constitution that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and protects the human rights of LGBTI people. The Department of Justice and Constitutional Development has taken significant steps to improve coordination between government and civil society in combatting violence (including rape and murder) against lesbians and transgender men. On September 6, Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba announced that due to widespread homophobic attitudes within South African society, and to protect the rights of LGBTI people, homophobic US pastor Steven Anderson and members of his church were banned from entering the country because they promote hate speech and advocate social violence. He said constitutional and legislative guarantees, including the rights of LGBTI persons, must be respected by all. Domestic LGBTI groups lauded the decision. In June 2017, at the 8th South African AIDS Conference, the South African National AIDS Council (SANAC) launched the national HIV framework for LGBTI people. South Africa is the first country in the world to launch an HIV framework specifically for LGBT people as part of its national strategic plan. The objective is to “reverse the burden of disease from HIV, STIs and TB and to promote a rights and evidence-based environment for LGBTI people in South Africa.”

Some of South Africa’s votes at the United Nations were contrary to the country’s stated human rights principles. For example, in July, South Africa voted against a UN Human Rights Council resolution on the protection of human rights on the internet and abstained on a key HRC vote to appoint an independent expert on sexual orientation and gender identity. The abstention went against the country’s strong constitutional protections and domestic laws around sexual orientation and gender identity. But on November 21, in the UN General Assembly committee, South Africa voted to allow Vitit Muntabhorn, the newly appointed UN expert on sexual orientation and gender identity, to continue his work. The vote was taken after the African Group put forward a resolution to stop the operations of the UN expert who was appointed in September by the Human Rights Council.

Sri Lanka

State and non-state discrimination and abuses against the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) population persist. Sections 365 and 365A of the Sri Lankan Penal Code prohibit “carnal knowledge against the order of nature” and “gross indecency,” commonly understood in Sri Lanka to criminalize all same-sex relations between consenting adults. Sri Lankan law does not specifically criminalize transgender or intersex people. But no laws ensure that their rights are protected, and police have used several criminal offenses and regulations to target LGBTI people, particularly transgender women and men who have sex with men (MSM) involved in sex work. These include a law against “cheat[ing] by personation,” and the vaguely worded Vagrants’ Ordinance, which prohibits soliciting or committing acts of “gross indecency,” or being “incorrigible rogues” procuring “illicit or unnatural intercourse.” Some trans women and MSM said that repeated harassment by police, including instances of arbitrary detention and mistreatment, had eroded their trust in Sri Lankan authorities, and made it unlikely that they would report a crime. Several people also reported discriminatory treatment at the hands of medical authorities, leading many transgender people to self-medicate rather than seeking professional assistance.

Syria

News reports in 2016 indicate that ISIS continues to execute men accused of homosexuality. In one reported case from Deir al-Zour governorate, a 15-year-old boy was thrown from a building in January 2016 after he was accused of being gay. At least 25 men have been murdered by ISIS in Syria on suspicion of homosexuality or for sodomy, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Tanzania

Tanzanian law criminalizes consensual sexual conduct between adult males, with a penalty of 30 years to life in prison, one of the most severe punishments for same-sex intimacy in the world. Zanzibar has slightly different laws but criminalizes both male homosexual conduct and lesbianism. The laws are rarely applied, but police and other authorities use them as a pretext to extort, abuse and marginalize LGBTI people. 

Under the government of John Magufuli, Tanzania has seen an unprecedented crackdown on LGBT people. The government has shut down HIV outreach services and drop-in centers targeting men who have sex with men (MSM); banned the import of water-based lubricants, an important HIV prevention tool; and threatened to shut down LGBT organizations. Police in Zanzibar arrested nine young men, charged them with homosexual conduct, and subjected them to forced anal examinations at a government hospital in December 2016. They were released on bail, but the cases remain open. Another young man was arrested in Dar es Salaam in March 2017, and was also subjected to a forced anal exam. In June 2017, President Magufuli publicly condemned same-sex relationships.

Tunisia

The penal code punishes consensual same-sex conduct with up to three years in prison. Anal testing is used as the main evidence in order to convict men for homosexuality. In two high-profile cases in 2015, at least seven young men were arrested and subjected to anal examinations by forensic doctors, whose reports were used as evidence to convict them of sodomy and imprison them, even though it is well-documented that such exams lack medical value. On appeal, their sentences were reduced to two months in the first case, and one month in the second.

Tunisia has thus far been unwilling to consider decriminalization of consensual same-sex conduct but, in its 2017 UPR review, accepted a recommendation to end forced anal examinations. This positive development followed months of advocacy from Tunisian and international human rights groups. The United Nations Committee against Torture, in its 2016 evaluation of Tunisia, condemned the use of anal examinations as to prove homosexual conduct. Shortly before the UPR review, the national medical council issued a circular calling on medical personnel to stop conducting anal examinations without consent.

Turkey

Authorities frequently impose arbitrary bans on public assemblies and violently disperse peaceful demonstrations. For the second year running, the Istanbul governor’s office banned the annual Istanbul Gay and Trans Pride marches in June 2016, citing concerns about security threats and public order.

Turkmenistan

Under Turkmen law homosexual conduct is punishable by up to two years in prison. Widespread prejudice leads to homosexuality being treated as a disease, including by medical institutions and judicial authorities. Law enforcement officials and medical personnel subject persons detained and charged with sodomy to forced anal examinations, with the purported objective of finding “proof” of homosexual conduct.

Uganda

After nine years, the Constitutional Court finally ruled in November on a challenge to a limitation on the mandate of the Equal Opportunities Commission, which barred it from investigating any matter involving behavior “considered to be immoral and socially harmful, or unacceptable by the majority of the cultural and social communities in Uganda.” The judges determined the limitation was unconstitutional and violated the right to a fair hearing. Perversely, this provision had meant that the very mechanism designed to protect people from discrimination could blatantly discriminate against women, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people, sex workers, and anyone else who might not have been perceived to reflect the views of the majority.

Same-sex conduct remains criminalized under Uganda’s colonial-era law, which prohibits “carnal knowledge” among people of the same sex. The new NGO law raises concerns about the criminalization of legitimate advocacy on the rights of LGBTI people. In August, police unlawfully raided a peaceful pageant that was part of Gay Pride celebrations in Kampala. Police locked the venue’s gates, arrested activists, and beat and humiliated hundreds of people, violating rights to association and assembly. Police continue to carry out forced anal examinations on men and transgender women accused of consensual same-sex conduct. These examinations lack evidentiary value and are a form of cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment that may amount to torture.

Ukraine

Since 2014, the government has introduced several progressive policies supporting lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people, but anti-LGBT sentiment remains strong among high-level government officials and the public. In March 2016, about 200 anti-gay, far-right supporters attacked a venue in Lviv hosting a LGBT equality festival, eventually causing the event to be cancelled. The Kyiv LGBT Pride march held in June took place without the violence against participants that had marred it in previous years. Ultra-nationalist groups had threatened to make the march a “bloody mess.” Around 6,000 police officers protected the 1,500 march participants. The first LGBT Pride march took place in Odesa in August. Local authorities initially attempted to ban it, but relented when organizers changed the route. Police arrested four ultra-nationalists who attempted to disrupt the event. A new draft of the amended labor code does not include an anti-discrimination provision that would protect LGBT people in the workplace.

United Arab Emirates

The UAE’s penal code does not explicitly prohibit homosexuality. However, article 356 of the penal code criminalizes (but does not define) “indecency,” and provides for a minimum sentence of one year in prison. In practice, UAE courts use this article to convict and sentence people for zina offenses, which include consensual sexual relations outside heterosexual marriage and other “moral” offenses, including same-sex relations. Different emirates within the UAE have laws that criminalize same-sex sexual relations, including Abu Dhabi where “unnatural sex with another person” can be punished with up to 14 years in prison, and Dubai which imposes 10 years of imprisonment for sodomy.

United States

In 2016, state legislatures introduced a record number of bills seeking to restrict the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people. North Carolina eliminated local non-discrimination protections for sexual orientation and gender identity and required transgender people to use public facilities that correspond to the sex assigned to them at birth. Mississippi passed a law permitting religious believers to discriminate against LGBT people and unmarried couples. Tennessee passed legislation allowing counselors and therapists to refuse to serve LGBT clients.

In May 2016, the Departments of Education and Labor jointly issued guidance indicating that discrimination on the basis of gender identity constitutes sex discrimination prohibited under federal law. After 22 states and several state and local officials sued to challenge the guidance, a federal court temporarily enjoined the departments from enforcing their interpretation. In February 2017, the Trump Administration withdrew the guidance.

In March 2017, lawmakers in Utah repealed a law that prohibited the “advocacy of homosexuality” in public schools. In the spring of 2017, South Dakota and Alabama passed bills that shield adoption and foster care agencies from facing repercussions if they discriminate against LGBT people and others on the basis of their religious beliefs.

Transgender women in immigration detention have been subjected to sexual assault and mistreatment including indefinite solitary confinement imposed on some purely because authorities lacked appropriate facilities in which to house them. In June 2016, an apparent politically motivated mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida that left 49 people dead once again opened up public debate about gun control and the high frequency of mass shootings in the US.

Uzbekistan

Consensual sexual relations between men are criminalized, with a maximum prison sentence of three years. Activists report that police use blackmail and extortion against gay men, threatening to out or imprison them. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people face deep-rooted homophobia and discrimination.

Vietnam

In November 2015, the National Assembly approved a bill to legalize sex reassignment surgery and to introduce the right to legal gender recognition for transgender people who have undergone such surgery. The law allows people who wish to undergo gender affirming surgeries to do so in Vietnam rather than abroad, and to change the gender marker on official documents—a small, but significant step toward recognizing transgender people’s rights. A UNESCO study highlighted bullying—usually in the form of verbal insults from peers and teachers—of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) students in Vietnam’s schools.

Zambia

In 2005, Zambia amended its penal code, replacing a British colonial-era law that had penalized same-sex conduct with up to 14 years in prison with a new law that provides for 15 years to life in prison for “carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature.” Neither the old law nor its revision have been enforced regularly. However, in April 2013, an anti-gay moral panic spread throughout Zambia after local media outlets reported that four same-sex couples had attempted to register marriages, a claim that Zambian activists believe was falsified to intentionally provoke hostility toward LGBT people. Since this incident, several people have been prosecuted on homosexuality-related charges. Some of them have been subjected to forced anal examinations.

Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

Participants take part in the equality march in Kiev, June 18, 2017. 

© 2017 Reuters

(New York, June 23, 2017) – Human Rights Watch has published during Pride Month a compilation of the records of 63 countries in recognizing and protecting the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people. The country profiles include research on LGBT rights from the Human Rights Watch 2017 World Report and other sources to provide a single reference for information about LGBT rights protections in individual countries and global trends.

“We join the Pride March in New York this Sunday with the recognition that the path toward global equality for people of all sexual orientations and gender identities remains long and arduous,” said Graeme Reid, LGBT program director at Human Rights Watch. “While the US and some other countries are backsliding, we are buoyed by the progress that indefatigable activists have made all around the world.”

Examples of such progress include Belize, Nauru, and the Seychelles, all of which decriminalized same-sex sexual conduct in 2016.

Several countries have affirmed the right to marriage for same-sex couples, including Colombia and most recently Taiwan. Tunisia took steps toward banning forced anal examinations of people suspected of homosexuality. And Bolivia passed a bill that allows people to revise the gender noted on their identification documents without prior judicial approval.

The United Nations Human Rights Council appointed Professor Vitit Muntarbhorn as the first independent expert on sexual orientation and gender identity, a development that will allow the UN system to address human rights abuses directed against LGBT people in a more comprehensive and systematic way.

While notable progress was made during the past year in some countries, the conditions facing LGBT people remained harsh and even deteriorated in others, often as a result of pressure from conservative religious groups. In the US, state legislatures introduced a record number of bills seeking to restrict the rights of LGBT people, based on religious exemptions. Two men in the Indonesian province of Aceh were publicly flogged in May for allegedly having same-sex relations in private, as the social and political environment in Indonesia became increasingly hostile toward LGBT people. In Russia, law enforcement and security officials in the Chechen Republic carried out an unprecedented anti-gay purge, detaining and torturing dozens of gay men, some of whom were forcibly disappeared.

“In the midst of Pride Month, the progress made in the past year is certainly cause for celebration,” Reid said. “But many LGBT people still lack the ability to come out and live openly for fear of discrimination and violence by the state, private actors, or even their own families. While celebrating, we must remember that the stakes are high, and recommit ourselves to the struggle for equal rights for all.”

 

Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

Grade school students are reflected in the water as they walk home after attending classes in Mogpog, Marinduque, the Philippines, on August 14, 2015.

©2015 Reuters

“In high school, if you had long hair, the teacher would call you up to the front of the class and cut your hair in front of everyone,” Marisol, a 21-year-old transgender woman in Manila, told me. “That happened to me many times. It made me feel terrible. I cried every time.”

As documented in a new Human Rights Watch report, this kind of public humiliation is all too common for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) students in the Philippines, where many secondary schools and even universities impose rigidly gendered uniform and hair-length restrictions on students according to the sex they were assigned at birth, nominally for school discipline or pride.

However, when students asked about the policies at their respective schools, in many cases teachers and administrators provided little to no explanation for these requirements. “I’ve asked them if having short or long hair will affect my performance as a student,” said Felix, a 22-year-old gay high school student in Legazpi. “The administration says, no: you just have to cut your hair, you’re a boy.”

Not only do these restrictions have zero educational value, they can be extremely damaging for LGBT students’ mental health and ability to learn.

Students who do not conform to these requirements are often subject to harsh disciplinary action from teachers and administrators, including being refused entry to school grounds, kicked out of class, suspended from school, or publicly reprimanded and shamed. Alarmingly, several students we interviewed reported extended school absences, transferring schools, or dropping out entirely to avoid conflicts with teachers and administrators hostile to LGBT and non-gender conforming students.

Uniform guidelines for students hang on a wall at a university in Manila, November 2016. 

© 2016 Ryan Thoreson/Human Rights Watch

Human Rights Watch also found that even when students are formally permitted to wear the uniforms of their choice by administrators, school personnel can still harass or humiliate them in practice.

Dalisay, a 20-year-old woman at a university in Caloocan with no formal uniform or hair length policies, said, “when I enrolled in college, I talked to the head of the office for student affairs, and told her that I'm not comfortable wearing a skirt. We're allowed to wear slacks, but she said, ‘What are you, you're a female, right?’ I was speechless. The guards are also a nightmare. They'll ask, ‘Why aren't you wearing women’s shoes?’ And sometimes they'll even look me up and down from head to toe, which is really uncomfortable.”

This kind of discrimination infringes upon students’ rights to education and freedom of expression, and contravenes both domestic and international law – including the Philippine Constitution and Child Protection Policy, and treaties the Philippines has ratified, such as the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights.

The need for a comprehensive anti-discrimination bill that protects LGBT students in the Philippines is clear. As Representative Geraldine Roman,  the first transgender woman in Congress, said last November, “We are your family; your friends; your schoolmates; your colleagues at work… We are proud Filipinos, who just happen to be LGBT. The question is: do we, as members of the LGBT community, share the same rights as all other citizens? Does the State grant us equal protection under our laws?”

The answer—in schools and in the Philippines more broadly—should be an unequivocal yes.

As anti-discrimination legislation languishes in Congress for the 18th straight year, removing uniform and hair length restrictions is an easy place for schools to start protecting their students from discrimination, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.

Author: Human Rights Watch
Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

Andrei is featured in a “Washington Blade” series about Russian LGBT asylum seekers in the United States, September 2014.

©2014 Andrei Nasonov
Russian President Vladimir Putin has long defended the county’s gay “propaganda” ban as a bulwark of “traditional values” against the “so-called tolerance” of the West. He has maintained the law protects children and does not discriminate.

Not so, says the European Court of Human Rights, which in a 6-to-1 decision ruled this week that the propaganda law reinforces stigma, encourages homophobia, and discriminates against a vulnerable minority – harming children in the process.

The court ordered Russia to pay the three plaintiffs a total of €43,000 (US$48,000) in damages.

Andrei staged a one-man demonstration in central Voronezh four days after the first reading of a draft law to ban “propaganda of homosexuality” in the St. Petersburg city legislature, November 2011. His poster says, “They are banning me, who is next?”

©2011 Private

The Russian government argued in the case that the ban on “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations to minors” represents the majority view. The court dismissed this argument, saying the law is contrary to the values of equality, pluralism, and tolerance in a democratic society. And it goes against articles of the European Convention on Human Rights, ratified by Russia in 1998, on freedom of expression and prohibition of discrimination.

Human Rights Watch investigated the impact of the propaganda law, which was passed in 2013 on the eve of the Sochi Winter Olympics. We found an increase in discrimination and violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people and activists. The law sends a message that LGBT people are second-class citizens posing a threat to children and public morality. The recent violent attacks on gay men in Chechnya organized by local authorities is an extreme version of a view that places LGBT people outside of society and culture and portrays them as an affront to “tradition.”

The Russian activists for the rights of LGBT people who brought the case against the propaganda law publicly conveyed simple messages of social equivalence, such as “homosexuality is natural and normal” and “I am proud of my homosexuality.” They had been charged under local ordinances, precursors to the federal propaganda law.

This is not the first time that the European Court has ruled against Russian attempts to push LGBT people out of the public sphere. In 2010, Russia’s argument in a case challenging its ban on Pride marches was rejected by the court on freedom of expression grounds.

Andrei with his husband, Igor, after their marriage ceremony in front of the White House in Washington, DC.

©2014 Michael Knaapen

Russia’s propaganda law has international resonance. Several countries in the region and beyond have introduced or attempted to introduce similar legislation designed to outlaw public expressions of LGBT identities.

As a party to the European Convention on Human Rights, Russia is obligated to respect and fully implement European Court rulings. This week’s ruling should put to rest the notion that the propaganda law does not discriminate. It should promptly be repealed.

Author: Human Rights Watch
Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

Summary

[Senator and boxing legend] Manny Pacquiao says we’re not human. They should just let us be.

– Edgar T., an 18-year-old gay high school student in Manila, February 2017

Schools should be safe places for everyone. But in the Philippines, students who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) too often find that their schooling experience is marred by bullying, discrimination, lack of access to LGBT-related information, and in some cases, physical or sexual assault. These abuses can cause deep and lasting harm and curtail students’ right to education, protected under Philippine and international law.

In recent years, lawmakers and school administrators in the Philippines have recognized that bullying of LGBT youth is a serious problem, and designed interventions to address it. In 2012, the Department of Education (DepEd), which oversees primary and secondary schools, enacted a Child Protection Policy designed to address bullying and discrimination in schools, including on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. The following year, Congress passed the Anti-Bullying Law of 2013, with implementing rules and regulations that enumerate sexual orientation and gender identity as prohibited grounds for bullying and harassment. The adoption of these policies sends a strong signal that bullying and discrimination are unacceptable and should not be tolerated in educational institutions.

Students across the Philippines experience bullying and discrimination in school because of their sexual orientation and gender identity. 

But these policies, while strong on paper, have not been adequately enforced. In the absence of effective implementation and monitoring, many LGBT youth continue to experience bullying and harassment in school. The adverse treatment they experience from peers and teachers is compounded by discriminatory policies that stigmatize and disadvantage LGBT students and by the lack of information and resources about LGBT issues available in schools.

This report is based on interviews and group discussions conducted in 10 cities on the major Philippine islands of Luzon and the Visayas with 76 secondary school students or recent graduates who identified as LGBT or questioning, 22 students or recent graduates who did not identify as LGBT or questioning, and 46 parents, teachers, counselors, administrators, service providers, and experts on education. It examines three broad areas in which LGBT students encounter problems—bullying and harassment, discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, and a lack of information and resources—and recommends steps that lawmakers, DepEd, and school administrators should take to uphold LGBT students’ right to a safe and affirming educational environment.

The incidents described in this report illustrate the vital importance of expanding and enforcing protections for LGBT youth in schools. Despite prohibitions on bullying, for example, students across the Philippines described patterns of bullying and mistreatment that went unchecked by school staff. Carlos M., a 19-year-old gay student from Olongapo City, said: “When I was in high school, they’d push me, punch me. When I’d get out of school, they’d follow me [and] push me, call me ‘gay,’ ‘faggot,’ things like that.” While verbal bullying appeared to be the most prevalent problem that LGBT students faced, physical bullying and sexualized harassment were also worryingly common—and while students were most often the culprits, teachers ignored or participated in bullying as well. The effects of this bullying were devastating to the youth who were targeted. Benjie A., a 20-year-old gay man in Manila who was bullied throughout his education, said, “I was depressed, I was bullied, I didn’t know my sexuality, I felt unloved, and I felt alone all the time. And I had friends, but I still felt so lonely. I was listing ways to die.”

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The mistreatment that students faced in schools was exacerbated by discriminatory policies and practices that excluded them from fully participating in the school environment. Schools impose rigid gender norms on students in a variety of ways—for example, through gendered uniforms or dress codes, restrictions on hair length, gendered restrooms, classes and activities that differ for boys and girls, and close scrutiny of same-sex friendships and relationships. For example, Marisol D., a 21-year-old transgender woman, said:

When I was in high school, there was a teacher who always went around and if you had long hair, she would call you up to the front of the class and cut your hair in front of the students. That happened to me many times. It made me feel terrible: I cried because I saw my classmates watching me getting my hair cut.

These policies are particularly difficult for transgender students, who are typically treated as their sex assigned at birth rather than their gender identity. But they can also be challenging for students who are gender non-conforming, and feel most comfortable expressing themselves or participating in activities that the school considers inappropriate for their sex.

Efforts to address discrimination against LGBT people have met with resistance, including by religious leaders. The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) has condemned violence and discrimination against LGBT people, but in practice, the Roman Catholic Church has resisted laws and policies that would protect LGBT rights. The CBCP has sought to weaken anti-discrimination legislation pending before Congress, for example, and has opposed implementation of comprehensive sexuality education in schools. Representatives of the Church warn that recognizing LGBT rights will open the door to same-sex marriage, and oppose legislation that might promote divorce, euthanasia, abortion, total population control, and homosexual marriage, which they group under the acronym “DEATH.” In a country that is more than 80 percent Catholic, opposition from the Church influences how LGBT issues are addressed in families and schools, with many parents and teachers telling students that being LGBT is immoral or wrong.

One way that schools can address bullying and discrimination and ameliorate their effects is by providing educational resources to students, teachers, and staff to familiarize them with LGBT people and issues. Unfortunately, positive information and resources regarding sexual orientation and gender identity are exceedingly rare in secondary schools in the Philippines. When students do learn about LGBT people and issues in schools, the messages are typically negative, rejecting same-sex relationships and transgender identities as immoral or unnatural. Juan N., a 22-year-old transgender man who had attended high school in Manila, said, “There would be a lecture where they’d somehow pass by the topic of homosexuality and show you, try to illustrate that in the Bible, in Christian theology, homosexuality is a sin, and if you want to be a good Christian you shouldn’t engage in those activities.” Virtually all the students interviewed by Human Rights Watch said the limited sexuality education they received did not include information that was relevant to them as LGBT youth, and few reported having access to supportive guidance counselors or school personnel.

When students face these issues—whether in isolation or together—the school can become a difficult or hostile environment. In addition to physical and psychological injury, students described how bullying, discrimination, and exclusion caused them to lose concentration, skip class, or seek to transfer schools—all impairing their right to education. For the right to education to have meaning for all students—including LGBT students—teachers, administrators, and lawmakers need to work together with LGBT advocates to ensure that schools become safer and more inclusive places for LGBT children to learn.

Key Recommendations

To the Congress of the Philippines

  • Enact an anti-discrimination bill that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, including in education, employment, health care, and public accommodations.

To the Department of Education

  • Create a system to gather and publish data about bullying on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in schools. Revise forms to more clearly differentiate and record incidents of gender-based bullying on the basis of sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity, and include these categories on all forms related to bullying, abuse, or violence against children.
  • Revise the standard sexuality education curriculum to ensure it aligns with UNESCO’s guidelines for comprehensive sexuality education, is medically and scientifically accurate, is inclusive of LGBT youth, and covers same-sex activity on equal footing with other sexual activity.
  • Issue an order instructing schools to respect students’ gender identity with regard to dress codes, access to facilities, and participation in curricular and extracurricular activities.

To Local Officials

  • Enact local ordinances to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, particularly in education, employment, healthcare, and public accommodations.

To School Administrators

  • Adopt anti-bullying and anti-discrimination policies that are inclusive of sexual orientation and gender identity, inform students how they should report incidents of bullying, and specify consequences for bullying.

Methodology

Human Rights Watch conducted the research for this report between September 2016 and February 2017 in 10 cities on the major islands of Luzon and the Visayas in the Philippines. To identify interviewees, we conducted outreach through LGBT student groups, particularly at the university level. Human Rights Watch interviewed members of those groups as well as students who were known to those groups, whether or not they had experienced discrimination in school. We sought interviews with students of diverse sexual orientations and gender identities, but gay boys and transgender girls were disproportionately represented among the students identified by LGBT groups and the students who attended the group discussions.

Human Rights Watch conducted a total of 144 interviews, including with 73 secondary school students or recent graduates who affirmatively identified as LGBT or questioning, 25 students or recent graduates who did not affirmatively identify as LGBT or questioning, and 46 parents, teachers, counselors, administrators, service providers, and experts on education. Of the LGBT students, 33 identified as gay, 12 identified as transgender girls, 10 identified as bisexual girls, 6 identified as lesbians, 4 identified only as “LGBT,” 3 identified as transgender boys, 2 identified as bisexual boys, 2 identified as questioning, and 1 identified as a panromantic girl.

Interviews were conducted in English or in Tagalog or Visayan with the assistance of a translator. No compensation was paid to interviewees. Whenever possible, interviews were conducted one-on-one in a private setting. Researchers also spoke with interviewees in pairs, trios, or small groups when students asked to meet together or when time and space constraints required meeting with members of student organizations simultaneously. Researchers obtained oral informed consent from interviewees after explaining the purpose of the interviews, how the material would be used, that interviewees did not need to answer any questions, and that they could stop the interview at any time. When students were interviewed in groups, those who were present but did not actively volunteer information were not counted in our final pool of interviewees.

Human Rights Watch sent a copy of the findings in this report by email, fax, and post to DepEd on May 15, 2017 to obtain their input on the issues students identified. Human Rights Watch requested input from DepEd by June 2, 2017 to incorporate their views into this report, but did not receive a response.

In this report, pseudonyms are used for all interviewees who are students, teachers, or administrators in schools. Unless requested by interviewees, pseudonyms are not used for individuals and organizations who work in a public capacity on the issues discussed in this report.

Glossary

Bading

A slang term for “gay” in Tagalog, usually used pejoratively.

Bakla

A Tagalog term for a person assigned male at birth whose gender expression is feminine and who may identify as gay or as a woman; it can be used pejoratively as a slur for an effeminate individual.

Bayot

A Cebuano term for a person assigned male at birth whose gender expression is feminine and who may identify as gay or as a woman; it can be used pejoratively as a slur for an effeminate individual.

 

Bisexual

A sexual orientation in which a person is sexually or romantically attracted to both men and women.

 

Cisgender

The gender identity of people whose sex assigned at birth conforms to their identified or lived gender.

 

Gay

Synonym in many parts of the world for homosexual; primarily used here to refer to the sexual orientation of a man whose primary sexual and romantic attraction is towards other men. In the Philippines, the term “gay” can also refer to a person who is assigned male at birth but expresses themselves in a feminine manner or identifies as a woman.

 

Gender Identity

A person’s internal, deeply felt sense of being female or male, neither, both, or something other than female and male. A person’s gender identity does not necessarily correspond to their sex assigned at birth.

 

Gender-Fluid

A descriptor for people whose gender fluctuates and may differ over time.

Gender

Non-Conforming

A descriptor for people who do not conform to stereotypical appearances, behaviors, or traits associated with their sex assigned at birth.

Homosexual

A sexual orientation in which a person’s primary sexual and romantic attractions are toward people of the same sex.

Lesbian

A sexual orientation in which a woman is primarily sexually or romantically attracted to other women.

LGBT

An acronym to describe those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender.

Panromantic

A sexual orientation in which one’s romantic attraction is not restricted by sex assigned at birth, gender, or gender identity.

Sexual Orientation

A person’s sense of attraction to, or sexual desire for, individuals of the same sex, another sex, both, or neither.

Tibo

A slang term for “lesbian” in Tagalog, usually used pejoratively.

Tomboy

A term for a person assigned female at birth whose gender expression is masculine and who may identify as lesbian or as a man; it can be used pejoratively as a slur for a masculine individual who was assigned female at birth.

Transgender

The gender identity of people whose sex assigned at birth does not conform to their identified or lived gender.

I. Background

The Philippines has a long history of robust LGBT advocacy. In 1996, LGBT individuals and groups held a solidarity march to commemorate Pride in Manila, which many activists describe as the first known Pride March in Asia.[1] Lawmakers began introducing bills to advance the rights of LGBT people in the country in 1995, including variations of a comprehensive anti-discrimination bill that has been reintroduced periodically since 2000.[2]

In the absence of federal legislation, local government units across the Philippines have begun to enact their own anti-discrimination ordinances that prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. As of June 2017, 15 municipalities and 5 provinces had ordinances prohibiting some forms of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.[3] Attitudes toward LGBT people are relatively open and tolerant; a survey conducted in 2013 found that 73 percent of Filipinos believe “society should accept homosexuality,” up from 64 percent who believed the same in 2002.[4] President Rodrigo Duterte has generally been supportive of LGBT rights as well. During his time as mayor, Davao City passed an LGBT-inclusive anti-discrimination ordinance, and on the campaign trail, he vocally condemned bullying and discrimination against LGBT people.[5]

Nonetheless, many of the basic protections sought by activists remain elusive. A bill that would prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation—and in later versions, gender identity—in employment, education, health care, housing, and other sectors has been regularly introduced in Congress since 2000.[6] The Anti-Discrimination Bill, or ADB, passed out of committee in the House of Representatives for the first time in 2015, but never received a second reading on the House floor and never passed out of committee in the Senate.[7] In the current Congress, the ADB has passed out of committee in the Senate for the first time, but at time of writing, it has not yet passed out of committee in the House.[8]

The anti-discrimination ordinances that have passed in the absence of federal legislation remain largely symbolic, as Quezon City is the only local government unit to follow the passage of its ordinance with implementing rules and regulations that are required to make such an ordinance enforceable.[9] Even if fully enforced, these municipal and provincial ordinances would collectively cover only 15 percent of the population of the Philippines.[10]

In a pair of decisions, the Supreme Court limited the possibility of legal gender recognition, ruling that intersex people may legally change their gender under existing law but transgender people may not.[11] The Philippines does not recognize same-sex partnerships, and although Duterte signaled openness to marriage equality in early 2016 while campaigning for the presidency and his legislative allies promised to support same-sex marriage legislation, he appeared to reverse course and express opposition to marriage equality in a speech in early 2017.[12] Moreover, HIV transmission rates have soared in recent years among men who have sex with men (MSM) and transgender women, due to a combination of stigma, a lack of comprehensive sexuality education, barriers to obtaining condoms, and laws that prevent children under age 18 from purchasing condoms or accessing HIV testing without parental consent.[13]

Many of the efforts to advance LGBT rights have met with resistance from the Catholic Church, which has been an influential political force on matters of sex and sexuality. While the CBCP rejects discrimination against LGBT people in principle, it has frequently opposed efforts to prohibit that discrimination in practice. In 2017, for example, the Church sought amendments to pending anti-discrimination legislation that would prohibit same-sex marriage and allow religious objectors to opt out of recognizing LGBT rights.[14] It has also resisted efforts to promote sexuality education and safer sex in schools.[15]

The Church vocally opposes divorce, euthanasia, abortion, total population control, and homosexual marriage—which it groups under the acronym “DEATH”—and rejects recognition of LGBT rights with particular fervor when it is concerned those rights might eventually open the door to same-sex unions.[16] Beyond its influence in law and policy, the Church has shaped attitudes toward homosexuality and transgender identities throughout the country; citing religious doctrine, teachers, counselors, and other authority figures often impress upon students that it is immoral or unnatural to be LGBT.

In spite of this opposition, activists’ lengthy efforts to engage policymakers on LGBT issues have led to important protections for LGBT youth, as discussed below. But these protections have not been effectively implemented. They will need to be strengthened and expanded if they are to uphold the rights of LGBT youth in schools.

Existing Protections for LGBT Youth and Their Limitations

Child Protection Policy

In 2012, DepEd enacted a Child Protection Policy, which it describes as a “zero tolerance policy for any act of child abuse, exploitation, violence, discrimination, bullying and other forms of abuse.”[17] Among the acts prohibited by the policy are all forms of bullying and discrimination in schools, including on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.[18]

The policy requires all public and private schools to establish a “child protection committee,” which is to draft a school child protection policy to be reviewed every three years; develop programs to protect students and systems to identify, monitor, and refer cases of abuse; and coordinate with parents and government agencies.[19] The Child Protection Policy also details a clear protocol for handling bullying incidents and dictates that investigation by school personnel and reporting by the school head or schools division superintendent should be swift.[20]

As advocates have pointed out, however, monitoring and implementation of the Child Protection Policy is uneven. One analysis notes that “[u]nfortunately, no monitoring is done on its implementation and hence whether it is helping LGBT children in schools.”[21] A collective of LGBT organizations in early 2017 concluded “such mechanisms did not deter the prevalence of violence [LGBT] children experience.”[22] In interviews with Human Rights Watch, advocates and school personnel noted that many child protection committees are not trained to recognize or deal with LGBT issues, and overlook policies and practices, discussed below, that overtly discriminate against LGBT youth.[23]

The Anti-Bullying Law

In 2013, the Philippine Congress passed the Anti-Bullying Law of 2013, which instructs elementary and secondary schools to “adopt policies to address the existence of bullying in their respective institutions.”[24] At a minimum, these policies are supposed to prohibit bullying on or near school grounds, bullying and cyberbullying off school grounds that interferes with a student’s schooling, and retaliation against those who report bullying. The policies should also identify how bullying will be punished, establish procedures for reporting and redressing bullying, enable students to report bullying anonymously, educate students, parents, and guardians about bullying and the school’s policies to prevent and address it, and make a public record of statistics on bullying in the school.[25]

The Anti-Bullying Law does not specify classes of students at heightened risk for bullying. The implementing rules and regulations for the law, however, explain that the term “bullying” includes “gender-based bullying,” which “refers to any act that humiliates or excludes a person on the basis of perceived or actual sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI).”[26] With the promulgation of these implementing rules and regulations, the Philippines became the first country in the region to specifically refer to bullying on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in its laws.[27]

The Anti-Bullying Law does not shield against all types of bullying, however. It does not account for instances where teachers bully LGBT youth.[28] As described in this report, many students and administrators are unaware of school bullying policies. Further, many students told Human Rights Watch that they did not feel comfortable reporting bullying, or did not know how to report bullying or what the consequences would be for themselves or the perpetrator. The datasets that DepEd releases regarding reported incidents do not disaggregate bullying on the basis of SOGI, so there is no available data to identify when such bullying occurs or what steps might be effective in preventing it.[29]

As with the Child Protection Policy, the implementation and monitoring of the Anti-Bullying Law has proven difficult. A United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) report observed that only 38 percent of schools submitted child protection or anti-bullying policies in 2013, and the “low rate of submission has been attributed to a low level of awareness of requirements of the Act and weak monitoring of compliance.”[30]

Comprehensive Sexuality Education

LGBT rights activists in the Philippines have long called for comprehensive sexuality education in schools. In 2012, Congress passed the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Law, which provides that “[t]he State shall provide age- and development-appropriate reproductive health education to adolescents which shall be taught by adequately trained teachers.”[31] The law and its implementing rules and regulations require public schools to use the DepEd curriculum and allow private schools to use the curriculum or submit their own curriculum for approval from DepEd, promoting a uniform baseline of information in both private and public schools.[32] In response to lengthy delays, President Duterte issued an executive order in January 2017 requiring agencies to implement the law; in part, the order instructs DepEd to “implement a gender-sensitive and rights-based comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) in the school curriculum.”[33]

DepEd has previously incorporated some sexuality education materials into school curricula, but implementation is uneven. The sexuality education curriculum has not yet incorporated the recommendations developed by experts, teachers, parents, students, and other stakeholders, nor has it been accompanied to date by training to ensure that it is taught correctly and effectively.[34] At the time of writing, there were no sexuality education modules targeted at LGBT youth.[35]

Effects of Bullying and Discrimination

As DepEd and the Congress recognized with their initial efforts to address bullying in schools, exclusion and marginalization can exact a damaging toll on the rights and well-being of LGBT youth. In addition to the documentation contained in this report, data collected by the Philippine government, academics, and civil society organizations illustrate how bullying and harassment, discrimination, and a lack of access to information and resources are adversely affecting LGBT youth across the Philippines.

In the Philippines, as elsewhere, violence and discrimination place LGBT youth at heightened risk of adverse physical and mental health outcomes, including depression, anxiety, substance use, and suicide.[36] As the Psychological Association of the Philippines has noted, “LGBT Filipinos often confront social pressures to hide, suppress or even attempt to change their identities and expressions as conditions for their social acceptance and enjoyment of rights. Although many LGBTs learn to cope with this social stigma, these experiences can cause serious psychological distress, including immediate consequences such as fear, sadness, alienation, anger and internalized stigma.”[37] This has been borne out in small-scale empirical studies on LGBT youth and mental health in schools. One such study found that LGBT high schoolers were preoccupied with stigma, violence, bullying, discrimination in school, and anxiety over their future career prospects.[38] Nor do these problems end upon graduation from high school; another study determined that “LGBT college students exhibited extremely underdeveloped emotional and social capacity because they continue to experience stigma, prejudice and discrimination in the Philippine society that served as specific stressors that have an impact on their emotional and social intelligent behaviors.”[39]

On a broader scale, the increased risk of suicidal thoughts and attempts for LGBT youth is evident in nationally representative data. The results of the Young Adult Fertility and Sexuality Survey 3, for example, indicate that 16 percent of young gay and bisexual men in the Philippines had contemplated suicide, while only 8 percent of young heterosexual men had done so.[40] Young gay and bisexual men were also more likely to attempt suicide, with 39 percent of those who had contemplated suicide actually attempting suicide, compared to 26 percent of their heterosexual peers.[41] A similar trend was evident for young lesbian and bisexual women; 27 percent of young lesbian and bisexual women contemplated suicide compared to 18 percent of young heterosexual women,[42] and of those who considered suicide, 6.6 percent of lesbian and bisexual women made suicide attempts compared to only 3.9 percent of their heterosexual peers.[43] GALANG, a Philippine nongovernmental organization that works with lesbian and bisexual women and transgender people, found even higher rates among their constituencies. In a survey conducted in 2015, researchers from GALANG found that 18 percent of LBT respondents, who were almost all between the ages of 18 and 29, had attempted suicide.[44]

II. Bullying and Harassment

Whether it takes physical, verbal, or sexualized forms, in person or on social media, bullying endangers the safety, health, and education of LGBT youth.[45] Studies in the Philippines and elsewhere have found that, among young LGBT people, “low self-esteem and poor self-acceptance, combined with discrimination was also linked to destructive coping behaviours such as substance use or unprotected sex due to anxiety, isolation and depression.”[46] Benjie A., a 20-year-old gay man in Manila who was bullied throughout his education, said, “I was depressed, I was bullied, I didn’t know my sexuality, I felt unloved, and I felt alone all the time. And I had friends, but I still felt so lonely. I was listing ways to die.”[47]

When schools are unwelcoming, students may skip classes or drop out of school entirely. Felix P., a 22-year-old gay high school student in Legazpi, said, “I’ve skipped school because of teasing. In order to keep myself in a peaceful place, I tend not to go to school. Instead, I go to the mall or a friend’s house. I just get tired of the discrimination at school.”[48] Francis C., a 19-year-old gay student from Pulilan, said, “I just felt like I was so dumb. I wanted to stay at home, I didn’t want to go to school. And I would stay at home. Once I stayed at home for two weeks.”[49]

In many instances, the repercussions of bullying are long-lasting. Geoff Morgado, a social worker, observed that for some students bullying “turns into depression, because they feel they don’t belong,” and he believed that many students drop out because “[t]hey feel they don’t have a support group and feel isolated.”[50] Students who skip class, forgo educational opportunities, or drop out of school may experience the effects of these decisions throughout their lifespan. As a UNESCO report on school bullying notes, “[e]xclusion and stigma in education can also have life-long impacts on employment options, economic earning potential, and access to benefits and social protection.”[51]

Physical Bullying

In interviews with Human Rights Watch, students described physical bullying that took various forms, including punching, hitting, and shoving. Most of the students who described physical bullying to Human Rights Watch were gay and bisexual boys or transgender girls. These incidents persisted even after the passage of the Anti-Bullying Law. Carlos M., a 19-year-old gay student from Olongapo City, said: “When I was in high school, they’d push me, punch me. When I’d get out of school, they’d follow me [and] push me, call me ‘gay,’ ‘faggot,’ things like that.”[52] Felix P., a 22-year-old gay high school student in Legazpi, said, “People will throw books and notebooks at me, crumpled paper, chalk, erasers, and harder things, like a piece of wood.”[53] Benjie A., a 20-year-old gay man in Manila, said that once a classmate pushed him down the stairs at his high school, and added he still avoided his assailant as an adult for fear of physical violence.[54]

As detailed below, very few of the students interviewed reported bullying to teachers, either because they felt that reporting would not resolve the bullying or because they feared that reporting would lead to retaliation by other students and make the situation worse. In some instances, teachers also participated in harassment. Such behavior is not only discriminatory toward students of different sexual orientations and gender identities, but deters students from turning to teachers and administrators for help when they are bullied or harassed by their peers.

Sexual Assault and Harassment

For many LGBT students, bullying is often sexual in nature. Eric Manalastas, a professor of psychology at the University of the Philippines who has studied LGBT youth issues, observed “a theme of being highly sexualized and sexually harassed, especially for the gender non-conforming male students.”[55] Geoff Morgado, a social worker, described working with LGBT youth who told him that other students “grab the hand, or arm lock the child, or they force them into doggy style position. ‘This is what you want, right, this is what you want?’”[56] In interviews with Human Rights Watch, LGBT students described similar patterns of harassment and sexual assault in schools.

Gabby W., a 16-year-old transgender girl at a school in Bayombong, described a series of incidents that she experienced, including other students attempting to strip off her clothes in public, being forced into a restroom and sexually assaulted, and—on a separate occasion—being locked in a cubicle in a men’s restroom and sexually assaulted.[57]

Several gay or bisexual boys and transgender girls told Human Rights Watch that their fellow students had subjected them to simulated sexual activity or mock rape. Ruby S., a 16-year-old transgender girl who had attended high school in Batangas, described “[s]tudents acting like they were raping me, and then my friends saying, oh you enjoyed it, he’s cute. One of my classmates even said that LGBT people are lustful in nature, so it’s because you’re a flirt.”[58]

Gabriel K., a 19-year-old gay student who attended high school in Manila, similarly noted his classmates would “grab my hands, and they’d touch them to their private parts, and they’ll say to me that’s what gay is, that’s it.”[59] Jerome B., a 19-year-old gay man from Cebu City, recalled: “The worst thing, physically speaking, is they would—ironically, they hate gays, but they would dry hump me.… It was like rape to me. I felt violated.”[60]

Other LGBT students recounted slurs and stereotypes that were highly sexualized—for example, being catcalled in school or being labeled as sex workers. Sean B., a 17-year-old gay student in Bayombong, recalled how other students would shout “50 pesos, 50 pesos!” as he walked past, because “[t]hey think that we’re prostitutes.”[61] Gabby W., a 16-year-old transgender girl at the same school, said: “I feel bad about it—it’s so embarrassing. You’re walking around hundreds of people, and they shout that… and that shapes the perception of other people about us, that yelling by other people.”[62] Melvin O., a 22-year-old bisexual man from Malolos, recalled how in high school “people, especially the guys, would just sexually harass you, like you’re gay, you want my dick, stuff like that.”[63]

Rhye Gentoleo, a member of the Quezon City Pride Council, a city commission designed to enforce LGBT rights protections, observed that LGBT youth often face considerable pressure from heterosexual, cisgender peers to be sexually active because they are LGBT: “And that’s how the LGBT kids are being bullied as well. ‘Oh, you’re gay, can you satisfy me?’ They’re being challenged, how far can you go as a gay, how far can you go as a lesbian. And they have different ways of coping—some are hiding, but a lot of them are taking the challenge, being sexually active, without thinking of the consequences.”[64] As discussed below, the sexualization of LGBT youth is exacerbated by the absence of LGBT-inclusive sexuality education, which leaves many youth ill-equipped to protect themselves and their sexual health.

Verbal Harassment

The most common form of bullying that LGBT students reported in interviews with Human Rights Watch was verbal harassment. This included chants of “bakla, bakla,” “bayot, bayot,” “tomboy,” or “tibo,” using local terms for gay, lesbian, or transgender students in a mocking fashion.[65]

Daniel R., an 18-year-old gay student in Bacacay, said “People will say gay—they’ll say ‘gay, gay,’ repeating it, and insulting us.”[66] Ernesto N., a gay teacher in Cebu City, observed, “Here in the Philippines, being called bayot, it’s discrimination. It’s being told you’re nothing, you’re lower than dirt. That you’re a sinner, that you should go to Hell.”[67]

Many students described being labeled as sinners or aberrations. Leon S., a 19-year-old gay student from Malolos, said that “[s]tudents would say that homosexuality is a sin.”[68] Marco L., a 17-year-old gay student in Bacacay, said that “[p]eople say ipako sa krus, that you should be crucified.”[69] Gabriel K., a 19-year-old gay student who attended high school in Manila, said people told gay students “that you have to be crucified because you’re a sinner.”[70]

Anthony T., a gay student at a high school in Cebu City, said: “Some of my classmates who are religious say, ‘Why are you gay? It’s a sin. Only men and women are in the Bible.’ And I say, ‘I don’t want to be like this, but it’s what I’m feeling right now.’ Even if I try, I can’t change it. And if they ask why I am a gay and why do I like gays, I say, ‘it’s how I feel, I’ve tried, and I can’t be a man.’”[71]

Others described how they were treated as though they were diseased or contagious. Felix P., a 22-year-old gay high school student in Legazpi, noted: “Here, they call us ‘carriers’—there’s a stereotype that gays are responsible for HIV.”[72] Benjie A., a 20-year-old gay man in Manila, recalled a classmate telling him “don’t come near me because you’ll make me gay.”[73]

Some students noted verbal harassment that was predicated on the idea that their sexual orientation or gender identity was a choice. Analyn V., a 17-year-old bisexual girl in Mandaue City, observed, “It is inevitable that they’ll judge—like, you should date a real man instead of a lesbian because your beauty is wasted.”[74] Dalisay N., a 20-year-old panromantic woman who had attended high school in Manila, said: “When I was walking with my girlfriend, [other students] would tease us—they would say things like ‘it’s better if you have a boyfriend,’ or they would shout things like ‘you don’t even have a penis.’”[75]

The high levels of verbal harassment that LGBT youth faced in schools had repercussions for their experiences in schools. Teasing prompted some students to remain closeted, particularly in the absence of other positive resources to counteract negative messaging. Jerome B., a 19-year-old gay man from Cebu City, remarked, “For the majority of my life, I was in the closet. It’s really hard for me to express what I feel. In my school, being gay is really—it’s really the worst thing you could be. You’ll be treated like shit…. So being gay was a curse, I thought for a long time.”[76]

Some students altered their behavior or personality in an attempt to avoid disapproval from classmates. Patrick G., a 19-year-old gay man who had attended high school in Cainta, said:

They were teasing me for being effeminate. I developed this concept of how a man should walk, how a man should talk. It became—maybe because of them calling me malamya [effeminate], I became the person that I’m not. I was forced to be masculine, just for them to stop teasing me.[77]

Patrick’s experience is not unique. As one elementary school counselor observed, youth are “quite intimidated that kids will call them gay—even in Grade Six, you can tell that they don’t want to be called gay or lesbian.”[78] When verbal harassment became unbearable, some students removed themselves from the school environment entirely. Ella M., a 23-year-old transgender woman who had attended high school in Manila, noted that “[v]erbal bullying was why I transferred.”[79]

In addition to verbal harassment by peers, many LGBT students described verbal harassment and slurs from teachers and administrators. Patrick G., a 19-year-old gay man, said that at his high school in Cainta, “[s]ometimes teachers would join in with ‘bakla, bakla.’”[80] Jerome B., a 19-year-old gay man from Cebu City, said that “it really feels bad, because the only figure you can count on is your teacher, and they’re joining in the fun, so who should I tell about my problems?”[81]

Often, disapproval from teachers was expressed in overtly religious terms. Wes L., an 18-year-old gay student at a high school in Bacacay, said, “My teacher in school told me that people are created by God, and God created man and woman. They say that gays are the black sheep of the family, and sinners.”[82] Danica J., a 19-year-old lesbian woman who had attended a high school in Cainta, described how a teacher “told me not to be lesbian anymore, and then he prayed over my head. He prayed for me. There were no supportive teachers at the school.”[83]

In some cases, disapproval from teachers was voiced in front of other students, reinforcing the idea that LGBT youth are wrong or immoral. Gabriel K., a 19-year-old gay student who attended high school in Manila, recalled how a teacher brought him before his peers and “compared me to the others—that being gay is not welcome into heaven, and made an example in front of the whole class.”[84] Benjie A., a 20-year-old gay man in Manila, recalled how a teacher in elementary school called him and two other effeminate students in front of her biology class to tell the students:

There’s no such thing as gays and lesbians. There’s man and woman, and marriage is only between a man and a woman.” And I was only turning 12—I hadn’t hit puberty at the time, and you’re telling me not to be gay!? How could I even tell? And everyone was looking at me—I was like, okay, teacher, I respect your religion, but come on, I’ve been bullied for five years. Haven’t I had enough?[85]

Cyberbullying

As students interact with their peers on social media and in other virtual spaces, cyberbullying has increasingly impacted LGBT youth in schools. LGBT students described anti-LGBT comments and slurs as well as rapidly spreading rumors facilitated by social media.

Leon S., a 19-year-old gay student from Malolos, said: “They would post things online, which is a far easier thing to do than say it personally.... I would post something, and they would comment about my sexual orientation. It was the usual, bakla, bading.”[86] Marisol D., a 21-year-old transgender woman, similarly noted, “Some of my friends would put comments like bakla, bakla on my posts. You just ignore it… [b]ecause if they see that you’re being affected they’ll bully you more.”[87] Carlos M., a 19-year-old gay student from Olongapo City, said, “My classmates would post stuff online—memes against LGBT, Satan saying ‘I’m waiting for you here.’”[88]

Jack M., an 18-year-old gay high school student in Bayombong, was a victim of rumors spread through social media: “They’ll make up stories. People will tell others [online] that I had sex with a person, even if it’s not true.”[89]

Cyberbullying also draws on stereotypes about LGBT students, and particularly transgender women and girls, with harsh disapprobation for those who were perceived to fall short of social expectations. Geoff Morgado, a social worker, observed that:

There are lots of trans women who are coming out on different platforms on social media, and they’re really bullied. Because people will base it on the looks—if you’re a trans woman, especially, they’ll say you’re not allowed to be a trans woman because you’re too ugly, or your skin is so dark. They say you have to be pretty, you have to be white, or you have to look like a woman before they decide you’re a transgender woman.[90]

Morgado added that many same-sex couples in schools must also contend with comments on social media criticizing their conformity to gender norms and the appropriateness of same-sex pairings.[91]

Intervention and Reporting

Human Rights Watch heard repeatedly that schools fail to instruct students about what bullying entails, how to report incidents when they occur, and what the repercussions will be. As a result, many schools convey tacit acceptance to perpetrators and leave victims unaware of whether or how they can seek help.

A poster for an anti-bullying campaign hangs on a wall at a secondary school outside Cebu, November 2016. 

© 2016 Ryan Thoreson/Human Rights Watch

Both the Child Protection Policy and Anti-Bullying Law require that schools develop and convey policies regarding bullying and harassment. Nonetheless, many students interviewed by Human Rights Watch indicated they were unaware of the policies in place. Danica J., a 19-year-old lesbian woman who had attended high school in Cainta, said, “We didn’t get any information about bullying as high school students.”[92] Others said they had received some instruction on bullying, but it was incomplete or did not address LGBT issues. Leon S., a 19-year-old gay student from Malolos, said “[t]he school did anti-bullying seminars, but it didn’t really address bullying about your sexual identity—the seminar is more general in scope.”[93]

When students do not know how to report bullying and harassment or do not believe that reporting would be effective, they are unlikely to bring incidents to the attention of teachers and administrators. Jerome B., a 19-year-old gay man from Cebu City, said:

I would not tell the teacher. I was too ashamed. Because if I would tell the teacher, they would say, oh, you’re such a gay person, you have such weak feelings, you’re such a tattle tale. So I would just keep it to myself and endured the harassment for a long time, until I graduated.[94]

Some students attributed their reluctance to report bullying to the negative messages about LGBT people they’d received from teachers. Students identified negative messaging in various classes, including “values education,” a subject taught throughout secondary school to instill positive values and morals in Filipino youth. Although many students told Human Rights Watch that their values education courses were largely secular and focused on topics like respect and responsibility, others described overtly religious lessons that disparaged LGBT people. Dalisay N., a 20-year-old panromantic woman who had attended high school in Manila, remarked: “There’s a lot of teasing and bullying, but we don’t talk about it with teachers or counselors. I think that’s because of what they’re trying to teach us, in values education, things like that.”[95]

Interviews with LGBT students indicate that many teachers fail to intervene when they witness bullying or harassment occurring or it is brought to their attention, even since passage of the Anti-Bullying Law, which in turn discourages students from reporting cases of bullying. Analyn V., a 17-year-old bisexual girl in Mandaue City, said, “Teachers don’t step in. They think it’s a joke. But some jokes are below the belt. We conceal being hurt because maybe they think it’s overreacting.”[96] “The teachers don’t say anything or get mad —if they hear people saying bakla, they just smile or laugh,” said Felix P., a 22-year-old gay high school student in Legazpi. “Teachers might ask the students to stop, but they don’t punish them. And as soon as they leave, the bullying happens again.”[97]

In some instances, teachers and administrators may not have intervened because they had not received proper training or were unsure of their responsibilities. In one interview, a high-level administrator at a high school in Mandaue City remarked that she had never heard of the Anti-Bullying Law.[98] In another interview, a DepEd trainer and educator erroneously stated that the law did not cover LGBT students.[99] According to Rowena Legaspi of the Children’s Legal Rights and Development Center, uncertainty about existing protections is due in part to the tendency for school administrators to simply adopt policy templates from DepEd without tailoring them to the school environment, undergoing training, or fully understanding what is being implemented.[100]

***

As a coalition of Philippine organizations has noted, in many instances, “[b]ullying and other forms of violence within the schools or education settings is steered by institutional policies,” for example, “through gender-insensitive curricula, SOGI-insensitive school policies (e.g. required haircuts and dress codes), and [a] culture of bullying.”[101] As evidenced in the following sections, the many forms of exclusion and marginalization that LGBT youth experience in Philippine schools can reinforce one another. In schools where LGBT youth lack information and resources, for example, they may struggle more deeply with their sexual orientation or gender identity or be unsure where to turn for help. In schools where policies discriminate against LGBT youth, they may be placed in situations where bullying by peers is likely to occur and may feel administrators are unlikely to help them.

III. Creating a Hostile Environment

In addition to bullying and harassment, LGBT students encounter various forms of discrimination that make educational environments hostile or unwelcoming. To ensure that all youth feel safe and included in schools, school administrators should examine policies and practices that punish LGBT students for relationships that are considered acceptable for their heterosexual peers, restrict gender expression and access to facilities, and stereotype LGBT youth in a discriminatory manner.

Discrimination takes a toll on LGBT students’ mental health and ability to learn. Some students who encountered discrimination in schools reported that they struggled with depression and anxiety.[102] Others told Human Rights Watch that discrimination made it difficult to concentrate on the material or participate in class,[103] or caused them to skip classes, take a leave of absence, or drop out entirely.[104]

Both the Philippine Constitution and the Philippines’ international treaty obligations recognize a right to education. The UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights has emphasized that the right to education, like other rights, must not be limited on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.[105] For educational environments to effectively serve all youth, they must treat LGBT youth the same as they treat their non-LGBT peers.

School Enforcement of Stereotyped Gender Norms

Uniforms and Hair Length Restrictions

It is common practice for secondary schools in the Philippines to require students to wear uniforms. Under these policies, the attire is gender-specific and the two options, male or female, are typically imposed upon students according to the sex they were assigned at birth.

Uniform guidelines for students hang on a wall at a university in Manila, November 2016. 

© 2016 Ryan Thoreson/Human Rights Watch

In addition to clothing, many secondary schools have strict hair-length restrictions for their students, particularly for boys. Almost all interviewees reported that boys could not grow out their hair past ear-length or dye their hair at their schools, and many also noted that girls were prohibited from wearing their hair shorter than a permissible length.

Students whose gender expression differed from the norms associated with their sex assigned at birth told Human Rights Watch how these restrictions impeded their education. Students reported that being forced to dress or present themselves in a manner that was inconsistent with their gender expression made them unhappy[106] and uncomfortable,[107] lessened their confidence,[108] and impaired their concentration.[109] As Del M., a 14-year-old lesbian student who was allowed to wear the boys’ uniform, remarked, “It’s easier for me to learn wearing the boys’ uniform.”[110]

At many of these schools, students who did not conform to the uniform and hair-length requirements faced disciplinary action. Common punishments included being sent to the guidance or discipline offices and mandatory community service. Ella M., a 23-year-old transgender woman who had attended high school in Manila, described being punished solely on this basis of her general gender presentation. She said that her school’s handbook punished an “act of effeminacy,” not further defined, with “a conduct grade of 75, which basically means you did something really really bad. I might as well have cheated.”[111]

For many transgender or gender non-conforming students, the strict uniform and hair-length requirements were sources of intense anxiety and humiliation, and in some cases led to extended school absences and even leaving schooling entirely.[112]

Marisol D., a 21-year-old transgender woman, said:

When I was in high school, there was a teacher who always went around and if you had long hair, she would call you up to the front of the class and cut your hair in front of the students. That happened to me many times. It made me feel terrible. I cried because I saw my classmates watching me getting my hair cut.[113]

Other interviewees reported similar incidents in which teachers or prefects would publicly call out students in violation of the restrictions and forcibly cut their hair in front of the class.

Jerome B., a 19-year-old gay man, said that in his high school in Cebu City:

It applies for all boys. If [your hair] touches the ear and you don’t cut it, the school will cut it for you, and they do it in front of your classmates. The Student Affairs Officer who enforces the rules, once a month he would go to each classroom and knock, and say, “All those with long hair go outside,” and he would go one by one with these large, rusty scissors like the kind you see in horror movies, and they’d cut our hair in front of everybody….
I think on purpose, he’d cut it very badly.[114]

In most cases, teachers and administrators provided little to no explanation for the hair-length requirements when students asked about the policies at their respective schools. Felix P., a 22-year-old gay high school student in Legazpi, told Human Rights Watch:

Before, I used to have long hair. I entered the school grounds, but the school administrator asked me to cut [my] hair or else I couldn’t go in. So I was forced to cut my hair and wear the male uniform.… There’s no explanation about cutting the hair. I’ve asked them if having short or long hair will affect my performance as a student, and the administrators say, “No, you just have to cut your hair, you’re a boy.”[115]

As Lyn C., a 19-year-old transgender woman in Manila, recounted, gendered clothing requirements also extended to school-sponsored events such as prom nights:

For our prom night, I asked our principal if I could wear a gown, but he didn’t allow it. Back in high school I didn’t have long hair or makeup, so he said, “What would you look like as a boy wearing a gown? It’s ridiculous!” I felt really discriminated against. I had a friend who was also transgender and we were both begging the administration but they wouldn’t allow it. They told us that we would be an embarrassment to the school, that people would laugh at us at prom, and that “You’re guys and you need to wear guys’ clothes.”[116]

In some instances, students were able to request a full switch of the uniforms according to their gender identity. However, agreements to alter uniform requirements were usually not the result of consistently applied policies designed to respect students’ right to free expression of their gender identity, but rather of the compassion of a specific school administrator or principal. In one of the few such cases Human Rights Watch documented, a lesbian student was permitted to wear the boys' uniform primarily because the school’s principal was himself openly gay and supportive of the petition.[117]

Even when students are formally permitted to wear the uniforms of their choice, however, school personnel at times harass or humiliate them in practice. Gabby W., a 16-year-old transgender girl in high school in Bayombong, told Human Rights Watch:

They’re questioning us about our makeup and dress… not only the students, but the teachers too. It’s so disrespectful. We enter the gate and the security guard will say, “Why is your hair so long, are you a girl?” And it really hurts our feelings.[118]

Uniform and Hair Length Restrictions in Universities

Although this report focuses on secondary schools, many interviewees said they had experienced similar issues with uniform and hair-length restrictions at the university level.

In some extreme cases, students who repeatedly “cross-dressed”—a term that schools and some students used to describe gay, lesbian, or transgender students expressing their gender in school—were suspended or even expelled. According to Danica J., a 19-year-old lesbian woman at a university in Manila, “people are punished if they violate the uniform policy. It’s like a disciplinary action. They won’t let you in if you’re cross-dressing, and after a couple times, you can be suspended or expelled.”[119]

As one 19-year-old university student in Caloocan told Human Rights Watch,

In our school, there are policies that if you cross-dress you will be suspended for one day. Your freedom of expression is very limited. I know we had policies against LGBTQ. We had hair-length restrictions—for guys, the shaved hair has to be three inches on the side, four inches in the back. So every time, if the hair passes three to four inches, the faculty will cut our hair. And even here in the university, the handbook says male students must only have hair to their ears.[120]

Even in universities without formal uniform or hair-length policies, however, transgender and gender-fluid students sometimes reported harassment or reprisals from teachers, classmates, and administrators when they expressed their gender. Patrick G., a 19-year-old gay man in Manila, said that despite a policy at his university guaranteeing students the freedom to dress based on their gender expression, he was aware of one case in which the Discipline Office (DO) summoned a transgender woman to interrogate her about her clothing: “She was within the scope of the policy, but the DO said, ‘Are you not ashamed of what you’re wearing? Are you not thinking of how others will think about how you dress?’”[121]

Dalisay N., a 20-year-old panromantic woman at a university in Caloocan, said:

When I enrolled in college, I even talked to the head of the office for student affairs, and told her I’m not comfortable wearing a skirt. They allow us to wear

slacks, but it’s different from the male uniform. And she said, “What are you, you’re a female, right?” I was speechless.

The guards are also a headache. They’ll ask, “Why are you wearing slacks? Why aren’t you wearing women’s shoes?” I tell them I’m not comfortable wearing that. And sometimes they’ll even look me up and down from head to toe, which is really uncomfortable.[122]

Carlos M., a 19-year-old gay student at the same university, said that university security guards forced transgender women to go home if they were wearing makeup or long hair.[123]

According to Lyn C., a 19-year-old transgender woman at a university in Manila:

The first three years of my school days we were just hiding ourselves, because if the guards and administration know that we’re transgender we’ll be punished. When the guard knows you’re transgender, you’ll be sanctioned. They’d send you to the discipline office… you’d get community service or suspension. It was really difficult for us, to hide our very identities.[124]

Lyn’s university removed its uniform and hair-length restrictions in January 2017 after years of persistent advocacy from student groups. However, even after the changes, some students still faced discrimination from teachers.

Several interviewees also told Human Rights Watch that they or their classmates had dropped out of classes or transferred sections at their universities to avoid conflicts with professors who were hostile to transgender students.[125]

Certain departments and colleges also tend to have more stringent uniform and hair-length restrictions than their affiliated universities, often forcing transgender students to conform in order to matriculate. Some students and professors identified colleges of hospitality, management, and education among those requiring gendered clothing, irrespective of the broader university’s policies.[126]

Access to Facilities

For students who are transgender or identify as a sex other than their sex assigned at birth, rigid gender restrictions can be stressful and make learning difficult. One of the areas where gender restrictions arose most often for LGBT interviewees was in access to toilet facilities, known in the Philippines as “comfort rooms” (CRs). Most interviewees said that their schools required students to use CRs that aligned with their sex assigned at birth, regardless of how they identified or where they were most comfortable. Some said that both female and male CRs posed safety risks or made them uncomfortable, but that all-gender restrooms were scarce.

Requiring students to use restrooms that did not match their gender identity or expression put them at risk of bullying and harassment. Gabby W., a 16-year-old transgender girl in Bayombong, said that “boys peep on us when we use the boy’s restroom,” and “they say we’re trying to have sex with them, things like that.”[127] Reyna L., a 24-year-old transgender woman, agreed: “Boys or male persons are always vigilant when it comes to gays and transgenders. Any time they see us going in the CR, they sometimes look at you like I’m going to do something, with malice, or look at us like a maniac.”[128] Because of this, Gabby said, “Sometimes you don’t have a choice but to go home and use your own restroom.”[129]

Some schools punish students for using the CRs where they felt comfortable. Ruby S., a 16-year-old transgender girl who attended high school in Batangas, said:

I was called by the administration when I used the CR for the girls. They said you’re not allowed to use it just because you feel like you’re a girl. They used that as a black mark on my campaign for student council. They said, even though he wants to be student council president, he doesn’t follow the rules.[130]

Even students who were not formally punished described being humiliated by faculty and staff policing gendered spaces. Alon B., a gay teacher in Cebu City, said that the administration at the school where he taught had posted “a printed sign that says only biological females are able to be in this bathroom.”[131]

At least one secondary school has created all-gender CRs that any person can use regardless of their gender identity.[132] But while some students may feel more comfortable using all-gender CRs, others prefer to use the same CRs that everybody else uses. Reyna L., a 24-year-old transgender woman, said, “I’d like to use the female comfort room, and be treated as a normal person…. If I can’t, I’d rather not use it at all.”[133] Allowing students to use CRs consistent with their gender identity can be a simple and uncontroversial step that makes a positive difference for transgender youth. Ella M., a 23-year-old transgender woman from Manila, noted that when she transferred to a new high school:

I was able to use the girls’ bathroom, freely, since most of the peers were really supportive. And there hasn’t been any incidents of, like, adverse reactions to some guys going into the girls’ bathroom. My teacher knew I was doing it—he just warned me that some girls might get offended. But nobody complained.[134]

Access to Facilities in Universities

Policies that prevent students from accessing restrooms consistent with their gender identity exist in post-secondary institutions as well.

Dalisay N., a 20-year-old panromantic woman at a university in Caloocan, said:

Some of the trans women in our support group, the guards would shout, “Why are you using that restroom? You’re not allowed in there,” which for me is disrespectful. Why do they care? They’re just putting on makeup, and they just want to feel safe when they pee. Because there’s a lot of teasing and bullying in the men’s room.[135]

Marisol D., a 21-year-old transgender woman, said that in her university, instructors reported transgender students to the discipline office for using the “wrong” restroom.[136] Ace F., a 24-year-old gay man in Manila, noted that another member of his university’s LGBT group “was apprehended by our school administration—she’s a transgender woman and she used a girl’s bathroom. The office of student behavior gave her a minor disciplinary offense.”[137]

As in secondary schools, university policies that prevent students from accessing facilities on the basis of their gender identity are discriminatory and function to undermine student safety, health, privacy, and the right to education.

Gender Classifications

Even when students identify as transgender, some teachers and administrators insist on treating them as their sex assigned at birth. David O., a high school teacher in Mandaue City, recounted a story in which a transgender boy and his parent wanted the school to socially recognize him as a boy, but another teacher insisted that the student was female and should be treated as a girl.[138]

Imposing strictly gendered activities and requiring students to participate according to their sex assigned at birth can constitute discrimination and impair the right to education. Human Rights Watch found that some schools require boys to take physical education classes and girls to take arts classes, for example, which reinforces stereotypes and deprives boys who want to pursue art and girls who want to pursue sports of educational opportunities.[139] It can also be profoundly stigmatizing and uncomfortable for students. As Felix P., a 22-year-old gay high school student in Legazpi, said: “During flag ceremony, students used to line themselves up by male or female, and I think it’s really difficult—which line should I go in? I don’t think I’m welcome in the boys’ group, and I’m not allowed to go in the women’s group.”[140]

Hostility Toward Same-Sex Relationships

Many schools in the Philippines have policies restricting public displays of affection among students, and outline those policies in student handbooks or codes of conduct. Yet LGBT students reported that their relationships were policed more carefully or punished more harshly than their non-LGBT peers. In particular, young lesbian and bisexual women and transgender men who attended exclusive schools—those that are only open to one sex—reported that their friendships and relationships were closely scrutinized and policed by school staff.

Juan N., a 22-year-old transgender man who had attended high school in Manila, said:

When I was in high school, I had a girlfriend, but we were really careful about it, because once it becomes known—especially to admins, who are mostly nuns, and when your teachers know you’re in a relationship with another woman, they try to correct you, they would reprimand you, give you violations based on what you’ve done.[141]

Angelica R., a 22-year-old bisexual woman who had attended high school in Manila, said that more masculine girls were especially targeted to keep them from becoming close with other girls:

If someone is really butch, our professors are always watching us. They’re talking among themselves and student council to pinpoint who was involved in same-sex relationships. There’s not much bullying among the students, but it was oppression from the administration. I remember this particular experience where one of our professors went into our class and said, did you know, girls are for boys, girls are not for girls, we know who’s involved in same-sex relationships, and if you don’t stand up, we’ll make you stand up.… So as a result, some of my butch classmates would attempt to be feminine, they would hide it, they would wear more feminine clothes. You could see they were unhappy. It’s a struggle.[142]

The same standards were not applied to heterosexual students, as teachers and administrators acknowledged. Even a gay teacher defended this double standard, citing social and religious conventions. Ernesto N., a gay teacher in Cebu City, said of same-sex couples dating in schools: “It’s just like having sex in school! Goodness! It’s really our culture.... For boys and girls it’s okay, but not for LGBT.”[143]

Pressure to Conform to Stereotypes

LGBT youth also described the pressure that teachers and administrators imposed on them to act in a stereotypical fashion.

Many of the LGBT youth interviewed by Human Rights Watch emphasized that, to the extent they were respected in school, they had earned that respect by being better students than their peers. Often, this meant that LGBT students were tasked with more work or responsibilities than other students as part of the price they paid to be accepted and respected. Eric Manalastas, a psychology professor at the University of the Philippines who has conducted research on LGBT youth issues, found that:

[G]ay students or those who are out or coded as gay [are sometimes] given extra work at school, including extracurricular work—being asked to be the MC at an event, or fixing the stage for a performance, being asked to clean up after school. Because of a stereotype that they’re reliable, or combine the best of both male and female students, a kind of androgynous thing going on. I hear that from students but also teachers—teachers who say, I love my gay students, they’re so helpful, I ask them to stay after school. They’re tasked with leadership roles.[144]

In a similar vein, one university instructor told Human Rights Watch that “as faculty members, we’re often delegating responsibilities to members of the LGBT community because we know they’ll do it well.”[145] Rodrigo S., a gay high school teacher in Dipolog City, observed: “I guess there are pressures for gay children—and I see this—to do really well in class, I guess, because that kind of saves you from being bullied. Like, you ought to get somewhere so people won’t make fun. A lot of my students wanted to excel in whatever they were doing, being artistic, because they wanted to be accepted. A lot of my gay students were at the top of the class.”[146]

In interviews, it appeared that many LGBT students had internalized the message that their acceptance as LGBT was conditional on being dutiful, talented members of the school community. Virgil D., a 20-year-old gay man in high school in Bacacay, said, “I think the gays should dress properly and be responsible. And then they’ll be treated well.”[147] Mary B., an 18-year-old transgender woman in a high school in Manila, said:

For us to be better accepted, we’re taking proactive measures to be accepted into the community. We’re setting good examples. We engage in extracurricular activities, we organize events for the school, we stop bullying when we see it, we promote child protection. We become model citizens, model students, and it improves our stature.[148]

Manalastas found that the demand to be “respectable” put a heavy burden on LGBT students who did not conform: “It may be that gay students are warmly received, generally speaking, but if you’re characterized as one of the indecent ones—perceived as very sexual, very loud, very gender non-conforming or outré, it’s different.” He added that LGBT people from lower socioeconomic strata often face double discrimination, as exemplified by the common insult baklang kalye—“you’re bakla and also you come from the streets, you don’t have a proper house, you’re poor.”[149]

Some students were keenly aware of these conditions and expressed frustration with them, voicing a desire to be treated with the same inherent respect as their non-LGBT classmates. Felix P., a 22-year-old gay high school student in Legazpi, said:

Sometimes teachers say things like you have to respect gays and lesbians because they’re the breadwinners for their family, they’re reliable, they’re good at makeup, costume making, talent…. I’m proud of being gay—my teacher says something good about being gay, but why do I have to earn that respect? It’s not 100 percent good. Some of my gay classmates don’t have those talents, and how does that make them feel?[150]

Jerome B., a 19-year-old gay man from Cebu City, described another stereotype that he found oppressive: the idea that gay males should be entertainers, jokers, and talented performers. He said classmates and teachers:

…put so much pressure on me that because I’m gay, I should be comedic, I should be funny all the time, I should joke—and I’m not that kind of person, to crack jokes and sing and entertain. In our entertainment industry, gays are usually presented as comic relief. And that’s okay at some point, but that’s it? There’s more to being gay than being funny and entertainers. And because of that, usually our job opportunities are being limited to being a hairdresser, working at a salon, being a comedian. And I’d like to be a researcher or a lawyer. We’re diverse people, like straight people.[151]

When students and teachers reinforce these stereotypes, they put pressure on those who do not fit preconceived notions of being gay and constrain their education and employment options. In an interview with Human Rights Watch, a local government official who had organized a job training program for LGBT people noted that the program specifically trained LGBT people to be clowns and hosts for pageants and other events.[152]

Young lesbian women encounter different stereotypes. Dalisay N., a 20-year-old panromantic woman who had attended high school in Manila, observed that lesbian girls were particularly disadvantaged by teachers because “the lesbian community, they don’t see us like that, like the gays, the creative ones who do something artsy, that gay people are at the top of the list.”[153] Instead, according to Eric Manalastas, “the stereotype with lesbians is that they’re dangerous, a danger to other female students. Not in terms of being violent, but maybe as predatory. Or generally a bad influence—not good for moral development—as though they aren’t also adolescents themselves.”[154] In interviews with Human Rights Watch, young bisexual women recounted how teachers scrutinized girls they considered “butch” or masculine, and took steps to separate them from other girls to prevent them from becoming close.[155]

For youth who are transgender, pressure to “pass” according to their gender identity and, for transgender girls, to achieve high standards of physical beauty, were a serious source of stress for those who felt they lacked the ability or resources to meet the expectations of others.

These stereotypes were among the most consistent themes in interviews with LGBT youth. They illustrate how attitudes and informal practices, even when well-intentioned, can place heavy expectations on LGBT youth and undermine the notion that all youth are deserving of respect and acceptance. They underscore the importance of anti-bullying efforts, information and resources, and antidiscrimination policies that emphasize that all students, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, have rights that must be respected in schools.

IV. Exclusion from Curricula and Resources

When LGBT students face hostility in their homes, communities, and peer groups, access to affirming information and resources is vitally important. In interviews, however, few LGBT students in the Philippines felt that their schools provided adequate access to information and resources about sexual orientation, gender identity, and being LGBT.

As scholars have noted, heterosexism—or the assumption that heterosexuality is the natural or preferable form of human sexuality—can take two different forms in educational settings: “(1) denigration, including overt discrimination, anti-gay remarks, and other forms of explicit homophobia against gay and lesbian students and teachers, or (2) denial, the presumption that gay and lesbian sexualities and identities simply do not exist and that heterosexual concerns are the only issues worth discussing.”[156] By neglecting or disparaging LGBT youth, both forms of heterosexism, alongside cisnormativity—the assumption that people’s gender identity matches the sex they were assigned at birth, sometimes accompanied by denigration of transgender identities—are harmful to the rights and well-being of LGBT students in the Philippines.

A recent analysis of issues related to sexual orientation and gender identity in the Philippines found that LGBT youth are often neglected in school environments, particularly in light of strong constitutional protections for academic freedom, which give schools considerable leeway to design curricula and resources.[157] In interviews with Human Rights Watch, LGBT students described how the absence of information and resources proved detrimental to their rights and well-being and why DepEd, lawmakers, and school administrators should embrace inclusive reforms.

School Curricula

Very few of the LGBT students interviewed by Human Rights Watch said they encountered positive portrayals of LGBT people as part of the school curriculum.

In many cases, LGBT people were simply invisible, with no acknowledgment that people are LGBT or discussion of LGBT history, literature, or other issues. One study found that, in elementary school textbooks required by DepEd:

[C]haracters that portray femininity are always women, while men always portray masculinity. There is a clear binary and strict gender attributes and roles between the two genders; and both gender are always portrayed in a ‘fixed’ stereotypical manner…. Hence, with the strict portrayal of women as feminine and continuously at home, while men [are] masculine as the breadwinner, couples, as heterosexuals, are legitimized and naturalized, leaving no room for other forms of sexuality…. These discourses do not leave any room for diverse forms of family, such as single-headed families, families with overseas contract workers, families that are cared for by young or aging people, homosexual couples, to name a few. It only legitimizes the heterosexual couple and renounc[es] other forms.[158]

Students confirmed that discussions of LGBT people in classes where LGBT issues might arise—for example, history, literature, biology, or psychology—are exceedingly rare. As Leah O., a 14-year-old bisexual girl in Marikina, said, “The teachers don’t mention LGBT.”[159] Alex R., a 17-year-old gay boy from San Miguel, similarly noted, “I didn’t hear teachers say anything about LGBT issues in class.”[160]

Interviews with teachers and administrators illustrated why LGBT issues are absent from the curriculum. Alon B., a gay teacher in Cebu City, recalled how a gay student asked a question about LGBT identities, which he answered in front of the class. Alon's department chair overheard the conversation and reprimanded him, and relieved him of his teaching load the following semester.[161] One LGBT advocate recalled asking his aunt, who was a high school principal, how LGBT issues were handled in the school: “She told me—I was surprised, she said, ‘I don’t want to touch on that subject.’ And I asked why immediately, and she said it was a sensitive issue…. [T]hey’re careful not to offend parents.”[162]

Interviews with LGBT students suggest that when LGBT issues are discussed in class, teachers frequently portray them in a negative light. Often, this was the case in values education or religion classes, which were offered in public as well as private schools but often had a strongly Catholic orientation. Juan N., a 22-year-old transgender man who had attended high school in Manila, said that in theology classes, “There would be a lecture where they’d somehow pass by the topic of homosexuality and show you, try to illustrate that in the Bible, in Christian theology, homosexuality is a sin, and if you want to be a good Christian you shouldn’t engage in those activities.”[163] Jessica L., a 22-year-old transgender woman from Pampanga province, noted how challenging this was as a student who was questioning her gender identity: “[T]eachers would say, oh God only created man and woman, and so I’m like who created me, I want to know? And who created us? So we’re the imperfections of God? It’s so hard. It’s like you’re taking the bull by the horns every day.”[164]

Ernesto N., a gay teacher in Cebu City, recalled walking down a hallway past a class being taught by a values education teacher, who “says that you should not be gay because you will go to hell. You will no longer go to heaven.”[165] One values education teacher explained why she taught students that a proposed anti-discrimination bill protecting LGBT rights was wrong:

I informed them of the SOGI bill, I told them that it will become a law soon. For some of us Christians it’s alarming, because for example two boys will be approaching a priest, and will ask them to be married. And if the priest wants to marry them, again as Christians, we have this kind of same-sex marriage, what can be next—it’s a slippery slope, there will be sexual intercourse, I don’t think that will be good.[166]

Juan N. said, “I remember even in a physics class, we had the topic of negative and positive attraction, and negative doesn’t attract, and [the teacher] said men are for women only, and never men for men or women for women. And I remember it because it came out of nowhere—we were talking about magnets!”[167] In a speech class, Ruby S., a 16-year-old transgender girl who had attended high school in Batangas, recalled delivering a presentation “about coming out, coming out of your shell, coming out as a gay man—which I was then—and I said coming out was a good thing to do, but the teacher commented, ‘I support you gay people, but if you have a relationship with a man, it’s a sin,’ the Bible says this, the Bible says that.”[168] Pablo V., an 18-year-old gay student who attended high school in San Jose, said: “In our school, we presented a play—there’s a gay character—and then our principal told me that it’s not possible for us to present because there’s a gay character in our presentation.”[169]

Without training teachers about LGBT identities and issues, stereotypes and misinformation spread unchecked. Jerome B., a 19-year-old gay man from Cebu City, recalled an instance in high school where “one teacher said that if you eat a lot of chicken, you turn gay. And she said if you would eat a lot of ramen, you turn lesbian. I wouldn’t dare question her, because she’s in charge of my grade, but deep inside I was shaking—I mean, how unbelievable. Eating chicken will turn you gay? That’s crazy. It would really help if they would undergo training. Because they’re teaching the kids wrong stuff. It’s a cycle—if they teach this, they pass it on to the next generation.”[170]

In discussions about curricular offerings, students of all sexual orientations and gender identities voiced a desire to learn about LGBT topics in school. As Isabel A., a 16-year-old heterosexual girl in Cebu City, observed: “We want to understand, even if we’re not lesbian or gay, so we can understand gays and lesbians.”[171] For LGBT students, discussing LGBT issues was particularly important. Felix P., a 22-year-old gay high school student in Legazpi, suggested that “it would be better if there was education on LGBT rights in the school, because it would be easier to respect and value individuals, regardless of whether they’re women or men—and LGBT people in school wouldn’t be stereotyped as infected with HIV.”[172]

Discussions of LGBT topics in high schools were rare, but occurred more frequently at the university level. There, professors who were open to discussing LGBT topics observed how inclusivity improved the educational environment. According to one literature professor, “If they’re out as members of the LGBTQ community, I can ask them questions about it, and they’re more engaged…. When I’m open with my students about their relationships, they tend to study better. They’re never absent. They’re more comfortable…. If the teacher is more discriminatory, they won’t be open to talking about how it affects them and what they think about it.”[173]

Comprehensive Sexuality Education

In order to understand their own sexuality and to make responsible choices, LGBT students, as well as other students, need access to information about sexuality that is non-judgmental and takes into account the whole range of human intimacy. In recent years, many countries have moved toward providing comprehensive sexuality education, which UNESCO describes as an “age-appropriate, culturally relevant approach to teaching about sex and relationships by providing scientifically accurate, realistic, non-judgmental information.”[174]

As part of comprehensive sexuality education, LGBT students as well as their heterosexual, cisgender peers should have access to relevant material about their development, relationships, and safer sex. Scholars in the Philippines have found that “[r]esearch on Filipino young adult sexuality has been explicit in stressing the need for a comprehensive educational framework that addresses gender and sexuality issues.”[175] One study found that gay learners “expressed dissatisfaction about sexuality education in high school, both for its heterosexist bias and its restrictive philosophy,” and desired more information about sexual identity and orientation, body image, love and friendship, HIV/AIDS, and gender roles.[176] This is more generally true across the Asia-Pacific region, where UNESCO has found that young people “want more inclusive content that address same-sex attraction and diversity.”[177]

The passage of the 2012 Reproductive Health Law, which calls for DepEd to issue a sexuality education curriculum and for schools to adopt minimum standards, created an opening for accurate and non-judgmental discussions of LGBT identities and sexuality. UNESCO, in a 2015 report, noted that “NGOs are working with experts and Department of Education officials to establish minimum standards on sexuality education that include anti-bullying standards addressing both gender-based violence and other bullying and violence on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity and expression.”[178]

However, at the time of this writing, DepEd had only recently incorporated sexuality education into school curricula, five years after the passage of the law, without adopting standards developed by a panel of experts or training teachers in sexuality education. Both the UN Population Fund and the government’s task force on the implementation of the law have noted that implementation of the law has fallen short, leaving students across the Philippines without access to comprehensive sexuality education.[179] Professionals who work with students have found that existing sexuality education modules are limited for youth of all sexual orientations and gender identities but also routinely exclude instruction about LGBT concerns. Perci Cendana, a commissioner with the National Youth Commission, explained that at present, “Young people don’t get information about safer sex, period. And young [men who have sex with men] and [transgender] kids don’t get it from the sources where they should get it.”[180] Human Rights Watch recently documented how resistance from conservative lawmakers and school administrators has stymied comprehensive sexuality education in schools in the Philippines, exacerbating rapidly rising rates of HIV transmission among MSM and transgender women.[181]

In interviews with Human Rights Watch, students who received sexuality education described receiving that education at various grade levels, with varying degrees of comprehensiveness. But across the board, they stated that their sexuality education classes either excluded any discussion of LGBT people or conveyed inaccurate and stigmatizing messages about same-sex conduct and the existence of transgender people.

While some students only discussed anatomy and reproduction in their sexuality education curriculum, others learned about sexually transmitted infections, HIV/AIDS, safer sex, and family planning. In virtually all cases, however, sexuality education was limited to discussions of heterosexual reproduction and sex. Mary B., an 18-year-old transgender woman in a high school in Manila, said, “We had classroom instruction on sexual health. They told us about sexuality—my teacher strongly believes in the Bible, and the idea that God created only men and women. They haven’t mentioned LGBT people.”[182] Efren D., an 18-year-old bisexual man who had attended high school in Quezon City, said, “we tackled the planning methods, the condoms, other contraceptives. But it’s basic. Not deeper than that. And it was all boy-girl. I’d like LGBT sexuality education, to be a little more aware, as LGBT people.”[183]

In many instances, sexuality education conveyed misinformation or disapproval about LGBT identities and relationships. Gabby W., a 16-year-old transgender girl at a high school in Bayombong, said that teachers “always say that gay is a disease, that it’s a contagious disease. Or say being gay is a sin.”[184] Bea R., a 22-year-old transgender woman at another school in the area, said that although science teachers do cover safer sex at her school, “They say that LGBT are the ones spreading HIV and chlamydia.”[185] Francis C., a 19-year-old gay student from Pulilan, was similarly told by teachers “that there were same-sex who were doing those activities, but they would say that if two males or two female did those activities, they would become sick or ill.”[186] Jonas E., a 17-year-old gay boy in high school in Mandaue City, noted: “I get really offended when they talk about HIV. They say that gays are the main focus of HIV… I’m a bit ashamed of that, because I was once in section where I’m the only gay, and they kept pointing at me.”[187]

When comprehensive sexuality education is not provided in schools, students may not receive information about their physical and emotional development, relationships, decision making, HIV and sexually transmitted infections, safer sex, contraception, and reproductive health at all. Past research has suggested that, especially for LGBT youth, “[s]exuality is rarely discussed informatively in the home, and being gay not at all.”[188] Rodrigo S., a gay high school teacher in Dipolog City, observed that “parents avoid [sexuality] as much as possible. I don’t know if it’s actually easy for students to find a figure, someone they can ask about things like that.”[189]

With little guidance at home or in school, LGBT students turned to various sources of uncertain quality for information about sexuality. Students told Human Rights Watch that they had learned what they knew about LGBT identities, relationships, and sexual health from friends, the internet, pornography, and experience. As previous research has suggested, “[p]eers may provide very vivid information presented using shared meanings, but the adequateness of this information is, in hindsight, suspect.”[190] Students themselves doubted the information they received. Tricia C., a 14-year-old girl in Marikina, admitted, “The information we get from other people is not accurate. It’s too early for us to know what’s true.”[191] Reports that LGBT students learned about sexuality from what Jin W., a 20-year-old man who attended high school in Manila described as “live action”[192] are particularly worrying, as they illustrate how LGBT youth engage in sexual activity before they have access to information about how to keep themselves safe.

Counseling and Support

In addition to formal curricula, schools provide a variety of resources to students. Support from teachers, guidance counselors, school psychologists, and other school personnel is a valuable asset, and should be available to guide LGBT youth as well as their non-LGBT peers. According to UNESCO, “support from teachers can have a particularly positive impact on LGBT and intersex students, improving their self-esteem and contributing to less absenteeism, greater feelings of safety and belonging and better academic achievement.”[193]

Students in the Philippines have signaled a desire for faculty and staff support. As one study found, “[s]tudents want their teachers, who are in a position of influence and credibility, to dispel common misconceptions and misperceptions about gay and bisexual people.”[194] Nonetheless, few teachers or guidance counselors are trained to provide support for LGBT youth. As Rina Fulo of the Women and Gender Institute at Miriam College noted, “We do a lot of training related to gender fair education, and we see that teachers and administrators have their biases. We’re worried if they can actually follow through.”[195] Remedios Moog, a guidance counselor at the University of the East in Caloocan, similarly recalled that when she presents papers on LGBT-inclusive counseling, “there are different reactions, negative, positive, some counselors saying great job, and you see the affirmation, and other counselors, ‘No, you should not label, you should not call them lesbian, gay, bisexual,’” seeming to suggest that guidance counselors should ignore students’ sexual identities altogether.[196]

Although some counselors have created successful programs for LGBT students, such as support groups, such efforts need to have support from the school administration to ensure counselors are recognized as affirming, non-judgmental resources.[197] As one study found, “it has been the experience of gay students (or perhaps students in general) that the guidance counselor is associated with delinquent and problem students. This image of the guidance counselor may contribute to the problematization of gay identity in school settings, that being gay is something that has to be ‘dealt with’ with and by these counselors.”[198]

Interviews with LGBT youth in the Philippines underscore the urgent need for resources and support. Jerome B., a 19-year-old gay man from Cebu City, recalled that in secondary school, “I was questioning for a long time—is there something wrong with me? Am I mentally ill? I planned to talk to a psychiatrist because I thought I had a mental illness…. We had a guidance counselor. But I wouldn’t go to them, because I was too ashamed.”[199] For some students, bullying and a lack of resources led to depression and thoughts of suicide. Benjie A., a 20-year-old gay student from Manila, recounted struggling to make sense of his identity until “I thought about getting a gun from a policeman and shooting myself.”[200]

Many students declined to go to counselors for help and support, expecting that they would be hostile to LGBT youth. Patrick G., a 19-year-old gay man who had attended high school in Cainta, recalled that his high school guidance counselor would quote Bible passages and say “that God created Adam and Eve, and not Adam and Steve, things like that.”[201] As a result, Patrick said, “I didn’t really have the courage to come out of the closet, or at least accept or think I was gay…. I think it made me step back farther in the closet.”[202]

When students did seek out help, some counselors declined to discuss LGBT issues. Ella M., a 23-year-old transgender woman who had attended high school in Manila, recalled an instance when a counselor asked about her personal life. When she confided that she thought she might be attracted to a boy, the counselor told her “I’m not going to comment on that, because I don’t have any information on that.”[203]

Other LGBT students described going to counselors and facing outright hostility or condemnation. Ace F., a 24-year-old gay man who had attended high school in Manila, said that his school counselor used decades-old psychological materials:

What they taught us was DSM-3 or DSM-2—where being gay is still classified as a mental disorder.[204] That’s what they taught us. I was pretty well informed because I was a debater, so I would question them about it: it’s already outdated, it’s not the standard, it’s not considered a mental disease. But they would institutionally still say that it was a disease, a mental disorder, it’s bad.[205]

LGBT students interviewed said some counselors passed moral judgment on them. Reyna, a 24-year-old transgender woman, recalled being told to go to her high school counselor because she wore nail polish and makeup, and said “they would read some biblical passage or verses that includes, you know, Sodom and Gomorrah. They would always tell me, ‘Reyna, you will go to Hell if you don’t change.’ And I was afraid that time, because of course, who wants to go to Hell?”[206]

When guidance counselors were willing to discuss LGBT identities in an open and non-judgmental way, many LGBT students said they felt affirmed and supported. For instance, Nathan P., a 19-year-old gay man who attended a high school in Bulacan, said “I did talk to my counselors in high school, and I was thankful they’re so open minded, and helping me, when I’m so confused.”[207] For Nathan, whose friends were pressuring him to disclose his sexuality and causing him stress, having a supportive counselor was a source of comfort that ultimately helped him resolve the situation with his peers.

Student Organizations

LGBT student groups are extremely rare at the secondary school level in the Philippines. Yet at the university level, these groups have been a powerful resource for LGBT students. Since at least 1992, when UP Babaylan formed at the University of the Philippines, these groups have provided educational programming to the university community, advocated for policy changes, and offered peer support to LGBT members.[208] As a recent UNESCO study notes, these organizations can be powerful sources of information and support in school environments:

School-based and school-linked programmes providing peer support [for LGBT students] engage students in rejecting bullying, violence and other forms of discrimination. These can include student associations, youth groups, peer mentoring systems, extra-curricular or club-based activities as well as other pairing or peer networks within schools. These programmes can help to create feelings of connectedness, and respectful and supportive relationships that develop empathy, responsibility and concern for others. They can also build confidence, leadership behaviours and social skills.[209]

LGBT students have expressed a need for organizational support structures such as LGBT student groups.[210] Yet despite their many advantages and student demand, LGBT groups in Philippine secondary schools are rare. As Carlos M., a 19-year-old gay student from Olongapo City, observed: “I wish they had it when I was in high school. There were so many of us LGBT when I was in high school…. I wish they had a program to strengthen the bonds of LGBT students.”[211] Gloria Z., a 22-year-old bisexual woman from Cavite, said: "I wish we had a support group. There were other female students, lesbians, and they were forced to be straight because of our Catholic upbringing. They would discriminate [against] them, just like me. And there were so many of us trying to act straight, and we were part of the rainbow community.”[212]

In some instances reported to Human Rights Watch, school personnel have been unsupportive of LGBT groups. Sean B., a 17-year-old gay student in Bayombong, said: “I tried to start a student organization, but we don’t have enough allies with teachers. It’s all about awareness, to make other students understand what we are, to be able to reach out to them, to make them feel, we’re gays, we’re also humans, not animals or trash.”[213]

Student Organizations in Universities

LGBT organizations are increasingly prevalent at the university level, but many groups encounter obstacles from administrators in post-secondary settings as well. In interviews with Human Rights Watch, some university students also described difficulties forming or operating LGBT groups. Students from one university in Manila told Human Rights Watch that, after creating an LGBT organization in 2012, they were instructed in 2016 to rename the organization and work on the broad topic of “gender sensitivity,” as the university did not want a group overtly focused on LGBT issues.[214] Rosamie T., an 18-year-old bisexual woman, noted the group had been active and “well-known as an LGBT organization, and they wanted us to rebrand because it’s known for that.”[215] She said that, after losing a large number of members and becoming less active as a result of the reorganization, “It’s like we’re starting again from zero.”[216] Although this report focuses on secondary schools, universities should also recognize the importance of LGBT organizations and take steps to foster and sustain them.

V. Philippines’ Legal Obligations to Protect LGBT Students

In recent years, the Philippines has enacted important laws and regulations that affirm the rights of LGBT learners in schools. DepEd’s Child Protection Policy, the Anti-Bullying Law, and the Reproductive Health Law—as well as anti-discrimination ordinances at the local level—reiterate the government’s commitment to ensuring that all youth are safe, healthy, and able to learn in schools.

The Philippines has also ratified core international agreements that obligate lawmakers, administrators, and teachers to protect the rights of LGBT youth, including the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).[217] The UN expert bodies that interpret these agreements have expressed concern about discrimination against LGBT students in schools,[218] prompting the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to recommend “that States establish national standards on non-discrimination in education, develop anti-bullying programmes and helplines and other services to support LGBTI youth, and to provide comprehensive, age-appropriate sexuality education.”[219]

Right to Education

The right to education is enshrined in international law, notably in the ICESCR and the CRC, both ratified by the Philippines.[220] The CRC specifies that education should be directed toward, among other objectives, “[t]he development of the child’s personality, talents and mental and physical abilities to their fullest potential,” “[t]he development of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms,” and “[t]he preparation of the child for responsible life in a free society, in the spirit of understanding, peace, tolerance, equality of sexes, and friendship among all peoples, ethnic, national and religious groups and persons of indigenous origin.”[221]

LGBT students are denied the right to education when bullying, exclusion, and discriminatory policies prevent them from participating in the classroom or attending school. LGBT students’ right to education is also curtailed when teachers and curricula do not include information that is relevant to their development or are outwardly discriminatory toward LGBT people.

To make the right to education meaningful, schools should ensure that school curricula, interactions with school personnel, and school policies are non-discriminatory and provide information to LGBT youth on the same terms as their non-LGBT peers.[222]

The right to education includes the right to comprehensive sexual education,[223] which is especially lacking for LGBT youth in the Philippines. As the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Education has explained: “The right to education includes the right to sexual education, which is both a human right in itself and an indispensable means of realizing other human rights, such as the right to health, the right to information and sexual and reproductive rights.”[224] A curriculum that only prepares students for heterosexual sex inside of marriage “normalizes, stereotypes, and promotes images that are discriminatory because they are based on heteronormativity; by denying the existence of the lesbian, gay, transsexual, transgender and bisexual population, they expose these groups to risky and discriminatory practices.”[225]

The Philippine Congress recognized the importance of sexuality education with the passage of the Reproductive Health Law, which mandates age- and development-appropriate sexuality education in schools.[226] The Philippines should take further steps to implement the law in a manner that is consistent with its treaty obligations. To ensure the right to education is respected, the Committee on the Rights of the Child has said that sexuality education provided by schools:

…should include self-awareness and knowledge about the body, including anatomical, physiological and emotional aspects, and should be accessible to all children, girls and boys. It should include content related to sexual health and well-being, such as information about body changes and maturation processes, and designed in a manner through which children are able to gain knowledge regarding reproductive health and the prevention of gender-based violence, and adopt responsible sexual behavior.[227]

This information must not only be provided to heterosexual, cisgender students. Schools must also provide LGBT students with relevant content to ensure they enjoy the same right to education without discrimination. Comprehensive sexuality education “must be free of prejudices and stereotypes that could be used to justify discrimination and violence against any group,”[228] and “must pay special attention to diversity, since everyone has the right to deal with his or her own sexuality without being discriminated against on grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity.”[229]

Violence and Bullying

Under domestic and international law, LGBT children in the Philippines have the right to be free from bullying, harassment, and violence. The Constitution of the Philippines obligates the government to defend “[t]he right of children to assistance, including… special protection from all forms of neglect, abuse, cruelty, exploitation and other conditions prejudicial to their development.”[230] To this end, the Anti-Bullying Law requires elementary and secondary schools “to adopt policies to address the existence of bullying in their respective institutions,” and outlines baseline requirements for such policies.[231] Similarly, DepEd’s Child Protection Policy requires that school administrators, among other responsibilities, “[e]nsure the institution of effective child protection policies and procedures, and monitor compliance thereof,” “[c]onduct the appropriate training and capability-building activities on child protection measures and protocols,” and “[e]nsure that all incidents of abuse, violence, exploitation, discrimination, bullying and other similar acts are addressed.”[232]

The terms of the Anti-Bullying Law and Child Protection Policy echo the Philippines’ obligations under international law. The ICCPR states that "[e]very child shall have… the right to such measures of protection as are required by his status as a minor, on the part of his family, society and the State,"[233] while the CRC requires governments to “protect the child from all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation.”[234] The government of the Philippines signed UNESCO’s Call for Action on Homophobic and Transphobic Violence, issued in November 2016, which commits it to monitoring the prevalence of homophobic and transphobic bullying in schools, providing students with information about harmful gender-based stereotypes, training school personnel, and taking steps to make schools safe for LGBT youth.[235]

Children who are especially likely to face violence, including bullying, merit specific attention and protection from the state. As the Committee on the Rights of the Child, the UN body that monitors implementation of the CRC, has noted, “[g]roups of children which are likely to be exposed to violence include, but are not limited to, children … who are lesbian, gay, transgender or transsexual.”[236] The committee has repeatedly described bullying, harassment, and violence against LGBT youth as violations of children’s rights,[237] and emphasized that “[a] school which allows bullying or other violent and exclusionary practices to occur is not one which meets the requirements of article 29(1),” the CRC provision specifying the aims of education.[238]

The Committee on the Rights of the Child has identified steps that governments should take to protect children from bullying, harassment, and other forms of violence. These include challenging discriminatory attitudes that allow intolerance and violence to flourish,[239] establishing reporting mechanisms,[240] and providing guidance and training for teachers and administrators to know how to respond when they see or hear about incidents of violence.[241] When taking these steps, the committee has stressed that children themselves should be involved “in the development of prevention strategies in general and in school, in particular in the elimination and prevention of bullying, and other forms of violence in school.”[242]

Right to Health

Bullying, exclusion, and discrimination generate physical and mental health risks that threaten the right to health for LGBT youth. The Committee on the Rights of the Child has expressed concern about the health consequences of bullying, including suicide, and has urged governments to “take the necessary actions to prevent and prohibit all forms of violence and abuse, including sexual abuse, corporal punishment and other inhuman, degrading or humiliating treatment or punishment in school, by school personnel as well as among students.”[243]

The ICESCR recognizes “the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health.” The CRC reinforces that children must enjoy this right, and states that, in pursuit of that goal, governments will “ensure that all segments of society, in particular parents and children, are informed [and] have access to education,” and will “develop preventive health care, guidance for parents and family planning education and services.”[244]

The Committee on the Rights of the Child has said that “[i]n order to fully realize the right to health for all children, States parties have an obligation to ensure that children’s health is not undermined as a result of discrimination, which is a significant factor contributing to vulnerability,” including discrimination on the basis of “sexual orientation, gender identity and health status.”[245]

The significant shortcomings of sexuality education in schools in the Philippines also undermine the right to health for all students, but particularly LGBT students. The Committee on the Rights of the Child has explained that youth are "vulnerable to HIV/AIDS because their first sexual experience may take place in an environment in which they have no access to proper information and guidance.”[246] Omitting information about same-sex activity and transgender identity from sexuality education curricula undermines LGBT students’ right to health. To ensure their rights are respected, the committee has said that governments must “refrain from censoring, withholding, or intentionally misrepresenting health-related information, including sexual education and information, and… ensure children have the ability to acquire the knowledge and skills to protect themselves and others as they begin to express their sexuality.”[247]

Freedom of Expression

The ICCPR recognizes that “everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression,”[248] and the CRC expressly recognizes that the right extends to children.[249]

The right to free expression is violated when schools limit displays of same-sex affection or gender expression solely for LGBT youth. Schools need to ensure that LGBT students are able to participate in the school environment on the same terms as other students, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Freedom from Discrimination

Even as municipalities and provinces pass anti-discrimination ordinances to protect the rights of LGBT people, the Philippines has not passed comprehensive legislation prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity is prohibited under many of the treaties the Philippines has ratified.[250] As the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has concluded:

…freedom from discrimination is a fundamental obligation of States under international law, and requires States to prohibit and prevent discrimination in private and public spheres, and to diminish conditions and attitudes that cause or perpetuate such discrimination. To this end, States should enact comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation that includes sexual orientation and gender identity among protected grounds.”[251]

The Committee on the Rights of the Child has explained that discrimination in the school setting, “whether it is overt or hidden, offends the human dignity of the child and is capable of undermining or even destroying the capacity of the child to benefit from educational opportunities.”[252] Because of the dangers that discrimination poses to health and development, children at risk of discrimination are “entitled to special attention and protection from all segments of society.”[253] The committee has specifically expressed concern about discrimination against children on the basis of their sexual orientation and gender identity in its review of state policies. [254]

Students who are transgender or do not identify as their sex assigned at birth face especially pervasive discrimination as a result of uniform and hair-length policies and other gendered restrictions. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has expressed concern about “discriminatory dress codes that restrict men dressing a manner perceived as feminine and women dressing in a manner perceived as masculine, and punish those who do so,”[255] and noted that “United Nations mechanisms have called upon States to legally recognize transgender persons’ preferred gender, without abusive requirements.”[256] To make schools less discriminatory and more inclusive of transgender youth, UNESCO recommends that laws and policies “should recognise self-defined gender identity with no medical preconditions or exclusions based on age, marital or family status or other grounds.”[257]

Recommendations

To the President of the Philippines

  • Speak out, as you have done in the past, against bullying in schools, reiterating that bullying of LGBT youth is harmful and unacceptable.
  • Speak out in support of an anti-discrimination bill that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, including in education, employment, health care, and public accommodations.

To the Congress of the Philippines

  • Enact an anti-discrimination bill that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, including in education, employment, health care, and public accommodations.
  • Authorize funding for the implementation of the Reproductive Health Law and any necessary support for comprehensive sexuality education in schools.

To the Department of Education

  • Undertake a comprehensive review of school compliance with the provisions of the Child Protection Policy and the Anti-Bullying Law.
  • Collect and publish data on the number of schools nationally that address sexual orientation and gender identity in their Child Protection Policy and Anti-Bullying Law. Recommend that schools that do not address sexual orientation and gender identity revise their policies to do so.
  • Create a system to gather and publish data about bullying on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in schools. Revise forms to more clearly differentiate and record incidents of gender-based bullying on the basis of sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity, and include these categories on all forms related to bullying, abuse, or violence against children.
  • Immediately review all curricula, including textbooks and teaching materials, to ensure that LGBT issues are incorporated. Remove content that is inaccurate or derogatory toward LGBT people and include content that is relevant to LGBT youth and promotes respect for gender diversity.
  • Revise the standard sexuality education curriculum to ensure it aligns with UNESCO’s guidelines for comprehensive sexuality education, is medically and scientifically accurate, is inclusive of LGBT youth, and covers same-sex activity on equal footing with other sexual activity.
  • Issue an order instructing schools to respect students’ gender identity with regard to dress codes, access to facilities, and participation in curricular and extracurricular activities.
  • Conduct trainings, in collaboration with LGBT rights groups where possible, to familiarize DepEd personnel at the division and district levels with LGBT terminology and issues.

To Local Officials

  • Enact local ordinances to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, including in education, employment, health care, and public accommodations.
  • Promulgate implementing rules and regulations to ensure that existing anti-discrimination ordinances are applied and enforced.

To School Administrators

  • Adopt anti-bullying and anti-discrimination policies that are inclusive of sexual orientation and gender identity, inform students how they should report incidents of bullying, and specify consequences for bullying.
  • Conduct trainings, in collaboration with LGBT civil society groups where possible, for child protection committees and school staff to ensure that they are sensitive to the needs and vulnerabilities of LGBT youth. The trainings should inform school staff about proper terminology, the forms of bullying and discrimination that LGBT youth face, the rights that LGBT youth enjoy under domestic and international law, and resources and services available for LGBT youth.
  • Conduct trainings, in collaboration with children’s rights groups where possible, for child protection committees and school staff to ensure they are able to recognize and intervene in bullying and harassment when they witness it occurring or it is brought to their attention.
  • Promulgate guidelines instructing school staff to respect the gender identity of students with regard to dress codes, access to facilities, and participation in curricular and extracurricular activities.
  • Commemorate occasions like Human Rights Day and National Women’s Month with programming that promotes human rights and respect for gender diversity in schools.
  • Ensure that the school has resources available for LGBT youth, for example, books and printed material, access to counselors or other supportive personnel, and curricular resources that are inclusive of LGBT youth.

Acknowledgments

Ryan Thoreson, a researcher in the LGBT Rights Program, wrote this report based on research that he undertook from September 2016 to February 2017. Daniel Lee, associate with the Asia division, conducted additional interviews and wrote a section of the report.

The report was reviewed by Neela Ghoshal, senior researcher in the LGBT Rights Program; Michael Bochenek, senior counsel in the Children’s Rights Division; and Carlos Conde, Philippines researcher in the Asia Division. James Ross, legal and policy director, and Joe Saunders, deputy program director, provided legal and program review, respectively. Production assistance was provided by Olivia Hunter, publications associate; Fitzroy Hepkins, administrative manager; and Jose Martinez, senior coordinator.

Human Rights Watch would like to thank the experts and organizations that provided information for the report, including ASEAN SOGIE Caucus, Babaylanes, Inc., Bisdak Pride, Bulsu Bahaghari, ChildFund Philippines, the Children’s Legal Rights and Development Center, GALANG, Gayon Albay, Happy Hearts, Lagablab, MCC Marikina, Side B, TransMan Pilipinas, and UP Babaylan. Particular thanks go to the many students who shared their experiences with us.

[1] Abe de Ramos, “Gay, Lesbian Pride March Set in Manila,” UPI, June 17, 1996, http://www.upi.com/Archives/1996/06/17/Gay-lesbian-pride-march-set-in-Manila/1621834984000 (accessed May 6, 2017). In 1994, the Progressive Organization of Gays in the Philippines (ProGay Philippines) and Metropolitan Community Church (MCC) held a march during Pride Month to protest rising oil prices and the expanded value-added tax, which some consider to be the first Pride March in the Philippines. See John Andrew Evangelista, “‘Wag Mashokot!: History of Metro Manila Pride March,” Metro Manila Pride, undated, http://metromanilapride.org/blog/history-of-metro-manila-pride-march (accessed May 6, 2017).

[2] Fritzie Rodriguez, “The Long Road to an LGBT Anti-Discrimination Law,” Rappler, July 29, 2015, http://www.rappler.com/move-ph/issues/gender-issues/100632-ph-anti-discrimination-law-history (accessed May 5, 2017); “Pride and Prejudice,” Outrage Magazine, iss. 1 (2016), p. 24.

[3] Eric Julian Manalastas, “Anti-Discrimination Ordinances,” http://pages.upd.edu.ph/ejmanalastas/policies-ordinances (accessed June 5, 2017); ASEAN SOGIE Caucus, Joint Submission of the Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) on the Situation of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex and Queer (LGBTIQ) Persons in the Philippines (3rd Cycle, 2017), 2017, p. 5; “Pride and Prejudice,” Outrage Magazine, iss. 1 (2016), p. 27.

[4] Pew Research Center, The Global Divide on Homosexuality (June 4, 2013), p. 23, http://www.pewglobal.org/files/2014/05/Pew-Global-Attitudes-Homosexuality-Report-REVISED-MAY-27-2014.pdf (accessed May 8, 2017).

[5] Rosette Adel, “Duterte Declares Support for Gay Marriage, LGBT Rights,” Philippine Star, July 13, 2015, http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2015/07/13/1476508/duterte-declares-support-gay-marriage-lgbt-rights (accessed May 19, 2017).

[6] The latest versions of the bill were introduced in the House in June 2016 and the Senate in August 2016. See House Bill 267, Seventeenth Congress of the Philippines, First Regular Session, http://www.congress.gov.ph/legisdocs/basic_17/HB00267.pdf (accessed April 25, 2017); Senate Bill 935, Seventeenth Congress of the Philippines, First Regular Session, http://www.senate.gov.ph/lisdata/2449221076!.pdf (accessed April 25, 2017).

[7] Camille Elemia, “After 17 Years, LGBT Anti-Discrimination Bill Up for Senate Debate,” Rappler, December 21, 2016, http://www.rappler.com/nation/156139-lgbt-anti-discrimination-bill-senate-plenary (accessed May 5, 2017); “Pride and Prejudice,” Outrage Magazine, iss. 1 (2016), p. 25.

[9] “Pride and Prejudice,” Outrage Magazine, iss. 1 (2016), pp. 28-29.

[10] ASEAN SOGIE Caucus, Joint Submission of the Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) on the Situation of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex and Queer (LGBTIQ) Persons in the Philippines (3rd Cycle, 2017), 2017, p.5

[11] Silverio v. Republic of the Philippines, 1st Division of the Philippine Supreme Court, G.R. No. 174689 (October 22, 2007), https://www.icj.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/Silverio-v.-Philippines-First-Division-of-the-Philippines-Supreme-Court.pdf (accessed April 25, 2017); Republic of the Philippines v. Cagandahan, 2nd Division of the Philippine Supreme Court, G.R. No. 166676 (September 12, 2008), https://www.icj.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/Republic-of-the-Philippines-v.-Jennifer-Cagandahan-Supreme-Court-of-the-Philippines-Second-Division.pdf (accessed April 25, 2017). The Supreme Court’s decisions restrict the ability to alter a person’s birth certificate, which governs the person’s gender on passports and other legal identification. See Don Tagala, “Sex Change Woes: Transgender Fil-Am Seeks PH Citizenship as Female,” ABS-CBN News, August 11, 2015, http://news.abs-cbn.com/global-filipino/08/11/15/sex-change-woes-transgender-fil-am-seeks-ph-citizenship-female (accessed April 24, 2017).

[12] Carlos H. Conde, “Philippines Should Adopt Same-Sex Marriage,” March 20, 2017, https://www.hrw.org/news/2017/
03/20/philippines-should-adopt-same-sex-marriage (accessed April 25, 2017); Felipe Villamor, “Duterte Opposes Gay Marriage in Philippines, Reversing Campaign Pledge,” New York Times, March 20, 2017, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/20/world/asia/duterte-same-sex-marriage-philippines.html?_r=0 (accessed May 19, 2017).

[13] Human Rights Watch, Fueling the Philippines’ HIV Epidemic: Government Barriers to Condom Use by Men Who Have Sex With Men, December 8, 2016, https://www.hrw.org/report/2016/12/08/fueling-philippines-hiv-epidemic/government-barriers-condom-use-men-who-have-sex; World Health Organization Regional Office for the Western Pacific, “Policy Brief: Transgender Health and HIV in the Philippines” 2016, http://iris.wpro.who.int/bitstream/handle/10665.1/13435/9789290617815-eng.pdf?ua=1 (accessed April 24, 2017).

[14] John Paul P. Corpuz & Angela Christa Coloma, “Anti-Discrimination Bill May Breach Religious Freedom, a CBCP Lawyer Says,” The Varsitarian, February 28, 2017, http://varsitarian.net/special-reports/20170228/anti-discrimination-bill-may-breach-religious-freedom-a-cbcp-lawyer-says (accessed May 19, 2017).

[15] Mark Saludes & Alvin Murcia, “Sex Education in Filipino Primary Schools Worries Bishops,” UCA News, August 31, 2016, http://www.ucanews.com/news/sex-education-in-filipino-primary-schools-worries-bishops/76990 (accessed May 19, 2017).

[16] Gin de Mesa Laranas, “Will the Philippines Finally Legalize Divorce?” New York Times, July 28, 2016, https://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/29/opinion/will-the-philippines-finally-legalize-divorce.html (accessed May 19, 2017); Teresa R. Tunay, “Death and the New Evangelization,” CBCP News, http://www.cbcpnews.com/cbcpnews/?p=12023 (accessed May 19, 2017); Vivean Pallera, “17 Years of Debates on the Anti-Discrimination Bill,” The LaSallian, April 4, 2017, https://thelasallian.com/2017/04/04/17-years-of-debates-on-the-anti-discrimination-bill (accessed May 19, 2017).

[17] Department of Education, “DepEd Child Protection Policy,” DepEd Order No. 40, May 14, 2012, sec. 2, http://www.deped.gov.ph/orders/do-40-s-2012 (accessed April 24, 2017).

[18] The policy defines “child” to include all persons below 18 years of age, as well as pupils or students who are 18 or older but are in school. Ibid., sec. 3(A). It defines “discrimination against children” to include “an act of exclusion, distinction, restriction or preference which is based on any ground such as … sexual orientation and gender identity … which has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise by all persons, on an equal footing, of all rights and freedoms.” Ibid., sec. 3(J).

[19] Ibid., sec. 10(B).

[20] Ibid., secs. 12, 16.

[21] United States Agency for International Development (USAID) & United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Being LGBT in Asia: The Philippines Country Report (2014), p. 30, http://www.ph.undp.org/content/dam/philippines/docs/Governance/Philippines%20Report_Final.pdf (accessed April 25, 2017).

[22] ASEAN SOGIE Caucus, “Joint Submission of the Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) on the Situation of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex and Queer (LGBTIQ) Persons in the Philippines (3rd Cycle, 2017)” 2017, p. 17. https://aseansogiecaucus.org/images/resources/upr-reports/Philippines/Philippines-UPR-JointReport-3rdCycle.pdf

[23] Human Rights Watch interview with Isabelle Ereneta, education specialist, ChildFund Manila, Manila, February 14, 2017; Human Rights Watch interview with Perci Cendana, commissioner, National Youth Commission, Quezon City, February 19, 2017; Human Rights Watch interview with Delia M. (pseudonym), Quezon City, February 20, 2017.

[24] Republic Act No. 10627, “An Act Requiring All Elementary and Secondary Schools to Adopt Policies to Prevent and Address the Acts of Bullying in their Institutions,” Official Gazette, September 12, 2013, sec. 3, http://www.officialgazette.gov.ph/2013/09/12/republic-act-no-10627/ (accessed April 25, 2017). The act defines “bullying” to include “any severe or repeated use by one or more students of a written, verbal or electronic expression, or a physical act or gesture, or any combination thereof, directed at another student that has the effect of actually causing or placing the latter in reasonable fear of physical or emotional harm or damage to his property; creating a hostile environment at school for the other student; infringing on the rights of the other student at school; or materially and substantially disrupting the education process or the orderly operation of a school; such as, but not limited to, the following: (a) any unwanted physical contact between the bully and the victim like punching, pushing, shoving, kicking, slapping, tickling, headlocks, inflicting school pranks, teasing, fighting and the use of available objects as weapons; (b) any act that causes damage to a victim’s psyche and/or emotional well-being; (c) any slanderous statement or accusation that causes the victim undue emotional distress like directing foul language or profanity at the target, name-calling, tormenting and commenting negatively on victim’s look, clothes and body; and (d) cyber-bullying or any bullying done through the use of technology or any electronic means.” Ibid., sec. 2.

[25] Ibid., sec. 3.

[26] Implementing Rules and Regulations of Republic Act No. 10627, “Implementing Rules and Regulations of Republic Act No. 10627, Otherwise Known as the Anti-Bullying Act of 2013,” Official Gazette, September 12, 2013, sec. 3(b)(1), http://www.officialgazette.gov.ph/2013/09/12/republic-act-no-10627/ (accessed April 25, 2017).

[27] United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), “From Insult to Inclusion: Asia-Pacific Report on School Bullying, Violence and Discrimination on the Basis of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity,” 2015, p. 11, http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0023/002354/235414e.pdf (accessed April 25, 2017).

[28] United States Agency for International Development (USAID) & United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Being LGBT in Asia: The Philippines Country Report (2014), p. 39, http://www.ph.undp.org/content/dam/philippines/docs/Governance/Philippines%20Report_Final.pdf (accessed April 25, 2017); Human Rights Watch interview with Mary Tangente, advocacy officer, GALANG, Quezon City, November 14, 2016.

[29] Human Rights Watch interview with Eric Manalastas, assistant professor of psychology, University of the Philippines, Manila, November 13, 2016.

[30] United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), “From Insult to Inclusion: Asia-Pacific Report on School Bullying, Violence and Discrimination on the Basis of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity,” 2015, p. 46, http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0023/002354/235414e.pdf (accessed April 25, 2017).

[31] Republic Act No. 10354, “An Act Providing for a National Policy on Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health,” Official Gazette, December 21, 2012, sec. 14, http://www.officialgazette.gov.ph/2012/12/21/republic-act-no-10354/ (accessed April 25, 2017).

[32] Ibid.; “Implementing Rules and Regulations of Republic Act No. 10354,” Official Gazette, March 18, 2013, sec. 11.01, http://www.officialgazette.gov.ph/2013/03/18/implementing-rules-and-regulations-of-republic-act-no-10354/ (accessed April 25, 2017).

[33] Executive Order No. 12, “Attaining and Sustaining ‘Zero Unmet Need for Modern Family Planning’ Through the Strict Implementation of the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act, Providing Funds Therefor, and For Other Purposes,” January 9, 2017, http://www.officialgazette.gov.ph/downloads/2017/01jan/20170109-EO-12-RRD.pdf (accessed June 5, 2017).

[34] Jee Y. Geronimo, “Sex Education in PH Schools Still Lacking—UNFPA,” Rappler, July 9, 2016, http://www.rappler.com/
nation/139118-sex-education-philippines-unfpa
(accessed April 25, 2017).

[35] Human Rights Watch, Fueling the Philippines’ HIV Epidemic.

[36] United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), “From Insult to Inclusion: Asia-Pacific Report on School Bullying, Violence and Discrimination on the Basis of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity” 2015, p. 39, http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0023/002354/235414e.pdf (accessed April 25, 2017); Ilan H. Meyer, “Prejudice, Social Stress, and Mental Health in Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Populations: Conceptual Issues and Research Evidence,” Psychological Bulletin, vol. 129, no. 5 (2003), p. 674-697.

[37] Psychological Association of the Philippines, “Statement of the Psychological Association of the Philippines on Non-Discrimination Based on Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Expression,” Philippine Journal of Psychology, vol. 44, no. 2 (2011), p. 229-230.

[38] Venus M. Dis-Aguen, “Common Problems and Perceived Values of Lesbian and Gay Students of Ramon Magsaysay (Cubao) High School 2012-13: Basis for Group Guidance Plan,” unpublished master’s dissertation.

[39] Remedios C. Moog, “Emotional-Social Intelligence, Self-Efficacy and Life Satisfaction of Self-Identified Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Students,” unpublished master’s thesis, University of Santo Tomas (2012), p. 20.

[40] Eric Julian Manalastas, “Sexual Orientation and Suicide Risk in the Philippines: Evidence from a Nationally Representative Sample of Young Filipino Men,” Philippine Journal of Psychology, vol. 46, no. 1 (2013), p. 6-7.

[41] Ibid., p. 7.

[42] Eric Julian Manalastas, “Suicide Ideation and Suicide Attempt Among Young Lesbian and Bisexual Filipina Women: Evidence for Disparities in the Philippines,” Asian Women, vol. 32, no. 3 (2016), p. 109.

[43] Ibid., p. 110.

[44] GALANG, “Bes, OK Ka Lang Ba? (‘Friend, Are You OK?’): Presenting GALANG’s Baseline Study on LBT Well-Being” March 19, 2017, https://www.facebook.com/notes/galang-philippines/bes-ok-ka-lang-ba-friend-are-you-ok-presenting-galangs-baseline-study-on-lbt-wel/1361650953873463 (accessed April 25, 2017).

[45] United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), “From Insult to Inclusion: Asia-Pacific Report on School Bullying, Violence and Discrimination on the Basis of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity,” 2015, p. 40-41, http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0023/002354/235414e.pdf (accessed April 25, 2017).

[46] Ibid., p. 39.

[47] Human Rights Watch interview with Benjie A. (pseudonym), Manila, February 21, 2017.

[48] Human Rights Watch interview with Felix P. (pseudonym), Legazpi, November 19, 2016.

[49] Human Rights Watch interview with Francis C. (pseudonym), Malolos, November 28, 2016.

[50] Human Rights Watch interview with Geoff Morgado, social worker, Quezon City, February 19, 2017. Although Human Rights Watch’s research focused on youth in schools rather than out-of-school youth, other researchers have documented how LGBT youth are forced to leave school because of bullying and discrimination. Human Rights Watch interview with Maroz Ramos, deputy executive director, GALANG, Quezon City, November 14, 2016; Human Rights Watch interview with Mary Tangente, advocacy officer, GALANG, Quezon City, November 14, 2016; Human Rights Watch interview with Eric Manalastas, assistant professor of psychology, University of the Philippines, Manila, November 13, 2016. Interviewees who work with youth described incidents of LGBT students being forced out of school as well. Human Rights Watch interview with Alon B. (pseudonym), Cebu City, November 16, 2016; Human Rights Watch interview with Ruffe Torregaza, secretary, Gayon Albay, Legazpi, November 19, 2016.

[51] United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), “From Insult to Inclusion: Asia-Pacific Report on School Bullying, Violence and Discrimination on the Basis of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity,” 2015, p. 42, http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0023/002354/235414e.pdf (accessed April 25, 2017).

[52] Human Rights Watch interview with Carlos M. (pseudonym), Caloocan, February 20, 2017.

[53] Human Rights Watch interview with Felix P. (pseudonym), Legazpi, November 19, 2016.

[54] Human Rights Watch interview with Benjie A. (pseudonym), Manila, February 21, 2017.

[55] Human Rights Watch interview with Eric Manalastas, assistant professor of psychology, University of the Philippines, Manila, November 13, 2016.

[56] Human Rights Watch interview with Geoff Morgado, social worker, Quezon City, February 19, 2017.

[57] Human Rights Watch interview with Gabby W. (pseudonym), Bayombong, November 26, 2016.

[58] Human Rights Watch interview with Ruby S. (pseudonym), Quezon City, November 25, 2016.

[59] Human Rights Watch interview with Gabriel K. (pseudonym), Quezon City, February 19, 2017.

[60] Human Rights Watch interview with Jerome B. (pseudonym), Cebu City, November 18, 2016.

[61] Human Rights Watch interview with Sean B. (pseudonym), Bayombong, November 26, 2016.

[62] Human Rights Watch interview with Gabby W. (pseudonym), Bayombong, November 26, 2016.

[63] Human Rights Watch interview with Melvin O. (pseudonym), Malolos, November 28, 2016.

[64] Human Rights Watch interview with Rhye Gentoleo, member, Quezon City Pride Council, Quezon City, November 24, 2016.

[65] In small-scale studies, students have described teasing and verbal harassment by both students and teachers, including slurs like “‘ipako sa krus’ (crucify to death), ‘salot sa lipunan’ (disgrace to society), ‘wala ang bakla sa bible… anak kayo ng demonyo’ (gay people cannot be found in the bible… you are devil’s children).” ASEAN SOGIE Caucus, Joint Submission of the Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) on the Situation of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex and Queer (LGBTIQ) Persons in the Philippines (3rd Cycle, 2017), 2017, p.19; see also United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), “From Insult to Inclusion: Asia-Pacific Report on School Bullying, Violence and Discrimination on the Basis of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity,” 2015, p. 35, http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0023/
002354/235414e.pdf
(accessed April 25, 2017).

[66] Human Rights Watch interview with Daniel R. (pseudonym), Bacacay, November 19, 2016.

[67] Human Rights Watch interview with Ernesto N. (pseudonym), Cebu City, November 17, 2016.

[68] Human Rights Watch interview with Leon S. (pseudonym), Malolos, November 28, 2016.

[69] Human Rights Watch interview with Marco L. (pseudonym), Bacacay, November 19, 2016.

[70] Human Rights Watch interview with Gabriel K. (pseudonym), Quezon City, February 19, 2017.

[71] Human Rights Watch interview with Anthony T. (pseudonym), Cebu City, November 17, 2016.

[72] Human Rights Watch interview with Felix P. (pseudonym), Legazpi, November 19, 2016.

[73] Human Rights Watch interview with Benjie A. (pseudonym), Manila, February 21, 2017.

[74] Human Rights Watch interview with Analyn V. (pseudonym), Manduae City, November 18, 2016.

[75] Human Rights Watch interview with Dalisay N. (pseudonym), Manila, November 23, 2016.

[76] Human Rights Watch interview with Jerome B. (pseudonym), Cebu City, November 18, 2016.

[77] Human Rights Watch interview with Patrick G. (pseudonym), Manila, November 28, 2016.

[78] Human Rights Watch interview with Tara F. (pseudonym), Caloocan, February 21, 2017.

[79] Human Rights Watch interview with Ella M. (pseudonym), Quezon City, November 25, 2016.

[80] Human Rights Watch interview with Patrick G. (pseudonym), Manila, November 28, 2016.

[81] Human Rights Watch interview with Jerome B. (pseudonym), Cebu City, November 18, 2016.

[82] Human Rights Watch interview with Wes L. (pseudonym), Bacacay, November 19, 2016.

[83] Human Rights Watch interview with Danica J. (pseudonym), Quezon City, February 19, 2017.

[84] Human Rights Watch interview with Gabriel K. (pseudonym), Quezon City, February 19, 2017.

[85] Human Rights Watch interview with Benjie A. (pseudonym), Manila, February 21, 2017.

[86] Human Rights Watch interview with Leon S. (pseudonym), Malolos, November 28, 2016.

[87] Human Rights Watch interview with Marisol D. (pseudonym), Manila, February 21, 2017.

[88] Human Rights Watch interview with Carlos M. (pseudonym), Caloocan, February 20, 2017.

[89] Human Rights Watch interview with Jack M. (pseudonym), Bayombong, November 26, 2016.

[90] Human Rights Watch interview with Geoff Morgado, social worker, Quezon City, February 19, 2017.

[91] Ibid.

[92] Human Rights Watch interview with Danica J. (pseudonym), Quezon City, February 19, 2017.

[93] Human Rights Watch interview with Leon S. (pseudonym), Malolos, November 28, 2016; Human Rights Watch interview with Gloria Z. (pseudonym), Caloocan, February 20, 2017; Human Rights Watch interview with Rosamie T. (pseudonym), Quezon City, February 19, 2017.

[94] Human Rights Watch interview with Jerome B. (pseudonym), Cebu City, November 18, 2016.

[95] Human Rights Watch interview with Dalisay N. (pseudonym), Manila, November 23, 2016.

[96] Human Rights Watch interview with Analyn V. (pseudonym), Manduae City, November 18, 2016.

[97] Human Rights Watch interview with Felix P. (pseudonym), Legazpi, November 19, 2016.

[98] Human Rights Watch interview with Flora L. (pseudonym), Mandaue City, November 18, 2016.

[99] Human Rights Watch interview with Roberto G. (pseudonym), Legazpi, November 19, 2017.

[100] Human Rights Watch interview with Rowena Legaspi, executive director, Children’s Legal Rights and Development Center, Quezon City, November 21, 2016.

[101] ASEAN SOGIE Caucus, Joint Submission of the Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) on the Situation of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex and Queer (LGBTIQ) Persons in the Philippines (3rd Cycle, 2017), 2017, p. 17-18.

[102] Human Rights Watch interview with Patrick G. (pseudonym), Manila, November 28, 2016; Human Rights Watch interview with Dalisay N. (pseudonym), Manila, November 23, 2016; Human Rights Watch interview with Alon B. (pseudonym), Cebu City, November 16, 2016; Human Rights Watch interview with Nil Nodalo, chairperson, TransMan Pilipinas, Manila, November 23, 2016.

[103] Human Rights Watch interview with Felix P. (pseudonym), Legazpi, November 19, 2016; Human Rights Watch interview with Sean B. (pseudonym), Bayombong, November 26, 2016; Human Rights Watch interview with Bea R. (pseudonym), Bayombong, November 26, 2016; Human Rights Watch interview with Clarence C. (pseudonym), Bayombong, November 26, 2016; Human Rights Watch interview with Duane F. (pseudonym), Bayombong, November 26, 2016; Human Rights Watch interview with Gladys N. (pseudonym), Manila, November 25, 2016.

[104] Human Rights Watch interview with Maroz Ramos, deputy executive director, GALANG, Quezon City, November 14, 2016; Human Rights Watch interview with Eric Manalastas, assistant professor of psychology, University of the Philippines, Manila, November 13, 2016.

[105] Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines (1987), art. XV, sec. 3(2), http://www.gov.ph/constitutions/the-1987-constitution-of-the-republic-of... (accessed April 25, 2017); Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, “General Comment No. 20: Non-Discrimination in Economic, Social and Cultural Rights,” U.N. Doc. E/C.12/GC/20, July 3, 2009, para. 32.

[106] Human Rights Watch interview with Gabby W. (pseudonym), Bayombong, November 26, 2016.

[107] Human Rights Watch interview with Juan N. (pseudonym), Quezon City, November 21, 2016; Human Rights Watch interview with Dalisay N. (pseudonym), Manila, November 23, 2016; Human Rights Watch interview with Del M. (pseudonym), Legazpi, November 19, 2016.

[108] Human Rights Watch interview with Mateo N. (pseudonym), Bacacay, November 19, 2016.

[109] Human Rights Watch interview with Clarence C. (pseudonym), Bayombong, November 26, 2016.

[110] Human Rights Watch interview with Del M. (pseudonym), Legazpi, November 19, 2016.

[111] Human Rights Watch interview with Ella M. (pseudonym), Quezon City, November 25, 2016.

[112] Human Rights Watch interview with Mary Tangente, advocacy officer, GALANG, Quezon City, November 14, 2016; Human Rights Watch interview with Vito L. (pseudonym), Rizal, February 21, 2017.

[113] Human Rights Watch interview with Marisol D. (pseudonym), Manila, February 21, 2017.

[114] Human Rights Watch interview with Jerome B. (pseudonym), Cebu City, November 18, 2016.

[115] Human Rights Watch interview with Felix P. (pseudonym), Legazpi, November 19, 2016.

[116] Human Rights Watch interview with Lyn C. (pseudonym), Manila, February 21, 2017.

[117] Human Rights Watch interview with Del M. (pseudonym), Legazpi, November 19, 2016.

[118] Human Rights Watch interview with Gabby W. (pseudonym), Bayombong, November 26, 2016.

[119] Human Rights Watch interview with Danica J. (pseudonym), Quezon City, February 19, 2017.

[120] Human Rights Watch Interview with Tomas B. (pseudonym), Malolos, November 28, 2016.

[121] Human Rights Watch interview with Patrick G. (pseudonym), Manila, November 28, 2016.

[122] Human Rights Watch interview with Dalisay N. (pseudonym), Manila, November 23, 2016.

[123] Human Rights Watch interview with Carlos M. (pseudonym), Caloocan, February 20, 2017.

[124] Human Rights Watch interview with Lyn C., (pseudonym), Manila, February 21, 2017.

[125] Ibid.; Human Rights Watch interview with Patrick G. (pseudonym), Manila, November 28, 2016; Human Rights Watch interview with Ace F. (pseudonym), Manila, February 17, 2017.

[126] Human Rights Watch interview with Ace F. (pseudonym), Manila, February 17, 2017; Human Rights Watch interview with Miguel W. (pseudonym), Malolos, November 28, 2016; Human Rights Watch interview with Nadine S. (pseudonym), Manila, February 21, 2017.

[127] Human Rights Watch interview with Gabby W. (pseudonym), Bayombong, November 26, 2016.

[128] Human Rights Watch interview with Reyna L. (pseudonym), Quezon City, February 18, 2017.

[129] Human Rights Watch interview with Gabby W. (pseudonym), Bayombong, November 26, 2016.

[130] Human Rights Watch interview with Ruby S. (pseudonym), Quezon City, November 25, 2016.

[131] Human Rights Watch interview with Alon B. (pseudonym), Cebu City, November 16, 2016.

[132] Human Rights Watch interview with Roxanne Omega-Doron, executive director, Bisdak Pride, Manila, November 11, 2016.

[133] Human Rights Watch interview with Reyna L. (pseudonym), Quezon City, February 18, 2017.

[134] Human Rights Watch interview with Ella M. (pseudonym), Quezon City, November 25, 2016.

[135] Human Rights Watch interview with Dalisay N. (pseudonym), Manila, November 23, 2016.

[136] Human Rights Watch interview with Marisol D. (pseudonym), Manila, February 21, 2017.

[137] Human Rights Watch interview with Ace F. (pseudonym), Manila, February 17, 2017

[138] Human Rights Watch interview with David O. (pseudonym), Mandaue City, November 18, 2016.

[139] Human Rights Watch interview with Jerome B. (pseudonym), Cebu, November 18, 2016.

[140] Human Rights Watch interview with Felix P. (pseudonym), Legazpi, November 19, 2016.

[141] Human Rights Watch interview with Juan N. (pseudonym), Quezon City, November 21, 2016.

[142] Human Rights Watch interview with Angelica R. (pseudonym), Quezon City, November 21, 2016.

[143] Human Rights Watch interview with Ernesto N. (pseudonym), Cebu City, November 17, 2016.

[144] Human Rights Watch interview with Eric Manalastas, assistant professor of psychology, University of the Philippines, Manila, November 13, 2016.

[145] Human Rights Watch interview with university professor, Malolos, November 28, 2016.

[146] Human Rights Watch interview with Rodrigo S. (pseudonym), Manila, November 25, 2016.

[147] Human Rights Watch interview with Virgil D. (pseudonym), Bacacay, November 19, 2016.

[148] Human Rights Watch interview with Mary B. (pseudonym), Manila, February 18, 2017.

[149] Human Rights Watch interview with Eric Manalastas, assistant professor of psychology, University of the Philippines, Manila, November 13, 2016.

[150] Human Rights Watch interview with Felix P. (pseudonym), Legazpi, November 19, 2016.

[151] Human Rights Watch interview with Jerome B. (pseudonym), Cebu City, November 18, 2016.

[152] Human Rights Watch interview with barangay (local government) chairperson, Cebu City, November 17, 2016.

[153] Human Rights Watch interview with Dalisay N. (pseudonym), Manila, November 23, 2016.

[154] Human Rights Watch interview with Eric Manalastas, assistant professor of psychology, University of the Philippines, Manila, November 13, 2016.

[155] Human Rights Watch interview with Lourdes B. (pseudonym), Quezon City, November 21, 2016; Human Rights Watch interview with Angelica R. (pseudonym), Quezon City, November 21, 2016; Human Rights Watch interview with Nancy O. (pseudonym), Quezon City, November 21, 2016.

[156] Eric Julian Manalastas & Raymond Aquino Macapagal, “What Do Filipino Gay Male College Students Want to Learn in Sex Education?” Review of Women’s Studies, vol. 15, no. 1 (2005), p. 130; see also Rina Angelica G. Fulo, Sherazade E. Karim & Mary Jonah G. Vidal, “Heteronormative Discourse in Grade School Textbooks in the Philippines,” Selected Women and Gender Studies SY 2013-2014, International Studies Monograph Series, No. 7 (2014), p. 7.

[157] United States Agency for International Development (USAID) & United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Being LGBT in Asia: The Philippines Country Report (2014), p. 9, http://www.ph.undp.org/content/dam/philippines/docs/
Governance/Philippines%20Report_Final.pdf
(accessed April 25, 2017).

[158] Rina Angelica G. Fulo, Sherazade E. Karim & Mary Jonah G. Vidal, “Heteronormative Discourse in Grade School Textbooks in the Philippines,” Selected Women and Gender Studies SY 2013-2014, International Studies Monograph Series, No. 7 (2014), p. 7-9.

[159] Human Rights Watch interview with Leah O. (pseudonym), Marikina, February 21, 2017.

[160] Human Rights Watch interview with Alex R. (pseudonym), Malolos, November 28, 2016.

[161] Human Rights Watch interview with Alon B. (pseudonym), Cebu City, November 16, 2016.

[162] Human Rights Watch interview with Brian A. (pseudonym), Quezon City, November 25, 2016.

[163] Human Rights Watch interview with Juan N. (pseudonym), Quezon City, November 21, 2016.

[164] Human Rights Watch interview with Jessica L. (pseudonym), Malolos, November 28, 2016.

[165] Human Rights Watch interview with Ernesto N. (pseudonym), Cebu City, November 17, 2016.

[166] Human Rights Watch interview with Anna P. (pseudonym), Rizal, February 21, 2017.

[167] Human Rights Watch interview with Juan N. (pseudonym), Quezon City, November 21, 2016.

[168] Human Rights Watch interview with Ruby S. (pseudonym), Quezon City, November 25, 2016.

[169] Human Rights Watch interview with Pablo V. (pseudonym), Malolos, November 28, 2016.

[170] Human Rights Watch interview with Jerome B. (pseudonym), Cebu City, November 18, 2016.

[171] Human Rights Watch interview with Isabel A. (pseudonym), Cebu City, November 17, 2016.

[172] Human Rights Watch interview with Felix P. (pseudonym), Legazpi, November 19, 2016.

[173] Human Rights Watch interview with Carmen M. (pseudonym), Malolos, November 28, 2016.

[174] United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), “Sexuality Education,” undated, http://www.unesco.org/new/en/hiv-and-aids/our-priorities-in-hiv/sexuality-education (accessed April 25, 2017).

[175] Eric Julian Manalastas & Raymond Aquino Macapagal, “What Do Filipino Gay Male College Students Want to Learn in Sex Education?” Review of Women’s Studies, vol. 15, no. 1 (2005), p. 127.

[176] Ibid., p. 141, 148-152.

[177] United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), “From Insult to Inclusion: Asia-Pacific Report on School Bullying, Violence and Discrimination on the Basis of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity,” 2015, p. 55, http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0023/002354/235414e.pdf (accessed April 25, 2017).

[178] Ibid., p. 56.

[179] Jee Y. Geronimo, “Sex Education in PH Schools Still Lacking—UNFPA,” Rappler , July 9, 2016, http://www.rappler.com/nation/139118-sex-education-philippines-unfpa (accessed April 25, 2017); Jee Y. Geronimo, “Use of Modern Family Planning Methods in PH Rose in 2015—Report,” Rappler, June 22, 2016, http://www.rappler.com/nation/
137256-2nd-report-implementation-reproductive-health-rh-law-family-planning
(accessed April 25, 2017).

[180] Human Rights Watch interview with Perci Cendana, commissioner, National Youth Commission, Quezon City, February
19, 2017.

[181] Human Rights Watch, Fueling the Philippines’ HIV Epidemic: Government Barriers to Condom Use by Men Who Have Sex With Men , December 8, 2016, https://www.hrw.org/sites/default/files/report_pdf/philippines1216_web.pdf

[182] Human Rights Watch interview with Mary B. (pseudonym), February 18, 2017.

[183] Human Rights Watch interview with Efren D. (pseudonym), Quezon City, February 19, 2017.

[184] Human Rights Watch interview with Gabby W. (pseudonym), Bayombong, November 26, 2016.

[185] Human Rights Watch interview with Bea R. (pseudonym), Bayombong, November 26, 2016.

[186] Human Rights Watch interview with Francis C. (pseudonym), Malolos, November 28, 2016.

[187] Human Rights Watch interview with Jonas E. (pseudonym), Mandaue City, November 18, 2016.

[188] Eric Julian Manalastas & Raymond Aquino Macapagal, “What Do Filipino Gay Male College Students Want to Learn in Sex Education?” Review of Women’s Studies, vol. 15, no. 1 (2005), p. 146.

[189] Human Rights Watch interview with Rodrigo S. (pseudonym), Manila, November 25, 2016.

[190] Eric Julian Manalastas & Raymond Aquino Macapagal, “What Do Filipino Gay Male College Students Want to Learn in Sex Education?” Review of Women’s Studies, vol. 15, no. 1 (2005), p. 143-144.

[191] Human Rights Watch interview with Tricia C. (pseudonym), Marikina, February 21, 2017.

[192] Human Rights Watch interview with Jin W. (pseudonym), Malolos, November 28, 2016.

[193] United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), “From Insult to Inclusion: Asia-Pacific Report on School Bullying, Violence and Discrimination on the Basis of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity,” 2015, p. 58, http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0023/002354/235414e.pdf (accessed April 25, 2017).

[194] Eric Julian Manalastas & Raymond Aquino Macapagal, “What Do Filipino Gay Male College Students Want to Learn in Sex Education?” Review of Women’s Studies, vol. 15, no. 1 (2005), p. 156.

[195] Human Rights Watch interview with Rina Fulo, project associate for gender, peace, and security, Women and Gender Institute at Miriam College, Quezon City, November 15, 2016.

[196] Human Rights Watch interview with Remedios Moog, guidance coordinator, University of the East, Caloocan, February 15, 2017.

[197] One example is the Guidance and Counseling Office at University of the East in Caloocan, which has developed successful staff-led and peer support programs for LGBT students at the school. See Remedios C. Moog, “Emotional-Social Intelligence, Self-Efficacy and Life Satisfaction of Self-Identified Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Students,” unpublished master’s thesis, University of Santo Tomas (2012).

[198] Eric Julian Manalastas & Raymond Aquino Macapagal, “What Do Filipino Gay Male College Students Want to Learn in Sex Education?” Review of Women’s Studies, vol. 15, no. 1 (2005), p. 156.

[199] Human Rights Watch interview with Jerome B. (pseudonym), Cebu City, November 18, 2016.

[200] Human Rights Watch interview with Benjie A. (pseudonym), Manila, February 21, 2017.

[201] Human Rights Watch interview with Patrick G. (pseudonym), Manila, November 28, 2016.

[202] Ibid.

[203] Human Rights Watch interview with Ella M. (pseudonym), Quezon City, November 25, 2016.

[204] The third and second editions of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) were published by the American Psychiatric Association in 1980 and 1968 respectively.

[205] Human Rights Watch interview with Ace F. (pseudonym), Manila, February 17, 2017.

[206] Human Rights Watch interview with Reyna L. (pseudonym), Quezon City, February 18, 2017.

[207] Human Rights Watch interview with Nathan P. (pseudonym), Manila, February 17, 2017.

[208] UP Babaylan was the first LGBT student organization to receive official recognition from a university in the Philippines; notably, other groups preceded UP Babaylan but were not recognized by administrators.

[209] United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), “From Insult to Inclusion: Asia-Pacific Report on School Bullying, Violence and Discrimination on the Basis of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity,” 2015, p. 63, http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0023/002354/235414e.pdf (accessed April 25, 2017).

[210] Eric Julian Manalastas & Raymond Aquino Macapagal, “What Do Filipino Gay Male College Students Want to Learn in Sex Education?” Review of Women’s Studies, vol. 15, no. 1 (2005), p. 156.

[211] Human Rights Watch interview with Carlos M. (pseudonym), Caloocan, February 20, 2017.

[212] Human Rights Watch interview with Gloria Z. (pseudonym), Caloocan, February 20, 2017.

[213] Human Rights Watch interview with Sean B. (pseudonym), Bayombong, November 26, 2016.

[214] Human Rights Watch interview with Rosamie T. (pseudonym), Quezon City, February 19, 2017; Human Rights Watch interview with Danica J. (pseudonym), Quezon City, February 19, 2017.

[215] Human Rights Watch interview with Rosamie T. (pseudonym), Quezon City, February 19, 2017.

[216] Ibid.

[217] Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), adopted November 20, 1989, G.A. Res. 44/25, annex, 44 U.N. GAOR Supp. (No. 49) at 167, U.N. Doc. A/44/49 (1989), entered into force September 2, 1990; the Philippines ratified the CRC in 1990. International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), adopted December 16, 1966, G.A. Res. 2200A (XXI), 21 U.N. GAOR Supp. (No. 16) at 52, A/6316 (1966), 999 U.N.T.S. 171, entered into force March 23, 1976; the Philippines ratified the ICCPR in 1986. International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), adopted December 16, 1966, G.A. Res. 2200A (XXI), 21 U.N. GAOR Supp. (No. 16) at 49, A/6316 (1966), 993 U.N.T.S. 3, entered into force January 3, 1976; the Philippines ratified the ICESCR in 1974. Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), adopted December 18, 1979, 1979 G.A. res. 34/180, 34 U.N. GAOR Supp. (No. 46) at 193, U.N. Doc. A/34/46, entered into force September 3, 1981; the Philippines ratified CEDAW in 1981.

[218] UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, “Discriminatory Laws and Practices and Acts of Violence against Individuals Based on their Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity,” A/HRC/19/41 (November 17, 2011), para. 59.

[219] United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), “From Insult to Inclusion: Asia-Pacific Report on School Bullying, Violence and Discrimination on the Basis of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity,” 2015, p. 10, http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0023/002354/235414e.pdf (accessed April 25, 2017). The term “LGBTI,” used here by UNESCO, refers to LGBT students as well as those who are intersex, or born with sex characteristics that do not conform to binary notions of male and female.

[220] ICESCR, art. 13; CRC, art. 28.

[221] CRC, art. 29(1).

[222] As the Committee on the Rights of the Child has noted, “[t]he effective promotion of article 29(1) requires the fundamental reworking of curricula to include the various aims of education and the systematic revision of textbooks and other teaching materials and technologies, as well as school policies.” Committee on the Rights of the Child, “General Comment No. 1: The Aims of Education,” U.N. Doc. CRC/GC/2001/1 (2001), para. 18.

[223] The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights has found that “the right to sexual and reproductive health, combined with the right to education (articles 13 and 14) and the right to non-discrimination and equality between men and women (articles 2 (2) and 3), entails a right to education on sexuality and reproduction that is comprehensive, non-discriminatory, evidence-based, scientifically accurate and age appropriate.” Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, “General Comment No. 22 on the Right to Sexual and Reproductive Health,” U.N. Doc. E/C.12/GC/22 (May 2, 2016), para. 9. See also Committee on the Rights of the Child, “General Comment No. 20 on the Implementation of the Rights of the Child During Adolescence,” U.N. Doc. CRC/C/GC/20 (December 6, 2016), paras. 59-60 (concluding that all adolescents, including LGBT youth, should have access to comprehensive sexual and reproductive health education).

[224] UN Human Rights Council, Report of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to education, Vernor Muñoz, U.N. Doc. A/65/162, July 23, 2010, para. 19.

[225] Ibid., para. 69.

[226] Republic Act No. 10354, “An Act Providing for a National Policy on Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health, Official Gazette, December 21, 2012, sec. 14, http://www.officialgazette.gov.ph/2012/12/21/republic-act-no-10354/ (accessed April 25, 2017).

[227] Committee on the Rights of the Child, “General Comment No. 15 (2013) on the Right of the Child to the Enjoyment of the Highest Attainable Standard of Health,” U.N. Doc. CRC/GC/15, April 17, 2013, para. 60.

[228] UN Human Rights Council, Report of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to education, Vernor Muñoz, U.N. Doc. A/65/162, July 23, 2010, para. 63.

[229] Ibid., para. 23.

[231] Republic Act No. 10627, “An Act Requiring All Elementary and Secondary Schools to Adopt Policies to Prevent and Address the Acts of Bullying in their Institutions,” Official Gazette, September 12, 2013, sec. 3, http://www.officialgazette.gov.ph/2013/09/12/republic-act-no-10627/ (accessed April 25, 2017).

[232] Department of Education, “DepEd Child Protection Policy,” DepEd Order No. 40 (May 14, 2012), sec. 7.

[233] ICCPR, art. 24(1).

[234] CRC, art. 19.

[235] UNESCO, Call for Action by Ministers: Inclusive and Equitable Education for All Leaners in an Environment Free from Discrimination and Violence, November 2016, http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0024/002462/246247E.pdf (accessed May 19, 2017).

[236] Committee on the Rights of the Child, “General Comment No. 13 (2011): The Right of the Child to Freedom from All Forms of Violence,” U.N. Doc. CRC/C/GC/13, April 18, 2011, para. 72(g).

[237] See, e.g., Committee on the Rights of the Child, Concluding Observations: Sweden, U.N. Doc. CRC/C/SWE/CO/5 (Mar. 6, 2015), para. 15; Committee on the Rights of the Child, Concluding Observations: the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, U.N. Doc. CRC/C/VEN/CO/3-5 (Oct. 12, 2014), para. 27.

[238] Committee on the Rights of the Child, “General Comment No. 1: The Aims of Education,” U.N. Doc. CRC/GC/2001/1 (2001), para. 19.

[239] Committee on the Rights of the Child, “General Comment No. 13 (2011): The Right of the Child to Freedom from All Forms of Violence,” U.N. Doc. CRC/C/GC/13, April 18, 2011, para. 47(a)(i).

[240] Ibid., para. 49.

[241] Ibid., paras. 50-51.

[242] Ibid., para. 63.

[243] Committee on the Rights of the Child, “General Comment No. 4 (2003): Adolescent Health and Development in the Context of the Convention on the Rights of the Child,” U.N. Doc. CRC/GC/2003/4, July 1, 2003, para. 17.

[244] CRC, art. 24(1) and art. 24(2)(e)-(f).

[245] Committee on the Rights of the Child, “General Comment No. 15 (2013) on the Right of the Child to the Enjoyment of the Highest Attainable Standard of Health,” U.N. Doc. CRC/GC/15, April 17, 2013, para. 8.

[246] “Committee on the Rights of the Child, “General Comment No. 3 (2003): HIV/AIDS and the Rights of the Child,” U.N. Doc. CRC/GC/2003/1, para. 1.

[247] Ibid., para. 13.

[248] ICCPR, art. 19(2).

[249] CRC, art. 13(1).

[250] There is now consensus among UN treaty bodies and other authorities that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity is prohibited as a matter of international law. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, “Discriminatory Laws and Practices and Acts of Violence against Individuals Based on their Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity,” A/HRC/19/41 (November 17, 2011), para. 59.

[251] UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, “Discrimination and Violence against Individuals Based on their Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity,” A/HRC/29/23 (May 4, 2015), para. 16.

[252] Committee on the Rights of the Child, “General Comment No. 1: The Aims of Education,” U.N. Doc. CRC/GC/2001/1 (2001), para. 10.

[253] Committee on the Rights of the Child, “General Comment No. 4 (2003): Adolescent Health and Development in the Context of the Convention on the Rights of the Child,” U.N. Doc. CRC/GC/2003/4, July 1, 2003, para. 6.

[254] See, for example, Committee on the Rights of the Child, Concluding Observations: Hungary, U.N. Doc. CRC/C/HUN/CO/3-5 (Oct. 14, 2014), paras. 19-20; Committee on the Rights of the Child, Concluding Observations: the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, U.N. Doc. CRC/C/VEN/CO/3-5 (Oct. 13, 2014), para. 27; Committee on the Rights of the Child, Concluding Observations: United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, U.N. Doc. CRC/C/GBR/CO/4 (Oct. 20, 2008), para. 24.

[255] UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, “Discriminatory Laws and Practices and Acts of Violence against Individuals Based on their Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity,” A/HRC/19/41 (November 17, 2011), para. 50.

[256] UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, “Discrimination and Violence against Individuals Based on their Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity,” A/HRC/29/23 (May 4, 2015), para. 17.

[257] United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), “From Insult to Inclusion: Asia-Pacific Report on School Bullying, Violence and Discrimination on the Basis of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity,” 2015, p. 20, http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0023/002354/235414e.pdf (accessed April 25, 2017). UNESCO also suggests that schools should “include more than the binary sex or gender options for those who identify outside of male and female.” Ibid.

Author: Human Rights Watch
Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am