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Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD) vehemently condemns the illegal arrest of at least 20 pride protestors from Bahaghari (a national LGBTQI+ organisation), Children’s Rehabilitation Center, GABRIELA and other LGBTQI+ allies on 26 June 2020 while commemorating the international pride month in Mendiola, Manila, Philippines.  

In commemoration of the Stonewall Riots, the Pride Protest in Manila promotes what the LGBTQI+ community has fought for in the past: socio-political and civil rights, equality and end of discrimination for all. True to its past, the LGBTQI+ community marched along with other groups to demand free mass COVID testing, government assistance for the COVID-19 pandemic, opposition against the enactment of the Anti-Terror Bill, among others. “Fifty-one years have passed since the Stonewall Riots but not much has changed” Bahaghari shared. 

The protestors were peacefully organising  while observing social distancing, when they were brutally dispersed by police in full riot gear. At least 20 LGBTQI+ rights defenders were arrested without the authorities being able to state what laws or regulations they were violating.  For the LGBTQI+ community and their allies, this act of repression illustrates the exact reason they protest – the silencing of their marginalised voices. The fact they were subjected to this humiliation and silencing during the month LGBTQI+ groups around the world and in Philippines rise up in solidarity of the long history of pride as means of protest and resistance against the continuing discrimination and oppression is appalling. More broadly, it speaks to the worsening impunity in the Philippines against voices of dissent, an alarming trend of suppressing freedom of assembly and association, and the impending enactment of the Anti-Terror Bill.  

The hostile approach by the Government of Philippines towards the LGBTQI+ community is not  surprising. The community has been fighting against neoliberal capitalism, militarism culture of violence and state authoritarianism, for years now. The state repression, illegal arrests and police brutality in the middle of a pride month proves that the community struggle against all forms of discriminations is still an everyday reality. 

These illegal arrests amount to a direct violation of Article 20 of the Universal Declarations of Human Rights, which states ‘Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association’. It also goes against the Philippine government’s pledge of commitment to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women’s (CEDAW) Committee in its 36th Session in 2006. The General Recommendation No. 28 on the Core Obligations of States Parties under Article 2 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women states in Paragraph 18 that ‘Discrimination on the basis of sex or gender may affect women to a different degree or in different ways to men. States parties must legally recognize such intersecting forms of discrimination and their compounded negative impact on the women concerned and prohibit them.’

It also goes against the Government of Philippine’s international obligations to the following United Nations General Assembly Resolution: ‘Protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity’ (32/2) which ‘Strongly deplores acts of violence and discrimination, in all regions of the world, committed against individuals because of their sexual orientation or gender identity’. 

APWLD calls on the Government of Philippines:

  • To immediately release the women human rights defenders and LGBTQI+ rights defenders who were illegally arrested at the Pride March.
  • To stop further harassment and/or threats 
  • To bring in the real perpetrators and make them accountable by taking appropriate legal actions. 
  • To drop the proposed legislation of the Anti-Terrorism bill which appears incompatible with the UDHR Articles.

Footnote: APWLD uses LGBTQI+ as an umbrella term for Lesbian, Gay, Bisxual, Trans*, Intersex, and Queer with diverse SOGIESC (Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity & Expression, and Sex Charactertics). Trans* is an umbrella term for transgender people, gender queer people, gender non-binary people, and people who do not conform to notions of gender assigned to them at birth/gender non-conforming people)

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