Anti-discrimination bills refiled in Senate

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 3) — The long battle for a law shielding members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ+) sector from discrimination continues in the 18th Congress.

Senators Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara and Risa Hontiveros refiled bills seeking to punish discriminatory practices on the basis of sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity and expression (SOGIE).

“The lack of protective laws and supportive policies is an unfortunate reality. This neglect is affording impunity from committing discrimination and tolerating human rights abuse,” hontiveros said in filing Senate Bill No. 159.

READ: Before 'same-sex unions,' let's talk about the Anti-Discrimination Bill first

Under Hontiveros’ proposal, people who commit the following discriminatory acts can face a jail term of one to six years or a fine of ₱100,000 to ₱250,000:

- Promoting and encouraging stigma on the basis of SOGIE in the media, educational textbooks and other medium

- Inciting violence and sexual abuse on the basis of SOGIE

- Imposing harsher disciplinary sanctions and penalties on students on the basis of SOGIE

- Discriminating a student or trainee due to the SOGIE of their parents or legal guardian

- Refusing or revoking the accreditation or registration of any organization, group or political party on the basis of the SOGIE of their members

- Denying a person access or use of public establishments, facilities, utilities or services on the basis of SOGIE

Furthermore, a harsher penalty of six to 12 years imprisonment or a fine of ₱250,000 to ₱500,000 will be meted out against people who commit the following discriminatory acts:

- Hiring, promoting, transferring, reassigning and firing people on the basis of their SOGIE

- Refusing admission or expelling students on the basis of their SOGIE

- Denying people access to public or private health facilities and access to public and private health insurance on the basis of their SOGIE

- Subjecting any person to profiling, detention or verbal and physical harassment on the basis of their SOGIE

- Subjecting any person to other acts that will impair or nullify the enjoyment, recognition and exercise of their human rights and fundamental freedoms

In addition to these penalties, the court may also require those who have been sentenced because of SOGIE-based discrimination to attend human rights education seminars.

Government officials who refuse to investigate, prosecute and act on a complaint for violation of the proposed law will be subject to administrative sanctions.

READ: A law to protect the Filipino LGBTQ+ community against discrimination remains elusive

Meanwhile, aside from penalizing SOGIE-based discrimination, Angara’s bill also seeks to punish discrimination on the basis of age, racial or ethnic origin, religious belief or activity, political inclination or conviction, social class, marital or relationship status, disability, HIV status, health status or medical history, language and physical features.

“Any form of discrimination threatens social stability and economic progress in the Philippines, making it imperative that discrimination — or any act that establishes, promotes and perpetuates standing inequalities and disregards the right to “equality of treatment” afforded by the 1987 Constitution — be reduced,” Angara said.

Under his proposal, discriminatory acts similar to those enumerated in Hontiveros’ bill can be punished by a jail term of one to six years or a fine of up to ₱500,000.

The anti-discrimination bill reached the farthest in the legislative mill in the 17th Congress since it was first filed in the 11th Congress. It hurdled the House of Representatives through a unanimous vote in 2017, but was blocked in the Senate by senators who refused to back down in debates until Congress adjourned, sending the measure to the archive.