(This was published in print in the 11th issue of The Manila Collegian on October 10, 2011.)
Written by:Jewel Anne Formeloza and Jore-Annie Rico
As the struggle for equality intensifies, so does violence.
The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community dared to assert and defend their rights for equality and justice amidst stern opposition from conservative social forces. In a world where homosexuality is deemed synonymous with immorality and deviance, members of the LGBT community faced various forms of harassment and discrimination. Despite multitudes of trials and persecutions, the LGBT community remains steadfast in their struggle not just for social acceptance, but also for equal rights and freedom of choice. The challenge, however, rests not only in the promotion of LGBT advocacies but also in the eradication of the alarming increase of violence against its members particularly in the Philippines.
Aside from the alarming increase of violence against members of the LGBT community, gender discrimination has been continuously mainstreamed for the past decade. What makes the situation of the LGBT community critically perceived in the Philippines is partly attributed to the fact that the unending culture of patriarchy wielded an unconstructive influence on the role of women in the process of nation-building. Moreover, religious conservatism has unquestionably instilled negative conceptions on homosexuality. These socio-cultural factors, in actuality, profoundly influenced the history of hate crimes in the Philippine contemporary society.
The fight against LGBT violence has just begun.
As prejudice pervades society, the stage is set for the proliferation of unjustified crime.
Rolando Cervantes, a 40 year-old salon owner, was raped and stabbed to death by an unknown suspect last February 6, 2008 at Taguig City. Aside from the brutal murder, crime scene investigators suspects that the perpetrator had also stolen a huge amount of cash and other valuable materials from the victim before he was put to death.
Defined as “hate incidents which constitute criminal offenses, perceived by the victim or any other person as being motivated by prejudice or hate,” hate or prejudiced crimes are gaining both public and media attention due to its increasing number and intensifying nature. Homophobic hate crimes that are perpetrated against LGBTs are brought about by severe intolerance and hatred to the sexual orientation or gender identity of the victims. Social prejudice consequently sets forth a notion of superiority thus, inculcating a false sense of dominance among people while breeding hostility and anger toward homosexuals. Motives for social prejudice are subliminally reflected by discriminatory messages, bullying, public humiliation, public display of abuse and violence and even murders.
Hate crimes against homosexuals have been rapidly increasing in many countries across the globe, such as in Brazil, Iran, the United States, and United Kingdom, among others. In Asia, the Philippines represents the most disturbing figures of gruesome hate crimes. In addition to the increase in crime rate percentage, the nature of violence reflects more staggering cases. For one, perpetrators choose to execute their crimes in public so as to create a prolonged atmosphere of terror and heightened abhorrence. For another, extreme cases of violence included mutilation wherein chauvinistic symbols were inserted into the bodies of victims in an attempt to express racist viewpoints.
As hate crimes become more and more apparent, the call for the passage of laws that will protect the rights and safeguard the security of members of the LGBT community undoubtedly becomes a necessity.
Violence can never be justified by sheer hatred.
Rodolfo Cruz, a businessman in Malabon City, was beaten to death by his 15 year-old lover brought upon by a heated quarrel last April 5, 2005. At first, the suspect thought that Cruz merely lost consciousness after he had struck him with a heavy blow on the head. Realizing that he had slain his lover, the suspect tried to escape but unfortunately, he was caught and eventually arrested by the police.
The Philippines, being the sole Catholic nation in Asia, is consequently hailed as one of the most conservative Asian countries in terms of LGBT acceptance. The wielding influence of the Roman Catholic Church on the notions of homosexuality has caged the distorted way of thinking of Filipinos for centuries. As such, it is but no wonder that the contemporary Philippine society has a negative perception of homosexuality and also learned to detest it. The long-standing abhorrence paved the way for the intensification of homophobic hate crimes in the country.
According to the research made by the Philippine LGBT Hate Crime Watch, an inclusive, non-partisan, and diverse community of Human Rights Defenders and Civil Society Organizations dedicated to end prejudice and hate crimes against LGBT, there are 141 killed LGBT Filipinos from 1996 to present. The nature of violence takes the forms of multiple stabbing, dismembering, burning, gunshots, rape, torture, poisoning, and suffocation. However, it must be noted that hate crimes are not limited to murders due to the fact that there are some unrecorded violence committed against LGBT communities.
Out of the 141 hate crime victims in the country, ninety five were gays, twenty six were transgendered, sixteen were lesbians, and four were bisexuals. The most dangerous region for gays, transgendered, and bisexuals is the Greater Manila Area while for the lesbians, the Mindanao region. It must be noted, however, that increasing crime rates must be acted upon accordingly, so as to prevent further assaults.
Even as the forces of prejudice continue to thwart the progression of LGBT recognition and acceptance, the sector stood firm in its endeavor to establish a reign of equality.
Along with the Philippine LGBT Hate Crime Watch, other sectoral organizations international entities, and advocacy groups support the call for the welfare of the members of the LGBT community. Sectoral organizations, like the Ladlad Party list and the Gabriela Women’s Party, lobby for equal rights that will seek to address the long-standing need for administrative actions. The Amnesty International-Philippines, in collaboration with the CHR, serve as watchdogs for hate crimes. Constituting the advocacy groups are the Rainbow Rights Project Inc., the Pro-Gay Philippines, and Bayan Muna Party list, whose proposed “Anti-Hate Bill” is still under the legislative process. Rainbow Rights Project Inc., and Pro-Gay Philippines, on the other hand, advocate LGBT acceptance through educational networking and research programs.
As hate crimes take its toll on the LGBT community, governmental and institutional reforms would never suffice for the need to minimize, if not totally eradicate, the impunity rendered by conservatism. Instead, civil society must be emancipated from the distorted notions of homosexuality. Public acceptance plays a pivotal role in eliminating social prejudice and stereotyping that has been inculcated by biased and conservative social sectors. Members of the LGBT community have been ceaselessly striving for equal rights and public recognition yet, society selflessly ignores the clamor for homosexual acceptance for the reason that it remains conformist and it proved to be intolerant in the face of LGBT advancement.
Unlike other undermined social sectors, the LGBT community has been constantly strained by issues relating to gender inequality and their struggle has long been taken for granted, or blatantly ignored. What makes their case specifically distinct from other marginalized sectors is that the LGBT community is hailed as the sole “deviant” sector. Although members of the LGBT community do not strive for material embellishments, they seek acknowledgment so as to assert their personal identities and convictions. Despite the fact that society mistakenly labels the LGBT community as deviant and immoral, what accounts for true existence of the sector of LGBTs is their purpose to pursue rightful living beyond the prejudices and stern mass reception.
Gaining public acceptance and social recognition ultimately marks the hoisting of colors.