Promoting LGBTQIA+-friendly Workplaces with SOGIE

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The Kaladkaren incident that happened last August goes to show you how the country is in dire need of protecting the LGBTQIA+community from hate crimes and prejudice.

But the sexual orientation and gender identity or expression (SOGIE) equality bill is still awaiting passage from the Senate. SOGIE seeks to penalize discrimination based on someone’s gender identity and expression, and sexual orientation.

But the delay of the bill’s passage has not dissuaded our LGBTQIA+ brothers and sisters from giving up on their relentless battle for anti-discrimination policies and the protection of their rights.

In public spaces, such as the workplace, one might say that clamoring for LGBTQIA+ equality carries an even greater importance.

While the Philippines ranked as one of the most gay-friendly countries in the world in the 2013 survey by the U.S. Pew Research Center, this does not seem to reflect in several companies. A study by the Philippine LGBT Chamber of Commerce defies the claim, reporting that not a single organization in the country has any LGBTQIA+-inclusive policies.

From Pinkwashing to “Pinkwatching”

The Philippines still needs progress in overturning the pinkwashing agenda and introducing LGBTQ-inclusive policies
Photo by the author taken at the Metro Manila Pride March

But companies seem to have “practical reasons” for their LGBTQIA+ ambivalence.

Researcher Paulo Edrosolano shares that advocacy groups feel that SOGIE-inclusive policies fall to the wayside in the corporate sector because LGBTQIA+ employees only make up a fraction of the workforce.

Moreover, some employers fear losing their market share as well as their customers because the country holds religious values and an even more conservative culture. Along with the already heteronormative corporate setting, the government has also been lax in promoting SOGIE-inclusive policies.

Most importantly, this brings up the issue of “pinkwashing” in the country. In the context of LGBTQIA+ rights, it is a practice where companies present themselves as queer-friendly and progressive, in an attempt to downplay their negative behavior.

So before PH-based companies brand themselves as allies, they need to have policies in place that protect their LGBTQIA+ workers.

Local Ordinances Protect LGBTQ+ Filipinos

The LGBTQIA¬+ community has been fighting for equal rights for a long time now
Photo by the author taken at the Metro Manila Pride March

The long, grueling road to LGBTQ­IA+ equality started during the LGBT Pride March back in 2000. While it was not the first time queer folk and straight allies participated in the march, it coincided with the filing of the first Anti-Discrimination Bill (ADB) on that same year.

That marked the start of the long crusade of LGBTQIA+ Filipinos on protection against discrimination and homophobia.

The community has made significant progress since then. The ADB is the same SOGIE equality bill we know today, approved in the House of Representatives on September 20, 2017.

But the failure of the Congress to pass a national anti-discrimination law has led LGBTQIA+ advocates to turn to local government units to safeguard the rights of queer Filipinos. The ordinances only serve to cover about 20 million residents, leaving the 81 million without legal protection from discrimination.

Paving the Rainbow-colored Road to Workplace Equality

The LGBT Chamber of Commerce aims to educate PH companies on the importance of SOGIE Image from the PH LGBT Chamber of Commerce.

Efforts to subvert the pinkwashing agenda and promote more rainbow-friendly workplaces are underway, though.

The Philippine LGBT Chamber of Commerce has unveiled its new campaign for 2019, called #Zeroto100PH. The initiative aims to get 100 companies in the PH to pledge commitment to LGBTQIA+ diversity and inclusion. And this entails conducting SOGIE training in the workplace and updating company policies to uphold the rights of LGBTQIA+ workers.

Employees can help set the campaign in motion by forming support groups where they can discuss what it takes to promote more gay-friendly office cultures. Out and proud high-ranked officials and C-level executives can join their queer brothers and sisters by encouraging other employees to stand up for their rights, as well.

SOGIE-inclusive workplaces aren’t a far-off probability. Instead of waiting for the passage of the SOGIE bill for a progressive and inclusive culture, you can take even the smallest of steps to make a huge difference. And it starts with spreading awareness for SOGIE and LGBTQIA+ discrimination.

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