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Filipino judges learn how to protect LGBT rights

Seminar organized by Philippine Judicial Academy and the US's Department of Justice teaches judges about LGBT rights
Judge Hon. Geraldine Faith Econg presenting at the Roundtable Discussion: Knowledge Sharing on the Protection of the Rights of the LGBT Sector for judges in the Philippines

Twelve regional and family court judges from all over the Philippines learnt how to better protect the rights of LGBT citizens at a roundtable discussion sponsored by the US Department of Justice last week in Manila

During the one-day seminar titled Roundtable Discussion: Knowledge Sharing on the Protection of the Rights of the LGBT Sector, community activists and experts spoke about the human rights of sexual orientation and gender identity (sogi) minorities in the Philippines.

Raymond Alikpala, legal counsel for Ladlad (the world's only LGBT political party) explained the Yogyakarta Principles (international human rights precepts around sogi) and gave examples of groundbreaking judicial decisions from the US and India.

The group discussed recent landmark rulings in the Philippines including the 2010 decision to overturn the Commission on Election's non-acreditation of Ladlad and the legal gender change of an intersex person.

'This is a historic initiative of the judicial branch and completes the contributions of the other two branches - Congress and executive - towards making the Philippines at least legally able to provide some equality and justice for LGBTs,' said Oscar Atadero of Progay Philippines, who also presented at the seminar.

'Even if the entire branch cannot make huge changes, we are indeed happy some judges in the group actually said they are willing to become judicial activists on this respect.'

Atadero spoke about everyday human rights violations experienced by LGBT Filipinos. He cited recent research about violence experienced by lesbian, bisexual and transgender Filipinas.

Judge Geraldine Faith Econg, member of the Supreme Court's committee on gender responsiveness, discussed the few Philippine laws that benefit LGBT people and legal academic Professor Myrna Feliciano discussed significant court cases involving LGBT individuals.

An Anti-Discrimination Bill that could protect LGBT people from frequent discrimination in the workplace, education and in businesses, has stalled in Philippine congress for 13 years.

The seminar was arranged following a focus group discussion with the Philippine Judicial Academy (PhilJA) and the overseas program of the US's Department of Justice in September.  

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