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Gay group join Reproductive Health Bill debate in the Philippines

Bill would provide free condoms in the Catholic nation with rapidly rising HIV prevalence
The Philippines' House of Representatives

LGBT activists have joined a debate on a proposed Reproductive Health Bill in the Philippines that is raging almost as hard as the typhoon that hit the country last week.

If passed the bill will provide citizens with government-funded contraceptives, contributing to the fight against HIV and maternal and child ill-health in the country.

Contraceptives are controversial in the 80% Catholic country however, and bishops lead a rally of thousands on Saturday urged the rejection of the bill. Archbishop Socrates Villegas said that the bill promotes ‘a culture of contraception’ and ‘looks at babies as reasons for poverty... a mistake and not a blessing’, as reported by the Huffington Post.

The spokesperson for Progressive Organization of Gays (ProGay) Clyde Pumihic commented on banners at the rally on Saturday which read ‘No to safe sex, yes to saved sex’. He said:

‘With all due respect to the opinions of the anti-RH [Repoductive Health] camp, we find the call to stop safe sex and substitute it for what some religious radicals call "saved sex" very irresponsible.

‘It is very dangerous to preach that sex without protection is saved, and this will only make sure that transmission of human immunodeficiency virus will be very effective even among faithful partners.’

The Philippines is one of only seven countries in the world where HIV rates are rapidly rising.

‘For the month of May alone, the Department of Health registered 273 new infections, of which 4 out of 5 cases were through homosexual contact, making the number of cases in the country rise to 9,669,’ said ProGay Philippines.

President Aquino supports the bill, as does the UN and business groups - both saying that the Philippines needs to address population growth so it can deal with the country’s poverty.

ProGay Philippines support the bill but are disappointed in a last-minute wording change that removes ‘sexual orientation’ from the non-discrimination part of the bill.

‘We have suffered so much already after this president kept ignoring our pleas to fast track the anti discrimination bill, and now we know why. This administration is dedicated in blocking all efforts to legislate LGBT human rights,’ Pumihic said.

The House of Representatives will vote on the bill, a version of which was first introduced 10 years ago, tomorrow (Tuesday 7 August).

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