Last weekend in Manilla steps were taken towards ensuring that court judges in the Philippines are better informed about LGBT issues.
The Philippine Judicial Academy (PHILJA), supported by the overseas program of the United States Department of Justice Criminal Division, hosted a focus group about how and what judges should know about LGBT issues.
PHILJA’s chancellor, former Supreme Court judge Adolfo Azcuna, said the initiative was important because judges often have to rule on cases that affect the dignity and equality of LGBT people.
The group saw judges and LGBT leaders discuss how to make the law less discriminatory in the Philippines.
Judge Geraldine Faith A. Econg said the court should be more inclusive to same-sex couples in cases of joint property or child custody disputes.
Human rights officer at ProGay Philippines, Oscar Atadero, said that the Supreme Court should fully adopt the Yogyakarta Principles on sexual orientation and gender identity that were developed by human rights experts in Yogyakarta, Indonesia in 2006.
Claire Padilla from legal advocates Engenderights said judges should become fairer to lesbian mothers who fight for custody of their children by not making moral judgements about homosexuality.
Transgender activists brought up the Supreme Court’s 2007 decision to disallow the right of a transwoman to change the gender on her birth certificate in the Silverio versus Republic of the Philippines case.
The focus group concluded that sexual orientation and gender identity should be included in judges’ training for family courts, international law and commercial courts. And best practices on LGBT issues should be published and distributed to judges.