We are once again grimly reminded of how far we still need to go to fight for SOGIE (Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Expression) equality in the Philippines. On June 8, Bandera News TV – Cotabato published a report on an incident in Ampatuan, Maguindanao where still-to-be-identified individuals forcibly and publicly shaved the hair of LGBTQIA+ members.
The report included photos that showed a number of onlookers, including men in combat uniform laughing in the background. The LGBTQIA+ individuals were left with haphazard bald patches and random tufts of hair instead of clean shaves. After the haircuts, photos showed that they were brought in front of a crowd.
According to Bandera News TV – Cotabato, the reason behind the act is the claim that being an LGBTQIA+ person goes against Islamic beliefs. Located within the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), Ampatuan is predominantly Muslim. The report has since garnered mixed reactions, with some stating that publicly humiliating the individuals was inhumane while others (homophobes from the sound of it) are convinced that they were rightly “given a lesson.”
In response to the outrage, a netizen who claims to be a citizen of Ampatuan explained what led to the incident. She claimed that the parents of one of the individuals requested help from authorities to bring back their “daughter” who was living with their “tomboy” partner. Confronted by authorities, the person’s partner was asked to name their other companions. They admitted that they had two friends whom the netizen also called “tomboy.” The netizen claimed that the parents of the individuals agreed to have their heads shaved instead of having them pay a fine for being in a “same-sex” relationship.
— Metro Manila Pride #SulongVAKLASH (@mmprideorg) June 9, 2021
LGBTQIA+ rights groups U.P. Babaylan, Bahaghari and Metro Manila Pride have since called on the Commission of Human Rights to investigate this possible “harassment” case. The groups also reaffirmed the call to hasten the passage of the proposed SOGIESC-based Anti-Discrimination Act.
“The incitement to violence against LGBTQIA+ persons—cast as transgressors for identities that do not fit a strict moral code—is often excused by faith-based groups and religious individuals as the exercise of ‘religious freedom.’ Freedom of faith must not trample on the rights and lives of LGBTQIA+ persons, who are often the target of vicious acts in the name of discipline,” stated Metro Manila Pride.
In some countries such as the U.K., cutting someone else’s hair without their consent can be filed as assault. It is appalling that an act that could be considered a violent abuse of rights is deemed a righteous lesson by some. It is appalling to see how parading an LGBTQIA+ member’s loss of autonomy is entertainment for others. It is appalling to know that so many Filipinos still think that we deserve to be persecuted for who we are.
How many wake-up calls does the Philippine government need to decide on whether or not we deserve to be protected?