Laguna 3rd District representative Sol Aragones on Sunday said the recent incident involving transgender woman Gretchen Custodio Diez highlights the need to pass a SOGIE (sexual orientation, gender identity, and expression) law and should prod government to step up efforts to educate the public on SOGIE and LGBTQIA+ issues.

Diez was detained for using the female toilet in a mall in Quezon City, brought to a nearby police station, and later released after charges of unjust vexation against her were dropped.

“A law covering the entire country is needed to discourage and prevent abuses of members of the LGBTQIA+ community from Appari to Jolo.”

Aragones said she sympathizes with Diez and the many unpublicized cases of discrimination that members of the LGBTQIA+ community endure every day.

“Discrimination and abuse is everywhere and will continue unabated unless we do more to encourage society to accept and understand members of the LGBTQIA+ community,” said Aragones.

Aragones revealed that she recently filed House Bill 2211 or the SOGIE Equality Act, which seeks to provide safeguards against discrimination and abuse against the LGBTQIA+ community. The lawmaker had filed a similar measure in the 17th Congress.

Section 4 of the bill punishes persons or institutions that physically and emotionally abuse and discriminate against members of the LGBTQIA+ community by denying them access to public and private services and the use of establishments because of their sexual orientation, gender identity, or expression. 

According to the legislator, “there can be no true equality if the country will continue to tolerate and turn a blind eye to the abuses against the LGBTQIA+ community.”

A study conducted by Human Rights Watch in 2015 found that only 15% of Filipinos reside in areas covered by ordinances that bar discrimination against individuals based on their sexual orientation and gender identity or expression. 

Clearly, stressed the lawmaker, “a law covering the entire country is needed to discourage and prevent abuses of members of the LGBTQIA+ community from Appari to Jolo.”

Aragones, a former journalist before joining Congress, emphasized that while Congress is currently tackling SOGIE measures, “nothing should stop the government or even the private sector from taking a proactive approach to educating our people about SOGIE and LGBTQIA+ issues.”

“History has taught us that education and information are the greatest weapons against ignorance and prejudice, and we should use these tools to begin enlightening our citizens about these issues.” 

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