This month, the National Democratic Institute is celebrating Pride! In support of NDI’s commitment to increasing the inclusion of marginalized populations in political processes, we’re highlighting the essential work of partners who are at the forefront fighting for greater levels of equality, shifting norms and perceptions, and reducing barriers to political participation of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex (LGBTQI+) communities.
NDI interviewed members of the Philippine Anti-Discrmination Alliance of Youth Leaders (PANTAY), a national network of young Filipinos fighting for equality, dignity and respect for all Filipinos regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity and expressions, and sex characteristics. PANTAY is composed of diverse youth organizations such as student councils, community groups, and national alliances all seeking to advance human rights, gender equality, and non-violence.
Describe some of the ways that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex (LGBTQI+) people in your country are participating politically. What challenges or barriers to political participation remain?
The LGBTQI+ community is vibrant in the Philippines. Despite not being legally recognized under the Social Reform and Poverty Alleviation Act of 1998, the LGBTQI+ community has actively organized and built movements. LGBTQI+ individuals and organizations lobby for progressive reforms for the community and many members of the community have run for local and national government positions.
While there is no law that prohibits LGBTQI+ candidates to vie for electoral positions, LGBTQI+ candidates and politicians do not necessarily take up political platforms that cater to the community. The Philippine political sphere is still traditional and patriarchal. Adding to this, there remains a lack of national legislation that protects members of the community from sexual orientation and gender identity-based discrimination and recognize LGBTQI+ rights as human rights.
How is your organization working to address these barriers/challenges and to eliminate discrimination against LGBTQI+ people in your country?
As a network of youth advocates, PANTAY actively participates in lobbying for local and national legislation that protects the rights and promotes the welfare of LGBTQI+ communities. To become effective policy advocates, PANTAY builds and strengthens relationships with fellow progressive activists, individuals, and organizations. PANTAY and its member organizations also conduct educational discussions in communities to address misconceptions, empower citizens, and recruit and organize new members.
As the world continues to battle COVID-19 over a year later, has the pandemic presented any opportunities for your organization and/or for LGBTQI+ people in your country?
The COVID-19 pandemic required PANTAY to quickly restrategize on lobbying and retool the training modules to adapt to the digital space and digital organizing. Despite being quarantined and without physical connections, PANTAY was able to strengthen and expand its network of organizations by maintaining regular online communications and activities among its members. PANTAY was also able to send more members to represent the network and act as resource speakers on various meetings and activities given most of these meetings were conducted online.
What does Pride mean to you and/or your organization?
PANTAY believes that Pride is both a celebration of equality and diversity, and a protest for human rights. It is the bond we share with those who have lived and fought before us, and our commitment for those who are yet to be born.
From the Babaylan (pre-colonial spiritual leaders who were either women or feminized men allowed to marry fellow men) to the modern LGBTQI+, queer Filipinos have long existed and continue to take up space. We believe the virtues of Pride, including equality and acceptance, are historically and innately embedded in the Filipino people.
In the past year, can you briefly share a success story from your organization’s contribution to strengthening the LGBTQI+ movement in your country?
PANTAY has contributed to the strengthening of the LGBTQI+ movement in the Philippines in a number of ways. We organized the “Students for Equality Network'' which brings together LGBTQI+ communities and allied student organizations to collectively work for the passage of LGBTQI+-inclusive local and national policies and legislations. During the pandemic, we hosted digital events entitled Queerantine Sessions for LGBTQI+ communities to continue to collectively advocate and established online groups such as the Balur Kanlungan Facebook group to support each other during the global health crisis. This last year PANTAY has also focused its attention on developing and strengthening the capacities of the next generation of LGBTQI+ leaders, conducting online information sessions through #PANTAYTalks as well as training of trainers and paralegal training.
PANTAY is funded through NDI’s Equal Rights in Action Fund, which supports local organizations around the world who work to promote and defend the human rights of marginalized groups.
NDI is a non-profit, non-partisan, non-governmental organization that works in partnership around the world to strengthen and safeguard democratic institutions, processes, norms and values to secure a better quality of life for all. NDI envisions a world where democracy and freedom prevail, with dignity for all.