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Bahaghari Center tackles LGBTQI inclusion in the workplace in FOX Phl’s Inclusion Week

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Bahaghari Center for SOGIE Research, Education and Advocacy Inc. (Bahaghari Center) discussed for FOX Networks Group Philippines LGBTQI inclusion in the workplace, while also touching on ivtersectionalities of “inclusion” issues – e.g. when talking of LGBTQI “minoritization”, HIV is an issue that ought not to be ignored.

The company’s Inclusion Week is a five-day campaign in which all employees under FOX are given access to forums and talks regarding the topic of diversity and inclusion. The goal, said MarieLuisa Cuyugan, is “really… to enlighten/educate every FOX employee about inclusion/diversity especially in the workplace. And how being inclusive and accepting is progressive and productive for everyone.”

Speaking at the gathering, Michael David C. Tan, executive director of Bahaghari Center – and concurrent editor in chief of Outrage Magazine – said that LGBTQI-related, as well as HIV-related workplace discrimination is “actually common in the Philippines.”

Up to 30% of LGBTI people in the Philippines reported being harassed, bullied or discriminated while at work because of their SOGIE. “This is why companies need to start becoming inclusive,” said Michael David C. Tan of Bahaghari Center.

Michael, himself, recalled a personal workplace-related discriminatory experience because of his being gay. After finishing Bachelor of Arts (Communication Studies) from the University of Newcastle in NSW in Australia, he returned to look for work in the Philippines. In one of the first companies he considered, an ad agency, the female HR officer told him that he is well qualified, but “that they will only hire me if I changed the way I presented myself. She said – and I quote – I was too effeminate for them. I needed to hide my being gay.”

Michael said that – sadly – this is common, with Outrage Magazine getting reports and reporting on LGBTQI-related issues in the workplace.

In 2004, for instance, a gay teacher was fired after the school he worked for found out he married his gay partner.

There are factories that hire lesbians to do a man’s job; but with less pay because they are women.

In 2014, Mara La Torre filed a complaint against her employer. She was refused entry to the female washroom and to the female sleeping quarters of a BPO company.

And in 2017, Jollibee was forced to apologize to Bunny Cadag for discriminating against them.

Specifically pertaining HIV-related discrimination, Stephen Christian Quilacio discussed the case of Renato Nocos, who – in 2014 – was fired by Ricky Reyes as a beautician. When he filed a complaint for illegal dismissal at the National Labor Relations Commission, Renato said he was fired because he is HIV-positive. Before he was fired, he had to take a leave for a few month. When he returned, he said Ricky asked him what was wrong with him. Renato disclosed his HIV status. And he was fired.

“In February, the Human Rights Watch released a report that found HIV-related workplace discrimination in the Philippines,” Stephen Christian Quilacio said. “This includes refusal to hire, unlawful firing, and forced resignation of people with HIV. HRW also found that workers with HIV often don’t seek justice.”

Renato’s case is actually common in the Philippines. Based on reports we receive in Outrage Magazine, there are other similar cases. There’s an OFW who was deported by a Middle Eastern country after they found out he has HIV. Before he was sent home, he was jailed in the middle of the desert. There’s an applicant for overseas employment whose blood was tested for HIV without his consent. There are BPOs that require applicants to take HIV test even if this is banned by law. And there are companies whose insurance does not cover HIV-related illnesses.

“In February, the Human Rights Watch released a report that found HIV-related workplace discrimination in the Philippines,” Stephen said. “This includes refusal to hire, unlawful firing, and forced resignation of people with HIV. HRW also found that workers with HIV often don’t seek justice.”

Also, in total, up to 30% of LGBTI people in the Philippines reported being harassed, bullied or discriminated while at work because of their SOGIE. “And this is only those who reported,” said Michael.

Surprisingly, a study done in Wisconsin in August found that 61% of successful companies had one or more LGBT persons in a top leadership position.

“This is why companies need to start becoming inclusive… starting with considering practical recommendations,” Michael said.

These include:

  1. Formalize LGBTQI recognition by including SOGIE in the company handbook
  2. Hire people no matter their SOGIE
  3. Promote people based on merit, not SOGIE
  4. Allow LGBTQI employees to organize
  5. Train staff on SOGIE
  6. Establish official complaint procedure in place for LGBTQI discrimination cases
  7. Tackle other LGBTQI realities – like inability to marry and denial of insurance due to HIV
  8. Educate PLHIVs of their rights as workers
  9. Broaden efforts related to sexuality and reproductive health of employees

“I believe we do not have to sue just to stress the point that stigma and discrimination have to stop,” Stephen said.

“Being truly inclusive can be done,” Michael said. “But we need everyone’s help.”

NEWSMAKERS

Bahaghari Center head, Disney Aguila, trains HIV hub on Deaf issues, basic FSL

Mx Disney Aguila, co-executive director of Bahaghari Center for SOGIE Research, Education and Advocacy, Inc. (Bahaghari Center), helmed a training of Hearing people who work in HIV advocacy from My Hub Cares (MHC).

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With HIV service providers still predominantly coming from the Hearing community, it is “just right to make them more aware of the need to be sensitive to the issues of Deaf Filipinos”.

So said Mx Disney Aguila, co-executive director of Bahaghari Center for SOGIE Research, Education and Advocacy, Inc. (Bahaghari Center), as she helmed a training of Hearing people who work in HIV advocacy from My Hub Cares (MHC).

“Deaf people, including Deaf LGBTQIA people, are also at risk for HIV infection, and yet existing HIV efforts often exclude them,” said Aguila, who enumerated – among others – the lack of Filipino Sign Language (FSL) interpreters in HIV facilities, absence of FSL-sensitive IEC materials on HIV, et cetera.

Aside from basic FSL lessons, Mx Aguila also gave lectures on specific issues faced by the Deaf community when trying to access HIV testing, and – if one tested HIV positive – access treatment, care and support services.

For Ico Rodolfo Johnson, who helms MHC, it may be cliché, but “we need to make real the saying that no one should be left behind.” In HIV-related efforts, this includes “persons with disability, such as Deaf people, who need to be included in our efforts.”

In the end, said Mx Aguila, “we really need to do more to ensure we’re truly inclusive… and that’s exactly what we’re doing with these trainings.”

To invite Mx Disney Aguila for talks on Deaf LGBTQIA issues and on inclusive development, email info@bahagharicenter.org, or directly contact her via Facebook.

For more information on the inclusive HIV service delivery of My Hub Cares, head to Unit 607 Tycoon Center, Pearl Drive, Ortigas Center, Pasig City; call 0917 187 2273; or visit their Facebook page.

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‘Red Lives’ reading slated on June 29 to shed light on experiences of people infected, affected by HIV

To shed light on the experiences of people infected and affected by HIV particularly in the Philippines, Bahaghari Center for SOGIE Research, Education and Advocacy, Inc. and Outrage Magazine scheduled an online launch cum book reading of “Red Lives”.

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To shed light on the experiences of people infected and affected by HIV particularly in the Philippines, Bahaghari Center for SOGIE Research, Education and Advocacy, Inc. and Outrage Magazine scheduled an online launch cum book reading of “Red Lives”.

Dubbed “Beyond the pages”, the book reading is slated on June 29, 2023 at 6:00PM via Google Meet.

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This is done in partnership with Mujer-LGBT Organization, Project Red Ribbon, Side B Philippines, My Hub Cares, and Positive Elders Philippines, Inc.

UNTOLD STORIES

“Red Lives” – written by Outrage Magazine editor in chief Michael David Tan – contains “creatively retold” stories from within the HIV community, from both infected with HIV and affected by it.

For Stephen Christian P. Quilacio, HIV project manager of Bahaghari Center and concurrent Mindanao correspondent of Outrage Magazine, “‘Red Lives’ holds immense significance to me. This book serves as a powerful testament to the experiences, struggles, and triumphs of individuals infected and affected by HIV. It provides a platform for their voices – for OUR voices – to be heard, acknowledged, and understood,” he said. “For Bahaghari Center, Red Lives is not just a book; it is a symbol of resilience, empowerment, and hope. It amplifies the voices of the local HIV community, provides a platform for their stories to be shared, and challenges us to create a world free from discrimination and judgment.”

Quilacio – who lives with HIV – added: “Storytelling encourages us to speak truth to power, to take chances, and to support fresh, different viewpoints. We are not alone, the ‘Red Lives’ serves to remind us.”

COMMUNITY THEATER

But “Red Lives” actually hopes to broaden the HIV discourse in the Philippines. To start, it goes beyond statistics and medical jargons, and delve into the personal narratives of those living with HIV, and are affected by HIV.

“This way, it humanizes the HIV community, shedding light on the challenges they face, the resilience they embody, and the discrimination they encounter. By sharing these stories, the book hopes to foster empathy, compassion, and a deeper understanding of the realities faced by the community,” said Aaron Moises C. Bonete, administrative officer of Bahaghari Center and concurrent managing editor of Outrage Magazine.

The stories in “Red Lives” are also produced via theater advocacy, so that “the stories are brought straight to the people,” Bonete added. This way, “we expose people to viewpoints that we may not have previously considered or been aware of in the field of HIV. Hopefully this teaches more people to be more empathetic to those whose lives were touched by HIV.”

For Bonete, “theater can contribute to our understanding of what it means to be human, and staging ‘Red Lives’ humanizes real HIV stories. These stories need to be shared, listened to, and passed on.”

Bonete added: “With the book reading, we hope to create a safe, affirming, and inclusive environment for dialogue and reflection, we aim to break the stigma and foster a deeper understanding of the challenges that serve as an opportunity to engage with diverse perspectives and foster empathy among participants while promoting a community that stands in solidarity with those affected by HIV.”

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BIG ADVOCACY

“Red Lives” is, in the end, “a call to action for individuals, organizations, and society at large,” said Quilacio. “It is a reminder of the importance of supporting and advocating for the rights and well-being of people living with HIV, and even those affected by it. By coming together, we can challenge misconceptions, dispel myths, and work towards creating a more inclusive and compassionate society.”

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Bahaghari Center, Outrage Mag publish book creatively retelling stories from PH HIV community

Bahaghari Center for SOGIE Research, Education and Advocacy, Inc. and Outrage Magazine released a book, “Red Lives”, that author Michael David C. Tan said contains the “creative retelling of stories from the local HIV community.”

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To give face to people infected and affected by HIV, Bahaghari Center for SOGIE Research, Education and Advocacy, Inc. and Outrage Magazine released a book, “Red Lives”, that author Michael David C. Tan said contains the “creative retelling of stories from the local HIV community.”

The Philippines now has 54 new HIV cases per day. In March 2023 alone, 2,078 news HIV cases were reported, a 35% increase to the number for the same period last year. Majority (97%) were male, with most of them belonging to the 15-34 age group (including 48% from the 25-34 age group, and 31% from the 15-24 age group. Notably, 125 of the cases reported in March involved 10-19 year old Filipinos, with 103 of them infected through sexual contact.

“Year-on-year, the number of Filipinos getting infected with HIV has been increasing from ‘only’ 13 per day in 2013 to 41 in 2022 to the 54 new HIV cases we now have per day,” Tan said, “and with younger Filipinos the most affected sector.”

For Tan, it is “important to stress this since HIV still kills… at least in contexts like the Philippines.”

Also in March, 57 deaths were reported due to any cause among people with HIV; since 1984 when DOH started reporting on this, 6,474 deaths were already reported due to any cause among people with HIV in the country. Sadly, only over half (67,194 of 114,008) of the total number of PLHIVs take ARVs; meaning, not everyone has access to life-saving medication.

All these numbers are important, Tan said, as they “show us the worsening HIV situation in the country.” However, “these numbers do not tell the full story because all Filipinos living with HIV, and their loved ones looking after them have stories to tell.”

“Red Lives”, Tan said, hopes to highlight some of these stories.

“Red Lives” has sections on: finding out one’s HIV status; looking after minors with HIV; dying and death; HIV for Deaf LGBTQIA people; transgender-specific HIV-related issues; treatment, care and support; and loving beyond HIV.

“Part of the fight against HIV lies in hearing of, and hopefully understanding of the stories of people,” Tan said.

Tan aded: “We all should ask: Why do people engage in behaviors that put them at risk for HIV infection? What are their experiences when they test HIV-positive? How do people around them react? Aside from their medical condition, what continue to be challenges for PLHIVs? And with their status, what continues to inspire them to do better in life?”

For Tan, “answers to such questions put a face on a social issue, thereby helping us understand why the country’s HIV situation is where it is now; what we can do to better the situation; and… what we can similarly do to better the lives of those infected AND affected by HIV.”

With “Red Lives”, the intention is “to start telling these stories so that, hopefully, they’d not only be heard but eventually be listened to.”

COPIES OF “Red Lives” ARE AVAILABLE FROM BAHAGHARI CENTER, AND OUTRAGE MAGAZINE.
CONTACT 09287854244 or 09162727715, OR EMAIL info@outragemag.com.

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