In support of the SOGIE Bill: How the USG, ACG, and PARADA are working towards gender equality

With the decision of the House of Representatives to approve House Bill 4982 or the “Act Prohibiting Discrimination on the Basis of Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity or Expression (SOGIE)”, DLSU continues to increase its efforts in supporting genuine gender equality and development. The formation of LGBTQ+ student-based organization PARADA and implementation of programs in coordination with the USG are evident of this.

Overview of the SOGIE Equality Bill

Now headed to the Senate, the SOGIE Bill aims to protect citizens from discrimination on the basis of sexual identity and preference. It covers several factors such as verbal harassment against members of the LGBT community with the exception of religious expression. It also prevents unmerited judgement by illegalizing the disclosure of a person’s sexual identity without consent.

Furthermore, establishments such as hospitals and schools are expected to accommodate clients regardless of their gender orientation. The SOGIE Bill also protects gender expression through combating the past notion of it being a mental disorder. In relation to this, forced psychological or physical examinations related to sexuality are now prohibited.

DLSU as an institution has already achieved a level of acceptance for the LGBTQ+ community. USG President Mikee De Vega also believes that the new Anti-Discrimination Bill will further enhance the presence of the LGBTQ+ community in the University. “Given that this is also [going to be] a law, it means that the University will be bound to enact the provisions of this law, which would further ensure their protection,” she expresses.

A look into PARADA

Founded in 2010 as the Queer Archers’ Alliance, PARADA was created to “provide a family of LGBT members”. It has a clear mission: to become a beacon of hope for members by helping them understand themselves better. Its advocacies include looking for solutions to common struggles among members of the community such as HIV awareness, mental health, and equal rights.

Through its strategy of educating stakeholders, PARADA aims to increase awareness of these challenges. As PARADA President Billie Lorica states, “there is a difference between ignorance and [being] uninformed.”

Unfortunately, PARADA has yet to be officially recognized. Unlike authorized organizations, it has no access to privileges such as funding and support from the administration. The story of PARADA’s accreditation traces its roots to ID 116’s frosh walk. The founding members planned to submit an application for accreditation. However, strict background checks made it hard to assemble the documents.

Lorica also mentions the sudden implementation of a fee for application forms which used to be free. “We learned that in the last minute and then the bill accumulated to a big amount because obviously there were [a] hundred plus members and it was around a hundred plus pesos per form,” she presses. “That was during the term break so it is going to be hard for us to collect the money right away and submit all of the papers for processing, so that was the downfall,” she added.

On accrediting organizations

In an interview with The LaSallian, Office of Student Leadership Involvement, Formation, and Empowerment (SLIFE) Director Mr. Sofronio Lingatong Jr. explains that SLIFE follows the guidelines present in the Student Activities Manual. The office requires organizations to submit seven documents and present it to the accreditation committee for a background check. The reason is that organizations must have proper objectives, services, and a unique contribution to the student life.

“We just want to make sure that there’s identification in terms of existence with other organizations–in terms of purpose, in terms of providing services. They have to present their unique contribution to the student life in DLSU,” he shares.

When asked about any complications that PARADA might encounter during their application for accreditation, Lingatong was unable to identify any because the underground group has yet to apply. However, he reassures that their agenda is about respecting the student charter.

Lingatong mentions that like other student groups, PARADA will undergo the same process to be recognized as an official organization. He points out that the likelihood for PARADA to be authorized is relatively high “as long as they will not duplicate any of the purposes of an existing organization, and if they can ensure sustainability.”

In addition, SLIFE also decides whether or not an organization will be granted the accreditation status based on the merit of documents, goal of the organization, and the sustainability of the organization.

Based from the meetings of the Committee on National Issues and Concerns (CoNIC) that Lingatong has attended, he also added that the University administration is starting to evaluate whether or not there is a need to build restrooms to accommodate the needs of the LGBT community. However, he emphasizes that constructing a separate restroom is not practical and would entail additional costs for the University. Consequently, he thinks that it is best not to construct new comfort rooms. SLIFE wants LGBT members to be treated normally and as a part of the Lasallian community, creating different restrooms may be considered a form of discrimination.

Prospective events and activities

Last April 3, the Arts College Government (ACG) in coordination with PARADA opened the annual Arts Fest with “Parada: The Opening Parade”. The march was in celebration of the LGBTQ+ community and support for the SOGIE bill. This was followed by “So, Gie?”–a lecture series on sexual orientation, gender inequality, and self-expression.

In regard to this year’s Arts Fest, Lorica had positive insights to share. “I’m happy that it happened, that they were able to think of us, approach us, [and] see us as relevant,” she affirms. “You could gauge that the community wants this as well: that students whether they are queer or not want an event to happen, want this event to happen, want PARADA, need PARADA,” she reiterates.

As of today, PARADA has been offered collaborations such as facilitating LEAP classes. However, the organization still has the possibility of facing internal technicalities which can hold them back from engaging with other organizations. This leads back to the earlier problem of their current statues a non-official organization.

For the remainder of the year, PARADA no longer has any major events or programs. Nevertheless, Lorica shares that Pride Month is an event to look forward to. She hopes that there would be delegation to the big event. “If not, I’ll see what I could do with the USG to help us out or any other orgs that are willing to collaborate with us,” she concludes.

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