Celebrating Pride Month: EU’s commitment to equality and economic progress

NOTES FROM THE EU DELEGATION - Luc Véron - The Philippine Star

June marks the global celebration of Pride month, dedicated to honoring the diverse experiences and contributions of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer, asexual (LGBTIQA+) persons. The European Union (EU) Delegation and the Philippines join forces to commemorate this occasion, applauding the advocates who promote LGBTQIA+ human rights and foster inclusivity, tolerance and a society rooted in respect.

The EU’s ‘Pride Heroes’ campaign aims to highlight the exceptional work of those who have dedicated their lives to advancing the rights of LGBTQIA+ persons. One notable individual honored is Mela Habijan, the first Miss Trans-Global, a transgender Filipina writer and LGBTQIA+ activist.

The EU has long recognized that the protection and advancement of fundamental rights are essential to its core values. In a significant milestone, the EU adopted its first ever LGBTIQA+ Equality Strategy for the period 2020 to 2025 with four key objectives: addressing discrimination against LGBTIQA+ people, ensuring their safety, promoting inclusive societies and championing equality worldwide.

The EU advocates for equality and equity, including for LGBTIQIA+ persons wherever it is present. It firmly believes in the right for everyone to express their identity without facing discrimination, harassment, persecution or violence based on their sexual orientation, gender identity or expression.

The role of early education in promoting inclusiveness and tolerance, particularly through comprehensive sex education, is crucial. The EU recognizes the significance of comprehensive sex education as an indispensable path toward inclusivity, even though it can be a challenging endeavor. Comprehensive sex education goes beyond merely providing information about reproductive health and contraception. It encompasses a broader understanding of human sexuality, relationships, consent and gender identity. In support of these efforts, the EU actively collaborates with organizations like Community and Family Services International in Pasay City, Metro Manila, to promote and implement comprehensive sex education initiatives.

In the EU, efforts to promote comprehensive sex education vary across its own member-states. While some countries integrate inclusive and comprehensive approaches into their education systems, others still face challenges and resistance. However, the EU urges member-states to provide age-appropriate, inclusive and unbiased information about sexuality and relationships to all young people.

While the Philippines has taken steps towards recognizing the dignity and equality of all individuals, challenges persist, and discrimination remains a reality.

One pressing issue is the passage of the Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Expression (SOGIE) bill, which aims to prohibit all forms of discrimination based on SOGIE. This bill has been discussed in the Philippine Congress for over two decades. I hope it will become a law soon. Several local government units (LGUs) have made significant strides in promoting LGBTQIA+ rights by enacting local ordinances specifically addressing Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Expression (SOGIE). Quezon City, in particular, stands out as a trailblazer in this regard.

Embracing equality, including SOGIE equality, is not only a moral imperative but also a smart economic strategy. Countries like the Philippines have championed SOGIE equality and witnessed its positive impact on their economy. By fostering an inclusive environment that respects and protects the rights of LGBTQIA+ individuals, the Philippines has harnessed innovation, creativity, and entrepreneurship. This commitment to diversity has unlocked tremendous potential, fuelling economic growth by tapping into the diverse talents and ideas of all citizens.

International corporations, including EU firms active in the Philippines, have recognized the importance of embracing SOGIE equality. They understand that diversity and inclusion in the workplace lead to enhanced productivity, attract top talent and contribute to long-term success. By creating a culture that celebrates and supports LGBTQIA+ employees, these companies have not only improved their bottom line but have also become role models of progress and inclusivity.

In recent years, there has been an increased emphasis on dialogue and pastoral care towards LGBTQIA+ individuals within the Catholic Church. Pope Francis, in particular, has encouraged the Church to be more accepting and welcoming of LGBTQIA+ individuals. He famously remarked, “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?” Various Catholic organizations and individuals, including theologians, priests and laypeople, have been actively advocating for greater acceptance of LGBTQIA+ individuals and their rights within the Church. Some Catholic universities and colleges have established LGBTQIA+ resource centers, providing support and resources for LGBTQIA+ students, staff and faculty.

On the 24th of June, I will proudly stand alongside Mela Habijan, numerous advocates and activists and countless others in Quezon City as we march for the rights of every individual to live authentically, without fear, discrimination or prejudice. There is still much work to be done. Our presence, whatever our own orientation, serves as a powerful symbol of unity and determination in the ongoing fight for equality and acceptance. Together, we advocate for a world where everyone can embrace their true selves and be treated with dignity and respect. The EU’s motto “United in Diversity” serves as a timely and poignant reminder that all persons, regardless of their identity, relationships and self-perceptions, are inherently free and equal in dignity and rights. It underscores the fundamental principle that diversity should be celebrated and embraced, fostering a society where everyone can thrive and be treated with fairness and respect. The EU’s commitment to unity amidst diversity reflects the universal principles of human rights and equality, promoting a world where every person’s inherent worth is recognized and protected. Malakas na sigaw para sa Karangalan, Karapatan at Kalayaan!

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Follow EU Ambassador Luc Véron on Twitter @EUAmbPH

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