(Manila, June 22, 2017) – Students across the Philippines experience bullying and discrimination in school because of their sexual orientation and gender identity, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. While Philippine law provides protections against discrimination and exclusion in schools, lawmakers and school administrators need to take steps to ensure they are fully implemented.
The 68-page report, “‘Just Let Us Be’: Discrimination Against LGBT Students in the Philippines,” documents the range of abuses against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) students in secondary school. It details widespread bullying and harassment, discriminatory policies and practices, and an absence of supportive resources that undermine the right to education under international law and put LGBT youth at risk.
“LGBT students in the Philippines are often the targets of ridicule and even violence,” said Ryan Thoreson, a fellow in the LGBT rights program at Human Rights Watch. “And in many instances, teachers and administrators are participating in this mistreatment instead of speaking out against discrimination and creating classrooms where everybody can learn.”
Human Rights Watch conducted in-depth interviews and discussions with 98 students and 46 parents, teachers, counselors, administrators, service providers, and experts on education in 10 cities in Luzon and the Visayas. LGBT students said that existing protections are irregularly or incompletely implemented, and that secondary school policies and practices often facilitate discrimination and fail to provide LGBT students with information and support.
Discrimination Against LGBT Students in the Philippines
Yet Human Rights Watch’s research shows that LGBT students still encounter physical bullying, verbal harassment, sexual assault, and cyberbullying in schools. Many students were not aware of anti-bullying policies or did not know where to seek help if they were persistently bullied.
“They say that gays are the main focus of HIV,” said Jonas E., a 17-year-old gay boy in high school in Mandaue City. “I’m a bit ashamed of that, because I was once in section where I’m the only gay, and they kept pointing at me.” Virtually none of the students interviewed had received LGBT-inclusive sexuality education, leaving them ill-equipped to navigate relationships and keep themselves safe.