Opposition Senator Leila M. De Lima has slammed a Central Luzon-based state university for preventing six transgender students from wearing dresses during their graduation, calling it a gross violation of their human rights to freely express themselves.
De Lima, a staunch defender of human rights and the welfare of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community, condemned Tarlac State University's move to require the transgender students to wear barong tagalog as their graduation attire.
"We condemn this move to the highest level because this is a clear violation of their right to free expression," said De Lima, referring to the six transgender students who were prevented from wearing their preferred outfit in receiving their diplomas.
"This saddens me because it happened during the celebration of the LGBT Pride Month. Instead of letting students belonging to the LGBT community to celebrate one of the most memorable moments of their young lives, they were prevented from fully expressing themselves," added De Lima.
According to news reports, aside from the six transgender women, two graduating transmen and lesbian students were barred from wearing barong tagalog.
"Hindi ito dapat nangyayari, lalo pa't mayroon mga karapatan ang ating LGBT community na dapat kilalanin at irespeto nang lahat," emphasized De Lima, chairperson of the Senate Committee on Social Justice, Welfare and Rural Development.
As part of her advocacy to strengthen LGBT rights, De Lima co-authored the anti-discrimination bill, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity or expression (SOGIE). However, the 17th Congress failed to act on it.
SOGIE Equality bill, principally authored by Sen. Risa Hontiveros in the Senate, was also backed by then senators Loren Legarda, Jv Ejercito, Bam Aquino and Chiz Escudero, as well as incumbent Senators Nancy Binay, Grace Poe, Juan Miguel Zubiri, Ralph Recto, Sonny Angara and Francis Pangilinan.
De Lima also co-authored the Safe Streets and Public Spaces Act, principally authored by Hontiveros, which recently lapsed into law after President Duterte failed to act on the Senate-House bicameral conference committee report ratified in February.
Source: Senate of the Philippines