Malls should provide gender-neutral bathrooms, says lawmaker

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 16 2019 10:33 AM | Updated as of Aug 16 2019 11:00 AM

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MANILA - A gender-neutral bathroom would help prevent members of the LGBTQ community from running into "unnecessary risks", a lawmaker said on Friday.

Bataan Rep. Geraldine Roman said a transgender woman who uses a men's bathroom opens herself up to unnecessary risks.

"What I'm worried about if you enter a men's bathroom, there are men who could be quite aggressive whether verbally or physically. You're exposing yourself to unnecessary risks...mas malakas sila physically baka bastusin ka pa, baka bugbugin or what have you," Roman said.

On Tuesday, trans woman Gretchen Custodio Diez, 28, was barred by a janitress from using the women's comfort room at a mall in Quezon City. She was detained after the mall's management filed an unjust vexation complaint against her for going live on Facebook while the incident was unfolding.

She was later released and in turn, filed a complaint against the shopping mall for violating the city ordinance.

Roman said the mall could also be held liable for the incident.

"At first glance, I would say it could be responsible because there is an existing gender fair ordinance in Quezon City where the mall is located," the lawmaker said.

Roman, referring to Quezon City's 2014 anti-discrimination ordinance, said the ordinance requires malls to provide gender-neutral bathrooms for members of the LGBT community to use.

"Apparently, this was not complied with," she said. "Now, because they did not have a gender-neutral bathroom they could also be charged with not implementing a gender and development program which is also provided for in the Quezon City ordinance."

The management of Farmers Plaza at the Araneta Center Cubao apologized to Diez and the LGBTQ community on Wednesday.

Roman also dismissed as "out of this world" that the incident was planned to reiterate the need to push for the passage of the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity and Expression (SOGIE) Equality bill.

"To begin with, I doubt if Gretchen would like to expose herself to so much humiliation just to prove a point," Roman said.

Regardless, the lawmaker said it is still necessary to pass the SOGIE Equality Bill which gained an overwhelming support in the lower house in the last Congress.

She, however, expressed disappointment with senators who did not tackle the bill on the floor.

"If they have strong arguments about the SOGIE Equality Bill why weren't they brave enough to explain their arguments in an intelligent debate on the floor, and why did they have to employ delaying tactics? This is what happened during the 17th Congress in the Senate. Nagpapalista sila, hindi naman sisipot sa takdang oras tapos naantala hanggang mamatay na 'yung bill," she lamented.

The bill has been refilled, she said. She also hopes that it will be tackled by Senate.

"Maganda po na pinapakinggan natin ang lahat ng sides at makahanap tayo ng isang measure, isang batas na tutugon sa pangangailangan ng isang sektor ng lipunan na bagama't ito ay minorya lamang, ay kapwa Pilipino nating at kapwa tao na may karapatang dapat ipagtanggol," she said.

She also appealed to President Rodrigo Duterte to certify the bill sa urgent.

"Mahal na pangulo, sana po bigyan nyo rin ng pansin ang isang sektor ng lipunan na nananawagan din sa inyo upang sila ay proteksiyunan. Alam ko may puso rin ang pangulo para sa ating mga kapatid na LGBT," she added.