LGBT groups continue to face discrimination in the Philippines, and gay rights are currently a hot topic in the country.

The Philippines is a predominately Catholic country, and even though there has been an attempt for gay rights in the past, sexual harassment is a major issue.

LGBT protection against workplace discrimination, or any other form of discrimination, is being discussed in the Philippines, with the goal of promoting an honest understanding of what these people face in terms of work, marriage, adoption and health care.

In the Philippines, same-sex marriage is illegal and therefore same-sex couples cannot adopt. Over the past few years new laws were extended to protect against discrimination, but the struggle for recognition of gay rights remains.

Hate crimes, particularly against transgender people, are still a large problem. Likewise, limited employment for people who identify as LGBT  remains a major issue. Many members of the LGBT community in the Philippines feel that their physical and mental development has been affected through discrimination while in the workplace.

Legislative laws are up for discussion to help prevent violent hate crimes against the transgender community.

Many members of the LGBT community also feel emotional abuse while attending school. Some younger members want to get through school without being noticed, in fear of being discriminated against or physically attacked.

Many transgender women experienced sexual violence and rape after coming out as transgender in school.

At times, law enforcement officers refuse to help members of the LGBT community, especially as many officers are not properly trained to handle these matters and thus the problems can go unresolved or reoccur.

LGBT members of the Philippines hope for a future with gay-friendly businesses so that there can be equal opportunity for all. Furthermore, they hope for more representation in politics, proper training for police officers and an end to hate crimes toward their community.

The fight against these issues must begin in the school systems and beyond. These LGBT groups are growing up in fear and being rejected from society, and the emotional and mental toll must be stopped.

– Rachel Cannon

Sources: IGLHRC, The Wall Street Journal
Photo: Radio Australia

United States history is rife with racial and sexual discrimination. This history has shown, however, that systematic alienation of particular social groups comes with costly economic consequences.

For example, the 381 days long 1955-1956 Montgomery Bus Boycott, spurred by the arrest of Rosa Parks, reportedly ameliorated 75 percent of the city bus line’s revenue. The damage translated to approximately a loss of $3,500 per day, calculating a total loss of over $1.3 million.

It is no coincidence that as segregation was outlawed, U.S. economic growth accelerated.

Discrimination based on race, gender or sexual orientation in the U.S. business practices are still rampant today. A report from the Center for American Progress revealed the significant costs involved in discriminatory practices—an estimated $64 billion of revenue per year.

On February 24, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni signed an anti-gay law. The legislation called for a 14-year prison sentence for each initial homosexual act committed and the possibility of life imprisonment for continued homosexual relations.

In response to this discriminatory law, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim has frozen all of the Bank’s loans, totaling $90 million, to Uganda.

Kim has also harnessed the seismic forces of this bold move to address further forms of discrimination worldwide, such as sexism and racial discrimination. He stressed that discrimination in any form is not only destructive in a moral sense, but harbors the growth of economies around the world.

In a recent public statement, Kim used the negative economic impact of he marginalizing women from job opportunities as a key example. In countries with low economic participation from women, a World Bank study revealed income losses of 27 percent in the Middle East and North Africa. The same study showed that raising female employment and entrepreneurship to equal male levels could improve average income by 19 percent in South Asia and 14 percent in Latin America.

Marginalizing people based on gender, race or sexual orientation is destructive to economies. Legislation that aims to alienate potentially some of the most talented and efficient of a country’s or business’s workers is nothing short of self-mutilation on a macro scale. As Kim said, “Eliminating discrimination is not only the right thing to do; it’s also critical to ensure that we have sustained, balanced and inclusive economic growth in all societies — whether in developed or developing nations, the North or the South, America or Africa.”

– Malika Gumpangkum

Sources: The World Bank, HuffPost, Bloomberg, The Washington Post, Robert J. Walker
Photo: Economic Times

Many Chinese students place high on the rankings for international standardized tests. Recently, China came out on top for the Program of International Student Assessment which covers various subjects such as science, math and reading.

Sadly, there are a vast number of children that are completely left out of the mainstream education system in China. One of the most discriminated groups of students are those possessing disabilities.

Students with disabilities’ access to public schools is extremely lacking in part because of the hukou system. It is a national registration system that prevents migrants from moving freely throughout the country.

Citizens are given rural and urban hukou registrations. If an individual with a rural hukou registration migrates to a major urban center for work, even though they are Chinese citizens, they are denied basic social services that individuals with urban hukous can obtain.

It is unfortunately a legal discrimination.

In Beijing, over one-third of the people are migrant workers, which means one-third of the population cannot take advantage of the social services available to their neighbors. Many migrant children are unable to attend public schools in the region where their parents work because they do not possess the proper hukou registration.

Also, there seems to be an inherent bias against children with disabilities in the Chinese education system. The system divides students into two tracks: those with disabilities and those without.

Those with disabilities are denied access to certain subjects. Many students who are blind are pushed into music and massage courses even if they have the capacity to excel in other subjects.

While the system allows students with disabilities to move into the more mainstream education system as long as they meet the requirements, in many cases they are denied. The legal resources for disabled individuals who are denied access seems to be minimal at best. This is due to the murkiness of Chinese discrimination law.

While China has established schools throughout the country dedicated to teaching children with disabilities, even these come with their own form of discrimination. Many of these schools are tailored to teach children with a specific disability. Students with disabilities who do not fit within the specified category are not allowed to attend.

The result of this discrimination is that many disabled children are not afforded the opportunity to attend school. Looking at the latest international standardized tests, it is apparent that Chinese students in mainstream schools have become great achievers. It is now time for the government to afford the same resources present in mainstream education to disabled children.

It is an affront to Chinese society as a whole that many children with special needs are simply left in the dust as other students excel worldwide.

Zack Lindberg

Sources: Human Rights Watch, CNN
Photo: Education News

The Constitutional Court of the Dominican Republic has decided to strip thousands of Dominicans of Haitian descent of their citizenship, causing unruly behavior both inside and outside the country.

Latin American human rights groups are speaking out against the ruling and citing international and regional human rights models, believing the ruling to be fundamentally racist and inhuman, according to Al Jazeera.

Not only is the ruling causing issues in the Dominican Republic, but there have even been protests in New York City.  New Yorkers are, furthermore, not supportive of the annulment of citizenship of anyone born in the country to noncitizens after 1929. The New York Times reports that this decision is applicable to many as 200,000 people, mostly of Haitian decent.

Many have said that the ruling emphasized a history of racial prejudice in the country against not only Haitians, but their descendants as well.

Edward Paulino, assistant professor of history at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in Manhattan, who is Dominican-American, explains that, “Anything that’s seen as a criticism is seen as treasonous.”

Several years ago, two United Nations human rights experts described in a report a “profound and entrenched problem of racism and discrimination” against Haitians in particular, throughout the Dominican Republic.

The Dominican Republic has fought with criticism for its treatment of Haitian migrants and this ruling has brought shame upon people within the country as well as internationally. The residents are already struggling with poverty and social exclusion and it is not beneficial in any way for them to be denounced.

Throughout the ruling the United States has signed an agreement worth 184 million to improve citizen safety and promote economic growth according to Dominican Today. The agreement accompanies the new strategy by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) that is working to provide assistance to support the growth of small Dominican business and get them out of extreme poverty.

The businesses are primarily in the rural sector and USAID assists them by identifying new market opportunities.  They are also providing training and technology transfers to help such businesses produce quality products and services.

Despite this assistance, people throughout the Dominican Republic are focused on the issue of citizenship. There are tens of thousands of lives hanging in the balance and inaction is no longer an option. They are working to get out of poverty and the issue surrounding citizenship is distracting from finding the correct solutions.

Lindsey Lerner

Sources: Al Jazeera, New York Times, Dominican Today
Photo: Crowd Voice

On an average blog, an average post managed to make headlines. With over 3 million views, Linda Tirado’s blog post, “Why I Make Terrible Decisions, or, poverty thoughts,” has shed new light on poverty in America. Tirado is a wife, mother, student and employee. Her family lives below the poverty line and faces daily struggles to make ends meet.

Tirado articulates a widespread feeling that persists among families in poverty. She explains that stress, uncertainty and depression come along with financial woes. Tired of being misunderstood, Tirado took to her blog to respond to society’s misconceptions about poverty.

With cuts to food stamps occurring at the beginning of November, the welfare debate in the U.S. has recently been a hot topic. Many assume that people who are in poverty are responsible for their own bleak situation. The reality is, and Tirado makes sure to point this out, that those living in poverty were born into it and are never given the resources or the tools to get out.

Tirado’s post is written as a slightly unorganized stream of thoughts which she explains are constantly occurring in the back of her mind. She describes her average day of school, two jobs, and domestic responsibilities, while trying to keep her depression and exhaustion from getting in the way of her duties. Without knowing what will happen tomorrow, Tirado smokes a cigarette, puts her children to bed and fights on.

Tirado has received a lot of backlash because of this post. Anonymous commenters have urged her to stop having children, to not smoke cigarettes which are destroying her health, and to get a real job. It is because of these insensitive and uninformed responses that Tirado wrote her post in the first place. She explains that she had children because she had no access to affordable birth control, she smokes because she cannot afford depression and anxiety medication, and she is often turned down from jobs because she does not fit the company’s image.

There have also been positive responses to Tirado’s post. She has started a “go fund me” site and has received more than her annual salary in donations. Her post has opened doors for her to write a book and be a professional speaker. All this positive reinforcement has encouraged Tirado, and other families living in poverty, to continue searching for a light in the face of hopelessness.

The importance of Tirado’s post goes beyond her newfound opportunities. Her raw words have opened the public’s eye to the true nature of poverty. Often misconstrued as the plight of lazy and uneducated people, poverty is the result of systemic and social failure. Tirado has granted other families in poverty a platform on which they can be heard.

Alessandra Luppi

Sources: KillerMartinis, The Huffington Post, Huff Post Live
Photo: The Equity Factor

Imprisoned for Miscarrying
Last month in El Salvador, a judge sentenced 19 year-old Glenda Xiomara Cruz to prison for 10 years. Her crime? Miscarrying.

In October of 2012, Xiomara, experiencing excruciating abdominal pain and bleeding, sought medical treatment at a public hospital. Unaware that she was even pregnant, as she’d experienced no weight gain and a pregnancy test had come back negative, doctors told her she’d lost a baby. Four days later, the teenager had been reported by the hospital to the police for suspected abortion and charged with aggravated murder. A year later, she’s been sentenced to ten years in prison by a judge who told her “she should have saved her baby’s life.”

Xiomara’s unfortunate fate is the result of El Salvador’s strict abortion law. The law is so strict, in fact, that since 1998 abortions have been completely banned without any exception, even in cases of rape, fetal deformity, or if the mother’s life is at risk.

Twenty-eight year-old Maria Teresa Rivera’s story parallels Xiomara’s and further illustrates the tragic consequences of such a harsh law. Last year, she too sought medical treatment for bleeding and abdominal pain and was reported to authorities by the hospital after suffering a miscarriage. Teresa was sentenced to 40 years in prison for aggravated murder. A textile worker and her family’s main provider, going to jail meant leaving her eight year-old son in extreme poverty.

A study done by the Citizens’ Group for the Decriminalization of Abortion supports the statement that this law overwhelmingly affects those living in poverty. The study found that, since 2000, more than 200 women have been reported to the police on abortion charges — the vast majority of these women were poor, unmarried and with little education. Comparatively, not a single woman has been reported from the richer private healthcare sector — where abortions are believed to be performed regularly.

More than unfairly imprisoning women and tearing apart families, the law also has devastating consequences for women’s health. Bessy Ramirez of San Salvador enunciates one of the numerous harmful effects of the law: “I would be terrified to go a public hospital as there is no benefit of doubt given to young women, we are presumed guilty and jailed.” For poor women, however, public hospitals represent their only medical treatment option.

In addition to deterring women from seeking medical treatment, the law likely also has a role in boosting the occurrences of suicide. Health Ministry figures from 2011 identify suicide as the most common cause of death for 10-19 year-old girls; half of these girls were pregnant. Further, because it is illegal for women to terminate pregnancies even in cases where the mother’s health is threatened, the inability to treat pregnancy complications is the third most common cause of maternal mortality.

Amnesty International’s El Salvador expert Esther Major calls the abortion law “cruel and discriminatory” saying that “women and girls end up in prison for being unwilling, or simply tragically unable, to carry the pregnancy to term. It makes seeking hospital treatment for complications during pregnancy, including a miscarriage, a dangerous lottery.” Unfortunately, as in innumerable other instances, it’s a lottery women in poverty are most likely to lose.

– Kelley Calkins

Sources: BCC, Slate

Photo: Vice

Gender Inequality Runs Rampant in India

In New Delhi, there are 13 times more toilets for men than there are for women. Specifically, there are 3,712 male public toilets, and a mere 269 female toilets. Women sometimes must resort to defecating in the open, which besides the obvious privacy violation, poses a significant risk of rape and violence.

Public Toilets in New Delhi are just one example of discrimination against women in India; it starts before women are even born, and continues throughout their entire life. Girls can be perceived as a financial burden in parts of India, as a result of their limited income opportunities and costly dowries; 500,000 Indian girls have died as a result of pre-natal sex selection and infanticide over the last 20 years.

If a bride can’t fulfill her dowry, she faces the risk of torture and death at the hands of her in-laws. In 2005, nearly 7,000 Indian women were killed for being unable to meet the financial requirements of their dowries, some of them as young as 15 years old.

Indian women are humiliated, abused, and killed every day. Before they are even born, their opportunities and experiences are decided for them. They will face violence and inequality at almost every turn; and even something as simple as access to public restrooms is not guaranteed for them.

There are ways to encourage gender equality in India, though they may be easier said than done. Laws that discriminate against women need to be amended; girls need to be educated to level the intellectual playing field, and India’s practice of perceiving men above women, needs to be addressed for change to last.

Dana Johnson

Sources: Trust, Advocates for Youth, Brookings
Photo: Asia News