Statement of the Commission on Human Rights over a viral video allegedly showing a transgender woman being compelled to get a haircut as a condition for enrollment at a school in Manila

Statement of the Commission on Human Rights over a viral video allegedly showing a transgender woman being compelled to get a haircut as a condition for enrollment at a school in Manila

The Commission on Human Rights expresses its deep concern over a viral video showing a transgender woman getting a haircut inside a classroom after allegedly being denied enrollment due to the length of her hair at the Eulogio “Amang” Rodriguez Institute of Science and Technology (EARIST) in Manila. We are also alarmed that despite numerous joint discussions and demand letters to raise this kind of concern drafted by various organisations, including Bahagari-EARIST, numerous complaints continue to emerge as a result of the school’s administrative protocols.

According to published reports, the 2021 EARIST student handbook’s code of conduct and discipline requires male students to get a barber’s haircut. Meanwhile, the only restriction for female students was not being able to wear colorful highlights. According also to the handbook, students have the right to “freely express one’s gender preference to follow the norms of the Institution without due prejudice to any provisions.” [1]

The Manila LGBTQI Protection Ordinance of 2020 prohibits the denial of admission and imposing disciplinary action higher than customary against students based on their SOGIE. Under the ordinance, it is prohibited to deny or limit access to an employee, promotion opportunities, transfer, training, schooling, and refuse employment, among others on the basis of actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity, and expression (SOGIE).

While we recognise the importance of decorum on school premises, it is equally important that adherence to decorum is never confused with or used as a pretext for discrimination or imposing rigid heteronormative and societal norms on individuals based on their chosen SOGIE.

We reaffirm our commitment to creating an environment of respect and inclusivity. We believe that such action constitutes gender-based policing, resulting in differential characterisation and discrimination that clearly violates not only everyone’s right to quality education, but also their right to freely express themselves based on their SOGIE.

The Commission emphasises that central to the primordial duties of schools and universities is to cultivate a culture of inclusivity and acceptance, where all students feel safe, valued, and respected for who they are. Hatred and discrimination against anyone, particularly LGBTQIA people, has no place within our educational institutions.

In line with this, we urge the EARIST administration to conduct an impartial investigation into this case and hold the responsible officers accountable if deemed necessary. Furthermore, we urge the school administration to review and analyse its existing student code of conduct, regulations, and policies, particularly in the context of exercising SOGIE, to ensure that all indicated provisions are inclusive and respect all students’ fundamental rights.

Furthermore, we reiterate our commitment to support the passage of the SOGIE bill in the country. It is past time to institutionalise a policy that prohibits discrimination and hatred based on a person’s SOGIE. We could use this to protect the vulnerable from discriminatory practices in schools, workplaces, and communities across the country.

CHR remains committed to its mandate of protecting and upholding the rights of all. Embracing the principles of equality, dignity, and respect for diversity is not only necessary for creating an inclusive learning environment, but also for cultivating a society in which every individual can thrive and reach their full potential – regardless of their age, background, clothes, length of hair, and most importantly, their preferred SOGIE.

#InclusiveSchoolsNOW #PassSOGIEEqualityBillNow #StopTheDiscrimination

[1] Haircut video of transgender student of EARIST Manila triggers LGBTQ community.