A Catholic university in the Philippines is requiring its students to sign a code of conduct that prohibits same-sex relationships, gay/lesbian sex, and cross-dressing.
The new policy established by the University of Santo Tomas (UST), went viral in a tweet that exposed the discriminatory requirements of the university. Students are required to adhere to a number of controversial rules at the Manila school under the policy called an “enrollment conformé.” Gay Star News reported:
“Some of the rules include a ban on tattoos and piercings, and students’ social media accounts must not include ‘inappropriate’ content. Another controversial rule includes banning the right to assembly.”
“The university also prohibits [heterosexual] students from having pre-marital sex.
“But students are also banned from ‘engaging in relationship contrary to the principles adhered to by the University and the teachings of the Catholic Church.’ Many interpreted this as a ban on LGBTI relationships.”
Although the list of offenses is long, it seems that gay relationships are among one of the most serious violations of the UST’s rules. The 400-year old institution, the oldest university in Asia, ranks sexual violations “alongside theft, blackmail and arson,” as Pink News stated. Marriage, which excludes gay marriage by Catholic definition, is the only context in which sex is permitted at the UST.
Furthermore, the UST seeks to uphold gender roles and stereotypes by prohibiting “cross-dressing.” The conformé reads as follows:
“Cross-dressing or wearing the clothes of the opposite sex is prohibited unless otherwise authorised for legitimate purpose only during the duration of the said activity. (Ex. in a play or a similar activity).”
The anti-LGBTQ pronouncements at the UST have not gone without pushback. LGBTQ+ advocates in the Philippines vehemently challenged the discrimination within the language of the conformé. Gay Star News quoted LGBTQ+ advocate Irish Inoceto, vice-chair of the Iloilo Pride Team and Iloilo chapter of activist group, Bahaghari who noted that the conformé goes against many principles in the Philippines’ Constitution:
“No institution should be allowed to place itself above the law nor should it be allowed to divest itself of respect for basic human rights. . . UST remains to be one of the top universities in the country and students who want to pursue higher learning should be safe from discrimination no matter where they choose to study.”
Another member of the Iloilo Pride Team, Justin Bionat, works with youth affected by HIV at Youth Voices Count. Bionat created a Facebook post about the UST’s conformé that went viral with over 2000 likes and shares. He stated:
“My post and my opinion was rooted on the idea that students rights and welfare is a primary human right and should be upheld regardless of the type of administration runs the institution.
All same-sex and non-heteronormative relationships of students both within campus and online are now in danger. It is downright discriminatory and violates the rights of LGBTQ+ students.”
Although the Philippines is viewed as one of the most LGBTQ+ friendly countries in Asia, the country’s senate has been slow-moving in its vote on the SOGIE (Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Expression) Equality Bill, which would make it illegal to discriminate against folks based on their gender identities or sexual orientations. The Philippines has the third-largest Catholic population in the world, just behind Brazil and Mexico.
The words of Bionat provide one of the most important messages regarding the main problem with this new policy, “‘The message we want to promote here is that universities have to be safe spaces for young LGBTQ people. We have to create learning environments that are inclusive of whatever gender or sexual orientation you choose to identify.”
–Lizzie Sextro, New Ways Ministry, August 14, 2018