Philippines: Lesbians Fired

A human rights organization in the Philippines has fired two female employees alleging that the women's sexual affair was disruptive to the work of the agency. Elizabeth Lim and Evangeline Castronuevo received termination notices on 6 September 1994 from the Board of Directors of the Balay Rehabilitation Center.

The Balay Rehabilitation Center is a non governmental human rights organization that works towards the rehabilitation of former political detainees. The relationship between Ms. Castronuevo and Ms. Lim came to the attention of the staff at the Balay Rehabilitation Center when one of the women related her feelings for the other in confidence to a co-worker. The termination notice received by Ms. Castronuevo and Ms. Lim four weeks later stated that they were being dismissed for: "Acts grossly damaging to Balay".

A number of women's and lesbian organizations in the Philippines have protested this termination as discriminatory. They have launched a campaign demanding the reinstatement of Ms. Castronuevo and Ms. Lim and a full apology from the Balay Center. Ms. Castronuevo and Ms. Lim have also filed a complaint alleging illegal dismissal with the National Labor Relations Commission. Beyond reinstatement, the compliant also asks for the payment of damages.

These case marks an important landmark for discussion of lesbian rights in the Philippines. It has garnered significant press attention, as well as precipitated a debate among human rights advocates about the inclusion of issues relating to sexual orientation in their work. Regardless of its outcome, the case is sure to set an important precedent.

Letters are needed politely making the following points:

  1. The Balay Center should be honest about its reasons for firing Ms. Castronuevo and Ms. Lim. Allegations of gross impropriety are meant to mask the heterosexism the Balay Center is enforcing.
  2. There exists an emerging consensus among official, non-governmental and inter-governmental human rights bodies that issues of sexuality are central to human rights work. Among the recent developments in this direction is the decision by Amnesty International to adopt as prisoners of conscious those persecuted because of consensual same gender relationships, the ruling of the United Nations Human Rights Commission that the Australian state of Tasmania's sodomy law breached the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and numerous decisions by the European Court on Human Rights.
  3. It is the job of those concerned with human rights everywhere to insist on the right to employment regardless of a person's sexual orientation or the gender of their chosen partner.

Letters to:

Flora Arellano, Chair
Balay Rehabilitation Center
79-A Scout Fuentebella St.
1103 Quezon City
Evelyn Balais Serrano
Philipine Alliance for Human Rights Advocates
4th Flr. FMSG Bldg. Balete Drive cor 3rd St.
New Manila, Q.C.