Thousands joined Manila’s Gay Pride march Saturday wielding rainbow flags and umbrellas in a push for equality, just weeks after the nation’s leader sparked outrage by declaring he’d been “cured” of homosexuality years ago.
While the Philippines has a reputation of being accepting of gay and transgender people, same-sex marriage is outlawed and legal protections are nearly non-existent.
President Rodrigo Duterte has repeatedly used gay slurs against critics, and told a crowd last month that in his younger days he “cured” himself of homosexuality with the help of “beautiful women”.
“He’s absolutely wrong on that one. That’s not how it works!” said marcher Noel Bordador, 55, an episcopal priest.
But Bordador said that the gay community faced deeper issues than worrying about Duterte’s outrageous comments.
“Can I get married here? Do I have rights?” he asked. “Legal protections, that is what we are fighting for.”
Divorce, abortion and same-sex marriage are all illegal in the deeply Catholic nation, where a gay rights bill has made very little progress in the legislature after decades of pushing.
Gay Pride marchers numbered some 30,000, organizers said, as the rally crept through heavy rain with metres-long rainbow banners.
“It is a human rights movement––and as such, is a call for active solidarity with other marginalised communities,” march organizer Nicky Castillo said.
Manila’s rally comes as New York expects millions of marchers for its 50th commemoration of the city’s Stonewall riots, a turning point in the LGBTQ community’s fight for rights.