The online news portal of TV5
MANILA, Philippines – A service organization said on Sunday that bloggers and Twitters mocked the anti-RH slogans emblazoned in many signs that cropped up at Saturday's church-led rally at the EDSA shrine, particularly the message that said "No to Safe Sex, Yes to Saved Sex!"
However, the Progressive Organization of Gays (ProGay), a human rights group, expressed concern that beneath the funny innuendos, the general calls against the RH bill can result in even higher rates of HIV infections among Filipinos.
It said that in the midst of the name calling and strident trading of barbs between the pro-RH and anti-RH camps, the call to reject “safe sex” [and instead advocate “saved sex,” in reference to abstinence or sex that is timed with natural family-planning methods like Rhythm] is a very dangerous message for the youth. It is also a perilous message to many so-called Most At Risk Populations such as gay men and transgender women, because the Philippines is one of the seven countries where HIV rates are actually rising very rapidly, said ProGay.
In recent disclosures of HIV and AIDS data by the health department, officials said a big part of the spike was due to male-to-male transmission, a practice that anti-RH groups said would not be influenced anyway by the bishops’ call against the use of condoms because, as the spike implies, those who engage in unprotected sex are not swayed by religious appeals. Some RH bill critics thus say it’s illogical and unfair to dump the HIV-AIDS spike on the non-passage of the RH bill because it is sheer recklessness, not poverty, that drives it.
“Are we saying that HIV and AIDS cases are rising because the bishops are stopping the homosexuals or those who fornicate from using condoms? It is obviously not fear of the bishops that is preventing them from using condoms, so why lay that on them?” asked one protester at Saturday’s anti-RH bill rally at EDSA.
Clyde Pumihic, ProGay spokesperson, frames the argument this way, however: "With all due respect to the opinions of the anti-RH camp, we find the call to stop safe sex and substitute it for what some religious radicals call 'saved sex' very irresponsible. It is very dangerous to preach that sex without protection is saved, and this will only make sure that transmission of human immunodeficiency virus will be very effective even among faithful partners.”
For the month of May alone, the Department of Health registered 273 new infections, of which 4 out of 5 cases were through homosexual contact, making the number of cases in the country rise to 9,669.
Unprotected sexual contact accounted for 268 percent of the cases and 87 percent of them are “males having sex with other males,” according to the latest official data cited by the group.
The pro-RH bill advocates have been invoking the high rate of maternal deaths in the country as basis for pushing the bill, in hopes of promoting universal access to pills and contraceptives that will give couples more options for spacing births.
Meanwhile, many Facebook and Twitter netizens have been debating online, making jokes, and using the picture of Saturday’s rally banners to make graphic memes based on the "Saved Sex" concept, and now the hashtag #savedsex is even trending on Twittter.
"ProGay calls for intelligent discussions on reproductive health because LGBTs are also benefitting from the positive provisions of the RH bill. We support the calls to terminate the debates on August 7 in Congress, and we the LGBTs call for allowing the House of Representatives to vote either for or against the measure," Pumihic added.
ProGay criticized the Office of the Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council (LEDAC) for removing the item on non-discrimination of LGBTs from the House Bill 4244 version of the RH bill. The LEDAC indicated that President Aquino himself wanted to strike out 'sexual orientation' from Section 2, which is the Declaration of Principles.
"Removing sexual orientation from the RH bill will remove guarantees that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Filipinos who need reproductive health care can be turned away by both public and private health care providers," Pumihic warned.