After decades as the so-called ‘sick man of Asia’, the Philippines has adopted the export-driven model of economic development followed by wealthier Asian countries and has begun to address the pervasive corruption that has perennially deterred investment.

With the Aquino administration’s prosecution of high-profile cases of corruption and implementation of various tax reform measures, the country’s credit rating has improved tremendously, attracting the attention of investors. Unfortunately, this economic growth has not trickled down to the millions of Filipinos living in poverty and nor has it resulted in job creation.

Today, although Philippine law does not criminalise consensual same-sex acts and the principles of equality and non-discrimination are enshrined in the Constitution, homosexuality is policed by various social institutions, including the nuclear family and the Roman Catholic Church, which often eschew any sexual behaviour that takes place outside the context of marriage and family life. Many Filipino lesbians, bisexual women and trans men (LBTs) are systemically deprived of decent jobs, humane housing conditions and adequate health care in the country.


Both this policy audit and case study were a product of collaboration between IDS and GALANG Philippines.

Case study

The policy audits:

  • Identified and analysed the sexuality content of the selected social protection policies
  • Voiced the concerns and experiences of LBTs living in GALANG’s partner urban poor communities in Quezon City
  • Shared and communicated the findings with an eye towards influencing the conduct of donors and national and sub-national decision-makers, including mainstream activist organisations focusing on sexuality, social justice and feminism 
  • Draw cross-cutting policy lessons that can inform future advocacy and policy development
  • Stimulate others to replicate this analysis in their own settings.
The case study:
  • Examined the motivations, aspirations and personal lives of LBT Filipino migrant workers in Hong Kong.
  • Analysed the links between and among financial independence, economic empowerment, family acceptance, migration and sexuality, specifically in the context of Filipino LBTs.


For the policy audit, The research team undertook an analysis of selected existing policies whose exclusionary impact has been acutely felt and documented by GALANG’s grass roots LBT partners living in urban slums. This decision was made also to ensure that the analysis in this audit was rooted in affected communities in the organisation’s areas of operation. Four focus group discussions were conducted, involving women across GALANG’s three organising sites. Innovative methodologies were used to examine the interests and agenda behind the legislated policies. These included a review of the selected social protection laws and their respective implementing rules and regulations, a keyword search of decisions of the Philippine Supreme Court, a review of microfilmed newspaper and journal archives, and the conduct of key informant interviews with women active in local women's movements and LGBT activism.

Similarly, the case study built upon the research findings above, but with a more focussed analysis of labour policies. Online structured interviews were conducted examining the livelihood strategies and experiences of a number of women in Quezon City and separately, a piece of work to engage with the lived experience of those women acting as migrant workers.

Case Study: How Filipino LBTs Cope with Economic Disadvantage

  • SOGIE rights should advocates challenge the ‘victim’ discourse in migration and highlight the impact of increased financial independence on the exercise of SOGIE rights.
  • Policymakers, development actors and researchers investigate the links among SOGIE, labour and migration, and conduct further studies that can measure the impact of financial independence on the exercise of SOGIE rights
  • The Philippine government should immediately enact an anti-discrimination law that covers workplace discrimination based on SOGIE, and penalises the imposition of genderconformity criteria such as uniforms, hair length, etc.

Policy Audit: Social Protection Policies and Urban Poor LBTs in the Philippines

  • Philippine law does not criminalize consensual same-sex acts and the principle of equality and non-discrimination are enshrined in the Constitution.
  • However, homosexuality continues to be policed in other ways such as arbitrary arrest by rogue enforcement officers, discrimination in social protection policies and bullying within the education system.

Associated Blogs

Bridging the gap: strengthening the sexuality and poverty evidence base

Stephen Wood profiled the national advocacy event organised by GALANG to push forward debates about including sexuality across a number of poverty policy areas.