The University of Santo Tomas (UST) informed students of a new policy and also required them to sign a code of conduct that prohibits same-sex relationships, homosexual acts, and cross-dressing. A Catholic institution based in the Philippines, UST is requiring students to adhere to a policy it called an “enrollment conformé.” The rules also prohibit tattoos and piercings. In addition, students’ social media accounts must not include what the Manila-based instituted deemed “inappropriate” content. The university, also in keeping with Catholic doctrine, prohibits pre-marital and extra-marital sex among heterosexual students.

UST was established 400 years ago and is the oldest university in Asia. 

According to Pink News, UST ranks violations of its rules regarding sexual conduct alongside theft, blackmail and arson. Also, 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).”

LGBTQ+ advocates in the Philippines have vehemently denounced the language in the conformé. Gay Star News quoted  LGBTQ+ advocate Irish Inoceto of the Iloilo Pride Team may be in violation of the Philippines’ constitution. Inocento said, "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."

Justin Bionat of Iloilo Pride Team stated on Facebook that “students rights’ and welfare is a primary human right and should be upheld regardless of the type of administration runs the institution.” He claimed that 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.”

Even while the Philippines is viewed as one of the most LGBTQ+ friendly countries in Asia, and is also notorious for child sex-trafficking and prostitution, the Filipino senate has not yet voted on the Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Expression Equality Bill, which make discrimination on the basis of declared sexual identities or sexual orientations illegal.

After Brazil and Mexico, the Philippines has the largest Catholic community in the world. Catholic clergy and laity were essential in the largely peaceful democratic revolution that brought down the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos in the 1980s.



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Spero News writer Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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