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18 Jul 2011

Philippines: LGBT group says ban on gay, lesbian officers conducting strip searches discriminatory

Ladlad, a LGBT political party, has called the regulation which bans gay and lesbian prison wardens from frisking and conducting strip searches on jail visitors of the same sex “a clear case of discrimination”.

The Philippine Daily Inquirer today reported that gay and lesbian officers of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) have been banned from frisking and conducting strip searches on people of the same sex who are suspected of sneaking contraband into jail.

Photo for illustrative purposes only

"At no instance [shall] a female homosexual jail officer be allowed to conduct body search on female jail visitors, while a male homosexual jail officer cannot body search a male jail visitor," a BJMP memorandum said.

The report quoted an official who said that the policy has been in practice for a "long time in some 400 jails nationwide," but the standard operating procedure was put in writing and disseminated to wardens in September last year "by way of reminder."

Ladlad, a political party of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Filipinos, has called the regulation "a clear case of discrimination."

Chair Bemz Benedito was quoted as saying: "In the first place, what is the basis to say there is malice? Just because one is a homosexual, they can automatically assume that there is sexual malice?"

"This is a clear case of discrimination on our ranks because it does not account for our capabilities and skills in performing the job, but our sexual orientation," Benedito said.

BJMP Director Rosendo M. Dial dismissed suggestions that the policy could be considered a discriminatory practice as it was to minimise possibilities of sexual abuse and to conduct body searches in a "professional manner without violating the legal rights of visitors/inmates and with due respect and regard to human dignity."

Under BJMP rules, “all male visitors shall be searched by male jail officers while female visitors shall be searched by female jail officers only.”

While most visitors are subject to just a “pat or frisk or rub” as guards are required to run their hands through the body, carefully feeling for illegal contraband such as prohibited drugs and weapons as well as ordinary contraband, such as pirated discs, jewelry and mobile phones.

The memo said: “If during the pat/frisk/rub search the jail officer develops probable cause that contraband is being hidden by the subject which is not likely to be discovered, the jail officer shall request a conduct of strip search/visual body cavity search.” The visitor can either consent to the strip and visual body cavity search, or decline and will not be allowed to enter the prison.

The report noted that the ban raises questions about privacy rights and the extent to which the government can compel law enforcers to reveal their sexual orientation, and prohibit members of a particular gender from performing tasks that are part of their jobs.


Reader's Comments

1. 2011-07-18 20:10  
This is complicated, as it's often hard to know who's gay and who's not anyway, and what about for bisexuals?!

Anyway I think this rule is kind of fair, it's just like men aren't allowed to search women and women aren't allowed to search men. It puts the same rules on us that straight people have... is that discriminatory? At least it's showing that gays exist and are welcome to work in jails, and that there are fair rules for all... :)

2. 2011-07-18 20:38  
It is complicated. Who knows who might be interested in what ? However if an allegation is made by the person being patted or rubbed and the 'rubber/patterer ' is found to be an ' interested' person then the allegation already has some baggage ! A fear for the Prison which can be more robust in response if the alleged offender has an unsullied reputation..a butch hetero etc etc Professionalism of POs cannot be trusted anyhow...
3. 2011-07-19 00:42  
This is indeed an interesting research topic.
1. How many gays or lesbians work as jail officers?
2. How many of these groups are willing to open to the authority that they are as gays or lesbians?
3. How does such a search conducted by gay or lesbian officers amount to an infringement of bodily privacy by sexual abuse? The proximity of these two topics are pretty far, man!

Basic of such discriminatory policy is weak, man! As sexuality is fluid in nature, I hardly see a straight man stands straight all the time after rubbing 10000 hot prisoners! Lolz!!!

Please abolish this kind of policy.
4. 2011-07-19 00:48  
What next? Can a gay male visitor refuse to be strip-searched by a gay male warden since he obviously might have a personal interest? Can a straight male warden refuse to strip-search an 'obviously' gay male visitor since the latter might enjoy it? It's also inappropriate for a straight or lesbian female warden to do so... So who's left?
5. 2011-07-19 05:23  
I agree with #1. You can't eat your cake and have it. If you speak against this rule you must speak against the rule that male wardens can't search female inmates. Then watch out for the consequences.
6. 2011-07-19 07:31  
Love the picture.Is he ready to give the guy a BJ or just feeling up his junk?
7. 2011-07-19 10:13  
Don't be silly. Not all the gays and lesbians are interested in all gays and lesbians. We have our own tastes. aren't we ?
8. 2011-07-19 11:31  
because most of them are very obvious and they always take advantage for the good catch. ..but if i will be in their situation i will also do the same... who cares??
9. 2011-07-19 13:08  
Who cares? Work is work and play is play and a person should be professional at all times when they are working. You don't shit where you eat.
10. 2011-07-19 19:22  
Its not unreasonable for people to not want to be strip searched by a person of the opposite sex, is it? That's a discriminatory restriction people have no problem with. And the reason for it is a sexual one. This really isn't any different.

Not everything is an offense. Personally, I'd prefer that a man searching me not be gay either. Why should I need to worry about that too?
11. 2011-07-20 00:33  
I agree with #9 bobochan88...

Work is work & play is play.
Keep things professional
Be you Straight, Bi or Gay
Brain between your legs...BIG no-no
On your working day!!!

(The above is dedicated to all management & staff of the BJMP)

12. 2011-07-20 10:06  
I agree with #10 totally and thank you # 11 for your comments.
13. 2011-07-21 15:38  
This is quite an interesting topic, but let me just say the photo of the article made it look extremely perverse, it looks like the officer is shoving his hands in there and the lines of the guy's pants scrunched up to suggest that there is some hanky panky going on.

On to the topic, Bemz Benedito made a really good point, just because someone is gay, should it be expected that they would enjoy feeling another guy's junk? How can you tell if someone is gay or not? But then personally, I don't have a problem with having gay/straight guy patting me down, but then I'm bias of course.
Comment #14 was deleted by its author on 2011-07-21 16:02
Comment #15 was deleted by its author on 2011-07-21 16:05
16. 2011-07-21 16:05  
I have to disagree with Ladlad. It is in the interests of gay officers to be exempted from such duties to avoid complications such as accusations of molest. We should also respect the prisoners' rights. If they conducted a survey on the male prisoners and asked if they minded being strip-searched by GAY wardens, I am quite sure that more than 50% of the prisoners would say they mind. I personally wouldn't want to be strip-searched by gay men. I am sure that most straight men, and many if not most gay men, would feel the same. Beside showing respect to the prisoners, we must remember that the gay wardens' duty in the prisons is to work, not to touch men, so I don't see how not allowing them to strip-search male prisoners---which I expect the latter would mind---would affect their work. The point is, they are still allowed to work as wardens even though they aren't allowed to strip-search male prisoners. If Ladlad is really unhappy being denied the "right" to strip-search men, I suggest that it issues a recommendation to gay prison wardens for the latter to visit the local gay saunas where they can touch men who prefer to be touched by other men.

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