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PHILIPPINES - Feb 18, 2003

"Lesbians are not women." This was the shocking message of Dr. Lyra Chua, president of the Philippine Obstetrics and Gynecologists Society (POGS), to Ging Cristobal, Executive Director of the Lesbian Advocates Philippines, (LeAP) Inc.

Cristobal, whose NGO is doing a research on LesbianReproductive and Sexual Health, had sought aninterview to get the views of Chua and POGS. WhenCristobal said she is from a lesbian organization, shewas told that POGS does not entertain that kind ofinterview. "We only entertain issues concerning the femalegender," Chua's spokesperson said.

"It is very difficult to imagine that a medical practitioner, especially one who specializes on the female anatomy, should not know that lesbians are women," Cristobal said. "If this is the view of the national president of obstetricians and gynecologists, can you expectlesbians to feel safe enough to seek out medical attention and assistance? With this attitude, there can be no protection for us."

Commenting on Chua's statement, Dr. Jojo Sescon, Executive Director of Remedios AIDS Foundation posed a different view.

"Lesbians should be treated as female persons with health issues and concerns. They should not be deprived of health services by reason of sexual orientation," Sescon said.

Dr. Junice Melgar of Linangan ng Kababaihan, Inc. (Likhaan) agreed.

"Denying patients attention and care because of their sexual orientation is outright discriminatory and violates a basic tenet of medical ethics: respect for persons. The reality of lesbian choices and lifestyles requires medical practitioners -- including ob-gyne -- to be open-minded and nonjudgmental in our approach topatients."

Cristobal said that her NGO would bring this matter to the Department of Health.

Lesbian Advocates Philippines, (LeAP) Inc. is a non-government organization of lesbian activists of diverse social, religious and political backgrounds whose point of convergence is their recognition of lesbian rights as human rights. Health and other gender-related issues and concerns are among its priority areas.

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