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5 May 2011

Recognition and protection of LGBTIQ rights long overdue: ASEAN LGBT groups

31 LGBT groups from 8 Southeast Asian countries tell their governments: LGBTs being treated as "criminals" and "second class citizens" is not "acceptable", and the "recognition, promotion, and protection of LGBTIQ rights is long overdue".

Over 40 LGBT activists from eight Southeast Asian countries gathered in Jakarta for a LGBT caucus meeting ahead of the ASEAN Civil Society Conference / ASEAN People's Forum (APF) which was held from 3-5 May. Leaders from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) will meet in the Indonesian capital for the 18th ASEAN Summit on May 7 and 8.

The landmark May 2 meeting was organised by Jakarta-based LGBT group Arus Pelangi (Rainbow Stream) and Vietnam-based iSEE, a non-profit organisation that focuses on issues relating to the rights of ethnic minorities and sexual minorities. It was held for delegates to hear the situation and challenges faced by LGBT communities in ASEAN and to call upon civil society and governments to protect LGBTIQ rights.

The caucus made the following three recommendations:

• Immediately repeal laws that directly and indirectly criminalize SOGI (sexual orientation, gender identity), recognize LGBTIQ rights as human rights, and harmonize national laws, policies and practices with the Yogyakarta Principles.

• Establish national level mechanisms and review existing regional human rights instruments (e.g. AICHR, ACWC) to include the promotion and protection of the equal rights of all people regardless of SOGI with the active engagement of the LGBTIQ community.

• Depathologize SOGI and promote psychosocial well-being of people of diverse SOGI in accordance with the World Health Organization (WHO) standards, and ensure equal access to health and social services.

The ASEAN People’s Forum (APF) is held in parallel with ASEAN summits to discuss topics that are deemed important to ASEAN peoples. The results will be communicated with ASEAN leaders in forms of inter-face meetings or public statements.

The LGBT caucus meeting follows a final statement issued by the APF after a meeting in Hanoi last September that included LGBTIQ (Lesbians, Bisexuals, Gay, Transgender, Intra-sexual and Queer) as one of a number of social groups to “be protected and benefited equally and fairly from development and economic growth.” The statement also urged ASEAN and governments “give primacy to the protection and full realization of the rights of LGBTIQ” and other vulnerable groups as “a key goal of the ASEAN integration process.”

The following statement was issued by the LGBT caucus today:

The LGBTIQ Agenda: Equality now!

Statement of the first ASEAN Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex and Queer (LGBTIQ) People’s Caucus

From May 2 to May 5, 2011 over forty lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgenders, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ) activists representing 8 out of ten Southeast Asian countries came together in a historic assembly for the ASEAN People’s Forum to tell their governments that the status quo is not acceptable and that the recognition, promotion, and protection of LGBTIQ rights is long overdue.

ASEAN is the cradle of the Yogyakarta Principles, a landmark articulation of internationally recognized human rights instruments in relation to sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI), and yet LGBTIQs in ASEAN countries consistently face criminalization, persecution, discrimination and abuse because of who they are.

In Singapore, Malaysia, Brunei, and Burma, authorities arrest, detain and persecute individuals because of colonial laws that criminalize their sexual orientation or gender identity. In other ASEAN countries, certain laws are abused with impunity to harass or persecute individuals whose sexuality or gender is deemed unacceptable, immoral, or unnatural: anti-prostitution, anti-trafficking, or anti-pornography laws in Indonesia and the Philippines are applied to conduct illegal raids in gay establishments or to nab transgenders, oftentimes subjecting them to humiliation and extortion. The anti-kidnapping law in the Philippines is likewise used to forcibly break apart lesbian couples living under consensual and legitimate relationships.

We are part of the people of ASEAN, and yet across the region we are treated as criminals and as second class citizens.

Instead of representing the interests of all citizens, many governments and state institutions become instruments of religious and sectarian prejudice. In Surabaya, Indonesia, the police was complicit in an attack by an intolerant religious group against the participants of an international LGBTIQ conference.

A climate of stigma and discrimination prevails in most, if not all, ASEAN countries. From Vietnam to Brunei Darussalam, social stigma persists. Sexual orientations and gender identities outside heterosexuality and patriarchal gender norms are considered as a sickness that can be corrected through rape, reparative camps like in Besut, Malaysia, only one of several camps in the country, and other damaging psycho-social measures.

Access to basic services, from health to education, is denied on the basis of one’s presumed or actual sexual orientation or gender identity. Stigma has contributed to the steep rise in HIV infection among at-risk populations like men who have sex with men and transgenders, making it difficult for preventive interventions to reach them.

But our movements are growing. In various parts of the region, pride is unraveling and we will not take exclusion sitting down. LGBTIQ activists and organizations continue to actively engage government institutions, mass media, and civil society for equal rights and basic fairness. It is in this spirit of pride and dignity that we are reclaiming our rightful space in our respective countries and demand our governments to:

• Immediately repeal laws that directly and indirectly criminalize SOGI, recognize LGBTIQ rights as human rights, and harmonize national laws, policies and practices with the Yogyakarta Principles.

• Establish national level mechanisms and review existing regional human rights instruments (e.g. AICHR, ACWC) to include the promotion and protection of the equal rights of all people regardless of SOGI with the active engagement of the LGBTIQ community.

• Depathologize SOGI and promote psychosocial well-being of people of diverse SOGI in accordance with the World Health Organization (WHO) standards, and ensure equal access to health and social services.

We will not be silenced by prejudice. For a people-centered ASEAN, LGBTIQ rights now!


1. Arus pelangi (Indonesia )

2. Ardhanary Institute (Indonesia)

3. APTN/ APNSW (Malaysia)

4. EFFORT (Indonesia)

5. Gessang (Indonesia)

6. ISEE (Vietnam)

7. Youth dream (Vietnam)

8. Gaya Nusantara (Indonesia)

9. Violet Grey (Indonesia)

10. IWAMA (Indonesia)

11. Seksualiti Merdeka (Malaysia)

12. Justice for Sisters (Malaysia)

13. Human Rights education institute of Burma (Burma)

14. PLU-satu hati (Indonesia)

15. ICS (Vietnam)

16. AngLadlad (Philipina)

17. Kipas Makasar (Indonesia)

18. Perempuan Mahardhika (Indonesia)

19. Galaya Club (Thailand)

20. SOGI Foundation (Thailand)

21. Rainbow community Kampuchea (Cambodia)

22. Galang (Philipine)

23. Oogachaga (Singapore)

24. Her lounge (Indonesia)

25. FKWI (Indonesia)

26. Komunitas sehati Makasar (Indonesia)

27. For SOGI (Thailand)

28. GWL – Ina (Indonesia)

29. Q-munity (Indonesia)

30. Akbayan (Philippines)

31. TLF Share Collective (Philippines)

Supported by: International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) - Asia & the Pacific Program

* The Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN comprises Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

Reader's Comments

Comment #1 was deleted by its author on 2011-08-13 17:40
2. 2011-05-05 22:40  
3. 2011-05-06 13:31  
Malaysia should have pursued similar methods. Though opinions could be diverged, a similar form of directives principles as such must be carried out within all the brilliant minds of gay rights in Malaysia upon consensus. Or shall we pursue Singaporean's way?!!!! Bangunlah Malaysia!!!! International declaratory documents do not appear to seem attractive to Malaysia court, apparently we are adopting dualism instead of monism. Please! Wake up!
4. 2011-05-07 09:10  
Though clearly this is a noble and necessary effort in this region, there are way, way, WAY too many acronyms in this article. I think I counted some 15 distinct acronyms, many of which were repeated numerous times. A number of them are never explained or identified (e.g., AICHR and ACWC), so they're meaningless in the context of the article. (There's even a two-tier acronym, APF, in which one letter actually stands for another acronym (ASEAN).)

LGBTIQ? Really? I don't even know what "intersex" is (moreover, the article can't decide whether it's "intersex" or "intra-sexual"), and is "queer" really a necessary inclusion, when you've already got an alphabet soup of all the "queer" subgroups? Stop the madness! Simply ascribing an acronym to something doesn't legitimize it!
5. 2011-05-07 23:43  
I have to agree with Chadm on the acronym madness. It seems they are very popular in Asian Englishes. I think that Fridae doesn't follow any journalistic standards while featuring articles that appear to be journalism. Oh well: it is a dating site, anyway.

As for intersex, my "guess" is that it is for pre-surgical transsexuals.
6. 2011-05-08 02:43  
The core message for this meeting to the ASEAN member countries is:
the recognition, promotion, and protection of LGBTIQ rights NOW!!!

I'm somewhat frustrated with comments made from the comfort of one's living room or whatever room one chooses to write these comments where human rights are taken for granted...

I challenge members of Fridae to make an effort to show solidarity in the journey of our comrades living in the ASEAN countries in achieving basic human rights.
7. 2011-05-08 10:40  
Chadm: The Q in LGBTIQ doesn't stand for queer. It stands for questioning.

I suppose this forum serves as a beginners' platform to start fighting for the rights of all the non-heterosexuals in this part of the region.

Should we be punished for being born this way? NO!
8. 2011-05-08 12:33  
Chadm252 and Daophos,

The invention and use of acronyms in the Final Statement, which was issued by the 30 signatories, is not for Fridae to decide. AICHR and ACWC are examples of existing regional human rights instruments as stated in the article.

If you don't care to Google:
AICHR - ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights
ACWC - ASEAN Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Women and Children

"LGBTIQ (Lesbians, Bisexuals, Gay, Transgender, Intra-sexual and Queer)" is from the Final Statement issued at the meeting Hanoi last year. (Full statement: http://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=153848764650135)

I don't think it's within the scope of this article to explain what intersex or intra-sexual means.

The inclusion of the term 'queer' was decided by the 30 signatories of the statement and is obviously not for Fridae to decide. The umbrella term that Fridae uses in articles is LGBT (to refer to lesbians, bisexuals, gay, transgender). If you disagree with the inclusion of queer in the statement, I suggest you write to the groups or get involved in the statement writing process.

Sylvia Tan
Editor, Fridae

P.S. You read about this landmark ASEAN LGBT caucus and statement first on Fridae.
Comment edited on 2011-05-08 12:39:31
Comment #9 was deleted by its author on 2011-08-13 17:40
Comment #10 was deleted by its author on 2011-05-09 10:34
11. 2011-05-09 13:02  
Dear all,

I attended the meeting on behalf of Oogachaga (OC) and because of the different commitments by other LGBT groups in Singapore, Singapore is only represented by OC.

During the meeting, it is agreed that the term Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) which are commonly used in Singapore and some other societies are not inclusive enough to represent the communities. The terms Intersex and Queer are added to present a more complete representation. And in this instance, Q does not represent Questioning.

You must understand ASEAN is a very diverse region and not all communities or societies adopted a western framed definition or definition understood by Singaporeans. It is in the spirit of being inclusive and showing solidarity that we decided on LGBTIQ.

If you are so focussed on the terminology, then you have missed out the essence of the ASEAN LGBTIQ meeting and its final statement. The Indonesian organisers for the meeting has shown tremendous courage to put together this meeting, after having to go through the almost violently ended Surabaya meeting in 2010. It is also a display of solidarity and refusal of being intimidated by the ASEAN groups who decided to come together in Jakarta. A city where LGBTIQ are constantly harassed and at times, police refused to intervene when homophobic religious groups make things very difficult.

The final statement and the recommendation are read in the main ASEAN People Forum to tell the other ASEAN societies that LGBTIQ rights are part of basic human rights. Apart from our statement, the final statement by the ASEAN People Forum also includes LGBTIQ in rights of youth, women, health system and sexual health and rights sections.
Comment edited on 2011-05-09 13:30:36
Comment #12 was deleted by its author on 2011-08-13 17:40
13. 2011-05-09 22:59  
Hi Fridae!
Please include Supported by: IGLHRC - Asia & the Pacific Program at the end of the list of the LGBTIQ list since I also attended the caucus.

IGLHRC supports LGBT activists and groups who push for LGBT rights. We understand the diversity of identities in the region and thereby suggest that 'sexual orientation and gender identity' (SOGI) be used to foster a more inclusive term since LGBTIQ sometimes does not fully grasps the identities of kathoeys, warias, transpinays, and other unique identities in Asia.
14. 2011-05-09 23:20  
it's great this event took place, bringing courageous fighters for the, er, LGBT cause together from so many different nations! in 2000, i attended the Taipei Gay International Forum, where then-mayor (and current Taiwan ROC president) MA Ying-jeou gave a very supportive keynote speech, in addition to a municipal budget to make the event possible. an inspiring occasion it was. taiwan's LGBT community and taiwanese society have made great strides since (visibility, empowerment, tolerance) although much remains to be done, and have built up an experience worth sharing with brothers and sisters from neighboring countries. it's intriguing therefore to see there isn't any taiwanese organisation on the conference roll..
15. 2011-05-09 23:38  
Monkeey, Taiwan isn't a member of ASEAN.

Ging, but isn't SOGI a general term that includes heterosexual and cisgender male/female folks so it really just means everyone on earth and thus not the same thing as LGBTIQ which this statement is trying to specifically include? End of the day, SOGI doesn't refer to a specific identity (I'm a SOGI man/ woman. What does that mean??) but is just category so I can't see how SOGI is going to be useful if we mean to say LGBTIQ.
16. 2011-05-10 01:50  
@caesar2003, dun worry. I live in a rather grey world. :)

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