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Activists call for protection of LGBT rights in Southeast Asia at ASEAN People's Forum

The ASEAN SOGIE Caucus calls on the ASEAN governments to place greater priority on the well-being and welfare of all peoples in its 10 member-states
Indonesian delegates at the ASEAN People's Forum

LGBT rights activists attending the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) Civil Society Conference/ ASEAN People’s Forum (ACSC/APF) in Yangon, Myanmar from 21 to 23 March 2014 are continuing to lobby its 10 member-states to promote and protect the rights of its LGBTIQ people.

The 10 member-states are: Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.

The ACSC/APF is held ahead of the ASEAN Summit in May which will also be hosted by Myanmar, the Chair of ASEAN this year.

The ASEAN SOGIE (Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity/Expression) demand that laws that directly or indirectly criminalize LGBTI people be immediately repealed. It also calls for all individual national level human rights groups to include the promotion and protection of the equal rights of all people as well as to ensure equal access to health and social services regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Sexual orientation and gender identity has been excluded from the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration (AHRD) which is under the purview of the ASEAN Inter-governmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR).

Chumaporn Taengkliang, co-founder of Together for Equality Action Group (TEA) from Thailand said in a statement, 'Each country in the ASEAN has laws that discriminate based on sexual orientation and/or gender identity, contrary to their constitutions that guarantee fundamental rights and liberties for all. Meanwhile, state sanctioned violence continues unchecked. In such environments, we face barriers from fully enjoying our fundamental rights, accessing services, and living a fulfilling and meaningful life without fear, shame and guilt.'

Brunei, Singapore, Malaysia and Myanmar – all of which are former British colonies – criminalize gay sex. None of the 10 member-states recognize same-sex unions or marriage.

In an update posted on their website on Friday, the group noted that throughout the plenary sessions, 'the question of if and when the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration will include provisions protecting the rights of LGBTIQ people remained unanswered.'

The group also reported that when the idea of including LBTQ women’s issues alongside general women's issues was raised, the panel 'responded with consensus that LGBTIQ issues like are too contentious for the women’s movement to support on the ASEAN platform and should be pursued and raised by the individual groups.'

To follow updates from the ASEAN SOGIE Caucus, visit their blog.

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