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Fears LGBTs will be left out of ASEAN rights declaration

Human rights groups fear that a new declaration on human rights which is being drafted by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations will do nothing to boost the rights of LGBTs and other minority groups in the region

Human rights defenders are concerned that LGBT rights and the rights of other minority groups will be left out of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) human rights declaration, which is scheduled to be released in November.

The Indonesian group Human Rights Working Group (HRWG) told the Jakarta Post that it had submitted a number of priority issues it felt the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights needed to revisit to ensure they were properly dealt with, including LGBT rights, the rights of indigenous peoples, the right to an impartial and independent judiciary, protection from so-called ‘public morality’ laws, and sexual and reproductive rights.

The ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights has been drafting the declaration, which will then be approved by ASEAN member states, however it has not released all sections of the draft declaration for public scrutiny.

‘I worry that the [final declaration] won’t be much different than the current version,’ HRWG senior adviser Yuyun Wahyuningrum told the Post on Friday.

‘A lot of the recommendations were rejected, especially those that concern minority groups like [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and questioning peoples] and indigenous people.’

The executive director of Indonesian women’s group Kalyanamitra, Rena Herdiyani, told the Post that the selective views on human rights of the various ASEAN member states was a challenge to the drafting of an effective declaration.

‘Some governments apply human rights based on political or narrow religious interpretations,’ Herdiyani said.

‘[The Declaration] should also promote non-discrimination principles toward minorities. If not, then [it] will not be meaningful.’

Community Affairs development director at the ASEAN secretariat, Danny Lee, admitted that differing views on human rights among member states presented a challenge but having the ten member states agree to some ground rules could at least be the start of a conversation on universal human rights.

‘In the ASEAN, total freedom is not possible because there are too many religious and ethnic differences,' Lee told the Post.

‘[But] the declaration is a landmark on its own … When you think about it, having ten countries with different constitutions to agree on something is not easy.’

The concerns by Indonesian human rights groups come following a statement by the Vice-President of the Muslim Lawyers Association of Malaysia calling for the exclusion of any mention of LGBT rights in the document.

ASEAN’s member states include Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Burma, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

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