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Southeast Asian human rights declaration excludes sexual orientation and gender identity

Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) leaders sign a declaration of human rights, but international rights advocates say it doesn't do enough
The leaders of ASEAN after the signing of the declaration of human rights yesterday

A declaration of human rights signed by the 10 nations of ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) does not include protection from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity (SOGI).

The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission said in a statement that they, along with over 60 other organizations including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, reject the declaration, describing it as ‘not worthy of its name’.

‘All they have done is they have put the loopholes up front and then they have tried to decorate around them,’ said Phil Robertson deputy Asia director of Human Rights Watch.

The nations of ASEAN are Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Brunei, Burma, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam, forming a collective population of 600 million people. 

Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak responded to criticism that the human rights declaration was not up to international standards, saying Malaysia has its own values.

‘In fact we feel that the declaration has points which are better than the universal declaration of human rights,’ Najib said, as reported by The Star newspaper. He also commented on the exclusion of the protection of SOGI rights, saying:

‘It depends on your values and norms and we reject LGBT but it does not mean any weakening in terms of the principle of human rights.’

‘It’s a legacy for our children,’ said Foreign Secretary of the Philippines Albert del Rosario, according to the Jakarta Globe.

ASEAN Secretary-General Surin Pitsuwan said the declaration was a ‘major, major development’. He said to reporters after the signing at the ASEAN summit in Phnom Penh, Cambodia:

‘The leaders have just signed that into a declaration committing themselves, every government, every country, to the highest standards, existing and available.’

President Barack Obama is due to arrive at the summit today.  

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