This year’s event was due to take place 1-13 November under the theme “Queer without Fear”, advocating for equal rights and human dignity for LGBT communities, with the participation of leading NGOs, artists and activists. However, police declared a ban on the event just as it was about to get underway, a move supported by some Islamic groups in this Muslim nation who say the event promotes homosexuality.
Event organizers and supporters point out that the event advocates for the rights and well-being of LGBT individuals, and is an important vehicle to raise HIV awareness and strengthen health-seeking behaviour in a country where the epidemic continues to spread among vulnerable populations including men who have sex with men.
APCOM calls upon Malaysian authorities to lift the ban which effectively contributes to the significant stigma and discrimination that continues to affect MSM and other vulnerable communities in Malaysia because of sexual orientation and gender identity. Stigma is a key driver of the HIV globally and regionally, lying at the heart of the challenge in tackling the epidemic. If Malaysian authorities are to address HIV effectively, and fulfill the country’s global obligations in this regard, actions such as the ban on Seksuality Merdeka will significantly hinder, not help, these efforts.
APCOM is a regional coalition of MSM and HIV community-based organisations, the government sector, donors, technical experts and the UN system. The main purpose is advocating for political support and increases in investment and coverage of HIV services in Asia Pacific. APCOM promotes principles of good practice and lessons learnt by bringing together representatives from diverse groups in an effort to share experience, knowledge and expertise.
For additional information: Midnight Poonkasetwattana, APCOM Secretariat
Telephone: +668-5360-5200 (m) +66-2-2554410 (o)