|Jennifer Josef, ILGA-ASIA|
|Jennifer Josef, ILGA-ASIA|
Laos has held its first ever gay pride event in what supporters hope is a sign of softening social values in the small communist country.
Read the transcript of the AFP interview withAnan BOUAPHA, First Lady of LGBT Pride of Laos, Lao PDRInterview Script (AFP)
1. Why you want to organize this event ? and How do you feel about it ?
The main reason that we wanted to organize this LGBT Pride event is because we wantd to increase the visibility and often the vulnerability of these populations. At the national level, this group is being targeted as the most vulnerable tocontract HIV/AIDS and STI, so sexual health care is an important positive factor in their life. But in real life these people belong to every sector of Laotian society; they can be anyone in this country as well as in the worlds population. The idea is that we don't only want them to have a better sexual health and life skills, but we also want the general public in Laos to get to know why it is important to sympathetically consider LGBT as part of the larger population of the nation.
By the way, these are the objectives that I stated during the opening remark:
- To celebrate the diversity of ourselves, because all of us have different characteristics, preferences and cultures. Culture in this context is the social norm of LGBT in the Laotian society. Such a culture is becoming a more visible one in many parts of the world.
- To get to know each other better, especially our new friends. Also to learn from each other that we can be living and working together with harmony and that LGBT people can be a more valuable resource to national development if there is no stigma and discrimination against them; they can contribute enormously to the country if given the opportunity.
- To get to know some basic information on sexual health education regarding HIV/AIDS and STI and LGBT issues organized by partner organizations since male-to-male sex produces the highest rate of national HIV/AIDS prevalence
in Laos 5,6 % compared to 0,2 % for general population.
- To promote freedom of speech, freedom of thoughts, freedom of being who you are, and freedom of love, admiration and preference.
On behalf of the representatives of LGBT (The First Lady) in this country and one of the organizers of this event, I feel so empowered and I am sure many of LGBT in the community also feel the same way. Because this is the first step for us to move forward and come up with more positive actions in the future. We never have had this event out history. Plus, the Head of the
Center for HIV/AIDS and STI at the Ministry of Health and the U.S Ambassador were there with us with wonderful speeches urging full acceptance for LGBT. We are certain that this beginning will provide us more opportunity to strengthen LGBT work in the future.
2. What is the LGBT's situation in Laos ? Since homosexuality is not illegal, where is the area of stigma and discrimination ?
The situation of LGBT in Laos is quite liberal in terms of being who they want to be in the family and the wider society, but gaining greater acceptance from government and legal protection is still a long from being realized. A lot of advocacy work about the visibility of LGBT in national development is an important task that needs to be undertaken by the leaders of the country. Hopefully, we will get there one day.
3. What are your hopes and dream for LGBT in Laos ?
My hopes for the future of LGBT in Laos are:
- More advocacy work in terms of basic rights, legal projection, and recognition from both the general public and higher level of the governments so that LGBT can take part in national development.
- Since funding is somewhat limited for LGBT in Laos, more internal and external support is required to improve the environment for LGBT such as sexual health education, advocacy and policy support for a more positive environment, and a capacity building program for potential LGBT leaders.
- If possible, I wish I could see myself and my community sitting and talking with high ranking officials discussing the development of the nation, rather than only being targeted as the most vulnerable people for HIV/AIDS.