|Jennifer Josef, ILGA-ASIA|
|Jennifer Josef, ILGA-ASIA|
In the opening session of the 5th ILGA Asia conference, delegates from 20 countries and Pan-Africa region presented LGBTI rights situation in the form of brief country reports. Read the highlights of the country reports.
Here, for your benefit, are potted one-to-two-sentence summaries of what it’s like for LGBTs (almost) everywhere in Asia!
As in most Gulf countries, Islamisation of society has made stuff pretty grim – LGBTs are viewed as psychopaths.
Knowledge on SOGI rights is really low; plus there’s still Penal Code 377, the anti-gay sex law.
Big problems are ignorance, leading to discrimination, abuse and a huge HIV/AIDS crisis.
Gay sex has been decriminalized and is no longer a mental disease! But gay films are censored and there’s no anti-discrimination law efforts – good news is that LGBT groups are proliferating.
Oh noes, scary fundamentalist Christians (who form 10% of the population) are disguising themselves as concerned parents, fighting against the newly proposed gay-inclusive domestic violence law – they say it’s foreplay for a gay marriage law! On the plus side, 3 gay and lesbian pop stars and a legislator came out at the Pride Parade.
The anti-gay sex law, 377, has been overturned, but it’s being challenged in the Supreme Court by eight parties – government isn’t pushing the point, though. Nicer news: 400 MSM organisations across the land, transgender welfare board in one state, third-gender recognised in some states!
Discriminatory laws exist at national and local levels, e.g. the population administration law, the penal code, the pornography law, the qanun jinayah in Aceh. Also intensified LGBT rights violations: an attack on an Irshad Manji book launch in Jakarta, activist Dede Oetomo unable to get into a commission on human rights due to a homophobic parliament.
Invisibility, silence, stigmatization, rejection – thus the fifth highest suicide rate in the world. The newly elected government is even more homo- and transphobic than the last: it’s introducing more heteronormative teaching materials in schools.
Unlike other Middle Eastern countries, this place has bars, clubs, nightlife, and support from much of civil society since the new millennium – but the government’s not really interested in rights, just pinkwashing for aristocrats and tourists. Meanwhile, Article 534 of the Penal Code prohibits abnormal sex “contradicting the laws of nature”, which is used against both men and women.
Political hate speech, even from the PM, decrying LGBT rights as part of dangerous pluralism; anti-LGBT efforts in schools, including seminars, guidelines to identify LGBT persons and an anti-LGBT play called Deviant Lust; correction camps for effeminate men and transwomen!!!
Stuff is at an embryonic stage: when same-sex households were removed from family law last year, a young gay couple stepped forward and formed the first LGBT org. It’s three months old.
There’s only one group, formed in 2007; they organize a Freedom Parade! This in the wake of the curtailment of personal rights under Socialism and the machismo of nomadic society – a REAL man slaughters sheep! – but the government’s now amending the constitution to include a protection law, but isn’t advertising it.
Movement began in 2000, and since then Blue Diamond’s extended services to 6 districts and convinced the Supreme Court to rule that discriminatory laws have got to go and laws to protect LGBT rights have gotta come! Now the country officially recognizes three genders (man, woman, other), significant numbers of LGBTI people have joined politics, the national youth policy includes transgenders in policy, the 2012 Census includes queer stats, social acceptance is on the increase… just a pity the homophonic, transphobic Chief District Officer of Kathmandu has refused to renew Blue Diamond’s operating licence, causing all its programs to be stopped and over 750 people haven’t received pay for six months!!!
First time we’ve a representative from this nation, from Al-Qaws, which sticks up for sexual and gender diversity in Palestinian society, including the diaspora. They’re working in the background of Israeli occupation, oppression since the Ottomans; hence they’re going for a non-confrontational, collective approach, changing the discourse, offering individual support, building community and social change, not adopting European prerogatives, creating their own vocabulary.
“It’s more fun in the Philippines!” says the delegate, who notes that there are anti-discrimination ordinances now in four areas, support from the Commission for Human Rights, a partnership with the Philippines National Police, and an LGBT Psychology program in a university – plus, next year is the 20th anniversary of Philippine Pride! On the down side, hate crimes and HIV are on the rise, the Catholic church is still a huge influence on society, existing laws are twisted against LGBTs for the purposes of extortion, and the anti-discrimination bill got stuck in Congress for over ten years - so now the initiative will have to start from zero again.
Argh, we have the anti-gay sex law 377A, censorship, queer-unfriendly sexuality education and a homophobic army medical classification code of 302 for gay men! But we have a constitutional challenge to 377A ongoing, a fight for lesbian rights through the CEDAW report, the IndigNation Queer Pride Festival, and the 15,000-strong public gathering PinkDot!
“The miracle of Asia,” the government calls it, but they have the anti-gay sex law 365, the anti-lesbian sex law 365A, a human rights action plan that had decriminalization written out of it, increased post-war rape, increased hate crimes due to political thugs diverting attention from real problems to gay and trans scapegoats, police harrassment, assault, rape, extortion, blackmail… but oddly enough, no-one’s actually been prosecuted for over 60 years – the laws are just kept on as ever-present threats. Our delegate complains of the Buddhist-Sinhala extremists: “They said we were turning Sri Lanka into a homosexual country. I wanted to say we wouldn’t have to try very hard.”
The 10th Taiwan LGBT Pride Parade had a gathering of 55,000; 50% of citizens support marriage equality (70% if you’re counting folks under 30), but 51% of parents can’t accept their kids being LGBT. This is sorta linked to the rise of anti-LGBT forces in recent years, e.g. the “True Love Alliance”, who claim to be concerned parents and teachers.
Not quite an LGBTQ paradise, the delegate insists: the coin has two sides. But a happy story - previously, transgenders were exempted form the military because of their “permanent physical abnormality”; last year, the term was changed to something more PC.
And some good news – smiles before lunch, as the delegate said! 2012 marked a turning point in Vietnam’s history, as makers of family and marriage laws started considering same sex couples and relationships!
Ah, but not all smiles. Sahran popped his head in again before we broke up.
Sahran: Sometimes I get really depressed by what’s going on. And then I think, "At least we’re not Africa."
He then introduced Yahia from Algeria (whom we met at ILGA World 2012), who’s here as a scholar, trying to figure out how to set up a Pan-African ILGA Conference. The first (and last) one was held in 2007 in Johannesburg: 60 activists from 15 countries. High time another one was held: they’re in need of solidarity. Homosexuality is illegal in 38 out of 53 states in the continent!
Yahia: Christians and Muslims fight each other in wars, but homophobia unites them.
There’s torture, persecution, even execution (this actually happened to a Senegalese ILGA Africa board member). Homophobia is a western invention, they’re told. But in those 38 countries, the penal code came from British colonial laws.