At a time when advocacy to promote the basic human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual and intersex (LGBTI) persons has never been louder, APCOM is joining other civil society organisations, development partners and other fellow community advocates in Bangkok, Thailand for the 28th International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (IL GA) World Conference from November 28 to December 2, 2016.
This is the second time that the Conference is being held in Asia – home to 60% of the world’s population, and thus, possibly home to world’s largest LGBTI population – after more than a decade, with the first being hosted in the Philippines in 2003.
The movement of LGBTI rights in Asia and the Pacific has trials and tribulations. Palau has decriminalised same-sex sexual act in 2014. Legal recognition of trans identity has been applied in many South Asian countries. As New Zealand has passed same-sex marriage bill in 2013, progressive national-scale discussion on marriage equality has been started in Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam. We also have seen our community members taking executive or legislative seats in India and the Philippines, as well as anti-bullying campaigns to protect young LGBTI people taking over schools in Southeast Asia.
At the same time, our hearts sink while witnessing the misery experienced by our brothers and sisters. The murder of Xulhaz Mannan and Mahbub Tonoy in Bangladesh early this year and the increasing violence against LGBTI people in Indonesia are the examples. Some countries are drafting bills to criminalise same-sex sexual acts and/or transgender expression, while one country has overturned decriminalisation decisions. Laws prohibiting forced and unnecessary medical surgery for intersex children are often unheard.
It has been 10 years since the Yogyakarta Principles, the set of principles on the application of international human rights law in relation to sexual orientation and gender identity, were drafted by a group of distinguished international human rights experts in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. The Principles have been an instrumental advocacy tool by the community advocates across the globe. In Nepal, the Principles has allowed Blue Diamond Society and their lawyers ally to make the case for gender identity as a separate ground of non-discrimination to the court, resulting in the creation of a new law prohibiting discrimination and violence against LGBTI people. These Principles should be revived to mend the broken justice among our community.
One of the experts behind for the Principles is Professor Vitit Munthaborn, who also has just been appointed as the first UN independent expert for investigating violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. As we all know, however, a number of States challenged the cogency of the role of the independent expert and attempted to have it annulled. Fortunately, a close vote by a United Nations General Assembly committee few days ago affirmed the role. “Rejection of the effort to suspend Professor Vitit’s role is a victory for human rights,” said APCOM Executive Director Midnight Poonkasetwattana. “We at APCOM will uphold the resolution and offer our full support to his prominent work.”
“Rejection of the effort to suspend Professor Vitit’s role is a victory for human rights,” said APCOM Executive Director Midnight Poonkasetwattana. “We at APCOM will uphold the resolution and offer our full support to his prominent work.”
APCOM is also taking the 28th ILGA World Conference to launch our 10th Anniversary and there will be series of events in 2017 to commemorate this milestone. We were founded a decade ago and started as a coalition working for male and transgender sexual health and HIV issues, under the great leadership of the late Shivananda Khan. Since then, APCOM has been dedicating effort for LGBTI human rights. Within these 10 years, we at APCOM have learned that it is crucial to work as inclusive as possible towards men who have sex with men (MSM), women who have sex with women (WSW), LGBTI persons and many other individuals of the minorities of sexual orientation and gender identities and expression. We at APCOM will spread our wings much wider in order to contribute to lasting change for our communities in the region. APCOM is, therefore, proud to collaborate with many other civil society organisations and UN agencies to hold activities for the 28th ILGA World Conference as well as to commemorate the 10 years anniversary of the Yogyakarta Principles. Kindly see our programmes at apcom.org/ILGAWorld2016.
In a nutshell, APCOM’s engagement before, during and after the Conference covers multiple fronts of providing technical support to the local organising committee and ILGA Secretariat, sharing best practice and experience, as well as strategize and build alliances and partnership with current and potential key stakeholders, including country embassies based in Bangkok. “APCOM’s activities throughout Conference are a result of a fruitful collaboration with many change makers, covering various aspects of LGBT rights advocacy in the region,” explained Midnight. “From exploring challenges and windows of opportunity to closing the gap faced by the community advocates. From discussing faith-based advocacy to igniting sexual health-centred activism. From a discourse covering a specific subregion to a dialogue focusing on a country situation.”
The sessions that APCOM conduct will be live streamed on our facebook page. Those who could not make it to the Conference will, therefore, have a chance to participate virtually. Questions to the panel, for example, can be delivered through a comment within the live stream feed.
New publications and knowledge products, such as a summary of the legal environment for LGBTI people in Asia and the Pacific, a discussion paper on Christianity and sexual diversity, and a guidebook for LGBT travellers visiting Bangkok, are also produced by APCOM on the occasion of the Conference. We at APCOM are looking forward to welcoming the change advocates in Bangkok.