REGIONAL December 10, 2016

Defending the Rights of LGBT Individuals in South Asia: Stories of Survival and Justice

In South Asia, six countries have created National Human Rights Institution (NHRIs), all of which include complaint mechanisms. Three of these NHRIs (Afghanistan, India and Nepal) have been accredited with an “A” status, two (Bangladesh and Sri Lanka) have been accredited with a “B” status, and Pakistan’s NHRI has only recently been established and does not have accreditation. In Bhutan, in which the NHRI has not been established yet, the government has created a human rights committee through its parliamentary system instead of a separate, independent body.

Theoretically, the establishment of these NHRIs has provided LGBT people with access to complaints mechanisms that can help resolve human rights violations. In practice, several challenges remain limiting the use of this mechanism.

The 2015 Report of the Workshop on the Role of National Human Rights Institutions in Promoting and Protecting the Rights, including Health, of LGBTI People in Asia and the Pacific, published by UNDP, APF and APCOM with support from the Multi-Country South Asia Global Fund HIV Programme (MSA) and the Being LGBTI in Asia (BLIA) programme, noted that very few rights violations were reported to NHRIs due to the lack of knowledge of NHRI complaint procedures among the public.

As an example, the report summarized a community survey conducted by the Bandhu Social Welfare Society in Bangladesh on sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) issues. The survey found that 87 percent of respondents experienced human rights violations, but only 30 percent were aware of National Human Rights Commission of Bangladesh (known as JAMAKON).

In an effort to address this issue, APCOM intends to raise awareness regarding NHRIs and the complaint mechanism procedures that are available to LGBT people in the South Asia region. Despite the varying approaches the NHRIs may have concerning the specific complaint mechanism procedures, there are general procedures, principles and strategies based on compliance with the Paris Principles, which are a set of international standards which frame and guide the work of National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs). This general information can be captured in a brief and concise information aimed at communities and advocates in the South Asia region, namely through a booklet.

While developing this booklet, APCOM has gone on an extensive desk review and survey with the MSA partners in the region to solidify a documentation of relevant international and national human rights instruments, principles and legal obligations of the South Asian countries, as well as their good practice, in addressing the rights violation faced by South Asian LGBT persons.

This article is the first (introduction) part of a 5-part series of “Defending the Rights of LGBT Individuals in South Asia: Stories of Survival and Justice”, which uncovers the aforementioned documentation. Click below to read the other parts of the stories.

+ Part 2: Examining International Commitment of South Asian Countries in Defending LGBT Rights

+ Part 3: Measuring National Pledge of South Asian Countries in Defending LGBT Rights

+ Part 4: Actualising Human Rights in South Asia

+ Part 5: Mandates and Functions of NHRIs in South Asia