REGIONAL October 16, 2019

APCOM calls for more LGBTQI protection at the ASEAN

Populism and othering have negative effects on the rights and freedoms of marginalized groups in the ASEAN region.

This was one of the themes discussed and explored at the convergence space on human rights, democracy and access to justice at the ASEAN Civil Society Policy Forum/ASEAN People’s Forum 2019.

The session held last September 10 at the Thammasat University was jointly organized by APCOM, ASEAN SOGIE Caucus (ASC), Asia Pacific Transgender Network (APTN), Initiatives for International Dialogues (IID), GPAC, and Forum Asia. Session panelists were Inad Rendon (APCOM), Lini Zurlia (ASC), and Marc Batac (IID).

LGBT Rights in ASEAN

APCOM outlines some statistics related to LGBTQI rights in the ASEAN region.

Citing data from the paper ‘State-Sponsored Homophobia’ released by the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association last March 2019, raised the fact that the present legal and policy environment in the ASEAN region is still not inclusive and there are some states where consensual homosexual acts are illegal. Additionally, in countries where being LGBTQI is not criminalized, there are also no legal protections which addresses discrimination based on SOGIESC. There are anti-LGBTQI rhetoric and in some instances, existing laws are disproportionately used against LGBTQI people. In the Province of Aceh in Indonesia. the Aceh Islamic Criminal Code (Qanun Jinayat), which punishes same-sex sexual acts with 100 lashes is being enforced. More recently, Brunei, attempted to impose the death penalty for those who have been convicted of gay sex, among other crimes. However, Brunei has backed down on this following international pushback.

ASEAN SOGIE Caucus’ Lini Zurlia also shared that even in countries where homosexuality is not criminalized, some laws are being used disparately against the LGBTQI community.

In terms of LGBTQI economic and social rights, APCOM shared that studies conducted by organizations and programs including the UNDP’s Being LGBT in Asia, World Bank, APTN, and Prof. M.V. Lee Badgett, points to inequality in access in the areas of health, education, and work related to SOGIESC based discrimination.

APCOM stressed that populism will exacerbate and contribute to magnifying these discrimination and exclusion being experienced by LGBTQI communities. Populism can frame claiming of rights of one sector will reduce enjoyment of rights of other sectors. This is in direct contravention to the principles that all rights are for all.

The same point was earlier emphasized by Marc Batac of IID in framing the discussion when he said that ‘populism is anchored on the us versus them and that we have to interrogate who benefits from discrimination.’

 Calls and Recommendations

During the session, APCOM called for the following:

  • For ASEAN member states to ensure equality and non-discrimination as enshrined in major human rights instruments by abolishing laws which are punitive based on SOGIESC and enact protective laws.
  • Mainstream a SOGIESC and intersectional approach in policies and programs of the ASEAN.
  • For governments outside the ASEAN to support LGBTQI inclusion and protection advocacies in the region.

ASEAN SOGIE Caucus meanwhile recommended for amendments of the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration to be more inclusive of minority rights.