This is the third instalment of a series looking at human rights around the world. This week Lynn Rickard looks at the LGBT rights in South East Asia.
Amnesty International Annual Report 2017 notes that LGBTI people suffered discrimination in Malaysia, Papua New Guinea and Singapore but to name a few. It reports hate speech against members of Australia’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and questioning (LGBTIQ) community has increased, despite “newly introduced penalties”. Among these injustices in this region Indonesia’s Aceh province saw two men publicly caned 83 times each for consensual same-sex sexual activity.
As it stands gay marriage is illegal in all nations of The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). The nations included in that heading are as follows: Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Viet Nam. The ban against same sex intercourse remains in Singapore, Malaysia and Myanmar. According to the Huffington Post homosexuality remains criminalised in countries such as Brunei and is currently punishable by whipping, imprisonment, or even stoning to death.
LGBT activist Jean Chong based in Singapore accounts for her personal experience on the matter saying: “If you look at Brunei, Singapore, Malaysia, Myanmar, and also Laos, it’s very backward when it comes to LGBT rights … but even in the other, more ‘progressive’ countries, there are problems. Butch women are being killed in rural areas in Thailand, trans women are being targeted in the Philippines”.
To understand this human right injustice fully we must take into consideration people in positions of authority and the influence of their outlook on society. In 2015, the Deputy Mayor of Banda Aceh, the capital of Indonesia, described homosexuality as “a social disease that should be eradicated”. In saying this it must be recognised that this is the tip of the iceberg regarding the discrimination of certain social and ethnic groups. According to a 2014 December Reuters report, the LGBT community has been forced “into hiding” there.
In January 2016 agitation began when Indonesia’s Higher Education Minister Mohammed Nasir tweeted that he wanted to ban all LGBT student groups from university campuses. In the following two months, many public officials added to a cascade of anti-LGBT hostility. Shortly after he contradicted his comments about LGBT student groups on Twitter, saying LGBT people deserve “equal treatment in the eyes of the law.”
While the Australian Parliament passed legislation to create marriage equality in December the postal survey process chosen by the government failed to acknowledge that marriage equality is a human right and generated divisive and damaging public debate, says Amnesty.
Although there is increased awareness surrounding LGBT rights throughout Asia Pacific, the struggles and abuses remain.