The dire need for the government and other authorities to protect the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people was highlighted during a public discussion convened by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United States Agency for International Development (USAid) and its Regional Development Mission for Asia, and the University of the Philippines (UP)-Diliman.
The forum marked the 2013 observance of the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO), an annual effort to coordinate international events to call for respect for LGBTs worldwide. The day also marks when homosexuality was removed from the International Classification of Diseases of the World Health Organization (WHO) on May 17, 1990.
In the Philippines, LGBT activists emphasized the importance of enacting anti-discrimination laws, particularly in education, health, employment, family affairs, media, community and politics. Panelists presented the impacts of discrimination against LGBT people in education and employment, where LGBT people suffer human rights violations.
“Anti-discrimination laws that protect LGBT people are long overdue in many countries,” said Professor Michael L. Tan, dean of the UP College of Social Sciences and Philosophy. “They are an essential tool that enables marginalized and discriminated groups to participate in the society on an equal basis as everyone else. This is good for LGBT people and for the societies around Asia.”
The panelists similarly highlighted the progress made in politics and access to health services, citing governments that have enacted laws and local ordinances which prohibit discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity. The Philippines recently passed local anti-discrimination ordinances in the cities of Cebu, Davao and Naga.
Young people, including the United Nations Volunteers working on LGBT issues in China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam, shared their experiences and perspectives on changing attitudes and laws to better protect the rights of LGBT people. Social media and crowd-mapping were identified as facilitating the LGBT movement in Asia.
“The human rights of LGBT people must be respected everywhere,” said U.S. Embassy Manila’s USAID Mission Director Gloria D. Steele.
Panel experts also included Xu Bin, a leader of Common Language, a national Chinese lesbian organization based in Beijing; Prempreeda Ayutthaya from the Asia-Pacific Transgender Network (APTN) based in Bangkok; and Ging Cristobal from the Asia Pacific office of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission.
The event was supported by Being LGBT in Asia, a joint initiative between UNDP and USAID launched on International Human Rights Day in 2012, and is implemented in Cambodia, China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam. Being LGBT in Asia is working with LGBT communities, universities and human rights organizations to gain insights into the challenges and successes of LGBT communities in Asia.