Equal Eyes: Asia and the Pacific Round-Up for January 2018

Catch up on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex news and issues around Asia and the Pacific in this latest edition of Equal Eyes.

10 January 2018

HIV, Health, and Wellness: Writing for Youth Ki Awaaz, Shambhavi Saxena explored the difficulties that sex workers, gay men and other men who have sex with men, and trans people face when trying to safely and affordably seek HIV treatment in India.

Meanwhile, in Malaysia, officials announced a plan to start a voluntary ‘conversion therapy’ course for transgender women that will include medical, psychological, and religious components to return people “to normal lives”.

From the World of Politics:  For the first time since 1951, India’s government is updating the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in an effort, it says, to detect migrants illegally in the country. The government ignited fear by publishing a “partial list” that included only 19 million people of an estimated 32 million in the country. Transgender activists have warned that most trans people are unable to access legal documents and could be among those excluded from the NRC.

The Indian Parliament also reintroduced the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2016. Although the bill is meant to improve non-discrimination rights of trans people, activists say it disregards progressive reforms made in the Supreme Court Transgender Rights ruling of 2014 and presents a “fantasy” definition of who a trans person is.

Pakistan’s Senate Functional Committee on Human Rights approved the Transgender Person (Protection of Rights) Bill 2017 to improve recognition of trans people, property rights, and employment opportunities. The Council of Islamic Ideology (CII), a constitutional body that advises parliament on laws and Islam, will review the bill in January.

In Bangladesh, Nadira Begum became the first openly third-gender candidate to run for public office. And in Canada, Julie Lemieux became the country’s first openly trans person elected to be a mayor.

The Politics of Union: Although Taiwan’s highest court ruled in May that the Civil Code must be amended to include same-sex marriage, the Taipei High Administrative Court has refused to validate a lesbian couple’s marriage, saying that it is up to the Legislative Yuan to change the legal framework for marriage.

Let the Courts Decide: India’s Supreme Court announced it will reconsider Section 377 of the Penal Code that criminalizes sexual relations between consenting adults of the same sex. The judges decided to reconsider, in part, because of the court’s historic August ruling that declared privacy as a fundamental right.

In Singapore, a district judge refused to allow a gay man to adopt his four-year-old biological son, born in the US via surrogacy. Singapore does not practice surrogacy and only allows IVF for married couples. The man and his partner, who previously were rejected for any adoption because of their sexuality, will appeal the decision.

The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) called upon the government of Nepal to honor its historic Supreme Court 2007 decision on LGBT rights. Despite some progress, the ICJ said not enough is being done to implement the full ruling of the court.

In the Name of Religion: Indonesia’s Religious Affairs Minister, Lukman Hakim Saifuddin, told reporters that LGBT people should be “embraced”, not “shunned or excommunicated”. The Human Rights Watch cautioned that the Minister’s words should be taken in context as the Minister has also repeatedly called LGBT “mentally ill”.

Winds of Change: Activist Manisha Dhakal described how she “endured countless humiliations” as a trans woman in Nepal, yet those challenges led her to become executive director of the country’s largest LGBTI rights organization.

Equal Eyes is edited by Christina Dideriksen and Richard Burzynski. The views presented here do not necessarily represent the view of UNAIDS or its Cosponsors. 

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