Equal Eyes: Asia and the Pacific round-up for May 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.

May 2018

From the UN: In Beijing, two UNAIDS ambassadors participated in an open dialogue with students at Peking University about the importance of combating discrimination to end the AIDS epidemic. Movie star and humanitarian, Huang Xiaoming, the UNAIDS Goodwill Ambassador for China, reflected on what motivated him to become a UNAIDS Ambassador and why discrimination should end, stating that “it is important to be kind to everyone, it’s particularly important to keep our minds clear and objective, and to uphold justice and truth”. The First Lady of Panama, Lorena Castillo de Varela, UNAIDS Special Ambassador for AIDS in Latin America, urged students to integrate anti-discrimination into everyday actions:

“Just that smile, even though it might look very small to you, it can make another human being feel special, not discriminated or different.”

The UNDP and Thailand’s Department of Women’s Affairs and Family Development published a new study “Legal Gender Recognition in Thailand: A Legal and Policy Review” with inputs from government and civil society on the laws, regulations, and policies and practices that impact trans people’s right to recognition before the law. The study examines how the inability to change their name, sex, or gender on official documentation impacts people’s access to health and social services, including job applications, banking, education, and healthcare.

From Hong Kong, UNDP Being LGBTI Asia and the Chinese University of Hong Kong co-organized an international conference on the importance of LGBTI-related research and data collection to better inform policy and development issues.

HIV, Health, and Wellness: Meanwhile, in Malaysia, local media watchdog group Sinar Project reported that the country’s Internet Service Provider has been blocking the website Utopia-Asia, an LGBT travel guide with the region’s largest HIV/AIDS information archive.

From Papua New Guinea, researchers published a study evaluating the feasibility of bedside testing for syphilis in rural clinics and low-income settings. Meanwhile, Canadian microbiologist Caroline Cameron has received a patent for a potential syphilis vaccine.

From the World of Politics: Pakistan’s National Assembly passed the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act giving people the ability to self-declare their gender, obtain National IDs and passports, and the right to vote and run for office. Among other protections, the Act bans discrimination by employers, schools, and health care.

As Thailand prepares for elections next year, the Bangkok Post reports that political parties are making promises to the LGBT community to garner their vote, including a promise to enact same-sex civil partnerships. Meanwhile in India, The Hindu reports that the number of registered voters who are transgender has already doubled since the previous Assembly elections.

Let the Courts Decide: India’s Supreme Court heard several new petitioners against Section 377 of the Penal Code criminalizing homosexuality. Among the arguments against Section 377, the new petitions emphasized that it violates the right to privacy which the Supreme Court ruled a “fundamental right” last summer.

In the Name of Religion: Six months after Australia passed legislation recognizing same-sex marriage, the government has continued to hold private and public inquiries on the topic of religious freedom in the country. Although not exclusively focused on marriage rights, Sub-Committee Chair MP Kevin Andrews announced that the majority of submissions “overwhelmingly expressed the concern that religious freedom or freedom of belief are being challenged by the emphasis placed on other human rights”.

Michael Casey, a director at the Australian Catholic University, stated that forcing people to accept others’ views of marriage would lead to “more conflict and acrimony in public debate”. Meanwhile, the Equality Campaign continues to call for an end to religious exemptions that allow schools and hospitals to discriminate against LGBT people.

Winds of Change: From Pakistan, transgender activist Ashi Butt discusses opening the country’s first old-age facility for trans people. Residents will receive shelter, free medical care, and will live as one family “together in each other’s sorrow and happiness”. 

Sports and Culture: The 63rd annual Eurovision Song Contest wrapped up with Israel winning the top prize with the song “Tor” by Netta. The competition, which has become a haven for LGBT fans around the world, was not without controversy as China censored LGBT content. It cut Ireland’s semi-final performance that included an interpretive dance depicting a same-sex love story and blurred a rainbow flag during Switzerland’s performance. In response, the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) revoked China’s license to broadcast any of the program.

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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