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

June 2018

HIV, Health, and WellnessPapua New Guinea published its first comprehensive survey on key populations, including trans people, sex workers, and gay men and other men who have sex with men. The survey, which showed that these groups often do not seek health care or get tested for HIV, will be used to create better HIV prevention and treatment services and policies.

In the Philippines, major community-based organizations joined forces for “This is Me: Brave and Free”, a free and confidential HIV testing day held in 10 places around the country. Event organizers hoped the event would help empower youth, trans women, and gay and other men who have sex with men to “take action” in managing their sexual health.

In Bhutan, a new study found that many healthcare providers are uncomfortable discussing sexuality with patients and have poor understanding of issues impacting transgender people and gay men and other men who have sex with men. Those with less understanding also demonstrated more homophobia and fears of HIV contamination. Public health consultant Dechen Wangmo urged for more sexual education and sexual health awareness, with better training on HIV and male sexual health.

From the World of Politics: The Indonesian government working group tasked with amending the Criminal Code announced that it will propose amending the code to ban “indecent sex”. For many months, Indonesia had considered specifically criminalizing same-sex intimacy. However, chairperson of the working committee, Enny Nurbaningsih, said that they “did not want the proposed [law] to give a discriminatory impression”. 

The Philippines Senate passed a new bill to reform the Philippine AIDS Prevention and Control Act of 1998. The new bill promises better policies for key populations, increased education, and to “enhance” anti-discrimination. The Human Rights Watch praised the bill for its rights-based approach, but noted that it failed to include specific provisions to promote condom use.

In Australia, the governments of Victoria and New South Wales are updating laws to allow married people to legally change their gender without being forced to divorce their partners. The states and territories of Australia were given 12 months to update their legislation so that it is in line with marriage equality. The federal government made same-sex marriage legal in December following a national postal vote. Activists note that some states still required forced sterilization before a gender change.

In Pakistan, at least 13 transgender people are running for election, including two for positions in the National Assembly. The candidates will be supported by the newly formed “All Pakistan Transgender Election Network”.  In Mexico, 17 cisgender men were disqualified for running for office because they were pretending to be trans women in order to meet a gender quota for the election.

Let the Courts Decide: The Hong Kong Court of Appeal overturned the landmark decision to give the same spousal benefits to employees in same-sex marriages as those given to opposite-sex marriages. Hong Kong does not recognize same-sex marriage, and the original case was brought forward by a couple married in New Zealand. The appeals judges ruled that the government has a “legitimate aim” to protect traditional marriage and that granting spousal benefits would open the door to other benefits.

In the Name of Religion: In South Korea, the Ecumenical Consultation on Gender and Sexuality was hosted by the National Council of Churches in Korea (NCCK). Participating mainline Protestant churches from Asia, Europe, and North America developed “Choosing Life: Creating Communities of Welcome”, a document outlining concrete steps for Korean churches to address discrimination faced by LGBT people in Korea.  During the conference, Rev. Lizette Tapia-Raquel of Union Theological Seminary-Philippines challenged participants to think of the meaning of the word “inclusion”:

“Are we saying that as a Church, we can really exclude anyone? It is not us as a Church but is God who welcomes us all. Maybe we should change our language and stop talking about inclusion but start talking about welcoming, as God welcomes.”

Winds of Change: From India, reporter Kai Schultz interviewed gay and trans people across the country about how criminalization of gay sex has impacted their lives and about their efforts to challenge the law.

China Parents, Friends and Families of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) announced it is working with the China Social Assistance Foundation (CSAF) to organize the country’s first foundation to help LGBT groups fundraise and “free themselves from the influence of foreign funding”.

Fear and Loathing: Australian organization the AIDS Council of NSW (ACON) released a new report on historical hate crimes against gay men and trans women. The report reveals a “wave of violence”  between the 1970s and the 1990s. ACON CEO Nicolas Parkhill notes that:

“By exploring the past, we hope to deepen our understanding of these events, which will help us improve current responses to LGBT hate crimes, enhance the criminal justice system and further develop violence prevention strategies.”

On the March: In Australia, the Department of Home Affairs suggested that refugees are pretending to be LGBTI to seek asylum. In Russia, LGBT organization Stimul spoke to the Daily Beast about helping people escape Central Asian countries that are rounding up gay men. In the US, a transgender asylum-seeker originating from Honduras died while in custody of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Activists are urging the release of all trans people in ICE detention.

Business and Technology: In India, 100 senior executives of multinational steel-making company Tata Steel gathered at the Mumbai headquarters to launch WINGS, a new Employee Resource Group for LGBTQ employees.

Sports and Culture: From Kerala, India, NDTV covered the celebration thrown by the Kerala Social Justice Department for the first known legally registered wedding of a trans couple. The groom’s mother said:

“We are the mother and father, so we, of course, will support our son. She was born a daughter, but now is our son. But that’s not how our relatives see this. It does get very tough. We also expect to be supported by our local mosque authorities to recognize this marriage in our community.”

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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