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Putting the spotlight on sexual orientation and gender identity

A year-long project with six APF member institutions has documented the work they are doing to promote and protect the rights of people of diverse sexual orientation and gender identity.

A year-long project with six APF member institutions has documented the work they are doing to promote and protect the rights of people of diverse sexual orientation and gender identity.

Putting the spotlight on sexual orientation and gender identity

Still from Courage Unfolds (c) 2011, IGLHRC and LeAP Philippines, Inc.

In much of Asia, stigma and discrimination on the basis of diverse sexual orientation and/or gender identity (SOGI) strips people of their rights and excludes them from mainstream health programs, public and private services, and economic opportunity.

Driven underground, people of diverse SOGI are denied productive lives as contributing members of society. Socio-cultural disadvantage is exacerbated by punitive and discriminatory legal frameworks, criminalization of same-sex sexual relations in a number of jurisdictions, and law enforcement practices.

Over the year to March 2013, the International Development Law Organization (IDLO), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), SAARCLAW (the legal apex body of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) and the Asia Pacific Forum worked with national human rights institutions (NHRIs) in Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Nepal, the Philippines, Sri Lanka and Timor Leste to document their capacity to promote SOGI rights and respond to violations.

The project also engaged community based organizations to gather perspectives from the community of people of diverse SOGI, and participate in dialogue with the NHRIs.

The process revealed strong NHRI efforts to build institutional capacity in relation to SOGI rights and foster relationships with diverse SOGI communities. Highlights include:

  • The National Human Rights Commission of Nepal maintains a long-standing relationship with the Blue Diamond Society, the national network of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons. In 2012, the NHRC Nepal initiated an internship for a diverse SOGI representative, to promote its own understanding and build community capacity in human rights.
  • The current Chair of the Commission for Human Rights of the Philippines has established SOGI and HIV-related rights as an emerging priority. Over the past three years, the CHR Philippines has surveyed its own capacity relating to SOGI and HIV, and conducted topical capacity-building workshops for its personnel in Cebu City and Davao City.

A second area in which NHRIs have demonstrated a strong response is advocacy. Highlights include:

  • In October 2012, the NHRC Bangladesh submitted a report as part of the State’s participation in the 16th session of the UPR. For the first time, the NHRC Bangladesh added a section on other minority groups which directly advocated for the rights of people of diverse SOGI: ‘The NHRC Bangladesh believes that it is now time to ensure that all groups, including those who are transgender, intersex or sexual minority, are protected from discrimination.
  • In 2012, Indonesia’s National Human Rights Commission (KOMNAS HAM) successfully advocated for the rights of people of diverse SOGI. It mediated a consensus-based solution to the allegedly deliberate harassment and bullying of feminine and gay men on a reality television program.

The NHRI SOGI Project Regional Analysis Report will be released in May 2013. This initiative was supported by UNDP Asia-Pacific Regional Centre under two multi-country Global Fund Programmes in South Asia and Insular Southeast Asia.

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The International Development Law Organization (IDLO) is an intergovernmental organisation devoted to empowering people and enabling governments to reform laws and strengthen institutions to promote peace, justice, sustainable development and economic opportunity.

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