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New partnerships forged for LGBTI rights

Graphic: Participants at the APF-UNDP training course

A ground-breaking APF workshop has helped establish a series of country-level partnerships to advance the rights of LGBTI people.

A ground breaking APF workshop in Colombo has helped establish a series of country-level partnerships to better promote and protect the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGTBI) people across South Asia.

The workshop brought together 21 participants representing national human rights institutions (NHRIs) and civil society organisations working for LGBTI rights from countries including Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, the Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka.

A key focus was to encourage conversations between the different groups and identify practical opportunities for joint action.

"It was the first time we have included civil society organisations in this way and we were delighted with the outcomes," said Pip Dargan, Deputy Director of the APF secretariat and APF Gender Focal Point.

"Everyone was enthusiastic about learning from each other at the workshop and building stronger partnerships back at home."

Hossain Zahid, a lawyer, describes his vision for LGBTI people living in Bangladesh

NHRI representatives said they found it valuable to listen to the stories of civil society participants in order to deepen their understanding of the human rights violations that LGBTI people commonly face.

Civil society participants said that, despite their long standing work with LGBTI communities, framing the issues using international human rights standards opened up new avenues to strengthen their advocacy efforts.

By the end of the week-long workshop, all country groups with both NHRI and civil society participants (Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Sri Lanka) had developed awareness raising projects that they would jointly deliver in their respective countries.

Rituparna Borah, a civil society advocate from India, talks about the challenges facing LGBTI people in her country

The workshop, which ran from 12-16 December 2016, was hosted by the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka and followed four weeks of online learning (10 October-4 November 2016).

The first program of its kind for NHRIs, the workshop included discussions on:

  • Terminology in relation to people of diverse sexual orientation, gender identity and sex characteristics
  • The international human rights standards relevant to LGBTI people, articulated in the Yogyakarta Principles
  • The role of NHRIs to protect the human rights of LGBTI people and the functions and powers at their disposal to do this work
  • Examples of good practice from the region to promote and protect the rights of LGBTI people.

Graphic: Rainbow flag

The program was led by Chris Sidoti, APF Expert NHRI Consultant, Jack Byrne, APF Consultant, and Ernest Noronha. The APF's Human Rights Projects and Planning Manager, Ms Faso Aishath, managed the overall course and workshop.

Blended learning training programs will also be held for APF members and civil society organisations in South East Asia (which started November 2016) and the Pacific (to start in March 2017).

Date: 5 January 2017

Image credits

  1. Participants at the APF-UNDP training course - APF/Fasoha Aishath
  2. Rainbow flag - APF