The ASEAN SOGIE Caucus
The ASEAN SOGIE Caucus (ASC) was formed when LGBTIQ activists from eight ASEAN countries (Burma, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam) came together to attend a meeting organized by Arus Pelangi, Indonesia for Human and Institute for Studies of Society, Economy and Environment (iSEE) Vietnam, during the 2011 ASEAN Civil Society Conference of the ASEAN People’s Forum (ACSC/APF) in Jakarta, Indonesia. The coming together of ASEAN LGBTIQ activists was prompted by the 2010 ACSC/APF Plenary report that recommended highlighting issues pertaining to non-conforming sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression (SOGIE). Aside from holding the first LGBT workshop in its formal program, the 2011 ACSC/APF also provided an opportunity for the discussion on SOGIE issues to be opened up to a bigger and diverse audience. By the end of the two-day conference, the group of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, and queer (LGBTIQ) activists chose to call themselves the ASEAN SOGIE Caucus and issued a public statement on key concerns of LGBTIQ people to the ACSC/APF.
Communication between LGBTIQ activists continued through monthly Skype meetings with the core group of Caucus activists, recruiting new activists, and identifying who would participate in ongoing meetings of the ASEAN People’s Forum, ensure that LGBTIQ concerns were integrated with civil society demands to the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) and the ASEAN Commission on the Protection and Promotion on the Rights of Women and the Rights of Children (ACWC), which was tasked by the ASEAN Charter to develop ASEAN human rights mechanisms. The assertion of SOGIE inclusion was consistently advocated when the ACSC/APF met in March and in November 2012 in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, as well as during the formal consultations between AICHR and civil society organizations in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on March 2012, and in Manila, Philippines on September, 2012, and also in the numerous in-country consultations by AICHR, the ACWC, and other stakeholders.
In November 2012 the ASC organised a contingent that marched with other CSOs in Phnom Penh, Cambodia to protest the adoption of a flawed ASEAN Human Rights Declaration (AHRD) without proper CSO consultation and poor transparency in the drafting and adoption process. CSOs, including ASC demanded that adoption of the AHRD be delayed or the community would reject the Declaration. LGBTIQ activists from eight ASEAN countries participated in the protest march. Yet, despite the collective outrage AICHR excluded SOGIE and indigenous people from the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration. This setback led ASC members in partnership with the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) to formalise in 2013 ASC structures. At the next ILGA Asia Conference, the ASC held its first strategic planning meeting in April 1-2, 2013. The strategic plan for ASC outlines its goal as follows: “We aim to advocate for the inclusion of sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression in ASEAN Human Rights Mechanisms in order to promote and protect the human rights of people regardless of SOGIE in the Southeast Asian region.” The objectives of ASC are:
- To raise awareness about LGBTIQ rights by mainstreaming and integrating SOGIE issues in the ASEAN mechanisms.
- To build and enhance the capacity and knowledge of Network members and other human rights defenders on SOGIE issues.
- To lobby ASEAN governments in the national and regional arenas for the inclusion of SOGIE issues in ASEAN human rights mechanisms.
- To leverage and engage with the UN system in asserting the inclusion of SOGIE issues in ASEAN human rights mechanisms.
- To connect and build linkages and strengthen the meaningful cooperation and collaboration with LGBTIQ groups, national and regional human rights and social justice groups.
- To building strategic alliances and strengthen existing networks with grassroots, national and regional human rights and social justice groups and civil society organizations.
- To advocate for the following recommendations:
- Repeal laws that directly and indirectly criminalize SOGIE,
- Recognize LGBTIQ rights as human rights and harmonize national laws, policies and practices with the Yogyakarta Principles,
- Establish national level mechanisms and review existing regional human rights instruments to include the promotion and protection of the equal rights of all people regardless of SOGIE with the active engagement of the LGBTIQ community.
- Depathologize SOGIE and promote psychosocial well being of people of diverse SOGIE in accordance with the World Health Organization (WHO) standards, and ensure equal access to health and social services.