ASC Solidarity Message to the Vietnamese LGBTIQ Community on the occasion of the ASEAN Pride
Across Southeast Asia, activists are fighting for the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ) and other persons of diverse sexual orientation, gender identity and expression (SOGIE). So far, it has been an uphill battle.
Homosexuality remains to be criminalized in Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar and Singapore. Laws and social norms against ‘cross dressing’ have resulted to persecution of and denial of access to public services against transgender and gender diverse persons. Cultural norms and practices that stigmatize LGBTIQ persons have legitimized violence in both public and private spaces. Moreover, all countries in ASEAN do not have gender recognition laws thereby disallowing transgender persons from exercising self-determination over one’s gender identity.
This is why, in 2010, a diverse group of human rights defenders from around the region came together to form the ASEAN SOGIE Caucus. We have committed ourselves to furthering the rights of the region’s LGBTIQ community. We aim to do so by lobbying for the recognition of human rights of all regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression within ASEAN policies, as well supporting one another and our allies in their own localised struggles for justice and equality.
Over the past decade, one great inspiration for us has been the progress of the Vietnamese LGBTIQ movement. We have witnessed how writers, filmmakers, and other members of the media have brought the discourse surrounding sexual and gender minorities out of the margins, promoting greater acceptance and inclusion into mainstream society. Likewise, we have seen the steady development of civil society organisations which provide invaluable support for the community.
We watched with excitement as the nation held its first Pride Parade in Hanoi. We applauded when the Ministry of Justice began to consider legalising same-sex marriage, culminating in a removal of the prohibition on same-sex weddings.
Nevertheless, we recognise that LGBTIQ persons in Vietnam still face many challenges. These include physical, verbal and sexual abuse especially in the private sphere; discriminatory practices that hinder access to work and livelihood; and the lack of easily available resources and well-informed counseling services, particularly in non-urban areas.
As Southeast Asian activists, we would like to formally declare our solidarity with the LGBTIQ community of Vietnam. We express our wholehearted support for its activists, as believe that such a movement is crucial for ensuring that a government complies with its human rights obligations.
We therefore urge the Vietnamese government to consistently and sustainably move forward in promoting and protecting the rights of LGBTIQ persons. We further call for the full legal recognition of transgender persons, and the institution of anti- discrimination laws to protect all marginalised groups, including but not limited to LGBTIQ persons.
Lastly, we hope to strengthen our ties with the Vietnamese LGBTIQ community, so that we may aid one another in achieving our common goal of an inclusive ASEAN for all.