Men who have sex with men and transwomen face higher HIV and health risks as well as negative impacts on their mental health due to violence based on sexual orientation, gender identity and expression (SOGIE). To stop this violence, there needs to be a better understanding of it, to know what is happening and why.
These are the principal conclusions of a new multi-country report, Know Violence: Exploring the links between violence, mental health and HIV risk among men who have sex with men and transwomen in South Asia, released by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) and APCOM Foundation.
The report explores SOGIE-based violence in seven South Asian countries – Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka – across domains from the law to the workplace, health care and educational settings, and the family.
“While there are well-documented trends in some regions of the world, less is known about SOGIE-based violence, HIV risk and mental health among sexual and gender minority groups in South Asia,” explained Valerie Cliff, Deputy Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific at UNDP.
“There is an urgent need to understand the impact and complexity of violence faced by men who have sex with men and transgender persons, and the threat this violence poses to individuals and communities,” said Ravi Verma, Regional Director, Asia for the International Center for Research on Women in Delhi.
This report advances this issue by better understanding the lived and perceived experiences of men who have sex with men and transwomen in South Asia. The report was based on focus group discussions in 12 sites in 7 countries with those from affected communities, as well as on interviews with key informants from community-based organizations, health, law and government.
Recommendations to address SOGIE-based violence include gathering better evidence and the promotion of human rights. Effective HIV prevention efforts are based on in-depth research with those most affected by the epidemic. Reducing the prevalence of HIV among affected communities and providing adequate care to HIV-positive individuals requires a better understanding of how social stigma, everyday experiences of trauma, lack of legal recognition and other sources of SOGIE-based violence impact HIV risk directly and indirectly through mental health. The report also notes it is critical to understand gender-based violence as that experienced by transwomen and men who have sex with men as well as by women, as many definitions of gender-based violence focus only on women.
“Public health issues faced by vulnerable communities cannot be addressed without addressing the issues that impact on their rights,” said Midnight Poonkasetwattana, Executive Director of the Bangkok-based APCOM Foundation, which advocates for the rights of men who have sex with men and transgender people in Asia and the Pacific.
The recommendations presented in this report envision a world in which all sexual and gender minorities live free of stigma, discrimination and violence, and can reach their full potential and well-being. They provide tangible guidance to stakeholders across many sectors. Comprehensive strategies, commitment and coordination among policymakers, donors, researchers, programmers, employers, educators and health care providers can contribute to the related Sustainable Development Goals of preventing violence and HIV infections.
Download the report
For more information, contact:
Ian Mungall, Programme Analyst (Knowledge Management and Communications), UNDP Bangkok Regional Hub
 In Afghanistan, the study focused on men with high-risk behaviour.