Asia-Pacific sees progress on the protection of LGBTI people but obstacles remain

Oct 14, 2015

Edmund Settle, Policy Advisor at UNDP Bangkok Regional Hub, presents key findings from the summary report of Leave no one behind: Advancing social, economic, cultural and political inclusion of LGBTI people in Asia and the Pacific in Hanoi, Viet Nam. Photo: UNDP Viet Nam.

Hanoi – Over the past decade, some 25 countries and territories across Asia and the Pacific have introduced a range of protective laws and ordinances, passed supportive court judgements and pioneered constitutional reform processes that promoted the inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people. This momentum for greater legal and social acceptance of LGBTI people in the region has potential to guide governments, civil society and development partners to design policies that support achieving the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a key feature of which is the underlying principle and commitment to “leave no one behind”.

Highlighting this momentum is one of the key findings from the forthcoming report, Leave no one behind: Advancing social, economic, cultural and political inclusion of LGBTI people in Asia and the Pacific.  Today, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Embassy of Sweden in Bangkok and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) launched a summary report sharing the key findings and recommendations.

The summary report illustrates the range of measures taken in Asia and the Pacific to advance social, economic, cultural and political inclusion of LGBTI people. The report also highlights developments in the key areas of violence protection, education, health, employment, family affairs, legal gender recognition and political participation, as well as noting existing obstacles to further progress. 

“This regional report comes at a pivotal time in UN history with the recent adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals. The SDGs offer a new paradigm in international development, building upon the Millennium Development Goals, they seek to tackle the underlying causes of inequality, marginalization and poverty,” said Dr. Pratibha Mehta, the UN Resident Coordinator for Viet Nam. “Many countries have already begun to demonstrate leadership on the protection and inclusion of LGBTI people in the region.”

Despite the progress in the region, the report emphasizes that LGBTI people continue to represent some of the most marginalized populations. Consensual homosexual sexual conduct between adult males continues to be criminalized in at least 19 countries in Asia and the Pacific. This colonial era, punitive approach to same sex behaviour legitimizes prejudice, contributes to mental health problems, increases vulnerability to HIV, and exposes people to hate crimes, police abuse, torture and family violence, the report says.

“The Leave no one behind report outlines the many opportunities for collaboration and obstacles that lie in the path towards true equality and respect for the human rights of LGBTI people in the region,” said Ted Osius, U.S. Ambassador to Viet Nam. “It provides us with a clear roadmap on how to overcome these obstacles and is therefore an incredibly valuable tool for governments, civil society and other development stakeholders. It will help all of us engage to protect the rights of all LGBTI people.”

The summary report provides 39 recommendations for governments and development partners on LGBTI inclusion and the post-2015 SDGs. These recommendations support the argument that the inclusion of LGBTI people in broader development goals is essential if countries are to achieve the SDGs.

“We believe strongly that the success of all development efforts lies in their inclusivity. We will continue to partner with governments, LGBTI civil society and the UN to ensure inclusive and sustainable development for all,” said Camilla Mellander, Swedish Ambassador to Viet Nam. “Together we can ensure that the human rights of all are respected regardless of gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, intersex status or any other attribute.”

Over 60 people from government, civil society and the international community attended the launch event, including ambassadors and representatives from the United States, Sweden, Canada, Australia, Ireland and Dutch embassies.

This report was developed under the ‘Being LGBTI in Asia’ programme. This regional initiative is supported by UNDP, the Embassy of Sweden in Bangkok and USAID, and works closely with LGBTI civil society advocacy groups, governments and human rights bodies to strengthen capacity and promote human rights and inclusion of LGBTI people in development efforts.

Contact information

Ian Mungall, Programme Analyst, HIV, Health and Development Team, UNDP Bangkok Regional Hub
ian.mungall@undp.org | +66 (0) 909710908

Richard Nyberg, Senior Communications Advisor, USAID Regional Development Mission for Asia
rnyberg@usaid.gov | + 662-257-3138

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