Title: Pink shift in South-East Asia Credit: Craig Young Comment Thursday 3rd January 2008 - 2:19pm1199323140 Article: 5430 Rights
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia South-East Asia contains a spectrum of religious, legal and political opinion related to LGBT rights, from repression to pluralism and indifference. Singapore and Malaysia are the last holdouts insofar as criminalisation of male homosexuality is concerned. In Singapore, surprisingly, the founding parent, Mentor Minister Lee Kwan Yew, has come to the conclusion that as homosexuality is genetic, there is no point in maintaining criminal penalties. This doesn't stop the Singapore government from closing down gay male dancing parties, or even art exhibitions that depict same-sex kissing. Malaysia is far worse, and its Victorian, colonial era 'gross indecency' legislation are alarmingly supplemented with Islamic sharia law - although no death penalty applications of the latter have been reported as yet. Indonesia and the Philippines don't criminalise homosexuality, but neither state has anti-discrimination laws, although attempts to introduce and pass such legislation have been made in both countries- and have failed. The Philippine legislature also tried to ban same-sex marriage- and also failed then, fortunately, in 2006. Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam have other problems. They don't ban homosexuality, but they deny that it exists, which has implications for funding of HIV/AIDS education and prevention programmes from central government. By contrast, Thailand has a rich LGBT-inclusive history and thriving LGBT community. However, despite lobbying of the former military administration to include sexual orientation and gender identity in the Thai constitution, it fell through at the last moment. Thailand does have highly advanced HIV/AIDS prevention programmes, and HIV/STI clinics for MSMs exist in Bangkok and Phuket, although nearly thirty percent of Bangkok MSMS are reportedly HIV+. Personal denial of a same-sex desiring social identity is a serious barrier to education and prevention in all four countries. There are some prospects for change. Thailand, Indonesia and the Phillipines probably will pass inclusive antidiscrimination laws at some point, and Singapore looks likely to eventually decriminalise homosexuality at some point in the future, which leaves Malaysia. We need to exert continued pressure on Malaysia and support LGBT organisations and individuals in that country. The British Commonwealth's Heads of Government forumsand APEC strike me asoptimal settingsfor such movement. Recommended: Edward Russell: "Asian Indignity" DNA 94 (November 2007): 66-67 Craig Young - 3rd January 2008    
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