On this day, to commemorate the International Day Against Homo and Trans phobia (IDAHO), the Asia Pacific Coalition on Male Sexual Health (APCOM) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Asia-Pacific Regional Centre launch a series of policy briefs to provide a summary of how legal environments can actually be barriers to equality for men who have sex with men (MSM) and transgender people. A recent joint collaboration by APCOM and UNDP resulted in the ground-breaking study, Legal environments, human rights and HIV responses among men who sex with men and transgender people in Asia and the Pacific: An agenda for action, which looks at the impact of legal environments on HIV responses among MSM and transgender people in 48 countries and territories in Asia and the Pacific.
“APCOM is pleased to release these four papers today covering East Asia, Pacific, South Asia and Southeast Asia,” said Midnight Poonkasetwattana, Executive Director of APCOM, “The policy briefs highlight experiences that result in a range of negative consequences for example getting in the way of prevention work, reducing uptake and access to critical services, and increases in high-risk behaviours as well.”
The briefs detail the legality of male-to-male sex, punitive law enforcement practices, laws relating to discrimination, legality of transgender people and same sex relationships. For example, the legal environment in East Asia is generally more protective of human rights of MSM and transgender people, yet in the Pacific male-to-male sex is illegal in nine of the 24 countries and territories. Four countries in Southeast Asia (Brunei, Malaysia, Myanmar and Singapore) have criminal sanctions for consensual sex between adult men due to a laws keep on the books while each were under British colonial rule; in South Asia, however, in the National Capital Territory of India (Delhi) and Nepal, courts have taken decisions to decriminalise male to male sex between consenting adults.
“UNDP and APCOM recognise that urgent action is required as MSM and transgender people are critical populations in the response to HIV in Asia and the Pacific,” noted Edmund Settle, HIV Policy Specialist, UNDP Asia Pacific Regional Centre. “Legal environments comprise not just written laws, but also the actual practices of law enforcement and legal institutions with anecdotal evidence from the briefs demonstrating incidence of police harassment, blackmail, extortion and violence. Legal environments that are protective and empowering should be promoted.”
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