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LGBT groups excluded from southeast Asian regional conference
After taking part in meetings for the last two years, LGBT rights groups have been excluded from this year’s ASEAN Civil Society Conference and People’s Forum in Brunei
12 April 2013 | By Anna Leach
LGBT rights activists are being excluded from a conference on human rights in Southeast Asia.
Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) SOGI Caucus attended the first two ASEAN Civil Society Conference/ ASEAN People’s Forums in 2011 and 2012, but it has been excluded from this year’s meeting in Brunei.
‘ASEAN SOGI Caucus’ voice is being silent by a group that calls itself a civil society,’ said Indonesia representative Vien Tanjung to Gay Star News.
A statement from ASEAN SOGI Caucus said they are ‘deeply outraged’ by the the organizing committee in Brunei’s decision to exclude LGBT concerns from the meeting.
‘We are disappointed that even in spaces that are meant to foster and uphold democracy and human rights principles by and for civil society organizations, specific sectors of society are being discriminated against and are restricted,’ the statement said.
ASEAN SOGI Caucus said that as well as themselves, advocates for the rights of sex workers and sexual and reproductive rights have been banned from the conference.
The group believe that ‘the invisible hand of the state’ is the source of the ban.
‘Policing civil society spaces is highly unacceptable, and if such policing continues the ASEAN Civil Society Conference/ASEAN People’s Forum will no longer be a relevant space for civil society,’ the group said.
‘We strongly urge the ACSC/APF to immediately address and correct this matter.’
Brunei is an Islamic state on the island of Borneo, inbetween Malaysia and Indonesia. A British-colonial-era law criminalizes male homosexuality and Shariah law operates in the country.
Gay Star News contacted the Council of Women of Brunei Darussalam, who are hosting the meeting, but they declined to respond.
ASEAN SOGI Caucus, which includes representatives from LGBT rights groups from across the region, took an active part in the ACSC/APF meeting in Phnom Penn, Cambodia in November 2012 and at the first meeting in Jakarta in May 2011.
In 2010 an LGBT rights conference in Surabaya, Indonesia – the fourth International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA) Asia conference – was attacked by Islamic fundamentalists.