Advances and Retreats in Equality

EqualityRisingThe Human Rights Campaign Foundation has released “Equality Rising,” a report on LGBTQ global equality during 2013.  Among some of the findings pertinent in Asia in particular:

— Nepal created what may be the world’s broadest third-gender identity category for its citizenship documents, open to anyone who does not wish to be identified as either male or female.

— Bangladesh also began offering a third-gender identity category, though a more limited one for its traditional hijras who are born with ambiguous genitals or else are physically male but live in a female identity.  Those who identify as hijras now have new state protections for access to education, housing and health services.

— In South Korea, a court ruled that transponders can change their legal gender status without undergoing genital surgery. A previous court decision had allowed changes to gender status, but only if a person underwent gender reassignment surgery before applying for the change.

— Mongolia held its first ever Pride week in mid-September, with groups holding discussions on LGBT rights, a PFLAG meeting , and a queer film festival.

— In Singapore, the Pink Dot rally in June — a substitute for an actual pride demonstration or march — attracted a record 21,000 folks dressing in pin at Hong Lim Park.

— In India, of course, there was a double setback. First the Supreme Court reinstated Sectoin 377, the colonial sodomy law that had been struck down by a Delhi court in 2009. Then, just a few weeks ago, a nationalist right-wing party, with a long record of homophobia, took power in the national elections.

The report concludes:

The achievements and setbacks in 2013 make it clear that the world is being pulled in two directions. One direction aims to respect the human rights of LGBT people. The other sees LGBT individuals as a threat to society, family and tradition, unworthy of the freedom to live openly and safely.

The gulf between these two directions is getting wider because of unprecedented progress in some places. Disturbingly, this progress has led to reactive anti-LGBT laws and violence in others.

We are at a critical time in the global equality movement. Change is happening at a rapid rate. As some LGBT people are nearing legal equality, we must work together to ensure that others are not left behind.

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