Although LGBTQ community have got is fair bit of share in human rights across the western countries, Asia still is very sceptical about them. Even today because of the largely patriarchal and conservative society, the violence lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people face is often from their own families, who beat them to make them conform and maintain the social balance. Homosexual acts are illegal in 78 countries around the world, punishable by jail time in places including Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Malaysia and Singapore, according to the International Lesbian Gay Bisexual Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA). For example, section 377 of the penal codes of India, Malaysia, Myanmar and Singapore – a leftover from these countries’ history as British colonies – still outlaws sex between consenting male adults, and is often also known as the “sodomy law.” There are also laws prohibiting transgender people from changing their name and gender in Malaysia, Vietnam, Thailand and the Philippines. Media regulations mean that there is a dearth of the kind of LGBT characters and content that might improve social understanding and acceptance.
Medical students can be instrumental in bringing about a change for the LGBTQ community by spreading awareness about the discrimination faced by them at healthcare services. But their inability to tackle the radicle and extremists group in their countries are quite evident from the low number of enrolled activities in the SGI Program. Social media in recent times has played an important role in starting a debate about this issue but still, the process of change is really slow.
Amidst the deteriorating plight of LGBTQ community, an excellent news came as a ray of hope when Taiwan’s highest court, the council of grand justices, said barring gay couples from marrying violated “the people’s freedom of marriage” and “the people’s right to equality”.The debate over the past year on same-sex marriage and the court’s ruling is unique in Asia. Following this, Supreme Court in India also ruled that the right to individual privacy is an “intrinsic” and fundamental right under the country’s constitution. The ruling also gives hope to India’s LGBT community, which is waiting for a Supreme Court ruling on section 377.
With such judgement coming in, we are hopeful that the condition of LGBTQ community will definitely improve in the coming years in not only in Asia but also all over the world and we as medical students have a huge task of creating an environment free of discrimination and stigma.
Shashi Bhushan, Program Coordinator on Sexuality and Gender Identity