Southeast Asia Celebrates International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia

Cambodian activists share their experiences as LGBT, along with delegates from other ASEAN countries, at a forum in Phnom Penh on the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia. Photograph: Joseph Pocs/Phnom Penh Post

Yesterday, May 17th, was International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO). Hundreds of events took place in 95 countries around the world, including countries in Southeast Asia.

In Cambodia, AJWS grantee Rainbow Community Kampuchea (RoCK) focused its IDAHO action on bringing together activists from surrounding countries to develop a regional advocacy strategy.

AJWS grantees in Cambodia, Thailand and Burma have been instrumental in the effort to get Southeast Asian nations and the broader regional association (ASEAN) to recognize and commit to protecting the human rights of LGBTIQ people. Thanks to the work of LGBTIQ activists and their allies, the draft ASEAN Declaration on Human Rights currently recognizes and protects people of diverse sexual orientations and gender identities. But this protection is in danger of being cut out. So, activists used IDAHO as an opportunity to develop a strategy for safeguarding this landmark declaration.

It’s also Cambodian Pride Week! In addition to hosting film screenings and local arts events, RoCK has been holding workshops to promote family acceptance of LGBTIQ individuals and build activists’ skills on how to work with the media to increase understanding rather than perpetuate discrimination.

One of the highlights of Cambodian Pride Week is a Buddhist Blessing Ceremony. RoCK organizer Srorn Srun explained, “The blessing ceremony kicks off our community day on Sunday, May 20th. We go to a pagoda and receive blessings from monks, LGBT people, their families, friends and other supporters. Last year it resonated very deeply. One of the monks reminded everyone that they were who they were born to be. It was a very powerful message. It’s definitely a message worth repeating, for all people!”