LGBTIQ communities face prejudice all over the world, including Asia, and Covid-19 has made the challenges even tougher. Photo: iStock

It is the month of Pride, a time to acknowledge just how far LGBT rights have come. Throughout the world, hundreds of thousands have celebrated their differences and been proud of their choices.

Marches have taken place from New York to Taiwan, the colors of the rainbow were visible far and wide, and in most Western countries, a feeling of love and unity has permeated the air. But while many of us take Pride celebrations for granted, I am here to tell you that Pride is still a privilege, when it should be a basic human right. Let’s pause for a second and take a look at some of those places where gay rights are non-existent and where the LGBT communities are in desperate need of our help and support.

Among the countries which ignore the needs of their LGBT community is Indonesia. Indonesia used to have a semblance of tolerance to its gay community, but as the years have progressed, the situation has worsened. While consensual homosexual acts are not yet criminalized, there is no legal protection for same-sex couples and government officials have recently called for new policies that will target LGBT people for both arrests and what they term “rehabilitation.”

On top of that, the level of harassment and assault experienced by the LGBT community is drastically increasing year by year with police raids often occurring wherever members of the LGBT community converge.

Kyle Knight, an LGBT rights researcher at Human Rights Watch, stated, “What’s shifted in the last two years is that the government and police have made it abundantly clear that it’s perfectly okay to hate LGBT people and to act on it.” The future seems dark for the LGBT community in Indonesia, and if the world will not intervene soon, the threats and hatred may result in bloodshed.

Read: Challenging hate and prejudice against LGBTQ

Malaysia is another country where the LGBT community is desperate for a voice and even the slightest form of protection. In Malaysia anti-gay rhetoric among leading politicians rife and all forms of homosexual activity are illegal, with penalties of up to 20 years in jail.

From Malaysian newspapers publishing “how to spot a gay” checklists, to public floggings, to comments from the new prime minister, Mahathir Mohamad, such as “we do not accept the LGBT,” the situation continuously deteriorates. While the new government vowed to protect the rights of vulnerable minorities like the LGBT community, they have failed miserably as the harassment only gets worse. Just look at those poor women who were  caned publicly last year after being caught attempting to have consensual lesbian relations.

Then there is Brunei, a country whose official name is “Nation of Brunei, the Abode of Peace,” ironic since it is anything but an abode of peace for its LGBT community. Of course, there is still a kind of “community” that exists behind the scenes. Just log onto the LGBT dating app, Grindr and you will see hundreds of active, yet anonymous profiles.

The level of harassment and assault experienced by the LGBT community is drastically increasing year by year with police raids often occurring wherever members of the LGBT community converge

However, the situation is dire and continues to derail. In the beginning of April 2019, a law that was put on hold for four years was enacted which states that gay sex in Brunei is now punishable by death by stoning. This creates an environment of total darkness for the LGBT community, a place that may seem peaceful at first glance, but where expressing one’s sexual orientation means risking your life.

These are three Southeast Asian countries where the fight for LGBT rights is being lost, and this is not even touching on those countries such as Afghanistan, Iran, Yemen and others where homosexuality is also punishable by the death penalty. It is clear that in many areas in the world there is zero reason to celebrate, and endless reasons to mourn.

So, this year, while you glittered your faces, waved your flags, and joined the throngs of people celebrating pride, did you remember those who do not have that option? Did you remember those who do not have a voice? Those hiding who they are in fear of being ostracized, criminalized, or worse? It is vital to remember that Pride is not a right for everyone, to appreciate your privilege, and to never stop fighting for those who need our voice.

Albert Wilkins

Albert Wilkins has been working as a freelance political risk analyst specializing in Southeast Asian markets for the past five years. He has a specific interest and passion for analyzing and writing about corruption and human rights.

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