A friendly space – An empowering effect 

IGNITE! Sri Lanka launches new video promoting youth friendly health services

7th June 2016, Bangkok, Thailand – YVC in partnership with Young Out Here (YOH), a group of young key populations in Sri Lanka launched a video titled “A friendly space- An empowering effect”. The video aims to encourage young people, especially from young gay and young transgender communities to access HIV testing services regularly.

Watch the video here 

The video is developed under the IGNITE! Mentorship program launched by YVC in 2015. YVC IGNITE! Mentee from Sri Lanka, Ranaka Siriwardana lead the implementation of the project with the support of Bhoomi Harendran, coordinator of YOH group as the first small scale project under the IGNITE! program. The technical support for the development of the video was provided by the National STD AIDS control program of Sri Lanka.

“Young people, especially from key populations, are becoming increasingly vulnerable to HIV in Asia and the Pacific. Creating youth friendly HIV health services at the country level is imperative to encourage young people to access HIV testing regularly if we want to end AIDS by 2030”, said Bella Vongvisitsin, Chair, Youth Voices Count.

The video features young people from gay and transgender communities reflecting on their positive experience in accessing HIV testing clinics. These reflections are complemented by doctors of the National STD AIDS control program assuring young people the quality and friendliness of the HIV health services provided.

“Even though Sri Lanka is a low prevalent country, we have witnessed a steady increase of new HIV infections among young people over the past few years. It is critical that health service providers are sensitized to provide friendly and sensitive health services to young people” said Ranak Siriwardana, YVC IGNITE! Mentee.

The small scale projects which are being implemented in 8 countries including Bhutan, Fiji, India, Indonesia, Pakistan, Philippines, Sri Lanka and Vietnam are supported by ViiV Health Care MSM and Transgender program. The technical support for implementation is provided by APCOM Foundation.

About Youth Voices Count

Youth Voices Count (YVC) is a regional network of young LGBTQ+ people in Asia and the Pacific. Since the establishment in 2010, YVC has evolved to represent the voices of young LGBTQ+ people in the region. With the new strategic plan YVC has identified 3 strategic priorities; 1. Advocacy on youth friendly health services, 2. Advocacy on acceptance at education and health care settings and 3. Monitoring commitments made to young people through various global and regional declarations.

For more information

Niluka Perera
Regional Coordinator
Email – Niluka.yvc@gmail.com
Skype- nilukaperera13
Phone – +94759271006

LGBTQ+ young people in Asia and the Pacific condemn the video competition for gay “prevention”, now reworded, previously organized by Malaysia’s Ministry of Health.

Youth Voices Count, a regional network of young LGBTQ+ people in Asia and the Pacific, representing members from 22 countries with over 190 members along with PELANGI – Campaign for Equality and Human Rights Initiative strongly renounces the invitation which was made by Malaysia’s Ministry of Health to develop videos under the theme of “preventing” homosexuality and on “issues and consequences” resulting from certain sexual orientations.

On the Ministry of Health’s website, individuals were invited to submit a video clip for categories including “gender identity disorder,” containing suggestions as to “prevention, control and how to get help”. It cited gay, lesbian and transsexual people, as well as tomboys, as examples of what the ministry calls a “disorder”.

While we recognize, acknowledge and applaud the positive steps taken by the Ministry of Health to rectify this mistake, we hope that this won’t happen in the future since it will undermine the rights of every single LGBTQ+ individual of Malaysia.

This is not an isolated event that threatens the Human Rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer identified individuals in Malaysia. In 2012, the Ministry of Education of Malaysia published “guidelines” to help parents identify gay and lesbian “symptoms” in their children. During a seminar organized in Penag to launch these guidelines Deputy Education Minister Mohd Puad Zarkashi said not many people understood or knew the early “symptoms” of homosexuality, bisexuality and transgender inclinations to prevent its spread.

Medical practitioners, psychologists and psychiatrists and their respective associations, based on empirical scientific evidence do not consider homosexuality as an illness or a pathological condition. The following non-exhaustive list of medical, psychological and psychiatric institutions and associations have all issued statements confirming that homosexuality is a normal variant of human sexuality and is not a mental or physical illness and that any practices claiming to cure homosexuality is dangerous and places the mental and physical safety of patients at risk.

1.World Health Organization
2.All India Institute of Medical Sciences
3.American Psychiatric Association
4.American Psychological Association
5.Indian Journal on Medical Ethics
6.Indian Psychiatrists Association Journal
7.Royal College of Psychiatrists, UK
8.UK Associations on Psychology and Psychiatrists Joint Statement on Conversion Therapy
9.World Psychiatric Association
10.Indian Psychiatric Association
11.Chinese Psychiatric Association

Internationally, including within Asia and the Pacific, trans people, supported by many health professionals, are strongly advocating for trans health needs to no longer defined by a mental health diagnosis. This is sometimes referred to as “de-psychopathologisation.”
In May 2010, the WPATH Board of Directors issued the following statement urging the de-psychopathologisation of gender variance worldwide” (WPATH Board of Directors, 2010).

“The expression of gender characteristics, including identities that are not stereotypically associated with one’s assigned sex at birth, is a common and culturally diverse human phenomenon which should not be judged as inherently pathological or negative. The psychopathologisation of gender characteristics and identities reinforces or can prompt stigma, making prejudice and discrimination more likely, rendering transgender and transsexual people vulnerable to social and legal marginalisation and exclusion, and increasing risks to their mental and physical well- being. WPATH urges governmental and medical professional organizations to review their policies and practices to eliminate stigma toward gender-variant people”.

Regionally, in 2011, the Psychological Association of the Philippines spoke out in favour of “global initiatives to remove the stigma of mental illness” that long has been associated with trans and LGB people (UNDP and USAID, 2014f ).

As the first and only regional network of young LGBTQ+ people in Asia and the Pacific we urge the government of Malaysia to not reduce a natural variant of human sexuality and gender expression to a negative medical condition in the future.

Such state sponsored efforts clearly encourages widespread stigma, discrimination and violence against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer identified individuals in Malaysia who are already discriminated by existing laws in the country. The impact of such efforts also affect the mental and physical well being of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer identified individuals in Malaysia and has a larger impact on the young cohorts of these communities.

We call upon all the LGBT organizations, Human Rights Organizations and defenders, UN Agencies and allies to come together to stand with the LGBTQ communities in Malaysia and to press the Government of Malaysia to abide by the international Human Rights standards to protect and ensure the rights of every single Malaysian LGBTQ citizen.

For more information

Niluka Perera
Regional Coordinator
Youth Voices Count

A Perfect Family : Ideal or Real ?

Bella was born as a youngest transgender daughter in a big conservative Chinese immigrant family living in the old town of Bangkok, Thailand. She was expected by parents to be a heir and reproduce descendants. With assignment from her grandparents to her parents, she was given a birth as the second male child to be reserved as the heir in case that the first male child of the family was not able to reproduce the descendants. As a transgender woman, she has gone through difficulties and obstacles in different phases with her father, aunts and relatives from the father’s side. She has been well educated and nurtured to conform with norms of society and expectation of her family. At the moment she has found out her own path in living with her family with love and reshaped the attitudes towards a perfect family.

Nowadays, meanings of family have evolved from time to time. A word “family” has been used in different perspectives in our world. For example, biologically, family describes a group of people related by blood or their ancestors. Socially, family describes people who engage in different forms of bondage, such as marriage, circle of close friends, or organisation in which a strong relationship or shared common values are intensive. Linguistically, family shows an evolution of words and languages that we communicate with each other. The common keyword that can be scrutinised from these meanings of family is the “relationship” connecting people, cultures, norms, entities, communities, and not only living creatures, but also non-living things.

A number of people usually criticised the definition of warm and loving family. Sometimes, people say such family means that mother, father and children are not separated, live together in the same house with legal document or religious commitment showing a “right” forming of family. In the meantime, some families argue that they can express love despite distance, ineligibility of marriage certificate, societal unacceptance, unqualification for norms and beliefs. Some couples unhappily live together and reproduce children just to fulfill parents’ satisfaction and expectation. In fact, there is an increasing number of divorce rate throughout the world, while many divorced people prove that they can agree to quit relationships with happy ending and satisfied decision to have better lives.

So, what is my perception of having a warm and loving family? I have been seeking a good answer for a long time. I found out that to have a dream family depends on your “choice”, and “values” to any kinds of relationship that you have with your beloved people. You can decide your own warm and loving family. No matter what sexual orientations or gender identities, ethnicities or skin colours, religions or traditions, social classes or economic status you have. Nor how much time you can spend, distance you need to travel, or frequency you can meet each other. Only you realise how you are important to your beloved people, and how your beloved people are important to you, there is no condition to share your good stories together. There is no perfection in this world, and we can create our own warm and loving family in which there is no right or wrong.

Bella Thanakarn Vongvisitsin
Youth Voices Count

Right to Respect and Right to love

I was born in a generation where discrimination about LGBT was high and intolerable. Gays were always being subjected to a lot of ridicules and hatred. When I was young, I used to experience a lot of pain and hardship because of my sexual orientation. Some of my relatives and family members hated the idea that I was born gay. It was a common thing for me to be bullied in school. I was also excommunicated by my own religion. I was denied of my faith and I was ridiculed and humiliated by many. They thought that gays will never reach anything in life and they will only end up alone and sad someday. This kind of perception of people around me made me so confused about LGBTIQ, and so my real sexuality. 

Years later, as I tried to prove my worth and potentials with the people around me I was able to gain their respect again. I was able to prove to them that my sexuality, and my preference in life, has nothing to do with my abilities and so my success.  My family, specially my father, is now proud of my simple achievements and my sister becomes my greatest supporter in whatever things I am doing. They are my fans and my strength. As we celebrate the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, let us understand that the best way to end discrimination against LGBTIQ is to put more love and understanding within our family. Everyone has the right to be respected and everyone has the right to be loved. 

Brian Kevin Par
YVC Core Working Group Member

Family – The biggest factor for positive outcomes

Family acceptance and support is the biggest factor for positive LGBTQI youth outcomes. International Family Equality Day which falls on 7 May every year was celebrated in many parts of the world and this year’s motto was LOVE MAKES A FAMILY.

Only 24 countries legalize LGBT rights worldwide. With 195 countries in the world – 24 is not a substantial number. Pakistan is one of the countries out of 195 in which only 2% barely tolerate LGTQI community probably with softening words. Homosexuality is considered a taboo in conservative Pakistani society and there are laws which, although rarely enforced, render homosexual acts illegal and carries a sentence of up to 10 years in prison or 100 lashes.
Family is considered to be the most beautiful supportive system in Pakistan but unfortunately when the family comes to know about their children’s sexuality or gender identity, then things become totally different. Transgender children in most instances have to leave their family home due to domestic physical and psychological violence. Whereas many young gay men pretend to live a double life and keep their sexula orientation secret in family and society. In spite of all these issues the LGBTIQ youth do exist and they have been showing visibility which is a very positive step.

As a young transgedner woman, who has lived through many of these relaities, I have been able to be out and proud with my gender idenity. With my modeling carreer I have been able to bring a different persective and an approach activism. I also intend to make a proper Rainbow Family Supportive System for the whole spectrum of LGTIQ. After all if we lose one family we all deserve another family that loves us just as much.

Kami Choudry – Pakistan
Core Working Group Member
Youth Voices Count