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Bridging Gaps and Hopes: Malaysia’s National Human Rights Commission and Rights Related to SOGIESC

  • Henry Koh
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Abstract

As we approach this major historic milestone in celebrating the 50th anniversary of ASEAN’s founding, the newly established ASEAN Economic Community envisages to continue fulfilling its ambition in advancing the breadth of economic integration and growth across the region. In contrast, the same echoes of advancement in economic development across Southeast Asia is hardly paralleled in ASEAN’s commitments towards human rights, especially under the ambit of sexual orientation, gender identity, and expression of sex characteristics (SOGIESC) matters.

This chapter aims to analyse the successful milestones, best practices, and challenges of the National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) across various Southeast Asian countries in their efforts to promote and protect SOGIESC rights—with a particular focus on Malaysia. As an economic powerhouse in the region, Malaysia has been particularly poor in recognizing SOGIESC rights. While the international community has progressed considerably in terms of putting SOGIESC-related rights on platforms of human rights protection mechanisms, Southeast Asian countries, by far and large, remain firmly in opposition to this trend.

On the other hand, the sensitivity of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) rights in domestic spheres remains high in, at the very least, certain sections of society in every ASEAN member state. Different patterns of persecution of LGBTI people at the national level leaves sexual minorities at risk to discrimination and deprivation of fundamental rights. Weak enforcement of protective laws and high levels of stigma also pose a significant challenge to LGBTI individuals being able to freely claim their rights. This also constitutes an impediment to the progress of HIV prevention, as stigma and criminalization impacts a person’s ability to take charge of their health or access health services.

Since the advent of the Yogyakarta Principles, there are a growing number of initiatives from NHRIs in Southeast Asia to tackle the rights violations and discrimination faced by people of diverse SOGIESC. However, there are still members of various SOGIESC communities who lack proper understanding of the complaint systems of their NHRIs. In short, there are promising potentials for Southeast Asian NHRIs to have greater appreciation and understanding for the rights and risks of people of diverse SOGIESC.

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Copyright information

© Asia Centre 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  • Henry Koh
    • 1
  1. 1.Global Fund Malaysia RepresentativeKuala LumpurMalaysia

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