Showing posts with label Asia. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Asia. Show all posts

April 10, 2015

Gay Asian Flee for their Lives “I can no longer feel the pain”

Joe Wong, 31, a transgender man from Singapore who had his breasts and uterus removed, poses for photograph at his apartment in Bangkok.ATHIT PERAWONGMETHA/REUTERS

Joe Wong, 31, a transgender man from Singapore who had his breasts and uterus removed, poses for photograph at his apartment in Bangkok.

BANGKOK — Long before Joe Wong surgically removed his breasts and uterus, he was Joleen, who once used an entire roll of brown duct tape to flatten her chest in an effort to look less feminine at her new secondary school in Singapore.
A close relative, angered by her clumsy and obvious attempt to bind her breasts, struck her on the head, pulled up her shirt and tore off the tape, ripping off bits of skin in the process.
Joleen endured a childhood of daily beatings from this relative, a knife pressed to her face, a death threat, and forced therapy with an expensive counselor who told her she was "disgusting" for kissing and holding hands with girls.
"When you get beaten every day, you no longer feel the pain, you just feel numb," said Wong, now a 31-year-old transgender man working with the Asia Pacific Transgender Network rights group in Bangkok.
Across Asia, which is largely patriarchal and conservative, 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, experts say.
Bangkok has become one of the destinations for migrating LGBT Asians because of a civil partnership law.ATHIT PERAWONGMETHA/REUTERS

Bangkok has become one of the destinations for migrating LGBT Asians because of a civil partnership law.

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).
Such laws drive stigma and discrimination, and essentially condone family violence, though the problem remains hidden, glimpsed through many anecdotes but little data, activists say.
To escape the beatings and find a sense of belonging, LGBT people in Asia flock to cities in their own country, and increasingly - with the Internet and social media easing migration for jobs and gay marriage - many like Wong are leaving their home country altogether.
"I've never been more at home than now, even though I'm not at home," he said, his deep voice, broad shoulders and moustache betraying no sign of his childhood as a girl.
"I removed everything that was bringing me down. I removed the toxic people in my life. Now it's just me and my problems that I have to confront," said Wong, who did not identify the abusive relative to avoid further straining family ties.
"I feel really liberated," he said as he sipped a fruit shake in a quiet cafe next door to the offices of APTN.
A key reason for family violence against LGBT people in Asia - and the way this region differs from other parts of the world - is the “family shame factor", says Ging Cristobal, the Asia-Pacific project coordinator for the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC). 
"You do not shame your family, because it's not part of the norm in that society. It's a taboo," Cristobal said in a Skype call from Manila.
Many Asian families push LGBT relatives into what the Chinese call "marriages of convenience", partly to help parents save face.
One Pakistani lesbian in her mid-20s fled to Bangkok two years ago because she was forced into marriage in Pakistan and was facing death threats from her own family, said Anoop Sukumaran, executive director of the Bangkok-based Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network, which is helping her as she applies for UNHCR refugee status.
While young LGBT people are theoretically covered under laws protecting children from violence, most suffer in silence for fear they will otherwise have no one to look after them.
Cristobal said she often advises young LGBT people who rely on their family for their tuition to find supportive friends, and then seek a college education or find work away from home.
"Then you try to be stealthy. You try not to give clues that you are an LGBT person," Cristobal said.
Wong says he could turn to no one for help when he faced violence at home. "Sometimes neighbors intervened... but even police wouldn't do anything about family violence," he said.
Many gay Asians have fled to Bangkok in the past decade after facing death threats and arranged marriages at home in countries like Pakistan.ATHIT PERAWONGMETHA/REUTERS

Many gay Asians have fled to Bangkok in the past decade after facing death threats and arranged marriages at home in countries like Pakistan.

Activists say including sexual orientation and gender identity in laws, policies and programs to prevent violence against women and children would reduce family violence against LGBT people.
For instance, Cristobal said a young man in Manila contacted her via Facebook last year because his brother had threatened to kill him because he was gay. She told him to call the police.
"The brother was not there any more. Police came and gave their personal mobile number. The neighbors saw the police... were supportive of the gay guy, so I think that regulated them from directly telling him negative things," she said.
Vietnamese mother-son activists Lily Dinh and Teddy Nguyen say family attitudes in Vietnam have changed since the government decriminalised same-sex marriage.
In 2013, Vietnamese government officials organized discussions on same-sex marriage, and invited Dinh - who heads a small chapter of PFLAG, a group for parents and friends of LGBT people - to speak, along with others from the group.
"I think that was the first time the government officers from the ministry of justice and from congress met LGBT people in real life, and the first time they met with LGBT parents, too," Dinh said in a Skype call from Ho Chi Minh City.
"We told our stories because we wanted the government to understand the difficulties our children face in their daily lives... I think that the officials understood and felt empathy for the PFLAG members and for the LGBT community."
The U.N. Development Program recently gave PFLAG Vietnam a $24,000 grant to travel to five provinces over the next six months to raise awareness of LGBT issues and rights.
“Things are getting better ... but it will take time for the government and society to understand clearly LGBT people, especially in the rural areas," said Dinh.     REUTERS

December 10, 2014

Asian Gay Doctor Kills Himself After Rejection from Family

 A young medic took his own life two days after his family told him to find a "cure" for his sexuality, his devastated fiance has told Sky News.
Matt Ogston said he moved from Birmingham to London to live openly with his partner of 13 years, Nazim Mahmood, who feared there would be "catastrophic" consequences if his family found out he was gay. 
But during a trip home to celebrate Eid in July, Dr Mahmood was confronted by his mother and felt forced to tell her he was planning to marry a man.
Mr Ogston said: “The reaction was underwhelming and also surprising - the reaction was to basically ask him to see a psychiatrist to find a cure. 
"When he asked 'why do I need to find a cure, there's nothing wrong with me, I'm just a good person trying to live a good life,' that must have created such a sadness within Naz.
"I only wish I'd had longer to have spoken to Naz, to try and talk things through and just tell him it would be okay."
Dr Mahmood, 34, who ran a successful clinic offering cosmetic treatments, died after falling from the balcony of his fourth floor penthouse flat on 30 July. 
The Shrien Dewani case shone a spotlight on one of the last taboos for many members of Britain's Asian communities - homosexuality.
The subject is rarely talked about and coming out is extremely difficult in most cases, and impossible in others. 
In extreme cases gay Asian men and women face violence, or even death.
'H' comes from a wealthy, middle class family from a big town in Pakistan.
While he was still at college he was outed by a member of his extended family.
The reaction was predictably violent. 'H' was given a choice: exorcism or death.
"They take a stick and they burn it on your hands and parts of your body," he said.
"And you scream. And they think the demons are leaving your body. That happened to me several times."
'H' lied to live. He said the painful exorcisms had "cured" him, but his lover refused to renounce his homosexuality.
He was beaten to death by his own father. 'H' heard the screams for help.
Seeking refuge in Britain, 'H' thought attitudes here would be different.
But instead the same prejudices that exist in the subcontinent have been transferred to successive generations born and raised in this country.
Jasvir Ginday, a bank worker from Walsall, is serving a life sentence for murdering his wife, Varkha Rani.
The two were married in a lavish arranged marriage in Punjab, India. It was a marriage that Ginday had himself helped to arrange.
But on her arrival in this country Varkha Rani discovered her husband was gay.
Detective Superintendent Sab Johal investigated the murder and soon discovered Gindal was active on Birmingham's gay scene and did little to hide his sexuality.
"We know for a fact that his friends knew he was visiting the gay quarter," he said.
"He came here with his friends. So he was more than happy to be a gay man here, but yet he still played the part of somebody that was prepared to get married.
"He went to India and duped a young girl to come over here. That makes his crime even more malicious."
Some Asian parents force their gay sons and daughters into marriages in the mistaken belief that heterosexual sex will "cure" them.
Detective Sergeant Trudi Runham is one of West Midlands Police's most experienced officers dealing with the issue.
Her Team Sentinel unit has rescued gay men from forced marriages. She says the number of cases is increasing.
"Nationally 20% of referrals for forced marriages are men. And we know that some of those are gay men," she said.
But there are some signs of change.
Yatin Mistry is from an orthodox Hindu family. Telling his parents he was gay was the most difficult thing he has ever had to do.
"My dad's initial reaction was 'look son, I'm not happy. But I love you, you're still my son'.
"What's going to be difficult is how society is going to react and how your mum will react.
"My mum cried. She blamed herself, saying 'what have I done? I must have done something wrong'. The whole coming out process took over a year."
But now the IT analyst is planning to marry his boyfriend. And he has his parents' blessing.

April 16, 2014

Nation of Brunel New Law: Death by Stoning to Gays

The United Nations Human Rights office has condemned a revised penal code in Brunei which calls for the death penalty for numerous offenses, including same-sex sexual activity, and introduces stoning to death as the specific method of execution for crimes of a sexual nature.
BruneiBrunei, a predominately Muslim state in Southeast Asia where homosexuality has long been criminalized, will implement a set of extreme Sharia laws that demand death by stoning for homosexual acts, adultery, rape, murder, and for declaring oneself to be a non-Muslim.
The law comes into effect on April 22.
“Application of the death penalty for such a broad range of offenses contravenes international law,” said Rupert Colville, spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).
“We urge the Government to delay the entry into force of the revised penal code and to conduct a comprehensive review ensuring its compliance with international human rights standards,” he told a news conference in Geneva.
“Under international law, stoning people to death constitutes torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and is thus clearly prohibited,” stated Colville.
The criminalization and application of the death penalty for consensual relations between adults in private also violates a whole host of rights, including the rights to privacy, to equality before the law, the right to health and freedom from arbitrary arrest and detention, Colville added.
The provisions of the revised penal code may also encourage further violence and discrimination against LGBT people, he warned.

October 11, 2013

Gay Rights and the Internet in Asia

A desktop picture shows Rungtiwa Tangkanopast and Phanlavee Chongtansattam holding hands, as Rungtiwa works at her office in Bangkok August 16, 2013 (Athit Perawongmetha/Courtesy Reuters).A desktop picture shows Rungtiwa Tangkanopast and Phanlavee Chongtansattam holding hands, as Rungtiwa works at her office in Bangkok August 16, 2013 (Athit Perawongmetha/Courtesy Reuters).
Dominic Bocci:
Most of the attention paid to the U.S. pivot to Asia has focused on economics and security, primarily through the lens of the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the U.S. military’s presence throughout the region. However, policymakers are turning their focus to issues of governance in Asia, understanding that strong support for democracy and human rights is central to U.S. interests abroad. Earlier this year, representatives from the U.S. State Department mentioned both Internet freedom and gay rights in their testimony on Asia policy to the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. This is an important first step, but as the United States continues to push forward on these issues, it needs to ensure that it recognizes the nuances of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) political life in Asian countries.

This is a guest post by Dominic Bocci, assistant director at the Council on Foreign Relations’ David Rockefeller Studies Program.
The realities of being gay in Southeast and East Asia vary from country to country.Malaysia, Burma, and Singapore still have criminal penalties for same-sex sexual activity, although similar laws are not common in the region. And while an overwhelming majority of those polled in the Philippines say society should accept homosexuality, Indonesians poll drastically in the other direction. Generally speaking, though, LGBT rights are rapidly advancing in Asia, where even gay marriage is being considered. The ministries of justice and health in Vietnam have indicated their support for same-sex marriage, and the Thai government plans to introduce a civil-partnership bill to Parliament, which would extend marriage benefits to many gay couples.
Despite these differences, the Internet is playing an increasingly central role in the advancement of gay rights throughout the region. In China, microblogging services like Sina Weibo and chat programs like QQ not only bring LGBT individuals closer together virtually, but also make them increasingly more visible in public spaces by facilitating meet-ups at local venues. In Vietnam, the web series “My Best Gay Friends” has been viewed over a million times, signaling that perhaps public sentiment regarding homosexuality in the county may be changing, especially among younger generations.
The United States has recognized this emerging trend: in an effort to harness the power of online technologies, USAID launched “Being LGBT in Asia,” in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme. This Asia-focused initiative attempts to pivot policymakers away from treating gay rights as an HIV/AIDS-focused issue to one that places LGBT communities in a larger human rights context. In order to highlight the day-to-day realities of LGBT individuals throughout Southeast and East Asia, the project heavily relies on the participation of regional organizations and local grassroots activists through social media and online networks. Activists with access to the Internet can go online to “Being LGBT in Asia”-dedicated social media platforms to promote local pride marches, share personal stories, as well as report verbal harassment, violence, and discrimination targeted at these communities.
While advocating for LGBT rights in Asia via Internet technologies seems to be an extremely promising avenue for social change, challenges remain. First, left unanswered by such online campaigns are questions regarding whether governments will react to burgeoning online social movements, both among the general population and LGBT communities, with tolerance or regulation. Most recently, Vietnam and Singapore enacted legislation that limits sharing information on social media sites, and political activists have lamented these laws as major steps towards infringing on freedom of speech. Additionally, the Chinese government has started to crack down on those spreading rumors via social media. Whether or not these new Internet regulations will affect—or directly target—the LGBT community remains to be seen. However, should governments consider the increased role that the Internet is playing to foster gay rights as a political threat, it is likely that increased regulation will severely limit the LGBT community’s ability to share information and connect online.
In addition, U.S. policymakers need to be aware that their efforts to mobilize online communities to support LGBT rights run the risk of being perceived as meddling in local affairs. Foreign governments could react by monitoring and censoring these online communities. Should this happen, activists and organizations in Asia may find themselves increasingly behind a firewall, silencing their efforts to publicize human right violations against LGBT communities throughout the region. Nonetheless, the United States has taken a significant step by including gay rights and Internet freedom as one more part of the pivot to Asia, and more broadly by promoting the rights of LGBT individuals abroad.
by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy

August 19, 2013

Switzerland Says to Plumb Little Boy in The Korea's "No Ski Lift ForYou” You Break!

Ski lift at Steamboat Springs ski resort.

A multimillion-dollar deal to provide ski lifts for a resort in North Korea has been cancelled, after Switzerland's government decided the plan violated U.N. sanctions forbidding the export of luxury items to the country.
Those sanctions were strengthened in March, after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un went ahead with nuclear weapons tests. The prohibitions bar the export of technical equipment that could bolster a weapons program, as wall as "luxury goods such as jewelry with pearls and race cars," as the U.N.'s news agency announced earlier this year.
The proposed deal was worth some $7.55 million, according to Swiss news site The Local, which reports that the Swiss company in question was disappointed that the deal was nixed. More from the site:
"The [State Secretariat for Economic Affairs] said the planned luxury ski resort is being built for 'prestige and for propaganda' purposes of Kim's regime.
"According to a spokesman from the secretariat, it was inconceivable to imagine an ordinary North Korean citizen using the resort's facilities."
Many see the ski resort project as part of North Korea's plan to boost tourism in the country. Kim Jong Un recently visited the site of the planned ski resort, where he praised the army for its construction efforts.
"It is thought [Kim Jong Un] learned to ski in Bern, where he attended secondary school without revealing his true identity," reports the BBC, which adds that French and Austrian ski-lift companies have turned down similar deals.
The North Korean leader was in the news last week, when a state news agency reported that he visited a factory making a smartphone, labeled the Arirang. As the AP reported, the claims were met with skepticism by industry analysts, some of whom said the phones had likely been assembled in China.
Editing:Adam Gonzalez

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