Friday, May 18, 2012

UNDP Supports IDAHO: Calls for LGBTs to claim rights

17 May 2012

Manila, Philippines – 2011 has been marked by a series of breakthroughs at the United Nations concerning the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) persons. On 17 June 2011, the UN adopted the first ever resolution on the human rights of LGBT persons, followed by the release of the first UN report last December. To further highlight the human rights abuses and violations that LGBT persons face around the world, the UN organized the first formal debate on the issue at the Human Rights Council in March 2012.Today, to mark the 2012 International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO), UNDP is releasing a regional report focusing on human rights and HIV vulnerability of transgender persons in the Asia-Pacific Region.

Despite these developments, a number of countries still have laws that criminalize same-sex relations between consenting adults. In the Philippines, while the society may appear tolerant towards LGBT, stories of stigma and discrimination among members of the community still persist. According to the NGO Philippine LGBT Hate Crime Watch, it is estimated that over 160 LGBT-related hate crimes have been documented since 1996. The prevailing stigma associated with homosexuality and sexual diversity drives members of the community to situations that place their physical, mental and social well-being at greater risk. This cannot be better illustrated than by the escalating epidemic of HIV among men having sex with men (MSM) and transgender persons in the country.As reported by the Department of Health, about eight out of tenreported cases of HIV each day are acquired through same-sex transmission.Experience has shown that when people are stigmatized because of their sexual orientation or identity, they are less likely to access the HIV services they need. Therefore, this leads to new HIV infections and AIDS deaths. 

Related to this, UNDP welcomes the recent endorsement by the Philippine National AIDS Council of the National Comprehensive HIV and AIDS Strategic Plan for the MSM and Transgender Populations 2012-2016. The plan provides a roadmap for the government and civil society to curb the increasing HIV infection cases among MSM and transgender persons,and provide treatment, care and support services for those living with HIV.More importantly, the plan addresses the stigma encountered by the population, thus creating space for dialogue and policy reforms that aim to dismantle the climate of stigma and discrimination faced by MSM and transgender persons, a crucial element in ensuring universal access to HIV services.

IDAHO 2012 participants holding their placards
This will help realize the recent commitment made by President Aquino together with other leaders of Southeast Asian Nations at the 19th ASEAN Summit in Bali, Indonesia, in November 2011. In support of the UNAIDS vision of “Zero New HIV Infections, Zero Discrimination and Zero HIV Related Deaths,” the president has pledged to halve sexual transmission of HIV and ensure accelerated efforts to achieve the goal of universal access to anti-retroviral treatment by 2015. He also committed to ensure that adequate financial resources are provided for scaling up evidence-based HIV prevention programmes for key populations at higher risk, including MSM and transgender persons.

In line with the national commitment to achieving Millennium Development Goal 6, which aims to halt and reverse the spread of HIV and AIDS by 2015, UNDP calls on the Philippines to keep to its commitment and ensure the implementation of this plan and to promote an enabling environment that helps facilitate access and utilization of HIV services by MSM and transgender persons. 

UNDP commends the local governments that have begun to rise to this challenge. The City Councils of Davao and Cebu are putting forward legislation that prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Similar legislation is also pending in Congress. 

In addition, as an offshoot to the Asia Pacific Regional Dialogue of the Global Commission on HIV and the Law, participated by high level national officials, the Commission on Human Rights has now taken a more pro-active stance on AIDS and gender-related issues. The report of the Global Commission will be released in July 2012. The findings and recommendations of the report will support the strengthening of the legislative environment for rights protection of people most-at-risk, vulnerable and living with HIV, including MSM and transgender persons.

As we mark the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, UNDP expresses its solidarity with the LGBT community in claiming their rights and denouncing human rights abuses against them.

Philip Castro
Programme Officer on HIV and AIDS, 
UNDP Philippines; +632 901-0223

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