By the South-East Asia Mainland and Regional Division, DFAT
Home to more than 235 million people, the Mekong countries are experiencing greater access to education, job opportunities and social networks than ever before. With that comes an increased demand for greater rights, and the LGBTI communities of the Mekong are no exception.
As part of Australia’s commitment to greater recognition of human rights, our embassies in the Mekong are working with governments and civil society to promote rights for LGBTI people.
Here are some examples of how Australia is supporting LGBTI rights in the Mekong:
Vietnam: Australia celebrates Hanoi’s first Mardi Gras
In the spirit of Sydney’s Mardi Gras festival, our Embassy in Hanoi hosted a series of exciting events to celebrate Hanoi’s first ever Mardi Gras.
The Embassy organised an online story-telling contest and costume contest in support of Vietnam’s LGBTI communities. Check out the colourful and moving celebration:
There are no laws in Vietnam that ban LGBTI people from having relationships, jobs, or accessing equal services. However, there are no laws that prevent discrimination, and many LGBTI people still face threats of job loss, career disadvantage and family exclusion.
Myanmar: Supporting LGBTI visibility in Yangon
Australia’s Embassy in Myanmar supports the &Proud LGBT Film festival in Myanmar. Held in January 2017, Australia’s support to the film festival is critical in a country that maintains a law on life imprisonment for men who engage in same-sex relations.
Australia’s Ambassador to Myanmar also spoke at the 2016 International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHOT) event in Yangon, reiterating Australia’s support for the LGBTI community in Myanmar and encouraging greater provisions within Myanmar to protect the rights of LGBTI people.
Cambodia: Purple for Pride Day
For Pride Day last year, Australia’s Ambassador to Cambodia encouraged staff to wear purple in support of the Cambodian LGBTI community, many of whom still face discrimination at work and at home. The colour spectrum will broaden this year as the Embassy hosts a rainbow morning tea on IDAHOT.
Laos: Proud to Be Us
Dialogue on LGBTI rights is growing in Laos, and the Australian Embassy has been proactive in raising awareness on the importance of inclusion and diversity. On Transgender Remembrance Day last year, the Embassy installed a new gender-neutral sign.
This year for IDAHOT, the Australian Embassy will support the Proud to Be Us organisation and host local LGBTI groups, the Laos Government, business, diplomats and the media to advocate for greater inclusion of LGBTI people in education and employment. Like neighbouring communities, the discrimination faced by LGBTI people in Laos reduces access to education and job opportunities.
Thailand: LGBTI advocacy from a high court justice to a local NGO
Thailand has made more advances in LGBTI rights than most countries in Asia, but challenges remain. LGBTI people still experience violence and discrimination, especially with marginalised LGBTI communities such as sex-workers and migrants.
Australia’s Ambassador to Thailand has hosted multiple events to honour former justice of the High Court, the Hon Michael Kirby AC CMG, for his long-standing commitment to LGBTI rights and to demonstrate the Embassy’s support. Mr Kirby and the Ambassador congratulated Thailand on the appointment of Professor Muntarbhorn as the first UN independent expert charged with investigating violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The Embassy Social Club made a donation to a local NGO, SWING, that supports LGBTI and highly marginalised people.
Australia believes that the protection and promotion of human rights is vital to global efforts to achieve lasting peace and security, and freedom and dignity for all. Australia’s commitment to human rights reflects our national values and is an underlying principle of Australia’s engagement with the international community. Find out more about Australia’s commitment to human rights.