Neha Sood, a feminist activist based in Delhi, India (and an IWHC Advocacy in Practice alumna!), just authored an excellent report about transgender people’s access to sexual and reproductive health services across 12 Asian countries. Alongside numerous facts, the report provides informed policy analysis, useful case studies, and moving first-person accounts. She makes a strong case for the promotion of health and human rights for everyone—especially those of transgender people— across the continent.
The study was part of a monitoring project by IWHC colleague The Asian Pacific Resource and Research Center for Women (ARROW), which seeks to review and monitor progress towards the commitments made in the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) Program of Action (PoA). The project, focused on 12 Asian countries – Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan, China, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, Philippines, and Malaysia—provides crucial insight into the ways laws and policies impact the health and rights and increase marginalization of the transgendered community.
Highlights of the report include:
- Transgender people are at great risk for violence across the continent. “Apart from Thailand,” the report states, “laws in none of the countries studied recognize that transwomen can also be raped …thus not providing protection or legal recourse…in the face of [violent] crimes.”
- Families in the countries studied were generally not accepting of gender diversity and sexual freedom, and many transgender people faced coercion and/or violence from their own family and/or community. This can often result in a lacking support system, homelessness, and poverty. It is noted that “interventions are needed that educate families about sexuality and gender diversity, enable them to accept plurality within and play a supportive and empowering role.” The report also recommends providing “low cost or free housing to needy transgender people in order to provide the social support that they lack so that they may focus their resources on skills building and acquiring work.”
-Even within the LGBTQI community, discrimination against transgender people is common. “In society, transgender people are viewed as a sexual minority, but within LGBTI movements, they are often considered to be of a lower status.” Beyond this, discrimination occurs within the transgender community based on social class, occupation and femininity. For instance, the report details numerous ways in which transgender sex workers are discriminated against by other members of the transgender community.
-There is often a difference in the treatment of trans women and trans men. The report details: “Suman Tamang from Kathmandu shared that while people curse transwomen [sic] and police beat them and pick them up off the streets, transmen [sic] in Nepal do not face the same kind of social ridicule or police harassment.” The report identifies “a need to develop further discourse on masculinities and femininities, which promotes respect for plurality.”
- There is lack of knowledge about issues related to gender, sexuality, and health, including HIV, among health personnel. Thus, “governments need to take action to ensure that HIV infected persons and AIDS patients [including transgender people] have access to appropriate treatment and adequate medical care.”
-Attitudes need to change along with policies in order to achieve real change. The report points to “a need for a comprehensive sexuality education curriculum to be developed and taught in schools after training teachers; a curriculum that includes information on sexuality, gender diversity and gender equality.”
The report’s overarching conclusion is clear: Progressive laws and policies relating to gender and sexuality can empower marginalized communities, reduce stigma, discrimination and violence, improve access to essential information as well as reproductive and sexual health services, and facilitate constructive social engagement. These and the rest of the findings in the report are meant to serve as a resource for advocacy groups, as well as a wakeup call to legislators and policymakers about the public health ramifications of discrimination.
Click here to read the full report in PDF.
For more on IWHC’s work around human rights and sexuality in Asia and around the world, click here.