2012 Sep 15
September 15, 2012

Fears for gay, indigenous rights in Asean

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Gay people and indigenous people risk having their rights ignored in a planned Southeast Asian human rights document, a group of Indonesian activists warned on Friday.

Indonesian human rights groups were among the 54 who gathered in Manila on Wednesday for the final discussions on the forthcoming Association of Southeast Asian Nations human rights declaration, which is scheduled to be released in November.

“I worry that the [final declaration] won’t be much different than the current version,” Yuyun Wahyuningrum, senior adviser at the Human Rights Working Group, said on Friday.

Indonesian civil society groups HRWG, the Jakarta Legal Aid Foundation (LBH), women’s group Kalyanamitra, and Indigenous Peoples of the Archipelago (AMAN) among those at the Philippines meeting organized by the Asean Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights, which is in charge of drafting of the declaration.

The Indonesian coalition submitted seven priority issues that it feels need to be revisited by the AICHR to improve the declaration. These were: the limitation of rights; indigenous people’s rights; the right to an impartial and independent judiciary; non-derogable rights; public morality; self-determination; and sexual and reproductive rights.

“But a lot of the recommendations were rejected, especially those that concern minority groups like LGBTIQ [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and questioning] and indigenous people,” Yuyun said.

Rena Herdiyani, executive director of Kalyanamitra, added that another challenge for the declaration is the subjective view of each country on human rights issues.

“Some governments apply human rights based on political or narrow religious interpretations,” she said. “[The Declaration] should also promote non-discrimination principles toward minorities. If not, then [the declaration] will not be meaningful.”

Danny Lee, the director of the community affairs development directorate at the Asean secretariat, admitted the declaration might fall short of international standards but said the move was still laudable.

“The declaration is a landmark on its own,” Lee said. “When you think about it, having 10 countries with different constitutions to agree on something is not easy.”

He added that getting countries with substandard records on protections, such as Myanmar and Thailand, to talk about human rights is also a step forward.

“In the Asean, total freedom is not possible because there are too many religious and ethnic differences,” Lee said.

Rafendi Djamin, Indonesia’s representative to the AICHR, disagreed with the coalition, saying that “the consultation meeting went very well.”

“The NGOs have given much with their input and questions regarding the development of the draft after the first consultation in Kuala Lumpur,” Rafendi said.

The input, he said, helped the AICHR ensure that the draft of the declaration will not fall short in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the UN-backed Vienna Declaration.

“The coalition provided fresh ideas regarding the principles of human rights that are not yet included in the draft,” Rafendi said. –Ulma Haryanto, Jakarta Globe