Robust but restricted: LGBTIQ groups in Asia-Pacific

The Asia-Pacific region is home to 60% of the world’s population – almost 4.5 billion people – including the most populous (China and India) and least populous (Pacific island states) countries in the world. The diversity of the inhabitants of this region is vast, covering a range of religions, ethnicities and cultures, and residing across an abundance of geographical and climate variation.

Crucially, it is also home to vibrant lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, intersex and queer people’s organizations, 74% of which operate without a legal status – the highest percentage of unregistered LGBTIQ civil-society organizations in the world, according to OutRight Action International’s recent report, “The Global State of LGBTIQ Organizing: The Right to Register.”

An active and engaged civil society is the beating heart of a healthy democracy. Civil-society organizations, groups and activists are key to amplifying the voices of people who aren’t always heard, to ensuring access for the excluded or marginalized, raising awareness and accountability of governments, and achieving sustainable progress. Yet increasingly, governments across the world are seeking to restrict the activities of civil-society organizations by imposing legal or administrative barriers, or, indeed, by restricting their ability to register in the first place.

The Asia-Pacific region is no exception. The CIVICUS State of Civil Society Report 2018 highlighted that space for civil society in the region is largely closed (such as in China, Laos or North Korea), repressed (such as in Bangladesh, Myanmar or Cambodia), obstructed and narrow, with only a few champions of democracy. In the rest of the region, economic might and increasingly open markets have not brought with them democratic spirit and respect for human rights. On the contrary, imprisonment of journalists and human-rights defenders, barriers to registration and operation of civil-society organizations, harsh clampdowns on expressions of freedom of assembly, and barring of political opponents are common. Read more via Asia Times