Southeast Asia: An ongoing duel with conservative forces

Progress in Thailand and Singapore contrasts with an anti-LGBTQ moral panic in Indonesia and the legal legacy of British imperial rule, writes Anthony Langlois.

The World Today Updated 1 June 2023 Published 2 June 2023 2 minute READ

Anthony J. Langlois

Associate Professor, College of Business, Government and Law, Flinders University

LGBTQ issues are deeply contested in Southeast Asia. Known for its conservative social and legal frameworks – the latter a legacy of British imperialism – the region also has its own long and rich traditions of sexual and gender diversity.

In the fight for democracy and rights, sexual and gender minorities are active in local struggles – against the coup in Myanmar, for national anti-discrimination legislation in the Philippines and as part of political reform movements in Malaysia, for example.

Change is possible

As the wilful exclusion of gay rights from the region’s human rights regime indicates, however, socio-political structures are deeply conservative. Change is possible, however, as developments in Singapore and Thailand show, while Indonesia demonstrates the ever-present potential for backsliding and democratic retreat.

Subscribe to read all issues

Articles from the current issue are free to read by all, the archive is exclusive to magazine subscribers and our members. Subscribe or become a member to view articles from the archive.