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.