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LGBT Report From The Peoples’ Forum In Phnom Pehn, Cambodia

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Guest post by Ging Cristobal, Asia Project Coordinator

 

The Ninth Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Civil Society Conference/ASEAN Peoples’ Forum, (ACSC/APF), was held in Phnom Penh, Cambodia at the close of March. ASEANis an intergovernmental network formed to establish economic, socio-cultural, and political cooperation as well as regional peace amongst members. The ten member states include: Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. The forum, which provides civil society activists a space to engage with their respective governments, included lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ) issues for the second time this year. Ging Cristobal, Asia Project Coordinator for IGLHRC attended the forum for the second time around and shares about the experience.

 

The Struggle Continues for LGBTIQ Rights in the ASEAN Peoples’ Forum

 

For LGBTIQ activists the ninth convening of the Forum was an uphill climb compared to their first engagement last year. Fewer civil society organizations and individuals participated this year, as many were protesting the process of the Cambodia organizing committee. They claimed the Cambodian committee failed to be transparent in the organizing process and did not adequately consult with the regional committee. Allegedly, this affected not only how local organizers ran the convening but also hindered civil society groups and non-governmental organizations in other ASEAN countries from seeking funds to participate in the event.

Another hurdle was that government-initiated non-government organizations didn’t attend the civil society led forum. These organizations, with cordial partnerships with governments from their countries, led a separate meeting also in Phnom Penh a day ahead of the grassroots-initiated convening,

Lastly, the deadline is fast approaching for the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights to bring forward the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration at the ASEAN Plus Summit in November 2012. To ensure that sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) not be included in the final draft, Brunei, Burma and Malaysia, asserted a strong opposition to Thailand’s recommendation to include sexual identity. LGBTIQ activists must give visibility to this bleak scenario and get support from mainstream civil society organizations to push for the inclusion of sexual orientation and gender identity in the final ASEAN Human Rights Declaration.

The LGBTIQ Caucus Meeting

Rainbow Community Kampuchea (RoCK), a local LGBTIQ group in Phnom Penh, initiated an LGBTIQ Caucus meeting days before the opening of the ASEAN Civil Society Conference/ASEAN Peoples’ Forum. The caucus meeting was a venue for exchange of information on strategies regarding LGBTIQ rights work between young activists from Cambodia and groups from ASEAN countries. Despite RoCK’s non-attendance of the forum out of protest, they still provided an opportunity to LGBTIQ activists from Cambodia, Malaysia, Indonesia, Myanmar-Burma, Vietnam, Thailand and Philippines attending the forum to meet, plan and strategize. I facilitated a workshop for the regional involvement of LGBTIQ activists in the forum and we came up with strategies and pertinent information for the statement released after the Sexual Orientation Gender Identity workshop.

Everyone agreed that our issues would be presented during open discussion in each workshop attended by LGBTIQ activists, particularly caucuses and workshops involving children, youth, health, migrant workers, women and the ASEAN Declaration of Human Rights.

The three recommendations presented during last year’s convening were still the unanimous call by LGBTIQ activists in ASEAN countries. We decided to adhere to these recommendations and add a call for the inclusion of sexual orientation and gender identity in the final ASEAN Declaration of Human Rights for our 2012 Caucus Statement. We gathered endorsements of the LGBTIQ statement from civil society organizations from both the LGBTIQ community and mainstream groups beyond those in attendance. Thirteen LGBTIQ groups signed the statement with support from international groups such as the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) and the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex Association (ILGA-Asia). The statement was also by fifteen allied groups.

The Value of Self Determination Rights: Equality, Democracy and Diversity of Sexual Orientation & Gender Identity (SOGI) in ASEAN Values (The SOGI Workshop)

 The SOGI workshop was made possible by the Center for Cambodian Human Rights (CCHR) with Hem Sokly at the helm, and the co-conveners: International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, Arus Pelangi and HerLounge from Indonesia, and The Institute for Studies of Society, Economy and Environment from Vietnam.

Getting to the workshop was a bit like “The Amazing Race”:  due to the absence of a detailed layout of room assignments and the logistical nightmare that the venue was not in one building, conference participants had to search for the room assignments, either using the elevator or taking a 5-minute walk under the scorching sun to another building. Nonetheless it was a lively and effective meeting.

President of the Center for Cambodian Human Rights, Ou Virak, opened the event by reiterating   support for sexual orientation and gender identity rights. Following Ou, five speakers shared how their activism emphasized the need to assert equality, democracy and pride as an LGBTIQ person living in Asia. Hem Sokly shared how LGBTIQ rights groups challenge the way culture discriminates against LGBTIQ people in Cambodia. Thilaga Sulathireh spoke of the legal struggles and continued fight for the right to association and freedom of expression brought about by the banning of Seksualiti Merdeka’s events on LGBTIQ rights in Malaysia. Yasmin Lee from the Society of Transsexual Women of the Philippines (STRAP) revealed the challenges and the success of their group in fighting for their right to be recognized as transgender women in the Philippines. Loan Vu and Teddy from ICS Center in Vietnam detailed the need for a support group like the Parent and Friends of Lesbian and Gay people in Vietnam (PFLAG) and how it can be replicated in other ASEAN countries. Lastly, Aung Myo Min from Human Rights Education Institute of Burma presented the realistic scenario of SOGI in relation to the Asian Human rights Declaration and the workshop theme – that the ASEAN values in the ASEAN Declaration of Human Rights will always be weak and incomplete if issues of sexual orientation and gender identity are denied their rightful place in the declaration.

Press Conferences

After the SOGI workshop we took part in two press conferences – the first with representatives from other workshops in the forum. Vien Tanjung of HerLounge from Indonesia presented the four recommendations from the SOGI workshop. The second press conference focused solely on Sexual Orientation Gender Identity.  With Vien Tanjung and King Oey of Arus Pelangi from Indonesia and Yasmin Lee from the Philippines I introduced the demand for the inclusion of SOGI in the ASEAN Declaration of Human Rights. The other three speakers then presented the SOGI statement. It was teamwork at its finest since the media was unaware that it was an impromptu effort on our part while we were waiting for other LGBTIQ activists to arrive.

An Inclusive Drafting Committee

Another strategy that was effective following last years’ involvement in the forum was the need to have an LGBTIQ activist on the Drafting Committee of the conference to ensure that issues concerning SOGI and LGBTIQ rights be retained. King Oey from Indonesia and Ryan Sylverio proved to be experts on this as they managed to negotiate and make sure that this goal was achieved.

Success!

LGBTIQ presence in the ASEAN Civil Society Conference/ASEAN Peoples’ Forum was a success! The momentum and visibility of SOGI rights were maintained and strengthened by the increased number of allies from mainstream civil society organizations who clearly see LGBT rights as human rights. This growing alliance will be important in the months ahead.

Realistically, there are strong efforts from countries such as Burma, Malaysia and Brunei to make sure SOGI will not be in the final declaration. But as I’ve stated publicly:  “We may not be successful in the inclusion of SOGI in the ASEAN Declaration of Human Rights but we want to make sure that SOGI is in the hearts and minds of every activist. We want to be sure that in all programs and advocacies you do, you make SOGI a part of it. Then we can say we did more than simply have SOGI on paper.”

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‘Desperately Needed’: Trump Wants ‘Revival’ of Religion and Ten Commandments in Classrooms

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Jumping on Louisiana’s controversial and likely unconstitutional new law mandating posters of a specific version of the Bible’s Ten Commandments be displayed in every public school classroom, Donald Trump overnight declared the nation “desperately” needs a religious “revival” and called for the religious text to be placed in classrooms across America.

Critics point out that the U.S. Supreme Court in 1980 found a similar law unconstitutional.

“The high court found that the law had no secular purpose but rather served a plainly religious purpose,” the Associated Press reports.

And while some lawmakers are insisting it is a historical document, remarks by Republican Governor Jeff Landry and the bill’s co-author, Republican state Rep. Lauren Ventrella, would appear to undermine that defense.

RELATED: ‘Christian Theocracy’: Ten Commandments Lawmaker Who Can’t ‘Fathom’ Outrage Gets Schooled

“I love the Ten Commandments in public schools, private schools, and many other places, for that matter. Read it — how can we, as a nation, go wrong??? This may be, in fact, the first major step in the revival of religion, which is desperately needed, in our country. bring back TTC!!! MAGA2024” Trump wrote on Truth Social in his all-caps post.

Some critics have been noting Trump has violated many if not most of the Ten Commandments. Some have listed the Ten Commandments and what they say are Trump’s actions in comparison to them.

MSNBC‘s Steve Bennen observed, “Trump is touting the Ten Commandments, despite the fact that he’s broken most of them. No graven images? Check. Honoring the Sabbath? Check. No adultery? Check. No stealing? Check. No bearing false witness? Big ol’ check. No coveting a neighbor’s wife? Check.”

Retired North Carolina Supreme Court justice and former Republican gubernatorial candidate Judge Bob Orr wrote: “The GOP and Trump want parents controlling the books that are in schools NOT educators…but their ok with educators being responsible for teaching children to follow the Ten Commandments – a responsibility that belongs at home with the parents and the church.”

Earlier this week, before Trump’s declaration, The Lincoln Project posted a video on Trump’s relationship to the religious document.

Watch below or at this link.

READ MORE: ‘Fact Checking His Delusions’: Trump’s Falsehoods May Not Be Lies Anymore, Critics Warn

 

 

 

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‘Christian Theocracy’: Ten Commandments Lawmaker Who Can’t ‘Fathom’ Outrage Gets Schooled

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The co-author of the likely unconstitutional Louisiana bill mandating the Ten Commandments be posted in every public classroom from kindergarten through college “can’t fathom” why Americans across the country are so upset.

Republican Governor Jeff Landry signed the bill into law Thursday, after bragging he welcomed civil rights groups that threatened to sue, a promise fulfilled on Thursday by the ACLU, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and the Freedom from Religion Foundation.

“The first amendment promises that we all get to decide for ourselves what religious beliefs, if any, to hold and practice, without pressure from the government. Politicians have no business imposing their preferred religious doctrine on students and families in public schools,” the group of civil rights organizations said in a statement, The Guardian reported.

Louisiana Republican state Rep. Lauren Ventrella, an attorney who co-authored the bill, told CNN Thursday afternoon she couldn’t even “fathom” why anyone would be upset over the government mandating a religious text be posted on the walls of every classroom.

RELATED: ‘Smug’: Governor Scorched for Signing Ten Commandments Bill as Child Faints

“Look, this nation has gotten out of hand,” Rep. Ventrella said, “with crime, with the bad negative things that are going on.”

Nationwide, crime has plummeted under President Joe Biden, but for decades Louisiana has had the highest murder rate per capita in the country – three times the national average – according to FBI statistics. For overall crime, Louisiana ranks second worst in the country.

“Why is it so preposterous that we would want our students to have the option to have some good principles instilled in them if they don’t hear it at home, let them read it in the classroom,” Ventrella told CNN’s Boris Sanchez. “It’s no different than the Mayflower Compact which is mentioned in the document as well. I don’t understand why this is so preposterous in that litigation is being is being threatened. It doesn’t scare us in the state of Louisiana, we say bring it on.”

Sanchez explained, “if someone has a home in which they choose to believe something different, which is welcome in this country – it’s literally why people fled to come here to found this country to begin with – then they should be allowed to, and it’s not really an option if you’re requiring it to be put up in the wall of the classroom. What do you say to the parents of students or even teachers who don’t share your religious views?”

“Don’t look at it,” Ventrella angrily replied.

“What would you say if your child had to go to a classroom in which the Five Pillars of Islam were required to be on the wall? How would you feel?” Sanchez replied.

“Again, this is not about the Five Pillars of Islam. This bill specifically states, the Ten Commandments, it is a historical document,” she claimed.

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Adding he was trying to help the Louisiana GOP lawmaker “put yourself in the shows of someone you may not understand and their point of view,” Sanchez asked, “How would you feel if you were at the classroom and something you didn’t believe in was required to be on the wall? You can answer that question.”

“I cannot sit here and gather and fathom what – you could give me 1000 hypotheticals, but again, this specific bill applies to this specific text, the Qur’an or Islam that is a very broad statement. We’re specifically talking about a limited text on mind you a piece of paper that’s not much bigger than a legal sheet of paper. Some kids might even need a magnifying glass to read all of this. This is not so preposterous that we’re we’re somehow sanctioning and forcing religion down people’s throat. I’ve heard the comments and it’s just ridiculous.”

Critics are furious.

Former Republican U.S. Congressman Joe Walsh replied, “Yes, what Louisiana just signed into law is unconstitutional & will be struck down by the courts. But this is just the latest evidence that my former political party would abandon the Constitution to make America a Christian theocracy.”

“Interesting State Rep. Ventrella says if students aren’t hearing about the Ten Commandments in the home they should hear it in school — which contradicts numerous bills they passed against schools teaching things parents don’t want taught,” observed Nexstar’s capitol bureau chief Shannon Heckt remarked.

Democratic National Committee chairman Jaime Harrison issued a statement in response.

“Watch this… folks this has very little to do with actual religion (because I guarantee you the majority of the MAGA Republicans who voted for this in the legislature don’t live up to these commandments),” he began. “As a Christian, I don’t feel compelled to force my religion and beliefs on others. I believe my path to salvation is paved by my actions and not impacted by the actions & beliefs of others.”

“My friends.. this is about control… these right-wing MAGA extremists want to control every aspect of our lives: control our bodies; who we love; who we pray to; how we express ourselves; what we read; who we vote for; and so much more,” he continued. “They are extreme, dangerous and unhinged. This is no time… this is no election to FAFO, because our freedoms and all we hold dear are on the ballot this November. Don’t be silent… let your voice be heard!”

Watch below or at this link.

READ MORE: ‘Fact Checking His Delusions’: Trump’s Falsehoods May Not Be Lies Anymore, Critics Warn

 

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‘Smug’: Governor Scorched for Signing Ten Commandments Bill as Child Faints

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Louisiana Republican Governor Jeff Landry signed into law on Thursday legislation mandating a version of the Bible’s Ten Commandments must be posted in every public school classroom, after bragging he looked forward to civil rights groups suing him. Gov. Landry, the former state attorney general, has been criticized nationally for what experts say is a violation of the First Amendment, but that criticism widened Thursday as a little girl standing behind the governor appeared to faint as the governor continued his remarks (video below), apparently without noticing.

After the governor described the bill to tremendous applause from guests, the child fell to the floor. Governor Landry, seemingly unaware, continued, declaring, “if you want to protect the rule of law you got to start from the original law giver.”

Highlighting what some experts see as the First Amendment violation in the law he was about to sign, Landry continued, claiming Moses was the original lawgiver.

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Historians and religious experts might disagree with the governor. In some cultures, for example, Hammurabi, King of Babylon, is credited as the original lawgiver. In Ancient Greece, Athenian statesman Solon is considered to have that role. And in ancient India, that role belonged to Manu.

Responding to Landry’s “original lawgiver” remark, researcher Eric Kleefeld commented, “If that’s your rationale, then you ought to be posting the Code of Ur-Nammu, the oldest known set of written laws that archaeologists have ever found, from ancient Sumeria.”

Critics blasted Landry, both for not realizing the child directly behind him had fallen ill, and for the alleged First Amendment violation.

“Gov. Landry with a self-satisfied smug look while a young child passes out behind him,” remarked MSNBC legal correspondent Katie Phang.

“Christian Nationalism is front and center in the South. Scared of Project 2025? It’s happening in our states,” commented U.S. Rep. Maxwell Frost (D-FL).

READ MORE: How SCOTUS ‘Let Trump Off the Hook’ and ‘Interfered in the 2024 Elections’: Expert

“Remember everyone…this is about the kids. Not the one me whom literally passed out behind him. But, definitely kids,” commented former Lincoln Project executive director Fred Wellman.

Louisiana ranks near the bottom in education, at number 47 according to U.S. News and World Report.

Watch the video below or at this link.

RELATED: ‘I Can’t Wait to Be Sued’ Gov. Brags Over Ten Commandments Bill – Rights Groups Vow To Oblige

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