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UN spotlights Asia-Pacific transgender ‘crisis’

June 2012

A new UN report says a lack of targeted research on transgender people in the Asia-Pacific region is significantly hindering their access to health services and blocking effective responses to HIV.

It urges concerted action by governments, companies, civil society and the transgender community itself to conduct further studies to provide information about transgender people and their environments.

This unprecedented research in Asia – Lost in Transition: Transgender People, Rights and HIV Vulnerability in the Asia-Pacific Region, a review of material gathered from across the region during the past decade – was jointly released by the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the Asia Pacific Transgender Network (APTN).

It reports that long-marginalised sexual minorities are already bearing the brunt of the HIV epidemic, and that transgender persons are among the most socially ostracised, lacking fundamental rights including access to healthcare and social protection.

Clifton Cortez, regional practice leader on HIV, health and development at the UNDP Asia-Pacific Regional Centre in Bangkok, said: “Transgender individuals across Asia-Pacific are often highly stigmatised, targets of prejudice, harassment, violence and abuse. We urgently need to shed light on their situation to better tailor social and public health responses to protect and empower these communities.”

The report emphasises that inclusive research, planned and implemented in partnership with the transgender community, is vital in enabling governments, community-based bodies and supporting organisations to enhance HIV and sexual healthcare services specific to transgender people’s needs. It encourages governments to adopt more socially equitable policies and practices to protect their rights.

Report author Sam Winter, of Hong Kong University, said: “For too long, trans people have been lost in transition. We hope that this report will demonstrate the burning need to address a very human crisis, viewed through the prism of HIV, which has taken a devastating toll on millions of our fellow citizens in our region and beyond.”

There are encouraging changes, however, as the report observes. These include, across much of the region, a developing transgender identity, a growing pride and an increasing willingness from transgender communities to advocate more participation in policy processes and to organise peer support services nationally and regionally.

The APTN, for example, was established recently to work for the right to access health services, to demand that laws criminalising transgender people be repealed, and to emphasise that HIV vulnerability lies within the larger context of human rights.

United Nations | Asia | Human rights

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