New research highlights persistent inequality, violence and discrimination faced by LGBTI people in Thailand

Jun 21, 2018

Panelists from government and civil society take part in a discussion on progress and emerging opportunities in addressing inequality, violence and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity and expression or intersex status in Thailand. Photo: UNDP

New data being presented this week at a national dialogue in Bangkok shows that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people are continuing to struggle with inequality, violence and discrimination in Thai society. 

The two-day national dialogue, (21-22 June) organized by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) through the Being LGBTI in Asia programme, is providing a platform for national stakeholders and partners to review recent achievements and challenges in advancing LGBTI inclusion in the country, and to discuss priorities for future efforts. More than 80 people are attending the dialogue, including key government agencies, the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand, civil society organizations, international and community organizations, UN agencies, foreign embassies, the media, faith based groups and development partners.

Key findings of a new UNDP national study on social attitudes on sexual orientation, gender identity and expression (SOGIE) in Thailand will be presented and discussed at the country dialogue. Online surveys with LGBT people from each region of Thailand (1,349 respondents) and the general population (1,200 respondents), including focus group discussions in Chiang Mai, Bangkok, and Pattani, were conducted earlier this year identifying areas where discrimination is particularly prevalent. For instance, the study found that the general population in Thailand were more accepting of LGBT people outside of their family than those within their immediate family. Acceptance by their family and social networks remains a major challenge, especially in rural areas, with 48% of LGBT survey respondents having contemplated suicide while 19% having attempted suicide.

“Despite being seen as a haven for LGBTI people, in reality stigma, discrimination and violence towards LGBTI people are still prevalent in every corner of society,” said Angkhana Neelapaijit, Commissioner of the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand. “We must do more to promote social inclusion and reduce marginalization of LGBTI people in Thailand to ensure that they enjoy the same equal rights as others do.”

LGBTI people continue to face barriers in accessing health care, education, employment, housing and justice. Facing violence in the workplace, including verbal attacks, being ridiculed, mocked, and name called by their co-workers, as well as discrimination and persistent violence towards LGBTI students in the education setting, are just some examples of the marginaliztion that LGBTI people face in Thailand. Media also does not adequately represent the situation of LGBTI people. According to a UNDP and Burapha University study Tool for Change: Working with the Media on Issues Relating to Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, Expression and Sex Characteristics in Thailand (July 2017), people with LGBTIQ identities are vastly underrepresented in Thai news media, and when represented they are often represented inaccurately, stereotypically, harmfully or without a clear understanding of their sexual orientation or gender identity and expression.

“Sweden is a strong supporter of the rights of LGBTI persons all over the world and we engage in country, regional and global fora,” said H.E. Staffan Herrström, Ambassador of Sweden to Thailand. “First of all it is a matter of human rights and human dignity. Nothing can justify any forms of discrimination, sexual harassment, violence and abuse against LGBTI persons. Every state has the obligation to protect human rights in law and practice and an obligation to assure that there are equal opportunities no matter of sexual orientation, gender identity and expression.”

The Dialogue will also discuss the issue of legal gender recognition in Thailand. The recently launched UNDP-supported, Legal Gender Recognition in Thailand: A Legal and Policy Review (May 2018) illustrates how the absence of a law that enables transgender people to change their title, sex or gender on official documentation can create significant barriers to social inclusion, access to health and social services and enjoyment of human rights.  For example, a transgender woman was  refused by her university a certificate and transcripts upon completion of her degree because she submitted a photo in which she looked like a woman, while  her identification documents had  male gender markers.

"Thailand has achieved many development milestones in terms of addressing legal barriers to inclusion of LGBTI people. In just one example, the Gender Equality Act passed by the Thai Government in 2015 defined unfair gender discrimination and created protections for people who identify as male, female or of a different appearance from his or her sex at birth," said H.E. Glyn T. Davies, the U.S. Ambassador to Thailand. "The U.S. Government, through the UNDP project ‘Being LGBTI in Asia’, has partnered with the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security and brought the voices from Thailand’s LGBTI communities together in the implementation and monitoring of this law."  

The dialogue on the second day will provide a platform for civil society organizations to review key achievements and challenges in advancing LGBTI inclusion in the following areas: family and social networks, education, employment, and health.

“We are always expected to be extra good, extra smart or even extra funny. If you are not 'extra', chances are other people are not going to accept you. If heterosexual cisgender people are all different, LGBTI people are all different too.” said Paravee Argasnoum, a Thai LGBTI youth activist. “I believe that understanding is the key. Many times discrimination happens because of the lack of understanding. Therefore, to have people promote and highlight what LGBTI people have to go through may help other people understand better and may result in better attitude towards LGBTI people.”

“The United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goal 10 deals with Reducing Inequalities, and one of the targets of this Goal is to empower and promote the social, economic and political inclusion of all, irrespective of age, sex, disability, race, ethnicity, origin, religion or economic or other status,” said Deirdre Boyd, UNDP Resident Representative in Thailand. “This is why it is important to address the  discrimination and inequalities that LGBTI people can face.”

Note to Editors:

Being LGBTI in Asia is a regional UNDP programme aimed at addressing inequality, violence and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity or intersex status, and promotes universal access to health and social services. It is a collaboration between governments, civil society, regional institutions and other stakeholders to advance the social inclusion of LGBTI people. The programme is supported by the Embassy of Sweden in Bangkok, the U.S. Agency for International Development, the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and Faith in Love Foundation (Hong Kong).

For more information about the programme, please visit this link: http://www.asia-pacific.undp.org/content/rbap/en/home/operations/projects/overview/being-lgbt-in-asia.html

UNDP Thailand works as part of the UN Country Team to support the Royal Thai Government and the people of Thailand to achieve the national development priorities and the Sustainable Development  Goals.   

For more information, please contact:

Suparnee (Jay) Pongruengphant

Project Officer – Governance, Human Rights and LGBTI

United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Thailand Office

12th Floor, United Nations Building,

Rajdamnern Nok Avenue, Bangkok 10200

Website: http://www.undp.org

Email:  suparnee.pongruengphant@undp.org

Mobile: +668 1714 3954

 

 

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