Photo: Elyssa Fahndrich via Unsplash

Today, May 17th, is the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia (IDAHOT). This is a day to draw attention to the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people face around the world, including here in Thailand.

LGBT people are part of our families, communities and wider society, but they continue to experience stigma and discrimination, violence, exclusion and denial of fundamental human rights just because of their sexual orientation and gender identity.

Structural barriers, and discriminatory norms and practices exist, which exclude LGBT persons from fully participating in society and enjoying the benefits of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

A report being released this week by UNDP, titled Tolerance but not inclusion, sheds important light on the prevailing attitudes towards LGBT people and their experiences of discrimination.

The report is based on a landmark survey involving 2,210 participants – both LGBT and non-LGBT people – from across Thailand.

What most stood out is the significant level of support for inclusive laws and policies among the non-LGBT respondents to the survey.

According to the results of the survey, more people support than object to same-sex unions, adoption rights for LGBT people, more than two options for ‘sex’ in official public documents, and a lifting of the ban on blood donations for men who have sex with men. In addition to this, a significant portion of the respondents (20.5% to 23.3%) did not feel strongly either way on these issues.

What does this mean? It means there is an opportunity for action to be taken.

This year’s IDAHOT Day calls us to focus on providing justice and protection for all. This includes reforming laws and policies to extend equal protections to everyone regardless of their identity and expression, and ensuring mechanisms are in place to address injustices as they arise.

Progress on combating violence and discrimination towards LGBT people is possible, but it requires strong alliances and effective advocacy for law and policy change, and changes to hearts and minds. UNDP works with partners to promote dignity and reduce the exclusion perpetuated by these structural barriers, and discriminatory norms and practices.

In Thailand, UNDP is supporting the efforts of national stakeholders to enhance legal protections for non-discrimination based on gender, to provide access to legal identity documents with correct gender markers to transgender people, to sensitize the Royal Thai Police on issues related to sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression, and to address the specific health and safety needs of transgender inmates in the justice system.

Thailand has the opportunity, the resources and the public’s support for reform to build on these efforts and transcend from a land of relative tolerance for LGBT to one of true inclusion.

We stand in solidarity with our national partners including the Royal Thai Government and civil society organizations to safeguard and promote the rights of LGBTI people in Thailand. This IDAHOT, to make sure that no one is left behind, please join us in building a society where all people, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity and expression, are safe and fully able to exercise their fundamental human rights. 

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Renaud Meyer is UNDP Thailand Resident Representative

Being LGBTI in Asia and the Pacific is a regional 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. The programme is supported by UNDP, the Embassy of Sweden in Bangkok, the U.S. Agency for International Development, the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Ministry for European Affairs and Equality (Malta), the Government of Canada and Faith in Love Foundation (Hong Kong). For more information, visit our website.

UNDP partners with people at all levels of society to help build nations that can withstand crisis, and drive and sustain the kind of growth that improves the quality of life for everyone. On the ground in more than 170 countries and territories, we offer global perspective and local insight to help empower lives and build resilient nations. For more information, visit our website.

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