Consultative workshop for marginalized groups in Bangkok. (Photo: UNDP Thailand)

Punitive outdated laws, stigma and discrimination, exacerbated by the adverse effects of COVID-19,  continue to leave marginalized groups behind, according to a recent survey conducted by UNDP, in collaboration with UNAIDS. This survey forms part of the Common Country Analysis (CCA), the UN system’s independent, impartial and collective assessment of the country’s development situation to examine progress, gaps, opportunities and bottlenecks of the country’s commitment to achieving the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 

The CCA consultative process was conducted in October 2020 to inform the next UN Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework 2022-2026. This framework serves as the key document that guides the collective response of the UN system to national development priorities. The purpose of the CCA consultations were to learn about the unique challenges faced by several stakeholder groups to better understand the situation of groups at risk of being left behind in Thailand. Participants of the series of consultations consisted of various marginalized groups including ethnic groups, people with disabilities, women, youths, migrants, stateless and refugees, LGBTI people, people living with HIV and sex workers.

“UNDP felt it is important to organize this consultative process with our sister agency, UNAIDs. While great progress has been made over the years to improve the lives of marginalized groups such as LGBTI, much more work remains to be done. At the heart of UNDP’s mandate is to support countries achieve the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). We are therefore committed to working closely with national stakeholders to ensure no one is left behind,” says Renaud Meyer, UNDP Thailand’s Resident Representative.

As a key part of the UN reforms at the national level, the CCA will be a main analytical tool to reflect the UN systems’ thinking and understanding of Thailand. It will examine progress, gaps, opportunities and bottlenecks of the country’s commitment to achieving the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Findings from this study were discussed during the Workshop on Demarginalization of Vulnerable Populations with Intersecting Identities held in Bangkok on 14 October 2020. The panel discussion was represented by members of people living with HIV, people who inject drugs, sex workers, men who have sex with men including bisexual populations, and transgender groups. Panelists echoed the issues being raised in the survey with common trends across the target groups, including the lack of access to health services, social stigmatization and discrimination leading to income loss and lack of economic opportunities, exacerbated by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“There are many layers of discrimination in society. For example, transgender people are barred from [formal sector] employment beyond the usual entertainment jobs, due to their sex assigned at birth not matching their gender identity. Society knows we exist but won’t accept us so we can’t just walk out there and seek the same types of jobs as others,” said a representative of the transgender group.

“Though we are also Thai and are entitled to rights as citizens, we are treated as if we are criminals by authorities and face a lot of stigma, especially if the person is a drug user, was incarcerated and living with HIV. Some were even sexually harassed by the police,” added a representative of people who inject drugs group.

To adequately address these gaps and challenges, various programs and interventions are needed to address stigma and discrimination, with a strong emphasis on intersectionality and marginalisation in policy and programming. Better communications are crucial to inform and raise public awareness for a better understanding, which will lay the foundation of a more tolerant and inclusive society. Thailand also needs to advocate for the repeal of punitive and outdated laws and the development of new protective laws and policies, in order to clear the way for rightful participation and equal treatment of these marginalized populations.

 

UNDP Thailand and UNAIDS convened a Workshop on Demarginalization of Vulnerable Populations with Intersecting Identities to discuss the results of a consultative process involving vulnerable target groups. (Photo: UNDP Thailand) UNAIDS
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