Asian countries are struggling to match global progress on LGBTQ+ rights despite positive steps this year in Singapore and Vietnam, Washington’s first openly lesbian ambassador told Openly in an interview.
Indonesia banned sex outside marriage earlier this month, and legal experts said an article in the nation’s new criminal code could reinforce discriminatory and sharia-inspired bylaws at a local level, posing a particular threat to LGBTQ+ people. “In the case of Indonesia, they’re marching towards criminalisation in the face of all these other countries that are decriminalising,” said Ambassador Chantale Wong, US director of the Asian Development Bank, which promotes social and economic development in Asia and the Pacific.
While Singapore legalised gay sex in August and Vietnam declared homosexuality was no longer “a disease”, Wong said 19 countries in the region still criminalise same-sex relations. “There are positive movements, but some (countries) are still struggling,” Wong said in a video call. “These countries still target LGBTQ people, criminalise them, persecute them, some execute them, there’s public caning in (the Indonesian province of) Aceh,” she added.
Other countries in the region that outlaw same-sex relations to varying degrees include Malaysia, Bangladesh and Papua New Guinea.