To empower queer women towards greater involvement and presence in the community
Advocacy for LBTQ women's rights at CEDAW
Sayoni was at the United Nations in Geneva in October 2017 to bring Singapore LBTQ women's issues to the forefront. The CEDAW Committee heard our concerns and raised recommendations related to LBTQ women in their Concluding Observations for the Singapore government.
Sayoni is a Singapore-based feminist, volunteer-run organisation that works to uphold human rights protections for queer women, including lesbian, bisexual and transgender women. We organise and advocate for equality in well-being and dignity regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity/expression and sex characteristics.

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During the 8th ACSC/APF in Jakarta, Indonesia, the LGBTIQ caucus explicitly made visible the violations of human rights and the corresponding emotional and psychological impacts to the lives of ASEAN LGBTIQ persons. Hence, we are incensed and extremely disappointed by the exclusion of SOGI in the draft of the ASEAN’s Human Rights Declaration, which is a blatant manifestation of discrimination against LGBTIQ persons.

Across the ASEAN region, LGBTIQ persons are either treated as second class citizens, criminals, are seen as deviants, and in some cases are not even recognized as human beings. We are made to lead dual lives and be ashamed of ourselves for who we are. We are subjected to name calling, condemnation, taunts, reparative treatments and other inhumane abuses. Discrimination and violence come not only from our families, friends, communities, and employers but also from state institution such as state actors, especially police and religious officers. Even in the face of discrimination and violence, the governments refuse to protect our basic human rights.

In Brunei, Burma, Malaysia and Singapore colonial laws that criminalize SOGI are used to harass, extort money and demand sexual favours, arrest, detain and persecute LGBTIQ persons. In the Philippines and Indonesia, anti-trafficking or pornographic laws are used to conduct illegal raids at gay establishments and detain LGBTIQ people. The anti-kidnapping law in the Philippines is used to forcibly break apart lesbian couples in legitimate and consensual relationships. In Cambodia, a lesbian was imprisoned following a homophobic complaint by the family of her partner because of their relationship. In Thailand, the negligence of the state is clearly manifested in the refusal to investigate the killings of fifteen lesbians and gender-variant women. The existence of the pornographic law in Indonesia, which haphazardly included SOGI as pornography, is used by several internet providers to block websites of legitimate LGBTIQ organization such as the International Gay Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGHLRC) and the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex Association (ILGA) websites. In Malaysia, Seksualiti Merdeka, an annual sexuality festival was disrupted and banned by the police as the festival was deemed a “threat to national security”.

Basic human rights, such as right to healthcare, housing and education, are denied on the basis our SOGI . This has contributed to the steep rise in HIV infection amongst most at risk populations: men who have sex with men and transgendered people. Archaic laws that criminalize SOGI makes it even more difficult in implementing life-saving interventions to at-risk groups.

Even with all the hurdles and challenges faced by the LGBTIQ movement in Asia, our numbers and strength has been steadily growing. We have come at the stage in our struggle for equality and respect that we will never accept discrimination, abuse and violence a part of our existence by the denial of our rights and our humanity.

It is in this spirit of pride and dignity that we are reclaiming our rightful space in our respective countries and in our region, and demand our governments to:

  • Include SOGI provision into the ASEAN Declaration on Human Rights, specifically inclusion of reference to ‘gender identity’ and ‘sexual orientation’ within Article 2
  • Immediately repeal laws that directly and indirectly criminalize SOGI, recognize LGBTIQ rights as human rights, and harmonize national laws, policies and practices with the Yogyakarta Principles.
  • Establish national level mechanisms and review existing regional human rights instruments (e.g. AICHR, ACWC) to include the promotion and protection of the equal rights of all people regardless of SOGI with the active engagement of the LGBTIQ community.
  • Depathologize SOGI and promote psychological well being of people of Diverse SOGI in accordance with the World Health Organization (WHO) standards, and ensure equal access to health and social services.


  1. Arus Pelangi, Indonesia
  2. Cambodia Center for Human Rights (CCHR), Cambodia
  3. Child’s Rights Coalition – Asia
  4. HerLounge, Indonesia
  5. Human Rights Education and Information in Burma (HREIB), Burma
  6. ICS, Vietnam
  7. Institute of Studies for Society, Economy and Environment (iSEE), Vietnam
  8. iSee, Vietnam
  9. Knowledge and Rights with Young people through Safe Spaces (KRYSS), Malaysia
  10. Mplus, Thailand
  11. Rainbow Sky Association of Thailand
  12. Seksualiti Merdeka, Malaysia
  13. The Rainbow Community Kampuchea (RoCK), Cambodia

Supported by:

International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC–Asia Program)

International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex Association (ILGA-Asia)

Endorsed by:

  1. Aliansi Remaja Independent (Independent Young People Alliance), Indonesia
  2. Harry Benjamin’s Syndrome, Indonesia
  3. People Like Us (PLUS), Singapore
  4. Perkumpulan Keluarga Berencana, Indonesia
  5. Sayoni, Singapore
  6. Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO), Malaysia
  7. Lesbian Activism Project (LeAP!), Inc, Philippines
  8. GAYa NUSANTARA, Indonesia
  9. Oogachaga Counselling and Support, Singapore
  10. Youth Interfaith Forum on Sexuality, Indonesia
  11. Philippines Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA), Philippines
  12. Rainbow Rights Project (R-Rights), Inc., Philippines



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