XVIII International AIDS Conference

Abstract

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Laws affecting HIV responses among MSM and transgender people in Asia and the Pacific: a consultative study

Presented by John Godwin (Australia).

J. Godwin1, E. Settle2, S. Khan3


1Consultant, Sydney, Australia, 2UN Development Programme, Bangkok, Thailand, 3Asia Pacific Coalition on Male Sexual Health, Lucknow, India

Issues: Insufficient attention has been given to the impacts of legal environments on HIV responses among MSM and transgender people in Asia Pacific. Many national HIV policies recognize MSM as a priority population but laws present barriers to programming.
Description: UNDP and Asia Pacific Coalition on Male Sexual Health have commissioned a joint study of the effect of the legal environment on comprehensive HIV responses among MSM and transgender people in the region. Phase 1 involved mapping of laws and law enforcement practices, and actions taken to improve the legal environment by governments, communities, donors and UN agencies. Preliminary findings and recommendations were discussed at community consultations held in Fiji and Bangkok in 2009. Phase 2 involved more detailed analysis of the effects of laws on prevention, care, support and treatment, and legislative and policy options.
Lessons learned: There has been an unprecedented period of policy action since 2006 to improve the status of MSM and transgender people. The legal environment for MSM and transgender people is also improving. Since 2005, judges have interpreted laws as protecting the rights of MSM and transgender people in Fiji, Hong Kong, Nepal, India and Pakistan. Five countries have introduced discrimination protections for MSM and Nepal guarantees equal rights. However, in the vast majority of countries there is an absence of laws protecting the rights of MSM and transgender people. 19 Asia Pacific countries have laws that criminalize male-to-male sex, many inherited from British rule. The existence of these offences can result in police harassment and violence targeting MSM, transgender people, and community outreach workers. Providing examples of enabling legal environments can assist in persuading policy makers and legislators to introduce rights-based responses.
Next steps: Recommendations will be disseminated to governments, donors and communities.


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