Transgender-Specific Politics and Policy in Asia
- Natasha Israt KabirNatasha Israt KabirIndependent Researcher & Founder President, BRIDGE Foundation
- and Khadiza Tul Qubra Binte AhsanKhadiza Tul Qubra Binte AhsanDepartment of Peace and Conflict Studies, University of Dhaka
Acute discrimination has been witnessed across Asia regardless of individual countries’ specific policies towards transgender people. As individuals, it would be reassuring to believe that Article 1 of the UN Charter, which states that “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights,” would encourage people to ignore gender differences. In different parts of Asia, even where transgender people have been officially recognized, their rights are fragile. Indeed, today activists focus more on women’s rights than on the rights of all sexual minorities, who as a consequence often live in extreme poverty and ill-health. The exclusion of the transgender community in governmental policymaking is another salient reason for their current living conditions. Even though transgender candidates participate in elections in most countries, their representation in parliaments is rare. Furthermore, violence toward the transgender community is such a common scenario that it has become normalized. Victims rarely get support because of legal loopholes and the unwillingness of the law enforcement agencies to help. Transgender and gender diverse people are not only targeted but also discriminated by law through a denial of gender marker change on official documents; the criminalization of the gender and sexual preferences of transgender and gender diverse people; the exploitation of public order, homelessness, and minor offenses; the criminalization of consensual homosexuality and intimacy; and police abuses even in the absence of a specific offense. Regardless of parliamentary legislation and other legal frameworks, policymakers and law enforcement agencies routinely operate outside the law to violate the rights of transgender and sexual minority people. Among the abuses reported by transgender persons are blackmail, extortion, public humiliation, and physical and sexual violence. If policies to socially integrate transgender and gender diverse peoples are not implemented, the state of the transgender community in Asia will not improve.