The funding from Global Affairs Canada amounts to US$1.69 million

Apcom, a Thailand-based not-for-profit organisation championing the rights and inclusion of LGBTQ+ communities in Asia-Pacific, has received the backing of the Canandian government. It is one of three organisations to receive about US$1.69 million in funding support from Global Affairs Canada.

Apcom focuses on advancing the health and legal rights and socioeconomic outcomes of the region’s LGBTQ+ communities, with a particular focus on HIV prevention and support. It represents and works with individuals and organisations spanning 35 territories across Asia-Pacific.

“The contribution from Canada fits well with Apcom’s vision of a world where SOGIESC (sexual orientation, gender identity and expression and sex characteristics) people can fully participate in and achieve sustainable development in all aspects of their health, rights and well-being,” says the organisation’s executive director Midnight Poonkasetwattana, who is a 2020 Gen.T honouree. “Canada’s investment is filling in a funding gap in LGBTQI institutional strengthening, and we hope other donors will follow suit.”

According to a statement from Apcom, the funds will be used for an international project aimed at improving gender equality and the human rights of LGBTQ+ people in Asia. It will involve the collaboration of organisations from five countries—Cambodia, Laos, Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand.

In a separate interview with Gen.T, Poonkasetwattana described how there’s still much work to be done in decriminalising homosexuality in Asia. There are currently 15 countries that still see it as a crime. And even in places like Thailand that don’t, equal rights aren’t afforded to the LGBTQ+ community.

“Thailand is known for being open and accepting, but we sadly don’t have supportive laws that go with this,” says Poonkasetwattana. “The misconception is that with an open society, there are laws that prevents discrimination and equal access to justice and rights for all, but this is not the case.” One example is how the country still doesn’t permit transgender individuals to change their gender marker on their official documents.

A challenge that LGBTQ+ advocacy organisations such as Apcom face is a lack of internal support for civil society movements. “We are seeing a trend where spaces for civil society to advocate for their own rights are being curtailed,” says Poonkasetwattana.

He cites Thailand’s NPO bill, which will restrict the operations of non-government organisations, as an example of measures taken to curb freedom of expression. “The bill will restrict the vibrant civil society in Thailand, but that of the region as well.”

So as organisations continue to face resistance from the authorities, how can more regular folks contribute to the cause or be a better ally?

“We need to cultivate open communication on lived experiences and challenges of the diverse LGBTQI community and what are some of the challenges that they face or have overcome,” says Poonkasetwattana. “We are not asking for special rights but to have access to the same rights to live our lives in dignity as everyone else.”

For those who want to contribute more directly, Poonkasetwattana advises to “reach out to your nearest LGBTQI community to see what are their needs and [see how you can] support those gaps, which could be funding, volunteering or joining a campaign.”

by Chong Seow Wei
Source – Tatler