BMA, UN, embassy representatives, civil society and artists stand united with LGBTI Thais on International Day against Transphobia, Homophobia, and Biphobia (IDAHOT) at Bangkok Art and Culture Centre.
The Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) stood in solidarity with the United Nations in Thailand, embassy representatives, civil society, private enterprise, entertainers and the country’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) community to commemorate the International Day against Transphobia, Homophobia and Biphobia (IDAHOT) at the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre (BACC) on 17 May.
Against the backdrop of the BACC’s 50m high “We Are Rainbow” light installation, these diverse groups united to “stand up, speak out and support LGBTI people in Thailand”, one of the key rallying cries of this year’s IDAHOT Thailand campaign.
In her opening remarks, said that the IDAHOT commemoration reflects the BMA's vision of the capital as a city of diversity and that while several stakeholders, including those at the event, are working to advance this vision, it will not be achieved overnight.
“Sexual diversity remains a frequent cause of stigma and discrimination,” she said. “Better understanding and appreciation for diversity will not only make a difference in the lives of LGBT people, but will also improve the overall quality of life, rights and well-being of all people in Bangkok – young people and students, in particular, should be a key area of focus.”
Representing the joint United Nations in Thailand, UNESCO Bangkok Director Gwang-Jo Kim said that the UN recognized the important progress made in Thailand in promoting LGBTI rights, including in recent policy documents and broad engagement with community groups and organizations. However, he also noted how many in LGBTI Thais "face stigma, discrimination and even violence in schools, health services, communities and within families".
"With the commitment and the combined efforts of governments and civil society and with the support from the many partners here tonight and those that are here in spirit, I am confident that we will see the principles of equality and non-discrimination turn into reality for LGBTI people here in Thailand," Dr Kim said. "The United Nations stands united with the people of Thailand to stand against violence and discrimination of any kind and to ensure the human rights and dignity of all people regardless of gender identity or expression or sexual orientation."
Prempreeda Pramoj Na Ayutthaya, UNESCO Bangkok HIV National Programme Officer and an advocate for transgender rights in Thailand, said that the IDAHOT commemoration and events leading up to it gave LGBTI communities a space to share their experiences with non-LGBTI communities to promote understanding.
"On behalf of the Thai LGBTI community, we appreciate the involvement of the UN family, the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration and friends from civil society organizations and also the private sector,” she said. “Today, we are here to celebrate IDAHOT. This is a great moment to come together in solidarity to ensure equality and eliminate discrimination.”
Four young LGBTI advocates also took to the stage to deliver a youth statement, in which they drew from their personal experiences to issue a call for equality and increased mutual understanding between their community and their heterosexual peers.
“Whatever you call us – gay, kathoei, tom, dee or third gender – and even if you consider us different, we too are members of society. Please respect our dignity and our right to live the life we choose, just as everyone should,” the statement read. “Whichever sex you are, we share a common humanity and accepting that, we can stop bullying violence and hatred toward LGBTI people.
“Hatred and fear based on differences creates nothing but contempt and division. It’s understanding that fills the world with love and compassion and can bring about a society in which everyone has an equal right to love.”
Also attending the event were representatives from the embassies of the USA, Canada, France, the Netherlands, Sweden and the United States as well as from the sponsors of the lighting installation, the Philips Lighting Academy of Thailand, Bioarchitek, KMUTT’s School of Architecture and Design and the Thailand Illumination Engineering Association.
Thai TV star Meesuk Jangmeesuk was the emcee for the commemoration, which was opened by transgender pianist Remi Namtep's stirring rendition of John Lennon's Imagine, and featured a dazzling aerobatic display from the Rainbow All Boy Cheerleading Team as well as performances by Mimosa Pattaya and Balla and Juno from the popular TV singing competition The Voice.
The main IDAHOT event took place amid a week-long series of events at the BACC, which saw LGBTI issues explored through a diverse range of activities, including musical and theatrical performances, panel discussions and sharing sessions, film screenings and more.
IDAHOT: The International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia is commemorated every year on 17 May in more than 100 countries in every region of the world to champion LGBTI rights and combat discrimination. The day was created in 2004 and the 17th of May was chosen because it was on this day in 1990 that the World Health Organization first decided to declassify homosexuality as a mental disorder. LGBTI youth are the focus of this year’s IDAHOT.
WE ARE RAINBOW: The theme of this year’s IDAHOT Thailand campaign speaks to its aim of taking the discussion out of advocacy circles and into the community to show how LGBTI rights are human rights and that their violation harms everyone. The BACC events as well as the social media campaign launched under #WeAreRainbow focus on educating and engaging members of the public on LGBTI issues and inspiring them to champion these rights, not just on IDAHOT, but every day.
For more on this year's IDAHOT Thailand campaign, visit: http://en.idahotthailand.org
A factsheet detailing persistent challenges facing the Thai LGBTI community: http://en.idahotthailand.org/facts-sheet/
Photos for media: https://www.flickr.com/photos/idahotthailand/sets/72157653044815785
Media queries: Please contact Noel Boivin, UNESCO Bangkok Media and Communications Officer: firstname.lastname@example.org