Applied Study Program on Sexual Diversity

Applied Study Program, 2006

The Applied Study Program (ASP) organized by The South and Southeast Asia Resource Centre on Sexuality was conducted in Surabaya, Indonesia in collaboration with The GAYa NUSANTARA Foundation from Aug 23 – Sep 19, 2006. The program focuses on the practical implications of working on issues of sexuality using a rights affirming approach. The principal aim is to expose participants to a variety of rights-based strategies used by organisations that work on sexuality. As a result of this program, we hope participants will build their capacity as activists, advocates, and practitioners, to further develop and improve upon the work they are doing and share country-level experiences and strategies across the region.

In 2006, the focus was on issues of Sexual Diversity, primarily on issues of men who have sex with men (MSM) and on transgender issues.

The program brought together participants from Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Myanmar and the Philippines. The participants had varying degrees of prior experience in work on male-to male-sexuality, rights and health. The participants were:

Bayzid – 39 years-old, self-identifying as male – Executive Director of Organization of Development Programme for the Underprivileged, Bangladesh

Agniva Lahiri – 26 years-old, self-identifying as transgender (kothi) – Executive Director of People Like Us (PLUS) Calcutta, India

Michael P. De Guzman – 32 years-old, self-identifying as male – Freelance consultant working on HIV/AIDS and MSM issues in Cambodia

Minn Thu – 31 years-old, self-identifying as male – National Officer
(Monitoring and Evaluation), Fund for HIV/AIDS in Myanmar (FHAM), UNAIDS –
Myanmar

Germaine Trittle Leonin – 36 years-old, self-identifying as female and lesbian – Government Officer, Policy and Legal Research Coordinator and member of the Rainbow Right Project – Philippines

Typically, on a day-to-day basis, participants attended regular seminars and discussion groups. Seminars were oriented around readings on sexuality theory, sexual rights and same-sex sexualities in Asia (including a specific focus on same-sex sexualities in Indonesia). Teaching was primarily undertaken by Dede Oetomo of GAYa NUSANTARA and Radhika Chandiramani.of the South and Southeast Asia Resource Centre on Sexuality. Dede Oetomo functioned as the Mentor through the whole course.

The participants’ learning experience was enhanced by linking each participant with a ‘partner’ from amongst the GAYa NUSANTARA team of staff and volunteers: Danny, Erik(a), Melly, Miky and Verra. These partners facilitated the planning and scheduling of participants’ day-to-day activities, in terms of arranging field-visits and other practical matters such as building friendships and social networks within relevant communities, providing for interpretation, and explaining local cultural nuances. Local partners also attended the seminars and discussion groups to build their own conceptual skills.

The program also comprised a range of applied activities, mostly in and around Surabaya. Principal amongst these were:

  • Visits to various ‘sex-sites’ in Surabaya – including cruising areas and bars frequented by MSM and waria (and to a lesser extent, women who have sex with women)
  • Interviews scheduled for each participant, and telecast on a local English radio station
  • Visits to local services and NGOs, such as the HIV and AIDS ward at the local hospital and a community-based support project for sex-workers
  • A three-day visit to the Bali Queer Film Festival (6-9 Sep) where meetings with film directors were arranged
  • Sexual Diversity in Asian Society – an open forum hosted at Surabaya University at which each participant spoke about sexual diversity and culture in their own country

Other than scheduled program activities, participants were supported in organizing their own meetings and visits, the aim being that they should develop a tailor-made program suited to their own interests and professional needs, and for establishing their links with relevant local organizations and individuals.

Drawing on their experiences and lessons learned during the program, each of the participants produced two key pieces of individual work at the end.

The Program offered a stimulating course of study and applied activities that all participants found useful. Each participant was able to cite specific achievements and lessons that they would take forward in their work.

P.S.: Six Months After

Germaine

The Philippines

After the ASP, Germaine returned to Indonesia in November 2006 to attend a women’s rights training in Bandung. It was the Equal Status and Human Rights of Women training sponsored by Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA) and the Raoull Wallenberg Institute, with the University of Padjajaran Human Rights Center. In tackling women’s issues under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), Germaine gave some unique insights on sexual rights and reproductive health, trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation, as well as sexuality issues particularly on lesbian rights.

Germaine has moved from the Legal Service to the Policy Development and Planning Bureau (PDPB), the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD). Before she left, the Department issued a legal opinion to the Department of Foreign Affairs on the request by the Catholic Apostolic Nunciature for granting economic benefits to same-sex partners of their employees.

With the PDPB, Germaine is now directly involved in policy formulation and has recently held a successful policy forum on Decriminalizing Prostitution of Women and Children. She sits in the Department’s Task Force on Legislative Matters where she comments on draft bills pertaining to women’s issues, like the anti-prostitution bill, the anti-pornography bill, and the reproductive health bill.

Germaine is also scheduled to give a Technical Sharing Session to her fellow DSWD employees on the three Indonesian trainings she attended – Legal Pluralism and Gendered Perspectives in Law, the Applied Study Program on Sexual Diversity, and the Equal Status and Human Rights of Women in Southeast Asia, where she will focus on gender and sexuality issues.

Germaine is pursuing an MA in the Women and Development course. As part of that, she gave a special lecture on Sexual Orientation and International Human Rights Law.

As part of the local Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community, she supported Ang Ladlad ‘s bid for accreditation as the first LGBT party-list for the coming elections. She was supposed to be one of the five congressional representatives to run under AngLadlad partylist after being elected at a National Convention last November; but the Commission on Elections did not recognize AngLadlad as a valid sectoral representative of the LGBT Community. Nevertheless, Germaine is still active with AngLadlad and issues affecting the local LGBT Community. She is supportive of Danton Remoto’s bid as congressional representative of a local area/district in Quezon City (Manila).

Rainbow Rights Project (R-Rights) recently held an informal forum/dyke chat for young lesbians. No longer wanting to “preach to the converted”, it was a way of reaching out to the younger generation, to orient them about LGBT issues and concerns in the Philippines, including updates on the Anti-Discrimination Bill and AngLadlad’s bid as party-list representative. It also allowed her to emphasize the importance of getting politicized enough to join the LGBT organisations or participate in local LGBT efforts and activities. More importantly, it gave her an opportunity to know what the younger people view as relevant to their lives besides dating and partying. These are – still – family acceptance, school protocols, and getting good jobs inspite of their sexual orientation.

In school, work and advocacy initiatives, her learnings from Surabaya almost always become useful to Germaine.

Michael

Cambodia

Immediately after the ASP, Michael went to New Delhi, India to take part in Risks & Responsibilities, 23-26 September 2006, an international consultative meeting on Male Sexual Health & HIV in Asia and the Pacific. The meeting was considered a milestone because it was the first international gathering to specifically address the MSM dimension of the AIDS pandemic.

After the Delhi trip Michael resumed his independent consultancy work. He embarked on a project that developed a training curriculum on teaching Adolescent and Sexual Reproductive Health among Out-of-School Young People. Armed with a strengthened view of sexuality, he successfully advocated to his client to include sessions on sexual preferences and identity, one of the few things that the old curriculum (for in-school young people) did not address.

Michael tried to incorporate gender and sexuality concepts in each module of the curriculum, which was particularly challenging. The curriculum had to be very simple because the users and audience of the material were young people with very low literacy levels. To do this, Michael decided to keep things at a practical level, not just at a conceptual or abstract level.He also used a lot of participatory approaches and games to facilitate better understanding and retention.

In the end Michael was satisfied on both counts, keeping things simple and easy to understand and yet, rich in gender concepts and issues. As of this writing, the curriculum is being translated into Khmer, and in a few weeks a Training of Trainers (ToT) will be carried out to use the curriculum in the client’s outreach work in two provinces in Cambodia.

Also, after the Delhi trip, Michael was invited to be part of the National Technical Working Group on MSM issues by the National AIDS Authority, which is Cambodia’s multisectoral coordinating body on responses to AIDS. Michael found it a good place to be, especially for someone with an advocacy agenda because membership in the working group provided access to high-level stakeholders and policymakers.

The other projects which Michael did in the six months that followed the ASP are: (i) writing the second Universal Access Country Report, which refined and finalized Cambodia’s Universal Access Indicators and Targets for 2006-2010 through a multi-sectoral consultation, and (ii) researching and writing the 6th Edition of the Cambodia HIV/AIDS Country Profile, which contained Cambodia’s responses to the AIDS epidemic from 2005 to early 2007.

This July, Michael plans to get in touch with GAYa Nusantara to follow-up on the progress of the project that he started in the organization as one of the activities in the ASP. He helped GN design and develop a database using EPI Info to record and document GN’s telephone counseling and face-to-face interactions.

Minn Thu

Myanmar

After the ASP, Minn Thu returned to Myanmar and resumed work as Monitoring and Evaluation Officer for Fund for HIV/AIDS for UNAIDS in Myanmar.

Together with targeted outreach programme (TOP) of Population Services International (PSI) and United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), UNAIDS supported and advocated the Male Sexual Workshop (also known as) the first Myanmar National Consultation Workshop for MSM.  It was organized around April 2007 and the report is currently being prepared.  In the whole process, Minn Thu acted as one of semi-liaison officers.

Minn Thu says that the ASP opened the doors of Sexuality for him.  In the one-month of study period, not only academic reading and lecturing, but also observing actual movements and motions of human sexuality in different contexts, he could understand sexuality issues better.

On a personal basis, with the knowledge gained during the ASP, Minn Thu wrote about sexuality issues in Myanmar (using pseudonym) in two Myanmar web sites – www.ngoinmyanmar.org and www.myanmarcupid.net.  He also uses Gtalk (Google talk client) as an on-line anonymous counselor for any sexuality issues in Myanmar.  From time to time, Minn Thu has also translated some of the In Plainspeak material, the Red and the Blue books (of TARSHI) and posted them on the websites. He continues to write under a pseudonym as he doesn’t want to reveal his identity at this stage.

When he writes for these web sites, his learning from the ASP comes of use in making him think in a broader context. He carries on having small and informal talks with colleagues and friends on sexuality, sexual rights and sexual diversity in Myanmar.

Minn Thu continues to reading on sexuality issues by surfing web and available books to keep up his knowledge.  He wishes to organize a TOT on Basics and Beyond. He is looking for the resources, both human and financial to do this.