SRHR & the 2030 Agenda: A Trans Youth Feminist Perspective from the Pacific
The following article was first published in the ARROW for Change bulletin Vol. 23 No. 2 2017 written by Miki Wali from the Haus of Khameleon.
SRHR In The Era of the SDG's: When Some Are Left Behind, All Are Left Behind!
Human rights are for all. This fundamental truth must be realised and respected at international negotiations. There is no time to exclude any community, including young people of diverse sexual orientation, gender identities, and sexual characteristics (SOGIESC). Our islands are sinking.
We are literally drowning. Species of all kinds, including us humans in all our diversities, are affected by climate change and gender injustice. This is particularly catastrophic for us from the Pacific Small Islands Developing States, who are also vulnerable to unfair trade liberalisation agreements.
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development—as well as its corresponding implementation framework in the Asia-Pacific, the Regional Roadmap for Implementing the 2030 Agenda—is still far from being as ambitious as initially hoped. Issues of young people and the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, and queer (LGBTIQ) community were side-lined or traded off as bargaining chips during the intergovernmental negotiations, resulting in the exclusion of sexual rights, LGBTIQ rights, and comprehensive sexuality education in the final agreement.
Yet, our rights cannot be axed! We are not bargaining chips. The revolution grows here in the Pacific Islands, led mainly by feminist activists and human rights defenders of all diversities. We resist the opposition that refuses to recognise us and realise our human rights. We say this to the Central Powers of New York, the Banks of London, and the various regional political arms that speak of inclusivity, yet fail time and again to meaningfully engage or prioritise marginalised groups like us. We condone the dangerous actions of the US Administration in pulling out of the Paris Climate Agreement and the expansion of the Global Gag Rule—actions that are already negatively affecting our lives. We also say no to abhorrent trade agreements, such as the Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations Plus (PACER Plus) that threaten our fundamental human rights, including our sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR).
We bring attention to the many faces of inequality and poverty. We remind governments to remember their agreements even as they have committed to the 2030 Agenda, such as to the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD). ICPD was a major vortex in the population and development debate, shifting the focus of policymakers, researchers, and advocates to respect for human rights and the promotion of equality and health, particularly, SRHR. These commitments were further strengthened a year later by the 1995 Beijing Platform for Action (BPfA) that enshrined women’s rights and gender equality in global development. The Yogyakarta Principles must also apply in the Pacific context.
Financing is an important element in health reform. Since 1994, governments that are recipients of population-related aid have come closer to meeting the financial commitments made in Cairo than the donor countries have. Even so, the country studies show that in most countries, reproductive health programmes still depend heavily on international assistance.
All Member States have committed to “leave no one behind” in September 2015 at the UN General Assembly, but majority have yet to include the LGBTIQ community in national policies and programmes. Bodily integrity and autonomy cannot just be empty rhetoric. These must be principles that are valued, and at the centre of SRHR and gender equality. It is core to independent action, and therefore a precondition for the realisation of all other human rights.
The Pacific Governments have made progress over the past few years towards the realisation of our human rights. These include the decriminalisation of homosexuality by Palau in 2014, the recognition of discrimination on the basis of SOGIE in the 2013 National Constitutional provision under Section 26 of the Bill of Rights in Fiji, the decriminalisation of fa’afafine4 in Samoa in 2013 with the repeal of the female impersonation legislation, the passing of Marriage Equality for Guam and the 2015 high-level launch of the Pacific Free and Equal Campaign. These are important advancements in terms of repealing all laws and policies that criminalise same-sex relationships in the Pacific Small Island Development States, and in the recognition of all people with non-heteronormative SOGIESC as full and equal rights-holders. The Pacific Leaders also have a strong commitment to ensuring SRHR for all our peoples, without discrimination, in the Moana Declaration of 2013.
Yet, the rise in the multiple intersecting forms of homophobia, transphobia, and other forms of stigmatisation, discrimination, and violence against persons of diverse SOGIESC people impedes sustainable development and threatens global, regional, and national progress on the SDGs. These issues are especially complex because the LGBTIQ community is truly diverse. The discrimination and exclusion that LGBTIQ people face are largely invisible because there seems to be no wide support by duty bearers on gathering national, regional, and global data consistently and comprehensively. The national bureaus of statistics must take a lead on this.
In the national and regional processes, measuring inclusion of LGBTIQ people must also allow for political and civic participation (which is already recognised in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights). Laws must be reformed to ensure legal gender recognition as part of one’s bodily rights. Furthermore, the decriminalisation of LGBTIQ people is vital, to ensure we are able to exercise freedom of association, assembly, and expression.
SDG 5 on Gender Equality could be made more inclusive to ensure equality of all genders, and empowerment of lesbian, bisexual, and trans women as well. LGBTIQ can also be a key priority in SDG 5.
There is indeed a need for access to education for LGBTIQ peoples, including for comprehensive sexuality education (CSE), and the education systems must be rights-based and meet our needs as well. Moreover, CSE or SRHR education must also include material on SOGIESC. SDG 4 on Quality Education must address this even as the development of indicators unfold in the region.
SDG 3 on Good Health and Wellbeing must also address and recognise inequities in health access and health outcomes experienced by LGBTIQ communities, including the continued pathologisation of transgender people. This must also include utmost respect for the bodily integrity and autonomy of all, including trans and intersex individuals. Hormonal treatment is very costly, but it is a key need of the trans* community. Lack of access to condoms, HIV testing, adequate counselling, as well access to medication for HIV positive people, and stigmatisation are also issues for men who have sex with men and transgender communities.7 Meanwhile, the invisibility of identities of women who have sex with women has resulted in lack of safe sex information, data, and prophylactics. Government ministries must ensure we are taken care of, and they and the private sector must be held accountable when our rights are abused.
Beyond the Security Council Resolutions on 1325, 1820, 1888, and 1960 and the new Youth Peace and Human Security 2250, the regional human security architecture must consider the personal security of and violence faced by the LGBTIQ constituency. All security sectors, including the judiciary and legal fraternity must ensure that the Principle and Value of the Rule of Law is recognised in considering gender sensitivity trainings for their personnel, and ensure gender mainstreaming into their programmes. SDG 16 on Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions must address this.
The economic well-being, such as income disparities and high poverty levels of LGBTIQ communities, must also be addressed. Labour laws and policies on non-discrimination must be at the core of SDG 8 on Decent Work and Economic Growth.
National and Regional SDG Task Forces have been set up here in the Pacific. They must be able to demonstrate an understanding that inclusivity is not just a word on paper, but a principle practised by all actors at the table. There is a need to fully recognise people of diverse SOGIESC without delay, as we are a population that are left out of many political processes. Moreover, governments must ensure an enabling environment and provide funding for movement building, as our movement and trans organising is under-resourced.
Rising to the challenges faced in our Pacific Islands and ocean home will require an intersectional approach that critically analyses the political, physical, ecological, economic, cultural, and social dimensions of these overlapping and cross-cutting concerns through one holistic frame. The bringing together of different sectors, alliances, and governments ministries will be necessary to ensure a truly transformative agenda for gender, social, ecological, and economic justice in the Pacific and globally. Any policy or programme involving our communities must be initiated and implemented by our communities and our chosen allies, working from a human rights and gender equality framework, which recognises the principles of feminism.
Despite the restriction of civil society spaces and diminishing funding, we young feminists will continue to fight to ensure that our issues and priorities are heard and leaders are held accountable. Our diversity from the Pacific is truly our strength.
We from the Haus of Khameleon (HK), a Suva-based youth trans-led feminist movement in the Pacific that is part of other wider economic Southern Coalitions, are committed to ensuring that the SDG processes at various levels in Asia and the wider Pacific clearly mention the LGBTIQ community and our issues, the intersections of our issues with those of other movements, and that SRHR is integral to fulfilling the 2030 Agenda. We are here to stay and ensure that our rights are recognised, respected, protected, and fulfilled, in accordance with the principles of “Do No Harm” and “Equality for All” and not just for some.