11 July 2024

While same-sex marriage has been legalised in 35 nations around the world, discrimination and harsh laws against the LGBT+ community persist in many places, as evidenced by a recent incident in Malaysia.

During a performance at the Good Vibes Festival, two male band members of the British pop-rock band, The 1975, shared a kiss on stage. The band has now been banned by from Malaysia, where homosexuality remains a criminal offense.

The Communications Minister of Malaysia responded to the incident, stating that there will be no compromise against any party that challenges, disparages or violates Malaysian laws.

In an exclusive interview with Thai PBS World, Lord Nick Herbert, a member of the UK’s House of Lords and the Prime Minister’s Special Envoy on LGBT+ rights, emphasised the crucial need for continuous engagement to negotiate LGBT+ rights and combat discrimination.

Lord Herbert acknowledged the existence of religious and cultural drivers behind such attitudes, but underscored the importance of promoting human rights values, stating that, in countries where discrimination and harsh laws persist, we need to engage and promote our values of human rights.

He also highlighted the economic benefits of embracing diversity, underscoring that the strongest and most successful economies are actually those that are open, where people are able to fulfill their potential, irrespective of their background and who they are.

As Lord Herbert concluded his trip to Southeast Asia, he identified government repression as the most significant challenge faced by the LGBT+ community. He believes that supporting non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and activists could expedite the advancement of LGBT+ rights.

“It’s not just about government support, but also businesses. In the end, it’s not just about one specific minority. It is about human rights,” he said.

From left to right, Franc Han Shih and Lord Nick Herbert

The Equal Rights Coalition, consisting of 43 member states, is actively advocating for fundamental human rights for LGBT+ individuals. Lord Herbert praised Thailand for its open culture and awareness of LGBT+ people, suggesting that Thailand’s participation in the Equal Rights Coalition could serve as a beacon for LGBT+ groups in Southeast Asia.

“We collaborate and work together to discuss how to promote LGBT+ rights, not just in our own countries but also in other countries, to make certain that we are making our views known and encouraging them to step forward, but also sometimes speaking out when any country is moving backward, ” Lord Herbert added.

Lord Herbert expressed hope that Thailand would join the Equal Rights Coalition, since the country is tolerant and understanding of the importance of openness and acceptance of LGBT+ individuals. Thai NGOs and LGBT+ activists have the opportunity to make their voices heard in a relatively benign environment, compared to other countries.

“I would encourage activists to keep going and to keep making the case for change. As a result of activists worldwide, we’ve seen change for the better. Legislators, such as me, would, in the end, pass laws, but it requires activists to make the case to encourage us to move in the right direction. Activists have such a vital role to play. I would say keep going and keep making the case for change because, in the end, love will win,” he added.

The incident involving The 1975 in Malaysia serves as a reminder of the ongoing struggles faced by the global LGBT+ community and the importance of international cooperation and advocacy in promoting equality and human rights.

By Franc Han Shih, Thai PBS World

 

Full interview with Lord Nick Herbert