It has been just over one hundred days since the unexpected passing of activist and pioneer Andrew Hunter. As the human rights community comes to terms with the profound loss of a passionate and dedicated leader among its ranks, Asia Catalyst Capacity Building and Community Initiatives Director Gisa Dang takes a moment to reflect on a life well lived.
World Health Organization
Avenue Appia 20
1211 Geneva 27
February 28, 2014
Dear Madam Director General:
We, the undersigned civil society organizations from all regions of the world, respectfully write to you today to show our support for the complicated work you have undertaken of finding consensus on how to discuss issues related to access to health for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals. We are dismayed that the topic has become so contentious and difficult to discuss, but we write to encourage you to persevere and bring these very important and appropriate health concerns to the work of the World Health Organization.
We represent a variety of health, HIV, human rights, and LGBT organizations which all work in some manner on the real impact of discrimination against individuals based on actual or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity. This discrimination is rampant in all of our societies, despite differences of culture, economics, politics, or legal status of homosexuality. Such discrimination directly impacts the health outcomes of these communities. Whenever any group of people--no mater how marginalized--experience disparate health outcomes, that is of legitimate interest to the WHO and deserves to be studied and understood fully. We appreciate that you have personally taken the time to ensure that the Executive Board of the WHO will address these issues appropriately.
As you know, reports from every region of the world show that LGBT citizens lack equal access to health care, and experience real discrimination based on exposing their sexual orientation, sexuality, gender identity, gender expression, or bodily diversity in health care settings. Such discrimination takes many different forms including outright denial of services, harassment, embarrassment, violence and arrest, as well as internalized stigma and shame. Such experiences lead directly and indirectly to bad health outcomes, such as higher incidents of depression, drug and alcohol use, lack of HIV prevention and treatment, and even suicide. Cancer-related health disparities for lesbian women have been indicated in a variety of studies, and transgender individuals receive particularly poor or no appropriate health services specific to their needs.
We write today to encourage continued dialogue and discussion of these important health matters, and to make sure that the item does not get permanently postponed or deleted from the agenda of the Executive Board. We further urge the Secretariat of WHO to engage in further study and research on the health outcomes for LGBT communities in all parts of the world, since a disproportionate amount of existing data comes from Global North countries. It is imperative that the WHO encourage thoughtful and unbiased study in all regions of the world.
This is an important moment in the evolution of global health to address the particular health challenges of LGBT populations. This is indeed a critical next step for WHO to help improve the vital and universal access to health for LGBT people.
Should there be anything we can do to support this effort, please let us know.
With respect and hope for a healthier world,
By Charmain Mohamed
China will mark this year's International Women's Day by continuing to arbitrarily detain thousands of women and girls in Custody and Education (C&E) centers across the country. In place since the 1980s, C&E is an administrative penalty system targeting commercial sex workers and their clients. In the name of 'education' and 'rescue,' sex workers and their clients can be detained for periods of six months to two years, without any form of judicial oversight, appeal, or redress. While in custody, women are subjected to forced unpaid labor and compulsory testing for sexually transmitted diseases.
While China has placed extraordinary emphasis on legal reform in recent years, the approach has not been uniform. On November 15, 2013 the Chinese government announced it would abolish Reeducation Through Labor (RTL). This arbitrary detention system, in effect since the 1950s, was used as a form of administrative punishment for "minor offences," including drug addiction, petitioning, advocating for human rights, or membership of "illegal" religions such as a Christian house church or Falun Gong. While the government dismantles 60 years of RTL, C&E remains in effect.
International experience demonstrates that punitive laws and their implementation have a negative impact on the health and situation of sex workers, and are a contributory factor in fueling the HIV/AIDS epidemic. In China, police use possession of condoms as evidence of sex work. This has led to decreased condom use in what is a high risk marginalized group for HIV/AIDS. Furthermore, C&E is failing to meet the government's stated aim to eradicate or decrease the number of people engaged in sex work. Asia Catalyst interviews with female sex workers in 2013 showed that all the women returned to sex work after release from C&E.
The last several months in China have seen 'vice raids' across the country aimed at cracking down on sex work. The result, however, has been the public humiliation, arrest and detention of hundreds more--largely female--sex workers. On International Women's Day, the Chinese government should look towards implementing a less punitive and more holistic approach to promoting and protecting the rights of sex workers. Decriminalizing sex work and abolishing C&E is the natural next step for a government promoting legal reform. Providing voluntary, quality, and evidence-informed health care, including for the prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS, should already be on their agenda.
The National Democratic Institute for International Affairs is looking for a partner organization from Hong Kong or mainland China to help implement their Young Leaders for Women's Empowerment program. In the program, early to mid-career level participants will have the opportunity to pitch a project design, develop the project at group workshops, and then implement it in their home communities.
Attached is the official request for proposals for the Young Leaders for Women's Empowerment program. NDI is seeking applications that share the values of gender equality, equal representation and voice in government, and are interested in bridging Hong Kong and the mainland.
If you or your organization is interested in implementing the program and working collaboratively with NDI on program design, see the link for more information. Proposals are due via email by 31 March 2014.
English: https://www.ndi.org/node/16472Chinese: http://www.ndi.org/files/NDI_TC_PDF.pdf"
Ending Arbitrary Detention for Sex Workers
Asia Catalyst released the report Custody and Education: Arbitrary Detention for Female Sex Workers in China on International Human Rights Day, December 10, 2013. This landmark report, the first of its kind, compiled original research and testimony to detail China's arbitrary detention and abuse of female sex workers. Asia Catalyst presented the findings and recommendations of the report at several diplomatic and press events in Beijing and the report was covered extensively by the international media, including coverage by the New York Times, The Guardian, The Wall Street Journal and China's Global Times. The report also prompted debate within China's legal community, and addressing the Custody and Education system has now become a priority issue for the Chinese Government/Civil Society Platform on HIV/AIDS, and The Red Ribbon Forum. The report is available in Chinese and English.
On December 20, 2013, Asia Catalyst organized a conference to bring together government officials, health care professionals, lawyers, scholars, and people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) to discuss both the relationship between medical discrimination against (PLWHA) and the occupational safety of health care workers and also strategies to address medical discrimination amongst health professionals. The conference, which was titled "HIV and Occupational Safety and Health," was the result of a collaborative process between Asia Catalyst, the International Labour Organization, the Red Ribbon Forum, the Women's Network Against HIV/AIDS China, and the China CBO Network.
More than 70 participants attended the conference, including 20 health care workers from two general hospitals in Henan and Anhui provinces and 30 PLWHA. This ground-breaking conference provided, for the first time, a valuable opportunity for health care workers and PLWHA to communicate with each other and discuss concerns around the occupational safety of health care workers as a cause for medical discrimination. Two doctors who had experienced occupational exposure to the HIV virus, as well as a young man from Tianjin who only received life-saving surgery after modifying his medical documents to remove his HIV status, shared their personal experiences.
Cohort 2012 and 2013 evaluation
In 2013, Asia Catalyst concluded implementation of the two year pioneering Nonprofit Leadership Cohort program, which built organizational management skills for ten community-based organization (CBO). The graduates completed their training in mid-2013. Three graduates are going on to become certified as trainers to lead their own Nonprofit Leadership Cohort-style initiatives. This milestone of completing the first two years of Cohort programming prompted the first independent external evaluation of the Cohort. Ms. Shirley Lin, formerly of PACT China, undertook a comprehensive assessment by interviewing all Cohort graduates and staff. Her findings confirmed that Cohort graduates demonstrated improvement in the six skill areas proposed by the project including strategic planning, advocacy, fundraising, program management, and volunteer and risk management. They showed remarkable success in designing and implementing their own projects; and were able to develop targeted advocacy goals and feasible strategies to create change for their communities. The results of the assessment show increases in the effectiveness, efficiency, relevance, and sustainability of the participants' organizations. Graduates shared their knowledge and skills not only within their own organizations, but also facilitated capacity building and skills sharing for at least 65 of their peer organizations.
Cohort 2014 initiation
Asia Catalyst commenced a new Cohort round in
November 2013 with a grant from the Ford Foundation, China Office. We received eight-eight
applications from over twenty provinces of China, demonstrating the increased
profile and reach of our organization. Asia Catalyst staff selected ten
organizations as participants for the new Cohort program following applications,
interviews, and reference reviews. The selected participants come from diverse backgrounds but
all have a focus on the right to health; working with marginalized communities including
people living with HIV/AIDS, Men who have Sex with Men and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual
and Trans* groups; as well as one participant whose organization works on
On December 15-18, 2013, the representatives of these ten selected groups attended the first training workshop in Bangkok. As in the previous year, three Assistant Trainers were selected based on applications from Cohort graduates. The Assistant Trainers facilitated parts of the workshop and received additional instruction in advance. Two of the Assistant Trainers had strong backgrounds in advocacy and we are looking forward to providing more local advocacy examples to our Cohort members.
In a new initiative, Asia Catalyst facilitated the first of a series of bi-monthly coaching calls for current and previous program participants. Twenty-one individuals representing twenty-one organizations participated in the online meeting, which was conducted via private chat room. Asia Catalyst's goal was to give active individuals an opportunity to facilitate one of the subsequent calls, which would help them hone their communication skills. The conversation for this first call concentrated on experience and skill sharing about finding new cooperation partners, building good media relationships, and sharing the situation of participants' organizations.
In October 2013, Asia Catalyst delivered a one-day
strategic planning workshop for fifteen recipient organizations of the Global
Fund program in Guangdong Province. A staff member from Guangdong Association
of STD & AIDS Prevention and Control (GASAPC) who had previously participated
in an Asia Catalyst workshop in Guangzhou, approached Asia Catalyst directly to request this
bilateral assistance. The workshop happened at a time when the Global Fund, the
sole donor for most of the fifteen participating organizations, had closed
their funding program to China. The Asia Catalyst facilitation therefore concentrated
on having participants practice ways in which to meet their program and
activity goals, as well as mapping potential new resources to cope with
financial losses. Asia Catalyst also conducted a project management
workshop for twenty grantee organizations of the China Social Welfare
Foundation at the end of October. This workshop was based on an ongoing relationship
with the China Philanthropy Research Institute (CPRI). Participants were from
organizations that focus on the development of children and elderly people, in
both rural and urban areas. As a result of the training, most participants were able to name differences between "activities"and "projects" and to build strong links between their activities and their overall organizational objective. As more and more organizations begin to adopt tools developed by Asia Catalyst, we aim to raise our profile and contribute to a sustainable social and nonprofit sector in China.
The Big Question: Which Country Will Emerge as the Leading Power?
Our China Program Director, Gisa Dang, gave her opinion about this topic in the Winter issue of World Policy Journal and soon it will be your turn! World Policy Journal has begun to plan a twitter chat regarding this big question. Scheduling is still in the works, but we will update you on the details very soon.