- For defenders
- How can I help?
Dublin: The 2011 GALAS International Prize for Gay Rights Activist of the year goes to Paisarn Likhitpreechakul of Thailand.
"Without equality, tolerance is just a myth." The 2011 GALAS International Prize for Gay Rights Activist of the year, organised by the National Lesbian and Gay Federation of Ireland (NLGF) goes to Paisarn Likhitpreechakul of Thailand.
The 2011 GALAS International Prize for Gay Rights Activist of the year, organised by the National Lesbian and Gay Federation of Ireland (NLGF) was presented to Thai gay rights human rights defender to Paisarn Likhitpreechakul who accepted the award on behalf of the Foundation for Human Rights on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, The Award was presented because of the organisation's exceptional contribution to the cause of full equality for all sexual minorities.
FOR FIVE years, Paisarn Likhitpreechakul and the members of his organisation have fought against the Thai army's practice of altering the personal records of transgender draftees to describe them as suffering from permanent psychosis.
Recently his Mr Likhitpreechakul took a phone call telling him about the decision of Thai courts, earlier that morning, to rule against the practice.
"It marked a huge stride forward for transgender rights in the country," he said.
"It is very meaningful that the court found in favour of our petition because the court reasoned that transgenders are like everyone else, they have human rights and human dignities that cannot be violated against."When I heard about it I saw hope that even the most conservative sector in society can change, that times have changed and they realise that and they are willing to move with time."
Speaking from Bangkok Paisarn Likhitpreechakul spoke of how this award sent a strong message of support and solidarity to al the gay community in Thailand many of whom are working in very isolated and vulnerable situations. "Despite the gay friendly image that Thailand enjoys internationally there is much ingrained homophobia and discrimination. In 2009, the Chiangmai Gay Pride Parade was lynched and shut down by a political mob. However, we bounced back with a march and delivered a statement at Democracy Monument, the political heart of Bangkok"
Mr Likhitpreechakul was in Dublin earlier this month to attend the Front Dublin Platform for Human rights Defenders where he spoke of how "Without equality, tolerance is just a myth.**There is a myth, especially amongst foreigners, that Thailand is "tolerant" towards gays and transgenders. After all, hardly a day goes by without one seeing a ladyboy or a katoey (male-to-female transgender). Most Thais also like to believe in such a feel-good story, as well as spin it to foreigners. Even long-term foreign residents are not likely to have heard about, for example, a bisexual woman who was burned alive in 2006, or the rape, murder and burning of a lesbian in 2008".
The International Prize was accepted on behalf of Mr Likhitpreechakul by Front Line Defenders' Head of Communications Jim Loughran who said:
"We may choose to believe that the battle for gay rights is largely won but the sad reality is that in may parts of the world LGBTI people pay for their courage in demanding full social and legal equality with their lives"
Quoting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights Mr Loughran added -- "All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights and the fact that this international prize is sponsored jointly by Front Line Defenders, Amnesty international, NLGF and the Irish Council for Civil Liberties sends out a message that full equality for all LGBTI people is a non negotiable right - not a privilege or a favour to be accorded by some benevolent government"
The Gay and Lesbian Awards (GALAS) have been set up by the National Lesbian and Gay Federation to honour lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transgender people who have made an outstanding contribution to the advancement of the gay community. ENDS