Dialogue To Combat Discrimination And Advance Diversity

Posted June 1, 2022
Man at the podium presenting
UNDP Lao PDR

The event, which took place today brought together key players in the development of non-discrimination national policy and the assurance that all citizens are equal before the law.

To mark the first day of Pride Month, 1 June, the ‘LGBTQI+ Non-Discrimination Dialogue’ was organized in Vientiane Capital. The half-day event was co-organized by the Ministry of Justice, UNDP and Proud to Be Us Laos, and examined Lao PDR's non-discrimination legal and policy framework to explore possible ways of strengthening protection for LGBTQI+ people. Participants included representatives from government, international organizations, legal profession, civil society, academia, and from the LGBTQI+ community.

The main focus of the dialogue was to first better understand the non-discrimination legal framework in Laos, including by looking at labour law, criminal law, and family law, and then to share experiences on how such laws serve to protect people from discrimination. The Dialogue also explored potential solutions to strengthen laws and policies by ensuring they hold those that do discriminate accountable. National organization Proud to Be Us Laos and researcher Dr. Inleusa Bansengkham gave precious insights on discrimination experienced by the LGBTQI+ community, and some opportunities for combatting such discrimination.

The Dialogue highlighted that certain groups suffer from discrimination more than others, for many different reasons. The LGBTQI+ community is more likely to experience discrimination in health care, housing, education and employment. A UNESCO study on the youth LGBTQI+ in Lao PDR found that 40% of the respondents experienced some form of discrimination at school, including physical violence, with similar findings regarding discrimination at work.

Mr. Khamphone Sipaseuth, Director General, Department of International Cooperation, Ministry of Justice, emphasized the importance of ensuring the rule of law in respect of the Constitution: “The Constitution of Lao PDR is clear: equality and non-discrimination is guaranteed for all citizens. To ensure that the constitution is upheld, we must continue to examine our laws and guiding laws to check for gaps in protection, in particular for groups who are at greater risk of discrimination”.

Mr. Anan Bouapha, President of Proud to Be Us Laos highlighted that certain groups in society face discrimination as a result of stereotypes, misconceptions and stigma whereas “the true value of a person, is expressed by their actions and capacities rather than their appearances. Everyone counts in national development regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity” as Mr. Anan Bouapha rightfully reminded.

Seán O’Connell, Assistant Resident Representative, UNDP, emphasised that “while there are many examples of good practice to learn from globally, “ultimately, effective and sustainable solutions must come from within each country, and the first step towards this is dialogue between key stakeholders, which is why we congratulate the Ministry of Justice for their leadership in co-organizing with us today and meeting directly with the LGBTQI+ community.”

Participants exchanged on a variety of issues, but there was a clear message across all speakers: although progress might be slow, now is the time for action. The hosting of the Dialogue itself represented a positive action by government, development partners, NGOs and the LGBTQI+ community to move the discussion forward.

The Non-Discrimination Dialogue follows the ‘Diversity and Inclusion in Business Forum’ held in February, co-hosted by UNDP, Proud to Be Us Laos, and the Lao National Chamber of Commerce and Industry, which focused on non-discrimination in the workplace. The Forum and the Dialogue form part of a series that aims to benefit not only one group, but all, by advocating for a Lao society which is more diverse and inclusive of all groups.

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For more information, please contact: 
Ms. Olivia Macri

Email: olivia.macri@undp.org
Programme Support Officer, UNDP  
Lane Xang Avenue, P.O. Box 345 
Vientiane, Lao PDR