More than Pleasure: New Issues in Affirming Sexuality in Asia

The South and Southeast Asia Resource Centre on Sexuality hosted by TARSHI (Talking About Reproductive and Sexual Health Issues) organised a satellite session which aimed at examining new issues and broadening the discussion on pleasure at the 4th Asia Pacific Conference on Reproductive and Sexual Health and Rights held in Hyderabad, India from 29 - 31 October 2007.

Titled 'More than Pleasure: New Issues in Affirming Sexuality in Asia', the session featured Dede Oetomo from GAYa Nusantara Foundation, Indonesia; Khartini Slamah from the Asia Pacific Network of Sex Workers, Malaysia; Dinh Thai Son from the Institute for Social Development Studies, Vietnam; and Sumit Baudh from the Resource Centre. Oetomo focussed on how Men who have Sex with Men (MSM) could relate to and yet may not identify with gay men and their communities, thus signifying the need for sexual health programmes to cater to the specific needs of various communities. Slamah pointed out the dangers of categorising transgendered people into neatly manageable boxes by donors and implementers (such as the category of MSM). Dinh stressed that male sex work is often the only space for homosexual men to express and affirm their sexual orientation and pleasure. Finally, Baudh spoke on how the penalisation of private consensual same-sex sexual acts forces a large section of people to lead closeted lives and damages their self esteem, which is quite contrary to the principles of affirming sexuality. The session was chaired by Radhika Chandiramani and rapporteured by Sushma Luthra from the Resource Centre. It was well attended, with participants actively engaging in the discussion, and expressing their dismay at the non-inclusion of the rights of transgendered people in programmes and services on SRHR and voicing a need to include broader issues of affirming sexuality. The Resource Centre aims to increase knowledge and scholarship on issues of sexuality, sexual health and wellbeing in the South and Southeast Asia region. It also conducts with TARSHI a Regional Training on Sexuality, Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights.