We invite all individuals and organisations, including advocates, activists, political, social and religious leaders, to join in our efforts and indicate their support for the Silom Manifesto so that they shall be added to the list of affirming signatories.
The Silom Manifesto is part of a series of joint declarations written by advocates, activists, theologians and researchers from around the world, and coordinated by GIN-SSOGIE. You may refer to the below text and our website for detailed information and/or email us if you wish to find out more about GIN-SSOGIE’s project and work around the world (firstname.lastname@example.org).
From 20 to 22 November 2018 in Bangkok, Thailand, the Global Interfaith Network (GIN-SSOGIE) gathered LGBTIQ rights defenders, academics, and religious leaders from diverse family backgrounds and traditions, including Asian traditional religions, Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Islam and Christianity, for its second dialogue on Family and Traditional Values. This was following our first gathering of February 2018, in Johannesburg, South Africa.
We, Asia-based and focused Members of the Global Interfaith Network reclaim and affirm the diversity of families in Asia, which include the families of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ) peoples and promote and defend these families locally, regionally and internationally.
Echoing the Johannesburg Declaration, we recognize that a whole range of individuals and families, including LGBTIQ families, have been excluded from the definition of ‘natural family’ promoted by certain religious groups in social and political contexts, locally, regionally, and internationally.
We strongly highlight the life-threatening impact of this discrimination and exclusion on our human communities, especially the most vulnerable people including children, single mothers, widows and LGBTIQ peoples. This impact is not only negative for certain individuals and communities, but it is also harmful to everyone of us and to our traditional values and national cultures.
Today, because of largely patriarchal and conservative societies, violence against LGBTIQ people has become a normal practice. This is often experienced within families who, in using force, aim to maintain a perceived social balance. Further, punitive laws against LGBTIQ people may translate to tacit permission to commit violence and bullying. As of November 2018, in 71 countries around the world, homosexual acts are punishable by imprisonment, including Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Malaysia and Singapore, according to the International Lesbian Gay Bisexual Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA). For example, section 377 of the penal codes of Malaysia, Myanmar and Singapore – a hangover from these countries’ history as British colonies – still outlaws sex between consenting male adults, and is often also known as the “sodomy law.” There are also laws prohibiting transgender people from changing their name and gender in Malaysia, Vietnam, Thailand and the Philippines. Media regulations mean that there is a dearth of the kind of LGBTIQ characters and content that might improve social understanding and acceptance. Some studies have shown the multi-layered negative impact of such stigma and exclusion of LGBTQI people including on access to education and health, productivity, employment, costs of social services and economic output.
Today, we acknowledge the rich diversity of family experiences in Asia, currently and historically. We re-affirm the universality and indivisibility of Human Rights, as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration (AHRD).
Building upon their aspirations, we call for a deeply inclusive and accepting human-rights based approach, pushing beyond boundaries set by colonial processes and frameworks, and truly respectful of the dignity, values, views and faith of all human beings.
We, the participants in the second seminar on Family and Traditional Values of the Global
Interfaith Network hereby declare that:
”We need to anchor politics in the lived realities of all human beings and in the values that guarantee the life, dignity, and sanctity of all human beings. For this purpose, we must continue decolonizing our thinking and approaches.”
1. National sovereignty and the lived realities of LGBTIQ people
1. We must recognise that some states which are currently part of the international human rights system, were themselves products of colonial processes; states’ borders, legal foundations and even names are legacies of a time during which there was a large imbalance of power. As many states in the Global South declared their independence in the post-WW2 world, many individuals were left marginalised and invisible, including indigenous communities.
2. Today, we continuously see discrimination and violence happening within states, led by some state representatives, justified on the basis of the defense of the national interest.
3. We believe that the national interest, of all states in Asia and around the world, must be anchored in the respect of all individuals’ rights, and not only those of some groups of individuals holding more social, economic and political power.
4. Our national sovereignty must be based on respect for diversity and inclusivity of all individuals on our lands.
2. Reclaiming our Tolerance, Dignity and Inclusivity
1. Homosexuality and trans identity are often depicted as imports from the West, attacks on the national sovereignty and culture of states including in Asia. Yet, if the acronym “LGBTIQ” is a Western umbrella term – in use in the United States, and later North America and Europe, since the late-1980s – the acceptance of diverse sexual orientations, gender identities and expressions is present in traditional values around the world, including in Asia, and has been the case for hundreds of years. For example, the Narada-smriti is a Hindu text from India put into writing sometime before the first century BCE. Portion 12.14-18 of the Narada-smriti acknowledges the existence of homosexual people and suggests they should not be forced into a heterosexual marriage.
2. For that matter, such traditional values are even more diverse and all-encompassing than the acronym “LGBTIQ”, which creates specific labels and boxes for individuals, thereby limiting the complex diversity of individuals around the world. These traditions are inextricably part of certain faith traditions – such as in Indian Hinduism which is accepting of “queerness”. The Sanskrit includes 68 words that speak of gender sexuality and identity. – Pre-dating some institutionalised religions, we see examples such as in Indonesia, before the spread of Islam or in the Philippines before colonial history. Indonesia holds, for example, a 13th century value called “Bhinneka Tunggal ika”. This term became an official state motto in 1950, when it was anchored in the country’s State Ideology after its independence in 1945. It translates to “Unity in Diversity” and is aimed at tying the diverse, island country together. Having such a motto compels Indonesia to honour diverse family forms. Another example includes the Babaylans in the Philippines, who were women Shayman who were very present and important within communities in pre-colonial times.
3. The concept of Traditional Values are not merely a few decades old, but go as far back as several millennia. Moreover, when discussing traditional values today, we need to define them as values that affirm the dignity of human beings and their right to form bonds of union based on love, consent, and mutually nourishing goals. These are the same values that underlie the construction of families and cooperation.
3. Reclaiming Our Faith and Religious Traditions
1. We believe that many of the more discriminatory interpretations of our various sacred texts are strongly influenced by the current patriarchal understanding in male dominated religious structures. This then perpetuates a religious discourse which does not respect the inherent dignity of every person regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
2. We believe that all religions and faith traditions, including the Abrahamic and Karmic traditions, are deeply anchored in a message of love, for all human beings, accepting of everyone equally.
3. We also believe that diversity and difference are at the core of the human community and that both are expressions of the beauty of Creation. For example, several Hindu scriptures explicitly describe people with a homosexual nature. Among these, three stand out—the Narada-smriti (a first-century BCE. text of religious codes attributed to the sage Narada), the Sushruta Samhita (a 600 BCE. medical text compiled by the sage Sushruta) and the Kama Sutra (a third-century CE. text on the art of lovemaking by the sage Vatsyayana). In Hinduism, the gods and sacred deities are not bound by human codes and can often be found breaking the above-mentioned restrictions. They commonly bend gender norms and manifest multiple combinations of sex throughout the sacred Hindu texts. There are Hindu deities that are male, female or third sex; deities that manifest all three; male deities who become female and female deities who become male; male deities with female moods and female deities with male moods; deities that crossdress; deities born from two males or from two females; deities born from a single male or from a single female; deities who self-manifest; deities that avoid the opposite sex, and deities with principle companions of the same gender. All of these different combinations demonstrate the remarkable gender diversity found among the Hindu gods and it is said that everything in this world is a reflection of the original subtle and spiritual reality.
4. Our faiths and religions are anchored in compassion, deeply caring for non-violence amongst human beings and the whole creation.
5. We believe that religious texts must be read in the contextual settings, and must be applied to our contemporary times; we believe that the interpretation of our religious texts must be anchored in inclusion and acceptance.
6. Our faith and religious practices do not circumscribe any other people’s practices. Our message of inclusion is not one that denies religious liberty, but in fact expands the scope of religious liberty to encompass the great compassionate potential of each religion to include more of humanity in all of its breathtaking diversity. Our message to faith communities is that we believe that religions have great power to be inclusive and affirming of all human lives, and this should not be undermined.
7. We also believe that our modern religions are and must be compatible with pre-existing spiritual belief systems, which are themselves tolerant and accepting. We must allow for the expression of all faiths and spiritualities, including a certain complementarity between institutionalised religion and spiritual traditions. Such traditions have much to teach us, including the acceptance of LGBTIQ people, their families, and their communities. In Indonesia for example, within interpretations of Islam in many parts of the country is the notion that modern religions are compatible with pre-existing spiritual belief systems. For instance, there is a subject position in Indonesian, referred to as bissu, who have until very recently wielded incredible political and spiritual power on the basis of the fact that they combine female and male elements.
8. We wish to pursue interfaith dialogue, understanding and tolerance for people from all traditions, including indigenous communities, which are often the targets of violence and discrimination.
4. Reclaiming our Families, our Rights and our Values
1. Our international human rights system must respect all nations equally, and these same nations must respect everyone’s rights, values, opinions and faiths, and this includes the communities and families individuals choose to build and be part of.
2. Asia has a family-centric culture, inclusive, including of non-binary genders. Our families are anchored in love and the respect for all individuals within the family unit. Moreover, our families are widely diverse, as our societies are affected by migration, internal displacement, divorce, separation, monastic life etc. Diversity of family and community models is central to our Asian traditions and must be reflected within the human rights system.
3. It is our family-centric culture which is in need of protection. Families – biological and chosen – have been the foundation of social organization, cohesion and care for centuries, ensuring that all individuals are loved and taken care of, whatever their conditions and situations. This is what we want to cherish, celebrate and protect.
Developed and affirmed by the following signatories:
Ankit Bhuptani, India, Queer Hindu Alliance
Tashi Choedup, India
Small Luk, Hong Kong, Intersex Activist and Acupuncturist/Health therapist
Shirley Lam, Hong Kong, Covenant of the Rainbow
Aisha Mughal, Pakistan, Wajood
Rev. Kakay Pamaran, Philippines, GIN Board Member and Union Theological Seminary
Revelation Velunta, Philippines, Union Theological Seminary
Sanjay Sharma, Nepal, Blue Diamond Society
Sukhdeep Singh, India, Galaxy Magazine
Aan Anshori, Indonesia
Sharyn Graham Davies, New Zealand, Researcher
Jerry Johnson, India, Author and Researcher
Dede Oetemo, Indonesia, APCOM
Marly Bacaron, Thailand, Independent Consultant
Jape Mokgethi-Heath, Sweden, Church of Sweden
Shine Wara Dhammo, Thailand, Buddhist Monk
Joel Barredos, Thailand, Independant Consultant
ASEAN SOGIE Caucus
Simon Petitjean, France, GIN-SSOGIE
Pierre Buckley, South Africa, GIN-SSOGIE
Toni Kruger-Ayebazibwe, South Africa, GIN-SSOGIE
Mark Grenville, South Africa (6th Oct 2020)