Islam, sexual diversity and access to health services

Islam, sexual diversity and access to health services

Why Islam matters in the prevention of HIV in Asia and the Pacific

This discussion paper examines why Islam matters in prevention efforts for HIV, what Islam and Muslim scholars say about MSM and transgender people, as well as how this impacts on the lives of MSM and transgender people and their access to health services.

While Islam allows for difference of opinion, and the religious leaders disagree on many social issues, most orthodox Muslim scholars are vehemently opposed to homosexuality. However there are many progressive Muslim scholars with varied positive opinions about gender and sexual orientation. This discussion paper urges human rights organisations and policy makers to create a database of progressive religious leaders and lobby for their support.

The discussion paper includes 13 key recommendations for consideration of human rights organisations and defenders, gender activist and policy makers, including:

  • develop an understanding that it is necessary, when working on MSM and transgender issues in countries where there is a Muslim context, to incorporate a theological approach in their work
  • use positive religious text in media (TV, radio, blogs, publications) to oppose harsh orthodox approaches that are not respectful of human rights and choice of lifestyle
  • provide training to relevant stakeholders, including health service  providers, on how to best work with MSM and transgender people  within a Muslim context
  • develop programmes for Muslim religious leaders on HIV and MSM to influence and encourage positive messaging during Friday congregational prayers
  • develop strategies to reach those who are not openly MSM so that they can be empowered with research and Islamic information on sexual orientation and gender through training and educational programmes.
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