377 Lawyers Menaka Guruswamy and Arundhati Katju, Trans Activist Amrita Sarkar Among Finalists for APCOM’s HERO Awards 2019

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A diverse and inspirational mix of 27 people and organisations from across Asia and the Pacific have been selected as finalists for this year’s HERO Awards, a gala fundraising event taking place at Bangkok’s Dutch Ambassador’s Residence on 22 November.

Standing for HIV, Equality and Rights, the HERO Awards is an annual event which acknowledges outstanding service to the HIV response in Asia and the Pacific, and to the region’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) communities.

Taking place at the Ambassador’s residence at the Netherlands Embassy in central Bangkok on November 22, the event is also a fundraiser for the Bangkok-based APCOM Foundation, a leading NGO which works to fight HIV and advance LGBTI health and rights across the Asia Pacific region. The Awards are being supported by a range of corporate sponsors, community organisations and diplomatic missions.

The 27 finalists have been selected from over 220 nominations across nine (9) categories submitted by community members throughout the region, with judging panels selecting three (3) finalists and one (1) winner for each category. This year’s new category is “Business Ally” to give a special spotlight to the private sector that champion HIV, and/or LGBTI rights. The recipients of each of the nine awards will be presented with their prize at a gala ceremony and cocktail party on Friday 22 November at the Netherlands Embassy.

Menaka Guruswamy and Arundhati Katju, two lawyers who were involved in the fight against Section 377 and were named as Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People list of 2019, as well as Trans Rights activist Amrita Sarkar, are among this years finalists. While Katju and Guruswamy are nominated for Social Justice Hero Award, Sarkar has been nominated under Transgender Hero award. From neighbouring Pakistan, Humraz Male Health Society and Sarmad Ali are the finalists under Community Organisation and HIV Hero respectively.

APCOM Executive Director Midnight Poonkasetwattana: “The judges were impressed by the calibre and variety of nominations from right across the region. They noted that selecting the finalists was a difficult process because the achievements and contributions of all the nominees were remarkable in their own way. However, the judges agreed that the finalists they selected exhibited a truly outstanding commitment to advancing the health and rights of LGBTI people and people affected by HIV, and they deserved to be recognised for their efforts,”

“Everyday heroes from right across the Asia Pacific region are doing extraordinary work in their local communities to help improve the lives of others. We are excited that The HERO Awards provides a wonderful opportunity in the leadup to World AIDS Day, and International Human Rights Day to shine a light on some of these community champions as well as the issues to which they’re responding. Also, this fundraising gala is essential for APCOM’s sustainability. We are also very grateful for the kind support from the Embassy of the Netherlands”

The Netherlands Ambassador Kees Rade, “The Netherlands has been very active in terms of supporting community organisations and networks, and it is such a pleasure to note that the Netherlands played a significant part in helping set up APCOM over a decade ago. And on this occasion, the HERO Awards fit into the priorities of the Dutch policy to protect and to advocate equal rights for lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders (LGBT). We want to bring visibility to the issues in our region, and through APCOM’s HERO Awards we hope to build bridges for more support to this cause.”