By Kyle Knight
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein is urging Indonesia’s government to scrap clauses in a new draft criminal code that would discriminate against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people. “[If] Muslim societies expect others to fight against Islamophobia, we should be prepared to end discrimination at home too,” he said at the conclusion of a three-day visit to the world’s largest Muslim country. “Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or any other status is wrong.”
Since 2016, Indonesia’s sexual and gender minorities have been under siege, including hateful rhetoric from government officials, attacks on LGBT human rights defenders, raids on lesbian-owned houses and private gay clubs, and arrests under a vague and discriminatory anti-pornography law. In 2017, police and public order officials arbitrarily arrested more than 300 LGBT people in raids. Zeid observed that the anti-LGBT moral panic was, “being cultivated seemingly for cynical political purposes.”
In December 2016, Indonesia’s Constitutional Court dismissed a petition seeking to criminalize all consensual sex outside of marriage, as well as adult consensual same-sex conduct – something the country has never done, except in Aceh province where Sharia (Islamic law) applies. In May, two men were publicly flogged in Aceh after neighbors caught them naked together.
The court’s decision protected the basic privacy rights of all Indonesians, not only LGBT people. With some estimates that as many as half of Indonesian couples do not get legally married because of difficulties registering, criminalizing their sex lives could embolden vigilantes and overwhelm police and prison systems. After the court’s ruling, the petitioners pledged to redouble efforts to amend the Criminal Code in parliament, where it is currently under debate.
Zeid urged Indonesia to, “resist attempts to introduce new forms of discrimination in law.” And in its December ruling, the Constitutional Court issued a similar warning: “If one builds an argument that to maintain societal order is to force members of the society who acts in a manner considered deviant to change their behaviors through threats of criminal punishment, he or she basically believes that societal order can be created under repressive measures only.”
Published on HRW on February 8, 2018
By Astrid Zweynert
Sami, an intersex asylum seeker in Britain, used to be gripped with fear at bedtime.
The slender and feminine El Salvadorian had almost got used to incessant verbal abuse but having to share rooms with other male asylum seekers was what Sami feared for the most.
“I was scared to death,” said Sami, 20, who arrived in Britain in 2016 and was first housed in temporary accommodation in the northern cities of Manchester and Liverpool with other asylum seekers.
“It was hard to be sharing with another male whom I didn’t know and especially because I am a bit feminine. All that time it was at the back of my head, who is going to be coming into the room? You could be asleep and just get attacked.”
Intersex people are born with sex characteristics that do not fit typical notions of male or female bodies. Up to 1.7 percent of people are born with intersex traits, according to the United Nations.
Sami, who asked to use a pseudonym, is one of the more than 3,500 people who claimed asylum in Britain based on their sexuality, gender identity or intersex status between 2015 and 2017, according to the Home Office (interior ministry).
Sami faced threats and discrimination in El Salvador, a conservative Catholic country where gay sex is not illegal but lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTi) people endure harassment and violence.
They face rocketing levels of violence from criminal gangs and members of the security forces, rights group Amnesty International said last November.
In more than 70 countries being LGBTi is not safe, according to the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA), a federation of national and local organisations dedicated to achieving equal rights LGBTi people.
Even though Britain is more tolerant, LGBTi asylum seekers still face discrimination, threats and even violent attacks, said Sebastian Rocca, chief executive of Micro Rainbow International (MRI), a charity working to eliminate discrimination and poverty among LGBTi people.
“One of the problems that LGBTi asylum seekers and refugees face is that because of their sexuality they are extremely isolated and vulnerable,” Rocca said.
Lack of safe housing is a widespread problem as they are often placed in housing with people from their own countries, or with those who are anti-gay because of their religious and cultural backgrounds.
“The majority of LGTBi asylum seekers do face some violence or abuse, whether that’s physical, sexual or psychological abuse,” Rocca told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Such abuse reawakens previous traumas. MRI’s clients have reported experiencing the same fears they felt in their home countries, Rocca said.
A PLACE TO CALL HOME
MRI set up Britain’s first safe house for LGBTi refugees and asylum seekers last October and has since opened a second one.
Apart from safe accommodation, residents are provided with psychological support, life-coaching and business training.
Sami moved in last autumn and, for the first time in years, feels safe and at home.
“The fear and uncertainty living in these other places was killing me. Now I finally feel safe because I live with people who respect me,” Sami told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in the cozy house on the outskirts of London.
“I know I can wake up and just do my make-up and be able to fully express myself without having to be afraid that someone is going to attack me or that someone is going to be judging me.”
Malik, a gay man from Bangladesh, who came to Britain in 2011, agrees.
“Since I moved into the house, I‘m happy. I have found a family,” said Malik, 35, in whose home country gay sex is illegal and many people strongly disapprove.
Leading LGBT rights activists Xulhaz Mannan and Mahbub Rabbi Tonoy were hacked to death in Bangladesh in April 2016, amid a spate of violent attacks against secular bloggers, academics, gay rights activists and members of religious minorities.
Malik found out for himself how entrenched anti-gay attitudes are in his country when his mother disowned him and his brothers threatened to kill him.
“Last time I talked to my mum, she told me ‘you just humiliate me, don’t come back’. And I can’t go back because my brothers are going to kill me,” Malik said, sitting on his bed in a bright, well-furnished room in the safe house.
Malik said he used to live with heterosexual people in Britain and even though he was never physically attacked, he suffered verbal abuse, especially from other Bangladeshis.
“They don’t attack just physically but mentally attack the whole time,” he said.
Home Office data shows an estimated 6 percent of asylum claims made in Britain between July 2015 and March 2017 were based on sexual orientation. Around a quarter of those applications were successful.
The nationalities with the highest number of asylum claims where sexual orientation was raised were Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Nigerian.
The Home Office said it “remains committed to improving the process for those claiming asylum on this basis” and that it ensures housing provide to LGBTi asylum seekers is safe.
“Housing providers are contractually required to take account of any particular circumstances and vulnerability of those that they accommodate, including sexual orientation or gender identity,” a Home Office spokesperson said in an emailed statement.
Campaigners say a lack of protection for LGBTi asylum seekers is a widespread problem in Europe. In Germany, LGBT asylum seekers have complained about intimidating comments made during their asylum interviews. In Ireland, many face threats and from other asylum seekers in accommodation centres.
Rights groups blame the problem on a lack of basic training on LGBTi rights for those making decisions about asylum claims and interpreters.
MRI, which supports eight asylum seekers and refugees with safe housing, says much more is needed and aims to provide safe housing for more than 150 LGBTi asylum seekers by 2019.
“The need in this country is massive. There are hundreds of LGBTi asylum seekers every year who need a safe place to be,” said Rocca.
Published on Reuters on January 15, 2018
By Jeffrey S. Trachtman
With LGBTQ rights under open attack by the Trump administration — witness the recent summary firing of the entire HIV/AIDS advisory council — many are counting on the Supreme Court to stand against the backlash and preserve recent gains. But if the recent sharply divided oral argument in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case is any indication, a majority of the Court may be ready to screw up civil rights law to forestall full LGBTQ equality.
How else to interpret the agonized wrestling with what ought to be an easy case? Colorado’s public accommodation law bars sexual orientation discrimination on the same basis as race, creed, color, sex, and other suspect classifications. That means if you own a store open to the general public, you cannot refuse to sell goods to anyone based on their membership in a protected group. Period. At least it should be period.
If Masterpiece Cakeshop owner Jack Phillips had professed a sincere religious belief that God intended people to marry only within their own race – and therefore refused to let an interracial couple order a custom wedding cake – his claimed exemption from Colorado’s civil rights law would have been laughed out of court.
Mr. Phillips’ lawyer, Kristen Waggoner, admitted as much under tough questioning by Justices Sotomayor and Kagan. She didn’t have much choice, because the Supreme Court rejected as frivolous nearly 50 years ago a claimed religiously based right to exclude African Americans from lunch counters.
But, Ms. Waggoner, argued, “race is different.” How so? Well, if Mr. Phillips turned away an interracial couple “we know that that objection would be based on who the person is, rather than what the message is.”
Huh? It’s pretty clear that Charlie Craig and David Mullins were turned away from Masterpiece Cakeshop precisely because of who they were – a gay couple trying to buy a wedding cake. There is no indication that Mr. Phillips refuses to bake cakes for Jews, interfaith couples, atheists, or anybody else whose marriages don’t fit his religious model – just same-sex couples.
Half the Court (Justice Kennedy always being a toss-up) seemed to recognize that this is the essence of discrimination. Any “message” that Mr. Phillips wishes to send about his religious objection to same-sex couples marrying is trumped by his basic civic obligation – having opened a public bakery – to sell the same products to all. And that was the result reached just this week by an Oregon state court in a very similar case.
If we would “know” this more instinctively in a race case, that’s only because of an arduously built social consensus that remains more fragile for LGBTQ rights. As Justice Sotomayor pointed out, “America’s reaction to mixed marriage and to race didn’t change on its own. It changed because we had public accommodation laws that forced people to do things that many claimed were against their expressive rights and against their religious rights.”
Recognizing that consensus, Ms. Waggoner further argued that, even if a racial exclusion was motivated by a policy “message” rather than the identity of the customer denied service, a claimed exemption could still be overruled by the “compelling state interest” in eradicating racial discrimination.
But what about the compelling interest in ending anti-LGBTQ discrimination? Remember, this is not about the still-contested issue of whether sexual orientation should be treated like race under federal constitutional law. Here, Colorado is enforcing its own statute protecting sexual orientation on the exact same basis as race, sex, and religion.
David Cole of the ACLU, arguing for the plaintiffs, crystalized the danger in these arguments: that to justify exempting Mr. Phillips from the Colorado law the Court might “draw a distinction” that would “constitutionally relegate gay and lesbian people to second class status, even when a state has chosen, as Colorado has done here, to extend them equal treatment.”
That’s why Justice Kennedy’s skepticism of Colorado’s enforcement action was so alarming. By suggesting that the state has been “neither tolerant nor respectful of Mr. Phillips’ religious beliefs,” that “accommodation” was “quite possible” because “we assume there were . . . other good bakery shops that were available,” and that the focus on plaintiffs’ identity (rather than Mr. Phillips’ message about marriage) “is just too facile,” Justice Kennedy seemed poised to carve out an exception to civil rights enforcement that he would never entertain for racial discrimination.
And once that happens, there are two likely scenarios, both disturbing: Either the courts apply the precedent to start recognizing “good faith” free speech and religious objections to serving other minority groups (basically gutting civil rights enforcement), or they limit the exception to LGBTQ discrimination (thereby formalizing second-class status for LGBTQ people even under fully inclusive statutes).
Justice Kennedy may only be flirting with this disaster. He also noted that putting a sign in the bakery window saying “we do not bake cakes for gay weddings” would be “an affront to the gay community.” And he may realize not only that his legacy is at stake, but also that the equal dignity principles underlying his historic gay rights decisions require the Court to preserve traditional, evenhanded enforcement of public accommodation statutes. He may yet recognize that this is about full participation in society, not access to baked goods.
But on this as with so many other issues coming to a head in 2018, we’re at a scary and dangerous moment.
Published on December 30, 2017
The lives and safety of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex people (LGBTI) from violence-ridden El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras are at an increased risk as authorities in their countries fail to protect them, leaving them with no choice but to flee their countries and face further dangers in Mexico, Amnesty International said in a new report today.
No Safe Place uncovers the treacherous journey faced by gay men and trans women refugees fleeing rocketing levels of discrimination and gender-based violence in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras from criminal gangs and members of security forces. It also accuses Mexican authorities of failing to protect them from violations and abuses while travelling through the country, and highlights unbearable experiences during prolonged and systematic immigration detention in the USA.
“People are facing vicious discrimination in Central America due to their gender identities, and have absolutely nowhere to run for safety,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International.
“Terrorized at home, and abused while trying to seek sanctuary abroad, they are now some of the most vulnerable refugees in the Americas. The fact that Mexico and the USA are willing to watch on as they suffer extreme violence is, simply, criminal.”
El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras have some of the highest murder rates on earth –
81.2 per 100,000 inhabitants in El Salvador, 58.9 in Honduras and 27.3 in Guatemala, according to official figures.
Most refugees and asylum-seekers who spoke to Amnesty International said constant discrimination and the levels of violence they suffered in their countries – including physical attacks and financial extortion at the hands of criminal gangs and killings – made them feel they had no choice but to flee.
The high levels of impunity and corruption in their countries mean authorities are unlikely to punish those responsible for crimes against LGBTI people, particularly when security forces are responsible for the attacks.
According to the Honduran NGO Cattrachas, 275 LGBTI people were killed in the country between 2009 and 2017. In most cases, those responsible were never brought to justice.
Carlos, from Honduras, was forced to flee to Mexico after he was violently attacked and threatened with death by a criminal gang for being gay.
He told Amnesty International, “I never tried reporting [the abuse] because of what happened to some friends. As soon as a friend of mine reported the abuse, those who had committed it went to his house to get him. That’s why he ran away to Mexico. Another friend was killed right after he reported what had happened to him.”
A frightening journey
Amnesty International found in the cases documented that the brutality suffered by gay men and trans women in Central America does not end after they leave their countries.
Most of the people interviewed for the report said they suffered further discrimination and violence, including at the hands of public officials, in Mexico, where high levels of violence against LGBTI people in general are reported. Many also said they didn’t feel safe in the country as many of the criminal gangs who threatened them back home operate across the southern Mexican border.
According to a study by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, two thirds of the LGBTI refugees from Central America they spoke to in 2016 and 2017 had suffered sexual and gender-based violence in Mexico.
Several gay men and trans women also told to Amnesty International that they were never properly informed about their rights to seek asylum in Mexico, despite the extreme danger they would face if sent back home. They also complained that Mexican authorities did not inform them of any progress regarding investigations after they reported having suffered human rights abuses there.
Carlos told Amnesty International that, while in Mexico, immigration officials tried to discourage him from filing an asylum request. He eventually applied for asylum regardless and is still awaiting a decision.
A number of trans women who managed to survive the dangerous journey across Mexico and crossed the border to the USA complained of the treatment they received in detention. Others were deported from the USA and Mexico and sent back to their countries, to the nightmare they were desperately trying to escape from.
Cristel, a 25-year-old trans woman from El Salvador, told Amnesty International she was held in solitary confinement in US immigration facilities as soon as she crossed the Mexican US border to the USA in April 2017.
After a week, she was put in a small cell with eight men. Cristel eventually failed to secure asylum and was returned to El Salvador, where criminal gangs continue to threaten her.
“I don’t want to be illegal. I just want to live and be safe,” Cristel told Amnesty International.
“The more authorities in El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico and the USA fail to take action to protect some of the most vulnerable people in the Americas, the more blood they will have on their hands,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas.
“These governments must urgently take decisive action to tackle the epidemic levels of violence against LGBTI people in the region and improve their policies and practices to ensure that all those who are in need of international protection can access it.”
Published on AI on November 27, 2017
By Kanae Doi
The 30-year anniversary revival broadcast of a popular Japanese television show “Tunnels” sparked public outrage when an episode that aired in late September featured “Homoo Homooda,” a character crafted around offensive stereotypes of gay men, and a cabal of other characters who joined in the chorus of anti-gay remarks during the program.
It was a harsh reminder of times past – albeit not ancient history. It was just seven years ago when Tokyo’s governor publicly called gay people “deficient,” and two years ago when another politician tweeted that gays were “abnormal.” But while “Homoo Homooda” seemed to still live in his 1980s world, Japanese society has moved on.
The broadcast sparked a public outcry; 104 groups and individuals – including prominent business executives and opinion leaders – submitted a letter of complaint to Fuji TV and the program’s sponsors the following day. Many activists also shared their personal childhood experiences on social media, recalling how they felt uncomfortable and scared of being bullied by classmates who imitated “Homoo Homooda” at school.
During a regular media briefing on September 29, the president of Fuji TV, Masaki Miyauchi, apologized for any part of the program that created discomfort, but did not say whether the company was planning to take any steps in response to the criticism.
Japan has no legislation protecting lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people from discrimination and does not grant legal recognition to same-sex couples. It also treats transgender people requesting legal recognition as having “Gender Identity Disorder” and coerces them into undergoing unnecessary and invasive medical procedures.
However, the country has experienced dramatic changes in public attitudes toward the issue over the past few years. Some municipalities now recognize same-sex partnerships, and the national government has taken some steps toward bringing its policies in line with its international human rights obligations, including its revision in March of the Basic Policy for the Prevention of Bullying to include LGBT students.
Whether the government’s progress recognizing that LGBT people have the same right to dignity as everyone else in Japan will be reflected in an evolving Japanese media is an open question.
Published on HRW on October 4, 2017.
Egypt: six men face abusive anal examinations in homophobic crackdown following rainbow flag incident
🔎Egypt; torture; forced anal exams
By Najia Bounaim
Six men arrested for "promoting sexual deviancy" and "debauchery" on social media will be subjected to invasive forensic anal examinations, said Amnesty International, ahead of their trial tomorrow (Sunday 1 October).
The arrests, on the evening of 27 September, came shortly after Egypt’s chief prosecutor announced an investigation in response to a public outcry over an incident at a 22 September concert in Cairo by the Lebanese band Mashrou’ Leila where several members of the crowd raised a rainbow flag.
Since the concert, there have been reports of a sweeping crackdown by the Egyptian authorities against people the authorities perceive to be engaging in same-sex sexual activity. The concert provoked a smear campaign by national media, with calls for those involved to be punished. On 25 September, Public Prosecutor Nabil Sadiq ordered the State Security prosecution to investigate an "incident" at the concert which "incited homosexuality" and where symbols "inciting such acts" were displayed.
A day after the concert a 19-year-old man was arrested on charges of "debauchery". He was sentenced this week to six years in prison, followed by six years of probation. Two other men who were arrested earlier this week and are currently detained in Agouza police station in Cairo are due to stand trial on 11 October. Another two men were arrested on 28 September and are detained in Dokki police station. All those arrested are being investigated by prosecutors in Cairo and are at risk of torture and other ill-treatment, including anal examinations, by Egypt's Forensic Medical Authority.
Meanwhile, the Forensic Medical Authority is due to subject the six men facing trial tomorrow to anal examinations in a supposed effort to determine whether they have engaged in same-sex sexual relations. Amnesty believes that such examinations violate the prohibition of torture and other ill-treatment under international law.
Najia Bounaim, Amnesty International's North Africa Campaigns Director, said:
"Forced anal examinations are abhorrent and amount to torture.
"The Egyptian authorities have an appalling track record of using invasive physical tests which amount to torture against detainees in their custody. All plans to carry out such tests on these men must be stopped immediately.
"A sinister smear campaign by the Egyptian media against those believed to have raised the rainbow flag at the Mashrou’ Leila concert has given the security forces a green light to carry out arrests of at least 11 people based on their alleged sexual orientation.
"The fact that Egypt’s Public Prosecutor is prioritising hunting down people based on their perceived sexual orientation is utterly deplorable. These men should be released immediately and unconditionally - not put on trial."
The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights organisation estimates that more than 250 men have been prosecuted for their perceived sexual orientation since President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi came to power.
The criminalisation of private, consensual sexual relations between adults of the same sex specifically breaches states’ international legal obligations, including the obligations to protect privacy and to guarantee non-discrimination. The enforcement of these laws through prosecution and sentencing violates a range of human rights. Meanwhile, anal examinations violate the Convention against Torture, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the African Convention on Human and Peoples' Rights. The UN Committee against Torture has emphasised that they "have no medical justification".
Published on Amnesty International UK on September 30, 2017.
The United Arab Emiratesshould stop arbitrarily arresting transgender, gay, and gender non-conforming people on the grounds of a law that criminalizes men “disguising” as women, Human Rights Watch said today.
On August 9, 2017, Emirati police in Abu Dhabi detained two Singaporean nationals in a shopping mall. A court convicted them of crimes and sentenced them to one year in prison "for attempting to resemble women." The UAE deported them on August 28 after they spent nearly three weeks in custody, much of that time in a cell they said was designated for “effeminate” people.
The two Singaporeans, Muhammed Fadli Abdul Rahman and Nur Qistina Fitriah Ibrahim, told Human Rights Watch they were wearing jeans, sneakers, and long-sleeved button-down shirts at the time of their arrest. Fadli, a cisgender male fashion photographer, said he wore a chain around his neck and has an ear piercing and a nose piercing, while Ibrahim, a transgender woman who works as a model, had long hair. Police told them their arrest was on the grounds of “looking feminine.”
“It’s bad enough that the UAE is arresting people solely on the basis of hairstyles and accessories, which the police rely on to make wild guesses about people’s gender identities,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “Worse, the authorities are going far beyond the letter of the law, which only applies to spaces designated for women – not shopping malls.”
The two arrived in the UAE on August 8 to meet with clothing designers and organize a fashion shoot. Police charged them under article 359 of the country’s federal penal code, as well as article 58 of the emirate of Abu Dhabi’s local penal code. On August 20, a court sentenced them each to one year in prison. They were not represented by a lawyer in court. On August 27, an appeals court converted their sentence to deportation and a fine, and they were deported the next day.
Article 359 of the UAE’s federal penal code punishes “any male disguised in a female apparel and enters in this disguise a place reserved for women or where entry is forbidden, at that time, for other than women” with up to one year in prison and a fine of up to 10,000 dirhams (approximately US$2,723). Police arrested Fadli and Ibrahim in Yas Mall, Abu Dhabi’s largest shopping mall, which is not a place “reserved for women.”
Article 58 of Abu Dhabi’s local penal code punishes “violation of public morals” with up to two years in prison and a fine of as much as 15,000 dirhams (approximately US$4,084).
Other people are in detention in the UAE on the grounds of their gender identity or sexual orientation. Fadli told Human Rights Watch that he and Ibrahim were held in a cell that they called the “Detainees’ Apartment,” in which a nurse and other inmates told them that “effeminate” detainees are held, both in pretrial detention and after conviction.
A number of the other detainees told Fadli and Ibrahim the reasons for their arrest and detention, they said. They said the detainees included Emiratis, Moroccans, and Filipinas, most of whom said that they had been arrested solely for “looking feminine,” including two men who said they were arrested while in line at a movie theater; another man who said he was arrested at Yas Mall; a transgender woman who said she was arrested while wearing a work uniform because of her feminine-looking face; and a transgender woman who, like Ibrahim, had long hair but was wearing men’s clothing when arrested, in accordance with the “male” gender marker on her documents.
Fadli said another detainee told him he had been charged with sodomy and had been subjected to a forced anal examination, which constitutes a form of torture or cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment.
Fadli and Ibrahim said that police and prison guards did not physically abuse or insult them, but that prison guards ransacked their luggage, threw out Ibrahim’s hormone pills, and shaved both of their heads. “Shaving my head – that was the most devastating part for me,” Ibrahim told Human Rights Watch.
Laws that criminalize people on the basis of their gender identity or gender expression violate the right to freedom of expression, protected by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. They can also violate freedom of movement and freedom from discrimination on the basis of gender. Such laws punish transgender people’s very existence, as Ibrahim told Human Rights Watch: “I’m very feminine, and I can do nothing about it.”
As a state party to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), the UAE is obligated to prohibit all forms of discrimination against women, including on the basis of gender identity.
While article 359 of the Penal Code only criminalizes men who dress in women’s clothing and enter women-only spaces, the language used in judgment against Fadli and Ibrahim suggests that the law is being abused to target people perceived as gender non-conforming even when they are in mixed-gender public places, and that vague laws on public morals are also being misused to limit gender expression. The judgment, on file with Human Rights Watch, states that they were sentenced to a year in prison for “being disguised in women’s dress” and “violation of public morals by being in a public place appearing as women.” The judgment further states that they were “attempting to resemble women.”
The UAE government website says, “The UAE Government emphasizes on tolerance in the society. Moderation and acceptance of others are innate in the UAE culture.”
In accordance with these principles and with its obligations under international law, the UAE should cease all arrests on the grounds of gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation, Human Rights Watch said. It should amend vague laws that punish “violation of public morals” so that such laws are not used to persecute people on any of these grounds. The UAE should release the other detainees held who have been arrested, sentenced, or are awaiting trial on these grounds, including those currently held at the “Detainees’ Apartment.”
“The UAE describes itself as an ‘ideal tourist destination’ and a ‘safe place to work’, but when visitors can be arrested on such arbitrary grounds, it’s clear that the UAE is neither safe nor friendly for visitors or its residents,” Whitson said. “The government should live up to its own rhetoric about tolerance and openness, rather than cracking down on sexual and gender minorities.”
Published on HRW on September 7, 2017.
The Indonesian government should urgently investigate the September 2, 2017 police raid on the homes of 12 “suspected lesbians,” Human Rights Watch said today. The raid and ensuing forced evictions violate the rights to privacy, non-discrimination and basic due process.
The police raided a residential compound in West Java province’s Tugu Jaya village in response to complaints from local Islamic youth groups and religious leaders that the women’s cohabitation was “against the teachings of Islam.” Police demanded that the women immediately relocate from the area without providing any legal justification for the order, according to authorities, Human Rights Watch interviewed.
“What’s most offensive about this incident is that police and government officials steamrolled privacy rights and rule of law to appease the bigotry of a few neighbors,” said Andreas Harsono, senior Indonesia researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Evicting these women based on prejudiced assumptions of their sexual identity threatens the privacy of all Indonesians and has no place in a country whose motto is ‘unity in diversity.’”
Human Rights Watch research found that the police raid, led by the head of Tugu Jaya village, Sugandi Sigit, and the police commissioner, Saifuddin Ibrahim, resulted in the 12 women immediately vacating their homes and leaving the area. Mohammad Karim, the head of the neighborhood where the women live in Tugu Jaya, sought to justify the raid by saying that the women were “unsettling the public.”
A village official who asked not to be named told Human Rights Watch: “It’s not acceptable to have female couples living together. Some have short hair, acting as the males. Some have long hair, acting as the females. It’s against Sharia [Islamic law]. It’s obscene.” The women’s whereabouts are currently unknown and Human Rights Watch has been unable to contact them.
During the raids on the women’s homes, police and government officials recorded the details of the women’s national identity cards before instructing them to leave the area in three days. Sumantri, the head of the Cigombong district public order office that took part in the raids, said that police and government officials told the women that “their presence had created public disturbance in the area. We politely asked them to leave.”
This forced eviction, in violation of international legal protections, fits into a disturbing pattern of discrimination and unlawful use of force by police against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people in Indonesia, Human Rights Watch said. In her 2013 report on Indonesia, the United Nations special rapporteur on the right to housing noted a pattern of forced evictions of LGBT people in the country.
There have been at least four raids on LGBT people in private settings in 2017 alone. On March 28, unidentified vigilantes forcibly entered an apartment in Aceh province and took two men in their twenties to the police for allegedly having same-sex relations.
Two months later, authorities publicly flogged the men. On April 30, police raided a private gathering of gay and bisexual men in the city of Surabaya, arrested and detained 14 of them, and subjected them to HIV tests without their consent. On May 21, police raided the Atlantis Spa in Jakarta, arrested 141 people, and charged 10 for holding an alleged sex party. And on June 8, police apprehended five “suspected lesbians” and ordered their parents to supervise them – and shared a video of the raidand the names of the five women with reporters.
On June 1, Human Rights Watch wrote to National Police Chief Gen. Tito Karnavian calling on him to order an immediate halt to such discriminatory targeting of LGBT people and investigate the legality of police actions during the raids. Karnavian, who oversees all regional and municipal police forces in the country and reports directly to President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, has not responded to Human Rights Watch’s letter.
Anti-LGBT incidents across Indonesia have significantly increased since a January 2016 spike in noxious and hateful rhetoric from public officials and politicians – including police raids on suspected gatherings of LGBT people, the closure of public transgender events, and attacks on activists. In October 2016, President Jokowi broke his long silence on escalating anti-LGBT rhetoric by defending the rights of the country’s LGBT community. He declared that “the police must act” against actions by bigoted groups or individuals to harm LGBT people or deny them their rights, and that “there should be no discrimination against anyone.”
“Police raids on private gatherings of LGBT people foster dangerous anti-gay hysteria at a time when the government should instead be stepping up to protect this marginalized minority,” Harsono said. “It has been nearly a year since President Jokowi pledged his support to the LGBT community, but his failure to take action has allowed raids like this to continue unabated.”
Published on HRW on September 5, 2017.
By NIRAJ CHOKSHI
Starting Thursday, Canadians will have a new way to identify their sex on passports and other government documents: “X” will join the options of male and female.
The decision to allow the third category, indicating an “unspecified” sex, is intended to protect the rights of Canadians to identify by the gender of their choice, the country’s immigration department said in announcing the change. Ahmed Hussen, the minister of immigration, refugees and citizenship, said in a statement that the designation was added to advance “equality for all Canadians regardless of gender identity or expression.”
The move is part of a broader push to embrace nontraditional forms of gender expression. In November, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appointed a special adviser to coordinate government efforts to promote equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals. A law passed in June amended the Human Rights Act to include nondiscrimination protections for gender identity and gender expression.
Canada is not alone. At least eight other countries offer a third option on passports or national identification cards, according to Lambda Legal, a nonprofit that promotes the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transgender people. Those countries are: Australia, Bangladesh, Germany, India, Malta, Nepal, New Zealand and Pakistan. The group is suing the United States State Department on behalf of a client who identifies as neither male nor female and is therefore unable to accurately complete a passport application.
Last year, a judge in Oregon granted a petition allowing Jamie Shupe of Portland, a retired Army sergeant, to identify as neither sex and instead be classified as nonbinary. At the time, experts described the ruling as groundbreaking. In June, Washington, D.C., added a gender-neutral identifier to drivers’ licenses and identification cards, and in July, Oregon began allowing residents to mark their sex on driver’s licenses as “not specified.”
Published on The NY Times on August 25, 2017.
Dominican Republic: Horrifying killing of transgender woman highlights need for protection against discrimination
The horrifying killing of a transgender woman in the Dominican Republic – the second such killing this year and 38th since 2006 – highlights the extreme violence faced by many transgender women in the country and the need for strengthened legal protection for discriminated groups, said Amnesty International.
“The grotesque killing of Jessica Rubi Mori is a tragic reminder that the Dominican authorities need to take bolder steps to eradicate discrimination, including that based on gender identity and sexual orientation,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director for Amnesty International.
The body of Jessica Rubi Mori (whose legal name was Elvis Guerrero) a transgender sex worker and activist with community organization Este Amor (This Love), was found on 3 June 2017 in the eastern Dominican municipality of Higüey. Her body was found dismembered in a wasteland. According to news reports one suspect has been placed under arrest.
According to Cristian King, Executive Director of TRANSSA – Trans Siempre Amigas (Trans Always Friends), only four people have so far been convicted for the 38 cases of killings of transgender women that the organization has documented since 2006. King told Amnesty International his organization has been working closely with the Human Rights Unit of the Office of the Attorney General on recent cases.
Several weeks ago, a 20-year-long sentence was given for the killing of another transgender woman, Kimberly Sody, in 2014.
Dominican LGBTI-led organizations have long called for a Gender Identity Law to protect the rights of transgender people. A proposal for an Anti-Discrimination Law was drafted last year seeking to address entrenched and historical discrimination affecting many groups in the country, in particular based on gender identity, sexual orientation, ethnicity, amongst other categories. The proposal is yet to be tabled in Parliament.
“The Dominican authorities must continue to work with civil society groups to bring effect to these proposals. This crime must be investigated independently and impartially. Authorities must take all steps to unmask any potentially discriminatory motive in the crime.”
According to a study by the Caribbean Vulnerable Communities Coalition (CVC), published in 2012, in the Dominican Republic less than 35 percent of transgender women sex workers have completed secondary school. As they are pushed away from education, many become involved in transactional sex as early as 16. This early social exclusion leads to poverty and more violence. Transgender people are often pushed into criminalized work, such as sex work, which further exposes them to police abuse and arbitrary detentions.
The same study found that 80 percent of transgender sex workers felt they were more discriminated against for being trans than for being a sex worker. More than 35 percent of transgender sex workers had experienced physical violence walking on the street, more than 40 percent had suffered physical violence by clients, and more than 20 percent, physical violence by a partner. Eighty percent had been arrested or detained at least once, and 36 percent had exchanged sex with police officers to avoid being arrested.
Published on Amnesty International on June 6, 2017.