In multiple studies from the Americas, Africa and Asia, overwhelming majorities of trans and gender diverse people experience harassment, violence and abuse from state officials, and identify them as the main perpetrators of their discrimination, says a new report from the Human Dignity Trust (HDT).
Injustice Exposed: The Criminalisation of Transgender People and its Impact, released to mark the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia, is the first global report of its kind on the criminalisation of trans and gender diverse people.
According to the study, the abuse reported by trans and gender diverse people includes blackmail, extortion, public humiliation, and physical and sexual violence. This occurs both in countries where there are laws that are used to criminalise trans and gender diverse people, and in countries without such criminalising provisions.
‘It is truly shocking that in many countries around the world, regardless of the legislative landscape, it is the police who are most feared by trans and gender diverse people,’ said Téa Braun, HDT’s Director. ‘The very people who are meant to protect them and uphold their rights are their oppressors, and often act with complete impunity.’
‘It is tremendously important that research documents the direct and indirect ways that laws are used to regulate trans and gender diverse people in our daily lives,’ said Zhan Chiam, the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association World’s Gender Identity and Gender Expression Programme Coordinator. ‘I am immensely grateful to HDT for investing in this topic and making this data available.’
‘What is clear from this report is that authorities use laws they have at their disposal to control elements of society that are undervalued. Trans people, especially those who are also sex workers, poor, immigrants, with disabilities, or of colour, are further targeted.’
The report finds that trans and gender diverse people are criminalised across all regional, religious and cultural borders, and analyses how they are targeted by a raft of different laws.
At least 15 jurisdictions around the world criminalise the gender expression of trans and gender diverse people, through “cross-dressing” laws.
In Uganda for instance, a transgender woman was arrested for “impersonating a woman” and then strip-searched to identify her genitals and subjected to physical assaults over a prolonged period.
In at least 26 countries, “public order”, “vagrancy” and “misdemeanour” offences are used to criminalise trans people.
In Zambia, the colonial-era Penal Code, which remains in effect, renders any “idle or disorderly person,” including “every person who, without lawful excuse, publicly does any indecent act,” liable to a month in prison.
Even though the real figure is likely much higher, there is concrete evidence from nine countries showing that laws that prohibit consensual same-sex intimacy are also used to criminalise trans people.
In Uzbekistan, where “homosexual acts” are criminalised, a trans woman was detained four times between 2014 and 2017 in Tashkent by Uzbek police and security forces; each time, they interrogated her to disclose the identity of other members of the LGBT community, and when she refused, she was brutally beaten to the point of being unable to move.
‘These discriminatory laws must be repealed, or at the very least amended to explicitly exclude being used to discriminate against trans and gender diverse people,’ said Téa Braun. ‘But this is not the only remedy. It is also imperative that states make concerted and parallel efforts to tackle prejudices against trans and gender diverse people.’
Notes to editors
- Read and download the new report, Injustice Exposed: The Criminalisation of Transgender People and its Impact.
- The comprehensive analysis contained in the report, authored by the Human Dignity Trust with support from international legal firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP, includes invaluable input from trans activists and experts globally, and builds on a growing body of research in this area.
- The Human Dignity Trust works with LGBT activists around the world to defend human rights in countries where consensual sexual activity between adults of the same sex is criminalised. We link the international legal community with local organisations who are challenging laws that persecute people on the basis of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity.
For more information or to arrange interviews contact:
Emma Eastwood, Head of Strategic Communications, HDT
T: +44 (0)20 7419 3770
Twitter: @HumanDignityT #IDAHOBIT2019