Injustice Exposed: The criminalisation of transgender people and its impacts

This report analyses the history, extent and nature of laws around the world which criminalise transgender and gender diverse people.

Trans and gender diverse people are often particularly vulnerable to harassment, discrimination and violence from both state and non-state actors, and are uniquely impacted by multiple types of criminalising laws. Building on existing research on the experiences of trans people and the law, this report aims to provide a contribution towards filling the gap in research on the specific ways that trans and gender diverse people are criminalised and both the overlapping and unique impacts of such discriminatory laws on them.

Globally, criminalising laws send a message that it is acceptable to discriminate against and harm transgender and gender diverse people merely because of their gender identity or expression. Criminalisation, then, fosters a climate in which both state and non-state actors are able to violate the rights of trans people with impunity.

By uniquely focusing on an in-depth analysis of criminal laws globally, this report complements existing research. Rather than looking at positive legislation, such as gender recognition and anti-discrimination laws, this research offers a detailed examination of several forms of negative legislation that still exist in much of the world. Such legislation can itself, or through its application and enforcement, constitute a violation of international human rights standards, and can foster and enable a wide range of other violations of the human rights of trans and gender diverse people. The removal of laws that criminalise transgender and gender diverse people is a natural precursor to the introduction of positive measures to afford them legal recognition and protect them from discrimination and hate crimes.

This report gives particular consideration to three illustrative areas of criminalisation affecting transgender and gender diverse people: the criminalisation of gender expression, for example ‘personation’ and so-called ‘cross-dressing’ laws; public order, vagrancy, loitering and misdemeanour offences where transgender and gender diverse people are targeted; and, laws criminalising consensual same-sex activity where transgender and gender diverse people are targeted.  The report also addresses the alarmingly widespread and systematic abuses committed with impunity against transgender and gender diverse people by state actors, in the absence of any purported legal basis or justification.

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