IGLHRC worked with women’s, sexual minority and gender rights groups in Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Pakistan, Malaysia and Japan to interview 370 people — including service providers and advocates — in the five countries from Nov. 2010 through March 2012.
The report notes laws that ban violence against women in Asia were “directly” or “indirectly discriminatory” because they do not extend “adequate protections — or in some cases any protections” to lesbians, bisexual women and trans people. IGLHRC found officials in each of the five countries “not only failed to prevent, but also condoned violence against female-bodied and transgender people.”
Respondents told IGLHRC that emotional abuse was the most common form of violence committed against them, with family members as the primary perpetrators.
The report further notes lesbians, bisexual women and trans people in Asia reported an “unexpectedly high occurrence” of domestic violence. IGLHRC also found heterosexual men were most likely to commit acts of sexual violence against the aforementioned groups.
More than a dozen trans Malaysian women with whom IGLHRC spoke said authorities or Islamic officials arrested them while they were performing in clubs, hanging out or eating outside.
A trans woman in the Malaysian city of Penang told researchers that police asked her for the equivalent of $5-$6 in “protection money” in exchange for not being arrested. A Malaysian Muslim trans woman — known as a mak nyah in Malay — said she was sentenced to a year in jail after authorities arrested her for wearing women’s clothing in a food stall and charged her with “posing as [a woman]” under local Islamic Sharia law.
A 40-year-old woman who lives in the Pakistani city of Karachi said her mother threatened to burn her genitals with an iron as a young child when her brother caught her “fooling around with another girl.” A 36-year-old lesbian who lives in a suburb of the Sri Lankan capital of Colombo said her father beat her after a former girlfriend outed her when she “made a scene outside her house.”
The IGLHRC report notes an incident during which several men publicly assaulted a trans woman on the street because “they were offended by her wearing a dress.” The men allegedly beat her, cut her hair and threatened to shoot her with a gun.
“There are still no laws that protect LGBT people from violence and discrimination,” Kate Montecarlo Cordova, chair of the Association of Transgender People in the Philippines, told the Washington Blade in an e-mail.
More than 50 percent of lesbian, bisexual women and trans people in Japan said they have considered suicide. One of the trans men with whom researchers spoke killed himself before IGLHRC released the report.
More visibility has caused ‘greater frequency’ of violence
The IGLHRC report concludes greater visibility of LGBT people has resulted in a “greater frequency” of violence against lesbian, bisexual women and those who are gender non-conforming in Asia. It states this mistreatment was “especially noticeable” in countries where religion was “used to justify and intensify intolerance.”
“High-level government officials endorsed intolerance and even actively participated in promoting harmful messages that encouraged abuse or discrimination against LBT individuals,” reads the report. “Government-controlled media and state-supported religious leaders perpetuated cultural messaging that preached intolerance against individuals with non-conforming sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.”
IGLHRC and the groups that conducted research urge governments in each of the five countries to “ensure an environment that is supportive of all women’s rights.” They also said authorities must prevent violence and promote “the safety and dignity of all marginalized and vulnerable populations.”
The groups call upon governments to denounce religious rhetoric that promotes anti-LGBT discrimination and violence. IGLHRC further urges them to comply with various international treaties that specifically address lesbian, bisexual and trans issues.
“State actions must be accompanied by stronger community capacity for sustainable and supportive interventions as part of civil society accountability to vulnerable communities,” reads the report. “It should not be the expectation that individual LBT victims be self-reliant and resilient in order to deal with violence on their own while waiting for state action to reduce violence.”
Homosexuality remains criminalized in Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Malaysia and the Filipino city of Marawi that is in the country’s Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
A Malaysian court on March 7 sentenced former Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim to five years in prison after overturning his acquittal of charges under the country’s sodomy law. The opposition leader had been the frontrunner in elections that took place a few weeks later that determined the next head of government of Selangor Province outside Kuala Lumpur, the Malaysian capital.
The IGLHRC report comes against the backdrop of growing global outrage over the new Bruneian penal code that punishes those convicted of homosexuality by stoning them to death. The Indian Supreme Court last month said it would hear a motion to reconsider last December’s controversial ruling that recriminalized homosexuality in the world’s second most-populous country.
The Indian Supreme Court on April 15 issued a landmark ruling that recognizes trans people as a “third gender.”
Neighboring Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh have also legally recognized trans people.
Japanese lawmakers in 2008 passed a law that allows trans people to legally change their gender once they undergo sex reassignment surgery. Gay Pennsylvania state Rep. Brian Sims is among those who spoke at a reception that U.S. Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy hosted at her Tokyo home last December to commemorate the 65th anniversary of the ratification of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights at the U.N.