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Report: Anti-LGBT violence, discrimination pervasive in Asia

Researchers interviewed 370 people in five countries

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Philippines, gay news, Washington Blade

IGLHRC’s report focuses on the Philippines and four other Asian countries. (Photo by Junbay; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

An International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission report released on Tuesday indicates discrimination and violence against lesbians, bisexual women and transgender people remains pervasive throughout Asia.

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.

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Europe

Switzerland marriage equality law takes effect

Voters last September overwhelmingly approved ‘Marriage for All’ law

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(Public domain photo)

A law that allows same-sex couples to legally marry in Switzerland took effect on Friday.

Swiss voters last September voted overwhelmingly in favor of the “Marriage for All” law.

Maria von Känel of Regenbogenfamilien (Rainbow Families) on Friday posted to her Facebook page a picture of her and her wife with a marriage license and a message that said “the celebrations can begin.”

Neighboring Austria, Germany and France are among the European countries that have extended marriage rights to same-sex couples. Scott Miller, the U.S. ambassador to Switzerland and Liechtenstein who is openly gay, is married to Tim Gill.

“Today we celebrate marriage for all,” tweeted the U.S. Embassy in Switzerland on Friday. “Congratulations to Switzerland on this historic day.”

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Russia

Brittney Griner trial begins in Moscow

WNBA star faces up to 10 years in prison

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(Screenshot courtesy of Russian television)

The trial of detained WNBA star Brittney Griner began on Friday in Moscow.

Russian media reports indicate authorities initially did not allow journalists into the court room, but two reporters were eventually able to enter. The Washington Post reported U.S. Chargé d’Affaires Elizabeth Rood and other American diplomats were present.

Officials at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport in February detained Griner — a Phoenix Mercury center and two-time Olympic gold medalist who is a lesbian and married to her wife, Cherelle Griner, — after customs inspectors allegedly found hashish oil in her luggage. The State Department later determined that Russia “wrongfully detained” her.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken on May 14 spoke with Cherelle Griner. White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan this week said he has also spoken with her.

Officials with the State Department’s Office of the Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs and Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs on June 13 met with Brittney Griner’s teammates to discuss her detention and efforts to secure her release.

Brittney Griner on June 18 was unable to speak with her wife on their fourth anniversary because the phone at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow that she called went unanswered. A State Department spokesperson later admitted a “logistical error” prevented Brittney Griner from speaking with Cherelle Griner.

Brittney Griner faces up to 10 years in prison if she is convicted.

The Council for Global Equality and the Human Rights Campaign are among the dozens of advocacy groups who signed a letter to President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris last week that urged them to do more to secure Brittney Griner’s release. The U.S. House of Representatives on June 24 approved a resolution that called upon Russia to immediately release her.

“Brittney Griner is wrongfully detained, unjustly detained and we have made that clear as an official determination of the U.S. government,” Sullivan told reporters on Tuesday. “Second, the Russian government should release her and allow her to be returned and reunited with her family and come home safe and sound.”

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Caribbean

Final vote on new Cuba family code expected in September

Same-sex couples poised to receive marriage, adoption rights

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(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The Washington Blade’s media partner in Cuba is reporting a final referendum on whether the final draft of a new family code that would extend marriage and adoption rights to same-sex couples will take place in September.

Tremenda Nota on June 23 reported a specific date for the referendum has not been announced, but it quoted comments President Miguel Díaz-Canel made the day before during a meeting of the commission that has written the draft. 

“We are entering a decisive stage,” said Díaz-Canel, according to Tremenda Nota. “We are going to need all the support that we need to ensure the emancipatory principles of equality and inclusion that the family code defends are actually approved.”

The National Assembly late last year approved the draft family code. 

A “popular consultation” ended on April 30. Tremenda Nota reported the last of the family code’s 25 drafts was presented to Díaz-Canel and other officials on June 6.

Díaz Canel and Mariela Castro, the daughter of former President Raúl Castro who is the director of Cuba’s National Center for Sexual Education, are among those who publicly support marriage equality. Cuban voters in 2019 overwhelmingly approved the draft of their country’s new constitution, but the government’s decision to remove a marriage equality amendment before the referendum on it sparked outrage among independent LGBTQ and intersex activists.

Efforts to implement the new family code are taking place against the backdrop of continued persecution of LGBTQ and intersex Cubans and others who publicly criticize the country’s government.

Tremenda Nota Editor Maykel González Vivero is among the hundreds of people who were arrested during anti-government protests that took place across Cuba on July 11, 2021.

Yoan de la Cruz, a gay man who used Facebook Live to livestream the first protest that took place in San Antonio de los Baños in Artemisa province. De La Cruz subsequently received a 6-year prison sentence, but he was released on house arrest last month.

Reports indicate Brenda Díaz, a transgender woman who was arrested during a July 11 protest in Güira de Melena in Artemisa province, on Wednesday received a 14-year prison sentence. 

Editor’s note: Tremenda Nota’s original story is here.

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