Transgender people criminalised in every part of world - study

Friday, 17 May 2019 16:21 GMT

Members of the transgenders community hold placards during a protest against the passing of the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2018, in New Delhi, India, December 28, 2018. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

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At least 15 countries criminalise people whose gender expression is perceived to be at odds with their birth sex

By Rachel Savage and Hugo Greenhalgh

LONDON, May 17 (Openly) - Transgender women have been attacked by police conducting "social cleansing" in Honduras, while police in Indonesia's Aceh province said they want to get "rid of all transgender people," a report on the criminalisation of trans people said on Friday.

Trans people are prosecuted in every corner of the world, with laws designed to preserve public order used in at least 26 countries, two of them in Eastern Europe, according to the Human Dignity Trust, a global LGBT+ rights advocacy group.

At least 15 countries criminalise people whose gender expression is perceived to be at odds with their birth sex. In at least nine countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia this is through outlawing cross-dressing.

Trans people "are targeted simply because they are different, because they are not conforming to (how) society or the church or the mosque tells people how they should behave," Tea Braun, the director of the Human Dignity Trust said.

The report also found evidence that at least nine countries use laws criminalising same-sex relations to prosecute trans people, but added, "The real figure is likely much higher."

Gay sex is illegal in 70 countries, according to the ILGA, an LGBT+ rights group.

In many countries police and other state officials target trans people, Braun said.

"They are committing atrocities," she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Abuse by state authorities is not limited to less wealthy countries.

More than half of trans Americans who encountered police said they experienced some form of mistreatment, according to a 2015 survey by the National Center for Transgender Equality, a U.S. trans rights group.

Trans people in American jails also face a higher risk of violence than others, from both other inmates and prison officials, according to the survey.

"The discrimination and violence perpetrated by law enforcement against transgender people largely comes down to power dynamics and an overt lack of respect for transgender people's humanity," said Taylor Brown, a lawyer with Lambda Legal, a U.S. LGBT+ rights group.

However, Braun said that globally, "there is progress, because there is increasing awareness and advocacy".

She cited the example of Guyana, where a law banning cross-dressing was ruled to be unconstitutional by a regional appeals court in November 2018, after a legal battle stretching over several years. (Reporting by Rachel Savage @rachelmsavage and Hugo Greenhalgh; Editing by Jason Fields. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking, property rights, and climate change. Visit

Openly is an initiative of the Thomson Reuters Foundation dedicated to impartial coverage of LGBT+ issues from around the world.

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