By Ian Lekus, LGBT Thematic Specialist at Amnesty International USA
Today, May 17, Amnesty International celebrates International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia. This IDAHOT, Amnesty International condemns the ongoing discrimination, violence, and denial of fundamental human rights faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people around the world.
Anti-LGBT violence remains an especially grave concern. Over the past year, forces from the armed group calling itself the Islamic State reportedly killed dozens of men in Iraq and Syria whom they alleged were gay by throwing them from the roofs of buildings. In Nigeria, independent NGOs cited over 200 cases across the country where people perceived to be LGBT were beaten by mobs and handed over to the police.
Just last month, Bangladeshi LGBT activists Xulhaz Mannan and Tonoy Mahbub were hacked to death by a group of men linked to Al-Qaeda’s local affiliate. These two horrific murders, which took place in Mannan’s apartment in Dhaka, were the latest in a string of brutal killings in Bangladesh targeting bloggers, editors, publishers, and other advocates of secular civil society.
Champa Patel, Amnesty International’s South Asia Director, deploring the murders of Mannan and Mahbub, declared that “the Bangladeshi police needs to guarantee the protection of the country’s LGBT community, not harass them or threaten them with arrest, as they have been doing.”
Elsewhere, the failure of law enforcement and judicial authorities to adequately investigate and prosecute crimes against LGBT individuals is deeply troubling. No charges have been filed against those responsible for the 2015 murders of two prominent transgender activists, Francela Méndez of El Salvador and Daiana Sacayán of Argentina. Greek authorities have yet to identify the perpetrators of the 2014 homophobic and racist attack against Costas, a Greek national, and his refugee partner.
In the United States, anti-transgender violence has reached epidemic levels: 2015 saw a record number of documented murders of transgender Americans, mostly targeting transwomen of color.
Although LGBT people have achieved dramatic gains in legal equality and social inclusion in some countries, more than 75 countries continue to criminalize same-sex relationsbetween adults.
Amnesty International calls on all nations to repeal all laws that criminalize consensual same-sex relations or that discriminate against people solely for their sexual orientation or gender identity and expression.
Criminalization of LGBT people remains inexorably intertwined with the denial of fundamental human rights and civil protections. In Egypt — site of “one of the worst human rights crises in modern history,” says Selmin Çalışkan, Director of Amnesty International Germany — individuals continued to face arrest, detention and trial on “debauchery” charges on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity, real or perceived.
In Tunisia, six students received maximum three-year prison terms after a court convicted them on charges of “sodomy.” The six were subjected to anal examinations after their arrest, in violation of the prohibition of torture and other ill-treatment. Article 230 of Tunisia’s Penal Code makes same-sex sexual relations illegal, while transgender people face additional dangers from laws criminalizing “indecency” and acts deemed “offensive to public morals.”
This IDAHOT, Amnesty International calls on the Tunisian government to repeal Article 230, immediately and unconditionally release anyone detained because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, stop the use of forced anal examinations against people accused of same-sex sexual relations as a means to obtain “proof” of anal sex, and ensure that the authorities investigate all allegations of anti-LGBT violence without discrimination.
You can take part in our social media action by tweeting the Tunisian Prime Minister at @Habib_essid and the Tunisian Parliament at @ARPtn. Suggested tweets include:
- Assaulted & then accused of “sodomy” #Tunisia: Repeal #Article230
- In #Tunisia, LGBT people are raped and told they’re responsible for the crime. Repeal #Article230
- Same-sex sexual relations are not a crime. #Tunisia repeal #Article230
- #Tunisia your Constitution promises no discrimination. Prove it and repeal #Article230
Last June, Turkish authorities prevented the annual Pride march from taking place in Istanbul, as the police arbitrarily used water cannons, tear gas, and pepper-ball projectiles against peaceful demonstrators. Over the past several years, the police have routinely blocked the exercise of the right to peaceful assembly by various groups critical of the Turkish government.
Now, as Istanbul Pride 2016 approaches, there are concerns that the authorities will not allow the march to proceed as scheduled on June 26, will not provide adequate protection to participants, or will once more use violence against peaceful demonstrators.
Amnesty International calls on Turkey to honor its obligations to guarantee the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, and allow the Istanbul Pride march to take place with adequate protection for the participants, and without targeting participants for deliberate and unjustified police violence.
To support Turkey’s LGBT community, you can post solidarity messages, photographs, and short videos on social media using the hashtag #MyIstanbulPride.
2015 did witness some significant progress in LGBT human rights. Jamaican activists successfully held the first Montego Bay Pride celebration last October, with the nation’s Minister of Justice calling for tolerance and expressing his support for the rights of LGBT people to express themselves peacefully.
In Malta, Parliament unanimously approved a groundbreaking law protecting the rights of transgender and intersex people. Another historic victory came in Ireland, where more than 60% of voters approved a constitutional amendment allowing equal access to civil marriage for same-sex couples.
In the United States, last June’s Supreme Court ruling affirming marriage equality as a basic human right marked a historic victory for LGBT Americans. But Amnesty International is extremely concerned by the backlash to the court ruling, including the spate of state laws passed and pending which rescind and prohibit non-discrimination protections. Many of these laws target transgender people in particular, and are pitched in terms of “protecting” children.Amnesty’s 2016 Pride Toolkit, coming soon, provides resources for human rights activists working to prevent or overturn so-called “religious liberty” bills or other anti-LGBT legislation.
On this International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia, Amnesty International stands in solidarity with LGBT human rights defenders worldwide. This IDAHOT, please join us in building a world where all people, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity and expression, are safe and fully able to exercise their fundamental human rights.