Asia: Governments Must Protect Lesbians, Bisexual Women, and Trans Persons

New Research Reveals High Levels of Unchecked Family Violence, Fueling Exclusion

(New York – May 13, 2014) Governments in Japan, Malaysia, Pakistan, the Philippines, and Sri Lanka, routinely ignore—and in some cases actively promote—the systematic exclusion of lesbians, bisexual women, and trans persons from legal protections and social services, said the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) in a report released today.

The 236-page report, “Violence Through the Lens of Lesbians, Bisexual Women and Trans (LBT) Individuals in Asia,” documents the violence and exclusion suffered by lesbians, bisexual women, and trans persons in five countries in Asia (Japan, Malaysia, Pakistan, the Philippines, Sri Lanka), and shows how government inaction contributes to the abuse. The report is based on interviews with affected women and trans individuals, as well as with government officials, civil society actors, and other key stakeholders.

Download the report and view multimedia.

“We are used to thinking of ourselves as victims of direct state violence carried out by police officers, health care workers, and other public officials. And that happens too, of course” said Grace Poore, IGLHRC’s regional program coordinator for Asia and the main coordinator of the research project. “But it surprised us that governments are turning a blind eye to community and family violence, and that intolerance at the state level filters through to the family and home level, promoting stereotypes about lesbians or trans people as deviant, sick, perverse or all of the above.”

Government responses in all five countries were severely insufficient. Researchers found that women in same-sex relationships or trans persons were explicitly excluded from protections against domestic violence or sexual assault. Governments apply criminal sanctions to those who do not adhere to social norms related to the role of women in society and lawmakers ignore the needs of lesbians, bisexual women, and trans persons in policy development.

While laws criminalizing consensual adult same-sex relationships in some cases form the backdrop for this exclusion, lesbian and bisexual women and trans persons across the continent face violence and harassment even where their relationships or status are not considered a crime.

“At a time where any fairly educated or concerned person would know about the laws criminalizing sodomy in India, Nigeria, and Uganda, this research highlights the many other ways in which governments punish us for who we are,” said Poore.  “These findings teach us all types of state-sponsored exclusion have devastating results.”

IGLHRC worked with local groups of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and trans activists to carry out interviews with individuals who, out of fear of exclusion and discrimination, up to now have remained largely invisible.

The testimonies highlight the link between community and family violence, and education dropout rates, employment discrimination, and lack of housing. This finding takes on particular relevance as the world’s governments gather over the next 12 months to discuss universal development goals for the next several decades, a process known as the Post-2015 Agenda.

“This research is grounded in the communities we work with,” said Poore. “And for these communities it is overwhelmingly clear that exclusion affects development, and that states needs to deal with that reality now.”

For more information, contact:

Brian Tofte-Schumacher, brian@iglhrc.org, +1-914-222-3951