Myanmar: Gay Men and Transgender Women Wrongfully Arrested, Violently Abused

IGLHRC and Myanmar LGBT Rights Network Call for Justice

On July 7, 20 plain-clothed police officers forcefully arrested 10 gay men and transgender women outside the Sedona Hotel in Mandalay, Myanmar. Nine were dragged, kicked and handcuffed while being taken to the Division Police Station for questioning—one person was able to escape. At the police station, they were subjected to further humiliation and abuse. On July 6, two other transgender women were arrested in the same area.

Myat Noe, one of those arrested and a member of the gay dance troupe widely known as Moe Gyo Hngat Ngae, recounted,

When we arrived at the Division Police Station, the police forcibly pulled off our clothes, kicked and beat us. Our breasts were squeezed, scratched and beaten with police batons.

They forced us to do frog jumps, without clothes, and shout that we are not women but men. When we did as they said, we were beaten again because our voices sound feminine. They slapped our faces and shouted out, ‘Shout like a man! Sound like a man!’ I’ve never experienced terror like this.

Mandalay Police deny the allegations, claiming the arrests were in response to complaints of public disturbances. They maintain that their conduct was professional.

Soe Nyein, a Mandalay Division police officer reiterated, “Since they are men, we must not let them go into men’s cells with wigs, bras, condoms and women’s attire. We had to take them all off. We have much evidence to prove this, however, I have nothing to say about being accused of abusing them.”

The Myanmar LGBT Rights Network and IGLHRC are calling for a full and fair investigation into police conduct on July 6 and 7. The police officers responsible should be identified and brought to justice, regardless of position or rank.

We urge the President of Mayanmar, the Chairman of Parliament, the Police Chief of the Myanmar Police Force, and the Chairperson of the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission to respect and promote the human rights of all people, including LGBT persons, to the right to assembly, expression, due process, equality, and non-discrimination before the law.


Mr. U Thein Sein
President, Office of the President
Nay Pyi Daw, Myanmar

Your Honor,

I am writing this letter to draw your attention to the arbitrary arrest, violence and humiliation that twelve gay men and transgender women were subjected to by police officers in Mandalay, Myanmar on July 6 and 7, 2013. Further, I want to underscore the importance of securing human rights for all people and prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

On July 7, 20 plain-clothed police officers forcefully arrested 10 gay men and transgender women near the Ancient Palace Mote. One person escaped while the other nine were taken to the Division Police Office for questioning about alleged complaints of public disturbance. At the station, officers physically and verbally abused the victims. They were punched, kicked, and insulted on the basis of their sexual orientation and gender identity. Police officers forced all of the victims to strip naked, took nude photographs of them, and threatened them with a barbwire stick or gun. After several hours, before being released, they were forced to sign an agreement that they will not visit the Mandalay Moat for a week and that they will stop dressing as women.

The previous evening, July 6, uniformed officers arbitrarily arrested two other transgender women in the same area.

Myat Noe, one of those arrested on July 7 and a member of the gay dance troupe widely known as Moe Gyo Hngat Ngae, recounted,

When we arrived at the Division Police Office, the police forcibly pulled off our clothes, kicked and beat us. Our breasts were squeezed, scratched and beaten with police batons.

They forced us to do frog jumps, without clothes, and shout that we are not women but men. When we did as they said, we were beaten again because our voices sound feminine. They slapped our faces and shouted out, ‘Shout like a man! Sound like a man!’ I’ve never experienced terror like this.

The bigoted actions of the police officers put Myanmar on a dangerous course towards discrimination and violence that runs counter to the years of effort your government has undertaken in unifying the country to what it is today.

Furthermore, actions by police officers who abuse their power and authority run counter to the Myanmar Constitution of 2008, which asserts “the Union shall guarantee any person to enjoy equal rights before the law and shall equally provide legal protection; and nothing shall, except in accord with existing laws, be detrimental to the life and personal freedom of any person.” (Clause 21.a); “the Union shall guarantee any person to enjoy equal rights before the law and shall equally provide legal protection” (Clause 347); and “nothing shall, except in accord with existing laws, be detrimental to the life and personal freedom of any person.” (Clause 353).

To respect and promote the human rights of all people, including LGBT persons, to assembly, expression, due process, equality, and non-discrimination before the law, we urge you to:

  • Bring to justice all police officers, regardless of position or rank, who are implicated in human rights abuses committed against gay men and transgender women in Myanmar, including those targeted on July 6th and 7th;
  • Publicly condemn all forms of discrimination and abuse based on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression and launch a public campaign on respect of human rights;
  • Require the police force in Myanmar to undergo gender and sexuality sensitivity training and end discriminatory conduct based on sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression;
  • Review and repeal provisions of the Penal Code that can be used to arbitrarily arrest LGBT people in Myanmar, particularly Section 377 (criminalization of homosexual sex), Section 290 (public nuisance), and Section 5(j) of the “Emergency Provisions Act of 1950” (disruption of morality).

All government institutions should respect and protect the rights of all people in Myanmar, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.

We hope that you will give this issue the attention it deserves.

Sincerely,
Name:
Organization (if applicable):
City:
Country:

CC:

Thura U Shwe Mann
Chairman, Pyithu Hluttaw
Office of the Pyithu Hluttaw (Parliament)
Naypyitaw, Myanmar
kyawsoe.pt@gmail.com, tinwinaung.pt@gmail.com
Police Chief Kyaw Kyaw Htun
Myanmar Police Force
Nay Pyi Daw, Myanmar
epolice@myanmarpoliceforce.org

Chairperson U Win Mra
Myanmar National Human Rights Commission
No. 27, Pyay Road, Hline Township, Yangon, Myanmar
chmyanmarnhrc@gmail.com
winmra@mnhrc.org.mm