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Report: Anti-LGBT violence, discrimination pervasive in Asia

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.

13
May
2014

S.C. gay advocates to marry in Md. on Jan. 1

Gay News, Washington Blade, Gay Marriage, Maryland, South Carolina

Ryan Wilson and Shehan Welihindha (Photo courtesy of Ryan Wilson)

The head of South Carolina’s statewide LGBT advocacy group will marry his partner of nearly five years at Baltimore City Hall shortly after midnight on Jan. 1.

“It has been a long-time coming for us as a couple,” Ryan Wilson, executive director of South Carolina Equality, told the Washington Blade on Thursday. “Having the legal recognition for us as a couple is really important to us.”

Wilson, who grew up in Fallston in Harford County, met Shehan Welihindha in Detroit in 2008 during the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force’s annual Creating Change conference.

Welihindha, who is from Sri Lanka, is studying for a Ph.D. in public health at the University of South Carolina. He is the part-time coordinator for the Harriet Hancock LGBT Center’s program that seeks to prevent HIV among young gay and bisexual men in Columbia, S.C., and the surrounding area.

Wilson proposed to Welihindha in 2009 on-stage during the annual South Carolina Pride as former “American Idol” contestant Frenchie Davis and thousands of others watched.

South Carolina will not recognize the couple’s Maryland marriage because voters in 2006 approved a constitutional amendment that bans nuptials between same-sex couples. The Defense of Marriage Act also prohibits Wilson from sponsoring Welihindha for his green card — he has been able to remain in the United States through a series of work and student visas.

“We feel now’s the time,” Welihindha told the Blade. “We’ve been together for five years and even though it’s not recognized in South Carolina, we feel [as] though getting married in a place that recognizes us as being equal as everyone else and coming back to South Carolina would be inspiring to the community there. It’s still something we feel is going to have a symbolic meaning to us because of that.”

Wilson and Welihindha are among the dozens of same-sex couples who are expected to marry across Maryland on the first day gays and lesbians can legally marry in the state.

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake will attend same-sex weddings that will begin at Baltimore City Hall at 12:30 a.m. on Jan. 1. Several gay and lesbian couples are also expected to tie the knot in Cumberland just after midnight on New Year’s Day.

More than a dozen same-sex couples are expected to get married at the gay-owned Black Walnut Point Inn on Tilghman Island in Talbot County on the Eastern Shore on Jan. 1. Paint Branch Unitarian Universalist Church in Adelphi will host what it describes as a “wedding reception” on Jan. 6 that will celebrate the same-sex marriage law.

As for Wilson and Welihindha, they said they are both excited and nervous as their wedding day approaches.

The couple had considered tying the knot in D.C. after same-sex marriage became legal in the nation’s capital in 2010, but Welihindha noted “Ryan and I got really excited” about the prospect of nuptials for gays and lesbians in Maryland “because that’s Ryan’s home state.”

“For us, immigration equality is kind of an important issue because my partner is from Sri Lanka originally and came over here to study and has not been able to get a green card. And living in South Carolina our relationship isn’t recognized at all,” Wilson added. “So getting a marriage license from a place like Maryland where I grew up is the first step along a path towards really recognizing our relationship. Of course we want to sort of be ready in case the courts rule in favor of marriage equality. We’ve been looking for the place to do it [and] when Maryland finally decided in favor of equality we decided this was the right time and the right place.”

28
Dec
2012