Serious Human Rights Abuses Directed at LGBT Populations in Every Region

2012 Human Rights ReportsThe State Department’s latest country human rights reports, released April 19, confirm the lack of respect that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people face in many areas of the world. However, the reports also point to a range of serious human rights abuses directed at LGBT populations in every region.

The Obama Administration has made a commendable effort to catalog instances and trends of LGBT abuse worldwide. We were pleased that Secretary Kerry specifically lauded the Department’s expanded coverage of LGBT rights in a speech marking the release of this year’s reports.

Of no surprise, hate crimes top the list of violent actions directed against LGBT people in many countries. But even more appalling, are the numerous instances of government officials’ complicity in LGBT abuse. For instance:

  • In Jamaica, prison wardens reportedly were involved in numerous incidents of violence against gay inmates.
  • In Chile, gay prisoners were denied access to hygienic services.
  • In Libya, a government-affiliated brigade arrested, detained, and beat 12 allegedly gay men who were at a private party.
  • A military unit in Moldova beat two gay men while verbally abusing them on grounds of their sexual orientation.
  • Cameroonian police detained three men, and jailed them for a week, because two of the men appeared effeminate; beat them until they confessed to being gay; then sentenced them to five years in prison.
  • In El Salvador, police officers allegedly physically abused a gay teenager, then made a phone call after which three gang members appeared and beat the teenager further.
  • In Kyrgyz Republic, LGBT groups documented 18 cases of police extortion.
  • Zimbabwean police raided the offices of an LGBT support organization; arrested 44 of its members; outed those members to families and employers (with consequences to jobs and family ties); and effectively closed the organization.

Many country reports also offer clear examples in which government authorities failed to fulfill their responsibility to protect the rights of LGBT citizens. As examples:

  • In El Salvador, for instance, police officers are alleged to have verbally and physically abused a 17-year-old gay adolescent, forcing him off a bus and then calling local gang members who beat the victim unconscious.
  • In Namibia, police ridiculed LGBT citizens who reported abuse.
  • When hundreds of demonstrators in Burkina Faso demanded that a gay couple leave their home, police took no protective action.
  • And LGBT citizens in the former Soviet Union faced extreme challenges to their democratic freedoms of speech and assembly: in Ukraine, a gay pride event was canceled after police said they would not protect participants in the face of extremist threats of violence; in Russia, the city of Moscow refused to allow a gay pride march to proceed.

These and other cases of government action and inaction deserve serious protest, and we trust that the State Department has directed our ambassadors to make clear our government’s official concern. Equally important, we hope our embassies in these and other countries are using all other available diplomatic tools to raise the profile of LGBT rights, and are targeting our foreign assistance to respond to the needs of LGBT communities.

The 2012 reports also underscore a clear need for attention to infringements of the rights of transgender people, including cases of extreme violence and targeted killings:

  • In Nicaragua the report highlights the murder of a young transgender woman, whose body was found with signs of sexual assault.
  • Transgender individuals in Indonesia are routinely abused, detained, and forced to pay bribes by local authorities.
  • Japanese authorities refused to list a married transgender man’s two-year-old son, who was conceived by artificial insemination, as a legitimate child.
  • In Malaysia, transgender Muslim citizens were fined under Sharia law for dressing and posing as women.
  • In Uganda, a local news station aired a video of police taunting a transgender individual by forcing the individual to undress in front of jeering onlookers.
  • In the United Arab Emirates, a transgender sex worker was beaten, tortured, and raped repeatedly while in prison.

Unfortunately these cases are not unique. The reports bear witness to similar violations and indignities against transgender individuals in every region of the world. We hope that all embassies will examine more carefully the situation of transgender people in their host countries, with a view to raising awareness with government officials well in advance of next year’s reports.

Some of this year’s reports also indicate emerging areas of human rights concern:

  • “Reparative Therapy”: The United Arab Emirates government forced some caught in consensual same-sex activity to undergo psychological treatment and counseling, while the Chinese government and some school districts promoted “reparative therapy” to avoid having LGBT children.
  • Internet and Religious Freedom: LGBT religious groups in South Korea saw their internet forum taken down, and Korea’s National Human Rights Commission refused to rectify this infringement of religious freedom.

We urge the Administration to take suitable steps to address these new efforts at intolerance, which we know are spreading to other countries and regions.

We are not raising these country-specific examples from the reports because they are in any way unique. To the contrary, these specific instances are highlighted here because we know them to be extremely typical of violations we have seen replicated the world over. Our hope, however, is that the human rights reports will cast an uncommon light – and appropriate shame – on these common violations.

Finally, despite all of these concerns, we are encouraged by a number of positive signs that some governments are beginning to address inequalities in how LGBT people are treated. For instance:

  • Colombian authorities created a national public policy framework for LGBT rights, along with a working group aimed at identifying problems of LGBT abuse and exclusion that call for community solutions.
  • The Cypriot Ministry of Education allowed an anti-homophobia training program to be carried out for teachers, the first-ever LGBT awareness training allowed in that country’s schools.
  • In Bangladesh, two government ministries led a pilot job training project for transgender citizens, instituted an awareness program to alter negative views of transgender people, and established a foundation through which the program can continue.
  • Montenegro passed legislation to provide government funds for gender reassignment surgery.
  • An Algerian gay rights group has been allowed to advertise advocacy and support efforts for the Algerian LGBT community through a website and Facebook account.
  • Increased media freedom in Tunisia has increased the flow of LGBT-related information to members of the LGBT community.
  • Kenyan LGBT advocacy organizations noted that homophobic hate speech had declined due to improved enforcement of hate speech laws and better media self-regulation.
  • And Poland’s legislature now includes both openly gay and transgender members – a political process breakthrough that portends greater awareness of the rights of LGBT citizens in that country.

We applaud these instances of leadership in efforts to promote fully inclusive societies. They both echo and amplify the growing appreciation in our own country that LGBT citizens deserve nothing more, or less, than full dignity and equal treatment under the law.

Download the full compendium of sexual orientation and gender identity references in the report here.

4 Responses to “Serious Human Rights Abuses Directed at LGBT Populations in Every Region”


  1. 1 Dr. Rex April 24, 2013 at 1:39 pm

    So hard to believe ….. when we live in relatively a “calm” society. Really?? At least it doesn’t seem as rampart as the article describes. I do believe strongly that we suffer similarly ….. deep in the fabric of our societal unit. Abuses, bullying, denial of rights … are only a few. The ones described above are definite cases of human rights abuse.
    Thx. for sharing!!

  2. 2 Dr. Rex April 24, 2013 at 1:40 pm

    Reblogged this on It Is What It Is and commented:
    Very interesting. Disturbing information …… truly trampling over innate human rights!!

  3. 3 Paul Canning (@pauloCanning) April 27, 2013 at 11:39 am

    Progress, obviously, but the Ethiopians seem to be being deliberately ignored by State Dept and UK Foreign Office also. You should report on that.

  4. 4 Paul Canning (@pauloCanning) May 1, 2013 at 2:16 pm

    Er. I tweeted at you about this ↑ and commented. Apparently you responded, which is good, hence http://76crimes.com/2013/05/01/after-ethiopia-perhaps-other-critiques-of-gay-rights-reports/ This happened via email??

    If you’re going to use social media, it’s a two-way street.


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