In its latest report, ILGA highlighted the continued arrests and prosecutions of LGBTQ+ communities after reviewing hundreds of cases in which law enforcement officials subjected persons of diverse sexual orientations, gender identities and expressions to fines, arbitrary arrests, and punishments.
ILGA World is the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association, a worldwide federation of more than 1,700 organisations from over 160 countries and territories campaigning for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex human rights.
The report, released December 15, 2021, finds that arrests and prosecutions for consensual same-sex sexual acts, or for diverse gender expressions, have continued unabated across the world in 2021 and in previous years.
The cases that underwent review occurred over the last two decades and included situations in which law enforcement subjected LGBTQ+ people to fines, arbitrary arrests, prosecutions, corporal punishments, imprisonments and more, up to (possibly) the death penalty.
However, the actual numbers may be much higher than the report lists because many cases may have never been formally registered, and oftentimes formal records are inaccessible or non-existent.
“To date, around one third of United Nations member States continue to criminalise consensual same-sex sexual acts between adults,” said Kellyn Botha, research consultant at ILGA World and author of the Our Identities Under Arrest report.
“This report provides plenty of evidence of how criminalising provisions have targeted our communities worldwide, at times coming back to life after years spent as a mere threatening presence on the books. The unpredictable nature of their enforcement makes LGBT and gender-diverse people live perpetually under threat, excluding them from an equal participation in society,” she continues.
The report found that there were numerous instances in which non-conforming and diverse gender expressions appear to be a central element in triggering arrests, even when state legislation doesn’t target them explicitly.
“In societies where non-normative behaviour is largely read as evidence of non-heterosexuality, the way a person looks, dresses and talks can often be seen as indicative of probable ‘criminal activity’, and be enough to warrant an arrest,” said Lucas Ramón Mendos, research coordinator at ILGA World.
“In many jurisdictions, it is far more likely for someone to be targeted for their appearance or mannerisms than for any verifiable illicit activity,” he continues.
These prosecutions of LGBTQ+ people often begin with raids, arbitrary searches, online entrapment by security forces, and tip-offs in hostile environments.
Distressingly, under these criminalising laws, LGBTQ+ people have been arrested even when trying to report a crime they had been victims of themselves.
In many instances, there is little to no proof of any illicit activity to support these arrests. The reports show how confessions, at times allegedly extracted through torture and beatings, or forced anal examinations have also been used in search of ‘evidence’ of any same-sex activity.
These are real human stories which are being dramatically affected by criminalising regulations. Their experiences serve as a strong call for those in power to stop violence against marginalised communities.
Luz Elena Aranda and Tuisina Ymania Brown, co-secretaries general of ILGA World, state that “there is a vital need to continue this research work”.
“We need to cast a light on how criminalising laws affect millions of people, and to give voice to those pained masses who have been silenced by prejudice and by those in power,” they conclude.
Reports like this highlight the immense societal and legislative work that must be done to protect and support LGBTQ+ people all over the world.
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