‘Targeted for their appearance’: LGBTIQA+ people persecuted by police

Arrests and prosecutions for homosexuality and diverse gender expression have continued unabated across the world this year, a new report shows.

Released this week by ILGA World, the report reviewed hundreds of cases over the last two decades of police subjecting LGBTIQA+ people to arbitrary fines, arrest, prosecution, corporal punishment, and imprisonment. 

The organisation said that the real numbers may be much higher because few cases are formally registered and records are often inaccessible.

“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. 

“Governments often dismiss these provisions as ‘dormant regulations’, but laws never really sleep. 

“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.”

In numerous instances, diverse gender expressions appear to trigger arrests, even when legislation does not target them explicitly, the report shows.

“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.”

Hostile raids, arbitrary searchesentrapment, and tip-offs are among the most common ways that targeting begins, ILGA World reported. 

LGBTIQA+ people have been arrested even when trying to report crimes they had been victims of themselves. 

Reports show that confessions, sometimes allegedly extracted through torture and beatings, or forced anal examinations have also been used in search of ‘evidence’ of gay activity.

“There is a vital need to continue this research work”, said Luz Elena Aranda and Tuisina Ymania Brown, co-secretaries general of ILGA World. 

“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.”

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