Burma: Torture of LGBT By Police

The Asian Human Rights Commission is monitoring  police targeting of gay and transgendered people in Burma, (Myanmar). It has received detailed information on cases of alleged arbitrary arrest, detention and torture of persons on the grounds of sexual orientation. In a report on 22nd July, it stated:

The AHRC is troubled both by the manner in which this minority group appears to have been deliberately targeted by the police, and by the implications of these  police abuses not only for the rights of minorities in democratizing Burma, but also for the rights of all people living there.

Police in Mandalay appear to have been targeting  gay and transgendered people, for assembling in some public areas of the city. Police say they are simply removing anyone causing a disturbance to the public, however, the AHRC feel  that they have been “specifically targeting gay and transgendered people”.

For instance, on 7 July 2013 a group of around 20 ununiformed men—some police, others local administrators or other unidentified persons—descended on the area outside the Sedona Hotel in Mandalay and assaulted a group of gay and transgendered people there, pushing, hitting, handcuffing them and pulling off their garments in public before loading them on to a number of vehicles. Once in custody, police continued to abuse the group of 11 detainees, hitting and kicking them constantly, stripping them naked in the public areas of the Mandalay Regional Police headquarters, photographing them, forcing them to hop like frogs, forcing them to clean shoes and tables, to walk up and down as if on a catwalk, uttering obscenities at them, and otherwise physically and psychologically demeaning them. One of those detained said that a police officer interrogated her at length about her sexual activities and preferences, where she usually hangs out, and later tried to lure her to come back with him after leaving the police station.

On release, some are being forced to sign pledges that they will not go to public places, or wear women’s clothing.

A police spokesman, Police Major SoeNyein, told one news agency that the police were doing a public service in stopping the community from congregating, and that the police had “released them after educating them and obliging them to sign a pledge” the contents of which were not mentioned [..]. In another report the same policeman is quoted as saying that, “We had to detain the fags because they were causing a disturbance to passers by at the moat, by doing and saying whatever they like… homosexuality is not in accordance with law. If people complain, we’ll take action”

Reports on these incidents can be found at Irrawaddy Burmese, and again here.

The Asian Human Rights Commission continues:

…..no law exists in Burma to prohibit homosexuality, or the congregating of homosexual people in public places, which is why police who pursue them are forced to use obscurely worded sections of antiquated, colonial-era laws…

The Asian Human Rights Commission has been informed that some of the gay and transgendered people detained and tortured in Mandalay intend to lodge complaints against their abuse with the authorities, including with the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission. It strongly supports the initiative to lodge complaints, and calls on all agencies that receive the complaints to treat them with the utmost seriousness, and to investigate them with a view to having criminal charges lodged against the police responsible for these offences. It also calls on the domestic media and civil society groups for their support for these complaints.

The AHRC also calls on the Myanmar government to join the UN Convention against Torture, and to amend the Police Act, which gives police the authority to act with impunity as regards how to treat those arrested, and also allows them to extract fines when, in fact, no law has been broken.


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