Crimes Against LGBTQ Groups

Authored by Amanda Ruth, law student from Government Law College Ernkula

LGBTQ

The acronym LGBTQ stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer/questioning. The LGBTQ community refers to the group of such persons. What is common to the members of this group is that historically, they have had a marginalized social status compared to the society’s norm of heterosexual individuals who conform to traditional gender expectations and roles.

Due to their non-conformity with the established gender and sexuality norms the members of LGBTQ community are often victims of violence by both state as well as non-state actors.

Crimes against LGBTQ

The 2018 Youth Report by the Human Rights Campaign[1] stated that millions of people across the world suffer physical, sexual and psychological abuse and violence because of their real or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity or expression.

Examples of violence commonly perpetrated against the LGBTQ include murders, mutilation and torture, physical and sexual assaults, threats of violence, arson, and malicious destruction of property.

The term ‘hate crimes’ refers to offences that are motivated by, or which show, hate or prejudice towards the victim based on the victim’s perceived sexual orientation, gender identity or expression. Such crimes are perpetrated by state and non-state actors, and have been characterized as a local as well as global phenomenon that occurs at home, in educational institutions, in public, online, as well as in national and even international contexts.

In Middle Eastern countries such as Yemen, UAE, Qatar, and African countries such as Nigeria, Sudan and Somalia, homosexuality is punishable with death.

Bisexual men and women are less likely to experience physical violence due to the fact that they are less open about their sexual orientation.

Honor killing, done by families to “cleanse” LGBTQ members is common in India. There are a number of people who believe that the deviance that the members of the community show is because of certain health conditions, which must be treated and hence may use physical violence upon them. This kind of violence is often termed as “conversion therapy”.

For instance, two suspected lesbian women, who were accused of bringing a “bad name to the community”, and “spoiling the image of their family” were killed by their relatives in India for attempting to salvage the honor of the family. The witnesses told the police that the killings were necessary to save the honor of the family.[2]

Lesbian and bisexual women are often the victims of “corrective rape” whereby they are forced into marriages and sexual violence is regularly inflicted upon them in an attempt to cure them of their “illness”.

A majority of crimes against the LGBT community are committed because someone steps outside what is called the gender binary and not necessarily because someone identifies as LGBT.[3] The prejudiced view of the society that members of such community are a menace act as a justification to perpetrate violence against them. It is thus interesting to note that most of the crimes are not committed by hate-filled criminals, but rather by otherwise law-abiding citizens who do not see any wrong in their actions.

Religious Opposition

The stand of religious sectors towards the LGBTQ was revealed when the Supreme Court delivered a judgment in 2013, upholding Section 377[4] of the Indian Penal Code. Maulana Madni of the Islamic Jamiat Ulema stated that “Homosexuality is a crime according to scriptures and is unnatural.” The Vice President of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad was quoted saying, “Homosexuality is against Indian culture, against nature and against science.”

Baba Ramdev, who is a well-known yoga-guru had stated to a few journalists who interviewed him that homosexuality is an addiction that can be cured through yoga.

Tackling Crimes

In countries that criminalize same sex intimacy, the LGBTQ victims of crimes are reluctant to report to the police, as the police themselves are often the perpetrators of such crimes.

In order to avoid victimization, many members attempt to change the way they look, speak and act. For instance, the Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act enacted in Nigeria in 2014 instilled fear in gay men. A 21-year-old gay man in Lagos interviewed by Human Rights Watch in 2016 stated:

“I act very normal and pretend to be straight wherever I go. I have to act normal so that I don’t bring attention to myself. If you don’t act normal, all eyes will be on you and you don’t want that to happen.”[5]

Social media platforms are now widely used for raising awareness about the rights of the LGBTQ community as well as the issues faced by them. It is praise-worthy to note that many people have come forward to acknowledge that they have been anti-LGBTQ before, but has now “unlearned” this and started to accept the community.

Conclusion

Many jurisdictions around the world do not keep a record of the hate crimes against LGBTQ. With proper policies and training, it is possible to enact legislations that help fight hate crimes. The legislations need to be crafted in such a manner that the society must get the message that such crimes will not be tolerated. It can make a difference as to how criminal justice system tackles crimes against the LGBTQ community. Broader equality must also be ensured across all forms of law, including de-criminalizing consensual same sex sexual acts and enacting anti-discrimination laws.[6] The countries must also ensure that the victims of such crimes get the justice that they deserve.


[1] https://www.hrc.org/resources/2018-lgbtq-youth-report Accessed 23rd September 2020

[2]https://www.thenewcivilrightsmovement.com/2014/04/widows_bludgeoned_to_death_in_honor_killing_for_lesbian_relationship/ Accessed 23rd September 2020

[3] https://www.evawintl.org/Library/DocumentLibraryHandler.ashx?id=470 Accessed 22nd September 2020

[4] https://www.dnaindia.com/india/report-rare-unity-religious-leaders-come-out-in-support-of-section-377-1933612 Accessed 23rd September 2020

[5] https://www.hrw.org/sites/default/files/report_pdf/nigeria1016_web.pdf Accessed 23rd September 2020

[6] Schweppe, J, Haynes, A and Walters, M (2018). Lifecycle of a Hate Crime: Comparative report. Dublin: Irish Council for Civil Liberties.

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