Horrors of orientation bias come out of closet

KOLKATA, 25 DEC: At a time when gay rights activists in the country complain that daily incidents of violence have increased after the public debate and court ruling on Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) has released the first report on discriminatory laws and practices and acts of violence against individuals based on their sexual orientation and gender identity.
The report, released last week by the UN Office for the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Geneva, outlines “a pattern of human rights violations that demands a response”, and says governments have too often overlooked violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Violence against LGBT persons tends to be especially vicious compared to other bias-motivated crimes, the 25-page report stated.
However, activists say that daily harassment of people with different sexual orientation has become very blatant now with gays, lesbians and transgenders coming out of the closet and thus becoming identified.
Mr Anindya Hazra, an activist with Pratyay Gender Trust, said: “Because of this visibility issue, attacks have become more pronounced. Homophobia is more clearly being acted out now than it had ever before.”
Workplace harassment and discrimination have become a part of the lives of such people and so have the hate remarks and gestures directed to such people on street every day, he added.
A person, who did not want to be identified, said that it is useless to pick fight with people “who harass us even after Sec 377 had been repealed as even the police is apathetic to the issue”.
“Even if we complain to police, there is seldom any action. We fear we might even get harassed at the police station,” he said. It may be noted that Trans Murder Monitoring project, which collects reports of murders of transgender persons in all regions, lists 680 murders in 50 countries during the period from 2008 to 2011.
The report also states that the Special Rapporteur on violence against women recently reported alleged incidents of gang rapes, family violence and murder experienced by lesbian, bisexual and transgender women in several other countries.
The Rapporteur noted that “lesbian women face an increased risk of becoming victims of violence, especially rape, because of widely held prejudices and myths”, including “for instance, that lesbian women would change their sexual orientation if they are raped by a man”.
The report ~ prepared in response to a request from the UN Human Rights Council earlier this year ~ draws from information included in past UN reporting, official statistics on hate crimes where there are available, and reporting by regional organisations and some NGOs. In the report, Ms Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, calls on countries to harmonise the age of consent for heterosexual and homosexual conduct and enact comprehensive anti-discrimination laws.
The report calls for all the countries to hold programmes against homophobia.
The report, which will be discussed by Council members at a meeting in March next year, has been released as top UN officials have increasingly raised concerns about human rights violations against LGBT people.

Soma Basu


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