Govt Should Condemn Discrimination Against LGBT Community: HRW

By The Irrawaddy 3 September 2015

RANGOON — Human Rights Watch on Wednesday called on the Burmese government to publicly condemn discriminatory remarks about gay and transgender people made by officials in Mandalay.

In a letter to Mandalay Division Chief Minister Ye Myint, the group pointed out “misinformed, discriminatory, and potentially inflammatory statements” made recently in the divisional Parliament, urging the government to ensure equal rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people.

Last month, divisional lawmaker Tin Tin Mar tabled a discussion about action being taken against gay and transgender people “acting inappropriately,” prompting the division’s Minister of Border and Security Affairs, Myint Kyu, to call on police to arrest gay people.

“The existence of gay men who assume they are women is unacceptable and therefore we are constantly taking action to have the gays detained at police stations, educate them, then hand them back to their parents,” the minister told the divisional Parliament.

“The Burmese government should immediately condemn the statements made by a member of the regional parliament and a regional minister, and should pledge publicly to protect the fundamental rights of all people regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity,” Graeme Reid, director of the rights group’s LGBT program, wrote to Ye Myint.

The letter also pointed out that authorities in the central Burma division have a history of discriminatory profiling practices. In July 2013, police arbitrarily arrested 10 gay men and transgender women who were reportedly abused in detention.

Burma’s colonial-era penal code criminalizes same-sex sexual behavior under Section 377, leaving the LGBT community highly at risk of arrest and abuse. Human Rights Watch said in a statement that such laws “should be repealed.”

“Construing LGBT people as criminals and investigating them simply on the basis of their real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity violates Burma’s international human rights obligations,” read Reid’s letter to the minister, who was not immediately available for comment.

“The Burmese government, including its regional governments, have an obligation to respect the rights to freedom of expression and assembly of LGBT people and ensure no one is subjected to arbitrary arrest or detention.”