Archive for the 'Hate crimes' Category

“Not even a beast would do such things” – one woman’s experience of transphobic violence in Kyrgyzstan

August 3, 2010

Screen grab from "Violence against transgender people in Kyrgyzstan", 2008It’s nearly a month since I last wrote about the injustices and danger faced by trans women in Kyrgyzstan and in the meantime, Anna Kirey, Senior Advisor and Board Member at Labrys Kyrgyzstan and I have exchanged a few emails. Although I don’t want to go into too much detail in this public forum, I will say that it’s been a very instructive exchange for me, and I hope we are able to continue it and that I can write further about it soon.

In the meantime, in her latest email, Anna sent a link to a 4-minute long YouTube video (made by Labrys in collaboration with the Global Fund For Women) which I’m posting here. It records one woman’s experience of transphobic violence in Kyrgyzstan.

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Trigger warning: The video and its subtitles contain graphic descriptions – including of rape and violence – of the experiences of a trans woman, and her subsequent mistreatment by the authorities when she and a representative of Labrys tried to report the attack.

If you feel this might be triggering for you, please do not play the video.

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(Direct link: www.youtube.com/watch?v=HtVTgFuB79Y)

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Kyrgyzstan: “No penis, no passport”

July 6, 2010

It’s nearly two years since I wrote about the complete erasure of Kyrgyz trans women by Human Rights Watch in their report These Everyday Humiliations: Violence Against Lesbians, Bisexual Women, and Transgender Men in Kyrgyzstan (direct link to 48-page PDF). I emailed the Advocacy Director of HRW’s LGBT Rights Program querying why there was no mention of trans women and was told that:

[HRW] relied on information and contacts, provided by our colleagues from the Kyrgyz LGBT organization Labrys. They could not find trans women who were willing to give testimony.

And yet, if we assume the NHS estimate that 1 in 4,000 people is receiving medical help for gender dysphoria is both reasonably accurate and generally representative (yeah, I know, big assumptions), then for a country with a population of some 5.4 million people (via Wikipedia) it doesn’t take a lot of prodding at a calculator to come up with a guesstimate that there may be around 1350 trans people in the Kyrgyz Republic today.

In addition, we know from the HRW report that there are Kyrgyz trans men and, again drawing on the NHS estimates, the ratio of trans women to trans men is reported to be 5:1. Another quick jab at the calculator would suggest therefore, that there could be around 1125 trans women in Kyrgyzstan.

So where are they? Why don’t they show up in NGO and governmental reports and statistics? Why are Kyrgyz trans women so completely invisible to the world at large?

Perhaps this article at eurasianet offers some clues. As the writer, Dalton Bennett (a freelance journalist based in Bishkek), points out, there are real obstacles to transitioning:

Though, legally, Kyrgyz citizens have the right to change their sexual identification, “there are no mechanisms for implementation of this law. The lack of relevant documents that define this process is a barrier to exercise this right,” says Erik Iriskulbekov, a lawyer at the Adilet Legal Clinic in Bishkek and member of the Ministry of Health’s working group.

Under existing legislation, transgender individuals are required to submit a medical form to their local civil registry certifying them as “transsexuals” in order to change their documents. But the form in question does not exist, activists complain. The process thus leaves their gender ambiguous.

This was confirmed by Anna Kirey, Senior Adviser at Labrys Kyrgyzstan during a telephone interview with HRW researchers in 2007:

Ministry of Health policy allows transgender people in Kyrgyzstan in principle to undergo sex reassignment surgery (SRS), and afterward they may legally change their gender in official identity papers. However, SRS is not now performed in the medical system in Kyrgyzstan—and complete SRS is a condition for legal identity change. A Ministry of Health representative told Labrys in May 2007 that it recognized the need for improved procedures for legal identity change and that it was developing a more streamlined process. In the meantime, transgender men (and women) experience tremendous hardship as a result of having a legal identity in limbo.

And this quote from the eurasianet article only emphasises the seemingly Kafkaesque nature of obtaining parity between one’s core sex identity and legal status:

“One person denied the right to change his documents was told in court, ‘No penis, No passport,’ and the judge struck his gavel. They said this in court!” exclaims Akram Kubanychbek, a member of the Ministry of Health’s working group. Kubanychbek is a transgender man who changed his passport’s gender marker with the help of an inexperienced yet compassionate bureaucrat.

Recent UNHRC recommendations have been accepted by the Kyrgyz government. As yet, they haven’t been implemented; nevertheless Anna Kirey hopes this acceptance will eventually lead to a much greater understanding of the rights of trans and GLB issues:

“It’s unusual for a Central Asian country to accept any [recommended approaches] to sexual orientation,” Kirey says. “I feel the new government is going to give us a lot more space for bringing LGBT issues into a more mainstream human rights agenda.”

I hope that the human rights of the hundreds of invisible trans women will be included in this process of change and that serious efforts will be made to reach out to them; although I don’t think anyone is under any illusion that the much-needed changes in Kyrgyzstan are going to happen overnight. A profound shift is needed in the attitudes of the general population too, and that is going to take time. The question is whether Kyrgyz trans women are able to survive the wait.

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Curtsey to Richard for the heads-up

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Seattle: cis man pleads not guilty to hate crime following violent street harassment

June 18, 2010

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about a cis man’s violent street harassment of a woman who was waiting at a Seattle bus stop, minding her own business. Now, via KOMO News I see the case has reached the courts (minor edits for clarity):

A man charged with a hate crime for the bus stop beating of a transgender woman pleaded not guilty to the charge on Thursday.

Daniel Patrick Woodward is charged with malicious harassment in connection with the incident at the bus stop at NW Market St. and 15th Ave. NW on May 30.

According to charging documents, Woodward approached the victim, who was dressed as a woman and identifies as one, punched and kicked [her], called [her] a derogatory term for homosexual and said, “You ought to die and go to hell!”

A witness also heard disparaging comments related to the victim’s gender or sexual orientation and told police it was clear Woodward was attacking the victim because she was transgender, charging documents say.

Woodward appeared intoxicated at the time of arrest, according to police. He currently is being held on $250,000 bail at the King County Jail.

At the time of his arrest, Woodward had a no-bail felony warrant for escape. He has had numerous prior convictions, including for malicious harassment, assault, and reckless endangerment.

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Cross-posted at Questioning Transphobia

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Puerto Rico: committee to document the extent of hate crimes

June 13, 2010

Via Associated Press:

A special committee to investigate hate crimes has been created in Puerto Rico, where advocates say gay and transgender people are the victims of an “epidemic” of violence.

The announcement by the attorney general was cheered Saturday by activists who complain the government has yet to invoke 2002 legislation establishing harsher penalties for crimes based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

“I think this is a step in the right direction to start to collect statistics that are vital to curb the crisis of violence against the gay community in Puerto Rico,” said Pedro Julio Serrano, a native of the U.S. territory and spokesman for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.

Serrano said 25 slayings of gay and transgender people in the past eight years may have been motivated by bias […]

The new government committee involves agencies including the U.S. Attorney’s Office in San Juan, police officials and the island’s civil rights commission, according to a statement release by the attorney general late Friday.

“With the creation of this committee, we will document the extent of hate crimes,” said Attorney General Guillermo Somoza Colombani, who added that the data will help develop policies to attend to the victims.

[…]

A recent string of high-profile slayings, however, has put pressure on the government. Some of the cases have received broad local news media coverage, including the April killing of a 31-year-old transgender beauty salon owner.

“It’s sort of an epidemic,” Serrano said. “It’s too much to be ignored.”

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Cross-posted at Questioning Transphobia

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Seattle: cis man charged with hate crime following violent street harassment

June 4, 2010

Via Seattle PI and King5:

A man was charged Thursday with malicious harassment — the state’s hate crime statute — after police said he yelled a derogatory slur at a transgender woman and assaulted her.

[…]

Court documents allege the suspect, 51-year-old Daniel Patrick Woodward, told the victim she “ought to die and go to hell” after yelling the slur. [Via Seattle PI]

“The victim was waiting minding her own business when the suspect approached her and without provocation began assaulting her,” said Renee Witt, Seattle Police spokesperson. “Apparently he punched her in the face a number of times, threw her to the ground and kicked her.” [Via King5]

The Ballard victim told police she was fearful for her life and wanted to have medical attention for face and neck pain. She was taken to Ballard Swedish Hospital.

[…]

A witness who reported seeing Woodward yelling at the victim after the assault followed the suspect as he walked into a nearby store. He later pointed out the suspect to officers.

Police say Woodward was found near Northwest 54th Street and 14th Avenue Northwest and arrested for investigation of assault.

“The suspect appeared intoxicated and had a strong odor of intoxicants,” Officer Trung Nguyen wrote in an incident report. “He would not respond to my questions of whether he understood his rights.”

The victim was ashamed that someone would assault her based on gender, according to police. Nguyen photographed the victim’s injuries as evidence, and a witness said she did not fight back. [Via Seattle PI]

There’s also coverage in The Seattle Times but the misgendering by the writer, staff reporter Susan Kelleher, is pretty close to hate speech of itself, in my opinion. I realise that the police report also misgenders the victim, but I’m not convinced that is reason enough to use the kind of language that Ms Kelleher does – especially when “a police spokeswoman clarified that the victim identifies herself as a woman” [Via].

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Curtsey to Stefani for the heads-up

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Cross-posted at Questioning Transphobia

New York: woman murdered for being a woman

April 2, 2010

Undated photo of Amanda Gonzalez-Andujar (L) who was found dead at 69-30 62nd Street in Queens. She is pictured with her friend Barbara Vega on the right. Credit: Michael J. FeeneyHospital worker Amanda Gonzalez-Andujar was found dead in her New York apartment last Tuesday, various sources have reported. She had been strangled, there were signs of a struggle in the apartment and detectives suspect she was killed by a man she had been dating.

A friend, Barbara Vega, said Ms Gonzalez-Andujar’s laptop was missing from the apartment and that police were analysing surveillance video taken from inside the building apparently showing “a man whose face was difficult to make out”.

The treatment by the media of Ms Gonzalez-Andujar’s murder has followed a well-worn pattern, focusing on the fact that Ms. Gonzalez-Andujar was a trans woman to produce numerous lurid reports with only the most cursory mention of the relevant facts.

Articles have heaped on the discrimination: reference to her medical transition sensationalises the story; descriptions of what she was wearing add trans-misogyny, and the deliberate misuse of pronouns is simply cissexist. Perhaps the worst culprit in this has been the New York Times, which not only managed to misgender her throughout, but also initially managed to misreport the manner of her death. Although the report was later amended, by then it has achieved its purpose of propagating false assumptions about trans women.

Amongst all this misreporting, a couple of facts stand out to me. First, as a Latin@ trans woman, Ms Gonzalez-Andujar was already at a far greater risk of murder than a white trans woman: as the Trans Murder Monitoring project pointed out in its preliminary report last July, the murder rate is between 75-88% higher for women in this group than for white trans women.

The second thing missing is any form of context of trans murders. Misreporting by the police and the media contributes to the erasure of the murder rates of trans women, yet each and every murder is one more manifestation of the international undeclared war that is being waged against us – and this is never mentioned.

Last year’s stats average out to a murder rate of one trans woman every 52.5 hours – over three a week – and this is on the basis of known, recorded murders; it’s a reasonable assumption that the actual figure is much higher. But even working from the known figures, a quick ‘back of an envelope’ calculation suggests that, if this murder rate was applied to cis women, then at least 1,332,000 cis women globally would have been murdered in the past two years, for nothing more or less than being cis women.

Cases like Ms Gonzalez-Andujar’s are immeasurably sad and the disrespect shown to her after death is inexcusable, but her murder is only the latest in an epidemic that is escalating out of control worldwide. In that context, I have to question why her murder is deemed more newsworthy than any of the other of my sisters, and why the hundreds of others remain unreported and unremarked.

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Scotland’s new hate crime law

March 23, 2010

From a press release by the Equality Network about Scotland’s new hate crime law, which will come into effect tomorrow, 24 March 2010:

[…] The new law is called the Offences (Aggravation by Prejudice) (Scotland) Act. It will mean that homo/biphobic, transphobic and disability-prejudice crime is properly recognised as hate crime.

This is the first transgender-inclusive hate crime legislation in Europe, and has the most inclusive definition of transgender identity in any European legislation.

From tomorrow, any criminal offence which is partly or wholly motivated by prejudice on grounds of disability, sexual orientation or transgender identity, will be dealt with as a hate crime all the way through the system.

The offence could for example be an assault, or vandalism, or verbal threats and abuse which can be charged as breach of the peace, or any other crime. If the person committing the offence uses homo/biphobic, transphobic, or disability-prejudice language, or if there is any other evidence of their prejudiced motive, that makes it a hate crime.

If anyone witnessing a crime thinks it was a hate crime, the police must record it as a hate incident. If there is any evidence of the hate motive, for example prejudiced language was used, it will be charged as a hate crime. If the person charged is found guilty, the hate motive will be taken into account in sentencing – and the court must say publicly what difference the hate motive made to the sentence. […]

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Cross-posted at Questioning Transphobia and The F-Word)

Judging a book by its cover

March 22, 2010

A report in IOL South Africa details the horrific prison experience of a cis woman, Denise Abbah, who was incorrectly registered by prison authorities as ‘Denis’ instead of ‘Denise’ and consequently detained in a cis men’s prison cell for seven months. During this time, she was raped and sodomised.

“They just refused to believe that I was a woman. They thought I was a man who had undergone a sex change [sic]. I told them about my children at home, but it didn’t help.”

“When I told the female wardens that I was menstruating, they refused to believe me, saying the bleeding was a result of the sex change operation that I had,” said Abbah.

Having been cleared of all charges against her, Ms Abbah is now suing the Department of Correctional Services for damages, although I wonder if any amount of money can ever repair the trauma and distress that she must be suffering.

And even though she’s apparently been cleared of all charges, the authorities have decided to add one further insult to the injuries Ms Abbah has suffered:

Abbah is expected to undergo gender testing ahead of her legal battle against the Department of Correctional Services.

Because, y’know, once you’ve been tainted by the brush of trans panic, then the rest of decent, law-abiding, equally bigoted cissexist society assumes the right to know for sure that you really are who you say you are. And, after all, we know how successful ‘gender testing’ has been in the IAAF’s witch-hunt against Caster Semenya, don’t we?

Finally – and I expect I shall probably be accused of being a heartless cynic (and probably worse) for daring to recentre the discussion away from cis people – I should add that human rights breaches like this happen to trans women around the world with monotonous and depressing regularity.

For example, I’ve recently written about the trans woman prisoner referred to only as ‘B’ who was incarcerated in a cis men’s prison for five years; Nastaran Kolestani in the U.S.- held for 18 months before her case came to court – and a Spanish trans woman who was held in a cis men’s prison for eleven years – yes, eleven years – before she was granted the basic human rights that many of us take for granted.

But this is not about creating hierarchies of oppression – Ms Abbah’s treatment has been utterly barbaric: seven minutes would have been too long, let alone seven months – but to point out that comprehensive breaches of human rights are inflicted on trans women prisoners with almost sadistic cruelty over time periods of years, not months.

What makes Ms Abbah’s case different is the way it sets up a mirror image of the reasoning used to justify the abuses against trans women. In the case of trans women, the usual pattern is that, no matter your legal status (for example, ‘B’ was in possession of a Gender Recognition Certificate), if the powers-that-be have any doubts about you, they will apply a biological essentialist metric and judge you on your genital configuration: if you have a penis you must be male, if you have a vagina, you are female. The paradox that Ms Abbah ran into was that, although her genitalia were visually typically female, her (misrecorded) documentation showed a typically male name – and it seems it was that which justified the prison authorities’ decision to send her to a gender-inappropriate prison. The sick irony is, of course, that had that reasoning been applied to ‘B’, Nastaran Kolestani and the Spanish woman, all would have been sent to women’s prisons. As I have said before:

The character Mr. Bumble in Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist may well have had a point when he said “the law is a [sic] ass — a idiot”; unfortunately it’s an ass with a powerful kick.

Turkey: cis man sentenced to life imprisonment for deliberate homicide and aggravated looting

January 25, 2010

cagla_tunali_eylemi_23_05_09_19In May 2009 I wrote about the murder of Çağla, who was stabbed to death in her home in Ankara.

Now, via Bianet, I read that last Wednesday (20 January 2010), the Ankara 5th High Criminal Court found Murat Olgun G, the cis man accused of Çağla’s murder, guilty of deliberate homicide with the aim of concealing a crime.

[…] the defendant had confessed the murder of his victim Çağla at her home in Ankara on 21 May 2009. He admitted that he had stolen three mobile phones from the apartment and also took TL 400 [less than £170], money he was going to receive for a web site. Murat Olgun G. furthermore said that he cut the cables of the security cameras when he left the building and dropped the murder weapon, a knife, into a trash container at Demetevler.

The prosecution had demanded that the cis man be charged under the Turkish Criminal Code (TCK) for “aggravated looting of the victim’s home at night” and “intentional murder to conceal the crime”. The defendant’s council countered with every cis murderer’s excuse of choice, the trans panic defence (known as the clause of “unjust provocation” under the TCK).

Thankfully the court rejected the defence plea and sentenced the cis man to life imprisonment in solitary confinement without parole, on the grounds of deliberate homicide with the aim of concealing a crime. Additionally, he was sentenced to 12 years imprisonment for aggravated looting of Çağla’s home, although the court exercised leniency and reduced this part of the sentence to only 10 years.

Although no prison sentence can ever compensate for the violent murder of any trans woman, it is to be hoped that this generally just and reasonable verdict will send a message to those bigoted cis people who are waging a war against Turkish trans women, that hate crimes like this will not be tolerated by the courts. I also hope that other Turkish courts will take this decision into consideration against transphobic hate crimes in future.

My sympathies go to Çağla’s family and friends.

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Previous posts related to the continuing war against trans women in Turkey:

  • Human rights violations against LGBT individuals in Turkey in 2008 (August 9, 2009)
  • Turkey: trials in connection with the murders of two trans women now under way (July 9, 2009)
  • Unsafe haven: LGBT asylum seekers and refugees in Turkey (July 8, 2009)
  • Turkey – new Chief of Police for Istanbul. Will this bring an end to the “undeclared war” against trans women? (June 15, 2009)
  • Turkish policemen on trial for attack on trans woman (May 29, 2009)
  • Turkey: another trans woman stabbed to death – UPDATE (May 29, 2009)
  • Turkey: another trans woman stabbed to death (May 25, 2009)
  • Turkish parliament questioned on trans safety (May 12, 2009)
  • Lambda Istanbul granted permission to continue operating (May 7, 2009)
  • Suspected murderer of trans rights activist arrested in Turkey (April 21, 2009)
  • Every 15 days, another trans person is murdered in Turkey (April 14, 2009)
  • The undeclared war against LGBTT people in Turkey continues (March 29, 2009)
  • Another trans woman murdered in Turkey (March 14, 2009)
  • Trans woman stabbed to death in Istanbul (March 12, 2009)
  • Lambda Istanbul wins appeal against closure (January 28, 2009)
  • Trans rights abuses in Turkey (November 29, 2008)
  • Houston, TX: Candlelight vigil for Myra Ical on Monday, January 25

    January 23, 2010

    Via the Transgender Foundation of America:

    Myra Ical’s partially clothed body was found Monday, January 18. This was a particularly brutal murder and [Houston Police] confirmed that she went down fighting for her life. Every news report has characterized the victim as a cross-dressing man who was in an area known for drugs and prostitution. The media coverage seems Orwellian considering that the Detective in charge of the case pointedly informed me that “There is absolutely no evidence to support the notion that drugs and/or prostitution was in any way involved with the murder.” Yet, reports continue to insinuate the opposite.

    I want to invite all of you to attend a candlelight vigil to be held on Monday, January 25 at 6 pm to honor Myra Ical, whose body was found last Monday in the 4300 block of Garrott St near Richmond Avenue.

    The memorial will include two moments of silence, one for Ms. Ical and another for the 6 transgender Houstonians who have been murdered since 1999 whose crimes remain unsolved, as well as a moment of noise-making to recognize that it is silence that allows the perpetrators of crime to go unpunished.

    The time for silence has ended

    Houston Police have no leads in the case. Anyone with information is encouraged to call the Transgender Foundation of America at
    713-520-8586.

    The Memorial will be held at the site where Ms. Ical’s body was found, at the vacant lot at 4300 Garrott. Attendees are encouraged to bring noisemakers. Candles will be provided.

    After the memorial, you are encouraged to attend the HTGA meeting scheduled for 7:30 at our new location in the Havens Center located about 2 miles from the memorial site: 1805 W. Alabama, Houston

    Further info on these two Facebook pages, here and here

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    Cross-posted at Questioning Transphobia