Trans and gender-diverse people are criminalised, harassed and abused by law enforcement “across all regional, religious and cultural borders,” a global report by the Human Dignity Trust (HDT) has found.

Published to mark the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia (IDAHOBIT) on Friday (May 17), the Injustice Exposed: The Criminalisation of Transgender People and its Impact report shows that even in countries with no laws directly targeting trans people, law enforcement will use other existing laws to harass them.



“It is truly shocking that in many countries around the world, regardless of the legislative landscape, it is the police who are most feared by trans and gender-diverse people,” said Téa Braun, HDT’s Director.

“The very people who are meant to protect them and uphold their rights are their oppressors, and often act with complete impunity.”

The report provides case studies of how state authorities commit violence against trans and gender-diverse people “without any purported justification in law.”

The violence against trans people is not justified in law

At least nine countries across Africa, Asia and the Middle East target trans people through laws mentioning “cross-dressing.”

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One case study quotes a Guyanese trans woman who was “beaten with rope, embarrassed in front of others at the police station, stamped on, dragged through the drains, taken outside to clean the station yard” under the country’s “cross-dressing” laws.

The “cross-dressing law” in Guyana has been revoked since then.

Transgender flag
Trans people are globally targeted. (ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)

Other legislations used to criminalise and target trans people across the world include “disguise” or “impersonation” laws—which target trans people on the basis of their gender expression—laws on consensual same-sex intimacy, and various misdemeanour offences.

“I will give you a scarring sentence”

A case study in Malawi describes a transgender woman and cisgender man who were arrested for “indecent practices between males.”

The judge in the case sentenced them to 14 years of hard labour and told the couple: “I will give you a scarring sentence so that the public be protected from people like you, so that we are not tempted to emulate this horrendous example.”

LGBT+ rights activists praised the report for highlighting the issue of law enforcement’s harassment of trans and gender-diverse people.

“It is tremendously important that research documents the direct and indirect ways that laws are used to regulate trans and gender diverse people in our daily lives,” said Zhan Chiam, ILGA’s Gender Identity and Gender Expression Programme Coordinator.

He added: “I am immensely grateful to HDT for investing in this topic and making this data available.

“What is clear from this report is that authorities use laws they have at their disposal to control elements of society that are undervalued. Trans people, especially those who are also sex workers, poor, immigrants, with disabilities, or of colour, are further targeted.”




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