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Gays in Burma allege sexual abuse by police

12 gays and transgender individuals were detained for hours, stripped off and humiliated
Ko Chit Tae, a gay Burmese spirit medium

Gays and transgender individuals detained in a weekend crackdown by police officers in Burma’s second-biggest city have accused them of sexual abuse.

From an area in Mandalay frequented by sexual minorities, law officers arrested 12 people last Saturday night, three of whom were charged with disturbing the public, The Irrawaddy reports.

They have since complained about sexual abuse after being interned for hours without reasons for the confinement.

‘We were pushed roughly and handcuffed tightly,’ said Myat Noe, one of the detained. ‘When we arrived at the divisional police office, the police forcibly pulled off our clothes, kicked us and beat us.

Our breasts were squeezed, scratched and beaten with police batons. And they forced us to do frog jumps, without clothes, and shout that we are not women but men. I’ve never experienced terror like this.’

Myat Noe, who belongs to a famous gay dance troupe, said: ‘When we did as they said, we were beaten again because our voices sound feminine. They slapped our faces and shouted out, “Shout like a man! Sound like a man!”’

Stripping gays naked is a common police tactic, as are forcing them to act more manly. Possession of condoms, as in the current case, is often used as an excuse to detain, harass, or even blackmail gays and transgenders.

All these have much to do with the colonial section 377, which criminalizes ‘unnatural’ sex and hence homosexuality. Another law, 3D, allows officers to arrest people acting suspiciously.

The detainees were released on bail after about four hours behind bars, and were forced to sign an agreement not to dress like women or go near the Sedona Hotel area, where many homosexuals and other trans sex workers gather.

According to the police, the Saturday crackdown was carried out in response to public complaints, but none would be charged.

They argued the detained wore padded undergarments and it was their duty to prevent prohibited unnecessary things from entering the cell.

Aung Myo Min, director of Equality Myanmar, called for punishment for the alleged police abuse.

He told Gay Star News that the rights group also known as HREIB is filing a report to the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission and the Mandalay Division Government. There will be a press conference tomorrow (14 Jul) in Mandalay.

But with few to turn to, Chan Chan, a gay activist who was taken into custody, said the gay community in Mandalay was living in fear of another crackdown.

The situation in the normally gay-friendly central Burmese city has worsened recently with the arrival of a homophobic police chief, according to Aung Myo Min.

HREIB has earlier carried out focus groups and individual interviews with 24 LGBTs from five different cities, including Rangoon.

All respondents had experienced 'some level of discrimation'. LGBT people 'are victims of numerous discriminatory acts and even crimes, committed both by ordinary citizens as well as law enforcement and state agents,' HREIB’s report says.

The situation is such that Burmese gay men have developed their own language to both conceal and signify their sexuality by, for example, twisting the pronunciation.

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