Amnesty decries sex-abuser states
June 23, 2001
More than 70 countries have laws which criminalise homosexual relations and, in some cases, act as a licence for torture and ill-treatment, according to an Amnesty International report published yesterday.
In Iran, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia and Chechnya gay sex can lead to the death penalty.
The report, Crimes of Hate, Conspiracy of Silence, shows that people are tortured to extract confessions of "deviance" and raped to "cure" them of it, and that they are sometimes killed by death squads in societies where the authorities oftenregard them as "disposable garbage".
Launching the report at the Cadogan Hotel in London, where Oscar Wilde was arrested for homosexuality in 1895, the UK director of Amnesty International, Kate Allen, said: "Laws which police the bedroom and criminalise a kiss are part of a web of global discrimination which is helping to perpetuate an appalling level of human rights abuse against people solely because of their sexual identity.
"We need to break the silence and challenge the laws and practices that can lead to sexual identity-based abuse."
The report highlights the imprisonment of the Malaysian deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim on charges of sodomy.
Amnesty adopted him as a prisoner of conscience after it concluded that the charges were a politically motivated response to his calls for political reform. The three men who admitted being sodomised had their confessions extracted by torture, Amnesty says.
"Alarming levels of abuse" have been documented by Amnesty in several Latin American countries against transsexuals - often seen as the "ultimate gender outlaws".
The information has come from the courageous work of transgender-rights activists, the report says, but in many states abuses are often hidden by silence and indifference.
Extreme homophobia has been encouraged by the media, too. Two years ago the Island newspaper in Sri Lanka - where homosexuality is punishable by up to 12 years in jail - carried a letter protesting about a lesbian conference in Colombo, said Amnesty.
The writer called for the police "to let loose convicted rapists among the jubilant but jaded Jezebels ... so that those who are misguided may get a taste of the real thing".
A complaint to the press council was rejected because lesbianism was "an act of sadism" and "misguided and erratic women should be corrected and allowed to understand the ... reality of life".
Some of the worst documented cases of state violence against gays comes from the US, where prison officers have been accused of allowing violence against homosexual inmates as a "management tool".
Amnesty compliments the growth of movements around the world to defend gay rights and highlights a victory in China, whose psychiatric association agreed two months ago to delete homosexuality from its list of mental disorders.