PHILIPPINES: Lesbians and Bisexual Women in Asia Face Stigma and Violence

Friday, May 16, 2014
Thomson Reuters Foundation
PeaceWomen Consolidated Themes: 
Human Rights

BANGKOK (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – In Sri Lanka, formerly friendly neighbours threatened two women with rape after discovering they were a lesbian couple. In the Philippines, several men publicly beat up a transgender woman, cut her hair and threatened her with a gun because “they were offended by her wearing a dress”.

Such verbal, physical and emotional abuse in Asia against lesbians, bisexual women, and transgender (LBT) people is pervasive and often condoned by the authorities, leading many to contemplate suicide, according to a new report by the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC).

Family members are the primary perpetrators of violence against LBT people in Asia and emotional violence, which intensifies over time and usually precedes physical violence, was the most commonly reported form of abuse, researchers found.

"LBT people faced this frequent violence and daily discrimination without any protection from the state," said the report, based on a two-year research in Japan, Malaysia, Pakistan, Philippines and Sri Lanka.

Laws criminalising same-sex relationships fuel the violence, it said, and accused governments of tolerating, endorsing and supporting the violent clampdowns on LBT people and government-controlled media and state-supported religious leaders of preaching intolerance.

"High-level government officials endorsed intolerance and even actively participated in promoting harmful messages that encouraged abuse or discrimination against LBT individuals," the report said.


Women in same-sex relationships or transgender people who suffer violence or abuse found they had little recourse to justice.

"Victims of violence were disadvantaged even before they could seek redress … due to the risk of being criminalised by the state, stigmatised by society, vilified by religious groups, and rejected by family when their identities or explanations of the violence were revealed," the report said.

"The state must ensure a supportive environment for all women's rights, not merely the rights of some women," it urged.

It also called on governments to denounce the use of religion to stigmatise or commit violence against LBT people.

The violence and lack of protection have led many LBT people in Asia to contemplate suicide.

Over half of the interviewees in Japan said they had "considered suicide", according to IGLHRC.

"In the five countries we researched, there were no available measures to counter cycles of violence. LBT individuals in some cases came to view suicide as the only way to cope with the violence in their lives," it said.