The queer community is under a hateful spotlight – but little is being done to combat it.
Life is often framed as progressive – that we’re in an age where rights are recognised, upheld and respected. More and more, that idea is shown up as something that we merely tell ourselves to make us feel better because there’s so much that still hasn’t been achieved, and so many rights that are under threat right now.
In the US, while Trump makes knee-jerk tweets about trans rights, the third trans woman this year has been reported murdered. Additionally, within the space of one week, four black lesbians were murdered. In Indonesia, there has been a crackdown on queer people with an increase of raids and arrests, as well as a renewed push to criminalise same-sex sexual acts. During the debates, one MP (Muslim Ayub) claimed that queer people should face the death penalty or life in prison. Ayub then claimed that he and his party, National Mandate Party (PAN), would not stop at criminalising same-sex sexual acts.
In Ecuador, violence against queer people is prevalent. Activists have claimed that queer men and queer women are being subjected to ‘conversion therapy’ – a false attempt to try to ‘cure’ gay and bi people of their sexuality and romantic identity. It is alleged at these clinics that queer people are beaten and raped. There have been six cases involving allegations of human rights abuses in such clinics against queer people since 2012, but nobody (as yet) has faced any punishment or been found guilty. This is despite the fact that Ecuador seemed to be making legislative progress; in 2016 a law passed allowing people to choose their gender on identity cards. However, legislative changes aren’t always enough.
“Legislative changes aren’t always enough”
South Africa has pushed hard for queer rights and was the first country to legalise same-sex marriage. However, violence is pervasive against the queer community as they are one of the communities most targeted by violence. Lesbians were at especially high risk, and are often subjected to ‘corrective’ rapes. However, some faced double-risk factors for oppressions, such as trans sex workers. Trans people are at increased risk of poverty and so may rely on sex work, putting trans women at even greater risk of violence.
Bermuda exemplifies that rights are not enshrined. It is the first country that is set to repeal same-sex marriage laws. The move has sparked fierce debate in Britain. Bermuda is still a British international territory which means our Government could block a legislation change – however, the UK Government has stepped aside. While many human rights campaigners understandably want to protect queer people in Bermuda, the situation is far more complex. The fact Britain still has overseas territories and can intervene in the legislation of other nations is seen as one of the last surviving facets of British imperialism and colonialism. The UK’s intervention could risk increasing tensions between the nations and cause even greater resentment for the queer community. Globally, many see queer identities as frivolous Western identities, and it was historically the UK that imported queerphobic laws to many countries.
Does the UK’s silence equal complicity? Or do we have to work with other nations so that it doesn’t seem to be imposing British morality? Furthermore, the UK has its own problems. In recent months, the media has been almost relentless with its attacks on the trans community. The British queer community isn’t even in this fight together. Radical feminists, many of whom are gay, are framing trans women as a threat to women’s rights. The queer community and feminism should be working towards progress together, but the internal battles are creating a toxic climate where trans people are constantly attracting negative media attention. Hate crimes for the trans community are already incredibly high (and hate crimes against queer people exploded after Brexit), but the UK is doing little to protect trans people from what is essentially a hate mob.
The UK’s silence has wider implications. Chechnya has reportedly concentration camps for queer men, who have been disappearing across the region. There is an alarming silence around this issue. Despite how every year, we remember the Holocaust and vow “never again”, it seems that it is happening again, but because of foreign tensions and politics, absolutely nothing is being done.
The queer community is under as much threat as it has ever been. But while we talk of progress and often celebrate it, we risk failing to address serious issues going on across the world. We cannot afford to be complacent. Queer rights have not been won.
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