Members of the European Parliament last week condemned what appears to be a systematic attack on trans citizens by Greece’s authorities.
Members of the European Parliament have issued strong statements against Greek police who, based on witness testimony and strong evidence, have been carrying out systematic arrests against trans women and detaining them without cause.
The first reported instance of this reportedly dates to August of 2012 when, without justification, police in Athens arrested and detained 25 transgender women in just one night. Those women were forced to submit to HIV tests under a new provision that allows forced HIV screenings as a matter of public health — more on that later. Those women were later released without charge.
By itself, this is a horrifying breech of human rights, and it now appears to have happened again and this time in a more sustained manner. Reports say that throughout June, Thessaloniki police, under the pretext of ID verification operations, have made sweeping arrests of trans citizens, later justifying this under suspicion that those arrested were in fact sex workers and therefore public health risks.
During these arrests and subsequent periods of detainment, the trans women in question report police harassment and human rights infractions.
The women were later found not guilty of all charges.
Furthermore, on the night of June 4, the European Parliament’s Intergroup on LGBT rights reports that lawyer Electra Koutra, acting to defend the women, was also arrested when she attended the police station where the women were being held. The reason for her arrest has not been given.
Raül Romeva i Rueda MEP, Vice-President of the LGBT Intergroup, is quoted as saying, “Too often trans people remain easy victims: they are visible, and somehow thugs — including in police uniforms — think they have a licence to harass anyone who doesn’t fit traditional gender appearances.
“Public health concerns,” he went on, “must be answered with due respect for all citizens and their integrity.”
Sophie in ‘t Veld MEP, also Vice-President of the Intergroup, adds that this should spur the EU to tighten its discrimination laws, saying, “This is exactly why the European Union needs to include homophobic and transphobic hate speech and hate crime in its review of EU hate speech laws.”
Veld went on to say, however, that with the current conservative EU panel, action is unlikely within the next year.
The Greek Transgender Support Association contends that this might be a wider problem dating back to at least late May, when trans women had been arrested under the pretext, but no evidence, of them being sex workers, detained for up to four hours without charge and often forced to endure what the GTSA describes as humiliation from the authorities.
Furthermore, the GTSA contends that when those women did attempt a formal complaint, they were threatened legal action. Another report alleges that while in custody, a number of women were told by the police that if they did not “return to normal,” legal proceedings would be initiated on grounds of indecent behavior in public — despite no evidence any of the women had engaged in such.
MEPs have already begun the process of an investigation into the legalization of forced HIV testing in Greece, which appears to have enabled this kind of police action.
The actual provision dates back to just before the May 2012 election. Before its suspension, it resulted in “hundreds” of women being arrested under the pretext of suspicion of prostitution, saw them detained for several weeks and forced to undergo HIV tests.
Of that group, seventeen who were actually found to be HIV positive are then said to have had their personal details and photos circulated in the media under the guise of protecting public health.
New health minister Adonis Georgiadis has now reintroduced the policy.
This comes amid Greece’s economic woes that have left large numbers of children starving, and such a sharp turn to the ideological right that there are very real concerns of fascist political groups, and all the racism and intolerance that comes with it, gaining ground to a point where they become the country’s overwhelming political powers.
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