Back in December, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights published a landmark report identifying that violence against LGBT people “tends to be especially vicious compared to other bias-motivated crimes.” It said that states have an “obligation to exercise due diligence” to investigate and prosecute such crimes.
Thailand is a country often assumed to be LGBT friendly because of the tolerance that is part of Thai Buddhism, but human rights advocates are protesting a pattern of killings of lesbians and ‘tomboys.’ ‘Tom’ is a specifically Thai gender identity where lesbian women dress, act and speak in a masculine fashion.
Most of the killings have been dismissed by police as “love gone sour” or the fault of the victims.
They have verified information in 15 murder cases over the last few years, the youngest of whom was 17. In addition to being stabbed multiple times, suffocated, strangled, or shot to death, many of the lesbians and toms had also been raped. In two cases of double homicides, lesbian couples were killed by men who objected to their relationship and felt rebuffed when their attempts at coercing one partner into a heterosexual relationship failed.
24-year-old Nurisan Chedurame was described as a tomboy by those who knew her and in the media. Last December, she was found dead near her village’s garbage dump with her head smashed in. A three-inch club was found at the crime scene. Relatives said that Nurisan had not returned from being out with friends the night before. Thai media quote police as suspecting she was killed because “she was involved with women.”
Also in December, the body of 25-year-old tomboy Kanchana Changkwian was found two months after she went missing. In that case, police speculated that she had been raped and murdered “for becoming involved with a married woman.”
In another case from last year a ‘tom’ (who is not named in reports) was murdered by her girlfriend’s ex-boyfriend. Parents and relatives of the girlfriend (also not named) had opposed the relationship, and despite threats against the tom, had failed to stop the couple from continuing to see each other. The mother of the girlfriend engineered the murder of the tom and promised to marry off her daughter to the ex-boyfriend who committed the murder.
Most of the verified cases have not been properly investigated because of a failure to recognize possible hate crime motives.
Said Grace Poore, of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC):
“The killing and rapes of lesbians and toms represents a callous disregard for humanity. The failure of the Thai government to prevent or properly investigate these killings are not only appalling, they are evidence of poor governance and blatant violation of international human rights law.”
IGLHRC and Human Rights Watch (HRW) have written to the Thai government demanding that this pattern of killings be investigated. The letter also makes a series of recommendations that authorities work with local human rights groups to ensure that LGBT people enjoy the protections they have under Thai law and that they educate both law enforcement and the Thai public about those protections.
Thailand has signed a number of international treaties that guarantee respect for human rights, and it was one of the countries which supported the process at the United Nations, led by South Africa, which has resulted in the High Commissioner for Human Rights’ report.
Photo from pchweat via flickr