8 November 2018, Chonburi – A new handbook for police is being developed by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Department of Rights and Liberties Protection of the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) and Sisters Foundation to improve interactions between police and transgender people in Thailand.
Inputs for the design of the handbook are being provided by participants at a workshop in Chonburi from 8-9 November 2018. Co-organized by UNDP, the Department of Rights and Liberties Protection of the Ministry of Justice, and Sisters Foundation, the workshop is sensitizing law enforcement officers on the issues of sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression and challenges faced by transgender people. The training is bringing together over 60 participants, including law enforcement officers from three priority areas in the country, namely Chiang Mai, Phuket and Chonburi, representatives from the Royal Thai Police, transgender civil society organizations, UNAIDS, UNDP, the media and the Pink in Blue Police Network – a task force of Dutch police officers dedicated to protecting the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) community in the Netherlands.
“Transgender people's difficult experiences with police could stem from a lack of police understanding regarding the different gender identities," said, Kerdchoke Kasemwongjit, Deputy Director General, Department of Rights and Liberties Protection, Ministry of Justice. "This training is certainly a step to increase law enforcement awareness and appreciation of gender diversity, but the still very high levels of reported discrimination and harassment show that there is still much work to be done in this area."
Law enforcement have the power to contribute to positive changes in the lives of transgender people by protecting and promoting equal rights and access to health and other social services that are free from stigma and discrimination.
Transgender people face a range of challenges in their lives associated with stigma and discrimination, from finding employment, accessing education, seeking health care or housing, and dealing with the judiciary and law enforcement. The extreme social exclusion also translates into vulnerabilities to HIV, other diseases and mental health conditions. According to UNAIDS data, HIV prevalence among transgender people in Thailand (based on a study in Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Chonburi, and Phuket) is estimated at 13.8 percent.
A joint study from UNDP and Ministry of Social Development and Human Security on legal gender recognition has shown that the country’s lack of guidelines in place for the search, restraint and detention processes for transgender people leaves them susceptible to mistreatment, including harassment and abuse. Since transgender women are legally classified as male, they are searched by male officers, while transgender men are legally classified as female and searched by females. However, applying this standard to transgender people based on their sex assigned at birth leaves them vulnerable to ridicule, invasions of privacy and discrimination. The report also found that transgender people have more frequent and negative interactions with the police, by way of brutality, unwarranted stops, and detainments on the basis of their gender identity.
In her opening remarks, Lovita Ramguttee, Deputy Resident Representative of UNDP Thailand, highlighted the importance of partnerships to tackle challenges faced by transgender people. “While Thailand has the Gender Equality Act which gives certain protection to transgender people, they are still unable to obtain any official identification documents that reflect their gender identity. In the absence of adequate legal recognition, transgender people find themselves being excluded and more vulnerable to discrimination and violence. To address these issues, UNDP together with the Ministry of Justice and civil society organizations have been working closely to promote and protect the rights of LGBTI people. The training today is a further example of this partnership.”
Transgender women are more likely to have encounters with law enforcement than transgender men because, for many, sex work is one of their few employment options, and it is illegal in Thailand. Evidence also shows that transgender women in particular are vulnerable to sexual and physical violence when detained with male prisoners.
“Many of our sisters and brothers face stigma and discrimination, either from first-hand experiences or they hear from the experiences of their friends and community members. That has resulted in the mistrust that the transgender community have towards the police,” said Thitiyanun Nakphor, Director of Sisters Foundation. “We hope that this training will help law enforcement avoid personal biases and assumptions, and to improve their interactions and communications with transgender individuals.”
The workshop provided opportunities for the sharing of international and national best practices for how law enforcement should engage with transgender people. A task force from the Netherlands, known as the Pink in Blue Police Network, were on hand to share experiences and lessons learned. Representatives from the Royal Thai Police and transgender civil society organization were also sharing best practices in Thailand on how best to interact with the transgender community. The training allowed a learning opportunity for the Dutch police, Thai police and the transgender community on this issue.
Further consultations between UNDP, the Royal Thai Police, civil society organizations, and other UN agencies are planned to finalize the handbook and roll it out to police forces across the country.
Note to Editors:
This training was supported by the Being LGBTI in Asia programme, which aims to address inequality, violence and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity or intersex status, and promotes universal access to health and social services. The programme is supported by UNDP, the Embassy of Sweden in Bangkok, the U.S. Agency for International Development, the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Ministry for European Affairs and Equality (Malta) and Faith in Love Foundation (Hong Kong). For more information about the programme, please visit: http://www.asia-pacific.undp.org/content/rbap/en/home/programmes-and-initiatives/being-lgbt-in-asia.html.
Additional support was provided by UBRAF – a UNAIDS instrument to maximize the coherence, coordination and impact of the UN's response to HIV and AIDS by combining the efforts of the UN Cosponsors and UNAIDS Secretariat.
UNDP Thailand works as part of the UN Country Team to support the Royal Thai Government and the people of Thailand to achieve the national development priorities and the Sustainable Development Goals.
For more information, please contact:
Suparnee (Jay) Pongruengphant, Project Officer – Governance, Human Rights and LGBTI UNDP Thailand Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Mobile: +668 1714 3954