The brutal reality transgender women face under Myanmar’s ‘darkness law’

On March 19, 2016 Mashable reported: YANGON, Myanmar — A transgender sex worker in Myanmar’s main city of Yangon was waiting for customers on a dark street one night last year when two police officers approached her and demanded she have sex with them for free.

When she refused and tried to run away the officers chased her down and cuffed her hands behind her back. Then, accompanied by a plainclothes colleague, they led her behind a parked truck and forced her to kneel on the concrete as all three men orally raped her.

The “darkness law” gives police sweeping powers to arrest anyone they deem to be acting suspiciously.
Just a few weeks earlier she had been serving a month in prison after her arrest under a colonial-era statute known as the “darkness law,” which gives police sweeping powers to arrest anyone they deem to be acting suspiciously.

The law, a section of the Police Act enacted under British rule, carries a maximum sentence of three months and has been used across the country in recent years as part of a crackdown on the country’s LGBT community.

SEE ALSO: Students in Myanmar start selfie campaign to promote tolerance

Myanmar’s transition from a military dictatorship to a quasi democracy has emboldened LGBT people to begin openly calling for equality. But as the trans community has become more visible, police have been targeting them with the kind of violence and persecution associated with the dark days of junta rule.

“Since the reform process started there has been a lot more pressure on us,” said another transgender sex worker. She is even harassed by police during the day.

“Yesterday I was waiting at a bus stop when a policeman came up to me and pushed me and told me to go home.”

“I refused but he kept hassling me so I had to go to a teashop to wait for my husband,” she said, using a term favored by some trans women for their male partners; they cannot legally marry in Myanmar.

When she asked why, his plainclothes accomplice punched her in the head.
While many sex workers remain vulnerable to exploitation in Myanmar, trans sex workers and their supporters say widespread hatred towards their community makes them easy targets.

“You’re male, why do you do this job?” one officer shouted at a trans sex worker as he interrogated her at a Yangon police station.

Read more at The brutal reality transgender women face under Myanmar’s ‘darkness law’.

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