Today, on transgender day of remembrance (TDOR), we remember transgender and gender diverse persons who have died due to gender based violence and hate. Transgender and gender diverse persons are disproportionately vulnerable to gender based violence due to multiple factors, including lack of protection, recognition of transgender persons and gender diverse populations, access to information regarding gender identity, among other factors.
Globally, between October 2017 and September, a total of 2018,369 trans and gender-diverse people were reportedly killed. This is an increase of 44 cases compared to last year’s reported numbers cases. This brings to a total of 2,982 trans and gender diverse people of cases of murder reported in 72 countries between January 2008 and September 2018.
However, these are only the reported numbers. Many cases are not reported or misreported. Case in point, the murder trial of a trans woman involving two Chilean tourists that concluded recently on 2 November 2018. Media reports of the trial show that the victim, a trans woman was misgendered throughout the trial. When trans people are misgendered (use of wrong gender markers), it not only strips away trans people’s dignity and right to self-determination, but it also makes it challenging to document and collate cases of crimes against trans people.
In Malaysia, between 2007 and November 2018, at least 14 cases of murder involving trans women as victims were reported. The most recent case reported was in November this year, where a trans woman was allegedly murdered by her partner. The perpetrator has been charged with murder and awaits trial early next year. He was not represented by a lawyer.
While some these cases are investigated, often they are not classified and analyzed correctly using a gender and rights based lens. They are seen, as isolated cases, which result in lack of specific interventions or solutions to the gender-based violence, hate crimes and transphobia experienced by trans people. Consequently, these experiences of violence and crimes by trans people remain invisible, become prolonged and cyclic.
According to the facts of the recent case, an altercation between the perpetrator and victim occurred concerning jealousy and money related issues, which escalated to the death of the woman after the perpetrator, strangled her. Similar cases involving trans women have been documented and reported in the past. In 2016, a trans woman was found murdered after an altercation with allegedly her boyfriend.
Rising hate crime and speech
Hate crimes and speech towards transgender people online and offline are on the rise and correlate. The increase of hateful and discriminatory speech in Malaysia emboldens the perpetrators and vigilante groups to carry out acts of violence against transgender persons with impunity.
In August 2018, a trans woman in Negeri Sembilan was assaulted by a group of men, including youths, resulting in serious injuries, including broken ribs and a ruptured spleen. Justice for Sisters also received complaints of harassment of trans women by vigilante groups in Kedah. While these are enough to ring alarm bells, we believe there are many other cases of hate crimes.
Recent trends to of boycotts and protest against transgender women entrepreneurs on social media are also a point of concern. In October 2018, a few trans women entrepreneurs were prevented from participating in an expo in Perak due to protest by local groups. This further demonstrates the shrinking spaces and the escalation of violence towards trans people.
TDOR reminds us of the impact of marginalization and multiple forms of oppression that trans and gender-diverse people face daily. Together we can change this situation and dismantle oppression. Together we are in solidarity with trans and gender diverse people everywhere resisting and dismantling oppression.