The LGBTQ community is one of the most oppressed minorities around the world. Although many societies have seen progress in the environment for queer men and women, there are still countries that treat them as lesser beings, some even as criminals.
In recent reports, Azerbaijan’s police force in the capital city of Baku has been rounding up gay men, lesbians, and transgender people and detaining them. According to reports from unnamed members of the community, the arrests started on Monday, April 1st, and they appear to be random.
The police forces were said to take the detained members of the LGBTQ community to the Binagadi District Police Department. Many similar reports have surfaced including claims that the “hunt” is being done via the internet. Another report alleged that law enforcement is deceiving transgender sex workers, inviting them to a hotel to provide sex services.
Local activists note that when a sex worker arrives at the hotel, they are immediately cuffed and brought to the police station. Sources confirmed that as of writing, the number of gay and transgender being detained reached 14.
The support of the international community has been called upon y activists to help them stop the alleged human rights violation committed against members of the LGBTQ community. “We call on [the] EU, Council of Europe, and UN Independent Experts to react immediately to avoid these numbers to increase,” they added.
The reason for the random arrest and crackdown of gay people in Azerbaijan is still unknown; although some sources claim that authorities have fined the detainees for violations of Article 510 of the Code on Administrative Offenses (small hooliganism).
Similar reports of human rights violations against the LGBTQ have also sprouted back in 2017. During that time, the police force has detained, beaten, and verbally abused members of the LGBTQ community. They also forced medical examinations on transgender women. Some reports said that some of the transgender women who were caught during that time had their hair shaven by the police.
Azerbaijan became one of the worst countries in terms of treatment on members of the gay community. A ranking of 141 countries around the world found social attitudes to LGBT people in the country are declining. While consensual same-sex relationships are legal in the state, Azerbaijan is behind in terms of anti-discrimination policies, parenting rights for same-sex couple, transgender rights, and same-sex marriage.
Regression in global LGBT rights
Meanwhile, Azerbaijan is not the only country that appears to criminalized being gay. Last week, the Sultanate of Brunei had announced that they would implement the second and third phases of their heightened campaign to follow the Sharia law, a set of rules from the holy text of Qur’an.
The reformed Penal Code of the island-country includes amendments to punish consensual same-sex relationship with death by stoning, making it the first country to make homosexuality a crime punishable death.
In 2014, Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah said: “The decision to implement the (penal code) is not for fun but is to obey Allah’s command as written in the Qur’an.”
Five years following the implementation of the first phase of Bolkiah’s legal restructuring, he and the Sultanate of Brunei plans to proceed with their plans to proceed with second and third phases. The new Sharia-based legislation will criminalize acts like same-sex relations, adultery, sodomy, rape, and blasphemy and those who will be found guilty will be whipped and stoned to death. Currently, being gay is punishable by ten years in prison in Brunei.
Following Brunei’s announcement, multiple human rights advocates have slammed the decision and called for international pressure to force the country to push back from its plans to make homosexuality a crime punishable by death.
In a blog post from the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) who have been monitoring the political climate for LGBTQ people in Brunei, HRC’s Global Director Ty Cobb said that the proposed Penal Code changes were a state-sponsored murder.
“We are facing a dangerous crisis as Brunei is close to implementing laws that impose state-sponsored torture and murder of LGBTQ people. It’s absolutely crucial that the international community speak out now and demand that the Sultan of Brunei stop these barbaric changes that threaten the lives of Brunei citizens. The Trump-Pence Administration must also immediately make clear that these outrageous human rights abuses will not be tolerated,” Cobb said as published by HRC in a blog post.
The Human Rights Campaign has urged the international community to apply necessary pressure for the Sultanate to rescind its plan. They said that international pressure was a huge factor that dissuaded the government from enacting the second and third phases of the Penal Code reforms when it was scheduled to be introduced in 2015.