Mandalay Division’s Border and Security Affairs minister has vowed to crackdown on LGBT couples that engage in “inappropriate” public displays of affection and pledged an increased presence at the city’s moat and western dock areas.
In a statement that Burma’s leading LGBT rights group Equality Myanmar labelled homophobic, minister Myint Kyu characterised homosexuality as “unacceptable” and threatened to detain and “educate” gay men.
Responding to a fellow divisional MP’s concerns regarding “inappropriate” behaviour by members of Mandalay’s LGBT community, Myint Kyu praised previous hardline actions by Mandalay police and promised to continue a tough stance.
“Authorities have been to check on some gay people after being informed they were acting inappropriately with young men and detained nine of them. After finding out they did not commit any crime, the officials educated them and handed them back to their parents on a bond,” said the minister.
“However, the existence of gay men who assume they are women is unacceptable and therefore we are constantly seeing actions to have the gays detained at police stations, educate them, then hand them back to their parents. I would like to respond to the MP who raised her concerns that we will be including in our operations the areas she mentioned as a special case.”
The issue was raised by Tin Tin Mar, an MP from Chanayetharzan township. She labelled gay people as “disgraceful” and argued that they “fuel crimes” by engaging in “inappropriate acts.”
“I learnt the gay people who assume they are women have been acting inappropriately with young men and this is not only disgraceful to our city but can also possibly fuel crime,” she told reporters after the conclusion of the parliamentary session.
In 2013 police in Mandalay were accused of the arbitrary arrest of LGBT citizens before beating them, verbally abusing them and forcing them into humiliating positions.
That year, Equality Myanmar led an ultimately unsuccessful attempt to sue the officers believed to be responsible.
The organisation’s founder, Aung Myo Min, now says he is worried that the pledge that Myint Kyu gave to parliament on Wednesday sets the scene for continued abuse of Mandalay’s LGBT community at the hands of police.
“I’m worried about these homophobic actions and plans against homosexual people in Mandalay because police will target the LGBT group under the guise of the rule of law,” Aung Myo Min said.
Homosexual sex is effectively outlawed in Burma under Section 377 of the Penal Code, which carries a sentence between 10 years and life imprisonment. It is a law that rights groups such as Equality Myanmar and The Myanmar LGBT Rights Network have rejected as an archaic block to social equality.
Yet Aung Myo Min points a different law, which he says is more regularly used by police to maintain a sweeping mandate to arrest gay and transgender people.
“Authorities usually use Article 15(d) of the Police Act, which allows the arrest of somebody found committing a ‘suspicious act’ or somebody found in a ‘suspicious place’. It’s known as the ‘darkness law’ because it allows police to arrest anyone simply for being in a dark place. So that law is commonly used against LGBT people as well as sex workers. It is an article that has been used since the British colonial time to arrest anyone,” Aung Myo Min said.
“So actually they are not enforcing the law, they are abusing it.”