By THE NATION
The idea was born in the hope that police officers would act more compassionately if they better understood the sexuality, gender identity and gender expression of transgender people, as well as the stigma and discrimination they face.
The idea for the handbook was proposed and approved at a two-day workshop in Chon Buri that wraps up today.
The event was attended by about 60 people, including police representatives from target areas – Phuket, Chiang Mai and Chon Buri – as well as officers from the Netherlands who have worked with trans people under the “Pink in Blue Police Network”.
“Transgender individuals’ bad experience with police might stem from a lack of understanding about different gender identities,” Rights and Liberties Protection Department deputy director-general Kerdchoke Kasemwongjit said.
This workshop was held so police officers can become more aware about different gender identities, he said. However, he admitted that there is still a long way to go as transgender people face discrimination and harassment everywhere.
The event aimed to demonstrate that law enforcement can bring positive changes for transgender people by protecting their rights and easing their access to healthcare and other social services without discrimination.
Studies have found that trans people who face discrimination face a higher risk of getting HIV and other diseases as well as being vulnerable to mental health issues. UNAids has reported that the prevalence of HIV/Aids among transgenders in Thailand (Bangkok, Chaing Mai, Chon Buri and Phuket) was 13.8 per cent.
A joint study conducted by UNDP and Social Development and Human Security Ministry found that Thailand lacked guidelines on body searches, detention and imprisonment of transgenders, making them victims of mistreatment, harassment and violation by officials.
Lovita Ramguttee, UNDP Thailand deputy resident representative, said that despite the 2015 Gender Equality Act, trans people still do not have a state-issued document to support their gender identities. This puts them at the risk of discrimination and violence – a reality that prompted UNDP, Justice Ministry, other agencies and NGOs to hold the workshop in search of a solution.
Ramguttee noted that trans women faced a higher risk of being confronted by law-enforces because they were forced to work in the sex industry due to a lack of other opportunities. Prostitution is still illegal in Thailand. Trans women also face the risk of sexual and physical violence when detained with male inmates, she added.
Thitiyanan Nakpor, director of the Sisters Foundation, said most trans women have had either direct or indirect experience of police discrimination and no longer trust officers.
“We hope this workshop will lessen police bias against transgenders and improve their interactions and communication,” she said.