Violence, Human Rights Abuses Fuel HIV Epidemic

Published: August 1, 2012

The symposium, entitled “Turning the Tide Against Violence,” focused on those who are most affected by gender, youth, police and transgender violence, and the critical need to address this determinant of HIV risk among youth, women, men and transgender populations.

The first speaker Sharmus Outlaw, the co-director of Washington, DC-based Destiny Alliance, opened the discussion with a focus on violence against transgender women and lesbians. Outlaw related recent incidents about a string of murders of transgender women in Washington, DC, and focused on the role of the police in perpetuating a climate of hate and violence against this population group.

Outlaw said police in DC would deliberately put transgender women in harm’s way by harassing them and forcing them into neighborhoods where violence against them was highly likely. She blamed high-risk behavior in this population group on stigma and discrimination.

What’s needed, Outlaw said, is more intense sensitivity training of police so they deal with transgender people with respect, and law enforcement accountability for violence against this group when they should ensure their protection under the law.

The next speaker was HeJin Kim of Gender DynamiX, a lesbian transgender woman and former sex worker who is now an activist and advocate for transgender people’s human rights and lives in South Africa. Gender DynamiX is a human rights organization that promotes freedom of expression and gender identity, and advocates for the rights of transgender and gender non-conforming people.

Kim called attention to the dearth of research on transgender men and women’s high-risk behavior, lack of access to services, likelihood of facing sexual violence and their intersection with other high-risk populations.

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