Members of the European Parliament are worried Greek police have started to systematically harass transgender women in Athens and Thessaloniki. The police made numerous arrests in recent weeks, and detained a lawyer defending the women.
Arrests started in August 2012, when the police detained 25 transgender women in one night, seemingly without explanation. The Athens women were forced to undergo an HIV test, and were later released.
Recent weeks saw the police in Thessaloniki operate sweeping arrests, often with policemen behaving offensively, under the pretext of ID verification and identifying the women as sex workers. Courts have cleared all arrested women of any charges.
In the night of 4 June, the police also unlawfully detained the women’s lawyer, Electra Koutra, who had come to defend a transgender woman at a police station.
Raül Romeva i Rueda MEP, Vice-President of the LGBT Intergroup, commented: “Too often trans people remain easy victims: they are visible, and somehow thugs—including in police uniforms—think they have a licence to harass anyone who doesn’t fit traditional gender appearances.”
“Public health concerns, if there are any, must be answered with due respect for all citizens and their integrity. Learning to respect everyone regardless of their appearance is a schoolyard-level lesson, not one for the police who ought to know better!”
Sophie in ‘t Veld MEP, also Vice-President of the Intergroup, added: “This is exactly why the European Union needs to include homophobic and transphobic hate speech and hate crime in its review of EU hate speech laws.”
“The Parliament already asked for this repeatedly, but we hold no illusions about the intentions of the current European Commission. Nothing more will be achieved before the next EU elections next year.”
MEPs had already obtained from the Commission to investigate cases of arrests and forced HIV testing in Greece. The LGBT Intergroup will follow up on the Commission’s commitment next week.