More and more people in Azerbaijan are worried about how unfriendly it is for LGBTQ+ people, especially transgender women, to use public transportation. People who are transphobic often feel unwanted and dangerous in this place because they are often stared at, harassed, and threatened with violence. Few cases have been reported, but experts think that many more happen without being mentioned. This paints a bleak picture of the problems this community faces.
Events of Harassment in Azerbaijan
Karmen, who is 19 years old, was sexually harassed on the Baku train in August 2022. There was a man who touched her on the train, but she was too shocked to call for help. Karmen told Azerbaijan’s LGBTI Alliance (Breath), a non-profit group that fights for LGBTQ+ rights, about the upsetting thing that happened to her.
Derya, who is 34 years old, has been abused physically on public transportation before. In one of the situations she talked about, no one stepped in to help her. Derya didn’t tell the police about what happened because she was afraid of being punished. For safety reasons, trans women like Derya often choose cabs over buses and subways.
Having trouble with taxis
Some people think that cars are safer, but they aren’t always safe from abuse. When they find out that a person is a trans woman, some cab drivers act badly and ask too many questions. This can cause stress and disagreements. Taxi drivers have sometimes been punished for their acts by losing reviews and the ability to use ride-sharing apps.
Common Threats and How to Report Them
Trans women who use public transportation often have to deal with insults, verbal abuse based on their gender, physical violence, discrimination, and not being able to get on or off of public transportation. Even though these things happen a lot, they are rarely mentioned, which means the problem is not fully understood. Trans women are facing more and more hatred on public transportation, which is bad for their mental health and makes it harder for them to get to important services.
Problems with the law and reporting in Azerbaijan
In Azerbaijan, it is not against the law to harass someone in public places. Legal expert Samad Rahimli says that people who hurt children are the only ones who are criminally guilty. You can deal with harassment cases in three ways. The ways are in court, as an official crime (like small hooliganism). Or by complaining to the people in charge of public transportation. Most of the time, these formal systems take too long and don’t work well.
Ideas for Fixing Things and Advice
To solve this problem, it is suggested that public knowledge efforts. The passing of an anti-discrimination bill, training for people who work in public transportation and law enforcement, and making news of events all be done. To keep trans people safe, the law needs to be changed to better protect them. Several big towns in Europe have taken steps to make sure that LGBTQ+ people can use public transportation, which is an example of how things can change.
Even with these steps, the Azerbaijani government has not shown any interest in protecting and promoting LGBTQ+ rights. ILGA Europe, an international NGO that fights for LGBTQ+ rights, put Azerbaijan at the very bottom of the Rainbow Index. And then, this shows how badly things need to change right away.
It is very important that LGBTQ+ people, especially transgender women, don’t have to deal with abuse on Azerbaijan’s public transportation. To make the world a better and friendlier place for everyone, we need to take bold steps, change the law, and run public awareness programs. Azerbaijan can learn from how other countries have dealt with similar problems in order to protect the rights and safety of its LGBTQ+ people.