Two weeks in LGBTI news
December 22, 2017 – January 4, 2018
Prepared by Daniele Paletta
Edited by Lara Goodwin
Friday, December 22
“Less equal”: report details marginalization of LGBTI human rights defenders in Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan
In Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, discrimination and an overspill of homophobic and transphobic rhetoric and practice from Russia have exacerbated existing attitudes towards rainbow communities, a report from Amnesty International has shown.
The document offers an analysis of how such attitudes contribute to marginalize LGBTI human rights defenders in the four countries, highlighting the unique challenges they face in their work.
“Social and political homophobia and transphobia contribute to the demonization of LGBTI HRDs and activists,” the report reads, stressing the active role played by politicians and media in inciting hatred towards our communities. “Russia, which is trying to yield more political influence across the region, attempts to shape social values and laws across its neighbours, (including) advocating for imagined, shared ‘Eurasian (evraziiskie) values’, presented as opposing ‘Western values’. […] This leads to politicization and de-humanization of LGBTI rights, as they are often discussed in the context of foreign policy considerations in Eurasia: pro-Western vs. pro-Russian.”
According to the report, the status quo is reinforced by the fact that state authorities in Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan often fail to protect LGBTI human rights defenders, who also receive no support from civil society, “including some well-established NGOs and prominent HRDs.”
"The LGBTI movements in Armenia, Belarus, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan must feel supported by local civil society, including NGOs, HRDs, journalists or celebrities," the report concludes. "NGOs and HRDs – just like state actors – must realize that one simply cannot pick and choose human rights."
Friday, December 29
Malaysia: so-called ‘awareness course’ targeting trans women sparks outrage
Human rights defenders have strongly criticized the plan by the Terengganu state government to hold a so-called ‘awareness course’ aiming at bringing trans women “back to the right path”.
According to reports, such a course would involve medical, psychological and religious experts to "give (trans women) a path to make the best choices for their lives."
Human rights defenders immediately condemned the initiative: "If you ask someone not to be themselves, that will have an adverse impact on the health and well-being of the person," Thilaga Sulathireh, co-founder of trans rights group Justice for Sisters, was quoted as saying.
In a long Facebook post, activist Nisha Ayub further lambasted officials: “They need to know that all this kind of correction approaches and trying to change our gender identity does not help, but create more harms to the community,” she wrote. “Stop assuming that you can change a person into the mould of your own beliefs or understanding. This is not about a puppet, but about a human being.”
The practice of ‘conversion therapy’ has been legally challenged or banned in several countries around the world. “Such therapies”, reads a report by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, “have been found to be unethical, unscientific and ineffective and, in some instances, tantamount to torture.”
Saturday, December 30
Tunisia: LGBT online radio continues broadcasts despite threats
In the last weeks of 2017, the Tunisian LGBT rights group Shams made headlines worldwide as it launched what was reported to be one of the first online radios dedicated to rainbow communities in the Arab world.
Since its first broadcast on December 19, however, Shams Rad has resisted numerous challenges and attempts to shut it down: “(We) received more than five thousand death threats, plus threats to burn our radio headquarters,” said Shams’ president Mounir Baatour.
A complaint was also filed against the human rights group by the Secretary General of the National Union Council of Imams, who claimed that the launch of the radio station “constitutes an imminent danger for our values and our religious and social identity”. Soon after that, rumours about an imminent shutdown began circulating, and were later dismissed by a spokesperson of the Ministry of Interior.
Despite these challenges, the station persisted: "There is nothing out there that talks about the LGBTQ community honestly,” Bouhdid Belhedi, the executive director of Shams, told Thomson Reuters. “This gives people a way to defend our community, and we need this for Tunisia and the Middle East."
Tuesday, January 2
Australia: petition calls not to license discrimination ahead of upcoming ‘religious freedom’ inquiry
Since marriage equality has become the law of the land, the debate in Australia has shifted to the question of religious exemptions ahead of the upcoming government inquiry into ‘religious freedom’.
Chairman Philip Ruddock explained that no decision has been made so far on whether submissions to the inquiry will be made public – but it appears they may not be. Meanwhile, a national LGBTI advocacy group launched a campaign “to protect against the erosion of gains made in 2017”, including a petition “that strongly opposes any roll back of discrimination law.”
“The current ‘religious freedom’ movement has nothing to do with genuine freedom and everything to do with punching holes in Australian laws that protect LGBTIQ people and other minorities from discrimination and disadvantage,” said Just.equal spokesperson Ivan Hinton-Teoh.
“Religious freedom is an important right, but it should not be used as an excuse for discriminating against and disadvantaging vulnerable members of the community,” the petition reads, as it invites everyone to "defend Australia's discrimination laws from attacks by the religious right."
Tuesday, January 2
United States: rainbow family murdered, two men arrested
Four members of a rainbow family were murdered in their Troy, NY home, in a crime the local police chief described as the worst he had seen in more than 40 years in law enforcement.
Thirty-six-year-old Shanta Myers, her 22-year-old partner Brandi Mells, and Myers’ 11-year-old son Jeremiah and five-year-old daughter Shanise were found dead in their apartment the day after Christmas. Two blades were found at the crime scene, and the bodies of all the victims showed severe signs of violence.
The couple had recently moved in together, and were reportedly engaged. The older son of Myers was living with relatives, and was out of town when the crime occurred: he lost his family and, according to reports, he feared that the killers would have targeted him, too.
As the local community gathered together to mourn the victims, two suspects were arrested on murder charges, and pleaded not guilty. Police, however, were quoted as saying they were confident that there would be no further arrests. The motive of the crime remains unknown.
Tragically, this family were not the only members of the rainbow community worldwide that were lost to violence in the past few weeks. The charred body of a homeless gay man, known as Alexander, was found in an abandoned parking lot in Sao Paulo, Brazil. A few days later, a young out lesbian woman was stabbed to death during an altercation, allegedly related to her sexual orientation, during a party in South Africa. Her name was Noxolo Mabona, known by many as Noxie.
Wednesday, January 3
Chile: human rights commission approves Gender Identity bill
The Human Rights Commission of the Chamber of Deputies approved the Gender Identity bill, putting an end to the period of public hearings. After a heated session, eight lawmakers voted in favour of discussing the bill, while four opposed the decision. The bill is now set to be tabled on January 16, and voted upon in the plenary session of the Chamber of Deputies.
"This is the first considerable advance in the processing of the Gender Identity law since it reached the Chamber of Deputies,” commented Constanza Valdés, legal adviser of Organizando Trans Diversidades Chile.
"A sign has been given in favour of a necessary and important law to guarantee dignity to trans people,” explained Movilh’s Rolando Jiménez. “This is something as basic as respecting the name and gender that people identify themselves with, but it has a daily impact on the quality of their lives and access to education, health or work rights.”
Is that all? More LGBTI news bites
Google apologized for incorrectly banning the use of the words ‘bisexual’ and ‘gay’ for an AdWords account, as it wrongly considered them as "sexually explicit keywords".
The next International Family Equality Day will be marked worldwide on May 6, focusing on the necessity to extend full legal protection to all children.
A study has shown the extent of a "consistent and widespread use of hate speech against LGBT people" by officials in Iran by monitoring the content of newspapers and state-controlled media between 2011 and 2017.
The Equal Opportunities Commission in Hong Kong has reaffirmed its support for "comprehensive gender recognition legislation, as well as legislation against discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation, gender identity and intersex status."
In Australia, the Press Council released an adjudication concluding that a newspaper article had a "significantly misleading" presentation, as it "associated students reporting same-sex attraction with people affected by unhealthy lifestyle factors."
Earlier in December, the Samoa Fa'afafine Association conducted two community forums in Samoa, aimed to raise awareness of human rights issues and to engage fa’afafine and fa’afatama persons in community development initiatives.
ILGA-Europe and the European Aids Treatment Group (EATG) are hosting a capacity-building seminar on the role of LGBTI organisations to address HIV and STIs: applications are open until January 8.
A month-long study of five talks shows in France identified about 50 problematic sequences, including 17 clearly LGBTphobic cases and an equally high number of sexist and racist ones.
Two persons, who were detained for three months in Egypt after allegedly waving a rainbow flag at a concert, were freed on bail and fined 2,000 Egyptian pounds ($113) each.
In Douala, Cameroon, two young women were reportedly harassed by a mob in a public park, and were later subjected to arbitrary arrest, torture, and detention for three days on the grounds of their perceived sexual orientation.
In Argentina, the oral arguments for the murder of trans activist Diana Sacayán will take place in the second half of February 2018.
The Governor of Bermuda was reported taking legal advice on giving assent to the Bill replacing marriage equality with domestic partnerships, which passed in the Senate in December 2017. Read more here.
In the United States, the White House fired remaining members of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS, a move that was described “a common occurrence during administration changes” but that also felt “like retribution” to those criticizing the government’s policies.
In the United States, the Justice Department made clear that its proposed ban on out trans military recruits is on hold, allowing their enlistment to start on January 1.
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