LGBulleTIn #37 - The week in LGBTI news
February 19-25, 2016
Friday, February 19
Indonesia: leading psychiatric body links being LGBT with mental disorders
According to a number of media sources, the Indonesian Psychiatric Association (PDSKJI) has issued a statement where connections were drawn between being LGBT and suffering from mental disorders.
The country’s leading psychiatric body reportedly said trans people “can be categorised as persons with mental disorders”, which it said “may cause suffering and obstacles in functioning as a human being”.
PDSKJI would have also claimed that lesbian, gay and bisexual persons would be in danger of developing a psychiatric disorder unless they “maintain their mental health by guarding their behaviour, habit, healthy lifestyle, and increasing their ability to adapt to their social environment.”
“We really do care about them,” a member of the association told The Jakarta Post. “What we are worried about is, if left untreated, such sexual tendencies could become a commonly accepted condition in society."
A few days later, the crackdown on LGBTI people in the country continued, as it was announced that a Muslim madrasa for trans women would have been closed following protests by an organisation calling itself the Islamic Jihad Front.
Monday, February 22
Anglican Church of Southern Africa: “LGBT members of our church share in full membership”
The leader of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa – which has dioceses in Angola, Lesotho, Swaziland, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and the island of St Helena - has issued a pastoral letter affirming that lesbian, gay and trans persons are welcome and full members of his church.
The letter arrived soon after the meeting of the Synod of Bishops, where pastoral guidelines for couples in South Africa who are in same-sex civil unions had to be finalised. “We reaffirm our assurance to them that they are loved by God – the guidelines read - and that all baptised‚ believing and faithful persons‚ regardless of sexual orientation‚ are full members of the Body of Christ.”
The document will be sent to the Provincial Synod for adoption later in 2016, but Archbishop Thabo Makgoba has already talked about its implications: “No child brought for baptism should be refused merely because of the sexual orientation of the parents‚” the letter reads, “and particular care should be taken against stigmatising not only parents but their children, too.”
Even if the Synod failed to draw up guidelines for clergy who want to bless people in same-sex relationships, LGBTI advocacy groups have praised its decisions: "This is a beacon of hope for the rest of Africa," said Rev Judith Kotze, director of operations at Inclusive and Affirming Ministries. "We still have a way to go, but one step at a time is better than standing still."
Costa Rica launches first project to support LGBTI persons in the workplace
A project called Caja de herramientas has been launched in Costa Rica to promote awareness and share good practices about the inclusion of LGBTI persons in the workforce.
It is the first-ever initiative to address the issue in the country: the local Business Association for Development (AED), supported by the Canadian Fund for Local Initiatives and the Bloque Empresarial LGBTI, has created a toolbox that companies can use to analyse how they are respecting the rights of their LGBTI workforce, and to develop actions to promote their inclusion. A number of public institutions, along with business companies and non-profit organisations, have already taken advantage of the toolbox.
Costa Rican vice-president Ana Helena Chacón Echeverría said the project aims to empower organisations and companies to make stronger moves towards LGBTI inclusion: “A discriminatory society does not build anything,” she stated. “We will keep on fighting to give everyone more opportunities.”
Tuesday, February 23
Croatia not justified in excluding same-sex couples from family reunification process, European Court of Human Rights rules
The European Court of Human Rights has found that Croatia's domestic Aliens Act excluded same-sex couples from the possibility of obtaining family reunification. It has been the first ruling of the court on this issue, and it has been an unanimous one.
Judges held that there had been a violation of Article 14 (non-discrimination) in conjunction with Article 8 (private and family life) in the case of Pajić v Croatia. Ms Pajić, a national of Bosnia-Herzegovina, had applied for a Croatian residence permit in 2011, but her attempts to be reunited with her Croatian partner had been refused ever since.
“The Court’s decision shines a spotlight on the sort of practical discrimination that can have a devastating effect on people’s day-to-day lives,” commented Evelyne Paradis, executive director at ILGA-Europe. Croatia will now have to pay non-pecuniary damages of EUR 10,000 to Ms Pajić, as well as costs and expenses.
Australia: PM orders review of anti-bullying initiative for LGBTI students
The Safe Schools program - an Australian initiative signed up by almost 500 schools, which aims at creating inclusive school environments for same sex attracted, intersex and gender diverse students, staff and families - will be reviewed after the Liberal backbencher Cory Bernardi raised concerns in the Coalition party room “about the appropriateness of materials presented to our kids." He also asked the government “to pull the rest of the funding for the remainder of the program.” According to The Guardian, six other Coalition MPs backed him in the joint party room meeting.
Prime minister Malcolm Turnbull has then requested an investigation into the program: the review of its material is expected to be completed by mid-March. His decision sparked a lively debate throughout the country: while senator Bernardi said to have collected 9,500 signatures in a petition from "concerned Australians" in less than a week, a counter-petition supporting the Safe Schools Coalition has been backed by more than 26,000 persons.
In a statement, Safe Schools Coalition Australia has welcomed the investigation as an opportunity “to demonstrate the positive impact of this important program and provide the facts and evidence behind it.”
Wednesday, February 24
United States: historic consumer fraud complaint against a conversion therapy group
A group of civil rights organizations have filed a historic consumer fraud complaint with the federal government against People Can Change, a group that - as its website says - try and make people “free from the constant pull of homosexual desires.”
“The practice (of conversion therapy) is based on the false premise that being LGBT is a mental illness or disorder,” the complaint reads. “[…] There is no competent and reliable scientific evidence supporting claims that PCC’s methods can change an individual’s sexual orientation; in contrast, there is substantial competent and reliable scientific evidence that conversion therapy, including the methods employed by PCC, is ineffective and can and often does result in significant health and safety risks."
Last June, in New Jersey, a jury found that a non-profit conversion therapy group called JONAH was guilty of consumer fraud. Civil rights group organisations now hope that this further action will lead to a nationwide ban of this harmful practice.
The issue of conversion therapy made headlines also in other parts of the world throughout the week: in Malta, the government and church are clashing over the proposed bill that seeks to outlaw the practice, while in Chile the ministry of Health said it considers conversion therapy “a grave threat to health and well-being, including the life, of the people who are affected.”
Thursday, February 25
Hong Kong, London and New York to host 24-hour event analysing costs of LGBT discrimination
The Economist Events has launched Pride and Prejudice, a global initiative and conference examining the economic and human costs of discrimination against the LGBT community. Happening on March 3rd, the event will bring together more than 200 leaders from the business world, politics and civil society to examine topics ranging from the outlook of LGBT human rights around the world to the role of legislation in shifting public opinion for LGBT acceptance.
Pride and Prejudice will be a 24-hour event, starting in Hong Kong and moving on to London and New York. ILGA is supporting the initiative, and the association’s co-secretary general, Ruth Baldacchino, will feature among the London speakers, who will be involved in the panel Channels for change: The next front for LGBT equality.
Registration to the events is open! ILGA member organisations can enter discount code ILGADC to save 20% off a pass to either the Hong Kong, London or New York events.
Is that all? More news bites
The civil union bill has been passed by the Italian Senate and will now move to the lower chamber. Disappointingly, children in rainbow families have been left behind as second-parent adoption has been scrapped from the bill.
In Portugal, president Aníbal Cavaco Silva signed the law allowing same-sex couples to adopt children.
A bill has been filed in Luxembourg to simplify the rectification of civil status for trans persons.
Over the weekend, there will be a vote in Switzerland on a popular initiative on tax for couples, which also aims at changing the definition of marriage as “between a man and a woman” in the federal constitution.
Activists in Uganda are fearing the anti-LGBTI crackdown in the country will continue now that Yoweri Museveni has been re-elected president.
In Tunisia, the LGBTI advocacy group Shams has won its legal challenge against a government order that had forced them to suspend operations, and can now resume its activities.
GALCK has released a report addressing the experiences of lesbian, bisexual and queer women in Kenya.
Three trans women have been murdered in Brazil, while a young man in Chile was killed in front of his mother after having been abused with homophobic slurs.
The first hearing of the constitutional challenge to the anti-sodomy law has taken place in Jamaica.
A number of inmates in a women's prison in Paraguay were denied the right to be visited by their same-sex partners. According to NGOs working on the situation, some of them have also been threatened to be moved to other facilities, far from their families.
The 78ers - people who had started the Sydney Mardi Gras in 1978, many of whom ended up in jail or were attacked - have finally received an apology from the New South Wales, Australia parliament and from the newspaper who had published their names, addresses and occupations.
There is mounting concern about the latest draft of the Solomon Islands’ new constitution, which would reportedly explicitly exclude sexual orientation from the grounds of discrimination.
Students at a Sydney, Australia high school have won a battle to change their uniform policy and allow students to wear boys or girls uniforms regardless of their gender.
“Is it really necessary for local governments to spend a lot of time and money on issues relating to sexual orientation — or personal taste?” said a lawmaker in Japan, who also reportedly argued that trans people “are clearly disabled and should be legally protected.”
The Ministry of Information said it is working with human rights groups in Cambodia to create a regular radio program that discusses LGBTI issues.
Chiayi will join other six cities in Taiwan and start registering same-sex couples next month.
A trans activist has sued the state of Kansas, United States over its refusal to update her gender on her birth certificate.
The Centers for Disease Control released a study indicating that “at current rates, 1 in 6 men who have sex with men (MSM) will be diagnosed with HIV in their lifetime” in the United States.
Two trans women were killed in less than 48 hours in the United States. According to a new HRC report, State lawmakers have introduced twice as many bills targeting trans people’s rights since the start of the 2016 legislative session as in all of 2015.
In Canada, Justin Trudeau has announced he will join the Toronto’s Pride parade, thus becoming the first prime minister in the country to do so.
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