LGBulleTIn #80 - The week in LGBTI news
March 10-16, 2017
Friday, March 10
UN SOGI Independent Expert Vitit Muntarbhorn concludes his first official visit to Argentina
Argentina has been urged to do more to combat institutional violence by the UN SOGI Independent Expert Vitit Muntarbhorn, but also commended for its “progressive laws and policies” aimed at stopping human rights violations on people because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
“Argentina has shown great commitment to human rights,” Mr. Muntarbhorn noted as he spoke at the end of his first country visit. However, he also found that “institutional violence is pervasive” in the country, and that it “lies at the heart of the problem of violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.”
Mr. Muntarbhorn noted how “a major dilemma is impunity for perpetrators” of violence, and that killings, assaults, and harassment take a major toll among trans women, especially when their gender identity and expression intersects with a background “that is steeped in socio-economic deprivation and poverty.”
The Independent Expert called on Argentina to reform laws and policies which might lead to violence and discrimination, and to prevent laws on public decency and anti-drugs measures from being used to discriminate against people based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. Mr. Muntarbhorn also called for improvements in access to education, health, employment, and housing for trans women.
His findings and recommendations will be presented in a report to a forthcoming session of the Human Rights Council.
Friday, March 10
Hong Kong: Equal Opportunities Commission calls for a law to prohibit SOGIESC-based discrimination
The Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) and the Chinese University of Hong Kong have called on the Government to introduce “legislation against discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation, gender identity and intersex status as soon as possible.”
Their joint statement, which calls for a public consultation on the issue, was backed by 75 organisations, academics, major corporations and LGBTI human rights groups.
"As human societies progress, governments are expected to take greater responsibility in defending the marginalised and vulnerable groups in society from discriminatory treatment," the EOC chairperson commented. "We firmly believe that anti-discrimination legislation is needed to truly safeguard (LGBTI people's) rights to be treated equally."
A study published in 2016 showed that LGBTI people in Hong Kong still experience discrimination in all aspects of their public life, but also that public opinion has significantly shifted in favour of anti-discrimination provisions.
Friday, March 10
Tunisia: two men sentenced to eight months in jail for same-sex sexual activity
Two young men in Tunisia have been sentenced to eight months in prison for violating Article 230 of the Criminal Code, which criminalizes same-sex sexual activity. They were arrested in December last year while walking in a street in Sousse, on the grounds of their perceived sexual orientation.
One of them reported being “slapped, insulted and forced to sign [a statement]” while at the police station and, as Damj and OMCT report, they were forced to undergo an anal examination, a practice that has been condemned by the UN Committee against Torture. Charges were pressed against them even if the results of the exams were negative. The trial was postponed twice, until they were sentenced to eight months in jail this week, with a ruling that human rights organisations have deemed “outrageous.”
This was not the only case targeting men in Tunisia over their perceived sexual orientation this week. The Sousse Court of Appeal upheld a 2-month jail sentence for two youth who were convicted for “assaulting public decency by an obscene attitude” – that is, under a different article of the Penal Code than the one criminalising same-sex activity.
A third case, then, was reported on social media by the human rights organisation Shams, which claims that a 21-year-old student and a 38-year-old filmmaker were arrested for same-sex sexual activity. A court in Tunis would have forced them to undergo anal examinations.
Sunday, March 12
Fiji: human rights organisation encourages reporting cases of violence based on sexual orientation, gender identity and expression
Following recent attacks in the urban area of Nasinu, Fiji, a human rights organisation based in the country has encouraged LGBT persons to speak up and report incidents of violence.
“The victims were targeted because of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity, so obviously this is a case of hate crime and must be reported," said Sulique Waqa, director of social justice organisation Haus of Khameleon. "I encourage the victims to come forward and report the crime to the Police or the Fiji Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission.”
"Deeply-embedded homophobic and transphobic attitudes, often combined with a lack of adequate legal protection against discrimination (...), expose many LGBT people of all ages in Fiji to egregious violations of our human rights," Waqa said. “Lack of trust due to fear of discrimination, harassment, and violence likely discourages LGBT citizens from working in cooperation with law enforcement."
Sunday, March 12
United States: more LGBT+ centres under attack
After the recent cases of Los Angeles and Milwaukee, more LGBT+ community centres have been under attack across the United States. The latest incident took place in Washington D.C., as a visitor to the Casa Ruby LGBT Community Center physically and verbally attacked a worker, and then threw a brick through a window. A suspect has been arrested.
The same centre had already been attacked twice in the past few weeks, DCist reports: a different man entered the facility, made sexual advances towards LGBT youth, and then punched a hole in the wall. He was arrested, but returned the following week to punch a second hole.
The one in Washington, however, is not the only community center to have been targeted recently: in the past few weeks, vandals smashed a window at the office of Equality Florida in Orlando, and a pair of men in Asbury Park, New Jersey shattered the glass door of Garden State Equality. Then, at least one armed person shot 13 pellets at the Dennis R. Neill Equality Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and another man entered their premises shortly after the first incident and shouted death threats to the staff.
Even if these cases may not be connected, it is hardly difficult to identify a worrying trend in these attacks. A recent research by the Center for the Study of Hate & Extremism at the California State University, San Bernardino shows that hate crimes have increased of 21.7% in 2016 in ten of the nation’s larger urban areas surveyed. Crimes against the LGBTI community, along with the Jewish and the Muslim communities, accounted for much of the growth in hate crimes that were reported.
Monday, March 13
61st UN Commission on the Status of Women begins in New York
Hundreds of global leaders, human rights defenders and UN agencies have gathered in New York for the 61st Commission on the Status of Women.
This year’s session, which sees the largest number ever of civil society representatives participating, focuses on the theme of “Women’s economic empowerment in the changing world of work,” aiming to unpack key issues such as equal pay, removing the barriers of discrimination and investing in women’s access to digital and green economies.
“We will be able to bring renewed focus to the needs of those who are currently being left behind and those who are currently furthest behind,” said Executive Director of UN Women Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, speaking at the opening session.
Human rights defenders advocating for the inclusion of the rights of lesbians, bisexual women, transgender and intersex persons are present at CSW: the LBTI Caucus is focusing on bringing attention to the multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination that all women face in all regions of the world, and has organised a number of events that will take place throughout the whole session.
Meanwhile, NGOs have shared concerns over the announcement by the United States Department of State that its official delegation to the CSW includes representatives of two organisations known to oppose the UN human rights system, LGBTIQ rights, and women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights.
Tuesday, March 14
European Parliament demands stronger actions for LGBTI equality
Over just one day, the European Parliament adopted two reports that contain significant provisions in relation to the rights of LGBTI people. The former, from Rapporteur Kozłowska-Rajewicz, recognises that Member States should adopt legislation that protects trans people against discrimination when accessing goods and services.
The latter, an annual report on gender equality, recommends that Member States include the grounds of gender identity and sex characteristics within their gender equality legislation. It also calls on including measures to protect women and LGBTI people against harassment in the workplace, and to expand the scope of the EU hate speech law, as to include incitement to hatred on grounds of sexual orientation, gender identity and sex characteristics. The report also urges Member States to avoid unnecessary medical procedures on intersex infants, and asks the European Commission to set out a strategy for gender equality inclusive of trans and intersex people.
“I am very glad that a wide majority of the Parliament has voted in favour of gender equality and equal treatment of LGBTI people,” said Ernest Urtasun MEP, Member of the LGBTI Intergroup and author of the report. “It is now up to the Commission to ensure that their day to day work will reflect this progressive stance.”
Is that all? More LGBTI news bites
Police have arrested three more persons in connection with the horrific murder of Dandara Dos Santos, a trans woman lynched to death by a mob in Fortaleza, Brazil.
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has welcomed the progress made in the last few months on the human rights of LGBTI persons in a number of States across the continent.
Activists rallied across the United States in a national day of action for trans women of colour and to protect all trans women. In the same hours, the Texas Senate advanced Senate Bill 6, which would force people to only access those public facilities comporting with their ‘biological sex as stated on their birth certificate.’
A bill adding gender identity and gender expression as prohibited grounds for discrimination in the territory of Nunavut, Canada was approved unanimously.
Given the outcome of recent elections in Western Australia, advocates have pointed out that all state and territory leaders currently in charge in Australia have vocally supported marriage equality.
A company has found itself at a centre of a boycott after it was featured in a video by a religious group in Australia. The clip showed a debate over marriage equality, that commentators interpreted as one-sided.
A ruling against a woman - who ended the marriage she had entered into, after breaking up with her girlfriend over the pressure from her family - has sparked criticism in Taiwan, as the island moves closer to marriage equality.
A week of conferences and events to raise awareness of the discrimination faced by LGBT people in the health sector has taken place in Lebanon.
The first national lesbian and bisexual women’s health week has taken place in the United Kingdom, aimed to raise awareness about lesbian and bisexual women’s health inequalities.
The Prime Minister of Malta has urged Commonwealth countries to repeal their Colonial-era laws criminalising same-sex activity.
According to reports, a court in Nigeria has issued an arrest warrant for a man accused of running an alleged private-members only gay bar.
In South Africa, the Limpopo Department of Education was ordered to pay compensation to a student who had suffered discrimination for her gender identity from her school principal.
On March 23, The Economist Events will hold Pride and Prejudice, a global initiative and conference to catalyse fresh debate about businesses’ role in the global fight for improving LGBT rights. ILGA is supporting the initiative, and its member organisations can enter discount code ILGA/DC to save 20% off a pass to either the Hong Kong, London or New York events.
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