Two weeks in LGBTI news
Dear friends, our LGBulleTIn returns after a one-week break, and begins with some news from ILGA itself.
On May 15th, ILGA released the 12th edition of its State-Sponsored Homophobia report, our yearly world survey of laws affecting people on the grounds of their sexual orientation.
ILGA-Europe released its 2017 edition of Rainbow Europe, examining the situation of LGBTI people in the region.
Meanwhile, ILGALAC announced the dates of its next regional conference, which will take place in Guatemala from November 16-19, 2017.
And now, off to the last two weeks’ news of the world!
Friday, May 5
New research documents extent of discrimination faced by LGBT persons in the United States
— American Progress (@amprog) May 2, 2017
More than 1 in 4 LGBT persons in the United States reported experiencing some form of discrimination on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity during the past year, a new research conducted by the Center for American Progress has found.
Respondents to the survey reported suffering discriminations not only on the workplace, but also in healthcare settings and in the public square. “Survey findings and related interviews show that LGBT people hide personal relationships, delay health care, change the way they dress, and take other steps to alter their lives because they could be discriminated against,” Center for American Progress explained, highlighting how “people who were vulnerable to discrimination across multiple identities reported uniquely high rates of avoidance behaviours.”
Discrimination takes its toll on people who experience it: almost 7 in 10 persons reported that discrimination at least somewhat negatively affected their psychological well-being, and 56.6% of respondents claimed it negatively impacted their neighbourhood and community environment.
Friday, May 5
Bermuda: “common law discriminates against same-sex couples by excluding them from marriage,” Court finds
The Supreme Court of Bermuda issued a landmark ruling, finding that the law defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman “discriminates against same-sex couples by excluding them from marriage.”
The decision comes in the case brought before the court by two men, Winston Godwin and Greg DeRoche, after they saw their marriage application being declined by Bermuda’s Registrar-General. “On the facts, the applicants were discriminated against on the basis of their sexual orientation (…) when the Registrar refused to process their notice of intended marriage, the sentence reads, adding that “same-sex couples are entitled to be married under the Marriage Act.”
“Today, history has been made and love has won,” Rainbow Alliance of Bermuda commented. “This ruling is not only a victory for a brave young couple willing to fight for their love: (it) is a victory for all same-gender loving people in Bermuda.”
A few days after the ruling, Minister of Home Affairs Patricia Gordon Pamplin claimed that the Government acknowledged the Supreme Court ruling and “will not lodge an appeal,” adding that it “will implement the necessary steps to ensure compliance with the judgment.”
Sunday, May 7
Sex education programmes in Kenyan schools are failing students, study finds
A study on the state of comprehensive sexuality education across 78 secondary schools in Kenya proved that many challenges remain for the education sector in the country.
According to the African Population and Health Research Center, “the comprehensiveness of policies and curricula has continuously fallen short because of challenges posed by highly conservative societal norms and cultural sensitivities regarding the inclusion of topics such as contraception, abortion and sexual orientation.”
According to teachers’ answers to the survey, more than 9 in 10 schools include sexual orientation and sexual and reproductive rights among the topics covered. These percentages, however, drop dramatically when the same question is posed to students.
65.6% among students surveyed have express the desire to learn more about sexual orientation issues, and more than 2 in 3 would like to see the topic of equality between men and women addressed more consistently.
“It is clear from the study findings that the Kenyan government has been open to educational reforms, and policies do exist to support the provision of school-based sexuality education, but the government has not been successful in ensuring the implementation of these policies,” the report reads. “The lack of comprehensiveness in topic coverage, the fear-based orientation in the teaching and the consistent negative light cast on adolescent sexuality are barriers to a successful sexuality education program.”
Wednesday, May 10
Australia: government sets aside $170 million for plebiscite on marriage equality
— World Wide Wave (@W3JOY) May 9, 2017
The debate on the marriage equality plebiscite in Australia is still not over, despite a Senate vote blocking it last year: the federal government has set aside $170 million in its 2017-18 budget for such a public consultation.
“The Australian government remains committed to a plebiscite in relation to same-sex marriage, despite the Senate not supporting the Plebiscite (Same-Sex Marriage) Bill 2016,” the budget reads. “To this end, the Australian government will provide $170 million to conduct a same-sex marriage plebiscite as soon as the necessary legislation is enacted by the Parliament.”
The decision has sparked outrage among those who are actively campaigning for lawmakers to cast their vote on marriage equality: “The Budget allocation of $170 million in contingency funds for a rejected plebiscite is a waste of tax-payers money when the Parliament has already said no,” co-Chair of Australian Marriage Equality Alex Greenwich was quoted as saying. “A vote in the parliament has the added bonus of being free and at no cost to the Australian people while extending civil marriage to all Australians.”
Thursday, May 11
Russia: activists arrested as they attempted to deliver a petition calling on action against human rights violations in Chechnya
Five LGBTI human rights defenders have been arrested by police in Moscow as they were attempting to call on authorities to investigate on human rights violations taking place in Chechnya against gay and bisexual men.
The four Russian defenders, accompanied by All Out representative Yuri Guaiana, were stopped by officers before they could deliver a petition to the Prosecutor General office. They were released on the same day, after hours in detention: they will now face a court hearing, scheduled on May 29, for violating public assembly laws.
Over 2 million people had signed petitions after a series of public campaigns, in reaction to the human rights violations taking place in Chechnya.
“While the detention of LGBTI activists is not a particularly new development, the fact that these five individuals were arrested while reaching out to law enforcement to call for an investigation of the events in Chechnya is worrying,” ILGA-Europe commented, calling on Russian authorities to “assist all victims and fully investigate what is happening on the ground in Chechnya.”
The persecution against gay and bisexual men in the region may soon be addressed before the International Criminal Court in The Hague, as three French human rights groups have filed a complaint on the case, asking the Court to investigate before Russia withdraws from its jurisdiction in November.
Wednesday, May 17
Indonesia: two men sentenced to caning for engaging in same-sex activity
— Phelim Kine 林海 (@PhelimKine) May 17, 2017
Two men accused of engaging in same-sex activity have been sentenced to caning by Sharia’h court in the Aceh province of Indonesia.
The court ruled the men, aged 20 and 23, would each be subjected to 85 lashes. Both men will remain in custody while their sentence is carried out: the punishment is set to take place in a horrific public ceremony on May 23,
News reports said they were arrested after they were found by unidentified vigilantes, who forcibly entered the home they were in and brought them to the police for allegedly having same-sex relations. A video showing the raid was filmed with a cell phone, and has since then circulated widely on social media.
Judge Khairil Jamal was quoted as claiming that the men had been “proven legally and convincingly guilty of committing gay sex.” According to Human Rights Watch, it will be the first time ever that two men in Indonesia receive public flogging for engaging in same-sex relations.
As ILGA’s State-Sponsored Homophobia points out, same-sex sexual relations between consenting adults are not prohibited according to the 1982 Indonesian Penal Code. However, there are stigmatising regulations that apply nationwide, and at the provincial level there are areas and municipalities that penalise same-sex sexual relations through local ordinances.
Wednesday, May 17
The world celebrates the International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia
— ILGA (@ILGAWORLD) May 18, 2017
The International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia has been marked worldwide to celebrate rainbow communities, and to draw the attention of policymakers, opinion leaders, social movements, the public and the media to the violence and discrimination we still experience all around the world.
Events were organised in dozens of countries worldwide, from flash-mobs to landmark buildings lit up in rainbow colours: many of these events also focused on this year’s theme on families, with the slogan “love makes a family” being often taken up in communications.
On the occasion of this day, several UN and international human rights experts released a joint statement urging States to “protect trans and gender diverse children and adolescents effectively from discrimination, exclusion, violence and stigma,” and to foster supportive family environments for trans and gender diverse persons.
Is that all? More LGBTI news bites
The UN Independent Expert on SOGI has published the advance version of his first report. The final, official version in six languages will be out at the end of May, and it will be the topic of discussion on June 6 at the next UN Human Rights Council.
In Luxembourg, the Government presented a draft bill to regulate name and gender marker changes on the civil registry.
France’s top court ruled against accepting an intersex person’s request to have the gender marker amended to “neutral” on the civil status. The plaintiff’s lawyers announced they will appeal to the European Court of Human Rights.
A House of Representatives committee in Colombia rejected a referendum that sought to overturn a Constitutional Court ruling that allows same-sex couples and singles to adopt children.
A trans activist in El Salvador reported she faced threats of extortion, and had to leave her home, after news break of her recent nomination to an international human rights award.
One of the biggest employers of New Zealand has announced its new policy for its trans team members.
A bill was introduced to parliament in Queensland, Australia to expunge historical convictions for same-sex activity among consenting adults.
In Nigeria, the Initiative for Equal Rights has shared the results of a survey indicating that social acceptance of lesbian, gay, and bisexual people in the country is slightly increasing, despite continued support for the Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act.
For the first time ever, LGBTI organisations from the 7 countries of North Africa joined forces for a #OurColoursAreTheCrime campaign, launched on the occasion of the International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia.
“We won’t let homophobes hurt our children,” parents claimed as they held a rally in response to a recent anti-LGBTI demonstration at a university in China.
The Asean SOGIE Caucus held a two-day Advocacy Dialogue on Engaging the UN Special Procedures, during which LGBTIQ activists from the region could meet with the UN Independent Expert on SOGI.
Canada announced it will formally apologize to the LGBTI community for actions the government took against thousands of workers in the Canadian military and public service in the Cold War era.
In the United States, four same-sex couples have filed a lawsuit seeking to overturn a Tennessee law which requires that words in state statutes be interpreted with “natural and ordinary meaning” – and could thus interfere with same-sex couples’ parental rights.