LGBulleTIn #98 – Three weeks in LGBTI news
August 4-24, 2017
Tuesday, August 8
UN experts call on Honduras to boost protection of LGBTI rights defenders
Five UN Special Procedures mandate holders have urged Honduras to tackle violence and intimidation against LGBTI human rights defenders. The experts’ call follows attacks including the attempted murder of Osmin David Valle Castillo, programme manager at the Center for LGBTI Development and Cooperation – Somos CDC.
“In Honduras, even today, human rights defenders and activists who protect and promote the human rights of LGBTI people are often the target of hateful violent acts,” the experts said. “We continue to receive information relating to threats and attacks, and we are deeply concerned by the level of violence, which in some cases has resulted in loss of lives,” they added.
Valle Castillo was attacked and stabbed multiple times when he returned to his home in Tegucigalpa on 10 July 2017. Three months prior, he had requested protection for his organisation and its members because of the ongoing intimidation and threats they were suffering.
His assailant hasn’t been identified yet, but the Public Prosecutor’s Office is investigating the attack. The UN experts called on the Honduran authorities to ensure the investigation “is effective, and that all those responsible are prosecuted and convicted”: “The prompt, thorough and impartial investigation of such cases is a key element of a democratic society and in its efforts to curb violence and fight impunity,” they added.
Wednesday, August 9
Australia: postal vote to take place as Senate blocks attempt to restore compulsory plebiscite for marriage equality
The Australian Senate has again rejected the option of a compulsory plebiscite on marriage equality, advocated by the government, paving the way for a voluntary, non-binding postal vote on the issue.
The survey will be conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), and people were required to enrol or update their details at the Australian Electoral Commission by August 24 in order to participate. The first survey forms will be sent out on September 12, and the last date to return them will be November 7 – with results likely to be announced a week later.
The postal survey, however, is currently subject to two legal challenges in the High Court, both brought by marriage equality advocates. As Buzzfeed explains, “the challenges argue that the government does not have the power to spend money on the postal survey without passing legislation, and that the ABS does not have the authority to collect the information the government is asking it to.” Decisions on the issue are set to be announced on September 6.
Besides legal challenges, the postal plebiscite has been criticised not only for its cost, but also because: blind and visually-impaired people will not be able to vote unassisted; it excludes marriages of intersex persons; it may cut indigenous communities out of the voting process; and it will be vulnerable to voter fraud, not to mention the risk of the impact that “a hurtful debate” would have on LGBTI communities and rainbow families.
In fact, the debate has already gotten ugly. As The Guardian reports, materials labelling same-sex attraction a “curse of death” and citing discredited studies about rainbow families have surfaced in at least two incidents in Melbourne and Sydney.
Wednesday, August 16
Uganda: Pride events cancelled after government crackdown
So sad that our events have been cancelled!!!
— Pride Uganda (@Prideuganda2017) August 16, 2017
The government in Uganda has forced human rights defenders to cancel Pride events, which were scheduled to take place in August. As The Guardian reports, the state minister of ethics and integrity, Simon Lokodo, issued a directive shutting down a Pride gala, scheduled to take place at a hotel in Kampala. Police officers were also deployed at other venues where pride events were scheduled at, to arrest any participant.
“2017 has without a doubt been the most challenging festival to put together,” the document reads, but “there were no second thoughts about whether or not Pride should happen this year: (…) we were not going to allow hate, homophobia, prejudice, and a misinformed and biased society to get in the way of the one time in the year that we get together and remind ourselves that we are not criminals, we are not misfits and we are not mistakes!”
Police were deployed in venues where events were set to take place. Subsequently, organisers decided that “even all the courage and determination that we carry in our hearts is not enough to put the lives of so many innocent people at risk” and cancelled the events.
The struggle, however, is far from over: “It is clear that we will not be allowed to exercise our freedom of association,” the statement reads. “But now, more than ever, we are ready to take the existing laws and policies head on.”
Thursday, August 17
Denmark to launch LGBTI action plan
On the occasion of the Copenhagen Pride week, the Danish government has officially announced an upcoming LGBTI action plan, which is set to be introduced in 2018.
According to the CPH Post, the plan aims to prevent discrimination and promote equal opportunities for rainbow communities. It is also set to focus on tackling bullying and violence in the education system.
As ILGA-Europe reports, a cross ministerial LGBTI working group will be organised, and Equality minister Karen Ellemann will be responsible for its coordination.
Human rights organisations have welcomed the announcement: “We are very excited about the initiative, but we say in capital letters that there must be money to back these words,” said Søren Laursen of LGBT Danmark. “If there is no funding to pursue the content of the action plan, then it becomes political symbolism that will not make any difference in people’s everyday lives.”
Wednesday, August 23
United States: murders against our communities at unprecedented high, report shows
More LGBTQ and HIV-affected people have been killed in hate-violence-related homicides so far in 2017 than in all of 2016 in the United States, according to a report by the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP).
NCAVP listed reports of 36 hate violence related homicides as of August 23: it is the highest number ever recorded by the organisation. “This number represents a 29% increase in single incident reports from 2016” when 28 incidents were reported, not mentioning the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando.
This year’s numbers seem to mark an unprecedented high, with nearly one homicide a week. “The victims of these hate violence related homicides have overwhelmingly been transgender women and queer, bi, or gay cisgender men,” the report reads. Statistics also show that people of colour were disproportionally (75%) affected by this epidemic of violence. More than 6 in 10 victims were under the age of 35.
The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs added: “We are releasing this report at a time where neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and white nationalists marched through the streets of Charlottesville, Virginia shouting anti-Black, anti-Semitic and anti-LGBTQ chants, and within the context of a growing national conversation about the escalation of hate violence against so many marginalized communities. The time for addressing this crisis of violence is now.”
Thursday, August 24
India: Supreme Court upholds right to privacy, in ruling that may impact criminalisation of same-sex relations
A nine-judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court decided to unanimously uphold a fundamental right to privacy, in a ruling that explicitly mentions sexual orientation and may have an impact on the ongoing criminalisation of same-sex relations.
“Discrimination against an individual on the basis of sexual orientation is deeply offensive to the dignity and self-worth of the individual,” the 547-page ruling reads. “The right to privacy and the protection of sexual orientation lie at the core of the fundamental rights guaranteed by Articles 14, 15 and 21 of the Constitution.”
The ruling came in a case challenging India’s Aadhaar program (a programme giving an identity number to all Indian residents based on their personal data), but its implications may go beyond that; it may symbolise a renewed legal challenge to the 2013 judgement that upheld Section 377 of the Penal Code, which criminalises same-sex sexual relations.
Examining a decision in the 377 case, referred to as “Koushal”, one of the nine judges wrote: “The view in Koushal that the High Court had erroneously relied upon international precedents ‘in its anxiety to protect the so-called rights of LGBT persons’ is similarly, in our view, unsustainable. The rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender population cannot be construed to be ‘so-called rights’. (…) Sexual orientation is an essential component of identity. Equal protection demands protection of the identity of every individual without discrimination.”
A curative petition against the 2013 ruling filed by Naz Foundation raised afresh the issue of the right to privacy, Hindustan Times recalled. In February 2016, the country’s Supreme Court said it would review its 2013 judgement, referring the curative petition against Section 377 to a 5-judge bench. The 5-judge bench is yet to deliberate on this.
Is that all? More LGBTI news bites
Hundreds of persons gathered together in Kathmandu, Nepal for the annual Gaijatra LGBTI Pride March, which was inaugurated by the Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare.
The Senate in Haiti voted to ban marriage equality as well as “any public demonstration of support for homosexuality and proselytizing in favour of such acts.”
Dozens of persons have gathered together in Cochabamba, Bolivia for the first national congress of LGBT elderly people.
An LGBTI non-governmental organisation in Fiji has launched an initiative to tackle teenage pregnancy and STIs, making sure that condoms are available for free at motels and nightclubs in some areas of the country.
In Northern Ireland, the High Court has dismissed two cases challenging the law not allowing marriage equality.
A new Crown Prosecution Service policy on prosecuting hate crime and supporting victims in England and Wales acknowledged for the first time that victims of biphobic hate crimes have different experiences and needs to victims of homophobic and transphobic offences.
In Nigeria, 15 students have been arrested for allegedly beating a classmate to death in a homophobic hate crime.
In South Africa, the Johannesburg High Court ruled that an article by a journalist and political figure where same-sex attraction was compared with bestiality was “clearly hurtful and harmful and had potential of causing harm”.
The House in Texas, United States has adjourned its special session sine die without passing a new bill to restrict access to bathrooms in public buildings and schools for trans persons.
In the United States, according to reports, the White House is about to issue guidance to the Pentagon on the implementation of President Trump’s proposal to ban trans people from serving in the military.