The week in LGBTI news
December 1-7, 2017
Prepared by Daniele Paletta
Edited by Lara Goodwin
Monday, December 4
Victor Madrigal-Borloz appointed new UN Independent Expert on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
From January 1, Costa-Rican jurist Victor Madrigal-Borloz is set to take the role of United Nations Independent Expert on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity. The appointment went through this week at the Human Rights Council, after his nomination was proposed by the president of the 47 government member world body charged with overseeing human rights around the globe.
Currently serving as the Secretary-General of the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRCT), Madrigal-Borloz spent many years in the Inter-American Court and Commission of Human Rights. He served as Member of the UN Sub-Committee for the Prevention of Torture and was responsible for drafting the policy on LGBTI persons leading to the text that was eventually adopted. He is also one of the signatories to the recently adopted Additional Principles and State Obligations of the Yogyakarta Principles Plus 10.
“While focusing his work on torture prevention and accountability, Mr. Madrigal-Borloz witnessed the multiple layers of violence and discrimination faced by LGBTI persons worldwide, maintaining an intersectional approach in his analysis that deeply matters to our communities,” commented Ruth Baldacchino and Helen Kennedy, co-secretaries general of ILGA.
"We know his work and his career very well, because he is from our region. We believe he will do a great job, and that the voice of civil society will play an important role in his mandate," added Luz Aranda and Darío Arias, co-secretaries general of ILGALAC.
Read more about the appointment here
Monday, December 4
ILGA Asia regional conference kicks off in Cambodia
More than 300 human rights defenders, development partners and authorities gathered together in Phnom Penh, Cambodia for the seventh ILGA Asia regional conference.
Hosted by Rainbow community Kampuchea, the event kicked off with two days of pre-conference dedicated to UN advocacy, interfaith, intersex, trans, bisexual and LBQ women's issues, followed by three days of plenaries, workshops and caucuses.
“Many things happened within (the past) two years, with different impacts on our LGBTIQ community across the Asian continent,” read a welcome message from Hiker Chiu and Manisha Dhakal, co-Chairs of ILGA Asia. “Amidst this time of changes and turbulence, we see the need for us to stay strong together, to show our solidarity, and to be there for each other. We are angered, we are outraged. Yet hate won’t do anything for us. Two wrongs won’t make a right. We must maintain the compassion and kindness towards humanity, and to ourselves. This message is highlighted through the theme of the conference this year: “United for Love.”
The ILGA World team was present at the conference, too, hosting pre-conferences and workshops. During the event, the second edition of our Gender Identity and Gender Expression Programme’s Trans Legal Mapping Report was also launched: the document will soon be available for download on our website.
Monday, December 4
Brazil: LGBT community centre vandalised in São Paulo
The premises of an community centre in São Paulo has been robbed and vandalized in an act that, according to the Human Rights Secretariat of the city, clearly shows “hate against LGBT people and everybody who works to support this community.”
During the weekend, somebody entered the Centro de Cidadania LGBT Luiz Carlos Ruas in Consolação, and damaged everything they could find; computer cables and telephone lines were cut, documents were torn, office material was overturned, and every faucet in the building was left running. The floor and many documents were found stained with bodily excrements.
“When those who are responsible for this invasion defecate in our workplace” and “tear up documents to wipe themselves, they demonstrate the contempt they have for what that paperwork represents and attest to in the defence of human rights and advocacy of citizenship,” a statement from the centre reads.
While an investigation on the attack has been opened, many showed solidarity, and an event to support the activities of the centre has been organized.
Tuesday, December 5
Austria: Constitutional Court overturns barriers to marriage equality
A judgement from Austria’s Constitutional Court has opened the option of marriage equality and equal access to registered partnerships in the country.
The Court concluded that “…the legal separation of gender and same-sex relationships into two different legal institutions violates the principle of equality."
As ILGA-Europe points out, the judgement follows an earlier preliminary ruling from the Constitutional Court that having registered partnership as the only option for same-sex couples is not permissible, even if registered partnerships and marriage are made legally “absolutely identical.”
“This decision opens up marriage and registered partnerships to all couples; it is a really positive and refreshingly inclusive judgment,” said ILGA-Europe Executive Director Evelyne Paradis. HOSI Vienna also welcomed the decision, and called on such an opening to “be accompanied by a comprehensive reform and modernization of the marital law.”
It is expected that marriage equality and equal access to registered partnerships will be available from 1 January 2019 at the latest, unless the legislator amends the laws on marriage and/or registered partnerships earlier than that.
Tuesday, December 5
Botswana: Registrar agrees to change gender marker on a document following Court ruling
The Registrar of National Registration of Botswana agreed to issue a new identity document for ND, a person who sought to see his gender identity legally reflected, by December 18.
The decision came almost two months after the High Court of Botswana ruled that the Registrar change ND’s gender marker on the identity document from female to male.
On that occasion, the Court acknowledged that failing to recognize their gender identities exposes trans persons to wide-spread discrimination, stigma and harassment, and that “legal recognition of the applicant’s gender identity is part of (his) right to dignity.”
“To live years in a mistaken identity is beyond the unthinkable,” ND commented after the Registrar made its decision public. “I hope that many others in my position would have a similar opportunity to live their life with dignity.”
As the Southern African Litigation Centre pointed out, a trans activist has recently brought a similar case in Botswana, and the victory obtained by ND is likely to set a precedent.
Tuesday, December 5
United States: Supreme Court hears oral arguments in Cakeshop case
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard oral arguments for Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, a landmark case which will decide whether a baker had a right to refuse service to a gay couple, citing religious reasons.
Back in 2012, Charlie Craig and David Mullins headed to Masterpiece Cakeshop for their wedding cake: they were turned down by the owner of the shop and his wife, who were later found to have violated Colorado’s public accommodations law which bars discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation.
For Mullins and Craig, much more than a wedding cake is at stake. "This is about freedom, freedom for LGBT people to live full lives in public," they were quoted as saying as activists gathered outside the U.S. Supreme Court. “All deserve fair and equal treatment.”
As ACLU explains, “the bakery asserts that enforcing Colorado’s public accommodations law would force it to express support for a same-sex couple’s wedding, which would violate its constitutional rights to speech and religion. […] The bakery, however, seeks a constitutional right to pick and choose its customers based on its religious views or simply its preference about who it considers acceptable as members of the public. Such a right would create a gaping hole in the nation’s civil rights laws, licensing discrimination.”
According to reports, the Supreme Court seemed to be closely divided on the issue: as an analysis by Religious Dispatches points out, “Masterpiece Cakeshop is about the permissibility of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, but the spectres of earlier civil rights battles continually stalked the courtroom.” A decision is likely to be set before June 2018.
Thursday, December 7
Australia: parliament legislates for marriage equality
Marriage equality will become the law of the land in Australia, after the second and third readings of Senator Dean Smith’s Marriage Equality Bill passed in the House of Representatives by a landslide majority.
As Buzzfeed noted, this historic day arrived “after years of hard-fought advocacy, over 20 failed bills, and an extraordinary, unprecedented national postal survey.”
This Bill now goes to the Governor General Peter Cosgrove for his assent and will become the law of Australia, after a few formalities, 28 days after that.
ILGA Oceania - the regional chapter of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association - celebrated the historic moment, and acknowledged the hard work that LGBTIQ and human rights activists in Australia and around the world have done during this long and protracted fight.
"Today, love won. Human rights won. Marriage equality won. Humanity won," commented Tuisina Ymania Brown, co-Convenor of ILGA Oceania. "Why? Because for the first time in this country, we are equal in terms of who we love."
Is that all? More LGBTI news bites
Communities around the world marked World AIDS Day on December 1. On the occasion, UNAIDS Executive Director Michael Sidibé reminded everyone that "too many people—especially those who are the most marginalized and most affected by HIV—still face challenges in accessing the health and social services they urgently need."
The International Trans Fund announced its second grantmaking cycle, welcoming applications from trans-led groups based in any region of the world.
Police in Tanzania have arrested a woman after a video clip showing her and another woman kissing at a party began circulating online.
In South Africa, Iranti-org launched their Trans web series: "To create visibility in a world that would erase our identities as gender-diverse Africans is an act of rebellion and revolution."
In the United States, the New York City Council passed by a vote of 43-2 a bill banning the dangerous and discredited practice of so-called ‘conversion therapy.’
The federal government of Canada announced it will contribute $47,000 toward a security system for Egale Centre, a shelter dedicated to homeless LGBTIQ2S youth that is set to open in 2019.
The Government of Sweden has recently published the results of its survey of trans people’s living conditions, concluding that efforts to improve such conditions “must be reinforced at a structural level."
A hearing addressing forced sterilisation was held at the European Parliament this week, to which ILGA-Europe contributed by sharing specific experiences of trans and intersex persons.
The Asia Pacific Transgender Network (APTN) and the UNDP Being LGBTI in Asia programme released a new report based on a review of existing laws, policies and practices related to legal gender recognition for trans people in nine countries across Asia.
Youth Voices Count released a collection of testimonies from young LGBTQ+ people in Asia and the Pacific, documenting the struggles they have endured growing up in the absence of comprehensive sexuality education.
Thirty-two major employers earned top ratings in the inaugural HRC Equidad MX Report, a first-of-its-kind assessment designed to increase LGBT-inclusion in workplaces across Mexico.
Hundreds of persons were reported taking part in a 'pro-life and family' march in San José, Costa Rica, opposing so-called 'gender ideology', marriage equality and access to abortion.
LGBTIQ+ respondents who took part in a recent study of impact of the plebiscite in Australia said that "experiences of verbal and physical assaults in the 3 months following the announcement of the postal vote more than doubled, compared to the 6 months prior to the announcement."
Civil society organisations working with survivors of gender-based violence in the Pacific region have urged law enforcement and the wider community in the region to apply a rights-based approach to counter gender-based violence.