The week in LGBTI news
February 9-15, 2018
Prepared by Daniele Paletta
Edited by Callum Birch
ILGA's LGBulleTIn #112 provides a week in LGBTI news of the world to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex community and their allies
Friday, February 9
Uganda: human rights group targeted in violent break-in
An organisation working to protect the human rights of marginalised people in Uganda, including LGBTI communities and sex workers, has once again been targeted by unidentified assailants.
At least nine persons assaulted the premises of the Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum (HRAPF) overnight and severely injured the two guards on duty, attacking them with iron bars and batons.
This is the second time in two years that the organisation has been targeted: in May 2016, their offices were ransacked, and the guard on duty was brutally beaten to death. Such incidents are unfortunately far from rare: according to human rights organisation DefendDefenders, over 30 organizations in Uganda have experienced similar break-ins in the past five years.
In 2016, following a spike in such attacks, ILGA and Pan Africa ILGA joined 29 other human rights organisations from across the world and sent a letter to the inspector general of police, expressing grave concern over the assaults and asking which steps police planned to take in order to guarantee safety for human rights defenders. As Human Rights Watch reports, the letter never received an answer.
Following the recent attack, HRAPF staff and partners staged a sit-in outside the police headquarters, demanding security for the organisation and thorough investigations on the break-ins. Read more in this HRAPF report.
Friday, February 9
Colombia: couple found guilty of homophobic harassment against their neighbours
A couple found guilty of harassing their neighbours on the grounds of their sexual orientation have received a suspended sentence to 26 months in prison and a fine.
More than three years ago, the rainbow couple reported to have been constantly harassed by co-owners of the residential complex they lived in, since the moment the neighbours found out that they were an actual couple.
The testimonies indicated that a woman, Bible in her hand, asked the couple to leave, while her husband stated that "a gay man could not be the administrator of a condominium" and went from house to house asking residents to expel the couple.
The matter was settled soon after the incidents were reported to police, but the truce did not last long, eventually leading to the case being discussed in court and to the recent ruling.
Sunday, February 11
Human rights defenders set up Asian regional intersex network
Intersex human rights organisations and activists from across Asia have created their first regional network called Intersex Asia. This “aims to work towards the promotion and protection of human rights of intersex people in Asia, to be a representative voice for Asian intersex people and communities, and to ensure that the rights to life, bodily integrity, physical autonomy and self-determination of intersex people are promoted and protected everywhere.”
Such a foundation, a media statement explains, “marks a historical moment for the visibility and recognition of intersex human rights in Asia.”
The network was announced as the First Asian Intersex Forum came to an end: the event - organised by ILGA Asia and supported by ILGA and the Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice, and culminating in a public statement - gathered together 14 intersex people in Bangkok, representing intersex organisations and communities from Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam.
Monday, February 12
United States: Education Department admits to rejecting complaints from trans students
The United States Education Department has stated that it won't investigate or take action on any complaints filed by trans students who are banned from restrooms that match their gender identity.
A spokesperson for the Education Department was reported to confirm the agency’s current position that restroom complaints from trans students are not covered by Title IX, a 1972 federal civil rights law prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sex.
According to Buzzfeed, officials had never asserted this position publicly as an interpretation of law before. However, no formal announcement has been made to date.
The US Department of Education is choosing to "ignore the law in favour of their ideology,” commented Harper Jean Tobin, policy director for the National Center for Transgender Equality.
Only a few days before the announcement, more than 700 parents of trans children signed a letter organised by Human Rights Campaign to Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, calling on her to recognise the basic human and civil rights of trans students throughout the nation’s schools.
Wednesday, February 14
Australia: submissions to 'religious freedom review' speak up against exemptions allowing LGBTI discrimination
More than 16,000 submissions were received by the Expert Panel examining whether Australian law adequately protects the right to freedom of religion, the Government has announced.
The so-called ‘religious freedom review’ was announced in 2017 to consider some of the concerns raised by religious groups as marriage equality was on its way to become the law of the land.
According to reports, a number of submissions raised concerns that law exemptions may end up turning LGBTI persons into targets of discrimination: “We actually need to narrow broad exemptions for religious bodies in discrimination law that prevent vulnerable people, including LGBTI people, from accessing critical services,” explained Anna Brown, Director of Legal Advocacy with the Human Rights Law Centre. “This inquiry is an opportunity to get the balance right.”
The Equality Campaign expressed similar views, alleging that exemptions “go too far” as they allow publicly funded religious social services to “lawfully turn away LGBTI people, single mothers and others where this refusal is in line with the charity’s religious beliefs”.
On the other hand, religious school groups were reported to call for education settings to retain the ability to hire and fire teachers and other staff, and exclude students, based on their beliefs and adherence to religious codes.
Submissions to the ‘religious freedom review' panel are now closed: the panel announced it will hold face-to-face consultations with stakeholders throughout February, and will report its findings by the end of March.
Wednesday, February 14
Greece: LBTI refugee women among those at risk in asylum seeker hotspots, reports show
Refugee women and children face heightened risk of sexual violence at reception facilities on Greek islands, UNHCR spokesperson told a press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.
According to the UN Refugee Agency, more than 600 asylum seekers on the Greek Aegean islands reported sexual and gender-based violence in 2017, of whom more than a quarter experienced abuse after arriving in Greece. The situation is particularly worrying in the Reception and Identification Centres (RIC) of Moria (Lesvos) and Vathy (Samos): some 5,500 people are in these centres, which is double their intended capacity.
Although Greece’s Ministry for Migration Policy replied stating that UNHCR’s findings were not “thorough” or “scientifically substantiated,” a report by Human Rights Watch revealed identical concerns, and showed how LBTI women are among those who are at particular risk of violence.
The organisation reported the threats and assaults faced by an 18-year-old lesbian girl from Cameroon at the hands of a male asylum seeker. The girl claimed not to have reported the assault in fear of retaliation: “If I report it to the police, maybe they won’t do anything, [but] if he is reprimanded, his friends will come and hurt me.”
Is that all? More news bites
The world has mourned the loss of human rights lawyer Asma Jahangir: SOGIE references have often been part of her work as a Special Procedures mandate holder, and she was among the signatories of the Yogyakarta Principles.
In Pakistan, a Senate committee approved proposed amendments to the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill 2017, establishing that a person will not need to appear before a medical board to determine their gender.
A newspaper in Malaysia sparked worldwide outrage as it published a list of pointers for identifying potential gay and lesbian people.
In Giza, Egypt, two persons were arrested and later released on 'debauchery' charges for organising a concert allegedly to be attended only by rainbow communities.
A movie depicting a relation between two men in the context of a Xhosa initiation ritual has been banned from playing at mainstream cinemas in South Africa, only to be screened at "designated adult premises".
In Australia, the founder of a support organisation for Indigenous members of the LGBTI community has handed back a human rights award to distance himself from another individual also awarded who recently went public with homophobic rants.
In a reported first for Australia, the national football league has agreed to allow a trans woman to play at state level.
“Gender identity and sex characteristics related conditions” have reportedly become an integral part of the National Health System entitlement schedule in Malta.
Intersex activists from across Europe gathered together in Denmark as OII-Europe held its second community event and conference on the occasion of Copenhagen Winter Pride.
The Presbyterian Church in Canada issued a ‘letter of repentance to the LGBTQI community’: “For the church and our congregations failing to be safe and welcoming places, we are sorry, and we repent.”
In Miami, FL, United States, a teacher was fired from a Catholic school on the day she returned to work after she had married her partner for allegedly ‘breaking her contract’.
In Chile, a government spokesperson confirmed that there is a shared commitment to "try and accelerate as much as possible" the legislative processes of both the marriage equality and the gender identity law.
In Argentina, the oral arguments for the murder of trans activist Diana Sacayán - originally scheduled for the second half of February 2018 – are set to begin on March 12.
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