In a landmark ruling celebrated worldwide as a major victory for human rights, the Supreme Court of India has ruled with a unanimous decision that criminalising consensual same-sex conduct is unconstitutional.
Section 377 used to sanction “carnal intercourse against the order of nature” with a punishment of up to ten years in prison. The five-judges bench deemed the provision “irrational, arbitrary and incomprehensible,” and Justice Indu Malhotra clearly stated in her opinion that “History owes an apology to the LGBT community.”
“The overwhelming weight of international opinion and the dramatic increase in the pace of recognition of fundamental rights for same-sex couples reflects a growing consensus towards sexual orientation equality”, the judgement further reflected, quoting ILGA data about countries worldwide that are still criminalising same-sex activity.
Human rights defenders and communities worldwide came together to praise this truly historic ruling, which makes of India the first country in the Indian sub-continent to decriminalise same-sex activity. “We hope and will make sure that other countries will follow suit in overturning this remnant from the colonial law,” said ILGA Asia co-Chair Mani AQ.
(Thursday, September 6)
More news from Asia:
Two women were publicly caned in Malaysia as they were found guilty of same-sex activity. It was the first time that such a punishment was carried out in the country in such a way, sparking outrage from civil society.
UNDP and China Women’s University have released a new report providing a legal and policy review on legal gender recognition in China.
Latin America and the Caribbean
Ban on marriage equality “unconstitutional”, Costa Rican Supreme Court rules
Saludamos decisión de Corte Suprema de Justicia de Costa Rica que declaró inconstitucional la prohibición del matrimonio entre personas del mismo sexo. Instamos al Estado a avanzar en forma expedita en la implementación efectiva de esta sentencia. Lee más: https://t.co/aHhUU4kTO1pic.twitter.com/Fp9k20xkGR
During its longest session in the past 29 years, the Supreme Court of Costa Rica ruled that the definition of marriage as a union between a man and a woman is unconstitutional, and gave the Legislative Assembly 18 months to amend its laws to allow marriage equality.
The decision arrived only a few months after the historic opinion issued by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, which indicated that all couples must be guaranteed the same legal protections and rights, including the right to marriage, in States under the American Convention on Human Rights.
Costa Rican President Carlos Alvarado immediately announced that he would have called an extraordinary session of the Legislative Assembly to start addressing the issue. Should lawmakers fail to implement laws lifting the ban by the deadline indicated by the Supreme Court, marriage equality will automatically become a reality in the country.
While welcoming the ruling, organisations on the ground expressed disappointment as the ban was not immediately lifted, and further called on the President not to advance a civil union bill that would “directly contravene the opinion of the Inter-American Court”.
(Wednesday, August 8)
More LGBTI news from Latin America and the Caribbean:
The Senate of Chile has passed the Gender Identity Bill with a 26-14 vote, allowing trans persons aged 14 and more to legally change their name and gender marker. The bill now goes to the Chamber of Deputies for a final vote.
In Argentina, the Senate rejected a bill to legalise abortion in the first 14 weeks of pregnancy. The measure had previously been approved by the lower house, and President Macri had said he would have signed it.
California becomes first US state to pass legislation on intersex rights
The state of California has passed a resolution calling on the medical profession to delay cosmetic non-consensual procedures on intersex persons until an individual can participate in the decision.
“Physicians should not immediately seek to ‘correct’ how people are born through irreversible surgeries, unless they are medically necessary”, said Senator Scott Wiener, who authored the resolution. “These surgeries can have significant negative impacts on people’s lives, particularly if the gender chosen by the physician and parents is different from the child’s ultimate gender identity.”
As human rights organisation interACT pointed out, the resolution explains that the legislature “considers intersex children a part of the fabric of our state’s diversity to be celebrated rather than an aberration to be corrected”, and directly quotes intersex people explaining their experiences with the medical community.
(Tuesday, August 28)
More LGBTI news from North America:
Horrific news involving teenagers broke in the United States: a 9-year-old boy committed suicide after he was bullied at school after coming out as gay, while a 12-year-old trans girl was targeted in a social media post by the parents of a classmate, leading to violent threats and driving officials to close the school for two days.
In the United States, the Labour Department issued a new directive seeking to expand the circumstances in which federal contractors can use religious beliefs as a defence against job discrimination charges.
Dozens gather in Samoa for the third ILGA Oceania regional conference
Almost 100 human rights defenders came together in the Samoan capital of Apia from 13 countries across the Pacific to attend the third ILGA Oceania regional conference.
Days of important discussions around the theme ‘Our Land, Our Rights, One Ocean’ took place, addressing issues as diverse as advocacy at the United Nations for rainbow communities, LGBTI parenting,human rights violations faced by intersex people in the Pacific, and many more.
Participants also had the chance to witness the work of a rural fa’afafine community in an area that was heavily affected by the tsunami and earthquake that shook the island in 2009, and to attend the Samoa Fa’afafine beauty pageant, on whose stage the conference came to an official end in front of an audience of hundreds.
“This conference has been a truly historic event,” commented ILGA Oceania co-Convenor Tuisina Ymania Brown. “For the first time, an ILGA event is held on Pacific soil”. The conference also took place in a very special moment for the organisation: during the event, ILGA turned 40, officially starting celebrations that will culminate at the World Conference in Aotearoa / New Zealand in March 2019.
(Wednesday, August 29)
More LGBTI news from Oceania:
Only a few days after he took office, the new Prime Minister of Australia made headlines for a transphobic remark on Twitter, in which he slammed support for gender-diverse kids at school.
A legal organisation in Australia has lodged a formal complaint of vilification against 25 people who “engaged in public acts of hate speech” during the 2017 postal plebiscite on marriage equality.
57 men arrested in Nigeria for alleged same-sex activity
Police arrested 57 men who were attending a party at a hotel in the Lagos state of Nigeria, accusing them of same-sex activity. According to reports, law enforcements received a tip-off and stormed the hotel, where they found at least 80 persons in the hall and arrested many of those who tried to escape.
Those arrested, however, have told a different story. One of them spoke about a birthday party with a mixed crowd, and of arbitrary arrests that would have involved also hotel guests who had not joined the celebrations.
According to Pink News, this police action follows a similar one dating back to a few weeks earlier, where six men were arrested in a hotel in the south-eastern state of Abia and accused of same-sex activity.
(Monday, August 27)
More LGBTI news from Africa:
Thousands of persons marched in cities across Southern Africa to raise awareness of gender-based violence during a one-day ‘total shutdown’. The event was repeated one month later in South Africa, as activists further reiterated their demands to the government.
400 persons were reported to have voluntarily signed up for a 'conversion' therapy forum during a conference in Ghana.
15 countries question Russia on human rights abuses in Chechnya
As the human rights situation in #Chechnya deteriorates, 15 #OSCE countries today demanded an explanation from #Russia by invoking the Vienna Mechanism.
In a statement to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), fifteen countries have posed questions to Russia on its human rights record in Chechnya, leaving ten days for the country to answer.
“Numerous credible reports by media and civil society organizations over the past 20 months have alleged worrying actions taken by Chechen authorities against persons based on their perceived or actual sexual orientation or gender identity,” the statement reads, citing an “inadequate” response from Russia to the numerous concerns that were repeatedlyraised on the same issue over the past 20 months.
“Therefore, our countries are today invoking Russia’s commitments under the Vienna (Human Dimension) Mechanism to respond to our concerns,” the document continues, questioning Russia on the measures it has taken to investigate human rights abuses.
The government of Germany has voted on a bill, now to be discussed in Parliament, introducing a third gender option in identity documents. The proposed gender 'diverse' marker, however, leaves trans and non-binary persons behind, as it is only accessible to intersex persons with a medical certificate – a further unnecessary gatekeeping.
Two gay men who were seeking asylum in Austria have seen their applications rejected. Not fitting stereotypes in one case, and allegedly faking his real sexual orientation in the other, were cited as the reasons for officials to deny their applications.
Equal Rights Coalition reiterates commitment to LGBTI equal rights
The 39 member states of the Equal Rights Coalition (ERC) came together for three days in Vancouver, BC, Canada, and reiterated their commitment to LGBTI equal rights.
Civil society was present in numbers, working together to develop recommendations to the ERC government members on how to best advance LGBTI human rights and inclusive development.
“We share the conviction that inclusive and human-rights-based policy and development approaches that respect diversity help to build more resilient, prosperous, and successful societies,” reads a joint statement that was released at the end of the meeting. “Our discussions served to strengthen that conviction. We heard from two-spirit and other LGBTI Indigenous persons about their lived experience. We examined the importance of linguistic and cultural factors in building communities and enhancing collaboration between individuals and organizations. We redoubled our efforts to address the distinct needs and experiences of intersex persons, of transgender and gender-diverse persons, and of lesbian and bisexual women. We recognise that LGBTI persons may face multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination, (and) we are committed to making real progress for LGBTI persons - including youth - that leaves no one behind.”