Two weeks in LGBTI news
October 26 - November 8, 2018
ILGA's LGBulleTIn #135 provides two weeks in LGBTI news of the world to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex community and their allies
Prepared by Daniele Paletta
Researched and edited by Zineb Oulmakki
Tanzania: plans to create task force targeting LGBT communities sparks global outrage
Governor of Dar es Salaam Paul Makonda announced plans to form a task force to identify and arrest people suspected of being 'homosexuals,' in what could turn into a witch-hunt against sexual and gender diverse persons in Tanzania.
Makonda called for Tanzanians to report anyone whom they suspected to belong to our communities, and told a news conference he had already received hundreds of messages and names, forcing hundreds of LGBT person into hiding, out of fear for their own safety.
The news immediately sparked global outrage and reactions: the European Union recalled its ambassador from Tanzania over “the deterioration of human rights and rule of law”, and UN Human Rights Commissioner Michelle Bachelet warned that such a witch-hunt “could be interpreted as a licence to carry out violence, intimidation, bullying, harassment and discrimination against those perceived to be LGBT.”
The Foreign Ministry then backtracked on Makonda’s plans, saying it didn’t reflect the official government position. The reality on the ground however is challenging: according to reports, ten men have been arrested on the island of Zanzibar after police received a “tip-off” from members of the public about an alleged same-sex marriage taking place.
“It is sad that a section of the Tanzania society is being targeted in such a heinous way,” Anthony Oluoch, Pan Africa ILGA’s Program Manager commented. “It is the government’s duty to protect and defend the rights of every individual. It is time that the society in Tanzania realize that these incredibly draconian laws (…) are not only being used to target gay people, but are a state sanctioned invasion of everyone’s privacy and what they consensually do in their own homes. This is dangerous and it affects every citizen of Tanzania.”
More news from Africa
The Southern Synod of the United Reformed Church in Southern Africa announced its decision to begin ordaining LGBTIQ people and marrying same-sex couples.
Investigations by Human Rights Watch revealed that authorities in Tunisia are confiscating and searching the phones of men they suspect of being involved in same-sex activity and pressuring them to undergo forced anal examinations.
Latin America and the Caribbean
Argentina: non-binary person allowed to delete gender marker in legal documents
A Civil Registration Office in Mendoza, Argentina has allowed a person to see their identity documents updated, without including any specification regarding their gender marker.
This marks a precedent in accordance with the country’s 2012 Gender Identity Law and, according to Presentes, an absolute first for Latin America.
"This is the first case that is resolved at the administrative level,” explained Eleonora Lamm, deputy Human Rights director of the Provincial Court of Mendoza. “Other cases had seen more generic resolutions that required to be discussed in court.”
“I had lived a constant dichotomy, coming out of a closet to enter another one", 32-year old Gerónimo Carolina González Devesa told La Nación. "Now, with the legal recognition of who I am, I feel like I was born again, and being my authentic self".
More news from Latin America and the Caribbean
In Honduras, the National Human Rights Commissioner has expressed his support for advancing marriage equality and legal gender recognition for trans persons.
With a unanimous vote, the Senate of Mexico approved laws to guarantee social security rights for married same-sex couples.
Together with Akahatà, GATE and TGEU, ILGA brought together 50 intersex, trans and gender-diverse activists from around the world to Buenos Aires, Argentina for the 25th WPATH Symposium.
Armenia: LGBT Christians Forum cancelled amidst violence and death threats
Organisers were forced to cancel this year’s Forum of LGBT Christians of Eastern Europe and Central Asia, due to take place in Yerevan, Armenia in November 2018, amidst a growing climate of intimidation.
“We are deeply distressed and disappointed that political violence, death threats, and vandalism directed at LGBTI people are constituting a genuine threat to the safety of our participants,” the European Forum of LGBT Christian Groups and the “New Generation” Humanitarian NGO commented.
The Forums have been held since 2004, bringing together dozens of LGBTI persons of faith, activists, psychologists and church ministers. Our communities, however, got particularly targeted ahead of the upcoming parliamentary election in the country, and the Forum caught the attention of right-wing conservatives.
The situation escalated quickly, while police failed to offer significant protection to the victims: New Generation was forced to suspend its activities in a wave of vandalisms, assaults against tourists and hundreds of death threats sent to Forum participants both from politicians and armed extremists.
A statement made by Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan during a parliamentary discussion of the Forum also contributed to create a claustrophobic climate, referring to LGBTI equality as a ‘headache’ and defending so-called ‘family values’.
“(We) are demanding a swift response from national authorities in Armenia", ILGA-Europe Executive Director Evelyne Paradis said. The European region of ILGA also called on regional and international organisations to "utilise all mechanisms available to them in order to ensure Armenia adheres to its human rights obligations."
More news from Europe
Sixteen member states of the Organization for Security and Cooperation invoked the Moscow Mechanism to investigate the reports of severe human rights violations against LGBT persons in the Chechen Republic.
Schools in Poland celebrated the annual Rainbow Friday, despite the awareness-raising event being denounced as 'political agitation' by the government. According to reports, principals were also being pressured to discipline any teachers or students involved.
Indonesia witnesses new wave of attacks against sexual and gender diverse persons
After Indonesian officials publicly called for policies that would target LGBT people for arrest and ‘rehabilitation’, sexual and gender diverse communities in the country witnessed a new wave of attacks against them.
In West Sumatra, police arrested 10 women after they found pictures of them kissing and hugging on Facebook. Not charged with any crime, they were sent to the local Office for Social Services to receive ‘guidance’.
Another disturbing incident occurred in the province of Lampung, where three trans women were hosed down by public order agency officers using water from a fire truck. Although the women were not charged with any offence, officials compared the degrading punishment that they inflicted with a form of ritual bathing to cleanse people off of ‘impurity’.
“Indonesia’s presidential election in April 2019 could mean an uptick in politicians scapegoating LGBT+ people for cynical political gain,” Human Rights Watch noted. “If the past three years are any evidence, the verbal threats politicians issue can quickly metastasise into physical attacks.”
More news from Asia
At least two arrests of gay men under Section 377 of the country's penal code have recently taken place in Myanmar, leaving the community to call for fair and unbiased media coverage of the cases.
Authorities in Jordan announced the cancellation of an event discussing the impact of art in the fight against stereotypes because a magazine covering LGBTI and gender issues was involved.
Australia: Anglican schools asked to give up right to discriminate against LGBT+ students and teachers
More than 1,000 current and former students from Anglican schools in Australia have written to their principals asking them to give up the right to discriminate against LGBT+ students and teachers.
The open letter came as a public reaction after it was revealed that 34 Anglican schools in greater Sydney had written to the federal education minister, Dan Tehan, demanding protection of religious schools’ anti-discrimination law exemptions. Such provisions, The Guardian points out, include the right to expel students or sack teachers on the grounds of their sexual orientation, gender identity or relationship status.
Former and current students fought back with an open letter that amassed more than 1,000 signatures in less than 24 hours: "School is meant to be a place of development, open expression and trust. (...) We also find that this action is against your ethos as Christians. Did Jesus not say ‘Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself’? [Matthew 22, verse 40]. Religiosity should never grounds to discriminate against others.”
Since then, at least three schools have apologised to staff and students for the hurt caused after signing the open letter.
More news from Oceania
Dates were announced in Samoa for the 2018 Faafafine Week, aimed at raising awareness on sexual reproductive health and rights and fighting to end gender-based violence.
A sexual health survey focused on the trans and gender-diverse community has been announced in Australia.
United States: Massachusetts votes to uphold state-level protection for trans persons
In a historic victory, Massachusetts voted to uphold a state law that forbids discrimination based on gender identity in public places.
The law was approved with bipartisan support in 2016, and equality opponents have sought to have the measure repealed ever since.
During election day, Question 3 was thus created to ask voters if they wanted to keep the law that protects trans people against discrimination in hotels, stores, restaurants, theatres, hospitals, sports and other public facilities. The answer was a resounding ‘yes’, making Massachusetts the first state to uphold trans protections on a standalone ballot measure.
“Tonight’s victory illuminates the path forward amidst a particularly dark time for transgender Americans across the nation,” said Masen Davis, CEO of Freedom for All Americans. “This victory is a reminder that broad majorities of Americans support treating transgender people with dignity and respect – and that attempts at the federal level to allow discrimination don’t reflect the values held by most Americans.”
The past election day brought along a rainbow wave across the United States: more than 150 LGBTI candidates won nationwide at federal, state, and local levels.
Among them, there are the nation’s first out gay man elected governor (Jared Polis in Colorado), and a bisexual woman, Kate Brown, re-elected for the same role in Oregon.
Betsy Driver has become the nation’s first openly intersex mayor in Flemington, New Jersey, while the first Native woman ever elected to U.S. Congress, Sharice Davids, is also the first out lesbian congresswoman from Kansas.
More news from North America
People in British Columbia, Canada who do not identify as male or female can now choose to see their gender marker displayed as 'X' on their driver’s licence, identity card, birth certificate and BC Services Card.
Hundreds of intersex human rights defenders staged protests in New York City and Chicago on the occasion of Intersex Awareness Day, calling for an end to non-consensual surgery on intersex youth.
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