The week in LGBTI news
6 - 12 December 2019
Written by Kellyn Botha
Edited by Daniele Paletta
Inclusion and exclusion: a recurring political issue for human rights defenders.
This week has been filled with political engagements for our communities around the world, with a mixed bag of victories and setbacks. In Monaco, a new civil union contract will allow same-sex couples to be legally recognised, while in Argentina a 4-year old law on trans staff quotas in public offices has finally come into force, and in Cambodia schools will soon begin teaching classes on LGBTI issues. However, not all regions made steps toward inclusion, as activists in India are protesting the recent regressive Transgender Persons Act. Meanwhile, activists in New Zealand are calling for inclusion in a government commission that would determine how to deal with mental health issues, and in the United States, Facebook has refused LGBTIQ activists’ requests to take down misleading ads.
Read this week's news from...
India: “regressive” Transgender Persons Act signed into law
Despite nationwide protests by trans persons and human rights defenders, India’s Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act has been given formal assent into law.
Activists had been calling on the government to send the document back to Parliament to be reviewed by a special committee, claiming that the new legislation undermines past court rulings that were in favour of self-determination for trans people. Since the Act came into law last month there have been 16 protests across India by a broad coalition of individuals and groups.
Among issues with the law’s requirement for trans persons to undergo “sex-reassignment surgery” in order to have their gender legally recognised, activists say that the legislation reinforces the idea that trans people are second class citizens, as it does not provide any explicit protections for trans people in the workplace. Further, the law gives a maximum punishment of two years for sexual assault of a trans person, where the minimum punishment for the rape of a cisgender woman in India is 10 years.
“It is clear that the current government has neither any intention of upholding the Supreme Court judgment on trans rights passed in 2014 nor any will to listen to the demands from trans, intersex and gender non-binary communities,” said advocacy organisation Sapoorna in a statement, while also noting the conflation of trans and intersex identities throughout the bill.
“We urge all our trans, intersex and gender non-binary families, allies and opposition parties to come together to stop this disastrous bill and protect our rights,” concluded the organisation.
More news from Asia
Schools in Cambodia will include modules on sexual orientation and gender identity from 2020, it was announced this week, in a bid to curb bullying and discrimination. More than 3000 teachers are already trained to deliver the new material.
In India, an international dialogue has taken place to highlight how international law, domestic litigation, and apology/reparation helped advancing rights related to SOGIESC. In less than two weeks, the first National Intersex Human Rights Conference will also take place in the country, hosted by Intersex Asia and Srishti Madurai.
Latin America and Caribbean
Argentina: with a 4-year delay, province of Buenos Aires issues regulatory decree for “travesti-trans work quota law”
Three days before stepping down from her role, Buenos Aires Governor María Eugenia Vidal issued a regulatory decree for the “Travesti Trans Labour Quota Law”, which requires the public administration in the province to have a 1% quota of staff positions to be reserved to trans persons.
The law - aimed at ensuring employment, stability, and social integration for travesti and trans persons - was passed by the Buenos Aires legislature in 2015, and lauded by local activists as a positive step in acknowledging and protecting the community.
Four years later, activist organisations like Movimiento Antidiscriminatorio de Liberación ( M.A.L.) are delighted that the law will now finally be implemented: "This is a conquest of our collective,” they commented. However, activists were critical of the years-long period of inaction by the government in regulating the law. “We know perfectly well that Governor María Eugenia Vidal was supposed to sign the law […] at least 4 years ago […] and we lived with a right-wing government that did everything it could to make us disappear, to shut us up.”
The law was heavily advocated for by Diana Sacayán - former president of M.A.L., a previous alternate Trans Secretariat of ILGA World. Sacayán was murdered in October 2015 in a transphobic hate crime, only one month after the law was approved. Activists have continued to push for the regulation of this law in her honour, while also working to have the law approved at the national level.
More news from Latin America and the Caribbean
A furore has erupted after a painting went on display showcasing Mexican revolutionary hero, Emiliano Zapata, naked with high-heels and a pink sombrero. Protesters stormed the Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico City, and demanded the image to be removed from the “Zapata after Zapata” exhibition.
A new survey among students aged 13 to 20 in seven Latin American countries found that more than 75% of them have “experienced verbal harassment” in education settings.
Europe and Central Asia
Monaco introduces civil union contract for all couples
With a unanimous vote, the Parliament of Monaco passed into law a bill that will allow all couples living together to enter into civil union partnerships.
This means that also same-sex relationships can be legally recognised, and it will allow partners to receive certain benefits - including more favourable inheritance taxes and the option to co-own housing or other property.
Marriage equality, however, may still be far from reach. The bill says that the contract de vie commune is “in line with the law of the Monegasque family and does not in any way intend to compete with the institution of marriage.” The law also has no effect on the existing rules for adoption, filiation or parental authority, and does not recognise the duty of fidelity, relief or assistance between partners.
The bill, which will need to be signed into law by Prince Albert II before coming into force, also allows members of the same family, such as siblings or parents and their children, to enter into contract de vie commune for co-habitation purposes.
More news from Europe and Central Asia
In Germany, statistics released by the government reveal that anti-LGBTIQ hate crimes have risen over the last five years from 50 recorded attacks in 2013 to 94 by the end of 2018.
Sanna Marin, the new Prime Minister of Finland has become the youngest head of government in the world at 34. Marin has stated that growing up with two mothers when it was considered taboo made her aware of the importance of social justice.
New Zealand: LGBTI people not included in mental wellness bill
New Zealand’s Mental Health and Wellbeing Commission Bill, soon to have its third reading in Parliament before potentially being adopted, will establish a commission tasked with improving the mental health and wellbeing outcomes for New Zealanders.
The bill mentions Maori, Pacific Islanders and persons with disabilities as key target demographics, but does not establish a mechanism to seek the views of people of diverse SOGIESC. In response to the exclusion, a coalition of more than 70 organisations and 400 individuals have co-signed a submission asking to mandate the commission to engage with LGBTI persons, as it has with the other marginalised communities already included. This would allow the body to tailor mental health interventions to specific population needs.
"We know from evidence and from our community's experience, that rainbow communities face higher rates of mental health problems," said OUTLine chair Moira Clunie. "That's really something we've known about for a number of years - those higher rates are connected with the discrimination and exclusion that we face."
More news from Oceania
In Australia, a national LGBTIQ equality organisation has slammed changes made to the Government's proposed religious discrimination bill, which would allow faith-based facilities to discriminate against LGBTI clients and staff because of “religious doctrine.”
The Tonga Leitis’ Association has launched the country’s first HIV Guideline for Key Populations, marking a step toward better understanding the healthcare needs of people of diverse sexual orientations and gender identities.
Algeria: “We are all gay” say anti-government protestors
Since the resignation of former President Abdelaziz Bouteflika in April 2019 in the wake of popular protests, thousands of Algerians have gathered on a weekly basis, continuing their calls for economic and political reform.
Minister of the Interior Salah Eddine Dahmoune said in a public statement that the protestors are "traitors, fake Algerians, mercenaries, perverts and homosexuals”. However, the younger generation have taken the apparent insult in their stride, and come up with a number of tongue-in-cheek responses, such as jokingly coming out on social media.
Last week’s demonstration in the capital of Algiers became informally known as the “42nd Algerian Pride” (to mark 42 weeks of anti-government protests), and the slogan “We are all homosexuals, we are all f*gs and all traitors! We are all equal, all equal and all fed up!" gaining popularity.
Meanwhile, activists from the rainbow communities talked to media about how the fight for equality fits within the ongoing political protests in the country: “We LGBTQIA activists and communities are part of this movement to participate in the reconstruction of the rule of law, where every person will feel protected against all discrimination”.
More news from Africa
A new study has assessed the “Economic Cost of LGBT Stigma and Discrimination in South Africa”: its findings indicate that, despite progressive laws, many LGBT South Africans - particularly black and gender non-conforming persons - are under-employed and face increased levels of poverty and violence.
In Nigeria, a Catholic school expelled 20 boys for “practicing homosexuality” after encouraging them to confess or “face terrible calamities”.
United States: Activists call out Facebook for promoting misinformation about HIV treatment
More than 50 advocacy organisations in the United States have co-signed an open letter to Facebook’s head, Mark Zuckerberg, calling for the removal of a series of paid ads claiming falsely that Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP), has dangerous side-effects and should not be taken.
PrEP is one of the key forms of medication used in preventing the contraction and spread of HIV, and was recently made freely available to some at-risk groups in the United States. The ads making the rounds on Facebook and Instagram, however, could convince “patients, potentially those who may be most at risk of contracting HIV, out of taking preventative drugs, known as PrEP, even though health officials and federal regulators have said they are safe,” the activist coalition has stated.
They have argued to Facebook previously that the ads are false and pose a health risk to the LGBTQ community, though the social media giant has thus far refused demands to remove the content.
“Given the history of how our community was met by deadly indifference during the early years of the AIDS crisis, the refusal to take action is deeply concerning,” reads the joint statement. “Since a resolution was not reached, immediate action must be taken by Facebook to ameliorate the harm which has already been caused to those who may be seeking preventative treatment against HIV.”
More news from North America
At least 17 human rights organisations in the United States have come out in opposition to the government’s Fairness For All Act:” If enacted, this bill would undermine civil rights protections for women, people of colour, people of faith and create substandard protections for LGBTQ people.”
US dictionary Merriam-Webster named the personal pronoun “they” as the word of the year: “It’s very clear that this is fully established in the language at this point”.
Photo of the week
On the occasion of Human Rights Day, ILGA World launched an update to its latest State-Sponsored Homophobia report.
The decade ends with mixed signals: while more countries are enacting robust protections for our communities,
others are passing and enforcing laws that further restrict our human rights.
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