The week in LGBTI news
13 - 19 December 2019
Written by Kellyn Botha
Edited by Daniele Paletta
As the year draws to a close, LGBTI news is not winding down!
Around the world, legislative reforms make for a truly positive end to a decade of highs and lows: the European Parliament has passed a resolution aimed at tackling anti-LGBTI hate speech and discrimination, while in Canada processes have been put into motion to finally ban ‘conversion’ therapy state-wide. In Fiji, trans youths may be allowed to compete at school-level athletics tournaments, and a court in Japan has ruled in favour of a trans woman whose employer denied her the right to use the bathroom which aligns with her gender identity. In El Salvador, the Ministry of Justice has for the first time included LGBTI persons in its annual violence report, making hate crimes visible and allowing, hopefully, for law enforcements to better tackle the issue.
Not all has been positive, though: the release of ILGA World’s State-Sponsored Homophobia report update brought worrying news from Gabon to the attention of global media, as the country joined the list of those that criminalise consensual same-sex relations.
Read this week's news from...
Europe and Central Asia
European Parliament adopts resolution to tackle anti-LGBTI sentiment
The European Parliament in Strasbourg has adopted a resolution on public discrimination and hate speech targeting LGBTI persons amid deeply worrying situations in several countries.
The resolution was adopted less than a month after a Parliamentary debate on the issue, when MEPs focused especially on the situation in Poland - a country where as many as 86 regions, towns, counties or voivodeships have recently declared themselves “LGBTI-free zones”.
As ILGA-Europe explains, “the resolution calls on Poland to firmly condemn discrimination against LGBTI people and to revoke resolutions attacking LGBTI rights, including local bills against ‘LGBT ideology’, in accordance with its national law, as well as its obligations under EU and international law,” In a broader context, the resolution itself affirms the rights of persons with diverse sexualities and gender identities across Europe, expresses deep concern at the growing number of attacks against the LGBTI community coming from the State officials and politicians, and aims to combat the rise of homophobic and transphobic sentiment across the continent.
“We very much welcome that the European Parliament condemns these developments and speaks out clearly in solidarity with the LGBTI communities across Europe, with a call for an EU LGBT strategy,” said Advocacy Director of ILGA-Europe Katrin Hugendubel.
More news from Europe and Central Asia
In Georgia the Constitutional Court has lifted a ban on MSM (Men who have Sex with Men) donating blood, while in Russia a trans woman has gone to the European Court of Human Rights to challenge a ruling that barred her from seeing or speaking to her children. In Scotland, consultations have begun to consider making gender-marker change for trans persons easier, and activists in Lithuania have started a petition to include gender identity and expression as prohibited grounds of discrimination under the country’s labour code and equal opportunities law. In Germany, the country’s cabinet backed a law which would ban ‘conversion’ therapy.
Japan: trans people free to use the bathroom of their choice, court rules
After a 4-year legal battle, a court in Japan has ruled in favour of a trans woman whose employer denied her the right to use the bathroom which aligns with her gender identity. In 2015, her colleagues began complaining about her using the women’s restroom, while her employer, it is reported, repeatedly told her to “go back to being a man.”
Tokyo District Court Judge, Kenji Ebara, ruled that forcing her to use a different restroom was illegal because it “constrains people’s benefits of living their lives in accordance with their self-identified genders,” and found the employer’s behaviour to be “unacceptable”.
The ruling requires employers to allow trans employees to use the bathroom of their choice without the need to come out, and also ensures that employees do not need to undergo gender affirmation surgery for employers to affirm their gender. .
Japanese law requires trans people to undergo gender affirmation surgery and sterilisation - in addition to being single and without children under the age of 20 - in order to legally amend their gender markers.
Currently, another trans woman in Japan is suing the government for the right to change her legal gender, after being denied because she has an 8-year-old child.
More news from Asia
Despite global concerns over the criminalisation of consensual same-sex activity, Qatar has made assurances to football fans that “everyone is welcome” at the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
In India a mob assaulted a local LGBT activist for “not giving in to their sexual advances”. All detained suspects were later released on bail.
Fiji: trans athletes may be allowed to compete at school level
Athletics Fiji President Filimoni Vuli Waqa announced to local media that he would not be opposed to trans people participating in athletics events under their gender.
Waqa was commenting on potentially allowing transgender athletes to compete in the girls category of the Fiji secondary school athletics competition.
“I believe that every Fijian has the right to enjoy the benefits of sports and physical activities,” said Waqa, though he noted that there would be limits to this new policy, especially at the professional level.
“Athletics Fiji may allow younger trans athletes to compete in its local programs but the same could not be allowed for the same athlete in an international competition,” said Waqa, adding that international competitors would have to abide by IAAF policy. The IAAF recently updated its rules for trans and intersex athletes.
More news from Oceania
Two gay Saudi Arabian journalists who were detained in Australia have been released, and their asylum claims are being processed. According to reports, the pair had decided to flee when it became clear that their relationship was known by local authorities: however, they were taken into immigration detention upon arrival in Australia, and detained for several weeks.
In the Cook Islands, the committee reviewing proposed amendments to the country's Crimes Act – including on provisions criminalising same-sex relations – was granted six more months to report back its recommendations.
Gabon: criminalisation of consensual-same sex relations goes globally underreported
The West African nation of Gabon amended its penal code in July to outlaw "sexual relations between people of the same sex" under a penalty of up to six months in prison and a fine of 5 million CFA francs ($8,521).
Davis Mac-Iyalla of the Ghana-based Interfaith Diversity Network of West Africa has stated that he has spoken to at least two persons from Gabon who were arrested since the new law was adopted, but who managed to escape after bribing the police to release them.
"It has further sent the LGBT community underground and has created harassment," said Mac-Iyalla. "The corrupt police now use that, arrest people and then people have to bribe their way out."
“It is truly shocking that Gabon has taken such a retrogressive step, marking it as an outlier when the global trend is for reform in favour of the human rights of LGBT people,” said Téa Braun, Director of the Human Dignity Trust.
The change went largely unnoticed by international media and human rights defenders until ILGA World’s State-Sponsored Homophobia report was released earlier this month. “As of December 2019, 70 States continue to criminalise same-sex consensual activity,” notes Lucas Ramón Mendos, Senior Research Officer at ILGA World and author of the report. “The decade indeed 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.”
More news from Africa
Nigeria is trying 47 men arrested at a hotel last year under the country’s “anti-homosexuality laws”.
A civil rights movement in Morocco has submitted a petition to Parliament, calling on the country to lift restrictions on individual freedoms and demanding the abrogation of discriminatory and repressive chapters of the Penal Code.
Canada: Prime Minister pushes for nationwide ban on ‘conversion’ therapy
Recently re-elected Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has outlined his priorities as head of state in a new mandate letter, which includes a commitment to outlaw the widely discredited practice of ‘conversion’ therapy.
‘Conversion’ therapy has historically been used to try and forcibly alter people’s sexual orientation or gender identity, and has been described in UN reports as “tantamount to torture.” Currently under Canada’s federal system, each province has autonomy to decide its own stance on the practice.
Trudeau said that Minister of Justice and Attorney General David Lametti must work to “amend the Criminal Code to ban the practice of conversion therapy and take other steps required with the provinces and territories to end conversion therapy in Canada.”
“This is a real opportunity for Canada to show leadership on the world stage when it comes to passing the strongest legislation in the world, to clearly demonstrate that conversion therapy has no place in our society or civilization,” said Professor Kristopher Wells, a vocal advocate in Canada.
More news from North America
In the United States, the Massachusetts Medical Society has passed a resolution stating that intersex children should not be operated on until they are old enough to consent - unless in the case of rare, life-threatening situations.
US television channel Hallmark has apologised for removing advertisements featuring same-sex couples getting married after conservative viewers called on a boycott. The ads will be reinstated.
Latin America and the Caribbean
El Salvador: LGBTI persons included in national violence report for the first time
Between January 2015 and June 2019, 692 acts of violence against persons with diverse sexualities and gender identities have been reported to Salvadoran authorities - 121 of those in the first six months of this year alone.
These statistics were made available through a recently released report on violence against women and the LGBTI community in El Salvador. According to authorities, this is the first time that the LGBTI community has been included in such a document. It may mean that authorities will be better able to understand the situation facing queer communities in El Salvador, and tailor their responses to hate crimes.
Executive Director of the Ministry of Justice and Security, Ricardo Evert Santamaría said during the presentation of the report that the National Civil Police would be taking disciplinary action against agents who have committed human rights abuses.
More news from Latin America and the Caribbean
The Institute on Migration and LGBTIQ Shelter for Central America and other stakeholders have launched a study documenting the experiences and needs of LGBTI migrants in Costa Rica.
In Brazil, a comedy show released on Netflix has garnered outrage for its depiction of Jesus as a gay man, with almost two million people signing a petition calling on the streaming service to remove the show.
Photo of the week
250 sex workers in France are bringing their case to the European Court of Human Rights,
after the Constitutional Council refused to invalidate the penalisation of clients under the Prostitution Law.
Public protests were held on 17 December, the International Day to End Violence against Sex Workers
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