The week in LGBTI news
24 - 30 January 2020
Written by Kellyn Botha
Edited by Daniele Paletta
As is so often the case, progress in the field of LGBTI advocacy is often met with backlash and suppression.
Conservative groups in Australia are fighting to oppose a law to ban ‘conversion’ therapy, and US states continue to propose and pass transphobic legislation. In India, Mumbai Pride was denied permission to hold its march, while reports emerge from Chile about authorities committing violations against the LGBTI community in the wake of civil unrest. And in Mauritania ten people have been arrested in connection to a video allegedly showing two men getting married.
But as is often the case, every story of oppression and terror is mirrored by news of progress elsewhere: Europe has voted to protect LGBTI persons from religious discrimination in the workplace, while in the United States, Canada, India, Zambia and elsewhere, activists and community members are successfully pushing back against entrenched systems of LGBTI-phobia.
Read this week's news from...
Mauritania: 10 people imprisoned and facing trial for “gay wedding” video
Ten people have been sent to prison in Nouakchott after a video went viral on social media, seemingly showing two men undergoing a traditional Mauritanian marriage ceremony.
As ILGA World’s State-Sponsored Homophobia report points out, the country’s Penal Code criminalises same sex conduct for both sexes, but with different types of punishment. While adult Muslim men may receive a sentence of “death by public stoning”, women have a lower sentence of between three months to two years imprisonment, and a fine.
The State has observed a “de facto moratorium since 1987” on the death penalty, although media reports indicate that the accused will likely be prosecuted for "violating God’s prohibitions” and “drawing attention to an occasion of immorality."
There is as yet no planned date for the commencement of proceedings.
More news from Africa
A women’s march in Zambia highlighted the need to protect sex workers, trans women, and other LGBT and marginalised persons as part of a globally co-ordinated campaign to promote the rights of women.
A young woman in Cameroon was beaten by her family and forced out of her home, allegedly on the grounds of her sexual orientation. The mediation of an advocacy group then ensured the woman could return home safely.
Australia: religious groups oppose Queensland 'conversion therapy' ban
Religious schools and organisations are fighting a move by the Queensland government to make ‘conversion’ therapy a crime in the state.
In November 2019 the government of Queensland proposed new legislation which would make the discredited practice of trying to change a person’s gender identity or sexual orientation illegal – with a proposed punishment of up to 18 months in jail for transgressors.
In opposition to this, a number of coalitions of religious schools and organisations have undertaken a campaign against the law, and addressed a parliamentary committee on their concerns.
“The Queensland government must guarantee that Christian schools can continue to teach a traditional Biblical sexual ethic and a biologically and medically accurate view of sexuality,” the committee was told. The proposed legislation, however, has the support of numerous medical bodies, such as the Australian Psychological Society, and the Queensland Human Rights Commission.
Organisations challenging the law also argued that Christian adults should have the right to freely consent to undergoing ‘counselling’ if they are “same-sex attracted but want to live according to their own personal definitions of their sexuality.”
‘Conversion’ therapies are being widely recognised as harmful and even ‘tantamount to torture’ by the United Nations. According to ILGA World’s latest State-Sponsored Homophobia report, only three UN Member States have nationwide bans on the practice, although considerable progress has been made elsewhere, especially at the subnational level.
More news from Oceania
A series of pamphlets is making the rounds in Queensland, Australia, comparing LGBTI advocacy to Nazism and transgender acceptance to soviet-style communism. Legal experts say that while the pamphlet is “disturbing”, it is not illegal as anti-discrimination provisions to protect LGBTI communities do not include prohibiting hate speech.
The Minister for Youth and Sports of Fiji, Parveen Kumar Bala, has announced that no trans athletes will be allowed to compete in school-level athletics. Previously, the head of Athletics Fiji had held different views, stating that he may be open to letting trans youth participate in athletics events under their gender.
Latin America and the Caribbean
Chile: violence against LGBTI persons on the rise as security forces clamped down on protests
For months, Chile has seen people in the street protesting against the rising cost of living, privatisation and inequality. The response to such unrest, however, has gone hand in hand with increased violence against LGBTI persons in the country.
According to Movilh, at least 23 instances of homophobic and transphobic violence by state forces have taken place over the past few months, ostensibly in response to the ongoing civil unrest across the country.
The organization's spokesman, Óscar Rementería, has stated that LGBTI people faced "torture, robbery, arbitrary detention, false accusations, insults based on sexual orientation or gender identity" at the hands of police and other state officials. At least half of the recorded cases are in Santiago, where most protests and demonstrations have taken place.
The National Institute of Human Rights in Chile has confirmed the arrest of 9,129 people during the protests, of which 1,445 suffered violations in the form of sexual violence, torture or excessive use of force. Movilh and other human rights groups have officially approached the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to denounce the ongoing violence.
Though no formal statistics on hate crimes in Chile exist, Movilh reported 17 more cases of violence against our communities in 2019 - a dramatic rise compared to the nine of 2018.
More news from Latin America and the Caribbean
Guatemalan actor, Enrique Salanic, has been barred from entering the United States to attend the premiere of the LGBT film, José, in which he stars. The United States twice declined Salanic’s requests for a visa, stating that his lack of permanent address in the US makes him a “flight risk”.
On the occasion of the Day of Trans Visibility in Brazil, the UN Independent Expert on SOGI spoke at an event hosted by local trans activists and organisations in Rio de Janeiro. Victor Madrigal-Borloz was in the country for an academic visit to disseminate information on his mandate and work.
United States: Tennessee passes anti-LGBT “Child Welfare” Bill
Tennessee Governor Bill Lee signed into law bill HB 836, thereby formally allowing private and publicly-funded child welfare and adoption agencies in the state to turn away LGBT couples, interfaith couples, single parents and divorcees - or anyone else to whom the agencies may take “religious objection” - from adopting or offering foster homes to children.
With an estimated two million LGBTQ people across the United States potentially interested in adopting, and a severe over-representation of youth of diverse sexual orientations, gender identities and expressions in the foster-care system who have been abandoned by their families, human rights defenders have heavily criticised this bill.
“It’s disturbing that Governor Bill Lee signed legislation that will harm children in Tennessee,” said Alphonso David, President of the Human Rights Campaign. “This bill does nothing to improve the outcomes for children in care, shrinks the pool of prospective parents and is a blatant attempt to discriminate against LGBTQ Tennesseans.”
Some are concerned that the wave of hostile sentiment won’t end here.
“As this bill becomes law, Tennessee's LGBTQ community is worried about the introduction of even more discriminatory bills,” said Chris Sanders, executive director of the Tennessee Equality Project. “The Governor and the Legislature must put a stop to this kind of demeaning public policy.”
More news from North America
In the United States, San Francisco has opened its first trans-specific housing programme, which will provide low-income trans and gender-diverse persons shelter for a year while they receive support in finding permanent accommodation.
In California, a major LGBTQ advocacy group has revoked its endorsement of an East Bay lawmaker for his opposition to a bill that would have banned cosmetic surgeries on intersex children.
Arizona legislators have proposed a bill which would bar all trans women and girls from competing against cisgender females at school and university level athletics competitions.
South Dakota has passed a bill which criminalises any form of gender-affirming medical care for trans persons under the age of 16. The bill will soon be sent to the state Senate for a committee hearing.
In Canada, the Eskasoni Winter Carnival, which has promoted First-Nations heritage for five decades, will for the first time allow trans women and girls to enter the festival’s pageant.
India: Police block Mumbai Pride amid fears of “political sloganeering”
As civil unrest against India’s National Registry of Citizens (NRC) and Citizen Amendment Act (CAA) continues across the country, authorities have attempted to clamp down on public dissent.
The Mumbai Police have denied Mumbai Pride permission to go ahead with its march and celebrations just three days before the event was due to commence, taking queer and trans rights activists across the country by surprise.
One organiser spoke to local LGBTI media platform, The Lens, saying that “they (the police) were extremely apologetic about the inconvenience, but adamant about not giving us the permission to hold the rally”.
A police department official told the Mumbai Mirror that they had told organisers “the march could give a chance to others to infiltrate and mingle into the crowd and give it a political colour. That will ruin the very purpose of the march.”
Organisers claim that Pride has often been a space for political statements in the past, and that it is the backlash against the NRC and CAA in particular which the government seeks to quell.
More news from Asia
A trans activist in India is challenging the “Transgender Persons (Protections of Rights) Act”. The Supreme Court has issued a notice to the central government, indicating that the case is being taken up. The act passed despite nationwide protests from members of the trans community and human rights defenders.
Lebanon’s top military prosecutor has for the second time opted to not pursue charges against an army officer accused of “homosexual activity,” despite facing pressure from the Defence Minister.
Iranian and international organisations have urged the Council of the European Union to take more restrictive measures against the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) for producing and broadcasting forced confessions of human rights defenders and political prisoners.
Europe and Central Asia
Council of Europe votes to protect religious freedom, but bars LGBTI discrimination on those grounds
The Council of Europe has voted 76-65 to pass a resolution on protection of freedom of religion or belief in the workplace, while rejecting a recommendation to introduce the concept of the so-called “reasonable accommodation of religion or belief” in the law of member states. This comes as a major victory to a wide-range of advocacy groups, including those working in areas of reproductive rights and LGBTI equality.
The motion would have seen a broadening of the legal scope of conscientious objection, “in particular when it comes to women’s sexual and reproductive health rights, notably the access to safe and legal abortion or to contraceptives,” said the European Humanist Federation (EHF) in a statement. “Accommodating religious demands at the workplace could also come at the expense of the rights of LBGTIQ people, as religious claims are often used to discriminate against them.”
“This is a victory for those who protect and promote the human rights of vulnerable people, including the right of those without a religion not to suffer discrimination as a result of excessive exemptions for religious groups”, said Giulio Ercolessi, President of the EHF.
More news from Europe and Central Asia
ILGA-Europe and a number of member organisations sent a letter to the Croatian presidency of the Council of the EU, calling for the re-opening of accession talks with North Macedonia and Albania as a vital step in protecting LGBTI populations in the Western Balkans.
As the government debate over marriage equality in the Czech Republic continues, a new survey has found that more than two-thirds of Czechs support marriage equality.
A welfare centre in Croatia has rejected a gay couple’s application to become foster parents, in violation of a 2019 court ruling giving the pair the right to do so.
Photo of the week
Dates are in for this year’s ILGA regional conferences!
This week, ILGA-Europe has announced that their annual conference will happen between 21 and 24 October in Sofia, Bulgaria.
ILGA Oceania looks forward to meeting activists of the region in Nouméa, New Caledonia between 31 August and 4 September,
while Pan Africa ILGA will hold its regional conference in Accra, Ghana between 27 and 31 July.
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