The week in LGBTI news
6 - 12 March 2020
Written by Daniele Paletta
Edited by Kellyn Botha
In a week when hundreds of thousands took to the streets all over the world for a feminist strike, and over 200 organisations released the Feminist Declaration – an alternative to the one adopted at the Commission of the Status of Women – our communities have joined the fight towards a world that no longer can wait for full equality.
As part of this much-needed work, new reports have cast a light on the harsh realities still experienced by trans women in Thailand, and by sex workers in South Africa. Speaking truth to power is sometimes met with harsh reactions: the activists from Poland behind the Atlas of Hate are now being threatened with a court case, but the whole community is rallying behind them.
Every day, our communities are doing crucial work - in Kiribati a toolkit has been released to spark change towards more inclusive education – and keep demanding justice: the case of a murder of a trans woman in El Salvador will finally reach trial, and Canada has introduced a bill to ban ‘conversion therapies’.
Read this week's news from...
Canada: Bill to ban ‘conversion therapy’ introduced
The Canadian government has introduced legislation that would amend the Criminal Code to ban so-called ‘conversion therapy’, proposing five new criminal offences related to the discredited practice.
According to a recent ILGA World report, three Canadian provinces—Ontario, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island— have already enacted bans on ‘conversion therapy’. Additionally, the province of Manitoba has issued an official position statement against these practices, and the cities of Vancouver and Edmonton had also passed local bylaws, while other jurisdictions are discussing bills.
“In 2020, people still think [‘conversion therapy’] is a relic of the past.” However, it still exists across the country, Minister of Justice, David Lametti, said, and “it sends a demeaning and degrading message that undermines the dignity of individuals.”
While praising the move, human rights organisations have highlighted how more must be done: the bill, noted an Egale representative in a statement, “does not address several crucial loopholes such as power dynamics within religious, educational or medical institutions or make explicit the difference between professional and unprofessional services; there are no protections for vulnerable people who may not fit under coercion; and the bill does not explicitly address gender expression”.
More news from North America
A national survey of over 2,800 trans and non-binary persons in Canada has highlighted how participants faced under-employment and unmet healthcare needs, despite high levels of education and access to primary health care providers.
Over 100 organisations in the United States have signed onto an open letter outlining how COVID-19 may pose an increased risk to the LGBTQ+ population and laying out specific steps to minimise any disparity.
Europe and Central Asia
Poland: activists face trial for mapping hate
Three LGBTI human rights defenders from Poland are facing trial for having created The Atlas of Hate - a map of the country highlighting the local municipalities that adopted the Local Government Charter of the Rights of the Family.
According to reports, nearly 100 municipal or local governments – making up for almost one third of the country - have now proclaimed themselves to be “free from LGBTI ideology”. The map charting these discriminatory measures has quickly made headlines worldwide: it prompted European institutions to speak up, and cities around the continent began to take a stand, terminating twinning arrangements with towns that adopted those resolutions.
Now, the three activists who created a map are being threatened with legal actions from several Polish municipalities, which will be assisted by a conservative group.
The creators of the map, however, will not back down: “We will continue our work in order to spread the truth about the discriminatory resolutions adopted by the local governments all over Poland”, they said. Campaign Against Homophobia (KPH), an ILGA member organisation in the country who is assisting them, has called on everyone to show their solidarity with the activists: here’s what you can do.
More news from Europe and Central Asia
In Turkey, a trial has started for 18 students and one academic who participated in a Pride march at the Middle East Technical University (METU) that had been banned by authorities.
In the United Kingdom, the Court of Appeals dismissed a challenge arguing that a policy preventing someone from obtaining a passport with an unspecified gender was unlawful on human rights grounds.
LGBT human rights defenders from Azerbaijan reported having faced repeated cyberattacks in the past few days, resulting in the deletion of at least one of their social media pages.
Latin America and the Caribbean
El Salvador: historic trial for the murder of a trans woman will proceed
Three police officers have been charged with aggravated homicide of Camila Díaz Córdova, a trans woman murdered in January 2019 in El Salvador.
The case will now go to trial, although the judge decided to drop charges of unlawful deprivation of liberty, as well as the classification of the murder as a hate crime based on gender identity – in what would have been a historic first for the country.
According to reports, the investigating judge considered that there was abundant evidence incriminating the three agents of her death, but failed so far to recognise the transphobic grounds of the particularly brutal murder. If found guilty, they will face sentences of between 20 and 30 years in prison.
Camila, who was a sex worker, had repeatedly tried to flee the country. When she finally reached the US in August 2017, immigration authorities detained her and deported her only four months after her arrival. Just over a year later, she was killed.
More news from Latin America and the Caribbean
In Argentina, a resolution which authorised the federal police and security forces to impose special conditions for the detention of LGBT persons has been repealed.
A survey has been launched in Trinidad and Tobago to assess how public attitudes towards rainbow communities have changed since the 2018 decision to decriminalise consensual same-sex relations.
Thailand: new study explores stigma and discrimination against trans women
The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Thailand and Sisters Foundation have released a new study showing how trans women in the country still face persistent poverty, social exclusion and poor access to health services as a direct consequence of stigma and discrimination.
Participants reported being affected at various stages of their lives - during childhood, within the family, at school and when accessing healthcare settings. HIV-related stigma particularly appears to still take a toll, especially in rural areas: the research documented cases of women being rejected by their own communities.
“Before (this study), the transgender community only had word-of-mouth stories to explain what they have been through and there was no research to back up the claims,” said Thitiyanun Nakphor, Director of Sisters Foundation. “With no evidence, it is difficult to take the issue to the policymakers.”
The findings will now inform efforts to improve policy guidelines and the training of healthcare providers, ultimately leading to improved healthcare service delivery for the community.
More news from Asia
In the Philippines, the Insurance Commission issued a legal opinion affirming that people of diverse sexual orientations and gender identities have the right to indicate their partners as beneficiaries of their life insurance.
Human rights defenders in Japan have launched a petition calling on the removing gender markers from the local resume format – a feature that may force trans persons to come out during their applications and job interviews.
Kiribati: organisations release toolkit on gender and sexual diversity education
A brand-new advocacy toolkit is casting light on the lived realities of people of diverse sexual orientations and gender identities in Kiribati.
Aimed at offering practical tips on inclusive education to people who work in social services, health, education, and sport, SPARK CHANGE! On the Journey is the result of a one-year project featuring consultations among civil society organisations, government agencies, educational institutions and the private sector.
The toolkit places concepts of diverse genders and sexualities in the local cultural context, and speaks to issues of stigma and discrimination; religion and faith; and human rights frameworks, by using examples and campaigns developed in the Asia-Pacific region.
“The stories that participants told were powerful testimonies to their courage and commitment to change,” said Mark Henrickson, who developed the publication for Youth Voices Count and BIMBA. “Hopefully, this experience will serve as a model for other Pacific Island countries—and particularly the smaller ones— to do similar things in their own nations”.
More news from Oceania
In Australia, a selection of the 6,972 submissions made in response to the proposed Religious Discrimination Bill have been made available. Human rights organisations have strongly spoken up against the bill, fearing it would license discrimination against LGBTI people amongst others.
A gay couple reported facing a homophobic attack in Aotearoa New Zealand as they were returning from a Pride parade, with police refusing to escort them home.
South Africa: report highlights “brutal forms of violence” against sex workers
At least 101 women who were sex workers have died in South Africa in the past two years – and nearly half of these incidents may be classified as murders, a report has indicated.
The publication, titled Female and Transwomxn Sex Workers Deaths in South Africa – 2018/2019, analyses “the high levels and particularly brutal forms of violence” perpetrated by clients and intimate partners, but highlights also how law enforcement poses particular threats with arbitrary arrests and extortions – all incidents that are unlikely to be then reported.
As the report points out, “sex work and related activities are criminalised in national legislation” in South Africa, “and sex workers are also harassed through various ‘public nuisance’ municipal by-laws”.
Now in its second edition, the study is part of the #SayHerName campaign organised by the Sex Workers Education and Advocacy Taskforce (SWEAT), which “exists to commemorate and honour women affected by violence.” According to the organisation, “(the campaign) further aims to protect and uphold sex workers’ human rights including the constitutional rights to access healthcare, freedom from violence, access to justice and labour law protection.”
More news from Africa
Pan Africa ILGA has joined other organisations in calling on the government of Malawi to release two human rights defenders, who were arrested ahead of the general election rerun in an apparent crackdown on dissent.
A sci-fi movie from Botswana is currently being screened in international festivals. According to reports, it is the first picture shot in the country to ever show a love story between two men.
Thousands of women and members of LGBTI communities took to the streets in Latin America and across the world on 9 March,
for an international feminist strike against patriarchal violence.
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