This week many countries around the world are celebrating Lesbian Visibility Week, with Sunday 26 April marking Lesbian Day of Visibility. Around the globe, however, lesbian women still face discrimination and abuse: this week alone, a United Kingdom study found that more than a third of lesbian mothers face homophobia from other parents, a lesbian couple in the United States had their property vandalised with homophobic graffiti, and two women married in Spain lost a court case to have their civil union amended to a full-fledged marriage in Chile.
Other members of our communities have faced discrimination this week as well: gay and bisexual men in Morocco were violently outed as a result of a social media campaign, and police in Australia were cleared of charges of using excessive force when wrongfully hurting and detaining a man during a raid in a queer bookstore. Similarly, a recent study has found that of the top ten most challenged books in US schools, eight of them contain LGBT-positive content.
Thankfully, there were also good news: Israel has ruled that businesses cannot discriminate against LGBT groups on the grounds of religious beliefs, and our communities continue to come together around the world to combat the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
Read this week's news from...
This is a brief selection of news showing how Covid-19 is affecting LGBTI communities worldwide. Share more stories at [email protected]
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights released a new guidance for States on the human rights of LGBTI people during the COVID-19 response
(HILO) El #TribunalConstitucional rechazó inscripción de matrimonio realizado entre dos mujeres en España, negando a una de ellas la maternidad de su hijo recién nacido. En muchos países las cortes lideran los avances en protección, libertades y derechos. No así nuestro TC. pic.twitter.com/Cscb0sLR84
Chile: Constitutional Court rules against recognising same-sex marriage
Two women who were married in Spain have lost a case to have their marriage recognised in Chile, with the Constitutional Court rejecting the request five votes to four. In Chile, same-sex partnerships can be recognised only as civil unions, which the couple’s legal team sought to have declared unconstitutional.
The five judges who voted against the request argued that international human rights frameworks encourage countries to “offer a solution to people of the same sex”, and that a civil union, rather than marriage, would be a sufficient provision for same-sex couples.
The ruling has been criticised for the more vulnerable position it leaves the family in, as the couple had been expecting a child. Without a formal recognition of marriage, only one of the women will be able to claim maternal parenthood.
“We are going through moments of uncertainty, where we especially value safety, and it is at this juncture that the [Constitutional Court] issues a ruling that leaves a newborn child unprotected with respect to one of his mothers,” said Alessia Injoque, head of Fundación Iguales. “We regret the decision of the court. If we want to protect the best interests of the child we have to advance in the recognition and rights of all families.”
More news from Latin America and the Caribbean
In Belize a young gay HIV-positive man was reportedly found dead days after being beaten and humiliated by police for breaking the Covid-19 curfew. Police recorded themselves harassing the man in a widely-circulated online video, and various government agencies and human rights defenders have called for an investigation into the matter.
ILGALAC has launched a series of Spanish-language webinars dealing with a range of topics around the impact of Covid-19 on LGBTI communities. New webinars take place every Friday at 2 PM (GMT-3).
Morocco: Gay and bisexual men face violence under mass-outing campaign
Gay and bisexual men in Morocco have faced a widespread outing campaign after a social media influencer, known as Sofia Talouni, used Instagram Live to call on women to download LGBT dating apps in order to track down men in their communities.
"These apps will show you the people who are near to you. 100 meters, 200 meters, even just one meter, just next to you in the living room," said Talouni, who identifies as a trans woman, in her video. "Since everyone is together at home, it could show you your husband in your bedroom, it could show you your son who might be in the bathroom."
Though Talouni did not explicitly say that people should out those they find on the dating apps, gay and bisexual men across the country reported having faced a wave of extortion, violence and abuse as a result, with many being disowned by their families and forced onto the streets.
Same-sex sexual activity remains illegal in Morocco, though a number of activists and local organisations have been vocal in their opposition to the video, and successfully petitioned Instagram to suspend Talouni’s account.
Another group, Arabic LGBT, put out an early warning about the situation, noting that “homophobia can also be found within the LGBT community itself.” The organisation also posted an emergency helpline, along with tips to stay safe. These included deleting photos from social media and dating apps, and reporting fake accounts and the accounts of people who “defame homosexuals” to the relevant authorities or site moderators.
More news from Africa
In Tanzania, arrests of people with diverse sexual orientations and gender identities reportedly continue despite assurances that homophobic statements made by the Regional Commissioner of Dar Es Salaam, Paul Makonda, were not government policy.
Police have opened files against some of the people involved in the riots that were sparked in Sudan last month by the news of a symbolic same-sex wedding being held North of the capital, Khartoum. During the incident local businesses were damaged and dozens were reportedly wounded or killed.
Italy: Homophobic statements made by employers can constitute employment discrimination, regardless of employment policy
The Court of Justice of the European Union has ruled that homophobic statements made by individuals who have influence over a company’s recruitment policy can constitute employment discrimination even in cases where the statements represent the individual’s “personal opinion”.
This comes after a lawyer stated in a radio interview that he would not wish to recruit homosexual persons to his firm nor to use the services of such persons, which courts held to constitute discrimination on the ground of the sexual orientation of workers. The Supreme Court of Cassation, however, suspended the decision and referred the case to the European Court of Justice for a preliminary ruling on the interpretation of existing anti-discrimination and employment access legislation.
The Court of Justice of the European Union affirmed that, given the lawyer’s position of authority within the firm, the statements made have the ability to affect the company’s recruitment policy even if the lawyer cannot legally recruit staff to the firm.
The court noted that in any future cases of this nature, the potential link between an individual and a company’s recruitment policy must be considered for each case by local courts “on the basis of all the circumstances”.
More news from Europe and Central Asia
A UK-based survey into the lived realities of LBQTI women has found that 36% of lesbian mothers have experienced homophobia from other parents, with a similar percentage of children being bullied for having lesbian mothers.
A poll by the Levada Centre in Russia has made international headlines for its finding that 18% of Russians believe LGBT persons should be “eliminated”, but noted a significant increase in LGBT-acceptance. Despite this the poll has been met with criticism for biased language which may have amplified anti-LGBT responses.
On 23 April several Members of the European Parliament held an online conference to mark Lesbian Day of Visibility. The sessions brought together activists and politicians from across the region to discuss the needs to lesbian women in Europe.
— האגודה למען הלהט"ב בישראל | The Aguda (@AgudaIsraelLGBT) April 21, 2020
Israel: Court rules against printing store that refused service to LGBT activists
The Beersheba Magistrate’s Court has found a local printing business to have acted in a discriminatory manner three years after the Aguda Association for LGBT Equality in Israel filed a lawsuit on the matter. The business, ironically called Rainbow Color, had refused to print a series of posters for the Ben Gurion University LGBT chapter, allegedly telling the students: “We do not deal with abomination materials. We are Jews!”
Aguda argued that the printers had violated the Prohibition of Discrimination in Products, Services and Entry into Places of Entertainment and Public Places Law Act, while opponents of the lawsuit argued that the business owners are barred from providing assistance to “offenders of religious law”.
Judge Orit Lipshitz rejected these claims in the ruling and ordered Rainbow Color to pay NIS 50,000 (USD 14,071) as well as legal expenses.
"The legislature does not seek to interfere with the freedom of religion and worship reserved for them as human beings,” said Lipshitz, adding that “when their beliefs conflict with a necessity of providing service to all in a public space, the last value holds superior.”
Aguda lauded the court’s decision: “It is unacceptable for a business that provides a public service to decide to discriminate against an entire population of Israeli society simply because of its sexual orientation or gender identity,” said the organisation’s CEO Ohad Hizki.
More news from Asia
Indian human rights group Srishti Madurai celebrated the one-year anniversary of the banning of genital surgeries on intersex infants in Tamil Nadu state by holding a series of online conferences. The sessions discussed the efficacy of the law’s implementation, as well as strategies to expand the ban to other states across India.
In the Philippines, the partner of late food scientist Alonzo Gabriel has spoken out about how hospital, mortuary and funerary staff refused to recognise him as family despite the pair having been together for 15 years.
MEDIA RELEASE: Statement following the outcome of IBAC’s investigation into the conduct of Victoria Police Officers at the Hares Hyenas Bookstore https://t.co/19LPkVaUjV
Australia: Investigation clears police who mistakenly raided LGBTIQ bookstore of “excessive force”
The Independent Broad-Based Anti-Corruption Commission (IBAC) has cleared Victoria police of using excessive force when in May 2019 they accidentally raided an LGBTIQ bookstore, shattering a staff member’s arm in multiple places.
Police claimed to be searching for an armed gang member but that the location they had was incorrect. Fearing a homophobic attack, Nik Dimopoulos tried to flee, but was restrained and severely injured in the process. Witnesses claim that at no point did the police identify themselves as such, and threatened to detain those trying to document Dimopoulos’ ordeal. Police apologised soon after the incident, but a case was brought against them nonetheless.
After investigation into the matter, IBAC commissioner Robert Redlich stated that they had found the officers to have had “reasonable grounds” to enter the premises based on the information they had at the time and that the “police involved reasonably believed such force was necessary to arrest a person who was struggling with [them].”
IBAC’s findings did note, however, that Dimopoulos’ rights were impacted given that police officers did not make it known to him that he was under arrest or make him aware of his rights. In this regard IBAC stated that Victoria Police should “take appropriate action with respect to the officers”.
However, Dimopoulos remains “bitterly disappointed and angry” by the “contradictory” judgement, and has stated that he will push for a review of the case.
“We have already apologised for the emotional and physical impact this incident had on the man,” said Victoria Police professional standards assistant commissioner Russell Barrett. “[We] will continue to offer him and his community our full support […] Victoria Police has strong relationships with the LGBTIQ community and we would not jeopardise this under any circumstance.”
More news from Oceania
On Earth Day the International Women’s Coalition held a film premiere at which Noelene Nabulivou was awarded the Joan B. Dunlop award for advancing the health and rights of women, girls, LGBTQI persons and other marginalised communities in Fiji and around the world.
Members of Australia’s Inner West Council (IWC) came out against the controversial “Religious Freedom Bill”. The IWC passed a motion endorsing a statement from Equality Australia, calling for “fair and equal discrimination laws that unite, rather than divide”.
ILGA Oceania has launched its regional bulletin, bringing news from across the Pacific to the public and member organisations.
The ALA has noted that every year since 2016, at least half of the books on this list have had content relating to diverse sexual orientations or gender identities, but the 2019 results show a marked spike in this trend.
"We're seeing a pushback against diversity and an effort to silence the voices of LGBT people, and, in a very real sense, trying to push these voices back into the closet," said Deborah Stone, head of the ALA's office for intellectual freedom. "There's an effort to frame any LGBT materials as inherently unsuitable for minors if even those materials are age appropriate."
Sarah Ellis, head of the media advocacy group GLAAD, said she the rise in objections did not surprise her, as the “rise in anti-LGBTQ rhetoric” in the United States has been well-documented. "Inclusive books give LGBTQ families and their children stories to relate to and inspire kindness and acceptance in others," she said. "There's nothing to challenge about that."
The only books not relating to LGBTQIA+ content to make the ALA’s list were The Handmaid’s Tale, due to its alleged graphic “sexual overtones” and vulgarity, and the Harry Potter Series, for its references to “magic and witchcraft”.
More news from North America
In the United States a Texas judge has been sanctioned for displaying a rainbow flag in her courtroom, despite other judges also personalising their spaces with flags and symbols meaningful to them. The judge was issued a private warning after a local lawyer complained that she could not be trusted to be impartial, comparing the pride flag to confederate and fascist symbols.
A United States lesbian couple have received a wave of support from their rural Indiana community after their car and home were vandalised with homophobic slurs. Input from the community led to the arrest of a 13-year old boy, though police have not revealed whether he will face charges.
Video of the week
This week, the ILGA World Board met online - as the Covid-19 made such international gatherings impossible for the time being. Representatives of our global family met from every corner of the world nonetheless: at times, we were connected over 20 different time zones! Here's their message to you.
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