LGBulleTIn #159 – Two weeks in LGBTI news (15-28 May 2020)
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The week in LGBTI news
15-28 May

Written by Maddalena Tomassini
Edited by Daniele Paletta


These weeks marked some important victories for our community as well as fearful and worrisome steps back in rights protection, at a time when we witness day by day the impact of Covid-19 on LGBTI people.

Our communities worldwide rejoiced with Costa Rica, as it became the first country in Central America where marriage equality has become a reality. But as they celebrated love, Hungary took an awful step back in trans and intersex rights, as a bill making gender legal recognition impossible for them has been signed into law.

Meanwhile, a court in Malaysia gave the green light to a challenge to a Sharia law ban on sex “against the order of nature”, and in Zambia a couple who was sentenced to 15 years in prison for consensual same-sex acts was released with other 3,000 convicts pardoned during the celebration of the founding of the Organisation of African Unity. Rainbow communities are more likely to face domestic violence, as this Covid-19 pandemic has shown, and that is why in Aotearoa New Zealand, activists have called on the government to consider funding for social services and community groups specifically directed to them.

Last but not least, we want to remember activist Larry Kramer, who passed away this week at 84 in the United States. As ACT UP New York tweeted, “his rage helped inspire a movement” in fighting against HIV. May he rest in power!


Read this week's news from...


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Covid-19 news




Zambian gay couple sentenced to 15 years in prison has been released

A Zambian gay couple sentenced to 15 years in prison in November under colonial-era laws criminalising same-sex intimacy has been released last Friday. The two men were among nearly 3,000 inmates pardoned by President Edgar Lungu to mark the founding of the Organisation of African Unity, now known as the African Union, on 25 May 1963.

They were arrested in October 2017 at a lodge in Kapiri Mposhi when an employee, who had seen them having sex through a window, denounced them to the police. They were reportedly forced to undergo forced anal examinations, a practice internationally recognised as a form of torture, 10 days after they had sex.

The 15-year sentence handed down to the two men had opened a diplomatic row with the USA, who recalled ambassador Daniel Foote after he faced backlash for saying he was “personally horrified” by the Court’s decision.


More news from Africa

According to reports, 50 LGBTI people were arrested in Bafoussam, western Cameroon, where they had gathered to share information about Covid-19 and to celebrate IDAHOBIT.

In Kenya, hundreds of sex workers and HIV positive persons have suffered a blow following closure of the facility where they usually get treatment and lubricants.




Malaysia’s top court will consider a challenge to a Sharia law ban on same-sex sexual relations

Malaysia’s top court has given the green light for a man to challenge an Islamic ban on sex “against the order of nature”.

The man, who was arrested in the Selangor state in 2018 for allegedly attempting to have sex with another man, argued that the state had no power to enforce a ban based on the Islamic Sharia law when consensual same-sex acts were already a crime under civil laws. “(If we win), the state law will be struck down and the criminal charges in the (Islamic) shariah court should be dropped,” said his lawyer, Surendra Ananth. Same-sex acts are illegal in Malaysia according to a colonial-era ban, and punishable by up to 20 years in jail under civil laws. In the country, which includes 13 states, a dual-track legal system runs Islamic criminal and family laws applicable to Muslims alongside civil laws.

For the LGBTIQ+ Network, a Malaysian coalition of 12 LGBT+ rights groups, the court’s decision to hear the case could help to put a stop to an “ongoing national trend” of using the “unnatural sex” laws to target LGBT+ people. “It is clear this state law is being used by authorities to disproportionately criminalise marginalised and persecuted communities based on sexual orientation and gender identity,” it said in a statement.

According to ILGA World’s State-Sponsored Homophobia report, progress on SOGIE issues has been slow in the country over the past few years. In 2018, authorities cracked down on a popular gay nightspot in the capital city of Kuala Lumpur, a sharia court ordered a lesbian couple to be caned for same-sex intimacy, and a trans woman was brutally beaten on the streets while a crowd watched on.


More news from Asia

China’s first-ever civil code - passed this week by the National People’s Congress - assigns a property owner the power to grant another individual the right to live on the property for life, giving hope to same-sex couples often hit by evictions because of lack of legal recognition.

One year since the legalization of same-sex marriage, Taiwanese activists launch a campaign to reduce the discrimination the LGBT community still faces.



North America

Activist Larry Kramer passes away at 84

Activist and playwright Larry Kramer, passed away in the United States this week at the age of 84, reportedly for pneumonia.

Co-founder of the Gay Men’s Health Crisis, an organisation devoted to helping people living with HIV and AIDS, Kramer was "a remarkable leader and activist whose actions helped to save the lives of millions of people living with HIV around the world,” said Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of UNAIDS. Frustrated by government’s inadequate response, in 1987 he helped co-found ACT-UP.

As The New York Times remembered, “he sought to shock the country into dealing with AIDS as a public-health emergency and foresaw that it could kill millions regardless of sexual orientation. Dr. Anthony Fauci - then director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases - praised him for helping to see how the federal bureaucracy was indeed slowing the search for effective treatments: “Once you got past the rhetoric, you found that Larry Kramer made a lot of sense, and that he had a heart of gold”. Kramer wrote the novel Faggots in 1978 and The Normal Heart, a 1985 play about the early years of the AIDS crisis.

Before his death, he had been working on a new play, An Army of Lovers Must Not Die. “It’s about gay people having to live through three plagues,” he explained to the Times, meaning HIV, COVID-19, and aging.


More news from North America

Two recent studies from the United States underlined the worrying trend of depression and suicide among LGBTQ youth, one focusing on trans and non-binary youth while the other exploring the role of bullying in LGBTQ teen suicides.

In Canada, the Calgary city council approved a bylaw that bans ‘conversion therapies’, putting fines up to $10,000 for businesses that are found providing the practice.



Latin America and the Caribbean

Marriage equality becomes a reality in Costa Rica

Costa Rica became the first country in Central America where marriage equality became a reality, as a 2018 Supreme Court ruling came into force this week. Daritza Araya and Alexandra Qu Castillo were the first two women to get married in the country. the couple tied the knot at 12:01 AM, in a ceremony that was broadcast on television and Facebook.

After the Inter-American Court of Human Rights indicated that all couples must be guaranteed the same legal protections and rights - including the right to marriage -, Costa Rica’s Supreme Court gave the legislature 18 months to comply with the decision. Despite conservative lawmakers’ eleventh-hour attempt to delay marriage equality, the court ruling finally became law this week.

“Costa Rica officially recognizes equal marriage,” tweeted Costa Rica’s President Carlos Alvarado Quesada. “Today we celebrate freedom, equality, and democratic institutions. May empathy and love be the compass that allows us to get ahead and build a country where all people fit.”


More news from Latin America and the Caribbean

Six months after he was found dead in not yet clarified circumstances, ILGALAC remembers Haitian activist Charlot Jeudy and asks with a petition to the President of Haiti, Mr. Jovenel Moïse, to take the necessary steps towards the truth concerning his death.

On IDAHOBIT, ILGALAC launched the Coronapapers, a collection of 16 articles written by LGBTI activists from all over Latin America and the Caribbean covering the impact that quarantine and confinement measures have had on our LGBTI communities.




New Zealand’s rainbow organisations complain lack of specific funding for LGBTI communities in rebuilding budget

Several of New Zealand’s LGBTI organisations have spoken out about the lack of specific funding allocated to rainbow communities in the 2020 Rebuilding Together Budget.

According to the LGBTI groups, the “2020 Rebuilding Together Budget includes an $183m increase in funding for family violence services and a further $115m for social services and community groups, which we were thrilled to see”. Still, what is missing is a specific mention of rainbow communities as a priority group, which would be necessary “as there is no assurance that the needs of rainbow young people will be specifically considered without this”.

“Our organisations consistently work with young people who experience family and intimate partner violence; an issue that affects rainbow communities at a disproportionate rate. Recent research shows us that rainbow communities – particularly transgender & non binary people – are more likely to face family violence and rejection, which we have seen increase during the COVID-19 pandemic”. “Lastly, we would like to see a strong commitment from our government towards reducing rates of homelessness”, reads a joint press release, and to see stronger initiatives to ensure that queer, takatāpui, VSC/intersex and gender diverse people have access to housing that is safe and accessible.”


More news from Oceania

A new study led by La Trobe University Dr Timothy Jones will investigate the harmful “lasting impact on survivors” of “conversion therapy” in Australia.

A study in Papa Guinea analyses “confidential, accessible point-of-care sexual health services to support the participation of key populations in biobehavioural surveys”, in particular concerning settings where reach of key populations is limited.



Europe and Central Asia

Hungary takes steps back in the protection of trans and intersex rights, putting lives in danger

Hungarian president János Áder signed the amendment to the Act on Civil Registration Procedure, which includes an article replacing the category of “sex” on the civil registry with “sex assigned at birth”, making access to legal gender recognition impossible for trans and intersex people.

The bill, which caused international uproar with thousands of posts using the hashtag #drop33, will put the lives of trans and intersex people in danger, who already face harsh discriminations. According to the second LGBTI Survey of the Fundamental Rights Agency, published earlier this month, 76% of trans Hungarians believe that the government “definitely does not effectively combat prejudice and intolerance against LGBTI people”, compared to an EU-28 average of only 38%.

“Legal gender recognition is the bedrock of access to equality and non-discrimination for trans and intersex people,” said Katrin Hugendubel, Advocacy Director for ILGA-Europe in a joint statement issued with TGEU, IGLYO, and OII Europe. “Without it, these populations are subject to immense stigma, discrimination, harassment, and violence every time they use their identity documents – be it at the bank, when going to the doctor, when applying for a job, or even when applying for a cell phone contract.”


More news from Europe and Central Asia

In Switzerland, the Committee on Legal Affairs of the Council of States approved the Federal Council’s proposal to simplify procedures for legal gender recognition Minors, however, would be required to obtain the agreement of their legal representative before being able to proceed.

The Order of Psychologists of Albania has banned ‘conversion therapy’: its members would now face disciplinary proceedings if they carried out the ‘treatment’.

Italy inaugurated its first institutional portal for trans people, created by the Istituto Superiore di Sanità and the National Office of Racial Anti-Discrimination, to provide accessible information “based on scientific evidence useful to guide this group of citizens”.

Marie Cau has become the first openly trans mayor elected in France - in Tilloy-lez-Marchiennes, a little municipality of under 600 inhabitants on the Belgian border.


Video of the week

This May 17, despite many limitations brought by the global COVID-19 pandemic, communities carried on with their celebration of the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, Interphobia and Transphobia. Here's how we marked the day at ILGA World, with the help of dozens of human rights defenders worldwide!

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