The week in LGBTI news
29 May - 4 June 2020
Written by Maddalena Tomassini
Edited by Daniele Paletta
Pride Month kicked off worldwide this week, with LGBTI communities recalling Pride’s revolutionary roots: people have taken to the streets in the United States to protest racial injustice and police brutality, receiving support from over 600 LGBTI organisations to date from across the country. In fact, mistreatments at the hands of security forces remain an international issue: in South Africa, an investigation was launched into the unclear circumstances in which an LGBTI activist and sex worker died while in custody.
In the meantime, Covid-19 still represents a challenge for LGBTI communities, as reports such as the latest UNAIDS survey on young key populations in the Asia-Pacific region shows. The pandemic adds an extra layer of struggle for LGBTI people already facing discrimination: in this context, it raises concerns that in North Macedonia, the Constitutional Court repealed a law which explicitly protected people from discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity. It is crucial that States move forward to adopt laws that could genuinely protect our communities, as a recent report on legal gender recognition released by the Organization of American States highlights.
As this week comes to an end, we want to close on a bright note, coming from Aotearoa New Zealand: Georgina Beyer, the world’s first openly trans Mayor, was recognised in the 2020 Queen's Birthday honours for her services to our communities.
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This is a brief selection of news showing how Covid-19 is affecting LGBTI communities worldwide. Share more stories at firstname.lastname@example.org
Black Lives Matter: LGBTI activists join forces against racism
The US LGBTI community has gone back to its roots, as activists rallied outside the Stonewall Inn once again to demand an end to police brutality and racism, in response to the murder of George Floyd. And, as it happened in 1969, Black LGBTI people were there to lead the demonstration. “When Black folks are under attack, what do we do? Stand up, fight back!” protesters chanted in New York. “When trans lives are under attack what do we do? Stand up, fight back!”
Participants demanded justice for trans people of colour who were murdered, remembering especially the latest known victims of this ongoing epidemic of violence: Tony McDade, shot and killed by a police officer in Florida, and Nina Pop, stabbed to death in her apartment in Missouri. Violence against trans people of colour hasn’t stopped since then: on June 1, Iyanna Dior was beaten up by a mob and the video showing her assault went viral.
Protesters are not alone, as over 600 LGBTI organisations to date have taken a stand against racial injustice in a public letter: “We, the undersigned, recognize we cannot remain neutral, nor will awareness substitute for action,” wrote the activists. “Today, we join together again to say #BlackLivesMatter and commit ourselves to the action those words require”.
ILGA North America has joined organisations in the United States and across the region in condemning racial injustice and police brutality, and called for transformative action to heal societies from discrimination - in the country and across the world.
“The incidents that have happened during the past few days in the United States have tragically shown the whole world how deeply racism is consuming our societies. No one should tolerate it any longer, nor assume they are allowed to look elsewhere,” said Kimberly Frost and Stephen Seaborn, co-Chairs of ILGA North America. “The violence that has erupted over the past few days in the United States is a consequence of centuries of institutionalised racism. f the whole world has been moulded to mirror and benefit only one part of the population, how can our society be just? With studies showing that a black man in the U.S. has an estimated 1 in 1,000 chance of being killed by police during his lifetime - 2.5 times the odds for a non-Hispanic white man – how can we continue to ignore that inequalities have broken our societies to the core?”.
More news from North America
The American Red Cross announced it will implement U.S. Food and Drug Administration changes on eligibility criteria for blood donations: from June 8, the deferral period for men who have sex with men will be reduced from 12 to 3 months.
LGBTQ activists in Puerto Rico sharply criticised the new Civil Code, as it fails to address discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
According to a recent study, marriage equality in the United States boosted state and local economies by $3.8 billion since it became a reality in 2015.
South Africa: LGBTI activist and sex worker dies in custody
An investigation has been launched into the death of Elma Robyn Montsumi, a 39-year-old sex worker, who passed away in police custody after being arrested on April 9. Rights groups brought the case into the spotlight, demanding why she had not been released on bail in terms of the lockdown regulations.
According to The Sex Workers Education and Advocacy Taskforce (SWEAT), Montsumi’s partner and some friends were able to communicate with her verbally by shouting from outside her cell. They reported that, after a while, Montsumi felt ill and stopped replying to their calls. They were later informed by bystanders that she had taken her own life.
“Those who interacted with her prior to her arrest remember her as being upbeat and the reports of an apparent suicide are baffling,” stated SWEAT. “Sex workers in South Africa experience vulnerabilities to systemic human rights violations and outright violence, discrimination, and harassment at the hands of the police. “Robyn was a sex worker and part of the LGBTQI+ family; marginalised key populations whose deaths and violations are often ignored. We celebrate her life, mourn her passing and want to honour her memory by giving her the justice she deserves.”
Activists referred Montsumi’s case to the Human Rights Commission and filed a complaint with the Commission for Gender Equality. The Independent Police Investigative Directorate confirmed that it is investigating the incident.
More news from Africa
Feather Awards, Africa’s first annual LGBTI Awards, announced that this year the “Feathers 2020 LGBTI dialogues” will be held online, and will highlight topics around mental and sexual health, and media representation.
According to media reports, two LGBTI advocacy groups in Cameroon have merged their projects aimed to help victims of homophobia with the support of other citizens.
UNAIDS Asia-Pacific releases survey on vulnerable youth’s mental health in time of Covid-19
UNAIDS released a survey on the impact of Covid-19 on mental health for young key populations and young people living with HIV in the Asia-Pacific region. The survey included respondents aged between 18 and 29 years, almost half of which identify as men who have sex with men.
The results underline a worrisome situation: national lockdowns, restricted movement and closure of non-formal education opportunities reduce social engagement, leading to possible aggravation of feelings of loneliness, depression and anxiety.
Asked how anxious they were about Covid-19, 70% of respondents replied feeling anxious or extremely anxious, with concern for individual and family members’ health as the most common. A key factor appears to be the socioeconomic implications of the pandemic: 59% of them reported anxiety due to loss of income.
Although it didn’t include people under the age of 18, UNAIDS argued that its findings likely apply to younger adolescents who are equally or at a higher risk of experiencing mental health challenges.
More news from Asia
Starting from July 1, the city of Okayama in western Japan will issue certificates recognizing same-sex partnership to couples that live or plan to move to the city.
Together with fellow associations in the Sports & Rights Alliance, ILGA World called on the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) to ensure that the bidding, organisation and delivery of the 2027 Asian Cup will fully respect human and labour rights.
Europe and Central Asia
North Macedonia repeals anti-discrimination law
The Constitutional Court of North Macedonia has repealed the Law on Prevention of and Protection against Discrimination, ILGA-Europe and ERA denounced in a joint statement.
The repealed law had marked a great victory after the tireless work of LGBTI activists, as it had explicitly prohibited discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity for the first time in the country’s history. Now, LGBTI people and other marginalised groups - including Roma people, people living in poverty, people with disabilities, and women - are left without protection. Furthermore, whether the previous anti-discrimination law will become effective as a replacement remains unclear, as the Constitutional Court has yet to decide on this matter. This, combined with the postponement of April 2020 parliamentary elections, could leave LGBTI people unprotected for months.
Protection from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity has become a standard in the region, with Albania, Kosovo and Serbia having adopted such laws. Provisions in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro are also inclusive of sex characteristics, thereby also protecting intersex people against discrimination.
“LGBTI people should not be left behind and should be provided with adequate protection from discrimination, legal recognition of their identity, equal treatment and comprehensive human rights standards,” concludes the statement.
More news from Europe and Central Asia
In Latvia, the Social and Employment Matters Committee of the Parliament announced an official consultation into the drafting of a life spouse partnerships bill.
As France, MP Laurence Vanceunebrock filed a bill to ban 'conversion' therapies.
In Hungary, over 10,000 people signed a petition asking the Ombuds to turn to the Constitutional Court for the nullification of the law that bans legal gender recognition.
Human rights organisations in Russia denounced an anti-LGBT video released by a media group close to President Putin, weeks from a vote on constitutional amendments that would keep him in power until 2036. The video has since then been taken down by YouTube.
According to Human Rights Watch and independent media, a popular entertainer in Turkmenistan - as well other men in the show business - have been arrested for consensual same-sex acts, and sentenced to two years in prison.
People from all over the world joined the Digital Intersex Pride - a reported world first, organised by the Netherlands Organisation for Sex Diversity (NNID).
Latin America and the Caribbean
Legal gender recognition in the Americas: Organization of American States’ report exposes “enormous” obstacles
The Organization of American States (OAS) and Synergía - Initiatives for Human Rights published the report Panorama of the legal recognition of gender identity in the Americas, detailing the current practices in the Americas on right to gender identity recognition.
Focusing on the administrative, judicial or mixed nature of the current procedures to see a person’s gender legally recognised, the document analyses information from 16 countries (Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Grenada, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, and Uruguay), including six federal entities of Mexico.
The findings depict a worrisome picture, as it starts from the recognition that, based on the number of reported cases, “the Americas is the most violent region in the world toward people with non-normative gender identities”. Adding to this, the publication recognises that trans people and others with gender non-conforming identities are subject to “high levels of discrimination as they face enormous, often insurmountable, obstacles in accessing identity documents that correspond to their self-perceived gender identity.”
In conclusion, the document affirms that “the civil registry institutions of the OAS member countries must adopt accessible, expedited and confidential procedures that allow for the complete rectification of mentions of the name, sex/gender and image in people’s identity documents in accordance with their self-perceived gender identity.”
More news from Latin America and the Caribbean
LGBT and Jewish communities in Argentina have expressed outrage at the Central Bank’s decision to put on the new 5,000 peso banknote the image of Ramón Carillo, a former Health Minister who hired a Nazi known for conducting experiments on gay prisoners in Buchenwald concentration camp.
Panama Pride suspended physical events for this Pride Month and announced that Panama will join the Global Pride 2020 and the OLA's (Orgullos Latinoamericanos) virtual Pride.
Aoteroa New Zealand: World’s first openly trans mayor honoured by Queen Elizabeth II
Georgina Beyer, a Maori pioneer of the trans movement, has been made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit in the Queen Elizabeth II’s Birthday Honours.
Born in Wellington in 1957, Beyer was elected in Carterton in 1995 as the first openly trans mayor in the world. She also served as an MP for the Wairarapa region for three terms between 1999 and 2007. During her political career, she promoted protection from discrimination for trans people in the Human Rights Act and also championed the rights of same-sex couples by supporting the Civil Union bill.
“It’s a validation really, I guess, of anything I have done that has helped to push forward greater equality… to prove we are a democratic country whereby citizens can stand shoulder to shoulder with anybody else that seeks public office,” she told 1news. “I really do share this honour with all of those people who supported me both over in the Wairarapa and anywhere else in New Zealand, in particular the gay community who have been there egging me on.”
ILGA World was honoured to have Georgina as a keynote speaker during last year’s ILGA World Conference.
More news from Oceania
The University of South Australia announced the introduction of the Ally Network, a move that aims to create a culture that respects and celebrates sexual and gender diversity.
In the next weeks, South Australia is poised to present a bill to outlaw “gay panic defence”, a discriminatory legal strategy which asks a jury to find that a victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity is to blame for the defendant’s violent reaction.
Video of the week
“You say you honor us, and where the f*** are we?” On June 1, Black trans activist Ianne Fields Stewart stood outside Stonewall demanding justice for George Floyd and Tony McDade.
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