The week in LGBTI news
26 June - 2 July 2020
Written by Maddalena Tomassini
Edited by Daniele Paletta
Pride Month might be over, but our fight for equality continues as always. We rejoice with our communities who this week gained some major victories! Montenegro approved a law to legally recognise same-sex couples, becoming the first Western Balkans country to do so. In Africa, Gabon confirmed its resolve to decriminalise consensual same-sex relations, as it scrapped last year’s short-lived ban with a strong majority vote in the Senate. Good news came also from Aotearoa New Zealand, where the 2023 census will collect information on rainbow communities.
As we celebrate these important steps forward, we keep our eyes on the road ahead. In Mexico, a recent report published by a coalition of organisations highlighted a dire situation for our communities, where at least 209 persons were killed over the last six years on the grounds of who they are or whom they love.
For our communities, more than ever, this has been a time of protests. In the Philippines, over 20 persons were arrested while peacefully commemorating Pride Month and protesting the government’s Covid-19 response. At the same time, police reportedly clashed with activists in the United States during a Pride march - in images that are eerily similar to the Stonewall uprising, only exactly 51 years later.
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This is a brief selection of news showing how Covid-19 is affecting LGBTI communities worldwide. Share more stories at [email protected]
Europe and Central Asia
Montenegro is the first Western Balkan country to legally recognise same-sex couples
In a historic day for our communities, Montenegro has become the first country in the Western Balkans to adopt a law that legally recognises same-sex couples.
The law, approved with a margin of 42 votes to five in the 81-seat parliament, will grant same-sex couples equal rights, but without the possibility of adopting children. Previously rejected last year, the law was backed by lawmakers from across the parliament.
The move was also praised by president Milo Djukanovic, who described the law as “a step toward the family of most-developed democracies” for the country. “A confirmation that our society is maturing, accepting and living the differences,” tweeted Djukanovic. “Born free and equal in dignity and rights!”
The decision has come as Montenegro is undergoing advanced negotiations to join the EU.
“A new page in the history of the Montenegrin LGBTI movement has been written”, organisations in the country have pointed out. “A clear message was sent that the civil majority in Montenegro stands by those who have been disenfranchised and invisible in the eyes of the law.”
More news from Europe and Central Asia
The Netherlands could soon explicitly state in Article 1 of its Constitution that LGBTI people are protected from discrimination: the House of Representatives has approved a bill adding sexual orientation as protected grounds, and clarified that gender identity and expression, and sex characteristics are also included.
According to his partner, a Kazakh gay man has been repeatedly threatened and abducted by his parents because of their same-sex relationship.
A bill sanctioning discrimination and incitement to hatred against LGBT people has been introduced to the Italian parliament. The debate is set to start at the end of this month.
In a popular consultation, Russia voted to approve amendments to the Constitution - including the definition of marriage as a union of a man and a woman. Earlier last week, over 30 people were arrested in central Moscow, for protesting in support of a LGBT activist.
Gabon’s Senate voted: the law prohibiting consensual same-sex relations is no more
A great victory for rights activists and a hope for change in the African continent: after last week’s vote in the lower house, the Senate of Gabon approved the bill to decriminalise consensual same-sex relations among adults by a majority of 59 votes, making last year’s ban one of the shortest-lived ever. The law will now have to be ratified by the country’s president.
As ILGA World’s State-Sponsored Homophobia reports, Article 402(5) was enacted in 2019, defining a penalty of up to six months imprisonment and a fine, but it was never fully enforced. The reversal of this law is a positive move for the region, and could hopefully serve as an example for other African States that still criminalise consensual same-sex sexual relations.
“All humans are born free and equal and therefore we are entitled to every right that others will claim for themselves,” said Juliet Ulanmo, Chairperson of the Pan Africa ILGA Board. “We hope that many more African countries emulate the Gabonese government and realize that these homophobic laws restricting and punishing consensual adult same sex relationships are not progressive. We say kudos to the Gabonese government and people”.
“Across the continent, things are moving more in the right direction than in the wrong direction,” hailed Nate Brown, Executive Director of Pan Africa ILGA. “I am envisaging to see a lot of change in the next 5-10 years. Aluta Continua!”
More news from Africa
South Africa approved a bill repealing a section of the Civil Union Act which allowed state-employed officials to refuse to marry same-sex couples on the grounds of their personal “conscience, religion [or] belief”.
Over 20 regional and international human rights organizations called on Facebook to work against hate speech targeting the LGBTI community in the Middle East and North Africa, as attacks spiked after the death of Egyptian activist Sarah Hegazi.
A coalition of LGBTQIA activists, organisations, allies, and advocates from across Africa is set to organize a virtual Pride event to celebrate queer identities and visibility: the three-day event Pride Afrique is scheduled for August 14-16.
A formal complaint has been filed against the prisons service of Uganda to fully investigate the allegations of torture that twenty young people, arrested in an LGBTI shelter amidst the Covid-19 pandemic, have reportedly endured while in detention. During this time, they were also been denied access to legal representation.
Aotearoa New Zealand to collect information about rainbow communities in 2023 census
For the first time in history, 2023 New Zealand’s census will collect information on rainbow communities.
The news, which was confirmed by deputy government statistician at Statistics New Zealand Rachael Milicich, follows last week’s report by the Human Rights Commission – according to which our communities in the country still face widespread discrimination and inequality across a range of services from education to health.
According to express, activists praised the decision, arguing that the inclusion of such questions will provide the government with credible information on the make-up of the LGBT community, and the ability to address specific concerns with targeted funding.
“Our rainbow communities are a key part of our identity as a country and it’s really important that they’re properly represented in the data we gather. We couldn’t make this work for 2018, but we have been working hard to ensure it’s part of 2023,” said Milicich.
Stats New Zealand has also announced a public consultation “for the review of the statistical standards for sex and gender identity”, which will end on 13 August this year. “The review”, Milicich explained, “ will evaluate the current standards to determine what updates are required to enable best practice guidance for collecting information on these topics across the data system.”
More news from Oceania
Since its soft launch last year, a trans-led legal service in Victoria, Australia has reportedly assisted over 50 persons – responding to various calls for help, from issues with birth certificate changes and discrimination, to families seeking legal support for their trans and gender diverse children.
First Nations activists and Mardi Gras 78ers have condemned police behaviour following the second Black Lives Matter rally in Sydney, NSW, Australia earlier in June - driving comparisons with the violent repression of the first Mardi Gras in 1978.
Latin America and the Caribbean
Mexico: data shows the extent of hate crimes against our communities
At least 209 LGBT people killed since 2014, 25 of which this year: those are the disconcerting figures of Mexico’s hate crimes against LGBT people, as a report published by the Observatorio Nacional revealed. The initiative, realised by a coalition of organisations from 10 Mexican states, aims to make up for the lack of an official registry of such homicides.
The numbers could be even higher, pointing to a gloomier picture: researchers estimated that for each recorded incident there could be three other cases that remain invisible. The report also revealed that the primary victims of hate crimes are trans women – in 44,5% of the cases – followed by men (40,7%).
A recent survey also looked into public attitudes towards our communities in the country. According to a study by Enkoll – which included 1,018 people interviewed in the end of June – most Mexican adults firmly support marriage equality - a reality in 18 of the 31 states, as well as in the capital - and would respect a family member's diverse sexual orientation. Furthermore, the survey illustrated that Mexicans understand the basics of the LGBTI community, with 86% of respondents being able to recognize what does the “LGBTTTI” initialism used in the country stands for.
The road towards full acceptance and respect is still long. In fact, the study also described a discriminatory trend affecting Mexican LGBTI people similar to the one emerging from the Observatorio’s report. According to researchers, 84% of gay people and 64% of bisexual people affirmed to have suffered discrimination on the grounds of their sexual orientation.
More news from Latin America and the Caribbean
In Córdoba city, Argentina, a nationalist group tried to take down by force the rainbow flag which Mayor Martín Llaryora and sexual diversity organizations had raised on the eve of Pride Day. Similar incidents took place also in other cities across the country.
In a recent panel on the challenges faced by LGBT people in developing communities, activists spoke about the significant role churches have had supporting people in Jamaica and Guyana.
Pride interrupted: over 20 activists arrested while protesting in the Philippines
Over 20 persons were arrested in Mendiola, Manila, as police violently dispersed a Pride march.
The activists, against whom no clear charge was initially pressed, were also protesting “oppressive government policies and responses to the COVID-19 pandemic”, as well as the Anti-Terrorism Act, a bill that would make it easier to arrest critics of the government without a court warrant and detain them without charge for up to 24 days. According to media reports, the group was observing physical distancing and other health protocols when the police arrived to disperse them.
“We strongly condemn the government’s continued assault on our fundamental freedoms of expression, association, and assembly, and the rights to air grievances, due process, and equal protection of its citizens”, 114 human rights groups said in joint statement published on Facebook with the #FreePride20 hashtag. “Neither this public health emergency nor unclear threats to national security are justifications for the curtailment of citizens rights”.
“Experiences of inequality are intertwined and upholding the rights of LGBTQI+ people are essential to upholding the rights of all Filipinos,” the statement reads. “There is no freedom for one unless there is freedom for all”.
More news from Asia
InNepal the National Human Rights Commission has released a report indicating that - despite progress - the country has yet to ensure full legal rights to our communities.
Despite a petition demanding restrictions on it because of its “immoral” content, Singapore’s annual Pride rally will be held online to support LGBTI people at a time of social isolation.
More than 200 people marched in Taipei, Taiwan, for the annual Pride rally. Organisers announced the event was in honour of all the global LGBTI community, as over 500 Pride events were cancelled around the world due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
United States: New York’s police clash with activists at Pride march
Thousands of protesters took to the streets to join the Queer Liberation March for Black Lives and Against Police Brutality, before they allegedly faced brutality at the hands of New York’s police (NYPD).
According to witnesses and the march organisers, the incidents started as 50,000 persons reached Washington Square Park, in Manhattan.
Multiple videos posted to social media and aired on local TV stations appeared to show police shoving and swinging batons at protesters. At least one officer was recorded using pepper spray, while a cameraman for NBC New York caught on tape a police officer shoving a demonstrator roughly off a bicycle. According to the same source, the NYPD confirmed arresting three people for allegedly assaulting officers.
A few days after the incidents occurred, advocates and activist organisations publicly condemned NYPD’s use of force. “Seeing the videos and the images from the NYPD attack that occurred during Queer Liberation March that took place on June 28th, 2020, are utterly heartbreaking. The fact that these videos and images are eerily similar to the Stonewall Uprising that occurred 51 years ago, is simply not okay,” said Marissa Kubicki, a queer-identified social worker in the Legal Aid Society's criminal defense practice.
More news from North America
In the United States, two trans women who suffered discrimination while accessing health care services are suing the federal administration for scrapping protections enshrined in Obama’s Affordable Care Act.
Seventeen corrections officers will be disciplined in connection with the death of Layleen Polanco, a trans woman who died due to an epileptic seizure during solitary confinement in a New York’s city prison, in the United States.
In the United States, the Department of Housing and Urban Development announced plans to roll back a rule that barred federally funded homeless shelters from discriminating against trans people.
Canada’s ambassador to Russia has been accused of “interfering” in the country’s constitutional vote, after she suggested that voting for a ban on equal marriage would make the country a lot “less inclusive”.
Photo of the week
Global Pride has been a special occasion for our communities to come together from all over the world. We at ILGA World were there too, and on the occasion we released our “Sexual Orientation Laws in the World” in 20 languages. Watch the video message by our Co-Secretary General Luz Elena Aranda on this very special Pride day!
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