The week in LGBTI news
3 - 9 July 2020
Written by Maddalena Tomassini
Edited by Daniele Paletta
This week, during the 44th UN Human Rights Council, the Independent Expert on sexual orientation and gender identity Victor Madrigal-Borloz called for a worldwide ban on so-called “conversion therapies”. For our communities this represents a major step forward in the fight against these cruel and inhumane practices, rooted in the discriminatory idea that people of diverse SOGI are somehow “inferior” and in need of fixing.
These are the same roots from which stems the violence that targets our LGBTI family world-wide. In Tunisia, two men were sentenced to two years in prison with the charge of consensual same-sex relations. At the same time, violence against Black trans people is still rampant in the United States, where the recorded number of trans and gender non-conforming persons killed in 2020 raised to 21.
This week, we need to cherish a few victories as well. In Victoria, Australia, the government has provided new funds to tackle a widespread problem of family violence against LGBTI adults. A Chinese court in Beijing has ruled in favour of a trans woman who was fired after she underwent gender affirming surgery. The Chilean senate has given green light to the outline of a bill that would recognise both people in same-sex couples as parents of their children. In Strasbourg, the European Court on Human Rights affirmed that Bulgaria’s refusal to recognise a trans man’s gender identity is a human rights violation.
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Two Tunisian men sentenced to two years in prison for alleged consensual same-sex relations
Two men in Tunisia were sentenced to two years in prison after they were accused of engaging in consensual same-sex activities, Human Rights Watch reported. The two men were arrested after one of them filed an unrelated complaint against the other. Their lawyer claimed that the officers also bullied and threatened the two men in an attempt to make them “confess that they are gay”, adding that the defendants refused demands to undergo an anal exam.
According to ILGA World’s State-Sponsored Homophobia, article 230 of the Tunisian penal code punishes consensual same-sex relations between adults with up to three years in prison. As last year’s global legislation overview update states, “convictions on the grounds of sodomy in Tunisia have reportedly been on the rise”.
The LGBT organisation Damj Association claimed that this two-year sentence is longer than most handed down for consensual same-sex relations. “Tunisia’s record of actively prosecuting people for consensual same-sex conduct is deeply worrying and a blatant invasion of their private life,” said Rasha Younes, LGBT rights researcher at Human Rights Watch.
More news from Africa
Gabon’s president has signed the bill to repeal a 2019 ban on consensual same-sex relationships, formally decriminalising them.
A study presented during 23rd International AIDS Conference showed that “men who have sex with men” (MSM) living in sub-Saharan African countries that severely criminalise same-sex sexual activity are at a far higher risk of having HIV compared to other countries where no criminalisation occurs.
A recent survey conducted in four East African countries has revealed how state efforts to exercise control over women’s bodies results in a wide array of types of violence against on violence against LBQ women, trans people and female sex workers.
Violence against Black trans people still rampant in the United States:two more women killed
[trigger warning: the article describes violence against trans people] Trans people in the United States are still under attack, as at least other two Black trans women have been murdered the past week.
Bree Black, 27, was shot to death in Pompano Beach, Florida, while Shakie Peters, 32, was found dead in Amite, Louisiana. According to media reports, the local Sheriff’s office – which apparently misgendered her in its reports – is investigating Peters’ case as homicide. Black and Peters’ deaths are the latest victims of reported homicides of trans people in the United States this year, most of which targeting women of colour.
Their murders occurred as violence against trans people of colour is still rampant in the country. At the end of June, Merci Mack, a 22-year-old Black trans woman was fatally shot in Texas. In California, a Black trans man was beaten and found lying on the floor of his apartment. According to a media report, Kristian Rouse, 18, has been hospitalised since mid-May and will probably need long treatments to recover.
“This is the deadliest period we have on record,” said Tori Cooper, Director of Community Engagement for Human Rights Campaign (HRC)’s Trans Justice Initiative. “While we are still awaiting facts on the ground, it is clear that members of our beloved community are being killed because of who they are. Racism, toxic masculinity, misogyny and transphobia are destroying lives and taking away our loved ones. I am heartbroken. I am furious. When will our country stop killing us?”
Activists are also mourning the death of Summer Taylor, a 24-years-old non-binary person who was hit by a car while they attended a Black Femme March in solidarity with Black Lives Matter. According to HRC’s year count, at least 21 trans and gender non-conforming people have been killed in 2020 – nearing the 2019’s total number of 27.
More news from Nort America
In the United States, the Supreme Court ruled that religious schools are allowed to fire LGBT people on the basis of the “ministerial exception”, according to which teachers act like “ministers”.
A Black trans woman filed a federal lawsuit against the staff members of a State Prison at the north of San Francisco, United States, claiming they refused to investigate her reports of sexual abuse and allegedly retaliated against her with false accuses.
Victoria, Australia, provides additional funds to fight family violence against LGBTI adults
The government of Victoria, Australia, has provided additional AUD$95,000 to the funds disposed to tackle family violence against LGBTI adults. The announcement comes after a recent survey conducted by the Victorian Agency for Health Information revealed that 13,4 percent of LGBTI adults have experienced family violence, compared with the 5,1 percent of the broader population.
The new funds will go to a new training program developed by La Trobe University and come in addition to the $600,000 LGBTQI Family Violence Primary Prevention Project. The University’s Rainbow Health Victoria service, who runs the project, has recently released Pride In Prevention, a guide to help practitioners and policy makers to address violence against people from LGBTQI communities.
“We know that it is difficult for our community to go into [mainstream] family violence services and feel included,” said Victorian Gender and Sexuality Commissioner Ro Allen at the online launch of the guide. “And so this might give you the evidence base to take it right up to your boards, take it right up to the management and leadership in your organisation to say, here are the drivers, here’s the evidence. This is the work that we need to do. For LGBTQI organisations, we’ve got to have these conversations and now.”
More news from Oceania
Black Lives Matter protesters marched in Wellington, Aeotora New Zealand, calling for better support for Black trans and non-binary community in the country.
This year’s Melbourne Medical Student Conference held a session on the medical treatment of people with intersex variations. The video of the event, shared by Intersex Human Rights Australia, provides a rare insight into current clinical thinking. [trigger warning: discussion of human rights violations in medical settings]
In Australia, the council of Sydney confirmed funding for the 2021 and 2022 editions of the Mardi Gras, providing almost $300,000 for each year’s march.
Trans woman in China wins case against the company who fired her
It took her more than one year, but a Chinese trans woman in Beijing has won her legal fight against the company who fired her when she took a leave for her gender affirming surgery.
The Chinese social platform Weibo has been swamped by posts about the court ruling - which occurred in January but was only recently made public. With most of the comments praising the ruling – according to a survey, 81.9% of over 326,000 respondents viewed it positively – the news generated millions of views.
The woman, Ms. Gao, claimed that she was fired after a pre-approved two-month sick leave. The court ordered her employer, the Chinese ecommerce platform Dangdang, to resume her labour contract and to recognise her gender identity. The sentence confirmed the 2019 court’s first decision that the company had appealed, and demanded Gao be allowed to use female bathrooms. Dangdang had alluded to other employees’ opposition at Gao using their bathrooms in the termination letter, while referring to her as a “person with mental disorders”.
As Caixin Global reports, the Chinese trans community welcomed the ruling, citing the judge’s heartfelt comment, who vowed “to protect the dignity and legal rights of transgender people”. Nevertheless, some voiced their worries around the risks that could come with such visibility, pointing out that some transphobic comments have emerged online.
More news from Asia
In Thailand, the cabinet endorsed a bill on the registration of adult same-sex relationships that could allegedly ensure similar rights to those granted to married couples. The bill will now have to be discussed in the House.
While India’s Home Ministry is consulting the paramilitary police to pave the way for trans people to serve, the South Korean army rejected an appeal from a former sergeant who was forcibly discharged after her gender affirming surgery.
According to a report published by Iraqi LGBT group IraQueer, anti-LGBT bias in the country’s media reinforces discriminatory ideas while inspiring and passively condoning violence against our community.
Latin America and the Caribbean
Chile takes a step towards recognising rainbow families
The Chilean Senate has approved the outline of a bill that would legally recognise both partners in rainbow families as parents of their children. The draft bill recognises the rights to individual reproductive autonomy, including the right to build a family. It will return to the special Senate committee before starting its parliamentary course.
“The right of a child to have two fathers or two mothers is still prohibited in Chile for the majority of the population, while it is a privilege for a minority who can afford lawyers,” said Daniela Andrade, spokesperson for Chile’s Movimiento de Integración y Liberación Homosexual (MOVILH). “If this inequality is resolved by law, all families, and their children, will have the same rights.”
The announcement comes as for the reportedly first time the Civil Registry recognised two men as parents of their two adopted children, following a ruling – unknown until earlier this month – issued by the Santiago Court of Appeals in 2017. “We congratulate the couple and their children for this pioneering, unprecedented and historic triumph, which was unknown until now,” claimed Andrade, who also added “it’s time to put an end to statal hypocrisy concerning the rights of rainbowl families.”
This week, MOVILH also called on the Senate to restart the parliamentary process concerning the marriage equality bill, after the Chamber voted in January on the plan on legislating on the issue.
More news from Latin America and the Caribbean
In Mexico’s Baja California, state legislators approved a draft initiative that aims to make it easier for adult same-sex couples to get married, as they are currently forced to go through rejection and file an injunction with a federal court in order to obtain a marriage certificate.
Mateo López Mejía, trans man and rights activist, has been murdered in Circasia, Colombia, where he was preparing a communal meal for people in vulnerable situations.
The San Miguel de Tucumán city council, in Argentina, approved the draft ordinance establishing a participation quota of at least 1% of trans people in the public workforce.
According to media reports, Leonie Dorado has become the first trans news anchor in Bolivia, a role through which she will also cover LGBT issues.
Europe and Central Asia
Bulgaria’s refusal to recognise a trans man’s gender identity is a human rights violation, the European Court on Human Rights rules
By refusing a trans man the right to legal recognition of his gender identity, Bulgaria has violated article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, the European Court on Human Rights (ECHR) stated in its latest ruling. According to the press release, the Court found violation of article 8 (right to private and family life) as the country failed to give “relevant and sufficient reasons” to their refusal, while placing the plaintiff “in a troubling position, in which he was liable to experience feelings of vulnerability, humiliation and anxiety”.
The ECHR ordered Bulgaria to pay the applicant 7,500 euros in respect of non-pecuniary damage and 4,150 euros in respect of costs and expenses. ILGA-Europe, who welcomed the ruling, had intervened in this case jointly with TGEU - Transgender Europe and Bilitis Foundation, pointing out – as mentioned in the sentence – the lack of clarity in the Bulgarian legislative framework and case law. According to the groups, the outcome in each case depends on the personal opinion of the judges as to the interpretation of the law, as well as their knowledge of trans issues.
More news from Europe and Central Asia
LGBT activists have praised Netherlands’s intention to take off gender identity form identity cards. The change should be effective by 2024-2025.
Norway’s federal government announced that it will prioritise LGBT refugees in the new three-years scheme introduced in coordination with the UN.
A Russian activist has been charged for the third time for “gay propaganda” after publishing on social media drawings of rainbow families.
Four French rights organisations have criticised the new justice reform, which includes a digital criminal register that records the sexual orientation of the people involved in trials, including victims.
As the Polish president continued his campaign by announcing he wants the constitution to formally ban same-sex couples from adopting children, an activist spoke up against the homophobic presidential campaign, claiming that LGBTI people are used as “scapegoats”.
Video of the week
During the 44th session of the Human Rights Council, the UN Independent Expert on SOGI presented his report on “conversion therapies”, calling on a global ban on such harmful practices. “These interventions exclusively target LGBT persons with the specific aim of interfering in their personal integrity and autonomy, because their sexual orientation or gender identity do not fall under what is perceived by certain persons as a desirable norm,” Madrigal-Borloz said. “They are inherently degrading and discriminatory and rooted in the belief that LGBT persons are somehow inferior, and that they must at any cost modify their orientation or identity to remedy that supposed inferiority.”
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