The week in LGBTI news
17-23 July 2020
Written by Maddalena Tomassini
Edited by Daniele Paletta
This week our communities around the globe continued to make their voices heard, celebrating their stories and narratives and fighting for their rights. Activists and allies from Japan are calling on the country to adopt an anti-discrimination law to protect LGBT people, while backlash pushed Barbados’ Welcome Stamp website to update its definition of “family” to a more inclusive one.
Meanwhile, in the United States, the Commission on Unalienable Rights was widely criticised for attempting to prioritise “religious freedom and property rights” over others, and a rights group in Australia has been challenging a bill in New South Wales that would weaponise religion against other people.
In the meantime, a Pan-African Pride is soon set to celebrate African queer narratives, and the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights called for comprehensive sexual education that would include LGBTI issues, building a safer world for all youths.
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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]
Rights groups call on Japan to adopt the Equality Act before next year’s Olympics
The Japan Alliance for LGBT Legislation (J-ALL), together with Human Rights Watch and Athlete Ally, launched the #EqualityActJapan campaign, calling on the government to adopt the anti-discrimination law before the Olympics and Paralympics kick off next year.
In 2018, the municipality of Tokyo adopted a landmark ordinance, protecting LGBT people from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Now, activists call on the government to extend the protection to the entire country. “Tokyo’s action was important, but several Olympic competitions, including the marathon, golf, fencing, race walking, and surfing, will take place outside of Tokyo in Hokkaido, Saitama, Chiba, Shizuoka, Kanagawa, Miyagi, and Fukushima prefectures,” the groups claimed. “LGBT fans, athletes, and visitors in these prefectures will not be protected under Tokyo’s anti-discrimination ordinance”.
“LGBT people in Japan are entitled to equal protection under the law,” said Yuri Igarashi, co-representative director of J-ALL, an umbrella organization of 100 LGBT organizations in Japan. “Postponing the Olympic Games to 2021 has given the government time to introduce and pass historic protections to benefit everyone in Japan”.
“Japan has an opportunity to be a true global LGBT rights leader by protecting against discrimination at home,” said Kanae Doi, Japan director at Human Rights Watch. “The Tokyo metropolitan government has shown solidarity with the LGBT community by passing its historic Olympic LGBT nondiscrimination law, and the national government should urgently follow suit”.
More news from Asia
Israel took a first step towards outlawing so-called “conversion therapy”, as the Parliament gave the first green light to a proposed bill in the preliminary reading. Activists have welcomedthe news, even as they regretted that the bill would still allow clerics to offer those practices.
The Association of World Citizen Hong Kong China releasedonlineGuidance To Employers To Build Trans-friendly Workplaces, a booklet aimed to “facilitate employers who would like to promote equal employment opportunities among all persons, including those with different gender identities, and build trans-friendly workplaces”.
In Thailand, Swing Thailand and Being LGBTI in Asia organized a focus group for trans women with hearing impairments to share their personal experiences in facing discrimination.
Latin America and the Caribbean
After wave of criticism, Barbados welcomes foreign “partners”
After facing a wave of criticism on social media, the Barbados Welcome Stamp website changed its definition of “family” to a more inclusive one – removing the “man and woman” definition and adding the term “partner”. Some locals welcomed the news as a good sign for the future of LGBT people in the country, where consensual same-sex relations between adults are still criminalised.
A campaign promoting a 12-month visa for foreigners who work remotely and their families caused backlash as its requirements defined “spouse” as a person in a relationship that subsists “between a man and a woman” united by marriage or by common law. A wave of criticism swarmed on social media, and the website was changed overnight into a more inclusive definition.
According to ILGA World’s State-Sponsored Homophobia report, Barbados has the harshest penalty in the Western Hemisphere, as it criminalises adult same-sex relations between adults with life imprisonment.
“I hope the way in which this language was updated quickly and easily, so can the language in policies and legislation which cause disenfranchisement to LGBTQ people who have to navigate Barbados every day,” Roann Mohammed, co-Founder of Barbados Gays, Lesbians Against Discrimination (B-GLAD), told Loop News. “The most marginalised LGBTQ people who live here with legislation that criminalises their identities and fails to protect them from discrimination deserve to be heard and met with respect from the state as well.”
Addressing the issue, prime minister Mia Mottley declared that Barbados “welcomes all”, and that an anti-discrimination bill is soon going to be debated. A claim that apparently left some activists “unimpressed”. “It is disingenuous for the Prime Minister to invite gay couples to her island knowing that their intimacy is punishable with up to life imprisonment,” Maurice Tomlinson told Barbados Today.
More news from Latin America and the Caribbean
In Mexico, the Supreme Court accepted an amparo case from activists in the state of Yucatàn, where Congress voted against introducing marriage equality in 2019. Meanwhile, lawmakers in Baja California rejected a bill that would have repealed the constitutional amendment that defines marriage as between a man and a woman, and would have made it easier for same-sex couples to get married.
In January, Peru decided to adhere to the “100 Brasilia rules” – which ensure access to justice to vulnerable groups – but rejected the rule (n.4) that includes “sexual orientation and gender identity” among the grounds for vulnerability. Now, after facing criticisms, the Executive Council of the Judiciary accepted to recosnider the decision.
ILGALAC is calling for justice for trans doctor Elizabeth Montaño, after no improvement has been made on the investigations concerning her death, which occurred a month ago in Mexico.
United States Commission on Unalienable Rights widely criticized for watering down human rights
A report recently published by the US Department of State’s “Commission on Unalienable Rights” has sparked strong concerns among activists, as it seeks to prioritize “religious freedom and property rights” over others. The report, designed to give directions on human rights policies in the country, affirms that “new rights” should be “tested for consistency with ‘constitutional principles and moral, political, and legal traditions’”. Civil society has two weeks since its release – which occurred on the 16th of July – to submit comments.
“The fundamental principle of human rights is universality – human rights belong to us all, regardless of religious denomination, gender, race, sexual orientation, or any other number of distinguishing features,” commented Maria Sjödin, Deputy Executive Director of OutRight Action International. “By using human rights language the report claims to safeguard human rights, while in fact doing the opposite. It positions international human rights law as secondary to national legislation, elevates one human right over another, and equates ‘unalienable rights’ to ‘natural law’ and ‘natural rights’ – terms used to describe a social order which is often characterized by male-domination, subservience of women, racial inequality, and complete erasure of LGBTIQ people”.
“The Department of State’s effort to cherry-pick human rights – in order to unlawfully deny the rights of women, LGBTI people and others – is a dangerous political stunt that could spark a race to the bottom by human rights-abusing governments around the world,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas director at Amnesty International. “This report, made through an illegitimate process, only further shows the contempt this administration has for human rights and its desire to excise certain rights for political gain”.
More news from North America
Twenty-two states and the District of Columbia have filed a joint lawsuit against the United States’ federal administration over its rollback on healthcare protections for LGBT people.
The New York State Assembly, in the United States, has passed a bill making all public single-occupancy bathrooms gender-neutral.
Canada is celebrating its 15th anniversary of the legalisation on marriage equality, but cases of discrimination still occur: two women, set to marry in 2021, were reportedly turned down both by an officiant and a videographer as they were trying to organise their wedding.
“It would allow people to use religion to hurt others”, activists condemn New South Wales’ proposed bill
The New South Wales Parliament is conducting an inquiry into the Anti-Discrimination Amendment (Religious Freedoms and Equality) Bill, a proposed law that - according to Equality Australia - would “adversely affect, among others, LGBTQI people, women, divorced and unmarried people, and even people of faith”.
According to the groups’ explanation page, the proposed amendment has “fundamental problems”, as it “elevates religious expression above other human rights, allowing people to use religion to hurt others”.
“if an off-duty police officer made a comment that was anti-LGBTQI or anti-Muslim based on religious beliefs, the police force would not be able to take any steps to address that conduct”, explained Ghassan Kassisieh, legal director at Equality Australia.
“It opens the way for people to discriminate against others by using their religious beliefs as an excuse,” Kassisieh said. “Religious diversity is essential, and it is alive and well in New South Wales. This bill does little to support the diversity of people of faith. All it does is grant, in particular, faith-based organisations an ability to impose their views on others”.
More news from Oceania
ILGA Oceania welcomed two First Nation people, Vanessa Lee-Ah Mat (Australia) and Fia’ailetoa Ken Moala (Samoa), as new co-convenors to represent ILGA Oceania of the ILGA World board.
Two women were attacked in Nouméa, New Caledonia, after they were viewed kissing each other.
Intersex Youth Aotearoa, New Zealand, released a guide to help and educate intersex youth’s parents on how to support their children.
A synagogue in Melbourne, Australia, distanced itself from some homophobic remarks made by one of its board members: its president claimed that the congregation was “committed to our core values of equality, respect, inclusivity and social responsibility”.
Pride Afrique: three days to celebrate queer African voices and narratives
Running online from August 14 to 16, Pride Afrique will celebrate the “bustling, multi-layered, chaotically explosive reservoir of African queer narratives that the world ignores”. The event is reportedly the first pan-African LGBT Pride event and has been organised entirely by volunteers. The two-hour live show will broadcast daily at 5 PM GMT Accra and Lome, 8 PM Kenya, 7 PM Cape Town, 6 PM Lagos and London, 1 PM New York.
It will feature content in Arabic, English, French and Portuguese, touching themes such as “intergenerationality of same-sex love, gender transgression, queer parenting, inter-faith queer revolutions”.
“The global media has been flooded with narratives of a completely homophobic and hopeless Africa,” said David Nnanna Ikpo, a Nigerian lawyer, novelist and one of the event’s organisers. “We are never in the news or in discussions until there is a Hollywood script of dusty, poverty stricken, hungry Africa where queer men are only ever lynched”. In this narrative, he added, “queer women, children, professionals, healers, artists, parents are invisible and erased”.
“So now we are coming together, calling on all queer stories, we are building our own light, and weaving the rainbow kente in the glare of the sun,” Ikpo said. For the organiser, storytelling is an important part of the emancipation necessary to nourish the people through stories of “love” and “tears”.
More news from Africa
A new church in Rwanda is reported to be welcoming the country's LGBT people, offering them a safe space where they can express their faith and identities.
Equality Hub Nigeria is presenting Ìfé, a new movie featuring the story of two women, and their struggles of being queer in the West African country.
Europe and Central Asia
Comprehensive sexuality education protects children while building a more inclusive society, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights states
Comprehensive sexuality education is a powerful tool to protect children, build a more inclusive society and combat violence, abuse and discrimination, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Dunja Mijatović affirmed in a comment.
“The comment is published at a moment when the Romanian is Constitutional Court has been asked by the country’s President to examine a legislation passed by Parliament banning sexual education and information on gender in schools,” noted ILGA-Europe on Facebook. “Romania, just as other European countries where attempts to ban or limit sexual education are ongoing, need to respect the international human rights standards and fulfil their obligation to educate and inform for the protection of everyone, including LGBTI youth”.
Addressing the fact that existing sexuality education curricula often exclude or stigmatise LGBTI people, the Commissioner highlighted that queer students “face bullying at school and are at higher risk of committing self-harm or suicide because of societal rejection of their sexual orientation”.
“Like all other children, they should be provided with comprehensive sexuality education that meets their needs,” she wrote. “Therefore, sexuality education must include information that is relevant to them, scientifically accurate and age appropriate. This means helping children to understand sexual orientation and gender identity and dispelling common myths and stereotypes about LGBTI persons”.
“Sexuality education is about knowing one’s rights and respecting other people’s rights, about protecting one’s health, and about adopting a positive attitude towards sexuality and relationships. It is also about acquiring valuable life skills, such as self-confidence, critical thinking and the capacity to make informed decisions. There is obviously nothing wrong with this,” Mijatović concluded.
More news from Europe and Central Asia
Objecting to the inclusion of a gay character, the Turkish government refused to grant a production license for a series by a major streaming service, which in turn responded by cancelling the show entirely.
In Italy, 15 homophobic attacks were reported during the past month alone, while discussions around an anti-discrimination law are ongoing. Meanwhile, the municipality of Naples approved the establishment of a shelter for LGBTI survivors of violence.
In Russia, a trans woman has reportedly bene sent to a male prison after protesting against the latest proposed bills targeting LGBT rights.
A sex worker and human rights activist is campaigning to become representative for District 2 of Bucharest. According to reports, she is the first out trans woman to run for public office in Romania.
Photo of the week
During the past two weeks, ILGA World has released two new publications: a toolbox to combat so-called ‘conversion therapies’, and a report on the UN Treaty Bodies activities of 2019, analysing how they keep guiding States towards protecting LGBTI rights. We hope that these resources will be useful for your advocacy work!
The LGBulleTIn will return on 4 September 2020
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