The month in LGBTI news
24 July - 3 September 2020
Written by Maddalena Tomassini
Edited by Daniele Paletta
As the world battles with new or never abated waves of COVID-19 infections, our communities are still facing much older enemies that never left: hatred and prejudice.
August has been a particularly difficult month for our communities in Europe, as Poland and Belarus cracked down on activists and protesters, and far right extremists have been attacking Pride marches and offices in Hungary, Ukraine and Georgia. A blow came also in our quest for justice for our lost siblings, when a court in the Philippines ordered the early release of a U.S. Marine who killed a trans woman in 2014. In South Africa, a group of LGBTI organisations have made their voices heard by calling on the government to consider gender-affirming services for what they are: essential.
Some steps toward equality have also been made during the past weeks. Mexico City has become the first jurisdiction in the country to ban ‘conversion therapies’. In Australia, two states have approved similar bans and a third could be soon joining. At the same time, Barbados approved an anti-discrimination bill in the workplace that includes people with diverse sexual orientations. Nevertheless, activists claim that some of these initiatives did not go far enough in addressing the issues at hand. We need, more than ever, to make sure our perspectives are on the table when decisions are made. This is why it’s so important for us to support your advocacy work: make sure to check our latest resources and to reach out to us for help, we’ve got you covered!
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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
Weeks after the crackdown on activists, Polish LGBTI people fear for their safety
Weeks after the crackdown on LGBTI activists in Poland, the situation for our communities in the country still raises concerns. The clampdown came after two years of anti-LGBTI propaganda which peaked during this year’s presidential elections.
Protests sparked on the 7th of August when Stop Bzdurom’s (Stop Nonsense) Margot Szustowicz was arrested for the third time in a few weeks. Hundreds of LGBTI people took the streets in solidarity with the activist, facing a harsh reaction from the police who arrested 48 people, including some bystanders. They were released the following day, after a night spent in prison. Margot, who was able to access a defence only days after her arrest, was released on the 28th of August.
According to KPH (Campaign Against Homophobia), detainees were also subjected to ill-treatment: “The detained persons had no contact with their families; no legal representatives or deputies were allowed. The rights of defense were violated at every stage. People were questioned without the participation of defense counsel. We were denied the right to information”. They also claim having been beaten and denied food and water.
The crackdown drew condemnation from human rights groups and European Institutions, who took action by rejecting funding requests from six Polish municipalities which had declared themselves to be “free from LGBT ideology”.. One of the towns will now receive government support for its “pro-family agenda”.
Fearing for their safety, some LGBTI people are now fleeing Poland, whilst others can’t leave or have decided to stay. “We have sympathy with the people who haven’t come out of the closet yet and now will have to stay in the closet for a long time, perhaps until the end of their lives,” a 57-year-old radio technician from Krakow told the Associated Press. “That’s a tragedy. That’s one reason we are staying.”
More news from Europe and Central Asia
The European Commission published a report on Legal Gender Recognition among its member States. The report sparked criticism towards countries with “intrusive” requirements.
Pride is under attack in Europe, as some marches and offices have been targeted by far-right groups. In Hungary, 20 extremists gathered outside the Budapest Pride Festival offices, broke into their premises and physically assaulted organisers. During the Pride parade in Odessa, Ukraine, far-right nationalists attacked attendees using pepper spray and throwing eggs at them. Activists in Georgia are calling on the Ministry of Internal Affair to investigate the attacks directed against the Tbilisi Pride offices that occurred in the past months.
In Belarus, the LGBTI community took a stand against the country’s controversial electoral results that sparked protests and brutal repression.
The Danish LGBTI Committee welcomed the new series of legislation initiatives launched by the government after two years of cross-ministerial work aiming to tackle inequality.
In Kazakhstan, police raided a gay club in Astana and arrested all attendees on the grounds of breaking lockdown rules. The detainees claimed they were subjected to degrading treatment.
Armenian Criminal Court of Appeal ordered a re-investigation into a violent attack against 30 LGBT activists that occurred in 2018.
Philippines: US Marine who killed trans woman is set for early release
[trigger warning: violence and transphobia] Citing good conduct, a Filipino court has ordered the early release of a US Marine convicted in 2014 for killing Jennifer Laude, a 26 years old trans woman. The decision was heavily criticised by activists who have swarmed social media with #JusticeForJennifer posts, as the Marine was initially sentenced from six to 12 years in December 2015.
The convicted, who has been held in a military facility, had admitted killing Laude, referring to the victim with derogatory terms even at the time of confessing to the crime. He also had to pay damages for 4.6 million PhP (almost 80,000 euro).
“UP Babaylan firmly condemns the decision made by the Olongapo Court to release Joseph Scott Pemberton, a former US marine who murdered our trans sister, Jennifer Laude, in 2014,” tweeted the LGBTI advocacy group. “No amount of financial reparations will be enough to erase the grief and pain brought by his heinous crime, not just to Jennifer’s family, but to the LGBTQI community”.
More news from Asia
In October, Thailand is set to discuss a legal gender recognition bill. Still, many worry that the proposed law will exclude those who don’t fall into designated categories, especially non-binary and intersex people.
Pakistan held its second Trans Pride, as the four-day event took place online due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
LGBTI activists held the first Iranian Pride in a two-hour online event that was streamed on Facebook and Instagram.
India appointed a new Trans National Council, who will bring together senior government figures, state governments and five representatives of the trans community from across the country.
An Indian court ruled in support of two women who had been harassed by their families for being in a same-sex relationship.
The organisers of Shanghai Pride, China’s greatest Pride event, announced in an open letter that they were “cancelling all upcoming activities and taking a break from scheduling any future events”. Even if they gave no reason, media reports claim that this could be due to shrinking LGBTI spaces in the country.
Following a long campaign from activists, China approved the use of Truvada for pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) in an attempt of reducing HIV infections among queer men.
As a survey revealed that 3 out of 4 Japanese LGBT people are in favour of a government policy protecting adult same-sex couple’s legal rights, the municipalities of Sapporo and Osaka have enacted provisions to make people in officially recognized partnerships eligible to receive support money if they are victims of crime.
“Our needs are essential”: South African LGBTI groups call for gender-affirming services during lockdown
Deeming gender-affirming services not “essential” during lockdown has put the lives and livelihoods of many trans and gender-diverse people at risk, LGBTI advocacy groups said in an open letter to the South African Minister of Home Affairs.
Together with ten other organisations, LGBTI advocacy group Iranti issued the letter along with the results of a survey covering the impact of COVID-19 on services for trans persons. The great majority of respondents - 73 percent - said that the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) had disregarded the rights of trans and gender-diverse persons.
“Beyond merely being an inconvenience, the withdrawal of forename and sex-descriptor amendments, along with a range of other key services, has resulted in employment discrimination, medical service denial, and undue stress on young persons trying to express themselves authentically and safely at school. Some have even faced harassment and violence,” wrote the groups.
“We believe that this is not only a matter for the LGBTI+ community, as the state of Home Affairs negatively impacts all South Africans, but our community remains especially vulnerable in light of historic marginalisation and economic vulnerability,” commented Kellyn Botha, Iranti’s Media and Communications Consultant.
The DHA have responded to some concerns in the past week, but reportedly fell short on others. “The requests made above and in our initial letter largely still stand, despite the very promising first steps the DHA has taken, and we will continue to utilise all avenues available to us to ensure they are met”, activists said in a second letter.
More news from Africa
The Eswatini Sexual and Gender Minorities group, who’s been fighting to get legal recognition in the country where consensual same-sex relationships are still outlawed, erected a billboard in the capital. In the advertisement, the group highlighted their registration campaign, claiming that the “Constitutional rights belong to everyone”.
Two Ugandan officials that had been summoned in the criminal case arising from the torture of some of the young LGBTI detainees failed to show up in court.
LGBTI organisations in Rwanda united in a new coalition named Rwanda Diversity and Equality Network (RDEN), to join efforts towards more effective advocacy.
An appeals court in Tunisia has upheld a ruling that sentenced two men to jail on charges of adult same-sex relations under article 230 of the penal code. According to media reports, the prison term was reduced from two years to one.
A trans woman filed a complaint at the UN Human Rights Committee, lamenting that the lack of gender legal recognition in Seychelles prevented her from aligning her documents to her gender.
In addition to being the victim of an assault, a South African trans woman was mistreated at the police station where she had gone to denounce her attackers.
In South Africa, four persons have been found guilty of the kidnapping, torture and murder of Anisha and Joey van Niekerk.
Latin America and The Caribbean
Mexico City outlaws ‘conversion therapy’
In a defining vote, the Mexico City Congress passed a bill to criminalize ‘conversion therapy’.
The reform to Article 206 of the Penal Code mentions “the criminalization of contracts, treatments, therapies or services, tasks, or activities that pretend to correct the sexual orientation, and gender identity or expression that undermines free self-determination.”
Those who force people to practice these ‘therapies’ will be punished with two to five years in prison, in addition to 50 to 100 community work hours. These sentences will be aggravated when the crime involves a minor and thus the Mexico City Attorney General will prosecute them ex officio.
For her part, Mexico City’s Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum had endorsed the initiative. “It seems to us that ‘conversion therapies’ are measures that do not correspond to a city with rights”, she said. “I think it is right for the Congress not to recognize these therapies because they do not correspond to scientific knowledge and the right to freedom.”
According to Openly, the approval of the bill makes the capital the first jurisdiction in Mexico to ban these harmful practices. Read more about the global state of laws banning ‘conversion therapy’ in ILGA World’s Curbing Deception report.
More news from Latin America and the Caribbean
Human rights and LGBTI activists call on Bolivia’s civil registry to comply with a high court rule requiring consensual same-sex relationship to be recognised ad “free union”.
A judge in Cartagena, Colombia, will be denounced for refusing to marry two women on the basis of his Christian beliefs.
In El Salvador, three police officers have been convicted for killing Camila Díaz Córdova, a trans woman who was deported from the U.S., where she had been denied asylum.
Young Mexican activists have been demonstrating during the past weeks to demand justice for the victims of hate crimes against LGBT people. In the last two weeks of August, at least three trans people have been murdered.
Australia: bans on “conversion therapies” passed in Queensland and ACT
Bans against “conversion therapies” have become a reality in some Australian States. After Queensland became the first state to enact a prohibition, the Australian Capital Territory came second, and South Australia may be soon following.
The law in Queensland was celebrated as a national first on the issue, but activists and survivors claim the provisions may not go far enough.The ban halts health practitioners from pursuing any attempt “to change or suppress a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity”, envisioning a punishment of up to 18 months if the practice is performed on children or other vulnerable people. “From the perspective and the survivors we are really really concerned because the bill only covers conversion practices in health services. The concern is that a vast majority of survivors have gone through conversion practices in a religious or informal setting,” Chris Csabs of SOGICE Survivors told Star Observer. “This bill is not going to be protective enough and it is not actually enough to stop the harm that is occurring.”
Meanwhile, the Australian Capital Territory’s (ACT) ban was greeted by activists as an “important step”. The bill includes a punishment with fines of up to 24,000 AUD and imprisonment of up to 12 months. “In passing this law, the ACT government has sent a strong message that conversion practices, whether performed by a health professional, a religious leader or any other person, are not to be tolerated,” said Csabs.
According to the Star Observer, South Australia is seeking to learn from Queenland’s experience. Shadow Human Services minister Nat Cook claimed that survivors’ perspectives will be considered to shape the bill, which is expected to be tabled in parliament by the end of the year.
More news from Oceania
At least 1,000 people used the gender-neutral title “Mx” while registering for Aotearoa New Zealand’s upcoming general elections. The option was introduced in 2019: "We want to be inclusive and encourage all New Zealanders to enrol and vote," an electoral commission spokeswoman said.
Over 80,000 people have signed a petition against a proposed education bill in New South Wales, Australia that would “prohibit the teaching of the ideology of gender fluidity to children in schools”.
A petition was launched to call for the decriminalisation of consensual same-sex relationships between adults in the Cook Islands, where queer men still face prison terms under the “sodomy” and “male indecency” acts.
North America and the Caribbean
Incredible news of progress for Barbados! "Speaking on the Employment (Prevention Of Discrimination) Bill, 2020,...
Posted by Equals on Wednesday, July 29, 2020
Barbados takes a step towards equality, but falls short on trans rights
At the beginning of August, Barbados’ Senate adopted the Employement (Prevention from Discrimination) Act 2020, which protects some categories from workplace discrimination. While the law includes discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation, it falls short of including people with diverse gender identities and expressions.
“Nowhere in the Bill is mention made of gender identity and expression, despite members of Parliament stating categorically that numerous consultations were held with civil society organisations. Furthermore, members of the LGBTI community in Barbados have reported that recommendations were made to include gender identity and expression in the Bill, however these recommendations fell on deaf ears and were not included,” said Alexa Hoffman, chairwoman of the United Caribbean Trans Network. Hoffman also started an online petition calling to the Parliament and Senate to urgently amend the bill.
The antidiscrimination bill follows a wave of criticisms sparked by the definition of family as one formed by “a woman and a man” in the country’s Welcome Stamp website - an indication that was later withdrawn and adapted to a more inclusive one.
More news from North America and the Caribbean
The Yurok Tribe joined a federal lawsuit in United States over the elimination of a 2016 requirement that allowed for better placement and care for indigenous LGBT children and youth in the foster care system.
A federal court in Georgia, United States, ordered the State Department to recognize the daughter of a U.S. married same-sex couple as citizen since birth and to issue her a U.S. passport.
In Virginia, United States, a federal appeals court ruled in favor of a trans student that sued his school district over being required to use a separate, single-stall restroom.
The city of Anchorage, AK, United States, approved a ban preventing licensed professionals from attempting “conversion therapy” on minors.
Photo of the week
Desde la Comunidad Homosexual Argentina, expresamos nuestro más profundo dolor por el fallecimiento de nuestro gran...
Posted by Comunidad Homosexual Argentina (CHA) on Monday, August 31, 2020
Cesar Cigliutti, president of the Comunidad Homosexual Argentina, passed away on 1 September. “His tireless struggle led him to become a reference to the LGBTTI movement of our country, the region and the world,” wrote the group.
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