The week in LGBTI news
Written by Maddalena Tomassini
Edited by Daniele Paletta
This week marked a significant moment for our communities: the United Nations has included LGBTI youth in two key initiatives, allowing them to have an active part in the decision-making and conversations that will impact their lives!
But as we celebrate this landmark moment, we stand in solidarity with those in our communities whose long-awaited expectations were let down. In the United Kingdom, a plan to allow self-identification in legal gender recognition processes was scrapped in favour of some adjustments that fall short of addressing trans and gender diverse people’s needs in their everyday lives. In two separate cases in Hong Kong, a Court rejected a request to register an overseas same-sex marriage while ensuring a man’s right to inherit his husband’s house. The results of a survey in Victoria, Australia cast a light on the extent of domestic violence experienced by LGBTIQ+ persons: an issue that needs to be addressed.
Our communities also celebrated some victories: in Chile, the Senate's Human Rights Commission approved an indication to consider ‘conversion therapy’ as an act of arbitrary discrimination, paving the way for a potential future ban. Good news came also from the United States, where for the first time an LGBTQ-inclusive bill was passed unanimously to establish a 3-digit National Suicide Prevention Lifeline where conseullors would need to be trained on our communities’ issues. In South Africa, the Constitutional Court is set to determine what can be considered “hate speech” under the country’s law, as it began hearing a case around a homophobic newspaper article that has dragged on for 12 years.
Read this week's news from...
Europe and Asia Central
The United Kingdom scraps self-identification reform plan despite public support
After years of debate and despite public consultations being highly in favour of a reform, the United Kingdom stepped back from overhauling the Gender Recognition Act (GRA) to allow gender self-identification.
The Act sets out the legal process in England and Wales to update a person’s gender on their birth certificate. As ILGA World’s Trans Legal Mapping Report points out, the current law has a series of abusive preconditions - including having lived in their “acquired gender” (sic) for two years and having received a diagnosis of gender dysphoria.
The reform would have made it possible for a person to legally change their gender without a medical diagnosis. While this plan was scrapped, other adjustments were introduced: the price to update the birth certificates will likely be reduced from 140 pounds (150 euros) to a “nominal amount”, and the process will be moved online.
“While these moves will make the current process less costly and bureaucratic, they don’t go anywhere near far enough toward meaningfully reforming the Act to make it easier for all trans people to go about their daily life,” said Stonewall Chief Executive Nancy Kelley.
Mermaids welcomed the easing of the process but raised similar concerns. “We must repeat our disappointment that none of these proposals offer help to those aged under 18,” the group said. “We are disappointed that the Government reforms make no mention of non-binary identities and fall short of self-declaration, a move which would have brought England and Wales into line with our neighbours in the Republic of Ireland, where society has benefited from a de-medicalised system for gender recognition since 2015, without any problematic outcomes”.
Two years ago, almost two thirds among over 100,000 respondents to a public consultation had supported the idea of removing the current requirements, as the UK Parliament’s All-Party Parliamentary Group on Global LGBT+ Rights noted in a statement. The British Medical Association had also shown support to the reform plan, calling on the government to allow “self-id” and gender-affirming care for trans people under 18-years old. Now, a petition on the British parliament’s website asking for a GRA review “to allow transgender people to self-identify without the need for a medical diagnosis, to streamline the administrative process, and to allow non-binary identities to be legally recognised” has surpassed 120,000 signatures, and will therefore be considered by Parliament
More news from Europe and Asia Central
Rights groups in Serbia, in collaboration with a popular TV and theatre actor, have created a new campaign to tackle human rights violations against LGBT people, including those that occur in the labour market.
The city of Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine, held its first Pride march. Escorted by the police, around 500 people marched in safety.
A trans woman will not be officially recognised as the biological mother of the child she conceived with her wife before transitioning, France’s highest court ruled.
Despite growing international pressure, as rights organisations sent over 340,000 signatures to the EU Commission asking to take action, councillors in the eastern Poland city of Krasnik voted to keep a motion declaring their town “LGBT-free”.
For the first time in Greek jurisprudence, a Court upheld a non-binary person’s request to have their identity recognised.
Hong Kong’s High Court rejects equal marriage while upholding inheritance rights
The High Court in Hong Kong took two decisions that marked respectively a small victory and a blow to hopes for equality for same-sex couples. In the first case, a homeowner was able to ensure that his husband could inherit his house, while in the second the Court deemed a request to officially recognise a marriage between two men that was registered overseas as “too ambitious”.
As ILGA World’s map on sexual orientation laws shows, Hong Kong currently doesn’t permit either same-sex civil unions or equal marriage. In March 2020, a judicial review ruled that the ban on same-sex couples accessing public housing was unlawful.
While campaign group Hong Kong Marriage Equality (HKME) welcomed the first ruling as “a clear signal to society that unequal treatment of same-sex couples is not justified”, they also expressed disappointment for the “missed” chance of recognising overseas same-sex marriages. “Hong Kong aspires to be a leading world city in the world but we are dragging our feet when it comes to LGBT+ equality,” the HKME statement added.
More news from Asia
The United Nations in Vietnam launched a campaign to promote supportive and safe home environments for LGBTI people through a compilation of letters to their families and loved ones.
Opened to tackle the unemployment that affected the community because of COVID-19, a restaurant in India run entirely by trans staff has become so successful that the crew is considering the opportunity to open a second location.
LGBTI adults in Victoria more than twice likely to experience domestic violence, study finds
According to a survey of over 34,000 people, LGBTIQ+ adults in Victoria are more than twice as likely to experience domestic and family violence than their peers.
According to the study, conducted in 2017 by the Victorian Agency for Health Information and recently published, the 13.4% of respondents had experienced family violence in the past two years, in comparison to 5.1% of heterosexual, non-LGBTIQ+ adults. Almost a quarter of the people interviewed reported high or very high levels of psychological distress; 44.8% of them had received a diagnosis of anxiety and/or depression, compared to 26.7% of their peers.
As Thorne Harbour Health pointed out, the findings also highlighted how many among the 5.7% adults who identify as LGBTIQ live outside the state capital: “We’re not just based in Melbourne and this needs to be reflected in how we provide services and support to LGBTIQ Victorians living in regional and rural settings,” said Simon Ruth, Thorne Harbour Health CEO.
“The findings from this survey give the Victorian Government valuable insight into the health status of our LGBTIQ communities, and it paints a clear picture – LGBTIQ Victorians are continuing to experience health inequality and we need to take action,” added Ruth.
More news from Oceania
Activists speaking up against ‘conversion therapy’ in West Australia have reportedly argued that the government “failed to understand the need for urgent reform and lacked consistency when dealing with the regulation of abuse by religious organisations.”
Two reports concerning older LGBTI people at risk of homelessness in Victoria, Australia, are going to be launched during an online event on October 9th.
LGBTI organisations in Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand have organised “StandBiUs”, a series of in-person and online events to celebrate Bi+ communities.
South African Constitutional Court holds hearing on journalist’s homophobic article case
After more than a decade of public debate and hearings, the Constitutional Court in South Africa is set to give a final word on John Qwelane case, a former journalist who expressed homophobic views in 2008 in an article published on a national newspaper.
Qwelane had suggested that same-sex attraction is similar to bestiality, claimed he supported the homophobic stances by the then-president of Zimbabwe Robert Mugabe, and urged politicians to remove the sexual orientation equality clause from the Constitution. Since then, the former journalist has never expressed any regret for his words but unapologetically defended his position.
During last week’s hearing, the Constitutional Court heard arguments focusing on what should be defined as “illegal hate speech” under the South African law. Activists and the South Africa Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) contested the idea – upheld by the Supreme Court of Appeal last year – that his words caused no harm to LGBTI people. “[His] utterances fuelled the fires,” said SAHRC lawyer. “They added to a climate that was already hostile”.
More news from Africa
Our communities in Tunisia have been targeted by a wave of hate speech fuelled by a local influencer on Instagram, human rights organisations reported. The groups are also calling on the social media platform to uphold their community guidelines and reject any incitement to violence.
A survey looking into the impact of Covid-19 into the lives of 145 LBTQ women in Benin has highlighted how the pandemic has brought increased job and livelihood insecurity, and has disrupted education opportunities.
The Minister of Home Affairs met with a coalition of trans activists in South Africa and committed to keep working together to address a wide-range of issues facing trans and gender-diverse communities in the country.
Latin America and the Caribbean
Chile’s Senate Human Rights Commission approves considering “conversion therapies” as “arbitrary discrimination”
The Senate's Human Rights Commission of Chile has approved an indication to ban so-called “conversion therapies”. The vote on the provision happened during the debate around the reform of the anti-discrimination law knowns as “Ley Zamudio”, named after the 24-year old man lost to a horrific homophobic hate crime in 2012. The approved indication states that “any act, practice and/or medical, psychological or psychiatric treatment, or of any other nature that aims to modify the sexual orientation or gender identity or expression of a person or group of persons shall be considered arbitrary discrimination”.
“The approval of this indication is a historic step forward in advancing the ban on ‘conversion therapies’ that continue to exist in many private institutions, clinics and Universities,” said Constanza Valdés, lawyer of the human rights group Agrupación Lésbica Rompiendo el Silencio.
Valdés also addressed the controversy around a previous statement of the Undersecretary of the Minister of Justice, who had opposed the proposed change saying it would negatively affect people who are willing to undergo such treatments. She later backtracked on her words. The bill to reform the anti-discrimination measures will now be put to vote in the Senate.
More news from Latin America and the Caribbean
(trigger warning: violence and murder) The LGBTI community in the region is still under attack. In Chile, two LGBT activists were found dead in their apartment after a fire was put out - they also showed injuries inflicted by a sharp element; furthermore, organisations also denounced a homophobic attack against a 28-years old man in Lampa. In Honduras, a trans woman was attacked inside a bar with a machete.
In Argentina, a police officer has been arrested for the murder of a 27-year old trans woman who had been killed at the end of August.
North America and the Caribbean
United States to establish an LGBTQ-inclusive National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
The U.S. House of Representatives unanimously approved a legislation to establish a three-digit number, 988, for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline - making it easier to dial than the current 10-digit one: a key provision to help ease access to crisis services.
The National Suicide Hotline Designation Act also features several provisions specific to LGBTQ people, including requirements for LGBTQ+ cultural competency training for all lifeline counselors and the establishment of an integrated voice response option for LGBTQ+ youth and other high-risk populations to reach specialized care. The bill, now on the President’s desk, had already been approved by the Senate in May. According to the Trevor Project, this is the first LGBTQ-inclusive measure to pass both of the Houses by a unanimous vote. “This passage is a historic victory, (...)and 988 will undoubtedly save countless lives,” said Sam Brinton, vice president of advocacy and government affairs for the Trevor Project. Brinton also pointed out that 40 percent of LGBT youth seriously considered attempting suicide in the past 12 months, with more than half trans and non-binary youth seriously considering it. “This vital legislation will require the Lifeline to provide specialized services for LGBTQ youth and other high-risk groups, and make it so much easier for millions of Americans to find support in moments of crisis”.
More news from North America and the Caribbean
In an eleventh-hour move, Belize decided not to proceed with the Equal Opportunities Bill, after the country’s Council of Churches announced it would have not supported the provision.
The United States queer community mourns the passing of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, known to be a vocal supporter of LGBTQ rights. Now, concerns arise around the choice of who is going to replace her in the life-long seat at the Country’s highest court.
The family of an HIV-positive woman has filed a civil rights lawsuit after she died in custody in Texas, United States, where she was reportedly denied antiviral medication and water.
Almost a million households in the United States are made up of same-sex couples, 58 percent of which are married, U.S. Census Bureau last released data shows.
Photo of the week
Happy #BiVisibilityDay! We celebrate all bisexual people in our community: here's to more visibility and awareness every day!
Posted by ILGA World on Tuesday, September 22, 2020
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