The week in LGBTI news
25 September - 1 October
Written by Maddalena Tomassini
Edited by Daniele Paletta
This has been a crucial week for many trans and gender diverse people in our communities. In India, new regulations reportedly state that trans individuals won’t be required to undergo a medical examination to see their gender legally recognised. In Italy, the national pharmaceutical agency decided that Hormone Replacement Treatment will now be provided for free. In the United States, California approved four bills marking some important steps towards equality - included for trans, non-binary and intersex persons in prison settings. Still, criminalisation and abusive preconditions to be legally recognised continue to be all too common in many countries across the world, as the newly-released Trans Legal Mapping Report by ILGA World has shown.
Our siblings are fighting to be recognised as equal citizens everywhere, seeking to build a world that is finally safe for us to live in. A report from Egypt shows that many LGBT people still face unacceptable levels of violence on the grounds of who they are and whom they love. In the Cook Islands, a campaign has continued to call on the government to scrap provisions that still criminalise same-sex activities between consenting adults: a report on the issue, however, has been postponed for a few more months. Lesbian, bisexual and trans women are making their voices heard at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, where activists highlighted the extent of the violence and discrimination they face in many countries in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Meanwhile at the United Nations, 34 States from all regions of the world called on the Human Rights Council to urgently protect intersex persons in their bodily autonomy and right to health, marking an historic step forward for the global intersex community.
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Trans people in India will no longer need to undergo medical examinations to see their gender legally recognised, new rules state
Trans people will no longer need to undergo medical examinations to see their gender legally recognised, media reports claim.
Months after the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act 2019 came into force, the Union Ministry of Social Justice issued the rules for its implementation. A first draft of the rules was published this summer, and was met with strong criticisms from activists as the procedure required an officer to certify the gender of the applicant, potentially subjecting them to intrusive medical examinations.
Now, the district magistrate would issue a certificate based on an affidavit filed by trans people or by their parents, in the cases of minors. The applicant would then receive their identity card within 30 days. Until now, as ILGA World’s latest Trans Legal Mapping Report pointed out, identification as “male” or “female” could only be issued once proof of gender confirmation surgery is shown to the magistrate.
According to reports, the new rules also include additional provisions, such as the creation of welfare boards for trans people to help them in accessing the schemes and welfare measures framed by the Centre. They also call for a review of existing measures – in education, health, social security and other areas – to be more inclusive of trans individuals.
More news from Asia
Japan's fist permanent LGBTQ center will open on October 11th: it will host events and a library to house the country’s first “LGBTQ Community Archives”.
Following other global airlines, Japan Airlines announced it will adopt inclusive gender-neutral greetings on its flights.
Europe and Central Asia
Italy: Hormone Replacement Treatment will now be for free in the entire country, national pharmaceutical agency decides
Trans people in Italy will now have free access to Hormone Replacement Treatment (HRT), the country’s National Pharmaceutical Agency (AIFA) determined with two resolutions.
The decision became public the day after the northern region of Emilia Romagna had made a similar announcement. Previously, only a few provinces in the region provided free access to HRT: now the costs will be covered in their entirety by the National Health System in the whole country, provided that the person has received “a diagnosis of gender dysphoria/gender incongruence made by a dedicated multidisciplinary and specialised team”.
In a statement on its Facebook page, the Movimento Identità Trans (Trans Identity Movement) announced that negotiations had been going on for three years. “[This is] the news that thousands of trans persons have been waiting for years,” the group said, adding that it represents a “strong and clear positive sign” that “things are not still”.
“Today we can celebrate with the entire community and the many supporters that stood by our side during this period,” the group said. “For now, let us enjoy this victory, and tomorrow will be already fighting for thousands and thousands of more instances.”
More news from Europe and Central Asia
Petra De Sutter has been appointed as Belgium’s deputy prime minister, becoming the first openly trans minister in Europe.
The Romanian Constitutional Court postponed the discussion on a draft law that would prohibit “gender identity theory or opinion” in educational settings.
According to media reports, a Belarusian LGBT activist was arrested and sentenced to 15 days in prison for joining the on-going protests.
Fifty diplomats have signed an open letter urging the Polish government to end discrimination against LGBTI individuals.
A recent study cast a light over the phenomenon of LGBTI Youth homelessness in Ireland, underlining the struggles they face in accessing support services.
A lesbian asylum seeker who had been deported from the United Kingdom in Uganda won her case against the Home Office in the Appeal Court.
North America and the Caribbean
United States: California’s latest bills offer a “beacon of hope” for LGBTI people, rights group says
Four bills advancing the rights of our communities were signed into law in the State of California, United States, in a move that will offer a “beacon of hope to LGBTQ+ people everywhere”, rights groups said.
The first bill, SB 132, requires the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to ask inmates about their gender identities and pronouns; whether they identify as trans, non-binary, or intersex; and to house them according to their gender identity. California’s governor also signed a second bill that will require healthcare providers to collect sexual orientation and gender identity data for communicable diseases, including COVID-19 (SB 932). A third bill establishes a fund to help trans, non-binary and intersex persons access housing and healthcare (AB 2218); and one last provision was signed to tackle discrimination against HIV-positive individuals in the healthcare system (SB 1255).
Equality California, one of the rights groups to co-sponsor SB 132, said that it will help “save lives”. “Everyone deserves basic human respect, agency and dignity,” said its executive director Rick Zbur in a statement. “[The bill is a] critical first step toward ending the violence and harassment to which transgender, gender-nonconforming, and intersex people are subjected while incarcerated”.
According to a study published by the University of California in 2007, trans women were 13 times more likely to be assaulted in the State’s prison facilities, with 59 percent of the respondents reporting assault compared to the 4 percent of the other inmates. Currently, there are over 1,000 trans, non-binary or intersex people in prison in California.
More news from North America and the Caribbean
Trans students must be allowed to use facilities that match their gender identity, an appeal court in Minnesota, United States ruled.
A recent study in the United States highlighted how migration concerns affect Latinx LGBTQ youth, putting them at a 30 percent increased risk of attempting suicide than their peers.
A man is suing the state of Idaho, United States, for forcing him to register as a “sex offender” after being charged for consensual sexual activities twenty years ago under the “crime against nature” law. The provision, deemed unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 2003, can still be enforced by authorities unless state-level laws were officially repealed. Meanwhile, in Maryland, a provision to officially repeal the state’s historic sodomy law has come into force this week.
Canada has reportedly reinstated a bill to prohibit so-called “conversion therapy”, amending the country’s Criminal Code to include offences such as causing a minor or any person to undergo such practices against their will.
Egyptian forces arbitrarily arrest and abuse LGBT people, rights group says
(trigger warning: torture and abuse) Egyptian police arbitrarily arrest LGBT people and detain them in inhuman conditions, systematically subjecting them to degrading treatments, said Human Rights Watch.
According to the rights group, security forces pick people off the streets, targeting them by their gender expression, trapping them through social media and dating apps, and unlawfully searching their phones. Human Rights Watch documented cases of torture, including severe and repeated beating, sexual violence and intrusive examinations. Detainees were also subjected to verbal abuse, forced to ‘confess’ their sexual orientation, and denied access to legal counsel and medical care. Among them, there is a 17-year-old girl.
Egypt’s crackdown on LGBT people escalated in 2017, after people waved a rainbow flag during a Mashrou’ Leila concert in Cairo. Dozens of persons were arrested after that event, including Sarah Hegazy – a queer activist that was detained for three months. The traumatic experience severely impacted the young woman: she fled to Canada, but ultimately took her own life earlier this year.
“Egyptian authorities seem to be competing for the worst record on rights violations against LGBT people in the region, while the international silence is appalling,” said Rasha Younes, LGBT rights researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Sarah Hegazy’s tragic death may have ignited waves of shock and solidarity worldwide, but Egypt has unabashedly continued to target and abuse LGBT people simply for who they are.”
More news from Africa
In South Africa, a group of LGBT activists occupied a property, protesting for the lack of safe spaces for queer people and women. The move has sparked a heated debate online, while queer organisations highlighted “how the current occupation bring to the fore the limits of legal justice in relation to social justice and social equity.”
A recent report found that unlawful arrests, torture and degrading treatments against sex workers were widespread during the lockdown in Uganda.
“We’re not criminals”: Cook Islands activists campaign to decriminalise same-sex relations
“We’re not criminals”, activists pointed out in a campaign that gained momentum in the Cook Islands, asking the parliament to scrap the legislation still criminalising same-sex relations between consenting adults.
According to ILGA World’s State-sponsored Homophobia, in the country men still face prison terms under the “sodomy” and “male indecency” acts. A first draft of the Criminal Bill (2017) was set to remove the prohibition, but remained on hold until last November, when the Select Committee announced they wanted to renew the prohibition. Since then, activists have been lobbying to change the Committee’s position, also launching an online petition. At the beginning of September, the local group Te Tiare Association, spearheaded by Pride Cook Islands, launched a campaign calling for people in our communities to be treated as equal citizens and not “criminals”.
Rainbow flags were hoisted around Rarotonga, as the Committee was supposed to present its recommendations to the Parliament at the end of last month. To the groups’ disappointment, however, the report was deferred for another three months.
“We’re asking for equal human rights before the law,” said Te Tiare’s president Valery Wichman. “Rights that have been in place since the birth of our Cook Islands Constitution. We’re not asking for new rights. We’re not asking for same-sex marriage. We’re just asking to be recognised the same as everyone else. We’re asking to be accepted”.
More news from Oceania
Eight Australian sports federations issued inclusive guidelines for the participation of trans athletes in competitions.
(trigger warning: homophobia and abuse) In Aotearoa New Zealand, a lesbian nurse shared her traumatic experience as she spent 15 years of her life going in and out of a hospital, where she had to undergo abusive “treatments” because of her sexual orientation.
In Aotearoa New Zealand a new iPrEP clinic is now offering "immediate access" to PrEP for those who need it.
Latin America and the Caribbean
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights holds a thematic hearing on lesbian, bisexual and trans women
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) held a thematic hearing to address the issue of the violence against lesbian, bisexual and trans (LBT) women in Colombia, Honduras, Nicaragua and in the Dominican Republic, human rights organisations announced. The event took place online amidst the IACHR’s 177th Period of Sessions.
The organisations presented the findings of their report, addressing the “male chauvinist and binary” socio-cultural context that shapes the violence and discrimination facing LBT women, the difficulties in accessing justice, and the States’ lack of commitment in preventing and dealing with these issues. Activists also underlined how the situation has worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Many of the forms of violence that affect us as LBT women are camouflaged in practices of common criminality, trying to hide the fact that they are cases of violence due to prejudice,” said Karla Madrid, leader and manager of Economic Empowerment at the Centre for LGBTI Development and Cooperation, Somos CDC.
“In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, LBT women - and especially trans women - have been increasingly vulnerable,and cases of domestic violence, discrimination and feminicide have increased alarmingly,” stated María Vélez, researcher at Caribe Afirmativo.
More news from Latin America and the Caribbean
ILGALAC and many others in our communities around the world mourned Soraya Santiago, Puerto Rican trans activist that passed away at the age of 73. She has been the first trans woman to undergo gender-affirming treatments in the territory, and a key figure during the Stonewall protests.
The death of a trans woman in Colombia sparked outrage in the country. According to reports and a video that circulated widely on social media, armed forces shot the woman while she was in her car with her husband.
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