Covid-19 has not released its grip on the world yet, and we continue to see how LGBTI communities are being severely impacted by the consequences of the pandemic. New reports released this week showed that our populations have been largely excluded from Covid-19 humanitarian resources – something that may have long-lasting implications on our movement - and that our needs were often not addressed in emergency plans.
The crisis adds on to the human rights violations that our communities keep facing across the world. In Indonesia, two men were caned in public after being accused of engaging in sexual activity; lawmakers in Honduras voted to strengthen prohibitions on abortion and marriage equality.
Ten years have passed since human rights activist David Kato Kisule was brutally murdered in his home: our communities in Uganda came together, albeit virtually, to remember him and mourn all those lost to violence.
And yet, advances continue being made. In Australia, human rights organisations reacted positively to the news that the national statistics office updated its standards to better collect data on SOGIESC issues. In the and United States, the ban on trans people serving openly in the military was reversed.
Read this week's news from...
Aceh flogged two gay men 77 times each after a vigilante mob raided their apartment in November, and handed them over to the police. Caning is recognized as torture under international law. Aceh's Islamic criminal code criminalizes same-sex conduct https://t.co/Prl8Zbfcxdpic.twitter.com/k32Oot0axt
(trigger warning) Indonesia: two men caned in public after being accused of sexual activity
In a horrific punishment, two men in the Aceh province of Indonesia have been caned publicly 77 times for engaging in sexual activity.
The men, aged 27 and 29, were arrested in November last year after neighbours broke into their rented room and reported them to religious police. They were sentenced by a Shariah court last month, and the sentence was executed this week in front of dozens of people.
According to reports, this is at least the third time on record that Aceh has caned people for consensual same-sex relations since the Islamic law was implemented in 2015.
As ILGA World’s State-Sponsored Homophobia report points out, consensual same-sex sexual acts between consenting adults are not criminalised under the Penal Code in Indonesia. However, several provinces, cities, and districts prohibit same-sex intimacy through local ordinances. There have been multiple reports in recent years from various parts of the country of men sentenced to receive lashes, of spas and hotels being raided by police, and of individuals being detained and charged under various local laws and customs.
More news from Asia
In Taiwan, the Judicial Yuan approved an amendment paving the way for same-sex marriages between Taiwanese and foreign spouses.
In Singapore, three campaigners launched an appeal against a court's decision to uphold the law criminalising consensual same-sex sexual activity.
On this day 10 years ago, one of Uganda's most prominent gay rights activists David Kato, was murdered in his home weeks...
Uganda: our communities remember activist David Kato Kisule
Ten years have passed since human rights activist David Kato Kisule was brutally murdered in his home.
Every 26 January, the anniversary of his demise, our communities in Uganda observe the Kuchu Memorial Day in memory of all those lost to violence. “Today we gather digitally because of the pandemic to pay tribute, to celebrate, to collectively mourn but importantly to draw onto each other for strength at a time when the pandemic has locked many of us back to our homophobic families and neighbourhoods”, wrote Sexual Minorities Uganda.
A teacher and a human rights activist, David Kato Kisule had dedicated much of his life to helping those persecuted because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
In the months leading up to his death, he had himself been a target of a hate campaign mounted by a local newspaper, which printed the names, photos and addresses of dozens of persons, outing them and calling for them to be hanged.
Together with other two litigants, he had filed and won a court case against the tabloid. He was killed a few weeks after the case was over, in a brutal murder that had reverberated around the world.
Honduras: lawmakers vote to strengthen prohibitions on abortion and marriage equality
Members of the Honduran Congress approved an amendment that would make it much harder to reverse existing prohibitions on abortion and same-sex marriage.
Currently, all constitutional changes need to be ratified by a two-thirds majority in Congress in order to take effect. As Reuters reports, however, lawmakers now voted “to require a three-quarters super-majority to change a constitutional article that gives a foetus the same legal status of a person, and another that states that civil marriage can only be between a man and a woman.”
With 88 legislators in favour, 28 opposed and seven abstentions, the proposal will still need a second vote before it is enacted.
According to Human Rights Watch, civil society organisations were alerted only 24 hours before the vote took place, with little to no prior consultation. If enacted, the decree is likely to have serious consequences: “It will make it virtually impossible to carry out the recommendations from multiple international human rights bodies to end this violation of reproductive rights”, and “violate regional human rights standards that prohibit arbitrarily treating same-sex couples differently”.
In a landmark 2017 opinion, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights stated that all rights applicable to family relationships of heterosexual couples should extend to same-sex couples. This opinion is applicable in all 23 states party, including Honduras.
As ILGA World’s State-Sponsored Homophobia points out, local activists filed two lawsuits with the Supreme Court to legalise same-sex marriage on the authority of such advisory opinion. One was dismissed due to technical errors, and the other case remains pending before the court.
More news from Latin America and the Caribbean
16 national and local torture preventive mechanisms from across Latin America presented a document to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights that identifies practical measures to promote the safety and dignity of LGBTI persons deprived of liberty.
In Mexico, the National Institute of Statistics and Geography confirmed it will be working on a survey to collect data over the LGBT+ population and better understand their needs.
In Puerto Rico, the government declared a state of emergency until June 2022 "to establish, improve and execute protection against gender (-based) violence." Human rights defenders have also been calling on authorities to address transphobic and homophobic hate crimes: at least 12 members of our communities have been killed in the territory since 2019.
Australian Bureau of Statistics updates standards to better collect data on SOGIESC issues
The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has released a new standard document to guide the collection and dissemination of data relating to sex, gender, characteristics and sexual orientation.
Last updated in 2016, the new Standard includes “updated sex and gender variables, as well as the introduction of variables for variations of sex characteristics and sexual orientation”.
According to Intersex Human Rights Australia (IHRA), “the new Standard facilitates the meaningful and respectful collection of data on people with intersex variations (‘variations of sex characteristics’)”, and “it seeks to respectfully recognise the diverse ways in which the sexes of people with intersex variations are recorded.”
“Intersex is often conflated as a sex or gender, and is rarely recorded accurately in data”, commented Tony Briffa, IHRA co-Executive Director and Chair of ILGA World’s Intersex Committee. “The changes by The Australian Bureau of Statistics following much community consultation are extremely encouraging and I hope it’s a model that other jurisdictions can follow. The ABS treating sex, gender and sex characteristics separately makes sense and is inclusive. It means data about intersex people can be accurately recorded.”
More news from Oceania
In Australia, the man accused of murdering American PhD student Scott Johnson in an alleged hate crime 32 years ago has plead not guilty.
Recipients of Australia’s top honours are returning their awards in protest against the decision to nominate former tennis player Margaret Court as Companion of the Order of Australia. Court has repeatedly made headlines in recent years over her homophobic remarks, motivated by alleged religious views.
US President Joe Biden has issued an executive order repealing the ban on trans people serving openly in the military, which had been put in effect by the previous administration.
The executive order "immediately prohibits involuntary separations, discharges, and denials of reenlistment or continuation of service on the basis of gender identity or under circumstances relating to gender identity," the White House said. Military record for any who had been affected by the ban would also be immediately corrected.
Multiple federal courts issued rulings against the much-criticised ban, which kept it from going into effect for nearly two years after it was first ordered in July 2017.
This order “marks the beginning of a much brighter era in which military service is once again based on a person’s qualifications, not on who they are,” said Shannon Minter, Legal Director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights. “Transgender people have proved their fitness to serve and ask nothing more than the opportunity to do so based on the same standards that apply to others”.
More news from North America and the Caribbean
In Canada, a digital exhibition has been launched to document the 1971 We Demand march, which is considered among the first recorded political actions taken by our communities in the country.
Guyana will roll out a national strategy to offer pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) in 2021. This follows the initiative implemented last year by SASOD (Society against Sexual Orientation Discrimination), thanks to which people in Guyana from any population group were able to elect to initiate PrEP.
In Montana, United States, the House of Representatives approved a bill restricting trans students' sports participation, and voted down another one banning transition care for minors.
Europe and Central Asia
New publication! We would like to share with you our freshly published “Impact assessment: COVID-19 and trans...
Moreover, the report highlighted how “trans civil society were mostly not included in the design of measures to respond to the pandemic”, nor their needs were “addressed in emergency plans”. Little attention went also into ensuring that trans people are not subject to discrimination in Covid-19 interventions, such as introducing lockdown restrictions and their enforcement.
In such a situation, when those facing different layers of marginalisation were affected the most by the consequences of the pandemic, civil society organisations have often stepped in to offer essential services.
“Trans-led organisations proved that they can efficiently provide immediate support and respond to the trans communities’ diverse needs”, the report concludes in a list of recommendation to policymakers. “They need to be included in decision-making around emergency measures, including distribution of aid and relief.”
More news from Europe and Central Asia
The European Parliament has approved a resolution in which it recognised the increased risk of poverty and human rights violations for sex workers amidst the Covid-19 pandemic, and called for measures to protect their rights. Earlier this week in Norway, sex workers were arrested for allegedly violating quarantine restrictions: they are now likely to face detention and expulsion.
The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe called on member States to repeal or amend legislation that interferes with NGOs’ ability to work freely and independently,” and expressed concern about restrictive laws regarding access to funding from abroad.
(trigger warning) Under the hashtag #MeTooGay, hundreds took to social media in Francophone countries across Europe and beyond to share their experiences as survivors, and raise awareness of sexual violence and harassment among men who have sex with men.
In the United Kingdom, a court has imposed a 12-month community order on a woman who admitted non-consensual dissemination of intimate images of her partner on Facebook to “out and embarrass” him after discovering he’s bisexual.
Video of the week
In a letter to Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, 116 organisations human rights and LGBTI organisations – including ILGA World and ILGA Asia - urged Japan to introduce legislation that would protect people from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, six months ahead of the start of the Tokyo Olympic Games.
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