The week in LGBTI news
5 - 11 February 2021
Written and edited by Daniele Paletta
This week we rejoice with our communities in Angola: the country’s new penal code has come into force more than two years after it was approved, doing away with the colonial-age rule that criminalised consensual same-sex relations. Meanwhile, in the United States, a presidential memorandum has directed agencies involved in diplomacy and foreign assistance to “lead by example” in advancing LGBTQI human rights worldwide.
Cross-regional solidarity is indeed fundamental for our movement. Rainbow activists from the Pacific region will soon virtually gather together to discuss the most pressing issues affecting their communities, while many organisations from across Asia and the Pacific have joined forces to ask Myanmar military “respect democracy and its peoples' choice”. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has publicly called on Panama to guarantee the human rights of trans and gender-diverse persons within the Covid-19 response.
Meanwhile, decisions that could have an important impact on our communities are on the horizon. The Court of Justice of the European Union has begun hearing the case of a baby who is left at risk of statelessness, as authorities in Bulgaria rejected her mothers a birth certificate.
Read this week's news from...
Angola: law decriminalising consensual same-sex relations comes into force
The revised penal code has come into force in Angola, 90 days after it was signed into law. Under the new provisions, consensual same-sex relations are no longer considered a criminal offence, and discrimination on the grounds on sexual orientation is banned.
As ILGA World’s State-Sponsored Homophobia points out, Angola started the revision of its criminal law in 2004. In January 2019, Angola approved a new penal code that did away with the colonial-age provision that criminalised “indecent exposure” consisting in an “act against nature with an individual of the same sex”, and that could have led to a maximum of three years in prison.
New changes in the text of the Code were discussed by the Parliament, and the official version of the new Penal Code was finally published on 11 November 2020, coming into force after 90 days.
Human rights defenders from across the world celebrated the news: “Thanks Angola for taking a huge step in protecting and promoting the rights of the LGBT community in your country”, wrote Pan Africa ILGA’s programme manager Richard Lusimbo. “Africa and the world have a lot to learn from you.”
More news from Africa
Two trans women in Cameroon were reportedly accused of same-sex sexual conduct, arrested, and incarcerated in a male prison facility.
Eight out of every ten queer youth from across Africa reported experiencing financial difficulties due to the Covid-19 pandemic, a new report has revealed.
North America and the Caribbean
United States: President Biden issues memorandum on advancing the rights of LGBTQI persons around the world
U.S. President Joe Biden issued a presidential memorandum aimed at expanding protection of the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex people worldwide.
The document builds on the legacy of a similar 2011 document, and clearly directs all departments and agencies involved in diplomacy and foreign assistance to combat the criminalisation of same-sex relations, protect LGBTQI refugees and asylum seekers, and combat violence and discrimination.
“It shall be the policy of the United States to pursue an end to violence and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or sex characteristics, and to lead by the power of our example in the cause of advancing the human rights of LGBTQI+ persons around the world,” the memorandum reads.
The announcement has been welcomed by institutions and human rights defenders worldwide. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights celebrated the initiative and reaffirmed “its willingness to provide technical cooperation to States in the promotion and protection of the human rights of LGBTQI persons in the region”. According to Outright Action International, the timing of the memorandum “indicates that LGBTQI equality is a foreign policy priority from the earliest days of his administration”.
“Brave LGBTQI+ communities have constantly been subjected to torture, discrimination, stigmatization and, above all, abuse of their human rights at all levels”, said Pan Africa ILGA Executive Director Nate Brown. “The memo is therefore a very historic moment that is going to be a step towards the advancement of LGBTIQ people globally, including in the African continent”.
More news from North America and the Caribbean
The judicial committee of the Privy Council reserved judgment after a two-day hearing into an appeal by the Bermuda government against marriage equality in the territory.
In the United States, the Department of Housing and Urban Development announced it will start implementing the presidential executive order barring discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, becoming the first federal agency to do so.
At least 8 bills targeting trans people and our communities at large were heard in 7 states’ Houses across the United States this week.
LGBTI organisations join forces to ask Myanmar military “respect democracy and its peoples' choice”
At least 48 LGBTI human rights organisations from across Asia and the Pacific have joined forces to condemn the coup in Myanmar and ask the military to “respect democracy and its peoples’ choice”.
“While not without its flaws,” the organisations point out, “Myanmar has been on the journey towards a diverse, inclusive and participatory democracy since its democratic transition a decade ago. This progress has enabled a broad and meaningful involvement of civil society, including LGBTI organisations and activists in Myanmar. The military coup jeopardises and threatens to reverse all this progress.”
According to reports, our communities have taken to the streets together with hundreds of thousands of people across the country, calling for the military to relinquish power and return it to the elected government. Police, however, responded to peaceful protests with violence, and at least two persons were reported in critical conditions after the incidents.
More news from Asia
Our communities in China have expressed concern for their awareness-raising efforts, over a new rule that would force bloggers and social media users to apply for an official licence to publish current affairs content.
A queer youth group in Nepal has published an online toolkit translating terminology around sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, and sex characteristics in Nepali.
The High Court in Allahabad, India order that a man was reinstated the job he had been fired from, after a video of him showing affection to another man had gone viral on social media.
Fiji: Pacific rainbow activists join forces in a virtual symposium
LGBTI human rights defenders from the Pacific region will soon host a virtual symposium to address the most pressing issues, policies or laws in their countries that contribute to human rights violations, and map ways forward.
Organised by ILGA Oceania and virtually hosted in Fiji on 19 February, the symposium will especially focus on the climate emergency, the Covid-19 response and the ongoing struggle towards decriminalisation of consensual same-sex relations.
“This interactive symposium will pick up on an intersectional lens of human rights breaches,” organisers pointed out, “whilst encouraging collaboration and engagement with politicians, religious leaders and all other interested bodies through dialogue and the understanding of each other’s point of view to come to a safe space to discuss these important issues”. Register now to attend
More news from Oceania
A cross-party group of parliamentarians in New South Wales, Australia has committed to progressing reforms in New South Wales to ban ‘conversion therapy’.
In Aotearoa New Zealand, a parliamentarian has vowed to introduce a bill amending the Human Rights Act to include gender identity, gender expression, and sex characteristics as prohibited grounds of discrimination.
Europe and Central Asia
Bulgaria: baby at risk of statelessness as authorities refuse her mothers’ request for a birth certificate
LGBTI organisations are calling on the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) to rule in favour of a baby left at the risk of stateless, as authorities in Bulgaria refused to include both her mothers in her birth certificate.
The Court has begun to hear the case this week, and its decisions will have far-reaching implications for rainbow families and their right to freedom of movement across the European Union.
Baby S. was born in Spain in 2019, and her mothers were born in Bulgaria and Gibraltar respectively. Under current Spanish law, however, Baby S. could not acquire Spanish citizenship because neither of her two mothers is a Spanish citizen. As the women required Bulgarian citizenship for Baby S., however, authorities refused to issue a birth certificate in which the parents are two persons of the same sex. As ILGA World’s State-Sponsored Homophobia points out, same-sex partnerships are not legally recognised, nor is second-parent adoption.
The whole situation, ILGA-Europe points out, has left the baby at risk of statelessness. At the moment, she has no personal documents – which is going to restrict her access to education, healthcare, and social security - and cannot leave Spain, the country of the family’s habitual residence.
According to the case taken to the CJEU, Bulgarian authorities are violating the rights of a European citizen on the grounds of sexual orientation - namely to free movement, and to private and family life. The Court is expected to rule on the case in several months’ time. Read more about the case
More news from Europe and Central Asia
Two young men who had fled their homes out of security concerns have been abducted and detained by police in Russia, and taken back to Chechnya. The European Court of Human Rights pointed out that they may be at risk of irreparable harm, and urged Russia to let the two men see their lawyers and have access to independent health professionals.
In the Netherlands, the Senate voted in favour of adding disability and sexual orientation among the protected grounds from discrimination in article 1 of the country’s Constitution. After the upcoming elections, the bill must be approved again by a two-thirds majority of both houses before it becomes law.
The Ministry of Equality in Spain published a draft of a new legal gender recognition law, which is due to start being debated later this month.
Human rights defenders from across Europe and beyond have called on the European Commission for infringement against Poland for violating the fundamental rights of EU citizens with so-called ‘LGBT-free zones’ and its ‘Family Charters’.
Latin America and the Caribbean
Inter-American Commission on Human Rights calls on Panama to guarantee the human rights of trans and gender-diverse persons within the Covid-19 response
At least 45 acts of violence and discrimination against trans and gender-diverse persons were reported in Panama over the last nine months, as the country implemented measures to partially restrict the mobility of persons based on their gender within its Covid-19 response.
Although these gender-segregated provisions were lifted this week, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has called on the state to consider the impact of the measures that were adopted, and to guarantee the rights of trans and gender-diverse persons while the fight against Covid-19 continues.
Under the gender-segregated measures, trans people were denied entry to health centres, supermarkets, and other essential facilities, as the gender marker on their documents did not reflect their gender identity. One trans human rights defender was arrested under the same accusation.
As the state assesses the impacts of such measures, the Commission also urged Panama to “guarantee simple and expeditious legal mechanisms for the exercise of the right to gender identity and expression in a simple manner during the pandemic”, and to strongly condemn and investigate acts of violence and discrimination against trans and gender-diverse persons.
More news from Latin America and the Caribbean
In Argentina, the diocese of Tierra del Fuego refused to record the marriage between a man and a trans woman, which had been regularly held in a Catholic church.
Despite the lack of official data collection on ha crime cases, a report has shown that at least 11 LGBT persons were reported murdered in the Dominican Republic between July 2019 and July 2020.
The Ombudsman’s office in Bolivia has called on police to investigate the brutal murder of a 19-year-old trans woman and sex worker in the city of Cochabamba.
Photo of the week
In Germany, 185 actors and actresses have come out all at once on the cover of one of the country's main magazines. "I come from a world that didn't tell me anything about myself," they said, demanding for more LGBTIQ diversity in their industry and beyond.
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