This week we have witnessed promising advances for our communities: in a historic development, the Federal Court of Malaysia found a shariah law banning consensual same-sex conduct in the state of Selangor unconstitutional.
The United States House has passed the much-anticipated Equality Act, which would provide extensive anti-discrimination protection to people of diverse sexual orientations and gender identities. Now, the Act needs the Senate’s approval. The Government in Aotearoa New Zealand reaffirmed its commitment to a law banning ‘conversion therapy’, looking forward to having it approved within the next 12 months.
Despite these encouraging developments, we know that there is still a long way until we reach full equality. A report has pointed out how the lived reality for LGBTI people in European Union accession countries is “still starkly different to the legal protections on paper”. LGBTQ refugees in the Kakuma camp, located in Kenya, are facing ongoing severe incidents, and human rights organisations are calling for them to be evacuated to a safer place. A trans human rights defender in Guatemala reported being arbitrarily detained and suffering harassment at the hands of police, sparking a wave of solidarity towards her across the region.
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JUST IN: Federal Court declares that §28 of the Syariah Criminal Offences (Selangor) Enactment 1995 is inconsistent with the Federal Constitution, and is therefore void.
We are extremely pleased with this historic development. It marks a monumental progress for our community.
Malaysia: Federal Court finds state Shariah law criminalising same-sex intercourse ‘unconstitutional’
The Federal Court of Malaysia has ruled that the Selangor state holds no power to uphold a shariah law that makes it an offence to engage in same-sex intercourse.
This decision came as a response to an applicant seeking for Section 28 of Selangor’s Syariah criminal enactment to be declared unconstitutional. As Human Rights Watch reports, the case arises from a 2018 raid on a private residence in Selangor, in which state religious enforcement officials arrested 11 men on charges of “attempting” to have sex. In November 2019, a court convicted five of them and sentenced them to fines, imprisonment, and six strokes of the cane each.
One of the men appealed the decision, and filed two separate challenges in civil courts to ultimately challenge the validity and constitutionality of the Section 28 provision that was used to charge him.
According to Neela Ghoshal, Associate Director of the LGBT Right Program at Human Rights Watch, “the ruling leaves intact a federal statute criminalizing same-sex relations”, but “it does bring relief to those who have faced persecution from religious enforcement agencies enforcing such state laws”.
More news from Asia
Two men filed a lawsuit againstSouth Korea’s national health insurance agency, as the dependent status they obtained as a same-sex couple got cancelled shortly after they had shared their story with media.
In the Asia-Pacific region, UNDP opened online consultations on ensuring the integration of women and LGBTI people’s needs in health and climate change action.
Intersex Asia has marked the third anniversary of the adoption of of the Asian Intersex Statement, taking the opportunity to highlight the “several positive developments have taken place in the Asian region with regard to intersex human rights” since then.
North America and the Caribbean
BREAKING: The #EqualityAct has passed the House of Representatives with bipartisan support. We are one step closer to ensuring that every person in America is treated equally under the law. pic.twitter.com/A94SFVfQkz
The United States House of Representatives has passed the Equality Act, a bill that would add sexual orientation and gender identity among the prohibited grounds of discrimination in the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and to the Fair Housing Act.
The Act prohibits discrimination against people of diverse sexual orientations and gender identities by extending protection into all areas of life such as employment, housing, credit and public services amongst others, aiming to make existing state protections federal and consistent across the nation.
“Since the introduction of the first Equality Act in 1974 – nearly fifty years ago - LGBTQ advocates and our supporters in Congress have been fighting to win explicit protections for LGBTQ people in federal non-discrimination laws,” commented Lambda Legal CEO Kevin Jennings. “The time has come to enact those protections: 47 years is long enough to wait for protection of our basic rights as citizens.”
According to the BBC, the debate around the Equality Act has “laid bare the ideological battle between liberals who support the act and conservatives who say it infringes on religious freedom”.
Although the Act passed in the US House with a 224-206 vote and bipartisan support, it still needs to be passed by the Senate.
“Today, the U.S. House of Representatives passed, yet again, the Equality Act, as it has done in years past. And, once again, the Equality Act now goes to the U.S. Senate”, said Jennings. “We hope and trust this year, it will finally get the hearing in the Senate that it so richly deserves. After years of ignoring this important legislation, the Senate needs to take care of business and pass the Equality Act”.
More news from North America and the Caribbean
New research focusing on different narratives of LGBTQI people in the eastern Caribbean was presented in an online meeting organized by the Eastern Caribbean Alliance in collaboration with the Pan American Development Foundation and the Equality Without Borders.
A new survey of more than 15,000 people in the United States indicates that 5.6% of U.S. adults identify as people of diverse sexual orientations and gender identities, with over half among them identifying as bisexual.
Health official in Saint Kitts and Nevis have pointed out how decriminalising consensual same-sex relations is crucial in the HIV/AIDS response, as stigma and discrimination resulting from the criminalisation can hinder people from getting tested.
Human rights organisations call on UNHCR to protect LGBTQ refugees experiencing violence in the Kakuma Refugee Camp
LGBTQ refugees hosted in the Kakuma Refugee Camp should be “evacuated to safety in order to save their lives”, human rights organisations said, calling on the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) to protect a community experiencing “brutal attacks”.
Pan Africa ILGA and the Global Interfaith Network (GIN-SSOGIE) raised concerns over ongoing severe incidents in Block 13, which houses the largest number of LGBTQ refugees in Kakuma. According to reports, incidents began as early as in 2014, and a new spate of violence has been ongoing since June 2020.
“Pan Africa ILGA and GIN are concerned about the growing number of tortures happening to the LGBTQ+ persons in the camp. The brutal attacks have continued to emerge for years now, and it is high time this must be addressed,” reads a statement that was released just before a meeting between UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and Block 13 representatives.
“It is within the mandate of UNHCR to protect all refugees and to work with host governments to ensure that the basic human rights of all refugees are protected, promoted and respected”, Pan Africa and GIN pointed out, urging to “take all members of Block 13 to a temporary safe place as they await evacuation.”
More news from Africa
Members of the LGBTI community from Uganda published a statement in response to accusations of supporting political subversion in the country, pointing out that the community is non-partisan and every individual supports a party of their choice as in their constitutional right.
The office of LGBT+ Rights Ghana, which was opened on 31st January 2021, was raided by national security and closed down.
A report - available in Arabic, Amazigh, English and French - has described how the LGBTI community in Morocco faced specific mental and physical in the time of Covid-19, worsened by a hurtful online hunting campaign and the persecution from law enforcement that followed it.
A report has highlighted how the introduction of the new Cybercrime Law in Egypt has “introduced a dramatic shift from the traditional use of the debauchery article in prosecutions of LGBTQ+ individuals in criminal courts”.
Lived reality for LGBTI people in EU accession countries “still starkly different to the legal protections on paper”, report points out
2020 saw the LGBTI community in EU accession countries being heavily impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, a report has found, as state support services failed to reach the most vulnerable among us.
The annual LGBTI Enlargement Review, compiled by ILGA-Europe and the LGBTI Equal Rights Association for Western Balkans and Turkey, lists key developments in the recognition and respect of LGBTI human rights in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Turkey, while also highlighting existing gaps in legislation and policy. It also contains recommendations on how EU delegations can better support LGBTI civil society, especially in situations in which governments are unable to support them.
The report points out how, during 2020, LGBTI NGOs have had to adapt their previous plans and budgets to cover humanitarian aid gaps within the State response to the crisis - providing food, hygiene kits and shelter to LGBTI people who have lost their jobs or been rendered homeless.
While hate crime and hate speech against LGBTI people remain widespread, 2020 also brought some positive developments in the region: Montenegro became the first accession country to adopt same-sex partnership legislation; there was renewed political commitment to the adoption of legal gender recognition in North Macedonia, and in Albania the Parliament amended the anti-discrimination law to include sex characteristics and HIV status as protected grounds.
More news from Europe and Central Asia
Three Armenian trans women were not allowed to enter Egypt because of the gender marker in their passports does not correspond to their gender identity.
Over 800 football players in Germany signed up for a campaign to offer support to their gay, lesbian and bisexual colleagues, and create an inclusive environment.
A bisexual woman from Tunisia has been granted refugee status in the United Kingdom.
Today @EKerekere had her petition to urgently ban conversion therapy tabled at Parliament. We heard from conversion therapy survivors how much every signature meant. We will continue to push for the best bill possible for our Rainbow whānau. pic.twitter.com/VPH38XXfNG
Minister of Justice confirms commitment to ban ‘conversion therapies’ in New Zealand over the next year
The Ministry of Justice confirmed that it is working on a bill to ban ‘conversion therapy’ in Aotearoa New Zealand, with the intention to pass the law by February 2022 at the latest.
“We know this is an important issue,” minister of Justice Kris Faafoi said, and we want to ensure the legislation passes as quickly as possible so the Rainbow community and all those affected by these abhorrent practices are protected.”
The announcement came after a petition asking the government to act swiftly on the matter collected over 150,000 signatures in just one week. “We know that people see this not a partisan issue,“ said Elizabeth Kerekere, the Green Party spokesperson for Rainbow Communities. “This is not a political issue, except for the people who are having to endure this treatment."
As ILGA World’s report on ‘conversion therapies’ points out, gruesome practices– including electroshock ‘therapies’, forced internments in ‘clinics’ and exorcisms – are still applied in numerous countries, pushing people of diverse sexual orientations, gender identities and expressions to living miserable, self-loathing lives, up to the extreme consequences of committing suicide.
More news from Oceania
In Australia, a Tasmanian church admitted they apply ‘conversion practices’ in submission to the Tasmanian Law Reform Institute.
The government of Victoria, Australia announced dedicated funding to twelve organisations delivering programs to improve the wellbeing of young LGBTIQ+ persons.
Latin America and the Caribbean
Hacemos del conocimiento público, la denuncia a causa de los abusos y violencia, a los que fue sometida nuestra compañera y Directora Ejecutiva Galilea Monroy De León, por parte agentes de la Policia Nacional Civil, el martes 21 de febrero. pic.twitter.com/sISZD4BBP9
Guatemala: trans human rights defender arbitrarily detained while returning home
A trans human rights defender in Guatemala reported being arbitrarily detained by National Civil Police, and experiencing harassment and degrading treatment on the grounds of her gender identity.
Galilea Monroy de León, the Executive Director of Red Muticultural de Mujeres Trans de Guatemala (REDMMUTRANS), reported being stopped by police as she was returning home, questioned under baseless suspicions, and subjected to cruel and degrading treatment.
Human rights organisations across the region expressed their solidarity, calling for trans persons in the country to be protected from such abuses. “We urge National Civil Police to take actions and immediately clarify this case of police abuse and disproportionate use of the public force,” said ILGALAC, while urging the Human Rights Ombudsman's Office of the Republic of Guatemala to follow up on the incident.
More news from Latin America and the Caribbean
A young trans activist was murdered in Panguipulli, Chile, just a few days after a street artist had been killed during a police operation in the same area.
The Congress of Puebla, Mexico, will discuss passing the so-called “Agnes Law” to allow the legal recognition of a person’s gender identity next week.
In 18 cities of Argentina, activists waved rainbow and trans flags urging the National Congress to pass a trans-inclusive labour bill
Video of the week
The 46th session of the UN Human Rights Council has started this week, and ILGA World is there for you! How will LGBTI human rights and SOGIESC issues be addressed during the session? Watch this video (subtitles available in English and Spanish) to hear more directly from the ILGA World team!
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