The week in LGBTI news
5 – 11 March 2021
Written by Nazlı Mayuk
Edited by Daniele Paletta
This week marked the International Women’s Day: people around the world celebrated the tremendous efforts by women and girls in shaping a more equal future. On this occasion, the ILGA World’s Women Committee launched the first issue of its Women Moving Forward Together, a bimonthly magazine created with a feminist approach to tell the story of how lesbian, bisexual, trans, intersex and queer women have been, are, and continue to be a driving force in the history of our movement.
Hundreds of thousands of people marked the day across the world, even with the restrictions imposed by the pandemic, and called on the rights of all women to be respected.
This week’s news, however, showed us we still have a long way to go. In Tunisia, an LGBTI human rights defender was sentenced to six months in prison after police rejected her request to file a complaint for harassment. In India, a lesbian woman who had been forcibly married to a man had to go to court to finally obtain protection and justice. In Colombia, a report indicated that at least 448 LGBT persons suffered from acts of violence in the country over the past two years.
Civil society everywhere is asking for change. Human rights organisations are calling on Uzbekistan to decriminalise consensual same-sex conduct between men, as the country is updating its criminal code. In the United States, leading child health and welfare groups are calling on lawmakers to stop legislation targeting our communities, and trans youth in particular.
Meanwhile, the first edition of the Mardi Gras parade since the Covid-19 outbreak started took place in Sydney, Australia, in “a call to action that now is the time to rise again through love, compassion, respect and understanding”.
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Tunisia: human right activist arbitrarily detained after seeing her harassment complaint rejected
A Tunisian court sentenced LGBT rights activist Rania Amdouni to six months in prison and a fine for shouting outside the police station where her harassment complaint had been rejected.
“Rania Amdouni has been the target of a smear campaign by police unions after taking part in protests against police repression in January”, reports Agence France-Presse. “Her photo has been repeatedly posted on social media, particularly by police unions, accompanied by degrading comments and personal information, including her address”.
Not feeling safe, Amdouni sought to file a complaint, but her request was rejected by police, who further harassed her on the grounds of her presumed sexual orientation and gender expression. After leaving the police station in a distraught state, she was arrested and taken to prison, where she has reportedly faced further harassment by prison guards.
“Tunisian authorities should investigate allegations of police harassment against Amdouni and stop using the judicial system to persecute her,” said Rasha Younes, LGBT rights researcher at Human Rights Watch. “The police response to Amdouni’s complaint keeps her from getting protection and undermines public confidence in law enforcement and the Tunisian justice system.”
More news from Africa
In Ghana, a group of lawmakers is considering a bill criminalising “promotion” of LGBT rights.
In Senegal, an LGBTI human rights defender reported being exposed to a homophobic attack for the seventh time.
India: New Delhi court grants protection to a lesbian woman married to a man against her will
The Delhi High Court accepted a petition of a lesbian woman who was forced to marry to a man and threatened with ‘conversion’ therapy, and directed police to take all necessary steps to provide her protection at her new home.
“The woman approached the court seeking immediate directions to ensure that she is provided with security and protection from her family and to direct her parental and matrimonial family to cease and desist from contacting, threatening or coercing her in any manner”, reports Wire India.
The woman alleged that her family forced her to marry in October 2019. When she expressed her wish for divorce, however, her mother told her that she would have called a religious guru who would have subjected her to ‘conversion therapy’. Fearing for her safety, the woman ran away and found a refugee in a safe house provided by an NGO.
However, her family members managed to find her. In her petition, the woman stated that, once she fled to safety, the police leaked the contact details of the NGO and informed her family, who repeatedly called and harassed both her and the activists.
As it heard the case, the High Court directed the Delhi police to provide complete protection to the woman, and added that no NGO representatives should be harassed nor harmed for helping her.
More news from Asia
The first issue of Queer Muslim, amplifying LGBTQIA+ Muslim voices, has been published by a virtual network of queer, Muslim and allied individuals from the South Asian region.
Human right advocates raised their concerns over serious threats against a trans entrepreneur in Malaysia, and urged the public to not to encourage violence against the trans community.
North America and the Caribbean
United States: major health, education, and child welfare organisations urge lawmakers to stop anti-LGBTQ legislations
The leading child health and welfare groups in the United States, representing more than 1000 child welfare organisations, have called on lawmakers across the country to oppose numerous bills targeting LGBTQ people, and trans children in particular.
The signatories of the open letter expressed their concerns over “the torrent of bills introduced in state legislatures and in Congress this year that would directly harm transgender people, and particularly transgender youth”. They also highlighted that “these appalling proposals would compromise the safety and well-being of the young people we all have the duty and obligation to support and protect”.
According to reports, legislators are currently debating bills to limit access to sports or medical care for trans people in more than half of U.S. states. The major child health and welfare professionals, representing more than 7 million youth-service professionals, have now spoken up against these laws.
“Every child deserves equal access to education, academic success, and a future in which they are empowered to fulfil their true potential, and these laws contravene that fundamental principle,” they wrote.
More news from North America and the Caribbean
In Canada, the Quebec government has announced it will appeal to a section of a recent, historic judgement in favour of trans, non-binary, and intersex rights. The part of the judgement which will be subject to appeal concerns legal gender recognition for minors age 14 to 17.
New Jersey passed a bill protecting LGBTQ HIV+ seniors from discrimination in long-term care facilities.
In the United States, around 550 athletes demanded that the National Collegiate Athletic Association stop holding events in states that are considering anti-trans legislation.
Latin America and the Caribbean
Colombia: new report documents the extent of violence against our communities
At least 448 lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans persons suffered from acts of violence in Colombia in 2019 and 2020, according to the latest report published by the human rights organisation Colombia Diversa. During those two years, at least 181 cases of murders were reported.
The publication provides insights into the extent of violence against LGBT persons, showing “patterns of police persecution against trans women who engage in sex work, homeless persons and Venezuelan migrants, as well as against same-sex couples who show their affection in public”. It also highlights that LGBTI human rights defenders are especially targeted and exposed to threats and violence.
The analysis of data shows also that there are specific contextual factors that increase the risk of violence: our communities are reportedly more likely to be targeted in critically overcrowded areas, or in contexts where societal basic needs are unsatisfied.
According to Colombia Diversa, comprehensive plans or measures to tackle anti-LGBT violence are still missing, although the extent of the issue is known at least to some degree. "All the analysis carried out in the report was done with state information”, said Gustavo Pérez, coordinator of the Human Rights area of Colombia Diversa. “Although it is partial, it is sufficient to focus on strategies to prevent violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people".
More news from Latin America and the Caribbean
The National Assembly of Panama passed a bill that excludes same-sex couples from those eligible to adopt children.
In Peru, two gay men, a lesbian woman and a trans woman are among the candidates seeking to reach Congress in the elections that will be held in April 2021.
A course providing lawyers and LGBTI rights defenders in Latin America and the Caribbean with investigative tools and criminal argumentation in cases of violence is open for applications.
Australia: first edition of the Sydney Mardi Gras parade since the Covid-19 outbreak held in Sydney
Over 5,000 people marched in front of a stadium crowd of 36,000 for the 2021 Sydney Mardi Gras parade, the first edition since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic.
According to organisers, this year’s theme was chosen as “a call to action that now is the time to rise again through love, compassion, respect and understanding”. The event was broadcast on national TV, and followed from hundreds of thousands of homes.
The Parade was relocated a Covid-safe venue temporarily. “With a reworked COVID-safe format, our iconic Parade definitely looked different to how it has in the past”, Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras CEO Albert Kruger said. “But even in this new setup, Mardi Gras continues to be celebration of who we are and what we’ve achieved, as well as a moment for us to advocate for the change we need to see in the future”.
Unfortunately, reports emerged of people being attacked during the evening after the parade. Mardi Gras and Equality Australia released a statement expressing their support to the survivors: “Everyone deserves the right to feel safe walking down the street. Not only in Sydney on Mardi Gras night, but in every street and in every town, on every night.”
More news from Oceania
Ahead of the upcoming elections in Western Australia, advocacy groups have released an analyses of the parties’ records and programmes on six policy areas that are on the agenda for LGBTQIA+ voters and allies.
In Australia, Devonport City Council informed that gender neutral signages will be set by June in a number of gender-neutral toilets.
Europe and Central Asia
Human rights organisations call on Uzbekistan to repeal Article 154 and decriminalise consensual same-sex conduct
ILGA-Europe and 35 human rights organisations urged the President and the government of Uzbekistan to decriminalise same-sex conduct between men under the ongoing review of the Criminal Code.
The country is currently a member of the UN Human Rights Council, and it is discussing and undertaking reforms to its criminal justice system. In the draft of the new Criminal Code released for public discussion at the end of February 2021, however, the provision criminalising consensual same-sex between men was only moved from Article 120 to 154, and included in a newly created chapter entitled “Crimes against family, children and morality”.
These updates prompted human rights organisations to express concerns. In a joint statement, they reminded Uzbekistan that, when applying for membership at the UN Human Rights Council, the government “committed to the promotion and protection of human rights and the adoption of a range of legislative, institutional and administrative measures to fulfil its international obligations in the field of human rights,” and “pledged to protect, promote and support universal human rights and fundamental freedoms for all”.
The organisations launched a campaign to remind Uzbekistan of their obligations. They also reminded the country that “repealing the provision criminalising same-sex conduct or relation and other laws used to persecute LGBT people” would be “an important step for Uzbekistan towards combating prejudice and protecting lives of LGBT people under international human rights law and its own Constitution.”
More news from Europe and Central Asia
In Turkey, five trans activist were detained after they attended an 8th March gathering. Two of them were sentenced to house arrest for a month and others were released on probation.
A same-sex couple files a case against Romania with the European Court of Human Rights, as the country hasn’t yet implemented a 2018 judgement by the Court of Justice of the European Union which directed the country to recognise same-sex spouses under EU freedom of movement laws.
Issuing rulings in two separate cases, the Constitutional Court of Italy said that “the country urgently needs a law on the rights of children of same-sex couples”.
In Croatia, a Court sentenced a man to six months in prison with a suspended sentence, after his posts on Facebook amounted to incitement to hatred on the grounds of sexual orientation.
Photo of the week
The European Parliament declared the EU to be an ‘‘LGBTIQ Freedom Zone’’ in a resolution adopted by 492 votes in favour, 141 against and 46 abstentions, two years after the first Polish local authority declared itself an ‘‘LGBTIQ-free zone’’.
“This is a signal to all governments which are against equality measures that the pro-LGBTIQ majority in the European Parliament will defend European values, even if national governments are not willing to,” commented Terry Reintke MEP, co-Chair of the LGBTI Intergroup.
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