Two weeks in LGBTI news
23 April – 6 May 2021
Written by Nazlı Mayuk
Edited by Daniele Paletta
During the past two weeks, our communities around the world marked Lesbian Visibility Day and International Family Equality Day, reminding us how far we have come in fighting for our rights, resisting and raising awareness of our lived realities.
Slowly but steadily, our continuous struggle brings about change. In Croatia, a court ruled that same-sex couples should not be discriminated against when seeking to adopt children. In Taiwan, a court ruled in favour of recognizing the marriage of a transnational gay couple, in a first step towards full recognition of these unions. A trans man in Argentina has been acquitted of charges of attempted murder, recognising he had tried to defend himself from his assailants instead.
In the United States, the New York City Council passed a bill mandating an awareness campaign to educate the public about the harms of unnecessary medical interventions on intersex children.
Meanwhile, in Uganda, the Parliament passed a bill banning consensual “sexual acts between persons of the same gender”, reinforcing the criminalisation of such acts that is already codified in the country's Penal Code.
Violence keeps on taking lives from our communities all around the world. Our communities are mourning Polikalepo Kefu, a prominent LGBTI human rights defender from Tonga, and the many more who fell victim to violent crimes over the past two weeks.
Read this week's news from...
Uganda: parliament passes bill enhancing criminalisation of consensual “sexual acts between persons of the same gender”
The Parliament of Uganda has passed the Sexual Offences Bill 2019, which bans consensual “sexual acts between persons of the same gender” and further reinforces the criminalisation of such acts codified in the country's Penal Code.
The Bill’s main objective was to take action against sexual violence, enhance punishment against sexual offenders and provide additional protection for survivors. However, under Clause 11, “unnatural offences” will include both bestiality and those who “perform a sexual act with another person contrary to the order of nature”.
In a joint statement, signed by 16 human rights organisations, Sexual Minority Uganda (SMUG) stressed the dangers the Bill withholds for human rights.
“SMUG is concerned that this clause in the Bill will enhance the already homophobic environment in Uganda and consequently lead the way for further violation of the rights of sexual minorities,” said the statement.
Moreover, “the law fails at that level to protect a section of Ugandans who are sexual and gender minorities by criminalizing them rather than punishing those who might be their sexual offenders.”
The bill will now be presented before the president of Uganda, Yoweri Museveni. Human rights organisations are calling on him not to assent to it, and “to reminisce on the effects of the now-repealed Anti-Homosexuality Act had on the human rights discourse for sexual and gender minorities.”
Read more via the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
More news from Africa
LGBT+ rights groups criticised Twitter’s decision to open its first African Office in Ghana after citing the country as the ‘champion of democracy’, and called the decision "a slap in the face" for sexual minorities in the country who suffer abuse and persecution.
Civil society organisations have published a report highlighting how LGBT refugees are being denied asylum in South Africa despite being “eligible for protection under international and domestic law”.
Taiwan court rules in favour of gay transnational couple, in first step towards full recognition of marriages with foreigners
Taiwanese citizen Ting Tse-yen and his partner Leong Chin-fai from Macau won the battle to see their marriage legally recognised, as the Taipei High Administrative Court revoked a government office's 2019 decision to reject their marriage registration due to the couple's transnational nature.
As ILGA World’s State-Sponsored Homophobia report points out, transnational same-sex marriage is currently legal only if both parties are from countries where marriage equality is a reality, which leaves lots of transnational couples out from the legal protection in Taiwan.
Activists celebrated the ruling as an ‘initial success’. “While the ruling sets a precedent, it will not apply to other international same-sex couples”, said Victoria Hsu, lawyer of the couple. Hsu urged the government to amend the law to avoid multiple legal battles.
"We hope in the future all international same-sex couples can register their marriages directly rather than having to go to courts," said the couple, who founded a group to assist Taiwanese citizens whose partners are from countries where same-sex marriage is not legal - including Japan, Thailand, China and Vietnam.
More news from Asia
In Bangladesh, a verdict is expected soon for eight suspects charged with murder over the killing of two Bangladeshi LGBTI human rights defenders that took place five years ago in Dhaka.
In Sri Lanka, advocacy organisations launched a campaign against forced marriages, highlighting the need for “legal amendments to ensure that the LGBTIQ+ community are protected" against them.
North America and the Caribbean
United States: New York City takes an important step in promoting intersex rights
New York City Council passed a bill that mandates the city’s health department to develop educational materials about the lifelong harms of medically unnecessary treatments or interventions on children born with variations in their sex characteristics.
“This legislation not only signifies a major step forward for the principle of informed consent but also aims to reduce the unfortunate stigma that still exists,” said Council Member Daniel Dromm, author of the bill. “The Department of Health and Mental Hygiene will create a new outreach campaign, which will incorporate the input of several organisations and experts.”
Intersex rights advocacy organisation interACT celebrated the bill. “This innovative bill clearly demonstrates that intersex people should be celebrated, not subjected to harm in an attempt to be ‘fixed’” said Kimberly Zieselman, Executive Director at interACT.
More news from North America and the Caribbean
The United States Justice Department ruled that prison officials must keep trans people safe from substantial risk of harm and provide them with adequate medical care.
In Canada, Quebec citizens gathered to denounce police brutality against a black trans woman in the Montreal metro, after a disturbing video of her arrest circulated on social media.
Latin America and the Caribbean
Argentina: Court acquits trans man condemned for attempted murder in 2018
The Court of Cassation of Paraná decided to acquit Joe Lemonge, a 25-year-old trans man from the Entre Ríos province, sentenced in May 2018 to more than five years in prison for attempted murder.
The judges have ruled he had sought to defend himself after suffering from a transphobic attack.
The young man lived in a neighbourhood in Santa Elena, when in the early hours of 13 October 2016, three men went to his home, where he had set up a kiosk, tried to force their way in and assaulted him. As a result, Joe tried to defend himself by firing an accidental shot that hit one of the assailants.
In 2018, he was sentenced to 5 years and six months in prison for the crime of "attempted murder". The decision was appealed, and this week the Court of Cassation found that the judge who had condemned him had “erroneously interpreted the formal and material law”: "It is beyond dispute that there was no provocation on the part of Joe Lemonge", the decision reads, and that it was "legitimate self-defence".
More news from Latin America and the Caribbean
In Colombia, LGBTI organisations joined civil society and the Inter-America Commission on Human Rights in condemning the excessive use of force by security forces during the ongoing protests. According to reports, at least 19 people have been killed and 87 are missing since the national strike began to protest tax reforms and violence against social leaders in the country.
In El Salvador, LGBTI activists raised concerns over the high ‘risks of backtracking on LGBTI rights’ and those of the population at large, after the new legislative assembly removed Supreme Court justices from office.
(Trigger warning) Tonga: prominent LGBTI rights activist killed
LGBTI human rights defender Polikalepo Kefu has been found dead on a beach close to his home in Tongatapu Island of the Kingdom of Tonga, in what appears to have been a violent crime. Poli, as he was affectionately known, was the president of Tonga Leitis Association, an ILGA World member organisation providing support services to our communities, advocacy, and education on HIV-AIDS. He also worked with Tonga's Red Cross and local media.
Kefu’s death has shocked our communities and beyond, both in Oceania and globally. “He was a selfless humanitarian and a tireless advocate for the rights of those with diverse sexual orientations, gender identities, and gender expressions”, Tonga Leitis Association remembered in a statement. “In these dark and troubling times, we are reminded of Poli's light and positive energy, and we encouraged knowing that this is when we are most needed to continue our work.”
ILGA Oceania urged Tongan authorities to identify the perpetrators of this heinous crime and bring the persons to justice.
“Throughout Oceania, (we) still face violence and discrimination because of our sexual orientation, gender identity and expression or intersex status. For the majority, these issues are linked to broader issues of gender equality, autonomy over our bodies and lives, sexual reproductive health and rights,” the organisation added.
A 27-year-old man from a neighbouring island has been arrested and charged with the murder. He is now under custody, and set to appearin the magistrate court on 19 May.
Over the past two weeks, a wave of violence has been taking lives from our communities also in other parts of the world. In Cape Town, South Africa, Phelokazi Mqathana, a lesbian chef, has been stabbed to death, while Zashy Zuley del Cid, a trans activist, has been killed in El Salvador. In Boston, MS, United States, community advocate and trans woman of colour Jahaira DeAlto was killed. In Brazil, Lindolfo Kosmaski, a teacher and an LGBT activist, was found murdered in his car. A gay paramedic, Normunds Kindzulis, was killed in the town of Latvia where he had fled to after receiving death threats.
More news from Oceania
In New Zealand, Minister for Internal Affairs accepted 32 out of 36 recommendations from the Working Group for Reducing Barriers to Changing Registered Sex, one of which will make the gender recognition process easier.
In Queensland, Australia, the Attorney-General requested the Queensland Human Rights Commission to review of Anti-Discrimination Act 1991 to examine whether the “laws need updating to better protect Queenslanders from discrimination and harassment”.
Europe and Central Asia
Croatia: court rules in support of the right of same-sex couples to adopt children
The Zagreb Administrative Court issued a ruling in support of the right of same-sex couples to adopt children.
The ground-breaking decision came as a verdict for a case that goes back to five years ago. In May 2016, Mladen Kozic and Ivo Segota applied for adoption to the local social welfare centre, but after a few months, their application was rejected. Following the rejection, Kozic and Segota decided to become foster parents of two children.
As Balkan Insight reports, at the end of April 2021 “the court ruled in favour of the couple, saying they must not be discriminated against “in the assessment procedure for adoption because they have entered into a life partnership.”
Rainbow Family Association welcomed the decision: “This ruling does not automatically mean that gay and lesbian couples are to become adoptive parents – but life partners can now fearlessly contact their social welfare centre and apply for an evaluation for adoption.”
As ILGA World’s State-Sponsored Homophobia report points out, in 2019 a court had ruled in favour of the couple, who had previously had their request to adopt denied by the Family Ministry, and recognised their right to become foster parents.
In February 2020, the Croatian Constitutional Court ruled that the possibility of fostering children should be equally accessible to everyone, including same-sex couples. However, Articles 45-49 of Same-sex Partnership Act (2014) still "fall short of providing second parent adoption rights, but the court can be petitioned to establish the right de facto.”
More news from Europe and Central Asia
In the Czech Republic, Parliament voted to pass the marriage equality law to the second reading. The bill amends the Civil Code to say marriage is a union of "two persons", instead of "a man and a woman", and will now head to committee debate before a final vote.
The results of a survey point to a large prevalence of LGBTI youth homelessness across Europe and Central Asia, while homeless services lack the skills and competencies to provide safe and welcoming spaces for LGBTI people.
North Macedonia introduced a draft law that aims to make legal gender recognition easier.
An online survey directed to vocational education and training (VET) students and teachers has been developed as part of a new European project and research focusing on LGBTIQ discrimination in the field.
Photo of the week
The Women’s Committee of ILGA World celebrated Lesbian Visibility Day with the second issue of its Women Moving Forward Together magazine.
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