Two weeks in LGBTI news
21 May - 3 June
Written by Nazlı Mayuk
Edited by Daniele Paletta
These past two weeks have been filled with our global community's demands for justice and laws to protect our human rights from continuous attacks.
In Brazil, a councillor and out trans woman had to flee the country after receiving numerous death threats. Human rights advocates raised concerns over arrests of LGBTI people in Uganda and Ghana, and joined forces to demand their release.
In more parts of the world, governments are called to take urgent action to protect us. In the Philippines, human rights defenders rallied to demand the passage of the anti-discrimination bill, after two brutal murders shocked our communities; in Australia, the State was urged to take action to remove laws that allow students, teachers and staff to be treated unfairly because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
We continue to see the push for legislation targeting our communities. In the United States, on the first day of Pride month, the governor of Florida signed a bill into law aiming to exclude trans girls and women from participating in school sports consistent with their gender identity.
In these past two weeks, we saw promising advances, too: in Serbia, the Parliament adopted amendments to the anti-discrimination law, which now includes sex characteristics among the protected grounds.
Read this week's news from...
Human rights advocates raise concerns over arbitrary arrests of LGBTI persons in Ghana and Uganda
In Uganda, police raided an LGBTI youth shelter and arrested 44 persons, while in Ghana it arrested 21 people for allegedly holding an ‘unlawful assembly’ for ‘advocating LGBTQ activities’ at an event in Ho city.
Police suggested the raid in the youth shelter happened as they were informed by locals of an alleged ‘gay wedding’. Among the 44 persons arrested at the shelter, where a party was taking place, 42 of them were charged with violating Covid-19 restrictions. According to reports, they were paraded in front of media, and at least 17 of them were subjected to forced anal examinations. By the time of writing this article, 39 of the 42 persons arrested were denied bail. (update, Friday 4 June 5:30pm CEST: The magistrates Court has granted bail to ALL the 39 persons that were arrested during the police raid)
The arrests were part of “a worrying trend of mass arrests of LGBT persons whenever there is a gathering of any kind”, a statement on the shelter’s Facebook page reads. “Impunity continues to escalate as well as acts of torture and violence against LGBT persons.”
As Sexual Minorities Uganda pointed out, “this isn't the first time the Ugandan Police has used the COVID restrictions to violate and harass LGBTIQ Ugandans. In March 2020, another shelter home was raided, and the Police gave the same reason.”
Concerns were raised at the global level also about the arrests in Ghana, which happened during a paralegal training on the protection of sexual minorities. Several rights groups called the arrests illegal, saying those detained did not have access to legal representation, and that some suffered medical illnesses and needed treatment for trauma.
“Article 21 of the Constitution of Ghana grants every Ghanian the right to freedom of association and assembly”, the Alliance for Equality and Diversity (AfED) pointed out. “It was no attempt to violate the laws of Ghana”.
Activists have lamented a rise in attacks and abuse this year, after authorities and prominent public figures have been increasingly speaking up against our communities since the raid on LGBT+ Rights Ghana’s newly opened community center.
Our communities and allies have come together to raise awareness on the situations in Uganda and Ghana, calling on authorities to release the detainees.
More news from Africa
The justice minister of Namibia called the colonial-era law that criminalises consensual same-sex activity between adults ‘outdated and discriminatory’, and anticipated that the cabinet was soon expected to discuss her recommendations.
In several cities of Senegal, thousands of people gathered under the slogan ‘No to homosexuality’. On this occasion, there were reports of outbursts of violence against people perceived to be of diverse sexual orientations and gender identities.
Namibia issued emergency travel documents to the twin daughters of a gay couple who have been battling to take them home following their birth through surrogacy in South Africa.
(trigger warning) Philippines: LGBTIQ rights groups hold rally for the SOGIESC equality bill following brutal murders
LGBTIQ community in Philippines are mourning for the deaths of Ebeng Mayor, a non-binary transmasculine person, and Jhie Jhie Bangkiao, a trans woman. Mayor and Bangkiao were killed in separate incidents in May, both bearing evidence of vicious attacks.
Following the crimes, activist groups have called for urgent investigations on the crimes and held a rally at the House of Representatives, urging the government to pass the SOGIESC equality bill. The draft law, aiming to protect our communities from discrimination and hate crimes, was first drafted in 2000, but had failed to pass in the Senate despite numerous attempts.
According to the Trans Murder Monitoring project, at least 58 trans and gender diverse persons have been killed in the Philippines from 2008 to September 2020. “As the Philippine government continues to deny granting legislation that protects trans Filipinos — as well as others harmed because of their SOGIESC — the bodies pile up,” Metro Manila Pride pointed out.
“These continuing atrocities emanate from systems of transphobia, patriarchy, and misogyny about which our society is seemingly complacent in the absence of rule of law concerning the dignity and protection of the members of the LGBTQIA+ community,” said the Society of Trans Women of the Philippines on a Facebook post, calling for justice.
According to a local news resource, three suspects of Mayor’s killing were arrested. Bangkiao’s murder, however, remains unsolved.
More news from Asia
At least 90 women’s groups across Southeast Asia called for the immediate release of women and LGBTI human rights defenders in Myanmar.
A recent report documented the barriers that people seeking to see their gender legally recognised still face in Japan, due to an “anachronistic, harmful, and discriminatory law that “contravenes Japan’s international human rights obligations”.
In Thailand, the police arrested 62 people during a raid on a party at a gay sauna for breaching Covid-19 lockdown restrictions.
In Japan, the ruling party reportedly stalled efforts to enact an anti-LGBT discrimination bill, ruling out adoption of the text before June 14 and forcing it to be postponed indefinitely.
North America and the Caribbean
United States: Florida governor signs a bill barring trans girls and women's from participating in sport
Florida passed a law aiming to exclude trans girls and women from participating in school sports consistent with their gender identity.
Signed into law on the first day of Pride month and just a few days before the anniversary of the Pulse shooting in Orlando, the bill applies to all public secondary and high schools, public colleges and universities, and requires that “certain athletic teams or sports sponsored by certain educational institutions be designated on the basis of students’ biological sex at birth”.
Human Rights Campaign (HRC) announced its intent to challenge the new law in court, stating that the lawsuit “comes a rash of anti-transgender sports ban legislation being taken up and passed in states across the country”.
“Gov. DeSantis and Florida lawmakers are legislating based on a false, discriminatory premise that puts the safety and well-being of transgender children on the line”, said HRC president Alphonso David. “Transgender kids are kids; transgender girls are girls. Like all children, they deserve the opportunity to play sports with their friends and be a part of a team.”
According to Human Rights Campaign, at least 24 anti-LGBTQ laws have been enacted in states this year; 13 of them explicitly target trans persons.
More news from North America and the Caribbean
In the United States, a recent survey report finds that affirming the gender identity of non-binary and trans youth is associated with lower rates of attempting suicide.
In Kansas, United States, disciplinary action has been brought against two school employees after they punished a student and banned her from the school bus for saying “I’m a lesbian”.
In Texas, United States, more than 30 anti-LGBTQ+ bills were shelved in the last session of this legislative season – the latest being a provision that would have forced all student athletes in the state to compete in categories according to their sex “as stated in the birth certificate”.
Latin America and the Caribbean
Brazil: trans politician forced to flee the country after facing death threats
Benny Briolly, the first out trans woman to serve as a councillor in Niterói, Río de Janeiro, was forced to “temporary flee Brazil due to the death threats she received.”
In a statement shared on Twitter, Briolly’s office confirmed that since her election in 2020, she had received continuous death threats. Some of them referred to Ronnie Lessa, who was arrested in 2019 in connection to the murder Rio de Janeiro city councillor Marielle Franco.
Human rights advocates stood in solidarity with Briolly and denounced the attacks towards her, calling on the Brazilian government to provide her with protection.
“It is urgent to promote mechanisms to confront this violence, engaging competent authorities to investigate threats and identify aggressors, improving policies at the national, state and municipal levels to protect human rights defenders, and (demanding) the Brazilian government to adhere to the recommendations already enacted by international bodies such as the United Nations and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights,” reads the statement.
At least 48 LGBTQ+ city councillors were elected in 2020. Since then, however, three other trans officials in São Paulo were targeted with violent threats.
More news from Latin America and the Caribbean
The president of Chile vowed to proceed “with a sense of urgency” to have the government approve the marriage equality bill, which was originally introduced in 2017.
In Argentina, the Ministry of Women, Gender and Diversity announced a program that assists trans people and promote their access to education, health and employment.
Australia: no law yet to ban religious schools from discriminating on sexual orientation and gender identity grounds
The law to ban religious schools from expelling LGBT students is still pending, despite the promise made by the Australian government three years ago.
The issue entered the debate again as Senator Janet Rice confronted the Attorney General’s department during the recent Senate Estimates on the Sex Discrimination Act, and on its implications for schools.
Reminding a statement made by the Prime Ministers in 2018, claiming that the government does not support “expulsion of students from religious non-state schools on the basis of their sexuality”, Rice drew particular attention to section 21 of the Act - which states that under Australian law it is unlawful for an educational authority to discriminate against a person on the ground of the person’s sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, intersex status, marital or relationship status.
As the Star Observer reports, a representative of the Attorney General’s Department responded that the matter was referred to the Australian Law Reform Commission, and that its inquiry has been put on hold while the Government’s Religious Discrimination Bill is developed and considered.
As Equality Australia points out, religious schools, universities, colleges and other educational institutions across Australia – except Tasmania and Australian Capital Territory –are currently exempt from anti-discrimination laws that protect LGBTQ+ people; thus, those institutions have the right to expel students, teachers and staff to be expelled, fired, excluded or treated unfairly because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. A petition is ongoing to urge the government to take action.
More news from Oceania
In Australia, a party passed a motion calling on the federal government to affirm its support for the provision of “single-sex sports, facilities and services.”
A recent survey report finds that LGBTQIA+ people in Tasmania, Australia, experience lower income, higher unemployment, more housing problems, poorer health conditions and lower safety that their heterosexual peers.
Europe and Central Asia
Serbia includes sex characteristics as protected grounds in its anti-discrimination law
The Serbian Parliament’s recent amendments to the Law on Prohibition of Discrimination have included sex characteristics among the protected grounds against discrimination.
XY Spectrum, an intersex rights advocacy group in Serbia, welcomed the amendments, while also highlighting that further steps are needed for full protection of intersex persons’ rights.
“The amendments to the Law on Prohibition of Discrimination are key to creating and maintaining the awareness of all citizens about the fact that intersex persons (...) are an equal part of society, their rights should be equally respected,” said Kristian Randjelovic, director of XY Spectrum. “We especially welcome the amendment to Article 22, paragraph 2 of the Law on Prohibition of Discrimination, which recognizes the sex characteristics of children as a possible basis for discrimination.”
According to LGBTI Era, Serbia has become the fourth country in the region that recognises sex characteristics as protected grounds against discrimination.
More news from Europe and Central Asia
In Spain, the Parliament of Canary Islands has unanimously passed a law allowing legal gender recognition based on self-determination.
In Lithuania, Parliament narrowly voted against debating on a bill that could legalise same-sex civil partnerships; however, supporters said they would adjust the proposal and eventually resubmit it to the assembly.
In France, a criminal court sentenced a man to 14 years in prison for “rape on the grounds of sexual orientation” targeting a lesbian woman. In a historic decision, the jury and judges considered the lesbophobic nature of the crime.
In Kazakhstan, about 30 men attacked human rights activists, chanting religious calls and homophobic slurs. Following the attack, LGBTI rights advocacy groups urged the Government to draft anti-discrimination legislation that includes SOGI among the protected grounds. An LGBTQ NGO in Ukraine was also targeted in two separate attacks as it was holding two feminist workshops.
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Following IDAHOBIT, ILGA ASIA has been sharing a series of reports on our communities across the region. Read more about the human rights situation of LGBTIQ people in Taiwan, Thailand, Bangladesh and Iraq, and follow ILGA ASIA for further updates!
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