The week in LGBTI news
4 - 10 June 2021
Researched by Nazlı Mayuk
Written by Daniele Paletta
This week, a judge in India called for sweeping reforms to help respect the rights of our communities.
We know how much they are needed: in Canada, new data highlighted how present ‘conversion therapy’ practices still are. UN experts have come together to call for the release of 21 LGBTI human rights defenders in Ghana, who were later granted bail after being held in detention for over three weeks. Worrying developments are taking place in Hungary, as proposed amendments (due to be voted next week) would introduce a ban on the "portrayal and the promotion of gender identity different from sex at birth, the change of sex and homosexuality" for persons under 18. In a recent decision, the European Court of Human Rights found that Italy failed to protect a bisexual woman from secondary victimisation.
Welcome changes are taking place in Argentina, where a ministry announced the introduction of labour identification codes without gender binary distinction. In Aotearoa New Zealand, an intersex human rights defender has been included in the Queen’s Birthday Honours for their “services to intersex advocacy and education”.
Read this week's news from...
Indian Court calls for sweeping reforms: 'The LGBTQIA+ community cannot be left in a vulnerable atmosphere'
"Ignorance is no justification for normalising any form of discrimination", said Justice Anand Venkatesh of the Madras High Court in a judgment which called for sweeping reforms to help respect the rights of our communities.
Venkatesh ruled in favour of a lesbian couple seeking protection from police harassment and their families, who were against their relationship. The judge, however, observed that legislative changes were needed to eradicate social discrimination, and listed a series of guidelines for various institutions - including the judiciary and police – to address the situation.
According to media sources, the judge recommended that medical professionals who practice ‘conversion therapy’ should have their licenses revoked. Police and government officials should receive awareness training. Schools and colleges should make gender neutral restrooms available, and gender-nonconforming and trans prisoners should be housed separately if needed to protect them from sexual assault.
Although the court could not by itself impose such widespread change with a single ruling, government were asked to report back on the steps they plan to take to comply.
"This is the first major order that addresses most challenges concerning the whole LGBTQIA+ community and issues specific directions," L Ramakrishnan, vice-president of public health advocacy group SAATHII told Scroll. "I am hopeful of change given the judge has indicated he would follow up on the directions on a regular basis."
More news from Asia
In Bangladesh, the government has proposed special tax incentives for businesses where trans people make up 10% of the total workforce or have at least 100 trans staff members.
In China, a lesbian couple sued a zoo after they were barred from using a discount package offered for couples.
More than 100 LGBTI organisations from Japan and across the world are calling on the Prime Minister of Japan to pass anti-discrimination legislation on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity before the Tokyo Olympics.
(updated: 11 June, 14:30 CEST) Ghana: court grants bail for 21 LGBTI human rights defenders
The 21 LGBTI human rights defenders who were arrested in May for allegedly holding an ‘unlawful assembly’ at an event in Ho city have been granted bail, Pan Africa ILGA reported.
The defenders were conducting paralegal training for the protection of the human rights of sexual minorities when they were arrested. The ruling on their bail application was first delayed for a few days, and then denied on 8 June, until the decision was updated three days later.
UN human rights experts had condemned the arrest of 21 LGBTI human rights defenders: "All evidence available to us points to the fact that they were detained while they were peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association," UN experts said, pointing out that “the root of the arrests allegedly lies in the criminalisation of consensual same-sex conduct” – which in Ghana is punishable with a maximum penalty of three years' imprisonment. "Detention on discriminatory grounds is arbitrary by its own nature and violates international human rights law. The Government of Ghana must release them immediately and unconditionally," the experts said.
More news from Africa
A court in Uganda granted bail to the 39 men who remained in custody after authorities had arrested them at an LGBTI shelter and held them for days.
A group of queer students and allies reported being threatened and insulted by staff and fellow students at their high school in South Africa, as they came together during a break to celebrate the beginning of Pride month.
In Senegal, the education ministry said that an official who assigned a text written by a gay author had been “relieved of his duties”, after the case made waves on local media.
Aotearoa New Zealand: intersex human rights defender included in Queen’s Birthday Honours
Intersex human rights defender Mani Bruce Mitchell has been made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit during this year’s Queen Birthday Honours, and awarded for their “services to intersex advocacy and education”.
According to Stuff, they are believed to be one of the first intersex, non-binary Kiwis to receive the honour. “Being acknowledged for the work that I have done in the field – particularly work for the intersex community – and acknowledgement of the people who have stood beside me, supported me and ushered this work is amazing,” they said.
Currently representing Oceania in the Intersex Committee of ILGA World, Mitchell established the Intersex Trust of Aotearoa New Zealand (ITANZ) in 1997. Since then, they have participated in – and helped run - community gatherings around the world, and was involved in the development of the landmark Darlington Statement that brought together Australian and Aotearoa New Zealand intersex organisations and independent advocates. Their organisation was also one of the co-hosts of the 2019 ILGA World Conference in Wellington.
Mitchell was quoted as saying it had been amazing seeing intersex people “moving out of that shame and secrecy and into a playful, joyful place” over the years. “There is nothing to be ashamed about... there has been intersex beings since the beginning of time.”
More news from Oceania
In the Cook Islands, parliament voted to give the committee studying its proposed new Crimes Bill another six months to table its final report. As currently drafted, the document removes provisions criminalising consensual same-sex relations.
A new study in Australia has shown that more than 90% of LGBTI students hear homophobic language at school, with more than one in three confronted with slurs on a daily basis.
In Aotearoa New Zealand, inspections of two prisons by the Ombudsman have highlighted that “a high number of recommendations were not being met”, including on “staff awareness of LGBTI issues”.
Europe and Central Asia
European Court of Human Rights found that Italy failed to protect bisexual woman from secondary victimisation
The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) found that Italian national authorities did not adequately protect a woman from secondary victimisation, after she had reported surviving a gang rape.
In 2015, the Florence Court of Appeal acquitted all the six men who had been previously charged and convicted. According to the Strasbourg court, however, the judgement had failed to protect the right to respect for private life and personal integrity of the woman, as national authorities questioned her credibility on the grounds of her bisexuality, relationships, and sexual relations prior to the events in question.
The Court found that “the language and arguments used by the court of appeal conveyed prejudices existing in Italian society regarding the role of women and were likely to be an obstacle to providing effective protection for the rights of victims of gender-based violence, in spite of a satisfactory legislative framework.”
“Available data show that lesbian and bisexual women are particularly subject to sexual violence”, commented the Eurocentralasian Lesbian* Community. “There is also a concrete risk of secondary victimisation by law enforcement and judicial authorities using biphobic, lesbophobic and sexist arguments to question women's credibility. We (…) reiterate once again that it is crucial that experience of violence by lesbian and bisexual women are adequately addressed in legislations and policies concerning gender-based violence both at a European and national level.”
More news from Europe and Central Asia
In Hungary, concerns are growing regarding a proposed so-called ‘anti-propaganda’ bill that would ban “LGBTQ school education and media representation”. The proposed amendments, ILGA-Europe pointed out, "directly discriminate against LGBTI people, and breach a number of EU laws".
An ultra-nationalist mob has reportedly enacted a series of attacks on Pride events across Bulgaria in the past few weeks. Organisations are now calling on authorities to enact provisions to keep Pride participants safe.
In Austria, the Minister of Justice Minister apologised for the historic criminal prosecution of people on the grounds of their sexual orientation. Between 1955 and 1971, around 25,000 convictions were reported on the grounds of same-sex acts in the country.
Latin America and the Caribbean
Argentina: ministry announces labour identification codes without gender binary distinction
The Ministry of Labour announced that the Unique Labour Identification Code (CUIL) of individuals will no longer include numbers that could automatically identify a person as either male or female.
In Argentina, the CUIL is the number given to each worker at the beginning of their employment activity as an employee. The new norm establishes that the prefix used in the new numbers will be assigned randomly, "being generic and non-binary in terms of sex/gender".
"The change in the CUIL numbers is among the first actions of the National Plan for Equality in Diversity of the national government," Alba Rueda, undersecretary of Diversity policies of the Ministry, told Presentes. She added: "The objectives of this regulation are twofold. On the one hand, to guarantee that the State complies with the Gender Identity Law and, on the other hand, to guarantee work quotas for trans persons".
On 10 June, the Trans Labour Quota and Inclusion Bill reached a new step at the national level, as it was discussed for the first time during an ordinary session of the Chamber of the Deputies of the Nation. (update, 11 June 14:30CEST: The Chamber of Deputies approved the bill with 207 to 11 votes, and 7 abstentions. The bill will now be discussed in the Senate).
More news from Latin America and the Caribbean
Police are investigating after a 22-year-old gay man was gang-raped and tortured in the streets of Florianópolis, Brazil, amidst a climate of “worsening violence”.
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights welcomed recent announcements from Chile about advancing the marriage equality bill, and reiterated calls to States in the region to ensure “the protection of all human rights of people in diverse families”.
A UN expert called on Nicaragua to put an end to attacks against human rights defenders, and to stop detaining them arbitrarily. The Special Rapporteur highlighted the case of Celia Cruz, a trans woman who was detained in an all-male prison for more than a year, which exposed her to sexual assault and verbal violence.
North America and the Caribbean
New data suggests ‘conversion therapy’ practices are still common across Canada
Data from a new research initiative has indicated that ‘conversion therapy’ practices are still common across Canada, with as many as one in 10 persons of diverse sexual orientation and gender identities reporting that they’ve experienced the practice.
According to the study, which surveyed more than 9,000 persons, 67 per cent of people who experienced ‘conversion therapy’ say they did so in a religious or faith-based setting, while 20 per cent say they went through the practice with a licensed health-care provider.
“The data from this study can be used to hold our elected leaders and policymakers accountable to equity for LGBT2Q people in Canada,” said Travis Salway, assistant professor at Simon Fraser University and lead researcher of the study.
The findings come as the House of Commons is expected to soon have its final vote on Bill C-6, a piece of legislation that would prohibit ‘conversion therapy’ practices in Canada. According to ILGA World’s Curbing Deception report, only four UN member States have currently enacted a ban on ‘conversion therapies’ at the national level.
More news from North America and the Caribbean
In Canada, a court dismissed a gay couple’s application to have their marriage of nearly five decades registered by the province of Manitoba.
In the United States, President Joe Biden has issued a proclamation recognising June as Pride month, and reaffirming “our commitment to standing in solidarity with LGBTQ+ Americans in their ongoing struggle against discrimination and injustice.”
Pride celebrations will happen in many forms in countries across the Caribbean this year.
Photo of the week
This week marked 40 years since the first cases of AIDS were reported.
New data from UNAIDS have underscored that countries with punitive laws leave key populations
—which make up 62% of new HIV infections worldwide—on the margins and out of reach of HIV services.
UN member States adopted a political declaration at the United Nations General Assembly High-Level Meeting on AIDS,
agreeing to a target of ensuring that less than 10% of countries have restrictive legal and policy frameworks
that lead to the denial or limitation of access to services by 2025. (photo: Twitter / UNAIDS)
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