The week in LGBTI news
29 October – 4 November 2021
Written by Maddalena Tomassini
Edited by Daniele Paletta
Violence is a reality that our communities continue to face in many parts of the world. In Bulgaria, an LGBTI community centre was attacked and vandalised by a mob as an event was taking place. In Afghanistan, many “are waiting for opportunities to find safety before they are hunted down and killed” – ILGA Asia said this week, launching a special project to assist LGBTI Afghans at risk.
Human rights organisations continue to cast a light on our lived realities: a new report has described the hurdles facing intersex, trans, and gender non-conforming persons in accessing legal gender recognition and affirming healthcare in five East Africa countries.
Our global community also celebrated some important victories and advances this week. In the United States, access to survivor’s benefits is now open also to same-sex spouses and partners who had been unfairly left out for many years. In Colombia, the department of Córdoba announced the establishment of a working group on LGBTI issues; in the state of Victoria, Australia, rights groups have welcomed a new bill that would prohibit religious government-funded organisations from discriminating against LGBT persons.
Read this week's news from...
Europe and Central Asia
Bulgaria: LGBTI community centre vandalised, presidential candidate charged for the attack
An ultra-nationalist mob stormed an LGBTI community centre in Sofia, vandalized the office and struck a member of the staff in the face, human rights groups reported.
Around 10 people attacked the Rainbow Hub, run by the Bilitis Foundations and the GLAS Foundation, interrupting a trans community gathering. According to the Bilitis Foundation, the mastermind of the attack is the presidential candidate Boyan Rasate, who was charged with hooliganism and infliction of an injury and detained for 72 hours, after his legal immunity was waived.
“My biggest fear came true: Our community centre was destroyed and I got punched in the face,” tweeted Gloriya Filipova, the project coordinator who was harmed during the assault. “I’m sure that we have enough love to heal, but this really hurts. It is time for the [Bulgarian] institutions to act.”
ILGA-Europe has condemned the attack, urging authorities to “investigate and sanction the attackers.”
According to Bilitis Foundation, the attack came just 10 days after a petition of more than 8,000 signatures was filed at the Ministry of Justice demanding the introduction of anti-LGBTI hate crimes to the Criminal Code, and follows the recent decision by the Constitutional Court stating that, "according to the Constitution, the term ‘gender’ should be understood only in its biological sense."
In June, the rainbow community had reported a series of attacks on Pride events across the country.
More news from Europe and Central Asia
In the United Kingdom, the government opened to public consultation a plan to ban so-called “conversion therapy”. However, the document was criticised by rights activists, as it contains an exemption that would allow adults to consent to the practice.
The highest regular court in Hungary rejected a question that the government submitted as a part of a referendum that would have asked whether voters supported “making gender reassignment treatments available to underage children”.
In Poland, lawmakers voted to continue work on draft legislation that would ban Pride parades and other public events deemed to allegedly ’promote' same-sex relationships.
Hunted down and hiding, LGBTI people in Afghanistan live in constant fear
Forced to hide, hunted down, and abused, human rights defenders and LGBTI people in Afghanistan live in a climate of fear, threats, and desperation as the international community struggles to help them out of the country.
“The threat is very real,” wrote UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Mary Lawlor. “Defenders tell me of direct threats, including gendered threats against women, of beatings, arrests, enforced disappearances, and of defenders being killed. They describe living in a climate of constant fear.”
According to Rainbow Railroad, the Taliban have a “kill list” identifying LGBTI persons, compiled in the period leading up to the United States withdrawal deadline. “Those who didn’t made it abroad found themselves vulnerable, with their identities exposed”, the organisation’s Executive Director Kimahli Powell told France 24.
“We are working with international partners to establish safe passage for Afghan LGBTI people at risk,” ILGA Asia said in a statement, announcing the launch of a special project to provide assistance to the community in the country. ”(We) continue to be in direct contact with LGBTI Afghans living in fear and life-threatening situations to assist them in accessing emergency evacuation since the Taliban’s take over in Afghanistan", said Henry Koh, Executive Director of ILGA Asia. "Many LGBTI people remain in the country, waiting for opportunities to find safety before they are hunted down and killed”.
This week, 29 people arrived in the United Kingdom with the support of international human rights groups and offices. The level of threats against our communities in the country is reportedly “escalating and escalating”, while a ministry spokesperson was reported claiming that the Taliban’s intended support for human rights does not include those of people of diverse sexual orientations and gender identities.
More news from Asia
In a reported first, a court in South Korea approved a trans person’s request to legally change their gender without undergoing sterilisation and gender affirming surgery.
Six major opposition parties in Japan pledged to present bills promoting LGBT rights ahead of the country’s lower house elections that took place on October 31.
On occasion of the third annual Taiwan Trans March, the trans community called for more awareness on the discrimination they still face.
North America and the Caribbean
United States: access to survivor’s benefits is now open to all spouses and partners
All U.S. spouses and partners will now have access to Social Security survivor’s benefits after thousands of same-sex couples have been unfairly left out for many years.
Up until now, many spouses and partners in same-sex couples didn’t have access to survivor’s benefits because they either couldn’t marry due to old bans, or weren’t able to be married for the required nine-month minimum period after the marriage equality laws were passed. In 2018, Lambda Legal filed two class-action lawsuits on their behalf. This week, the U.S. Department of Justice and the Social Security Administration dropped federal appeals on the suits, opening to survivor’s benefits for all.
“This is a historic development with immense implications: survivor’s benefits are now equally available to everyone, including potentially thousands of same-sex partners who could not marry their loved ones and may have thought it was futile to apply,” said Peter Renn, Lambda Legal’s counsel.
“Today’s development ensures that the door stays open for seniors who were wrongly locked out from critical benefits because of discriminatory laws,” he added.
More news from North America and the Caribbean
After being confirmed by the Senate, Beth Robinson became the first out lesbian woman to serve on a federal circuit court in the United States.
The United States’ Supreme Court refused to wade in a case against a Catholic Hospital that didn’t let a trans man undergo a gender affirming surgery at its facility, allowing the patient’s lawsuit to proceed.
Activists in Canada launched a new campaign against non-consensual surgery on intersex children.
United States’ Food and Drug Administration gave the green light to a biotech company to begin human trials to evaluate the safety, tolerability, and efficacy of a new HIV treatment.
The University of Pittsburgh, in the United States, has created a gender-inclusive language guide, including non-gendered pronouns and encouraging students to share their pronouns.
Australia: new bill in Victoria seeks to tighten anti-discrimination laws
Rights groups have welcomed a new bill proposed by the Victorian government in Australia that would prohibit religious government-funded organisations from discriminating against LGBT persons.
The Equal Opportunity (Religious Exceptions) Amendment Bill 2021 is set to be debated this month. Currently, religious organisations are free to make employment decisions on their staff and applicants based on their sexual their sexual orientation, gender identity, marital or parental status. Furthermore, any Victorian organisation can refuse to provide services to LGBT people seeking assistance, including safety refuges and food banks.
“Not only do LGBTQ+ people experience the injustice of being turned away from a service or losing their job because of who they are, but the very existence of these laws causes harm,” Equality Australia CEO Anna Brown told SBS News. “We live in fear of discrimination and are more likely not to disclose our gender identity or sexual orientation, or simply choose not to access services at all.”
While Equality Australia celebrated the draft law, the group continues to lobby to change it to also bar non-government funded organisations from refusing their services to LGBT people, and a petition has been launched.
More news from Oceania
Ahead of the adoption of the outcomes of the Universal Periodic Review for Samoa, the United Nations country team recommended that the country “repeal all provisions in the Crimes Act that criminalized sodomy between consenting adults, and that it carry out awareness-raising campaigns to combat stigma against LGBTQI+ persons.”
A police officer in New South Wales, Australia, has been jailed for assaulting a trans woman, and later lying about the details of her violent arrest.
New report cast a light on intersex, trans, and gender non-confirming people’s lived realities in East Africa
After two years of research, EATHAN (East Africa Trans Health & Advocacy Network) announced the release of a report focusing on legal gender recognition and access to affirming healthcare in Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda.
As the study states, the context in the region is “generally hostile towards the existence and needs of sex and gender diverse persons”, and advocating for legal gender recognition is particularly difficult due to the legal context in the region, as all the countries considered in the report – except Rwanda – criminalise same-sex intimacy between consenting adults.
The report pointed out that “there is no provision for specific health care that caters to the needs of intersex, trans, and gender nonconforming people” in the region, where cases of discrimination are “high and rampant”.
“Intersex, trans, and gender nonconforming people live in constant fear of being harassed, being chased away from their homes and being ostracized by the communities where they come from”, the report found. As a consequence, the economic status of the community is “low, resulting in homelessness, joblessness, poor health, and poor access to other social services.”
More news from Africa
The African Queer Youth Initiative has launched a campaign calling for laws to protect LBTQ women from violence.
In Ghana, a court granted bail to 5 persons who were arrested on October 19, and charged with "unnatural carnal knowledge". They are to reappear before the court on 24 November.
Prompted by a magistrate’s homophobic remarks, Eswatini Sexual & Gender Minorities criticised the judiciary for its “inertia” on the group’s registration case – still waiting the judgement after twelve months.
A rights organisation in Zimbabwe is calling for the release of national identity cards reflecting trans’ people correct gender, allowing them to vote.
A billboard calling for “Dignity, rights, and respect for all” was defaced in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, only 24 hours after it was first installed as part of a campaign by an LGBTI organisation.
Latin America and the Caribbean
Colombia: Córdoba to establish a working group on LGBTI issues
The department of Córdoba in Colombia will establish a working group that will address LGBTI issues in its territory, Caribe Afirmativo announced.
The bureau will include representatives of the department, public ministry, security forces and civil society, including five NGOs. They will work jointly to strengthen spaces for inclusion and participation in public life for members of our communities.
The creation of the working group “will allow the LGBTI population of Córdoba to become visible, work on their activism, communicate their needs in areas such as health, education and other aspects that are vital in the life of every human being,” Caribe Afirmativo stated.
Among its tasks, the working group will monitor the creation and delivery of public policies in relation to the rights of LGBTI people in the department, and focus on addressing the specific risks of human rights violations facing LGBTI human rights defenders and civil society organisations.
“We hope that, with the joint work of all the actors involved in the roundtable, appropriate actions can be implemented to address all these issues, and more,” the group added.
More news from Latin America and the Caribbean
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) called on States in the region to “guarantee intersex people access to their medical records on interventions performed without their informed consent, as part of the right to know the truth and access to justice and reparation.”
In a reported first, a gay couple in the State of Morelos, Mexico, was granted the adoption of a six-year-old boy.
Photo of the week
Julia Ehrt has been appointed as the next Executive Director of ILGA World!
"With her strategic leadership, ILGA World will undoubtedly continue to grow in its capacity to make an impact in achieving justice, equality and liberation for all - in our LGBTI communities and beyond,” said the organisation’s Co-Secretaries General Tuisina Ymania Brown and Luz Elena Aranda on behalf of the Board.
Follow this link to read the announcement and watch a video message.
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