Written by Maddalena Tomassini Edited by Daniele Paletta
This week, we have stood our ground – as we are called on to do every day. We have said “no more” to violence against our trans siblings, as on Trans Day of Remembrance we mourned and honoured the 375 trans and gender-diverse persons killed worldwide over the past 12 months. We’ve said “no more” to violence against all women - including those who do not conform to societal and patriarchal norms related to sexual orientation, gender identities and expressions, and sex characteristics.
Our battle for equality continues, marking some victories. Chile got one step closer to marriage equality, as a bill passed in the Lower House. In Mauritius, a landmark case is challenging the colonial-era ban on consensual same-sex intimacy between adults. In the United States, a presidential executive order addressed indigenous people’s safety, including LGBTQ+ and Two-Spirit persons.
Yet, there is much more to do. United Nations experts continue to point out how Hungarian government’s hold on media is putting human rights in jeopardy, fuelling hatred against our communities. Trans people and their allies took to the streets in Japan, calling on their peers to recognise their rights and dignity. In Australia, the Religious Discrimination Bill has been introduced to parliament, threatening to water down protections for our communities and other minorities.
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Our laws should protect all of us, equally, no matter who we are, whom we love or what we believe. But what the #ReligiousDiscriminationBill gives with one hand, it undermines with the other.
Australia: Religious Discrimination Bill introduced to lower house
Australian prime minister Scott Morrison has introduced the so-called “Religious Discrimination” bill to the House of Representatives. As ABC points out, the bill in its current form would be “an attempt to secure extra protections from state-based discrimination laws” and to make sure that ‘statements of belief’ are not considered discriminatory.
However, equality advocates are concerned the bill could water down protections for other minority groups. According to Equality Australia, the proposed Religious Discrimination Bill would legalise discrimination against our communities and wind back hard-fought protections. Activists have called on the parliament to take action and open a joint parliamentary inquiry before the bill is brought to vote.
“What constitutes discrimination today, will be lawful tomorrow, allowing people to say harmful, insulting and demeaning things,” said Anna Brown, CEO of Equality Australia. “Things like a medical worker telling a person living with HIV that AIDS is a punishment from God, or a person living with disability that their disability is caused by the devil.”
According to Brown, the new bill would do nothing to change a situation “in which it is already legal for religious schools to fire, expel, and discriminate against LGBT people” – “bolstering instead the ability of religious schools to refuse to hire staff that affirm or support them”.
The latest version of the proposed law also includes a set of provisions that could override a law currently debated in Victoria that would “ensure that a religious organisation can only discriminate against people based on religion when religion is actually relevant to the role”..
More news from Oceania
Aotearoa New Zealand has announced the approval of funding to support national-level family violence and sexual violence prevention initiatives for LGBTQIA+ people, people with disabilities, new migrant communities, and older people.
(trigger warning: violence) A district court in Perth, Australia, sentenced a man to six and a half years in prison for his role in bashing and robbing gay men in two separate incidents.
Latin America and the Caribbean
APROBADO: Por 101 votos a favor, 30 en contra y 2 abstenciones, la Cámara de Diputad@s aprueba el matrimonio igualitario. Siglos de injusticia contra la diversidad familiar, van quedando atrás pic.twitter.com/4ouAFZUo6m
Presented for the first time in 2017, the draft law would recognise same-sex couples’ right to marriage, filiation - currently not recognised under the current Civil Union Agreement - and adoption.
Further, the draft the lower house approved included gender-neutral terminology, with “spouse” replacing “wife” and “husband”.
Now, the bill will head back to the Senate for a final vote. If it passes, Chile will become the eighth country in Latin America to enact marriage equality. “Marriage equality is the safeguard of the family, an urgent matter and a light of hope for the country,” said Isabel Amor, director of Fundación Iguales.
More news from Latin America and the Caribbean
Carlos Romero Prieto, prominent Guatemalan human rights activist and executive secretary of the Red Nacional de Diversidad Sexual y VIH de Guatemala, passed away this week.
A journalistic enquiry has unveiled how therapists linked to US Christian conservative groups would be promoting ‘conversion therapy’ in Costa Rica.
Mauritius: Supreme Court hears evidence in decriminalisation case
The Supreme Court of Mauritius has heard evidence in the ongoing landmark case challenging the colonial-relic ban on consensual same-sex relations.
Dating back to 1838, Section 250(1) of the country’s Criminal Code punishes same-sex intimacy between consenting adults with up to five years in prison. Last year, the Court gave green light to four young LGBTI activists to challenge the constitutionality of the law. Now, the Court is hearing Abdool Ridwan Firaas Ah Seek’s petition, with the next session scheduled for early 2022.
“Archaic laws like Section 250 have no place in our modern, diverse, and democratic society,” said Muriel Yvon, president of the Collectif Arc-En-Ciel. The group is currently supporting Ah Seek in his legal battle.
“It is our greatest hope that the Supreme Court will relegate this law to the history books, and our country can finally live up to its reputation as a rainbow nation, where every citizen is treated fairly, equally, and with dignity,” she added.
More news from Africa
A University in Ghana has expelled two students from the institution’s hostel for allegedly engaging in same-sex sexual activities.
Activists launched an online petition calling for Ivory Coast’s National Assembly to allow legal gender recognition for trans people.
North America and the Caribbean
United States: presidential executive order addresses indigenous peoples’ safety, includes LGBTQ+ and Two-Spirit persons
United States president Joe Biden has signed an executive order addressing the safety of indigenous people, including LGBTQ+ people in it.
The signing took place this week, during the first White House Tribal Nation Summit since 2016. According to the order, the Federal Government will have to work with Tribal Nations to improve the public safety and criminal justice system for Native Americans. The order outlines new initiatives, including considering indigenous’ ecological knowledge and increasing participation in the management of federal lands.
Biden also acknowledged how LGBTQ+ Native Americans and Two-Spirit people “are also often the target of violence”, and pointed out how “previous executive action has not achieved changes sufficient to reverse the epidemic of missing or murdered indigenous people and violence against Native Americans.”
More news from North America and the Caribbean
In the United States, a woman who refused to serve a gay couple in 2013 dropped her petition at the Supreme Court and will pay them damages, which will be donated to an LGBTI youth charity.
Japan: trans people march in Tokyo, call for recognition of rights
In a reported first in Japan, trans people and allies took to the streets of Shinjuku, Tokyo, calling on their fellow citizens to recognise human rights for the trans community.
The event was organised by trans activists Tomoya Asunama and Tomato Hatakeno. Around 400 people marched on the Trans Day of Remembrance, holding trans flags and placards against hatred and transphobia.
“We all live side by side,” said Asunama as the march kicked off. “I hope that we can have a society where trans people can also live comfortably.”
While Japan didn’t account for any known murder of a trans person in 2021, the organisers of the march reported that the trans community in the country still faces stigma and discrimination, and that online harassment has taken a toll on many persons’ mental health outcomes. As ILGA World’s Trans Legal Mapping report shows, the country’s laws still prescribe sterilisation for a person to legally change their gender.
More news from Asia
The HERO Awards 2021 “One Night Live for All” kicks off in Thailand in an online event to celebrate LGBTI and HIV activists throughout Asia and the Pacific.
A court ruled in favour of a woman from Taiwan and her Singaporean partner, whose request to register their marriage had been rejected.
A renowned bar in Beirut, Lebanon, closed after 15 years of offering a safe space for queer people.
According to UN expert Irene Khan, authorities have “reshaped” the media sector, undermining its pluralism and independence, by exerting influence over regulatory bodies and supporting pro-government media while ostracizing critic reporting.
Khan expressed concern over reports of recurring campaigns of hate speech, harassment, or stigmatisation of journalists and advocates working on the rights of migrants, refugees and LGBTI people. “I am deeply troubled by the toxic environment deliberately created by political leaders to sow social divisions and hatred,” she said.
UN Independent Expert on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Victor Madrigal-Borloz echoed her worries on Twitter. “At the end of her country visit to Hungary, my colleague Irene Khan sounds an alarm on State campaigns to fuel hate by stigmatising LGBT persons, and of potential impact of sexual orientation and gender identity information ban in schools,” he wrote, pointing out that other UN Special Procedures experts had already raised similar concerns.
More news from Europe and Central Asia
Our communities in Norway are mourning the loss of Kim Friele, who passed away at 86 years old. A long-time activist for the human rights of our communities, she has been one of the first public figures in the country to come out.
An online symposium addressed the challenges LGBTI asylum seekers face in Europe amid the ramping anti-LGBTI hatred in some EU member states.
Trans people have been disproportionately affected by Covid-19 restrictions, the mayor of South Dublin in Ireland said during a ceremony to mark Trans Day of Remembrance.
Video of the week
Santa found love in a heart-warming short film from Norway’s Postal Service, celebrating the 50th anniversary in 2022 of the decriminalisation of same-sex intimacy between consenting adults.
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