The week in LGBTI news 21 – 27 February 2020

Written by Kellyn Botha Edited by Daniele Paletta Read more Read less

In many parts of the world, our communities have been bearing the brunt of a rising tide of anti-LGBTI sentiment: this week, a study in Australia found that almost seven persons out of ten in our communities have been the victims of hate speech; an effigy of a rainbow family was burnt during a carnival in Croatia, and the United States will soon hear a case that could threaten a 30-year old anti-discrimination law.

Our communities have been threatened – but have also seen some progress – in the realm of bodily autonomy. New regulations In Israel were approved to simplify legal gender recognition procedures, although some concerns remain; a new report has outlined how some women living with HIV in South Africa have been forcibly sterilised.

Luckily, our communities are also obtaining justice: in Argentina, a Court confirmed an unprecedented sentence against a neo-Nazi group who had targeted trans persons and human rights defenders.

Latin America and the Caribbean

Argentina: court confirms sentence against neo-Nazi group who targeted trans persons

The Criminal Court of Cassation of Argentina has upheld the conviction of a group of neo-nazis sentenced in 2018 for a number of attacks against trans persons and human rights defenders.

According to reports, the group was held accountable for several attacks that happened in Mar del Plata between October 2013 and February 2016, when they had targeted trans persons and human rights defenders, assaulting them with PVC pipes filled with cement.

In May 2018, six men received sentences from five to nine years for the attacks. In an unprecedented ruling, the Court pointed out that the group “aimed to impose its ideas and combat those of others by using violence”, and that the organisation was “carrying out propaganda based on ideas or theories of superiority of a race, religion or ethnic group”.


More news from Latin America and the Caribbean

A bus driver in Mexico who used hurtful language against a same-sex couple and stopped the bus every time they tried to kiss has been made to offer a public apology to the couple.

In Chile, a 23-year old was killed as he tried to defend a friend who had been insulted and assaulted on the grounds of his sexual orientation.




Israel: new rules announced to simplify legal gender recognition for trans people, but concerns remain

The Justice Ministry of Israel has approved new rules that make it significantly easier for trans persons to see their gender legally recognised.

Previously, persons wishing to change their gender marker on their identity documents would have to have undergone Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) as well as gender-affirmation surgery – which had a two-year waiting list – before applying to the Approval Committee for the change.

Now, under the new rules, trans people will not be required to undergo any form of medical intervention to see their gender legally recognised, while the age at which trans persons are allowed to amend their documents has been taken down from 18 to 16. At least one representative from a local trans-led organisation will need to be present for every meeting of the Approval Committee. However, those applying for a gender marker change must still demonstrate to the Committee that they are living day-to-day in the gender they are applying to have recognised.

The move has been welcomed by human rights defenders, though some concerns and criticisms remain.

“For transgender people, any place they have to show an identity card is a place where they’re exposed to violence and anti-transgender discrimination” said local LGBT organisations in a joint statement.

However, “the new rules still severely infringe on the autonomy of body and soul,” cautioned Project Gila co-founder Ido Katri. “It’s not clear what the justification for the existence of this medical committee is, especially when we’re talking about people who don’t seek to undergo any sort of medical procedure, but are rather seeking legal recognition of their identity.”

More news from Asia

Iranian advocacy group 6Rang have called on the Dutch government to reinstate a policy which categorised Iranian LGBTI asylum seekers as a ‘special attention group’.

A new bill proposed in Indonesia has raised concerns among human rights defenders worldwide. According to reports, the proposed law would define homosexuality as a deviance which poses a threat to families, and require LGBTQ people to report to authorities for rehabilitation.




South Africa: medical practitioners forcibly sterilised HIV-positive women, new report finds

South Africa’s Commission for Gender Equality (CGE) has released a report detailing how at least 48 women living with HIV have been forced or coerced into sterilisation by some doctors in state-run hospitals, due to the stigma around HIV/AIDS.

The report found that medical staff had breached their duty of care and acted inhumanely, with some doctors and nurses making women sign consent forms they did not understand, and refusing to provide answers some had about the forms or medical procedures.

The CGE has urged the Health Ministry to act to end the practice and provide redress to the affected women. Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said he will meet the commissioner to discuss the contents of the report.

This practice is a demonstration of the stigma and discrimination that people with HIV/AIDS continue to face  – a struggle also shared by many in rainbow communities over the years. Fear and misinformation around the transmission of HIV continues to affect the bodily autonomy of women, children and persons with diverse sexual orientations and gender identities around the globe.


More news from Africa

In Kenya, the KumbuKumbu digital archive documenting the lives and histories of local communities with diverse sexual orientations and gender identities has been launched and is freely accessible online.

A report has cast a light on the lives of the 47 men in Nigeria who pleaded not guilty to a charge of public displays of affection, revealing how many of them now struggle to find work, or are now homeless due to family rejections.



Europe and Central Asia

Croatia: outrage as local festival burns a depiction of two men kissing

A festival in the Croatian town of Imotski sparked outrage when participants  set an effigy of two men kissing and holding a baby ablaze. Throughout Croatia, the burning of effigies is common in carnivals, though politicians and human rights defenders have decried the event as “a clear expression of hatred”.

Croatia’s Rainbow Family Association said the action sent an appalling message to society and to children especially.

“The scary scenes from Imotski cannot be justified by carnival customs,” said Daniel Martinovic, coordinator at the Rainbow Family Association. “What kind of message is being sent to our children, children who nowadays in Croatia grow up with lesbian mothers or gay fathers?”

Other groups in the region – as well as ministries and the country’s Ombudsman – have also spoken out against the incident, while Croatian president Zoran Milanovic stated that the event organisers “deserve the strongest condemnation of the public.”.

The torching came only a few weeks after the Constitutional Court ruled that same-sex couples should be allowed equal opportunities to foster children. However, this is not the first time that homophobic rhetoric in the country has come in the form of fire: in 2018, Croatia’s first children’s book to depict a rainbow family was similarly burned at another festival.


More news from Europe and Central Asia

Activists in Iceland are calling on authorities to stop the deportation of an Iranian trans teenager. Together with his family, he had initially applied for asylum in Portugal, but they soon left the country, out of fear of being hunted down and forced to go back to Iran.

Human rights defenders, sex workers and the LGBTI community in France, are demanding action  after trans migrant sex worker Jessyca Sarmiento was killed in an apparently deliberate attack. The case represents the latest in a rising tide of attacks against sex workers in the country.

In Spain, the minister of Social Rights announced he will advocate for a Family Diversity law which would recognise and protect all forms of families across the country.




Australia: survey documents the extent to which hate speech affects our communities

A survey conducted among over a thousand persons of diverse sexual orientations, gender identities and expressions, and sex characteristics in Australia has found that up to 69% of them have been called a derogatory word in the past 12 months. Almost 3 out of 4 LGBTIQ participants in the study “believe that hurtful and homophobic language is a major issue in Australia today”, a percentage that drops to 41% among those who do not identify as a part of rainbow communities.

In the lead up to this year’s Sydney Mardi Gras and based on the results of the study, Australian bank ANZ have released their #LoveSpeech campaign – aiming to combat hurtful language online and offline. The campaign, however, was met with mixed feelings, as it features a video that depicts young LGBTIQ+ people using the same slurs that haunt our communities so pervasively.


More news from Oceania

An Aotearoa New Zealand study has found that the country’s needle-sharing initiative, as well as other public health campaigns, have contributed to a significant reduction in the spread of HIV/AIDS. However, Māori men who have sex with men, inject drugs and have HIV were “over-represented” in the findings, concerning experts who said more needed to be done to help this group.

In Aotearoa New Zealand, national carrier Air New Zealand has faced backlash from internet trolls after posting images of staff participating in a local pride event.



North America

United States: Supreme Court to hear case, threatening 30 years of non-discrimination laws


The US Supreme Court has announced that it will take up a case in which a charity has sued the city of Philadelphia over the right to deny same-sex couples the opportunity to provide foster care.

The decision could lead the Supreme Court to reconsider its 1990 ruling that religious beliefs do not exempt individuals or organisations from following local, state or federal laws which apply to everyone.

The appeal was brought by Catholic Social Services, one of 30 agencies with a contract with Philadelphia to find homes for abused and neglected children. After learning in 2018 that the group would not consider same-sex couples as potential parents for foster children, the contract was severed.

In its lawsuit, Catholic Social Services said endorsing same-sex couples as foster parents would violate its religious teachings about marriage. All lower courts, however, have ruled in favour of Philadelphia officials, who claimed they acted to oppose discrimination and to ensure “that all qualified Philadelphians have access to governmental services provided by contractors and paid for by their taxes.”

There is concern that a decision overturning the ruling would make it easier for both individuals and businesses to claim a religious exemption from state and local laws that ban discrimination against people of diverse sexual orientations and gender identities. The court will hear the case during its next term, which begins in October 2020.


More news from North America

In the United States, a report by NBC News has found that only 15 out of 4890 – around 0.3% – transgender prisoners tracked in 45 states and Washington DC  are housed in accordance with their gender identity, putting many in danger.

Canadian hospital has launched a campaign based on re-edited episodes of famous sitcoms to help dispel HIV-AIDS stigma, but was forced to withdraw its Friends rendition after receiving a copyright infringement claim.

United States Congressman Rohit Khanna has introduced a bill that would allow U. S. citizens to choose a third gender marker option on their passports.



Photo of the week

“The image shows the covers of thereports released in February 2020 by ILGA World”

Research and data are powerful tools in the hands of human rights defenders!
ILGA World has recently published ground-breaking reports: an extensive global research on laws banning ‘conversion therapy’,
and an analysis of two years in UN Treaty Bodies activities – showing how these human rights mechanisms
are steadily contributing to protecting LGBTI human rights.

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Send us your photos at [email protected]!

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If you have got news from your country on region, or have spotted studies and researches about our communities, let us know at [email protected]!
Every week, we will review your tips and consider them for publication.