The week in LGBTI news 10-16 July 2020

Written by Maddalena Tomassini Edited by Daniele Paletta Read more Read less

This week, our LGBTI family has been once more under attack. In Russia, a group of senators put forward a new package of draft laws that would severely affect trans, lesbian, gay and bisexual persons. In the meantime, the United States’ federal government is seeking to approve new limitations on asylum that could make it virtually impossible for queer persons to be granted refugee status. In Malaysia, the minister for religious affairs has been heavily criticised for announcing that the Federal Territories Islamic Religious Department would have “free licence” to act against the trans community.

Nevertheless, a few victories are paving the way for new and more significant changes. While criminalisation of consensual same-sex relations persists in Sudan, the latest justice reform has abolished flogging and the death penalty on such grounds. In Bolivia, a ruling has sided with two men who were seeking to have their domestic partnership registered, possibly paving the way to seeing same-sex couples recognised in the country. Other rulings offer us hope for the future: a Polish court declared an “LGBT-free” zone unconstitutional, and the European Court on Human Rights recognised that refugees have the right to legal gender recognition – a ruling on a case from Hungary that seems particularly relevant now that the country has passed a law making it impossible for people to update their documents.

While we fight for our endangered rights globally, we shouldn’t forget the older members of our communities. A recent survey in New South Wales, Australia, called for more inclusive and LGBTI sensitive aged care services. This week has also marked the International Non-Binary’s People Day: an important moment to celebrate all non-binary persons, and recognise their vital contributions to our movement!

Covid-19 news

This is a brief selection of news showing how Covid-19 is affecting LGBTI communities worldwide. Share more stories at [email protected]



Europe and Central Asia

Hungary must allow legal gender recognition to all citizens, European Court of Human Rights rules

Hungary violated a trans refugee’s right to private life by rejecting his request to have his name and gender marker changed officially, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) stated in a landmark judgment. The decision comes two months after Hungary replaced “sex” with “sex assigned at birth” on its civil registry, effectively banning legal gender recognition for anyone in the country.

Ruling on the case, the ECHR recalled that Hungary had the positive obligation under Article 8 to secure the right to respect for private life, which extended to all lawfully settled non-national citizens. At the time, legal gender recognition was easily accessible for Hungarian nationals. However, the applicant’s request to have his name and gender marker officially changed was rejected because he did not have a Hungarian birth certificate.

ILGA-Europe, TGEU and Transvilla welcomed the judgment in a joint statement. “This is an important and symbolic judgment – for the first time the Court confirms the right to legal gender recognition of refugees, and taking note of the right to human dignity as underscored by the Hungarian Constitutional Court,” said Arpi Avetisyan, ILGA-Europe’s Senior Litigation Officer. “Significantly, it also reiterates States obligations to have procedures in place allowing recognition of gender identity and name change for trans people in general. We call on the Hungarian government to implement the judgment swiftly and bring necessary changes”.


More news from Europe and Central Asia

A group of Russian senators has put forward a new package of draft laws targeting trans and LGB rights. If approved, the proposed changes would severely impact on LGBT people: birth certificates would include “sex at birth” fixed data; they would also potentially deny trans people the right to marry, as their birth certificates and passports would show different gender markers as a consequence of these laws. Senators also seek to strengthen the existing ban on adoption and custody over children for LGBT people and to close a loophole that has been used in the past to recognise same-sex marriages registered abroad.

Despite some positive aspects, Albania’s “Medical Protocol for the Assessment of Children with Atypical Genital Development”, failed to fully embrace intersex human rights standards, said OII Europe in a recent statement.

After the Constitutional Court repealed North Macedonia’s anti-discrimination law a month ago, 17 political parties have signed a declaration calling for the newly elected parliament to “immediately” adopt a new bill.

While activists in Poland voice worries over conservative president’s re-election, an “LGBT-free” zone has been declared invalid after a Court said it violated the constitutional ban on discrimination.

Some media and entertainment organisations issued an open letter to the United Kingdom’s prime minister, expressing support to the trans community.

In an open letter to Serbian prime minister, 120 members of the queer community have accused her of having done “nothing” to improve LGBT rights.

In a reported first for Italy, a Court has recognised three children of a lesbian couple as siblings despite being born from different mothers.



North America

The new US federal regulation could crush LGBT asylum seekers’ hopes

A proposed new federal regulation in the United States could make it virtually impossible for LGBT asylum seekers to obtain the refugee status, rights activists denounced.

Among several new restrictions, the proposed ruling would require asylum seekers to identify as part of a “particular social group” on their first hearing. This would severely affect LGBT people, many of whom have lived most of their life hiding their sexual orientation and gender identity and could struggle to out themselves to a potentially unsympathetic judge.

Human Rights Watch was among those who submitted a comment to the proposed regulations, stating that the proposed rule “would radically change long-established definitions and standards under US asylum law, in violation of international law binding on the United States”.

“If implemented, refugees will be sent back to persecution and other serious harm and non-refugees who are entitled to being protected from being tortured will likely be sent to places where they will face the threat of being tortured or killed,” the group continued. “The proposed rule appears designed to create insurmountable procedural barriers, evidentiary burdens, and qualification standards to prevent three groups, especially, from being able to exercise their right to seek and enjoy asylum in the United States: Central Americans fleeing gang violence; women fleeing domestic abuse; and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people. That said, this regulation would set bars that would make it exceedingly difficult for all categories of people who qualify for and deserve asylum to be recognized as refugees and protected.”

Other rights groups stepped in to condemn the proposed rule. “Basically, under a new, narrower definition, LGBTQ advocacy and speech would no longer be construed as political opinion for asylum,” said AsylumConnect’s Katie Sgarro. “So this would lead to LGBTQ rights activists being denied asylum and then deported to the countries where it is extremely dangerous for them to be.”


More news from North America

A trans woman seeking asylum in Canada has reported being misgendered on her refugee claim documents, her only identification papers valid in the country.

According to the latest Trevor Project’s survey, 40 per cent of young LGBT in the United States have claimed to have seriously considered suicide over the past 12 months.

In the United States, while in Oregon a non-binary person has won an appeal to legally change their gender, in Maine parents will now have the option to designate “non-binary” as a gender marker option on the birth certificate of their minor children.

Colorado became the 11th state in the United States to ban “gay and transgender panic defenses”, a discriminatory legal strategy which asks a jury to find that a victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity is to blame for the defendant’s violent reaction.

Peyton Rose Michelle is reported to be the first openly trans woman elected to a political position in Louisiana, United States.




Rights groups condemn Malaysian minister for giving “full licence” to act against trans persons

A number of rights organisations and advocacy groups have condemned Zulkifli Mohamad Al-Bakri, Malaysia’s Minister in charge of religious affairs, for giving the Federal Territories Islamic Religious Department (Jawi) “free licence” to take action against the trans community. Al-Bakri added that his order goes beyond arresting trans persons and aims to give them “religious education” to help them “return to the right path”.

Such claims appear to confirm a worrying practice in the country. As ILGA World states in its last December update of the State-Sponsored Homophobia report, State officials have been allegedly organising “conversion therapy” courses aimed at trans women.

“[The Minister’s] statement will increase discrimination, violence and mistreatment of transgender women with impunity by enforcement officers of the Islamic Departments as well as members of the public,” stated Justice for Sisters. “We are already observing questions and concerns over personal security, safety and well-being by transgender persons across the country since the release of the statement”.

Another women rights group, Sisters in Islam, joined the call on Al-Bakri to reconsider his statement. “Enforcement to educate the transgender community back to the right path would only heighten the stigmatisation against them and aggravate the aggression towards them by the public, making them more vulnerable to violence and threats to their lives,” they stated.

Activists also recalled that in his role as mufti, Al-Bakri had worked with the trans community. “Given his engagements with transgender persons, we call for Dr Zulkifli to reflect on his statements and the harm it will cause transgender persons,” added Justice for Sisters. “We recommend that he withdraws his statement to prevent harm against transgender persons”.


More news from Asia

In response to a chemsex rising trend among men who have sex with men in Thailand, testBKK has developed non-judgemental, non-coercive informational resources to reduce drug-associated harm and address HIV prevention.

Singapore’s state-owned broadcaster has apologised after facing backlash on social media and from LGBT groups for a homophobic portrayal of a gay character in a TV show.

India’s Central Government published the draft “Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights Rules, 2020” – but LGBT activists claim that the added rules won’t resolve fears of continued discrimination.




Sudan abolishes flogging and death penalty for adult consensual same-sex relations

[trigger warning: this article touches sensitive subjects] A recent reform to the justice system in Sudan abolished flogging and death penalty for adult consensual same-sex activities, rights group Bedayaa Organization announced in a statement.

Among other reforms, the amendment to article 148 of the 1991 Penal Code removed the wording “with shipping a hundred lashes” from the first and second paragraphs and “death” from the third, adding imprisonment for up to seven years to the second paragraph. According to ILGA World’s State-Sponsored Homophobia, section 148 of the Sudanese Penal Code punished anyone who was convicted of “sodomy” three times with death or life imprisonment.

The recent revisions of the justice system aimed to tackle a number of issues: they added a law criminalising female genital mutilation, and removed penalties for apostasy, crimes of freedom of belief and thoughts, and the death penalty for children and persons over the age of 70.

“Although Article 148 is still active, the queer movement in Sudan is fully aware of the importance of its continued and dedicated work to advocate for decriminalization”, Bedayaa Organization wrote. “[We consider] passing these laws and amendments as a great step toward reforming the justice system in Sudan; this would pave the path for new amendments for change. As ‘Freedom, Peace and Justice’ was and will remain the slogan of the Sudan Revolution, justice will not exist without institutions that apply the role of law on the basis of freedom and equality.”


More news from Africa

As the appeal over its official registration at the High Court approaches, the Eswatini Sexual & Gender Minorities group is calling on activists to keep the attention high.

Advocacy groups have launched a campaign in South Africa focused on helping “conversion therapy” survivors. Despite being rejected by the Psychological Society of South Africa, such harmful practices are still legal in the country and used by certain therapists.

The Feminist Republik published Dzuwa!, a new magazine exploring self and collective care for African women, trans and gender non-conforming human rights defenders and their communities.



Latina America and the Caribbean

Bolivia takes steps towards recognising same-sex couples

The Constitutional Chamber in La Paz has ruled in favour of two men that the Civil Registry refused to register as domestic partners, paving a way for a future recognition of same-sex partnerships in the country.

According to LGBTI group Derechos en Acción, the judges unanimously deemed the administrative decision detrimental to the human rights of the two men, demanding the Registry issue a new resolution in respect of the American Convention on Human Rights. “This decision by the constitutional justice system is undoubtedly a milestone for the LGBTI population in Bolivia, very much in line with the changes that have taken place in the region in recent times in favour of the rights of this population,” said Derechos en Acción, adding that “very soon” advocates and LGBTI people would cheer the two men as the first same-sex couple officially recognised by the State.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in Bolivia also welcomed the ruling, and called on the Registry to issue a new resolution “in accordance with the State’s international obligations and in order to protect the human rights of the persons involved”.


More news from Latina America and the Caribbean

Lawmakers in Mexico City voted a proposal to ban “conversion therapy” which, if approved, would punish with up to five years in prison anyone who forces someone to undergo such harmful practices.

In a divorce case between two women, Mexico’s highest court gave custody of a child to her non-biological mother, underlining that the best interest of the child must be taken into account over the biological bond.

The National Congress of Argentina lit up in rainbow colours to celebrate the tenth anniversary since the Equal Marriage Act was adopted.

This year, the Jamaican LGBT community will hold their pride online in the first week of August.

Eight years after Chile adopted its anti-discrimination law, Fundación Iguales released a report on its implementation, highlighting that it deters complaints.




New South Wales study calls for aged care facilities to improve welcoming LGBTI elders

Aged care facilities in New South Wales should work with LGBTI organisations to create a safe and inclusive space for queer elders, a study has shown.

A survey conducted by Uniting Care interviewed 130 LGBTI older people, aiming to understand their concerns and needs. A great majority- the 83 percent of respondents – said that inclusive language and behaviour, treating disclosures with sensitivity, and support for partners were essential aspects when choosing where to live. At the same time, 88 percent of them believed “visible signs of welcome” to be the top priority to improve the wellbeing of LGBTI people in aged care, including in residential, in-home care and independent living.

Dr Andrea Waling assisted with a separate study that showed that older lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people fear discrimination, exclusion and isolation in Australia’s aged care services. Waling underlined elderly LGBTI people’s concerns, adding that they are more likely to have experienced discrimination, forced “conversion therapies” and criminalisation of same-sex relationships in their lives. They are often worried about not being able to live with their partner. Waling also mentioned that trans people’s specific needs must be taken into account: “There was a real concern about being able to wear the clothing that they wanted, to have their gender identity affirmed and valued, [and] having access to things like the hormone replacement therapy.”

According to Tracey Burton, chief executive for Uniting NSW and ACT, the company’s survey showed that the sector as a whole should improve to further make LGBTI elders feel welcome. “[We] have to try extra hard to overcome those fears and tailor care to unique and varied needs,” she said.


More news from Oceania

New South Wales group ACON Health is set to receive funding to support LGBTI victim-survivors of domestic violence.

A tv series that will soon premiere in Aotearoa New Zealand, focusing on the story of a trans character, is making headlines for having over half of its cast and crew who identify as gender-diverse.


Video of the week

This week Pan Africa ILGA has joined a dozen organisations worldwide to celebrate the first Global Black Gay Pride, a “twelve-hour-long virtual celebration of the global Black LGBTQ+ community”.

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