The week in LGBTI news 11-17 December 2020

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

In this complicated year, our global community has proved once more that we are capable of driving society forward even in the darkest of times. During all 2020, LGBTI people have pushed back and fought harder against each roll-back to our rights, and this week was no different.

Hungary is once again attacking our rights, as the Parliament effectively barred same-sex couples from adopting, and introduced two hostile constitutional amendments. In Nigeria, worrying reports show that our communities have been subjected to violence at the hands of police.

But, once more, we’re not keeping quiet. In the Cook Islands, a rights group gave a festive twist to its campaign calling for decriminalisation of consensual same-sex relations between adults. In Singapore, our communities wait for the Court of Appeal to hear a constitutional challenge against a similar criminalising law.

Bolivia recognised for the first time a same-sex “free union” – a legal partnership that carries the same rights and obligations as civil marriage. In the United States, the Supreme Court refused to hear a legal challenge against the right of same-sex parents to be both recognised as parents of their children. Meanwhile, almost 400 religious leaders around the world called for countries to overturn their bans on same-sex relations and to end so-called “conversion therapy”.

2020 is coming to an end and, even as we wonder what the upcoming year will reserve us and what the “new normal” will look like, be ensured that ILGA World will remain at your side each step of the way.

The LGBulleTIn will return on 22 January 2021.

Europe and Central Asia

Hungary mounts a new attack on LGBTI rights, bans adoptions for same-sex couples

Hungary intensified its attack on LGBTI rights, as the Parliament adopted a discriminatory law and two constitutional amendments that target LGBTI rights and will bar same-sex couples from adopting children.

Lawmakers passed a bill that will prohibit adoption for non-married couples, and also amended the Constitution adding that “mother is a female and father is a male” and that Hungary “protects self-identity of the children’s sex by birth”. The latter adds another layer of discrimination against trans and intersex people, months after an amendment to the Act on Civil Registration Procedure – which replaced the category of “sex” on the civil registry with “sex assigned at birth” – made access to legal gender recognition impossible.

“These bills further restrict the rights of LGBTI children and parents in Hungary,” said Katrin Hugendubel, ILGA Europe’s advocacy director. “LGBTI children will be forced to grow up in an environment which restricts them from being able to express their identities, and children across Hungary will be refused safe and loving families, as adoption is restricted only to married heterosexual couples.”

“This is a dark day for Hungary’s LGBTQ community and a dark day for human rights. These discriminatory, homophobic and transphobic new laws – rushed through under the cover of the coronavirus pandemic – are just the latest attack on LGBTQ people by Hungarian authorities,” said David Vig, director of Amnesty Hungary.

“Earlier this year, Hungary made it impossible for trans people to change their names and legal gender markers. We are deeply concerned for the health and safety of trans children and adults in Hungary in such a hostile climate,” added Masen Davis, Transgender Europe’s executive director.

More news from Europe and Central Asia

The law prohibiting “gender identity theory or opinion” in educational settings is unconstitutional, Romania’s Constitutional Court ruled.

In England, gay and bisexual men in same-sex long-term relationships will be able to donate blood more easily from later next year.

Campaigners pushing back against trans rights in the United Kingdom have used crowdfunding websites to fund at least 18 lawsuits in the past four years, media reports show.



Latin America and the Caribbean

Bolivia recognises a same-sex “free union” for the first time

Following a two-year legal battle, Bolivia’s civil registry authorized for the first time a same-sex “free union”, a legal partnership that carries the same rights and obligations as civil marriage. Activists welcomed the decision, hoping it will pave the way for a revision of the country’s marriage laws.

In July, the Constitutional Chamber in La Paz had ruled in favour of the two men, as the judges unanimously deemed the administrative decision detrimental to their human rights, and demanded the Registry issue a new resolution in respect of the American Convention on Human Rights.

Bolivia is bound by a 2018 decision of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, which indicated that all couples must be guaranteed the same legal protections and rights – including the right to marriage.

For many in the LGBTI community, this was “a historic day”.

More news from Latin America and the Caribbean

Argentina’s House of Representative voted in favour of the Voluntary Interruption of Pregnancy Act, making it easier and safer for all people who can become pregnant to access abortion.

According to reports, Claudia Vasquez Haro became the first trans woman to earn a doctorate at a public university in Argentina.

The Red Iberoamericana de Educación LGBTI held its third meeting to tackle discrimination against trans people in the region’s educational spaces.




(trigger warning: torture and police brutality) Nigeria: as SARS inquiry goes on, man denounces being tortured on the grounds of his perceived sexual orientation

A man told the inquiry in Edo State that he was molested, tortured, and extorted by Nigeria’s Special Anti-Robbery Squad over allegations of his sexual orientation.

Officially disbanded in October, the SARS unit has been under ongoing judicial inquiries in all the 36 states after protests against police brutality flooded the country, with LGBT people at the forefront.

According to ILGA World’s State-Sponsored Homophobia report, Nigeria’s criminal code punishes same-sex activities between consenting adults with up to 14 years of imprisonment. In some northern states, where the Sharia law is enacted, penalties are even harsher, as men could face the death penalty and women a whipping and/or imprisonment sentence.

In recent years, there have been numerous cases of mass-arrests, raids, violence and extortion by authorities across the State against LGBT individuals and groups. A recent study has also shown that, since the Same-Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act was enacted, violence against our communities in Nigeria has risen by 214%, with the police among the main perpetrators. Last month, a court threw out a case against 47 men who had been arrested in 2018 on the charges of public displays of affection with other men.

More news from Africa

Rights groups in Tunisia are calling for the end of violence and discrimination, and for the charges against the two activists held last week to be dropped.

A gay asylum seeker who escaped Algeria as a teenager after being threatened with death by his family has been ordered by a UK court to return to his country.

(trigger warning: graphic pictures) A recent report documented the hardships and current situation of people with diverse sexual orientations, gender identities and expressions and sex characteristics in Equatorial Guinea.



North America and the Caribbean

United States’ Supreme Court rejects challenge to same-sex couples on their children’s birth certificates

The Supreme Court of the United States has rejected a petition filed by the State of Indiana to challenge the right of two married women to be both placed as mothers on their child’s birth certificate.

The petition concerned the Box v. Henderson case, and it was often framed as a challenge to the Obergefell v. Hodges ruling – the landmark 2015 decision thanks to which marriage equality became a reality in the United States. By refusing to hear the case, the court upheld the lower court’s judgment and maintained the 2017 Pavan v. Smith case as precedent. On that occasion, the court had ruled to overturn an Arkansas Supreme Court decision that allowed the state to bar married same-sex couples from automatically having both parent’s names listed on their children’s birth certificates.

In the past months, activists have feared rollbacks on marriage equality in the United States, especially after two conservative Justices openly suggested that the 2015 ruling should be overturned.

“[This] decision once again affirms that marriage equality under Obergefell v. Hodges means that married same-sex couples are entitled to be treated equally under the law. By refusing to hear this case, the Court effectively reaffirms its ruling in Pavan v. Smith that unequivocally ruled states must issue birth certificates on equal terms to same-sex parents”, said Alphonso David, Human Rights Campaign’s president. “We refuse to allow our love to be treated any differently under law, and will fight to make sure skim-milk marriage never becomes the law of the land.”

More news from North America and the Caribbean

In the United States, The District Court for the Southern District of Ohio struck down a state policy that prevented trans and intersex people born in Ohio from amending the gender marker on their birth certificates.

In the United States, a court in Michigan ruled that businesses in the state are free to discriminate against customers on the grounds of their sexual orientation.

In Canada, a youth organisation which supports young LGBT people along with their extended community of friends, family and allies, has seen a 200% increase in requests for its services since the beginning of the pandemic.




Singapore’s Court of Appeal to rule on law criminalising same-sex relations

Singapore’s Court of Appeal will soon rule on the Section 377A, the longstanding colonial-relic criminalising same-sex relations between consenting adults, APCOM reports.

In March this year, the Singapore High Court had dismissed three constitutional challenges, arguing that Section 377A “serves the purpose of safeguarding public morality by showing societal moral disapproval of male homosexual acts”. The plaintiffs appealed against the decision – and one of them is also launching a new legal challenge – and the Court of Appeal is set to hear the case on the week of 8 January 2021.

As ILGA World’s State-Sponsored Homophobia report points out, Section 377A of the country’s Penal Code provides for jail terms of up to two years for a man found to have committed an act of “gross indecency” with another man.

“The struggle to abolish this law persists as we continue the slow march towards LGBTQ equality in Singapore,” wrote Daryl Yang, lawyer and LGBTI activist on APCOM.

More news from Asia

A growing number of Japanese high schools are relaxing or scrapping gender regulations around uniforms to be more inclusive towards trans and gender non-conforming students.

Two new documentaries premiered recently, exploring respectively queer identities in Japan and the LGBTQ Sikh community in India.




Cook Islands: campaign for decriminalisation continues in a festive way

Pride Cook Islands took part at the Christmas Float Parade this year, as their campaign for the decriminalisation of same-sex consensual activities between adults moves ahead.

“We were so excited to be a part of the Christmas Float Parade in 2020 and say thank you to the community for their support and wish them all a very Merry Christmas,” the group wrote on social media, “Thank you to those who helped put it all together and those who walked, danced and waved their way alongside our merry rainbow float.”

Since the beginning of September, the local group Te Tiare Association, which also organises Pride Cook Islands, have launched a campaign to strengthen their call for the decriminalisation for same-sex activities between consenting adults. According to ILGA World’s State-Sponsored Homophobia, in the country men still face prison terms under the “sodomy” and “male indecency” acts. A first draft of the Criminal Bill (2017) was set to remove the prohibition but has been stalling since. A select committee of MPs is due to present its recommendations to Parliament but, after a three-months deferral at the end of September, it’s likely that the discussion will be further delayed.

More news from Oceania

In Aotearoa New Zealand, the celibacy period gay and bisexual men must observe before being allowed to donate blood has been lowered from 12 to three months.

A newspaper in Melbourne, Australia, has removed a contested opinion piece in which an anonymous mother of a trans teen argued that children access gender-affirming treatments too easily.


Video of the week

This week, ILGA World published the latest update to its State-Sponsored Homophobia report: 69 UN member States continue to criminalise consensual same-sex activity, but considerable progress in legal protection is underway worldwide. Find out more in this video and download the report!


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