The week in LGBTI news 12-18 February 2021

Written by Nazlı Mayuk Edited by Daniele Paletta Read more Read less

Historic decisions are being made to uphold the human rights of our communities. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has called on Jamaica to repeal its laws that criminalise consensual same-sex acts, as it found the country responsible for violating the rights of a gay man and a lesbian woman. The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child found that Finland failed to consider the best interests of the child of a lesbian couple when rejecting his asylum request.

However, despite these victories, there’s still a long way to go for our communities until we reach full equality.

A new report by ILGA-Europe highlighted how the social and economic vulnerability of LGBTI people throughout Europe and Central Asia have increased during the pandemic. In Ghana, an advocacy group is facing backlash after opening an office and a safe space for our communities. In Honduras, activists have filed a lawsuit after lawmakers suddenly voted for a constitutional amendment that would strengthen existing prohibitions on abortion and marriage equality. A UN expert has raised concerns over reports of LGBT children being subjected to inhumane and degrading in Iran.

These constant attacks take a toll on our communities, who continue to resist peacefully and persistently, and yet require adequate support. In Aotearoa New Zealand, the government has announced dedicated funding for mental health services to support LGBTI youth.

North America and the Caribbean

Jamaica in violation of international law for its provisions criminalising consensual same-sex acts, Inter-American Commission on Human Rights decided

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has found Jamaica responsible of violating the human rights of a gay man and a lesbian woman, and urged an immediate repeal of the country’s laws criminalising consensual same-sex sexual acts.

According to Human Dignity Trust (HDT), this is a landmark human rights case for the entire Caribbean region: this is the first-ever decision of the Commission to find that provisions criminalising LGBT people violate international law.

The case was brought in 2011 by a gay man and a lesbian women, Gareth Henry and Simone Edwards, after they were attacked by homophobic gangs in two separate incidents and sought asylum overseas. They argued that the colonial-era law that punishes “the abominable crime of buggery” and “gross indecency” legitimised violence against our communities. The decision on the case was made in September 2019; however, it was kept confidential by the Commission until this week.

Highlighting the importance of this landmark decision for the Caribbean region; Téa Braun, Director of HDT, says “This is a major legal victory for Gareth, Simone and the entire LGBT community in Jamaica and the wider Caribbean, where nine countries continue to criminalize consensual same-sex intimacy. It is a highly significant step forward that must now accelerate the repeal of these stigmatizing and discriminatory laws”.

As ILGA World’s State-Sponsored Homophobia report points out, consensual same-sex acts can be published with a country with a sentence of up to ten years in prison.


More news from North America and the Caribbean

In the United States, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) agreed to halt a policy that would, otherwise, permit to discrimination against LGBTQ people, religious minorities and women in programs related to foster care, adoption, HIV and STI prevention, youth homelessness, and more.

Research conducted in the United States shows that alcohol consumption and misuse among LGBTQ people have dramatically risen due to greater psychological distress levels since the outbreak of the Covid-19 crisis.

LGBTQ+ and other civil rights organizations condemned the bills that aimed at excluding trans athletes from interscholastic sports teams in three U.S. states: North Dakota, Mississippi, and Utah.



Europe and Central Asia

LGBTI people and communities in Europe and Central Asia have been pushed to the brink” in 2020, a new report points out

After an extraordinary year marked by the Covid-19 pandemic, Europe and Central Asia have been awoken to the acute fragility of the human rights situation for LGBTI people across the region.

The latest annual review published by ILGA-Europe, focusing on 54 countries from across Europe and Central Asia, has drawn attention to the concerning rise in homophobic language and hate speech against LGBTI people, and raised concern over the pandemic’s impact on our communities.

According to ILGA-Europe Executive Director Evelyne Paradis, “there has been a resurgence of authorities and officials using LGBT people as scapegoats while authoritarian regimes are empowered to isolate and legislate without due process.”

Overall, there has been a crackdown on democracy and civil society, and attacks on freedom of assembly continue to be a growing trend. Politicians have increased their verbal attacks towards LGBTI people, while many religious leaders directly blamed our communities for Covid-19. Young LGBTI individuals have struggled with abuse as they had to move back into hostile family and communities’ situations.

The report has also shown a significant growth of opposition towards trans rights across Europe, which is beginning to have a wide and negative impact on legal gender recognition.

Amidst all this, Paradis pointed out,”it is essential to take bold and decisive action at multiple levels so that the human rights of LGBTI people in all their diversity will continue to advance across the region, and the promise of equality will be experienced in their lived realities”.


More news from Europe and Central Asia

The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child found that Finland violated the rights of a child of lesbian mothers upon rejecting his asylum request and forcing the family to return to Russia. This has been the first-ever Treaty Bodies’ practice case on children in same-sex families.

In the United Kingdom, the government is set to soon announce how veterans who were discharged on the grounds of their sexual orientation can apply to have their medals returned.




Aotearoa New Zealand: government announces funding for LGBTI youth mental health support

Mental health services for LGBTI youth will receive a support of NZ$ 4 million during the next four years.

According to New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, this is the first ever nationwide funding for rainbow youth, and would be an important step towards improving their wellbeing.

“This is a long overdue commitment to some of our most vulnerable youth”, Ardern said, reminding that young people in our communities are at greater risk of being discriminated against, harassed, and bullied than their peers, and that they often suffer from poorer physical and mental health as a result.

In 2019, the first comprehensive national survey of the health and wellbeing of trans and non-binary people living in Aotearoa New Zealand found that 66% of participants had experienced discrimination at some point in their lives, and that more than one in five students were bullied at school at least once a week.

Now, NZ$3.2 million of the funding will be used aiming at expanding nationwide mental wellbeing services, and NZ$800,000 will be provided to the Rainbow Wellbeing Legacy Fund, which was found as a tribute to people convicted of consensual same-sex acts before the law was changed in 1986.


More news from Oceania

In Aotearoa New Zealand, the Green Party has launched a petition urging the government to ban  ‘conversion therapy’. The petition received 120,000 signatures in just three days.

Facebook blocked access to the pages of some of Australia’s LGBTQ organisations, amidst the move by the social media giant that has prevented users in the country from accessing, sharing any news or related content on its platform.




UN expert raises alarm over reports of LGBT child subjected to “inhumane and degrading treatment” In Iran

UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran Javaid Rehman has expressed concern over reports that the country has subjected LGBT children to “torture and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment.”

Iranian government claims that there was no coercion in ‘treatment’ practices. However, Rehman states that such practices included “electric shocks and the administration of hormones and strong psychoactive medications”, which violate Iran’s obligations under international treaties.

The report also expressed concern over how “individuals who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender experience human rights violations and widespread discrimination” in the country. As ILGA World’s State-Sponsored Homophobia report points out, the death penalty can be imposed in Iran for consensual same-sex sexual relations. There have been reports of executions, and several confirmed reports of state-led raids on private parties followed by mass arrests of those suspected of homosexuality”.

The government has not yet commented over the report, which will be discussed during the 46th session of the Human Rights Council from 22 February to 23 March.


More news from Asia

The first edition of the Southeast Asia Queer Cultural Festival: Be/Longings will take place online until 13 March, featuring more than 30 works, performances, and events by over 40 LGBTI activists and artists from all over Southeast Asia.

Pelangi Nusantara, an LGBT advocacy organisation from Indonesia, started a petition to end ‘corrective rape’ and  ‘conversion therapy after a business offering such horrifying practices  started targeting activists.

Thailand‘s government is reconsidering the Civil Partnership Bill passed by the cabinet to the parliament in July 2020, and demanded a revision of its content.



Latin America and the Caribbean

Honduras: activists file lawsuit against constitutional amendment strengthening prohibition on abortion and marriage equality

Human rights defenders in Honduras have filed a lawsuit to the Supreme Court, demanding it repeals the constitutional amendment that has strengthened prohibitions on abortion and marriage equality in the country.

In January 2021, members of the Honduran Congress approved an amendment that would make it much harder to reverse existing prohibitions on abortion and same-sex marriage. Lawmakers voted “to require a three-quarters super-majority”, instead of the usual two-thirds majority to ratify a constitutional change, to amend an article that “gives a foetus the same legal status of a person, and another that states that civil marriage can only be between a man and a woman.”

According to reports, civil society was not consulted, and alerted of the developments only 24 hours before the vote. Now activists have decided to challenge this new provision: “The ban was introduced out of nowhere,” lesbian feminist organisation Cattrachas explains. “Over eight days, Honduras moved to ban marriage equality without consultations. But the country needs to adjust its laws according to its international obligations. We demand equality before the Supreme Court. We will not tire of demanding justice.”


More news from Latin America and the Caribbean

In Brazil, the public prosecutor’s office called on the Superior Court of Justice to uphold the sentence that in 2017 condemned president Jair Bolsonaro over homopohobic public remarks.

For the fourth time, Congress of the Mexican state of Puebla delayed discussions around a legal gender recognition law.

Reports have pointed out how politicians in Peru are reverting to homophobic and transphobic propaganda ahead of the presidential and congressional elections, which will be held on April 11.




Ghana: local LGBT+ group faces backlash after opening office

LGBT+ Rights Ghana, an organisation working to advance the rights of our communities in the country, is facing backlash after opening its new offices and a community centre.

The group opened its new offices on 31 January 2021 after hosting a fundraiser to promote its community space.

Soon after the event, however, misleading reports started circulating on local media, and an anti-rights organisation started a campaign calling on the police to shut the community space down, arrest the group’s leaders and enact laws that further restrict the human rights of our communities.

The organisation promptly responded, reiterating their right to exist “as a recognized entity and movement entitled to all the rights and protections guaranteed under Article 21 of Ghana’s 1992 Constitution. We have the right as Ghanaians to live in peace, join groups, be protected from harm and have our privacy respected.”

“LGBT persons in Ghana face many injustices, with homophobia having led to the loss of many Ghanaians’ lives and many more in fear for theirs”, reads a statement released by the organisation. “LGBT people have peacefully existed on this soil since time immemorial and will continue to do so. We are no longer allowing the shadows of colonial hate and the abhorrent homophobia to decide our future.”


More news from Africa

Organisations from South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Malawi have joined forces to create the #NoOneIsOneThing campaign, which uses social media as a platform to share information about LGBTQIA+ intersectional identities.

Reports have highlighted how queer activists and youth in popular suburbs across Tunisia  have been particularly targeted  by arrests and police violence amidst the ongoing protests in the country.


Photo of the week


A large rainbow crossing, using the Progress Pride Flag, has been painted on Karangahape Road
in Auckland, Aotearoa New Zealand, as a “symbol of the rich history” of the street “for our queer communities.”
(photo: Facebook / Auckland Pride Festival)

Would you like to see your organisation featured in this space of the newsletter?
Send us your photos at [email protected]!

We need your help!

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.