The week in LGBTI news 26 February – 4 March 2021

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

A comprehensive research, an insightful report, inclusive resolutions and landmark decisions marked this week for our communities.

Asia Pacific Transgender Network published a study that outlines health access inequalities for trans and gender diverse persons in Nepal, Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam. A new research highlighted the challenges that queer youth of diverse ethnic origins living in Aotearoa New Zealand tend to experience around their coming out.

In Poland, a Court acquitted activists who were accused of blasphemy over a religious icon altered with a ‘rainbow halo’. In Colombia, the Constitutional Court clearly stated that schools have to adopt inclusive approaches to help students affirm their gender identity. In the United States, the American Psychological Association passed resolutions affirming gender identity and opposing ‘conversion therapy’.

All around the world, our communities show resilience in the face of attempts to stop equality from advancing. Pan Africa ILGA has called on officials in Ghana to “stop all forms of discrimination and human rights abuses towards minorities”, after an LGBT office and community centre was raided and forced to close down.

Europe and Central Asia

Poland: court acquits activists of blasphemy accusations in ‘rainbow halo’ icon case

A Polish court acquitted three activists who were accused of offending religious sentiment for altering an icon of the Virgin Mary and the baby Jesus with a rainbow halo.

According to the ruling, there was no evidence of crime. The court stressed that the motivation of the activists was to defend those who face discrimination, not to offend anyone’s beliefs.

As advocacy group Campaign Against Homophobia (KPH) explained, the activists created this image to respond to a 2019 installation at the St. Dominic church in Płock, which associated LGBT people with crimes and sins.

The women would have faced up to two years in prison if found guilty in the case. However, the court clarified that the rainbow flag symbol is not offensive: “The goal of the activists was to show support to LGBT individuals, to fight for their equal rights,” Judge Agnieszka Warchol said.

“These three women have been on trial simply for their peaceful activism, on charges which should never have been brought”, commented Catrinel Motoc, Senior Campaigner in Amnesty International’s Europe Regional Office. “They had risked up to two years in prison simply for standing up for LGBTI rights in a climate of hate and discrimination in Poland.”

“We hope that this verdict will be a clear indication for other courts with similar proceedings against LGBT activists”, added KPH Director Mirosława Makuchowska.

However, this may not be the final decision on the case. “We are afraid that this may not be the end of the so-called Rainbow Mary”, coordinator of KPH legal team Karolina Gierdal said. “The prosecutor’s office has already announced an appeal. If the second instance upholds the acquittal verdict, then the Prosecutor General may file a cassation appeal with the Supreme Court”.


More news from Europe and Central Asia

The House of Lords in the United Kingdom voted against the usage of inclusive language in the Maternity Bill, in a move that “breaks with 14 years of gender-inclusive drafting guidelines of the UK government.

In Portugal, criteria to regulate blood donations on the grounds of ‘sexual behaviour’ will be reviewed.

Human rights activists have praised the recent resolution adopted by the House of Representatives in Belgium to “recognise the right to bodily integrity of intersex minors” as “a clear step” forward, while highlighting further issues that need to be included in a comprehensive protective framework.



Latin America and the Caribbean

Colombia: “Schools must create inclusive environments for students in the process of affirming their gender identity”, rules Constitutional Court

The Constitutional Court of Colombia has urged schools to create an inclusive environment for students who are in the process of affirming their gender identity.

“The work of educational institutions is not reduced to guaranteeing the acquisition of knowledge,” the document reads. “To comprehensively protect the right to education of children and adolescents, the work of teachers must also be aimed at providing the emotional support that students need.”

The Court came to this conclusion after studying the case of a young trans man who had suffered discriminatory treatment by some of his teachers, and had filed a complaint against his school in Sabaneta (Antioquia). After he had started his transition process, some teachers refused to affirm his identity and kept on using his deadname, which led him to suffer from severe depression, to the point of trying and taking his own life.

After this incident, the school had implemented a private curriculum for the student, preventing him from socialising with his classmates during break times. In this regard, the Court highlighted the duty of the educational institutions “to promote the integration of the student with the educational community and not to separate him from his peers.”

In his decision, the Constitutional Court reiterated the importance of creating “spaces that promote academic training and the peaceful coexistence of all students, especially those in difficulty, so that they can overcome any barrier that is preventing their optimal emotional development”.


More news from Latin America and the Caribbean

In Puebla state of Mexico, Congress passed the so-called “Agnes Law” to guarantee the right to legal gender recognition.

City councillors in the municipality of São Paulo, Brazil, approved the establishment of a Parliamentary Inquiry Commission to investigate cases of violence against trans people.

In Chile, the Superintendence of Health directed a health insurance to grant assisted fertilisation coverage to a woman who had been denied this service on the grounds of her sexual orientation.




Ghana: government called on stopping human rights abuses against minorities after community centre raided and forced to close down

After the state’s security forces raided the office of a human rights organisation and community centre in the capital of Accra, Pan Africa ILGA has called upon the government and religious institutions of Ghana “to respect the rights of the LGBTIQ community and stop all forms of discrimination and human rights abuses to minorities”.

After the raid, the community centre was forced to temporarily close to protect its staff and visitors, only three weeks after it had opened. Church groups, politicians and anti-rights organisations have called on the government to shut the centre, run by local charity LGBT+ Rights Ghana, and arrest and prosecute those involved.

According to reports, several community organizations in Ghana, including LGBT+ Rights Ghana and the trans* community group Alliance for Dynamics Initiative have recently been targeted by the police, ‘religious’ groups and media.

These attacks have sparked a wave of international solidarity, but the struggle towards equality is far from over. “It is continuing to be disturbing that state agencies and the church across the African continent continue to be catalysts of violence and discrimination of their own citizens instead of doing their sole purpose of protecting and observing human rights and acceptance of everyone”, said Pan Africa ILGA Executive Director Nate Brown. “Ghana has just proved that we are still a long way to go.”


More news from Africa

The South African Olympian Caster Semenya filed a case with the European Court of Human Rights, alleging that Switzerland failed in its obligations to protect her against the violation of her rights resulted from World Athletics’ policies restricting the ability of women to participate in female athletics competitions.

Police in western Cameroon reportedly arrested 13 people last week on consensual same-sex activity charges.





Multi-country research addresses health access inequality for trans and gender diverse persons

Discrimination remains the strongest barrier to access to healthcare services for trans and gender-diverse people in Nepal, Indonesia, Thailand and Viet Nam, a new research has shown.

The Cost of Stigma, a trans-led study coordinated by the Asia Pacific Transgender Network together with local organisations, showed that it is vital to understand the nature, extent and impact of stressors on trans and gender diverse people’s use of healthcare services to improve access to them.

The multi-country research addresses health inequalities for trans people in Nepal, Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam, while looking at the mental, physical, and sexual health outcomes that result from interactions with discriminatory health systems.

A common outcome seen in four countries is that people who delayed general healthcare for one reason (such as discrimination) were more likely to delay it for other reasons (such as gender minority stress) as well.

The research shows that trans and gender diverse people across the four countries tend to delay seeking healthcare services due to discriminatory approaches of health service providers, which can result in negative health outcomes. Moreover, trans people continue to face systemic barriers, including a lack of access to health insurance. The research also identified significant gaps in the availability of sexual health services for trans women, including STI and HIV testing and treatment, and only a limited number of sexual health services targeted at trans masculine persons.


More news from Asia

In Japan, a group of seven experts urged the Tokyo Organizing Committee to support the passing of an anti-discrimination legislation that includes sexual orientation and gender identity ahead of the Olympic Games.

The president of Sri Lanka reaffirmed his commitment to ensure “everybody’s right to live life with dignity regardless of gender, sexuality” in a tweet shared on Zero Discrimination Day.

A court in China ruled that a textbook description of homosexuality as “a psychological disorder” is an “academic view”, leaving the community disappointed at the decision.

South Korean soldier who was forcibly discharged from the army after gender affirmation surgery has been found dead, police said, prompting calls for legal reforms.



North America and the Caribbean

American Psychological Association issues resolutions affirming gender identity and opposing ‘conversion therapy’

The American Psychological Association (APA) has adopted a new resolution opposing ‘conversion therapy’ intended to change a person’s gender identity.

In the document, the APA clearly points out that “individuals who have experienced pressure or coercion to conform to their sex assigned at birth, or therapy that was biased toward conformity to one’s assigned sex at birth, have reported harm resulting from these experiences, such as emotional distress, loss of relationships, and low self-worth.”

As a result, the resolution concludes that the APA opposes the idea that “incongruence between sex and gender is a mental disorder,” and clearly states that gender identity change efforts cause harm.

Along with the resolution, APA also published a guideline for psychological practice with sexual minority persons, which provides psychologists with “a frame of reference for affirmative psychological practice”, and also updated its 1997 resolution opposing ‘conversion therapy’ designed to ‘change’ a person’s sexual orientation, citing the negative impact that these discredited practices have on LGBTQ youths’ mental health and well-being.


More news from North America and the Caribbean

A report published by Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law suggests that 1.3 million adult immigrants in the US identify as LGBT. The community, especially those who are undocumented, “are likely to be experiencing heightened vulnerability to the effects of the pandemic.”

In more than half of U.S. states, legislators are currently debating bills to limit access to sports or medical care for trans people.




Report highlights complexities around coming out and cultural expectations for youth of diverse ethnic origins in Aotearoa New Zealand

“Cultural expectations of marriage and children are pushing ethnic youth in New Zealand to remain silent about their sexual orientation”, a new report has found.

Letting In – Closing Outpublished by academics at AUT University, cast a light on the complexities around coming out and cultural expectations  for people from diverse ethnic origins, pointing out how young people fear experiencing harassment and rejection from their communities.

“In a lot of our communities we’re told that’s not our culture. There’s also a sense of obligation or respect for our family, we want them to feel supported by us,” says a participant of the research, explaining the decision of many not to open up to their families.

“The term ‘coming out’ has little value for our queer ethnic community, because for them it is more about whom they decide to ‘let in’ to their queerness,” says Camille Nakhid, one of the authors of the report.

Holding workshops in places of worship, community organisations, and events to raise awareness of LGBTI issues is one of the recommendations the report suggests. Drawing from the research, a panel discussion on experiences of “coming out” youth within these communities was held during the recent Auckland Pride Week.


More news from Oceania

In Australia, a New South Wales police officer has just admitted arresting a trans women for not making an eye contact with him in May 2019.

In Victorian State of Australia, LGBTIQ organizations along with other community organizations welcomed Parliament’s recommendations of the Inquiry into Anti-Vilification Protections to protect against hate-based conduct.


Photo of the week

Human rights activists from the Caribbean and across the world are mourning the passing of Colin Robinson, founder of the CAISO: Sex and Gender Justice organisation in Trinidad and Tobago. “Over the last 40 years, Colin courageously led the conversation on how black and brown people reclaim their queerness in spaces from which they are often shunned”, the CAISO Board of Directors wrote.

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