Two weeks in LGBTI news 3-16 December 2021

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

Our communities around the world had many occasions to rejoice over the past two weeks, as we marked some important victories. We cheered when marriage equality was signed into law in Chile. We welcomed the Court of Justice of the European Union’s upholding our and our children’s rights to be recognised as families, and not to be forced into invisibility.

Canada banned so-called ’conversion therapy’. In Aotearoa New Zealand, parliament unanimously passed a law making it easier for a person to amend their birth certificate to correctly identify their gender. Meanwhile, Sri Lanka took a step forward tackling police harassment against LGBTI people, as a Court authorised a writ petition over a derogatory training.

However, a lot remains to be done around the world. In Senegal, lawmakers are working on a new bill to strengthen the targeting of our communities.

Criminalising provisions represent a constant threat:  Our Identities under Arrest, a new report released this week by ILGA World, cast a light over hundreds of reported cases around the world of arrests and prosecutions for consensual same-sex sexual acts or for diverse gender expressions.

Europe and Central Asia

Top EU court recognises relationship of same-sex parents and their children

Marking a historic win for rainbow families, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) ruled that a child and their same-sex parents must be recognised as a family, and that should have free movement in all Member States as such.

The case involved a couple who fell in legal limbo in 2019 when Bulgaria refused to issue a birth certificate for their baby. Authorities denied the request, arguing that the two mothers – one of whom is Bulgarian – could not be registered as parents on the infant’s certificate. The baby born in Spain, but could not acquire Spanish citizenship either – because neither of her two mothers is a citizen of the country.

The whole situation, ILGA-Europe pointed out, had left the baby at risk of statelessness. Until now, she has no personal documents – something that would restrict her access to education, healthcare, and social security – and could not leave Spain, the country of the family’s habitual residence.

Now, however, the European court ordered Bulgarian authorities to issue an identity card or passport, adding that all Member States will be obliged to recognise its validity.

“We are very pleased with CJEU’s judgment”, said Arpi Avetisyan, ILGA Europe’s Head of Litigation. “The judgment has brought long-awaited clarification that parenthood established in one EU Member State cannot be discarded by another, under the pretence of protecting the ‘national identity’. This is a true testament to the EU being a union of equality.”

More news from Europe and Central Asia

The parliament of France has voted to ban so-called ‘conversion therapy’. The bill will now have to be signed by the country’s president before becoming law.

United Kingdom’s Supreme Court ruled against gender-neutral passports, arguing that introducing an ‘X’ gender marker would undermine the country’s legal system.

In canton Vaud (Switzerland), a new directive will allow students to present themselves in educational settings with their name and pronoun.

Hungary’s ban on discussions of diverse gender identities and sexual orientations in the public sphere violates international human rights standards, a body of constitutional law experts at Europe’s major human rights institution said.

The European Court Of Human Rights found Georgia failed to protect activists from counter-demonstrations and violence as they were attacked during an IDAHOBIT march in 2013.



Latin America and the Caribbean

Marriage equality is signed into law in Chile

Same-sex couples across Chile celebrated a landmark victory, as marriage equality has been signed into law, days after it was approved by parliament.

First introduced to congress in 2017, marriage equality will become a reality in March 2022, as the bill will take effect 90 days after being signed into law. The new legislation recognises same-sex couples’ right to marriage, filiation – previously not recognised under the current Civil Union Agreement – and adoption. The law also introduces gender-neutral terminology, with ’spouse’ replacing ’wife’ and ’husband’.

“The fight for dignity and respect to existing will not stop,” wrote Agrupación LésBIca Rompiendo el Silencio founder Érika Montecinos in an opinion piece for the Washington Post. “Chile has taken a step in the right direction. A big step that can save the lives of those who have been historically segregated”.

“In the end, citizens are becoming more and more aware that they have a voice,” said in an interview for The Clinic Karen Atala, director of Fundación Iguales. “They have a vote, and they pay taxes. Therefore, if I pay taxes, I don’t have to be treated as a second-class citizen.”

More news from Latin America and the Caribbean

(trigger warning: violence and murder) As a new report highlights a worrying surge of violence against LGBTI people in Colombia – where one LGBTI person is victim of aggression every 12 hours – three trans and non-binary people were reportedly murdered on the same day.

The Education Committee of Guatemala gave green light to a bill targeting trans adolescents.

With 18-10 votes in Congress, the State of Zacatecas became the latest in Mexico to approve marriage equality.



North America and the Caribbean

Canada bans “conversion therapy”

So-called “conversion therapy” is now banned in Canada, after Bill C-4 received royal assent on 8 December. On its third iteration, the provision had been approved by both chambers of parliament a week before.

The new legislation prohibits providing, promoting, or advertising any attempt to ‘change’ a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. This includes causing a person to undergo ‘conversion therapy’ regardless of their age and subjecting a minor to such practices abroad. Offenders may be punished with two to five years in prison.

The law will come into force 30 days after having received royal assent.

“Survivors have been fighting for this day for decades, so seeing that advocacy, that struggle and that resilience finally payoff is overwhelming in the best way,” said Nicholas Schiavo, No Conversion Canada founder, in an interview with VOA.

More news from North America and the Caribbean

In Canada, the Special chiefs assembly of the Association of First Nations unanimously approved the formation of a Two-Spirit and LGBTI council.

In the United States, over 600 authors, publishers, bookstore owners and advocacy groups condemned the recent wave of bans on LGBTI- and race-related books that involved public school libraries in at least 10 states.

In a mandate letter, the prime minister of Canada urged the ministry of International Development to strengthen its support to “the work of feminists, LGBTQ2 activists and human rights defenders”.




Aotearoa New Zealand passes law making it easier for people to update sex markers on birth certificates

The parliament of Aotearoa New Zealand unanimously passed a law making it easier for a person to amend their birth certificate to correctly identify their gender.

The new bill, first introduced in 2018, allows people to amend the sex marker on their birth certificate without going through the Family Court first – which involved appearing before a judge – and revokes the requirement for applicants to bring medical documentation to back their request.

The legislation will take effect in 18 months, following consultations with the impacted communities. According to reports, these meetings will discuss third parties to support applications from young people, ensure that non-binary and cultural identities are included, and define possible requirements for anyone seeking to update marker more than once.

“This is a massive win for our trans whānau, intersex whānau, nonbinary whānau, and rainbow whānau as a whole,” wrote Rainbow Labour New Zealand on Facebook.

“It is now easier for these communities to amend their birth certificate to correctly identify their gender on their birth certificates – bringing it in line with other current identification laws in Aotearoa and across the world,” they added.

While welcoming the news, LGBTI group InsideOUT also pointed out the need to work around some points where the bill falls short on, notably “its exclusion of overseas-born immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers”.

More news from Oceania

The state of Victoria (Australia) approved a bill banning religious organisations and schools from “discriminating against an employee because of their sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status or other protected attribute”.

According to media reports, the Aotearoa New Zealand’s Ministry of Education was informed of an attempt to collect information on trans and non-binary students’ in intermediate and secondary schools.




Senegal: new bill seeks to strengthen criminalisation of our communities

new bill in Senegal could strengthen the criminalisation against our communities in the country, increasing jail terms for consensual same-sex sexual acts.

According to the draft acquired by communities on the ground, the proposed law tightens the punishment for same-sex intimacy between consenting adults and broadens the offences, criminalising diverse sexual orientations regardless of individual behaviour.

The bill targets trans and intersex people as well, and goes as far as comparing diverse sexual orientations, gender identities and expressions, and sex characteristics with “necrophilia and zoophilia”.

Currently, Article 319 (1965) of the Penal Code punishes same-sex acts between consenting adults with one to five years of imprisonment. In the past years, local activists have decried an ongoing “hunt” against sexual minorities: according to reports, at least 36 suspected gay men have been arrested in 2020 alone. With the new bill, the penalty could go up to 10 years.

“When individual freedoms, in particular the most sacred – privacy between consenting adults – are attacked, then there is little time left to realise that democracy is in danger,” an activist told Reuters.

More news from Africa

In Tunisia, the director of a LGBT group reported that police officers assaulted him and took all his belongings.

Namibia recently held its Pride week, in what was dubbed as the country’s biggest Pride celebration so far.




Sri Lanka: LGBTI community marks a court win against police harassment

Sri Lanka’s Court of Appeal has given green light to a writ petition against the police over a derogatory training session, marking a welcome win for the LGBTI community.

Together with more civil society activists, LGBTI group EQUAL GROUND filed the petition after a counsellor was recorded as making homophobic remarks to a packed audience during a training aimed at police officers.

Violence and harassment against LGBTI people at the hands of law enforcement is not uncommon in Sri Lanka. Last year, activists rang the alarm over physical examinations forced on people because of their perceived sexual orientation.

Sri Lanka punishes same-sex sexual acts between consenting adults with imprisonment up to ten years. Moreover, there are extensive reports about trans people being targeted for their gender expression and arrested under the law on impersonation.

“So even for us knowing the history, knowing how difficult it is for the community to deal with the police – said Lasanthika Hettiarachchi, EQUAL GROUND’s attorney-at-law – the fact that a Sri Lankan court is taking up the case and acknowledging that there is a need for the case to be heard is a win for the whole community.”

More news from Asia

Arrested while attempting to flee to Turkey, an Iranian lesbian woman risks the death penalty for “supporting homosexuality”.

In Japan, Tokyo introduced a same-sex partnership system that will come into force early next year, expanding the benefit to a large portion of people in the country.

India reportedly withdrew a training manual for teachers on the inclusion of trans and gender non-conforming students, after conservative lawmakers had criticised it.


Video of the week


Arrests and prosecutions for consensual same-sex sexual acts, or for diverse gender expressions, have continued unabated across the world in 2021 and in previous years. In its latest report, ILGA World reviewed hundreds of cases over the last two decades in which law enforcements subjected LGBT and gender-diverse persons to fines, arbitrary arrests, prosecutions, corporal punishments, imprisonments and more – up to (possibly) the death penalty. The actual numbers, however, may be much higher. Download ILGA World’s Our Identities Under Arrest report to learn more.


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