The week in LGBTI news
17 - 23 January 2020
Written by Kellyn Botha
Edited by Daniele Paletta
This was a week of widespread debates and attacks on the rights of LGBTI communities.
Protests and petitions for and against “drag-queen story-time” are escalating in Australia, while the rejection received by a South African couple looking for a wedding venue sparked a strong debate and made headlines worldwide. In the Republic of Korea, a military panel has expelled a trans soldier. In the United States two states have submitted laws to criminalise gender-affirming care for minors, and conservative groups in Colombia are calling for the sacking of a government appointee because of her trans identity. Not all is doom and gloom however, as Kosovo has expanded the rights of trans people to amend their names and gender markers, while human rights defenders in every region continue to make significant progress.
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South Africa: wedding venue under fire for turning away same-sex couple
The Beloftebos wedding venue located two hours from Cape Town has made international headlines after two women, Megan Watling and Sasha-Lee Heekes, approached the South African Human Rights Commission for the venue’s refusal to host the ceremony. According to reports, the venue is currently being investigated by the human rights body.
In an email response to the couple, the owners stated that “based on our personal beliefs, we do not host weddings between couples of the same gender.” In a separate statement, the venue denied being homophobic, but maintained that they are guided by their Christian faith.
“At first I cried, but then I was overwhelmed with anger. How, in 2020, is this still a reality?” said Watling in the online statement, adding that “people still believe that they can justify hate and bigotry and quote a God that I don’t believe would stand for said hate and bigotry.”
Civil society organisations, such as the Love Not Hate campaign, claim that the wedding venue is violating South African constitutional values
“While people are entitled to practice their religious beliefs, they cannot use these beliefs to infringe upon another persons’ fundamental rights by turning away members of certain groups protected by the Bill of Rights when providing a public service,” said Love Not Hate in a statement.
It is not the first time that the venue has sparked debate, as another same-sex couple was turned away in 2017. South Africa’s governing party, the African National Congress, called for a boycott of the venue in response.
More news from Africa
A South African court has ruled that two women may be named legally as joint parents of their child planned to be conceived through IVF, setting a positive precedent for other same-sex couples in the country.
In Kenya trans and gender diverse persons joined representatives of other key populations in a 4-day meeting with government officials. The meeting resulted in drafting guidelines to the HIV/AIDS response in the country for the current year.
South Korea: military discharges trans soldier for undergoing gender-confirmation surgery
A South Korean tank operator has been discharged from the military after coming out as a trans woman and undergoing gender-confirmation surgery in Thailand.
A policy of military conscription for male citizens exists in South Korea, with women being allowed to join the armed forces voluntarily. Trans persons are barred from entering, though no explicit law exists to account for those who medically transition while in the armed forces.
The panel therefore relied on separate existing regulations, namely that persons with mental or physical disabilities not sustained in the line of duty may be dismissed. Korea’s National Human Rights Commission had previously called on the panel to postpone the decision, and advocacy groups have condemned the military for its actions. The soldier has also announced she will sue the army, accusing it of "deep-rooted intolerance".
“I can’t resist feeling wretched at the military’s vulgar mindset as they determined that the lack of a male genital is a physical disability,” said Lim Tae-hoon, head of the Center for Military Human Rights.
More news from Asia
The Public Order Agency of Bali, Indonesia, has begun investigating a number of “LGBT-friendly” resorts and businesses in an attempt to close them down, despite same-sex sexual relations not being a crime across most of the country.
A new Indian film trailer has been released, gaining praise for the ways it is breaking boundaries about gay men representation in mainstream Bollywood.
Europe and Central Asia
Kosovo: Court rules trans man can change legal name and gender-marker
The Basic Court in Prishtina has ruled in favour of LGBTI rights activist and Executive Director of the Center for Equality and Liberty, Blert Morina, allowing him to formally change his name and gender marker in personal documents.
Morina first applied for his documents to be updated to reflect his gender identity in April 2018, though the Office of Civil Registry in his hometown of Gjakova denied the request. Morina appealed the decision, though this too was rejected as officials at the Civil Registration Agency claimed he “didn’t give any evidence, document, note or photography, or archive document” to prove that his deadname and female gender marker hindered his integration into society.
In July 2018 Morina and his lawyer, Rina Kika, approached the Basic Court in the capital, Prishtina, in order to resolve the issue, while also filing a complaint against the Civil Registration Agency with the Constitutional Court. In December 2019, the Basic Court handed down a landmark judgement in his favour, and this week the activist could finally request new documents.“There were moments when it became too much to balance work, transition, all the pressure from society, and then the media,” said Morina. “The decision is also important because now I won’t be called by the media to talk about my case anymore and so I don’t inadvertently do an injustice to all of the other work of CEL”.
This is not the first case of this nature in Kosovo: in 2018, a ruling by the 2018 Court of Appeals affirmed the right of an anonymous trans applicant to change their legal name and gender-marker, though Kika feels that this latest ruling will set a precedent that must be followed by state institutions.
“Now it is more difficult to refuse new requests for trangender people,” she said. “And the most important thing is that for the first time the court has decided to recognize the right to gender identity without offering evidence for surgical intervention or any medical change.”
More news from Europe and Central Asia
In the United Kingdom a study has found increased testing has led to a 71.4% drop in new HIV infections between 2014 to 2018 among gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men.
In Denmark, a 1988 law prohibiting men who have sex with men from donating blood has been repealed, with the new regulation coming into effect in March.
In Russia, a woman who was detained, beaten and tortured in Chechnya on the grounds of her sexual orientation has filed a criminal complaint against her parents and a local psychiatric hospital.
The European Pride Organisers’ Association has gathered together with local activists and organisers in Poland, and committed to supporting local organisations working to end stigma in the country.
The Senate of France voted in favour of a bill that would allow single women and lesbian couples access to in-vitro fertilization (IVF).
Latin America and the Caribbean
Colombia: trans Secretary of Women and Gender Equality in Manizales faces petition asking mayor to reconsider her role
Conservative groups in the Colombian city of Manizales are calling on the Mayor to remove Matilda González Gil as secretary of Women and Gender Equality because of her identity as a trans women.
Criticisms have come in the form of transphobic remarks, and because of González Gil’s use of social media and positive attitudes towards sex workers’ rights.
González Gil, whose extensive work in human rights includes holding the position of Trans Secretary for Women and Gender Equality Out, and being co-author of the ILGA World Trans Legal Mapping Report, has received widespread support from human rights defenders from across the world.
The Mayor of Manizales has not spoken publicly on the issue, but has said that "the subject will be addressed when the time is right".
While the attacks continue, González Gil has not stopped working: “There are some very worrying figures on violence against women, on sexual violence against girls, so we need to strengthen the response to that,” she told El Tiempo. “In Manizales, the issue of suicide is also important: we want to further investigate the link between mental health issues and gender-based violence. Of course, we also want to create a sustainable plan for the inclusion of women and LGBTI people.”
ILGA World affirms that trans women are women, and wishes Mati success in her new role.
More news from Latin America and the Caribbean
The Argentinian football club Villa San Carlos has made headlines by signing a trans player to the highest division of the women’s league.
Human rights defenders in Ecuador have stated that 2019 was the most violent year for members of the LGBTI community since they began monitoring attacks in 2010, with most of the victims being trans women.
USA: States propose bills to allow surgery on intersex children and criminalise gender-affirming healthcare
During the past few days, lawmakers from both South Dakota and Colorado submitted proposals for bills which would make it a crime for medical professionals to offer any form of gender-affirming healthcare to trans minors.
Colorado’s “Protect Minors From Mutilation and Sterilization Act” would make it a felony for medical professionals to provide any form of treatment for the purpose of “facilitating sex reassignment of a minor,” including surgical intervention and hormone replacement therapy. South Dakota’s law similarly forbids the use of hormones, puberty blockers or surgery on trans minors, but makes an exception for intersex infants, meaning that intersex genital mutilation would remain legal in the state.
Non-consensual genital surgery on intersex persons, often called Intersex Genital Mutilation (IGM) has been condemned by the United Nations and numerous advocacy groups as an abuse of human rights, though legislative reform has been rare in most regions. A bill to ban the practice in California failed to advance in a recent vote.
Politicians in both Colorado and South Dakota have been heavily criticised for the proposed bills by human rights defenders and clinicians alike. Dr. Jack Turban of Harvard Medical School who specialises in trans youth has said “it’s unsettling to see state legislators proposing that standard medical care, as outlined by The American Academy of Pediatrics, The American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry and The Endocrine Society, should be a felony,” while Daniel Ramos, executive director of One Colorado, has called the bill “one of the most extreme and direct attacks on transgender youth in Colorado’s history.”
“Medical care for transgender youth should be determined by healthcare professionals, not politicians,” said Ramos.
According to Human Rights Watch, lawmakers of other six US states are considering similar bills this session to prevent trans youth from accessing gender-affirming care.
More news from North America
In the United States, Utah has become the 19th state to outlaw ‘conversion’ therapy for LGBT minors despite pushback from religious and conservative groups.
In Canada’s capital of Ottawa, three sites are being considered for the construction of a monument memorialising the historic discrimination faced by members of the LGBTI community.
In the United States, New Jersey became the ninth state to ban the so-called ‘gay and trans panic defenses’ for charges of criminal homicides.
Australia: protests against “drag queen story-time” continue in Melbourne and Brisbane
Public debate around the subject of “drag queen story-time” continues to escalate after last week’s protests in Brisbane, with two separate petitions against these events making the rounds online. One of the petitions states that the “sexual nature” of drag queens is inappropriate for children, and argues that these events are harmful because they send the message that “trans is great.”
Richard Bakker, publisher of LGBTI news site QNews, has responded to the unfounded claims in these petitions by launching his own petition calling for the government to acknowledge those with “diverse sexualities and gender identities”.
“QNews started our petition to rally the huge support across Brisbane for these great events, run by Rainbow Families Queensland,” Bakker said. “We needed to respond to the other petitions, including the one by Wendy Francis, which contain offensive and untrue statements about the LGBTIQ communities.”
Rainbow Families Queensland has invited those negatively affected by the protests to attend a private therapeutic session facilitated by mental health professionals. This comes after protestors disrupted a story-time session on the 12th of January; it was reported that the head of the protests committed suicide the following day. Despite the ongoing backlash from conservative groups, however, some local libraries and drag queens have not been dissuaded from partnering with one another for such events. QNews reported on an event in Melbourne, where protestors picketed outside the Werribee library while police escorted children and parents on and off the property for security reasons.
More news from Oceania
The Victoria Immigration Museum in Australia hosted an event about the lives of LGBTIQA+ members of the Pacific diaspora. “Tales of a Migrant Plantation” brought together photography, live performance and panel discussions to tell the stories of rainbow migrants.
In Australia, the Rainbodhi LGBTQIA+ Buddhist Community is calling on all Buddhists to oppose the federal government’s proposed religious discrimination and religious freedom laws.
Photo of the week
At least two official panels were dedicated to LGBTI rights during this year's annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, addressing the role of the private sector in advancing the rights of our communities, and how can schools and families contribute to safe and inclusive environments for all
(photo: World Economic Forum / Faruk Pinjo, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)
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