Written by Kellyn Botha
Edited by Daniele Paletta
From Tanzania’s crackdown on LGBT-inclusive healthcare to civil society in Australia continuing to debate the controversial “Religious Freedom” bill, the world continues to see multiple cases of government’s falling short of protecting queer communities. A trend in Europe towards increased anti-LGBTI rhetoric and violence has left activists in the region concerned, while human rights defenders in Canada have decried a move to dismiss a trans woman’s discrimination case after her death.
As always, though, despite the setbacks and ongoing debates that may dishearten those fighting for a safer, more dignified world, there is good news. Nepal announced plans to count LGBT people in the 2021 census (although the methodology has raised concerns), and a convention against all forms of discrimination - including on the grounds of sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity and expression - will soon come into force within the Organisation of American States.
The Inter-American Convention Against All Forms of Discrimination and Intolerance will soon come into force within the Organisation of American States (OAS) after the requisite minimum of two member states ratified the document. Uruguay did so in May 2018, and Mexico followed up in January 2020. It is expected that the treaty will come into force on 20 February. So far, only 12 out of 35 States in the region have signed the convention since it was adopted in 2013.
The convention urges OAS Member States to prevent, eradicate, prohibit and sanction all acts or expressions of discrimination and intolerance, including on the grounds of “sex; sexual orientation; gender identity and expression [...] or any other condition.” It also clearly states that “Every human being is equal under the law and has a right to equal protection against any form of discrimination and intolerance in any sphere of life, public or private.”
This marks a major victory for LGBTI communities across the Americas, as it commits states to affirm their human rights and freedoms in a region which continues to see extreme levels of violence against them and other vulnerable groups. In order to monitor the adoption and effective implementation of this resolution, an Inter-American Committee - comprised of representatives from each member state - will be implemented. The reports that the States Parties will submit to the Committee “shall also contain disaggregated data and statistics on groups in situations of vulnerability.”
Further, individuals and non-governmental organisations from within member states will be able to submit petitions, reports and complaints of human rights violations of this convention to the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights.
In Brazil a new app called Dandarah, named after a trans woman who was murdered in 2017, has been launched to allow LGBT people a way to map dangerous areas and call for help when at risk.
Guyana has come under pressure from a number of governments around the world for its ongoing criminalisation of consensual same-sex sexual activity. It is the last South American country to retain such laws.
The second Intersex Conference of Latin America and the Caribbean has taken place in Buenos Aires, Argentina, bringing together intersex persons and activists from across the region.
#AnnualReview2020 is live! @ILGAEurope reports the human rights situation of LGBTI people in 54 countries.
Find out how the lived realities of LGBTI communities&individuals do not match up to the perception that all is well for LGBTI people in the region: https://t.co/doYIfSK8RC pic.twitter.com/baOgAKuYBn
— ILGA-Europe (@ILGAEurope) February 4, 2020
ILGA-Europe has launched the 10th edition of its Annual Review, which offers an outline of the human rights situation for LGBTI persons across the region, with the assistance of activists and organisations working on the ground.
The review, launched during an event at the European Parliament, looks at developments throughout 2019 in 54 countries, and has revealed a significant increase in anti-LGBTI hate speech (carried out even by public figures) and crimes across Europe and Central Asia. This trend seems to have risen in tandem with populist movements such as Brexit in the UK and the growing presence of neo-Nazi movements in the region.
Alongside the rise in hatred, there is increased movement of people within the region to countries perceived as less harsh. For example, more LGBTI people left countries such as Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan for neighbouring countries where the situation might be perceived as relatively safer.
Not all the report’s findings were negative, however. According to Evelyne Paradis, Executive Director of ILGA-Europe: “The issue of bodily integrity for intersex people continues to gain more prominence on the political agenda of governments and institutions. 2019 was a year of positive developments for rainbow families in the region, with an expansion of family rights in a few countries; and important advancements continue to be made on reforming or establishing legal gender recognition procedures”.
“However,” Paradis pointed out, “the lived reality of LGBTI people in many parts of Europe and Central Asia is increasingly difficult and for a large part remains invisible. Action is needed.”
Romania has been announced as the venue for the first Sex Workers of Europe and Central Asia Assembly by a coalition of sex work advocacy groups. The event will take place between 14 and 19 September 2020 in the capital city, Bucharest.
A doctor in Spain has come under fire for noting a patient’s trans identity as a pre-existing illness, despite the World Health Organisation removed trans-related categories from the Chapter on Mental and Behavioural Disorders in the ICD-11.
Our communities in Hungary and beyond are mourning the loss of LGBTI activist Szilvia Nagy, President of the Rainbow Mission Foundation behind the Budapest Pride.
"There are plans for a more specific, detailed survey exclusively for LGBTI (people) ... hopefully by 2022. It will give more accurate data" @unwomennepal @UNDPNepal @FJS @GlobalFundWomen @woman_kind @knightktm @USAmbNepal @amplifyfund #Nooneleftbehind https://t.co/gv2JYVPtBg
— Mitini Nepal (@MitiniNepal) February 5, 2020
In a move to help better planning for social security and other public services for the community, Nepal announced it will count LGBT people in the 2021 census.
An official at the Central Bureau of Statistics explained that, for the first time, people would need to identify themselves and their family members as either "male", "female" or "others (sexual/gender community)" - a range of options that has left activists on the ground concerned for the conflation of sexual orientation and gender identity.
As Openly points out, a similar attempt was made in the country in 2011, when authorities added a "third gender" category in the census for the first time. The number of people choosing to identify under the category, however, was too small to be included in the final population count.
According to reports, this time “a more specific, detailed survey exclusively for LGBTI people” is in the plans alongside the census, most likely to take place in 2022.
Pakistan’s Securities and Exchange Commission (SECP) has recently updated its online registration system, introducing a separate category for members of the trans community in its online portal for company registration and compliance.
In the Republic of Korea, a trans student has been accepted into a women's university, in what is believed to be a first for the country. The university has stated that it accepted the student based on her results in the entrance exam, despite a small number of protests against her.
A new report has exposed the impact of the anti-LGBTQ policies of the government of Tanzania, including arbitrary arrests and discrimination, that deny LGBTQ people their rights and adequate health services. https://t.co/RYA9QXFdbx
— Mambaonline (@Mambaonline) February 5, 2020
A report released by Human Rights Watch has revealed that governmental policies in Tanzania continue to deny vital healthcare services to members of the LGBT community, as well as other groups vulnerable to HIV.
The report documents how since 2016 authorities have cracked down on LGBT people, prohibiting community-based organisations to conduct outreach on HIV prevention, closing drop-in centres and banning the distribution of lubricants, on the grounds that such services would ‘promote homosexuality’. Police also raided meetings and trainings by healthcare professionals and activists, and arrested participants. The crackdown intensified in late 2018, when regional official Paul Makonda threatened to arrest all gay men in Dar es Salaam, encouraged locals to text him the names of those suspected of “homosexual conduct”, and approved of forced anal examinations to find ‘evidence’ of intercourse.
Despite reassurances from President John Magaful that Tanzania would not pursue such policies, arrests and discriminatory actions have continued: a key organisation offering services to the community had its registration withdrawn, and officials made more public calls for arrests of gay men. In February 2020, Makonda and his family were barred from entering the United States due to these policies, as well as other "gross violations of human rights, which include flagrant denial of the right to life, liberty, or the security of persons".
The African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights has formally called on member states to end violence and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientations and gender identity, though Tanzania last year passed legislation that would prohibit individuals and organisations from approaching the commission to lay complaints about violations of their rights.
In Cameroon, a human rights organisation has reportedly secured funding and a venue to reopen its shelter for LGBTI people in need, after the project had to be shut down in November 2019.
In Uganda, LGBTI community members and organisations have declared 26 January the annual Kuchu Memorial Day, in remembrance of activist David Kato who was murdered on that day in 2011.
Trans forums and networks from different African regions have convened in Kenya and announced the creation of a new regional body, the Africa Trans Network.
What could happen under the Religious Discrimination Bill? We made a video with some legends and every day Australians to show you: pic.twitter.com/C24Zbs3v6n
— Equality Australia (@EqualityAu) December 13, 2019
The second draft of Australia’s “Religious Freedom bill” has come under fire from the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) and a number of LGBTI advocacy organisations for retaining loopholes from the first draft which would allow for religious discrimination against LGBTI persons.
The second round of consultations for the bill ended on 31 January, and the current iteration has received broad support from religious organisations for providing a “balance” between religious freedom and the needs of marginalised groups. However for the AHRC, LGBTI rights group Equality Australia, the Australian Medical Association and others, the current version of the bill is “categorically worse”.
If adopted the bill would allow religious hospitals, elderly care facilities, accommodation providers to discriminate against staff on the basis of religion to preserve their “religious ethos”.
Human rights commissioner, Ed Santow, has called the bill “unacceptable”, stating that “it does not protect human rights in a way that protects the entire community equally”. Ghassan Kassisieh, the legal director of Equality Australia, agrees, stating that the bill would give religious organisations a “blanket exemption” to discriminate.
The Attorney General behind the bill, Christian Porter, rejected these claims, but acknowledged that “not every group is going to be perfectly in agreement or happy” with the new legislation. Advocacy groups, as well as some opposition politicians and medical bodies, have stated that they will continue to oppose the bill and fight against its adoption in Parliament.
In Australia a former pastor from New South Wales who has long been a vocal supporter of the unfounded practice of ‘conversion’ therapy has been charged for the indecent assault of a 13-year-old boy. He is expected to arrive in court on 31 March.
A group of researchers in Aotearoa New Zealand is conducting consultations about an online survey that will look at rainbow, takatāpui and intersex young people’s experiences at school, in education and training, at work, and within the community.
BC Human Rights Tribunal is no longer hearing case of transgender inmate who filed a complaint after being denied transfer to a women's jail in 2018. Bianca Lovado died in November before the matter could be resolved and the Tribunal no longer has jurisdiction. @NEWS1130
— Marcella Bernardo (@Bernardo1130) February 1, 2020
The British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal has dismissed the case of a trans woman who had filed a discrimination complaint against British Columbia Corrections for their refusal to transfer her to a women’s prison.
The woman, Bianca Lovado, died in November 2019, but her lawyer still tried to have her case heard as a matter of public interest. The Human Rights Tribunal, however, ruled it no longer had jurisdiction over the case as the plaintiff had passed away, and the case had to therefore be dismissed.
Tribunal member Emily Ohler has stated that while they can no longer look into the case, it does raise “significant human rights issues.”
“This is a truly unfortunate case. The rights of transgender people and the way in which they are viewed and treated within broader society has been a very public topic in this province in recent months,” said Ohler. “In losing the opportunity to render a decision here, I believe the Tribunal is losing an opportunity to shine light on the efforts, the successes, and the failures of people engaged with these issues.”
In the United States, a New Mexico immigration detention centre has “without warning” transferred up to half of its trans women detainees to various other detention centres across the country, according to the women’s legal support workers. Last year, several trans women detained in the facility had complained about inadequate medical care and mistreatment from staffers.
A park in New York City, United States, is to be renamed after famed trans activist and Stonewall veteran, Marsha P Johnson, to memorialise her contribution to the LGBTQ rights movement.
In Detroit, MI, United States, a youth support centre and non-profit developer have come together to create free and low-cost housing for LGBTI young adults facing homelessness. The facility will include a live-in peer support specialist.
On 9 February, Switzerland – the country where ILGA World is headquartered – will vote to include sexual orientation
among the protected grounds against discrimination and incitement to hatred in their Penal Code.
ILGA World and ILGA-Europe's staff, board and friends from all over the world
have a loud and clear message ahead of the referendum: stop the hate!
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