Two weeks in LGBTI news
7 - 20 February 2020
Written by Kellyn Botha
Edited by Daniele Paletta
The LGBulleTIn is back after a week’s hiatus, and as always we have a wide range of updates from our regions.
Multiple countries have taken steps or made commitments to improve the lives of our communities, such as in Switzerland - where the majority of citizens voted to expand discrimination protections to lesbian, gay and bisexual persons - and in the United States, were Virginia has implemented anti-discrimination laws on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation.
A trans woman’s employment discrimination case, if heard, could set an important precedent in Barbados, while the Human Rights Commissioner of Aotearoa New Zealand has acknowledged that much more needs to be done to address the housing crisis that disproportionately affects marginalised groups - including those in our communities.
Sadly, South Africa was rocked by the third anti-LGBT hate crime in a mere two months, and a new report reveals that stigma and discrimination against LGBT youth is still widespread in schools around Viet Nam.
Read these weeks news from...
Europe and Central Asia
Switzerland: referendum shows widespread support for anti-discrimination legislation
On 9 February a majority of Swiss citizens voted in favour of legislation protecting lesbian, gay and bisexual people from discrimination and incitement to hatred, in what local human rights defenders are hailing as a victory.
The bill had been passed in December 2018, though a coalition of conservative parties and stakeholders sought a referendum to block it from coming into effect. However, with 63.1% of votes in favour of extending anti-racism legislation to protect LGB persons, the motion was defeated by a significant margin.
Advocacy in favour of adopting the law was headed by a coalition of human rights defenders and LGBTI-led NGOs. In the months leading up to the vote, more than 200 separate events were organised around the country, with tens of thousands of flyers, badges and pride flags given out or put on display to raise awareness for the cause.
ILGA World - which is based in Geneva, Switzerland - collaborated with ILGA Europe on a brief video message in solidarity with the campaign, prior to the vote.
“Today, it is not only the rights of lesbians, gays and bisexuals that are being strengthened, but also those of all minorities," said Muriel Waeger, co-director of the ’yes’ campaign, after the voting results were announced.
The newly adopted law would penalise those who “publicly degrade” others or deny them services based on their sexual orientation with up to three years in prison. However, it does not affect private conversations.
This outstanding result will now help in building momentum towards equal rights for all, starting with upcoming parliamentary debates on marriage equality and legal gender recognition based on self-determination.
More news from Europe and Central Asia
The Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Dunja Mijatović, has called on the Turkish government to put an end to its growing restrictions against human rights groups, including the ongoing ban of “LGBTI-related activities” in the capital, Ankara.
The Italian Court of Cassation has ruled that trans persons have the right to change their names without the obligation to modify their birthname by adding the suffix comporting with their actual gender identity.
A court in the United Kingdom has ruled against two police officers who approached a man at his place of work to warn him that his transphobic tweets had been noted as a “hate incident”. The judge declared the action to be an unlawful infringement of free speech, but local groups are working to appeal the ruling.
Viet Nam: LGBT youth face stigma and discrimination at school, report finds
A new report released by Human Rights Watch documents how LGBT youth in Viet Nam face stigma and discrimination at school, within their families, and in social settings due to inaccurate information about sexual orientation and gender identity issues.
One bisexual woman interviewed in the report notes that stigma remains widespread in Vietnamese society, as there “are very few people who think that this is normal.” A school employee, also quoted in the report, spoke about the pressure that many children are put under to “be straight”.
As a result, many young people face disproportionate levels of verbal harassment and physical abuse. Despite the Education Ministry producing guidelines on LGBT-inclusive sexual education, no such curriculum has yet been implemented. This means that teachers often continue to advocate for the idea of LGBT persons as sick, or are not trained in how to deal with discrimination cases.
“The government of Viet Nam has indicated support for the rights of LGBT people in recent years, but tangible policy change has lagged,” said Graeme Reid, LGBT rights director at Human Rights Watch. “LGBT youth are especially vulnerable due to inadequate legal protection and widespread misinformation about sexual orientation and gender identity.”
More news from Asia
Persons in China living with HIV/AIDS are at risk of running out of antiretroviral drugs, UNAIDS has warned, as concerns around the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) slows imports to the region.
Authorities in India have filed charges of sedition against 51 participants at the Queer Azadi event in Mumbai for allegedly displaying slogans critical of government policies. This comes after police banned the Mumbai Pride walk from taking place in an effort to prevent anti-government dissent.
United States: Virginia grants discrimination protections to LGBTQ people
The Virginia State Assembly has formally passed the Virginia Values Act, a bill which grants sweeping new protections to people in the state against discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, race, disability, religion, and a host of other categories. According to reports, this makes Virginia the first state in the South to include protections for LGBTQ persons, and the first state in more than a decade to update its non-discrimination policies to include our communities.
“Today, history was made in Virginia, and LGBTQ Virginians are one step closer to being protected from discrimination,” said Human Rights Campaign president Alphonso David.
Previous anti-discrimination bills have been debated in the Virginia legislature several times, but were repeatedly blocked by conservative members of the Senate. However, recent elections saw a significant shift in House membership, which allowed the bill to be passed in its latest introduction.
“This day would not have been possible without the years and years of tireless work from advocates across the commonwealth, or the voters in Virginia that filled the halls of the General Assembly with pro-equality champions who fulfilled their promises,” said David.
The bill protects from employment discrimination all government and school board employees, as well as those working in companies with six employees or more. It will also update Virginia's Fair Housing Act to protect LGBTQ people from discrimination when trying to rent or purchase property.
More news from North America
In Connecticut, United States, three high school athletes and their families have filed a lawsuit over a policy which allows trans athletes to participate in sports based on their gender identity. The complaint specifically names two trans runners, and its language has been defined as “an assault on the basic dignity and humanity of transgender people”.
An LGBTQ-inclusive gym in Canada has announced it will close its doors at the end of February due to ongoing harassment, doxxing and threats of violence by a local right-wing extremist group.
Latin America and the Caribbean
Barbados: trans woman files landmark employment discrimination case
For what is thought to be the first time on record, a case has been filed with the Employment Rights Tribunal (ERT) to rule on the termination of a trans woman from her place of work.
Alexa Hoffman claims her dismissal constitutes discrimination on the grounds of her gender identity, as her employer allegedly asked her to work from home shortly after she had legally amended her name, and then placed her on leave so that the company could “engage in consultations on the matter”.
Hoffman noted her employers had already been aware of her name and gender identity before she had legally made the amendments. It was only after formally changing her name, however, that the company allegedly began to act against her.
“Regardless of an employer’s consternation about the diversity of his staff, as long as that diversity does not have a direct impact on the work they are employed to do it should not be cause to suspend them,” Hoffman said. “If you have an employee, whether they are gay, straight, bisexual, trans, disabled, HIV positive or whatever the situation is…let them do their work in peace, and if I have to go through the Employment Rights Tribunal process to let employers know that I have the right to be left alone to do the work that I have been hired to do, then so be it.”
More news from Latin America and the Caribbean
In El Salvador, a trans woman who had sought asylum to escape death threats and extortion has been found murdered, after being deported from the United States.
In Colombia, a digital platform to memorialise LGBT persons murdered in the country over the past decade has been launched by Colombia Diversa. The Celeste platform allows viewers to learn about the lives and personalities of the deceased by exploring a series of starry constellations.
Aotearoa New Zealand: housing crisis disproportionately affects marginalised groups, says UN expert
UN Special Rapporteur on the right to housing, Leilani Farha, has called on Aotearoa New Zealand to implement a "more ambitious, innovative and courageous approach" to the country’s housing shortage, which she has labelled a “human rights crisis of significant proportions”.
Currently, one out of 100 people living in the country are homeless, with at least half being under the age of 25. Farha has said that those most impacted by the situation are already the most marginalised, such as Maori, Pasifika, immigrants, single parents, people with disabilities, and the LGBTQI+ community.
"A human rights crisis demands a human rights response. The Government must recognise in national law that housing is a fundamental human right requiring legal protection,” said Farha. "In my view, New Zealand must also adopt a comprehensive rights-based housing strategy that focuses on structural changes and that sets short and long term targets and establishes monitoring and accountability mechanisms."
Aotearoa New Zealand’s Human Rights Commissioner has welcomed the recommendations, acknowledging that “much more needs to be done to address the housing crisis.”
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has said that her government is working to improve the housing situation but has rejected the idea of implementing a capital gains tax, one of numerous recommendations made by Farha on how best to address the situation.
More news from Oceania
Two teenagers in Australia have been arrested for the murder of a man who they first reached out to on a dating app. Police are investigating possible motives behind the killing, including whether it was a hate crime.
Pacific nation activists from around the region protested against the ongoing criminalisation of LGBT identities in many of their home countries at the Rainbow Pride March in Auckland, Aotearoa New Zealand.
A conservative newspaper in Australia has come under fire for defining trans teenagers as a ‘global epidemic’.
South Africa: #Justice4Lindo – brutal murder of another LGBTI activist sparks outrage
In an horrific incident which has shocked human rights defenders across the country, 23-year old LGBTI activist and musician Lindokuhle Cele was murdered near the coastal city of Durban, KwaZulu Natal province.
A family spokesperson has said that Cele had gone to buy meat at a local butchery when a passer-by assaulted him.
He was reportedly stabbed 21 times before passing away, and it has been widely stated that none of the onlookers made any attempt to intervene in the attack.
A suspect was arrested, but his bail application was postponed until 25 February, as authorities have not yet identified his place of residence or other means of following up with him during his trial. His initial appearance in court also saw the attendance of Cele’s family, friends, members of political parties and LGBTI human rights defenders who picketed in support of Cele.
The incident marks the third known murder of a member of the LGBTI community in South Africa in two months. In November 2019, Mmabatho “Madonna” James was found murdered in the North West Province. In December a lesbian woman, Portia Mtshweni, was murdered and mutilated in the Mpumalanga province; and in January trans activist Nare Mphela a was found stabbed to death in Limpopo province. No arrests have yet been made for these incidents.
More news from Africa
In Mauritius, a court case challenging the constitutionality of section 250 of the penal code, which criminalises same-sex sexual relations, has been postponed until 3 March. The complainant is backed by Collectif-Arc-En-Ciel and a coalition of allied stakeholders.
In Seychelles a group of activists and organisations from across the British Commonwealth joined a meeting by the Royal Commonwealth Society to find ways to deal with the remnants of colonial laws impacting women and persons of diverse sexual orientations and gender identities. The meeting was opened by the President of Seychelles, who reminded participants of the constitutional ideals of “equity, inclusiveness, non-discrimination, protection of marginalised groups and equality”.
Photo of the week
History was made as Aisha Mughal (right) became the first out trans woman
to join the national delegation of Pakistan for a session of the
United Nations' Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).
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