Two weeks in LGBTI news
7 - 20 May 2021
Written by Nazlı Mayuk
Edited by Daniele Paletta
Every May 17, our global community comes together to draw the attention of the world to the realities of people with diverse sexual orientations, gender identities and expressions, and sex characteristics. It is a day to call out human rights violations that we keep facing every day, but also a moment of global pride and hope. This year there was a true outpour of messages, photos, reports, research, videos, and campaigns - from at least 90 countries from across the world!
Over the past weeks, we continued to see how the struggle towards a world that is free of violence and discrimination against us is far from over. The world mourned a 20-year-old gay man from Iran, who was killed after being outed through a military exemption card. In Cameroon, two trans women were sentenced to five years in prison under a law criminalising same-sex conduct.
In many parts of the world, progress is at a standstill. ILGA-Europe’s annual Rainbow Europe Map and Index recorded hardly any positive changes in legislation and policies across 49 European countries during 2020.
But there are also reasons for hope. In the United States, the Alabama state governor signed a bill into law to update a sexuality education law and remove stigmatising language on sexual orientation issues. A human rights defender from El Salvador has become the first trans activist to be appointed as High-Profile Supporter by the UN Refugee Agency. In Australia, the Government of Victoria government announced a funding package to boost the wellbeing of our communities.
Read these weeks' news from...
(Trigger warning) Iran: gay man killed after being outed through a military exemption card
A 20-year-old gay man, Ali Fazeli Monfared, was kidnapped and killed - allegedly by a group of men from his family - in Ahvaz, Iran.
LGBTI human rights defenders reported that Monfared, known to family and friends as Alireza, was murdered after his half-brother opened an envelope containing his military exemption card. The document, issued through the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, indicated Alireza was gay – an indication that is allowed on the document under Paragraph 5, Article 7 of the military exemption laws.
According to different sources, Alireza had expressed concerns about his own safety and intent to flee Iran. He had been living away from his family but had returned briefly to Ahvaz to pick the military exemption card that cost him his life.
“The circumstances surrounding Alireza’s murder reaffirm our concerns regarding the potential dangers of the sexual orientation exemption to young men in Iran,” said 6 Rang, The Iranian Lesbian and Transgender Network. “It highlights, once more, the necessity of proactive legislation in this area.”
According to Iranian law, all assigned male citizens are required to report for military service at age 18 and must serve a consecutive 24-month period. Gay and trans people are not required to serve in the military. However, they need to hold an exemption card, which can be obtained through a process that forces individual applicants to declare having same-sex relations and puts them at risk of being outed, threatening their safety.
More news from Asia
In the Philippines, an anti-discrimination bill will be debated in the House of Representatives after it gained the approval of the human rights committee. The bill would ban discrimination based on "protected attributes," including sex, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, and sex characteristics amongst others.
A recent survey report focusing on issues trans people face in their daily lives in Hong Kong shows that half of the respondents faced discrimination in their workplace, schools, businesses, or when accessing premises.
Europe and Central Asia
Recent study highlights an urgent need for a reboot on LGBTI rights in Europe
ILGA-Europe’s annual Rainbow Europe Map and Index, ranking the legal and policy situation of LGBTI people in 49 European countries, found that advances in LGBTI rights have come to almost a complete standstill.
The past 12 months have marked an unprecedented year in the Map’s 12-year history, with almost no positive legislative or policy change for LGBTI people in the region. Despite clear commitments on rainbow family recognition, for example, no country has moved on partnership or parenthood recognition. After reporting positive changes in bodily integrity or legal gender recognition for many years, no country in the region apart from Iceland showed progress in laws for intersex and trans rights, ILGA-Europe points out.
“It is deeply worrying to report an almost complete standstill on LGBTI rights and equality, especially at such a critical time for LGBTI communities,” said Executive Director of ILGA-Europe, Evelyne Paradis. “The human rights of LGBTI people simply cannot be something that you drop when circumstances are challenging.”
However, “If governments actively choose to do the right thing and take real action, our Rainbow Map can look positively different by this time next year. At least 15 countries have legislative proposals, action plans and policy discussions already on the table.“
Similarly, Transgender Europe’s Trans Rights Map 2021 has shown an alarming loss in trans rights in Europe and Central Asia. While some countries have slowed down in increasing protections for trans people, others have often stalled progress altogether. On the occasion of IDAHOBIT, OII Europe presented the Intersex Good Practice Map 2020, which features nine examples of good practices from various areas on sex characteristics issues - including on policy action, data collection, and campaigning.
More news from Europe and Central Asia
In Spain, Congress voted to block the start of a legislative process for a gender identity bill, which would have included legal gender recognition based on self-determination.
In Georgia, 15 political groups signed a pledge to work towards eliminating discrimination and violence against queer people, protect the right to peaceful assembly and the freedom of expression of all human beings, and not allow the use of anti-LGBTI hate speech
In France, the national rugby federation unanimously voted to allow trans persons to play in leagues comporting with their gender identity as of the next season.
In the United Kingdom, the government announced consultations on the issue of conversion therapy’ in a move towards banning these harmful practices. However, LGBTI organisations are urging the government to take immediate action: “We don’t need a consultation to know that all practices that seek to convert, suppress, cure or change us are dangerous, abusive and must be banned”, Stonewall said.
Latin America and the Caribbean
UN Refugee Agency appoints LGBTI human rights defender from El Salvador as High-Profile Supporter
The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has announced it had appointed LGBTI human rights defender Bianka Rodríguez as a High-Profile Supporter to their work. According to the agency, she would be the first out trans person to be chosen for the role, joining them in their work “to protect and advocate for LGBTIQ+ forcibly displaced people around the world.”
In a statement marking the International Day against LGBTI-phobia, UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi welcomed Rodríguez’s appointment while reiterating the commitment of UNHCR to safeguarding the rights of people in our communities who had to flee their homes.
“We continue to work with LGBTIQ+ allies from civil society, the private and public sectors and academia to make sure refugees are heard and included in decisions that affect them and their communities,” said Grandi. “We rely on people, such as Bianka, to guide us and tell us what works.”
More news from Latin America and the Caribbean
In Brazil, the Public Ministry of the State of Pernambuco has announced the opening an LGBT Rights Center to assist ministerial action on issues related to sexual and gender diversity.
The Senate of Puerto Rico passed a bill to expand protections against discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity.
North America and the Caribbean
United States: Alabama state to remove anti-LGBT language from sex ed law
Alabama’s Governor Kay Ivey has signed a bill that will update the US state’s sexuality education law, removing inaccurate and stigmatizing language around sexual orientation issues.
Laws on the books in Alabama still required sexuality education to emphasise “that homosexuality is not a lifestyle acceptable to the general public” and “homosexual conduct is a criminal offense under the laws of the state.” However, as Human Rights Watch (HRW) points out, the provisions in the law were misleading, since US Supreme Court had ruled in 2003 that bans on same-sex activity are unconstitutional and cannot be enforced.
According to HRW, at least four U. S. States continue to keep anti-LGBT curriculum laws in the books, while others – including Utah, Arizona, and South Carolina - have repealed them in recent years.
Recently, Alabama has passed other legislation affecting our communities, although of a completely different nature: in April 2021, the governor had signed House Bill 391 into law, a provision that would ban youth from participating in school sports consistent with their gender identity.
More news from North America and the Caribbean
In the United States, Tennessee Governor Lee signed into law a bill to prevent trans people from using restrooms aligning with their gender identity.
A Canadian high school’s rainbow crosswalk, painted by a local LGBTQ student organization to encourage inclusiveness and diversity, was vandalised with what police referred to as “hate crime slurs.” Two men have been arrested.
(Trigger warning) Cameroon: trans women sentenced to five-years in prison
A Cameroonian court sentenced Shakiro and Patricia, two trans women, to five years in prison and fines of 200,000 CFA (USD $370) after being charged with ‘attempted homosexuality’ and public indecency. A lawyer for the two, who were arrested for allegedly wearing women's clothing in a restaurant, say they are preparing an appeal.
The two were arrested in February 2021. Human Rights Watch reported that, according to activists and lawyers who visited them in detention, gendarmes interrogated the women without a lawyer present, beat and threatened to kill them, taunted them with anti-LGBT epithets, and forced them to sign statements. Shakiro and Patricia were later taken to the overcrowded Douala central prison, where they reported being beaten and insulted by guards and other inmates.
Rights organisations are calling on Cameroon authorities to release Shakiro and Patricia and vacate the charges immediately. “Justice was not done,” says Tamfu Richard, one of the lawyers defending the two. “So our next action will be to file an appeal before the appeal court and we hope that we will be able to make sure justice is done at that level."
More news from Africa
Our communities in Kenya are mourning the death of LGBTI human rights defender Joash Mosoti, whose body was found in his home in Bamburi. Circumstances around his death are being investigated, and a suspect has been arrested.
In a newly-published anthology documenting stories of queer activism in sub-Saharian Africa, 20 human rights defenders from across the continent shared their journeys and revealed what inspires their fight for quality.
Three trans women were reportedly attacked and robbed by a group of men at a bar in the city of Cotonou, Benin, prompting human rights organisation to urge authorities to protect trans people and the associations that defend them.
Intersex human rights defenders took the floor during public hearings in South Africa on a bill to better protect children’s rights, and highlighted how unnecessary cosmetic surgeries on children are “a human rights violation tantamount to genital mutilation.”
Australia: Victorian government announces funding to improve the wellbeing of rainbow communities
In Australia, the State of Victoria state announced an AUD45 million (US$35 million) funding package to develop various initiatives to support the wellbeing of local LGBTIQ communities.
The funding is set to boost the state's gender affirming clinics and connected services. It will also ramp up community work, providing much needed resources and peer support for trans and gender diverse young people navigating the health system.
“Our trans, gender diverse and non-binary Victorians deserve to feel safe, supported and comfortable in their own skin, which is why we’re continuing our vital support for Victoria’s gender clinics,” said Minister for Equality Martin Foley.
More initiatives will also be funded, included to support a free specialist helpline, and to develop a mental health and wellbeing framework and blueprint for action.
Equality Australia celebrated the initiative, calling on the rest of Australian governments to “follow suit, to ensure that all Australians are supported and celebrated, no matter who they are or whom they love”.
More news from Oceania
In Australia, Capital Territory government it will consider amendments to its anti-discrimination act to better protect trans and intersex people.
New Zealand weightlifter and out trans person Laurel Hubbard could qualify for a bid in the Olympics games under revised rules approved by the International Olympic Committee. However, Hubbard has not been officially named to New Zealand’s Olympic team as of yet.
Photo of the week
“This IDAHOBIT let us remind ourselves to live with an open heart: let that healing kindness
lead the way for our activism, social relationships, and political demands.”
In a time of resistance, what does supporting and healing mean for your community?
Here’s what activists around the world told us.
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