The week in LGBTI news
22 – 28 October 2021
Written by Maddalena Tomassini
Edited by Daniele Paletta
This newsletter provides the lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex community and their allies
with the week in LGBTI news of the world
This week, our communities across the world celebrated our intersex and asexual siblings, marking Intersex Awareness Day and Ace Week. It has also been a time of both important advances and harsh setbacks.
A long legal struggle ended with a victory, as the United States issued its first passport with an “X” gender marker. On Intersex Awareness Day, the government of Aotearoa New Zealand vowed to create “a rights-based and child-centred intersex healthcare approach”. Meanwhile, in Asia, our communities were coming together to celebrate people in the asexual spectrum from across the continent in the first PanACEa Conference.
Every day, however, we are reminded how the struggle towards equality is far from over. In Italy, the Senate voted to halt discussions around a bill to tackle violence, discrimination and incitement to hatred against LGBT persons, women, and people with disabilities.
In Ghana, the parliament has reconvened and is preparing to consider an anti-LGBTI bill. In Chile, a court has convicted a man of killing a young lesbian woman, although it failed to recognise her murder as a hate crime.
Read this week's news from...
North America and the Caribbean
The United States issue first passport with “X” gender marker
The United States of America issued its first official passport with an “X” gender marker, the State Department announced.
For Dana Zzyym, a nonbinary and intersex U.S. veteran and associate director for Intersex Campaign for Equality, the news marks the end of a six-year legal battle. “I almost burst into tears when I opened the envelope, pulled out my new passport, and saw the ‘X’ stamped boldly under ‘sex,’” they said.
“I’m also ecstatic that other intersex and nonbinary U.S. citizens will soon be able to apply for passports with the correct gender marker,” Zzyym continued. “It took six years, but to have an accurate passport, one that doesn’t force me to identify as male or female but recognizes I am neither, is liberating.” Three courts had previously ruled in Zzyym’s favour.
In June 2021, the State Department had announced it would have added a gender marker on U.S. passports for nonbinary, intersex, and gender nonconforming persons. “We look forward to offering this option to all routine passport applicants once we complete the required system and form updates in early 2022”, a spokesperson now said.
More news from North America and the Caribbean
On Intersex Awareness Day, the United States hosted the first-ever White House roundtable with intersex advocates, as well as a historic dialogue with intersex human rights defenders from across the world organised by the State Department.
Activists in Canada slammed a bill proposed by Quebec’s justice minister that would require trans people to undergo surgery to change the sex marker on their documents. The bill would also force intersex people marked at birth as having "undetermined" sex anatomy to apply for a change of sex designation “as soon as it is possible to determine the person’s sex.” For this change, they would also be forced to undergo a medical procedure to alter their genitalia.
According to a recent study, there are around 285,000 adults in the United States that identify as American Indian or Alaska Native, and they are reporting concerning high rates of mental health struggles.
In the United States, Texas’ governor signed a bill into law limiting student athletes to sport teams that match their gender assigned at birth.
Europe and Central Asia
Italy: Senate blocks bill tackling violence, discrimination, and incitement to hatred
The Italian Senate has voted by 154 to 131 to halt the debate over a bill aimed at tackling violence, discrimination and incitement to hatred against LGBT persons, women, and people with disabilities. The decision -loudly applauded by the lawmakers who had opposed the law - sparked a public outcry among the country’s LGBTI community and its allies.
The bill, which had been approved by the lower chamber of parliament in November 2020, would have added sex, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, and disability status among the aggravating factors in cases of violence, discrimination, and incitement to hatred.
Over the past three decades, various governments have unsuccessfully tried to enact a similar law, with each attempt crashing against cross-parties’ opposition and the influence of the Catholic church. Last June, the Vatican had voiced concerns that the bill would infringe upon its “freedom of thought.” Every year, rights groups report hundreds of instances of hate crimes, many of which go unpunished.
Holding the 35th place out of 49 European countries in ILGA-Europe’s Rainbow Map, Italy has currently little to no protection against discrimination, hate crimes and hate speech on the grounds of sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, and sex characteristics.
“Following misinformation on freedom of speech, the Italian Senate voted down a bill to protect LGBTI people, women and disabled people from hate crime and speech, pushing Italy down the Rainbow Map on LGBTI human rights. Now, EU legislation on hate crime and speech is needed,” ILGA-Europe wrote on Twitter.
In the days immediately after the vote in the Senate, tens of thousands took to the streets in Milan, Rome, and more cities across the country to protest against the outcome of the vote.
More news from Europe and Central Asia
Hundreds of LGBTI human rights defenders came together virtually for the annual ILGA-Europe Gathering, under the theme ‘The power of us’.
A court in Georgia ruled that the Tbilisi Pride director has committed administrative offence for verbally abusing a police officer in July. On the day of the facts, he reported being chased by violent extremists as the police stood by without intervening.
The trial for the murder and suspected hate crime of LGBT activist Zacharias Kostopoulos began in Athens, Greece.
After a discriminatory article unleashed a new wave of transphobia in the United Kingdom, allies showed up in solidarity on social media using the hashtag #CisWithTheT.
Ghana: parliament reconvenes, considers anti-LGBTI bill
Ghanian President Nana Akufo-Addo called for “civil” debate and “tolerance”, as the parliament has reconvened and is considering a discriminatory bill that would put LGBTI persons’ lives and safety at risk.
As human rights organisations had pointed out during the latest session of the UN Human Rights Council, the bill would not only attempt to “criminalise same-sex conduct, but also promotes harmful practices such as unnecessary medical interventions on intersex children and so-called ‘conversion therapies’.”
This bill had been described by several UN experts as “a recipe for violence and conflict”. According to human rights organisations. it “also enables the state to prevent human rights defenders from organising themselves to defend LGBTI people, and absolutely prohibits public debates that advance the protection or promotion of the rights of LGBTI persons.”
Local organisations reported how, over the past years, the country has recorded an unprecedented wave of homophobia. “More and more LGBT people have had to flee their homes and communities, or are being targeted by attacks. They are under intense pressure. The damage is also psychological,” the Ghanaian NGO Interfaith Diversity Network of West Africa said.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, said he is “gravely concerned” by this bill, and signalled the intention to discuss the Anglican Church of Ghana’s response to the bill, citing the Church’s opposition to “the criminalisation of same-sex attracted people”. “I remind our brothers and sisters in the Anglican Church of Ghana of these commitments,” he wrote.
After the draft law’s first reading, the parliament has yet to set a date for the debate.
According to ILGA World’s State-Sponsored Homophobia latest update, the 2003 amended Penal Code already punishes consensual same-sex intimacy among adults with up to three years in prison. People detained under such charges are often subjected to psychological abuse, damaging media exposure and medical examinations.
More news from Africa
In Tunisia, LGBT associations are still under attack: during the past week alone, the president of Damj was beaten by police officers, while the president of Shams reported being sentenced to a year of imprisonment for sharing a post on Facebook.
Three young men have been sentenced to prison in Ross-Béthio, Senegal after they beat up two men on the grounds of their alleged sexual orientation. Some city’s residents, however, reportedly protested the arrests and convictions.
Latin America and the Caribbean
(trigger warning: murder and violence) Chile: Nicole Saavedra’s killer convicted, but court claims it wasn’t a hate crime
A Chilean Criminal Court has found a man guilty of kidnapping, raping, and killing Nicole Saavedra, a young lesbian woman who was murdered in 2016 in the region of Valparaíso. The final sentence against the accused is scheduled to be announced today, 29 October. The prosecution requested a term in prison of a maximum of 15 years.
According to the court, the perpetrator acted with malice aforethought. However, it unanimously rejected the aggravating factor of hatred or discrimination, claiming that the victim’s sexual orientation and gender expression were not accredited as the sole or principal motive of the crime.
“The justice system has acted in a denigrating and discriminatory manner throughout the entire process – lamented Agrupación LésBIca Rompiendo el Silencio on Twitter – including the final ruling which did not accept that this was a hate crime (lesbicide) because of Nicole's orientation and expression”.
Saavedra was kidnapped on 18 June 2016 on a bus driven by her killer, and died after being repeatedly beaten up. The young woman was found dead a week later.
More news from Latin America and the Caribbean
In Peru, a group of lawmakers presented a bill to allow marriage equality in the country, amending article 234 of the Civil Code - which currently describes marriage as the union of a man and a woman.
Hundreds of persons from across the Americas and the Caribbean gathered together at the 5th Meeting of LGBTIQ+ Political Leaders.
A trans woman was victim of an acid attack in the western State of Jalisco, Mexico, and was reportedly denied medical attention in a hospital.
The president of a Chilean trans organization has been attacked and set on fire while she was walking down the street in the north of Santiago de Chile.
Aotearoa New Zealand vows to create a “rights-based” intersex healthcare
The Aotearoa New Zealand Government has promised to create “a rights-based and child-centred intersex healthcare approach”, Intersex Aotearoa said.
According to the video shared by the group on Facebook, the government has vowed to assist health professionals in providing healthcare for intersex people after a series of meetings with intersex and human rights advocates. Authorities plan to promote practitioners’ knowledge so they can support people with variations of sex characteristics in making informed choices about their health.
“We thank the Associate Minister Verrall and her team for sharing this process with us,” the group said. “We are committed to working with this government to ensure that they uphold these promises in accord with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.”
“Twenty-five years after starting the intersex advocacy in Aotearoa, this is a proud and historic day,” said Intersex Aotearoa Executive Director Mani Bruce Mitchell. “I want to acknowledge and thank all who have been involved in this long journey.”
More news from Oceania
The Western Australian Supreme Court rejected the appeal to regain custody issued by the parents of a trans boy who were accused of verbally and emotionally abusing their child.
In Sydney, Australia, a memorial was unveiled to honour the victims and survivors of homophobic and transphobic attacks that occurred in the city from the 1970s to 1990s.
LGBT activists are calling for Australia to change its policy on blood donations from gay and bisexual men as other countries ease restrictions.
Pan-Asian conference celebrates asexual identities
The PanACEa: Pan-Asian Asexuality Conference kicked off this week to examine and celebrate the intersection of asexual identities and Asia. Organised by Indian Aces - Indian Asexuals and Humans of Queer, the event is taking place online and will last until 31 October.
“Our aim at PanACEa is to create space, to look at emergent trends and traditional notions, to enable an exchange of knowledge, thought-leadership and creative understanding, and to build a community to examine and celebrate Asexuality in Asia,” organisers wrote.
“Across the seven days of the conference, we will bring together speakers, researchers, thinkers, activists, artists, and performers. We will open avenues for debate, discussion and discourse through panel discussions and presentations – the PanACEa website reads – And we will sing and celebrate our diversity through community-building, cultural exchange and social events. And all of this will be held online, enabling participation from all corners of the globe.”
More news from Asia
Reports of a “terrifying” situation for LGBT people in Afghanistan continue to emerge, as a man spoke to the press describing the community’s isolation and fears under Taliban rule.
Photo of the week
For this Intersex Awareness Day, ILGA World went yellow and purple to highlight the human rights situations facing intersex persons worldwide, and to celebrate their visibility.
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