Written by Maddalena Tomassini
Edited by Daniele Paletta
A victory for one of our communities is a success for us all, a reason for hope, and a reminder that our journey has a definite destination: equal rights for all. This week, our rainbow family has marked a momentous victory when the Court of Appeal in Botswana upheld the ruling decriminalising same-sex intimacy between consenting adults. The Netherlands formally apologized to trans and intersex persons for forcing sterilisation on those who wanted to rectify their gender markers. Canada got a step closer to ban so-called “conversion therapy” for all, with a unanimous vote in the lower house.
Meanwhile, our struggle towards equality continues around the world. In Chile, the final vote on marriage equality has been postponed by a parliamentary committee. In Australia, the Religious Discrimination Bill will be considered by two inquiries before it goes to vote.
As a community, we are called to take care of each other, especially when authorities won’t include us in their policies. A new report focusing on Southeast Asia underlined the severe impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the lives of LGBTIQ people and organisations.
The Botswana Court of Appeal upheld a 2019 ruling that decriminalised same-sex intimacy between consenting adults, marking a monumental victory for LGBTI people in the country.
The case was brought after the government appealed a High Court’s ruling in June 2019. At the beginning of this week, five justices unanimously found that the two criminalising sections of the Penal Code violated several human rights enshrined in the Constitution.
In including the right to freedom from discrimination, the court followed in the steps of the first ruling, interpreting the “sex” ground of discrimination to include sexual orientation. The ruling is final and cannot be further appealed.
“2021 has been a very overwhelming year for the LGBTIQ+ community across the continent,” commented Pan Africa ILGA’s executive director Nate Brown. “The community continues to be threatened by non-progressive laws and bills in countries like Ghana, Uganda, Kenya, among others. The historic decision by the Botswana Court of Appeal is one of the most positive landmarks to be documented on the continent this year.”
A new centre opened in Saint-Denis, Reunion Island, to promote LGBTI visibility and culture.
South Africa celebrated its 15th anniversary since marriage equality was approved in 2006, one year after the Constitutional Court ruled in its favour.
Botswana is the first country with severe HIV epidemic to have brought the mother-to-child HIV transmission rate under 5%, reaching a key milestone.
Egale stands firmly behind the updated & long-awaited bill C-6 to ban conversion therapy in Canada. We call on all political parties to ensure this bill passes quickly. Lives are on the line. @SenateCA @NoConversionCA @liberal_party @NDP @CanadianGreens @CPC_HQ @BlocQuebecois https://t.co/ii0pPmnGD4
— Egale Canada (@egalecanada) November 29, 2021
Canada's House of Commons unanimously approved a new bill prohibiting so-called ‘conversion therapy’ at the federal level.
The vote was welcomed with cross-partisan handshakes and hugs. Now, the legislation is on its way to the Senate, where previous similar bills had come to a halt.
Comparing the practices to torture, the draft law prohibits ‘conversion therapy’ practices on all children and adults, while also outlawing taking children outside Canada to undergo similar interventions. The previous version of the bill prohibited ‘conversion therapy’ only for children and non-consenting adults.
“Today we know for sure Canadians - and their representatives - are united against conversion practices,” tweeted No Conversion Canada. “An inspiring display of nonpartisanship to do the right thing and stand up for safety and freedom. We look forward to working with the Senate to see it through.”
According to the Department of Justice, Ontario, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Yukon, and Québec have already enacted legislation addressing different aspects of ‘conversion therapy’ in their jurisdiction. Others have implemented non-legislative measures, while some municipalities are banning the practice and promotion of ‘conversion therapy’ within their city limits.
A teacher in Michigan, United States, left his job after being ordered to remove a Pride flag from his classroom.
Lesbian, gay, or bisexual older adults in Oregon (United States) are at increased risk of discrimination and elder abuse but less likely to report it, a new study has shown.
The government of The Netherlands formally apologised to trans and intersex persons who were forced to undergo sterilisation to legally change their gender.
The Gender Change Act affected the lives of hundreds of people between 1985 until it was repealed in 2014. Now, authorities agreed to pay 5,000 euros to around 2,000 people who had undergone forcible sterilisations surgeries. The formal apology came one year after the Cabinet acknowledged the historic harm caused by the law, and vowed to come up with a financial compensation scheme.
“The surgeries that many hundreds of trans and intersex people had to undergo were not medically necessary but legally required,” Transgender Netwerk Nederland said in a press statement. “So, people were presented with an impossible choice. They could indeed opt for papers that matched their gender identity, but at much too high a price.”
The group welcomed the decision, although deeming the compensations too low, considering the damage those surgeries had caused on intersex and trans people.
Hungarian parliament gave green light to a referendum that would restrict education on LGBTI themes in schools. Meanwhile, the European Commission began the second phase of its infringement procedure the country, after Hungary adopted discriminatory amendments which ban the "portrayal and the promotion of gender identity different from sex at birth, the change of sex and homosexuality”.
According to reports, Belgium is planning to remove gender markers from identity cards to better include non-binary and gender diverse people.
In Poland, 29 groups who organise Pride and Equality marches across the country formed a new coalition to counter hate speech and discrimination.
The ASEAN SOGIE Caucus published a new study, sounding the alarm about the toll that Covid-19 has taken on LGBTIQ communities’ lives across Southeast Asia.
As the pandemic hit all economies in the region, the impact on the livelihoods of our communities has been severe, adding another layer to their pre-existing marginalisation.
Further, restriction policies have forced many LGBTIQ people to stay at home, separated from their friends and support systems. Isolation has taken a toll on their mental health and wellbeing, especially for those who live with unaccepting family members and are at increased risk of domestic violence.
States appear to have neglected our communities, as the study found no evidence of inclusive Covid-19 national responses. As a result, LGBTIQ organisations have stepped in, often going beyond their limitations and capacities. The struggle drained groups’ resources, which were affected by the pandemic as well: most of them reported having little to no financial safety nets, and are facing difficulties securing new findings.
While proving moderately effective for organisations in the region, online organising reinforced the digital divide, exposing activists to security and well-being concerns.
A town in Bangladesh has elected the country’s first trans mayor after she received more than double the votes of her nearest opponent.
ILGA Asia launched the Evaluation Report for its 2020 Covid-19 Humanitarian Grant Assistance Program, which has donated over 40,000 USD to 18 LGBTI organisations across 11 Asian countries.
Well we did it! The threat of the #ReligiousDiscriminationBill remains but we managed to ensure the Bill wasn’t voted on this week before an inquiry could take place. Time to breathe for a minute or two at least, then let’s start writing those submissions! #auspol
— Anna Brown OAM (@AnnaEquality) December 2, 2021
The Religious Discrimination Bill will be considered by two parliamentary inquiries, Equality Australia announced this week.
Introduced by Australian prime minister Scott Morrison, the bill was met both with concern from activists and opposition from states. While the State of Victoria indicated the possibility of challenging some of its provisions, the New South Wales premier questioned the need for the new legislation.
In its current form, the bill includes protection for “statements of belief”. As an example of its consequences, according to the Star Observer, this would allow health practitioners and teachers to make anti-LGBTQI statements on social media facing no disciplinary action from professional bodies.
Now, the inquiries will consider the Bill before it returns for debate early next year. “The timeline is brutal, so it’s now up to all of us to ensure the Bill gets the scrutiny it needs,” wrote Equality Australia.
“Our laws should protect all of us, equally. But this bill fails to do that, instead overriding existing protections for women, people with disability, LGBTIQ+ people and even people of faith,” they added.
Organised by the Samoa Fa’afafine Association Incorporated, the 5th Fa'afafine Week kicked off on Wednesday to call for positive social change in HIV & AIDS prevention, human rights and gender equality.
According to data released on World AIDS Day, Australia recorded a historic low in new HIV infections.
Comisión de Constitución del @Senado_Chile decide ir a Comisión Mixta sin discutir las indicaciones del proyecto de #MatrimonioIgualitario
¡Exigimos ley de #MatrimonioIgualitario AHORA! pic.twitter.com/mVY9CvD0Wv
— Fundación Iguales (@IgualesChile) November 30, 2021
Celebrations for marriage equality have been postponed in Chile, as a parliamentary committee has sent the bill back for a final review.
After last month’s approval at the lower house, the draft law was scheduled for a vote this week in the Senate. However, the Senate’s Constitutional Committee sent the draft back to a committee of senators and deputies. The committee is scheduled to meet next Monday, with the bill heading head back to both chambers the following day.
Presented for the first time in 2017, the proposed legislation would recognise same-sex couples’ right to marriage, filiation – currently not recognised under the current Civil Union Agreement – and adoption.
“[It] was a sad and bad day for the rights of women and LGBTIQ+ people in the National Congress,” tweeted Movilh. “Sooner or later, human rights will win.”
Honduras elected its first openly gay man to the Congress with over 100,000 votes, while Chile elected its first out trans official to the national legislature.
The Ombudsman's Office of Bolivia will lead the thematic working group on the rights of people with diverse sexual orientations and gender identities, soon to be formed by the Ibero-American Federation of Ombudsmen (FIO).
This year marked 40 years since the first cases of AIDS were reported. This World AIDS Day, as every other day, we point out that there is no way to end HIV/AIDS without ending inequalities: when human rights are respected, people can access the health services they need, protect themselves and the people they love.
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