"Cheating and adultery are wrong, but they are not criminalized... and no form of consensual adult expression of love should be..."
~ Rapper M.I. Abaga caused a stir online when he questioned Nigeria's law that criminalizes homosexuality.
Around the UN: The NGO and advocacy group ARC International published a new interactive map that tracks the UN voting records and resolutions involving sexual orientation and gender identity of all 193 member countries.
HIV, Health and Wellness: Venezuelan activists warn that a nation-wide shortage of HIV medications is leaving thousands of HIV-positive people untreated and causing deaths to skyrocket. Activists further warn that condom supplies have run out.
In Fiji, LGBTI rights group Rainbow Pride Fiji Foundation is leading an initiative to bring condoms to nightclubs and motels to help reduce sexually transmitted infections and teen pregnancy.
A new UK survey found that 65% of gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men did not use condoms during sex and another 32% of men did not know the HIV status of their last sexual partner. Ian Howley, of the charity GMFA, remarked that survey results show that "sex is complicated and there is no one size fits all safer sex strategy”. Meanwhile, health providers across the world continue to educate the public on PrEP for HIV prevention.
From Malawi, researchers found that tourist and rural areas had higher rates of HIV among gay and other men who have sex with men than in some cities that are targeted for HIV programming. Additionally, only 1% of HIV-positive men knew their status. The researchers cautioned that public health efforts were disrupted by policies that criminalize homosexuality.
In Bhutan, civil society organization Lhak-Sam provides grassroots effort to reduce stigma against HIV-positive people and LGBT+ community members.
A panel of US public health professionals published “MSM Sexual Health Standards of Care” to standardize the continuum of care and to combat the social determinants that create barriers to care for gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men. Meanwhile, three US medical students have developed a health care app that connects LGBTQ patients with a continuum of LGBTQ-friendly providers, advocacy groups, and academic medical centers.
A new comprehensive report from Australia explored the deep physical, mental, and social trauma trans and other gender nonconforming youth experience, nearly half of whom had attempted suicide. And from the US, researchers found that adolescent trans students were more than twice as likely to use cocaine, abuse prescription drugs, or smoke cigarettes than their cisgender classmates.
Bolivian organization Manodiversa organized a three-day conference to promote the rights and health needs of older LGBT adults. Meanwhile, a study out of the US found that “ageism perpetuates the invisibility of older adults” and leaves them vulnerable to HIV.
In the US, 90-year-old self-help guru and author, Louise Hay, passed away of natural causes. Among her many accomplishments, in the 1980s, Hay was known for her famous support group, "The Hayride", for people with HIV.
From the World of Politics: Mexico’s Ministry of Health announced a new “code of conduct” to end stigma and discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation. The national health system guidelines will include training public health providers and personnel to avoid discriminatory language, to respect confidentiality, and to avoid any so-called treatments to “cure” sexuality or gender identity.
Kyrgyzstan’s Ministry of Health approved a new manual that provides clinical protocols and guidelines for social assistance and health providers caring for transgender, transsexual, and other gender nonconforming people.
Denmark’s Equality Minister, Karen Ellemann, announced a new LGBTI action plan to support the community, prevent discrimination, and promote security.
The government of Finland decided it will not revise the “Trans Act” which requires that trans people undergo sterilization before legally changing their gender despite recommendations from the UN Human Rights Council.
The Cook Islands is considering a new Crimes Bill which will remove all references to the criminalization of homosexuality.
Many US media outlets reported that General James Mattis had “frozen” President Trump’s trans military ban. However, advocates objected and the ACLU’s Chase Strangio warned that Mattis’s “statements do not change the directive nor has he been given the power to retain transgender service members indefinitely”.
The Politics of Union: Ireland’s High Court of Belfast dismissed two cases that hoped to expand marriage equality to Northern Ireland. The judge declared that the same-sex marriage ban does not violate human rights because there is no international standard for marriage equality. Israel's High Court of Justice denied a petition seeking marriage equality and stated that it was up to legislators to change the law.
The government in the Australian state of Victoria announced a million dollar funding package to support mental health and other organizations for the LGBTI community in the wake of the country’s postal marriage equality poll. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull urged both sides of the debate to ‘campaign respectfully’ and Victorian Education Minister James Merlino directed all state primary and secondary schools to be prepared to support students distressed by “hurtful campaign material”.
Romania's ruling party announced they will hold a referendum to change the constitutional definition of "family" to specifically say one man and one woman. Although same-sex marriage is not legal, "family" is currently described as a marriage "between spouses".
Chilean President Michelle Bachelet introduced a bill to Congress that will legalize same-sex marriage saying: “We do this with the certainty that it is not ethical nor fair to put artificial limits on love, nor to deny essential rights just because of the sex of those who make up a couple.”
Let the Courts Decide: The Indian Supreme Court issued a ruling declaring that privacy is a fundamental right. The ruling, which involved the nation’s ID system, called into question India’s criminalization of homosexuality. Justice Dhananjay Chandrachud stated that: “Sexual orientation is an essential attribute of privacy. Discrimination against an individual on the basis of sexual orientation is deeply offensive to the dignity and self-worth of the individual.”
South Africa’s South Gauteng High Court ruled that the former ambassador to Uganda, Jon Qwelane, committed hate speech and violated the Equality Act with his article “Call me names, but gay is NOT okay” published in a local paper. Professor Melanie Judge explored the judgment in the context of hate speech versus freedom of speech.
The Equal Treatment Authority of Hungary issued its largest ever fine for discrimination based on sexual orientation against a local sports center that refused access to an LGBT sports group.
Fear and Loathing: Jamaican reality TV star and gay activist Dexter Pottinger was found murdered in his home.
In Guyana, faith leader Nigel London used his weekly television program to denounce a local organization, the Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD). London and his followers from “Come As You Are Ministries” held a march objecting to SASOD and their efforts to decriminalize homosexuality.
In Australia, three drag queens intervened when they witnessed a man being beaten in the street. The victim, Ivan Flinn, raised over $10,000 to thank his “saviors” and replace the “wig, nails, and heels” they damaged when “like Destiny's Child they strutted in and saved me”.
From Thailand, popular trans cabaret performer Aom spoke out about being arrested and beaten by police without cause—a common occurrence for trans women in Pattaya City where police have launched a "Pattaya Ladyboy Cleanup" to reform the city’s sex work reputation. The director of local NGO Sisters Foundation said they couldn’t explain why only trans sex workers are being targeted.
In Pakistan, a group of men broke in and raped transgender women in their home. In another incident, police said men in an “affluent” neighborhood harassed a group of trans women, murdering one. Kami Sid, a friend of the murder victim and Pakistan’s first openly trans model, told reporters: "This society may have found tolerance, but there is no acceptance for the transgender."
Winds of Change: Mongolian activist group, The LGBT Centre, spearheaded the project "A Tolerant & Hate-free Mongolia" to train 100 police officers to recognize and investigate LGBT hate crimes.
In the UK, the Crown’s Protection Service announced it would seek stronger penalties against those who use social media to abuse or bully victims. Additionally, for the first time, CPS has expanded hate crime guidelines to include biphobic offenses.
US multimillionaire Tim Gill pledged 60% of his assets—more than $300 million—to his endowment to fight homophobia and anti-LGBTQ legislation. And in Greece, the Stavros Niarchos Foundation has donated funds to reopen 11528-By Your Side, the country’s only LGBTQI helpline.
Japanese LGBT activist Hiroko Masuhara, the first person to obtain a same-sex marriage certificate in Shibuya district, discussed how quickly opinions have changed towards LGBT in Japanese society.
From the Philippines, Evan Tan discussed the way gay dating apps help to form non-sexual relationships and create communities in areas where gay people face discrimination. And at the STI & HIV World Congress, health innovation strategist Alex Garner discussed the ability of gay dating apps to impact community health and education.
In the Name of Religion: As Australians prepare for the marriage equality postal vote, Catholic Archbishop Denis Hart threatened church employees who do not uphold “what we believe about marriage”, and Archbishop Timothy Costelloe warned teachers not to “undermine their school values” by supporting same-sex marriage. However, leaders from two prestigious Catholic schools urged the church and school members to make their own decisions, noting that love is the “primary gospel value”.
The largest Protestant denomination in the US, Baptists, held their annual Ethics and Religious Liberty convention. Denied official participation, LGBTQ non-profit Faith in America protested outside the event singing hymns and urging the community to recognize homeless LGBTQ youth. In an op-ed, Pastor Brandan Robertson, an “openly queer and progressive activist", described why he attends the conference despite resistance. Meanwhile, over 150 evangelical leaders used the conference to develop and release “The Nashville Statement”, a “manifesto” that condemns trans and gay people.
Journalist Emily McFarlan Miller explored the history of Christianity’s evolving relationship with sexuality and gender identity.
On the March: Reports emerged that Canada's federal government has been secretly helping gay Chechen men escape from Russia to Canada. While speaking to Parliament on Canada's refugee policy, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland stated:
"It is our role to set a standard for how states should treat women, gays and lesbians, transgender people, racial, ethnic, cultural, linguistic and religious minorities and of course Indigenous people."
Ugandan organizers of this year’s Pride were forced to cancel all private and public events after Uganda’s Minister of Ethics and Integrity threatened to arrest participants.
In South Africa, the Forum for the Empowerment of Women (FEW) announced that Soweto Pride will go forward this year. Remarking on authorities’ last minute cancellation of the 2016 event, organizers urged participants to behave in a manner that will enable Pride to continue for years to come: “Soweto Pride belongs to all of us, let us all make a meaningful contribution to the sustainability of our Pride.”
After seven Russian lawmakers urged police to investigate, officials announced that a young man was arrested for attacking participants of the 8th annual St Petersburg Pride with pepper spray.
Ireland’s first openly gay Prime Minister, Leo Varadkar, joined Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for Montreal Pride. Later in the week, over 100 people marched for trans, two-spirited, and gender nonconforming communities. Organizer Cayce Ainsworth said that the event was created as a dedicated space for this community to assert itself, noting “It’s not corporate, it’s not a party.”
Sports and Culture: The South African film The Wound (Inexeba), based off of Thando Mgqolozana’s book A Man Who is Not a Man, earned critical acclaim at the Sundance film festival for its “nuanced” portrayal of a young gay Xhosa man undergoing his tribe’s rite of passage. At home, Xhosa King Mpendulo Zwelonke Sigcawu called the film “insulting” and wants to see it banned.
From Trinidad, the film Play the Devil depicts a young man struggling with his sexuality and the day to day pressures Caribbean people face. From China, Beijing high school students created the film Escape about a student who explores their evolving gender and sexual identity.
Indian activist and motivational speaker Harish Iyer spoke out about his experience as a victim of child abuse and about creating the country’s first LGBT radio show “The Gaydio Show”.
Finally, check out the trailer for the Taipei Museum of Contemporary Art’s upcoming show “Spectrosynthesis - Asian LGBTQ Issues and Art Now”, Taiwan's first major exhibition of dedicated to LGBTQ-themed art in Asia.