Speaking out protects life

"We know that hatred and bigotry spread disease and – as the founders of this movement taught — silence equals death. Tolerance and awareness help stop AIDS. Speaking out protects life."
 ~ UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon

From the UN: Vitit Muntarbhorn, the UN's first independent expert on the protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, will move forward with his work after a majority of the General Assembly voted in favor of the appointment. Leading up to the vote, 799 human rights organizations signed a letter urging the GA to respect the decisions of the Human Rights Council and allow the position to continue. 

This winter marks the 10-year anniversary of the establishment of the Yogyakarta Principles. In 2006 international human rights experts and UN representatives met in Yogyakarta, Indonesia to discuss violence against LGBTI people. The meeting resulted in the creation of a set of 29 principles to guide international legal standards. With a short animation, APCOM describes how the Yogyakarta Principles have helped global advocates make progress protecting LGBTI human rights. 

UNAIDS is publishing a series of case studies that explore the specific ways the program has contributed to the global AIDS response. The first report examines UNAIDS in Nigeria and its role in establishing the Coalition of Lawyers for Human Rights, the first and only organization to provide legal advice and representation to people living with, affected by or at risk of HIV in Nigeria, including LGBTI people. 

“UNAIDS works tirelessly to ensure that stigma, politics and law do not keep people from the HIV services they need. The rights of all people to access services, to know their rights and to have the power to redress violations of their rights is essential—essential to upholding human dignity and essential to ending AIDS.” Luiz Loures, Deputy Executive Director, UNAIDS

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights announced a new publication "Living Free and Equal" that reviews initiatives from 65 countries to address violence and discrimination against LGBTI people. The booklet provides guidance for governments, courts, human rights institutions, and others to implement UN recommendations to protect and respect LGBTI people around the world. 

During its review of Switzerland and the Netherlands, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) highlighted the treatment of intersex people and made recommendations to end unnecessary medical and surgical procedures.

Celebration and Remembrance: The 18th annual International Trans Day of Remembrance was honored on the 20th of November. Over the last 12 months, 295 murders were documented of trans and gender-diverse people across 33 countries. Communities from Egypt to Australia to Canada held vigils bringing attention to the lives lost due to transphobia. Check out Transgender Europe's powerful video message In Solidarity.

The 1st of December brought the 28th annual World AIDS Day—this year's theme "Hands Up For #HIVPrevention" focused on how HIV affects communities differently and the strategies to prevent new infections. Visiting Namibia, UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé launched a new report Get on the Fast-Track: the life-cycle approach to HIV.

First recognized in 1988, World AIDS Day is one of the 8 official global public health days of the WHO. From Chennai, India's sand sculptures to Cologne, Germany's giant condom to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau raising an AIDS ribbon flag above Canada's Parliament Hill—the day was celebrated across nations. 

As a new major vaccine trial begins in South Africa, Amsterdam unveiled a new sculpture of a giant abacus that "counts down" the days till the world is free of AIDS.

UNAIDS hosted "Moving Forward Together: Leaving No One Behind" at the UN headquarters in New York at which Mr Sibidé presented Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon with the UNAIDS Award for Leadership for "acting as a voice for the voiceless". A firm supporter of LGBTI rights, in his acceptance, Ki-moon emphasized the need to end hatred and bigotry and to protect vulnerable groups from stigma and abuse.  

The LGBTIQ community mourned the sudden passing of Jacobus Witbooi, an international activist from Namibia and the African Coordinator for Pan Africa ILGA. Friends and colleagues released a powerful memorial video that offers insight into their work on the continent. 

HIV, Health, and Wellness:  A new report from Human Rights Watch examines why HIV prevalence has increased significantly in the Philippines, especially among gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men. It notes that a lack of sexual health education and government restrictions on condom access may be contributing factors.  

In Australia, the Annual HIV Surveillance Report showed that men born in South East Asia accounted for 15% of all diagnosis among men who have sex with men, and 44% of new diagnoses among those born overseas. As experts suggest cultural conservatism and stigma has contributed to these rates, support groups are looking to tailor culturally specific initiatives to improve HIV prevention and care.

After losing an appeal last month to stop funding PrEP, NHS England announced it is launching a clinical trial of PrEP that will provide the medicine to 10,000 participants over the next three years. 

From the World of Politics:  Malawi's Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs announced it will hold "public inquiries" to evaluate Malawians views on LGBT issues and whether laws criminalizing homosexuality should be adjusted.

The European Commission released annual progress reports on seven countries aspiring to join the EU. The reports on Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, and the Western Balkans include analysis on the rights of LGBTI citizens. The Vice President to the European Parliament's LGBTI Intergroup noted that the majority of the states have adopted anti-discrimination laws, however, "too often these laws are not translated in action".

Following a heated debate, the Greek Parliament passed a bill banning discrimination based on race, ethnic origin, or sexual orientation in the workplace.

Several current and former US Ambassadors joined the US Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBTI Persons Randy Berry at the Gay and Lesbian Victory Institute’s International LGBT Leaders Conference. During a special panel, they urged President-Elect Trump to continue US efforts to promote LGBT rights abroad. As US Ambassador to Vietnam Ted Osius said, "There is no turning back".

In Hong Kong, some women and children support organizations report that government social workers are referring clients to "gay cure" therapies. A spokesperson for the Social Welfare Department noted that they “provide appropriate services and assistance according to the circumstances and needs of the individuals concerned” but declined to comment on conversion therapy. 

Malta became the first European country to ban conversion therapy as the parliament unanimously passed the Affirmation of Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, and Gender Expression Bill. The bill criminalizes any practice claiming to alter a person's sexual orientation or gender identity. 

In a speech to the State Parliament, South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill issued an apology to the LGBTIQ community ahead of parliamentary votes that approved a gender identity bill, a bill recognizing same-sex couples, and a bill improving discrimination protections for intersex people. Calling attention to specific discriminatory legislation and individuals he's met with, he concluded saying::

Today, as Premier and as a member of parliament, I formally say sorry to all of you who have suffered injustices and indignities simply because of who you are.

The Politics of Union:  As Taiwan's Legislative Yaun reviews a draft bill to approve same-sex marriage, the Happy Family Protection Action Alliance mobilized over 12,000 people to oppose the bill. Days later 10,000 supporters reportedly rallied in favor of the bill, led by civil society groups including the Taiwan Alliance to Promote Civil Partnership Rights.

After lawyer Herman Duarte filed a motion in El Salvador's Constitutional Court to legalize same-sex marriage, members of the right-leaning ARENA party filed a brief in the Legislative Assembly to specify that marriage can only be between a man and woman. 

Let the Courts Decide: For the first time, an Ivory Coast court convicted two men accused of engaging in same-sex sexual acts to prison after an uncle of one of the men reported the couple to the police. Although Ivory Coast does not explicitly criminalize homosexuality, the two were found guilty of public indecency.

A Turkish court sentenced to prison three men who sexually assaulted LGBTI activist Kemal Ördek during a home invasion. The European Council Human Rights Commissioner and a spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights had urged Turkish authorities to honor commitments to LGBTI people in response to the attack. 

The Constitutional Court of Romania asked the Court of Justice of the European Union for guidance ruling on whether a same-sex couple married overseas should be recognized as married in Romania according to EU laws.

The Metropolitan Court of Budapest, Hungary fined a school €1,100 under the Equal Treatment Authority for denying the admittance application of a child raised by two mothers.

A court in Minnesota, US will hear a case filed by a mother against her 17-year old child, the child's school, the government, and two nonprofit agencies for helping her daughter begin hormone therapy to transition to female. The daughter had previously been emancipated and under Minnesota law is considered able to make medical decisions without parental consent. 

UK gender support group Mermaids reports that a high court ruling that a child be taken from their mother because the mother allowed the child to live “life entirely as a girl” has emboldened several more divorced parents to start legal action disputing custody of young trans kids. 

Fear and Loathing:  The UK Equality and Human Rights Commission sent an open letter to UK politicians warning that their polarizing language is "legitimizing hate"and is contributing to the post-Brexit rise in racist, anti-Semitic, and homophobic violence. Data from LGBT charity Galop shows a 147% increase in LGBT hate crimes following the vote compared to last year. 

The Southern Poverty Law Center reported that in the 10 days following the US election there were 867 incidents against Jews, Muslims, immigrants, African Americans, LGBT people, and women. The report did not include online harassment.

Myanmar rights group Color Rainbows reported that the LGBT community is continuing to face persecution, extortion, and physical and sexual abuse at the hands of police after leading politicians said they were "not interested" in dealing with LGBT rights abuses. 

From Russia, a new report by the Transgender Legal Defense Project found that 50% of those surveyed were denied employment due to their gender identity and 41% avoid seeing doctors or other health services for fear of discrimination. 

An 8-year-old Ugandan girl was arrested by police after a neighbor reported her for having "romantic relationships" with other girls. Noluvo Swelindawo, a 22-year-old South African lesbian was dragged from her home and murdered by a gang of men in what activists say is another example of "corrective rape".

In India, a 19-year-old committed suicide after an acquaintance threatened to out him to his family. And in Brisbane, Australia, the suicide of 13-year-old Tyrone Unsworth has revived debate around the Safe Schools program after it was revealed he suffered ongoing homophobic school bullying, including an incident that left him in the hospital with a broken jaw. 

Winds of Change:  The UK's Independent Police Complaints Commission issued 17 notices of misconduct to the Metropolitan Police over the investigation of date-rape serial killer Stephen Port. Friends and activists say the police routinely dismiss complaints from LGBT community, leading to the mishandling of Port's victims. Scotland Yard is reviewing 58 similar murders that were previously dismissed and are asking the community to come forward with any information on other victims. 

The Swedish city of Kalskrona announced all public service workers will engage in a course to educate on issues affecting LGBTQ people. The project is part of an effort to make Kalskrona an "open city" where the community will feel safe. 

In China, a survey from WorkForLGBT found that more people than ever before plan to reveal their sexual orientation because they believe public tolerance for LGBT issues has improved. Despite these gains, a study by NGO Love Without Borders found that 46% of those surveyed experienced discrimination by health care workers due to their sexual orientation or gender identity. 

On the March:  In India, nearly 1,000 people participated in the Ninth Delhi Queer Pride Parade. While the focus remained on protesting Section 377 criminalizing homosexuality, organizers this year also called for support for ethnic and religious minorities, women, academics, and disabled people: "...more than ever, we assert that our pride is inextricably tied to a broader demand for freedom and dignity for all".

 In Romania, around 500 people marched under the banner "God Doesn’t Do Politics" —Dumnezeu nu face politică—in support of the LGBT community and in protest of the Coalition for the Family and the Orthodox Church efforts to reform the constitution to ban same-sex unions. 

School Days:  A US senator introduced a bill that will require school faculty to "out" students who are questioning their sexual orientation or gender identity. LGBT organizations warn this would be dangerous for at-risk youth, noting that 40% of US homeless kids identify as LGBT due to unsupportive home environments.

In the UK, the chairs of five parliamentary committees sent an open letter to education secretary Justine Greening demanding the government introduce compulsory sex and relationship education in schools. Additionally, sex education rarely includes information for sexual minorities. In one UK survey, 82% of gay men reported that they received no information about sex at school, with another 40% learning from pornography.

In the US, only six states require inclusive sex education, while four legally require educators to emphasize that LGBTQ people are deviant and undesirable. Despite this, a report from the Human Rights Campaign, GLSEN, and Planned Parenthood found that 85% of parents support discussion of sexual orientation in high school education. 

In China, where there is little formal sex education, educators are turning to social media and messaging apps to provide information. Founders of "Buzz and Bloom" 蜜丰兰花, an online sex education resource, say the "culture of shaming" leave young people with no information on contraception, STIs, or sexuality: "Men learn from Japanese pornography. Women learn from having one night stands."

Business and Technology:  Chinese venture capitalists are making big investments in gay dating apps—Beijing Kunlun Tech Company invested $93 million in Grindr and Ventech China invested $8 million in Hornet. China-based gay social media app Blued has been valued at $300 million and has more than 27 million registered users. For those not ready to come out, Bejing-based social media program iHomo connects LGBT community members to arrange "marriages of convenience".

A new international survey by Travel Gay Asia and Gay Star News found that many users of gay dating apps experience issues of abuse and harassment online, with 21% reporting that people they met online did not respect their sexual limits. The UK National Police Chiefs' Council declared that dating apps "must take more responsibility" for users' safety following reports that serial killer Stephen Port met his victims online. 

In California, tech companies Salesforce and Paypal organized a meeting of 100 LGBT leaders and business groups to discuss US legislation and how "businesses protect employees, customers, and families from discriminatory actions in communities where they live and operate.”

Sports and Culture: Russian members of parliament urged authorities to ban the FIFA 17 video game because it violates the 2013 anti-gay propaganda law—the game has a feature supporting the Rainbow Shoelaces campaign and allows users to dress their characters in rainbow jerseys. EA Sports is a latest in a line of game companies to subtly support LGBT themes.

Internationally recognized pop star Azis spoke about growing up in Bulgaria and his unlikely rise to fame as an openly gay "Gypsy".

South Korean artist Heezy Yang described how his Seoul street performance brings attention to LGBTQ issues. 

Indian photographers Sunil Gupta and Charan Singh have published a new book—Delhi: Communities of Belonging—documenting the evolution of India's LGBT scene.

The International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam held its fourth annual Queer Day featuring 5 films from across the world, including Pearl of Africa that follows a 28-year-old Ugandan trans woman and her cisgender male partner. 

A new Canadian film—Fire Song— about a gay teenager and member of the First Nation community of Northern Ontario is now available on DVD and video on demand. 

Finally, the US dictionary Merriam-Webster may be an unexpected ally for the LGBTQ community, but check out how it is using social media to bring attention to the evolution of language and to legitimize the community's spectrum of identity.