“It is absolutely sickening and ridiculous that in the 21st century a homosexual act gets a person in Cameroon six months to five years imprisonment.”
Barrister Walter Atoh
From the UN: The 31st Human Rights Council included a special session on HIV/AIDS where participants from UN agencies, NGOs, and representatives from 40 states recognized the need to put human rights issues at the center of the AIDS response. As Ayu Oktariani from the Indonesia AIDS Coalition noted, 'We realize that efforts to tackle the AIDS epidemic cannot be separated from the fulfilment of human rights of people that are most affected.'
At 'Pride and Prejudice,' an international conference on economics and LGBT rights, President of the World Bank Jim Yong Kim spoke on the decision to refuse loans to countries with strict anti-LGBT laws. Although the World Bank is "not allowed to make political judgements," Kim posited "if something we support leads not only to discrimination but endangerment, don't we as an institution have to stand up and say 'no'?"
HIV, Health, and Wellness: For the first time the international Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections included a lecture on transgender health. Dr Tonia Poteat emphasized that although globally trans women have significantly higher prevalence of HIV infection than other populations, there is a significant lack of research on both treatment and prevention.
Canada became the third country to formally approve pre-exposure prophylaxis(PrEP) to prevent HIV just as reports emerged of the first case of PrEP 'failure' in a gay man in Toronto. Dr. David Knox explained the 'extremely rare' case and reassured the community of the value of PrEP. Meanwhile the UK's National Health Service 'shocked' charities and activists with a sudden announcement that it has halted plans to support PrEP.
A new study from Switzerland suggests that HIV positive men who have sex with men who become coinfected with hepatitis C (HVC) risk kidney failure if they delay treatment of HVC.
A study from Australia found that men who use saliva for anal sex significantly increase their risk of acquiring gonorrhea, emphasizing the need for available lubricants in safer sex efforts. Meanwhile in Venezuela the cost of condoms has continued to rise to nearly $60 USD per condom as the country faces a shortage of basic goods. Local HIV organizations warn they are unable to fill the gap of contraception and other safe sex products.
From Lebanon Dr Omar Harfouch explored how focusing on public health disparitiescan achieve overall improvement of rights for the LGBT community.
A research team in Ireland published the largest study to date of LGBT Irish community and though it notes great strides have been made in civil rights, LGBT teens are twice as likely to self-harm and three times more likely to attempt suicide than heterosexual youth. And from the UK LGBT domestic abuse survivors spoke out about the challenges of seeking help and the lack of services within the community.
From the World of Politics: The European Parliament voted to expand gender equality and nondiscrimination policies and programs to include 'the rights, perspectives, and well-being of LGBTIQ people.' Meanwhile at the Council of the European Union, Hungary blocked an agreement to end LGBTI discrimination, noting in a statement that 'Hungary is not in the position to agree with the list of actions to advance LGBTI equality.'
At a regional SOGI seminar of African nations South Africa's Minister of Justice Michael Masutha urged delegates to accept the rights of LGBTI people and to end violence against sexual and gender minorities, remarking that 'The balance between tradition and culture on the one hand and universal human rights on the other must be struck in favor of human rights.'
Speaking at a 'women's empowerment' function, Guyana's Social Protection Minister Volda Lawrence insisted that LGBT people must be 'embraced' when promoting gender equality.
From Indonesia, researcher Jamison Liang reviews how increasingly homophobic local legislation over the last 12 years contributed to the current extreme anti-gay rhetoric that has local LGBT groups establishing safehouses and evacuation plans. Meanwhile Indonesia's communication ministry is considering a new national ban on 'LGBT propaganda.'
The government of Dominica refused local calls to decriminalize same-sex sexual activity during its review of the Sexual Offenses Act. And India's Congress rejected a bill to end Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code that criminalizes homosexuality.
In the US states continued to pass laws permitting discrimination against LGBT people despite the pro-equality efforts of some lawmakers and activists—from Missouri where a historic 39-hour filibuster failed to stop a 'religious freedom bill' to North Carolina where a special session overturned a local non-discrimination ordinance and put in its place 'the most extreme, anti-LGBTQ legislation in the country.'
In Australia controversy over government support of anti-bullying program Safe Schools has caused deep divides within the Coalition parties.
Australia's first openly gay MP Trent Zimmerman used his inaugural speech to the House of Representatives to speak out against LGBT discrimination and bullying. And in the US, President Obama appointed Raffi Freedman-Gurspan as the first trans person to serve as the White House's primary LGBT liaison.
The Politics of Union: In Italy nearly 20,000 people rallied against the government's flawed civil union bill which was watered down to remove adoption and marriage rights.
Analysts Price Waterhouse Australia reported that the country's upcoming public vote on marriage equality will cost the economy an estimated $525 million AUD. Furthermore, their modeling suggests a public vote would negatively affect the mental health of an estimated 5% of LGBTI Australians.
Let the Courts Decide: In Botswana the Court of Appeal upheld the decision of the High Court giving local LGBT rights group LEGABIBO the right to register. The Court reaffirmed that the government's refusal was 'irrational and in violation of the right to freedom of association.' Check out this powerful short video to hear the response of LEGABIBO members and supporters.
Fear and Loathing: A teacher in Trinidad is under investigation for telling her school assembly that gay people should be dealt with using a gun. In Poland the premises of two LGBT organizations were attacked in one week. And in a single US neighborhood there have been 5 attacks on gay and trans people in three weeks.
A Ukrainian LGBT Equality festival was attacked by 'thugs in masks' who threw rocks and firecrackers. Participants were evacuated after a bomb threat was reported. And in the first 70 days of 2016 there have been at least 77 reported murders of trans and gender diverse people across the world.
In a new report on discrimination the research group Afrobarometer found that only 21% of people across Africa would not mind having LGBT neighbors.
Advocate Jonathan Cooper examined how discrimination against the LGBT community can be used as a 'litmus test' to judging a government's commitment to democracy: 'Governments which criminalize and persecute LGBT people are exercising tyranny of the majority in the purest form imaginable.'
In the Name of Religion: As leaders of the Mormon church reaffirmed that 'there are no homosexual members of the church' activist group Mama Dragons reported that the number of suicides among Mormon LGBT youth has risen to 43.
In the Indonesian province Aceh, Ulema religious leaders promised to cane LGBT people and 'eradicate the existence' of the LGBT community.
A video of Malaysian religious police enforcing sharia law in a raid on transgender Muslims has gone viral, sparking cross-cultural debate on the rights of LGBT people.
From Canada, professor Junaid Jahangir presented Islamic teachings that can provide comfort to LGBT Muslims. From India, professor Pulapre Balakrishnanargued that religious bodies opposing decriminalization of homosexuality are guilty of denying LGBT people the freedom of expression that they value for themselves.
The Vatican plans to replace its ambassador to the US—Italian Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò who arranged the pope's meeting with a controversial anti-gay marriage proponent during the pope's US visit last summer.
Winds of Change: Scotland police partnered with Equality Network to train LGBT Liaison Officers to support the community and better address hate crimes.
In Cameroon barrister Atoh Walter Tchemi added his voice to those calling for the country to repeal Article 347 of the penal code criminalizing homosexuality. European Parliament MP Ian Duncan described the struggle Tunisian gay activistsface for freedom from human rights violations, including an end to invasive anal exams recognized as 'torture' by the UN.
The Queer African Youth Network published a new report mapping the LGBTQ community and efforts of activists across nine West African countries. The European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights published a new report on the efforts of public officials, educators, healthcare providers, and law enforcement to fulfill the rights of LGBT people.
A new article published in the International Journal of Human Rights critically examines how sexual orientation and gender identity rights fit within a theoretical framework of human rights and how that framework can provide practical strategies to advance rights for marginalized communities.
School Days: In Australia trans youth under 18 years old cannot receive transitioning treatment without permission from Family Court regardless of parental support—a lengthy and expensive bureaucratic process that many fear has dangerous consequences for children seeking help.
A new US study of kids under 20 years old showed that younger generations continue to push boundaries of gender and sexuality, with over 50% identifying as something other than heterosexual and 56% who identify or know someone who identifies with gender neutral pronouns.
The UK Minister for Equalities and Education Secretary Nicky Morgan pledged an additional £1 million to the £2 million budgeted to combatting LGBT bullying in schools.
On the March: The European Parliament adopted a report on the situation of female refugees and asylum seekers that included special mention of the challenges and abuse faced by displaced LGBTI people.
The Dutch Parliament voted in favor of creating 'separate and safe' housing for LGBT refugees. Philip Tijsma of rights group COC Netherlands called the move a breakthrough noting, 'We say punish perpetrators, educate people, but in emergency situations, there needs to be a facility for people being bullied and threatened.'
As women around the world celebrated International Women's Day—8 March—lesbian, trans, and bi women spoke on the need for inclusivity within women's issues. And Australia celebrated the 2016 Sydney Gay Mardi Gras with over 500,000 spectators and 12,000 participants including Malcolm Turnbull—the first prime minister to attend the festivities.
Business and Technology: Across Hong Kong, London, and New York, The Economist hosted the 'the first-ever global initiative' on the future of the LGBT movement and its impact on businesses. Meanwhile in Vietnam a 'niche market' has grown to cater to LGBT consumers from 'travel and weddings to insurance and health care.'
In Taiwan a McDonald's commercial featuring a son coming out to his father has sparked debate, with some calling on parents to boycott the chain. While in Russia aCalvin Klein ad of two men riding motorcycles followed by two women jogging is being investigated for breaking the Gay Propaganda ban.
A new online search engine intended for children caused controversy for censoring 'bad words' like 'bisexual' and 'transgender' even on educational sites, while explicit content remains unfiltered. Social media app Instagram launched #VisibleMe, a channel to support LGBTQ youth, build community and let them know they are 'not alone.'
Sports and Culture: As the US kicks off the national college basketball championship, one openly gay player in the tournament spoke out about his experiences.
In several countries this month film, television and music with LGBT themes were banned—from a Kenyan music video celebrating Same Love, to 'morally hazardous' gay people on Chinese television, to the Vatican's ban of a so-called 'indecent' romantic gay drama film.
The BBC explored the secret life of Saudi Arabians who look for freedom in the Internet's virtual world, including 'Youseff' who spoke anonymously of the perils of being a young transexual. And VICE reveals the 'gender fluid' tribes of the Amazon jungle where queer culture has taken hold.
Finally, check out this photographer who is encouraging diversity of gender, race, body type, and identity through nudity.