a piece of cloth that stands for love

"It is sickening to think that all this hysteria has been generated over a couple of kids raising a piece of cloth that stands for love."

~ Lebanese rock band Mashrou’ Leila on the mass arrests following their concert in Egypt


From the UN:  UNAIDS and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) co-hosted the annual Social Forum, a space for civil society to engage with Member States and intergovernmental organizations. This year’s focus was “the promotion and protection of human rights in the context of the HIV epidemic and other communicable diseases and epidemics”. During the 3-day event, UNAIDS launched a new report “Confronting Discrimination” that provides evidence on the impact stigma and discrimination have on HIV services.

The OHCHR published of a new set of global standards for the business community to address discrimination against LGBTI people. The “Standards of Conduct” were created to encourage respect for employees and customers, discourage discrimination and human rights abuses, and to urge businesses to stand up for the rights of LGBTI in the communities where companies do business.

During the 36th session of the Human Rights Council, a resolution was adopted to condemn the use of the death penalty as punishment for crimes of blasphemy, the renouncing of religious beliefs, adultery, and consensual same-sex relations. 

UNAIDS, in collaboration with the National AIDS Control Programme, the Centre for Global Public Health, and the University of Manitoba, published a new study “Mapping of key populations in Pakistan 2015-2016”. The report brings new insight to overlooked communities, including transgender persons, gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men, and male and female sex workers. The results will enable evidence-based decisions when drawing up policy and HIV treatment and prevention plans for the country.

More From the UN

HIV, Health, and Wellness: Public Health England announced there has been a 21% decrease in new HIV infections among gay and bi men. Calling it "the most exciting development", representatives from the National Health Service attributed the decrease to a major investment in PrEP services.

Namibia has expanded PrEP availability to roadside clinics. HIV Scotland called for mandatory sex education in secondary schools that includes PrEP in the curriculum. Some US providers are discussing how to better include adolescents in PrEP coverage. And at the UN Social Forum, porn star Jason Domino urged for broader access and lower PrEP prices for all people. 

Meanwhile, new research described problems with the “PrEP cascade” that keep those at risk from maintaining adequate coverage.

In Kenya, activists from across East Africa were brought together to discuss best practices of documenting and responding to human rights violations of LGBT people. Participants were trained to use "Rights-Evidence-ACTion (REAct)" to help LGBT and other key populations access HIV services. 

The discussion on chemsex and its place in gay culture continued to grow as South China Morning Post investigated the topic among gay and bi men of Hong Kong.

In Scotland, medical centers reported that the number of children seeking care for gender identity issues has increased by 300%. Meanwhile, US pediatrician Daniel Summers argued that the majority of medical professionals are not providing adequate care for trans and gender nonconforming youth. And journalist Nora Caplan-Bricker provided a careful examination of the health challenges and choices facing US intersex people.

More HIV, Health, and Wellness

From the World of Politics: From the Philippines, where the House of Representatives unanimously passed a comprehensive LGBTI nondiscrimination bill last month, Congresswoman Geraldine Roman confirmed a slate of issues will be addressed one at a time, including civil partnerships, adoption, gender recognition, and the ability to join the military and the police force. 

The US government made a series of moves to roll back nation-wide protections for gay and transgender people. In a memo, Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued sweeping religious liberty exemptions to US federal laws, including the “right to act or abstain from action” for all persons, organizations, and corporations. Activists immediately responded, warning that this is a blanket “license to discriminate”against LGBTQ people in work, home, health care, and public services. 

The administration also made two separate statements to the courts and legal bodies on the interpretation of "sex discrimination" in employment. Taken together the statements conclude that "sex discrimination" does not include protections for sexual orientation or gender identity, but only protect against discrimination of one's gender assigned at birth

Meanwhile, the state of California took a "major step toward treating HIV as a public health issue instead of treating people living with HIV as criminals".  The new law makes intentional exposure to HIV a misdemeanor not a felony.

The Croatian government withdrew a proposal to redefine the family as one mother and one father with children after they received backlash for excluding same-sex couples, non-married people, and heterosexual couples without children. 

Meanwhile, Indonesia’s House of Representatives said it will pass a new law to ban all positive representation of LGBT people on television, including films, TV shows, and adverts. 

More from the World of Politics

The Politics of Union:  Taiwan advocates held a press conference to draw attention to the government’s delay in drafting a marriage equality bill. In June, the Constitutional Court ruled lawmakers must set in motion new laws to legalize same-sex marriage. 

The German Parliament vote legalizing marriage equality finally came into effect, and long-time activists Karl Kreile and Bodo Mende celebrated the country’s first nuptials

From Panama, lawyer Iván Chanis Barahona spoke to the Washington Blade about his efforts to challenge the laws that prohibit same-sex marriage.

More from the Politics of Union

Let the Courts Decide:  In Botswana, the Lobatse High Court ruled that the National Registrar must change a man’s identity documents to match his gender identity. Lawyer Tashwill Esterhuizen called the ruling a “monumental victory”; and Ian Southey-Swartz of Open Society Initiative said, “The impact of this case should not be underestimated.”

After the US Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals refused to hear a case to block it, a Mississippi state bill will go into effect protecting specific religious beliefs: that marriage is between a man and a woman, that sexual relations should only occur within heterosexual marriage, and that gender is only assigned at birth. 

The Brazilian Court of Criminal Executions and the Penitentiary System Secretariat signed a work order ruling that trans prisoners should be identified by their preferred name, will be allowed to keep long hair, and should be allowed separate cells from other prisoners. 

More from the Courts

In the Name of Religion:  The Anglican Communion has sanctioned the Scottish Episcopal Church for allowing same-sex marriages to be blessed by the church. As with sanctions against the US Episcopal Church, the Scottish Church will be banned from voting and decision-making processes in the international Anglican body.  

In the US, members of the First United Methodist Church in Texas voted to stop hosting all marriages until denomination leaders allow clergy to officiate same-sex marriages.  

From Egypt came reports that the Coptic Church is organizing a conference to increase awareness on how to “recover” from homosexuality and to teach church patrons how to conduct gay “conversions”. 

More in the Name of Religion

Fear and Loathing:  Also in Egypt, what started as a few people waving rainbow flags at a rock concert escalated significantly to anywhere from 30 to 57 arrests of supposed lesbian, gay, and bisexuals on charges of debauchery and inciting sexual deviancy. Many groups have spoken out against these actions, including the Arab Foundation for Freedoms and Equality and the concert’s rock band Mashrou’ Leila. Concurrently, the Supreme Council for Media Regulation issued a blanket ban on all positive “appearance of homosexuals or their slogans in the media” stating that: 
“Homosexuality is a sickness and disgrace that would be better hidden from view and not promoted for dissemination until it is treated and its disgrace removed.”

Indonesian police raided a sauna and arrested 58 men, including six foreigners, under charges of providing pornographic services.  Although homosexuality is not criminalized in the country, police routinely use charges of debauchery and prostitution to detain assumed gay people.
From Azerbaijan, reports continue to come from the many gay and trans people detained and abused during a police crackdown in the capital city. Advocates estimated that of the 150 subjected to inhumane treatment, only around 60 were formally sentenced

Despite finding refuge in Europe, those who escaped Chechnya’s mass purge of gay men are still being threatened, according to interviews given to the Human Rights Watch. The men say police are also threatening their families to demand they return and face punishment. 

In the US, the violent murder of Ally Lee Steinfeld is the country’s 21st known murder of a trans person this year. Police declined to label it a hate crime and some advocacy groups are questioning if hate crime legislation has made any impact on reducing violence or improving prosecutions across the country.

More from Fear and Loathing

Winds of Change:  Guatemala held its 8th annual National Congress of LGBTI people, bringing together the community with political representatives to discuss the pro-LGBTI legislative agenda, among other issues.  And Austria hosted the first European Lesbian* Conference to combat "invizibilizing lesbians" in policy and activism.

In India, the Humsafar Trust hosted a regional conference that highlighted the role of media in LGBTQ issues, including confronting or spreading homophobia, reporting on violence, and sensitizing the community. Meanwhile, the South African media and advocacy group Iranti-org celebrated five years of supporting LGBTI Africans, promoting self-told queer narratives, and documenting violence against the community.

The Kenyan Medical Association released a statement condemning the use of forced anal examinations. And in Tunisia, the Minister for Human Rights, Mehdi Ben Gharbia, announced that the government will ban forced anal exams; though a judge could still request the exam, it will only be conducted with a person’s consent. The practice is used by some officials to determine a person’s sexual orientation but has been deemed “medically worthless” by UN experts and has long been condemned by the UN Committee Against Torture.

In Brazil, police arrested 11 men charged with trafficking and sexually exploiting trans women. Meanwhile, India's first trans police officer, Prithika Yashini, started duty. Her colleague's noted that Yashini's presence will be an "advantage" for their jurisdiction which has many trans people.

In the wake of the deadliest gun massacre in modern US history, the group Gays Against Guns (GAG) held protests to demand that gun violence be addressed as a public health issue. GAG was formed by LGBTQ and allies after the previous ‘deadliest attack’ killed 49 people at a gay nightclub last year.  

More from Winds of Change

School Days:  Pakistan’s Allama Iqbal Open University, which claims to be the world’s fourth largest institution of higher learning, announced it would offer free education programs for all degrees to any transgender person. 

Like colleges in the US, Japan’s all-female universities and schools are reevaluating their admission criteria to admit trans people. And in the UK, Cambridge University announced all female-identifying people are now allowed to apply to the prestigious all-female Murray Edwards College.

China’s Shanghai Jing’an Zhabei No. 1 Central Primary School was selected to pilot a new “gender education” textbook for primary school girls. Although the book has come under fire by some for promoting gender stereotypes, others have commended the book for included limited sex education as there is currently no such curriculum in most schools. 

More from School Days

Sports and Culture:  As Japan prepares for the 2020 Olympics, Dr. Nancy Snow of Kyoto University explored how the country is working to become the “most LGBT-friendly host city in Olympics history”.  Meanwhile, the president of Fuji TV apologized for the revival of a popular 1980s comedy program featuring an offensive gay character. Many groups and business leaders complained and others took to social media to recall how the original character had encouraged bullies when they were children. 

At the Australian National Rugby League Grand Final, US rapper Macklemore caused outrage for singing his pro-marriage equality song “Same Love”. Several politicians, including Tony Abbott, attempted to ban Macklemore’s song, with immigration minister Peter Dutton calling for “equal time” for an anti-gay marriage performance. Macklemore pledged to donate Australian sales of the song to the “Yes” campaign. 

Irish author Turtle Bunbury profiled the life of US Civil War hero Al Cashier, an Irish immigrant and one of the earliest documented transgender persons in US history. Europe-based journalist Fiona Zublin shared the story of two French lesbians, Lucy Schwob and Suzanne Malherbe, who were imprisoned for their distribution of surrealist art, leaflets, and bulletins to oppose the Nazis. 

Finally, listen to the latest piece from genderqueer poet Andrea Gibson on growing up and struggling with one’s gender identity.

More from Sports and Culture

image via Egyptian Streets/social media