"I was extremely angry that I hadn’t been able to do anything to save my boyfriend’s life. I was still grieving. So I turned my grief and anger into rage and action and got involved with the movement."
~ Eric Sawyer, founding member of ACT UP NY, co-founder of Housing Works, and co-founder of HealthGAP
From the UN: Costa Rican lawyer Victor Madrigal-Borloz has been appointed as the new UN Independent Expert on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, replacing Vitit Muntarbhorn who stepped down due to health reasons. Madrigal-Borloz previously served as the Secretary-General of the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRCT), a member of the UN Sub-Committee for the Prevention of Torture, and on the Inter-American Court of Human Rights .
The 1st of December brought the 29th annual World AIDS Day—this year's theme "My Health, My Right" and a new UNAIDS report “Right to Health” highlight the AIDS response at the intersection between health and human rights. Visiting Canada, UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé also launched a new report “Blind Spot: Reaching out to men and boys” that notes that men are less likely than women and girls to know their status and less likely to access treatment, especially among key populations.
During the UNAIDS 41st Programme Coordinating Board—where governments, co-sponsors, and civil-society establish UNAIDS policies and priorities—there was a call to "bring AIDS out of isolation" and to address the stigma and discrimination that prevent people from accessing their right to health. As Ferenc Bagyinzsky of AIDS Action Europe told those gathered:
"Business as usual will leave people behind. Hard to reach populations are not hard to reach, they are easy to ignore."
UNAIDS Brasil launched #DesafioUNAIDS, a new game to encourage young people and social media influencers to get involved and bring HIV awareness to a new generation. Check out the video from UNAIDS Brasil to learn how to join in!
UNAIDS, the WHO, and UNFPA collaborated with Pakistan’s National Commission of Human Rights to launch the Transgender Empowerment Association of Pakistan. Among its tasks, the association will work to improve access to health care, HIV prevention services and treatment, and to generate economic opportunities.
The UNDP’s Being LGBTI Asia launched a new report: “Legal Gender Recognition: A Multi-Country Legal and Policy Review in Asia”. Assessing Bangladesh, China, Indonesia, Pakistan, Nepal, the Philippines, and Thailand, the report also incorporated the voices and perspectives of local transgender people.
ILGA released a report reviewing the UN’s engagement on LGBTI issues throughout 2016. The report acknowledged an increase in Concluding Observations and recommendations to states on these issues, however it noted that work still needs to be done on intersex-specific needs and issues of gender identity and gender expression.
HIV, Health, and Wellness: In its effort to prevent new HIV infections, Brazil’s Ministry of Health has invested $2.7 million to provide PrEP to high-risk individuals free of charge. The program, which began to roll out this month, was commended by UNAIDS Brasil director Georgiana Braga-Orillard:
“With the addition of PrEP, Brazil is using all of the strategies that we recommend. This is a large-scale operation, and Brazil could become an example to all of Latin America that we need to see an integrated approach.”
Beijing LGBT Center, with support from the UNDP and the Dutch Embassy, published the first nationwide quantitative survey of Chinese transgender people, their experiences, and their access to health and education. Along with the report, the Center released a short animation with English subtitles that describes the diversity of trans people and the difficulties they face due to discrimination and fear.
The Swedish Federation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer Rights (RFSL) released a new report in English “In society I do not exist, so it’s impossible to be who I am” on trans and gender non-binary people’s experience with health care in the country.
UK writer Juno Roche looked at how data can be misleading when it comes to HIV-positive transgender people. She reflected on how her experiences as a white HIV-positive trans woman differ from those of trans people of color.
From Australia, the Black Rainbow Advisory Group (BRAG) formed an action group of Aboriginal leaders to address the “alarmingly high” rate of people who identify as both Indigenous and LGBTI who self-harm or attempt suicide.
Chemsex and the dangers of high-risk sexual behavior have continued to come to public attention. Journalists from the Philippines, Austria, Spain are some of the latest to investigate the practice of sex while on drugs. From the UK, artist Mark Prest described his experience with alcohol addiction and his frustration with recovery programs geared towards heterosexuals, despite figures that show drug use is many times higher among LGBT people than the general population.
From the World of Politics: Sri Lanka’s Deputy Solicitor General Nerin Pulle announced that the government is “committed” to reforming the law to guarantee non-discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity and will decriminalize homosexuality.
Although Ghana’s President Akufo-Addo told media that he did not believe a "sufficiently strong coalition has emerged to change public opinion" on the issue of decriminalizing homosexuality, he believed it was "bound to happen" if people work to bring awareness. Ghana's LGBTI association announced “a peaceful Movement Walk” to support his remarks.
Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau became the latest world leader to issue an emotional apology to LGBTQ2 Canadians for "state-sponsored, systematic oppression and rejection". The government also settled a lawsuit brought forward by civil servants fired under suspicion of being gay and lesbian from the 1950s to 1990s. It will establish a fund of $110 million for compensation to those impacted and a fund of $15 million for reconciliation and education efforts.
South Africa’s National Assembly passed a new law on family leave, surrogacy, and adoption with gender-neutral language that will enable LGBTQI parents to take leave when a child joins the family.
Hungary’s Commissioner for Fundamental Rights published a report finding that officials unlawfully discriminated against a lesbian couple and infringed on a child’s right to protection when they rejected the couple’s application to adopt a 16-month-old Roma child. The investigation, which lasted over a year, concluded that “a person wishing to adopt has no right to adopt a particular child, but s/he does have the right to equal treatment and equality before the law in the procedure”.
The Politics of Union: After several days of debates, emotional speeches, and failed attempts to add conservative amendments, the Australian Parliament upheld the country’s postal survey results and voted to legalize marriage equality.
The Constitutional Court of Austria ruled that the existing laws which only permit same-sex couples to enter civil partnerships are discriminatory. Starting in 2018 both heterosexual and same-sex couples will be allowed to enter either civil partnerships or marriages.
Bermuda passed the Domestic Partnerships Act to roll back marriage equality as established by Bermuda’s Supreme Court only months ago. The Act will prevent all new same-sex marriages and offer only domestic partnerships.
In Chile, nearly 100,000 people marched demanding marriage rights for LGBT couples and better protections for transgender people. Meanwhile, Chilean senators began debate on the marriage equality bill introduced by President Michelle Bachelet.
In Costa Rica, thousands participated in a “March for Life and Family” to protest against marriage equality, “gender ideology”, and abortion.
The Cambodian Centre for Human Rights and LGBTIQ people held a press conference during which they called on the government to provide legal protections for LGBTIQ families, including marriage, adoption, and gender recognition rights. In Japan, activists hope that the recognition of same-sex couples in six municipalitieswill encourage more cities to officially recognize LGBT couples and enable them to access public services including housing, hospital care, and property rights.
Let the Courts Decide: Indonesia's Constitutional Court refused to criminalize same-sex relations and sex outside of marriage. The 5-to-4 ruling said it is not the Court's role to criminalize private behaviour. In recent years, police have used anti-pornography laws to arrest people at gay events and private parties.
Turkey’s Constitution Court struck down the requirement that people seeking to officially change their gender must undergo surgery “to be permanently deprived of the ability to reproduce”.
The European Court of Justice is considering the case of a Romanian man attempting to establish residency for his American husband in Romania. The case could affect whether same-sex couples are allowed to live and work freely across the European Union regardless of each country individual marriage laws.
An Australian Family Court ruled that children who have the support of their parents and doctors will no longer have to apply to the court for permission to undergo hormone therapy.
Botswanan officials decided not to appeal the High Court’s ruling that a trans man must be allowed identity documents reflecting his male gender identity. In his ruling, Judge Nthomiwa stated that:
“Gender identity constitutes the core of one’s sense of being and is an integral of a person’s identity. Legal recognition of the applicant’s gender identity is therefore part of the right to dignity and freedom to express himself in a manner he feels …comfortable with.”
In the US, as arguments came to a close, the Supreme Court appeared to be split over Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. The case pits non-discrimination laws against freedom of speech. The owner of Masterpeice Cakeshop says baking a cake is a form of speech and that forcing him to make a wedding cake for a gay couple forces him to make a statement against his beliefs.
In the Name of Religion: From the US, a team of LGBTQ Christian activists are set to launch “Our Bible App” a program that highlights inclusive texts from 20 Bibles, over 300 devotional readings, meditations, podcasts, and articles for LGBTQ people and others marginalized by mainstream Christianity.
The Church Assembly of the Church of Sweden voted to update its handbook that sets out how services should be conducted. Among the changes will be the option for priests to incorporate more gender neutral language in the liturgy.
In the UK, some Orthodox rabbis have called for a boycott of the arts, education, and culture venue JW3 (Jewish Community Centre London) for promoting “a way of life which is in total contradiction” to Jewish law, including holding events organized by LGBTQ families group Imahot v’Avot.
Winds of Change: On the tenth anniversary of submitting to the UN the Yogyakarta Principles—a set of 29 principles to establish how governments and international bodies should treat human rights in the areas of sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression—international human rights experts have updated them to reflect needs of LGBTI people today.
The Brazilian NGO Gestos launched a new campaign #GestosPelaIgualdade(“Gestures for Equality”) to draw attention to the role the Brazilian Judiciary System has in supporting the rights of LGBTI people.
From India, the New York Times spoke with LGBTI activists working to capitalize on India’s Supreme Court ruling this summer that citizens have a constitutional right to privacy and that sexual orientation is a matter of privacy. Activists hope the ruling will lead to overturning Section 377, the law that criminalizes same-sex relations. Meanwhile, the Hindu spoke with Indian transgender activists as they celebrated Chamayam 2017, a cultural festival for the transgender community.
OZY profiled Joseph Aoun, a Lebanese activist and coordinator of LGBT advocacy group Helem, who noted: “Imposing foreign models of activism doesn’t work. So we have built our own style, one that others in the region can relate to.”
The head of Cambodia Human Rights Committee, Keo Remy, spoke at the 7th ILGA Asia conference and urged LGBTIQ people to continue to educate their families and local communities about their rights.
OutRight Action International hosted LGBTIQ activists from 29 countries to participate in the Global Week of Advocacy, including panels on diplomacy and the UN, challenges in business, advancing intersex and trans human rights, and safety and security during a “Global LGBTIQ Backlash”. The US-based Victory Institute, which works to bring more LGBTQ into public office, brought over 500 participants to its LGBTQ Leaders Conference to talk to elected officials and advocates, including members of congress from Brazil, Guatemala, Peru, and Venezuela.
AIDS Accountability International (AAI) announced the appointment of Ricki Kgositau as Executive Director. AAI noted that the appointment makes it the first non-LGBTIQA+ organization to have a trans person as ED and upholds it commitment “to be led by the communities and movements we are a part of”.
Fear and Loathing: From Russia, experts at the Center for Independent Social Research found that hate crimes against LGBT people have doubled in the five years following the enactment of Russia’s law banning “gay propaganda”.
The South African Institute of Race Relations (IRR) released “We’re queer and we’re here!” a new report on the violence experienced by LGBT South Africans, four out of ten of whom reported knowing someone who had been murdered “for being or suspected of being” LGBT. Among the analysis are comparisons by ethnicity, including that black LGBT are more often victims of physical violence, white LGBT report more verbal assault, and Indian/Asian LGBT are most likely to experience violence from a family member.
From the US, not-for-profit Media Matters examined the steps that anti-LGBTQ group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) has taken to spread anti-transgender policies and encourage legislation that negatively impacts transgender students across the country.
Following Turkey’s recent ban on all LGBT events in Ankara, residents told The Guardian they have felt increasingly unsafe in their communities and fear the government is encouraging people to speak against the LGBT community.
From Azerbaijan, EurasiaNet spoke to several LGBT individuals recently detained and released following international objections. Reporters found that nearly all continue to face pressure despite being released, many had been evicted from their homes, lost their jobs, and at least two have committed suicide.
In Egypt, 14 more men were convicted of homosexuality and sentenced to 3 years in jail following the round-up of suspected gay people. Meanwhile, the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights published a report documenting a four-year period of police escalation against actual or perceived sexuality.
On the March: Amnesty International published "No Safe Place", a new report on LGBTI refugees from Central America. The report also details how Mexican and US authorities have ‘failed to protect’ LGBTI refugees: “The fact that Mexico and the USA are willing to watch on as they suffer extreme violence is, simply, criminal.”
IRIN news reported on the situation for LGBT refugees in Europe and found that EU governments often fail to identify LGBTQI refugees or ask for “humiliating and/or impossible to provide” proof of sexuality or gender identity. Additionally, few European asylum offices have either formal or informal procedures set to handle asylum on the basis of sexuality or gender identity, including where LGBTQI asylum seekers can be safely housed while their cases are reviewed. Meanwhile, figures from the UK show that between 2015-2017 nearly 70% of asylum claims on the basis of sexuality were rejected even when the asylum seeker came from a country where being gay is punishable by death.
From the US, Kevin Steen described how studying abroad and his friendship with fellow classmate Mohammad led him to create “Rainbow Street” an NGO to support and, at times, resettle LGBTQ people suffering persecution in the Middle East and Africa.
From Russia, residents of Moscow’s first shelter for homeless or vulnerable LGBT people spoke to AFP about their experiences. And in the UK, developers invested £1.4 million in a new home for homeless LGBT people of Manchester.
Sports and Culture: On World AIDS Day, US men reflected on surviving the “gay plague”. Indian sand artist Sudarsan Pattnaik broke a world record with his creation of the largest ever red ribbon. And the international queer artist collective Balaclava-Q released their second annual HIVideo project in 19 cities around the world.
At a news conference in Moscow, retired footballer Alexei Smertin announced that there would be “no ban on wearing rainbow symbols” during the 2018 World Cup in Russia, despite the country’s ban on “gay propaganda”.
Ugandan police raided and shut down the Queer Kampala International Film Festival.
Japan Broadcasting Corporation NHK announced it has commissioned a new TV show based on the graphic novel My Brother’s Husband about a single dad who meets his twin brother’s husband after the brother’s untimely death.
From South Africa, a crowdfunding campaign was launched to film the Afrikaans play Vir.Ander about boys subjected to brutal “masculinizing camps” to “fix” their sexualty.
The Arab World Institute in Paris showcased photographer Scarlett Coten's "Mectoub" series that investigates masculinity and stereotypes of the Middle East. US artist Devan Shimoyama’s series “Sweet” explores masculinity through the experiences of gay black men in black barbershops.