"À l'heure où le monde est en train d'évoluer, à l'heure où certains pays ont instauré le mariage homosexuel et l'ont reconnu, la moindre des choses est de dépénaliser au Liban, ce qui constitue véritablement une liberté personnelle."
"At a time when the world is evolving, at a time when certain countries have established gay marriage and recognized it, the least thing to do is to decriminalize homosexuality in Lebanon, which really constitutes a personal freedom."
~ Former Lebanon MP Salah Honein wondering how it is possible to criminalize "a feeling".
From the UN: UNAIDS is formally reviewing how the joint UN program works and how best to support countries' efforts to end AIDS. It has invited the public to participate via a Virtual Stakeholder Consultation where participants can engage in meaningful discussion that will be considered by the Global Review Panel as it develops recommendations. Comments will be accepted through 15 February.
The UN Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, Vitit Muntarbhorn held public consultations with civil society, UN agencies, National Human Rights Institutions, and member states in Geneva. Muntarbhorn and participants discussed the scope of his work, including setting priorities and developing effective strategies for moving forward with short and long term goals. UNAIDS also welcomed him to their office to meet with Luiz Loures, Deputy Director, and other staff to discuss the importance of protecting LGBT people and ensuring their access to health and HIV services.
HIV, Health, and Wellness: Philippines President Duterte announced support for the Reproductive Health Law to curb the rising HIV epidemic; however, several cities have issued local ordinances to stop clinics from procuring or distributing condoms and contraceptives. The Department of Education also blocked the Department of Health's proposal to distribute condoms in secondary schools.
Hong Kong's Department of Health announced that it has detected an increase in hepatitis A cases among HIV-positive gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men. The Department will arrange free hepatitis A vaccinations for this community at public clinics to control the outbreak.
In Argentina, HIV advocates and health providers protested outside the Buenos Aires Health Ministry over the ongoing shortage of antiretroviral drugs. The Health Ministry’s AIDS director Dr. Carlos Zala said that missing medicines are due to bureaucratic roadblocks and not actual shortages of supplies.
Canada’s Gay Men’s Sexual Health Alliance launched ‘The Sex You Want’ campaign to educate trans and cisgender gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men about preventing, testing, and treating HIV and other sexually transmitted infections with sex positivity.
Ireland and Switzerland both removed lifetime bans on blood donations by men who have had sex with other men. New regulations will allow gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men to donate provided they remain celibate for one year.
A new US study of men estimated that the prevalence of genital HPV among men 18 to 59 years old is 45.2%, while only 10% of vaccine-eligible males have received the HPV vaccine.
From the World of Politics: The White House released a statement saying that President Trump will not overturn Obama’s order barring LGBTQ discrimination in the federal workforce. Many activists became concerned after media published a draft document that seems to restrict LGBT rights. However, Vice President Mike Pence reaffirmed that discrimination has "no place in our administration" during a television interview this weekend.
Liliane Ploumen, Netherlands’ Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation, announced a new global fundraising initiative called “She Decides” to support family planning programs, including sexual health and birth control, in developing countries. Thirteen countries, including Canada, Finland, Luxembourg, Belgium, and Sweden announced their support. Netherlands kicked off the fund with a €10 million contribution.
In Germany, the Hessian Ministry of Social Affairs and Inclusion announced that for the third consecutive year it would increase funding to promote acceptance of sexual diversity and gender identity.
The European Parliament passed a resolution that will require all EU member states to recognize adoptions processed in other member states. MEP Daniele Viotti noted that the change will be beneficial to LGBTI families who are “held back due to heteronormative interpretations of family”.
Ireland's Department of Justice announced it will not oppose a bill drafted to pardon gay men convicted of laws criminalizing homosexuality that were in place until 1993. "The Convictions for Certain Sexual Offences (Apology and Exoneration) Bill" will bring Ireland in line with the UK that passed a similar pardon in December.
In France, the leader of the conservative National Front party Marine Le Pen has sought support from LGBT voters in her run for president. Journalist J. Lester Feder explored how right-wing parties have appealed to the LGBT community across Europe.
The Politics of Union: Poland’s President Andrzej Duda told reporters that he would not be influenced by international organizations or lobby groups to consider any amendment to the constitution to accept gay marriage.
Only weeks after Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern pledged to promote marriage equality if re-elected, Kern announced a new coalition between his Social Democratic Party and the conservative Austrian People’s Party. The new coalition has removed all references to LGBT people, including marriage equality, from the government platform.
In Chile, President Michelle Bachelet announced the government will begin formal debate on a bill for marriage equality.
In 2014, Estonia MPs voted to legalize same-sex marriage with the law going into effect January 2016; however, Parliament has withheld several implementing measures and prevented the law from going forward. Despite the delay, a District Court ruled in favor of a gay couple married in Sweden that want to register their marriage in Estonia.
Let the Courts Decide: In Lebanon, Judge Rabih Maalouf ruled that “homosexuality is a personal choice and not a punishable offense”. The ruling contradicts Article 534 that criminalizes “sexual intercourse contrary to nature” often used to penalize those accused of homosexuality. Activists say this is a step towards decriminalization.
The Supreme Court of Nepal issued a ruling requiring the Ministry of Home Affairs to allow citizens to legally change their name and the gender of their Citizenship Card to read “Other” instead of Male or Female.
The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed suit in a District Court on behalf of two restaurant employees who suffered homophobic verbal assaults from coworkers. The Commission is moving forward with the previous administration’s arguments that sex discrimination includes discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
Two US advocacy groups filed a federal lawsuit against the state of Utah over state laws that censor discussion of LGBTQ issues at schools. Utah is one of 8 states with a range of laws that forbid any LGBTQ health or other curriculum that “promotes a homosexual lifestyle”.
A UK family court ruled against a transgender woman seeking contact with her children because the family belongs to a Charedi community—a strictly orthodox sect of Judaism. The children’s biological mother argued that they would be ostracized by the community if they were in contact with the woman. The judge agreed that the “gulf between these parents” was “too wide for the children to bridge”.
In the Name of Religion: The Church of England will consider dropping celibacy requirements for LGBT clergy. Currently, the Church allows gay clergy to enter into civil partnerships—not marriages—as long as they vow to remain celibate.
During its General Synod, the Lutheran Church of Norway voted to allow pastors to perform same-sex marriages. The Church will also modify the ceremonial marriage text with gender-neutral language.
Although several Australian Anglican dioceses have supported marriage equality, the Diocese of Sydney proposed that secular and religious organizations should be allowed to refuse same-sex couples. Dr Muriel Porter, of the Anglican Church’s national General Synod, told journalists that progressive Anglican leaders “feel silenced” and that most worshipers have “no problem” with same-sex marriage.
Pope Francis ordered the resignation of the chief of the Knights of Malta in a move some say shows that the Pope is not afraid of standing up to traditionalists that disapprove of his more progressive actions. The chief, Grand Master Fra' Robert Matthew Festing, was responsible for firing the Knights’ health minister Albrecht von Boeselager because he oversaw a humanitarian project in Myanmar that included condom distribution. Boeselager appealed to the Pope who ordered an investigation.
In South Africa, celebrity Somizi Mhlongo ignited social media with a video in which he condemned an anti-gay sermon at the Grace Bible Church:
“I’m not going to sit there and listen to somebody offending me. This is who I am. I am a gay man. Get it straight into your skull. My soul is alright with my god! Let me deal with my god and my soul [...] I walked out – and visibly so! And I’m proud and I’m going to remain gay for the rest of my life!”
The controversy escalated with protesters demonstrating outside the church.
Fear and Loathing: In the Ivory Coast, two gay men were imprisoned for three months without clear charges. The Ivory Coast does not criminalize homosexuality and activists say this is the first known instance of indecency laws used to hold suspected homosexuals.
The Human Rights Watch reported that Indonesian police have been collaborating with militant Islamists to shut down LGBT events and intimidate members of the community. Most recently police disbanded an annual event from the Forum Kerukunan Waria/Bissu—a local organization of third gender people.
Brazilian organization Grupo Gay da Bahia reported that they registered 343 LGBT people who were killed or committed suicide in 2016. GGB founder Luiz Mott noted that these numbers under-represent the situation because the government does not collect hate crime statistics.
Australian authorities have reopened inquiries into the deaths of 88 murdered men during the 1980s and 90s whom they suspect were victims of “gangs of teenagers” that hunted gay men for sport. Former police minister Ted Pickering admitted they could see now that predators were attacking gay men and that “they were doing it with the almost-certain knowledge that the police would not have gone after them. That was the police culture of the day.”
On the March: Researchers estimate between 3.5 and 5.6 million people around the world marched on 21 January in solidarity with the Women’s March. Protesters spoke out on numerous cross-sectional issues, including gender equality, LGBTQ rights, sexual assault, and migration.
In Kenya, Ugandan LGBTI refugees protested outside the UN Refugee Agency offices to bring attention to the long resettlement process that has left many homeless and victims of police harassment.
Protests continue in response to the US executive order banning refugees and visa holders from seven predominantly Muslim countries. While officials say between 60,000 and 100,000 visas have been revoked, activists warn the situation is particularly dire for the LGBT community who face criminalization and violence at home.
The Queer Azaadi Mumbai Pride Parade celebrated its ninth annual march to celebrate the LGBTQ community and protest Section 377—the law criminalizing homosexuality.
Meanwhile officials in Salekhard, Russia, banned “Polar Pride” for violating the country’s gay propaganda law. Organizer Nikolai Alexeyev has lodged a complaint at the Salekhard City Court.
Winds of Change: Since 1993, Thailand’s Department of Corrections has separated LGBT people from other inmates in an effort to prevent violence, according to officials. The government announced it is considering plans to build a new detention center for LGBT prisoners.
Turkey expects to open its “pink prison” this year. The exclusively LGBT facility went into construction in 2015 after the European Court of Human Rights found the country guilty of discrimination due to how it isolated LGBT prisoners within current facilities.
Brazilian activist and journalist Iran Giusti opened a co-op shelter for LGBT runaways. The shelter was financed through a crowdfunding campaign that raised over $35,000 in less than two months.
Across the US, gay activists are challenging the gun lobby—from the outspoken Gag (Gays Against Guns) to lobbying group Pride Fund to End Gun Violence. Veteran and political consultant Jason Lindsay noted: “This is a new fight for the gay community, adding our incredible strength and political experience to the existing campaigns, and that will make a difference.”
The UK Girl Guides released new guidelines allowing all people identifying as female to join the organization as members and troop leaders. Furthermore, the Guides considers it unlawful to inform other parents of members and troop leaders identity without an individual’s consent.
The Boy Scouts of America announced it would accept children identifying as boys on their application forms after a New Jersey mother filed a discrimination complaint against the group for expelling her 8-year-old trans son.
The American Journal of Public Health published research estimating the population size of transgender people in the US that determined about 1 in every 250 adults is transgender.
School Days: The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention canceled a conference intended to outline a five-year agenda “to address the health and well-being of LGBTQ youth”. In place of the conference, the CDC held a workgroup of experts to address health issues of LGBTQ young people on 11 January.
German LGBT organization Schwulenberatung Berlin announced plans to build a mixed-use center that will include an LGBTI senior living center and the country’s first kindergarten run by a gay rights group.
The Journal of Adolescent Health published a new supplement that explores sexual and reproductive health, rights, and HIV youth programming, as documented through the International HIV/AIDS Alliance’s youth-led service delivery Link Up Project.
As the UK celebrates its LGBT History Month, organizations including LGBT Youth Scotland and Schools OUT UK have planned series of events and made curriculum resources available to the public.
Business and Technology: At the annual International Tourism Fair held in Madrid, Spain, a growing number of tourist companies targeted the LGBT market. This year many companies went beyond promoting gay pride events to include agricultural and local activities geared towards LGBT families.
After AirBnB purged users violating its anti-discrimination policy, a Russian alternative called MyLinker launched “GayLocator”—a website that claims to calculate the number of gay people in any searched city to “protect” travelers from LGBT persons.
The US National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce published “America’s LGBT Economy” report which evaluated the impact and demographics of 909 certified as LGBT-owned businesses. Among the results, the report found the businesses contributed over $1.15 billion to the economy and created over 33,000 US jobs in 2015.
UK LGBT rights charity Stonewall released its annual workplace equality index ranking the top 100 employers for diversity and inclusion. Lloyds Banking Group took the top spot, replacing MI5 from last year’s report.
Australia’s AIDS Action Council issued a warning that gay apps and forums are being targeted by a group of extortionists in Canberra.
Sports and Culture: India’s first openly gay royal, Prince Manvendra Singh Gohil, is campaigning for gay rights and the end of criminalization which he says contributes to fear and unsafe sex.
In China, millions of people watched a live web broadcast of a gay couple as they traveled to their parents’ homes and revealed that they are gay. The men were one of six couples participating in a Chinese Spring Festival tradition to bring your boyfriend or girlfriend to meet the parents.
Belgium top fashion model Hanne Gaby Odiele revealed she is intersex and spoke candidly about the two traumatic surgeries she underwent as a child and the physical and mental consequences she will deal with for the rest of her life.
From South Africa, journalist Dylan Muhlenberg profiled Cape Town drag artists Queezy, René Sans, and Inkwell Moon, noting: “Drag is not a parody: bigger than that, it’s a slap in the face of conformity, diluting the male vs. female binary that so many of us still hold dear.”
Japanese independent film Karera ga Honki de Amu Toki Ha (aka “Close-Knit”) is the story of a trans woman inspired by a true story director Naoko Ogigami read in her local paper about a mother accepting her transgender teenager.
US independent film Moonlight was nominated for eight Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director for its lyrical adaptation of the play In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue, a coming of age story about a gay African-American boy.
Finally, check out this documentary short from the Mesahat Foundation called Queer Voices From Sudan...What is it like to be Queer in Khartoum? that showcases the challenges faced by the Sudanese LGBT community.