a privilege for some

"LGBTI people have the right to decide freely over their own body and sexuality, this is absolutely fundamental.

Because if just one person doesn’t have the right to be who they are, then how can we claim that human rights are for all and not just a privilege for some.”

Martin Bille Hermann, Denmark’s State secretary for Development Policy, to the UN LGBTI Core Group 

From the UN: The UN’s first independent expert on the protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, Vitit Muntarbhorn, announced his resignation from the post due to health complications. An international law professor from Thailand, Muntarbhorn will deliver his final report to the Human Rights Council in October.

The LGBTI Core Group convened during the UN General Assembly in New York for the 5th annual LGBTI Human Rights Event. Government representatives from 10 countries participated, discussing legislative successes and challengesUN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein urged governments to work to protect LGBTI people and to explain to the public why these human rights measure are needed: 

“When pressed, officials sometimes tell me their hands are tied: the public, they say, will never accept equality for LGBTI people. But surely this is back to front. If public opinion is hostile towards LGBTI people, then that makes it all the more urgent for governments to act to protect them.”

At the Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva, Indonesian representatives announced the government will accept two proposals to protect human rights defenders and to encourage freedom of expression and equality, including LGBTI people. 

More From the UN

HIV, Health and Wellness: The first-ever regional conference on trans health in Asia, “From Barriers to Bridges”, was held in Bangkok, Thailand, bringing together 150 delegates from 20 Asian countries. Co-hosted by the Asia Pacific Transgender Network and Thai Red Cross AIDS Research Centre, the conference focused on evidence-informed discussion on HIV, health, and human rights issues in regional and national contexts. 

The Washington Post profiled Venezuela and the extreme shortage of AIDS medications that has led to complications among HIV positive people, a surge in AIDS-related deaths, and an increase in new infections. 

From the US, new research evaluating the cost-effectiveness of using pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) for HIV prevention among gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men found that to save money, relative to a lifetime cost of treating HIV, the cost of PrEP must be reduced.  Also from the US, new research examined the efficacy of PrEP when used by high-risk adolescent males of color. While the drugs proved safe and effective, researchers noted that over time many participants lapsed in their treatment and suggested that younger patients will need more clinical support to maintain adherence. 

Gay Star News launched a new series on Chemsex—recreational drug use during sexual contexts—that provides a platform for gay and bisexual men to share their experiences, talk about the risks, and get support. 

In France, Minister for Gender Equality, Marlene Schiappa announced that the government plans to release legislation next year to allow single women and lesbians to have access to fertility treatments

More HIV, Health, and Wellness

From the World of Politics:  In a unanimous vote, the Philippines House of Representatives passed the comprehensive SOGIE Equality Bill which penalizes any person who discriminates against, harasses, or denies public services to LGBT people with a fine of up to P500,000 (9,800 USD) or imprisonment between 1 and 6 years. The bill includes protections for LGBT students and employees and forbids hate speech, including over social media.

Indonesia’s Attorney General’s Office announced that it has withdrawn an employment policy that banned LGBT people and referred to LGBT as people suffering from “mental defects” and “behavioral abnormalities”.  

The AIDS and Rights Alliance for Southern Africa (ARASA) encouraged the Malawi Human Rights Commission to prevent any public vote on whether Malawi should criminalize same-sex marriages. ARASA urged the Commission to focus instead on the investigation of key populations’ rights, noting that “Human rights are inalienable and their protection should not be determined by the vote of a majority.”

Sri Lanka’s Tourism and Christian Affairs Minister John Amaratunga announced that the cabinet will not consider any change to the constitution that legalizes abortion or includes rights to LGBT people. 

In Israel, the Welfare and Social Affairs Ministry promised the Supreme Court that it will pass legislation reversing the ban on same-sex adoption by June 2018. 

More from the World of Politics

Let the Courts Decide:  In Brazil, Judge Waldemar Claudio de Carvalho overturned a ruling from 1999 that banned so-called "conversion therapy" for gay people. Calling the ruling a big regression, openly gay councilman of Rio de Janeiro, David Miranda warned that “Brazil is suffering a conservative wave”.

Russian activist Evdokia Romanova has been charged with spreading “gay propaganda” for sharing information about the international group Youth Coalition for Sexual and Reproductive Rights on Facebook.  If convicted, Romanova faces a fine around 100,000 roubles. 

A new US Supreme Court case will evaluate the right to discriminate against LGBT people. The case specifically asks if requiring a cake business owner to serve a gay couple violates the business person’s free speech and religious liberty. Although lower courts have routinely rejected this argument, the Supreme Court has been receptive to free speech arguments in other contexts. 

The Hong Kong Court of Appeals ruled in favor of an expatriate woman seeking a spousal visa for her wife. Twelve leading financial institutions had filed a supportive brief arguing that the policy against visas for same-sex spouses prevented quality foreign employees from immigrating. 
The Supreme Court of Nepal ruled that the government must amend the law to allow citizens to change their name and gender identity on official documents. And in Colombia, the Constitutional Court ruled that a person under 18-years-old can change gender on official documents under certain circumstances.

More from the Courts

In the Name of Religion:  Delegates from 10 West African countries participated in an LGBT-inclusive Interfaith Diversity Network event held in Ghana. The event included sessions on outreach to LGBT people, using religious texts to support LGBT rights, and a LGBT-specific interfaith worship service. 

In Israel, Ultra-Orthodox MP Yigal Guetta was forced to resign from office after he publically stated that two years ago he attended his nephew’s wedding ceremony to another man.

US organization FaithfullyLGBT launched a new campaign to provide gender-affirming procedures for people in need. The campaign, #TitheTrans, encourages Christians who follow the tradition of “tithing”—giving 10% of their earnings to the church—to contribute those funds to a tax-deductible charity that supports trans people. 

The Times of India explored how Hindus living outside of India are embracing gay marriage and LGBT people, finding support in Hindu texts that “shatter the conventional confines of gender and sexuality”. As head of the Australian Council of Hindu clergy, Rama Ramanuja Achari described:

"From a legal point of view, when two people engage in consensual sex what is the problem? There is no crime if there is no victim. And from a dharma point of view, all beings must be treated with compassion and kindness and allowed freedom to pursue their own self-actualization. Any opposition to their self-actualization is Adharma."

More in the Name of Religion

Fear and Loathing:  Human Rights Watch called attention to a United Arab Emirates practice of arbitrarily arresting people deemed to be “looking feminine” or “disguised” as women. UAE police detained two Singaporeans, a cisgender male photographer and a trans woman, for nearly three weeks.

Activists in Azerbaijan said that police have arrested and tortured at least 100 gay and transgender people in raids of both private homes and public places. 

In Indonesia, police raided the home of 12 women and served them an eviction notice after religious leaders objected to their living arrangements. A village official stated: “It’s not acceptable to have female couples living together. Some have short hair, acting as the males. Some have long hair, acting as the females. It’s against sharia. It’s obscene.”

Tanzanian police in Zanzibar arrested 12 women and 8 men who were attending an NGO training event on HIV/AIDS education. Officials said the group was “implicated in homosexuality”. Pan Africa ILGA, the Centre for Human Rights, and the University of Pretoria released a statement condemning the arrests. 

Writing for The African Exponent, Tatenda Gwaambuka broke down the argument that homosexuality is an import of Western ideology using anthropological evidence of homosexuality throughout a diversity of African societies.  

The Guardian highlighted the experience of travelers who have been harassed by Eurostar security guards because their gender identity was different or perceived to be different from their passport details. Zhan Chiam of ILGA noted that “policing of gender needs to stop”.

More from Fear and Loathing

Winds of Change:  The Canadian province of Alberta introduced new guidelines to shelters and housing programs designed to support LGBTQ2S (lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer, two-spirit peoples) youth.  Local Homeward Trust Edmonton, which helped develop the guidelines, estimated that one in three homeless youth identify as LGBTQ2S. Similar findings have been found across the world, including the US and UK

In Myanmar, the Centre for Responsible Business has released a new report that identifies industry practices that exclude women, LGBT, HIV-positive, and religious and ethnic minorities from the workplace. The Centre encouraged companies to embrace diversity as a core value. 

Australians began to submit their mail-in ballots on marriage equality as the debate continues on all sides. Meanwhile, over 30,000 people marched in Sydney to support the “Yes” vote. 

More from Winds of Change

School Days:  In Indonesia, the Islamic boarding school for waria and transgender people quietly reopened four months after authorities forced it to close. The school has expanded services with a “Transgender Care” program that includes vocational training and a free community health clinic. 

In the US, many single-gender schools school have revised their admissions policies to accept trans and other gender nonconforming students. Meanwhile, LGBT national group Campus Pride, identified 140 colleges across the country who have requested or been granted religious exemptions enabling them to discriminate against LGBTQ students.

A new UK survey found that 95% of 16 to 25-year-olds in the UK were never taught about LGBT relationships during sex and relationships education (SRE). Additionally, 75% never discussed matters of consent and 14% received no SRE of any kind. 

In China, health experts have warned that schools’ refusal to provide sex education, beyond differences in genitalia, is a significant factor in the steep increase of unplanned pregnancies and spikes in HIV infections. Sex educator Fei Yunxia added that ignorance about sex and their own bodies also leaves young people vulnerable to abuse.

More from School Days

Sports and Culture:  In Brazil, the art exhibition “Queermuseu” featuring 263 works from Brazilian artists was closed a month early following protests by evangelical Christians who accused the exhibit of promoting blasphemy and pedophilia.

Indian actors Kapil Kaustubh Sharma and Yuvraaj Parashar, creators of the film Dunno Y.... Na Jaane Kyon—the first Bollywood film to feature a gay kiss, spoke from the Durban Gay and Lesbian Film Festival about the backlash they have faced at home. Despite setbacks, Sharma said the reaction of the LGBT community has made it worthwhile: “A movie can’t change your gender. If you’re gay, you’re gay. If you’re straight, you’re straight. But a movie can change your life.”

Artists Luiz Fabiano Teixeira and Tiago Cardoso have created a new Portuguese web series, “+ Próximos” that explores the relationship between a gay couple after one man discovers he is HIV positive. 

Finally, checkout author John Paul Brammer’s examination of the current internet phenomenon that has people online embracing pop culture and mythical monsters as queer icons. 

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