"Nuestra ciudadanía hoy es más libre. Hoy estamos más cerca de hacer realidad la aspiración de cualquier pareja a ser feliz, quererse, respetarse y protegerse en igualdad de condiciones, sin importar su orientación sexual. Como sociedad debemos sentir satisfacción al haber colocado un eslabón más en la extensa historia costarricense de respeto a los derechos humanos." ~ Costa Rican President Luis Guillermo Solís Rivera
"Our citizens today are freer. Today we are closer to making reality the aspiration of any couple to be happy, to love, to respect themselves and protect themselves in conditions of equality, regardless of their sexual orientation. As a society, we must feel satisfaction at having placed one more link in the extensive Costa Rican history of respect for human rights."
Dear friends and colleagues,
From the UN: UNESCO published a fully updated International Technical Guidance on Sexuality Education that promotes structured and positive learning about sexuality and relationships. The guidance reaffirms the position of sexuality education in the framework of human rights and gender equality.
Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO, noted that: “too many young people still make the transition from childhood to adulthood receiving inaccurate, incomplete or judgement-laden information affecting their physical, social, and emotional development. This inadequate preparation not only exacerbates the vulnerability of children and youth to exploitation and other harmful outcomes, but it also represents the failure of society’s duty bearers to fulfill their obligations to an entire generation.”
HIV, Health, and Wellness: Over a year into India's National AIDS Control Organization intervention to reduce the spread of HIV in prisons, program coordinators face challenges noting that inmates who engage in unsafe sex or share needles need harm reduction strategies and condoms.
A new systematic review of English, French, and Spanish research was published that measures the stigma affecting sex workers and gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men. The authors note that addressing stigma is a key priority of international HIV prevention and care strategies. Because of this, they recommend it needs to be better studied, especially in low and middle income settings.
From Zimbabwe, journalist Wongai Zhangazha explored the challenges faced by gay sex workers who are doubly discriminated against for their sexuality and their profession, leaving them with very little choice when seeking HIV prevention and other health needs. As Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (Galz) director Chester Samba described:
“At times nurses call each other and say, come and look. We have an LGBTQI person with an STI. [Others] bring a Bible and throw it over their laps.”
Israel's Health Ministry announced a new pilot program to allow gay men and other men who have sex with men to donate blood without any required period of celibacy. The UK recently reduced its wait period from one year to three months. The Parliament of Switzerland rejected a proposal that would have removed the 12 month celibacy requirement. And Taiwan's Ministry of Health announced that gay men and other men who have sex with men will be allowed to donate blood if they have been celibate for five years.
In South Africa, the Human Science Research Council launched the first South African integrated biological and behavioral survey on HIV in transgender women.
Author Juno Roche discussed how the celebration of trans people who fit an idealized stereotype of femininity and masculinity excludes many trans people from conversations around HIV and sexual health: “Being invisible can mean little or no care, and we know that being systematically ignored can lead to poor healthcare and legislative protection.”
Vice News released a new documentary exploring the evolving issues faced by trans youth and their families when determining when and how to begin medical transition.
From the World of Politics: The US Department of Health and Human Services announced the formation of a Conscience and Religious Freedom Division that will protect health professionals who refuse to treat individuals or provide services counter to their moral or religious beliefs. Activists objected, saying the ruling will negatively impact women, LGBT, and their families. Gregory Angelo, president of the LGBT Log Cabin Republicans, said that while they support religious liberty, the new division, “seems primed to tip the scales in favor of overly broad, vague, and frivolous complaints that disproportionately impact the LGBT community in matters — quite literally — that could mean life and death”.
Meanwhile, the US Human Rights Campaign published the 2017 State Equality Index—analysis of US state legislation and policies, including over 125 laws introduced across 30 states that allow discrimination, undermine rights of transgender people, and subvert marriage equality.
In Bangladesh, the Election Commission added the third gender category of hijra to voter enrollment forms. Taiwan officials announced it is considering plans to add a third gender category to passports and identity cards.
In New Zealand, the Minister of Statistics removed questions on sexuality and gender from the national census after previously testing them on the 2016 and 2017 census. The Ministry claimed the data was not statistically viable, while activists demanded an inquiry to “identify the failure of over 10 years of work in this area”.
Indonesia’s Communication and Informatics Ministry has threatened to block Google unless it removes 75 LGBT social networking apps from the Google Play Store.
The Politics of Union: The Inter-American Court of Human Rights ruled that countries in the Organization of American States (OAS) must recognize same-sex marriages and all the rights given to heterosexual families. It further stated that all countries must allow transgender individuals to change their names on identity documents. Although some OAS countries already recognize marriage or same-sex civil unions, Bolivia, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Honduras, Paraguay, and Peru will need to change existing laws.
Following the ruling, the first gay marriage in Costa Rica was postponed after Costa Rica’s Superior Notary Council prohibited members from performing marriages until local laws are reformed.
An Advocate General to the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) has advised the Court to rule that EU member countries should recognize the same-sex spouses of EU citizens regardless of the country’s individual laws on same-sex marriage. Although the court is not bound to the Advocate General’s opinions, they are followed in the majority of cases.
Let the Courts Decide: In Kenya, judges have begun hearing a case challenging section 162 and 165 of the Penal Code that criminalizes homosexuality. Meanwhile, on 30 January the High Court of Trinidad and Tobago will hear a case challenging the sections of the Sexual Offenses Act that criminalize consensual gay sex.
In China, Beijing’s No. 1 Intermediate People's Court accepted a case challenging China’s State media regulator for a directive that bans content that depicts “homosexual relations” which it labels “abnormal sexual relations or behavior”.
In the US, health insurance provider Aetna settled a class action suit for $17 million after it was accused of privacy breaches for revealing patients' HIV status. Also in the US, a Wisconsin school district settled a discrimination lawsuit for $800,000 brought forward by a trans student who was banned from using the boys’ restroom.
Fear and Loathing: From Brazil, Grupo Gay da Bahia (GGB) released a report on deaths of LGBT people in the country, which found that the number of reported deaths has risen to the highest levels yet. In 2017, there were 435 deaths, suggesting an LGBT person is killed every 19 hours. And from the US, the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs released a report showing that the number of recorded hate-based murders of LGBTQ people increased by 86% in 2017. The majority of victims were people of color.
From the UK, Stonewall published a report on the experiences of trans and non-binary people showing they continue to face a staggering amount of discrimination and violence at home and in public. Among the key findings are that 41% of trans and 31% of non-binary people have experienced hate crimes, 28% of trans people have experienced domestic violence, and 12% of trans employees have been physically assaulted by colleagues or customers at work.
From France, journalist Rozenn Le Carboulec explored the plight of trans and non-binary people in the French prison system where they are often forced to serve time in facilities that do not correspond to their gender, are not provided health care, and are routinely harassed and assaulted by prison guards and other detainees.
In a new survey conducted by the Russian LGBT Network, 83% of Russians say that gay sex is “reprehensible”. Although the figure has grown considerably from previous years, a spokesperson for the Network stated: “I do not believe that the Russian society is homophobic by its nature – it is exactly the work of the state-sponsored propaganda.”
From Egypt came reports that police made another mass arrest, detaining nine so-called “weird” men accused of “debauchery” and homosexual activity.
Winds of Change: Responding to a report from the Human Rights Watch, Ghana’s Inspector General of Police assured the public that police “acknowledge the fundamental human rights and freedom as contained in the 1992 constitution of Ghana” and have systems in place to support LGBT people who have been victims of violence.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines, aiming to recruit 10,000 volunteers, invited LGBT people who “behave properly” to join the military. The British Army, who’s annual recruitment fell 30% below targets last year, launched a new £1.6 million campaign to recruit women, people of color, and LGBT to service. Although the campaign has garnered backlash, creators hope it will “challenge perceptions” and improve diversity.
The Guardian explored how Ireland’s 2015 decision to allow people to legally change gender through simple self-declaration has impacted the UK. Trans Health Australia urged the parliament to remove laws that require trans people to undergo surgery and divorce before legally changing gender.
In Hong Kong, the Equality Commision proposed that the government remove surgery requirements and allow trans people to self-declare their gender identity. Journalist Laurie Chen spoke to Hong Kong trans bodybuilder Law Siu-fung and others about efforts towards equality.
Croatian journalist Ana Brakus spoke to LGBTI activists in the Western Balkansabout the history of the movement, the violence they face, and the impact of politics and the European Union to the cause.
From South Africa, reporter Amy Green spoke to three young intersex people working to end genital mutilation, about the secrecy and "mental torment" they have faced “because you don’t understand your identity”. And Kyle Knight of Human Rights Watch wrote on the history of the Intersex Society of North America (ISNA) and the efforts of activists to end unnecessary surgical interventions on intersex people.
In India, Prince Manvendra Singh Gohil told media that he is building a center for LGBT people at his palace grounds in Gujarat that will include housing, a medical facility, and job training. And in the UK, Micro Rainbow International (MRI) opened their second safe house for LGBTI refugees.
In the Name of Religion: Members of the National Council of Churches in Indiapublished an open letter in support of the decision of the Supreme Court to review Section 377 criminalizing homosexuality and urging the court to strike down the law.
From the UK, a new report found that across denominations places of worship that apply to carry out same-sex marriages see an increase in membership and attendance.
In Australia, openly gay Imam Nur Warsame discussed plans to open a counseling center and place of worship for gay Muslims. In the US, the oldest Catholic and Jesuit university, Georgetown, approved a residential living space for LGBTQ students and “provide a community space for discussion on gender and inclusion while upholding the Jesuit values”.
On the March: The second annual Women’s March drew hundreds of thousands all over the world. This year organizers actively worked to bring more inclusion to the march with women of color and LBTQ voices. Although many showed support for the trans community, a picture from the Vancouver march of a woman declaring that trans women are not women went viral, sparking outrage on social media and becoming a touchstone for those who feel excluded by the current Women’s movement.
Australia’s Midsumma Festival, celebrating LGBTIQ culture, kicked off mid-January. The 23rd annual Midsumma Pride March on the 28th of January will be lead for the first time by two Indigenous queer people.
School Days: In Kenya, some religious groups are urging the government to reject Comprehensive Sex Education, claiming the CSE is a “foreign based curriculum” that will make children more promiscuous. Proponents of CSE say the curriculum is needed to combat high teen pregnancy rates and HIV among young people. Director of the Center for the Study of Adolescence Kenya, Albert Obuyi, stated: "If all of us were faithful to our religion, there would be no teenage pregnancies and sexual violence. And so we must just be pragmatic to respond to these issues in our context."
A new study from the US found that lesbians and queer teens receive almost zero education on sex that doesn’t involve male genitalia and have no knowledge on the dangers of sexually transmitted disease. A recent study of US adults found that 75% received no education about same-sex relationships or sexual activity, while 14.5% said they experienced no sex education of any type in school.
From the UK, Professor of Gender and Science Studies, Celia Roberts argued that more evaluation needs to be given to what “age appropriate” sex and relationship education (SRE) means in an era when young people are experiencing puberty much earlier than decades past. The Department for Education, which is consulting on a new SRE curriculum, states: “All children, including those who develop earlier than the average, need to know about puberty before they experience the onset of physical changes.”
Business and Technology: A survey of youth online found that LGBTQ people aged 15 to 24 are more likely to seek online communities and embrace online platforms to be their “complete self” than non-LGBTQ respondents. Meanwhile, a survey that evaluated happiness and iPhone apps found that 77% of users of dating app Grindr feel unhappy or regretful after using the app—the worst of all reported apps. As Grindr users say they repeatedly delete and redownload the app, writer Zachary Zane posits that the cycle is spurred by hope: “Hope that there’s another lonely soul out there looking for a meaningful connection.”
The LGBT Foundation of Hong Kong announced the launch of a cryptocurrency targeted to support LGBT businesses and protect LGBT people’s identities. The “LGBT Token” is meant to facilitate transactions and authenticate payments in a secure and anonymous manner.
Sports and Culture: As countries finalize their 2018 Winter Olympic teams, the Advocate is keeping track of qualifying LGBT athletes, including Canadian ice skater Eric Radford and Netherlands speed skater Ireen Wüs.
In Australia, people aged 18 to 93-years-old were asked to name the most significant things that have shaped the country in their lifetimes. Mentioned more than any other event, the legalization of same-sex marriage topped the list over 9/11, the Sydney Olympics, the Vietnam War, and the Moon landing, among others.
In Croatia, the Rainbow Families Association published My Rainbow Family, the first children's book to feature a same-sex family.
Tunisian LGBT group Mawjoudin, Arabic for “We Exist”, held the country’s first Queer Film Festival celebrating films from the Middle East and North Africa that speak of sexuality, identity, and gender affiliation. Organizer Senda Ben Jebaratalked to the BBC about the possibility of participants being arrested as Tunisia criminalizes homosexuality.
The producers of RuPaul’s Drag Race announced that the first international version of the show will be made in Thailand with co-hosts Thai drag queen Pangina Heals and fashion designer Art Arya. Speaking on other upcoming projects, the producers stated that there has been an “overwhelming global demand” for content that tells the stories of drag culture: “What was previously thought of as niche is now undeniably mainstream.”
Finally, Yance Ford has made history as the first transgender director nominated for an Oscar with his documentary Strong Island, about the murder of his brother at the hands of a white man. Check out the trailer!