"Too many victims go without recognition, remedy or justice. Too many perpetrators are free to strike again, undeterred by the prospect of rule of law."
~ UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet on the need for rigorous data collection on hate crimes
From the UN: During the UN 73rd Session of the General Assembly, the UN LGBTI Core Group, an informal cross regional group of UN Member States, held a high level side event on “Violence against LGBTI Individuals” with particular focus on extrajudicial, summary, and arbitrary executions. Over 30 countries were represented at the event chaired by Jessica Stern of OutRight International. In her opening remarks, Stern said people often question how the UN impacts LGBTI rights around the world. She noted that India’s Supreme Court referenced the UN a dozen times in its historic ruling striking down Section 377 of the Penal Code:
“The work of the UN helped decriminalize homosexuality and re-establish the dignity of more than 100 million LGBT people in India. If you need evidence that the UN’s work on LGBTI rights matters, nothing could be clearer.”
Many participants made powerful speeches, including UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet. Bachelet called for more rigorous data collection on hate crimes and emphasized:
“There should be nothing ‘controversial’ about stopping people being murdered, or executed by agents of the State, simply because of who they are or whom they love.”
The UN Independent Expert on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, Victor Madrigal-Borloz, released his latest report which included a focus on gender recognition, the declassification of transgender identity as an illness, and guidance on addressing violence and discrimination based on gender identity. Several LGBTI organizations released a statement applauding Madrigal-Borloz’s statement, with particular appreciation for his support of the gender identity of children.
UNAIDS announced an action-based partnership between the African Union and several UN groups to collaborate to eliminate sexual and gender-based violence, prevent HIV, and protect women and children’s health and rights in humanitarian settings. Studies show that rape and other forms of sexual violence are a common practice of war. Sigrid Kaag, Minister of Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation, Netherlands noted:
“We must not explain why we are partnering, but why we are not partnering to eliminate sexual and gender-based violence and protect the health and rights of women and children in humanitarian settings.”
UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé met with transgender rights activists Marcela Romero and Venus Tejada to discuss the work of the Latin American and Caribbean Network of Transgender People (REDLACTRANS). They shared REDLACTRANS latest report “Waiting to die” that documents human rights violations against trans people and provides recommendations to policy makers.
The UN Special Rapporteurs on Health, Torture & Discrimination against Women sent an open letter to the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) urging it to withdraw the new “Eligibility Regulations for Female Classification”. The regulations prevent women that the IAAF considers to have too high natural testosterone levels from competing in sports. The rapporteurs note that the regulations are not reasonable and objective and conflict with human rights standards:
“Women who do not conform to culturally constructed notions of womanhood are particularly at risk of discrimination, violence, and criminalization. By singling out a certain group of athletes and denying them membership in the “female” category, the IAAF puts these women at risk of repercussions far beyond the inability to compete, as well as subjecting them to shame, ridicule, and intrusion upon their personal and private life.”
The UN Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing, Leilani Farha, issued a statement calling attention to Egypt's pressing housing concerns that include approximately 38 million people who live in informal settlements and unplanned areas. In particular Farha noted that she heard "harrowing and traumatic stories" from LGBT Egyptians who face extreme discrimination when seeking housing.
HIV, Health and Wellness: The Williams Institute published in PLOS a new study on HIV and PrEP use among gay and bisexual men in the US. The findings show that only 4% of sexually active gay and bisexual men use PrEP and only 52% of young men were familiar with PrEP for HIV prevention. Study author Dr. Phillip Hammack said that this data does not support the hypothesis that PrEP is to blame for rise in STIs: “I would speculate [rising STI rates] has more to do with a culture shift about sex.”
From Hong Kong, new modelling study and cost-effectiveness analysis published in Scientific Reports found that, to avert new HIV infections, it would be more effective to give 30% of all gay men and other men who have sex with men PrEP than to only give PrEP to those at highest risk of infection. Although they estimated that PrEP is currently too expensive for this strategy, they also found that a reduction in cost in line with generic versions would allow for this strategy.
In the UK, the High Court of England and Wales declined to extend the patent for PrEP to drug manufacturer Gilead. Last year Ireland’s High Court also denied the patent. These rulings clear the way for generic equivalents to PrEP drug Truvada and will make PrEP more affordable for the National Health Services.
Anastasia Moloney reported on the flood of Venezuelans forced to flee to Colombia after Venezuela's economic collapse. Activists say a growing number of HIV-positive LGBT+ migrants have died due to the inability to afford basic HIV/AIDS medication in Colombia.
In Saint Lucia, the Ministry of Health and Wellness issued a press release urging people to disclose to health professionals about their sexual orientation and sex history. The ministry also supported a pilot initiative to teach health care workers motivational interviewing to encourage a stigma-free dialogue between patients and clinicians.
India’s recent ruling to decriminalize homosexuality included a judgment that LGBTQ people have “the right to emergency medical care and the right to the maintenance and improvement of public health”. Many hope the ruling will spark reforms in health policy to address the ongoing stigma LGBTQ Indians face, especially when seeking care and prevention for sexually transmitted infections. Until changes are made, non-governmental clinics are trying to fill the gaps for HIV-positive LGBTQ Indians.
In Singapore, advocacy group Action for AIDS joined the call for decriminalizationand the repeal of Section 377A. As in India, activists say that criminalization of homosexuality stigmatizes the prevention and treatment of HIV.
From the World of Politics: Singapore’s Minister of Education told participants at the annual Singapore Summit that LGBTQ people live “peacefully” in the country despite Section 377A criminalizing homosexuality. He said they suffer no discrimination at work, in housing matters, or in education. Inspired by India's ruling, many in Singapore are speaking out against criminalization. The new campaign "Ready4Repeal" is encouraging LGBT people and allies to share their stories with Members of Parliament. Co-creator Johannes Hadi remarked that if people don't speak up "the government and society will take this as proof that there's no hatred and suffering".
Many remain in support of criminalization. In his defense of the law, Professor Thio Li-ann of National University of Singapore says:
“There is no United Nations treaty which expressly underwrites discrimination on grounds of “sexual orientation”, itself an ambiguous term… At best, “sexual orientation” is a political claim, not an international legal right.”
The High Court has not set a date to review Section 377A, but has given musician Johnson Ong until late November to submit his evidence against it.
Switzerland’s National Council voted to make homophobia and transphobia a crimepunishable with up to three years in prison. Currently the Criminal Code criminalizes incitement toward hatred of discrimination against a person or group based on their “racial, ethnic, or religious” affiliation. The Council would amend Article 261 to include "sexual orientation" and "gender identity". Opponents to the amendment said that the added terms would be "legally problematic and indefinable". The amendment will now go to the Council of States for final approval.
In Japan, the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly approved an ordinance to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. The ordinance includes measures to educate the community on LGBT issues and was created to prepare the city to "realize the Olympic Charter goal of respect for human rights" ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Games.
Chile is one step closer to approving adoption for gay couples after the Commission for families and the elderly voted in favor of a law to expand adoptions for non-married straight and gay couples. The changes must be approved by the Senate to go into effect.
In the US, lawmakers struck down an amendment that would have allowed welfare and adoption agencies to refuse to provide services to LGBT couples. Human Rights Watch points out that 10 US states still have local legislation that allows discrimination against LGBT couples in foster and adoption issues.
South Africa’s Minister of Home Affairs, Malusi Gigaba, met with a local LGBTI rights group to discuss the Civil Union Amendment bill, asylum issues, gender recognition, and revitalizing the Department of Home Affairs LGBTI Task Team. Operating briefly in 2016, the Task Team was a group of department officials meant to clarify legislation impacting LGBTI people.
According to Gay Star News, Latvia's recent elections had the highest number of openly LGBT parliamentary candidates.Two candidates won their seats including Minister of Foreign Affairs Edgars Rinkēvičs who was reelected to his post.
Malaysia’s Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad told reporters that Malaysia’s “value system is not the same as the Western value system” and that the country could not accept the LGBT community or gay marriage. Mohamad was responding to statements from the National Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) criticizing the caning of two accused lesbian women. However, Suhakam chairman Tan Sri Razali Ismail defended the organization, saying that it does not advocate for gay marriage and that when it considers human rights it “takes into account our context specific values”. Ismail continued:
“Suhakam is steadfast in its position that no one has the right to discriminate LGBTs or treat them with hate or violence.”
The Politics of Union: The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) reprimanded Chile’s government for failing to uphold agreements to advance marriage equality. In 2017, the IACHR facilitated a Friendly Agreement with the government in which officials promised to promote legislation on marriage equality. And last January, the IACHR ruled that Costa Rica, and all members of the Organization of American States, must recognize same-sex marriage. Advocacy group Movilh reported to the IACHR that President Sebastián Piñera and other officials have publicly denounced marriage equality and failed to fulfill obligations of the Friendly Agreement.
In Curaçao, activists submitted a draft National Ordinance on the Equality of Marriage to member of Parliament Giselle McWilliam. McWilliam applauded them for their efforts and told supporters he would do “everything to help”.
Hong Kong’s government announced it will grant visas to non-local same sex partners who are in same-sex civil partnerships, civil unions, or marriage. It will likewise consider opposite-sex partners in civil partnerships and civil unions. This summer the Court of Final Appeal ruled in favor of a lesbian couple seeking a spousal visa. A government spokesman clarified that this does not change Hong Kong law and that marriage “is not a status open to couples of the same sex”.
The US State Department updated how it offers visas to domestic partners of UN staff. The updated policy states that G-4 visas will be restricted to couples legally married. Staff in same-sex civil unions or registered partnerships will have to marry by 31 December to maintain their visas. Alfonso Nam, president of the UN LGBTI employees organization UN-Globe, stated that they are working to reverse the policy as "marriage may be an option that comes with terrible constraints, including the possibility of criminal charges in your home country".
Let the Courts Decide: Romania's Constitutional Court ruled that the protection of the fundamental right to a private life and a family life applies to gay couples. Furthermore, gay couples should benefit from “legal and juridical recognition of their rights and obligations”. A few days later the country held a national referendum on whether to amend the constitution to define “family” as an act between one man married to one woman. Activists called for a boycott of the referendum and noted that redefining family not only impacts same-sex couples but also single parents and grandparents raising grandchildren. The referendum was invalidated because participation did not meet the 30% threshold—only 20.96% of Romanians voted.
Nearly a year ago in Hong Kong, Yeung Chu-wing, a member of Rainbow of Hong Kong, challenged the High Court to declare seven laws that criminalize sexual activities between men as discriminatory and unconstitutional. The government has now conceded that the laws are inconsistent with the region’s constitution. However, it has asked the court to refrain from ruling against the laws while the Law Reform Commission continues a review begun in 2006.
In Trinidad and Tobago, the High Court has clarified the historic ruling made in April to decriminalize sexual activity between adults of the same sex. The court initially ruled that the laws—Section 13 and Section 16—would be struck down, but in the final hearing Judge Rampersad decided to amend the law instead of getting rid of it. “Buggery” is now described as anal sex "without consent". Activist Jason Jones expressed disappointment that current laws banning non-consensual sex were not considered sufficient and that “buggery” remains in the Sexual Offences Act. The government intends to repeal the ruling to keep both consensual and non-consensual same-sex relations a crime.
The European Committee of Social Rights heard activists' complaint against the Czech Republic for its legal requirement that trans people must be sterilized if they wish to officially change their gender identity. The Committee decided that the policy violates the human rights of transgender people as guaranteed by the European Social Charter. It noted that gender recognition is a right recognized under international human rights law.
In India, the Kerala High Court ruled that a lesbian couple must be allowed to live together after lawyers cited the Supreme Court ruling against Section 377. The couple had been forcibly separated by family who then committed one of the women to a mental hospital against her will.
In China, a teacher fired for being gay is suing his school for wrongful termination. Although China labor laws do not specify protections for LGBT, his lawyer plans to use laws intended to protect minority groups.
In Kenya, Judge Wilfrida Okwany temporarily lifted a ban on the film Rafiki so that it could be eligible for a Best Foreign Language Oscar. Rafiki, banned for positively portraying a lesbian romance, was screened to sold-out audiences for only one week in Nairobi and became the second-highest grossing Kenyan film ever. Head of Kenya’s Film Classification Board, Ezekial Mutua, vigorously opposed the screenings: “It would be a tragedy and a shame to have homosexual films defining the Kenyan culture.” Despite the screenings, the Kenyan selection committee said Rafiki had failed to meet requirements and selected short film Supa Modo to represent Kenya for the Foreign Language Oscar.
Regarding Religion: The United Methodist African Bishops released a statement reaffirming their objection to same-sex marriage and homosexuality ahead of the United Methodist Church General Conference. The UMC is expected to decideissues such as allowing openly gay clergy, marriage, and whether to change the official opposition to homosexuality during this winter’s conference. In preparation a group of clergy released an open letter calling on the Church to create a "gracious and equitable process for exit” for congregations who wish to separate due to disagreements over the acceptance of LGBT issues.
Christian religious leaders from Australia, Jamaica, Canada, the US, and the UK released an open letter appealing to governments across the Caribbean to repeal laws that criminalize consensual same-sex intimacy.
Writing for the South China Morning Post, David Rose explored how the relationship between Indonesian Islamists and waria—a local traditional third gender derived from the words wanita (woman) and pria (man)—has changed significantly over time. Where once there were respected, they have become more and more stigmatized.
In the US, around 2,000 people attended the Values Voter Summit, a networking and political event focused on “pro-family” and conservative Christian ideology. Senior Research Analyst Heron Greenesmith explored how the VVS has begun promoting the term “gender ideology”, a concept popular among European anti-LGBTQ groups, to describe a broad range of LGBTQ topics including non-discrimination laws, gender recognition policies, comprehensive sex education, and trans-inclusive schools.
In Moldova, leading religious right and evangelical groups from the US and Russiajoined other anti-LGBTQ groups from over 40 countries at the World Congress of Families global summit. Although the summit had many sessions on the “attack” on the family, reporter Casey Michel of Think Progress noted that some Western participants seemed “resigned to the permanence of marriage equality”. Meanwhile, there was a growing focus on “gender ideology” and “myths of gender identity” throughout the conference.
Fear and Loathing: Thirty-three organizations from across Africa issued a joint statement expressing concern about the "attacks on the independence of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR)". Created by the African Charter, the ACHPR has been instrumental in drawing attention to and providing recourse for those across Africa who have been subjected to human rights violations. Attempts to "undermine its credibility" restrict ACHPR's work. The statement further warns that civil society organizations have faced "increasing restrictions and barriers" for participating in the ACHPR.
Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Freedom House and Frontline Defenders have called on Ukraine to address attacks against activists and human rights defenders. Over 50 attacks have been documented on people who support LGBT people, protect the environment, and campaign against corruption.
In Lebanon, security officers raided the Arab Foundation for Freedoms and Equality (AFE) conference on gender rights on the grounds that the conference was promoting homosexuality and drug use. Officers pushed the hotel management to cancel the remaining event, recorded the names and passports of the over 100 participants, and confiscated photos. Although AFE was able to move the final day to another location, participants were shaken. Executive Director Georges Azzi, noted:
“These kinds of attacks are expected, there is no activism without risks, but we need to be more prepared, stay united and help each other to stand up and continue the fight.”
From Cameroon, the Thomson Reuters Foundation reported on lesbians who have been subjected to "corrective rape" to cure them of their homosexuality.
From Senegal, Nellie Peyton reported on the intense violence and abuse faced by LGBT+ people in a country that aggressively enforces its laws criminalizing homosexuality. Djamil Bangoura, president of local group Association Prudence noted:
“Other countries are fighting for marriage and adoption rights. Our fight is a fight for survival."
Pan Africa ILGA warned that Senegal's government has begun targeting the LGBTIQ+ community as an apparent political ploy to drive interest for the upcoming elections.
From Thailand, Laura Villadiego spoke to transgender activists who say that, without laws to protect them, they are routinely discriminated against when seeking employment and education.
Linda Farthing reported on the spike of violence against Honduran LGBT peopleperpetrated by gangs and police and supported media that “feeds into the climate of hate”. Global Affairs Canada announced funding of $1 million to strengthen Honduras’s response to murders of women and crimes against LGBT people.
Shannon Power reported on the persecution faced by LGBTI in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Although the DRC does not criminalize homosexuality, there are no laws to protect the community. The Rainbow Sunrise Mapambazuko is one of the few groups that provide a health clinic that caters to sex workers and gay men and other men who have sex with men.
In Greece, a video captured the brutal public beating of LGBT+ activist Zak Kostopoulos, who later died from his injuries. Kostopoulos was a well-known drag performer, a founding member of Colour Youth group, and had been featured in films about living as an HIV-positive man and member of Athens LGBT+ community. Friends have disputed the police version of events and the lawyer for Kostopoulos’s family says the police have failed to investigate:
“If the video did not exist, the case might have been closed. No violence would have been recorded by anyone.”
Africa media site Kuchu Times published about the situation faced by gay and bisexual men who are victims of intimate partner violence. It urged the community to better recognize violence and lend support through stigma free health care, legal services, and shelters with safe spaces for gay and bisexual people.
Winds of Change: Gay Star News and Barclays launched “LGBTI Founders Day” to celebrate “celebrate contributions of LGBTI elders to the rainbow community around the world”. GSN also released findings from their digital survey on aging, sex, and retirement. It found that nearly all LGBTI people believe the community is ageist, while a majority of people fear getting sick and loneliness as they age.
From Nepal, Lex Limbu talked the country's first openly gay Member of Parliament, Sunil Babu Pant, about the early days of activism in the country.
From the Philippines, Anne Ednalyn de la Cruz wrote about Bahaghari Metro Manila (BHMM), “a multi-sectoral, progressive and nationalist LGBT organization” that focuses on issues “beyond Pride” including poverty, employment, and human rights abuses.
In Bangladesh, Tanisha Yeasmin Chaity has become the first trans person to be hired as an officer within the National Human Rights Commission. NHRC Chairman Kazi Reazul Hoque said:
“We believe our initiative will encourage other institutions – both governmental and non-governmental – to promote the rights of vulnerable members of society.”
In India, trans activist Sanjeeva Vandse and the organization Asare Trust launched “Asare Fast Food”, a food stall to employ trans people and support people living with HIV.
Colombian activist Alba Lucía Reyes Arenas spoke to the Washington Blade about her efforts to stop bullying and discrimination against LGBT youth. Reyes was galvanized to take action after her son, Sergio Urrego, committed suicide at the age of 16.
From the US, Vanessa Nichols’s blog about being the parent of a trans kid went viral as she shared the emotional toll it can take to defend your children against vitriol. Earlier this summer, a California politician attacked Nichols and her son on a campaign website, using a video of them to denounce LGBTQ rights and the “mutilation” of children.
School Days: From Zimbabwe, teacher Neal Hovelmeier was forced to resign from his position at a top private school after he talked openly about being gay. Although he was initially supported by the headmaster, Hovelmeier’s revelations sparked opposition from parents.
In the US, only a week after Azusa Pacific University removed language that prohibited students from “public LGBTQ+ relationships”, the Board of Trustees has reinstated the ban. Officials from other evangelical and Christian colleges praised the board for staying true to “conservative, evangelical perspective on human sexuality”. Around two hundred students held a public prayer to protest the reinstated ban. Erin Green, co-executive director for Brave Commons an organization that supports LGBTQ at Christian schools, who participated in talks where students “poured their hearts out” to APU officials, called the reversal a “betrayal”:
“They looked us in the eye and said this policy is harmful, it’s discriminatory, it’s stigmatizing and we’re going to get rid of it. And we trusted them.”
Sports and Culture: In Canada, the group that oversees university athletics implemented a new policy to allow students to compete on teams consistent with their gender identity.
Japanese magazine Shincho 45 will halt production. Publishers said the magazine’s failure is related to the public outcry that followed an article it published that expressed anti-LGBT views from politician Mio Sugita.
For the first time, Arabic LGBTI magazine My.Kali featured a trans man on the cover in a bold image that displays his chest scars. Jordanian publisher Khalid Abdel-Hadi said the issue highlights model Rashed's story because "the trans community is the least heard, the least reflected, and the most needed of attention".
From the US, photographer John Novotny captured fans and enthusiasts attending RuPaul's DragCon. INTO celebrated Bisexual+ Awareness Week showcasing portraits of public-facing bisexuals.
From Ukraine, a new radio program dedicated to LGBT issues called “Good As You” has begun broadcasting in Odesa. The program plans to feature gay and lesbian guests and their families.
From Kenya, Senegalese-American journalist Selly Thiam and a team of three other women launched podcast AfroQueer this summer to tell stories from Queer Africans across the continent and the diaspora.
Nigerian podcast “No Strings NG” showcased the story of Seyi, a young man who decided to come out to his family after watching a film about a gay kid who committed suicide.
GaySA Radio, an online streaming radio station that plays music and programs for the LGBTQ+ community of South Africa and beyond, is celebrating three years of supporting the community with a fundraising party during Pretoria Pride, with proceeds supporting a children’s charity.
Check out the short film “Waiting for Color” that features the work of dancer and choreographer Kosta Karakashyan. Karakashyan developed the “documentary dance film” to express the testimonials he read from 33 survivors of Chechnya’s gay purge.