“We are all born the way we are. We need to support, embrace and respect each other. When we treat each other with dignity, we are all more dignified. When we treat each other with respect, we are all more respected.
I wish you affirm yourselves and your identities as well as your various diversities and celebrate your wonderful, beautiful, outstanding humanity.”
~ South African President Cyril Ramaphosa
From the UN: The UNAIDS country office in Brazil has begun a training course on public health budgeting to empower young people, including gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men, and trans people on how to become better-informed activists and leaders in public health. Country Director Georgiana Braga-Orillard noted that young leaders are critical and should be supported so that they can participate in political advocacy spaces that work to improve the public health system.
HIV, Health, and Wellness: Over 120 activists, doctors, and policymakers from 33 countries met in the Netherlands for the first-ever "European PrEP Summit". Participants provided updates on PrEP expansion in various countries, discussed challenges, and considered how to better educate stakeholders through social media and dating sites. Demand for PrEP is significant in some countries, while stigma has prevented uptake in others. Pilot studies have recently begun in the Ukraine and Georgia and are planned to start in Russia this fall.
South Korea’s Ministry of Food and Drug Safety has approved PrEP for HIV prevention, although it will cost around 420,000 won ($390 USD) per month. Also from South Korea, the LGBT group DDingDong collaborated with medical experts and LGBT teens to create a new guidebook that answers direct questions on HIV/AIDS and safe sex in terms understandable to teens.
The Philippines Department of Health released figures showing that in 2017 new HIV infections jumped by 20%, with over 11,000 new cases reported. According to the data, 97% of these were among males and 87% were among gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men. In the midst of this crisis, President Duterte came under fire for public remarks in which he stated that people should not use condoms because “they aren’t pleasurable”. The Philippines Commission on Population (PopCom) released a statement in response noting that condoms are the preferred method for preventing STDs including HIV. Writing for Manila Times, Dodo Dulay argued that the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012 should be amended to allow people under the age of 18 to buy condoms to help curb the epidemic.
In Pakistan, Dr Quaid Saeed of the National AIDS Control Programme warned that the government has limited its focus to HIV/AIDS among people who inject drugs. HIV prevalence has increased in all key population areas, and he says it risks spreading in the general population through sexual networks.
A new study suggests that HIV is more likely to be transmitted through anal sex than vaginal sex due to how a person’s immune system reacts to pathogens in different parts of the body.
From France, a study of HIV-positive gay men found that 70% of participants were co-infected with high risk HPV infection associated with cancer.
In the US, following reports that gay men have been discriminated against when seeking health insurance, Healthline Media investigated if discrimination against LGBTQ people in US health care has improved in the last decade. Meanwhile, Politico argued that the US Department of Health and Human Services has dismantled LGBT friendly health initiatives. As one researcher asserted, the policy changes represent "rapid destruction of so much of the progress on LGBT health".
From the World of Politics: Cyril Ramaphosa has become South Africa's new president replacing Jacob Zuma. Ramaphosa, considered an ally of the LGBTQ community, was chairperson of the Constitutional Assembly in 1994 when protections were extended to include sexual orientation. He also served as chair of the South African National AIDS Council. Also in South Africa, over 21,000 people signed a petition urging the Department of Justice to move the new Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill to Parliament.
India’s Parliament will reexamine the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill during its upcoming budget session. The government is considering inputs from human rights groups to include a clear and comprehensive definition of ‘transgender person’. It will also evaluate requirements for gender change documentation and improving access to medical care.
In the US, President Trump released his 2019 proposed government budget which includes a reduction of over $1 billion from HIV funding, including the President’s Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). Many organizations have spoken out and urged Congress to reject the cuts.
The Politics of Union: In Japan, the municipality of Fukuoka announced it will recognize same-sex couples through a “partnership oath system”, becoming the seventh city to authenticate LGBT relationships. The oath brings no additional rights or protections at this time.
In Taiwan, a coalition of anti-marriage equality groups have filed repeated motions calling for the Constitutional Court to overturn its ruling approving gay marriage due to “irregularities” during the judicial review.
In Bermuda, a man is suing the government for passing the Domestic Partnership Act, which revoked same-sex couples’ right to marry despite Bermuda’s Supreme Court ruling in favor of marriage equality last spring. A gay couple in Northern Ireland has told the Court of Appeal they are discriminated against because Northern Ireland will not recognize their marriage which was carried out in London. Under current laws, Northern Ireland "downgrades" same-sex marriages to civil partnerships.
Let the Courts Decide: Kenya’s High Court heard arguments challenging the criminalization of homosexuality. The case argues that criminalization, which is based on a British colonial law, is unconstitutional. Eric Gitari, the Executive Director of Kenya’s National Gay and Lesbian Rights Commission (NGLHRC), said the law encourages violence against LGBT people:
“We receive cases of women who have been brutally beaten and raped because their family or neighbors found out they were lesbian. Or incidents where individuals go to the police seeking help only to have the police attack them.”
The US 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against the Justice Department, finding that civil rights laws ban workplace discrimination on the basis of a person's sexual orientation. The Justice Department had argued that the law was written only to protect a person's "sex" as in gender, but the ruling declares: "Sexual orientation is a function of sex and, by extension, sexual orientation discrimination is a subset of sex discrimination."
In Canada, the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal overturned the conviction of an HIV-positive man found guilty of sexual assault for failing to disclose his HIV status to his sexual partners. The court ruled that although “worry, stress, [and] anger are natural emotions” on learning of being exposed to HIV, because HIV is no longer considered lethal, non-disclosure is not a crime.
The Supreme Court of Nepal ruled that the foreign wife of a Nepalese woman must be granted a Non-Tourist Visa.
In Russia, a local district court refused to give a woman back custody of her foster children. Authorities had removed the two children because she underwent a breast reduction surgery and they believed she intended to undergo sex-reassignment surgery—an accusation she denied. The court cited the country’s same-sex marriage ban and stated that the woman’s “desire to assume the social role typical of the male gender — in essence contradicts the principles of our country’s family law, traditions, and mentality of our society”.
In Mexico, a federal appeals court gave state officials three days to proceed with a married gay couple’s request to adopt a child or face a fine. In the US state of Texas, a lesbian couple is suing the federal government and the Conference of Catholic Bishops after the couple was rejected in their application to foster a refugee childbecause of their sexuality.
Also in the US, organizers of the Mississippi Starkville Pride announced they will sue city officials after they were denied permits to hold Starkville’s first ever Pride parade. Attorney Roberta Kaplan, who litigated the groundbreaking case that invalidated portions of the US Defense of Marriage Act, will represent the group in court.
Turkey’s Administrative Courts upheld an indefinite ban on all LGBTI organized public events from being held in the capital region of Ankara on the grounds they could endanger “health and morality”. Bjorn van Roozendaal, ILGA-Europe Programmes Director, noted:
“The blanket ban is indiscriminate, vague, open-ended and a clear breach of fundamental human rights conventions that Turkey has willingly signed up to. It should never have been introduced in the first place, never mind defended.”
In the Name of Religion: Last November, spurred by Australia’s vote in favor of marriage equality, Prime Minister Turnbull appointed an Expert Panel to determine if Australian law adequately protects religious freedoms. During the review, prominent legal charities have argued that religious-based exemptions already go too far, allowing discrimination at schools, hospitals, and the workplace. Concerns have also been raised that the panel could be biased as panel members attended a two-day religious conference with anti-LGBTI speakers in the US, but have not attended any pro-LGBTI events.
Writing for Religion Dispatches, Professor Patrick Hornbeck examined the “abrupt” swing against LGBTQ equality as religious exemptions gain ground across the US.
Dr Adriaan van Klinken wrote about young Kenyans who have formed a “gay church” in Nairobi with the aim of “promoting an understanding in the Kenyan LGBT community that Christian faith can affirm sexual diversity, and advocating a recognition in Kenyan Christian circles that LGBT people can be people of faith”.
From Canada, the Moderator of the Presbyterian Church General Assembly released a public letter apologizing for its failure to act on reports of homophobia and hypocrisy and for “condoning” bullying through its silence:
“No one should ever be harmed for naming their sexual identity. We live in a culture and a world where LGBTQI persons are bullied, brutalized and sometimes killed. Moreover, bullying and violence occurs in congregations or in the community with the support of church members.”
In Malaysia, Islamic religious leader Ustaz Hanafiah Abd Malek argued that the government should use censorship measures to restrict the growing LGBT movement, especially monitoring websites and social media app WeChat. Writing for the Malaysian Insight, Emmanuel Joseph, described growing anti-LGBT sentiment, including a forum held by the Muslim students’ coalition Gamis titled “LGBT: A Chronic Cancer in Malaysia”. He asked:
“Why are people allowed to debase other human beings on life choices that do not affect them at all? We shudder and shake our heads at faraway countries like Pakistan or India where this sort of thing used to occur, but are we slowly becoming a resentful, intolerant, and hateful country ourselves?”
Fear and Loathing: In Indonesia, the Mayor of Depok, a city in West Java, announced his plan to create a task force of police officers, social service workers, religious leaders, and community organizations to “anticipate the spread of LGBT”. Meanwhile, the 12 trans women recently arrested in the city of Aceh described to Amnesty International their terrifying experience which police justified as a “program to clean Aceh”. These are some of the latest examples of the trend of “moral and political panic about sexuality” that is leading politicians to consider a new penal code criminalizing homosexuality.
Writing for East Asia Forum, Professor Sharyn Davies suggested specific steps to stem the tide of anti-LGBT sentiment and noted: "The Indonesian government must ensure that the voices of Islam that promote anti-LGBT sentiment are being counterbalanced by those that stress the benevolence of Islam."
Mexican LGBT advocate Daniel Berezowsky described the “overlooked” LGBT movement in Latin America and argued that multinational organizations often focus international aid only towards Africa and Southeast Asia.
The Bedayaa Organization published a new report: “Violence Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity towards LGBTIQ Persons in Egypt” that examines how intersectionality impacts the routine physical and psychological abuse the community faces. Meanwhile, Egyptian police arrested a student concert organizer and a security guard on the accusation that the student was organizing an event “to be attended only by homosexuals”. The student denied the claim and the pair were released due to lack of evidence.
In Canada, alleged serial killer Bruce McArthur has been charged with murdering at least six gay men between 2012 and 2017. Calling the relationship with police “an open wound”, activists have accused them of neglecting the community for failing to act sooner on the cases of missing gay men. Haran Vijayanathan, the executive director of Alliance for South Asian AIDS Prevention (ASAAP), said:
"Our community is at risk, and our community is threatened by the system that's meant to protect us. We just want the system to acknowledge that they truly made a mistake."
In the US, a gay man was arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials while applying for citizenship through his husband, an American citizen. Jose Nunez, one of many immigrants detained despite having no criminal record, is said to have passed his “reasonable fear screening” during which he explained his fears of being persecuted for his sexuality in his homeland.
LGBTI communities all over the world have, at times, struggled with complicated relationships with police; however, they can also be allies to the community. In Australia, Queensland officials dedicated funding to support LGBTI victims of domestic violence, and the Queensland Police Service is working to end the “misconception of homophobia”. And in Ghana, police “saved” two young women accused of homosexuality from a lynch mob.
School Days: The US was rocked by another school shooting when 17 students and teachers were murdered on Valentine’s Day. The tragedy is Florida’s second deadliest mass shooting following the Pulse gay nightclub massacre of 49 people. In the aftermath, the student survivors have rapidly emerged as activists and organizers against gun violence. One of the leading voices has been Emma González, a bisexual latinx 18-year-old and president of the school’s Gay-Straight Alliance, who gave a rousing 12-minute speech with the refrain “We call B.S.” on politicians and adults “lying to us”.
From Australia, the BBC profiled Georgie Stone, the 17-year-old trans girl whose petition led to a landmark ruling that Australian trans youth will no longer have to seek approval from the Court to access hormone therapy.
Erasing 76 Crimes reported on the African Queer Youth Initiative (AQYI), a Pan-African organization of youth LGBTQI activists, who are fighting against the “general occurrence” of human rights violations of LGBTI people across the continent. AQYI has called on “people with a passion for justice and change step up to the plate” to change the status quo.
Forty young Pakistanis became the first trans people accepted into the Pakistan Boy Scouts Association. And in another first, officials announced that several trans youthwill be selected to join Pakistan’s team of 150 boy scouts sent to Saudi Arabia to assist Hajj pilgrims to Mecca.
On the March: The largest LGBT group in the UK, Stonewall announced it would not participate in the annual Pride in London event because organizers have repeatedly ignored “concerns about the lack of diversity and inclusion”, including refusing to meet with Black Pride organizers and failing to invite non-white speakers.
In Turkey, a Public Prosecutor from the Istanbul Press Crimes Inquiry Bureau dismissed criminal complaints made against Kürşat Mican, leader of a far-right nationalist group, for his use of threats and hate speech directed towards the 2017 LGBTI Pride Walk. The Prosecutor deemed the statements to be covered by ‘press freedom’ although Mican is not a member of the press.
In the US, activist groups Voices4 and RUSA LGBT—a group for Russian speaking American LGBT—held a peaceful “kiss-in” to protest the persecution of LGBT in Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, and Tajikistan.
On Valentine’s Day in Chile, the Movement for Homosexual Inclusion and Liberation (Movilh) held a non-violent protest they called “Amor Diverso” (Diverse Love) during which they held symbolic wedding ceremonies.
Jamaican LGBT group J-Flag held an event to celebrate the World Day of Social Justice during which they launched “The Gay Agenda”—a “manifesto” of the issues impacting the LGBT community.
Business and Technology: Dating app and gay social network Hornet joined with Pan Africa ILGA and MSMGF to launch a new digital campaign #DecriminalizeLGBTthat will raise awareness about countries who continue to criminalize LGBT people.
From the US, some LGBT groups launched the campaign “No Gay? No Way” to discourage e-commerce giant Amazon from building it second headquarters in a state that has anti-LGBT legislation. The “H2Q” is expected to bring 50,000 highly-paid employees and a $5 billion investment to the selected location. However, some argue that Amazon would have significant political impact, including encouraging stronger LGBT equality protections.
The Bermuda tourism industry and the Cruise Lines International Association are predicting economic losses due to the territory’s reversal of marriage equality. In Indonesia, the city of Aceh hoped to attract 4,000 people to their annual city marathon, however only 200 runners have registered. The governor admitted that the low turnout could be because of the city’s rejection of LGBT people.
Sports and Culture: The 2018 Olympics in Pyeongchang concluded with participation from a record 15 out LGBTQ athletes that represented Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland, and the US. The athletes walked away with two gold, two silver, and two bronze medals. In a first, Canada's Olympic House officially affiliated as “Pride House” to give all LGBTQ athletes a safe space to come together.
Several of the athletes have been outspoken on LGBT issues, leading Executive Editor of conservative Fox News to accuse the US Olympic Committee of trying to change its motto from “Faster, Higher, Stronger” to “Darker, Gayer, Different”. Meanwhile, columnist Richard Lewis wrote about the impact of openly gay Olympians on queer fans and how differently his own coming-of-age story could have been with such icons.
The UK-based LGBT group Pride in Football released a statement condemning the UK Football Association for signing a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Qatar Football Association. The group remarked that a deal with a country that is one of the “world’s most oppressive towards LGBT+ people” is at odds with the progress made towards diversity and inclusion.
Several Hollywood creative leaders are calling on the film and television industry to boycott production in Georgia if the state makes it legal to deny gay couples the right to adopt. The state has been in the midst of a filming boom with many high profile projects, including Netflix’s hugely successful reboot of the makeover show “Queer Eye”.
In Australia, the Boomalli Aboriginal Artists Co-operative launched an exhibit showcasing art by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander LGBTI artists. In the US, the largest ever powwow to celebrate two-spirit people was held in California. Check out photographer Matika Wilbur’s beautiful portraits of participating two-spirit Indigenous people.