“We should remember that there is the LGBTI community. As we provide services, we should remember that they are part of the nation. Like everybody else, they have rights.”
~ Lesotho's Minister of Justice, Human Rights and Correctional Services, Hon Mokhele Moletsane
From the UN: The second Independent Expert on the protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, Víctor Madrigal Borloz, took office in January. ARC International used this turning point to review the progress made by the first expert, Vitit Muntarbhorn, and to explore how Borloz can use UN tools to better achieve his mandate and serve the community.
HIV, Health, and Wellness: South Africa is using self-testing kits to counter discrimination and better link HIV-positive people to care. Counselors hope to spread the message that “the earlier you go [to test], the longer you are going to live”.
APCOM, the Asia Pacific Network on health and human rights for gay men and transgender people, partnered with authorities in Cambodia, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam to launch a confidential survey on the sex lives and health of gay and bisexual men to improve regional response to the needs of the community when addressing HIV.
In the US, more public health programs are encouraging people to begin PrEP, especially African American women, and gay and bisexual men. From Scotland, Dr. Rak Nandwani of the National Health Service of Glasgow announced that during the first eight months of their new program to fully support PrEP, demand has “greatly exceeded expectations”. And in Brazil, the Institute of Technology in Pharmaceuticals announced it will begin manufacturing PrEP in the country—a move that the government expects to decrease treatment costs by 60%.
The US CDC released new data showing that reported diagnoses of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis have reached an all-time high. The CDC identified that people aged 15 to 24 who are gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men are at greatest risk for these infections. In California, researchers are using social media to track and predict new outbreaks of syphilis.
New Zealand’s Institute of Environmental Science and Research (ESR) found that the number of reported syphilis cases has more than doubled since 2015. The Ministry of Health, Director of Public Health Dr. Caroline McElnay, urged the community to use condoms.
In South Africa, the Psychological Society of South Africa (PsySSA) published the first-ever local guidelines for psychology professionals working with sexually and gender-diverse people. The guidelines will help mental health professionals work with the LGBTQ in an “affirmative and relevant way”.
From the UK, health professionals discussed the rise in mental health issues, including anxiety and depression, among LGBTQ and especially men and boys who are expected to “man up”. And from the US, psychologist Jack Turban talked to gay and bi men about how dating apps have negatively impacted their mental health.
From Sri Lanka, Dr. Ruwan M Jayatunge explored the history of homophobia and how it continues to negatively impact the mental and physical health of LGBT Sri Lankans.
From the World of Politics: Lesotho Members of Parliament heard “impassioned submissions” and reports from other lawmakers on the topic of providing universal access to Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights, HIV, and AIDS services, especially to key populations including sex workers and LGBTI people. The Minister of Justice, Human Rights and Correctional Services, Hon Mokhele Moletsane, noted that the reports were “an eye-opener” and called for a “rigorous transformation of our legal framework” to cater to key populations:
“We should remember that there is the LGBTI community. As we provide services, we should remember that they are part of the nation. Like everybody else, they have rights.”
As part of Russia’s strategic plan to end AIDS, the Health Ministry drafted legislation that would make it illegal to deny the existence of HIV or to recommend an HIV-positive person not to seek treatment.
El Salvador’s Ministry of Justice and Public Security launched the "Institutional Policy for the Care of the LGBTI Population" to guarantee that LGBTI rights are respected.
Portugal’s Parliament voted to allow those over the age of 16 to self-determine their gender without medical intervention. Additionally, the legislation outlaws medically unnecessary treatments on intersex children.
India’s Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) has now complied with the 2014 Supreme Court Order which recognized trans people as a “third gender” and required the government to ensure that trans people have equal access to welfare, entitlements, and identity cards. The CBDT introduced a transgender category for obtaining a Permanent Account Number (PAN)—required for filing taxes, opening a bank account, and applying for a telephone or cellular phone, among other things. Prior to this change, trans people could be denied services because their gender on their Unique Identity (Aadhaar) card did not match their PAN.
In Uganda, some Members of Parliament say they will reintroduce the Anti-Homosexuality Act 2014 that penalizes accused gay people to life in prison. The MPs passed a motion praising Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga for her strong language against LGBT rights at the Inter Parliamentary Union (IPU) Summit, at which she announced Uganda would withdraw from the IPU if LGBT rights were endorsed. Writing for the Washington Blade, Richard Rosendall spoke to Ugandans fleeing home due to the renewed efforts to criminalize LGBT people.
In the Indonesian province of Aceh, officials announced that criminals will no longer be whipped in public after the caning of two accused gay men was live-streamed on the internet. As Indonesia’s Parliament puts on hold a vote to amend the criminal code to criminalize same-sex relations and non-marital sex, Grace Poore of OutRight International urged moderate politicians to institute anti-discrimination protectionsand called upon moderate faith leaders, health providers, and families to offer refuge to the community.
Zambia’s Human Rights Commision announced that the government had accepted 90% of the recommendations made during the UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR). However, it rejected the recommendation that Zambia protect the rights of LGBT people.
At the annual summit of Commonwealth nations held in London, UK Prime Minister Theresa May followed the urging of activists and issued an apology, saying she “deeply regrets” that the UK introduced discriminatory laws criminalizing same-sex relationships during the colonial era. She promised UK support to any Commonwealth member wanting to reform “outdated legislation”. Human rights lawyer Arvind Narrain examined what May's "regret" means for Commonwealth countries such as India. Meanwhile, at the Commonwealth Youth Forum, Prince Harry and fiancé Meghan Markle told activists that LGBT issues were “basic human rights”.
From Jamaica, Prime Minister Andrew Holness pushed back against pressure from some pro-LGBT lobby groups and countries who are frustrated by the country's slow pace to secure gay rights, saying:
“Ten years ago, there would have been a much harder line on the issue of homosexuality - particularly from a religious perspective - but I think over the last 10 years of conversation, the society is openly discussing the issue and views are changing”.
In Poland, whose constitution bans same-sex marriage, campaigns are beginning for the 2020 presidential election. A new survey found that the top three contenders for the post include openly gay mayor and LGBT activist Robert Biedroń. Meanwhile, in Paraguay, the newly elected Mario Abdo Benítez ran on a platform that included opposition to both abortion and same-sex marriage.
In the US, the Human Rights Campaign issued a warning to politicians running for office: “Americans are using their vote as a voice for equality”. Activists have pointed out recent victories against bills that threaten LGBTQ civil rights—although 120 bills were proposed in the last legislative session, none have yet to be enacted. As one legislative specialist explained: “Being anti-equality is not considered good politics anymore.”
The US federal government announced a proposal to roll back rules that now prevent doctors, hospitals, and health insurance companies from discriminating against trans people. The New York Times has written about the US Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights that has begun dismissing “hundreds of civil rights cases” that place “an unreasonable burden” on resources. The change is a concern to groups who support students, especially as the Department has already rolled back protections for trans students, among others.
The Politics of Union: In May of 2017, Taiwan’s Constitutional Court made a historic ruling, finding that the ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional and subsequently giving the Legislative Yuan two years to enact new laws that allow same-sex couples marriage rights. However, a year into the grace period, anti-LGBT activists have successfully petitioned the Central Election Commission (CEC) to consider a referendum that could reverse the ruling.
The proposed questions ask if Taiwan same sex couples should have marriage rights and if the national education curriculum should exclude “gay and lesbian education”, despite curriculum requirements created by the Gender Equality Education Act of 2004. The proposals must now collect nearly 282,000 signatures (1.5% of total eligible voters) for the national referendum to be held.
Thailand is drafting a bill to allow "registered life partnerships" for same-sex couples.
In the Czech Republic, a new survey found that a majority of people support the idea of same-sex marriage and believe that gay and lesbian couples should be allowed to adopt children.
Let the Courts Decide: Trinidad and Tobago’s High Court of Justice issued a landmark ruling declaring that laws which criminalize same-sex relationships between consenting adults are unconstitutional. Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi has already announced the government will appeal the decision. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) applauded the decision.
Though many celebrated the win, local news reports tense backlash, including vandalism, protests, and suspected gay people being evicted from their homes. The Catholic Church declared support for the ruling and supporters spread a “fact sheet”that explains what the ruling does and doesn’t mean.
The Kenyan the High Court is set to make a judgement on whether laws criminalizing private consensual sex between same-sex adults are unconstitutional. President Kenyatta continues to publically dismiss the rights of gay people as "not an issue" even as negative local press has led to violence against LGBT people. However, activists consider the recent ruling banning the use of forced anal testing on suspected gay men a step in the right direction.
In the US, recent rulings by federal courts in Puerto Rico and Idaho have said that trans people must be allowed to change their gender on birth certificates. The process and right to change gender varies from state to state across the US—only Kansas, Ohio, and Tennessee still forbid gender changes.
In the Name of Religion: In the UK, evangelical Anglican leader Jayne Ozanne launched a new organization to promote equality for LGBTQ within faith organizations.
From the US, activist Charlotte Clymer wrote about her frustration with evangelical Christians who use prayer as a “weapon” against LGBTQ people and how her faith has helped her to pray for them in return.
A new study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine evaluated data of over 21,000 US college students and found that among students who identify as LGBQ, increased religious engagement was tied to increased risk of suicidal thoughts and actions. Researchers noted that faith-based communities are often major partners in suicide prevention and called on them to “be willing and equipped to assist all people who seek their services, regardless of sexual orientation”.
Fear and Loathing: Nigerian group Lawyers Alert released a new report that documents reported violations against sexual minorities and especially gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men in the past year. Among the findings, the report suggests that police arrests are often made "to harass, intimidate and extort victims with no will for proper prosecution".
The US National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs reports that homicides of LGBT people spiked in 2017 by 86% compared to the previous year. Trans women of color were the most targeted, with at least 27 reported murders of trans people in 2017.
From the Philippines, writer Ana Santos spoke to LGBT people who were displaced from home due to ISIS forces, yet fear returning because of continued attacks on the LGBT community. From Indonesia, writer Jeffrey Hutton spoke with Monica, one of the trans women beaten and briefly imprisoned by police amid a crackdown on local trans people. From Chechnya, two people who escaped the round up of allegedly gay people described to the BBC Russia the humiliations and torture they were subjected to.
In the UK, the Manchester police force is the first force in the country to document LGBT victims of domestic violence. Just a year into the protocol change, the force announced they had recorded 775 incidents in the area. Joanne Simpson, director of domestic abuse group Independent Choices, urged for more areas to take up the protocol:
“I think if we don’t look for problems then we can pretend they’re not there – it’s easier for the state to ignore that there is an issue with LGBT domestic abuse.”
From the US, HuffPost reported on homeless youth—the Center for American Progress says that 40% of US homeless youth are LGBTQ—as seen through the lives of queer homeless youth in Los Angeles.
From the UK, Buzzfeed published a two-part investigative report on the “gay sex-for-rent” epidemic where men take advantage of the UK housing crisis to force people into sex for shelter. Although media have previously reported on the phenomenon among young women, Buzzfeed explored the “devastating consequences” faced by young men lured through ads on Facebook and other online sites.
Winds of Change: China’s leading social media network, Sina Weibo, launched a “cleanup” campaign to censor pornography and content “related to homosexuality”, shutting down popular pages such as "Gay Voice". Users immediately objected and the hashtag campaign “I am Gay” #我是同性恋 received over 240 million views and 170,000 posts before Weibo took it down. Even the state-run paper People’s Dailyran an editorial seeming to criticize the censorship, stating:
“Intellectually speaking, there should be a consensus around respecting other people’s sexual orientation.”
In an unprecedented move, Weibo reversed the ban on gay content.
In a series of new reports, the Williams Institute used the Global Acceptance Index to evaluate acceptance of LGBTI people and how that inclusion impacts economic development. Among their findings, they saw that each one-point increase in the Global Acceptance Index was associated with an increase in GDP per capita of $1,506.
The Global Philanthropy Project published a new comprehensive report on philanthropic and government funding of LGBTI issues. The report shows that support in 2015-2016 had increased by $100 million compared to the 2013-2014 reporting period. Researchers hope the report will help donors and movement leaders better identify gaps to increase impact.
Out-Right Namibia (ORN) released a new report that sets out the Namibian Equality Agenda to seek decriminalization LGBTIQ+ persons.
Human Rights Watch and the Arab Foundation for Freedoms and Equality (AFE) published a new report exploring the challenges faced by Arab LGBT activists. An accompanying video series “No Longer Alone” features Arabic speaking activists describing their journeys of self-acceptance.
From South Africa, the Triangle Project and the LGBTQ Victory Institute published a new report on political and civic engagement of LGBTQ people, including guides for encouraging LGBTQ people to help shape the community.
Also in South Africa, over 800 community members of the township Lwandle signed a petition asking the Magistrates’ Court to deny bail to a man accused of murdering Noxolo Xakeka, a local lesbian.
From Australia, LGBTI+ activist and University lecturer, Ryan Storr, reflected on the trend of homophobia in many of the region’s sports. Meanwhile, a group of Tonga and Samoa LGBTIQ elders published an open letter to Australian rugby star Israel Folau after the athlete made comments condemning gay people to “hell” on his social media. They urged him to think of the impressionable youth who look up to him and might one day victimize an LGBTIQ person because of his words:
“And you may deny that, as ‘I am only saying what I feel, and I will not be held responsible for the actions of another human being,’ but we know better because for over 40 years we have been at the receiving end of that condemnation, hatred, and vilification.”
On the March: Swaziland activists are hoping to hold the country’s first ever Pride festival and parade this summer. Organizers hope the event will be seen as a fun family day that “doesn’t scare people away”, while bringing visibility that can lead to acceptance.
In the US, during the Phoenix Pride Parade, a confrontation erupted between participating Arizona police and Trans Queer Pueblo (TQP), a group that supports undocumented LGBTQ people. TQP members said they don’t feel included or safe at Pride.
School Days: The International LGBTQI Youth and Student Organisation (IGLYO) with the Thomson Reuters Foundation published a new report, "Expression Abridged", that analyzes the legal arguments used to defend legislation banning "gay propaganda" across Eastern and Central Europe. Noting that the report exposes contradictions between anti-propaganda laws and local and international laws defending freedom of speech and access to information, Antonio Zappulla, of Reuters, called the report:
"a compelling read and a powerful tool that can be used by activists and NGOs defending human rights across the world."
A new US study found that parents feel unequipped to talk about sexual health with their LGBTQ teens both due to lack of knowledge and discomfort about the subject matter. Meanwhile, from AIDS United, Drew Gibson wrote of the US federal government’s efforts to push abstinence-only education in schools.
Ireland’s Education Minister, Richard Bruton, announced they are undertaking a review of relationships and sexuality education (RSE) in the schools, with specific attention to modernizing guidelines on “LGBTQ+ matters”, consent, and contraception.
UK journalist Mark Bonington wrote about how the traditional boarding school system encourages homophobia and “toxic hyper-masculinity”.
Writer Alex Morris spoke in-depth to the “small but growing” group of parents trying to raise their children in a “gender open” or “gender creative” manner without assigning them a gender. Some parents hope that if people don’t know their child’s sex, then that child won’t be molded into stereotypes, but will be allowed to develop on their own.
Business and Technology: In recent years economists have estimated the power of the “pink dollar”—the purchasing power of LGBTQ consumers, to be between $3.7 and $5 trillion globally. Additionally, studies have found that LGBTQ-inclusive adsdrive better brand recognition and can increase sales by 40%.
However, South African advertising executive Wouter Lombard chastised companies for lacking authenticity and relying on stereotypes and rainbows when marketing to the community.
Sports and Culture: In East Timor, influential dignitaries including former president Xanana Gusmão attended the opening of the documentary The Road to Acceptance, created by activist group Hatutan Youth. The inspiring 15 minute video can be watched online.
Although a Russian news outlet announced that a Pride House will be established during Russia’s 2018 World Cup, Pride House International, the organization that develops safe spaces for LGBT+ fans, athletes, and allies said they have not heard from local organizers. Many activists have had concerns that Russia’s “anti-gay propaganda law” will prevent fans and athletes from being safe during the games.
Meanwhile, the search for the 2026 World Cup host is underway, with the US and Morocco considered top contenders. An investigation by the AP found that Morocco had failed to acknowledge its laws that criminalize homosexuality or address how LGBT fans and athletes would be protected.
A new children’s book You Be You! Explaining Gender, Love & Family has been published in 12 languages, including Arabic, Chinese, and Hebrew. Author Jon Branfman reached out to friends and colleagues to help translate and consult with local sexual and gender minority communities.
From Spain, playwright Guillem Clua reflected on the rise of reported hate crimes against LGBT people in Madrid which led to his creation of the play The Swallow.
Finally, check out this video from the Artis Amsterdam Royal Zoo of a vulture hatchling and its gay parents! The mated pair hatched an abandoned egg last year—the zoo’s first successful hatching in five years. This month the zoo set the young bird and one other free in Sardinia as part of a conservation project.