“In 1960, black people were killed for peacefully protesting the fact that they were treated differently because they were black. That was the atrocious event that created the day we commemorate today.
We are commemorating this day at a time where people are still being stigmatised, discriminated against, ostracised, and even killed for being of a different sexual orientation, gender identity or expression in the African continent.”
– Anthony Oluoch, Program Manager, Pan Africa ILGA on South Africa's Human Right's Day
From the UN: The UN held the 62nd session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) with over 4,400 people from 170 countries. The two-week event concluded with a set of agreed recommendations for achieving gender equality. Among this year’s conclusions was an emphasis on ending sexual violence and harassment, improving informal and formal sex and reproductive health education, and strengthening access to HIV and other sexually transmitted infections prevention.
At the side event Education for a Healthy Future, UN Women, UNESCO, and UNFPA presented the UN’s revised Technical Guidance on Sexuality Education. And at a separate side event, UNAIDS joined UN Women, the WHO, and the Permanent Missions of Denmark and Zambia, to co-host a unique side event focusing on the “linkages and synergies” between sexual reproductive health and noncommunicable disease programs.
At the 37th session of the Human Rights Council, ILGA and Canada cosponsored a side event on the human rights of bisexual people that noted the unique and often overlooked challenges bisexuals face across the world, including higher rates of sexual violence, suicide, and depression.
To celebrate International Transgender Day of Visibility (31 March), Victor Madrigal-Borloz, the UN Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, joined with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) to call for the adoption of comprehensive laws that recognize self-defined gender, promote human rights for trans and gender diverse people, and protect against violence and discrimination. Madrilgal-Borloz praised people’s courage in the face of prejudice:
“Their struggle for a more inclusive world where the dignity of trans and gender diverse persons is upheld and their rights respected should inspire all of us. I call on everyone to reciprocate that courage, challenge rigid social constructions of gender, and embrace diversity”
HIV, Health, and Wellness: Brazil’s Ministry of Health published data from its evaluation of the impact of PrEP on HIV prevention among trans women and gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men. Researchers concluded that PrEP is effective and feasible in real-world settings.
In the UK, which is currently rolling out a massive 3-year PrEP trial, many major clinics have said public demand for PrEP far exceeds their trial capacity and they are now turning away gay men.
In Australia’s state of New South Wales, a PrEP trial was so successful in recruiting participants, that researchers petitioned the government to double enrollment. With higher participation, they announced that new HIV infections had declined by a third over the previous year. As of 1 April, Australia began offering PrEP through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme to subsidize costs and make it more accessible outside of research trials.
The South African government began distributing PrEP to sex workers for free. And in Kenya, sex workers and members of the LGBT community held a peaceful demonstration as part of their campaign for affordable access to PrEP.
As more national public health programs assess how PrEP fits with HIV prevention goals, advocacy group AVAC launched “PrEP Watch”, a collection of PrEP related data, including research, access, cost, and the Global PrEP Tracker for comparison across countries.
In the US, research has shown that although HIV infections have declined among many groups, new infections have increased among gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men, especially among young people and latinos.
From China, the Beijing Municipal Commission of Education (BMCE) reported that college students accounted for half of the city’s HIV-positive cases. The BMCE has ordered that colleges and universities provide courses on “scientific and systematic knowledge about sex and reproductive health” to fight the epidemic.
From Asia, a panel of experts discussed new approaches in harnessing social mediato increase HIV testing, especially among gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men, youth, and trans people.
Dating app Grindr announced it has started an opt-in service to remind users to get tested and identify nearby clinics. In an unrelated issue, Grindr came under fire for sharing users' HIV status. Grindr quickly responded, promising that any information related to HIV status would be removed from data shared with third parties. The Norwegian Consumer Council is unsatisfied with Grindr's statement and has filed a complaint with the Norwegian Data Protection Authority.
From the World of Politics: Iceland, Denmark, Luxembourg, and Cabo Verde participated in a ceremony held in Washington, DC to formally join the Equal Rights Coalition. Cabo Verde is the first African nation to join the Coalition which was established in 2016. The inter-governmental organization includes 39 countries that collaborate to build bridges and strengthen cooperation in advancing LGBTI rights.
As Indonesia’s Parliament prepares to vote on whether to criminalize same-sex behavior and sex outside of marriage through an amendment to the Criminal Code, the Chairman of the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) told students that “globalization and modernization” have led to “rampant LGBT people", drugs, and promiscuity.
Scotland’s Parliament is considering the Historical Sexual Offences (Pardons and Disregards) Bill which would pardon all gay and bisexual men criminalized due to their sexuality. New Zealand's Parliament unanimously passed a bill to allow criminal convictions of "homosexual activity" to be erased from men's records. Activists are petitioning the government to also provide financial compensation to those convicted. And in Sweden, the Parliament announced it will financially compensate trans people who were forcibly sterilized between 1972 and 2013.
Following the European Parliament’s statement condemning conversion therapy, Ireland is considering a new bill to ban the practice, with a punishment of up to €10,000 and a year in prison. Meanwhile, the UK’s Department for Health and Social Care has declined repeated calls to ban conversion therapies, stating that a ban could cause “unintended, negative consequence for valid therapies” despite support from experts and Members of Parliament.
Also in the UK, the Labour Party decided to delay introducing a trans-inclusive policy until after upcoming elections after some activists threatened to resign from the party if it was enacted. The policy would have allowed trans women to participate in “all-women shortlists”, a practice that allows only women to act as representatives to Parliament for certain electoral areas.
In Costa Rica, Carlos Alvarado Quesada defied predictions and won the presidential election, beating Fabricio Alvarado Munoz who had campaigned largely on opposing same-sex marriage. Munoz had also called on opposing “gender ideology”, eliminating sex education, and restricting access to abortion. Upon his victory, Quesada congratulated supporters, adding “What unites us is much greater than what divides us!”
Russian President Vladimir Putin was re-elected to his fourth term in office after an election that included state-sponsored campaign ads warning of an alternate reality where a government supports LGBT rights.
In Australia, the state of Tasmania elected Alison Standen, the first openly lesbian candidate to Parliament. In the US, Senator Toni Atkins became the first female and first openly lesbian to lead the California Senate. And in Israel, Tel Aviv elected its first openly gay mayor, Eitan Ginzburg, to office. Ginzburg celebrated with his partner and twin children:
“I was chosen not because I am gay and not in spite of it, but because of the work I have done.”
In the US, the Sunlight Foundation has reported that some government departments have removed LGBTQ topics from websites and training materials. Representatives say the information is integrated elsewhere. The Foundation noted that references on lesbian and bisexual health removed from the Health and Human Services website are missing or difficult to access.
Also in the US, the White House issued a second ban on trans people serving in the military. A US District Court placed an injunction on the first such ban and legal challenges are already being brought forward against the new one.
The Politics of Union: Politicians in both the House of Lords and House of Commons put forward the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) (Northern Ireland) Bills to legalize marriage equality in the territory. Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK that bans same-sex marriage. Conservative Robert Hayward noted that the dual bills show that people across parties believe that “equality is not something you can pick and choose on around the United Kingdom”. However, opponents of marriage equality say the issue cannot be addressed until Northern Ireland’s Assembly, which collapsed last year, has reformed.
In a speech to Romania’s Parliament, the leader of the ruling Social Democratic Party Liviu Dragnea announced that it is considering legalizing civil partnerships between same-sex couples. Romania is currently considering a constitutional ban on same-sex marriages.
In Bermuda, the first country to re-ban same-sex marriage, Carnival Cruise Line announced it will provide “financial, civic, and public relations support” to OutBermuda as it challenges the ban. Noting that travel is meant to bring people and cultures together, they said:
"We believe it is important to stand by the LGBTQ community in Bermuda and its many allies to oppose any actions that restrict travel and tourism."
In Barbados, the Minister of Social Care and Community Development told members of the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) that the country would never accept gay marriage. While acknowledging that gay people in the community were “nothing new”, he claimed the “LGBT lobby” harass and stigmatize others in attempts to force same-sex marriages on the country. The Human Rights Watch issued a response, stating that the Minster was misrepresenting efforts to decriminalize same-sex activity between consenting adults. HRW recently published ‘I Have to Leave to Be Me’: Discriminatory Laws against LGBT People in the Eastern Caribbean that explores how these laws lead to discrimination and violence.
Let the Courts Decide: An appeals court in Kenya ruled that forced anal examinations to test if a man is gay are unconstitutional and violate human rights. Last year, the Kenyan Medical Association released a statement against anal examinations. UN experts have called the practice “medically worthless” amounting to “torture or ill-treatment”. Kenya's National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, who brought the case to trial, announced:
“The humiliation and pain caused by these useless anal examinations will follow our clients for the rest of their lives. However, we are emboldened to see our constitution at work, ensuring that all Kenyans have the right to dignity.”
Fear and Loathing: In Brazil, nearly 100,000 people protested the assassination of openly bisexual councilwoman and human rights activist Marielle Franco. Franco was known for opposing police brutality, her efforts to empower Black Brazilians, and her support of LGBTQ and other marginalized communities. The UN has called for an investigation into her death.
In Mexico, the National Human Rights Commission condemned the abduction and murder of LGBT activist Maria Guadalupe Hernandez Flores.
Indonesian authorities in the Aceh province have conducted more raids on hair salons and private residences. The recent raids led to four more arrests of people accused of same-sex conduct.
A new report from Chile found that complaints of discrimination and violence against LGBT people increased by 45% last year. The Economist examined the continued trend of violence against and murder of trans people in Latin America. Writing about Bangladesh, researcher Inge Amundsen remarked on the threats, murder, and mass arrests that have “shattered Dhaka’s fledgling LGBT community”.
In the Name of Religion: Nearly two years ago Pope Francis sparked controversy with Amoris Laetitia, his high-level document on the family. Although the plan did not call for acceptance of same-sex marriage, it was seen by many as a major step forward for inclusion of rainbow families, remarried couples, and single parents.
The document has been used by some US Archbishops to speak openly about LGBT people. Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago hosted seminars for religious leaders with presentations by theologians that support LGBTQ inclusion, gender discussion, and marriage equality. From Washington, DC, Archbishop Cardinal Donald Wuerl released “Sharing in the Joy of Love in Marriage and Family”, a detailed first of its kind pastoral plan to implement the Pope’s plan in parishes.
Over 300 young people from 130 countries—and an additional 15,000 online—met with church leaders and the Pope at the Pre-Synodal Meeting of Young People to discuss their feelings, faith, and challenges. The week-long event cumulated in a Final Document that had a direct plea for “rational and critical explanations to complex issues” including sexuality.
Writing for Crux, editor John Allen reflected on the Catholic Church’s difficulty accepting trans and other non-binary people and its objection to “gender theory” that suggests gender is socially and culturally constructed.
From the US, The Washington Post profiled gay rights activist Mitchell Gold, founder of Faith in America, which is aimed at combating "religion-based bigotry" especially in rural areas.
On the March: Many thousands of Croatians marched to protest the government signing the Istanbul Convention. The Convention focuses on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, and was ratified by the Council of Europe in 2011. It defines gender as “the socially constructed roles, behaviors, activities and attributes that a given society considers appropriate for women and men”. Opponents led by the Catholic Church say the treaty could lead to same-sex marriage and trans rights. The government adopted an “interpretive statement” that says the country is not obligated to “introduce gender ideology” or “change the constitutional definition of marriage”.
Croatia is the latest country to see pushback against the Istanbul Convention due to perceived “gender ideology”. Ukraine signed but failed to ratify the Convention. This February both Slovakia’s Prime Minister Robert Fico and Bulgaria’s Prime Minister Boyko Borissov declined to ratify the Convention after negative campaigns. In Bulgaria, 75 Members of Parliament have put forward a motion to the country’s Constitutional Court to establish if the Convention is in conflict with the constitution.
In the Philippines, many students, LGBTQI+ groups, and other allies continued to protest the government’s delay in moving forward with the Anti-Discrimination Bill, now titled the SOGIE Equality Bill.
For the second year, Canada's Pride Toronto and other LGBT organizations asked Toronto Police to not participate in the Pride Parade. Negotiations between the police and Pride Toronto began this winter, however they deteriorated over the mishandling of missing persons associated with serial killer Bruce McArthur.
Winds of Change: The World Bank released a new report, Economic Inclusion of LGBTI Groups in Thailand, that recommends policies and program options to help move Thailand from "tolerance to full economic and social inclusion of LGBTI groups".
Over 100,000 people have signed a petition calling on Commonwealth countries to remove colonial-era anti-gay laws that criminalize sex between consenting adults of the same sex.
The Nigerian Observer called on readers to “re-think opposition to LGBT rights”, and blog Love Matters talked to LGBT Nigerians who have been victimized by those empowered by anti-gay laws.
From Argentina, UNAIDS profiled the Transgender House, a community center for training and empowerment of trans people founded in Buenos Aires. From Lebanon, Kim Mouawad discussed opening Out Beauty Boutique, a salon for the LGBTQ community and noted:
"Individuals in the LGBTQ community need to have places, other than bars and clubs, that are outlets for self-love and expression."
In Pakistan, fashion model Maavia Malik became the first openly trans news anchorjoining the Kohenoor News show. Thousands praised Australian TV correspondentKarl Schmid for his emotional social media post revealing he is HIV-positive in which he wrote:
“For anyone who has ever doubted themselves because of those scary three letters and one symbol, let me tell you this, you are somebody who matters. Your feelings, your thoughts, your emotions count. And don’t let anybody tell you otherwise.”
School Days: In the US, primary school art teacher Stacy Bailey was suspended after school officials accused her of discussing sexual orientation with students. Bailey objected to the school’s accusation, saying that she only mentioned her wife and family to her students. She suggested the suspension has more to do with her requests to the school that anti-discrimination policies include sexual orientation.
In Swaziland, some parents are demanding a teacher be transferred because they fear she is a lesbian. Swazi News reported that though students have “come to terms with the teacher's sexual orientation, the community is having none of it and want her removed”.
In India, maths and science teacher Abhijit Kundu is suing the Calcutta International School for allegedly firing him after his autobiography “Amar Shamakami Ejahar (My Homosexual Confession)” was featured at the Kolkata International Book Fair.
The US National Public Radio spoke to teachers who find strength through the Transgender Educators Network, a professional and social group to support trans and non-binary educators. UK-based program, Teach First, applauded the progress in increasing the number of UK’s LGBT teachers:
"We want all young people to have access to brilliant and inspiring teachers from all backgrounds, and that means we need to make sure we’re recruiting a diverse workforce.”
Sports and Culture: Photographer Annie Tritt discussed how photographing young trans and nonbinary kids for her series "Transcending Self” caused Tritt to rethink their own gender and representation. Soumya Sankar Bose's photo series "Full Moon on a Dark Night" explores gender identity in India.
In India, the Aravani Art Project is employing trans women to paint murals in public spaces across the country in an effort to give trans people a voice and to encourage dialogue across communities.
A new Nigerian documentary tells the story of lesbian activist Pamela Adie. And a new book features the first-hand accounts of 25 queer Nigerian women. Co-editor Chitra Nagarajan said that she the book is an “opportunity to rectify the erasure of queer people from both Nigeria's present and future, so that no one will say queerness is not part of Nigerian culture and tradition.”
In the US, television host John Oliver’s new children’s book A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo, which features gay bunnies who want to marry, topped the bestseller charts with proceeds supporting AIDS and suicide prevention among LGBTQ youth. The book mimics a new book from US Vice President Pence and was created to take aim at his record of supporting anti-LGBT organizations.
Finally, check out this YouTube series "Queer Kid Stuff" that imagines a "kinder and more equal future", bringing education for kids age 3+ via a tie-wearing queer lady, Lindsay, and her non-binary best-stuffed friend, Teddy.