"Despite our achievements and contributions to India in various fields, we are being denied the right to sexuality, the most basic and inherent of fundamental rights."
~ Businesswoman Ayesha Kapur, dancer Navtej Singh Johar, journalist Sunil Mehra, restaurateur and TV personality Ritu Dalmia, and historian Aman Nathin in their joint petition against India's Section 377 criminalizing homosexuality.
From the UN: Marking the International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia (IDAHOTB), the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights released a statement urging all countries and other stakeholders to ensure that addressing violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity remains "firmly included in the 2030 agenda". Additionally, it calls for the inclusion of LGBT persons and communities in the design, implementation, and evaluation of all related policies.
The UN Free & Equal campaign launched a new call to "Be a Better Ally". The campaign emphasizes that being an ally is about "more than silent acceptance". It urges people to speak out and support one another, to learn from each other, and to create a more inclusive and loving society.
In Beijing, two UNAIDS ambassadors participated in an open dialogue with students at Peking University about the importance of combating discrimination to end the AIDS epidemic. Movie star and humanitarian, Huang Xiaoming, the UNAIDS Goodwill Ambassador for China, reflected on what motivated him to become a UNAIDS Ambassador and why discrimination should end, stating that “it is important to be kind to everyone, it’s particularly important to keep our minds clear and objective, and to uphold justice and truth”. The First Lady of Panama, Lorena Castillo de Varela, UNAIDS Special Ambassador for AIDS in Latin America, urged students to integrate anti-discrimination into everyday actions:
“Just that smile, even though it might look very small to you, it can make another human being feel special, not discriminated or different.”
The UNDP and Thailand’s Department of Women’s Affairs and Family Development published a new study “Legal Gender Recognition in Thailand: A Legal and Policy Review” with inputs from government and civil society on the laws, regulations, and policies and practices that impact trans people’s right to recognition before the law. The study examines how the inability to change their name, sex, or gender on official documentation impacts people’s access to health and social services, including job applications, banking, education, and healthcare.
From Hong Kong, UNDP Being LGBTI Asia and the Chinese University of Hong Kong co-organized an international conference on the importance of LGBTI-related research and data collection to better inform policy and development issues.
HIV, Health, and Wellness: The Guttmacher-Lancet Commission—a collaboration of global health, development, and human rights experts—published a new report that presents a “positive, progressive, and evidence-based agenda” to improve sexual and reproductive health rights (SRHR) across the world. Along with contraception, HIV, and maternal and newborn care, the report examines often overlooked components of SRHR including comprehensive sexuality education, abortion, cancer, infertility, and gender-based violence. The report highlights needs of specific groups, including people of diverse sexual orientations and gender identities.
Tanzania’s Deputy Minister of Health, Faustine Ndugulile, announced that the country has begun trials of PrEP for HIV prevention to reach key populations.
A Russian court shut down the 10-year old HIV and sexual health website "Parni Plus" because it “contains information challenging family values that promote unconventional sexual relations”. Earlier this year Russian courts shut down "Gay.ru", a Russian and English information site that had operated for over 20 years.
Meanwhile, in Malaysia, local media watchdog group Sinar Project reported that the country’s Internet Service Provider has been blocking the website Utopia-Asia, an LGBT travel guide with the region’s largest HIV/AIDS information archive.
In the US, the CDC announced it has partnered with community groups to improve HIV testing among trans people. New initiatives will be “culturally appropriate” and will consider the socioeconomic factors that impact trans people. Meanwhile, the US-based Transgender Law Center launched a new campaign “#ACApositive” to focus the conversation about healthcare on the “life-or-death stakes” for trans people living with HIV.
In the US, rising rates of syphilis prompted the New York State Department of Health to update its guidelines for treatment and management of syphilis among HIV-positive adults. In Palm Springs, California, a “surge” of new infections has prompted community meetings and a “Spotlight on Syphilis” campaign.
From Papua New Guinea, researchers published a study evaluating the feasibility of bedside testing for syphilis in rural clinics and low-income settings. Meanwhile, Canadian microbiologist Caroline Cameron has received a patent for a potential syphilis vaccine.
US researchers released results from a new poll “Sex after 65” that evaluated older adults' interest in sex. The survey found that 40% of those between 65 and 80 years old are sexually active, yet only 17% had spoken to their health providers about their sexual health in the past two years.
Kenyan paper The Standard published an article arguing that homophobia and prejudice against LGBT people continue to be barriers to ending the country’s AIDS epidemic. In Liberia, LGBT community members say they are often denied basic treatment by health workers who see them as the "the antithesis to Liberian culture".
The Royal African Society news site African Arguments published an article that explores how “toxic masculinity” in Uganda fuels the spread of HIV. Also from Uganda, reporter Alice McCool spoke to transgender men who are challenging those traditional gender roles. Meanwhile, a New York Times op-ed glorifying “twinks”—a gay stereotype of young, attractive, slim men—caused backlash, with many reflecting on the role gender and gay masculinity stereotypes play on LGBTQ mental health and eating disorders.
From the World of Politics: The Equal Rights Coalition (ERC), an intergovernmental network formed to promote and protect the human rights of LGBTI people, released a statement calling for an end to forced anal exams on individuals based on their real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.
Colombia’s Ministry of the Interior announced Decree 762, a Public Policy guarantee of Rights for LGBTI people. The Decree was created in response to civil society demands that the government promote non-discrimination and inclusion and guarantee the rights of people with different sexual orientations and gender identities.
Pakistan’s National Assembly passed the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act giving people the ability to self-declare their gender, obtain National IDs and passports, and the right to vote and run for office. Among other protections, the Act bans discrimination by employers, schools, and health care.
Portugal President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa vetoed Parliament’s ground-breaking law banning unnecessary surgeries on intersex people and giving individuals the right to self-determine their gender. The president objected to the provision that allows people aged 16 to 18 to self-declare their gender with parental approval, telling MPs that teenagers should undergo a medical evaluation.
The Parliament of Sweden moved to expand hate crime legislation to protect trans people. The new prohibition against hate crimes against trans people should go into effect later this summer.
In Costa Rica, the Supreme Elections Tribunal approved the procedure advised by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IAHRC) to allow persons to change their name and gender in the Civil Registry. The Tribunal did not approve the IAHCR’s ruling that same-sex marriage should be legalized, stating that any change of marriage law must be made by the Constitutional Chamber or Legislative Assembly; however, it noted that requests for marriage registrations would be notated and could be retroactively put into place.
The Parliament of Greece voted to allow same-sex couples in a civil partnership to foster children. Although Greece has not legalized marriage equality, same-sex civil partnerships were legalized in December 2015 and, a year later, Parliament extended nondiscrimination protections for couples.
In the US, the states of Colorado, Kansas, and Oklahoma have all advanced or passed bills allowing publicly and privately funded adoption agencies to refuse same-sex couples. A new report by the Movement Advancement Project (MAP) evaluated how US State legislatures are blocking city governments from enacting progressive policies, including LGBT nondiscrimination protections.
Lebanon held its first parliamentary election in nine years. The campaign brought forward progressive issues, including a record number of female candidates and nearly 100 candidates who supported the decriminalization of homosexuality. Habib Battah of Beirut Report, stressed that candidates with progressive ideas “were able to change the discourse during the campaign”.
As Thailand prepares for elections next year, the Bangkok Post reports that political parties are making promises to the LGBT community to garner their vote, including a promise to enact same-sex civil partnerships. Meanwhile in India, The Hindu reports that the number of registered voters who are transgender has already doubled since the previous Assembly elections.
Let the Courts Decide: India’s Supreme Court heard several new petitioners against Section 377 of the Penal Code criminalizing homosexuality. Among the arguments against Section 377, the new petitions emphasized that it violates the right to privacy which the Supreme Court ruled a “fundamental right” last summer.
The European Union published the 2018 Handbook on European non-discrimination law which examines case laws for proper national implementation of the standards on non-discrimination. It is designed to assist legal practitioners, including judges, lawyers, social workers, and others who may be confronted with legal questions relating to discrimination.
In the Name of Religion: In Ghana, the Chairman of the Church of Pentecost told the church’s 43rd General Council Meeting that he would lead “thousands of congregants” in a nationwide demonstration if pressure continues to legalize homosexuality. Ghana is one of the 36 Commonwealth Member States that criminalizes same-sex relations.
Six months after Australia passed legislation recognizing same-sex marriage, the government has continued to hold private and public inquiries on the topic of religious freedom in the country. Although not exclusively focused on marriage rights, Sub-Committee Chair MP Kevin Andrews announced that the majority of submissions “overwhelmingly expressed the concern that religious freedom or freedom of belief are being challenged by the emphasis placed on other human rights”.
Michael Casey, a director at the Australian Catholic University, stated that forcing people to accept others’ views of marriage would lead to “more conflict and acrimony in public debate”. Meanwhile, the Equality Campaign continues to call for an end to religious exemptions that allow schools and hospitals to discriminate against LGBT people.
From the US, research analyst Frederick Clarkson investigated a coalition of Christian Rights groups and their initiative “Project Blitz”. The initiative published a 116-page “playbook” that includes examples of legislative language, talking points, and fact sheets to coordinate and strategize the conservative Christian political movement. The group Americans United for Separation of Church and State has found that, so far this year, 71 state and federal legislative bills have been introduced based on Project Blitz text. These include bills that devalue marriage equality, reduce LGBT protections, discourage adoption by same-sex couples, and limit recognition of trans people.
Also from the US, the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) published results from an extensive survey of over 40,000 Americans on the importance of LGBT issues. Among the results, the survey found that most religious groups support marriage equality, including Jewish Americans (77%), white Catholics (66%), Orthodox Christians (66%), Hispanic Catholics (65%), and Muslims (51%). Furthermore, the survey found that 60% of Americans and a majority of religious groups oppose allowing businesses to discriminate against gays and lesbians based on religious beliefs.
Winds of Change: TEGU released the Trans Rights Map 2018 that highlights how European countries support trans people, including gender recognition, right to self-determination, recognition of other gender non-binary identities, nondiscrimination in healthcare, rights to parenthood, and efforts towards depathologisation—ensuring that trans identities are not treated as mental illnesses.
ILGA launched its 2018 Rainbow Europe Map and Index that ranks 49 European countries on their LGBTI equality laws and policies. For the third year, Malta ranked highest in LGBT equality, followed by Belgium and Norway, while Azerbaijan, Armenia, Turkey, and Russia ranked lowest. The new report finds that fewer countries are improving and that many are “stagnating”. Remarking that previous achievements are at stake, ILGA-Europe Executive Director Evelyne Paradis stated:
“There are too many signs that trends like populism and nationalism aren’t political buzzwords – they can have a lasting impact on the lives of LGBTI people in Europe. There are too many signs around us that many of the recent wins are fragile.”
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) published the 2018 World Press Freedom Indexreviewing 180 countries and their relationship with the media. Comparing the index to guides such as Rainbow Europe, Mamba Online explored the relationship between freedom of the press and LGBTQ rights. While some connections are quite clear—for example, Norway ranks first in press freedom and third in Rainbow Europe, while Azerbaijan ranks worst in Rainbow Europe and among the worst in the press index—there are exceptions to the rule.
ILGA-Europe published a report "Funding for LGBTI activism in Europe and Central Asia: priorities and access to resources" based on surveys from 287 LGBTI organizations. The report provides "a hard dose of reality about what life on the frontline of activism is really like". Meanwhile, the Baring Foundation revealed new grants to West African civil society to address discrimination against LGBTI, and particularly LBQ women and trans people.
From Brazil, openly gay City Council Member David Michael dos Santos Mirandaspeaks on fighting for the LGBT community, on running for a seat in Brazil’s Congress, and on the assassination of Rio’s only other openly gay council member, Marielle Franco.
From Pakistan, transgender activist Ashi Butt discusses opening the country’s first old-age facility for trans people. Residents will receive shelter, free medical care, and will live as one family “together in each other’s sorrow and happiness”.
From Serbia, Isidora Isakov of the group Izadji or “Come Out”, describes opening a new center for LGBTQ and other vulnerable groups outside of the capital Belgrade—an effort to support and spread activism to often overlooked rural LGBTQ people.
And from Bolivia, activist Edgar Solis, of the group Maricas Bolivia or “Bolivia Queers”, explains why his group is pushing for more inclusivity in the LGBT movement. He described the “stereotype” of being gay:
“Gay in Bolivia, in Latin America and in the world is a sanitized society. There are no fat people, old people, mixed-race people in gay. Gay is a more hygienic entity, whiter, in fact”.
Fear and Loathing: The Peter Tatchell Foundation released a new video featuring activists who have fled from the 36 Commonwealth countries where homosexuality is criminalized. In the video, people describe being ostracized from the community and the persecution and violence they faced from police.
From Brazil, HuffPost spoke with LGBT activists on the situation faced by trans people in Brazil’s penitentiary system where they are often repeatedly raped and subject to other forms of abuse. Meanwhile, Brazilian municipal guards in the city of Jundiaí attended a lecture to learn better ways of addressing LGBT people.
In Ukraine, activists say attacks against LGBTQ advocates and women’s rights groups have increased in recent months, and police have failed to intervene. Amnesty International remarked:
“Given the police’s repeated inaction over such attacks, it is no surprise that members of Ukrainian far-right groups take full advantage of their impunity - repeatedly attacking individuals and groups whose views or identity they dislike.”
In Bashkir, Russia, activists say police are refusing to stop a “hunt for gays” in the city Ufa. Kristina Abramicheva, of the Alliance of Heterosexuals and LGBT for Equal Rights, said the attacks have “become a mass phenomenon. We are talking about dozens of cases”.
On the March: Around the world communities celebrated IDAHOTB, the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia. In the country of Georgia, a peaceful demonstration was canceled after activists received death threats. Several dozen Georgian activists rallied despite the threats. Ugandan police, with orders from the Minister of Ethics and Integrity, shut down the local IDAHOT event as it began, despite permissions previously granted to the organizers. Lebanese police arrested Beirut Pride organizer Hadi Damien and forced him to cancel the week of events scheduled to coincide with IDAHOTB.
Radio Free Europe reported that applications for asylum from Russia to the US has hit a 24-year record. Rights activists and immigration attorneys told RFE that laws and policies that persecute sexual minorities are partially behind the surge in asylum seekers.
In France, many organizations have had to adjust priorities and adapt services to support an increase in LGBT asylum seekers. Migrant group BAAM, who recently created a specialized branch for LGBT, remarked on the need for changes: "There's still quite a bit of homophobia in our society, even amongst social workers and within both organizations that help migrants and government agencies.” InfoMigrants spoke to four asylum seekers from Mali, Guinea, and Morocco about why they fled to France.
In Mexico, neighbors attacked a shelter housing LGBT migrants. According to a coordinator from migrant group Angeles Sin Fronteras, the attackers said they would not tolerate gay and trans people near them. However, head of the State Council for Migrants said the attack was not homophobic, but an attempt to take back a facility from any migrants.
School Days: The International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer & Intersex Youth and Student Organisation (IGLYO) published the first edition of its LGBTQI Inclusive Education Index and Report reviewing 49 countries. The report evaluates 10 comparable indicators, including countries’ anti-discrimination laws applicable to education, gender recognition policies, inclusive curriculums, teacher training, and data on bullying. Of the countries reviewed, only Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, and Sweden provided most of the indicators, while eleven countries failed to implement any measure at all.
In the US, some parents in California convinced a district school board to eliminate all sexual health education, lessons on consent, and inclusive LGBTQ lessons from classes for 9 to 13-year-olds. The curriculum was meant to bring the district in line with the California Healthy Youth Act requirements; however, the school board and parents were divided on what should be included.
In Vancouver, Canada, protesters and counter-protesters faced off against British Columbia’s LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum. And in Ontario, sex education curriculumhas become a hot topic in the province’s upcoming elections, and Conservative Leader Doug Ford vowed to “respect parents” and "scrap" the current sex-ed curriculum.
In Ireland, the Royal College of Surgeons announced a new gender identity and gender expression policy to “ensure a safe, healthy and comfortable space”. Writing for the European Sting, Brazilian medical student Bianca Quintella argues that to reach the Sustainable Development Goals medical curriculums must teach students to reject misogyny, xenophobia, homophobia, and transphobia. From Northern Ireland, writer Louis Staples spoke with LGBTQ+ people about their experiences growing up in an environment of intense bullying and little support, where 84% of bullied LGBTQ+ youth have considered suicide.
In South Africa, students and staff at the private all-boys Christian school St. Andrew’s College spoke out against a speaker from the African Enterprise International Ministry after he delivered a sermon loaded with hate speech against LGBTQ people and divorced parents. The school’s chaplain issued a formal apology and Headmaster Alan Thompson said the sermon had “undone years of work” supporting students:
“[These views] are contrary to everything that we try and inculcate in our boys; that they have their own unique God-given presence that is worthy in its own right.”
Sports and Culture: In the US, celebrities and activists celebrated the 29th Annual GLAAD Media Awards with a special focus this year on intersectional issues including immigration, racial justice, women’s rights, and LGBTQ acceptance. In the UK, the NatWest British LGBT Awards celebrated international LGBTQ people and allies at its annual event. As this year over 50,000 people participated in the public vote, co-founder Sarah Garrett remarked that the awards enable the community to “stand up and talk out”:
“The true power in our community is when we come together to drive change, that, for me, is where our spectrum of LGBTQ people are unique.”
The 63rd annual Eurovision Song Contest wrapped up with Israel winning the top prize with the song “Tor” by Netta. The competition, which has become a haven for LGBT fans around the world, was not without controversy as China censored LGBT content. It cut Ireland’s semi-final performance that included an interpretive dance depicting a same-sex love story and blurred a rainbow flag during Switzerland’s performance. In response, the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) revoked China’s license to broadcast any of the program.
The Kenya Film Classification Board has banned the first Kenyan film to compete in the Cannes film festival. Director Wanuri Kahiu said the board requested that she change the ending of Rafiki, a lesbian love story, so that the characters were more “remorseful” and to “make it less hopeful”. Check out the trailer for the film that Variety calls a “pure-hearted, candy-colored tale of first love”.