photo via 서울퀴어문화축제 Seoul Queer Culture Festival
"When it comes to promoting and protecting LGBT rights worldwide, I believe no battle matters more right now than the demand for judicial independence and the rule of law."
~ Emily Thornberry, UK Member of Parliament
From the UN: UNAIDS Brasil supported the launch of the second edition of “Manual de Comunicação LGBTI+” to give communication professionals, students, and teachers the tools to appropriately discuss sexuality, sexual orientation, gender identity and discrimination. The manual was created by the National LGBTI Alliance, GayLatino Network, and with the participation of several LGBTI+ groups. As UNAIDS Brazil Director Georgiana Braga-Orillard described in her introduction:
“This is an excellent example of the practical application of the famous slogan "nothing about us, without us": a tool built by and for people directly touched by the use of terms and concepts capable of contributing to social transformation and to consolidation of a society where there is zero discrimination and where all people are respected and treated with dignity.”
After attending the 4th Pan Africa ILGA Regional Conference, UN Independent Expert Victor Madrigal-Borloz sat down with Monica Tabengwa. They discussed the importance of international consensus on the rights of LGBTIQ+ people, the role of interfaith dialogue within the movement, and uniting people to end violence and discrimination. As he told the conference:
“We don’t need to go faster in the direction we are going. We need to change the direction we are going.”
HIV, Health, and Wellness: A case study in the Philippines explored what is preventing gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men from accessing HIV testing and treatment services. The study focused on the metropolitan area of Manila where HIV testing uptake has ranged broadly between 1-41% across cities.
A study in South Africa found that young gay and bisexual men would rather use HIV self-testing kits than go to a clinic because the kits felt more convenient, offer more privacy, and are “self-empowering”. Researchers also noted that 97% of participants willingly distributed self-test kits to sexual partners, friends, and family members.
A US study published in JAMA concluded that health clinics are missing opportunities to offer HIV tests to gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men. Using interviews of over 9,000 men, the study found that many individuals who tested positive for the first time had visited other clinics within the last year, but they were not offered HIV tests.
Meanwhile, a study published in Open Forum Infectious Diseases of over 400 individuals in California revealed that nearly a quarter of study participants were not tested for HIV before beginning PrEP and a third of participants did not have follow-up tests after starting PrEP. The current guidelines recommend screening for HIV before beginning PrEP with follow-up screenings every three to four months and regular sexual health screenings. This data is particularly worrying as previous studies have shown that using PrEP can make it more difficult to obtain accurate HIV tests.
The American Journal of Preventive Medicine published a study of 900 young adult gay and bisexual men in New York Chicago, and Atlanta. The study found that those who watched and interacted with a digital “soap opera” and game called “Keep It Up!” had 40% lower incidence of sexually transmitted disease than a control group. The “Keep It Up!” program weaves HIV prevention and safer sex practices into dramatic stories set in real life scenarios.
In Australia, the AIDS Council of New South Wales (ACON) is testing education programs conducted in Mandarin to combat the ongoing trend of new HIV infections among Asian men living in the country.
A new meta-analysis suggests that condoms are much more effective than previously considered for preventing HIV between male partners. A new systematic review of research from 12 African countries evaluated people’s perceptions of HIV prevention methods to better understand why methods are used or rejected. One common theme identified was that people associated condoms with infidelity. The authors concluded that to improve uptake of new interventions, such as PrEP, they must be carefully contextualized for the community:
“Emerging interventions, whose symbolic meanings are being constructed anew, may be uniquely positioned to infuse their ‘brand’ with associations compatible with love, commitment, responsibility, and sexual pleasure, rather than those associated with disease, danger, and distrust.”
In a new report on Indonesia, Human Rights Watch says that authorities are “fueling” the HIV epidemic through anti-LGBT rhetoric, wide-spread intolerance, and police crackdowns that contribute to a “public health crisis”. The report notes that since 2007 HIV rates among men who have sex with men increased from 5% to 25%. In particular, the report documents police raids that have shut down HIV outreach services and have used condoms as evidence of illegal activity.
From the World of Politics: The UK Equalities Office announced an LGBT “action plan” with 75 points and a series of pledges that include improving police response to hate crimes, inclusive education and support for students and teachers, and better gender recognition services. The plan includes the appointment of a national LGBT health advisor and a promise to prohibit so-called “conversion therapy”. The action plan is the government’s response to the “National LGBT Survey” conducted last year. While appreciated as a positive move, many activists criticized the plan for repeating old promises, overlooking key issues, and lacking a sufficient budget.
In Costa Rica, President Carlos Alvarado signed an Executive Decree that requires all state institutions to improve gender recognition for trans people, including correct passports, driver licenses, academic degrees, and bank statements.
Portugal's Parliament passed a law allowing people over the age of 18 to change their gender marker and name on legal documents without medical intervention. The law has some protections for intersex babies, however Organization Intersex International Europe (OII) argued that the protections are unclear. The law must now be reviewed by President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa who vetoed an earlier version of the law.
In the US, regulations have been proposed in both the states of Ohio and Delawarethat will require schools, teachers, and doctors to notify parents if their child is transgender or questioning their gender identity. Many have spoken out against the regulations warning that the policies are overly broad and could negatively impact young people’s health and safety.
The Politics of Union: In Japan, the city of Osaka announced it will issue official documentation to recognize same-sex partnerships. It is the eighth municipality in the country to offer registration since the city of Shibuya began recognizing partnerships in 2015. The documentation allows couples to share housing and visit each other in the hospital; however, it does not guarantee any rights and only applies in the city it was created.
After five years drafting legislation, Thailand’s Justice Ministry is expected to soon complete the Life and Partnership Registration bill to provide basic marriage rights to same-sex couples, including property rights, medical treatment, and adoption rights.
Let the Courts Decide: Ecuador’s Family Court ruled that the country’s same-sex marriage ban is illegal and that two lesbian couples must be allowed to “immediately” marry. The presiding judges cited the Inter-American Court of Human Rights ruling earlier this year that governments must recognize “all the rights that are derived from a family bond between people of the same sex”.
Hong Kong’s Court of Final Appeal ruled that immigration authorities should issue a spousal visa to the wife of a woman working in Hong Kong. Head of Hong Kong’s government, Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said the verdict does not mean same-sex marriage will be legalized. Last month, in a separate ruling, a court of appeal ruled that the government is not required to grant same-sex couples married overseas spousal benefits equal to heterosexual couples. That court declared that the government had a "legitimate aim" to protect traditional marriage.
A Bulgarian court overturned the Interior Ministry’s migration ban that prevented same-sex couples from living in the country. The case was brought by an Australian woman and her French wife who were banned from living in the country after they were married in France. The ruling is supported by the European Court of Justicewhich ruled last month that EU countries should give same-sex spouses the same right to live and work as heterosexual spouses.
Bermuda’s Supreme Court ruling protecting gay marriage is under threat again with an announcement from Minister of Home Affairs Walton Brown that the government has filed an appeal. Last month the Supreme Court ruled that the Domestic Partnership Act prohibiting gay marriage was unconstitutional.
A Trinidad and Tobago high court judge called on greater protections for same-sex couples, especially in respect to matters of property and inheritance.
India’s Supreme Court began hearing arguments challenging Section 377, the law that criminalizes consensual sex between adults of the same gender. Senior government lawyer Tushar Mehta told the judges that the government “would leave whether to decriminalize homosexuality to the wisdom of the court”. The current case involves petitions from many from the LGBT community, including well-known figures and celebrities. Activist and journalist Vikram Doctor noted that:
"The people joining in with petitions at this moment have no history of activism and a lot at stake — many of them come from small towns, and have truly moving stories of fighting poverty, suicide attempts and families that attempted to forcibly marry them off to heterosexual partners."
In a groundbreaking decision, Sweden’s Supreme Court ruled that an HIV-positive person who is on “stable HIV treatment” does not break the law by having unprotected sex. Previously it has been considered a crime if an HIV-positive person does not disclose their HIV status before sex. However, citing numerous studies, the court noted that an undetectable viral load kept in check by “thorough treatment” poses “minimal” risk of transmission and does not meet the threshold of “exposure to danger”.
Regarding Religion: In the Philippines, the Church of Freedom in Christ Ministriesjoined a record-breaking 25,000 participants at the Marikina city Pride festival. The group carried signs that apologized for Christians treatment of the LGBT community and pastor Val Paminiano spoke passionately:
“We want to let the LGBT community know they are loved by God. Sorry for hurting you—even for using the Bible to hurt you.”
For the first time in Australia a church has decided to allow ministers to marry same-sex couples if they choose to. The Uniting Church of Australia spent three years considering the issue. Among their findings they concluded that science supports the idea that gay people are "born that way" and therefore:
"This knowledge supports the view that same-gender sexual attraction can be understood as part of God’s good and diverse creation rather than unnatural."
The Mormon church donated $25,000 to Affirmation, an international LGBTQ Morman group, to support suicide prevention training in English, Spanish, and Portuguese. In the US, there has been a troubling trend of suicide among young LGBT Mormons.
The Human Rights Campaign released the latest in its series of spiritual guides for LGBTQ people. The six-edition “Coming Home” series cover Evangelicalism, Mormon, Jewish, Muslim, Catholic, and general faith topics and were created through collaborations with Christian scholars and advocates.
Winds of Change: A coalition of Pacific Islands LGBTI leaders and allies have launched a petition to urge the Pacific Islands Forum to ensure that member states uphold the Forum mission “to support full inclusivity, equity, and equality for all people of the Pacific”. To achieve this, they call for full decriminalization of LGBTI citizens, nondiscrimination policies in employment, support for LGBTI in reaching the UN Sustainable Development Goals, and inclusion of the community in leadership roles.
For the first time, Angola’s Justice Ministry has given legal recognition to a gay rights group certifying the five-year-old organization “Iris Angola”.
Al Jazeera hosted a conversation with LGBT leaders from Europe, Asia, and the US about the future of openly LGBT politicians. With comments from viewers all over the world, the group discussed living in the public eye and the importance of having representation who can focus on topics relevant to the community.
In Malaysia, people took to Twitter to express outrage after Numan Afifi Saadan, a gay man working for the Ministry of Youth and Sports, was forced to resign. Saadan faced cyber-bullying and discrimination due to his work with the LGBTQ community that he said made it impossible to do his job.
Writing for the New York Times, founder of Gay Men’s Health Crisis and Act Up Larry Kramer asks why there are relatively few outspoken gay leaders, activists, and politicians fighting for the health and freedom of the LGBT community:
“We will always have enemies. Is that why we’re so invisible as a powerful fighting force? Because too many of us are still afraid to be seen or heard?”
Using data from 2012, a new US study found that lesbian, gay, and bisexual people were 20 times more likely to be involved in the gay rights movement than heterosexuals. Additionally, LGB people were 2-4 times more likely to be involved in other causes, such as the environment, peace, and Occupy Wall Street.
From Ireland, activist Tonie Walsh described working to decriminalize homosexuality, and 19-year-old activist Dean O’Reilly described the challenges he faces while “living in the future that the LGBTQ+ people of [the 1980s] fought for”.
UK Member of Parliament and former barrister Emily Thornberry discussed the role independent judges and court systems have had in protecting the LGBT community all over the world:
“[W]hen the LGBT community cannot look to the courts for protection, repressive governments will soon look to target them.”
Fear and Loathing: From Colombia, Colombia Diversa and Caribe Afirmativo published “La discriminación: una guerra que no termina” (Discrimination: a war that does not end) a new report on homicides, police violence, and other threats to LGBT people in the country in 2017. Among the findings, the report shows that murders of LGBT people increased compared to 2016 and that at least 37% were documented as hate crimes. Meanwhile, journalist Eve Hartley explored the charities caring for the thousands of LGBTQ people internally displaced and victimized by Colombia’s armed conflict. As Wilson Castañeda Castro, of Caribe Afirmativo, described:
“[T]he conflict naturalized violence, so the violence towards the LGBTQ community was lost in the magnitude of the other existing violence.”
In Aceh, Indonesia, a couple accused of being gay were taken by a vigilante mob and handed to police earlier this year. This weekend the couple were publicly flogged alongside 15 other people punished for crimes including drinking or selling alcohol. Around 1,000 people took pictures and shouted to "flog them harder". In April, authorities had promised that floggings would only take place inside prisons and that no photography would be allowed.
The Economist looked at how some Nationalist and anti-immigrant parties in Finland, France, Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, and Sweden have dropped their "worst" anti-gay views to "project themselves as the true guardians of tolerance". Although the parties argue that Muslims are the true threat to LGBT safety, many gay people are skeptical of their overtures.
Writing from Italy, activist and gay immigrant Paolo Ayoubi reflected on his experience as a speaker at the Bologna Pride festival during which he faced anti-immigrant shouts. Ayoubi urged the community to reject racism:
"Despite the chilling and gloomy political times and the soul eaters that are surfacing to the light, we are and remain a solid, warm and welcoming nursery for flowers of all colors and spice. We all exist and resist!
In Ukraine, Boris Zolotchenko, a leader of the Pride festival held in the city of Kryvyi Rih, was beaten by a gang of people as he left a festival organization meeting. He told reporters that he stood by the event’s slogan “I refuse to be afraid”. And, although the Kiev Pride march was a success with the help of police who detained anti-LGBT protesters, an LGBT office in Kharkiv was vandalized and attacked with smoke grenades.
In Paris, pedestrian crosswalks that had been painted in rainbow colors to celebrate Pride were repeatedly vandalized with homophobic language. Mayor Anne Hidalgo announced that the crime “will not remain unpunished” and tweeted out:
“Paris est une ville refuge qui fait sienne les valeurs républicaines de liberté, d’égalité et de fraternité. Pour qu’elles s’inscrivent à jamais en ses murs, les passages piétons arc-en-ciel créés pour la #MarcheFesFiertés seront permanents! #ParisEstFière”
“Paris is a city of refuge that embraces the Republican values of freedom, equality and fraternity. In order for these values to be recorded forever, the rainbow pedestrian walkways created for Gay Pride will be permanent!" #ParisIsProud”
On the March: In Turkey, around a thousand people turned out to celebrate Istanbul Pride despite authorities’ last minute ban and forced cancellation of the official event. Witnesses say that after allowing organizers to read a statement, police chased those gathered with dogs, fired rubber bullets, and used tear gas to break up the gathering.
In South Korea, 210,000 people signed a petition on President Moon Jae-in's website calling for the cancellation of the Seoul Queer Culture Festival which the petition called an "abominable" event "filled with illegal activities". Despite the protest organizers say a record 120,000 attended the event with over 100 booths.
In Swaziland, several hundred turned out to celebrate the country’s first ever Pride despite threats. Although SWAGAA, the country’s most prominent human rights organization, spoke out against the event, it was a success “with a beautiful, colorful parade that was literally exploding with joy”. As All Out’s Matt Beard described:
“We were loud, proud and dignified. Nobody came to hurl hate, abuse (or worse) at us, as had been feared. Instead, this was a moment of community and personal empowerment.”
In the UK, Pride in London had to issue an apology after a radical feminist group overtook the parade of 30,000 participants while an estimated million people watched from the sidewalks. Many were outraged that Pride organizers failed to remove the group who carried transphobic banners and spread transphobic leaflets. In addition to their apology, Pride co-chair Alison Camps spoke to PinkNews about the need for cisgender lesbians to stand up for the trans community and how important it is to keep bigotry out of Pride.
In the UK, Virgin Atlantic airlines announced it would no longer provide seats on flights to the government for the purpose of deporting people classed as illegal immigrants. It was recently revealed that at least 63 people had been wrongly deported despite being eligible for citizenship. The group Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants, who have been campaigning for change, promised to turn their attention to other UK airlines that continue the practice.
Writing for the New York Times, journalist Jose Del Real investigated the trauma faced by desperate LGBT Central American migrants as they seek asylum in the US. As he reports, trans women in particular are targeted by drug traffickers, rogue immigration agents and other migrants.
School Days: In Japan, Tokyo’s all-female Ochanomizu University announced that starting in 2020 it would accept trans students who identify as female. The state-run school began a working group last October to consider the change as “an opportunity to update our campus as a place to truly think about gender equality in the context of diverse sex”. Four other women’s universities, three in Tokyo and one in Nara, are also in discussions to accept trans students.
In the US, leaders of historically black colleges and universities joined the Human Rights Campaign and parents of LGBT kids to discuss improving LGBT inclusion on campus, HIV prevention, and supporting families.
Also in the US, San Diego State University was given a one million dollar donation to support the school’s Pride center and LGBT Studies program by alumnus Robert DeKoven.
Writing on Uganda, Professor Billie de Haas argues that the country’s first ever guideline on sex education falls far short of the needs of Ugandan youth with its abstinence-only approach, emphasis on traditional gender roles, and rejection of same-sex relationships.
In Canada, Ontario’s newly elected government announced that the province’s schools will no longer use an updated sex education curriculum put in place by the previous government. The rejected curriculum, created through consultations with educators and over 4,000 parents, caused controversy for its age-appropriate coverage of topics such as consent, harassment, social media, mental health, same-sex relationships, and gender identity.
Sports and Culture: In Moscow, a group of mostly young gay men and women gathered to watch the World Cup in the temporary “Diversity House” set up by the Fare network, an international organization working for social inclusion of marginalized people in football. Also in Russia, a group of six people representing Spain, the Netherlands, Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, and Colombia staged a quiet protest by wearing football shirts that, seen side-by-side, form a rainbow flag. The activists, who risked arrest visiting iconic Russian locations, explained the fear and exhilaration they felt supporting the LGBT community.
The Hong Kong Leisure and Cultural Services Department sparked outrage when it removed at least 10 children’s books that feature same-sex parents and other LGBT themes from library shelves.
Swedish Film maker Staffan Hildebrand launched a Kickstarter to fund Passing the Torch, a documentary on AIDS activism that has been filmed over three decades and 50 countries.
The British Museum’s exhibition "Desire, Love Identity: Exploring LGBTQ Histories", which features artworks dating back 11,000 years, will begin a tour around the country this fall. Museum spokesman Stuart Frost reflected:
"We're hoping that it will be a catalyst that will drive new research into museum's collections and stimulate further LGBTQ exhibitions and programming.”
In New York, dancer Katy Pyle discussed creating Ballez to offer dancers a “radically inclusively queer space”. Reflecting on their early years as a dancer, Pyle described:
"I was, frankly, triggered by traditional ballet classes — the music, the mirrors, and all the expectations would make me feel real freaked out in my body, [so much so] that I couldn’t do the movements. I thought, OK, for myself, I need to redefine what ballet is."
Finally, check queer South African artist Peter Ngqips’s music video “Free Me” that was nominated for a 2018 New Jersey Film Festival award.