“Today, in France, we still cannot live and love freely just as we are,” said Joël Deumier, president of the association SOS Homophobie. In its annual report published May 10, 2017, the organization stated it received 1,575 testimonies of anti-LGBT acts in 2016, an increase of nearly 20% compared with the previous year. It’s possible that the increase in reported incidents reflects a greater willingness of victims to speak out. Still, SOS Homophobie believes that many victims of anti-LGBT acts do not dare come forward.

Demonstration in support of same-sex marriage in Paris, 16 December 2012.

© 2012 Olivier Hoffschir

In 2016, SOS Homophobie received 26 reports from people who said they had a homophobic, biphobic, or transphobic encounter with justice or law enforcement officials. By this is meant that an officer refused to characterize an assault as homophobic in a complaint or to even file a complaint, or that a law enforcement officer himself discriminated against LGBT people.

While these incidents remain thankfully limited, they are no less unacceptable. France should take measures to determine how widespread these attitudes are among public officials, and to prevent subversion of their duties because of this attitude.

SOS Homophobie’s report also shows a correlation between debates over equal rights and the increase of anti-LGBT acts. The organization recorded a spike in reported incidents in 2013, the year France legalized same-sex marriage. In 2016, France adopted a law waiving the requirement for transgender people to provide proof of medical treatment to amend their legal gender. That same year saw a 76% spike in reported transphobic incidents.

While a majority of the French population is in favor of allowing same-sex couples to get married and adopt children, opponents of LGBT rights are a “vocal minority,” and are especially active on social media, where prosecution for homophobic statements remains difficult to carry out.

Several candidates for the 2017 presidential election expressed their intention to “rewrite the Taubira law” on same-sex marriage and adoption. One candidate even received the support of Sens commun, an organization openly opposed to the rights of LGBT people. When political figures take stands that are hostile to equal rights, they may “rekindle hate.”

It is high time to end discrimination against LGBT people and the French authorities have a key responsibility and role to turn this into reality.

Author: Human Rights Watch
Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

This week Poland’s parliament has the chance to improve the lives of transgender people by passing a law that simplifies the legal gender recognition procedure.

Recognition before the law in your preferred gender is a vital aspect of ensuring respect for the human rights of transgender people. For example, it allows transgender people to access services on an equal footing with their peers.

Transgender activists march in the 2015 Warsaw Pride holding a banner that reads "YES to Gender Accordance Act.”

© 2015 Trans-Fuzja

Momentum on this matter is building. Earlier this year, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe issued a resolution noting “the emergence of a right to gender identity”, while raising concerns that “transgender people face widespread discrimination in Europe.”

Members of Poland’s parliament will consider the country’s Act on Gender Recognition this Friday. Parliament already passed the draft legislation over the summer, although the president vetoed it last week.

The act proposes some important advances.

First, it defines gender identity as a “settled and intense experience of one’s own gender,” which may or may not correspond with one's sex assigned at birth.

Second, it eliminates the requirement for physical interventions before gender can be legally recognized, and instead makes the process a court procedure.

Third, it spells out the various documents on which applicants are legally entitled to change their gender – including education certificates, work qualifications, and health records – and allows the possibility for young transgender people, once they reach age 16, to change their name.

Access to documents in your preferred gender and name is a key element in ensuring respect for an individual’s right to personal and private life, and also allows transgender people better access to healthcare, education, and employment.

In a recent survey, 78 percent of Polish transgender people said quicker and easier legal gender recognition procedures would allow them to live more comfortably.

There’s no doubt President Andrzej Duda’s recent veto of the act was a setback. But if parliament does vote in majority support of the legislation, Poland will take a huge step forward and transform the lives of many.

Author: Human Rights Watch
Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

Graeme Reid, director of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights Program, is an expert on LGBT rights. He has conducted research, taught and published extensively on gender, sexuality, LGBT issues, and HIV/AIDS.

Before joining Human Rights Watch in 2011, Reid was the founding director of the Gay and Lesbian Archives of South Africa, a researcher at the Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research and a lecturer in Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Studies at Yale University. An anthropologist by training, Reid received an master’s from the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, and a PhD from the University of Amsterdam.

Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

January 22, 2018 

Mr. Gianni Infantino
President, Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA)
FIFA-Strasse 20 P.O. Box 8044 Zurich, Switzerland 

Re: Egypt’s hosting of 2019 Africa U-23 Cup of Nations and FIFA’s Human Rights Policy  

Dear President Infantino,  

We are writing to urge you to use FIFA’s leverage with the Egyptian authorities to push back against a vicious anti-gay campaign which could compromise the safety of athletes and spectators attending the 2019 Africa U-23 Cup of Nations which Egypt will host.  

In Egypt, since September 22, security forces have relentlessly tracked down and arrested scores of allegedly gay and transgender people, as well as those who support them, after several young people waved rainbow flags, a symbol of diversity and acceptance of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people, at a Cairo concert featuring the Lebanese band Mashrou’ Leila. 

By November 27, the crackdown had led to the arrest of at least 75 people. More than 40 have already received prison sentences, ranging from 6 months to 6 years, under the bogus charges of “debauchery” and “inciting debauchery.” Some of the individuals arrested were subject to ill-treatment and torture, including forced anal examinations to attempt to prove that they had engaged in same-sex conduct. Activists have received death threats and endured beatings and sexual harassment in police stations from other detainees. 

On November 6, the Legislative Committee in the Egyptian Parliament began studying a draft law to criminalize not only homosexuality but also anyone who carries “any symbol or code for homosexuals,” such as rainbows. Such conducts would be punishable by up to three years of prison. 

FIFA’s own Statutes (art 4) ban discrimination and its new Human Rights Policy states that “FIFA will strive to go beyond its responsibility to respect human rights, as enshrined in the UNGPs [UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights], by taking measures to promote the protection of human rights and positively contribute to their enjoyment.”  

In the spirit of these statutes, we urge you to reach out to the Egyptian President and authorities to express your concerns about this campaign

and the proposed anti-LGBT law. You should make clear that the current climate would appear to make it impossible for FIFA to ensure the safety of athletes, coaches, families, fans or reporters attending the U-23 Cup of Nations, who could face arrest or harassment for looking gay or gender non-conforming; for using gay dating apps while in Egypt (which the police use to entrap people and charge them with inciting debauchery); for waving rainbow flags or wearing pro-LGBT t-shirts or displaying other “homosexual symbols” during the tournament; or for simply expressing support for the rights of LGBT people. You should ask for a public commitment from the Egyptian authorities that no one attending the event will experience discrimination by police and other state agents on any grounds, including sexual orientation or gender identity. You should also warn Egyptian authorities that the adoption of the draft law and continuation of the current campaign of arrests would be taken into consideration in determining if Egypt is suitable for hosting any future FIFA event.  

A personal and vigorous intervention on your behalf seems critical to ensure that FIFA’s U-23 Cup of Nations is free of harassment and discrimination. Should the Egyptian authorities refuse to publicly guarantee that no LGBT person attending the event will experience official discrimination of any type, FIFA should publicly affirm its commitment to LGBT fans and athletes and keep all options on the table with regard to the U-23 Cup of Nations.  

We believe that by taking these measures, you would demonstrate FIFA’s commitment to its new Human Rights Policy and turn words into deeds – something that we could all cheer.    

Since this repressive wave of arrests is on-going – with the latest arrests of ten people in Alexandria last week – we are requesting an urgent call to discuss with your human rights team as soon as possible.   


Minky Worden
Global Initiatives
Human Rights Watch

Sarah Leah Whitson
Executive Director
Middle East and North Africa
Human Rights Watch

CC: FIFA Human Rights Advisory board, via chair Rachel Davis  

Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

In 2018, dozens of anti-LGBT bills have been introduced in state legislatures across the US. Remarkably, none of them have become law - until now.

Over the past week, Governor Mary Fallin of Oklahoma and Governor Jeff Colyer of Kansas have signed laws allowing state-funded adoption and foster care agencies to follow their religious beliefs when placing children with families.

Proponents of the bills clearly signaled that they were designed to prevent agencies from having to place kids with LGBT parents, who are six times more likely than heterosexual couples to foster and four times more likely to adopt. Now agencies in these states can effectively derail adoptions for LGBT parents. But the language in the bills is so sweeping that it seems to give agencies even wider discretion to disfavor potential parents based on their marital status, religion, race, or other characteristics.

Even without these laws, nobody is forcing agencies in Oklahoma and Kansas to serve LGBT parents; the states are among the 42 states in the US that do not have laws on the books protecting LGBT people seeking to adopt or foster children. These laws are not narrow exceptions to nondiscrimination protections, but a license to discriminate that harms parents and kids alike.

The state’s overriding concern in matters of adoption and foster care should always be the best interest of the child. Laws that embolden providers to discriminate against loving, qualified parents have been a giant step in the wrong direction.

Oklahoma and Kansas should repeal these laws. But if lawmakers truly believe what they say about these laws being narrow protections for religious agencies, they should have no hesitation about passing nondiscrimination laws next year. When lawmakers rush to pass “exemptions” to nondiscrimination laws that don’t actually exist, without protecting the rights of people who are likely to be harmed, it should be called out for what it is – discrimination.




Author: Human Rights Watch
Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

This weekend when urologists from around the world gather in San Francisco for the American Urological Association’s (AUA) annual conference, dozens of patient advocates will participate – yet a key group of people will be missing.

The intersex community – the nearly 1.7 percent of people born with bodies that fall outside society’s definitions of typical “male” and “female” – will be absent. Their repeated requests to engage with the AUA have been met with bluster and denial.

interACT: Advocates for Intersex Youth wants one thing from the AUA: evidence- and ethics-based standards of care. This means ending medically unnecessary “normalizing” surgeries on intersex children who cannot give informed consent.

Based on a theory popularized in the 1960s, some doctors continue to operate on intersex children claiming to make it easier for them to grow up “normal.” But as research shows, the results are often catastrophic, and can lead to sterilization, incontinence, and post traumatic stress disorder. Also, the supposed benefits are largely unproven. Most of these babies are born perfectly healthy – meaning immediate, irreversible intervention is rarely warranted.

Still, urology professional associations defend the status quo by distorting evidence and falsely claiming patient advocates want a “universal ban” on all surgeries. They are ignoring not only these patients but also the increasing number of medical, legal, and human rights organizations that support them.

Medically unnecessary surgery on intersex children has been condemned by the World Health Organization, three former US surgeons-general, and Physicians for Human Rights. United Nations experts and pediatrics bodies are against it. A draft report on deferral of medically unnecessary surgeries on intersex children is under consideration in the American Medical Association House of Delegates.

AUA’s code of ethics says that member surgeons “will consider informed consent integral to providing appropriate medical or surgical care” and that patients “must be provided with all of the information necessary to consent and to make his own choice of treatment, regardless of [the doctor’s] own advice or judgment.” The Society for Pediatric Urology (SPU) in 2017 stated: “We believe that patient advocacy groups will best serve their constituents by encouraging them to work with us to advance the care of all children.”

Unfortunately, AUA and SPU have generally failed to engage in genuine dialogue with intersex activists about how to live up to these principles. So advocates are speaking out against the situation on social media, asking: Will the AUA show up #4intersex?

Author: Human Rights Watch
Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

In this Sunday, Feb. 22, 2009 picture, Lebanese police stand guard as protesters carry banners during a sit-in for gays and lesbians in Beirut. In February, about two dozen gays and lesbians held a rare sit-in on Beirut's major intersection of Sodeco to protest what they called the beating of two gay men by two plainclothes police. Police officials denied the men were beaten by their officers.

© 2009 AP Photo/Hussein Malla

(Beirut) – The Lebanese Internal Security Forces arrested a prominent LGBT rights activist and pressured him to cancel Beirut Pride events, Human Rights Watch said today. The crackdown violates freedom of assembly and association and is a step backward in a country that has made progress toward respecting the rights of LGBT people.

Beirut Pride, nine days of activities aimed at celebrating lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender identities, kicked off on May 12, 2018, with a brunch to honor families who support their LGBT children, and was scheduled to coincide with the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHOT) on May 17. Scheduled events included a queer poetry reading, a karaoke night, a discussion of sexual health and HIV, and a legal literacy workshop. However, on May 14, Internal Security Forces raided an LGBT-themed theater reading and summoned Beirut Pride organizer Hadi Damien to the Hobeich police station, where he was held overnight.

“Official interference with Beirut Pride is an outrageous step backward in a country where the judiciary and some politicians seem to be moving forward on LGBT rights,” said Lama Fakih, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “There’s no justification for shutting down cultural events and health and legal workshops in the name of morality.”

Damien said the Vice Squad interrogated him, told him that the public prosecutor had banned Pride week, and pressured him to sign a statement calling off all further Beirut Pride events or face charges of “incitement to immorality” and “breach of public morality.” Beirut Pride subsequently issued a statement suspending the events. The Internal Security Forces did not respond to a Human Rights Watch request for comment and it is not clear if the public prosecutor has issued a ban.

Some activists said they plan to reschedule Pride events, while other events are continuing as planned in spite of the crackdown. “These violations against freedoms [give] us the energy to further advocate for freedoms,” the Arab Foundation for Freedoms and Equality (AFE), a group that works to advance LGBT and other human rights, said in a statement. Separate IDAHOT events organized by Helem took place on May 17 as scheduled. Helem’s director, Genwa Samhat, said that they often face pressure but are not canceling events and that the movement is ongoing.

Lebanese activists have organized IDAHOT events since 2005 and many taken place without police interference. In 2017, the first year of public Beirut Pride events that received mainstream media coverage, extremist groups forced the closure of two events, with the complicity of Lebanese authorities, but other events went forward as planned. In May 2017, Lebanese authorities also ordered the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Beirut not to host a human rights workshop organized by AFE.

Article 534 of Lebanon’s penal code punishes “any sexual intercourse contrary to the order of nature” with up to one year in prison, a provision that has been used frequently to prosecute people suspected of homosexuality. Human Rights Watch has documented reports of torture and ill-treatment by police and the military against people arrested under article 534. However, in four cases in the past 10 years, courts have ruled that this article cannot be used to prosecute consensual sex between people of the same sex, on the grounds that homosexual sex is not “unnatural.”

As Lebanon is a state party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), Lebanese authorities are required to uphold and protect freedom of assembly and association. Restrictions on such rights can only be imposed when they are not arbitrary (i.e. set out in clear domestic law), for a legitimate reason, proportionate, and do not discriminate on grounds prohibited in international law, which include sexual orientation and gender identity.

Lebanon is home to a vibrant, creative, and diverse LGBT rights movement, with activist groups engaged in a wide range of activities. These include advocacy to change discriminatory laws and policies, legal aid, community education on sexual health and rights, training the media on how to report on LGBT issues in a non-stigmatizing way, sensitizing the public about LGBT rights through events and social media, celebrating talent through the arts, and building regional movements.

Several Lebanese activists participated in a recent video campaign produced by Human Rights Watch and AFE that offers messages of support and encouragement to LGBT people in Arabic-speaking countries in the Middle East and North Africa.

In Lebanon’s recent parliamentary elections, several prominent candidates publicly advocated the repeal of article 534 for the first time.

“Lebanon’s new government has a lot of work to do after years of failure to meet citizens’ most basic rights,” Fakih said. “Trying to shut down LGBT pride events and interfering with freedom of expression does not augur well for meaningful change.”

Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

Kyiv police waiting outside the venue where an Amnesty International event was disrupted by members of radical groups. Kyiv, Ukraine. May 10, 2018. 

© Tanya Cooper/Human Rights Watch
(Kyiv) – Members of radical nationalist groups violently disrupted a May 10, 2018 discussion in Kyiv about LGBTI rights, Human Rights Watch said today. Despite the intruders’ aggressive behavior and threats of violence, the Kyiv police did not remove them from the event or the premises, and the owner of the site canceled the event.

A Human Rights Watch researcher was due to speak at the event, which was open to the public, and was there during the incident.

“It was clear from the way the police responded that nationalists can get away with this kind of violent and disruptive behavior in Ukraine,” said Tanya Cooper, Ukraine researcher at Human Rights Watch. “The nationalists came with a clear goal of halting a discussion about LGBTI rights and they succeeded as the police stood by and did nothing.”

The Ukraine office of Amnesty International organized the event to discuss a public proposal to introduce legislation to ban “propaganda” about homosexuality and public events that support lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) people. The event featured speakers from Amnesty International Ukraine, Human Rights Watch, and Kyiv Pride, an independent Ukrainian LGBTI group, who planned to discuss how such a law would violate human rights, drawing on experience from similar laws in Russia.

About an hour before the start of the discussion, about 20 members of nationalist groups arrived and threatened the organizers with violence unless they canceled the event. The nationalists accused the organizers and participants of serving foreign interests and yelled “extremists” at the organizers. After a standoff of almost an hour, the owner of the venue told the organizers that their event was canceled, and they had to leave.

Police and members of radical groups outside the room where the event organized by Amnesty International Ukraine was supposed to take place. Kyiv, Ukraine. May 10, 2018. 

© Tanya Cooper/Human Rights Watch
Five police officers from the Pechersk District Police did nothing to stop the radical groups from disrupting the event and to remove them from the premises.

Almost three hours after the radical groups arrived, the Kyiv City Patrol Police escorted the organizers and participants, so they could leave the site safely. The police took no action against the attackers.

In recent months, dozens of attacks by members of radical nationalist groups in Ukraine have targeted ethnic minorities – such as Roma – civic activists, and LGBTI people. The police have often ignored the attacks and are reluctant to hold the attackers accountable.

Kyiv police waiting outside the venue where an Amnesty International event was disrupted by members of radical groups. Kyiv, Ukraine. May 10, 2018. 

© Tanya Cooper/Human Rights Watch

Radical groups attacked Women’s March events, to promote women’s rights, on March 8 in Kyiv, Lviv, and Uzhgorod. On March 26, radicals tried to disrupt a public event in Kyiv that called attention to radical right-wing groups in Ukraine. A Human Rights Watch researcher also witnessed that episode. And on April 20, members of the extremist group C14 attacked a camp of Roma people in Kyiv and burned their belongings and tents, forcing the Roma families to flee. Police initiated criminal proceedings in that attack.

“Ignoring attacks by radical groups not only abdicates the authorities’ responsibility to protect people but encourages further violence against ethnic minorities or LGBTI people,” Cooper said. “Ukrainian authorities need to start upholding the rule of law, protecting free speech and assembly, and taking steps against those who use violence and threats to make their points.”

Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

An illustration depicts a transgender woman housed in a men's immigration detention facility.

© 2016 Brian Stauffer for Human Rights Watch

The Trump administration’s decision to change the policy of the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) for housing transgender prisoners is dangerous, wrongheaded, and unnecessary.

Because being transgender is a known risk for being sexually victimized in confinement, the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) and Department of Justice guidance issued in 2016 called for individual determinations of housing, program, and other assignments in correctional facilities. That means an individual assessment must be made, taking many factors into account, including the person’s own views about their gender and safety. It also made assigning a transgender prisoner to housing, programs, or other services based solely on their sex assigned at birth a violation of federal law.

But last week, the BOP announced that while it will continue to make these determinations on a case by case basis as is required, “biological sex” will be used as the basis for the initial determination, and transgender prisoners will be assigned to facilities conforming to their gender identity only “in rare cases.”

At highest risk are transgender women who have reported alarming rates of assault in federal and state prisons and local jails: more than 1 in 3 have been sexually victimized according to PREA data. In a national survey of transgender adults, respondents who were incarcerated reported physical and sexual assault rates six to 10 times higher than non-transgender prisoners.

This latest decision is part of a pattern of actions taken by the Trump administration that includes an attempt to ban transgender persons from military service; disavowing protections for transgender persons in both employment and education under the Civil Rights Act of 1964; and green-lighting discrimination in health care by expanding religious and moral objections in health care settings.

As with the change to BOP policy, there is no defensible basis for these decisions. Indeed, Attorney General Jeff Sessions was a leading co-sponsor of PREA when he was in the Senate. BOP’s decision to weaken protections will place transgender people at immediate risk of physical and sexual assault. In light of overwhelming evidence of severe risks in confinement, it should be reversed immediately.

Author: Human Rights Watch
Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

A spectator takes a photo on a mobile phone before the Semi-Final 2 for Eurovision Song Contest 2018 at the Altice Arena hall in Lisbon, Portugal.

©2018 Reuters/Pedro Nunes

It feels like everyone in Europe is caught up in Eurovision fever. The finals of this year’s Eurovision Song Contest, which has been running for 63 years and features contestants from 43 countries, will be on May 12. Who might be the next Celine Dion, or the next ABBA – both of whom blasted into mass popularity through Eurovision?  More than 200 million people are expected to be watching Saturday’s finals to find out.

Fifteen million of those viewers are in Russia, and they’ll be treated to a rare spectacle. In a country that has banned positive public expressions of homosexuality it’s rare to see, on broadcast television a performance like Ireland’s Ryan O’Shaughnessy’s. As he sings his ballad, “Together,” he will be accompanied on stage by two men dancing together and holding hands, affirming same-sex relationships everywhere.  

He’s not the only one. Over the years Eurovision has developed from a somewhat old-fashioned event into a festival that celebrates diversity. The Israeli contestant Dana International, a transgender woman, won the contest in 1998.  Her landmark victory was sweet revenge on everyone who said they felt ashamed that a transgender woman would represent a country at Eurovision. This year Finland will be represented by the openly lesbian singer Saara Aaalto, who leads a group of gay back-up singers on stage in her song, “Monsters.”

The organizer of the Eurovision, the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), barred Mango TV, one of China's most popular TV channels, from airing the song contest after it was discovered that Mango TV had censored LGBT elements of the competition. The EBU took a principled stand and said the censorship was not in line with its values of diversity. 

 On Saturday however, viewers of the Eurovision Song Contest in countries where homophobia and transphobia are rampant, will get the message that however discriminatory their country’s laws are, LGBT people are not second-class citizens. They have the right to be who they are. They are not alone and their sexual orientation and gender identity are celebrated elsewhere in the world.

Author: Human Rights Watch
Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

An anti-gay rights activist shows a badge during a flash mob organized by gay rights protesters in St. Petersburg May 17, 2012.

©2012 Reuters/Interpress/Valentia Svistunova

Earlier this week, Roskomnadzor, Russia’s federal agency responsible for overseeing online and media content, took steps to shutter ParniPlus, a website raising awareness about the exploding HIV epidemic among men who have sex with men.

The shuttering of ParniPlus marks at least the eighth case of outright censorship under Russia’s 2013 federal “gay propaganda” law that effectively prohibits any positive information about “non-traditional sexual relations” from public discussion.

Children-404, an online group that offers psychological support, advice, and a safe community for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) children, has repeatedly been censored and subject to attempts by the government to shut the group down since 2013.

“You can easily imagine a young guy somewhere in a Siberian town for which closed sites [such as] ‘Children 404,’ which have been repeatedly subjected to judicial and other pressure, have become invaluable evidence that he is not a monster and should not be afraid,” ParniPlus administrators wrote.

The purported rationale behind Russia’s “gay propaganda” ban is that portraying same-sex relations as socially acceptable supposedly threatens the intellectual, moral, and mental well-being of children. The law has rightly been condemned by the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child, the European Court of Human Rights, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, and the Council of Europe.

And, ParniPlus leaders point out, their site does more than promote awareness about sexual orientation, gender identity, and human rights; for the past decade, it has “vividly explained about the growing HIV epidemic in Russia every month and tells readers about the need for HIV prevention.”

The head of Moscow’s Federal AIDS Center has called Russia’s HIV epidemic a “national catastrophe,” and prevalence rates among men who have sex with men have increased dramatically in recent years – a trend some leading epidemiologists link closely with the anti-gay propaganda law’s stifling of sexual health information.

Cases like these clearly demonstrate that Russia’s “gay propaganda” law is just a flimsy excuse to discriminate against LGBT people and is abjectly harmful to public health in the process. Factual, positive, and affirming information about sexuality and health is essential for adults and children, including for HIV prevention.

Author: Human Rights Watch
Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

Muslim protesters hold an anti-LGBT rally outside a mosque in the provincial capital Banda Aceh, Aceh province, Indonesia on February 2, 2018.

© 2018 Antara Foto / Irwansyah Putra
The Indonesian government’s failure to address growing intolerance for religious minorities and the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community has drawn renewed criticism from Southeast Asian lawmakers.

The ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR), a nongovernmental grouping of current and former elected representatives from Association of Southeast Asian Nations member countries, warned this week that a “rising tide of intolerance” against those vulnerable minorities “threatens Indonesia’s democratic success.” The organization called on the Indonesian government “to put human rights at the center of efforts to address religious hatred and vigilantism.”

The APHR’s criticism comes at a time when religious minorities are at heightened risk from discriminatory regulations that hinder their right to religious freedom. Those laws include the 1965 blasphemy law, which punishes deviations from the central tenets of Indonesia’s six officially recognized religions – Islam, Protestantism, Catholicism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Confucianism – with up to five years in prison.  Recent targets of the blasphemy law include three former leaders of the Gafatar religious community following the violent forced eviction of more than 7,000 members of the group from farms on Kalimantan island in 2016, as well as former Jakarta Governor Basuki “Ahok” Purnama, who a court sentenced to a two-year prison term for blasphemy in May 2017 because of a reference he made to a Quranic verse in September 2016.

The APHR’s concerns about “vigilantism” point to increasing incidents over the past two years in which Indonesian police have openly collaborated with militant Islamists to unlawfully target LGBT people. Last year, the police arrested more than 300 LGBT people in raids of private gay clubs, lesbian-owned houses, and other private venues across Indonesia. Meanwhile, Indonesia’s parliament is deliberating a new criminal code, the current draft of which would criminalize consensual sex between two unmarried persons, effectively making all same-sex relations illegal.

The APHR joins a growing chorus of international concern, including that of United Nations member states, about the Indonesian government’s failure to address increasing threats to vulnerable minorities. Until President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo recognizes Indonesia’s obligation to protect the rights of all minorities, their safety will be at risk.

Author: Human Rights Watch
Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

A member of the transgender community applies make up as she prepares for Shakeela's party in Peshawar, Pakistan on January 22, 2017.

© 2017 Reuters / Caren Firouz
The latest killing of a transgender woman in northwest Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) province exemplifies the government’s failure to take measures to protect the rights of its transgender citizens.

On May 4, assailants fatally shot Muni, a transgender woman, after she could not provide smaller currency for a 1000 rupee note (US$9) that could be “showered” upon transgender women invited to dance at a wedding. This was the latest of several recent attacks on transgender women in the province, the fourth killing in 2018 and the 57th since 2015, according to local activists.

Central has been the K-P government’s failure to ensure officials assist transgender victims of attack and hold those responsible for attacks accountable. When activists have sought police protection and medical treatment following these attacks, hospital staff have been unwilling to treat victims while police won’t pursue the case. For example, in August 2016, after assailants shot a transgender woman three times in the abdomen when she resisted abduction and rape, the district hospital refused to admit her, saying they only had male and female wards. She died while waiting. According to transgender rights groups, on occasions the police have taken transgender women to the police station, they taunted them, forcibly removed their clothing, ordered them to dance, and poured cold water on them when they refused. Those who complained were subjected to more abuse.

Pakistani law includes provisions to protect the rights of transgender people. In 2009, Pakistan’s Supreme Court, like other courts in South Asia, called on all provincial governments to recognize the rights of transgender people. The judgment specifically called for improved police responses to cases involving transgender people, and to ensure the rights of transgender people. The K-P parliament has also pledged to uphold some rights for this marginalized population, including voting.

The K-P authorities should undertake prompt, thorough, and impartial investigations into the recent attacks on transgender people in the province, and appropriately prosecute those responsible. The provincial government should also ensure that local officials, medical workers and police respect transgender people’s rights.

Author: Human Rights Watch
Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

Doctors in the United States continue to perform medically unnecessary surgeries that can inflict permanent harm on intersex children. 

I testified before California’s senate judiciary committee today to support Senate Concurrent Resolution 110, which supports the autonomy of intersex Californians to decide if and when their bodies get surgically altered. The resolution, authored by Senator Scott Wiener and co-sponsored by interACT Advocates for Intersex Youth and Equality California, says the medical community should establish long-overdue evidence- and rights-based standards of care for children born with atypical sex characteristics.

Intersex children— born with chromosomes, gonads, internal or external sex organs that don’t match typical social expectations of male or female—are born perfectly healthy in most cases. However, since the 1960s, doctors in the US and around the world have routinely performed surgery to “normalize” their bodies, long before they are old enough to decide for themselves whether they want these procedures. The surgery is medically unnecessary, irreversible, often traumatizing, and carries a risk of lifelong harm.

While some surgical intervention is undisputedly medically necessary, some surgeons perform risky cosmetic surgery on intersex children, often before they are even able to talk. The results are often catastrophic and the supposed benefits largely unproven.

A poster by intersex activist Pidgeon Pagonis

© 2017 Human Rights Watch

Resolution 110 in no way seeks to interfere with legitimate medical practice, but rather “to protect children born with variations of sex characteristics from nonconsensual, medically unnecessary surgeries.

Nonetheless, some medical professional associations oppose intersex children’s rights. Some surgeons have proposed deeply problematic amendments to this resolution. These convey the idea that the thousands of intersex children across the state cannot be functioning members of society without cosmetic surgery.

To quote these proposed edits: “It should be considered negligent to not offer to parent’s all options including...surgical reconstruction of their child...as the inherent desire of any responsible parent is that their child be raised as a functioning member of society.”

As I told the senators today, the implicit idea that surgery is often necessary in order for intersex people to be functioning members of society has no factual or scientific basis, and most of the doctors I’ve interviewed on this issue would find it objectionable.

Medically unnecessary surgery on intersex children has been condemned by the World Health Organization, the American Medical Association board of trustees, three former US surgeons-generalPhysicians for Human Rights, the AIS-DSD Support GroupAmnesty InternationalUnited Nations expertsLambda Legal, the ACLU, pediatrics professional bodies, and intersex-led organizations worldwide.

California should join these ranks.

Author: Human Rights Watch
Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

A display of brochures for adoption and foster care in Knoxville, Tennessee.

© 2017 Ryan Thoreson/Human Rights Watch

This spring, state lawmakers across the United States have been considering dozens of bills that would restrict the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people. But in stark contrast to previous years, state legislatures have so far shown little appetite for enacting new anti-LGBT laws. Lawmakers have successfully defeated efforts to restrict bathroom access for transgender youth in South Dakota and Tennessee, prohibit discussions of LGBT issues in schools in Indiana, and give adoption and foster care agencies a license to discriminate against LGBT parents in Georgia.

As state legislative sessions draw to a close, however, all that could change. Lawmakers in Colorado, Kansas, and Oklahoma have all advanced bills that would allow adoption and foster care agencies to turn away qualified parents based on the agencies’ religious convictions. Effectively they would allow agencies to reject all same-sex couples as potential parents. One of these bills, Oklahoma’s SB 1140, has passed the legislature and now awaits Governor Mary Fallin’s signature. The bills do not balance antidiscrimination protections for LGBT people and religious freedom as proponents claim, but are a blatantly discriminatory backlash against LGBT equality in the United States.

It is misleading to call these laws “religious exemptions.” This implies that antidiscrimination laws already protect LGBT people who want to adopt and foster children, and that certain agencies would like to be exempt from this. But only eight states and the District of Columbia expressly prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in adoption and foster care.

In Alabama, Michigan, Mississippi, North Dakota, South Dakota, Texas, and Virginia, laws already give adoption agencies a license to discriminate against prospective parents based on agencies’ religious beliefs.

Human Rights Watch research has shown why these laws are so harmful. They let agencies turn away well-qualified prospective parents, and prevent the children in their care from being placed with loving families with LGBT parents – or even single parents, or parents of different faiths. Of course, this deters would-be parents from pursuing adoption. And it sends a clear message that LGBT people are second-class citizens.

Injecting politics into the child welfare system is dangerous and wrong. The best interest of the child should always be paramount in child placement decisions, and a provider’s beliefs should never prevent children from finding a loving, permanent home. In the final days of the legislative sessions, lawmakers in Colorado, Kansas, and Oklahoma should stand up for that principle, put kids first, and reject these discriminatory bills.

Author: Human Rights Watch
Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am