“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

People protest U.S. President Donald Trump's announcement that he plans to reinstate a ban on transgender individuals from serving in any capacity in the U.S. military, in Times Square, in New York City, New York, U.S., July 26, 2017.

© 2017 Reuters

The United States Supreme Court on Tuesday gave a green light for the Trump Administration’s ban on transgender military service to take effect.

When the ban was announced, it met with opposition not only from the public and some military leaders, but from senators on both sides of the aisle. Senators Joni Ernst, Richard Shelby, and John McCain, among others, spoke out against the discriminatory ban, with McCain cosponsoring bipartisan legislation to end it.

Despite this initial backlash, nobody has introduced legislation into the new Congress to allow transgender people to continue to enlist.

President Donald Trump first announced the ban in July 2017 in a series of tweets saying that “the United States Government will not accept or allow Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military.”

The ban was instantly challenged in a series of lawsuits, and federal judges originally stopped the policy from taking effect as those lawsuits proceeded. The Supreme Court’s decision, however, lifts two of the injunctions that prevented the ban from taking effect. The remaining injunction will likely be lifted in the wake of the Court’s action, allowing the ban to take effect.

In February 2018, Secretary of Defense James Mattis drew up a policy that prohibits transgender people with a history of gender dysphoria – a medical condition of discomfort with one’s sex assigned at birth – from serving in the US military. The policy allows those who are currently serving to continue to do so, but adds that those who “require or have undergone gender transition are disqualified from military service.”

As the ban is volleyed through the federal courts, the lives and careers of transgender service members hang in the balance. It’s well past time for Congress to turn words into actions and put a stop to this discriminatory farce of a policy. 

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

A Hijra in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

© 2013 Shahria Sharmin

In April 2016, the police found the bodies of Xulhaz Mannan and Tonoy Mahbub, two prominent LGBT rights activists, in an apartment in Dhaka, the Bangladesh capital. This week, police arrested one of the main suspects in the murder, stating that the killers had plotted the attack over the past six months.

Mannan and Mahbub’s murders form part of a string of similar attacks on progressive bloggers and political commentators, and sent shivers through lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) communities in Bangladesh – leading dozens of activists to flee the country.

Mannan was the charismatic ex-president, co-founder and publisher of Roopban, Bangladesh’s first LGBT-themed magazine, launched in 2014. He was a visible and openly gay human rights activist who supported and protected gay and trans people even in the face of threats against the community.

His close friend Mahbub was also an openly queer activist. The two were hacked to death with machetes in Mannan’s apartment. An Al-Qaeda affiliate claimed responsibility, calling Mannan a “pioneer of promoting homosexuality in Bangladesh”.

The gay and trans community in Bangladesh is under constant pressure. “Visibility can be life-threatening,” Boys of Bangladesh, an LGBT rights organisation, warned in 2015.

Even subtle displays of activism can attract unwanted attention. Visibility has become even riskier as the authorities have repeatedly failed to support freedom of expression – evidenced by police indifference to the killings of progressive public figures and new laws passed to stifle online content.

Amid such threats and attacks, queer activists in Bangladesh have developed creative strategies to raise awareness, educate the public and carve out safe spaces for expressions of diversity.

Visual arts have been an effective tactic.

In 2015, Boys of Bangladesh began a cartoon series called Dhee, the name of the main lesbian character. Activists used the cartoon series in private events across the countries to teach about diversity, sexual orientation and gender identity, and acceptance.

Audiences first meet Dhee as a schoolgirl and then follow her as she becomes a woman – including her attraction to a female classmate – and read about the sharp rejection and rebuke she faces for her “unnatural” feelings.

The story ends on a cliffhanger – the authors wanted audiences to think and discuss what Dhee’s opportunities might be amid very real social pressures in contemporary Bangladesh.

But while Dhee may have been changing hearts and minds incrementally, the government of Bangladesh has continued in its antipathy toward sexual and gender diversity.

The National Human Rights Commission of Bangladesh has documented physical and sexual assaults on LGBT people by the police.

Government initiatives to improve opportunities for hijras (a community of transgender women) through official third gender recognition were derailed in practice, when they experienced humiliation and abuse at the hands of doctors.

At a United Nations review, the Bangladeshi government accepted a recommendation to enhance police training in terms of dealing with women and children, but rejected the call to protect LGBT people, stating “sexual orientation is not an issue in Bangladesh”.

Bangladesh retains a law that criminalises same-sex conduct, or “carnal intercourse against the order of nature” – the same remnant of British colonial law that India struck down last year.

But LGBT activists are not giving up.

Dhee’s adventures have taken hold amongst LGBT Bangladeshis – and the authors are now asking the world for help to continue the series. They have opened a campaign to raise funds to produce a new cartoon volume.

As one organiser wrote anonymously in an article for the London School of Economics: “People who identify as queer are more than just a statistic, or an alphabet in an acronym, or a policy, or a minority group that you place behind a comma. We are members of your community, of many large communities.”

The point was simple, they wrote: “We hold great knowledge and have radical stories to tell. And nobody can tell these stories like we can.”

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

This week a militant Islamist group in Indonesia raided the offices of an HIV prevention organization on suspicion that the group had been conducting “LGBT activities.” The Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) was joined by Indonesian soldiers and local residents in an incident that follows a disturbing pattern of similar vigilante raids across Indonesia. 

Sebuah kelompok yang menentang komunitas Lesbian, Gay dan Transjender (LGBT) sedang bersiap untuk menghadapi kelompok pro-LGBT yang melakukan protes tandingan di Monumen Tugu, Yogyakarta, pada 23 Pebruari.

© 2016 Andreas Fitri Atmoko/Antara

Mulyadi Anwar, a member of the city council in Pekanbaru in eastern Sumatra, orchestrated the raid and boasted about it in an anti-LGBT message on his re-election campaign Facebook page. Mulyadi acknowledged that the organization provides condoms and counseling for sex workers and waria (roughly translated as transgender women). However, he said: “[The organization] is for HIV prevention but we still cannot accept it. They still do vice activities. We are closing this place.”

For three years Indonesia has been engulfed by a government-driven moral panic about gender and sexuality. Politicians, government officials, and state offices have issued anti-LGBT statements calling for criminalization of homosexuality, censorship of LGBT-related information, and other threats to the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people.

Tensions began across the country in January 2016, when Indonesia’s higher education minister, Mohammed Nasir, tweeted that he wanted to ban all LGBT student groups from university campuses. Within two months, dozens of public officials had joined a cascade of public anti-LGBT vitriol.

Throughout 2017, police across Indonesia raided saunas, nightclubs, hotel rooms, hair salons, and private homes on suspicion that gay or transgender people were inside. Militant Islamists often tipped off police or accompanied them during these raids. Police apprehended at least 300 people in 2017 because of their presumed sexual orientation or gender identity. Raids and arrests continued throughout 2018.

The combination of anti-LGBT rhetoric, the public flogging of gay men, and police targeting of private spaces has jeopardized Indonesia’s very limited public health infrastructure. Indonesia’s HIV rates in men who have sex with men, which have spiked five-fold over the past decade, could worsen as a result.

Years of anti-LGBT rhetoric from public officials has effectively sanctioned and given political cover for violence and discrimination. To change course, the government needs to uphold its commitments to “unity in diversity” by halting and investigating unlawful police raids and by supporting inclusive public health programs – not sanctioning their attack.

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

Indian members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community celebrate the Supreme Court decision to strike down a colonial-era ban on gay sex, in Kolkata on September 6, 2018.

© 2018 DIBYANGSHU SARKAR/AFP/Getty Images

More than two centuries ago Mary Wollstonecraft laid the foundations for feminist thought with a simple premise: lack of equal opportunity diminished individual self-worth and hobbled social progress. In A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792), Wollstonecraft made a “wild wish” for equality between the sexes. When women are treated as less than equal in law and society, she argued, it affects not only the practicalities of everyday life, but encroaches on autonomy, dignity and agency.

Her arguments apply today to people marginalized by prevailing social norms, including those who do not conform to sexual and gender stereotypes. It is these same issues – autonomy, dignity, equality and agency – that were addressed in 2018 in three landmark court judgments in India, Trinidad and Tobago, and Guyana.

These decisions – each one striking down discriminatory laws – herald new legal dispensations and life possibilities for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in these countries. But the judgments go much further than striking down archaic and discriminatory laws. They trace ignoble colonial histories, highlight the negative impact on individuals and society, and seek avenues for redress. In doing so they draw on and develop jurisprudence from countries in the global South, each grappling with the legacy of colonialism.

It is not often that a judgment reflects on the meaning of human existence and the nature of desire, but the long-awaited decision of the Indian Supreme Court, handed down in September, did so, poetically. The court drew on literature, philosophy, social science, queer theory and individual testimony to invalidate Section 377 of India’s penal code, which punished “carnal intercourse against the order of nature” with 10 years to life in prison. In doing so, the court upheld individual autonomy, equality, privacy and dignity, stating that “homosexuality is a completely natural condition, part of a range of human sexuality.”

The decision rejected the idea that individual lives should be limited by “the bondage of dogmatic social norms, prejudiced notions, rigid stereotypes, parochial mindsets and bigoted perceptions.” It railed against the “tyranny of the majority” and reasserted the role of the court as a “threshold against an upsurge in mob rule.” By using “constitutional morality” to protect minorities against “societal morality,” the courts protect freedom for all: “Our ability to survive as a free society will depend upon whether Constitutional values can prevail over the impulses of the time.”

The India judgment references a broad sweep of comparative law from around the world, including Belize, Canada, Colombia, Ecuador, Fiji, Hong Kong, Nepal, South Africa, Trinidad and Tobago, the US and the United Kingdom. Invoking the “sodomy” laws as a residual “yoke” of British rule, the court declared that “history owes an apology to the members of this community and their families, for the delay in providing redressal for the ignominy and ostracism that they have suffered through the centuries.” The Indian Penal Code served as a template for similar laws imposed throughout the British Empire. Its demise will register globally; it is already referenced in a legal challenge to a similar Kenyan law and is inspiring a new challenge to Singapore’s colonial sodomy law as well.

The High Court in Trinidad and Tobago similarly ruled sections of the Sexual Offences Act that criminalize “buggery” and “serious indecency” unconstitutional, pointing out that – even when dormant – these laws send a message that “society hates homosexuals.” The judgment asserted the rights of individuals, including members of unpopular groups, above vague concepts such as tradition and religious morality. The court stated: “this is a case about the dignity of the person and not about the will of the majority or any religious debate.” The court also reflected that it was unfortunate when individual traits of race, gender, age, or sexual orientation were used as yardsticks to measure worth: “That is not their identity. That is not their soul.” In coming to these conclusions, judges referenced foreign precedent from courts in South Africa, Nepal, Fiji and Belize.

In November, the Caribbean Court of Justice struck down as unconstitutional a 125-year-old law against cross-dressing for an “improper purpose.” This law had been used disproportionately against transgender women in Guyana. The court traced the origins of the law, part of a suite of laws against vagrancy, to the coercive labor practices imposed in the aftermath of slavery and rejected them as relics of an oppressive past. The primary objective of vagrancy laws was to restrict mobility and force former slaves back to plantations as a way of maintaining a steady supply of cheap labor.

The court found that the law violated fundamental rights to equality, non-discrimination and freedom of expression. It condemned the role of gender stereotypes in restricting gender equality and individual self-determination. Pointing out that “[l]aw and society are dynamic, not static,” the court asserted the value of tolerance for individuals and society as a whole, recalling that “[t]oday’s heresy may easily become tomorrow’s gratefully embraced orthodoxy.” In this the court echoes the prescient insights of the feminist frontrunner Wollstonecraft and her wild wish:

A wild wish has just flown from my heart to my head, and I will not stifle it, though it might excite a horse-laugh. I do earnestly wish to see the distinction of sex confounded in society, unless where love animates the behaviour.

Taken together, these landmark judgments go to the heart of how restrictive and discriminatory laws harm individual lives and hamper social progress. When free expression is denied, said the Caribbean Court of Justice, “On the one hand, the human spirit is stultified. On the other, social progress is retarded.”

 

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

Protesters march near Thammasat University in Bangkok on May 22, 2018, the fourth anniversary of the Thai junta's 2014 coup, demanding that a general election be held this year. 

© 2018 Kyodo News via Getty Images
(New York) – Thailand’s junta did little in 2018 to address the country’s mounting human rights concerns, Human Rights Watch said today in its World Report 2019. The ruling National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) has promised general elections in February 2019, but took no steps to ensure they will lead to genuine civilian democratic rule.

“With an election approaching, Thailand’s junta should fully restore democratic freedoms so that all political parties can fully and fairly participate in the electoral process,” said Brad Adams, Asia director. “But so far the junta just keeps persecuting critics, banning peaceful protests, and censoring the media.”

With an election approaching, Thailand’s junta should fully restore democratic freedoms so that all political parties can fully and fairly participate in the electoral process.

Brad Adams

Asia Director

In the 674-page World Report 2019, its 29th edition, Human Rights Watch reviewed human rights practices in more than 100 countries. In his introductory essay, Executive Director Kenneth Roth says that the populists spreading hatred and intolerance in many countries are spawning a resistance. New alliances of rights-respecting governments, often prompted and joined by civic groups and the public, are raising the cost of autocratic excess. Their successes illustrate the possibility of defending human rights – indeed, the responsibility to do so – even in darker times.

Prime Minister Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha, as head of the NCPO, has ruled unhindered by administrative, legislative, or judicial oversight or accountability, including for serious human rights violations. The military is authorized to arrest, detain, and interrogate civilians without safeguards against abuse. At least 1,800 civilians face prosecution in military courts, which fall far short of international fair trial standards.

Hundreds of activists and dissidents have been prosecuted on criminal charges such as sedition, computer-related crimes, and lese majeste (insulting the monarchy) for the peaceful expression of their views. Public gatherings of more than five people and pro-democracy activities remain prohibited. More than 100 activists recently faced illegal assembly charges, and some were accused of sedition for peacefully demanding elections without further delay and the lifting of restrictions on fundamental freedoms.

The junta has routinely enforced censorship and blocked public discussions about human rights and democracy in Thailand. In December, Thai authorities blocked access to the Human Rights Watch’s Thailand web page.

The junta disregards Thailand’s obligation to ensure that all human rights defenders can carry out their work in a safe and enabling environment. Government agencies and private companies have frequently retaliated against people who report allegations of abuse, filing criminal defamation and computer crimes lawsuits against them.

The junta has not acted to provide justice for past serious violations, notably the 2003 “war on drugs” killings and the 2010 deadly dispersal of street protests. Nor has it prosecuted any security personnel for abusive counterinsurgency operations in the southern border provinces, where separatist insurgents have also committed numerous abuses against civilians.

After the May 2014 coup, the United States, European Union, Australia, Japan, and many other countries said they would not fully restore bilateral relations until Thailand held free and fair elections to establish a democratic civilian government and improved respect for human rights. These governments should press the junta to immediately end repression, respect fundamental rights, and restore democratic civilian rule.

“General Prayuth’s empty promises should not be accepted at face value nor be an excuse to return to business as usual with Thailand,” Adams said. “Thailand’s allies should publicly state that they’ll only recognize an election that fully respects the will of the Thai people.”

Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

Activists hold a candle light vigil for victims of the extra judicial killings in the drug war of the government in front of a church in Manila on September 16, 2016.

© 2016 TED ALJIBE/AFP/Getty Images
(New York) – Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration heightened its repression in 2018, Human Rights Watch said today in its World Report 2019.

The government’s murderous “war on drugs” expanded to cities outside Manila. Attacks escalated against activists, journalists, and critics of the government. Donor governments should intensify pressure on Duterte to end targeted killings and to drop politically motivated criminal cases.

“President Duterte has used the killing of thousands of largely poor drug suspects as a tool to bolster his popularity,” said Brad Adams, Asia director. “He’s also targeting anyone who might undermine that popularity, from outspoken senators to journalists documenting his abuses.”

President Duterte has used the killing of thousands of largely poor drug suspects as a tool to bolster his popularity.

Brad Adams

Asia Director

In the 674-page World Report 2019, its 29th edition, Human Rights Watch reviewed human rights practices in more than 100 countries. In his introductory essay, Executive Director Kenneth Roth says that the populists spreading hatred and intolerance in many countries are spawning a resistance. New alliances of rights-respecting governments, often prompted and joined by civic groups and the public, are raising the cost of autocratic excess. Their successes illustrate the possibility of defending human rights – indeed, the responsibility to do so – even in darker times.

The extrajudicial killings of drug suspects expanded to urban areas outside the capital in 2018. Nationwide, the Philippine National Police (PNP) said, nearly 5,000 drug suspects were killed between July 2016 and November 2018 during anti-drug operations, although domestic rights groups assert that police and alleged police agents killed thousands more.

The administration stepped up its attacks against “drug war” critics, including activist groups, the Catholic church, opposition politicians, and the media. In December the authorities brought politically motivated charges for tax evasion against the critical news website Rappler and its editor, Maria Ressa.

Duterte targeted the Catholic church, which has criticized the “drug war,” accusing bishops of corruption and labeling most Filipino priests homosexuals. In December, he urged the public to kill “useless bishops” because “all they do is criticize” the government.

The government vilified activist groups, calling them communists, and terrorists. In March, the foreign affairs secretary accused human rights groups of being “unwitting tools” of drug syndicates. In November, gunmen killed a rights lawyer, Benjamin Ramos, in Negros Occidental. Ramos represented the families of victims of a recent massacre of peasants in the province. There were violent attacks against human rights activists, lawyers, journalists, environmentalists, indigenous group members, peasants, and farmers.

Senator Leila de Lima, Duterte’s most prominent critic, has remained in jail since her arrest in February 2017 on trumped-up drug charges. Another senator, Antonio Trillanes IV, was also threatened with arrest in September for criticizing Duterte. In May, acting on a petition by the government, the Supreme Court ousted Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno for her criticism of the “drug war” and other policies of the Duterte administration.

There were two rare triumphs of accountability in the Philippines in 2018. One was the conviction in September of retired Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan and two others for the 2006 kidnapping and illegal detention of two student activists. In November, three police officers were convicted for the August 2017 “drug war” murder of 17-year-old Kian delos Santos.

“President Duterte has provided no indication of any letup in his murderous drug war,” Adams said. “Foreign donors should support efforts by Philippine institutions, groups and the media who are pressing the government to stop the killings and bring those responsible to justice.”

Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

People take part in the 2018 Women's March rally in Jakarta on March 3, 2018. The participants were demonstrating for equal rights and an end to violence against women.

© 2018 BAY ISMOYO/AFP/Getty Images
(Jakarta) – Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s administration took few steps in 2018 to protect the rights of marginalized groups in Indonesia, Human Rights Watch said today in its World Report 2019.

In August 2018, Jokowi issued a plea for religious tolerance in the context of continuing harassment and discrimination against religious and gender minorities. But authorities still arrest and prosecute people under the blasphemy law, and courts sentenced six to prison in 2018. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people in Indonesia have faced increasingly violent, intimidating, and humiliating police raids that violate their rights to privacy.

“President Jokowi chose not to spend political capital by undoing discriminatory regulations or protecting minorities from abuse,” said Elaine Pearson. “It’s not only increasing the risks among marginalized groups but encouraging Islamist militants.”

President Jokowi chose not to spend political capital by undoing discriminatory regulations or protecting minorities from abuse.

Elaine Pearson

Australia Director

In the 674-page World Report 2019, its 29th edition, Human Rights Watch reviewed human rights practices in more than 100 countries. In his introductory essay, Executive Director Kenneth Roth says that the populists spreading hatred and intolerance in many countries are spawning a resistance. New alliances of rights-respecting governments, often prompted and joined by civic groups and the public, are raising the cost of autocratic excess. Their successes illustrate the possibility of defending human rights – indeed, the responsibility to do so – even in darker times.

Indonesia’s Commission on Violence against Women (Komnas Perampuan) reported that hundreds of discriminatory national and local regulations are harming women. They include local laws compelling women and girls to wear the jilbab, or headscarf, in schools, government offices, and public spaces.

The Jokowi administration failed to lift restrictions on foreign journalists from visiting Papua and West Papua provinces, and Indonesian journalists face controls and surveillance there. This hindered efforts to report on an attack by Papuan militants in December that killed at least 17 people.

The Jokowi government took some positive steps in addressing land-grabbing to curb dispossession. In February, with World Bank support, Jokowi initiated a program to register all land in Indonesia, including disputed areas, by 2025. He announced a moratorium on oil palm plantations, which are linked to deforestation, climate change, and abuses against indigenous peoples, instructing his ministries to stop issuing new plantation permits on state forests until 2021.

Many indigenous and peasant rights groups contend that moratoriums and land certification alone are insufficient to resolve land disputes. In 2017, the Agrarian Reform Consortium documented 659 land-related conflicts, affecting more than 650,000 households.

The Indonesian government has taken promising steps to end shackling of people with mental health conditions, reducing the number  who are shackled or locked up in confined spaces from nearly 18,800, the last reported figure, to 12,800 in July, according to government data.

“Some progress on land rights and disability rights is encouraging, but President Jokowi should redouble his efforts to protect the rights of all Indonesians at risk,” Pearson said.

Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

Jolovan Wham participates in a silent protest with eight other activists on an MRT train in Singapore, June 3, 2017.

© 2017 Private
(New York) – Singapore used broad laws in 2018 to intensify already severe restrictions on free speech and assembly, Human Rights Watch said today in its World Report 2019. The government appears poised to introduce legislation on “deliberate online falsehoods” to further curtail political speech prior to possible elections in 2019.

“The Singapore government persists in treating those who express critical views or reporting on them as criminals,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director. “The government’s heavy-handed response to free expression showed no signs of relenting in 2018.”

The Singapore government persists in treating those who express critical views or reporting on them as criminals.

Phil Robertson

Deputy Asia Director

In the 674-page World Report 2019, its 29th edition, Human Rights Watch reviewed human rights practices in more than 100 countries. In his introductory essay, Executive Director Kenneth Roth says that the populists spreading hatred and intolerance in many countries are spawning a resistance. New alliances of rights-respecting governments, often prompted and joined by civic groups and the public, are raising the cost of autocratic excess. Their successes illustrate the possibility of defending human rights – indeed, the responsibility to do so – even in darker times.

In November 2018, authorities raided the home of the editor of alternative news site The Online Citizen, seizing computers and mobile phones. Editor Terry Xu was questioned for eight hours, and on December 13, charged with criminal defamation for a letter to the editor posted on the site. Prosecutors also charged the letter writer, Daniel De Costa, with defamation. The authorities also blocked online news site The States Times Review on the grounds the site had published “fake news.”

Earlier in the year, in April, the government Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA) refused to permit the founders of the online news site New Naratif to register a private company to organize discussions and provide editorial services for the site, saying that to do so would be “contrary to national interests.” The agency said the decision was necessary to prevent foreigners from interfering in Singaporean affairs because the parent company received some funding from a foreign foundation.

The authorities have frequently prosecuted critics of Singapore’s judiciary under the country’s broad contempt law. In October, a court found activist Jolovan Wham and Singapore Democratic Party politician John Tan guilty of “scandalizing the judiciary” for their Facebook posts. Wham had shared an article about the constitutional challenge against the Anti-Fake News Act in Malaysia and commented that, “Malaysia’s judges are more independent than Singapore’s for cases with political implications.” Tan later posted on his Facebook page that, “[b]y charging Jolovan for scandalizing the judiciary, the [Attorney-General’s Chambers] only confirms what he said was true.” They face up to three years in prison under a law that Britain and other Commonwealth countries have scrapped as antiquated and undemocratic.

Draconian restrictions on public assemblies have long been used to prevent even peaceful protests by single individuals. Seelan Paley, a performance artist, was convicted of violating the Public Order Act by walking from Hong Lim Park to Parliament carrying a piece of art to commemorate the 32 years that Chia Thye Poh was detained under the Internal Security Act. Paley was sentenced to two weeks in prison after refusing to pay a fine of S$2,500 (US$1,800).

Singapore criminalizes consensual sexual relations between men, and systematically targets for censorship or severe restriction any positive media or public depiction of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) persons.

Foreign migrant workers also face a range of labor rights abuses and exploitation through debts owed to recruitment agents, non-payment of wages, restrictions on movement, confiscation of passports, and sometimes physical and sexual abuse.

“For all its purported sophistication and modernity, Singapore still criminalizes consensual sexual relations between men and censors positive public depictions of LGBT persons and their community,” Robertson said. “Migrant workers face a battery of rights violations from employers who can withdraw their legal status in Singapore at any time and force them on a plane home without justice or compensation.”

Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

Premier Lai Ching-Tei

Executive Yuan

No.1, Sec. 1, Zhongxiao East Road,

Zhongzheng District,

Taipei City, 10058

Taiwan

 

21 December 2018

 

Open Letter to the Premier of the Republic of China (Taiwan), Lai Ching-Tei, from Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, on legal recognition of same-sex unions in Taiwan

 

Dear Premier Lai,

We write concerning the results of the recent referendums in Taiwan in which same-sex marriage rights and LGBT-inclusive education in schools were rejected by voters on 24 November. We urge the Taiwanese authorities not to implement the outcomes of the referendums as this would violate human rights law, bolster discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, and undermine comprehensive and inclusive education on gender and sexuality.

We would like to recall that despite the referendum results, the Taiwanese government still is under court order to enact legislation for recognizing same-sex unions no later than 24 May 2019, which is the time limit set by the Constitutional Court’s interpretation of 24 May 2017. Now the period for this legislation has less than six months remaining. We urge your Government to table the related legislation proposal as soon as possible.

It is disappointing that the anti-marriage equality and anti-inclusive education referendum campaign, which provided a platform for fear-mongering, attracted sufficient support in Taiwan. It dealt a bitter blow to the promotion of fundamental rights protections, as well as to the LGBTI rights movement in Taiwan and to those in other Asian countries that see Taiwan as an example of human rights protection.

The referendum results do not change Taiwan’s obligation to provide legal recognition to same-sex unions as laid out by the Constitutional Court. If implementing the referendum results is given primacy over the court’s ruling, it would be a clear backward step for Taiwan and would have a severe impact on the lives of families who are not able to access the protections of marriage. And it will further undermine the rights of LGBTI people in Taiwan. In the campaign leading up to the vote, even the initiators of the anti-marriage equality referendums argued that they were not aiming to rescind the Constitutional Court interpretation. However, in any event your government’s policy should be guided by what is lawful according to domestic law and international legal standards.

Facing both the Constitutional Court’s mandate to achieve the equal protection of the freedom of marriage for two persons of the same sex and the results of the referendums, the Taiwanese government should be guided by its primary duty to protect, fulfil and respect everybody’s human rights, including that of lesbian, gay and bisexual people. Human rights obligations of states are not dependent on whether these rights have popular support, and referendums should not be used to suppress people’s rights. The Taiwanese government should not allow popular and in this case homophobic initiatives to override its obligations to protect basic rights under international law.

We believe that the rights to dignity and equality in this case demand that you ensure marriage rights for same-sex couples on the same basis and with the same rights as marriage between couples of different sex.

We trust the Taiwanese government will make a proposal for legislative change based on the above principles. We will continue to engage with your Government on this issue and look forward to a comprehensive legislation for recognizing and protecting same-sex unions in Taiwan. 

We thank you for your attention and look forward to your earliest response.

Yours sincerely,

 

Lisa Tassi

Regional Deputy Director

Amnesty International East Asia Regional Office

 

Graeme Reid

Director

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Rights Program

Human Rights Watch

 

Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

This submission focuses on the topic of inclusive sexuality education in schools and the protection of education during armed conflict. It relates to articles 13, 24, 28, 38, and 39 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. It proposes issues and question that Committee members may wish to raise with the government. 

Inclusive Sexuality Education in Schools (articles 13, 24, and 28)

The government of South Korea has consistently voted to support measures at the United Nations that call for an end to discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, including Human Rights Council resolutions in 2011, 2014, and 2016 strongly deploring “acts of violence and discrimination … committed against individuals because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.”[1] Human Rights Watch encourages South Korea to uphold those principles at home.

Accurate and inclusive sexuality education is integral to upholding children’s rights to health, education, and information. This Committee has concluded that the rights to health and information require states to provide children with adequate, appropriate and timely HIV/AIDS and sexual health information. This Committee has also stated that:

effective HIV/AIDS prevention requires States to refrain from censoring, withholding, or intentionally misrepresenting health-related information, including sexual education and information, and that, consistent with their obligations to ensure the right to life, survival and development of the child (art. 6), States parties must ensure that children have the ability to acquire the knowledge and skills to protect themselves and others as they begin to express their sexuality.[2]

Education ministry officials in Seoul confirmed in February 2017 that South Korea’s national sex education curriculum will not mention homosexuality. This continues a backsliding that began in 2015, when the government began training district education officials country-wide on new sex education guidelines that made no mention of sexual minorities.[3] The “National Standard on School Sexual Education,” revised by the Ministry of Education contains discriminatory language and standards that reinforce gender binarism and prohibit mentions or reference to LGBT issues.[4]

The South Korean government has at times attempted to clarify that the curriculum’s silence should not be taken as exclusionary, with an involved government official stating, “The fact that the guideline does not contain sexual minorities does not necessarily mean that teachers should not do the related lessons.”[5] But Human Rights Watch believes a curriculum that neglects inclusion of information about sexual orientation and gender identity fails students, and ad hoc or optional training programs for teachers are not an adequate substitute.

This policy discriminates against LGBT children and violates their rights to health, education, and information. This policy could be harmful to young people and could negatively affect public health. HIV infections have increased sharply in South Korea since 2000, and infections are increasing fastest among men in their 20s.[6]

The government's guidelines also reinforce gender stereotypes and contain discriminatory content against women and girls. The latest revised draft by the Ministry of Education discriminates against single parents stating, “if you become a single mother, you can live all your life in guilt” [7] and that “you may have to give up all [the] ordinary happiness of being a student.”[8] It also engages in victim blaming, stating that “(a woman) could be [a] victim of sexual assault if she drinks and parties until late,”[9] and that women may risk rape if they go on dates with men who pay for an expensive meal and may expect sex in return.[10] This violates their rights to health, education, and information and is harmful as it suggests that sexual violence is sometimes acceptable and teaches young students that they can be to blame for an assault committed against them. These messages mean victims are more likely to feel ashamed and less likely to come forward to report their assault.[11] The Ministry of Gender has said that the manual needs to be revised, however the Ministry of Education has said that this is not necessary.

Human Rights Watch recommends the Committee ask the government of South Korea:

  • What steps have been taken to ensure that accurate, affirming, and age-appropriate information about sexual orientation and gender identity is available and accessible to students in South Korean schools?
  • What steps have been taken to ensure that a comprehensive and inclusive sexuality education, that does not discriminate against women and girls, is provided to students in South Korean schools?

Human Rights Watch recommends to the Committee that it call upon the government of South Korea to:

  • Immediately reverse the decision to exclude mention of homosexuality in the national sex education curriculum to ensure the rights to information, education, and health for all persons in South Korea and include appropriate, non-discriminatory teacher training on this topic;
  • Remove all references that reinforce gender stereotypes and that discriminate against the rights of women and girls from the national sex education curriculum and replace them with one aligned with international standards.

Protection of Education During Armed Conflict (articles 28, 38, and 39)

The Safe Schools Declaration is an inter-governmental political commitment that provides countries the opportunity to express political support for the protection of students, teachers, and schools during times of armed conflict[12]; the importance of the continuation of education during armed conflict; and the implementation of the Guidelines for Protecting Schools and Universities from Military Use during Armed Conflict.[13]

As of October 2018, South Korea was contributing 598 troops and 11 staff officers to UN peacekeeping operations around the world. Such troops are required to comply with the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations “UN Infantry Battalion Manual” (2012), which includes the provision that “schools shall not be used by the military in their operations.”[14]

Moreover, the 2017 Child Protection Policy of the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations, Department of Field Support, and Department of Political Affairs notes:

United Nations peace operations should refrain from all actions that impede children's access to education, including the use of school premises. This applies particularly to uniformed personnel. Furthermore … United Nations peace operations personnel shall at no time and for no amount of time use schools for military purposes.[15]

South Korea’s peacekeeping troops are deployed in South Sudan— a country where the military use of schools has been documented as a problem.[16]

In 2014, when South Korea was a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council, it voted for Resolution 2143, which expresses deep concern at the military use of schools, and urges all parties to armed conflict to respect the civilian nature of schools, and encourages all countries to consider concrete measures to deter the use of schools by armed forces in contravention of applicable international law.

Human Rights Watch believes that such a concrete measure to deter the military use of schools would be for South Korea to endorse and implement the Safe Schools Declaration. As of November 2018, 81 countries have endorsed the Safe Schools Declaration.

Human Rights Watch recommends to the Committee that it ask the government of South Korea:

  • Are the protections for schools from use by peacekeeping forces included in the pre-deployment training of South Korean peacekeepers?
  • Since voting for UN Security Council Resolution 2141 (2014), what concrete measures has South Korea taken to deter the use of schools for military purposes?

Human Rights Watch recommends to the Committee that it call upon the government of South Korea to:

  • Endorse the Safe Schools Declaration, and take concrete measures to deter the military use of schools, including by bringing the Guidelines for Protecting Schools and Universities from Military Use during Armed Conflict into domestic military policy and operational frameworks.
 

[1] UN Human Rights Council Resolutions A/HRC/RES/17/19 (2011); A/HRC/RES/27/32 (2014); A/HRC/RES/32/2.

[2] Convention on the Rights of the Child, G.A. res. 44/25, annex, 44 U.N. GAOR Supp. (No. 49) at 167, U.N. Doc. A/44/49 (1989), entered into force Sept. 2, 1990. FULL CITE NEEDED: Gen comment 3, para 16.

[3] Kyle Knight, “South Korea Backslides on Sex Education,” commentary, Human Rights Watch dispatch, February 17, 2017, https://www.hrw.org/news/2017/02/17/south-korea-backslides-sex-education; Human Rights Watch, “Letter to the Government of South Korea on Human Rights and Comprehensive Sexuality Education,” July 20, 2015, https://www.hrw.org/news/2015/07/21/letter-government-south-korea-human-....

[4] Kyunghyang Daily "Tight-shirt, short skirt is not safe: Distorted sex education that promotes sexual discrimination and prejudice,” August 11, 2017, http://news.khan.co.kr/kh_news/khan_art_view.html?art_id=201708112153005... u=A071)

Jil Women's journal, “Hate appeal to elementary gender equality education floods." August 28, 2017, http://www.womennews.co.kr/news/articleView.html?idxno=116727

[5] Kyle Knight, “South Korea Backslides on Sex Education,” commentary, Human Rights Watch dispatch, February 17, 2017.

[6] Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Division of HIV and Tuberculosis Control, “HIV/AIDS Control in the Republic of Korea.” 2011, http://www.unaids.org/sites/default/files/country/documents//ce_KR_Narra... (accessed November 12, 2018); Hae-Wol Cho, “What’s next for HIV/AIDS in Korea?” Osong Public Health and Research Perspectives, December 2013: 4(6), http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3922106/#bib2 (accessed November 12, 2018), pp. 291–292.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Heather Barr, “Demanding Access to Abortion in South Korea: 235,000 Petitioners Call for South Korean Government to Act,” Human Rights Watch, December 4, 2017, https://www.hrw.org/news/2017/12/04/demanding-access-abortion-south-korea

[11] Samantha Pierce, “South Korea’s failing sex education,” The Daily Campus, November 17, 2017,  http://dailycampus.com/stories/2017/11/17/south-koreas-failing-sex-education

[12] Safe Schools Declaration, May 28, 2015, https://www.regjeringen.no/globalassets/departementene/ud/vedlegg/utvikling/safe_schools_declaration.pdf (accessed November 6, 2018).

[13] Guidelines for Protecting Schools and Universities from Military Use during Armed Conflict, March 18, 2014, http://protectingeducation.org/sites/default/files/documents/guidelines_en.pdf (accessed November 6, 2018).

[14] United Nations Infantry Battalion Manual, 2012, section 2.13, “Schools shall not be used by the military in their operations.”

[15] UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations, Department of Field Support and Department of Political Affairs, “Child Protection in UN Peace Operations (Policy),” June 2017.

[16] “South Sudan,” Education Under Attack: 2018, The Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack, 2018, 212.

Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

Tanzania Sisi Kwa Sisi Foundation, a non-governmental LGBT youth organization based in Dar Es Salaam. On October 17, 2017, police raided a workshop at a hotel in Dar Es Salaam, where lawyers and activists were meeting to discuss HIV prevention. 

©2013 Human Rights Watch

It is not often that the World Bank publicly adopts a critical stance that stands up for human rights in one of its client countries, and does so even before other donors with human rights-focused foreign policies.

But in a surprising turn of events, the World Bank has done just that in Tanzania, a country that has in the last three years become increasingly associated with repression and discrimination.

When Regional Commissioner for Dar es Salaam Paul Makonda announced a campaign against gay men in the East African city in late October, the Bank, which is Tanzania’s largest donor, took an unprecedented step: On November 7, it suspended all Bank missions to Tanzania, citing the safety of Bank employees.

The same month, the World Bank decided not to put forward a $300 million education loan to Tanzania, expressing concern over the exclusion of pregnant girls and teenage mothers from Tanzanian schools.

The Tanzanian government responded. According to a World Bank statement, in a meeting on November 17 with senior Bank officials, President John Magufuli “assured the Bank that Tanzania will not pursue any discriminatory actions related to harassment and/or arrest of individuals, based on their sexual orientation.”

The Bank’s vice president for Africa, Hafez Ghanem, told the press with no ambiguity, “The government reassured us that there would be no more discrimination against people of any ethnicity, religion or sex orientation.”

Magufuli agreed in the same meeting “to find a way for pregnant girls to return to school” and to reconsider a troubling Statistics Law that suppresses freedom of expression, and, if fully enforced, would potentially get the World Bank into trouble if it published its own statistics on human development.

Dramatic turnaround?

Can we expect a dramatic turnaround on human rights in Tanzania? Unlikely.

The extreme nature of Mr Makonda’s threats – to round up all gay men, subject them to forced anal examinations, and jail them for life – are what attracted international attention, including from the World Bank. But other forms of discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people are persistent and pervasive.

Since 2016, the government has banned HIV prevention activities, targeting men who have sex with men and other key populations, prohibited the distribution of water-based lubricant for HIV prevention, and raided meetings on health and human rights, accusing activists of “promoting homosexuality.”

Magufuli has not renounced any of these discriminatory policies and practices, which deprive LGBT people of the right to the highest attainable standard of health.

Charges still stand against 10 men arrested in Zanzibar in early November for allegedly participating in a same-sex wedding. Their lawyers say they were simply relaxing at the beach.

Although the foreign minister denounced the Dar es Salaam commissioner’s anti-gay “task force,” pledging that Tanzania would uphold its international treaty obligations, his statement failed to acknowledge that Tanzania is already flouting international law by denying essential health services and arbitrarily arresting people based on their presumed sexual orientation.

The World Bank now states that the education loan will only be considered when the government of Tanzania demonstrates its commitment to girls’ education.

Meanwhile, other human-rights abuses continue: The government has banned newspapers, fined TV stations, arrested and prosecuted journalists, bloggers, and opposition politicians, and put into effect a slew of legislation that curtails freedom of expression and the right to privacy.

It’s encouraging to see President Magufuli publicly commit his government to ending some of Tanzania’s most egregious forms of exclusion and discrimination. But the sincerity of that commitment remains to be seen. And much more needs to change for Tanzania, previously known as a politically stable partner in the region, to shed its Magufuli-era reputation as a bulldozer of human rights.

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

Russian blogger, Zhenya Svetski, wearing a rainbow scarf in Moscow, December 2018. 

© 2018 Dmitry Belyakov for Human Rights Watch

(New York) – Russia’s “gay propaganda” law is having a negative impact on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) youth, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. The 2013 law exacerbated the hostility LGBT people in Russia have long suffered, and also stifled access to LGBT-inclusive education and support services, with harmful consequences for children.

The 92-page report, “No Support: Russia’s ‘Gay Propaganda’ Law Imperils LGBT Youth,” documents how Russia’s “gay propaganda” law is having a deeply damaging effect on LGBT children. Human Rights Watch interviewed LGBT youth and mental health professionals in diverse locations across Russia, including urban and rural areas, to examine the everyday experiences of the children in schools, homes, and in public, and their ability to get reliable and accurate information about themselves as well as counseling and other support services.

“Russia’s ‘gay propaganda’ law is harming youth by cutting them off from vital information,” said Michael Garcia Bochenek, senior children’s rights counsel at Human Rights Watch. “And amid the intense social hostility surrounding LGBT people in Russia, the law stops mental health providers from counseling children who have questions about sexual orientation and gender identity.”

Formally called the law “aimed at protecting children from information promoting the denial of traditional family values,” the “gay propaganda” law bans the “promotion of nontraditional sexual relations to minors” – a reference universally understood to mean a ban on providing children with access to information about LGBT people’s lives. The ban includes, but is not limited to, information provided via the press, television, radio, and the Internet.

The law directly harms children by denying them access to essential information and fostering stigma against LGBT children and their families, Human Rights Watch found.

The 2013 law contributed to an intensification of stigma, harassment, and violence against LGBT people in Russia. The law has been used to shut down online information and mental health referral services for children and discourage support groups and mental health professionals from working with children. It has further entrenched antipathy toward LGBT people, and it has had a chilling effect on mental health professionals who work with LGBT youth, with some psychologists reporting self-censorship on issues of sexual orientation and gender identity.

Russia’s “gay propaganda” law is a classic example of political homophobia, Human Rights Watch said. It targets vulnerable sexual and gender minorities for political gain. When President Vladimir Putin signed the federal law in June 2013, he pandered to widespread antipathy toward LGBT people. The law gives the strong endorsement of the Russian state to the false and discriminatory view that LGBT people are a threat to tradition and the family. On the international stage, the law helped position Russia as a champion of so-called “traditional values.”

“No one wants to get beaten on the street, but that’s the fear LGBT people in Russia live with now,” Nikita R., an 18-year-old transgender man, told Human Rights Watch. “We know that most people believe the mass media, and the stories there teach them that we are horrible creatures, so we are in danger all the time.”

The law has been used multiple times to shut down Deti-404 (Children-404), an online group that offers psychological support, advice, and a safe online community for LGBT children, including those who experience violence and aggression because of their real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. The law’s effects have also been insidious in clinical and counseling settings. Mental health providers told Human Rights Watch that the law interferes with their ability to offer honest, scientifically accurate, and open counseling services, leading some to self-censor themselves or set out explicit disclaimers at the start of sessions.

During proceedings at the European Court of Human Rights about the law, Dr. Ilan Meyer, an internationally renowned expert in social psychology and public health specializing in minority populations, submitted testimony that the law does not protect youth, and in fact harms them.

“Should Russia aim to improve the health and well-being of its citizens…interventions that are the exact opposite of what the propaganda law dictates would be required,” he said.

“Furthermore, laws such as Russia’s propaganda law can have serious negative impact on the health and well-being of [LGBT people] in that the law increases and enshrines stigma and prejudice, leading to discrimination and violence.”

The court ruled in 2017 that the law violates the rights to freedom of expression and freedom from discrimination guaranteed in the European Convention on Human Rights, and that the law was indeed harmful to children.

A psychologist who works with LGBT youth told Human Rights Watch that almost every LGBT client she has ever had was “treated as if they were as scapegoats, clowns, or outcasts.” Amid such intense social hostility toward LGBT people, mental health support for youth is crucial.

But the “gay propaganda” law curtails the ability for mental health professionals to offer that support. Another psychologist described how even in situations where it is clinically relevant to discuss a child client’s sexual orientation, he feels constrained by the law: “Teenagers often wait for me to ask a direct and precise question about his or her sexual orientation or gender identity, but the law prevents me from doing that.” Another said she covers all LGBT-themed books on her office bookshelf during clinical sessions to avoid being accused of spreading “gay propaganda.”

“The ‘gay propaganda’ law risks inflicting long-term harm on generations of Russian youth by encouraging discrimination and curtailing access to support services,” Bochenek said. “This law doesn’t protect anyone, but it does cut off kids from the services they need to thrive, and in some cases even survive.” 

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