“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 is an expert on LGBT rights. He has conducted research, taught and published extensively on gender, sexuality, LGBT issues, and HIV/AIDS. He is author of How to be a Real Gay: Gay Identities in Small-Town South Africa (University of KwaZulu-Natal Press, 2013). 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, where he continues to teach as a visiting lecturer. An anthropologist by training, Reid received a master’s from the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, and a PhD from the University of Amsterdam.

Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

Panamanians protesting constitutional reforms on November 2, 2019. 

© 2019 Iván Chanis Barahona

Update: On November 8, President Cortizo recommended that many of the controversial constitutional amendments be scrapped, including the one banning marriage equality. The National Assembly will revisit the constitutional reforms in the next legislative session in 2020.

“They are gay and they cannot enter,” said legislator Jairo “Bolota” Salazar on October 29 about a group of protesters outside the Panamanian National Assembly, as he barred them from entering the building.

This affront encapsulates the grievances of protesters who have taken to the streets of Panama City to protest against constitutional reforms preliminarily approved by the legislature last week. One of these would amend the constitution to define marriage as between a man and a woman. Panama already excludes same-sex couples from marriage under Article 26 of its Family Code. But writing discrimination into the constitution would effectively bar lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people from being equal members of Panamanian society.

The past week’s protests, to which police have reportedly responded with arbitrary detentions and excessive force, address issues beyond marriage equality. Protesters are angered by legislators’ proposals to modify the national budget and even appoint a special prosecutor who could pursue charges against state attorneys that investigate them. But Representative Bolota Salazar’s homophobic comments have brought the issue of marriage front and center, with President Laurentino Cortizo condemning the comments and affirming, “We are here to serve the country and that means not turning our backs on citizens.”

The proposed constitutional reform follows a wave of regional progress on marriage equality. In 2018, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights issued an advisory opinion calling on states to take steps towards achieving marriage equality. Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Uruguay, and many Mexican states already perform same-sex marriages, with Costa Rica slated to start doing so in 2020. Enshrining anti-LGBT discrimination in its constitution would put Panama out of step with its neighbors.

While Bolota Salazar has walked back his homophobic remarks, he and fellow Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD) members say they have no intention of scrapping the discriminatory proposal. Pro-equality protestors and their allies plan to maintain pressure on the president ahead of his statement on the reforms on November 7. Further legislative debates are to take place in 2020, followed by a referendum on the reforms.

Though Bolota Salazar shut LGBT protesters out of the National Assembly last week, legislators will have a chance to reexamine their demands in the next legislative session and make some room for them in Panamanian society.

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

Maksim Pankratov, 21 y/o, interviewed by children on “Real Talk”

© personal archive / Maksim Pankratov

This week, investigative authorities in Moscow opened a criminal investigation into alleged sexual assault of children in connection with a video in which Russian kids ask a gay man questions about his life.

The video series by Russian YouTube channel “Real Talk,” is a local adaption of the US show “Kids Meet,” where children meet people with different life experiences and ask unscripted questions. The channel has featured children interviewing an older person, a woman with anorexia, a black person, a person of short stature, and others.

On the video featuring a gay “interviewee,” four children, aged 6 to 13, chat with the 21-year-old Maksim who sits in a chair a few feet away from them. In response to their questions, he explains how and when he discovered his sexual orientation, shares his hope to eventually have kids, talks about his family and friends, and about the way people treat him. The interview did not include any discussion of sex or physical intimacy.

In September, State Duma deputy Pyotr Tolstoy reached out to the Interior Ministry and the state telecommunications watchdog Roskomnadzor. He expressed concern the video violates the Russia’s ban on “gay propaganda” and could cause psychological damage to children. In October, the Interior Ministry launched an administrative case over alleged “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations.” Subsequently, Roskomnadzor blocked the video and the owners deleted their YouTube account.

On November 2, Moscow’s investigative agency confirmed a criminal case into “sexual assault of minors” had been opened and the investigators had questioned the video producers and were currently “seeking to establish the victims of the crime and all relevant circumstances.”

In the past, Russian authorities have used the discriminatory “gay propaganda” law to ban peaceful protest and to stifle LGBT-friendly information. The European Court of Human Rights already ruled in 2017 and 2019 that Russia is violating fundamental rights and its human rights obligations by invoking its ban on “gay propaganda.” This year, the authorities stepped up from administrative suits and intimidation to criminal prosecution. In July, a same-sex couple with two kids fled the country after being targeted by authorities. The social workers, who gave their family a positive evaluation, were charged with inadequate performance of duties, a criminal offense punishable by up to three months in prison. Now, investigators are equating a talk show interview by children as “sexual assault of children,” a crime punishable by twelve to twenty years’ imprisonment under Russian law. This madness has to stop.

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

Kasymberdy Garayev

© 2019 Photo Courtesty of RFE/RL

Update: On November 6, 2019, at around 11 p.m., Kasymberdy Garayev and his father, Maksat Garayev, had a video call with the chief editor of RFE/RL’s Turkmen service from their home. Maksat Garayev asked the editor to tell people and organizations that had  expressed their concerns about his son that everything is fine with him. The circumstances of what happened to Kasymberdy Garayev when RFE/RL lost contact with him remain unclear.

(Berlin) – A man is feared missing in Turkmenistan after he made his sexual orientation public, Human Rights Watch said today. The Turkmen government should urgently clarify whether the man, Kasymberdy Garayev, is in custody, and if he is, release him immediately and explain why he was being held.

“We are very concerned that Kasymberdy Garayev is being held incommunicado in the wake of coming out about his sexual orientation,” said Rachel Denber, deputy Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Given Turkmenistan’s appalling human rights record, including enforced disappearances, we have every reason to fear for his safety and well-being.”

On October 21, 2019, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) published a narrative by Garayev in which he came out, but initially did not identify him by name for security reasons. RFE/RL told Human Rights Watch that Turkmen authorities started to search for Garayev after the story was published. On October 24, he told RFE/RL that he had been summoned by police for a background check. RFE/RL lost contact with him 30 minutes before he was due to appear at the police station and could not confirm whether he had gone to meet with the police and whether anyone has seen him since.

Turkmen police had detained Garayev previously, in 2018, after the authorities used proxies to lure him online into a date with another man. He told RFE/RL, “They used a stun gun, they demanded that I confess to the camera that I was gay.” Garayev was released without charge after several hours.

On October 31, RFE/RL published a video that Garayev had asked RFE/RL to release if anything happened to him, such as if he went missing. In the video, Garayev apologizes to his family and discloses his name.

Garayev is a cardiologist who returned to Ashgabat in the summer of 2018 after completing medical studies in Minsk, Belarus. He told RFE/RL that while in Minsk, he “tasted freedom” and started to accept his sexual orientation.

The RFE/RL article said that Garayev decided to tell RFE/RL his story to push back against Turkmenistan’s extremely hostile environment toward lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people and constant bullying by his family. By coming out, Garayev said, he wanted to start a discussion in Turkmen society so that attitudes towards sexual minorities would change.

Adult consensual same-sex conduct is a criminal offense under Turkmen law, punishable by a maximum two-year prison sentence. In past years, police have used forced anal exams on people accused of same-sex conduct. These examinations lack evidentiary value and are a form of cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment that may in some cases amount to torture.

Turkmenistan has a highly repressive government. People who cooperate with foreign media outlets are often persecuted. More than 120 people have been forcibly disappeared either after being arrested or following a trial, and their families have no official information about their whereabouts or status. In this context, when someone who has been summoned by the police is reported missing, there is a real risk they could be the victim of an enforced disappearance.

Garayev told RFE/RL that after he was released from his previous arrest, his family members verbally abused him and attempted to “cure” him by bringing him to imams and making him seek psychological treatment. Garayev is also barred from leaving Turkmenistan, allegedly because his family has government contacts they are able to use to seek the ban.

“The Turkmen government should decriminalize consensual same-sex conduct and take steps to protect LGBT people from violence and discrimination,” Denber said. “And they should immediately take steps to determine Garayev’s whereabouts and well-being.”

Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

 A young lesbian woman at an LGBT community center in Accra, Ghana.  

© 2017 Human Rights Watch

Emelia, a woman in her thirties living in Kumasi, Ghana, will never forget the day her father found out she was a lesbian. He beat her for three hours – with his fists, and a belt, and then with a broken beer bottle.

Agnes, a 26-year-old from Accra, said when her father learned she was a lesbian, he packed up all of her belongings and expelled her from the family home. She tried to go back, but her father chased her away with a machete. She told Human Rights Watch, “He will kill me if I try to go back home.”

For Josephine, it was her siblings who beat her as punishment for being a lesbian, leaving injuries so severe that she spent over a month in the hospital.

Ghana has made some progress in upholding the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people. While its Penal Code, a relic of British colonialism, punishes “unlawful carnal knowledge,” the police and the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice have reached out to LGBT people and taken proactive steps, including providing human rights training to help ensure their protection. But a 2018 Human Rights Watch report found LGBT Ghanaians are still frequently victims of physical attacks – including at the hands of their own family members.

In this context, it is worrying that the United States-based World Congress of Families (WCF), composed in part by organizations that promote exclusionary anti-LGBT rhetoric, is meeting in Accra today. Its leaders have advanced anti-LGBT laws and policies around the world, including a Nigerian law punishing same-sex “displays of affection” and providing support to gay organizations with 10 years in prison. WCF leaders have also propagated racism and xenophobia, ideologies that are surely unwelcome in Ghana.

The WCF says its Ghana agenda involves positioning Africa “as a more active advocate within the global pro-family movement.” Ghanaians and the Ghanaian government should preserve and build on the progress they have made and reject any suggestions that being “pro-family” means opposing tolerance and nondiscrimination.

If Ghana and its neighbors want to implement “pro-family” policies, those should involve promoting equality and preventing family violence, so that women like Emelia, Agnes, and Josephine can be safe at home and accepted by their families.

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

Equal marriage supporters at Maverick Bar, Belfast, celebrate the change to abortion and same sex marriage laws in Northern Ireland at 00:01 on Monday. 

© Liam McBurney/PA via AP Images

Clocks over Northern Ireland were counting down as the region prepared for a leap toward furthering equality.

At midnight on Monday, legislation came into force that decriminalized abortion and legalized same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland.

The celebrations were widespread – on Twitter, people posted photographs of countdown clocks, and women’s rights campaigners took to the streets to celebrate.

According to the legislation, same-sex weddings will be able to take place starting February 2020. The government has until April 2020 to put in place the types of abortion services available in other parts of the country. In the meantime, it must cover the costs for women from Northern Ireland who travel to other parts of the United Kingdom for services.

These changes came about when campaigners leveraged the fact that Northern Ireland’s own governing Assembly hadn’t convened since early 2017 to push for legal reform via Westminster. While adopting legislation regulating Westminster’s legal power in Northern Ireland during the power vacuum, UK MPs included amendments that extended rights to marriage equality and access to abortion to Northern Ireland.

The Northern Ireland Assembly had until October 21 to convene if it wanted to block the amendments taking effect. That didn’t happen, despite last-ditch efforts by some of the region’s socially conservative politicians. This resistance could be a sign of things to come, with the political will to make it possible to exercise these rights in doubt.

Marriage equality requires marriage licenses as well as people to conduct ceremonies, make cakes, and provide venues. Safe abortions means not only access to abortion services, but also counselling, advice, education, and aftercare.

Human Rights Watch has seen that legal changes are not enough to ensure acceptance.

In the United States, celebrations over marriage equality in 2015 were followed by a series of stories about people refusing to provide wedding services, as well as same-sex couples struggling to adopt. Marriage equality needs antidiscrimination laws to back it up.

Increasing access to abortion is sometimes thwarted by allowing health care providers overly broad claims to conscientious objection that result in refusals to perform the procedure. Comprehensive reproductive rights also require comprehensive sexuality education for children, including how to avoid pregnancy and options they have in the event of an unwanted pregnancy. Too many governments, including the one in Northern Ireland, fail to provide this.

The next few months will be telling for Northern Ireland, and after the celebrations fade, campaigners will need to keep checking that what they fought so hard for comes to fruition.

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

Revellers wave flags during a gay pride parade in downtown Madrid, Spain, July 2, 2016.

© 2016 Reuters

New hate crimes data for the United Kingdom shows a shocking number of incidents targeting LGBT people. As I was reading these figures, the need for LGBT-inclusive classes in UK schools has never been more apparent.

The data, released last week, shows police recorded 14,491 crimes committed against people because of their sexual orientation in 2018-19.

Police recorded a further 2,333 offenses against transgender people because of their gender identity.

Every year, the UK government releases police data on hate crimes on the basis of race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, and gender identity. Offenses are recorded as hate crimes if the victim or witnesses believe the motivation is one of these things because of, for example, slurs shouted during the attack. The term “hate crime” can cover verbal abuse, intimidation, threats, harassment, assault and bullying, as well as damage to property.

This year reported figures were up across the board, something the Home Office says is largely due to improved reporting and recording methods. According to Stonewall UK, only one out of five hate crimes against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people is reported to police.

But despite an increase in reporting, the number of cases that lead to prosecutions has actually fallen.

One way to help reduce the vitriol aimed at LGBT people could be to teach children about inclusion and acceptance from a young age.

But attempts to add more LGBT-inclusive curriculum have caused some parents to pull their children out of school in some cases on faith grounds.

Protests targeted the No Outsiders program, which is taught at a group of schools in Birmingham and encourages children to accept differences in, among other things, families and relationships.

The schools suspended the program in March. When the classes resumed after summer break, the schools faced renewed protests. Some cities with similar lessons, such as Manchester, have faced problems as well. The government issued a set of guidelines to schools dealing with protests, but some teachers told the BBC they still don’t feel they have the help needed.

The UK plans to make “relationship” education compulsory by 2020, which is great news for future generations of LGBT children. But for adults facing intolerance now, the police should send a clear message that hate crimes will not be tolerated and will be investigated.

 

 

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

Marchers carry a rainbow flag during the annual gay pride parade in Warsaw, Poland, Saturday, June 13, 2015.

Threatening sex educators with jail may seem extreme – but it seems Poland’s ruling Prawo i Sprawiedliwość (PiS) party is willing to go there to cement power by generating fear and misinformation.

Fueling intolerance and targeting rights activists, an independent judiciary, and a free press have become hallmarks of PiS since the party gained power in 2015, including in the run-up to October’s parliamentary elections. A bill on sex education, approved by the lower house of parliament, the Sejm, on Wednesday would take this a dangerous step further. It would amend the penal code to criminalize “anyone who promotes or approves the undertaking by a minor of sexual intercourse or other sexual activity.” In effect, sex educators, teachers, authors, and organizations providing information on reproductive health and sexuality could face a three-year prison sentence.

Last year, sex educators and LGBT and women’s rights activists told me about programs that had already been defunded, and the growing hostility directed against them. Right-wing groups in Poland have run smear campaigns, including accusing sex educators of promoting “depravity.” PiS’s actions and language have embolded them. In March 2019, PiS leader Jarosław Kaczyński openly criticized Warsaw’s mayor for supporting teaching on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Educators have expressed fear about teaching. “Several times I’ve met someone and told them I’m a sex educator and they turn cold, keeping me at a distance because they are afraid of being harmed by knowing me,” one sex educator told me.

Work led by sex educators is crucial in a country where official policy means children rarely learn about their own bodies or intimate relationships. Poland’s “Preparation for Family Life” curriculum strays far from international standards on comprehensive sexuality education. Instead, it spreads misinformation, perpetuates harmful stereotypes about gender roles and sexuality, and promotes an anti-choice and anti-LGBT agenda.

A yet-to-be-established parliamentary commission will be tasked to work on the newly approved bill. Its recommendation to the Sejm should be unequivocal: the bill should be scrapped entirely.

As international bodies – including the World Health Organization and Council of Europe have emphasized – accurate, inclusive sexuality education is essential to prevent sexually transmitted infections such as HIV, reduce unwanted pregnancy and maternal mortality, and help children grow up to lead healthy, safe, and productive lives. Parliamentarians should remember that access to health care, including reproductive healthcare information, is a human right.

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

A rainbow flag is carried during a parade as a part of the Seoul Queer Culture Festival in Seoul, South Korea, Saturday, July 14, 2018.

© 2018 AP Photo/Lee Jin-man

The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child is urging South Korea to revamp its sexuality education curriculum to cover age-appropriate topics like pregnancy, HIV/AIDS, sexual orientation, and gender identity. These steps are crucial if South Korea is to address the needs of all youth, curb harmful gender stereotypes, and halt rising HIV rates in the country.

Children who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) need comprehensive sex education for the same reasons as other kids – to understand their bodies, form healthy relationships, and keep themselves safe.

But LGBT children in South Korea rarely receive the education necessary to meet those goals. In fact, the Ministry of Education has excluded any mention of LGBT issues from the sexuality education curriculum and reinforced stereotypical gender roles, depriving children of basic knowledge about gender and sexuality.

Even teachers who want to be inclusive can have difficulty bringing these issues into the classroom. In interviews with Human Rights Watch, South Korean sexuality educators have said they fear discipline or parental backlash if they try to raise LGBT issues with students.

The predictable result is that many LGBT children do not learn the basics of sexual health and wellness, and too often lack the information to let them know they’re not alone.

Revamping the sexuality education curriculum should be part of a larger package of reforms to protect LGBT kids in South Korea. After more than a decade of failed attempts, the National Assembly still has not enacted legislation that would prohibit discrimination, including based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The UN children’s rights committee also encouraged the government to address bullying and cyberbullying, of which LGBT and other minority children are often targets.

South Korea has models it can look to for these reforms, including UNESCO’s guidelines on sexuality education. If the government wants to ensure the rights, health, and well-being of children, it can start by giving all kids – regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity – the basic information they need to thrive.

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

Relatives of Brian Wasswa carry his coffin during his funeral on October 6, 2019. 

© HRAPF 2019
 

Update: On October 12, a government spokesperson, Ofwono Opondo, tweeted that the government "does not intend to introduce any new law with regards to regulation of LGBT activities in Uganda because the current provisions in the penal code are sufficient." Before President Museveni signed the Anti-Homosexuality Act in 2014, the government also put out conflicting messages around its support for the bill.

 

(Kampala) – Ugandan authorities should thoroughly investigate the fatal attack on October 4, 2019 on an activist for the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people, Human Rights Watch said today. The death of the activist, Brian Wasswa, comes as the Ugandan government calls for reintroducing an anti-homosexuality bill that would provide the death penalty for consensual same-sex acts.

Wasswa, 28, was attacked at his home in Jinja, a city in eastern Uganda. Wasswa had worked since 2017 as a paralegal trained by Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum (HRAPF), a legal aid organization that supports vulnerable communities, including LGBT people. Wasswa also worked as a peer educator with The AIDS Support Organization (TASO), a Ugandan nongovernmental organization dedicated to HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment, and care, where he conducted HIV outreach to LGBT people. Justine Balya, a legal officer with HRAPF, said Wasswa was social, well-loved, and committed to counseling young people living with HIV about the importance of adhering to treatment.

Days after Wasswa’s murder, Ethics and Integrity Minister Simon Lokodo told reporters that parliament planned to introduce a bill that would criminalize so-called “promotion and recruitment” by gay people, and would include the death penalty for “grave” consensual same-sex acts. The proposed measure echoes Uganda’s 2014 Anti-Homosexuality Act, which criminalized the undefined “promotion” of homosexuality and early drafts included the death penalty for “aggravated homosexuality.” The Constitutional Court nullified the 2014 law on procedural grounds. Nevertheless, its passage contributed to violence, discrimination, evictions, and arbitrary arrests of LGBT people, as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International documented.

Relatives of Brian Wasswa carry his coffin during his funeral on October 6, 2019. 

© HRAPF 2019

“In the wake of the horrific murder of Brian Wasswa, the Ugandan government should be making it crystal clear that violence is never acceptable, regardless of one’s sexual orientation or gender identity,” said Oryem Nyeko, Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Instead, a government minister charged with ethics and integrity is threatening to have gay people killed at the hands of the state.”

Uganda has experienced a rise in homophobic rhetoric from the government at high levels in recent weeks. In addition to Minister Lokodo’s threat to revive the anti-homosexuality bill, Security Minister Elly Tumwine claimed in an October 3 television interview that LGBT people were linked to an alleged terrorist group.

Wasswa, who lived alone in a house in a fenced compound containing other houses, was attacked in his home on October 4. Edward Mwebaza, deputy executive director of HRAPF, said that neighborhood children found the door open at around 5 p.m., went into the house, and found Wasswa unconscious, lying in a pool of blood. Neighbors rushed Wasswa to Jinja Hospital, where doctors found that he was still alive but had been struck on the head multiple times by a sharp object. When Wasswa did not respond to treatment, on October 5, his colleagues at HRAPF requested an ambulance to transfer him to Mulago Hospital in Kampala, Uganda’s capital city, one hour away. Wasswa died in the ambulance en route to Kampala.

Police from Jinja’s Central Police Station have opened investigations. They identified the murder instrument, a short-handled hoe found in Wasswa’s home, and interviewed one witness who saw another man in Wasswa’s home several hours before Wasswa was found unconscious, HRAPF reported.

Mwebaza told Human Rights Watch that Wasswa was openly gay and gender non-conforming, sometimes describing himself as transgender. HRAPF urged the police to investigate the possibility that the murder may have been a hate crime.

Mwebaza said that three other gay and transgender people had been killed in Uganda in recent months, amid the climate of increasingly hostile statements by politicians around LGBT rights. On August 1, a group of motorcycle taxi drivers beat a young transgender woman, Fahad Ssemugooma Kawere, to death in Wakiso District, near Kampala, HRAPF and other Ugandan activists reported.

HRAPF itself has also experienced previous violent attacks. In February 2018, two security guards were seriously injured during a violent break-in at the organization’s Kampala offices, and in 2016, a HRAPF security guard was beaten to death. No one was brought to justice for either attack. Other organizations working on sensitive issues, such as land rights and the rights of journalists and women, also have experienced break-ins and in some cases attacks on security guards.

“It is incumbent on the Ugandan authorities to deliver justice for the murder of Brian Wasswa,” Nyeko said. “Police should conduct thorough investigations, and political leaders should refrain from any rhetoric that might encourage violence against LGBT people.”
 

Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

Activists at the opening session of the 2019 NEDWA conference, September 27, 2019.

© 2019 via The Arab Foundation for Freedoms and Equality (AFE)

Lebanon used to be known as a port in a storm for human rights defenders from the Arabic-speaking world – especially those working on gender and sexuality – to organize freely and without censorship.

A major space for this was the annual NEDWA conference, hosted by the Arab Foundation for Freedoms and Equality (AFE).

Even as lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people faced grave human rights violations over the years ranging from murders in Iraq, to jail time and forced anal examinations in Egypt, to rigid censorship of LGBT content in Qatar, Lebanon was a haven where embattled activists could meet at NEDWA to cultivate their movements’ resilience, tactics, and communal healing in the face of adversity.

That safe haven in the Middle East no longer exists.

Amid a targeted crackdown against free expression and assembly around gender and sexuality in Lebanon, resulting in an unlawful raid by General Security on the 2018 NEDWA conference and a discriminatory entry ban imposed on non-Lebanese participants, AFE was forced to move its conference outside the Middle East and North Africa region for the first time.

The activists adapted. Two hundred human rights defenders, artists, and academics from the region gathered in another country. They discussed health, human rights, and movement building. Queer and trans artists from Palestine, Lebanon, and Egypt inspired the conference attendees with performances that reconfigured the meaning of resistance, embodying creative ways to combat state-sponsored repression.

Instead of safeguarding much-needed platforms such as NEDWA and celebrating these activists, the Lebanese government chose to forego its international obligations by claiming that the conference “disrupts the security and stability of society,” and collectively sanctioning its participants.

Lebanon’s suppression of LGBT activism is part of a larger crackdown on free speech in the country. Hamed Sinno, the lead singer of the indie band Mashrou’ Leila, whom the Lebanese government censored in July, spoke at this year’s NEDWA conference, condemning Lebanon’s decline as a center for art and tolerance, while reassuring activists that the fight continues.

Lebanon should take note: intimidation and threats will not silence the voices of resilient activists who will continue to fight for their right to live and love. By closing its doors on activism, Lebanon is divesting its image as the hub for freedom and diversity in the region.

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

French Health Minister Agnes Buzyn gives a speech to introduce the debate on a bill that would give single women and lesbian couples access to in-vitro fertilization, at the National Assembly, in Paris, September 24, 2019. 

© 2019 AP Photo/Thibault Camus

All women in France are one step closer to achieving equality when it comes to family planning.

Despite criticism from conservative and religious groups, the National Assembly last month approved a bill that will allow single women and lesbian couples to access the same medical help for having children as heterosexual couples, such as in vitro fertilization (IVF).

These procedures are currently only legal for infertile heterosexual couples – meaning that lesbian couples and single women who want children can’t even pay to have the procedures done privately in the country. Many end up traveling abroad to get the costly reproductive procedures.

The bill, which will go to the senate on October 15, is expected to pass next year.

The bill has sparked religious and political opposition, reminiscent of 2013 protests against same-sex marriage, with opponents stoking fears that lesbian parents and single mothers will undermine traditional notions of the family. Supporters say the existing law is unfair because it arbitrarily privileges some families over others, and discriminates against people based on sexual orientation or marital status.

International human rights law protects the rights to privacy, to non-discrimination, and to the highest attainable standard of health. The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights provides that “[t]he widest possible protection and assistance should be accorded to the family.”

Same-sex marriage has been legal in France since 2013. Earlier, in 2008, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that a lesbian woman could adopt children.

Within the European Union, 18 out of 28 countries allow for single women, lesbians, or both to pursue medically assisted reproduction. European countries should allow all women the right to have a family and provide a route to parenthood, in addition to adoption.

The proposed law would mean the French healthcare system would cover up to four rounds of IVF for eligible women. For lesbian couples, the birth certificate of the child would read “mother and mother” instead of “mother and father.”

At the end of the day, whether married or single, lesbian or heterosexual, all parents will be taking care of their kids, accompanying them to school, and helping with homework, no matter what route they took to get there. 

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

Rainbow flags symbolizing LGBT rights.

© 2017 Reuters
 

Today, the US Supreme Court heard three cases that will clarify the scope of federal civil rights laws – and whether workers can be fired because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

The three cases – brought by a woman who was fired from a funeral home because she is transgender and a skydiver and a social worker who were fired because they are gay – pose the question of whether discrimination against LGBT people is a form of sex discrimination.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employment discrimination based on sex, among other grounds.

Advocates point out that transgender people are singled out for discrimination precisely because their identity or expression differs from their sex assigned at birth. They argue that lesbian, gay, and bisexual people face discrimination that they would not face if the single fact of their sex was changed and their attractions or relationships were heterosexual.

Multiple courts have agreed with their position. The appeals courts that cover Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, New York, Vermont, and Wisconsin recently ruled that Title VII protects lesbian, gay, and bisexual workers. An even larger set of federal appeals courts have ruled that discrimination based on gender identity is a form of sex discrimination. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which enforces Title VII, has echoed these conclusions.

The Trump administration has taken a different tack. Over the summer, the Department of Justice filed briefs urging the Supreme Court to rule that Title VII does not protect LGBT workers. The briefs are the latest in a series of moves to weaken protections for LGBT people in education, housing, health care, adoption and foster care, and businesses and services.

As the Trump administration takes aim at LGBT workers, Congress has the power to act. The House of Representatives recently passed the Equality Act, which would explicitly clarify that sexual orientation and gender identity are protected under federal civil rights laws. The Senate should bring the bill to a vote – and should ensure that nobody is fired because of who they are or who they love.

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