French town suspends ties with Polish twin city over LGBT rights

A Polish mayor on Monday deplored the decision by a sister town in France to suspend 25-year official ties with her town because it declared itself an area “free of LGBT ideology.”

 

France 24 (18.02.2020) – https://bit.ly/2HzCeHd – The mayor of the south-eastern town of Tuchow, Magdalena Marszalek, blamed the rare decision by the French community it had been twinned with, Saint-Jean-de-Braye, on campaigning ahead of local elections there.

 

She expressed regret that severing ties will cut friendly relations among residents, as Tuchow will no longer be able to sponsor visits by people from Saint-Jean-de-Braye.

 

Marszalek said many in her community do not identify with the declaration adopted last year by local councilors of Poland’s ruling conservative Law and Justice party.

 

The sister municipality in central France suspended ties last week and said in a statement that “France is committed to combating human rights violations based on sexual orientation … We cannot accept that the ties that unite our two cities by a twinning oath be tainted. We condemn the position taken by our twin city of Tuchow.”

 

Tuchow was among other towns in south-eastern Poland that adopted the declaration in May saying they wanted to defend themselves against “radicals … who attack freedom of speech, childhood innocence, the authority of family and school and the freedom of businesspeople.”

 

The declaration came in reaction to Warsaw Mayor Rafal Trzaskowski, an opposition politician, declaring the capital city supportive of the LGBT community and its rights.

 

Poland’s ruling party and other social conservatives say they are trying to protect children and traditional families from being demoralized and corrupted by a growing gay rights movement.




VIETNAM: LGBT youth unprotected

Myths about sexual orientation and gender identity undermine rights.

 

HRW (12.02.2020) – https://bit.ly/3bRAx68 – Pervasive myths about sexual orientation and gender identity in Vietnam contribute to violence and discrimination which is felt strongly among lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) youth, Human Rights watch said in a report released today.

 

The 65-page report, “‘My Teacher Said I Had a Disease’: Barriers to the Right to Education for LGBT Youth in Vietnam,” documents how LGBT youth in Vietnam face stigma and discrimination at home and at school over myths such as the false belief that same-sex attraction is a diagnosable, treatable, and curable mental health condition. Many experience verbal harassment and bullying, which in some cases leads to physical violence. Teachers are often untrained and ill-equipped to handle cases of anti-LGBT discrimination, and their lessons frequently uphold the widespread myth in Vietnam that same-sex attraction is a disease, Human Rights Watch found. The government of Vietnam should fulfill its pledges to protect the rights of LGBT people.

 

“The government of Vietnam has indicated support for the rights of LGBT people in recent years, but tangible policy change has lagged,” said Graeme Reid, LGBT rights director at Human Rights Watch. “LGBT youth are especially vulnerable due to inadequate legal protection and widespread misinformation about sexual orientation and gender identity.”

 

The report is based on in-depth interviews with 52 LGBT youth as well as teachers and other school staff in Vietnam. It analyzes existing government policy and planning documents and pledges the Vietnamese government has made to improve the situation of LGBT people.

 

Inaccurate information about sexual orientation and gender identity is pervasive in Vietnam and has a particularly harsh impact on youth. While Vietnam has several laws that prohibit discrimination and uphold the right to education for all children, the current national curriculum and sex education policy fall short of international standards and do not include mandatory discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity. While some teachers and schools take it upon themselves to include such lessons, the lack of national-level inclusion leaves the majority of students in Vietnam without the basic facts about sexual orientation and gender identity, Human Rights Watch found.

 

“I’ve never been taught about LGBT,” Tuyen, a 20-year-old bisexual woman, told Human Rights Watch. “There are very few people who think that this is normal.” A school counselor said “There’s a lot of pressure on kids to be straight. It’s constantly referenced that being attracted to someone of the same sex is something that can and should be changed and fixed.”

 

In a promising step in 2019, the education ministry, with the assistance of United Nations agencies, produced guidelines for an LGBT-inclusive comprehensive sexuality education curriculum, but such a curriculum it has not yet been created.

 

Human Rights Watch found that verbal harassment of LGBT students is common in Vietnamese schools. Students in various types of schools – rural and urban, public and private – said that students and teachers commonly use derogatory words to refer to LGBT people, sometimes targeted directly at them and coupled with threats of violence.

 

Other studies, including research by UN agencies and Vietnamese groups, have included similar evidence. In a 2014 report, the UN Development Programme (UNDP) noted: “[E]ducation institutions are not safe for LGBT students due to the lack of anti-bullying and non-discrimination policies. Furthermore, sex and sexual orientation and gender identity education is still limited in Viet Nam and are considered sensitive topics that teachers usually avoid.”

 

While it appears to be less common, some LGBT youth report physical violence as well. “[The bullying] was mostly verbal but there was one time when I was beat up by five or six guys in eighth grade just because they didn’t like how I looked,” one person interviewed said.

 

In cases of both verbal and physical abuse, school staff respond inconsistently. The majority of the LGBT youth interviewed who had experienced bullying at school said they did not feel comfortable reporting the incidents. This was sometimes because of overt, prejudiced behavior by the staff. In other cases, students assumed that it was unsafe to turn to the adults around them for help.

 

Even in cases in which students did not face verbal or physical abuse, many reported that their families, peers, and teachers implicitly and explicitly alienate and exclude them. This occurs in classrooms, where teachers refer to anything other than procreative heterosexual relationships as “unnatural,” as well as at home, where parents threaten their children with violence, expulsion, or medical treatment if they are gay or lesbian.

 

In 2016, while serving on the UN Human Rights Council, Vietnam voted in favor of a resolution on protection against violence and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, saying “The reason for Vietnam’s yes vote lay in changes both in domestic as well as international policy with respect to LGBT rights.” Other governments in Asia have recently changed their policies to include and protect LGBT youth, including Japan, Cambodia, and the Philippines.

 

“The government’s stated alignment with a global shift toward respecting the rights of LGBT people signals some political will to make much-needed law and policy changes,” Reid said. “Protecting young people from violence and discrimination and ensuring their education is based in fact instead of prejudice is an important first step.”




Swiss vote to approve legislation to protect LGBTQ+ rights

Referendum approves law that was passed in 2018 but was opposed by rightwing parties.

By Philip Oltermann

 

The Guardian (09.02.2020) – https://bit.ly/3bpkhcc – Swis voters have given their backing in a referendum to extending anti-racism legislation to cover sexual orientation, defying critics who had claimed such a move would be an infringement of free speech.

 

Unlike many of its western European neighbours, Switzerland has no law in force that specifically protects LGBTQ+ people from discrimination or hate speech.

 

A law passed by the country’s government in December 2018 was designed to close this loophole. However, an alliance of rightwing parties including the conservative Christian Federal Democratic Union (EDU) and the nationalist Swiss People’s Party (SVP) opposed the law change and sought a referendum to prevent it from coming into effect.

 

On flyers and on posters, opponents framed the law as a “gagging clause” that would restrict freedom of speech and demote gay and bisexual members of society to a “weak minority in need of protection”.

 

Switzerland has a long tradition of holding plebiscites on issues that can range from major foreign policy decisions to the building of a new school. Votes are usually held on three to four dates spread across the year.

 

In Sunday’s vote, 63.1% of the public voted in favour of expanding the anti-discrimination law, though the results revealed splits across the linguistically and cultural heterogenous state. In the German-speaking cantons of Schwyz, Uri and Appenzell-Innerrhoden, there were majorities in favour of blocking the law. In French-speaking Vaud, by contrast, the law was endorsed by an emphatic 80% of the voting public.

 

Under the new law, those who “publicly degrade or discriminate” others on the basis of their sexual orientation, for example by denying same-sex couples entry to a nightclub, could face a jail sentence of up to three years. The law does not affect private conversations such as among friends or family.

 

Several European countries such as Belgium, Germany, France, Ireland and the UK already have similar legislation in place.

 

LOS, an advocacy group representing Swiss lesbian, bisexual and queer women, welcomed the referendum result. “We have won, and how! Next stop: same-sex marriage,” it said.

 

Switzerland and Italy are the last two countries in western Europe where gay marriage is not legal. Both countries offer same-sex couples the option of civil unions but not full marriage.

 

In a separate referendum, Swiss voters on Sunday rejected an initiative calling for at least 10% of new housing to be built by not-for-profit cooperatives in an attempt to reduce the cost of living. The proposal was rejected by 57.1% of the voting public.




African Trans Network – ATN – Statement

Created for change, capacity strengthening and movement support. We are powerful when we stand together .

 

EATHAN (05.02.2020) – https://bit.ly/2OHChVn – Trans and gender diverse persons speaking for themselves, united as a collective, generating knowledge and advocating for inclusion at continental level had not happened effectively. This has rapidly changed over the last decade. There has been a vast growth of trans-specific organising that has led to strong regional movements on the continent with agendas focusing on health, legal & policy reform, movement building, and data collection & research.

 

At a convening in Nairobi, Kenya on 31 January and 1 February 2020, a task team comprising of the Southern African Trans Forum, East Africa Trans Health & Advocacy Network and the West African Trans Forum, engaged in discussions and agreed collectively to create the African Trans Network. ATN will be composed of trans-led regional and national networks. This proposal will be taken back to all sub regional networks for further deliberations. We believe that we have made a bold decision that is in the best interest of African Trans persons, our movements and our well-being, in our building of healthy movements. The African Trans Network (ATN) will be led by an 6-8 person Interim Governing Body (IGB) comprised of at least 2 members of each sub-regional network. The IGB has agreed to seek out funding to support the establishment of the ATN and agreed that Iranti will act as fiscal host in this interim period.

 

In recognition of the fact that not one small number of people can make decisions for an entire continental trans movement, the interim governing body is committed to ensuring that all decisions made at this convening shall be put forward, for validation, buy-in and adoption, by African trans led networks who wish to join the ATN.

 

We aim to host the first ATN conference in 2020 where ratification of all decisions will take place.

 

The network aims:

 

  • To stimulate communication and coordination among trans-led and trans-focused movements across the continent.

 

  • To strengthen its partnerships with other regional networks and international trans-led organisations.

 

  • To enhance trans leadership capacity in our region by channelling support to the work of its member regional networks/organisations.

 

  • To maintain members’ autonomy, not imposing other priorities, and refraining from being a sub-regional or national program implementer.

 

The Network has identified the following ten priority areas that it would like to start focusing on:

 

  1. Convene a regional trans movements and human rights annual/biennial conference to track and engage on the progress of our advocacy gains.

 

  1. Create a community crowd sourcing/community philanthropy model to support poor trans individuals with access to hormone replacement therapy and or affirming surgeries, as well as educational scholarships aimed at creating a wellbeing approach to individual self-care.

 

  1. Fostering capacity building exchanges amongst the regional networks and its partners/members.

 

  1. Regional advocacy derived from the focuses of the regional networks.

 

  1. Securing emergency funding for trans persons facing violence and displacement.

 

  1. Create an African accredited training programme focused on the human rights of trans persons, human rights systems and accountability mechanisms. For this programme to be hosted by an academic institution.

 

  1. Education and Economic Empowerment Programming to build sustainability and to seek out ways to alleviate poverty based on transphobia and exclusion from mainstream economies.

 

  1. Creation of a central African Trans Database and an App for information sharing on medical and human rights content.

 

  1. Amplifying the voice and visibility of its members through the creation of messaging and campaign development.

 

  1. Expanding the ATN to reach Northern & Central African Trans Movements.

 

These priorities shall be developed into an action plan that the ATN Interim Governing Body will present to its network stakeholders and aim to implement over a 3-5 year strategy.

 

The ATN is open to trans networks wishing to become members of the network.  At this stage in the life of the ATN we will not be accepting membership request from individual organisations. A membership strategy and protocol will be developed as we consult and research comparative models and have deeper consultations within the region.

 

We are committed to providing solidarity to and joining trans-specific advocacy initiatives for change at a continental level and global level.

 

The Interim Governing Body (IGB) is currently comprised of:

 

Theo Dongmo – WATF

Jamal Venance – WATF

Deyonce Naris – SATF

Jabu Pereira – SATF

Barbra Wangare – EATHAN

Alesandra Ogeta – EATHAN

Shema Djamali – EATHAN

 

Voluntary coordination is managed by Akani Shimange.

 

We are grateful for the support of the ITF, UHAI and CoC for bringing our sub regions together. Without this support it would have been incredibly difficult to meet and engage in our region.

 

For more information, kindly email: africantransnetwork@gmail.com




Annual review of the situation of LGBTI people

Amid rising hate speech and crime, vulnerable people across Europe find themselves disconnected from the popular story of the region’s success in securing LGBTI rights, major human rights review finds.

ILGA-Europe (03.02.2020) – https://bit.ly/2v5g7FJ – Launched on the 4 February 2020, the 10th edition of ILGA-Europe’s Annual Review details the human rights situation of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex (LGBTI) people across the 49 European countries, and the five countries of Central Asia. Created with LGBTI activists and experts on the ground, the Review also identifies trends, both current and on the rise.

This year’s review, which charts developments during the 12 months of 2019, paints a complex picture that diverges from the widespread narrative that all is well for LGBTI people in large parts of Europe. Central to this is a sharp rise in anti-LGBTI hate speech carried out by public figures across Europe – in countries ranging from Bulgaria, Poland and Turkey, to Cyprus, Finland, Greece, Portugal and Spain – and the very real consequences of this for LGBTI individuals and groups. In many countries across the European and Central Asian regions, and not only those with a documented growth in official bias-motivated speech, there has also been an equally sharp increase in online hate-speech and physical attacks on LGBTI people, many of the latter premeditated and brutal.

The review identifies that this is a pan-European phenomenon, from the UK where the populist narrative surrounding Brexit can be linked to an increase in anti-LGBTI hate crimes and incidents, to the banning of events in many towns and cities on the continent, the prosecution of participants in Pride marches in Turkey, and a growing presence of anti-LGBTI and neo-Nazi protesters in public spaces during LGBTI events across the region.

Alongside the rise in hatred, there is increased movement of people from within the region to countries perceived as less harsh. More LGBTI people left countries such as Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan for neighbouring countries where the situation might be perceived as relatively safer. There is also an anecdotal rise in people saying they want to leave countries like Poland for other EU countries.

Reported obstacles in access to healthcare, bullying in schools and the workplace, and LGBTI people being denied services, often with a lack of governmental intervention, all play a part in the overall picture of a Europe where lived experiences for a large part do not match up with the surface message that LGBTI rights and equality have been fully secured.

According to Evelyne Paradis, Executive Director of ILGA-Europe:

“It is not all bad news. The issue of bodily integrity for intersex people continues to gain more prominence on the political agenda of governments and institutions. 2019 was a year of positive developments for rainbow families in the region, with an expansion of family rights in a few countries; and important advancements continue to be made on reforming or establishing legal gender recognition procedures, even if in many countries progress is slowing down.

“However, the lived reality of LGBTI people in many parts of Europe and Central Asia is increasingly difficult and for a large part remains invisible, even to organisations like ILGA-Europe. Action is needed. Governments still have so much to do, from adopting laws that guarantee the protection of people’s rights and giving public authorities the means to translate policy into practice across sectors, to leading by example in having a discourse promoting social acceptance and inclusion.

“By making people aware of such a broad and nuanced picture, which is constantly shifting and evolving, the ILGA-Europe Annual Review aims to give a sense of the enormity of issues and areas that affect the lives of people, which will continue to require attention, especially in a context where LGBTI people are being targeted and vulnerability is heightened.”




TANZANIA: Obstructions to LGBT health, rights

Discriminatory health policies, raids, and arrests.

 

Human Rights Watch (03.02.2020) – https://bit.ly/2OtvIpy – The government of Tanzania’s health policies deny adequate services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people and others who are particularly vulnerable to HIV, jeopardizing public health, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. Tanzania should reverse these policies, end arbitrary arrests of LGBT people, and ban forced anal examinations that are used as spurious evidence of homosexual conduct.

 

The 112-page report, “‘If We Don’t Get Services We Will Die’: Tanzania’s Anti-LGBT Crackdown and the Right to Health,” documents how since 2016 the government of Tanzania has cracked down on LGBT people and the community-based organizations that serve them. The Health Ministry in mainland Tanzania has prohibited community-based organizations from conducting outreach on HIV prevention to men who have sex with men and other key populations vulnerable to HIV. It closed drop-in centers that provided HIV testing and other targeted and inclusive services, and banned the distribution of lubricant, essential for effective condom use for HIV prevention among key populations and much of the wider public.

 

“The Tanzanian authorities have orchestrated a systematic attack on the rights of LGBT people, including their right to health,” said Neela Ghoshal, senior LGBT rights researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Manufactured threats around the so-called ‘promotion of homosexuality’ have displaced best practices and evidence-based approaches in guiding HIV policy in Tanzania.”

 

The Health Ministry claims that the specialized services and provision of lubricant promote homosexuality. It says that public health centers provide discrimination-free services so that there is no need for specialized services run by civil society organizations. Human Rights Watch research found, however, that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in government health centers is common.

 

The report is based largely on interviews conducted with 35 self-identified lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Tanzanians between May 2018 and June 2019. This report also draws on both formal interviews and informal conversations with Tanzanian LGBT rights activists, human rights activists, and lawyers between 2014 and 2020, and on discussions with representatives of over 20 Tanzanian, regional, and international health and human rights organizations and experts, donors, and United Nations agencies.

 

The Tanzanian authorities have also undermined the right to health through police raids on meetings and trainings by health and rights activists and their allies, including potentially lifesaving sessions about HIV, arresting participants. The raids have instilled fear within activist communities and among service providers and their beneficiaries.

 

In November 2018, when the regional official Paul Makonda threatened to arrest all gay men in Dar es Salaam, diplomatic missions and the World Bank objected. In response, President Magufuli assured the World Bank that Tanzania would not pursue such policies. But arrests and discriminatory policies and actions continued. In April 2019, the government’s Non-Governmental Organisation Co-ordination Board withdrew registration from Community Health Education and Advocacy Services (CHESA), a key organization serving LGBT people, on the grounds that it was “promoting unethical acts.” Deputy Home Affairs Minister Hamad Masauni publicly called for arrests of gay men while visiting Zanzibar in September.

 

When police have conducted arrests under Tanzania’s colonial-era law prohibiting “carnal knowledge against the order of nature,” they have sometimes instructed medical professionals to conduct forced anal examinations to collect “evidence” of anal intercourse. These exams have no scientific basis and are a form of cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment that can amount to torture.

 

Tanzania is required, as a state party to the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, to take steps to ensure the highest attainable standard of health for all. Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in the delivery of health information and services is impermissible under international law. Tanzania is also a member of the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC), which in 2016 published a set of Minimum Standards on HIV and health, calling on states to improve access to health and HIV services by LGBT people.

 

The African Commission on Human and People’s Rights, in its Resolution 275, called on African governments to end violence and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. The African Commission has specifically condemned forced anal examinations as a form of torture. To arrest someone on the basis of consensual same-sex conduct between adults in private is a violation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights’ prohibition on arbitrary arrest and detention.

 

“The Tanzanian authorities should ensure that not one more Tanzanian is arrested for being gay or trans – or for attending an HIV education session,” Ghoshal said. “Concrete steps forward should also include banning forced anal examinations and reforming health policies so that they are based on evidence, not prejudice.”

Selected quotes from people interviewed

 

“Osman,” a 24-year-old HIV-positive gay man, on seeking HIV treatment at a government hospital in Dar es Salaam, said:

 

[They told me] “You’re a good boy, why do you have gay sex? That’s why you got AIDS, because those acts angered God.” They also told me to stop these games and get saved, to chase out Satan, who caused me to have sex, and to find a wife, get married, and have a family.

 

“Medard,” a 38-year-old gay man in Dar es Salaam, on the closure of LGBT-friendly drop-in centers, said:

 

Whenever I had a health problem, I could go to those centers for help or to be connected to a healthcare provider that did not discriminate, that treated me like everyone else. These days, even if I have a health problem, I don’t have a place to go where I can describe my problem, so I just keep quiet.… I would like the government of Tanzania to allow kuchus [LGBT people] access to health services. If we don’t get services, we will die.

 

“Toni,” a trans woman in Dar es Salaam, on the change in relations with government health officials, said “We had a meeting with [government health officials] and they said they don’t want to hear anything in terms of issues of LGBT. They claim we are recruiting.”

 

“Kim,” a gender-nonconforming person from a small town, on being subjected to a forced anal examination at a government health facility, said:

 

These doctors did the procedure of anal tests. It was by force. The police officers were there with guns, so many of them.… We went to the maternal ward where the women go and give birth. They took this metal instrument and they stick it – they penetrate it in our [anus], and it was very, very painful. And then they say “Cough, try to cough” while the steel is inside our [anus], and when I coughed, they were pressing the metal into me. It was very brutal and painful. They were pressing the testicles, the penis. Everything about that testing was very brutal.