French government unveils national plan to combat hatred against LGBT people

The French government has unveiled a national plan to combat hatred and discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people (LGBT), which emphasises the importance of inclusive education in stamping out homophobia.

 

By Christina Okello

 

RFI (14.10.2020) – https://bit.ly/2HnSCxW – The three-year plan unveiled on Wednesday, aims to make members of the LGBT community “citizens in their own right”, French Junior Minister of Gender Equality Elisabeth Moreno told reporters.

 

It comprises over 40 objectives designed to tackle homophobia or transphobia in the home, school, university, work, healthcare or sport.

 

The 42 measures, some of which have already been implemented, will be “amplified” between now and 2023, notably plans to facilitate adoption for LGBT homes, Moreno said.

 

She also insisted on the importance of education.

 

“Because discrimination and inequality are rooted in childhood, they can also be corrected, by putting in resources (…) The school must therefore be the first place of awareness and prevention to participate in deconstructing stubborn stereotypes “.

 

Inclusive education

 

The gender equality minister has pledged to work with her counterpart at the Education ministry, Jean-Michel Blanquer, to “amplify” training for teachers serving LGBT students.

 

A website called “Educating against LGBTphobia” is to be set up in order to “give teachers the weapons to fight homophobia and transphobia, and allow the proper inclusion of LGBT students”, Moreno added.

 

The national plan also aims to act against conversion therapy, “abject and medieval practices” according to the minister, which try to change the sexual orientation of LGBT people. “We want to ban them outright,” Moreno said.

 

Same sex families have not been left out either. Administrative forms will continue to be adapted to include them, the minister insisted.

 

Grim figures

 

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people continue to face discrimination in France.

 

In 2019, 1,870 people were victim of homophobic and transphobic acts, according to the interior ministry.

 

In addition, 55 percent of LGBT people have experienced anti-LGBT acts in their lifetime, the minister said, before adding that gay and bisexual people are four times more likely to commit suicide than the rest of the population. This figure is nearly double when it comes to trans people.

 

“This situation is unacceptable in the France of 2020”, Moreno said.

Photo: French Junior Minister of Gender Equality Elisabeth Moreno poses in front of her ministery where the LGBT (Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) flags hang prior to the presentation of a national action plan for equal rights against hate and discrimination in Paris on October 14, 2020. AFP – LUDOVIC MARIN.




WORLD: LGBTQI rights during pandemic times: Activists raise alarm over increase in hate speech and violence

Poland, Iraq and Bangladesh in the spotlight during a webinar in Brussels. Strategies to strengthen protections and improve funding mechanisms discussed.

 

By Brianna Hertford, Human Rights Without Frontiers

 

HRWF (01.10.2020) – During 2020, LGBTQI people around the world, an already marginalised group, have been subjected to an increase in risk and violence largely due to responses towards and misinformation about the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

On Friday, 25 September, the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom hosted ‘Protecting and Advancing LGTBI Rights Globally’ in Brussels, an event that exposed the threats facing LGBTQI people and highlighted strategies to push for much-needed protection and rights.

The event began with a virtual panel discussion with three LGBTQI activists:

 

  • Julia Maciocha, the Director of Warsaw Pride in Poland,
  • Amir Ashour, the Founder and Executive Director for IraQueer based in Iraq,
  • and an activist from Bangladesh who remained anonymous for safety reasons.

 

The questions centred on the state of LGBTQI rights in each of their respective contexts, activism within the local LGBTQI community, their personal experiences as activists and suggestions for how to move forward.

 

The second half consisted of a discussion facilitated by Rachael Moore and Aida Yancy from the RainbowHouse Belgium.

 

Country-specific threats to LGBTQI people and activists

 

In Poland, a Catholic majority country, the outspokenly anti-LGBTQI agenda of the government is not reflective of the general public’s sentiments as about 50% of Polish people support same-sex marriage, Julia Maciocha argued.

 

One major unresolved issue that she raised concerned legal and administrative barriers for transgender individuals seeking legal gender recognition (LGR). LGR is essential to obtain identity documents that correspond with one’s identified gender, which increases one’s ability to navigate public spaces with more dignity and safety. Unfortunately, the current process in Poland is handled by the court system and requires the transgender individual to sue their parents, even if they are an adult. If their parents are not supportive and refuse, this lengthy and costly court procedure is at a higher risk of taking longer and ultimately failing.

 

State-sanctioned hostility towards LGBTQI people in Poland is at odds with many of the commitments and values of the EU, which has led to controversies such as the so-called ‘LGBT-free zones’ and EU funding. In July 2020, the European Commission rejected applications from six Polish towns for the opportunity to ‘twin’ with other EU cities because these towns had declared themselves ‘LGBT free’. Consequently, these towns did not receive the funding involved in this exchange programme. A month later, the Polish Justice Minister announced that the government would provide financial support to these towns and decried the EU’s actions as ‘illegal and unauthorized’.

 

In Iraq, a Muslim majority country, LGBTQI people live with the constant fear of violence, torture or even death through annual ‘killing campaigns’ that have terrorised the LGBTQI community for over a decade now, according to Amir Ashour. Recently, the hate speech and violence targeting LGBTQI people has dramatically increased, he said, because of political and religious leaders spreading misinformation related to the pandemic and framing LGBTQI people as a threat. Additionally, measures such as quarantines to combat the pandemic have increased risk, as LGBTQI people may be stuck in abusive homes or kicked out of temporary housing. Another pressing issue he highlighted was that when LGBTQI asylum seekers flee to Western countries, they are then forced to ‘prove’ their sexual orientation or gender identity during the refugee determination process.

 

In Bangladesh, a Muslim majority country, homosexuality is still criminalised by a law that was inherited from British colonialism. After the 2016 highly publicised murder of Xulhaz Mannan, the founder of the first Bengali LBGT magazine, the movement was forced underground. Since then, social media platforms have been essential for LGBTQI activists to mobilize. Unfortunately, anti-LGBTQI sentiments are widespread amongst the general public, and so violence against this community is typically viewed as justified. One exception is the perception of transgender people, who are seen more positively due to historical cultural norms. Transgender women in particular are generally more accepted, but this does not translate into tangible rights.

 

Rachael Moore and Aida Yancy explained that although Belgium is ranked as the second-best country regarding LGBTQI rights by ILGA Europe, the lived experience of the LGBTQI community varies widely depending on which ‘letter’ one identifies with. For example, intersex children are still operated on at birth because, legally, parents need to register a child’s sex with their birth certificate. Additionally, bisexual people comprise of the largest portion of the LGBTQI community yet are often invisible due to prejudices from general society and LGBTQI people alike. Despite numerous legal protections in Belgium, many individuals still experience violence and discrimination, but do not always report to the police.

 

Globally, LGTBQI activists face many hostilities for their advocacy, including online threats and smear campaigns. Additionally, fear is a constant reality: fear of increasing political and legal persecution; fear that loved ones may be attacked either because they identify as LGBTQI or are associated with advocacy work; fear for LGBTQI people who are struggling with depression and may commit suicide; and fear of persecution and violence by the state or religious fanatics. Activism comes at an immense personal cost.

 

Strategies for increasing rights and improving funding mechanisms

 

Throughout the event, it was made clear the importance for members of the international community to learn from activists themselves if international involvement would be helpful and, if so, in what way. In Poland and Iraq, international pressure was welcomed by the panellists, while the panellist from Bangladesh requested a more indirect approach.

 

Julia Maciocha advocated to expand legislation in Poland to include hate speech on grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity, as well as for the EU to enact sanctions against the Polish government.

 

Amir Ashour stated that there was a huge need to tackle religious hatred in Iraq and advocated for the separation of state and religion.

 

However, in Bangladesh, there have been instances where international involvement has resulted in an increase of risk for the LGBTQI community and activists. Instead, the focus should be on supporting local efforts. For example, the transgender community have been acting as liaisons with local preachers to combat the increase in anti-feminist, anti-LGBTQI rhetoric amongst religious leaders in Bangladesh.

 

Providing accessible avenues of funding for small NGO’s and grassroots initiatives is an essential step forward in protecting and advancing LGBTQI rights. Across all national contexts, funding was a huge issue, especially since governments and other donors are not giving as much due to the COVID-19 pandemic. One of the many reasons that funding is so essential is that activists often cannot find paid work due to their role as human rights defenders and so, without funding, these movements may become unsustainable.

 

Currently, application processes for funding are typically very time consuming and complicated, often requiring experts to complete them which is an additional expense. These applications, which usually must be renewed on an annual basis, take precious human resources away from the actual work of the NGOs tackling these issues on the ground. It is in everyone’s best interest to find a balance between the need for transparency and accountability, and the need for accessibility.

Finally, during any decision-making process about the LGBTQI community ranging from funding mechanisms to policy making, there was a call for increased intersectionality. Rachael Moore and Aida Yancy explained that it is not enough to tailor a programme to fit the needs of one ‘letter’, because each member of the community will have different needs. This will also be impacted by other aspects of an individual’s identity such as race, ability, age, etc. Without taking these factors into account and planning accordingly, well-intentioned legislation and programmes will continue to exclude already marginalised members of minority groups.

 

 

To learn more about LGBTQI rights, religions and human rights in Europe, read HRWF’s 2013 report: ‘LGBT People, the Religions & Human Rights in Europe‘.




Joint statement: End hate speech and targeted attacks against LGBTI people in Turkey

We call on Turkey to respect, guarantee, protect and fulfil the fundamental rights of the LGBTI community without discrimination as enshrined by its Constitution and equality article therein (article 10), and ratified by human rights treaty bodies.

 

ILGA-Europe (08.05.2020) – https://bit.ly/3bou2X0 – We, the undersigned human rights organisations, are concerned about rising hateful rhetoric against the LGBTI community by representatives of high-level religious and political institutions in Turkey which we have seen in the last week.[1] These efforts are part of a broader backlash on human rights targeting various minorities. Considering the systematic attacks and bans that Turkey’s LGBTI movement has experienced at the hands of Turkish authorities since 2017,[2] the statements by the chief of religious affairs and endorsed by President Erdogan are yet another escalation of an ongoing attack from state institutions against the LGBTI community, and further endanger the work of LGBTI rights defenders in the country. The attacks on the LGBTI community unfortunately have become exemplary of efforts by the Turkish government to undermine human rights and the rule of law in the country.

 

It is particularly concerning that the Turkish government is using the moment of the global COVID-19 pandemic to undermine the fundamental rights of marginalized groups in society. Stirring up hatred could exacerbate existing inequalities and likely lead to further discrimination in the provision of health care services, employment and other services that are vital in times of crisis. It may also lead to arbitrary arrests, ill-treatment, persecution and surveillance by law enforcement authorities – who might feel that such acts are condoned or even encouraged by the government.

 

The Turkish government has an obligation to protect everyone from hate crime and discrimination, and should not be part of any statements that could encourage hate crimes and target a minority group, including LGBTI people. Turkey’s government should ensure that all of its representatives refrain from making statements that stigmatise lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people and people living with HIV, and which put them at risk of harassment and attacks. Human rights defenders should not be criminalised for speaking out against homophobic statements by state officials, and therefore criminal investigations against those speaking out, such as the Ankara and Diyarbakır Bar Associations, should be dropped immediately.

 

We reiterate the statement of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, in which he clearly states that religious beliefs cannot be used to justify LGBTI rights violations nor be invoked as legitimate ‘justification’ for violence or discrimination against LGBTI people, and that the right to freedom of religion protects individuals and not religions as such.[3]

 

We recall that as a founding member of the United Nations, Turkey pledged to protect inherent dignity and the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family.[4] In addition, as a Member State of the Council of Europe and having ratified the European Convention of Human Rights, Turkey must uphold European human rights law, which prohibits a discriminatory application of human rights.

 

We call on Turkey to respect, guarantee, protect and fulfil the fundamental rights of the LGBTI community without discrimination as enshrined by its Constitution[5] and equality article therein (article 10), and ratified by human rights treaty bodies. The Turkish government should ensure that all of its representatives refrain from making statements that stigmatise LGBTI people and people living with HIV, and which put them at risk of harassment and attack.

 

Background information

 

During the Friday sermon (khutbah) on April 24, the President of the Directorate of Religious Affairs, Ali Erbaş targeted[6] LGBTI people and people living with HIV. He equated homosexuality with a disease, stating that “hundreds of thousands of people a year are exposed to the HIV virus caused by this great haram, which passes as adultery in the Islamic Literature”.[7] Moreover, the President of the Directorate of Religious Affairs insinuated that lesbian and gay people were to blame for the COVID-19 outbreak. This is not the first instance of hate speech by the Directorate of Religious Affairs, but this time the statement received the support of other political leaders.

 

Within days, several leaders came out to publicly support Erbaş. The Presidential Spokesperson and Chief Advisor, İbrahim Kalın, commented that Ali Erbaş “put the divine truth into words”. The Minister of Family, Labour and Social Services, Zehra Zümrüt Selçuk, commented that Erbaş’ words “remind us of our religious values in order to protect our families and generations during Ramadan”. The Parliamentary Human Rights Investigation Commission Spokesperson, Osman Nuri Gülaç, added that “the future of humanity is only possible through legitimate marriages” and referred to LGBT lobbies commanding academia, politics and media in many countries in the world.[8]

 

On April 27, the Ankara Branch of the Human Rights Association (IHD) filed a criminal complaint against Ali Erbaş in order to “prevent hate crimes, discrimination and gender inequality”. The Ankara, Diyarbakir, Istanbul, and Izmir Bar Associations joined the call condemning the sermon, noting that it raises concerns about the usurping of a ceremony of faith-based values to openly incite hatred and discrimination towards a minority. On the same day, the Ankara Public Prosecutor’s Office started an investigation against the Ankara Bar Association on the grounds of “insulting religious values that a part of the society has embraced”. The Bar Association of Diyarbakir is also the object of an investigation under the same grounds.[9] The next day, President Erdogan commented that “An attack on our Diyanet[10] head is an attack on the state.” Such attacks on the fundamental rights of LGBTI people represent a serious threat to respect for fundamental rights generally in Turkey.

 

 

ILGA-Europe – the European Region of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association

International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)

Front Line Defenders

IGLYO – The International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer & Intersex Youth and Student Organisation

Civil Rights Defenders

Human Rights without Frontiers

The Netherlands Helsinki Committee

International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims

International Partnership for Human Rights (IPHR)

World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) – Europe

Amnesty International

 

[1] See background information

 

[2] ILGA (23 February 2018), “Ankara ban on LGBTI events continues as Turkish courts reject NGO appeals”, accessible on https://www.ilga-europe.org/resources/news/latest-news/ankara-ban-lgbti-events-continues, and ILGA (29 June 2018), “Joint public statement from Amnesty International, ILGA-Europe and All Out  ”, accessible on https://www.ilga-europe.org/resources/news/latest-news/joint-public-statement-istanbul-pride-2018

 

[3] UNOHCHR (2 March 2020), “States should not use religious beliefs to justify women and LGBT+ rights violations – UN expert”, accessible on https://www.ohchr.org/en/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=25644&LangID=E (retrieved May 4 2020)

 

[4] The United Nations. (1948). Universal Declaration of Human Rights accessible on https://www.un.org/en/universal-declaration-human-rights/

 

[5] The Constitution of the Republic of Turkey (1982), translation by Erhan Yasar https://www.diyanet.gov.tr/en-us/Content/PrintDetail/29501

 

[6] https://www.diyanet.gov.tr/en-us/Content/PrintDetail/29501

 

[7] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=naAfk2jE3fc

 

[8] Kaos GL, (28 April 2020), “What happened after the hateful khutbah of the Religious Affairs Administration of Turkey?”, accessible on https://www.kaosgl.org/en/single-news/what-happened-after-the-hateful-khutbah-of-the-religious-affairs-administration-of-turkey (retrieved on 29 April 2020).

 

[9] Duvar (29 April 2020), “Prosecutors’ investigation widens to include Diyarbakır Bar Association after criticism of top cleric”, accessible on https://www.duvarenglish.com/human-rights/2020/04/29/prosecutors-investigation-widens-to-include-diyarbakir-bar-association-after-criticism-of-top-cleric-comments-on-lgbt/ (retrieved 29 April 2020).

 

[10] The Directorate of Religious Affairs (Turkish: Diyanet İşleri Başkanlığı, normally referred to simply as the Diyanet)




LGBT+ group sues Ukraine religious figure linking coronavirus to gay marriage

Orthodox Patriarch Filaret faces legal action after blaming emergence of COVID-19 on LGBT+ unions.

 

By Umberto Bacchi and Maria Georgieva

 

Thomson Reuters Foundation (13.04.2020) – https://bit.ly/3cAkEQO – A Ukrainian LGBT+ group said on Monday it has sued one of the country’s most prominent religious figures over comments blaming the spread of the coronavirus on same-sex marriage, in what the group said was the first such case in ex-Soviet nation.

 

Kiev-based group Insight said it took legal action against Patriarch Filaret, who heads one of Ukraine’s largest Orthodox congregations, over remarks made during a TV interview that rights activists said risked fuelling hatred and discrimination.

 

Filaret is a renowned figure in the country, having led a split of the Ukrainian church from its Russian parent which had him defrocked and excommunicated.

 

“Our aim is to show people that there is no longer place for such statements from church leaders in Ukraine,” Insight’s head Olena Shevchenko told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

 

Since the first cases of COVID-19 were identified in China in December 2019, several religious figures across the world have suggested the emergence of the virus was divine retribution for same-sex activity, which they see as sinful.

 

Filaret added his voice in March, telling Ukrainian national TV network Channel 4 that the epidemic was “God’s punishment for the sins of men, the sinfulness of humanity”.

 

“First of all, I mean same-sex marriage,” said Filaret, head of the Kiev Patriarchate that says it currently has more than 15 million followers among Ukraine’s 42 million people.

 

Rights groups described the comments as “dangerous” saying they risked stirring violence at a time where the health crisis was already stoking tensions and anxieties.

 

“Such statements … are very harmful because they could lead to increased attacks, aggression, discrimination and acceptance of violence against certain groups,” said Maria Guryeva, a spokeswoman for Amnesty International Ukraine.

 

In February, fearing possible contagion, residents of a central Ukrainian town clashed with police and hurled projectiles at a convoy of buses carrying evacuees from China headed to a local sanatorium for quarantine.

 

The Orthodox Church of the Kiev Patriarchate did not reply to a request for comment on Monday.

 

Responding to reports about a possible lawsuit in March, the Patriarchate said Filaret’s remarks were consistent with Ukrainian laws.

 

“As the head of the church and as a man, the Patriarch has the freedom to express his views, which are based on morality,” the Patriarchate’s press service said in a statement.

 

The Patriarchate reserved the right to bring counterclaims against those who sought to abuse judicial protections to encroach on Ukraine’s traditional family values, it added.

 

The administrative proceeding filed in a Kiev court sought to obtain an apology for disseminating false information and a rectification from the Patriarch and the TV channel that aired the interview, said Shevchenko of Insight.

 

“We just want them to be more responsible the next time,” she said by phone.

 

While the government has increased support for LGBT rights in recent years, same-sex unions are not legally recognised in Ukraine and activists say homophobia remains widespread.