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GHANA’s anti-gay bill condemned as ‘state-sponsored’ violence

GHANA’s anti-gay bill condemned as ‘state-sponsored’ violence

United Nations experts said the bill, which makes it a crime to be LGBT+, could ‘create a recipe for conflict and violence’

 

By Nita Bhalla

 

Openly News (12.08.2021) – https://bit.ly/2Y3ymtJ – A Ghanaian bill criminalising LGBT+ people will establish “a system of state-sponsored discrimination and violence” against sexual minorities, U.N. human rights experts warned on Thursday, urging authorities to reject the proposed law.

 

The Promotion of Proper Human Sexual Rights and Ghanaian Family Values Bill, 2021, was introduced in parliament on Aug. 2 and is expected to go before lawmakers for debate in October.

 

In a letter to Ghana’s mission to the U.N. in Geneva, the experts – who include the U.N.’s independent expert on sexual orientation and gender identity, Victor Madrigal-Borloz – said the bill violated Ghana’s international human rights agreements.

 

“We express our grave concern about the draft bill, which seems to establish a system of state-sponsored discrimination and violence against LGBTI persons of great magnitude,” said the letter dated Aug. 9 and publicly released on Thursday.

 

“Given that LGBTI people are present in every family and every community, it is not very difficult to imagine how, if it were to be adopted, this legislation could create a recipe for conflict and violence.”

 

Ghanaian government officials were not immediately available for comment.

 

Gay sex is already punishable with up to three years in jail in Ghana, where homophobic persecution is widespread. The bill would also impose a penalty of up to five years imprisonment for being LGBT+ and of 10 years for advocating for their rights.

 

Online platforms or media companies publishing information deemed to support LGBT+ people or challenge traditional binary male and female gender identities could also be prosecuted.

 

The draft law promotes so-called conversion therapy by allowing flexible sentencing for an LGBT+ person if they request “treatment” to change their sexual orientation or gender identity, which the U.N. experts said “may amount to torture”.

 

Some political analysts say there is enough cross-party support in the largely conservative Christian West African nation for the bill to become law.

 

However, the bill could face pressure from international donors and legal challenges, as the U.N. experts said it violated international conventions to which Ghana is party, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

 

Danny Bediako of the human rights organisation Rightify Ghana said he hoped the U.N. statement would encourage lawmakers to vote against the bill.

 

“Just as some Ghanaians who have spoken against the hate bill, the international community is concerned about Ghana’s democratic credentials being wiped out by this anti-LGBTQ bill,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

 

“Within parliament, I don’t think it would make much difference amongst MPs who support the bill. However, it could encourage other MPs to speak against it.”

 

(Reporting by Nita Bhalla @nitabhalla, Editing by Katie Nyugen and Katy Migiro. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit http://news.trust.org)

 

Photo credits: REUTERS/Francis Kokoroko





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GHANA: Anti-gay bill seeks prison terms for LGBT+ people

GHANA: Anti-gay bill seeks prison terms for LGBT+ people

A new draft law in the West African nation proposes jail time for those who identify as LGBT+, and for anyone who offers assistance to the LGBT+ community.

 

By Nita Bhalla

 

Openly News (02.08.2021) – https://bit.ly/3fFZipl – A bill in Ghana that would make it a crime to be gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender or to advocate for LGBT+ rights is expected to be presented before parliament on Monday for its first reading.

 

The Promotion of Proper Human Sexual Rights and Ghanaian Family Values Bill, 2021, has sparked outrage and fear in the West African nation’s LGBT+ community, with campaigners saying it could heighten widespread persecution and violence.

 

Here are some key details and background about the controversial proposal:

 

 

What is the current law regarding LGBT+ people in Ghana?

 

Under a 1960 British colonial-era law, “unnatural carnal knowledge” – widely interpreted as sexual intercourse between men – is punishable with up to three years in jail.

 

Ghana has not prosecuted anyone for gay sex in years, but LGBT+ people face frequent abuse and discrimination, including blackmail and attacks, human rights researchers say.

 

It is not a crime to be LGBT+ or to promote LGBT+ rights under current legislation.

 

 

Why was the bill introduced now?

 

The bill is sponsored by eight lawmakers from the opposition and ruling parties who came together following the opening of the country’s first LGBT+ community centre in January.

 

The opening of the centre sparked uproar from church organisations, politicians and anti-gay groups, and authorities shut it down three weeks later.

 

This has led to a crackdown by authorities – including the arrest of 21 LGBT+ activists in May – and an increase in homophobic abuse from the public in recent months, community members say.

 

The lawmakers, who are led by Samuel Nartey George from the National Democratic Congress party, say homosexuality is a perversion and LGBT+ activities threaten Ghanaian family values, and society in general.

 

 

What are the main provisions in the bill?

 

The draft law makes it a crime punishable by up to five years imprisonment to be gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, pansexual and non-binary – someone who does not identify as male or female.

 

Advocating for the LGBT+ community, sympathising or offering any assistance such as financial or medical support to LGBT+ people or organisations would also be an offence punishable by up to 10 years in jail.

 

Media companies, online platforms and accounts that publish information deemed to support LGBT+ activities or encourage children to explore any gender or sex outside of the binary categories of male and female could also be prosecuted.

 

On the other hand, the draft law promotes so-called conversion therapy by allowing flexible sentencing for an LGBT+ person if they request “treatment”.

 

Other articles include outlawing “intentional cross-dressing” and “amorous relations” between people of the same sex in public, and making it a citizen’s duty to report any LGBT+ persons or activities to authorities.

 

It also proposes amending Ghana’s existing extradition law to allow for the deportation of LGBT+ Ghanaians living overseas.

 

 

How have people responded to the bill?

 

LGBT+ rights groups in Ghana have expressed shock and alarm over the provisions of the draft law, saying that it would strip gay, bisexual and transgender people of all their rights – and increase homophobic persecution and violence.

 

LBGT+ people report being scared and have already begun to restrict their movements and avoid public places such as markets where they may be targeted, say community organisations.

 

Campaigners have launched a campaign on social media called #KillTheBill to raise awareness and also an online petition to stop the draft law, which has garnered nearly 4,000 signatures since it was launched on Sunday.

 

Religious groups such as the Coalition of Muslim Groups in Ghana have welcomed the bill, saying it is necessary to prevent the dilution of cultural values and beliefs in Ghanaian society. 

 

Last week, traditional leaders from Ghana’s Waala community – to which about 100,000 people belong – announced a ban on LGBT+ activities, saying they did not want to wait for the bill to be passed. 

 

 

What are the chances the bill could be passed?

 

Some political analysts say there is enough cross-party support in the largely conservative Christian nation for the bill to become law.

 

However, the bill could face major hurdles, including pressure from international donors and foreign partners as well as legal challenges over whether it violates Ghana’s constitution.

 

In May, the United States and the World Bank called on Ghana to respect LGBT+ rights and said they were closely watching the situation in the country.

 

 

What are the next steps?

 

After the first reading, the bill will be referred to a committee for review before it is presented before parliament for a second reading and debate where it may be subject to amendments.

 

It then goes for a third reading before it can be passed into law. It will also require assent from President Nana Akufo-Addo.

 

Photo credits: REUTERS/Francis Kokoroko





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HUNGARY: FIDESZ proposed controversial amendments about LGBTI people law

Hungarian parliament’s proposed amendments censoring public communication about LGBTI people violates EU law

ILGA-Europe’s statement on proposed anti-LGBTI and illegal amendments by FIDESZ in the Hungarian parliament

 

ILGA Europe (11.06.2021) – https://bit.ly/3iKwz5f – Yesterday, on 10 June, MPs of ruling party FIDESZ tabled a number of amendments in the Hungarian Parliament which directly discriminate against LGBTI people, and breach a number of EU laws. The proposed amendments introduce a ban on the “portrayal and the promotion of gender identity different from sex at birth, the change of sex and homosexuality” for persons under 18. This language would be being introduced to:

 

  • The Child Protection Act;
  • The Act on Business Advertising Activity;
  • The Media Act – all such content will be qualified as category V (unsuitable for minors), and the publication of such content will be banned in public service advertisements;
  • The Family Protection Act and the Public Education Act – such topics cannot be part of sexuality education, schools cannot invite external speakers or NGOs for education on “sexual culture, sexual life, sexual orientation or sexual development” unless they receive a special licence by the state to do so, and participating in such activity without a licence is classified as a misdemeanour.

These amendments, due to be voted on next Tuesday (15/06), would effectively ban the representation or communication about diverse sexual orientations, gender identities and sex characteristics in the Hungarian public sphere, as well as specific places such as in schools. The amendments are the next stage in a series of legislative attacks launched by FIDESZ against the human rights and fundamental freedoms of LGBTI people in Hungary. They also violate the right to freedom of expression and the right to education for all Hungarian people. The amendments clearly violate international human rights norms, in particular the case law of the European Court of Human Rights, UN Human Rights Committee and the EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights (Articles 11 and 21) and Treaty on the European Union (Articles 2 and 6).

 

The discriminatory language being introduced to the Media Act constitute a clear violation of the EU’s Audiovisual Media Services Directive (Articles 9, 30 and 51). The discriminatory language being introduced to the Act on Business Advertising Activity constitute a violation of the EU’s Unfair Commercial Practices Directive. The discriminatory language being introduced to the Business Advertising Activity Act and the Family Protection Act breach the right to freedom of service provision and freedom of movement of goods as set out in the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (Article 19 in relation to Article 26).

 

We call on all Hungarian MPs to vote against this openly discriminatory amendment. These amendments, when adopted, will have a significant impact on the rights of LGBTI people and all those who should enjoy their freedom of expression to simply even communicate about the existence of diverse sexual orientations, gender identities and sex characteristics.

 

We also call on EU institutions, as well as Council of Europe and UN to condemn the ongoing and systematic attacks of the Hungarian government on the human rights of LGBTI people and the principle of non-discrimination.

 

Photo credits: Jakub Hałun





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USA: Transgender minors: Arkansas banned gender-affirming health care criticized

“Families are in a state of panic, asking what state should they move to. They want to know what they should do next and we don’t have a clear answer for them.”

By Alex Bollinger

 

LGBTQ Nation (19.04.2021) – https://bit.ly/32DUrhC – At least four transgender teens at one clinic in Arkansas have reportedly attempted suicide in the two weeks since the state banned gender-affirming health care for transgender minors.

 

“My families are in a state of panic, asking what state should they move to, saying their child is threatening to kill themselves,” Dr. Michele Hutchison told CTV. “They want to know what they should do next and we don’t have a clear answer for them.”

 

Dr. Hutchison would know. She runs a clinic that has helped 200 families in the state access age-appropriate medical care for transgender youth. Her clinic is the biggest provider of puberty blockers and hormone therapy in the state.

 

Dylan Brandt is a 15-year-old transgender boy who started testosterone several months ago. He and his mother said that he’s more confident and outgoing now.

 

But the state just passed a law banning doctors from providing gender-affirming care to minors. Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) vetoed the bill, saying, “Government under a conservative philosophy should be restrained.” His argument was that doctors and families should be left alone to decide what the best health care option is.

 

The GOP-dominated state legislature overrode his veto, making it the first state to pass such an extreme anti-transgender law and it’s set to go into effect this summer.

 

“The thought of having to go back to how I was before this is just devastating because that would set me back on everything,” Brandt said. “I don’t want to go back.”

 

The law has already made transgender youth and their families afraid, and they’re looking for solutions. Brandt’s family can’t afford to move, but they’re close enough to the border with Oklahoma that they may cross state lines to get medical treatment because, Brandt’s mother said, ending his hormone therapy “isn’t a viable option.”

 

Dr. Hutchison is worried that families will also turn to the black market.

 

“They’re going to find a way to get them, and it’s going to be dangerous because they won’t be monitored for side effects,” she said.

 

Others may not have the resources to do even that.

 

“You’re basically kicking these people when they’re down,” Dr. Stephanie Ho said. She has cared for about a dozen trans teens in the past. “They have very little resources to begin with and now you’re going to make them choose between rent and their child’s life.”

 

One of the treatments banned by the law is puberty blockers, which are medications that delay the onset of puberty so that trans teens and their families and doctors have more time to figure out the best course of action before the permanent – and dysphoric – effects of puberty happen. They’re reversible if someone stops taking them.

 

One study found that transgender teens who wanted puberty blockers and were able to get them had a significantly reduced risk of suicidal thoughts for the rest of their lives compared to trans teens who wanted them but didn’t get them. Another study found that the treatment improves transgender youths’ outlooks on life.

 

The law also banned hormone therapy and other medical treatments for trans youth. While it also technically banned gender-affirming surgery, that is already not something performed on minors.

 

In addition to potentially losing access to life-saving medication, the legislation showed the state’s contempt for transgender people. Studies have already connected discriminatory laws and teen suicide.

 

At least 20 other states are considering similar legislation and could follow similar paths to Arkansas.

 

Arkansas has already passed two other anti-LGBTQ bills this year, including a ban on transgender girls and women in school sports.

The other bill expanded religious exemptions for healthcare workers, a law that could make it legal for a doctor to refuse to provide care for LGBTQ people.

 

The religious exemptions law expands what health care providers are allowed to do under the law, while the gender-affirming healthcare ban restricts providers by threatening their licenses, insurance, and state funding if they provide treatment in accordance with mainstream science.

 

The group Doctors For Change released an open letter to the sponsors of similar legislation in Texas pointing out that the bill flies in the face of medical research and standards of care.

 

“The care provided to children and youth with gender dysphoria is tailored to their specific needs by a team of highly trained providers, including pediatricians, mental health specialists, endocrinologists, surgeons, and allies and supporters including parents and guardians,” they wrote. “Each provider plays a role in ensuring the health of the child based on established standards of care and the peer-reviewed medical literature.”

 

“In our experience, affirmation and acceptance from parents, guardians, physicians, and all other important adults in a child’s life is extremely beneficial to the child’s health outcomes and happiness. These benefits are also supported overwhelmingly by the medical literature and highly respected pediatric organizations including the Texas Pediatric SocietyAmerican Academy of Pediatrics, and Pediatric Endocrine Society.”

 

Arkansas is also currently considering a bill to block transgender people from using the facilities associated with their gender.

 

Photo Credits: Advocate.com

 





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UZBEKISTAN: Unique opportunity to decriminalise same-sex conduct

ILGA (03.03.2021) – We, ILGA-Europe and the undersigned human rights organisations, call on the President and government of Uzbekistan, member of the UN Human Rights Council, to decriminalise same-sex conduct between men under the ongoing review of the Criminal Code, with a view to ensuring conformity with the recommendations of the UN treaty bodies.

 

Since 2016, President Shavkat Mirziyoyev has launched many legal reforms and Uzbekistan is now discussing and undertaking reforms to its criminal justice system. This presents a unique opportunity to finally decriminalise same-sex conduct between men in Uzbekistan, in line with international human rights standards and its own Constitution.

 

However, the draft of the new Criminal Code[1], released for public discussion by the Uzbek Prosecutor General’s Office on 22 February 2021, does not remove the provision criminalising consensual same-sex conduct between men. Despite calls from international human rights bodies and civil society, the provision remains in the new version of the Code, moved from Article 120 to Article 154 without changing its substance.

 

Worryingly, the Article is included in the newly created Chapter V of the Code, entitled: “Crimes against family, children and morality”. No further explanation was given by the Prosecutor General’s Office in the explanatory note to the draft.

 

We recall that as a party to the international human rights treaties, Uzbekistan is obliged to protect the inherent dignity and the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family[2]. We also remind that when applying for membership at the UN Human Rights Council, Uzbekistan committed to the promotion and protection of human rights and the adoption of a range of legislative, institutional and administrative measures to fulfil its international obligations in the field of human rights, and pledged to protect, promote and support universal human rights and fundamental freedoms for all[3]. Moreover, as an EU GSP+ beneficiary, in accordance with Article 13 of the GSP Regulation[4], Uzbekistan should effectively implement agreed international treaties and cooperate with the relevant monitoring bodies.

 

In its communication with the UN treaty bodies, the Uzbekistani government has claimed that criminalisation of same-sex conduct between men reflects Uzbek traditions and religion[5]. However, we reiterate the statement of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, clearly stating that religious beliefs cannot be used to justify LGBT+[6] rights violations nor be invoked as legitimate ‘justification’ for violence or discrimination against LGBT people, and that the right to freedom of religion protects individuals and not religions as such.[7]

 

We remind Uzbekistan that attitudes towards LGBT people may vary from country to country, but human rights standards are universal and inalienable. International human rights law is clear: all people, without exception, are entitled to protection of their human rights, including LGBT people. Criminalisation of consensual same-sex conduct violates multiple human rights standards, including those on liberty, fair trial, integrity, privacy, dignity, equality before the law, non-discrimination and the absolute prohibition on torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment. These human rights standards are enshrined in legally binding treaties ratified by Uzbekistan as acknowledged in its voluntary pledges and commitments pursuant to General Assembly resolution 60/251[8].

 

Repealing the provision criminalising same-sex conduct or relation and other laws used to persecute LGBT people is an important step for Uzbekistan, member of the UN Human Rights Council, towards combating prejudice and protecting lives of LGBT people under international human rights law and its own Constitution.

 

Background

 

Although the Uzbekistani Constitution guarantees privacy, equality and non-discrimination, Uzbekistan is one of the only two Central Asian countries that retain legislation criminalising private, consensual same-sex conduct between men. Article 120 of the Criminal Code[9]  in force stipulates that “bezakalbazlyk” (sodomy), voluntary sexual intercourse between two male individuals, is punishable by one to three years of restricted liberty, or by up to three years of imprisonment. Due to the widespread failure to understand the difference between sexual orientation and gender identity by state and non-state actors in Uzbekistan, this law negatively impacts all of the LGBT community.

 

As a consequence of criminalising same-sex conduct between men, LGBT people are routinely subjected to arbitrary arrests, ill-treatment, persecution and surveillance by state and non-state actors[10]. It should be noted that non-state actors feel emboldened to attack LGBT people merely due to the existence of Article 120, knowing that the victims will not seek state protection out of fear of being persecuted for their sexual orientation[11].

 

Due to the Article 120 in the Criminal Code, and widely practiced bans on associations and peaceful demonstrations, as well as public stigmatisation of LGBT people, activists cannot apply for and register civil society organisations advocating for human rights of LGBT people in Uzbekistan.

 

Aidsfonds

All Out

Amnesty International

Association for Human Rights in Central Asia

Association UMDPL – Association of Ukrainian human rights monitors on Law Enforcement

The Barys Zvozskau Belarusian Human Rights House

Bir Duino – Kyrgyzstan

Bulgarian Helsinki Committee

Center for Civil Liberties – Ukraine

Center for the Development of Democracy and Human Rights – Russia

Center for Participation and Development

Centre De La Protection Internationale

Citizens’ Watch

Civil Rights Defenders

COC Nederland

Crude Accountability

DRA – Deutsch-Russischer Austausch e.V.

Eurasian Coalition on Health, Rights, Gender and Sexual Diversity

Federation Global Initiative on Psychiatry

The Georgian Centre for Psychosocial and Medical Rehabilitation of Torture Victims – GCRT

Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly – Vanadzor

Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights – Poland

The Human Dignity Trust

Human Rights Center “Memorial”

Human Rights Club

Human Rights Monitoring Institute – Lithuania

Human Rights Watch

Human Rights Without Frontiers

Humanrights.ch – Switzerland

Hungarian Helsinki Committee

The International Commission of Jurists

International Federation for Human Rights

International Partnership for Human Rights

The International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims

Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and the Rule of Law

Libereco Partnership for Human Rights e.V.

Macedonian Helsinki Committee

The Norwegian Helsinki Committee

Public Association “Dignity” – Kazakhstan

Public Verdict Foundation

The Swedish OSCE-Network

Transgender Europe

Union “Women of the Don”

World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT)

[1] Draft of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Uzbekistan, Article 154, Available at: https://regulation.gov.uz/ru/d/29646

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

[3] Annex to the letter dated 30 September 2019 from the Permanent Representative of Uzbekistan to the United Nations addressed to the President of the General Assembly. Candidature of Uzbekistan to the Human Rights Council, 2021– 2023. Available at: https://undocs.org/en/A/74/477

[4] Parliament and of the Council of 25 October 2012 applying a scheme of generalised tariff preferences and repealing Council Regulation (EC) No 732/2008. Available at: https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/ALL/?uri=celex:32012R0978

[5] UN Committee against Torture (CAT), List of issues in relation to the fifth periodic report of Uzbekistan. Replies of Uzbekistan to the list of issues, 20 September 2019, CAT/C/UZB/Q/5/Add.1

[6] LGBT – lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans persons.

[7] 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

[8] See 3.

[9] Criminal Code of the Republic of Uzbekistan, Article 120, Available at: http://www.legislationline.org/download/action/download/id/1712/file/a45cbf3cc66c17f04420786aa164.htm/pr eview

[10] https://www.ilga-europe.org/sites/default/files/Uzbekistan.pdf

[11] https://rus.ozodlik.org/a/29890288.html

 

 

Photo credits: ILGA Europe


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