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JOINT STATEMENT: Trans Day of Remembrance 2020: Fighting for our futures

On Trans Day of Remembrance (TDoR), 20 November, we remember and honour trans and gender-diverse people whose lives were taken away from us.

 

ILGA-Europe (19.11.2020) – https://bit.ly/3fsI6Cc – Day after day, trans people around the world fight for our human rights and social justice. Year after year, we demand that trans people are protected from violence. We demand that our human rights are respected. We demand our right to live.

 

This year, the Trans Murder Monitoring (TMM) reported 350 trans and gender-diverse people murdered worldwide between 1 October 2019 and 30 September 2020.

 

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic crisis, inequalities, systemic oppression, and violence by state and non-state actors are heightened. The realities of trans communities that are hugely marginalised and underrepresented, such as Black and people of colour, sex workers, migrants, asylum seekers, refugees, Roma, people with disabilities, and those living with HIV, remain mostly unseen. Lack of access to healthcare, employment, housing, education, and justice, as well as stigmatisation and persecution, are just some of the results of the inaction of societies that do little or nothing to protect trans and gender-diverse people.

 

Trans activists and movements are persistently fighting to ensure that trans rights, policies, and legal measures protecting trans people are put in place. However, the lives of trans and gender-diverse people remain constantly at risk, particularly for those of us who are affected by racism, sexism, misogyny, xenophobia, ableism and anti-sex worker sentiment and discrimination. Increasing hostility from anti-trans feminist groups, exclusion from mainstream LGBT groups, and the rise of political networks mobilising anti-gender movements severely aggravate these risks.

 

November is a particularly painful month for trans people. Trans Day of Remembrance reminds us of how normative and oppressive systems strive to erase us, to eradicate our existence. This date reminds us that violence towards one of us is violence towards all of us. It reminds us of the urgency and importance of building more self-aware, resilient, and connected trans movements. It is not enough that we are in one another’s thoughts; we have to be in one another’s actions. We will not let anyone stop us from fighting for our dignity, caring for our communities, and celebrating our lives. To our trans siblings around the world, you are not alone. We are in this together.

 

On Trans Day of Remembrance, we call on you to join our fight. Do not only share the horrific statistics on murders of trans people worldwide. Make sure that the lives of trans people who are still alive are part of your fight. Amplify trans voices while we live. Educate others about trans rights while we live. Donate to organisations focusing on marginalised and underrepresented trans communities. Commit to concrete actions and confront the pervasive structural and cistemic oppression that keeps us deprived of our basic rights. Let us end all forms of violence and discrimination against trans and gender-diverse people together.

 

Together, we fight for our futures. Fight with us!





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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)





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Europe’s two largest networks of LGBTI and transgender organisations call on Hungary to reject attempts to ban legal gender recognition

ILGA-Europe and Transgender Europe, the two largest networks of LGBTI and trans organisations in Europe and Central Asia, representing over 800 organisations and groups across the region collectively, are calling on the Hungarian Parliament and the Justice Committee of the Parliament to drop Article 33 of a legislative omnibus bill, which would deny access to legal gender recognition in the country.

 

ILGA-Europe (06.04.2020) – https://bit.ly/3be8VHK – The Hungarian government Tuesday, 31 March, released a draft omnibus bill simultaneously amending many laws and provisions. One of the laws proposed for amendment relates to legal gender recognition for trans people – proposing to replace “sex” with “sex assigned at birth” in the national registry and on identity documents, as cited in Article 33 of the omnibus bill.

 

The cited reasoning for this amendment is:

 

“The sex entered into the civil registry is based on facts determined by doctors, declared by the registry. The registry certifies the facts and rights it includes until proven otherwise, therefore it does not create rights. However, the sex declared by the registry could create rights or obligations, and therefore it is necessary to define the term of birth sex. Given that completely changing one’s biological sex is impossible, it is necessary to lay it down in law that it cannot be changed in the civil registry either.”

 

Functionally, this amendment would mean that legal gender recognition would become impossible under any circumstances in Hungary, because all current mentions of “sex” in identity documents would be changed to the immutable characteristic of “sex assigned at birth”. Currently identity documents can be changed in Hungary by law, although processes have been suspended for nearly two years.

 

The amendment comes at a time when the Hungarian Parliament has given Prime Minister Viktor Orbán power to rule by decree indefinitely because of the COVID-19 crisis, which means he no longer needs to consult other lawmakers before making policy decisions. Orbán’s attacks against the LGBTI community go back to 2015, when he blocked a draft agreement at the Council of the European Union which called on the European Commission to tackle homophobic and transphobic discrimination. He has also refused to ratify the Istanbul Convention because of its definition of gender as a social construct, and in 2017 he hosted the International Organisation of the Family (IOF), a US group which campaigns against same-sex marriage.

 

The Hungarian people overwhelmingly support access to legal gender recognition for trans people. According to a Median representative survey in September 2019, 70% of respondents believe that trans people should have access to legal gender recognition and only 17% believed that trans people should under no circumstances change their gender or name in their papers.

 

According to Advocacy Director of ILGA-Europe, Katrin Hugendubel: “Case law from the European Court of human rights clearly establishes the right to legal gender recognition for transgender people. International human rights actors must act firmly and swiftly to stop this extreme rollback in a settled area of human rights law.”

 

Trans-led Hungarian civil society organisation Transvanilla Transgender Association President Barnabás Hidasi affirms that “legal gender recognition ensures a person’s right to self-determination, and that procedures must be existent, quick, transparent, and accessible”.

 

“Hungary’s proposed Article 33 runs counter to well-established international human rights standards, including the Council of Europe’s recommendations to member states,” said Masen Davis, Interim Executive Director at Transgender Europe (TGEU). “This dangerous bill would subject trans people in Hungary to increased scrutiny, discrimination, and violence. The Parliament should be focusing on what the people of Hungary to survive the COVID-19 pandemic, not using this crisis as cover to roll back the rights of an already-marginalised group.”

 

ILGA-Europe and Transgender Europe call on the Hungarian Parliament and the Justice Committee of the Parliament to #Drop33, amending the omnibus bill to protect the fundamental rights of all Hungarians. Further, we call on international human rights actors to raise awareness of this issue, and call on the Hungarian government to mobilise to protect trans people in Hungary and everywhere from derogations of their rights.


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