WORLD: Caster Semenya to take fight to European Court of Human Rights

Caster Semenya plans to fight rules forcing intersex athletes to reduce their naturally high levels of testosterone with drugs or surgery to compete.

 

Reuters (17.11.2020) – https://bit.ly/2Hr0QFJ – South African double Olympic 800-metre champion Caster Semenya is to take her fight with World Athletics to the European Court of Human Rights, her lawyers confirmed on Tuesday.

 

Semenya is one of a number of female athletes with differences in sexual development (DSDs) competing in races ranging from 400 metres to a mile, who World Athletics insist must reduce their naturally high levels of testosterone in order to run.

 

This can be done either through the use of drugs or surgical interventions.

 

Semenya has vowed to fight the regulations, but has already lost an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, and another subsequent plea to the Swiss Federal Tribunal (SFT) asking for the CAS ruling to be set aside.

 

“We will be taking World Athletics to the European Court of Human Rights,” Semenya’s lawyer Greg Nott said in a media release on Tuesday, without placing a time-frame on their appeal.

 

“We remain hopeful that World Athletics will see the error it has made and reverse the prohibitive rules which restrict Ms Semenya from competing.”

 

World Athletics have consistently said the regulations are aimed at creating a level playing field for all athletes.

 

“World Athletics has always maintained that its regulations are lawful and legitimate, and that they represent a fair, necessary and proportionate means of ensuring the rights of all female athletes to participate on fair and equal terms,” the governing body said in a statement after the SFT case.

 

Athletics South Africa insist Semenya is still part of their team for the Tokyo Olympic Games next year, though over what distance remains to be seen.

 

She has also been competing in the 200-metre sprint, which falls outside of the World Athletics regulations.




WORLD: Protect intersex persons’ rights, 34 states tell the United Nations

In a historic first, 34 States from all regions of the world called on the UN Human Rights Council to urgently protect intersex persons in their bodily autonomy and right to health, 8 NGOs said today.

 

By Daniele Paletta

ILGA World (01.10.2020) – https://bit.ly/3nthzZ4 – Intersex people are born with diverse sex characteristics (including genitals, gonads and chromosome patterns) that do not fit typical binary notions of male or female bodies. Up to 1.7% of the global population is born with such traits; yet, because their bodies are seen as different, intersex children and adults are often stigmatised.

 

“In many countries around the world,” Austria told the Human Rights Council today on behalf of 34 states, “intersex people are subjected to medically unnecessary surgeries, hormonal treatments and other procedures in an attempt to change their appearance to be in line with gendered societal expectations of male and female bodies without their full and informed consent.”

 

“Governments should investigate human rights violations and abuses against intersex people, ensure accountability, reverse discriminatory laws and provide victims with access to remedy.”

 

“This is an historic step forward for the global intersex community”, says Tony Briffa, Chair of the Intersex Committee at ILGA World and a Co-Executive Director of Intersex Human Rights Australia. “For the first time States have taken the lead, recognised the historic injustice that people with diverse sex characteristics are still facing every day, and are pushing their own governments and others to work with civil society to raise awareness.”

 

Civil society has indeed worked for years to make sure that intersex stories could be heard. Their voices highlighted how being denied their bodily autonomy has had a ripple effect on people’s health outcomes, education and employment opportunities, as well as their possibility to compete in sports – often without even being able to access remedies and justice.

 

Slowly, the world has begun to acknowledge these realities and lives. In 2019, the UN passed a resolution calling for an end to discrimination of women and girls in sports – including women born with variations of sex characteristics. This represented the first UN resolution on the rights of intersex persons. Earlier in 2020, then, a children’s hospital in Chicago became the first in the United States to publicly apologise for the harm it caused to intersex people, and announced it would stop medically unnecessary “normalising” surgeries. More and more voices have spoken up against regulations that keep excluding top female athletes from the Global South from international sport competitions.

 

Civil society has also spoken today at the UN Human Rights Council: 33 organisations welcomed the recent initiative by States, and encouraged them to “take further action in protecting intersex persons’ autonomy, rights to health, to physical and mental integrity, to live free from violence and harmful practices and to be free from torture and ill-treatment“.

 

“Our bodies were born whole, and only we should have had the right to decide what happened to them”, said Mauro Cabral Grinspan of GATE. “Violations against our bodies that only seek to make us fit the binary model of how women and men should look like are still the norm rather than the exception. We hope that today’s words at the United Nations will push States to finally take action and restore justice towards us”.

 

This is a joint statement by: ILGA World – The International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association; Tony Briffa and Morgan Carpenter, Intersex Human Rights Australia; GATE; OII Europe; SIPD Uganda; Intersex South Africa; Intersex Asia; and OII Chinese.

 

Read the statement delivered by the States here.

 

States who joined the statement:

 

Albania, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Cyprus, Czechia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland,India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Pakistan, Panama, Portugal,South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Uruguay.




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‘.




More than 60 LGBT, intersex people killed in Colombia in first eight months of 2020

Violent incidents rose during the coronavirus as the pandemic heightened prejudice and threw up new barriers to justice, the human rights ombudsman said.

 

Reuters (15.09.2020) – https://bit.ly/3hSFCwN – At least 63 members of Colombia’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex community were killed in the first eight months of this year, the Andean country’s human rights ombudsman said on Tuesday, while other acts of violence also increased.

 

Among those killed were 17 transgender women, 12 gay men, six lesbian women and one transgender man, as well as others whose sexual orientation and gender identity could not be specified, although they belonged to the LGBT and intersex community, the organization said.

 

Intersex refers to people who have reproductive or sexual anatomy that does not conform to typical definitions of male or female.

 

The ombudsman, an independent organization that promotes human rights in Colombia, did not immediately include comparative figures from the same period in 2019 as collection of the information started this year.

 

From January to August, the organization reported 388 cases of violence against LGBT and intersex people, mostly in the form of physical and psychological aggressions, up from 309 cases in the whole of last year.

 

“During the pandemic prejudice and discrimination have been exacerbated while obstacles to accessing justice in the receiving of complaints increased,” the ombudsman said in a statement.

 

The organization, which also cited 36 cases of aggression by police officers, called on the government to develop a concrete action plan to stop violence due to prejudice and fight institutional discrimination that affects this community in all areas and spaces.




Hungary ends legal recognition for transgender and intersex people

President Ader should not sign problematic new law.

 

By Kyle Knight & Lydia Gall

 

HRW (21.05.2020) – https://bit.ly/2Xsmuxl – Hungary’s parliament this week passed a law making it impossible for transgender or intersex people to legally change their gender – putting them at risk of harassment, discrimination, and even violence in daily situations when they need to use identity documents. The law is a major backwards step on transgender and intersex rights, and yet another violation of Hungary’s international rights obligations. It comes at a time when the government has used the Covid-19 pandemic as a pretext to grab unlimited power and is using parliament to rubber-stamp problematic non-public health related bills, like this one.

 

“Danny,” a 33-year-old transgender man living in Budapest, described his daily humiliation to Human Rights Watch. “I’m always stressed and uncomfortable … where I have to show my identity documents, for instance when I go to the post office or want to cross a border. I get funny looks, questions, and am forced to explain a very personal story to random strangers and that’s humiliating,” Danny said. “It really destroys my day.”

 

The legislation redefines the word “nem,” which in Hungarian can mean both “sex” and “gender,” to specifically refer to a person’s sex at birth as “biological sex based on primary sex characteristics and chromosomes.” According to Hungarian law, birth sex, once recorded, cannot be amended. This means that anyone who doesn’t identify with the sex they were assigned at birth – such as transgender people – will be denied the right to change their legal gender marker to correspond to their identity.

 

Intersex refers to the estimated 1.7 percent of people born with sex characteristics that differ from social expectations of female or male. Because their bodies are often misunderstood or miscategorized, intersex people may need access to legal gender recognition procedures later in life.

 

This new law compounds the marginalization trans people in Hungary already face. A recent survey showed that 95 percent of respondents in Hungary believe the government does not effectively combat anti-LGBT bias. It also violates Hungary’s obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights.

 

Hungarian President Janos Ader has a duty to ensure that people’s basic rights are not violated by unconstitutional laws. He should decline to sign this law and instead refer it to the Constitutional Court for review. And the European Union’s Commissioner on Equality, Helena Dalli, should strongly denounce Hungary’s attack against nondiscrimination, a core right enshrined in EU treaties.