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BRAZIL / EU: Marielle Franco is the first-ever LGBTI person to be on the Sakharov Prize shortlist

EP LGBTI Intergroup (10.10.2019) – https://bit.ly/2IUsOY1 – The European Parliament announced the finalists for the Sakharov Prize on 9 October 2019. And for the first time in its 30 years of existence, a person from the LGBTI community is on the list: Marielle Franco.

 

Marielle Franco was a Brazilian politician, feminist and human rights defender. A black bisexual activist, she fought for the rights of women, young black people, favela residents and LGBTI people in Brazil until she was brutally murdered in March 2018, aged 38.

 

Marielle Franco and Jean Wyllys, openly gay Brazilian politician and LGBTI rights defender, now in exile in Europe, were together the first-ever nominees for the Sakharov Prize to come from the LGBTI community. Jean Wyllys’ nomination was withdrawn at his request so other human rights defenders from Brazil, Chief Raoni and Claudelice Silva dos Santos, could be on the shortlist.

 

“With this nomination, the European Parliament takes a strong stand against rampant and inacceptable violence against LGBTI people, in Brazil and around the world. But it is also sending a strong message to public figures – such as President Bolsonaro – who are condoning violence against LGBTI people: we will not accept this any longer,” said Terry Reintke, Co-Chair of the LGBTI Intergroup.

 

72 countries worldwide still criminalise homosexuality, yet none of them kills as many LGBTI people yearly as Brazil. Same-sex couples may have the right to marry and adopt children in Brazil, but this is not enough to protect the whole community against increasing violence, sometimes encouraged by public figures such as President Bolsonaro himself.

 

Brazil holds a sad record: the world highest LGBT murder rate. In 2017, more than 380 murders against LGBT people were registered – a 30% increase compared to 2016 (according to the Gay Grupo de Bahia). That’s more than one person killed per day simply because of who they are. And this doesn’t even take into account the high numbers of suicides in the LGBTI community.

 

Marielle Franco was dedicated to the defence of human rights and for this, she paid the price of her life. Like too many LGBTI people worldwide who are killed for simply wanting to be themselves.

 

“We can only celebrate her historic nomination, for the visibility it brings to those fighting LGBTI-phobia but also sexism, racism, poverty and police violence. The European Parliament is showing its commitment to defend the human rights of everyone, regardless of who they are and wherever they live – because human rights are universal,” said Tanja Fajon, Vice-President of the LGBTI Intergroup.

 

Since 1988, the Sakharov Prize is awarded every year by the European Parliament to individuals who have made an exceptional contribution to the fight for human rights across the globe, drawing attention to human rights violations as well as supporting the laureates and their cause.

 

The 2019 laureate will be announced in December 2019.





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UGANDA: Brutal killing of gay activist

Amid attacks, officials threaten death penalty for LGBT people.

 

HRW (15.10.2019) – https://bit.ly/31ecEz1 – Ugandan authorities should thoroughly investigate the fatal attack on October 4, 2019 on an activist for the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people, Human Rights Watch said today. The death of the activist, Brian Wasswa, comes as the Ugandan government calls for reintroducing an anti-homosexuality bill that would provide the death penalty for consensual same-sex acts.

 

Wasswa, 28, was attacked at his home in Jinja, a city in eastern Uganda. Wasswa had worked since 2017 as a paralegal trained by Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum (HRAPF), a legal aid organization that supports vulnerable communities, including LGBT people. Wasswa also worked as a peer educator with The AIDS Support Organization (TASO), a Ugandan nongovernmental organization dedicated to HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment, and care, where he conducted HIV outreach to LGBT people. Justine Balya, a legal officer with HRAPF, said Wasswa was social, well-loved, and committed to counseling young people living with HIV about the importance of adhering to treatment.

 

Days after Wasswa’s murder, Ethics and Integrity Minister Simon Lokodo told reporters that parliament planned to introduce a bill that would criminalize so-called “promotion and recruitment” by gay people, and would include the death penalty for “grave” consensual same-sex acts. The proposed measure echoes Uganda’s 2014 Anti-Homosexuality Act, which criminalized the undefined “promotion” of homosexuality and early drafts included the death penalty for “aggravated homosexuality.” The Constitutional Court nullified the 2014 law on procedural grounds. Nevertheless, its passage contributed to violence, discrimination, evictions, and arbitrary arrests of LGBT people, as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International documented.

 

“In the wake of the horrific murder of Brian Wasswa, the Ugandan government should be making it crystal clear that violence is never acceptable, regardless of one’s sexual orientation or gender identity,” said Oryem Nyeko, Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Instead, a government minister charged with ethics and integrity is threatening to have gay people killed at the hands of the state.”

 

Uganda has experienced a rise in homophobic rhetoric from the government at high levels in recent weeks. In addition to Minister Lokodo’s threat to revive the anti-homosexuality bill, Security Minister Elly Tumwine claimed in an October 3 television interview that LGBT people were linked to an alleged terrorist group.

 

Wasswa, who lived alone in a house in a fenced compound containing other houses, was attacked in his home on October 4. Edward Mwebaza, deputy executive director of HRAPF, said that neighborhood children found the door open at around 5 p.m., went into the house, and found Wasswa unconscious, lying in a pool of blood. Neighbors rushed Wasswa to Jinja Hospital, where doctors found that he was still alive but had been struck on the head multiple times by a sharp object. When Wasswa did not respond to treatment, on October 5, his colleagues at HRAPF requested an ambulance to transfer him to Mulago Hospital in Kampala, Uganda’s capital city, one hour away. Wasswa died in the ambulance en route to Kampala.

 

Police from Jinja’s Central Police Station have opened investigations. They identified the murder instrument, a short-handled hoe found in Wasswa’s home, and interviewed one witness who saw another man in Wasswa’s home several hours before Wasswa was found unconscious, HRAPF reported.

 

Mwebaza told Human Rights Watch that Wasswa was openly gay and gender non-conforming, sometimes describing himself as transgender. HRAPF urged the police to investigate the possibility that the murder may have been a hate crime.

 

Mwebaza said that three other gay and transgender people had been killed in Uganda in recent months, amid the climate of increasingly hostile statements by politicians around LGBT rights. On August 1, a group of motorcycle taxi drivers beat a young transgender woman, Fahad Ssemugooma Kawere, to death in Wakiso District, near Kampala, HRAPF and other Ugandan activists reported.

 

HRAPF itself has also experienced previous violent attacks. In February 2018, two security guards were seriously injured during a violent break-in at the organization’s Kampala offices, and in 2016, a HRAPF security guard was beaten to death. No one was brought to justice for either attack. Other organizations working on sensitive issues, such as land rights and the rights of journalists and women, also have experienced break-ins and in some cases attacks on security guards.

 

“It is incumbent on the Ugandan authorities to deliver justice for the murder of Brian Wasswa,” Nyeko said. “Police should conduct thorough investigations, and political leaders should refrain from any rhetoric that might encourage violence against LGBT people.”





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Charges in Mongolia LGBT attack hint at changing attitudes

Police bring charges against far-right group after attack on transgender sex worker investigated as a hate crime.

 

By Aubrey Menarndt & Khaliun Bayarsogt

 

Al Jazeera (09.10.2019) – https://bit.ly/2OwKY5R – Last month, Bosoo Khukh Mongol, a far-right Mongolian nationalist group, teamed up with a local television station to lure a transgender sex worker into a hotel room.

 

In the room, they threatened her with physical violence and forced her to describe her work on camera.

 

The video was aired on the evening news and posted on Bosoo Khukh Mongol’s Facebook page, alongside incendiary commentary accusing the LGBT community of paedophilia, spreading disease and compromising national security.

 

Gay and transgender people continue to be the target of harassment and violence in Mongolia, although some progress has been made in recent years.

 

In 2017, changes were made to the law to provide more protections for the LGBT community as well as better training for law enforcement officials on hate crimes and preventing and prosecuting them.

 

“Previously, Mongolians had limited knowledge about acceptance of LGBT rights and dignity,” said Tamir Chultemsuren, a political sociologist with the Independent Research Institute of Mongolia, “but now, people have more information… and so general public awareness has improved.”

 Educating authorities on hate crimes

 

The LGBT Center, a Mongolian NGO, began training the police on hate crimes and the implications of the 2017 criminal code after they failed to take action against an officer who assaulted a detained transgender woman.

 

They have since trained more than 500 police officers, prosecutors, and judges.

 

Now, the Mongolian police force has guidelines for processing transgender individuals: In police custody, transgender individuals are treated according to the gender they identify as, regardless of their state-issued identification.

 

“Compared with 2017, I see an improvement, especially from the Crime and Investigation Division,” said Baldangombo Altangerel, the LGBT Center’s legal director who was responsible for overseeing the police training programme.

 

Following Bosoo Khukh Mongol’s harassment of the transgender women last month, the Human Rights Commission of Mongolia submitted a formal request to the police to investigate the incident under the new criminal code.

 

Mongolian police told Al Jazeera they are investigating the case as a hate crime and, in late September, they brought formal charges against Bosoo Khukh Mongol leader, Gankhuyag Ganzorig. They have not taken action against the TV station.

 

The woman, who prefers to remain anonymous, has worked with the police and is being treated as a victim, a sign of progress as historically, rape and sexual violence against Mongolia’s LGBT community have not been prosecuted.

 Growing support

 

The LGBT Center has been surprised by public reaction to the incident.

 

Kenna, Youth Programme manager for the LGBT Center, said people had posted messages of support on its social media page.

 

“I’ve noticed that people speaking up for LGBT rights has increased,” Kenna said, “People are starting to know about the criminal code, anti-discrimination.”

 

In October 2018, Kenna launched the Mongolian Queer Podcast, a well-received podcast which recently completed its third season.

 

The podcast focuses on providing advice and support, profiling those who are already out and proud to highlight their experiences for others in the community as well as non-LGBT people to underline social support and acceptance.

 

In 2014, Mongolia’s first pride parade was held with only 15 participants; in August of this year, an estimated 250 took part.

 

On the weekends in the capital Ulaanbaatar, D.D./H.Z., Mongolia’s first gay bar, is busy. Zorig Alima, the owner, says his clientele has increased since police raids on the bar stopped after the implementation of the new criminal code.

 

And his is no longer the only bar in town, with as many as four new places opening in recent years.

 

Discrimination

While Mongolia’s new criminal code has given gender and sexual minorities more protection from hate crimes, Baldangombo says more needs to be done to help them integrate into society.

 

A 2014 report from the United Nations Development Programme found that a Mongolian from a gender or sexual minority was more likely to be unemployed and that an LGBT person’s perceived risk of falling into poverty doubled when they lived openly.

 

The situation is even more difficult for Mongolia’s transgender population because they can only change their gender on state-issued identification documents after undergoing gender reassignment surgery, which is not available in the country. As a result, they often risk being discriminated against upon submitting their paperwork for employment.

 

Many transgender people go into sex work – illegal in Mongolia – when they are unable to access formal employment, putting themselves at risk of being harassed or arrested.

 

Marta Sukh-Ochir, a transgender woman who once worked alongside the woman attacked by Bosoo Khukh Mongol, told Al Jazeera she took up sex work after her family kicked her out and she couldn’t afford food or a home.

 

“I actively looked for other jobs, cashier at a supermarket, receptionist at a hotel, shop assistant…I tried many times, she said. I applied to so many jobs. My gender expression, my appearance – how I looked with long hair, nails, being and acting feminine – was a struggle for employers.”

 

Sukh-Ochir fled Mongolia as a refugee but still worries for the safety of her friend and transgender people back in her homeland.

 

While life is gradually improving for Mongolia’s LGBT community, there are still a number of hurdles to overcome.





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Transgender people tell us why India’s newly proposed rape laws are discriminatory

The fact that punishment for rape against cis-gendered women is more than seven years, but for the trans community, it ranges from six months to two years, has led to the #RapeIsRape campaign.

 

By Pallavi Pundir

 

Vice (11.09.2019) – https://bit.ly/2moIoTp – In 2017, as part of a nation-wide survey, an anonymous transwoman recalled going to the doctor right after being gang-raped. She didn’t get the dose of Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (an emergency HIV medicine to be taken within 72 hours of sexual violence). Instead, she encountered one searingly invalidating question from the doctor: “How can you be raped?” The woman was a part of a study that exposed extreme transphobia among the medical community, and a complete disregard for the violence meted out to the transgender community in India. But even though there’s no big data on the enormity of sexual violence the community faces in India at the moment, or the impunity with which they’re dealt with, it’s safe to say that the doctors aren’t the only erring ones.

 

Transgender people—an umbrella term for those whose sense of gender doesn’t sync with the gender assigned to them at birth, with some 4,900,000 of them in India (according to the latest census in 2011)—often face sexual violence in more frequency than can be evidenced. In an interview with South China Morning Post, Salma Khan of Mumbai-based NGO Kinnar Maa Trust, which supports 5,000 transgender people in India, said that at least one in four of the people registered with them has been a victim of rape, gang-rape or other sexual violence.

 

So, on August 5, when the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill was passed by the Lok Sabha (it’s yet to be passed by the Upper House to become the law of the land), despite a large wave of protests since the bill was first introduced in 2014, there was great uproar again. Out of the many flaws of the bill was this glaring one: violence, abuse, and rape against transgender people can be punishable with jail time from six months to two years, and a fine. Compare that with the punishment for rape of cis-gendered women, which can give the offender from seven years of jail time to even life sentence—and you can see how unfair the proposed law reads.

 

In response to this, transgender people in India have begun a campaign with the hashtag #RapeIsRape, a response that simply states that rape is degrading to all. The movement, which started on August 15, is a part of years and years of struggle by the community to be visible, acknowledged and treated equally in a homophobic and transphobic society. (The transgender community in India got recognised as the third gender only in 2014.)

 

“Rape is the fourth most common crime committed against women. Trans women are women, whereas trans men are forced to experience femininity by the patriarchal society we live in,” says Neysara, a Netherlands-based trans person of Indian origin, who is documenting this online campaign, and runs Transgender India, an organisation for transgenders in India. VICE reached out to a few members of the community to find out why the bill causes more harm than good:

“This increases the chances of us getting targeted even more.”

Now that the bill has been passed, this is the reality we have to live with. The main problem in the bill is that of harassment. If a trans woman is abused and harassed, the strictest punishment is that of two years and a fine of Rs 10,000 (approximately 128 EUR). If a woman gets raped, the minimum penalty is much more. This increases the chances of us getting targeted even more. We feel that we’re second class citizens who have no value like a regular person. If the government wants to make the bill more inclusive, then make it all-inclusive, and not conditional. — Shakti, 25

 

“It’s a clear way of telling us that we’re less than women, or sub-human in the country”

 

The law calls itself a transgender person’s protection bill, but, especially in the crimes committed against the community, instead of making it more severe, it dilutes the punishments for offences against the trans community. One such offence that is very gendered is rape. In a country where rape of cis gendered women ranges from seven years to life, it’s a clear way of telling us that we’re less than women, or sub-human in the country. It’s legally writing in the constitution that we’re not legally human. — Neysara, 36

 

“In the eyes of the family, trans men are women who need to be fixed”

 

The trans community is prone to physical and verbal abuse, even if you compare it with women in India today. Why would you not value the life of the trans community the way you value everyone else’s? If you rape, you’re taking the dignity of the person. It doesn’t matter if the identity of the person is a male, female or trans person. Physical and emotional trauma is the same for everyone. Among a lot of trans people, especially trans men, a lot of corrective rape takes place from the family. In the eyes of the family, those are women who need to be fixed. This is an invisible violence that happens on a very regular basis. Often, there’s inappropriate touching and if you say anything, the abuser says, ‘Oh, I thought you’re a male’. This bill is going to aggravate these kind of situations even more. Article 14 of the Constitution says that all humans have equal rights, but this doesn’t look like it, no? — Vinod, 30

 

“I do feel the bill is one step forward”

There’s no equality in this bill. Rape is rape, be it with cis-women or trans women. However, I do feel the bill is one step forward. It shows that there is some development and we’re working towards more. Earlier, even this provision wasn’t there, and having something is better than nothing. The only thing discriminatory here is that it impedes our fundamental right to equality, which is our prerogative irrespective of our gender, caste, sex and so on. — Nia, 42

 

“So must crimes against us be seen as petty crimes?”

 

There should be a punishment for at least three to five years. If you look at the LGBTQ community, they suffer, almost every day, with some kind of violence or the other. So must crimes against us be seen as petty crimes? This will only push us further to the margins. — Ibra, 25





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Mexico trans women fight for justice as killings go unpunished

By Associated Press

 

The LA Times (09.09.2019) – https://lat.ms/2m5wei0 – Months after Kenya Cuevas’ friend was killed in front of her, a funeral wreath with Cuevas’ name on it arrived at her doorstep. The implication was clear: Keep making noise about slain transgender women and you’ll be next.

 

Mexico has become the world’s second deadliest country after Brazil for transgender people, with 261 transgender women slain in 2013-2018, according to a recent study by the LGBTQ rights group Letra S.

 

President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who took office Dec. 1, has promised his government will carry out “effective” investigations into LGBTQ hate crimes, but the grisly rate continues. Sixteen transgender women were reported killed in the first four months of 2019 and at least six more since then, according to an Associated Press count of cases reported in local media.

 

Like most crime in Mexico, nearly all such slayings go unsolved and unpunished — less than 3% of the killings of LGBTQ members have resulted in convictions since 2013. So transgender community leaders and activists are largely on their own in pursuing long-denied justice.

 

Cuevas became an activist on Sept. 29, 2016. That night, her friend and fellow transgender sex worker Paola Buenrostro got into a client’s Nissan and was shot multiple times. When Cuevas ran to the car’s passenger side, the man pointed the gun at her head and pulled the trigger. The weapon jammed.

 

Cuevas grabbed the man and held him until police arrived, at which point she began recording on her cellphone. But despite multiple witnesses to the killing and Cuevas’ video, the man was released from custody a few days later.

 

An angry Cuevas soon quit sex work and founded the organization Casa de Muñecas, Spanish for “house of dolls,” to campaign for protections for transgender women. She is now one of the most visible transgender activists among a growing chorus of women seeking change from Mexico’s government.

 

Death threats have followed, and Cuevas now has security cameras installed at her home and is accompanied by two bodyguards provided by a governmental program that tries to protect activists and journalists.

 

“When that happened to Paola, I protested and I did it publicly, asking for justice the entire time,” Cuevas said. “I don’t want special treatment. Just give me justice — do your job.”

 

Lina Perez, president of the pro-LGBTQ organization Cuenta Conmigo, said slain transgender women rarely receive justice because authorities often look down on them.

 

“It’s easier to grant impunity because the same people that oversee the law think that they’re sick, that there is something wrong with them,” Perez said.

 

Activists do point to some victories in recent years. A major one came in 2014 when Mexico City became the first place in the country to let transgender people change their gender and names on their birth certificates, a law that has since been adopted by six of Mexico’s 31 states.

 

That change was pushed for in part by the activist group ProDiana, which is led by Diana Sanchez Barrios.

 

Sanchez Barrios said that before the law, transgender people had to go through expensive judicial processes to amend identifying documents. She was forced to undergo tests on her mental state, produce a litany of witnesses from throughout her life and spend thousands of dollars to legally change her gender and name a decade ago.

 

“It’s like you were on trial being made guilty just for being a trans woman,” Sanchez said.

 

About 4,000 transgender women have changed their official documents since Mexico City’s laws became more accepting, but violence persists.

 

“We’re always the most vulnerable,” Sanchez said. “We’re the perfect target for discrimination.”

 

ProDiana now is pushing for institutional reforms to prevent discrimination by key areas of the government, like the police.

 

Sanchez said police “have not been a great ally for trans women.” She described years of extortion and violence suffered at the hands of officers who are supposed to protect citizens.

 

A common thread of vulnerability runs through the lives of transgender women, who are often shunned by their own families and forced into the streets. Cuevas and Sanchez both ran away from home at a young age to begin their transitions.

 

“We went to the funerals of murdered friends and the families didn’t want us there,” Sanchez said. “We have to be very far from certain relationships in our friends’ lives.”

 

Many employers also refuse to hire transgender women, forcing them to rely on sex work and exposing them to the dangers of the streets, activists say.

 

Killings of transgender women mirror Mexico’s broader struggle against cartel and gang violence, with homicide totals setting new records several years running.

 

Last year, 53 transgender women were killed in Mexico. They include a woman found in a trash bin with her face pummeled beyond recognition by a rock. One was tortured to death by captors while her family heard her last moments over the phone. Another was found naked and strangled in her bedroom. No suspects have been publicly identified in those cases.

 

Most recently, on Aug. 13, a transgender woman died from eight stab wounds in Mexico City, local media reported. Her attacker escaped and police have named no suspects.

 

While Lopez Obrador’s government has publicly sided with LGBTQ rights, it’s not clear what protections might be put in place or envisioned to combat violence against the community.

 

Alexandra Haas, director of the federal National Council to Prevent Discrimination, said the administration wants to retrain local prosecutors and police in handling cases involving transgender sex workers. She said the government is working with the attorney general’s office to establish unified protocols across Mexico.

 

“It’s very important to us that we make it so local prosecutors take these cases seriously,” Haas said.

 

Sanchez said there is a lot of work to be done at all levels of government. She would like to see the federal government pass a marriage equality law, as it is currently governed on a state-by-state case, and challenge other local decisions that may infringe on rights such as legally changing one’s gender.

 

“This leftist government that has majority control of Congress and the Senate and locally in Mexico City has to generate laws in favor of sexual diversity,” Sanchez said.

 

In the capital’s Pride parade in June, Cuevas rode down the city’s premier avenue on top of a hearse to call attention to the violence against the transgender community.

 

Death has not stopped following her. Last January, Cuevas’ friend Pamela Sandoval became the first known transgender woman to be killed under the new administration.

 

Cuevas said she is willing to endure the death threats if it means she can help secure a safer world for Mexico’s transgender community.

 

“If I don’t do it, the government isn’t going to do it,” Cuevas said. “And if I wait for the government to do it, how many more people are going to be killed?”


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