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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.





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Anti-gay law in Gabon passes first step to decriminalization

In a surprise move, less than a year after a new penal code criminalized homosexuality, Gabon’s lower house of parliament voted to reverse the law that bans same sex relations.

 

RFI (24.06.2020) – https://bit.ly/2NIKWpL – The vote on Tuesday passed with 48 MPs voting to take the law off the books, while 24 voted against and 25 abstained from the vote.

 

While hailed by human rights leaders as a positive move, the bill must also pass in the upper house of the Senate before the law is taken off the books. If the Senate does not agree on the same terms, then the two houses must come together to agree on a text. The ruling Gabonese Democratic Party (PDG) has majority in the Senate, so it is not a given that the bill will be passed.

 

Homosexuality is against the law in Gabon, and that includes same-sex marriage. People who are caught can be punished with up to six months in prison and fines of up to 7,600 euros.

 

These laws, in addition to societal attitudes, have caused lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual (LGBT) people to be excluded from society as well as caused discrimination and promoted fear.

 

Six African countries have scrapped their bans since 2012, marking a positive trend overall, said Neela Ghoshal, a researcher with Human Rights Watch told Reuters last December.

 

“It’s unfortunate that a lot of African countries have claimed and owned those homophobic, colonial values, but others haven’t,” said Ghoshal.

 

“In general, across the continent, things are moving more in the right direction than in the wrong direction … I’m guessing you’ll see a lot of change in the next 10 years or so.”





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ECOWAS court deems Sierra Leone pregnant girl ban discriminatory

Sierra Leone government policy banning pregnant girls from attending school breaches the right of girls to access education, according to a ruling handed down by the Economic Community of Economic State (ECOWAS) Court of Justice on Thursday, and said that this policy is discriminatory– a victory for young girls.

 

By Laura Angela Bagnetto

 

Radio France Internationale (12.12.2019) – https://bit.ly/36EiKvK – “We hope this decision has an impact across Africa,” said Judy Gitau, Africa Regional Coordinator at Equality Now, who has worked on the case from the beginning and was present in the Abuja courtroom when the verdict was read.

 

“It not only sets out how such a practice is discriminatory, but it allows people to actually see how they’re relegating the young girls to a cycle of poverty and indignity,” she told RFI after the verdict.

 

A number of human rights groups, including Child Welfare Society, Equality Now and the Institute for Human Rights and Development in Africa (IRHDA) and WAVES, a Sierra Leonean non-governmental organization, filed the case with the ECOWAS court in May 2018.

 

In court, the judges outlined the issues and succinctly answered each issue, said Gitau.

 

Discriminatory policy

 

The ECOWAS court said that Sierra Leone had an actual policy in place that banned school-age girls who fell pregnant. The government had argued that it was only an unfortunate statement from a minister, and not a policy. RFI reported on the issue back in 2015, where the chairman of the Conference of Principals indicated that it was a policy that was carried out in Sierra Leonean schools.

 

The court said that the ban was discriminatory and ordered the government to lift the ban with immediate effect.

 

The court also ordered the government to carry out four distinct measures in order to reduce teenage pregnancies in school. Providing sexual reproductive education, sensitising the communities on issues of discrimination, and abolishing the parallel, inadequate schools for pregnant girls.

 

The schools had been created by non-state actors, who only taught four subjects, three times a week, not in line with the Sierra Leone educational standards.

 

Vulnerable girls pay the price

 

The previous government had put this policy banning pregnant girls in place, but the advent of Ebola worsened the situation, according to Gitau.

 

A spike in teen pregnancies arose during and after the Ebola crisis.

 

“The majority of these girls were victims of sexual violence on account that their caregivers and guardians died and were no longer available,” said Gitau.

 

A decision with impact

 

Human rights groups hope that this ban will push other African countries who discriminate to change their stance.

 

“This delivers a clear message to other African governments who have similar bans, such as Tanzania and Equatorial Guinea, or may be contemplating them, that they should follow this groundbreaking ruling and take steps to allow pregnant girls access to education in line with their own human rights obligations,” said Marta Colomer, Amnesty International’s West Africa deputy campaign director.


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