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Gay Iranian man murdered in so-called honor killing

State Department describes Ali Fazeli Monfared’s death as ‘appalling’

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AHVAZ, Iran — Reports indicate an Iranian man’s relatives killed him after they discovered he was gay.

The Iranian Lesbian and Transgender Network wrote on its website that Ali Fazeli Monfared, 20, was kidnapped in Ahvaz, a city in Iran’s Khuzestan’s province on May 4.

The advocacy group said Monfared, who was known as Alireza, was beheaded. His body was reportedly found on May 5, the day after he was kidnapped.

The Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps had exempted Monfared from military service because he is gay, even though consensual same-sex sexual acts remain punishable by death in the country. An activist who has known Monfared since late 2019 told the Iranian Lesbian and Transgender Network his half-brother discovered he was gay when he opened an envelope from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps that contained his military exemption card.

Masih Alinejad, an Iranian journalist and activist, reported Monfared at the time of his murder was planning to flee Iran and live with his boyfriend, who previously sought refuge in Turkey. Alinejad said Monfared’s half-brother and cousins killed him “as part of an honor killing.”

The Iranian Lesbian and Transgender Network says authorities have arrested Monfared’s half-brother and cousins and charged them with first-degree murder. A State Department spokesperson on Tuesday in a statement to the Los Angeles Blade described the Fazeli Monfared’s murder as “appalling.”

“The United States firmly opposes abuses against LGBTQI+ persons. The struggle to end violence, discrimination, criminalization and stigma against LGBTQI+ persons is a global challenge, and one that remains central to our commitment to promote human rights and fundamental freedoms for all individuals,” said the spokesperson.

“Iran must do more to ensure the human rights of LGBTQI+ persons are protected,” added the spokesperson. “We extend our deepest sympathies to Mr. Monfared’s loved ones.”

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South America

Convicted killer in Daniel Zamudio murder in Chile seeks parole

Zamudio’s death in March 2012 sparked outrage across Chile & prompted lawmakers to pass a hate crimes & anti-discrimination bill

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Daniel Zamudio’s mother, Jacqueline Vera. (Photo courtesy of Jacqueline Vera)

By Esteban Rioseco | SANTIAGO, Chile — One of the four men convicted of murdering a young gay man in the Chilean capital in 2012 is seeking parole.

Raúl López Fuentes in 2013 received a 15-year prison sentence after he was convicted of killing Daniel Zamudio.

Zamudio was a young Chilean man who became a symbol of the fight against homophobic violence in his country and around the world after López and three other young men with alleged ties to a neo-Nazi group beat him for several hours in Santiago’s San Borja Park on March 2, 2012. Zamudio succumbed to his injuries a few weeks later.

The attack sparked widespread outage in Chile and prompted a debate over homophobia in the country that highlighted the absence of an anti-discrimination law. Lawmakers in the months after Zamudio’s murder passed a law that bears Zamudio’s name.

Patricio Ahumada received a life sentence, while López and Alejandro Angulo Tapia are serving 15 years in prison. Fabían Mora Mora received a 7-year prison sentence.

López has asked the Seventh Santiago Guarantee Court to serve the last three years of his sentence on parole. Zamudio’s family and Jaime Silva, their lawyer who works with the Movement for Homosexual Integration and Liberation, oppose the request.

Movilh represented Zamudio’s family after his murder.

Zamudio’s mother, Jacqueline Vera, during an exclusive interview with the Washington Blade said López’s petition “provoked all the anguish, all the commotion of his time.” 

“It was very cruel because in fact two days before we were at Daniel’s grave, where it was 12 years since his death and the beating,” said Vera. “He really does not deserve it.”

“We have gone through very difficult moments,” she added.

The mother, who later created a foundation to eradicate discrimination in Chile, was emphatic in indicating that she and her family “do not accept the release of this guy because he is a danger to society and a danger to ourselves.” 

“At the last hearing where they were sentenced, they told us that we are going to remember them when they get out,” said Vera. “They threatened us with death. There is a video circulating on social networks where they were in front of me and they laughed and made fun of me. They told me that I remembered that I had three more children.”

Regarding the possibility that the Chilean justice system will allow López to serve the remaining three years of his sentence on parole, Vera said “with the benefits here in Chile, which is like a revolving door where murderers come and go, it can happen.” 

“In any case, I don’t pretend, I don’t accept and I don’t want (López) to get out, I don’t want (López) to get out there,” she said. “We are fighting for him not to get out there because I don’t want him to get out there. And for me it is not like that, they have to serve the sentence as it stands.”

LGBTQ Chileans have secured additional rights since the Zamudio Law took effect. These include marriage equality and protections for transgender people. Advocacy groups, however, maintain lawmakers should improve the Zamudio Law.

“We are advocating for it to be a firmer law, with more strength and more condemnation,” said Vera.

When asked by the Washington Blade about what she would like to see improved, she indicated “the law should be for all these criminals with life imprisonment.”

Daniel Zamudio’s death in March 2012 sparked outrage across Chile and prompted lawmakers to pass a hate crimes and anti-discrimination bill. (Photo courtesy of Fundación Daniel Zamudio.)

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Photo Credit: Movilh

Esteban Rioseco is a Chilean digital communicator, LGBT rights activist and politician. He was spokesperson and executive president of the Homosexual Integration and Liberation Movement (Movilh). He is currently a Latin American correspondent for the Washington Blade.

On Oct. 22, 2015, together with Vicente Medel, he celebrated the first gay civil union in Chile in the province of Concepción.

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European Union

Out gay Polish government minister represents change of course

He is a lawyer who worked for the Campaign Against Homophobia, a Polish LGBTQ rights group, for several years before he entered politics

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Deputy Polish Justice Minister Krzysztof Śmiszek. (Photo Credit: Śmiszek/Instagram)

WARSAW, Poland — Poland’s only openly gay Cabinet minister on Tuesday spoke with the Washington Blade about the fight for LGBTQ rights in his country, Ukraine and U.S. politics.

Deputy Justice Minister Krzysztof Śmiszek assumed his post last Dec. 13 after Donald Tusk became prime minister. 

The Civil Coalition, a group of opposition parties that Tusk leads, two months earlier won a majority of seats in the Sejm, the lower house of Poland’s parliament. President Andrzej Duda, an ally of the conservative Law and Justice party who opposes LGBTQ rights, remains in office as part of the governing coalition.

Śmiszek, a member of the New Left party, has been a member of the Sejm since 2019.

He was born Stalową Wola, a city in southeastern Poland that is close to the country’s borders with Ukraine and Slovakia. Śmiszek now represents Wrocław, the country’s third largest city that is located in southwestern Poland.

He is a lawyer who worked for the Campaign Against Homophobia, a Polish LGBTQ rights group, for several years before he entered politics. Śmiszek’s partner is former MP Robert Biedroń, who is now a member of the European Parliament.

From left: Polish MEP Robert Biedroń and Deputy Polish Justice Minister Krzysztof Śmiszek. (Photo courtesy of Śmiszek’s Instagram page)

Śmiszek noted to the Blade during an interview in his office that the Justice Ministry has introduced a bill that would add sexual orientation and gender identity to Poland’s hate speech and hate crimes laws.

The Council of Ministers, which includes members of Tusk’s Cabinet, is expected to approve the proposal in the coming weeks. Śmiszek said MPs will support the measure, even though critics say it would limit free speech.

“It was quite natural for us, I would say, to agree on that,” he told the Blade. “We all witnessed all these statements and horrible actions towards LGBT (people during the previous government.)”

Duda became Poland’s president in 2015.

He said before he defeated Warsaw Mayor Rafał Trzaskowski in the country’s 2020 presidential election that LGBTQ “ideology” is more dangerous than communism. Duda has also claimed LGBTQ Poles are “a threat to the family” and “want to sexualize children.”

Polish President Andrzej Duda (PBS News Hour YouTube screenshot)

More than 100 municipalities across Poland ahead of the election adopted resolutions that declared themselves “LGBT-free zones.”

The Law and Justice Party and Poland’s influential Roman Catholic Church supported them, while the European Union cut funding to municipalities that adopted them. The Warsaw Voivodship Administrative Court on Feb. 6 struck down the country’s final “LGBT-free zone” resolution that Mordy, a town in Siedlce County in eastern Poland that is roughly half way between Warsaw and the Belarusian border, adopted in 2019.

Tusk has indicated his support of a civil partnership bill, but Śmiszek conceded it will be a “huge” challenge to secure passage in parliament because it is not an official part of the coalition government’s manifesto. 

Śmiszek noted Poland has dropped its opposition to the case of a transgender man who filed a lawsuit in the European Union Court of Justice in Luxembourg after Romania refused to recognize his legal name and gender change that he received in the U.K. 

“We are trying not only to change the legal situation of LGBTI folks here in this country, but also we are taking a completely new approach, also of Poland, as a member of the European Union,” he said.

The Justice Ministry last month for the first time with LGBTQ activists.

Śmiszek said former Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro, a member of the right-wing Sovereign Poland party, wrote many of the previous government’s proposals that targeted LGBTQ people and women. Śmiszek further described the ministry before the current government took office as a “governmental center of anti-LGBTI actions.”

“That was a very moving meeting that after eight years of hatred that was produced here in this ministry,” he said.

Śmiszek pointed out Duda’s first presidential veto was a bill that would have made the process through which transgender Poles could undergo gender-affirming surgery easier. Śmiszek said the new government wants “to make the lives of trans people a bit better and bearable in terms of relations with the state and with relations with the administration,” but conceded it “is difficult.” He also said Duda, the Constitutional Tribunal and the Catholic Church remain barriers to the advancement of LGBTQ rights.

“We are not starting from scratch in terms of new initiatives,” Śmiszek told the Blade. “We are getting back to the good solutions.”

“However, we are fully aware that there are plenty of conservative anchors and blockages in the institutional architecture,” he added.

Śmiszek also said his sexual orientation is not an issue to Tusk, to his fellow ministers and MPs.

“I haven’t heard any discussion or hesitation about should we have this guy in the ministry or not,” he said. “My sexual orientation is not an issue at all.”

A picture of Polish-born Pope John Paul II inside St. Catherine of Alexandria Church in Kraków, Poland. The Roman Catholic Church remains a powerful institution in Poland. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Poland knows Russia ‘very well’

Russia on Feb. 24, 2022, launched its war against Ukraine.

Śmiszek noted upwards of 2 million Ukrainians sought refuge in Poland, and many of them have remained in the country.

“Polish society passed its exam in terms of humanitarian aid and compassion for those who are victims of this aggressive war of Russia,” said Śmiszek.

A Russian missile on Nov. 15, 2022, killed two people in Przewodów, a village Hrubieszów County that is on the Ukrainian border. Another Russian missile on March 24 briefly entered Polish airspace near Oserdów, a village that is less than five miles away from Przewodów.

Śmiszek told the Blade he is increasingly concerned the war will spread to the Baltic countries — Lithuania, which borders Poland, and Latvia and Estonia — and to Poland itself. 

The Russian exclave of Kaliningrad on the Baltic Sea also borders Poland.

 “We are observing now, especially during the last few months, that something is going to happen,” he said.

Śmiszek acknowledged Ukraine in recent months has suffered setbacks on the battlefield, and the U.S. “is not very open to providing any help.”

“You can see Trump, what he is saying. You can also see some Western countries that are still hesitating,” he said. “This is a growing, unspoken emotion within Polish society that something is going to happen, the war will knock on our doors soon, in the next couple of years, and we are the second or third target of Putin if he’s not stopped by the united West.”

Śmiszek added Poland knows the Russians “very well.”

“That is why this is not something unusual when a Pole thinks about Russians invading our country,” he said. “It’s happened before.”

Tusk and Duda last month met with President Joe Biden at the White House in the hopes that Congress would pass a Ukraine funding bill. Śmiszek while speaking to the Blade criticized the delay.

“I know that they are trying to build their popularity, saying we should not spend billions of dollars for the wars that do not concern us and Russia will never attack us, blah, blah, blah,” he said. “In a way I do understand this rhetoric, but I don’t understand … it’s really a short-sighted approach.” 

“I really count on changing the approach of the U.S. because this is really a huge threat to world democracy, to human rights and we always perceive the U.S. as a kind of element of guarantees for democracy around the world,” added Śmiszek. “This time the U.S. is not passing its exam, especially the conservative part of American politics.”

A Pride commemoration in Kharkiv, Ukraine, on Sept. 25, 2022. (Photo courtesy of Sphere Women’s Association)

Śmiszek said Poland will continue to work with the U.S., regardless of who wins this year’s presidential election. He did, however, express concerns over former President Trump based on his positions on LGBTQ and reproductive rights, his U.S. Supreme Court nominees and Ukraine.

“This is kind of worrying,” said Śmiszek. “This kind of approach to fundamental issues very relevant to the stability of the world is now in the hands of the guy who you cannot predict what his decisions will be when the time comes and it will be a need for taking very serious decisions concerning the stability of the world.” 

“He portrays himself as quite unstable I would say in terms of values he wants to defend,” he added.

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Southeast Asia

Thailand’s transgender community struggles to find health care

Thailand trans folks are left with a choice between non-gender-affirming public hospitals or LGBTQ-friendly private hospitals & clinics

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Bangkok Pride banners (Photo courtesy of Sararat Tosakoon)

By Sararat Tosakoon | WASHINGTON – Thailand, renowned for its welcoming travel destination for the queer community and its embrace of gender diversity, presents a paradox for its transgender population.

Despite a perception of acceptance, the reality for trans individuals in the country reveals a landscape marked by challenges in gender-affirming care, gender recognition and healthcare access that impacts their overall health.

With two decades of activism under her belt, Nachale Boonyapisomparn, also known as Hua, co-founder of the Thai Transgender Alliance (ThaiTGA), sheds light on the pressure placed upon trans people to conform to societal norms, underscoring the limitations of acceptance within rigid societal structures and expectations, such as meeting certain behaviors and beauty standards. 

“Acceptance still comes back to us still having to fit certain boxes,” Hua said.

A poignant example of this struggle is illustrated by Siwanon Khanvilaikul, who goes by Yok, a trans cabaret performer in Phuket who underwent gender reassignment surgery at 18 yet finds herself marginalized within the healthcare system. 

“I feel biased. I am a woman in every way, but why is the final judgment based on that one small title [Mister] in front of my name?” Yok questions, highlighting the frustration of being relegated to a male ward in public hospitals due to outdated bureaucratic classifications as a result of the lack of gender recognition. 

Yok cannot change her gender identity and prefix on government and legal documents, such as passports, birth certificates, identification cards and health forms. This inability to modify gender markers contributes to biased treatment within the healthcare system, creating an atmosphere of discomfort, isolation and frustration for trans individuals.

“When I am going in for care, my mental and emotional state is just as important,” said Yok.

Beyond the limited gender recognition, the lack of gender-affirming care further compounds the challenges trans people face in a healthcare setting. Kritima Jemma Samitpol, who goes by Jemma, a supervisor of the Tangerine Clinic, Thailand’s first trans-led community health clinic, emphasizes the dearth of trans-competent healthcare and the reliance on informal sources for medical guidance, such as TikTok, Facebook and friends. 

“This is a problem,” Jemma declares, noting the risks posed by misinformation on hormone use within the trans community and emphasizing the need for accessible and affordable gender-affirming care to mitigate these risks.

While government-funded public hospitals are an affordable and accessible option due to Thailand’s Universal Health Coverage program implemented in 2002, providing virtually cost-free basic health prevention, screening and treatment, gender-affirming care is not mandated or covered under the current UHC plan. No gender-affirming care in public hospitals has put Yok at risk of discrimination and bias like misgendering.

Trans individuals in Thailand are left with a challenging choice between accessible and affordable but non-gender-affirming public hospitals, potentially laden with discrimination and stigma or LGBTQ-friendly private hospitals and clinics

There are LGBTQ-friendly private hospitals and clinics, but they are predominantly concentrated in metropolitan areas, such as Bangkok, Phuket, Pattaya and Chiang Mai, and are not a part of UHC. Trans individuals in Thailand are left with a challenging choice between accessible and affordable but non-gender-affirming public hospitals, potentially laden with discrimination and stigma or LGBTQ-friendly private hospitals and clinics in larger cities that come with a higher price tag.

Despite these challenges, signs of progress emerge. The Tangerine Clinic stands as a beacon of hope, providing comprehensive and affordable gender-affirming care with a “come as you are” motto, encouraging the trans community to utilize health services and manage their well-being effectively. Jemma shared that the clinic continues to engage in capacity building for 11 community-based health clinics throughout Thailand, aiming to replicate the trans health service model of Tangerine Clinic.

The clinic’s collaborative research efforts with the Ministry of Public Health is a push towards integrating gender-affirming care into the national UHC program. 

“There is a clear progress happening,” Jemma said.

The fight for trans rights extends beyond healthcare, with advocacy efforts targeting legal recognition and broader civil liberties. ThaiTGA’s campaign for legal gender recognition and allied causes, including same-sex equality and decriminalizing sex work, reflects a broader struggle for human rights and social justice. 

“Gender recognition is a human right needed for advancing healthcare and ultimately achieving gender-affirming care,” Hua emphasized. 

In the face of entrenched discrimination and institutional barriers, the resilience of individuals like Hua, Jemma and Yok serves as a testament to the ongoing battle for trans rights in Thailand.

“We must fight,” they affirm, embodying a hopeful narrative of progress toward a more inclusive and equitable society.

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Sararat Tosakoon holds a Master of Public Health degree from The George Washington University Milken Institute of Public Health, specializing in Global Health Epidemiology and Disease Control.

She is a dedicated Pulitzer Reporting Fellow, passionately delving into the intersection of discrimination and healthcare barriers affecting transgender health in Thailand.

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Africa

Prominent Trans woman in Nigeria arrested, charged with defacing currency

Authorities say Idris Okuneye, known as Bobrisky, flaunted money

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Bobrisky's arrest has sparked concern among Nigerian activists. (Photos courtesy of Bobrisky's Facebook page)

LAGOS, Nigeria — Nigeria’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission’s decision to arrest a well-known Transgender woman over the practice of flaunting money has sparked questions among several human rights activists.

Idris Okuneye, who is known as Bobrisky, was first arrested last Wednesday.

Justice Abimbola Awogboro of the Lagos Federal High Court on April 5 charged her with four counts of mutilating N490,000 (roughly $375.)

The EFCC alleges Bobrinsky between last July and August flaunted N50,000 (roughly $36) during a social event and N400,000 ($306) at another gathering last month. Bobrinsky has been charged with violating section 21(1) of the Central Bank Act of 2007.

“The Lagos Zonal EFCC, on Friday, April 5, 2024, secured the conviction of Idris Okuneye, (Bobrisky), before Justice Abimbola Awogboro sitting at the Federal High Court, Ikoyi, Lagos over mutilation of the Naira notes,” reads the EFCC complaint that misgenders Bobrisky. “He was arraigned on Friday on a four-count charge bordering on mutilation of the Naira notes to the tune of N490,000.”

“Justice Awogboro, thereafter, ruled, that upon the admission of guilt by the defendant, and following the evidence tendered, the defendant is declared guilty as charged,” adds the statement.

The EFCC said after listening to both parties, Awogboro delayed his ruling and also ordered that Bobrisky remain in EFCC custody. Activist Felix Abayomi said the EFCC was simply using Bobrisky as a scapegoat due to the fact that she is a vulnerable member of the society.

“Discrimination in the name of implementing a pick and choose law! Why go after someone that is a vulnerable member of our society? Someone that is clearly dealing and coping with stigmatization of her lifestyle choices which is innate. Using her as a scapegoat is uncalled for,” said Abayomi. “How does spraying the Naira that is cultural to us as a people ever even become a financial crime? People who commit economic and financial crimes against us as a people and against our nation state are sitting comfortably in the hollows of our legislative chambers and power.”

Chidi Odinkalu, the former chair of the National Human Rights Commission, said the arrest was not about the mutilation of the Naira notes, but about Bobrisky’s gender identity.

“The EFCC should be ashamed of themselves,” said Odinkalu. “The power of arrest and prosecution is a public trust that should not be weaponized for the persecution of those whom they don’t like. It is either the EFCC is evidently idle or this is a clear abuse of power.” 

EFCC spokesperson Dele Oyewale said Odinkalu’s statements were reckless.

“The commission views such commentaries from Odinkalu as unbecoming of a former head of a major government agency,” said Oyewale. “Okuneye was arrested and arraigned by the commission on the basis of clear cases of abuse of the Naira to which he has pleaded guilty.”

“Odinkalu has a right to free speech as a Nigerian, but such a right should be exercised with decorum and responsibility,” added Oyewale. “The commission would not hesitate to take appropriate legal actions against such uncouth commentaries against its lawful mandate by anyone. Odinkalu is warned and advised to ventilate his rascally opinions more responsibly in future situations.” 

Bobrisky is one of the few individuals on the African continent who has publicly discussed their gender transition.

Ever since she started to publicly show her transition, several Nigerian political pundits have been calling for her arrest. There are no laws that specifically target Trans Nigerians, but the Same-Sex Marriage Act criminalizes same-sex marriages and prohibits the public display of same-sex relationships with up to 14 years in prison.

In states where Sharia law is practiced, those found engaging in same-sex sexual activities can be sentenced to death by stoning. Even those who identify as trans can receive 50 lashes or more.

Update: Awogboro on Friday sentenced Bobrisky to six months in prison without the option of paying a fine. Reports indicate authorities will send her to a men’s prison.

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The Vatican

Vatican condemns gender-affirming surgery and ‘gender theory’

Pope Francis approved doctrine office’s document on March 25

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Pope Francis (Photo by palinchak via Bigstock)

VATICAN CITY — The Vatican on Monday condemned gender-affirming surgeries and “gender theory.”

The Associated Press reported the Vatican’s Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith released the 20-page declaration that took five years to prepare. Pope Francis, according to the AP, approved it on March 25.

The document, according to the AP, says a man and a woman are biologically different and should not try to “make oneself God.”

“It follows that any sex-change intervention, as a rule, risks threatening the unique dignity the person has received from the moment of conception,” it reads.

The AP notes the document also makes a distinction between gender-affirming surgeries and “gender abnormalities” in children that exist when they are born or as they grow up. The document stresses they can be “resolved” by health care providers.

The Vatican’s tone towards LGBTQ+ and intersex issues has softened since Francis assumed the papacy in 2013.

Francis publicly backs civil unions for same-sex couples, and said described laws that criminalize homosexuality are “unjust.” The document the Vatican released on Monday criticizes Uganda and other countries in which consensual same-sex sexual relations remain illegal. 

Francis during a 2023 interview with an Argentine newspaper said gender ideology “is one of the most dangerous ideological colonizations” in the world because “it blurs differences and the value of men and women.”

“In its approach to gender, the document relies on the outdated theology of gender essentialism which claims that a person’s physical appearance is the central evidence of a person’s natural gender identity,” said Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry, a Maryland-based LGBTQ+ Catholic organization, on Monday in a statement. “This physicalist perspective shackles the Vatican to the growing consciousness that a person’s gender includes the psychological, social and spiritual aspects naturally present in their lives.”

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World

Out in the World: LGBTQ+ news from Europe & Asia

LGBTQ+ news stories from around the globe including Scotland, United Kingdom, Thailand, Japan, & the Philippines

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Los Angeles Blade graphic

SCOTLAND

JK Rowling in a 2019 BBC interview (Screenshot/YouTube)

EDINBURGH, Scotland – Harry Potter author JK Rowling took the opportunity of Scotland’s new hate speech law coming into force to harass several prominent British trans people over X (formerly Twitter), but Scottish police say they’re not planning to charge her over her posts.

Rowling spent the morning of April 1 making a series of posts in mock celebration of the womanhood of well-known trans people, starting with some well-known convicted sex offenders, and then listing several notable trans activists. At the end of her series of posts, Rowling gave up the joke.

“🎉🌼🌸April Fools! 🌸🌼🎉Only kidding. Obviously, the people mentioned in the above tweets aren’t women at all, but men, every last one of them,” she wrote. “If what I’ve written here qualifies as an offence under the terms of the new act, I look forward to being arrested when I return to the birthplace of the Scottish Enlightenment.”

As is her usual style, Rowling then spent the rest of the day reposting fawning congratulatory posts from other bigots and arguing with people who stood up to her.

Rowling was protesting the The Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Act 2021, which came into effect on April 1. The revision to Scottish hate crime law added protections for age, disability, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, and intersex people, both for aggravated punishment of hate-motivated crimes, and for “stirring up hatred” against protected groups. 

The law has drawn criticism from free-speech advocates, who say it will having a chilling effect on speech critical of protected communities. But supporters of the law saw that the threshold for prosecution is very high and it’s unlikely to be used for genuine political discourse or advocacy.

So far, that seems to have been borne out – Scottish police have already said that Rowling’s posts do not rise to the level of hate speech and she is not being charged.

In fact, the whole incident has just burnished Rowling’s reputation among anti-trans crusaders. 

Not only did UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak commend the decision not to charge Rowling, but his statement to the BBC on the matter seems to back up Rowling’s hateful views.

“Nobody should be criminalized for saying commonsense things about biological sex,” Sunak told the BBC.

Transgender issues have become a major issue in the UK over the past several years as a rising tide of self-described “gender-critical” activists – of whom Rowling is the most prominent – have successfully gotten the ear of the governing Conservative Party.

Last year, after the Scottish government passed a controversial law that would allow transpeople to change their legal gender by self-declaration, the UK government disallowed the law, saying it would be incompatible with England and Wales’ rules around gender recognition.

Conservatives have also slow-walked their promised bill to ban conversion therapy after years of pressure from gender-criticals who got the government to remove protections for trans youth. A bill in unlikely to pass before elections expected later this year.

Scotland is holding consultations on its own conversion therapy ban bill, but divisions over LGBT issues are one of the causes of a rift in the governing Scottish National Party, which is seeing a challenge from the upstart ALBA party, which also wants Scottish independence but has leaned into anti-trans politics.

BRITAIN

A private women’s club in Central London. (Screenshot/YouTube BBC)

LONDON, United Kingdom – An anti-trans activist has announced plans to open a private, members-only lesbian bar that refuses admission to trans women in London later this year, although details on where the bar will be located or when it will open have yet to be revealed. 

The bar, to be called L Community, will be a private, members-only bar, which owner Jenny Watson, 32, says will allow her to skirt discrimination laws by restricting membership to cisgender lesbians.

Watson has gain notoriety in England for throwing lesbian focused events that exclude trans women. 

Last year, Watson threw a lesbian speed-dating event that gathered controversy for its trans-exclusion policy, but was ultimately allowed to go ahead.

Watson says the backlash to that event has led to her other trans-exclusionary events being refused or cancelled by venues she’s tried to book. Having her own venue will allow her to host her own events.

“No one will take bookings for my events any more,” Watson told The Telegraph. “The trans activists are constantly targeting the events, so venues don’t want anything to do with them.”

“We should have a right to our own space – hence the idea to set up the bar. It will be for biological females only and this is why we’re making it a members-only club so we can legally restrict it to women,” she said.

On the web site for L Community, Watson lists potential events the bar could host, including speed dating, networking events, lesbian movie nights, open mics, trivia nights, book clubs, and panel discussions.

Even though the bar has no opening date, L Community is already soliciting free and premium memberships, which its website says will come with priority access to events and L Community’s “social media platform.” Premium members are asked to make a “donation” of £120 (approximately $150).

Anyone wishing to join must attest to being a biological female and upload government ID to the L Community website as proof.

Trans journalist Shivani Dave criticized the “crap new terf [trans-exclusionary radical feminist] bar” on their Instagram account and announced a plan to hold a trans-inclusive kiss-in in front of the bar “if it ever opens.” 

“YOU THINK I’M JOKING? We are gonna go and make out in front of this TERF bar every single day until it closes. Lol that is if it ever even opens. Bigots be bigoting? Trans+ people are gonna be snogging,” they wrote.

THAILAND

Thai Lesbian couple celebrates Pride 2023. (Photo Credit: Bangkok Pride/Facebook)

BANGKOK, Thailand – Thailand got one step closer to legalizing same-sex marriage this week as the Senate voted 147-3 to advance the marriage bill through first reading. The bill now heads to a committee which has up to 60 days to study the bill before returning it to the senate for second and third reading.

Advancing LGBTQ+ rights has become a major issue in the southeast Asian country of 66 million over the last decade. Last year saw the opposition Move Forward Party win a plurality of seats in elections to Parliament’s lower house after it promised to legalize same-sex marriage. But the party was barred from government by a court ruling its leader breached the constitution by proposed changes to the country’s strict laws that forbid criticism of the monarchy. 

The governing coalition that was later formed without Move Forward agreed to make marriage equality and LGBT rights a part of the coalition agreement anyway, and last month the lower house gave final, overwhelming approval to the same-sex marriage bill

There had been some worry that the bill would face a rougher ride through the more conservative senate, which is made up of appointees of the Thai military, a holdover from the last junta that ran the country until 2017. 

But the overwhelming support for the bill in the senate signals that it will likely pass and be sent to the king for royal assent before the summer, with it coming into effect before the end of the year.

Thailand will likely become the first state in southeast Asia to legalize same-sex marriage. Elsewhere in Asia, only Taiwan has legalized same-sex marriage, while the Nepalese Supreme Court has legalized it, although it can be difficult for couples to marry in practice.

Thailand’s push to enhance LGBTQ+ rights hasn’t stopped at marriage. Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin has ordered his cabinet to draft a bill to allow trans people to change their legal gender, and the government is also considering changes to surrogacy law to allow same-sex couples and foreigners to access services to have children. The government is also directing resources toward ending HIV transmission in the country by making PrEP more widely available. 

The government is eager to promote Thailand as an LGBTQ+ tourist destination, and is bidding to have Bangkok host World Pride 2028.

JAPAN

Screenshot/YouTube France 24

TOKYO, Japan – Five more prefectures and more than forty municipalities began offering partnership certificates to same-sex couples on April 1, providing a limited measure of security for Japan’s LGBTQ+ couples as marriage remains out of reach.

While courts and the national government continue to fail to recognize same-sex marriage, local governments across the country are stepping up to fill the void with “partnership certificates” for same-sex couples. The certificates can help couples access local services reserved for couples and hospital visitation, but they are not considered legally binding. Couples do not access inheritance rights and are not treated as legal next of kin.

Beginning April 1, Aichi, Hyōgo, Nara, Ōita, and Tokushima prefectures began offering partnership certificates, bringing the total to 26 out of 47 prefectures recognizing same-sex couples. Additionally, 445 municipalities offer the certificates, according to Marriage for All Japan, a local advocacy group. More than two-thirds of Japanese people live in a jurisdiction that offers same-sex partnerships.

Some prefectures go further, offering “familyship” registries that allow same-sex couples to also register their children.

Same-sex marriage, however, remains out of reach for same-sex couples. National lawmakers have proven too conservative to advance LGBTQ+ rights. 

Last year, a government bill that was meant to ban discrimination was given much fanfare ahead of the G7 conference in Tokyo. Conservative lawmakers pushed back and the bill was watered down to simply promote “understanding” of LGBTQ+ people, with no actual legal protections offered.

Meanwhile, a multi-year effort to advance same-sex marriage through the courts has delivered several key rulings finding that the ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional, but the courts have thus far failed to offer couples any remedy.

Last month, the first appellate-level court issued a ruling finding the marriage ban unconstitutional, but again did not order the government to allow same-sex marriage. The couples involved in the case have said they will appeal to the Supreme Court. Other marriage cases are still ongoing in other district and appellate courts.

For its part, the Supreme Court recently ruled that same-sex couples must be given access to a benefit paid to the survivors of crime victims on an equal basis as married heterosexual couples. Observers are already saying that the ruling will have implications for the full suite of benefits of marriage, including when it comes to taxes, housing, inheritance, pension, and insurance. 

PHILIPPINES

Filipino legislator Rep. Marissa Magsino in a committee hearing last month.
(Photo Credit: Marissa Magsino/Facebook)

MANILA, Philippines – Filipino legislator Marissa Magsino of the opposition OFW Party has filed a bill in Congress seeking to recognize the property rights of same-sex couples, which would be a landmark of progress in the deeply Catholic Asian country if passed.

The bill was filed March 20 but has not yet been called for a first reading, it is a companion to a similar bill filed in the Senate in November 2022, which has been stuck in committee since.

Both bills would only offer limited property rights to same-sex couples. Couples would be deemed to share ownership and responsibility for any property acquired during the partnership, unless a written agreement is signed saying otherwise. A partnership would only be deemed to exist if partners cohabit for at least one year. 

The bill aims to treat partners equitably in the event of a breakup. 

While this is a very limited set of rights, the Philippines does not currently offer any recognition of same-sex couples or their property rights. 

“Though through the years there has been change in the mindset of people on long-standing stereotypes and generalizations with social perceptions becoming more accommodating of the LGBTQ+ community, there’s still no legislation that guarantees equal rights for everybody regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity,” Magsino said in a statement to the Manila Bulletin Tuesday, April 2.

“This legislation is a significant step towards achieving greater equality and justice for all Filipino citizens, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. It is imperative that we ensure equal protection under the law for every individual in our society,” she said.

Proposals to create more expansive civil unions that recognize a broader set of rights similar to marriage for same-sex couples have occasionally been lodged in congress, but none has ever been brought to a vote.

In 2019, the Supreme Court dismissed a petition seeking a right to same-sex marriage for lack of standing, as the petitioner did not seek to get married himself. The petitioner and his counsel were cited for indirect contempt of court over the matter.

The Philippines Congress has struggled to advance any pro-LGBTQ+ legislation for years. A bill that would add discrimination protections for sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression, dubbed the SOGIE Bill, has been introduced multiple times since 2001, and has even passed the House of Representatives multiple times, but has always stalled in the more conservative Senate.

Dozens of provinces and municipalities have passed local non-discrimination ordinances across the country.

Global LGBTQ+ news gathering & reporting by Rob Salerno

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United Nations

UN Human Rights Council adopts intersex rights resolution

The resolution received overwhelming support from member states, with none voting against it. The final vote was 24-0 with 23 abstentions

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The Human Rights & Alliance of Civilizations Room, also known as Room 20, is among the largest meeting rooms at the UN in Geneva, Switzerland. (Photo Credit: UN Press Office)

By Amber Laenen | GENEVA, Switzerland – The U.N. Human Rights Council on Thursday adopted a landmark resolution in support of the rights of intersex people.

The first-of-its-kind resolution specifically targets discrimination, violence and harmful practices against those with innate variations in sex characteristics. The resolution received overwhelming support from member states, with none voting against it.

The final vote was 24-0 with 23 abstentions.

The resolution that Finland, South Africa, Chile and Australia proposed urges countries to strive towards ensuring the highest possible standard of physical and mental health for intersex people. It also calls upon the Office of the High Commissioner to compile a report, slated for discussion at the council in September 2025. 

This report will assess discriminatory laws and policies; acts of violence and harmful practices around the world, while also identifying best practices and legal protections for intersex people.

“This resolution represents yet another landmark in the international community’s attention to the rights of intersex individuals,” stated 35 advocacy groups in a joint press release they issued after the resolution’s adoption. “Years of concerted efforts by both civil society and states have generated significant momentum, but this resolution could catalyze even more decisive action.

By prompting the first official United Nations report on the human rights status of individuals with innate variations in sex characteristics, this vote will elevate awareness to a level that states can no longer ignore, compelling them to take concrete measures.”

The resolution expresses “grave concern” over the violence and harmful practices faced by intersex individuals, including medically unnecessary interventions regarding sex characteristics. It furthermore acknowledges this call to action aligns with statements from various human rights bodies and the commitments outlined in the Sustainable Development Goals, particularly the one that addresses health and well-being.

“We extend our gratitude to the cross-regional coalition of states that spearheaded this resolution, as well as those who supported it,” said the advocacy groups in their press release. “Intersex individuals are present in every corner of the globe, yet they endure pervasive human rights violations, including forced medical interventions, infanticide, denial of legal recognition and discrimination in accessing essential services such as healthcare, education and sports. The United Nations’ intervention to address this situation holds immense significance in improving the lives of intersex individuals worldwide.”

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Amber Laenen is a senior at Thomas More Mechelen University in Belgium. She is majoring in journalism and international relations. Amber is interning with the Blade this semester as part of a continued partnership with the Washington Center.

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Africa

Anti-Homosexuality law upheld by Ugandan Constitutional Court

President Yoweri Museveni last May signed the law, which contains a death penalty provision for “aggravated homosexuality”

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The Ugandan Constitutional Court on Wednesday upheld the country’s Anti-Homosexuality Act. (Screenshot/YouTube Africa News)

KAMPALA, Uganda – The Ugandan Constitutional Court on Wednesday upheld the country’s Anti-Homosexuality Act.

“We decline to nullify the Anti-Homosexuality Act in its totality,” said Deputy Chief Justice Richard Buteera as he read the decision.

The lives of Ugandan LGBTQ individuals are now in further peril for the ruling of the court.

President Yoweri Museveni last May signed the law, which contains a death penalty provision for “aggravated homosexuality.”

The U.S. subsequently imposed visa restrictions on Ugandan officials and removed the country from a program that allows sub-Saharan African countries to trade duty-free with the U.S. The World Bank Group also announced the suspension of new loans to Uganda.

The court late last year heard the case against the Anti-Homosexuality Act.

A press release that a coalition of Ugandan LGBTQ advocacy groups issued on Wednesday notes the court said “some sections” of the law violate “the right to health, right to privacy and right to freedom of religion.” The decision, they noted, however, “failed to identify the numerous ways the law violates Ugandans’ substantive rights to equality, dignity, speech, association and health and freedom from discrimination.

“While we respect the court, we vehemently disagree with its findings and the basis on which it was reached,” said Nicholas Opiyo of Chapter Four Uganda. “We approached the court expecting it to apply the law in defense of human rights and not rely on public sentiments, and vague cultural values arguments.”

Human Rights Campaign President Kelley Robinson also condemned the decision.

“For the Constitutional Court of Uganda to uphold such a draconian law in any capacity is a horrific display of hatred that will mean further discrimination and physical harm for LGBTQ+ Ugandans,” she said.

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Africa

Eswatini police detain prominent human rights activist, LGBTQ+ ally

Tanele Maseko taken into custody on March 28 at border crossing

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Tanele Maseko (Photo courtesy of the World Liberty Congress)

MBABANE, Eswatini — Eswatini police on March 28 detained a prominent human rights activist as she tried to return to the country.

Tanele Maseko, the deputy chairperson of the Southern Africa Human Rights Defenders Network, was taken into custody at the Ngwenya Border Post between Eswatini and South Africa. Reports indicate she was returning to Eswatini with her two minor children and an aide when authorities told her she was wanted.

SAHRDN said Maseko’s detention stemmed from her husband’s gruesome murder in January 2023.

Thulani Maseko was a high-profile lawyer, human rights activist and LGBTQ+ rights ally who was highly outspoken against the country’s governance.

“Southern Defenders has previously strongly condemned recent public statements from the government of Eswatini seemingly threatening Tanele Maseko for demanding justice and accountability for her husband’s murder,” said SAHRDN Chair Adriano Nuvunga. “Tanele Maseko is our deputy chairperson and human rights defender in her own right. As a normal human being, she, together with her children are victims of the traumatic events of Jan. 21, 2023, and need to know the truth for closure and healing.”

The Pan African Human Rights Defenders Network said Tanele Maseko’s detention is embarrassing and something not expected from a country that claims to protect all of its citizens.

“We are deeply concerned by the continued harassment of Mrs. Tanele Maseko by the authorities in Eswatini,” said Hassan Shire, the group’s chair. “The treatment that Mrs. Tanele Maseko and her children are receiving amounts to torture, inhumane and degrading treatment, that is totally banned under international law.” 

The Southern Africa Litigation Center in a statement said Maseko and her family are now the target of unsolicited harassment.

“Instead of anyone being held accountable for Thulani Maseko’s death, Mrs. Maseko and her young children have been the target of unsolicited harassment, persecution and intimidation by the authorities in Eswatini, including facing constant and cruel defamatory threats from government spokespersons,” said SALC in a statement. “Accountability and moral consequences must not remain elusive, hanging beyond the grasp of grieving hearts and demanding voices.” 

Vongai Chikwanda, Amnesty International’s deputy regional director for East and Southern Africa, said Eswatini authorities should stop weaponing the criminal justice system to target and harass Tanele Maseko.

“The judicial harassment of Tanele Maseko and her family is a clear violation of her human rights including the rights to liberty, freedom of expression and freedom of movement,” said Chikwanda. “Instead of using the criminal justice system to target, intimidate and harass Tanele Maseko, Eswatini authorities should focus on promptly, thoroughly, independently, impartially, transparently and effectively investigating Thulani Maseko’s murder and bringing to justice those suspected to be responsible.”

Lydia Dlamini, the acting commissioner of the Royal Eswatini Police Service, dismissed claims around Tanele Maseko’s arrest.

“In the wake of Thulani Maseko’s murder, concerted investigations ensued which at the early stage included obtaining a preliminary statement from his wife who was the only adult present at the time of the incident,” said Dlamini. 

“As normal practice and a follow-up to the preliminary statement, repeated attempts were made to meet with Mrs. Tanele Maseko to shed on various issues concerning the murder of her husband. Despite repeated requests, Mrs. Maseko was not even cooperative as even in instances where agreements had been reached on her availing herself,” added Dlamini. “In addition to not cooperating on this aspect of the investigation into her husband’s death, Mrs. Maseko also failed or refused to surrender herself and her late husband’s mobile phones, which the police had requested as these could possibly contain crucial information which could assist on this investigation.”

Dlamini said police at the border asked Tanele Maseko to go to police headquarters in Mbabane, the country’s capital, with her lawyers for questioning about her husband’s murder.

“To ensure compliance and to mitigate against the risk of evasion as had been previously been the case, she was requested to surrender her travel documents together with her mobile phone to which she agreed. Thereafter, she drove herself to the police headquarters in the company of her children,” said Dlamini. 

Dlamini said the interview was postponed until Tuesday.

“The engagement with Mrs. Maseko is crucial in obtaining vital information needed for a breakthrough in the investigation and therefore, must avail herself unreservedly,” said Dlamini. “No amount of distraction will sway the focus on the investigation.” 

Maseko is no longer detained, but is still under police surveillance until authorities complete their investigation.

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World

Out in the World: LGBTQ+ news from Europe & Asia

LGBTQ+ news stories from around the globe including Lithuania, Georgia, Serbia, Japan, New Zealand and Australia

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LITHUANIA

Lithuanian prime minister Ingrida Šimonyte meeting with government officials.
(Photo Credit: Office of prime minister Ingrida Šimonyte)

VILNIUS, Lithuania – A group of same-sex couples is taking the Lithuanian government to the European Court of Human Rights, seeking access to civil unions, marriage, and parental rights. 

The couples involved in the suit are seeking registration of civil partnerships and recognition of same-sex marriages contracted in foreign countries. In a separate case, a same-sex couple is seeking equal parenting rights for their child. The petitioners will also be asking the Lithuanian Constitutional Court to clarify the definition of marriage in the constitution.

Lithuania does not recognize any form of same-sex relationship. A bill to legalize civil unions was proposed by the governing coalition and is one vote from passing through parliament, but has been put on hold amid fears that it doesn’t have enough support to pass.

“The year-long litigation marathon clearly shows the reasons why trust in courts is so low in Lithuania. International law does not work in Lithuania,” Martynas Norbutas, one of the petitioners told a press conference.

The European Court of Human Rights is a supranational court for all members of the Council of Europe, which tries cases involving the European Convention on Human Rights. While the Court has found that the Convention does not require states to allow same-sex marriage, it has in the past found that same-sex couples must be grants some alternative status that is equivalent to marriage. However, it is up to individual states to implement the court’s rulings, as it has no enforcement mechanism.

Of the Council of Europe’s 46 members, 21 allow same-sex marriage, 10 allow same-sex civil unions, and 15 currently have no recognition of same-sex unions.

In February, prime minister Ingrida Šimonytė said she was disappointed that members of her coalition had gone back on their word by failing to support the civil union law.

“I know very well that I cannot convince some of my colleagues despite the fact that the absolute majority of our factions vote for that law,” Šimonytė said on the local news program Laisvės TV.

It isn’t the first time Lithuania’s unruly coalition has failed to pass an LGBT rights law. Last year, the government tried to repeal an old “LGBT propaganda” law that the European Court ruled violated the convention’s right to freedom of expression, but the bill was voted down in parliament. A separate bill that would have seen Lithuania join the Council of Europe’s Istanbul Convention on Domestic Violence was also voted down after anti-LGBT activists began a campaign linking the convention to “gender ideology.”

Parties on both sides of the issue are attempting to shore up support ahead of parliamentary elections expected in October.

In neighboring Poland, the newly elected government says it is still planning to introduce same-sex civil unions, although it will miss its self-imposed deadline of doing so within its first 100 days. Equalities minister Katarzyna Kotula told OKO.press that the government is still working with its coalition partners to come to agreement on what civil unions will entail, with the government preferring that same-sex couples get all the rights that come with marriage, including adoption and parenting rights.

GEORGIA

Mamuka Mdinaradze, executive secretary of the governing Georgian Dream party, speaking with reporters. (Screenshot/YouTube  1TV-GPB)

TBLISI, Georgia – The government of the former Soviet republic of Georgia has announced plans to introduce a series of laws and constitutional amendments to limit so-called “LGBT propaganda,” ban gender change, and ban adoption by LGBT people.

Georgia’s parliament amended the constitution in 2017 to ban same-sex marriage. This proposal would add a new special constitutional law for the protection of family values and minors.

Under the new constitutional law, the state would be forbidden from recognizing any relationship other than heterosexual relationships, restrict adoption to married heterosexual couples and heterosexual individuals, ban any medical treatment to change a person’s gender and require that the government only recognize gender based on a person’s genetic information, and ban any expression or organization promoting same-sex relationships or gender change.

Mamuka Mdinaradze, the executive secretary of the governing Georgian Dream party, says the goal of the constitutional amendments is to “protect society from pseudo-liberal ideology and its inevitable harmful consequences.”

Mdinaradze says the reforms will allow the government to block attempts by courts or international bodies to force the government to recognize same-sex marriage or civil unions. 

While the Georgian government has been pursuing an alignment with the west and membership in the European Union, its government has recently taken many regressive steps on human rights and rule of law.

Last year, it introduced a “Foreign Agents” law that would have cracked down on media and non-governmental organizations that are critical of the government. The government backed down after massive protests.

But the conservative Georgian society appears unlikely to mobilize in massive numbers to oppose this bill, even if it does attack basic human rights.

However, as the proposed reforms would conflict with the European Union’s standards for free expression and human rights, the proposal may force Georgians to decide between repressing LGBT rights and its goal of EU membership.

“As an EU candidate country, Georgia is expected to align its laws with EU legislation,” the EU delegation in Georgia, told German newspaper DW. “The candidate country must have achieved stability of institutions guaranteeing respect for human rights and respect for and protection of minorities.”

The governing Georgian Dream party seems to have introduced the bill to shore up support ahead of elections scheduled for October.

SERBIA

Out former Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic (Screenshot/YouTube AFP)

BELGRADE, Serbia – Serbian prime minister Ana Brnabić has stepped down after seven years in power, in a reshuffle of President Alexander Vucic’s government. Brnabić will take on the role of speaker of parliament, while Vucic has named his ally Milos Vucevic as her successor.

Brnabić became the first woman and the first lesbian to hold the office of prime minister of Serbia, or to be a leader of any Eastern European country, in 2017. She is also the longest-serving person to have held the office.

She is still the most prominent LGBTQ+ person in the conservative, Eastern Orthodox country. 

During her time in office, her status as a lesbian drew very little notice or criticism from Serbian society. She was the first leader of a Balkan country to attend a Pride march when she attended Belgrade Pride in 2017. She was frequently seen with her partner Milica Đurđić, who gave birth to their son in 2019.

However, despite her prominent title, it has been said that Brnabić wielded little actual power in the Serbian government, which is dominated by president Alexander Vucic.

Brnabić has said that she didn’t want to be seen as the “gay prime minister” and that she prioritized policy goals other than LGBTQ+ rights in office. In turn, Serbia made little progress on expanding LGBTQ+ rights during her term.

The government introduced a civil unions bill in 2020 but shelved it months later amid backlash from legislators and a veto threat by Vucic. Beyond that, Brnabić’s government introduced a ban on discrimination against intersex people and removed regulations that barred LGBTQ+ people from accessing IVF or donating sperm. 

During her time in office, Freedom House downgraded its classification of Serbia from “Free” to “Partly Free” due to Vucic’s increasingly authoritarian use of power and crackdowns on local media.

The government shuffle comes after December elections that were widely disputed as being rigged to favor the government. Last year, Serbia was rocked by months of nationwide protests against the government in the wake of rising gun violence, which a new opposition bloc had hoped would lead to gains in Parliament. Instead, the government won a majority.

JAPAN

Japan’s Supreme Court’s main courtroom. (Photo Credit: Government of Japan, courts division)

TOKYO, Japan – The legal battle to achieve same-sex marriage in Japan reached a new milestone, as the couples involved in a court case in Sapporo announced plans to appeal their loss to the Supreme Court, and in a separate case, the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples must get access to a crime victims benefit on an equal basis with married couples.

Same-sex couples have been waging a multi-front fight for same-sex marriage through the courts in Japan, given the national government’s long-standing opposition to addressing LGBTQ+ rights.

In March, the Sapporo High Court delivered the first appellate-level ruling on same-sex marriage, finding that the government’s refusal to allow same-sex marriage created a “state of unconstitutionality” because it discriminated against same-sex couples, but it otherwise ordered no compensation or remedy for the affected couples.

The couples have now announced they plan to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court.

One of the plaintiffs, Eri Nakaya, told a press conference that the legal fight was essential for queer Japanese couples.

“If we back out now, legal recognition will not be achieved in the foreseeable future. I hope the Supreme Court will also declare (the same-sex marriage ban) unconstitutional,” he said.

Before the Supreme Court weighs in, more appellate court decisions are likely. District courts in Nagoya, Fukuoka, and two courts in Tokyo have ruled similarly to the Sapporo court, while a district court in Osaka has upheld the ban on same-sex marriage. 

But the Supreme Court may have tipped its hand in a ruling last week, which found that same-sex couples must be granted access to a benefit provided to victims of crime on the same basis as married heterosexual couples. The court came to that conclusion by reasoning that the purpose of the benefit – to help people recover after a crime – does not change depending on the gender of the victim or their partner.

While the ruling is limited to this one specific benefit, it appears likely that the same reasoning that led the court to this conclusion ought to be applicable to the constellation of benefits that are associated with marriage. Commentators have said that the same logic should apply to pensions, health insurance, and family leave. 

In the background of these decisions, local governments have increasingly come to recognize same-sex couples and families through legally non-binding “partnership certificates,” which are available or soon to be available in 29 of Japan’s 47 prefectures, as well as more than 400 municipalities.

Companies are also increasingly offering benefits to employees’ same-sex partners, including most recently Disney, which announced that it would provide benefits to same-sex partners of employees at Tokyo Disneyland last week. 

NEW ZEALAND

Screenshot/NZ Herald

AUCKLAND, New Zealand – In what Auckland police are treating as a hate crime, video captured three people painting over the New Zealand city’s Pride crosswalk with white paint, the latest in a brewing war over the LGBTQ+ Pride symbols being waged by Christian extremists in the South Pacific country.

A video of the vandals was posted to the TikTok account @aucklandcitynight00. 

Auckland police say that the rainbow crosswalk on Karangahape Road in the heart of the city’s gay nightlife district was vandalized around 4am local time on Wednesday, March 27. Video shows three people in hooded sweatshirts and balaclavas stopping traffic to pour white paint on the road and cover the crosswalk with long paint rollers. 

The vandals left the scene in a van that had its registration plates removed but police say they were able to trace the distinctively painted van’s owner and executed a search warrant on a property linked to the owner. No arrests have yet been made.

Much of the white paint had washed away due to rain and traffic, but the crosswalk still showed damage late in the day.

It was the second Pride crosswalk to be vandalized last week after a crosswalk in Gisborne, about 300 miles southwest of Auckland, was vandalized Monday morning. 

The rainbow crosswalk on Gisborne’s main street had been painted over by anti-LGBTQ+ protesters who were upset that the local library was hosting a drag queen story hour. The next day, protesters and counter-protesters turned up at the library’s storytelling event. Then on Wednesday night, three people once again tried to paint over Gisborne’ restored rainbow crosswalk, and were arrested by police who were lying in wait.

Three people have been accused of vandalism – two men aged 46 and 36, and a woman aged 45. A fourth suspect fled the scene, and police are still searching for him. 

The Gisborne protesters were affiliated with the extremist Divinity Church, a Christian cult led by Brian Tamaki with around 1700 members, according to the latest New Zealand census. Tamaki preaches a far-right political ideology alongside anti-LGBTQ+ messages.

The threats have already led to drag queen story hours to be cancelled in the cities of Rotorua and Hastings, about 150 and 300 miles south of Auckland respectively. Librarians in both cities said the cancellations were made due to security concerns after the Divinity Church spread threats and misinformation about the events on social media. 

He has said he intends for his Church to continue protesting against town councils and libraries that host LGBTQ+ events, and plans to continue vandalizing rainbow crosswalks, although he has denied any involvement in the Auckland crosswalk vandalism.

Tamaki has previously blamed the 2011 Christchurch earthquake on homosexuality.

AUSTRALIA

Parliament of New South Wales building. (Photo Credit: Parliament of New South Wales)

SYDNEY, Australia – Making good on a campaign promise, New South Wales’ parliament passed a law banning conversion therapy, making it the fourth Australian state or territory to ban the discredited practice that seeks to change people’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

The ban takes effect in one year and imposes a maximum penalty of up to 5 years imprisonment for any person that delivers conversion therapy that causes significant harm. The law also includes a civil complaints scheme.

New South Wales joins Queensland, Victory, and the Australian Capital Territory in banning the practice. The governments of Tasmania and Western Australia have also proposed to ban conversion therapy.

“Conversion therapy proceeds on the basis that people in the LGBTQ+ community are broken, they need fixing,” says New South Wales Attorney-General Michael Daley. “But we like them just the way they are.”

Worldwide, conversion therapy has been banned in thirteen countries: Belgium, Canada, Cyprus, Ecuador, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Malta, New Zealand, Spain, Portugal and Norway. A bill to ban the practice nationwide in Mexico is awaiting a final vote in the nation’s senate after it passed through the chamber of deputies last week

Global LGBTQ+ news gathering & reporting by Rob Salerno

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