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Cuba Ministry of Public Health displays Pride flag in support of LGBTQ community

Family code bill will be introduced in July

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(Photo by María Lucía Expósito)

Tremenda Nota is the Los Angeles Blade’s media partner in Cuba. A Spanish version of this article can be found here.

HAVANA — The Ministry of Public Health (MINSAP) hung a Pride flag on the outside of its headquarters in support of the LGBTI+ community; whose rights to legalize marriages, access artificial insemination and full recognition of gender identity are currently being debated in Cuba.

Tremenda Nota was able to confirm the University of the Arts’ Faculty of the Arts of Audiovisual Media (FAMCA), in addition to MINSAP, also celebrated the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia by placing an LGBTI+ flag on its headquarters.

Activists said the embassies of the Netherlands and of the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland, in addition to these institutions, also raised the Pride flag this Monday.

La Marca, an Old Havana tattoo parlor, and AfroAtenAs and El Mejunje in Matanzas and Santa Clara respectively are among the independent community centers that showed solidarity with the LGBTI+ community by hanging LGBTI+ flags.

Some activists took to social media to thank MINSAP for its support and interpreted the gesture as a favorable sign in government policy, which must introduce the family code bill in Parliament in July. Others were critical and referred to the Cuban government’s history of homophobia.

Tremenda Nota photographer María Lucía Expósito was outside MINSAP and took the images that we shared.

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India

Indian political parties for the first time include LGBTQ rights 

The world’s largest democratic exercise will begin in India on April 19 as citizens begin to cast their votes in the country’s election

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Candidates from the Indian National Congress campaigning in Mumbai. The Indian National Congress is the world's largest democratic political organization. (Photo Credit: The Indian National Congress/Facebook)

NEW DELHI — The world’s largest democratic exercise will begin in India on April 19 as citizens begin to cast their votes in the country’s election.

This year’s election is different because national level political parties for the first time are promising to extend marriage rights to same-sex couples as part of their election platforms. 

The Indian National Congress, one of India’s oldest political parties, promised after wide consultation that it would introduce a bill that would recognize civil unions between couples who are part of the LGBTQ community. The party, which has governed India for the majority of the period since independence from the U.K. in 1947, has refrained from taking a stance on laws that include Section 377, which criminalized consensual same-sex sexual relations.

Then-Health Minister Gulam Nabi Azad in 2011 when the INC was in power said homosexuality is a disease. He made the controversial comment while speaking at an HIV/AIDS conference in New Delhi, the Indian capital.

“Unfortunately, this disease has come to our country too,” said Azad. “Where a man has sex with another man, which is completely unnatural and should not happen but does.”

When the Delhi High Court was hearing the Naz Foundation case, the Home Affairs Ministry opposed the striking down of Section 377 based on its belief that homosexuality cannot be morally condoned. The INC never struck down Section 377, which criminalized homosexuality, in parliament.

A 5-judge panel on the Supreme Court on Sept. 6, 2018, decriminalized consensual same-sex sexual relations.

The Communist Party of India (Marxist) on April 4 unveiled its platform with a range of socialist commitments, including support for LGBTQ rights. Among these pledges is to amend the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act 2019 to address community concerns and ensure legal recognition and protection for same-sex couples akin to marriage. 

The platform also outlined plans to introduce a bill similar to the Special Marriage Act of 1954, which allows partners to be listed as dependents and facilitating like inheritance, alimony in the event of divorce and other issues. The party further pledged to enact a comprehensive anti-discriminatory bill that would include LGBTQ people, ensure quotas in educational institutions and implement horizontal reservations in employment. 

Addressing the issue of crimes against LGBTQ people, the platform promised to treat such offenses on par with crimes against heterosexuals. The platform also calls for tackling bullying, violence and harassment of gender non-conforming and LGBTQ people in educational settings, enforcing anti-hazing policies and combating hazing based on sexual orientation and gender identity. 

The platform further touched issues related to transition and informed consent.

The Special Marriage Act of 1954 is a law that provides for civil unions among Indians and Indian nationals who live abroad, regardless of the religion or faith followed by either party. This law enables people from two different religious backgrounds to enter into marriage. Parliament in 2019 passed the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act that extended rights to trans people.

Brinda Karat, a former member of the Rajya Sabha, the upper house of the Indian Parliament, and leader of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), spoke with the Washington Blade and said the current government has homophobic ideas that are not acceptable to the party.

The ruling government under Prime Minister Narendra Modi is striving to secure more than 400 parliament seats in the upcoming election, aiming for a substantial majority. 

Various polls conducted by Indian news organizations indicate a probable victory for the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party. In response to the BJP’s dominance, Congress and several national and regional parties have joined forces as the Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance. 

This alliance comprises 26 opposition political parties. Despite its formation, however, there is no clear coalition strategy in place and only two parties have included LGBTQ-specific policies in their election platforms. 

The Blade reached out to Congress’ spokesperson for comment, but has not received a response. The BJP also did not respond to a request for comment.

The party has yet to release its election platform. 

Ankush Kumar is a reporter who has covered many stories for Washington and Los Angeles Blades from Iran, India and Singapore. He recently reported for the Daily Beast. He can be reached at [email protected]. He is on Twitter at @mohitkopinion. 

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Africa

Ruling that upheld Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act appealed

Country’s Constitutional Court refused to ‘nullify’ law

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Uganda’s Constitutional Court (Photo Credit: Amnesty International)

KAMPALA, Uganda — 22 LGBTQ+ activists in Uganda have appealed this month’s ruling that upheld the country’s Anti-Homosexuality Act.

The Constitutional Court on April 3 refused to “nullify the Anti-Homosexuality Act in its totality.”

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.

Media reports indicate Sexual Minorities Uganda Executive Director Frank Mugisha and Jacqueline Kasha Nabagesara are among the activists who filed the appeal.

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Africa

Congolese bill would criminalize LGBTQ+ people

Constant Mutamba’s measure seen as distraction from country’s long-standing problems

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Congolese MP Constant Mutamba (Photo courtesy of Mutamba's X account)

KINSHASA, Congo — A member of the Democratic Republic of Congo’s National Assembly who is a leader of the country’s opposition party has introduced a bill that would criminalize LGBTQ+ people.

Part of the bill that Constant Mutamba, leader of the Dynamic Progressive Revolutionary Opposition platform, has put forth states anyone who “commits a homosexual act (including acts and gestures) will be liable to a 5- or 10-year prison sentence.”

The country in recent years has seen government leaders and civic society target the community with anti-LGBTQ+ sentiments.

The Superior Council for Audiovisual and Communication, Media Regulatory Authority last June cautioned the media against showing LGBTQ+-specific conversations. Several activists have criticized Mutamba’s bill, saying it seeks to move attention away from governance, service delivery and other pertinent issues in the country.

Sirius Tekasala, a human rights activist, said a person’s sexual orientation does not impact issues of governance.

“The proposed bill does not go in the direction of improving the socio-economic life of the Congolese people,” said Tekasala. “It’s not homosexuals who prevent you from doing your job well or from breathing. This is a violation of human rights.”

Mbuela Mbadu Dieudonné, a social analyst and trade unionist, said the bill is just a way of deviating people from the pertinent issues.

“He should suggest how to get the Congolese people out of this precariousness of life which is growing on a daily basis,” said Dieudonné. “When we don’t know the real problems of the Congolese people, he sets himself up as the great director of scenes to distract the Congolese people.”

Many Congolese, however, seem to support the bill and have applauded Mutamba for drafting it.

This is not the first time that such kind of a bill has been drafted.

An anti-homosexuality bill introduced in 2010 would have sentenced people who engage in consensual same-sex sexual relations to between three and five years in prison. The measure, however, did not become law.

Mutamba’s bill, however, may pass with Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act in effect. The country’s Constitutional Court earlier this month upheld it. Burundi, Tanzania and other neighboring countries are also considering similar measures.

Many Congolese people view LGBTQ+ rights as a Western phenomenon that disregards their religious and cultural beliefs. LGBTQ+ Congolese are among those who have fled the country and sought refuge in the Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya and other places.

Consensual same-sex sexual relations are not criminalized in the Democratic Republic of Congo, but Congolese law does not recognize same-sex marriages.

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World

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

LGBTQ+ news stories from around the globe including Monaco, Italy, Czech Republic, Germany, United Kingdom & Belarus

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Los Angeles Blade graphic

MONACO

Photo Credit: Principality of Monaco

MONACO – Monaco’s top court struck down two lower court rulings that would have required the tiny Mediterranean principality to recognize foreign same-sex marriages, in a ruling that has not yet been published.

The case centered around a binational Monegasque-American same-sex couple who married in Grand Rapids, Michigan in August 2019 while resident in that state. When they returned to Monaco the following year, the government refused to record them in the state register of marriages.

“Although valid, this union cannot be transcribed in the marriage register in view of its manifest contrariety with Monegasque public order characterized by the constitutional principle according to which the Catholic, Apostolic and Roman religion is the state religion,” stated a letter from the Public Prosecutor’s Office in a letter to the Civil Registrar on the matter.

The letter goes on to invite the couple to instead form a cohabitation contract, which has been available to same-sex couples in Monaco as a form of civil union since 2020.

The couple rejected that offer and appealed to the Attorney-General, who again refused to recognize the marriage, so the couple took their case to court.

In March 2022, the court of first instance ruled in the couple’s favor, citing the presumption in international private law that marriages validly concluded in one country are generally recognized in any country. The court also found that the same-sex marriages are not contrary to the public order simply because Catholicism is the state religion, and that the cohabitation agreements are inadequate to protect the family rights of married couples.

The prosecutor-general quickly appealed the decision, but the Court of Appeal once again ruled in September 2023 in the couple’s favor. The court also found that the state’s offer that the couple could protect their rights through a cohabitation agreement to be impractical, as the cohabitation law specifically says that agreements are unavailable to anyone who is already married. 

Still, the government appealed the decision to the Court of Revision, Monaco’s highest court dealing with administrative matters. That court finally ruled that the government is not obliged to record same-sex marriages, striking down the previous two rulings. 

LGBTQ+ rights have long been a contentious issue in the tiny city-state of approximately 39,000. While there are no local LGBTQ+ advocacy organizations, the state has been pushed to enhance the legal rights of its queer citizens by its larger European neighbors.

Monaco was one of the last states in Western Europe to offer legal recognition to same-sex couples through the 2020 Cohabitation Agreement Bill, which came about largely because Monaco recognized it was in violation of the European Convention on Human Rights, which courts have interpreted as requiring states to give equal recognition to same-sex couples. 

Still, the cohabitation agreement is explicitly unequal to marriage. Couples in cohabitation agreements are not considered families and can even include siblings or other relatives. They don’t enjoy equal treatment in terms of taxation or inheritance, can’t choose a common surname, and can’t adopt, and cohabitation with a Monegasque citizen doesn’t entitle a partner to residency rights the way marriage does.

Monaco also lacks any anti-discrimination protections for LGBTQ+ people, and trans people are not allowed to change their legal gender. 

ITALY

Italian prime minister Giorgia Meloni with President of Argentina Javier Gerardo Milei in February during a state visit. (Photo Credit: Office of prime minister Giorgia Meloni)

ROME, Italy – During a press briefing Friday at the conference ‘For a Young Europe: Demographic Transition, Environment, Future,’ Italian prime minister Giorgia Meloni took aim at the practice of surrogacy which is already illegal in Italy saying the practice is “inhuman.” 

The prime minister’s party recently introduced legislation in the Italian Parliament that would further criminalize the act by hiking fines from €600,000 to €1 million ($640,290 to $1,067,150) and increasing jail terms from three months up to two years.

“I continue to believe that surrogacy is an inhuman practice,” Meloni said. “I support the bill that makes it a universal crime,” she added.

Last week Pope Francis issued a papal document, the 20-page Dignitas infinita, which stated that surrogacy “violates” both the dignity of the child and the woman, who “becomes a mere means subservient to the arbitrary gain or desire of others.” The document also declared gender-affirming surgery to be a grave violation of human dignity.

CNN reported that the move to criminalize surrogacy is largely seen as a move against the LGBTQ+ community. Italy was the last European country to legalize same sex unions, which it did in 2016 but does not allow gay couples to be “married,” in line with the Catholic Church.

Under Meloni’s government, birth certificates were changed to list “mother” and “father” rather than “parent 1” and “parent 2.” In 2023 some communities where her Brothers of Italy leads the government, names of lesbian mothers were removed from birth certificates.

CZECH REPUBLIC

Parlament České republiky, Waldstein Palace-Malá Strana, Prague.
(Photo Credit: Parliament of the Czech Republic)

PRAGUE, Czechia – The Czech senate began consideration of bill that would enhance the rights of people in same-sex civil partnerships this week, continuing a tense legislative process that has seen pro-and anti-LGBTQ+ groups lobbying lawmakers to make changes to the bill.

The civil partnership bill passed through the lower house of parliament in February. It was a compromise after a bill that would have allowed same-sex marriage couldn’t get enough support to pass. 

The bill makes registered partnerships, which have been legal in Czechia since 2005, equivalent to marriage in all matters except adoption. Same-sex couples will have the right to stepchild adoption only – couples will not be allowed to jointly adopt.

Some senators have presented amendments to the bill that would allow same-sex marriage and full joint adoption, but some legislators think this strategy is risky – any amendments would send the bill back to the lower house, where it’s not clear they could pass. 

On the other hand, some senators are pushing amendments that would water down the bill further, by eliminating adoption entirely. 

Leading up to the senate debate, LGBTQ+ advocates were sanguine about the prospects of getting everything they want.

“Together with the majority of Czech society, we sent a clear message to our legislators: only the institute of equal marriage will ensure equal legal protection, social security and family stability for all couples and families with children,” wrote Lucia Zachariášová a lawyer who works with the LGBTQ+ advocacy organization Jsme Fér in an open letter to legislators this week. 

“However, the partnership can at this moment fulfill a promise repeated so much that if it is not a question of marriage, there will be no problem to accept such a solution. It is important to repeat again: it will help especially families with children to have a little more restful sleep,” she writes.

So far, three senate committees have examined the bill, recommending either that the senate pass the bill as is or simply not debate it. In the Czech system, if the Senate doesn’t address a bill passed by the House, it is sent to the president to be signed into law anyway. The president is expected to sign the bill, as he campaigned for full marriage equality.

One more committee is set to examine the bill next week before it’s scheduled for debate on the senate floor April 17. 

If the Senate rejects a bill, or passes it with an amendment, it returns to the lower house, where deputies can either accept the amendment or reaffirm the bill with the support of an absolute majority or 101 votes. The bill originally passed through the lower chamber of deputies with 118 votes in favor.

While Czech LGBTQ+ people are disappointed by the lack of progress on marriage equality, they’re also anxious to get the bill passed, as it would still offer a great improvement to the legal rights of many same-sex couples and their children.

“The House is not expected to improve the amendment. On the contrary, there is a fear that the situation could worsen or that everything would fall under the table,” Jsme Fér said of the progress on the bill in a post on X, (formerly Twitter). “[Senators] fear a debate that might not be dignified for hundreds of thousands of LGBT people, and after six years of debates in the House of Representatives, everything important has already been said.”

GERMANY

The Reichstag is a historic legislative government building on Platz der Republik in Berlin, and the seat of the German Bundestag [Parliament]. (Photo by Matthew Field/Bundestag)

BERLIN, Germany – The German Parliament voted 374-251 to pass a new law allowing trans people to change their legal gender by a simple administrative procedure, replacing outdated requirements from the 1980s for declarations of support from doctors and other invasive procedures.

The new law also imposes hefty fines of up to €10,000 on anyone intentionally disclosing a trans person’s previous name or gender for a harmful purpose. The law allows exceptions in cases where disclosure would be a legal requirement, for example in a court proceeding or a police investigation.

Under the new law, trans people may change their legal gender to male, female, or “diverse” – a third-gender option already available under German law. Applicants can also request that no gender details be recorded at all. Trans people will simply file a request, and then appear in person at a registry office three months later to make the change official. 

The new law is open to people over 18. Those between 14 and 17 will need a parent’s permission to file the application, while those under 14 will require parents to file the application on their behalf. 

Applicants are limited to one name and gender change within 12 months. The law also allows the government to suspend applications to change legal gender from male to female or diverse made up to two months before a national emergency is declared.

The law continues to allow operators of women-only spaces, such as gyms or changing rooms, to decide on their own who is allowed to access them. 

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said the law was about showing respect to gender-diverse people.

“We show respect to trans, intersex and non-binary people – without taking anything away from others. This is how we continue to drive the modernization of our country. This includes recognizing realities of life and making them possible by law,” Scholz wrote in a statement on X.

The law was part of the governing agreement made by the current governing coalition. The upper house of parliament does not need to vote on the bill. The law will come into effect in November.

Under the 1980 Transsexuals Law, trans people were required to get two expert reports from doctors attesting that the applicant will not be likely to want to return to their previous legal gender. These reports often required trans people to undergo invasive psychological and physical examinations and would add months of delay and average additional costs of up to €2000 (approximately $2130).

The Constitutional Court struck down a requirement that trans people have sex reassignment surgery and be sterilized in 2011. The same court required the government to create a non-binary option for intersex people in 2017, which the government did a year later.

Germany’s coalition government, in place since September 2021, has promised to introduce several pro-LGBTQ+ policies, including creating a hate crime law, amending the Basic Law to ban discrimination based on sexual identity, and automatic parenthood recognition for same-sex parents.

UNITED KINGDOM

The Palace of Westminster is the meeting place of the Parliament of the United Kingdom and is located in London. (Photo Credit: UK Government)

LONDON, UK – A government-commissioned review of gender care services for trans youth in England and Wales has sparked an outcry from trans activists who say that the review discounted decades of research showing the value of gender care treatment to reach a conclusion that care should be restricted for youth.

The “Cass Review” was commissioned by the National Health Service England in 2020 to examine gender care services for young people following reports showing a large increase in the number of youth accessing care at the now-closed Gender Identity Development Service. The Review was led by a former president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, Dr. Hilary Cass.

The disputed report concluded that there isn’t good scientific evidence to support most forms of gender care, including puberty blockers, hormone therapy, or social transition.

“While a considerable amount of research has been published in this field, systematic evidence reviews demonstrated the poor quality of the published studies, meaning there is not a reliable evidence base upon which to make clinical decisions, or for children and their families to make informed choices,” reads an excerpt of the report’s executive summary.

But trans advocates criticized that conclusion, pointing out that Cass held existing studies of gender care to an impossible standard. Her report discounted any study that wasn’t based on double-blind trials, which they say would not be possible or ethical.

“The Cass Review dismisses a very large number of studies and omits studies from the past two years. Hence, it neglects a vast amount of evidence on the benefits of gender affirming medical treatment for trans youth in its analysis,” writes Dr. Hane Maung of the trans healthcare service GenderGP.

“For many medical interventions, including gender affirming medical treatment for trans youth, randomised controlled trials are unfeasible and unethical, because the consequences of not intervening would be very apparent to the participants and also would be unacceptably harmful,” he says.

The Cass Review urges caution in treatment for trans youth, including a new recommendation that medical consultations be undertaken before youth are allowed to socially transition – a major expansion of the medicalization of gender identity. Some trans activists also noticed that the review suggests increased surveillance of trans care through age 25, suspecting this implies further restricting care into adulthood.

The day the Cass Review was published, NHS England announced it would be launching a review of adult gender care, alleging whistleblower complaints.

The Guardian reports that Cass also advised the government to be cautious with the proposed ban on conversion therapy, which the government has put under review, but which is unlikely to be introduced before an election is held. Cass reportedly urged the minister responsible to ensure that doctors providing gender care are insulated from accusations of conversion practices, claiming that doctors are already afraid to take a more cautious approach to providing treatment.

The Cass Review has already made waves across the UK, with transphobic author JK Rowling claiming that it vindicates her years-long anti-trans campaigning, and claiming she would “never forgive” Harry Potter stars Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson for supporting trans rights.

Prime minister Rishi Sunak endorsed the report’s findings.

“We care above all about the wellbeing of children and it’s clear that these things are not neutral acts, whether that’s social transitioning, any kind of medical intervention, we simply do not know the long-term effects of these things,” he says. “And that’s why anyone involved in considering these issues, of course, has to treat people with sensitivity and compassion, but also have to be extremely cautious when it comes to taking any action.”

The opposition Labour Party, which is expected to win national elections later this year, has already said it would implement all of the Cass Review recommendations when in government. Labour’s shadow minister for health told The Sun that he no longer stood by the statement that “trans women are women” in the wake of the review. 

The NHS Scotland and NHS Wales, which hold devolved responsibility for care in those countries, said they were reviewing Cass’ findings.

BELARUS

Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko. (Screenshot/Belarusian Telegraph Agency)

MINSK, Belarus – The government of Belarus issued a decree this week declaring that depictions of LGBTQ+ people may be considered illegal pornography, whether or not sexual acts are depicted.

The Culture Ministry amended a decree on “erotic materials” to include homosexuality or transgender as “non-traditional sexual relationship or behavior,” equivalent to necrophilia, pedophilia, and voyeurism. 

That may mean that depictions of LGBTQ+ people are considered pornography. Under Belarussian law, production, distribution, and public displays of pornography are punishable with up to 4 years in prison, or up to 13 years for child pornography. 

Using these new definitions, an innocuous picture of a same-sex couple with their child, or a picture of a trans child, or a picture of two same-sex teens on a date, could all be considered child pornography.

According to Human Rights Watch, it is not yet clear how the government plans to interpret and enforce the new decree.

Belarus is one of the least free countries in Europe according to the human rights advocacy group Freedom House. Often considered a client state of neighboring Russia, Belarus tends to follow its larger neighbor culturally and politically. The country has bene governed by president Alexander Lukashenko since 1994, with political dissidents routinely jailed and media heavily censored. 

LGBTQ+ Belarussians lack any protections from discrimination, and anti-LGBTQ+ violence is common. Officials have floated introducing a Russia-style “gay propaganda” law over the years, but one has never been formally enacted.

Global LGBTQ+ news gathering & reporting by Rob Salerno

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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.)

******************************************************************************************

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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