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Tokyo Olympics committee silent on Japan lawmakers’ anti-LGBTQ comments

Pandemic-postponed games to open in July

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TOKYO — The committee that is organizing the 2021 Summer Olympics in Tokyo has declined to say whether Japanese lawmakers’ anti-LGBTQ comments violated the Olympic Charter’s nondiscrimination clause.

Mainichi, a Japanese newspaper, reported members of Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party who attended a meeting about an LGBTQ rights bill described LGBTQ people as “morally unacceptable” and said “from a biological perspective, human beings must preserve the species, LGBT people go against this.”

The International Olympic Committee in 2014 added sexual orientation to the Olympic Charter’s nondiscrimination clause, known as Principle 6, after Russia’s LGBTQ rights record overshadowed the 2014 Winter Olympics that took place that year in the Black Sea resort city of Sochi.

“Please be aware that per the Fundamental Principles of Olympism in the Olympic Charter, as a sports organization within the Olympic Movement, that Tokyo 2020 applies political neutrality and cannot comment on matters concerning remarks from politicians, government legislature and the like,” Tokyo 2020 told the Los Angeles Blade on Wednesday in an emailed statement.

Tokyo 2020 President Seiko Hashimoto, who is a member of the Liberal Democratic Party, on April 27 visited Pride House Tokyo Legacy, which is Japan’s first permanent LGBTQ community center. The statement that Tokyo 2020 sent to the Blade notes the visit.

“President Hashimoto Seiko visited Pride House Tokyo Legacy for the purpose of gaining, on behalf of Tokyo 2020, an understanding of how diversity and inclusion can be promoted through dialogue,” said Tokyo 2020. “She further aims to bolster Tokyo 2020’s LGBTQ legacy through partnership with Pride House Tokyo, whose key message is ‘Everyone should be able to live in their own way without discrimination or harassment, understanding and respecting each other’s differences.'” 

The statement notes Tokyo 2020 “will share information and raise awareness on LGBTQ issues, sport, culture and education” in its official program. Tokyo 2020 also told the Blade that “diversity and inclusion … is essential to achieving the Tokyo 2020 games vision and delivering successful games.”

“Tokyo 2020 will embrace ‘diversity’ by celebrating the differences of individuals, while ‘inclusion’ will see people accepted and respected regardless of age, ethnicity, nationality, gender, sexual orientation, religious beliefs or intellectual or physical impairment,” reads the statement. 

“People of diverse backgrounds influence each other, and these differences lead to the creation of new values within organizations and societies,” it added. “Tokyo 2020 want to achieve diversity and inclusion through ‘Know Differences, Show Differences,’ allowing each person to demonstrate their full capabilities because everyone will understand and respect each other.”

Tokyo 2020 further said it “will share this approach with athletes, spectators and games-related personnel. By raising awareness of D&I (diversity and inclusion) to everyone taking part in or attending the games, Tokyo 2020 aims to make D&I an integral part of Japanese society as a post-games legacy.” 

The IOC Press Office on Friday in a statement to the Blade noted IOC President Thomas Bach has expressed his support for Pride House Tokyo Legacy and welcomes Tokyo 2020’s efforts to “embed diversity and inclusion in the Olympic Games model.”

The statement notes it is IOC “policy that we hear all concerns, which are directly related to the Olympic Games, and address them through our partners, the organizing committees.”

“The IOC addresses each and every one individually,” the IOC told the BLade.

The IOC said it works “to ensure these principles are applied in practice,” noting the Russian government in 2014 ensured it would not discriminate against athletes who participated in the Sochi games after President Vladimir Putin signed a law that banned the promotion of so-called gay propaganda to minors.

“At the same time, the IOC has neither the mandate nor the capability to change the laws or the political system of a sovereign country,” the IOC told the Blade. “This must rightfully remain the legitimate role of governments and respective intergovernmental organizations.”

The Olympics were supposed to take place in 2020, but the pandemic prompted officials to postpone them. They are now scheduled to open on July 23 and close on Aug. 8. The Paralympics are slated to take place from Aug. 24-Sept. 5.

Advocacy groups in Japan and around the world are using the Olympics to underscore the lack of LGBTQ rights in the country.

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United Nations

US ambassador to UN calls for decriminalization of homosexuality

Linda Thomas-Greenfield spoke at U.N. LGBTI Core Group event

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U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield (Photo courtesy of the U.S. State Department; public domain)

UNITED NATIONS — U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield is among those who participated in a Wednesday event on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly that highlighted efforts to decriminalize consensual same-sex sexual relations.

Thomas-Greenfield in her remarks during the largely virtual U.N. LGBTI Core Group event noted consensual same-sex sexual relations remain criminalized in more than 70 countries.

“For millions of people it is illegal for them to be who they are, to love who they love. We need to repeal and eliminate these laws,” she said. “For our part, the United States is using our diplomacy, our foreign assistance and every tool we have to protect human rights, empower civil society and support local LGBTQI movements.”

The U.S. is one of 35 countries that are members of the Core Group.

Wednesday’s event also highlighted efforts to decriminalize transgender people and repeal laws that specifically target them.

“We need more countries to join this committed group,” said Thomas-Greenfield. “Together, let’s do everything we can to protect human rights and promote equality for all.”

Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo; Nepalese Ambassador to the U.N. Amrit Bahadur Rai; New Zealand Ambassador to the U.N. Craig Hawke; Australian Permanent U.N. Representative Mitch Fifield; Brazilian Ambassador to the U.N. Rolando Costa Filho; Canadian Ambassador to the U.N. Robert Keith Rae; Assistant U.N. Secretary General for Strategic Coordination Volker Türk; Argentine Foreign Affairs Minister Santiago Cafiero; Dutch Foreign Affairs Minister Tom de Bruijn; Japanese Foreign Minister Jun Shimmi; Norwegian Foreign Affairs Minister Ine Eriksen Soreide; Salvadoran Foreign Affairs Minister Alexandra Hill Tinoco; Costa Rican Vice Multicultural Affairs Minister Christian Guillermet-Fernández; Finnish Foreign Affairs Ministry Johanna Sumuvuori; Nick Herbert of the British House of Lords; European Union Equality Commissioner Helena Dalli; Swedish Foreign Affairs Minister Ann Linde; Icelandic Foreign Affairs Minister Gudlaugur Thór Thórdarson; Maltese Equality, Research, Innovation and the Coordination of Post COVID-19 Strategy Minister Owen Bonnici; Mexican Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights Undersecretary Martha Delgado; Italian Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Benedetto Della Vedova; Chilean Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Carolina Valdivia; German MP Michael Roth; Irish State for Overseas Development Aid and Diaspora Minister Colm Brophy and Danish Development and Nordic Cooperation Minister Flemming Møller Mortensen participated in the event that Reuters U.N. Bureau Chief Michelle Nichols emceed.

Acting OutRight Action International Executive Director Maria Sjödin and activists from Bhutan, Botswana, Guyana, Mozambique, Angola, Panamá and India took part. Victor Madrigal-Borloz, the independent U.N. expert on LGBTQ issues, and Nikkie de Jager, a Dutch U.N. goodwill ambassador known as NikkieTutorials who is trans, also participated.

“Decriminalization is a very basic demand,” said Sjödin. “Given how many countries have these laws on the books, it is still a priority.”

Herbert, who is British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s LGBTQ envoy, noted consensual same-sex sexual relations remain criminalized in 35 of the Commonwealth’s 54 countries. Herbert also announced the U.K. will give an additional $2.75 million to “support LGBT+ individuals in Commonwealth countries, including to those seeking to address outdated legislation that discriminates against women, girls and LGBT+ individuals.”

“We are clear that tackling discrimination is only one part of the issue,” said Herbert. “We must encourage countries as well to put in place laws that protect their LGBTI citizens going forward.”

President Biden in February signed a memorandum that committed the U.S. to promote LGBTQ rights abroad. The decriminalization of consensual same-sex sexual relation is one of the White House’s five global LGBTQ rights priorities.

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European Union

One Polish ‘LGBTQ Free Zone’ reverses status after EU threatens funding

Poland has seen a resurgence in the past three years of rightwing religious ultra-conservative groups in this heavily Catholic country

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Offices & chambers of the Sejmik Województwa Świętokrzyskiego (Photo: Government of the voivodeship of Świętokrzyskie, Poland)

KIELCE, Świętokrzyskie Voivodeship, Poland – In a reversal of policy the Sejmik Województwa Świętokrzyskiego, a unicameral regional legislature in Southern Poland voted in a special emergency session Wednesday to revoke an LGBTQ resolution that it had passed in 2019 under threat of losing European Union funding.

The executive branch of the European Union, the European Commission, sent letters out in late August to the governors of five of Poland’s voivodeships, (provinces) warning that pandemic relief funds totaling over 126 million euros ($150 million) will be withheld over anti-LGBTQ measures passed in their jurisdictions.

The EU Commission, which is chiefly responsible for for proposing legislation, enforcing EU laws and directing EU administrative operations, notified the governors and the government of Polish President Andrzej Duda and Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki that the coronavirus response investment initiative (CRII) funds from the Recovery assistance for cohesion and the territories of Europe (REACT-EU), would be rescinded over the so-called ‘LGBTQ Free Zones’ established in the five provinces.

Poland has seen a resurgence in the past three years of rightwing religious ultra-conservative groups backed by nationalistic extremists in this heavily Catholic country of 38 million, which have led to passage of measures to restrict pride parades and other LGBTQ+-friendly events from taking place.

In the resolution passed in 2019 by the regional assembly of Sejmik Województwa Świętokrzyskiego, part of the language included “opposition to the attempts to introduce LGBT ideology to local government communities and the promotion of this ideology in public life.”

The resolution also noted; “deep disapproval and strong opposition to the attempts by liberal political and social circles to promote an ideology based on LGBT affirmation, which are in clear contradiction to the cultural heritage and centuries-old Christian traditions not only of the Swietokrzyski region but also of Poland and Europe.”

The Associated Press reported that Swietokrzyskie is the first area of Poland to rescind such a measure after becoming colloquially known as an “LGBT-free zone.” Its move came after the country’s government asked authorities in several regions to revoke their largely symbolic anti-LGBT resolutions.

Although several Polish courts have weighed in ruling the measures unconstitutional, little actions have been taken to mitigate them.

In July of 2020, the anti-LGBTQ president of Poland, Andrzej Duda, won re-election. Activists have sharply criticized Duda — head of Poland’s conservative Law and Justice party — over his anti-LGBTQ rhetoric.

Duda in June of last year said LGBTQ “ideology” is more harmful than communism.

Justyna Nakielska of Kampania Przeciw Homofobii, a Polish LGBTQ advocacy group, told the Blade’s International Editor Michael Lavers that Duda has publicly described LGBTQ Poles as “a threat to the family” and said they “want to sexualize children.”

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Caribbean

Immigration Equality condemns expulsion of Haitian migrants, asylum seekers

Prominent activist found dead in Port-au-Prince home in 2019

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Hurricane Matthew, gay news, Washington Blade
Hurricane Matthew damage near Jérémie, Haiti in 2016. Immigration Equality has condemned the deportation of Haitian migrants and asylum seekers from the U.S. (Photo courtesy of Reginald Dupont/Fondation SEROvie)

NEW YORK — Immigration Equality on Wednesday sharply criticized the Biden administration over the deportation of Haitian migrants and asylum seekers from the U.S.

“Over 10,000 Haitian migrants and asylum seekers are waiting at America’s doorstep, but the Biden administration won’t uphold their basic right to ask for protection,” said Immigration Equality Legal Director Bridget Crawford in a press release. “This is blatantly illegal and morally reprehensible. Many of these people are asylum seekers who face grave danger if returned to Haiti. They have traveled thousands of miles to escape a country torn apart by devastating earthquakes and political turmoil.”

The White House in recent days has been struggling to respond to the influx of Haitian migrants and asylum seekers in Del Rio, Texas, which is across the Rio Grande from Ciudad Acuña, Mexico. Pictures of U.S. Border Patrol agents on horseback chasing and whipping Haitians have sparked widespread outrage.

Title 42, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention rule that closed the Southern border to most migrants and asylum seekers because of the pandemic, remains in place. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has begun to deport Haitian migrants and asylum seekers from Texas.

Immigration Equality in its press release notes Charlot Jeudy, a member of Kouraj, a Haitian LGBTQ rights group, was found dead inside his home in Port-au-Prince, the country’s capital, in 2019.

Violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity remain commonplace in Haiti.

President Jovenel Moïse’s assassination on July 7 and an 7.2 magnitude earthquake on Aug. 14 that left scores of people dead and displaced hundreds of thousands of others have caused additional turmoil in Haiti, which is the Western Hemisphere’ poorest country.

A 7.0 magnitude earthquake that devastated Port-au-Prince and surrounding areas in 2010 killed an estimated 200,000 people.

Fondation SEROvie, a Haitian HIV/AIDS service organization, contributed to relief efforts after Hurricane Matthew caused widespread damage on the country’s Tiburon Peninsula in 2016. Last month’s earthquake struck in the same area.

“For LGBTQ people in particular, expulsion means returning to a society that rejects them. They are frequent targets of violence and sexual assault, including by the police,” said Crawford. “The country is fundamentally unsafe for the queer and transgender community.”

“Instead of welcoming Haitian asylum seekers as the U.S. should, the Biden administration is sending them back to life-threatening conditions,” added Crawford. “We call on the administration to halt the deportation flights immediately and end Title 42 in its entirety. The disturbing images of border agents on horseback chasing down terrified Haitian migrants go against the administration’s professed ideals. Shame on the Biden administration for embracing this xenophobic and illegal Trump-era policy and mistreating vulnerable migrants.”

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