WASHINGTON — The White House on Friday announced it has named Jessica Stern as the next special U.S. envoy for the promotion of LGBTQ rights abroad.
Stern for the past 11 years has been the executive director of OutRight Action International, a global LGBTQ advocacy group. The White House in its announcement notes Stern is also an adjunct associate professor at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs.
“Serving as OutRight’s executive director has been the honor of a lifetime,” said Stern in an OutRight Action press release that announced her appointment and departure from the organization. “I can think of no organization that works with more integrity, more skillful staff, more motivated board members, more valued partners or greater impact. After 11 years with OutRight, leaving will be bittersweet, but I know that the organization could not be stronger.”
Then-Secretary of State John Kerry in 2015 announced the position within the State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor. It had remained vacant since 2017.
President Biden in February signed a memorandum that committed the U.S. to promoting LGBTQ rights abroad. Secretary of State Antony Blinken during his confirmation hearing pledged to make the envoy an ambassador level post, but the White House’s announcement about Stern’s appointment does not refer to her as such.
Stern was also a vocal critic of the previous administration over its LGBTQ rights record, among other issues.
“Another Trump administration would mean more funding for U.S.-based right-wing organizations to spread homophobia and transphobia globally,” Stern told the Los Angeles Blade last October in a statement ahead of the presidential election. “It would mean more opposition to life-saving global institutions that serve LGBTIQ people, like the World Health Organization. It would mean more examples of the U.S. forging coalitions to oppose social justice movements and equal recognition of the family with some of the most conservative countries in the world.”
The Council for Global Equality in a statement congratulated Stern over her appointment.
“The special envoy is a key leadership position at the State Department and Jessica Stern is a respected leader in the global movement for LGBTQI equality,” it said on its blog. “We could not imagine a better choice to lead President Biden’s vision for equality and human rights abroad.”
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Eight jailed across Canada in anti-LGBTQ rallies against sex ed
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau condemns bigotry as counterprotests outnumber anti-LGBTQ+ demonstrators in most cities
By Rob Salerno | OTTAWA, Canada -A highly coordinated series of anti-LGBT protests rocked more than 80 cities across Canada Wednesday, in a significant escalation of tactics by Canada’s anti-LGBTQ extremists.
The coordinated protests dubbed “1 Million March 4 Children” are demanding an end to discussions on sexual orientation and gender identity in Canadian classrooms. They come as several Canadian provinces have enacted policies that require students to have parental permission to change their preferred name or pronoun used in schools, and shortly after the federal Conservative Party adopted a series of anti-trans policies at its national convention.
According to its website, 1 Million March 4 Children is calling for “the elimination of the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI) curriculum, pronouns, gender ideology and mixed bathrooms in schools.” The website also lists among its supporters numerous groups that were opposed to masking policies during the COVID-19 pandemic, anti-vaccine groups, groups that promote conspiracy theories, and groups that support the truck convoys that laid siege to Ottawa and several US border crossings last year.
Protests happened from coast to coast, in big cities, suburbs, and small towns, but in most cases, they were met with coordinated counter-protests in support of LGBT rights who greatly outnumbered the protesters.
CBC reported that counter-protesters numbered roughly double the anti-LGBT protesters in St. John’s, Newfoundland.
Inclusive sex education has long been part of school curriculums in most provinces in Canada and has generally enjoyed support from all major political parties.
While the protests where mostly peaceful, at least four anti-LGBT protesters were arrested after getting into altercations with counter-protestors in British Columbia, and police advised that the protest in front of the provincial legislature had become “unsafe.”
Police in Nanaimo, BC tackled and arrested one man who attempted to flee after allegedly getting into a physical altercation at City Hall. Two protestors were also arrested in Victoria, BC as they demonstrated in front of the provincial legislature, and another protester was arrested in Vancouver, BC. Police in both cities did not provide additional information.
Ottawa police also arrested two protesters for allegedly inciting hatred and another for causing a disturbance in at the protest in front of Parliament.
And Toronto police arrested 47-year-old protester Julia Stevenson for allegedly bringing a weapon to the demonstration outside the provincial legislature. Police did not give further details about what kind of weapon she is alleged to have been carrying.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who was at the UN General Assembly in New York, condemned the anti-LGBT protests in a tweet on X, formerly Twitter.
“Let me make one thing very clear: Transphobia, homophobia, and biphobia have no place in this country. We strongly condemn this hate and its manifestations, and we stand united in support of 2SLGBTQI+ Canadians across the country – you are valid and you are valued,” he wrote.
Let me make one thing very clear: Transphobia, homophobia, and biphobia have no place in this country. We strongly condemn this hate and its manifestations, and we stand united in support of 2SLGBTQI+ Canadians across the country – you are valid and you are valued.— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) September 20, 2023
Que ce soit clair : la transphobie, l’homophobie et la biphobie n’ont pas leur place dans notre pays. Nous condamnons fermement cette haine et ses manifestations, et nous sommes solidaires des Canadiens et Canadiennes 2ELGBTQI+ à travers le pays – vous êtes valables et appréciés.— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) September 20, 2023
Conservative Party leader Pierre Poilievre did not put out any statement on the protests, nor did deputy leader Melissa Lantsman, who is openly lesbian and has previously spoken out on LGBT issues on behalf of the party.
The leader of the left-leaning New Democratic Party Jagmeet Singh joined the counter-protestors who demonstrated in Ottawa and marched toward Parliament Hill.
“We know that there’s a lot of folks that don’t feel safe because of the rise in hate and division that’s targeting vulnerable people,” Singh told CTV. “But then you see a lot of people coming together, and it shows the strength of solidarity, of us supporting each other, of having each other’s back.”
Alberta Teachers’ Association President Jason Schilling says the protesters are part of a North America-wide movement fomenting hatred against queer people using misinformation and lies.
“Using ‘parental consent’ as camouflage, this rally was part of a coordinated strike across North America to promote misinformation, intolerance and hate toward the 2SLGBTQIA+ community, as well as toward teachers who work to protect the safety and well-being of all students,” Schilling said in a statement.
In many cities, the anti-LGBT protests were officially condemned by mayors and school boards.
Toronto Mayor Olivia Chow, who has publicly supported LGBT rights since the 1980s, issued a strong statement condemning the protests.
“We stand against all forms of discrimination, hatred and bigotry, and for the safety and well-being of all young people. Some wish to target our schools and libraries to spread hate. We know these must be spaces that welcome everyone, especially students,” Chow wrote.
The city of Whitehorse, Yukon issued a statement condemning bigotry in advance of the protests.
“While the City supports people’s right to organize and protest, we stand by our 2SLGBTQIA+ community members and their right to live their true selves safely and free of harassment and hate. The promotion of anti-2SLGBTQIA+ ideas has no place in our community and messages that target fellow community members will not be tolerated,” the statement says.
However, the Premier of New Brunswick Blaine Higgs, who was the first to introduce a “parental consent” policy for trans students, joined the protesters in front of the provincial legislature in Fredericton.
“I think our parents should become knowledgeable about what their kids are being taught and what is important for them to learn in schools and what’s important for parents to make decisions on with kids that are under 16 years old,” Higgs told reporters.
BC Conservative Party leader went further in a statement on the protests. While he says he doesn’t “officially” support the protests, if his party wins next year’s election, he promised to cancel the province’s sex ed curriculum and implied he would ban trans girls from sports.
Protests sparked across Canada over gender policies in schools:
Rob Salerno is a writer and journalist based in Los Angeles, California, and Toronto, Canada.
India penal code reform bills do not include LGBTQ+, intersex rights
Supreme Court earlier this year heard marriage equality cases
NEW DELHI — Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2019 said that all the laws implemented during British rule should be made in accordance with modern norms and with society’s interests in account after adequate discussion and consideration. The government this year introduced a bill that would amend India’s criminal laws, but the measure is not inclusive.
Home Minister Amit Shah on Aug. 11 introduced the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita Bill 2023, Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita Bill 2023 and Bharatiya Sakhshya Bill 2023 in the Lok Sabha, the lower house of the Indian Parliament. The three bills would replace the Indian Penal Code of 1860, the Criminal Procedure Code of 1898 and the Indian Evidence Act of 1872.
Shah said while introducing the bill that these three laws strengthened and protected British rule, and their purpose was to punish, not to give justice.
“The soul of three new laws will be to protect all the rights given to Indian citizens by the constitution, and their purpose will not be to punish but give justice,” said Shah. “These three laws made with Indian thought process will bring a huge change in our criminal justice system.”
Shah, while introducing the bill, also said that the government has taken a very principled decision to bring citizens to the center, instead of governance. These laws, however, still fail to be inclusive.
Chapter Five of the proposed revision to the penal code, which deals with offenses against women and children, did not talk about people who do not fall under specified categories, leaving out LGBTQ+ and intersex rights.
Section 63 of the code still defines rape as sexual assault by a man against a woman and continues to preserve gender stereotypes. The definition fails to recognize sexual assault by a man against another man or by a woman against another woman.
Another concerning section of the proposed criminal code, Section 38, would extend the right to private defense of the body to voluntarily causing the death of or any other harm to an assailant if an assault is with the intention of gratifying “unnatural lust.” The code does not define “unnatural lust” though it is very similar to now abolished Section 377 that criminalized consensual same-sex sexual relations.
The Supreme Court in 2018 decriminalized homosexuality in India, thus repealing Section 377.
The British first introduced Section 377 and it was modelled on the Buggery Act of 1533. Thomas Macaulay in 1838 wrote the colonial-era law and it came into force in 1860. The Buggery Act defined buggery as an unnatural sexual activity against the will of God and man.
Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code defines unnatural offenses as whoever voluntarily has carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal, shall be punished with imprisonment for life or with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to 10 years, and shall also be liable to fine.
Even though Section 377 has been repealed, the new criminal laws do not include the LGBTQ+ and intersex community under the same legal protection that is available to others. The new bill fails to mention LGBTQ+ and intersex people, leaving out any protection against violent crime.
There are no official statistics available on crimes against LGBTQ+ and intersex people, including those based on sexual orientation or gender identity, in India.
“The language of the new laws has undergone substantial positive changes to further include the LGBTQ community. After the passage of the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act 2019, the proposed new criminal laws also have gender-inclusive language,” said Krishna Deva Rao, vice chancellor of the National Academy of Legal Studies and Research in Telangana state. “For instance, the meaning of the term ‘gender’ has been expanded as section 2(9) of Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita (the law to replace the existing Indian Penal Code 1860) now defines ‘gender’ as the pronoun ‘he’ and its derivatives are used of any person, whether male, female or transgender. The penal law in Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita has also formally removed the controversial provision Section 377 from the IPC.”
Rao said that the government should have done a better job of further addressing the discriminatory treatment meted out to such marginalized communities.
In an email to the Washington Blade, Rao said that despite the Supreme Court’s landmark NALSA verdict in 2014, the government has yet to provide horizontal reservations to the Transgender community.
“Despite the passage of the Transgender Persons Act 2019, the concerns of the community remain unredressed as the penalties provided therein are very low. Similarly, despite the 2014 Supreme Court verdict providing for self-determination of gender identity without having to undergo surgical intervention, the 2019 Act and related rules are interpreted in a way to mandate surgery,” said Rao. “Recently, in August 2023 Hyderabad police came under heavy scrutiny for cracking down on a begging racket. The police personnel discriminated against members of the Transgender community because they had not undergone surgery or had genitalia not corresponding to their identified gender.”
In a statement made about Chapter Five of the newly proposed Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita Act, Rao said that the law catered to address crimes against women and children. Rao added it should have been expanded to include the LGBTQ+ and intersex community as well.
“While Section 377 has been struck down from the IPC, as per the landmark Navtej Singh Johar decision by the Supreme Court of India in 2018 the provision was only partially read down to exclude consensual homosexual relationships. By removing the provision entirely, non-consensual or illegal acts of intercourse against men as well as Transgender community are left completely unaddressed by the new penal law,” said Rao. “The arrest and medical examination safeguards under the criminal procedure have been exclusively catered to the protection of women. For instance, women survivors of sexual abuse have to be medically examined in a prescribed way, women can’t be arrested after sunset and before sunrise, etc. Such procedures should also be extended to people from the LGBTQ community. Similarly, when Transgender persons have to be examined, they should be allowed to provide their written consent for the gender of the doctor.”
Two Supreme Court judges in their 2014 NALSA vs. Union of India ruling said that Trans people fall within the purview of the Indian constitution and thus are fully entitled to the rights guaranteed therein.
“In a country which once considered us to be a ‘minuscule populace’, the LGBTQIA+ community has been overlooked as a demographic group to be considered during any revelations of the constitution,” said Ankana Dey of Sappho for Equality, an activist forum for lesbian, bisexual woman and Trans men. “In research in 2018, the LGBTQIA+ group was one of the 12 groups in India that was least represented in any research or legislative amendments. In context to the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita bill, it is no different for us. However, the LGBTQIA+ movement will continue to fight for its rights and representation in legal reforms. LGBTQIA+ activists and groups will continue to navigate the laws and policies in order to bring relief of some form to the community and will continue spreading that information with a bottoms-up approach.”
In an email to the Blade, Dey said that every time Sappho for Equality’s team is in the field, they work along the lines of advocacy and try to strike a dialogue with the legal representatives of the state such as police, lawyers and paralegal workers.
“Through these dialogues, we understood that the laws which have been passed and have not been circulated enough within the networks of legal representatives. Most of the lawyers in our state are unaware of what constitutes the NALSA judgment, The Transgender Persons Protection of Rights Act and Bill, and even the Mental Healthcare Act. The State Legal Services Authority (SALSA) categorically mentions that any person from the LGBTQIA+ community who has faced violence and discrimination has the right to free legal services from the state,” said Dey. “Albeit most of the community persons are not aware of this service and even if they are, money extortion and intimidation are grave concerns that make these services severely inaccessible. Some of these dialogues have translated into heated conversations since most lawmakers do not enjoy being told that their knowledge lacks constructive information and their work generally surrounds misinformation, stigma, and stereotypes associated with us. Despite this, we are hellbent on continuing our fight to counter the legalities that affect us negatively. We are intently striving towards working with lawyers at a regional level and sensitizing them about queer-Trans* lives and liveabilities.”
Dey said that most of these bills that would specifically address Trans lives have not been implemented since the NALSA ruling in 2014. She said there is a severe lack of implementation of these laws at the grassroots level.
“We strongly believe that with the revised IPC that deals with offenses against women and children, there is an urgent need to expand the very definition of a ‘woman,’” said Dey.
While talking to the Blade, Harish Iyer, an equal rights activist, said he hopes that the actual draft will be more inclusive for all genders and sexualities.
“I think culture is not static, culture is evolutionary. Our laws also have evolved from time to time. We have made more progressive laws. With gender and sexuality, I would hope that the changes in laws would be more inclusive for all citizens of India,” said Iyer. “It is an Indian culture to accept different sexuality. British culture was Section 377 of IPC. If we are going to define the law that is not IPC, it becomes imperative for us to follow Indian culture. We have always accepted and respected LGBTQI+ people.”
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.
Global anti-LGBTQ+ rights backlash overshadows UN General Assembly
Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act signed into law in May
NEW YORK — Government officials, politicians and activists who traveled to New York for the U.N. General Assembly expressed their growing concern over the global backlash against LGBTQ+ and intersex rights.
“The emergence of this new wave of anti-LGBTQ+ laws first of all is scary, but secondly is deadly,” said U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) on Monday during an event the African Services Committee hosted in Manhattan. “We have to really understand what’s at stake with these laws.”
Jessica Stern, the special U.S. envoy for the promotion of LGBTQ+ and intersex rights abroad, and Dr. Rebecca Bunnell, acting principal deputy coordinator for the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, are among those who also spoke at the event. Outright International Executive Director Maria Sjödin, Rainbow Railroad Executive Director Kimahli Powell, activists from Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania and Ghana and journalist Anne-Christine d’Adesky also participated.
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni on May 29 signed his country’s Anti-Homosexuality Act, which contains a death penalty provision for “aggravated homosexuality.” Lawmakers in Kenya and Tanzania over the last year have proposed similar measures.
A bill that would criminalize LGBTQ+ and intersex identity and allyship in Ghana is currently before the country’s lawmakers. Police in Nigeria’s Delta state last month arrested more than 200 people at a same-sex wedding.
Lee noted African leaders who champion these bills and laws have alliances with U.S.-based groups that oppose LGBTQ+ and intersex rights.
“Hate is everywhere and it’s really important that our government do a better job of tracking — of course U.S. persons and organizations and what their role has been advancing these laws,” said the California Democrat.
D’Adesky noted Congress has yet to reauthorize PEPFAR and there is “an enormous fight.”
“The anti-LGBTQ forces, which are the family values (supporters) in the GOP and the extreme right, have been using this issue of HIV funding and HIV programs as a kind of proxy … to go after democratic societies, not just here in the United States, but everywhere,” said D’Adesky. “It’s a very deliberate strategy to link the issue of LGBTQ rights and homosexuality with HIV service provision.”
President Joe Biden on Tuesday in his U.N. General Assembly speech noted PEPFAR has saved “more than 25 million lives” in more than 55 countries around the world.
American officials earlier this year postponed a meeting on PEPFAR’s work in Uganda in order to assess the Anti-Homosexuality Act’s potential impact on it.
UNAIDS in a report it released in July raised concerns over a spike in HIV among gay and transgender people in eastern and southern Africa due to anti-homosexuality laws. The U.N. body noted laws that criminalize consensual same-sex sexual relations remain a significant obstacle in preventing and treating HIV among LGBTQ+ and intersex people.
“We have been trying to find communities and groups that can ensure that everybody has access to life saving services for HIV testing, prevention, PrEP, treatment, etc.,” said Bunnell during the African Services Committee event.
Bunnell, who previously lived and worked in Uganda, described the country’s Anti-Homosexuality Act as “horrific.” Bunnell nevertheless added the law has made LGBTQ+, intersex and HIV-specific issues more visible.
“At some level it’s really heartening to see that we are at least able to talk openly and have a conversation where we are now addressing issues that were completely hidden at that time,” she said. “We’re in a very challenging, but better place in that sense.”
Bunnell said she and her colleagues are in “active communication” with Stern and other Biden-Harris administration officials to see “what we can do, where could we restrict funding, where could we make statements, where can we protest against the absolutely horrific legislation in Uganda, where can we more proactively look at other countries that we’ve heard from today.”
The U.S. in June imposed visa restrictions on Ugandan officials.
The World Bank Group on Aug. 8 announced the suspension of new loans to Uganda. The European Union last week said it would continue to provide funding to the country.
Sjödin after the African Services Committee event noted to the Washington Blade that the World Bank has human rights safeguards in place. Sjödin stressed, however, the issue of cutting aid to countries with anti-LGBTQ+ and anti-intersex rights records is “extremely nuanced.”
“I don’t think that cutting aide is a general remedy for any of this,” said Sjödin. “I don’t think that in general you can say, oh stop all foreign aid to any country where discrimination occurs because as we know this is not isolated to a few countries in Africa. We do know that LGBTIQ people are actively persecuted in many more.”
Openly gay Irish prime minister speaks at UN LGBTQ+, intersex rights event
Biden in his General Assembly speech referenced violence and persecution based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield during an interview with MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow on Monday described Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act as “horrific” and said the U.S. “is doing everything in our power to support the LGBTQ community in Uganda, to ensure their safety and to ensure they are not damaged by this law.”
“We are looking at … how we can continue to provide the good support that PEPFAR provides directly to individuals, to help save their lives without putting that funding through the Ugandan government or through individuals in the Ugandan government who are responsible for implementing this law,” said Thomas-Greenfield. “It’s a huge dilemma, but we have to find a way to do that and we have to find a way to hold those accountable who are basically violating the human rights of the LGBTQ community in Uganda.”
Lee reiterated her criticisms of the Anti-Homosexuality Act when she spoke at an event at the U.N. on Monday that marked the U.N. LGBTI Core Group’s 15th anniversary.
“The United States is deeply troubled by Uganda’s passage of the Anti-Homosexuality Act,” said Lee. “The legislation has already led to arrest, violence and evictions of LGBTQI+ Ugandans and undermine the safety of human rights defenders and healthcare providers serving this population.”
“The United States and Uganda have enjoyed long standing cooperation that have benefited our bilateral relationship and made the region healthier, more prosperous and more secure,” she added. “However, our partnership and Uganda’s standing on the world stage is at risk due to the worsening trends of a closing political and civic space and increasing violations and abuses of human rights, the threat of privacy and the safety of everyone in Uganda, including through the enactment and enforcement of the Anti-Homosexuality Act. These actions ferment hate, support violence, and are no threat to the principle of human rights, development and good governance enshrined in the (Universal) Declaration (of Human Rights.)”
The U.S. is among the dozens of countries that are members of the U.N. LGBTI Core Group, a group of U.N. countries that have pledged to support LGBTQ+ and intersex rights.
Lee noted Singapore, the Cook Islands, Antigua and Barbuda and St. Kitts and Nevis over the last year have decriminalized consensual same-sex sexual relations. The California Democrat also highlighted Switzerland and Slovenia in 2022 extended marriage rights to same-sex couples; while Iceland, Spain and Cyprus banned so-called conversion therapy.
Edgars Rinkēvičs in June became Latvia’s first openly gay president. Spanish lawmakers in February approved a landmark Transgender rights law that allows anyone who is over 16-years-old to legally change their gender without medical intervention.
“Despite these gains, LGBTQI+ persons worldwide continue to experience alarming levels of violence, discrimination and isolation,” said Lee. “We are seeing increasingly coordinated efforts to undermine progress on human rights of LGBTQI+ persons worldwide, while seemingly targeted at a small slice of the population.”
Lee in her remarks specifically referenced the U.S. as one of the countries in which “we are seeing hateful shameful attacks on and against the LGBTQI+ persons, especially against LGBTQI children.”
Openly gay Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, Chilean Foreign Minister Alberto Van Klaveren, Norwegian Foreign Affairs Minister Anniken Huitfeldt, Danish Development Cooperation and Global Climate Policy Minister Dan Jørgensen, Belgian Foreign Affairs Minister Hadja Lahbib, French Europe and Foreign Affairs Minister Catherine Colonna, Colombian Multilateral Affairs Vice Minister Elizabeth Taylor Jay, Brazilian Multilaterial Political Affairs Vice Minister Carlos Marcio Bicalho Cozendey and South African Department of International Relations and Cooperation Director General Zane Dangor are among those who also spoke at the event that Victor Madrigal-Borloz, the outgoing independent U.N. expert on LGBTQ+ and intersex issues, chaired.
Human Rights Watch Executive Director Tirana Hassan and Chitsanupong Best Nithiwana, a transgender rights activist from Thailand, also participated. Openly gay Luxembourgish Prime Minister Xavier Bettel spoke virtually.
“My country, Ireland, has come a long way in recent years, particularly when we think about its LGBTI+ inclusion,” said Varadkar.
Varadkar said he was in high school when Ireland decriminalized consensual same-sex sexual relations in 1993.
Ireland in 2015 became the first country to extend marriage rights to same-sex couples through a popular vote. Ireland’s Gender Recognition Act took effect the same year. Varadkar noted his government is currently working to expunge convictions under the country’s sodomy law and plans to ban conversion therapy in the country.
“These are major legislative changes, but I think the real effect runs much deeper,” he said. “Our culture and our society has changed and there’s a better understanding of family and inclusion. The Ireland of today is a more understanding or accepting more inclusive and more equal country than it was in the past and more willing to respect fluidity, diversity and personal freedom.”
Varadkar, like Lee and others who spoke at the LGBTI Core Group event, expressed concern “about the alarming pushback against LGBT rights in some parts of the world, particularly criminalization, and the rise of violence, hatred towards members of our community at home and abroad.”
“We see in some countries, the reintroduction of draconian laws, including threat of the death penalty, openness, discrimination, as an increasing backlash against very vulnerable transgender people, and heightened political polarization, including here in the U.N,” he said. “I deeply regret the escalating attempts made by some states to undermine existing international commitments and standards.”
Biden references LGBTQ+, intersex rights in UN General Assembly speech
‘We cannot turn away from abuses’
UNITED NATIONS — President Joe Biden on Tuesday noted LGBTQ+ and intersex rights in his speech to the U.N. General Assembly.
“We cannot turn away from abuses, whether in Xinjiang, Tehran, Darfur or anywhere else. We have to continue working to ensure that women and girls enjoy equal rights and equal participation in their society; that indigenous groups, racial, ethnic, religious minorities, people with disabilities do not have their potential stifled by systemic discrimination, that the LGBTQI+ people are not prosecuted or targeted with violence because of who they are,” said Biden. “These rights are part of our shared humanity. When they’re absent anywhere, their loss is felt everywhere. They are essential in the advancement of human progress that brings us together.”
Biden in 2021 signed a memo that committed the U.S. to promoting LGBTQ+ and intersex rights abroad as part of his administration’s overall foreign policy.
The General Assembly is taking place less than five months after Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni signed his country’s Anti-Homosexuality Act, which contains a death penalty provision for “aggravated homosexuality.”
Biden in 2022 reiterated his administration’s commitment to LGBTQ+ and intersex rights abroad in his General Assembly speech.
U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield earlier this year chaired a U.N. meeting that focused on the integration of LGBTQ+ and intersex rights into the U.N. Security Council’s work.
The U.S. is among the dozens of countries that are members of the U.N. LGBTI Core Group, a group of U.N. countries that have pledged to support LGBTQ+ and intersex rights. California Congresswoman Barbara Lee and openly gay Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar are among those who spoke at an event on Monday on the sidelines of the General Assembly that commemorated the group’s 15th anniversary.
PEPFAR has saved more than 25 million lives
Biden in his speech also highlighted the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief.
“HIV/AIDS infections and deaths plummeted in no small part because of PEPFAR’s work in more than 55 countries, saving more than 25 million lives,” he said.
American officials earlier this year postponed a meeting on PEPFAR’s work in Uganda in order to assess the Anti-Homosexuality Act’s potential impact on it.
U.S. Capitol Police on Sept. 11 arrested seven HIV/AIDS activists who refused to leave House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.)’s office in the Rayburn House Office Building. Housing Works CEO Charles King, Housing Works President Matthew Bernardo and Health GAP Executive Director Asia Russell are among those who demanded the California Republican to reauthorize PEPFAR.
Ukraine, climate change and democracy are three of the other issues that Biden noted in his General Assembly speech.
LGBTQ+ Congolese in Kamituga under attack
Advocacy group says gangs, young people target community members
KAMITUGA, Congo — A Congolese advocacy group says gangs and young people have been attacking LGBTQ+ and intersex people in Kamituga, a rural area in the eastern part of the country.
Rainbow Sunrise Mapambazuko says traditional chiefs and community leaders, together with the local police, since the beginning of January have been implementing new methods to punish people who they suspect are LGBTQ+ or intersex.
“Imagine being targeted with mob violence as a form of public punishment for who you are. This is what gangs of youngsters are doing to queer folk in Kamituga, with the complicity of community leaders, customary chiefs and the local police,” said the advocacy group.
The Superior Council for Audiovisual and Communication, Media Regulatory Authority in the country also cautioned all media to desist from what it described as the promotion of LGBTQ+ and intersex-specific content. The regulatory body has also said any media outlet or journalist who promotes LGBTQ+ and intersex-specific content could face heavy penalties.
“The severity of anti-LGBT+ hate crimes and homophobic violence suffered by LGBT+ people have left us weakened and forced many to live in hiding. This has also increased our social isolation, worsened our living conditions and hindered our access to health and justice services,” said Rainbow Sunrise Mapambazuko. “We, LGBT+ people in the DRC (Democratic Republic of the Congo), have always lived in an unacceptable situation of serious and systematic violations of our human rights. Our marginalized status denies us any national protection from the abuse of any kind, it excludes us, and it puts us beyond the reach of our fundamental rights but these new forms of public torture are brutalities never before seen, not even in the DRC.”
Rainbow Sunrise Mapambazuko also said LGBTQ+ and intersex people are publicly used as a source of discrimination in the name of protecting Congolese mores.
“Our sexual orientation and gender identity are used publicly as a source of discrimination, prejudice and rejection and unjust regulation in the name of protecting Congolese mores and customs,” said the group. “They have set up groups of young people in every locality for a veritable manhunt. LGBT+ people who are caught are beaten and publicly stripped in order to punish them and make them change their sexual orientation or gender identity,”
Rainbow Sunrise Mapambazuko has started a petition to end the violence against LGBTQ+ and intersex people in Kamituga, even though it acknowledges there is no hope these attacks will stop.
LGBTQ+ and intersex Congolese continue to suffer violent attacks from government officials, society, religious sects and traditional chiefs.
The Washington Blade in January reported M23 rebels in Congo’s North Kivu province forcibly displaced a number of Transgender people. A local activist said residents of a refugee camp refused to help them, in part, because they consider them to be “sorcerers, bad luck charms and of being the origin of the war following their evil practice.”
There is no specific law that criminalizes consensual same-sex sexual relations in Congo apart from marriages between people of the same-sex. Congolese MPs in recent years have called for the enactment of laws that specifically criminalize any form of same-sex relations or those who advocate for them.
Congolese who identify as LGBTQ+ or intersex are not open about their sexual orientation or gender identity because they are afraid they will be attacked. Those who are open about their sexuality often face hostility, widespread discrimination, rejection, social exclusion and harassment.
Out in the World: LGBTQ+ news from Europe & Asia
LGBTQ+ news and events from Europe and the Middle East including Iran, Russia, Italy, Serbia, England, and Ireland
FRANKFURT, Germany – Shadi Amin, the executive director of Germany-based Iranian LGBTQ+ network 6rang (Iranian Lesbian and Transgender Network), grew up in Iran thinking she was “sick” because she’s queer. In a recent interview with PinkNewsUK, Amin reflected on the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini for allegedly not wearing a headscarf properly by Iran’s dreaded “morality police.”
The death of the young Iranian-Kurdish woman on September 16, 2022 touched off massive protests across the Islamic Republic, especially in its capital city of Tehran. But Amin points out that those protests over Amini’s death led to become a rally call to fight for the rights of women, LGBTQ+ folks and other marginalized groups in Iran.
“[LGBTQ+ people] are one of the most active and involved groups in these demonstrations and protests last year … We saw everywhere when there was a demonstration [there was] the rainbow flag, even if sometimes the people didn’t agree with that and they said go back,” Amin told PinkNewsUK.
“They tried to put us out of the demonstration, but I think our LGBTI youth community is really powerful and they try to bring their demands in this movement,” she added.
Read the entire interview here: [Link]
BELGRADE – Earlier this month several hundred LGBTQ+ people and the allies marched in the Serbian capital marking the celebration of a Pride march that was unmarred by violence in this religious conservative Balkan nation.
Radio Free Europe noted that in a similar event last year, at least 21 people were arrested in connection with attacks against police, with most of them suspected of being far-right hooligans protesting against the LGBTQ+ pride march.
In 2022, the government of Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic reversed its late August decision to ban the international EuroPride parade event Thursday, Serbian state media reported.
On September 12, officials from EuroPride and Belgrade Pride, commemorated the start of EuroPride 2022 in the Serbian capital city of Belgrade with a ceremonial flag raising. On Friday led by the Dutch Embassy, members of the European Union and other non-EU states issued a joint statement applauding the Serbian government’s roll-back of the ban.
MANCHESTER – A 29-year-old man was arrested by Greater Manchester Police in connection with the vandalistic attacks on the Clonezone store on Sackville Street in the heart of Manchester Center. The store is the UK’s first & favorite Queer Superstore.
The suspect also being held on suspicion of 24 motor vehicle thefts and remains in custody for questioning.
Clonezone has been attacked five times this year, with the latest incident on Sunday 10 September 2023 at approximately 2pm. Two men approached the shop on a bike on Sunday and attempted to smash the windows before throwing an object at the doors.
Chief Inspector Steve Wiggins, of GMP’s City Centre Neighbourhood Team, said: “This is the second arrest in connection with this series of disturbing incidents but the investigation is still very much ongoing.
“The attacks are very specific with offenders arriving on bikes and causing significant damage.
“We are keen to find out the motivations behind the attacks and believe that will help us trace those responsible and bring them to justice.
“We have a dedicated team investigating these incidents, so if anybody knows anything about these attacks I would urge them to call police.”
Information can be passed on to police by calling 0161 856 3345 or via 101, or anonymously through Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.
LONDON- American fast food chain Chick-Fil-A announced its plans to open five new franchise stores around Britain in as yet to be disclosed locations the BBC reported Friday, September 15.
Chick-fil-A had previously launched a pop-up store for a six-month lease in The Oracle shopping center in Reading in 2019, but was met with severe opposition and its lease wasn’t renewed. British LGBTQ+ rights activists protested the College Park, Georgia-based food chain’s donations to groups that have a record of being opposed to LGBTQ+ rights.
During the 2019 protests in Reading, the BBC noted that Reading Pride spokesperson Kirsten Bayes told protesters: “Companies like this have no place here in Reading and they have no place anywhere.
“We are standing in solidarity with campaigners across the United States… for justice and freedom for LGBT people.”
A local elected official, Reading Labour councilor Sarah Hacker said: “We can make sure that they don’t spread their hatred across the UK.”
The fast food chain firm is run by the Cathy family, who have publicly stated their opposition to same-sex marriage and other LGBTQ+ issues. In 2020, the firm softened its stance and shifted its focus, hiring a diversity vice-president. The BBC reported that the company changed its approach to charitable giving, focusing on education and hunger alleviation, moving away from donations directed at anti-LGBTQ organizations, including several of those listed as extremist hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
“From our earliest days, we’ve worked to positively influence the places we call home and this will be the same for our stores in the UK,” Joanna Symonds, Chick-Fil-A’s head of UK operations told the BBC.
“We encourage our operators to partner with organizations which support and positively impact their local communities, delivering great food and wider benefits to those around them,” she added.
In announcing the new UK investment, the chain highlighted its current charitable work, which include a $25,000 one-off donation to a local non-profit organization when a Chick-fil-A restaurant is opened, and donations of surplus food to local shelters, soup kitchens and food charities. Those policies would apply to its UK branches too, it said.
CORK CITY – The apparent rebranding of a beloved LGBTQ+ bar and safe space and make-over provoked protests by the local queer community.
Irish LGBTQ+ publication GCN reported that in recent weeks, people began to notice a change in the appearance of Chambers Bar, no longer recognizable as an LGBTQ+ space. A new sign had been displayed above the doorway with the name ‘Sinners’ in black and white, a stark contrast to the venue’s once vibrant appearance.
This name is nothing new to people in Cork, as Chambers Bar has been hosting student nights under this name for a number of years. Even so, this year was the first time that, in addition to hosting a student night for ‘Freshers’ Week, all Pride flags, rainbow curtains and posters for upcoming drag shows were also taken down.
However, the catalyst for sparking an onslaught of backlash seems to have come from the cancellation of a weekly drag show. This was to be hosted by Cork drag queen Krystal Queer, who took to Instagram to express her disappointment in a video that now has over 300,000 views.
DUBLIN- In stark contrast to the small group of anti-Trans protesters gathered in Dublin to hear anti-LGBTQ+ TERF Kellie-Jay Keen aka Posie Parker speak at her ‘Let Women speak rally’ at Merrion Square, Trans & Intersex Pride Dublin had nearly a thousand supporters turn out to counter demonstrate.
The Irish Times reported that a large Gardai [police] presence was visible in and around the square and metal barriers were erected to create a space between the rival demonstrations.
The counter demo by Trans and Intersex Pride Dublin assembled outside the Dail [ Dáil Éireann is the lower house, and principal chamber, of the Oireachtas the Irish legislature ] on Kildare Street ahead of marching into Merrion Square.
Leading pro trans activist Jenny Maguire told the crowd: “We as queer people are forced into a world that’s not meant for us.
“We do everything we can to force a world that accepts us and that can love us all unapologetically, and it is them that wants to reverse any progress we’ve made so far and pull us back into the Dark Ages.”
ROME – Italy’s right-wing Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni has demanded local councils only list biological parents on birth certificates, flinging hundreds of same-sex couples into a legal morass, France 24 News reported Thursday.
Journalist Lara Bullens reported that after same-sex civil unions were legalised in Italy in 2016, and in the absence of any clear legislation on parental rights for same-sex couples, a handful of city councils across the country started listing parents of the same gender on their children’s birth certificate.
This led to a situation of creating a host of ‘ghost parents.’
But in recent months, Italy’s right-wing government has been cracking down on city councils to stop listing same-sex parents on birth certificates, France 24 reported. Led by the hardline traditionalist Meloni, the ministry of interior issued a directive in January 2023 instructing Italian mayors to stop automatically registering the births of children conceived or born abroad through assisted reproductive methods.
It cited a case from December 2022, in which Italy’s top court ruled that a child of a gay couple who was conceived through surrogacy abroad shouldn’t have their birth certificate automatically transcribed in Italy.
Though the directive primarily concerned surrogacy, which is banned in Italy and now even a crime for those seeking surrogacy abroad, its interpretation by local councils has disproportionally affected LGBTQ families – including those who resort to other reproductive methods.
Italy’s Minister for the Family Eugenia Roccella told Italian newspaper Corriere della Serra: “In Italy, one becomes a parent in only two ways – either by biological relationship or by adoption,” and urged same-sex parents to follow the adoption procedure.
Currently the support for LGBTQ+ families on this issue is being provided by the LGBTQ+ rights organization, Famiglie Arcobaleno working alongside Rete Lenford, which is committed to advocacy for LGBTI+ rights as an association of lawyers, lawyers, practitioners, scholars , students and people with experience in the issues surrounding LGBTQ+ rights.
Both Rete Lenford and Famiglie Arcobaleno, are representing hundreds of cases of the affected LGBTQ+ families in court.
(The following article is from Human Rights Watch)
STRASBOURG, France – Last week the European Court of Human Rights handed down a ruling in the case of Maxim Lapunov, the only victim of Chechnya’s vile 2017 anti-gay purge who dared seek justice for the torture he suffered at the hands of local law enforcement.
The court found Lapunov was “detained and subjected to ill-treatment by State agents,” which “amounted to torture” and was perpetrated “solely on account of his sexual orientation.”
Lapunov took his case to the European Court in May 2019 because the Russian authorities had failed to investigate his assault. Despite great personal risk, Lapunov had been eager to cooperate with Russia’s investigative authorities through the assistance of his persistent lawyers from the Committee Against Torture, a leading Russian human rights group.
Tanya Lokshina, the Associate Director, Europe and Central Asia Division for Human Rights Watch noted:
“I first met Lapunov nearly six years ago, when I moderated a news conference in Moscow at which he publicly told his story for the first time. Lapunov, then 30, described to a roomful of journalists how he had been rounded up and tortured along with dozens of others. His hands shook as he detailed the horrific experience. He stopped several times to regain composure but kept going.”
A Russian from Siberia who had traveled to Chechnya for work, Lapunov did not have to face what every Chechen man caught in the purge feared: being targeted by his own relatives or exposing his entire family to overwhelming stigma because of his homosexuality. His captors threatened to kill him if he spoke out, but he refused to be silent. “We all have rights …,” he said at the news conference. “If we just let it be [in Chechnya],… we’ll never know whose son or daughter will be taken next.”
At the time, Russian authorities claimed they could not investigate the purge because no victims stepped up to testify. When Lapunov provided his staggering testimony, they still failed to investigate. In early 2019, Chechen police rounded up and tortured more men because of their presumed sexual orientation. Realizing they would never get the Russian authorities to do their job and investigate, Lapunov and his legal team filed their complaint with the European Court of Human Rights. Today, they won.
After Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Russia lost its Council of Europe membership and there is no hope that the Russian authorities will implement this ruling anytime soon. Yet it sets the record straight. This, I hope, will serve to support all survivors of the purge.
Additional reporting from PinkNewsUK, BBC, Agence France-Presse, GCN Ireland, The Irish Times and Human Rights Watch.
‘Las Locas del 73’ documents historic LGBTQ+ rights protest in Chile
Demonstration took place months before 1973 coup
By ESTEBAN RIOSECO | SANTIAGO, Chile — In a year of deep reflection and commemoration of two crucial moments in Chile’s history, “Las Locas del 73” documents the 50th anniversary of the country’s first gay rights march that took place months before the 1973 coup.
Victor Hugo Robles, who is also known as El Che de los Gays, co-directed the documentary with documentarian Carolina Espinoza that Sociedad Sonora, a production company, helped release in Chile and Spain on April 22, the 50th anniversary of the protest. The documentary has proven to be a resounding success, and film festivals in several countries are planning to screen it in the coming months.
This documentary is a doubly significant tribute.
It not only tells the courageous story of a group of gay and Transgender Chileans who, on April 22, 1973, protested against social discrimination and police repression, but also highlights the intricate connection between this struggle and the traumatic coup that forever changed Chile’s destiny.
Raquel, Eva, Larguero, Romané, José Caballo, Vanesa, Fresia Soto, Confort, Natacha, Peggy Cordero and Gitana were the protagonists of what the media at the time described as the scandalous demonstration that took place in Santiago’s Plaza de Armas, a commercial area that families frequented on Sundays, on that fall Sunday afternoon. The coup took place less than five months later, on Sept. 11, 1973.
Most LGBTQ+ Chileans at that time were in the closet.
Discrimination was so widespread that nobody dared to publicly disclose their sexual orientation or gender identity. (Consensual same-sex sexual relations were punishable with prison until their decriminalization in the country’s penal code in 1999.) Police at that time routinely raided private meetings of LGBTQ+ people and “indecency” arrests were commonplace.
While the media at the time highly publicized the iconic protest, it was something of an urban myth among LGBTQ+ Chileans until the 1990s. It was said a “group of crazy women” had staged a rebellion in the 1970s, but there was no clarity about the exact date. It seemed to be a story without protagonists, a local legend subject to exaggerations and reversions.
It was this ambiguity that aroused Robles’ curiosity, and he began to investigate and reconstruct the episode.
“I heard many stories that there had been a gay protest during the time of Salvador Allende, but no one was certain,” Robles told the Washington Blade. “I spent a lot of time researching this protest. It took me a long time. I would say it took me more than a year, almost two years to find the exact moment because I had to go to the newspapers of that time. You had to ask for them at the library and go through them newspaper by newspaper, month by month, and it took a long time to fetch the newspapers from the warehouse.”
He added that “everything is now digitized, but at that time nothing (was), so I started to check the newspaper because everything was in the newspaper itself.”
“Everyone talks about Clarín, which was the most important newspaper of the time, with a huge circulation. It was a popular media outlet; with sarcastic, direct, ironic, humorous language,” said Robles. “Then I started to look at Clarín, month by month, in 1970, 1971 and 1972.”
Robles told the Blade he was already giving up in his search when a friend gave him a clue that would end up uncovering valuable information for the reconstruction of the history of the Chilean LGBTQ+ movement.
“I was almost giving up until a friend gave me the tip about Paloma magazine, which was the leftist magazine of the time, a communist magazine, and that’s where the protest had come out,” said Robles. “He remembered having read it there.”
He recalled his expectations increased again after this revelation because he knew that that magazine had fewer editions — one per month, which increased the chances of finding what he was looking for more quickly.
“That’s when I came across the news. It said: ‘Homosexuals on the offensive.’ A very small article and … they pointed out the exact date. That demonstration, that protest, then appeared and it was dated Sunday, April 22, 1973.″
“Immediately, with the date in hand, I went to Clarín newspaper and, indeed, it was there. It was on the front page two days after the protest took place, on April 24, 1973,″ he recalled emotionally.
That front page to which the Chilean journalist referred exposed the existing homophobia in society.
“Homosexuals ask for the moon,” read Clarín’s headline.
Clarín was a progressive, leftist newspaper that supported President Salvador Allende.
The newspaper’s slogan proclaimed it was “on the people’s side.” Pinochet’s dictatorship immediately shut down Clarín after the coup.
“The loose mares, lost madwomen, anxious for publicity, launched headlong, met to demand that the authorities give them a chance, a shot and a side for their deviations,” read the Clarín article about the protest.
The police did not show up, even though the meeting had been well publicized.
The media reports continued with more insidiousness.
“At first the sodomites, believing that the police contingent would fall on them at every moment, were cautious. But they quickly loosened their braids … and launched themselves, demonstrating that the freedom they demand is nothing more than licentiousness. Homosexuals, among other things, want legislation to allow them to get married and do a thousand and one things without police persecution. What a mess that would be. No wonder an old man proposed spraying them with kerosene and throwing a lit match at them,” wrote Clarín.
Newspaper reports said mothers covered their children’s eyes so that “they would not witness such a horrendous spectacle.”
But it was not only in Clarín.
“I realized that it had been covered by quite a few media outlets, by the Puro Chile newspaper, for example. It also appeared later on the cover of Vea magazine, which was very important at the time,” said Robles.
That demonstration marked a turning point in the struggle for the rights of sexual minorities in Chile, a path that remains relevant and valid to this day. The film pays tribute to the brave activists who, for the first time in Chilean history, stood up against social discrimination and social repression.
La Medallita, Brenda, Marco Ruiz and Marcela Dimonti are among those who narrate the documentary.
Dimonti, besides being a prominent figure in the struggle for LGBTQ+ rights, was a prisoner inside the National Stadium after the coup.
Canada’s conservatives take hard turn against trans people
Federal Conservatives adopt policies that would ban trans kids from medical treatment, block trans women from women’s spaces
By Rob Salerno | QUEBEC CITY, Canada – Canada’s federal and provincial conservative parties are suddenly joining American-style culture wars centered on trans issues, announcing new policies to crack down on access to medical care and women-only spaces, and restricting trans children from using chosen names and pronouns in schools.
At the federal Conservative Party’s policy convention in Quebec City this weekend, 69 percent of delegates voted to bar trans children from receiving gender-affirming care, while 87 percent of delegates voted to define “woman” as a “female person” and to demand that transwomen be barred from women-only spaces.
The policy vote – which was initiated by the party’s grassroots – will only become a part of the Conservative Party’s official platform if current leader Pierre Poilievre decides to include it. The party has been riding high in the polls for several months as Canadians deal with a growing cost-of-living crisis, but a federal election isn’t scheduled for two more years.
While the federal Conservatives had recently tried to focus on economic issues rather than culture-war issues, the convention vote is emblematic of how social conservatives have come to dominate the party’s agenda.
The vote also comes as a wave of anti-trans and anti-drag protests has appeared across Canada.
The latest salvo in the culture war battles against trans Canadians was ignited this spring, when the deeply unpopular Conservative premier of New Brunswick announced a new policy that would bar students from changing the name or pronoun they use at school without written consent from their parents. Two cabinet ministers resigned in protest over the new rule, which was immediately criticized by LGBT activists and teachers unions, who pointed out that it would be impractical to enforce and would violate trans students’ human rights. Nevertheless, the policy came into effect in September, although it has faced a court challenge by the Canadian Civil Liberties Union.
Shortly after, the conservative-affiliated government of Saskatchewan introduced a similar rule that has also been subject to a court challenge. Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe has announced he intends to bolster the regulation with a “parental rights” law this fall as it prepares for an election next year. An anti-LGBTQ Christian organization called Action4Canada has claimed credit for lobbying the government to introduce the school reforms.
That was followed by the Conservative government of Ontario led by Premier Doug Ford announcing that it was developing a similar policy. Ford’s government has been mired in a series of scandals recently, including most prominently a land reclassification that saw a handful of party donors receive billions of dollars in land value uplift while degrading environmentally sensitive land around Toronto.
Ford and his ministers have repeatedly described the new policy as protecting parents’ rights in speeches and campaign-style events, although a provincial election isn’t scheduled for another two years.
“Parents rights. They need to be… informed when they [students] make a decision. It’s not up to teachers and school boards to indoctrinate our kids. I can’t even figure out what school boards do anymore,” Ford said at an event in Kitchener, Ontario last week.
Many activists have pointed out that Ford appears to be attempting to use the new policy to shift attention from the corruption scandal that has already led to the resignation of one cabinet minister.
“Shame on Premier Ford. Schools are not indoctrinating students. This “parental rights” rhetoric is just a good slogan hiding an anti-trans and social conservative agenda. And – right now – it’s a desperate distraction from his scandal-plagued track record,” tweeted Fae Johnstone, a trans activist and President of the advocacy group Queer Momentum.
Five of Canada’s other seven provinces are currently governed by conservative-leaning parties, though none of the others have announced plans to copy the student name and pronoun policy yet.
Although Canada’s Conservative Party and its provincial cousins have a long history of pursuing policies that have harmed LGBT communities, the sudden wave of anti-trans policies has come of something of a surprise, after what appeared to be several years of détente on culture wars.
In 2021, the federal Conservative Party allowed Parliament to pass a bill banning conversion therapy by unanimous consent and in 2017, dozens of Conservative MPs joined the government in passing a bill that banned anti-trans discrimination and hate speech. Saskatchewan’s conservative government banned discrimination against trans people in 2014, and Conservative parties also gave unanimous consent to provincial conversion therapy bans in Ontario, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and Yukon in the last decade.
In the last federal election in 2021, the Conservative Party fielded its first ever openly trans candidate, Hannah Hodson, who ran in the district of Victoria, British Columbia, placing third with 13 percent of the vote. Though Hodson served for years as a staffer for conservative politicians, she announced this year that she was leaving the party due its turn to anti-trans policies.
“To all the [Conservative Party of Canada] people who have told me they love me, support me, and would fight for me, and who are now telling me to calm down and just go along with this. Or worse, telling me to stay quiet. I see you and I will not forget,” Hodson wrote on X, formerly Twitter, in response to the convention vote on anti-trans policies.
While the federal government doesn’t generally control health services, Health Canada could regulate the use of medications and treatments for trans children. The federal government also doesn’t generally have the ability to regulate access to women’s spaces in schools or businesses, but does control prisons, airports, and federal government offices.
Nevertheless, trans activists say that if the proposed policies are enacted by a future federal Conservative government, they would greatly harm trans people.
“I would like everyone to recall, quite simply, that trans people are generally poor, more likely to be homeless, and experience a whole lot of hate for being ourselves. This is the community that the Conservative Party of Canada is picking on. Because they can,” says Johnstone.
The new provincial policies around trans kids mirror legislation proposed or passed in several US states that requires schools to out students to their parents if they appear to be LGBT.
It’s somewhat whiplash-inducing to see Conservative legislators who just a few years ago supported banning conversion therapy now call for parental consent over gender identity. Under the federal and provincial laws that Conservatives previously supported, it would be illegal for parents to try to change their child’s gender identity or expression by forcing them to undergo conversion therapy. But under the education policies enacted by Conservative provincial governments, parents would essentially hold a veto over their children’s gender expression.
Children and youth advocates, LGBTQ activists, as well as teachers unions have pointed out that the new rules violate the rights of trans students to a safe learning environment. The rules also put educators in an impossible position of policing the gender identities of their students.
“While we believe that the ideal situation would include parents and guardians in the conversations and decision making, we support current school board policy in Ontario that centers the students in the decision making and honours their right to self-identify, even when parental consent is not given, to support an equitable and inclusive learning environment,” wrote the Ontario Principals’ Council in a statement on the proposed rule.
“Students who do not have parental, family and community support that respects and validates them face higher risks of self-harm, emotional distress, isolation, deteriorating mental health and increased bullying. Gender-affirming practices such as honouring preferred names and pronouns help to reduce those risks and contribute to greater inclusion, belonging and success at school,” the statement says.
Watch Pierre Poilievre’s full speech at the Conservative policy convention in Quebec City:
Rob Salerno is a writer and journalist based in Los Angeles, California, and Toronto, Canada.
Kenyan Supreme Court dismisses challenge to ruling that allowed LGBTQ+ group to register
Opposition MP Peter Kaluma was not part of original case
NAIROBI, Kenya — Kenya’s highest court on Tuesday dismissed a challenge to its February ruling that allowed the National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission to register as a non-governmental organization.
The Supreme Court established the petitioner, opposition MP Peter Kaluma, is not an aggrieved party to its ruling since he was never involved in the case under rules that govern case hearings.
Kenya’s NGO Coordinating Board refused to register NGLHRC for more than a decade on grounds that it promotes same sex behavior, which the country’s penal code criminalizes.
The February ruling sparked heated criticism from Kenyans, clerics and politicians against the Supreme Court judges and demanded it be reversed. The decision prompted Kaluma, who is a fierce critic of homosexuality, to challenge it in March and demand the term “sex” be redefined to exclude same sex practices.
The MP has sponsored a stiffer anti-homosexuality bill that awaits introduction in the House of Representatives.
The Parliamentary Budget Office has already considered the bill’s financial costs to the government. The measure is currently pending before the Social Protection Committee, which will consider its implications for Kenyans.
The Social Protection Committee was to consider the bill within a month as House rules requires, but the period is now three months. Kaluma has confirmed to the Washington Blade that he wrote to National Assembly Speaker Moses Wetangula two weeks ago to complain about the committee’s delay.
While challenging the Supreme Court’s ruling, Kaluma in his petition argued it misinterpreted the term “sex” under Article 27 (4) of the Kenyan Constitution by “referring also to sexual orientation of any gender, whether heterosexual, lesbian, gay, intersex or otherwise” not to be discriminated based on sexual identity.
Kaluma claimed the court’s ruling “usurped the sovereign power of the people” and it was “obtained through fraud, deceit and misrepresentation of facts” by the NGLHRC defendants, which are some of the grounds the court can consider when it reviews its decision. The court, however, dismissed his petition because it failed to substantiate the claims and he was not a party to the case when it was heard and when the judges issued their ruling.
“The court cannot entertain an application for review of its judgment filed by an applicant who was not a party to the proceedings as this goes to the root of the matter and sanctity of the already determined suit which was contested by the parties,” court noted.
The ruling cited Article 163 of the constitution and subsequent procedural laws that allows the court to only consider a challenge of its ruling from an aggrieved party to the case.
Eric Gitari, who is NGLHRC’s former executive director, also filed a motion in opposition to Kaluma’s petition on grounds that “it is frivolous and without merit” because he wasn’t a litigant in the case. Gitari had also warned the court against entertaining the petition for being “procedurally irregular” and that it would undermine the court’s authority and the finality of its proceedings.
Anti-LGBTQ+ crackdown continues, MPs challenge PEPFAR funding
Although the court’s latest verdict affirming its initial decision for NGLHRC to be registered as an organization is a reprieve for Kenya’s LGBTQ+ community, all eyes are now on Attorney General Justin Muturi. He has vowed to challenge the NGLHRC ruling on behalf of the government.
Muturi’s anticipated move to have the judges review the ruling is part of efforts to crackdown on consensual same-sex sexual relationships the constitution does not recognize and Section 162 of the penal code outlaws.
A group of 10 Kenyan MPs and religious leaders in June in a letter to the U.S. Congress said President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief funding to Kenya no longer serves its original purpose of fighting HIV/AIDS because it supports homosexuality and abortion. The letter — titled PEPFAR and African Values — went to several members of the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate.
“We wrote that letter to the U.S. Congress not to stop PEPFAR funding to Kenya, but to demand the initiative to revert to its original mission without conditioning it to also supporting LGBTQ as human rights,” reads the letter that Kaluma signed.
Kaluma called on Congress to pressure the Biden-Harris administration to reverse policies and executive orders that condition U.S. funding to developing countries with recognition of LGBTQ+ and intersex people against what the MP said is the will and cultural beliefs of beneficiary nations.
Kenya expects to receive more than $341 million in PEPFAR funding for the 2023-24 financial year. The current funding period ends on Sept. 30.
Republicans last month seized upon the letter addressed to Congress and demanded the suspension of PEPFAR funding to Kenya for the upcoming fiscal year. Some Republican lawmakers have also sought to stop the U.S. Agency for International Development from funding LGBTQ+ and intersex rights efforts around the world.
A provocative ad, a divided nation: The battle over LGBTQ+ rights in Lebanon
PSA has sparked hope, controversy in Arab world
BEIRUT, Lebanon — A new PSA in Lebanon advocating for the decriminalization of homosexuality in the country is stirring up controversy in the Arab world.
The ad first appeared on MTV Lebanon, a network owned by Lebanese politician and businessman Michel Gabriel El Murr, and was later shared on the network’s social media page. The campaign pushes for the repeal of Article 534 in the Lebanese Penal Code, a law first adopted in 1943 that is used to criminalize consensual same-sex sexual relations with up to one year of imprisonment.
In the clip, two men are seen standing side-by-side in an elevator when a third man joins them and pulls a gun from his jacket. The tension is palpable until he leaves. When he does, the first two men grasp each other’s hands when words flash across the screen: “There’s crime and there’s love.”
Screams and gunshots are heard from a distance as the scene fades.
“Based on the words of Pope Francis, ‘Homosexuality is not a crime,’” the network’s X (formerly known as Twitter) caption says, “Yes to the abolition of Article 534 of the Penal Code, which criminalizes homosexuality.”
Since premiering on Sept. 2, the powerful ad has generated an array of attacks from anti-gay figures, including from Culture Minister Mohammad Mouratda, who lambasted the network and accused it of incitement and division. He even went so far as to suggest that airing the ad itself was a criminal act.
Meanwhile, a collective called the Muyul Project premiered a PSA of their own that spoofed the original ad with an alternate ending in which a little girl is seen crying and holding her family as opposing words appear on the screen: “There is a crime that kills a human being, and there is a crime that kills society. Yes to maintaining Article 534 and protecting societal and family values.”
Despite the outcry, LGBTQ+ Arabs and allies insist the campaign is sparking much-needed dialogue about the law — which they say is long overdue.
“This campaign does a lot to start conversations and challenge the status quo, especially within the context of Lebanese society,” Joe Kawly, the first openly gay Arab news anchor, told the Washington Blade. “While the backlash was predictable, the visibility and support that this campaign provides to the LGBTQ+ community are invaluable.”
Bertho Makso, the founder and executive director of Proud Lebanon, an LGBTQ+ and intersex rights organization, told the Blade the ad reinforces the work he and his team have been doing “since 2018” to engage various political parties and draft bills that would decriminalize homosexuality.
Nine MPs in July co-sponsored legislation that would have decriminalized homosexuality, but backlash was swift. One MP withdrew their name altogether because of harassment and threats.
While the ad campaign is a bold move, it is not exactly an isolated incident. The country was once considered an oasis of relative tolerance for LGBTQ+ and intersex rights in the Arab World, but has undergone an anti-LGBTQ+ tidal wave in recent years.
Members of the far-right Christian group Soldiers of God on Aug. 23 brutally attacked Madame Om, a popular gay-friendly bar in Beirut’s Mar Mikhael neighborhood, during a drag show. Reports indicate the police looked on as patrons were assaulted. This attack comes as Education Minister Abbas Al Halabi opened an investigation into rumors of pro-LGBTQ+ messaging in materials used in schools. And Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah in July declared consensual same-sex sexual relations should be punishable by death.
To further complicate matters, Article 534 doesn’t explicitly address homosexuality. Rather, it only points to sexual acts that are “contrary to the order of nature.”
Even though several courts have tried to affirm consensual same-sex acts don’t qualify as being “against nature,” it hasn’t stopped multiple arrests continuing to persist, according to a recent Proud Lebanon report. Mouratda and MP Ashraf Rifi have introduced more stringent bills.
Mourtada’s measure proposes up to three years’ imprisonment and hefty fines for promoting or engaging in “deviant sexual relations” and Rifi’s bill sought the explicit criminalization of homosexuality with heightened penalties.
As Lebanon continues its attacks against LGBTQ+ and intersex people, some suggest it’s all a ploy to distract from the country’s crumbling economy. Even more notably: Lebanon has lacked a president since October 2022, a clear reflection of its turbulent political landscape.
Helem, the first LGBTQ+ and intersex organization in the Arab world established in 2001, said in a recent statement “the decision to suddenly and systematically target LGBTQ individuals is a very old tactic used by multiple failing autocratic regimes around the world.”
As Kawly explains, MTV Lebanon’s campaign may herald a turning point for the nation, asserting LGBTQ+ and intersex people’s inherent role in Lebanon’s value as a whole.
“Social change is often slow and painful, but the very fact that we’re seeing more visibility and conversation on LGBTQ+ issues signal a potential shift,” he said. “With every campaign, every story told, every law repealed, we’re inching closer to a more inclusive and accepting society.”
“When it comes to Lebanon, for sure there is a bright future because we are working for it,” added Makso. “We believe in it, and we are fighting for it.”
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