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European court rules Russia violated transgender parent’s rights

Plaintiff denied access to children because of gender identity

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(Bigstock photo)

STRASBOURG, France — The European Court of Human Rights on Tuesday ruled Russia violated the rights of a transgender woman who authorities did not allow to visit her children because of her gender identity.

A press release that Transgender Europe and ILGA-Europe issued says Moscow authorities “prevented” the woman “from having contact with her children because of her gender identity and transition.”

The Transgender Europe and ILGA-Europe press release notes Russian courts defended the decision to restrict the woman’s parental rights because any contact with a parent who is trans would have had a “negative impact on the mental health and psychological development” of her children. The European Court of Human Rights specifically ruled Russia violated Articles 8 and 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights that guarantee a person has the “right to respect for private and family life, home and correspondence” and the “prohibition of discrimination” respectively.

“The kids are alright — there is nothing wrong with being a trans parent,” said Transgender Europe Executive Director Masen Davis. “Today, we celebrate this important message together with all trans families. Every fourth trans person in Europe is a parent. Today’s judgement gives legal security to many of them. We congratulate the applicant for having gone all the way to Strasbourg to defend her right to be the best possible parent to her children.”

ILGA-Europe Executive Director Evelyne Paradis echoed Davis.

“Too often we are hearing the best interest of the child being abused as an argument to limit the rights of LGBTI people,” said Paradis. “We are glad to see the court clearly rejecting such an abusive argument, and instead naming very concrete responsibilities for state authorities in ensuring the best interest of the child. Spreading hatred, misinformation and splitting loving parents from their children is not in the best interest of children.”

The press release notes the ruling is the first time the European Court of Human Rights has used Article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights in a decision about discrimination based on gender identity. The ruling also underscores the lack of legal protections and rampant discrimination that LGBTQ Russians continue to face.

Marina and her then-girlfriend in 2015 fled their home Russia with the child they were raising together and asked for asylum in the U.S. as a family.

“If the government knows that I have an LGBT family, like two women and a child, they can take my daughter away,” Marina told the Washington Blade earlier this year during a telephone interview from Guam where she and her child continue to wait for a decision in their case.

Marina’s child has come out as trans and has begun to transition.

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Africa

LGBTQ+ rights group sues Kenya police chief over anti-gay protests

Mombasa demonstrations began after ruling allowed NGO to register

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Kenya flag (Photo by rarrarorro/Bigstock)

MOMBASA, Kenya — An advocacy group in Kenya has sued Police Inspector General Japhet Koome for allowing religious leaders and lobby organizations to hold homophobic protests whenever court rulings favor the LGBTQ+ community.    

Two petitioners — Mr. JM and the Center for Minority Rights and Strategic Litigation — have sued Koome in the High Court in Mombasa, the country’s second largest city, and demanded a “ban on anti-LGBTQ protests in the country.” 

The petitioners’ move is in response to recent anti-LGBTQ+ protests, particularly in Mombasa after last month’s Supreme Court ruling that affirmed its February decision in support of the National Gay and Lesbian Rights Commission and its ability to register as an NGO.

The controversial ruling sparked criticism from clerics, politicians and the general public. Demonstrations the two petitioners have described as gross human rights violations against the LGBTQ+ community followed.

An MP from the ruling party and Mohamed Ali — a celebrated investigative journalist whose anti-gay motion for the government to ban public discussion, reporting and distribution of LGBTQ+ content in the country passed overwhelmingly in Parliament — are among those behind the homophobic Mombasa protests.

Six LGBTQ+ lobby groups applauded the rulings as a “crucial shot in the arm towards LGBTQ rights” and condemned protest organizers for “mobilizing towards hatred and marginalizing others.”        

Mr. JM and CMRSL have also sued two anti-LGBTQ+ activists and a national lobby group dubbed the “Anti-LGBTQ Movement” that organized the demonstrations, in addition to the police official whose office authorizes street marches by issuing permits to protesters.  

“The petitioners have sought to include new amendments to the petition filed last week via the court’s online filing system and they have until Oct. 11 when the court will give directions to the hearing of the case,” a source familiar with the petition told the Washington Blade. 

To stop any future homophobic protests, the petitioners want the court to declare the LGBTQ+ community is also entitled to constitutional rights and freedoms without hate or discrimination just like their opposite-sex counterparts. 

They argue the anti-LGBTQ+ protests, characterized by incitement to violence in March and last month in response to the Supreme Court’s rulings, have led to increased cases of homophobia and threats to the lives of the queer community across the country.

The petitioners claim the “Anti-LGBTQ Movement” group has been propagating “violence, elimination and expulsion” of the queer community from the country in its relentless homophobic campaign. They further allege that organizations working with LGBTQ+ people have recorded “more than 100 cases of violence, forced evictions and denial of services” by landlords, employers and the public as a result of these protests. 

The petitioners also claim the protests have led to the shutting down of “more than 20 organizations and medical facilities” that provide essential HIV and STI treatment services to LGBTQ+ people because of security concerns.   

Mr. MJ and CMRSL in their case have included the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights, a state-funded watchdog organization, as an interested party, although it always distances itself from defending LGBTQ+ rights. 

The Kenyan Constitution, which only recognizes consensual opposite-sex relations, directs the KNCHR. Section 162 of the penal code criminalizes consensual same-sex sexual relations. 

This sidelining has forced the LGBTQ+ community to demand a representative to the KNCHR to represent their interests, such as intersex people who are represented after a landmark law that recognizes them as Kenya’s third sex, took effect in July 2022. The petitioners did not engage KNCHR before listing it as an interested party. 

The state-funded National Cohesion and Integration Commission, Amnesty International Kenya and the Kenya Human Rights Commission are among the other institutions the two petitioners have included in the case as interested parties.

Amnesty International Kenya with Irungu Houghton as its executive director on Sept. 30 held the “State of Freedoms and Rights in 2023” conference in partnership with United States International University Africa in Nairobi, the Kenyan capital. Participants demanded respect for the rights of every person, including members of the LGBTQ+ community.

The rights organization vowed to fight any infringement of the rights of any person or group, regardless of their gender or sexual orientation, in line with its newly launched 4-year strategic framework for 2024-2028 that will guide its human rights advocacy.

Meanwhile, some parents in one of Kenya’s all female high schools are angry after administrators suspended 18 students who allegedly engaged in what they described as lesbianism.

The students’ suspension from Cardinal Otunga Girls’ High School in the western part of the country last week has caused fury among their parents, because they are set to start taking their final high school national exams on Oct. 10. This action comes amid the government’s plans to consider a recommendation from a presidential task force on education reforms to hire imams and chaplains in schools to guide students against what they feel is the infiltration of LGBTQ practices.

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The Vatican

Pope Francis expresses openness to blessings for same-sex unions

Pontiff vehemently opposed marriage equality in native Argentina

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Pope Francis (Photo by palinchak via Bigstock)

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis has said he is open to the possibility that the Catholic Church would allow blessings for same-sex unions. 

The Vatican’s Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith on Monday released a letter that Francis wrote to five cardinals who urged him to reaffirm church teaching on homosexuality ahead of this week’s Synod on Synodality, a meeting during which LGBTQ+ Catholics, women in the church and other issues will be discussed.  

Francis wrote the letter on July 11.

The Associated Press reported Francis said “such (same-sex) blessings could be studied if they didn’t confuse the blessing with sacramental marriage.”

“This new step, outlined in a document released on Oct. 2 by the Vatican’s Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, allows for pastoral ministers to administer such blessings on a case-by-case basis, advising that ‘pastoral prudence’ and ‘pastoral charity’ should guide any response to couples who request a blessing,” noted Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministrya Maryland-based organization that ministers to LGBTQ+ Catholics, on Monday in a press release. “It also indicates that permitting such blessings cannot be institutionalized by diocesan regulations, perhaps a reference to some dioceses in Germany where blessings are already taking place with official and explicit permission. ‘The life of the church,’ the pope writes, ‘runs through many channels in addition to the standard ones,’ indicating that respecting diverse and particular situations must take precedence over church law.”

DeBernardo in the same press release said the “allowance for pastoral ministers to bless same-gender couples implies that the church does indeed recognize that holy love can exist between same-gender couples, and the love of these couples mirrors the love of God.”

“Those recognitions, while not completely what LGBTQ+ Catholics would want, are an enormous advance towards fuller and more comprehensive equality,” he said. “This statement is one big straw towards breaking the camel’s back of the marginalized treatment LGBTQ+ people experience in the church.”

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

Francis has publicly endorsed civil unions for same-sex couples, and has said laws that criminalize homosexuality are “unjust.” Church teachings on homosexuality and gender identity have nevertheless not changed under Francis’ papacy.

Francis earlier this year told a newspaper in his native Argentina that gender ideology as “one of the most dangerous ideological colonizations” because “it blurs differences and the value of men and women.” 

The pope was the archbishop of Buenos Aires when a law that extended marriage rights to same-sex couples in Argentina took effect in 2010. Francis was among those who vehemently opposed the marriage equality bill before then-President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner signed it.

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Africa

Eswatini government refuses to allow LGBTQ+ rights group to legally register

Supreme Court previously ruled in favor of Eswatini Sexual and Gender Minorities

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Members of the Eswatini Sexual and Gender Minorities, an LGBTQ+ and intersex rights group, after the Eswatini Supreme Court on May 5, 2023, heard arguments in their case in support of legally registering in the country. (Photo courtesy of Eswatini Sexual and Gender Minorities)

MANZINI, Eswatini — The Eswatini Commerce, Industry and Trade Ministry this week said it will not allow an LGBTQ+ rights group to register.

The country’s Supreme Court in June ruled the government must allow Eswatini Sexual and Gender Minorities to register.

The Registrar of Companies in 2019 denied the group’s request. Eswatini Sexual and Gender Minorities the following year petitioned the Supreme Court to hear their case. The Supreme Court initially ruled against the group, but it appealed the decision.

“[The] Minister of Commerce and Trade refuses to register ESGM citing the ‘Roman Dutch Law,'” said Eswatini Sexual and Gender Minorities on Thursday in a tweet to its X account. “This was after the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the refusal to register ESGM by the registrar was unconstitutional.”

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Canada

Saskatchewan Premier vows to bypass Canadian Charter of Rights

After court blocks Canadian province’s rule requiring schools to out trans kids, Moe vows to by-pass Canada’s Charter of Rights

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Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe speaking at Saskatchewan Polytechnic in Saskatoon on September 20, 2023. (Photo Credit: Office of the Saskatchewan Premier/Facebook)

By Rob Salerno | REGINA, Saskatchewan, Canada – Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe has announced he plans to override Canada’s Charter of Rights to pass a law requiring students to get parental consent before using a name or pronoun other than the ones indicated by their birth certificate in schools, after a judge in Regina issued an injunction blocking the rule from coming into effect.

The policy was announced this summer, as a wave of Canadian provinces governed by Conservatives enacted similar rules across the country. The rules were immediately denounced by LGBT activists, teachers’ associations, and school boards, who said the rules violated trans kids’ privacy rights and right to gender expression, as well as being impractical to enforce.

In his decision Thursday, Judge Michael Megaw sided with University of Regina Pride, which filed a lawsuit seeking to have the rule struck down. Megaw’s decision doesn’t kill the rule, but blocks schools and the province from enforcing it while the constitutional challenge goes forward.

“The protection of these youth surpasses that interest expressed by the government, pending a full and complete hearing into the constitutionality of this policy,” Megaw wrote in his decision. “I find this to be one of those clear cases where injunctive relief is necessary to attempt to prevent the irreparable harm referred to pending a full hearing of this matter on its merits.”

The province had previously told the court that it drafted the policy in nine days and did not consult with stakeholders before enacting it. It also told the court that the government had received just 18 letters over the summer asking the government to enact the “parental consent” policy.

In response, Moe announced he would recall the provincial legislature on Oct 10 to pass a law backing up the rule by using the Canadian Constitution’s “notwithstanding clause,” which allows the federal and provincial governments to pass laws that violate the constitution’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms. A law invoking the clause can only be in effect for five years but can be renewed and cannot be challenged under the Charter of Rights in that time. 

The notwithstanding clause was included when the Canadian Charter of Rights was enacted in 1982 specifically because certain provinces were afraid that gays and lesbians would use the Charter to demand equal rights. The Liberal government at the time believed that use of the clause would be so unpopular that no government would dare try it. For most of its history, that’s been true, but there has been a growing trend of Conservative provincial governments across Canada invoking the clause to override Charter rights since 2018.

Moe’s threat to invoke the clause was immediately denounced by federal Justice Minister Arif Verani.

“We note that the government is choosing to do this despite today’s injunction which should have given them pause. A judge agreed that what the government is doing may cause irreparable harm to some of its most vulnerable young people. Just as important, they are acting before a court has had the opportunity to review their proposed policy for its constitutionality. Violating individual rights should not be a decision taken lightly,” Virani wrote in a statement posted on X, formerly Twitter. 

Trans activist Fae Johnstone, accuses Moe of using trans kids to push a wider anti-rights agenda.

“Let me be crystal clear: Premier Moe is weaponizing the public’s lack of familiarity with trans people to set a terrifying precedent: Overruling the fundamental human rights protections laid out in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms,” she wrote on X

Moe claims that the pronouns policy is popular among parents in Saskatchewan. He won’t be up for election until fall 2024. 

“Our government is extremely dismayed by the judicial overreach of the court blocking implementation of the Parental Inclusion and Consent policy – a policy which has the strong support of a majority of Saskatchewan residents, in particular, Saskatchewan parents. The default position should never be to keep a child’s information from their parents,” Moe said in a statement.

However, in neighboring Manitoba, the incumbent Conservative government which has pledged to introduce a similar “parental consent” policy is up for reelection on Tuesday and is currently trailing in the polls behind the New Democratic Party, which has pledged to support queer and trans youth. 

New Brunswick, where the current wave of “parental consent” policies began, may also go to the polls this fall if Premier Blaine Higgs calls a snap election. His Conservative Party has been trailing narrowly in the polls behind the New Brunswick Liberals.

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Rob Salerno is a writer and journalist based in Los Angeles, California, and Toronto, Canada.

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Southern-Central Asia

Pakistan resumes issuing ID cards to Transgender people

Federal Shariat Court in June ruled against trans rights law

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Kami Sid (Courtesy photo)

ISLAMABAD — Pakistani authorities have resumed the registration of Transgender people and issuing identity cards to them after the Supreme Court’s Sharia Appellate Bench on Sept. 25 ruled on the issue.

An Islamic court on June 13 ordered all data acquisition units to halt the registration of Trans people and to issue identity cards only to males or females. 

The Supreme Court in 2009 extended civil rights to the trans community. Pakistani MPs in 2018 passed a historic law, the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, that guaranteed all the rights available for all citizens to Trans people, and prohibited any discrimination based on gender identity.

Jamiat-e-Islami, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam and Tehreek Labbaik Pakistan and several other Pakistani religious political parties in 2022 raised objections to the law, stating it was un-Islamic. 

The Federal Shariat Court in May struck down three sections of the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act and said Islamic teachings do not allow anyone to change their gender at their will. The court also said gender assigned at birth shall remain intact. 

The Islamic court’s June 13 verdict prohibited any new registration for an identity card with an X gender marker or update an older one. The National Database and Registration Authority after the ruling issued that halted the registration of Trans people. Individuals in Pakistan need ID cards to open bank accounts, seek legal aid, report a crime to the police, ask for medical help and receive a passport. 

NADRA is an independent agency that regulates the government database and registration of sensitive information of citizens. The Federal Shariat Court is a constitutional Islamic court that scrutinizes and determines if laws made in Parliament comply with Sharia laws.

Nayyab Ali, a Trans rights activist in Pakistan, during a telephone interview with the Washington Blade said the court’s voting bloc is based on religious elements. She also said right-wing political parties target Trans Pakistanis when they do not get publicity.

“Right-wing political parties picked up the Transgender issues in Parliament, and started hate speeches on transgender laws,” said Ali. “There is also a divide in the Transgender community in Pakistan. Some Transgender factions also support right-wing political parties to strengthen their agenda. People inside the government came from the grassroots level of society. Society has an extreme level of phobia and stigma for the Transgender population, so when they come to power, they make policies that are against the Transgender community.”

Ali told the Blade that former Prime Minister Imran Khan introduced an “Islamic utopia” in Pakistan and implemented an Islamization policy in his day-to-day politics, which created more hatred against Trans community and affected society at large. 

Ali on X, formerly known as Twitter, praised the decision that allowed the resumption of issuing ID cards to Trans people. Documents the Blade obtained indicate she is one of those who challenged the Federal Shariat Court’s decision.

Kami Sid, a Trans activist and executive director of Sub Rang Society, a Pakistan-based LGBTQ+ rights organization, said the community is happy and quite hopeful for a better future.

“First we as a community were very much worried about the Federal Shariat Court’s decision,” said Sid. “But after several advocacy and meetings we are quite hopeful for the fight against the Federal Shariat Court decision, and now quite relaxed as a Transgender activist, I must say the community is happy.”

Kami, like Ali, also challenged the Federal Shariat Court’s decision.

Kami told the Blade conservative parties over the last few years have become more willing to promote an agenda that opposes rights for women, children and Trans people. 

“Transgender rights are human rights,” said Kami. “That is why the previous government refrained from commenting on the Shariah Court ruling out of fear of the right-wing parties and because Transgender people are not a top priority.”

Kami said the Pakistani government has faced several obstacles this year regarding the U.N. Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review.

Foreign Minister Jalil Abbas Jilani attended the annual UPR meeting in Geneva in January and received approximately 354 human rights-specific recommendations.

Iside Over, an online news website, reports Pakistan may not get an extension over the European Union’s Preferential Trade Arrangement over its failure to improve its human rights record, among other reasons. Kami told the Blade the Generalized System of Preference, or GSP, from the EU has put pressure on the Pakistani government to address human rights-specific issues.

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

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Africa

TikTok in talks with Kenyan government to stop LGBTQ+-specific content

Official says ‘draft framework’ will be ready by end of this month

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(Public domain photo)

NAIROBI, Kenya — TikTok is the latest global digital video platform to enter talks with the Kenyan government to stop access to LGBTQ+-specific videos and other content prohibited under the country’s laws.  

TikTok, a popular short-form mobile video-streaming platform, is currently in joint talks with government officials to develop a framework for censoring such content classified under the “restricted category.”  

“A draft framework of the content regulation is being worked on by a joint team and it will be ready by the end of this month. The larger regulatory framework will address specific content like LGBTQ, explicit and terrorism materials shared on TikTok,” an official who is familiar with the discussions told the Washington Blade.

The joint team is compelled to develop the framework to regulate TikTok users who enjoy full control of videos they share on the platform without the service providers’ prior approval, unlike Netflix and other movie streaming platforms that readily classify content for users.

Consensual same-sex sexual relations are criminalized under Section 165 of Kenya’s penal code.     

The move to regulate TikTok content arises from a petitioner who wrote to the National Assembly last month demanding the country ban the social media platform for promoting what he deemed harmful and inappropriate content. 

The petitioner, Bob Ndolo, an executive officer for Briget Connect Consultancy, cited violence, explicit sexual videos, hate speech, vulgar language and offensive behavior as content with a “serious threat to cultural and religious values of Kenya” shared on TikTok. 

The petition ignited an uproar among Kenyans, particularly TikTok users who make a living from their videos through monetization. 

They asked the government not to ban the platform, but instead enact a regulatory framework to stop inappropriate content. This request prompted President William Ruto and several senior government officials to convene a virtual meeting with TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew on Aug. 24 over content regulation under Kenya’s guidelines and monetization.  

Chew during the meeting committed to “moderate content to fit community standards” by removing inappropriate or offensive content from TikTok and pledged to set up an office in Nairobi to serve the African continent.   

The virtual meeting was followed by another physical one at State House between Ruto and TikTok Africa Director Fortune Sibanda on Sept. 2, where it was announced that the social platform is set to launch a national training program to empower its users on creating and promoting so-called positive content. 

TikTok has already stopped monetization for users sharing inappropriate or restricted content and deactivated their accounts as efforts to draft the regulatory work continue.

“A joint artificial intelligence tool is being used in the meantime to detect offensive content for removal and the accounts brought down,” stated the official. “It has significantly reduced inappropriate content for the last few weeks since Kenya and TikTok started engaging.”

The latest Reuters Institute Digital News Report released in June revealed that Kenya leads the world in TikTok usage with an astounding 54 percent share of global consumption. Thailand and South Africa follow with 51 percent and 50 percent respectively.   

The Kenya Film Classification Board, the country’s film regulator, signed an agreement with Netflix in February this year to stop the streaming of LGBTQ+-specific movies. The regulatory body is part of the ongoing talks with TikTok. 

The KFCB is also yet to finalize its talks with Showmax and two local video-on-demand platforms to stop the streaming of LGBTQ+-specific movies.    

The regulatory body derives its powers from the Films and Stage Act that regulates the exhibition, distribution, possession or broadcasting of content to the public. 

The ever-changing digital technologies that include TikTok and other social media platforms have prompted the KFCB to reconsider its regulatory framework by coming up with new measures. 

One such proposal, dubbed the Kenya Film Bill, would empower the KFCB to classify and regulate content in this digital era to stop ones that go against government-mandated standards. 

The Information, Communication and Technology Ministry last week appointed a special team to look into existing laws and recommend policy and regulatory framework for the digital platforms. The ministry’s senior officials, including Assistant Minister John Tanui, are also taking part in the talks with TikTok.

The ministry’s newly unveiled panel will also ask whether the Kenya Film Bill can be enacted independently or combined with new legislative proposals.  

The regulation of TikTok content in Kenya comes amid the anticipated introduction of the Family Protection Bill in the National Assembly that would criminalize any form of promotion of LGBTQ+ activities with harsh punishment of at least 10 years in jail or not less than a $67,000 fine or both.     

TikTok in April 2022 suspended the Human Rights Campaign, the largest LGBTQ+ rights group in the U.S., for a couple of days after it included the word “gay” in a reel against Florida’s ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law. The company determined the post violated “community guidelines.”

A British lawmaker criticized TikTok in September 2019 over reports that it censored LGBTQ+-specific content, such as two men kissing or holding hands, and artificially prevented LGBTQ+ users’ posts from going viral in some countries.

Theo Bertram, TikTok’s director of public policy in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, apologized to the British parliamentary committee and confirmed the company only removes such LGBTQ+-specific content if law enforcement agencies in countries of operation request it.

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Africa

Seven men linked to kidnapping of Grindr users in South Africa arrested

Advocacy groups welcomed arrests, urged authorities to investigate other cases

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South African flag (Photo by Rarraroro via Bigstock)

JOHANNESBURG — South African LGBTQ+ organizations have welcomed the arrest of seven suspects linked to a series of kidnappings liked to Grindr.

Several Grindr users in South Africa in recent months have been kidnapped for ransom through the dating app.

The South African Police Service said the seven suspects were arrested following an investigation into the kidnapping of an 18-year-old Wits University student on Sept. 19.

SAPS said suspects demanded $1,500 for the student’s release. Authorities set up a sting operation and a breakthrough came on Sept. 20 when they identified an ATM where one of the suspects was expected to withdraw the ransom money. Officers placed one of the suspects under arrest as soon as he arrived, and he agreed to show them where the victim was being held captive.

“The student was reported missing the same day by his roommate. It is reported that he was lured to the suspects through a dating site called Grindr,” said SAPS spokesperson Brenda Muridili. “Afterwards, the police conducted surveillance and arrested one suspect as soon as he arrived. He then led the authorities to the Denver Men’s Hostel (in Johannesburg), where they discovered the 18-year-old victim bound and unconscious. Six additional suspects were apprehended, and the victim was rushed to the hospital for medical attention.” 

Muridili also said there is a high possibility that the suspects are further linked to 86 similar Grindr-related cases.

“We cannot rule out the possibility because this is not the first case of its kind,” said Muridili. “We have several cases that are being investigated.”

Access Chapter 2 Media Liaison Officer Mpho Buntse said the organization welcomed the arrest, but it still worried about why such incidents continue to take place.

“We congratulate SAPS in Johannesburg for acting swiftly in arresting seven homophobes who have been using Grindr, to terrorize and torture their victims. We believe that this arrest is a firm demonstration of the force’s commitment to confront crimes of this nature. As an organization, we have been vocal in calling for swift action, as many of these cases have been reported to the organization,” said Buntse. “However, we are deeply concerned at the sporadic nature of these syndicates. Not so long ago, we celebrated the arrest of the initial Grindr kidnapping and extortion group in the area of Johannesburg, which gave rise to this newly arrested group. It raises a sharp concern as to why these groups keep emerging.”

Gauteng Police in February arrested four men who they say used Grindr to extort and victimize LGBTQ+ people.

“We continue to call upon members of the community, gay men in particular to limit the use of the application where it poses threats, we further acknowledge the erotic justice due to queer persons and the freedom to associate without fear and prejudice,” said Buntse. “We also commend Grindr for listening to the call to strengthen the safety of the app.”

Out Human Rights Coordinator Sibonelo Ncanana echoed Buntse, but questioned why the police are not actively investigating similar cases in other provinces.

“We are happy that seven suspects have been arrested but we need that same swiftness that happened in Gauteng to also transpire in other provinces because there are other similar cases that have not been solved or investigated that involve Grindr,” said Ncanana. “This worries us a lot but we are grateful and appreciate the swift response of the police hopefully it will extend to other provinces.” 

Ruth Maseko of the Triangle Project said LGBTQ+ people continue to be targeted because of their place in society, even though Grindr and other dating apps have issued warnings to their users.

“Although no dating app is necessarily safe, LGBTIQ persons can be viewed by prospective suspects as easy targets because of the stigma surrounding orientation and identity,” said Maseko. “This means that it may be the thinking of perpetrators that LGBTIQ people will not report these incidents and give in to extortion.”

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World

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

LGBTQ+ stories from around the globe including Australia, Malaysia, Vietnam, Wales, Scotland focusing on events that matter

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AUSTRALIA

Victorian Pride Centre Melbourne (Photo Credit: Victorian Pride Centre)

MELBOURNE – A group has petitioned the Australian Human Rights Commission for an exemption to hold ‘Lesbians Born Female only’ events that exclude transgender people at the Victorian Pride Centre for the next five years.

Lesbian Action Group Melbourne, wrote in their petition to apply for the exemption that the group, exclude “Heterosexual, Bisexual and Gay males, Heterosexual and Bisexual females, Transgender people and Queer plus people.”

The Sydney Star-Observer, Australia’s largest LGBTQ+ media outlet, reported that the event would be held to celebrate International Lesbian Day at the Victorian Pride Centre on October 15, 2023.

Under Australian codes the AHRC is empowered under Section 44 of the Sex Discrimination Act of 1984 (Cth) to grant temporary exemptions for up to five years from the provisions of the anti-discrimination law.

According to the Star-Observer, the group said it was set up to promote and organize events for “lesbian born females “without the fear of being hauled before the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal, as we have in the past and told our exclusive lesbian born female events are illegal and having to cancel them”. 

The group claimed that over the past two decades, they were able to “organize and hold private lesbian meetings and gatherings over these past 20 years to avoid any more challenges by the Transgender community”. The application then went on to allege that “lesbians who publicly speak out about Lesbian rights are also sacked from their jobs, ridiculed and threatened with all kinds of abuse.”

PERTH – Australian NBL professional basketball star Corey Webster was suspended for two games after he posted homophobic remarks to his X/Twitter social media account. In the now deleted tweets, Webster replying to a post that asked: “What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you see this flag”, accompanied by the LGBTQ+ Rainbow Pride flag,” said: “Mental illness.”

After Perth Wildcats fans and followers started calling out him for the blatant homophobia Webster posted a follow-up that read in all caps: “PROTECT THE CHILDREN,” and put his social media profile on private.

Corey Webster (Photo Credit: Perth Wildcats)

The team reacted issuing an apology and also released an apology from Webster. In his statement the player said:

“While it certainly wasn’t my intent, I understand the hurt my comments have caused and I am sincerely sorry for this. It wasn’t how I intended my comments to be perceived and I will take a break from social media and use that time to better educate myself on the impact comments such as this can make on individuals I may have offended.”

Perth Wildcats team owner Richard Simkiss said: “We are really disappointed in these comments and have made this clear to Corey. They don’t reflect our values, and we have committed to working with Corey to help educate him about the harm such comments can bring. As a community driven club, we stand for inclusiveness and have strongly supported the NBL’s Pride Round. We look forward to promoting this initiative again in the upcoming season. Our values are clear – we want to bring people together in a positive way and we understand our responsibility as leaders in the community to live these values both on and off the court.”

VIETNAM

Vogue dance battle in Ho Chi Minh City (Screenshot/YouTube)

HO CHI MINH CITY – A decidedly queer subculture import from the United States that gained rapid popularity in this vibrant southern Vietnamese metropolis is providing a safe haven for gay and trans youth.

Al-Jazeera contributor Xuan-Tung Le reported during a recent event, a catwalk for would-be models with fiery dance-off battles, as well as an emotional celebration of kinship between Vietnam’s queer people– all rolled into a single evening of deep connections for trans people especially.

Le notes that not to be confused with ballroom dancing, which evolved from the heterosexual courtship tradition of European aristocrats, ballroom culture emerged in the 1960s among marginalized Black and Latino queer people in the United States.

Gathering at a “ball” function, queer people “walk” to show off their talents in dancing, lip-syncing, performing and catwalk modelling as a way to both compete on the night and, more broadly, transcend the everyday realities of gender identities, occupational roles and social status assigned in society.

Viral videos of voguing battles have also been helped by the digital power of YouTube and TikTok algorithms, giving people around the world access to the dance form Le added.

“Ballroom is more than dancing,” Minerva Sun Mizrahi using a stage name preferring that their real name not be used told Al Jazeera.

“Here, people can vogue, do runway walk, or simply look and act straight-passing – all are considered talents,” Minerva said.

“It is a space to empower queer people.”

Another queer performer told Al Jazeera that social acceptance of trans people also lags behind in Vietnam, even in Saigon where gay men and women enjoy relative acceptance in society. Naomi Sun, also using a preferred stage name, told Al Jazeera: “That is why ballroom events are so unique, as they are one of the few safe spaces in Saigon where trans women can just “let loose and have fun,” Sun said.

“You don’t have to do anything to your body or take hormones; just dress up as a fem queen [which is the ballroom slang for a trans woman], go there, and live your dream as a fem queen,” she said. “It’s fine! That’s how ballroom is.”

Related: Vietnam’s ‘ballroom’ culture: A safe space to celebrate trans people (Link)

MALAYSIA

NEW YORK – In an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, Malaysia’s Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim says Malaysia will never recognize LGBTQ rights. Recently prison sentences were threatened for selling rainbow watches. “I wouldn’t defend that,” Ibrahim tells the veteran journalist. He says he’d like to see things change, but must respect the consensus of the people.

Anwar said that as prime minister, he has to respect the consensus of Malaysians and that they do not accept public displays of LGBTQ+. “The Muslims, non -Muslims, Christians, Hindus or Buddhists, they have a consensus in the country. They do not accept this (LGBTQ+).,” he said. However, he said while there is a need to exercise some degree of tolerance, harassment has to be avoided.

Anwar on Malaysia’s stand on LGBTQ+ issue:

UNITED KINGDOM

Aristedes Haynes, the 17-year-old behind a number of racist and homophobic vandalism incidents in South Wales (Booking photo via the South Wales Police)

LONDON – A 17-year-old teen male from South Wales has been publicly named after being convicted and sentenced on Thursday, September 21, for a homophobic and racist vandalism crime spree in South Wales and Cardiff.

Haynes and a second 15-year-old male accomplice carried out several racially and homophobically charged counts of criminal damage across South Wales, including extremist Nazi graffiti on a Windrush mural in Port Talbot where the teen was living at the time.

British LGBTQ+ media outlet PinkNewsUK reported that just hours after the mural, depicting local beloved nurse Donna Campbell and her mother Lydie, was complete, it was daubed with swastikas, the words “Nazi zone”, and a racial slur.

The presiding justice, Jeremy Baker, sent the teen to jail for one year and seven months and ordered the former Royal Air Force Cadet to an additional one year’s probation.

According to SKY News, Counter terrorism police in Wales last year began investigating the two teenagers in connection with “several offenses of racially and homophobically aggravated criminal damage”.

A smoke bomb was also rolled into The Queer Emporium, an LGBTQ+ business in Cardiff city center.

The 15-year-old, from Tonyrefail, South Wales, appeared at Cardiff Youth Court and pleaded guilty on August 15 to one charge of criminal damage and four charges of racially aggravated criminal damage. He was given community service for one year, and probation for two additional years and ordered to pay £100 ($122.42 USD) compensation to The Queer Emporium.

In the case of Hayes, Justice Baker said the teen had “essentially became self-radicalized” and held “entrenched” racist, antisemitic and homophobic views.

“I am satisfied that not only did you hold entrenched racist, antisemitic and homophobic views at the time of the commission of these offenses, but that these are views which you have not genuinely disavowed,” the judge told him at his sentencing. “It is apparent that you were not someone who limited your behavior to the expression of your views online, but were prepared to put some of those views into action,” he added.

The Judge also noted, “It is of particular concern that not only had you asserted that one of your goals in life was to kill someone….but you had already carried out research as to the availability of one of the components for constructing a gun.”

According to Counter Terrorism Policing Wales Detective Chief Inspector Andrew Williams who spoke at the sentencing:

“For the older boy in particular, it became evident that he was also involved in the online distribution of extreme right-wing material, which clearly fell into the space governed by terrorism legislation,” he said.

“The offences were particularly abhorrent in nature and understandably caused upset to many people, both within the communities the boys targeted, and beyond.

“The sentencing today concludes the investigation and enables professionals to work intensively with them in the hope that they can lead far more productive lives in their respective futures.”

EDINBURGH – The court battle over to overturn the UK Secretary of State for Scotland, Alister Jack’s, veto block of the Gender Recognition Reform ended this week with a ruling by Judge Lady Shona Haldane of the Court of Session in Edinburgh not expected for “some time” according to a statement from the court.

The Court of Session in Edinburgh. (Photo Credit: scotcourts.gov.uk)

Haldane said after the judicial review concluded a day earlier than expected – that she will take “some time” to reach her decision on the matter. She added she write her opinion following what she described as a “unique, very interesting and challenging case.”

The Gender Recognition Reform bill introduced by the Scottish government to Holyrood (parliament) last Spring was passed in a final 86-39 vote days before this past Christmas 2022. The sweeping reform bill modifies the Gender Recognition Act, signed into law in 2004, by allowing transgender Scots to gain legal recognition without the need for a medical diagnosis.

The measure further stipulates that age limit for legal recognition is lowered to 16.

Alister Jack had released a statement indicating that with the backing of Number 10 Downing Street, he would use a Section 35 order under the Scotland Act to block the King’s signature which is referred to as Royal assent.

Under Section 35 of the Scotland Act, UK ministers can stop a bill getting royal assent. Jack can do so if he is of the opinion that a Holyrood bill would modify laws reserved to Westminster and have an “adverse effect” on how those laws apply.

PinkNewsUK reported the legislation itself was not discussed, with the case instead focusing on whether or not the Jack had the legal right to veto the bill. 

Whoever loses the case, when Haldane issues her ruling, will have the right to appeal the outcome at The Court of Session Inner House. Whoever loses that appeal will have the option to take the case to the Supreme Court in London. 

This means, regardless of the result, the political and legal battle could go on for months, or even years.  

Additional reporting from the Star Observer, Al Jazeera, CNN, Sky News, & PinkNewsUK

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Africa

Kenyan lawmaker’s bill would further crackdown on LGBTQ+ rights

Provisions include 50-year prison sentence for gays and lesbians convicted of non-consensual sex

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Kenya flag (Photo by rarrarorro/Bigstock)

NAIROBI, Kenya — A fresh bid to prevent the recognition of and equal rights for LGBTQ+ people in Kenya through a constitutional amendment has been introduced in Parliament.

The move is in response to this month’s ruling from Kenya’s highest court affirming its February decision that allowed the National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission to register as a non-governmental organization.

Opposition MP Peter Kaluma, an outspoken critic of homosexuality, is the sponsor of the new initiative that is part of tightening the noose on LGBTQ+ people after the Kenyan Supreme Court dismissed his petition that challenged its February ruling. 

Kaluma wanted the ruling reversed since the National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission advocates for homosexuality, which is against the law, and sought the court’s clarification on the term “sex” to exclude LGBTQ+ persons.  

Kaluma has already written to National Assembly Speaker Moses Wetang’ula, notifying him of his proposal to have the term “sex” redefined in the constitution by repealing Article 259 (4) which judges perceive to also include consensual same-sex sexual relations. 

“This will seal the constitutional gaps the courts are exploiting to introduce homosexuality into the country under the guise of ‘judicial interpretation’ and secure the legislative mandate retained in Parliament and constitutional-making power remains with the people,” Kaluma said. 

He faults the judges for interpreting the term “sex” under Article 27 (4) of the constitution to also refer to sexual orientation of any gender, whether heterosexual, lesbian, gay, intersex, or otherwise, not to be discriminated from sexual identity. 

The controversial court’s verdicts have sparked an uproar in the country since Article 45 of the constitution only recognizes consensual opposite-sex sexual relations and Section 162 of the penal code criminalizes consensual same-sex sexual relations. 

In redefining “sex” in law, Kaluma wants the term to be limited to the biological state of being male or female as assigned at birth and not “foreign sexual orientation and gender identity ideology” which he argues the judges based on wrongly. The MPs proposal to redefine sex, however, would not impact intersex people in Kenya since their recognition and sex identity are protected under a landmark law that took effect in July 2022. 

Kaluma notes that the court’s ruling renders sex/gender fluidity away from the biological state of being male or female “to over 150 current gender categories abbreviated as LGBTQ+” which has serious consequences for women in terms of equality.     

“The courts, unelected arms of government not directly accountable to the people, have been the weakest link in the battle for family values across the world. The Supreme Court of the United States failed the Americans and the European courts have failed the Europeans,” the MP said.  

Kaluma, who has also sponsored a stiffer anti-homosexuality bill that awaits introduction in the House, added “we are in a war not only to save our society but to salvage humanity from the LGBTQ+ perversion”. 

The lawmaker has also sought to strengthen his anti-homosexuality measure by adding punitive clauses, including one that would impose a maximum sentence of 50 years in prison for gays and lesbians who are found guilty of engaging in non-consensual sex. Other provisions include a ban on gay Pride parades, assemblies, street marches, cross-dressing in public and all LGBTQ+-related activities.

The MP has also proposed proposes a fine of $14,000 or a 7-year prison sentence for owners of premises used for same-sex sexual practices. 

“I urge all persons and institutions of goodwill to stand firm and ready themselves to fight against homosexuality. Even when we don’t win before the courts as is the case across the world, I am certain we will win before the people’s representatives in parliament,” Kaluma stated. 

Muslim and Christian religious authorities last Saturday staged anti-homosexuality protests in the coastal city of Mombasa, which is the country’s second largest city. Protesters condemned and denounced the Supreme Court’s ruling and asking President William Ruto to “unequivocally denounce LGBTQ” like his Ugandan counterpart, Yoweri Museveni.  

The Kenya Muslims National Advisory Council, a leading Muslim governing body, on Thursday also condemned the Supreme Court and demanded the ouster of Chief Justice Martha Koome and other judges who ruled in favor of the LGBTQ+ community. The group argues the ruling offends Kenya’s social, cultural and religious beliefs while asking the president and Parliament to be “firm” like Uganda, which enacted a harsh anti-homosexuality law in May.    

A presidential education reform working group last month in a detailed report presented to Ruto after gathering views across the country recommended the teachers’ employers to hire pastors and Imams in elementary and high schools to help fight homosexuality and other so-called immoral practices. This call came after the Education Ministry in March confirmed to MPs its decision to form a Chaplains Committee, led by Kenya’s Anglican Church Archbishop Jackson Ole Sapit, to stop the infiltration of LGBTQ+ practices in schools.

The working group’s report has yet to be introduced in Parliament.

Kenya’s relentless move to curb homosexuality comes at a time when top government officials, politicians, and during this week’s U.N. General Assembly in New York raised concerns over backlash against LGBTQ+ and intersex rights around the world.

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Canada

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

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Protests sparked across Canada over gender policies in schools Wednesday, September 20, 2023. (Screenshot/YouTube CBC)

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.

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:

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Rob Salerno is a writer and journalist based in Los Angeles, California, and Toronto, Canada.

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