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Anti-LGBTQ Hungary law takes effect

Homosexuality, sex-reassignment surgery promotion to minors banned

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The Hungarian Parliament in Budapest (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

BUDAPEST — A law that bans the promotion of homosexuality and sex-reassignment surgery to minors in Hungary took effect on Thursday.

“The homophobic and transphobic amendments to the law, which came into force on July 8, 2021, stigmatize LGBTQI people, deprive LGBTQI youth of information that is vital to them, and illegally restrict freedom of speech and the right to education,” said the Háttér Society, a Hungarian LGBTQ rights group, in a message on its homepage. “Our group’s programs and services will continue to be available to LGBTQI people and their families as they were.”

The Háttér Society and Amnesty International Hungary on Thursday held a press conference outside the Hungarian Parliament in Budapest. The groups said they are prepared to engage in civil disobedience to challenge the law.

The European Union has sharply criticized Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and members of his ruling Fidesz party over the law and other efforts to curtail LGBTQ rights in the country.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen last month described the law as a “shame.” She also said the European Commission would seek to block it from taking effect.

“This bill clearly discriminates against people on the basis of their sexual orientation and it goes against all the values, the fundamental values of the European Union and this is human dignity, it is equality and is human fundamental rights, so we will not compromise on these principles,” said von der Leyen.

The European Parliament on Thursday approved a non-binding resolution that condemns the law and urges the EU to “immediately take legal action” against Hungary, according to Politico. The declaration also calls for Brussels to deny EU funds to the country.

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Africa

Intersex Kenyans see significant gains under landmark law

MPs approved statute last year

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Kenya flag (Photo by rarrarorro/Bigstock)

NAIROBI, Kenya — The push for intersex people to enjoy equal rights as Kenya’s third sex has recorded significant gains since a landmark law took effect last July.

Intersex people arrested for breaking the law can now be presented in court as intersex, since prosecutors have adopted the special ‘I’ sex marker for the group in charging documents.

This addresses the problem of authorities identifying intersex people for trial that became public in 2006 when police officers could not tell the sex of a detainee they perceived as a man who had been accused of a violent robbery. They had strip-searched him. 

The gains noted in the latest report by the country’s Intersex Persons Implementation Coordination Committee also note the inclusion of intersex concepts in Kenya’s new education curriculum for awareness. 

The IPICC falls under the purview of Kenya’s National Commission on Human Rights

Intersex awareness in schools for recognition and capacity building in the future targets adolescents at the junior secondary level where they are educated on the reproductive system. 

Veronica Mwangi, the IPICC’s head of secretariat who spoke to Washington Blade, commended the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions for introducing the ‘I’ sex marker for intersex people in charging documents. 

“We have made gains in the criminal justice but we should not go back to the tendencies where intersex persons only require a lot of attention when it comes to crime. It is a misconception that misses the map,” she said. 

Citing a proposed Intersex Persons Bill 2023 currently undergoing public comment before being presented for debate in Parliament, Mwangi believes it envisages more benefits to intersex people.

For instance, the bill proposes access to more comprehensive medical attention for intersex people during surgeries and expensive medical examinations like Karyotype, a DNA and hormonal composition test that costs between $900-$1,000. 

The bill would also require medical insurance providers to come up with an affordable, unique package that addresses the needs of intersex people by taking into account the reality of their lived experiences.

“The reality of the matter is you may give birth to an intersex child as a girl but later it turns out to be a boy. Hence the medical package that was given to the girl may not apply to the boy,” Mwangi said. 

She added the medical insurance policy should be capable of responding to such changes, since intersex people will always have medical needs that keep shifting. 

The bill would also allow intersex people to change their sex marker at any time to reflect their new status after undergoing a comprehensive medical examination and a medical certificate to prove it. The measure would also demand the government to recognize intersex people as a vulnerable group, such as those living with disabilities, women, young people and orphans, in order to more easily access social protection programs.

It would further require employers to consider intersex people for employment and the Kenya Examination Council to support the registration of intersex people’s’ academic documents that indicate their name has changed because of a legal sex change.

The Civil Registration Services, a government agency that documenting all births and deaths,  has already been working closely with IPICC to change names on the birth certificates of intersex people to reflect their correct sex for easier access to public services.  

Kenya became the first African country to grant equal rights and recognition to intersex people in 2022. It is also the first nation on the continent and the second in the world after Australia to count intersex people in a Census in 2019. 

The survey showed 1,524 Kenyans were intersex. 

After many years of marginalization and discrimination, the IPICC progress report states that several intersex people for the first time were involved in monitoring Kenya’s August 2022 general election as observers. Other intersex people subjected themselves to the electoral process to be nominated or elected as county assembly representatives, the lowest electoral position, including one in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi. 

“This was a bold move and a big achievement because, for the first time in Kenya, intersex persons came out and tested the waters in politics,” Mwangi said.

She cited stigma and fear among intersex people in presenting conflicting documents about their sex to the electoral commission for clearance as the cause of staying away from politics before the enactment of the law that recognizes them. Mwangi urged intersex people to come out and take advance of available opportunities and assistance, since most of them don’t and it becomes hard to reach them.

Since the landmark law came into force in July last year; several psychosocial support groups for intersex persons, their parents and caregivers have been established in the country to offer any necessary assistance that includes counselling. The IPICC has also created a database of intersex people, a text message service and a toll-free number to report cases of discrimination and to advocate on their behalf.

Oct. 26, 2022, also marked the first official event that commemorated Intersex Awareness Day in Kenya.

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Eastern Europe

Transgender journalist who enlisted in Ukrainian military returns to U.S.

Sarah Ashton-Cirillo wounded on battlefield in February

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Sarah Ashton-Cirillo in D.C. on May 19, 2023. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

WASHINGTON — Sarah Ashton-Cirillo was a journalist when she began to cover the Armed Forces of Ukraine’s Kharkiv Defense Forces at the beginning of Russia’s war against the country. She eventually enlisted, and a commander from the Ukrainian Defense Ministry on Jan. 31 facilitated her transfer to the unit’s 209th Batallion of the 113th Brigade.

Ashton-Cirillo, a Transgender woman who was born in New York, was working as a senior combat medic in a trench near Kreminna, a Russian-occupied city in eastern Ukraine, on Feb. 23 when shrapnel from an enemy artillery shell wounded her. Ashton-Cirillo suffered injuries to her right hand and to her face, and her fellow soldiers had to wait seven hours to evacuate her. Ashton-Cirillo eventually received treatment for her injuries in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city that is roughly 130 miles northwest of Kreminna.

“The big key there was I wasn’t able to take any painkiller by staying in the trench because I was still technically in battle,” she recalled to the Washington Blade on May 19 during an interview that took place at a coffee shop near the U.S. Capitol. 

Ashton-Cirillo noted her unit won the battle during which she had been wounded.

“Seven hours after my injury, I finally got to a hospital,” she said. “By that point I hadn’t taken any antibiotics (because) we didn’t have any antibiotics and infection had set in. They took me to a hospital in Kharkiv and they had to clean the wound. They had to wait to make certain that it was healing before they could do surgery.” 

“I was living with this open wound for eight days,” added Ashton-Cirillo, who was in uniform when she spoke with the Blade. “They were able to close my face up on the second day.”

Two small scars on her face are visible. She said she has limited mobility in her right hand, and has no feeling from her wrist to her fingers.

“For the most part, I’m so blessed and very lucky,” said Ashton-Cirillo.

Ashton-Cirillo now a junior sergeant

The Blade first spoke with Ashton-Cirillo last December while she was in D.C. to speak with lawmakers on behalf of the Ukrainian Defense Ministry about the Armed Forces of Ukraine’s medical needs. 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy met with President Joe Biden and spoke to a joint session of Congress less than three weeks after the interview. 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and President Joe Biden at the White House on Dec. 21, 2022. (Public domain photo courtesy of the White House)

Ashton-Cirillo early last month became a junior sergeant. She returned to D.C. on May 15.

Ashton-Cirillo met with U.S. Reps. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.), Mike Quigley (D-Ill.) and Steven Horsford (D-Nev.) and aides for U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) and U.S. Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.) before she left the nation’s capital on May 19. Ashton-Cirillo also spoke to journalists from the Global South at the National Press Club and met with José Andrés, whose World Central Kitchen continues to operate in Ukraine, and Amnesty International representatives. 

“We had some successes on my trip in December,” she said. “Members of Congress … in the House and Senate were interested in my experiences regarding my service.”

Ashton-Cirillo specifically praised Andrés for his work in Ukraine.

“There is nobody that’s done more for our cause,” said Ashton-Cirillo. “Nobody has done more to save the Ukrainian people as a foreign civilian than World Central Kitchen and Chef José Andrés.”

No timeframe for spring offensive

Ashton-Cirillo sat down with the Blade two days before Zelenskyy met with Biden and other world leaders at the G7 summit in Japan. (Biden met with Zelenskyy in Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital, on Feb. 20.)

Ukrainian officials this week denied Russia’s claims that it had captured Bakhmut, a city in Donetsk Oblast. (Ashton-Cirillo last December told the Blade she had previously worked to counter Russian propaganda that claimed Russian troops had captured the city.) The Associated Press reported a group of anti-Kremlin Russian partisans — the Russian government described them as Ukrainian “military sabeteurs” — attacked an area near Belgorod, a Russian city that is roughly 25 miles from the country’s border with Ukraine.

Sarah Ashton-Cirillo in Bakhmut, Ukraine, in 2022. (Photo courtesy of Sarah Ashton-Cirillo)

The International Criminal Court in March issued arrest warrants for Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russian Children’s Rights Commissioner Maria Lvova-Belova over the abduction of children from Ukraine. Zelenskyy earlier this month visited the ICC while he was in the Netherlands.

Ukraine continues to ask the U.S. and other countries for more weapons as it prepares to launch its long anticipated “spring” offensive.

Patriot missiles on May 16 shot down 29 of the 30 missiles that Russia launched at Kyiv. Ashton-Cirillo said Ukraine specifically needs DPICMs (dual-purpose improved conventional munition), a type of smart munition, “so we can soften up the Russian trench lines.” 

“I know what these trenches are,” she said. “They are going to be absolutely fortified as we attempt our counter attacks and any potential counter offensive.”

Ashton-Cirillo said she does not have a “timeframe” for when the offensive to begin. 

“We want all the weapons we can get now before launching,” she said. “We will beat the Russians under any circumstances and we are we have the history to prove it.”

“We’re trying to make certain that we’re not losing unnecessary Ukrainian lives,” added Ashton-Cirillo. “We’re not wasting U.S. taxpayer dollars and the best way to do that is have an efficient, effective attack method, and that’s why we need some of these more technologically advanced weapons. We can fight with RPGs and our assault rifles, and we’ll win, but at high cost, high cost to us, high cost to the American taxpayer. We understand as stewards of the Americans’ trust that we have to do everything in a proper way to bring victory as soon as possible.”

Gender identity ‘less of a spectacle among the international press’

Zelenskyy last summer said he supports a civil partnerships law for same-sex couples. Ukrainian lawmakers later approved a media regulation bill that will ban hate speech and incitement based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Zelenskyy, a former actor and comedian, in made a broad reference to LGBTQ and intersex rights in a virtual appearance at this year’s Golden Globes. Ukrainian Ambassador to the U.S. Oksana Markarova during a Jan. 26 event in D.C. that highlighted Ukrainian LGBTQ+ servicemembers applauded Kyiv Pride and other LGBTQ+ and intersex rights groups in her country.

From left: Then-Kyiv Pride Executive Director Lenny Emson, QUA – LGBTQ Ukrainians in America President Bogdan Globa and Ukrainian Ambassador to the U.S. Oksana Markarova at a photo exhibit that highlights LGBTQ+ and intersex soldiers in Ukraine. Ukraine House in D.C. hosted the event on Jan. 26, 2023. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Ashton-Cirillo pointed out the Ukrainian military is creating a group that will work directly with journalists in the country and from around the world. She said the initiative’s goals are “to guarantee free speech during war time, to guarantee a clear message based on truth and facts from the journalist standpoint during wartime and also to ensure that we have free speech, and free thought among the press post victory in Ukraine.” Ashton-Cirillo also told the Blade that her gender identity is “becoming less of a spectacle among the international press, and that’s important to me, too, as well.” 

“There’s no denying I’m trans. I don’t hide it,” she said. “I’m very proud to be a member of the LGBT community. My work and my focus is on this war, this liberation for Ukrainians and liberty for everyone who cares about freedom, and that includes trans people. That includes Crimean Tatars, that includes any immigrants from the Global South that live in Ukraine.”

“This victory will help strengthen the LGBT community around the world because there’s going to be one less country that will be able to persecute Ukrainians, LGBTQ members,” added Ashton-Cirillo. “We are going to inflict a transformative defeat upon the Russian invaders such that Russia themselves will have to look inward as to the mistakes they’ve made with human rights … and understand the price that they’re paying is very high for things like taking (Wall Street Journal reporter) Evan Gershkovich hostage.”

She also said she and her comrades “understand the cascading effect of a Ukrainian a clear transformative Ukrainian victory over Russia will have for human rights around the globe.”

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Asia

Uzbek authorities harass activist at European development bank meeting

Authorities confiscated Nezir Sinani’s Pride tote bags

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Nezir Sinani, left, an LGBTQ+ and intersex rights activist from Kosovo, holds a Pride tote bag while attending European Bank for Reconstruction and Development meeting in Samarkand, Uzbekistan. (Photo courtesy of Caspar

SAMARKAND, Uzbekistan — Uzbek authorities last week harassed an LGBTQ+ and intersex rights activist while he was attending a European Bank for Reconstruction and Development meeting that took place in the Central Asian country.

Nezir Sinani, who is from Kosovo, is the co-director of Re-course, which is based in the Netherlands. 

He said Uzbek police on May 17 “started harassing and intimidating me, stopping me from entering the meeting venue (in Samarkand) and confiscating meeting materials.”

“This included the Uzbek police calling the (European Bank for Reconstruction and Development) security officer asking for my info details,” said Sinani in a tweet.

May 17 was the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia, which marks the World Health Organization’s declassification of homosexuality as a mental disorder in 1990. Uzbekistan is among the more than 60 countries in which consensual same-sex sexual relations remain criminalized.

Caspar Veldkamp, an EBRD board member from the Netherlands, on May 17 posted a picture of him with Sinani and two other activists holding Pride tote bags. 

Sinani once he left Uzbekistan sent the Washington Blade a series of pictures that show security officials interrogating him outside the meeting. 

He is holding Pride-themed tote bags in two of the pictures. Sinani said he and the other activists used them “to keep meeting files to distribute to EBRD counterparts we met.”

“Tote bags were not forbidden in the venue, but were still confiscated only because they were Pride-themed,” he told the Blade.

Uzbek authorities on May 17, 2023, confiscated Nezir Sinani‘s Pride tote bags before they allowed him to attend a European Bank for Reconstruction and Development meeting in Samarkand, Uzbekistan. (Photos courtesy of Nezir Sitani)

Veldkamp in an email to the Blade said he has “been in touch with” Sinani and “shared his information with the EBRD’s office of the secretary general, which gathers information regarding several incidents, including a similar one regarding my own staff.”

“They will follow up with the Uzbek authorities,” said Veldkamp.

Veldkamp told the Blade that Uzbek authorities have yet to respond.

The EBRD’s 32nd annual Meeting and Business Forum took place in Samarkand from May 16-19.

The State Department’s 2022 human rights report notes “at least four cases” of authorities forcing men to undergo so-called anal exams between 2017-2020. Anvar Latipov, a gay man from Uzbekistan who the U.S. has granted asylum, last month told the Blade during an exclusive interview in D.C. that a group of vigilantes broadcast online a video of a man they forced to sit on a bottle.

‘Criminalization and discrimination is completely unacceptable’

The State Department report cites other activists who said “members of the LGBTQI+ community in Tashkent (the Uzbek capital) were being harassed by both local authorities and private citizens and were on ‘red alert,’ and were seeking to avoid going out in public” after a group of men attacked blogger Miraziz Bazarov in 2022. Latipov told the Blade that transgender Uzbeks and people with HIV/AIDS face additional discrimination and persecution.

The Uzbek government previously kicked the EBRD kicked out of Uzbekistan after it criticized the country’s human rights record. Latipov noted to the Blade the EBRD now has $2.4 billion in 69 active projects in the country.

Latipov spoke with the Blade while he was in D.C. to lobby the World Bank Group and other multilateral development banks to pressure the Uzbek government to stop its persecution of LGBTQ and intersex people. Sinani and two other activists — Irena Cvetkovic, executive director of Coalitions Margins in North Macedonia, and Amarildo Fecanji, the Albania-based executive director of ERA – LGBTI Equal Rights Association for Western Balkans — were with Latipov.

“In Samarkand I attended the annual meetings of the EBRD with the aim of raising awareness on the brutal policies of Uzbekistan toward the LGBTI community,” Sinani told the Blade in a lengthy statement. “EBRD has a role to play to include the LGBTI community in its development projects to be able to fully deliver on its mandate.”

Sinani said he met with EBRD President Odile Renaud-Basso, EBRD board members and management “as part of my engagement there.”

“The Uzbek police stopped me from entering the meeting venue following a speech I held at the main meeting of EBRD board of directors with the civil society representatives,” Sinani told the Blade. “The police confiscated tote bags we used to handout reading marerials to the counterparts we met. Materials raised awareness on the brutal crackdown of Uzbek government on the LGBTI community in the country.”

“The behavior of the Uzbek police is a reflection of the situation in the country toward the LGBTI community. In this case they harrased and intimated me for the sole reason of raising awareness on the situation on the ground. With the LGBTI community in the country they go harsh, way harsh. They imprison them after doctors establish their sexual orientation via anal examinations, which WHO regards as a form of torture,” he said. “Such criminalization and discrimination is completely unacceptable and EBRD, alone the other international finance institutions, need to condemn and demand from the Uzbek government to repeal the law that enables them to hunt down the LGBTI community.”

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Southern-Central Asia

Pakistan court rules against trans individuals as contrary to Sharia

In its determination the court found that “the Islamic teachings do not allow individuals to change their gender at their own will

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The Federal Shariat Court in Islamabad rules on revocation of rights of trans & gender-diverse people. (Screenshot/YouTube Pakistan National TV)

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – The Federal Shariat Court ruled May 19 to enact revocation of sections of the country’s Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, of 2018.

According to Pakistan media outlet ARY, the acting Chief Justice Syed Muhammad Anwar and Justice Khadim Hussain of the Federal Shariat Court Islamabad delivered the verdict that sections 2(f), 3 and 7 of the Transgender Act 2018 are against Islamic teachings, while Section 2(n) of the Transgender Act is not contrary to Sharia.

In its determination the court found that “the Islamic teachings do not allow individuals to change their gender at their own will. The verdict further maintained that an individual’s gender shall remain the same as assigned at birth.”

“This verdict is a blow to the rights of the already beleaguered group of transgender and gender-diverse people in Pakistan. Further, some of the observations made by the Court were based on presumptive scenarios rather than empirical evidence. The denial of essential rights of transgender and gender diverse persons should not be guided by assumptions rooted in prejudice, fear and discrimination,” Rehab Mahamoor, a spokesperson for Amnesty International, said in a statement.

The court’s ruling comes three months after the first trans female anchor on the independently owned and operated Kohenoor News Network escaped serious injury after two gunmen opened fire as she was returning to her residence after a trip to a local pharmacy.

Marvia Malik, who had made history in the conservative Muslim-majority nation as the first openly trans person on a television channel in 2018, told police investigators that she believed her activism LGBTQ+ rights was a “major factor” behind the assassination attempt citing several threatening calls prior to Friday’s attempt on her life.

The court’s ruling emphasized that gender cannot be determined solely based on feelings. The justices also noted that in the court’s opinion, the 2018 Act could pave the way for rape, and sexual assault of women as they allege the law “makes it easy for a man to gain access to exclusive spaces intended for women, disguised as a transgender woman.”

There is no publicly available evidence of such incidents taking place in Pakistan.

Pakistan is a country that is notorious for its human rights violations, and the LGBTQ and intersex community is one of the most vulnerable groups in the country. Despite the challenges, the community is fighting for their rights and slowly making progress.

Since homosexuality is illegal in Pakistan, the LGBTQ and intersex community is often forced into hiding. This makes it difficult to estimate the size of the community, but it is thought that there are tens of thousands of LGBTQ and intersex people living in Pakistan. Many of them live in wealthy areas of Karachi, the country’s largest city, without fear, as do community members in similar parts of Pakistan.

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Ireland

14 year-old schoolboy brutally beaten in Ireland for being gay

The boy, who was hospitalized after the assault, suffered from a concussion, broken teeth and a shoe print on his forehead

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Students from Beaufort College post primary school in Navan, County Meath, Ireland leaving campus in 2022. (Photo Credit: Beaufort College/Facebook)

NAVAN, County Meath, Ireland – A thirty second video that circulated on TikTok, Twitter, and Instagram this past week showed a young boy being jumped by a group of other young males, one punching the victim in the face, knocking him to the ground at which point the others joined in kicking and pummeling him.

A spokesperson for An Garda Síochána, the national police service of Ireland, told the Blade that the victim had been transported to Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda, where he was treated for serious facial injuries. The spokesperson also noted that the attack had taken place on Monday, May 15, 2023 at approximately 2.30 pm.

Some of the teens in the video are wearing school uniform jackets from Beaufort College, a post primary school in Navan, a medium-sized city located 54.3 km northwest of the Irish capital city of Dublin.

According to witnesses and in an interview with British LGBTQ+ Media outlet PinkNewsUK, the teen was attacked over his sexual orientation. A family member, who wanted to remain anonymous, said the victim had been verbally harassed since the beginning of the last term. “The whole family is aware of this, and that it’s been an ongoing issue,” the relative told PinkNewsUK.

The boy, who was hospitalized after the assault, suffered from a concussion, broken teeth and a shoe print on his forehead, the family member and the Garda confirmed.

A screenshot from the video on Twitter showing the moment the attack commenced.

“No 14-year-old should be beaten like that for anything at all, especially because of who he is. He is only a child and it happened across the road from a family member, where he was trying to get to, the family member told Irish media adding: “We are shocked, horrified and upset at what can happen in this day and age. It was a number of people against one boy, while others filmed it and posted it online. That is horrific and wrong.”

The Garda spokesperson confirmed that investigators are aware of the video online. “An Garda Síochána is aware of a video circulating on social media of this incident and out of respect for the victim in this case we would request that people refrain from sharing this video. An Garda Síochána is appealing to any person with information on the assault to contact Navan Garda Station at 046 9079930,” the spokesperson said.

The Irish Taoiseach, (prime minister), Leo Varadkar, who is openly gay himself, condemned the attack on the boy telling Irish media outlet RTÉ Radio 1 Wednesday that he hoped “everyone would condemn [the attack] utterly.” He added: “I want to send my solidarity to the person who was harmed and injured in this way. I would say to them that life does get better.

“It is very sad that people experience violence and bullying in school, but life does get better and I’d say not to give up. I would say how sad I am that in this day and age we still see this kind of bullying and violence in our schools.

“I understand there is a Garda investigation underway and that the victim has been treated for their injuries [and] I would ask anyone who has information to co-operate with the investigation.”

The Taoiseach also condemned the bystanders in the video who took no action to intervene and to stop the beating.

PinkNewsUK reported that five male teenagers were taken into custody by the Gardaí in Navan on Friday (19 May) and have been released without charge. 

A Gardaí spokesperson said: “Gardaí in Navan are continuing to investigate the assault of a teenage boy which occurred in Navan on Monday.

“Yesterday, Gardaí arrested five juvenile teenagers in the Navan area for alleged offences under Section 3 of the Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act, 1999. All five were detained under Section 4 of the Criminal Justice Act, 1984 at Garda Stations in the Meath Region.

“The five juvenile teenagers were later released without charge and a file will be referred in the first instance for consideration for admission to the Juvenile Diversion Programme in accordance with Part 4 of the Children Act, 2001.”

Ireland has a reputation for being LGBTQ+ friendly according to Rainbow Europe – ILGA-Europe’s annual benchmarking tool. It shows the Republic of Ireland as in the upper tier of European nations, being scored in seven thematic categories: equality and non-discrimination; family; hate crime and hate speech; legal gender recognition; intersex bodily integrity; civil society space; and asylum.

A recent article by Dylan O’Sullivan writing for Queer Majority noted that Ireland is considered the 9th most gay-friendly country in the world, the fourth country to elect an openly gay head of state, the first country to legalize same-sex marriage by popular vote, and the list goes on. And all this from a country that, as recently as 1993, considered homosexuality a criminal act.

Additional reporting by PinkNewsUK

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Asia

Taiwan Parliament bill allows gay couples to jointly adopt kids

Taiwan remains the only jurisdiction in Asia to have legalized same-sex marriage

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Legislative Yuan (parliament) of the Republic of China in Taipei, Taiwan (Photo Credit: Jiang 该用户能以地道的中文进行交流)

TAIPEI, Taiwan – A week before the fourth anniversary of Taiwan granting the legal right to same-sex couples to marry on 24 May 2019, the parliament of the island republic passed an amendment allowing same-sex couples to jointly adopt children.

The rights were an amendment to the same-sex marriage bill that passed its third reading in the Legislative Yuan without objection, AFP/France 24 reported.

The amendment establishes that the process for joint adoption is now procedurally identical for same-sex couples as it is for heterosexual couples under Taiwan’s civil code.

A Democratic Progressive Party legislator Hung Sun-han joyfully announced the news on Twitter.

Earlier this year, the government of Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen lifted restrictions on transnational same-sex marriage, allowing the island’s LGBTQ+ residents to marry partners from jurisdictions such as Japan or Hong Kong that have yet to legalize same-sex marriages.

Same-sex marriages between Taiwanese residents and those from mainland China are still prohibited. Taiwan remains the only jurisdiction in Asia to have legalized same-sex marriage.

“After four years of hard work, today the parliament finally passed the (bill for) adoption without blood relationship by same-sex couples,” the advocacy group Taiwan Alliance to Promote Civil Partnership Rights (TAPCPR) said in a statement.

The amendment comes after a family court in southern Kaohsiung City last year ruled in favour of a married gay man seeking to share parenthood of his husband’s adoptive child — the first verdict of its kind, AFP/France 24 reported.

Another Democratic Progressive Party lawmaker Fan Yun, draped in a rainbow flag, spoke to local media. “The amendment not only ensures the protection of children’s rights but also meets their best interest,” said Fan. “In the future, spouses and parents, regardless of gender and sexual orientation, can have full legal protection.”

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Africa

White House IDAHOBiT statement acknowledges LGBTQ+ rights advances, setbacks

World Health Organization declassified homosexuality as mental disorder on May 17, 1990

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President Joe Biden signs the Respect for Marriage Act at the White House on Dec. 13, 2022. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

WASHINGTON — The Biden-Harris administration on Wednesday used the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia to reiterate its support of LGBTQ+ and intersex rights.

“Everyone is entitled to be treated with dignity and equality — no matter whom they love, or how they identify,” said President Joe Biden in a statement the White House released. “On the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, and Transphobia, we reaffirm our commitment to this ongoing work and stand with lesbian, gay, bisexual, Transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) people around the world.”

IDAHOBiT commemorates the World Health Organization’s declassification of homosexuality as a mental disorder on May 17, 1990.

“More than 30 years ago today, thanks to the tireless advocacy of LGBTQI+ activists the World Health Organization took the long overdue step of declassifying ‘homosexuality’ as a mental health disorder,” said Biden. “Since then, we’ve seen real progress — including a powerful movement for LGBTQI+ liberation, more protections for LGBTQI+ people, and more spaces that recognize and affirm that our diversity is our strength. But sadly, we continue to see reminders of how much work remains.”

Biden in his statement notes consensual same-sex sexual relations remain criminalized in more than 60 countries around the world. Biden also points out that some governments still consider LGBTQ+ and intersex people mentally ill and support so-called conversion therapy.

“Right here at home, violent attacks on LGBTQI+ individuals and community spaces have risen dramatically, and more than 600 hateful laws have been introduced this year targeting the LGBTQI+ community, particularly youth,” said Biden. 

“All of us have a responsibility to speak out and stand up against hate and violence in any form,” added Biden. “When the rights of any group or individual are under attack, it endangers our own freedom, and the freedom of people everywhere. So today, let us join together across our country — and around the world — to stand with the LGBTQI+ community. Let us renew our work to combat homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia — and put an end to the harmful violence and discrimination that stems from it.”

Secretary of State Antony Blinken echoed Biden in his own IDAHOBiT statement.

“As we mark this year’s IDAHOBiT, the United States reaffirms our commitment to exposing the harm conversion therapy practices cause to LGBTQI+ persons,” said Blinken. “We reaffirm the importance of ensuring access to evidence-based healthcare without discrimination or stigma regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or sex characteristics. We recommit to opposing the criminalization of LGBTQI+ status or conduct, which can drive the pathologizing of LGBTQI+ persons and the practice of so-called conversion therapy. We confirm that conversion therapy practices are inconsistent with U.S. nondiscrimination policies and ineligible for support through taxpayer-funded foreign assistance grants and contracts.”

UNAIDS in its IDAHOBiT statement notes criminalization laws “hurt the public health of everyone, costing lives.” U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres on Wednesday acknowledged discrimination and violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity remains commonplace around the world.

“In every corner of the world, LGBTQI+ people continue to face violence, persecution, hate speech, injustice and even outright murder,” said Guterres. “Each assault on LGBTQI+ people is an assault on human rights and the values we hold dear.”

The U.N. LGBTI Core Group, a group of U.N. countries that have pledged to support LGBTQ+ and intersex rights, on Wednesday held an event in support of Transgender rights. Advocacy groups in the U.S. and around the world also acknowledged IDAHOBiT.

“We stand in solidarity with Afghan LGBTI people; advocating for love, acceptance and equal rights,” said the Afghan LGBT Organization on Instagram. “Let’s keep fighting together for a more inclusive and tolerant world.”

Rightify Ghana in its IDAHOBiT comments noted the Promotion of Proper Human Sexual Rights and Ghanaian Family Values Bill in the country’s Parliament that would, among other things, fully criminalize LGBTQ+ and intersex people and anyone who advocates for them. 

Reportar sin Miedo, the Washington Blade’s media partner in Honduras, reported activists organized an IDAHOBiT march in Tegucigalpa, the country’s capital. 

Cuba’s National Center for Sexual Education on May 13 organized a march with the theme “socialism yes, homophobia no” in which LGBTQ+ and intersex activists who do not work with CENESEX or its director, Mariela Castro, did not participate. Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras organizers on Wednesday urged Australians to sign a petition that calls upon lawmakers to enact hate crimes laws.

“There are no national laws and at the state level, SA (South Australia), WA (Western Australia) and VIC (Victoria) have no laws protecting the LGBTIQ+ community from hate speech and vilification,” reads the petition. “With attacks on the rise, especially against the trans community, there is urgent need for stronger measures to protect the community.”

Human Rights Campaign Director of Global Partnership Jean Freedberg on Tuesday told the Washington Blade during a telephone interview that IDAHOBiT is a day “when we really focus on the situation of LGBTQ+ people around the world and focus on the violence and discrimination that people continue to experience in their daily lives.”

“Every year we join with people in the United States and around the world to raise up our voices, to shine light on the issues that we all face and to look at ways that we can, as a global community, work together to keep striving forward, to protect our community for the future from harm, to lift up who we are and to keep moving forward to ensure dignity and respect for all LGBTQ+ people around the world,” said Freedberg.

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European Union

Dutch ambassador to U.S. reaffirms country’s commitment to LGBTQ+, intersex rights

Amsterdam Rainbow Dress displayed at Lincoln Memorial on Monday

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André Haspels (Photo courtesy of the Dutch Embassy)

WASHINGTON — Dutch Ambassador to the U.S. André Haspels on Tuesday said the Netherlands remains committed to LGBTQ+ and intersex rights in his country and around the world.

Haspels spoke with the Washington Blade a day after the embassy, the Capital Pride Alliance and the Amsterdam Rainbow Dress Foundation showcased the Amsterdam Rainbow Dress at the Lincoln Memorial.

The dress, which has a 52′ circumference, contains the flags of the 68 countries in which consensual same-sex consensual relations remain criminalized. 

The Netherlands in 2001 became the first country in the world to extend marriage rights to same-sex couples. The dress’ bodice, which is made with Amsterdam’s city flag, commemorates this watershed moment in the global LGBTQ+ and intersex rights movement.

A press release from the Dutch Embassy notes the dress was made in 2016 and was first displayed at Rotterdam Pride. 

Models in the U.S., Spain, South Africa, Greece, Australia and other countries have worn it. Makia Green, an LGBTQ+ and intersex rights activist, and Vagenesis, a drag performer and advocate, wore the dress while it was in D.C.

“We invited the Rainbow Dress to come over to the United States, to Washington, to show our support for LGBTIQ+ rights worldwide,” said Haspels. “What better location is there in front of the Lincoln Memorial, because LGBTIQ+ rights are part of a broader aspect of human rights.”

“The main issue is to focus on the importance of LGBTQI rights, and also understanding and promoting the fact that it is important to ensure freedom for everyone to decide whom they want to love and to identify and whom they want to identify with as they wish,” he added. “That’s our goal for the Amsterdam Rainbow Dress.”

The Amsterdam Rainbow Dress in D.C. on May 15, 2023. (Photo by Stephen Voss)

Haspels spoke with the Blade a day before the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, which commemorates the World Health Organization’s declassification of homosexuality as a mental disorder on May 17, 1990.

Kyiv Pride on Wednesday noted its staffers visited the Dutch Embassy in the Ukrainian capital, “where the flag of the LGBTIQ+ community was solemnly raised in honor of the Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia.”

“This was an extremely important event for our community,” tweeted Kyiv Pride.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on May 4 met with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte and other members of his government while he was in the country. Zelenskyy also visited the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

The ICC in March issued arrest warrants for Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russian Children’s Rights Commissioner Maria Lvova-Belova. The Netherlands-based court accuses them of abducting children from Ukraine. 

“It is important to continue to support Ukraine in many different ways,” Haspels told the Blade. “We continue to support them with military aid, with rehabilitation aid. We also receive refugees from Ukraine.”

Haspels said his government continues to gather “information about war crimes to make sure those who are responsible for this terrible war will be held accountable.” He also said the Netherlands continues to “welcome all Ukrainians, irrespective of their backgrounds, and who they are.”

“They are most welcome,” said Haspels.

The Amsterdam Rainbow Dress in D.C. on May 15, 2023. (Photo by Stephen Voss)

Haspels noted WorldPride 2026 will take place in Amsterdam. (The biennial event will take place in D.C. in 2025.) 

The Netherlands is a member of the Global Equality Fund, a U.S. initiative that seeks to promote LGBTQ and intersex rights around the world. Haspels pointed out to the Blade that his country also works with the European Union on these issues, and has invited activists from Uganda and other countries to the Netherlands.

Ugandan lawmakers earlier this month once again approved their country’s Anti-Homosexuality Act, which contains a death penalty provision for anyone found guilty of “aggravated homosexuality.” The Netherlands is among the countries that have urged Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni to veto the bill.

“We have to be honest, it’s not always an easy environment,” Haspels told the Blade in response to a question about the Anti-Homosexuality Act and supporting LGBTQ and intersex activists and rights around the world. “Sometimes you have to be cautious also not to bring people, in this case, Ugandan people, into danger.”

“It’s not easy, but we have no alternative than to continue focusing on these rights and strive for improvement,” he added.

‘We also can improve’

The Netherlands received a 56 percent score in the annual ILGA-Europe Rainbow Map and Index report that the European LGBTQ and intersex rights group last week. ILGA-Europe made three specific recommendations to the Dutch government.

         • Prohibiting medical interventions on intersex minors when the intervention has no medical necessity and can be avoided or postponed until the person can provide informed consent. 

         • Reforming the legal framework for legal gender recognition to be fair, transparent, based on a process of self-determination and free from abusive requirements (such as GID/medical diagnosis or age restriction.) 

         • Banning so-called “conversion practices” on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity.

Haspels acknowledged his government can do more to extend rights to LGBTQ and intersex people.

“There’s the law, and there’s the rules and regulations, which are very important,” he said. “We also can improve.”

Haspels noted there is “still a lot of legislation in preparation in order to improve the situation.” Haspels also specifically pointed to violence against LGBTQ and intersex rights activists where the “police did not act responsibly.”

“We’re struggling with that,” he said.

“There’s scope for improvement for my country as well, but again, I think the most important thing is to bring it out in the open, to start a discussion,” added Haspels. “That’s also the idea of the Rainbow Dress, and we’re also working together with United States. Also there in the United States, things can still be improved … We follow closely what’s going on in other countries, but the most important thing is to have a dialogue.”

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Asia

LGBT Center closed by government of China’s President Xi Jinping

In recent years the Chinese government has moved towards becoming more intolerant and homophobic towards LGBTQ people

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Beijing LGBT Center (Photo by Mitch Altman)

BEIJING, China – The government of Chinese President Xi Jinping continued its crackdown on the country’s LGBTQ+ minority, abruptly forcing closure of the Beijing LGBT Center Monday.

In a brief message posted to the Sina Weibo microblogging website and on its WeChat account the Center stated: “We very regretfully announce, due to forces beyond our control, the Beijing LGBT Center will stop operating today.” 

With its closure, the Beijing LGBT Center, which has been operating for fifteen years since it was founded in 2008, leaves China’s LGBTQ+ people with few resources to turn to. In November of 2021, prominent LGBTQ+ equality rights legal group LGBT Rights Advocacy China, co-founded by Peng Yanzi and A. Qiang in the city of Guangzhou in 2013, and focused its efforts on securing legal rights for LGBTQ individuals through strategic lawsuits in China’s legal system, indefinitely suspended operations.

That suspension taking place after previously in July of 2021, the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) permanently disabled and deleted dozens of LGBTQ student organizations WeChat accounts across China.

The accounts, which were primarily managed by students, advocate LGBTQ and gender equality, and providing support to LGBTQ students on university and college campuses.

The pages of those accounts now display the message: “According to internet regulations, we have screened all content and suspended this account.” The names of the accounts have been changed to “Unnamed.”

In a early morning phone call Wednesday local time to an activist in the Chinese capital who asked to not be identified, the Blade was told that there was an accelerated push by President Xi Jinping’s government to rein in LGBTQ+ groups and activists. The activist indicated that the center had published an article commemorating its 15 years of dedicated work last week, which “likely caught the scrutiny of both the Ministry of Civil Affairs and the Ministry of Public Security.”

“They are not the first group, nor are they the largest, but because Beijing LGBT Center was in Beijing, it represented China’s LGBT movement,” said another Chinese activist who requested anonymity out of fear for his safety to the Associated Press. “In our political, economic and cultural center, to have this type of organization. It was a symbol of the LGBT movement’s presence.”

A human rights activist from Hong Kong, who spoke to the Blade on the condition of remaining anonymous, pointed out that in recent years the government has moved towards becoming more intolerant and homophobic towards LGBTQ people.

Acceptance of LGBTQ individuals in China has varied historically. In modern China, homosexuality is neither a crime nor officially regarded as an illness in China. For decades, the legal status of consensual same-sex activity between men was ambiguous- although at one point consensual sexual acts between people of the same sex were banned under a law on hooliganism in 1979 with punishments ranging from imprisonment to execution. That was cleared up in the revised criminal code of 1997 as China moved to decriminalize homosexuality.

In 2001, the Chinese Society of Psychiatry removed homosexuality from its list of mental disorders. This is consistent with the consensus of global medical associations that homosexuality is not a medical condition. But same-sex marriage is still illegal and the topic remains taboo socially.

Chinese government officials increasingly push the narrative that LGBTQ+ culture is an imported “Western” idea, while expressing concern that the country’s big tech platforms are spreading subversive views and ideas that could upend traditional ideas of gender.

In an action promulgated by the government of President and General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party Xi Jinping this week, China’s National Radio and Television Administration (NRTA) ordered broadcasters to “resolutely put an end to sissy men and other abnormal esthetics.”

In the directive, the NRTA used the term “Niang pao” which means “girlie guns” — more commonly translated as “sissy” an offensive description of effeminate men. The directive is seen as taking direct aim at the idols of the Chinese music industry who tend to be in their late teens to mid twenties, are thin, and dress in what could be loosely deemed an androgynously ambiguous manner.

The nationwide crackdown on human rights lawyers and activists started in 2015 after Xi came to power.

Speaking with the Associated Press, the activist noted that police pressure on rights groups increased in the past few years, the activist said. Police often invited LGBTQ+ groups to “drink tea” — a euphemism for unofficial meetings that police use to keep track of certain targets. That used to happen in public spaces, but started taking place in private spaces, such as directly in front of activists’ homes. Police also started taking activists to the police station for these “teas.”

The Beijing LGBT Center has faced ongoing challenges to stay open throughout its existence, with obstacles arising from both funding limitations and political pressures. LGBTQ groups cannot register as non-governmental organizations in China, making it difficult to obtain government approval for events and secure external funding.

Because of those restrictions, groups like the Center have been forced to create fundraising events at local bars and or receive direct financial support from groups outside of China. The Center also began to rent out its space to other, related organizations on weekdays at below-market rates, effectively tapping into its biggest asset—its real estate.

In addition to this there was direct financial support from the Center’s sister organization, the Los Angeles LGBT Center.

This latest move is seen by some China-watchers as another in a decades long battle by Beijing to combat Western influences on the younger generations of Chinese.

Conservatives in Chinese society and government charge that young Chinese youth are turning into ‘soft boys,’ reflecting concern that the Chinese pop stars who have embraced the pop-culture phenomenon in part due to the influence of the South Korean pop music and all-encompassing genre known as K-Pop, are failing to encourage China’s young men to be masculine enough.

In some government circles the source told the Blade its seen as overtly homosexual and targeting young Chinese males. One area that has raised the ire of officials is video games.

Game developers already were required to submit new titles for government approval before they could be released. Officials have called on them to add nationalistic themes, the AP reported.

“There is a tendency in China for some people to relate homosexuality and LGBT people to Western lifestyles or capitalistic, bourgeois decadence, so this was in line with a moral panic,” said Hongwei Bao, an associate professor of media studies at the University of Nottingham and specialist in queer politics in China.

“Especially now, there’s tension between China-West relations, so there is likely to be a heightened sense of nationalism which sees LGBT issues, feminist issues, as Western, as unfit for China.”

A closeted gay government source told the Blade that world events factor in to the crackdowns. Citing the rising tensions with Taiwan and its closest ally, the United States as an example.

He noted that in addition to gay men and lesbians, the Center had opened its doors and resources to bisexual and transgender individuals, who themselves are minorities within the LGBT community and, as a result, face particular challenges.

“Their shutdown makes one feel very helpless. As groups large and small shut down or stop hosting events, there’s no longer a place where one can see hope,” said another Chinese activist who requested anonymity for fear of government retribution told the AP.

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Africa

Namibia Supreme Court rules government must recognize same-sex marriages performed abroad

Plaintiff couples sought spousal immigration rights

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From left: Daniel Digashu, his husband, Johann Potgieter and their son, pictured alongside Anita Seiler-Lilles and Anette Seiler. (Photo courtesy of Equal Namibia)

WINDHOEK, Namibia — A landmark ruling the Supreme Court of Namibia issued on Tuesday ruled that same-sex marriages conducted outside the southern African country should be recognized by the Namibian government. 

Two same-sex couples have emerged victorious in their fight for the recognition of their marriages conducted outside Namibia in a ruling that paves the way for equal rights and spousal immigration benefits for same-sex couples in the country.

The joint cases, initially brought before the court in March, involved South African national Daniel Digashu who is married to Namibian citizen Johann Potgieter, and German national Anita Seiler-Lilles, who is married to Namibian citizen Anette Seiler. 

The couples aimed to access essential spousal immigration rights, including permanent residence and employment authorization.

Both couples expressed relief following the ruling. 

“I feel like a huge weight has been lifted off of our shoulders. I feel that I can continue with life now, in a sense,” Digashu said. “I cannot explain just how relieved I am that we won’t have to make plans to leave. Now we can stop for a moment and breathe, and take things easy and just know that we are home and there is no potential of being forced to leave.”

For her part, Seiler said after a sleepless night in anticipation of the ruling, she and her wife look forward to celebrating a dream come true. 

“We are married and we promised each other that we will stay together no matter what and that promise we’ve upheld through this fight for this recognition of our marriage,” Seiler said. “We would’ve stayed together no matter what but we can stay together here in this beautiful country and we can make it our home country. That was Anita’s biggest wish and that’s my wish as well, and now this wish comes true. It’s so incredible.”

The Supreme Court’s ruling challenged a previous precedent set by the Immigration Selection Board. While acknowledging the binding nature of the precedent, the court asserted that it can depart from its own decisions if they are proven to be clearly wrong.

The court ruled that the Home Affairs and Immigration Ministry’s refusal to recognize same-sex marriages validly concluded outside Namibia violates the constitutional rights of the affected parties.

Furthermore, the court emphasized that the rights to dignity and equality are interconnected, and the denial of recognition for same-sex marriages undermines these fundamental principles. It reaffirmed the principle that if a marriage is lawfully concluded in accordance with the requirements of a foreign jurisdiction, it should be recognized in Namibia.

This ruling represents a significant milestone in the fight for LGBTQ+ and intersex rights in Namibia. By expanding the interpretation of the term “spouse” in the Immigration Control Act to include same-sex spouses legally married in other countries, the court has taken a crucial step toward achieving equality and inclusivity.

One of the five judges who heard the two appeals dissented from the majority ruling. 

He argued that Namibia is under no obligation to recognize marriages that are inconsistent with its policies and laws, emphasizing the traditional understanding of marriage and the protection of heteronormative family life.

The dissenting opinion highlights the ongoing divisions and complexities surrounding the issue of marriage equality in the country. While it underscores the need for continued dialogue and debate, the majority decision in favor of recognizing same-sex marriages highlights the importance of constitutional rights and the principle of equality. 

Southern African Litigation Center Executive Director Anneke Meerkotter commended the court’s decision. 

“The Namibian Supreme Court has set an important example, interpreting legislation in accordance with the core principles of constitutional interpretation and independent adjudication, thus avoiding irrelevant considerations relating to public opinion and unfounded allegations raised by the government about public policy,” Meerkotter said. “Instead, the court steered the argument back to the history of discrimination in Africa and the necessary constitutional reforms that emphasized transition to dignity and equality without discrimination.”

Speaking on what the ruling means for the LGBTQ+ and intersex community in Namibia, Seiler said it provides hope and inspiration not only to the couples involved but also to the broader community in Namibia and on the continent. 

“We know that we fought this battle not only for us. In the beginning we were fighting it for us, but then we realized it’s not only for us, it’s for other people as well. I’m glad that we did it, that we fought this fight,” she said. 

Both Seiler and Digashu said the support of the LGBTQ+ and intersex community and its allies has been a pillar of strength over the 6-year battle with the courts. 

“It has always been about the community because we deserve to have it all without being put down or being told this is not allowed. So, I think this is a big win for the community as a whole. It’s not about us, or just our families. It’s for absolutely everyone!” Digashu said.

Omar van Reenen, co-founder of Equal Namibia, a youth-led social movement for equality, said the ruling has strengthened the promise of equality and freedom from discrimination in the country. 

“The Supreme Court really made a resounding decision. It just feels like our existence matters — that we belong and that our human dignity matters,” he said. “The Supreme Court … has upheld the most important thing today and that is the constitution’s promise that everyone is equal before the law and that the rights enshrined in our preamble reign supreme, and equality prevails.” 

As the Supreme Court is the highest court in Namibia, decisions made in this court are binding on all other courts in the country unless it is reversed by the Supreme Court itself or is contradicted if Parliament passes a law that is enacted.

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