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TV Cameraman dies from injuries inflicted during anti-LGBTQ protest

The attacks were led by Pro-Putin nationalists and hooligans encouraged by members of the Georgian Orthodox Church

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Lekso Lashkarava (Photo Credit: Courtesy of TV Pirveli)

TBILISI, Georgia- A cameraman for Georgian television channel TV Pirveli has died, allegedly from injuries inflicted as he was covering the violent anti-Pride event earlier this month in the Georgian capital.

The attacks were led by Pro-Putin nationalists and hooligans encouraged by members of the Georgian Orthodox Church, who were also in attendance and proactively engaged in the violent protesting.

An editor for TV Pirveli told multiple media outlets that Lekso Lashkarava was found deceased by his mother on Sunday and that investigators from Ministry of Justice of Georgia were working to determine the cause of death. The Interior Ministry also issued a statement Monday acknowledging that the investigation had been opened into his death.

Los Angeles Blade screenshot of TV Pirveli social media post (translated)

Radio Free Europe/Liberty reported Monday that Lashkarava, 37, was one of nearly 60 journalists and other media workers who were attacked on July 5 when hundreds of people took to the streets of Tbilisi to block a planned LGBTQ Pride parade. He had suffered extensive facial injuries and had been sent to hospital but was later released.

The United States Embassy in the Georgian capital issued a formal statement on death of Lashkarava on Monday:

The U.S. Embassy in Tbilisi extends our deepest condolences to the family of Lekso Lashkarava, particularly to Lekso’s mother, and to his colleagues at TV Pirveli and all those who are shocked and saddened by his death.  Lekso worked behind the camera so despite his years of service as a media professional, many might not have recognized him before he was viciously attacked by people who demonstrated a complete lack of respect for human life.  His bravery as he defended his colleague and his commitment to the fundamental freedoms long cherished in this country represent the best qualities and traditions of the people of Georgia.

The arrest of several individuals in connection with the attack on Lekso is a positive first step toward justice.  The safety of every Georgian journalist and the credibility of democracy in Georgia require that every individual who attacked peaceful citizens and journalists on July 5 and 6, or who incited violence, must be identified, arrested, and prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

We call for calm and an end to the violence that has already caused one tragic loss of life.

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South America

Peru classifies transgender people as mentally ill

President Dina Boluarte signed decree on May 10

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Government Palace in Lima, Peru (Photo courtesy of the Peruvian government)

LIMA, Peru — The Peruvian government on May 10 published a decree that classifies transgender people as mentally ill.

Human Rights Watch on Wednesday noted the country’s Essential Health Insurance Plan that President Dina Boluarte, Health Minister César Vásquez and Economic and Finance Minister José Arista signed references “ego-dystonic sexual orientation.” The decree also notes, among other things, “transsexualism” and “gender identity disorder in childhood.

Human Rights Watch in its press release notes the Health Ministry subsequently said it does not view LGBTQ identities as “illnesses.” Peruvian LGBTQ+ advocacy groups, however, have sharply criticized the decree.

“This decision is an alarming setback in our fight for the human rights of trans people in Peru, and it represents a serious danger to our health and well-being,” said Miluska Luzquiños, a trans activist who works with the Latin American and Caribbean Network of Trans People, which is known by the Spanish acronym REDLACTRANS, on her Facebook page.

A lack of legal recognition and protections has left trans Peruvians vulnerable to discrimination and violence.

Luisa Revilla in 2014 became the first trans person elected in Peru when she won a seat on the local council in La Esperanza, a city in the northwestern part of the country. 

She left office in 2019. Revilla died from COVID-19 in 2021.

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Africa

Kenyan advocacy group offers safety tips to LGBTQ+ hookup app users

Blackmail, kidnappings and assaults are commonplace

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(Bigstock photo)

MOMBASA, Kenya — The growing cases of queer people in Africa becoming victims of blackmail, physical and sexual assault from online hook-ups have compelled a Kenyan LGBTQ+ rights group to work with the community to help it stay safe when using digital platforms.

Upinde Advocates for Inclusion held a 3-day training from May 11-14 to teach queer people about unsafe social media and dating app hook-up practices that suspected homophobes exploit.

The Mombasa-based group of which Lizzie Ngina is executive coordinator noted lesbian, bisexual and queer women, and gender non-conforming people are the most frequent targets online and on Grindr and other dating apps.

 “LBQ women and GNC persons confront major challenges in terms of digital security and data protection, freedom of expression, assembly, association, speech, privacy, protest and online organizing,” Upinde Advocates for Inclusion stated.

Although the digital platforms were seen as convenient meet-up places for LGBTQ+ people in overcoming physical anti-gay attacks, Upinde Advocates for Inclusion said anti-gay discrimination, marginalization, gender-based violence, misinformation, and disinformation limits LGBTQ+ and gender non-conforming people from accessing the social media services.    

Queer people while using dating apps and social media for hookups were, however, urged to first trust their intuition before deciding to have a physical meeting with people with whom they chat online.

“If it does not seem like someone you are messaging is using their true identity, they probably are not. In this case, do not agree to meet them in person,” Upinde Advocates for Inclusion warned. 

It asked LGBTQ+ users to ensure the first in-person meeting with someone they met online is in a public place that is queer-friendly and known to them. Upinde Advocates for Inclusion also advised queer people to inform their trusted friends or family about their meeting plans, the place, and how long they expect it will take place in order to ensure someone can intervene if something goes wrong.

“Organize your own means of transport to and from the meeting, and do not accept a free ride from a stranger,” the group warned. “Also, do not move to a secondary location if you feel unsure during the meeting.” 

Upinde Advocates for Inclusion also warned queer app users to remain sober during the meeting and cautioned against leaving their food or drinks unattended in order to avoid any potential risks associated with spiking.

The National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, Ishtar-MSM and other Kenyan LGBTQ+ advocacy groups that offer legal aid to queer people last year reported about 100 cases of blackmail, extortion, physical and sexual assault against their members by suspected homophobes they met on dating apps and social media.

The two organizations this month noted 10 of the cases are expected before courts soon, although they said most victims of anti-gay attacks don’t report them to the authorities because they fear further stigmatization and discrimination. Consensual same-sex sexual relations also remain criminalized in Kenya. 

Targeting the LGBTQ+ community on digital platforms and dating apps is not unique to Kenya.

The Washington Blade last month reported it is still risky for queer Nigerians to search for a partner or to use gay dating apps infiltrated by homophobes who lure them to meet in-person and then rob or assault them. South African authorities last year arrested four men in connection with the targeting of Grindr users.

LGBTQ+ Kenyans urged to protect themselves at protests

Upinde Advocates for Inclusion in their workshop taught participants about the signs that suspected homophobes or their associates have compromised their devices. They include unusual activities on their cell phones that include calls with untraced history, disappearing blank messages, blinking screens, high data consumption, devices that overheat when not in use and echo when picking calls and quick battery depletion with minimal use.

“If you suspect your device is compromised, do not format or reset it, log out all the accounts, find an alternative device to use, change the password for the accounts on the device, and do not connect the gadget to any other devices,” Upinde Advocates for Inclusion warned. 

The group also taught queer people about how they should conduct themselves when taking part in street protests amid anti-gay attacks. Upinde Advocates for Inclusion advised them to always to identify safe alternative routes to and from the protests, wear comfortable running shoes, and always carry a spare outfit that is not LGBTQ+-specific.

“If you are in a group, always strategize on having a meeting point should there be any danger or should you get separated,” the group stated. “Also, try to split up responsibilities among the group so that one person can’t be targeted.”

Upinde Advocates for Inclusion also urged queer people to always leave a protest before it ends, to have an emergency contact on speed dial or memorize it for immediate help in case of danger and to always to keep in touch with a trusted contact who is familiar with the protest but not attending it. 

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European Union

Gay man from Ukraine struggles to rebuild life in Berlin

Dmytro Shapoval arrived in Germany in March 2022

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Dmytro Shapoval in Berlin on April 15, 2024. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Editor’s note: International News Editor Michael K. Lavers was on assignment in Berlin from April 12-15.

BERLIN — A gay Ukrainian man with HIV who fled his war-torn country more than two years ago remains in Berlin.

Dmytro Shapoval first spoke with the Washington Blade in July 2022.

He was working at an IT company’s call center and studying web and UX design in Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital, when Russia launched its war against his country on Feb. 24, 2022. Shapoval less than a month later swam across a river with his cat Peach and entered Poland.

He arrived in the German capital on March 19, 2022.

“I feel very secure here,” said Shapoval when he first spoke with the Blade on July 22, 2022, during a reception that took place at the end of a two-day meeting with European activists the Organization for Refuge, Asylum and Migration organized.

Shapoval again spoke with the Blade on April 15 while he was at ORAM’s offices near Berlin’s Potsdamer Platz.

He said he was sleeping on a mattress on the kitchen floor of a Ukrainian friend’s apartment in Berlin’s Wedding neighborhood, while looking for a more permanent place to live. 

Shapoval had just finished an IT course at a private university, but told the Blade he “was not in that headspace to study” because of the depression from which he said he suffers. Shapoval also told the Blade the German government has postponed his residency permit for a year.

“It’s challenging,” he said.

Germany has granted temporary protection to nearly 1 million Ukrainians

The German government has granted temporary protection to more than 900,000 Ukrainians since the war began. (The U.N. Refugee Agency says there are 2.2 million refugees in Germany.)

Ukrainians are able to enter Germany without a visa.

The German government offers those who have registered for residency a “basic income” that helps them pay for housing, food and other basic needs. Ukrainian refugees can also access health care, language classes, job training programs and childcare. 

Shapoval and other single Ukrainian refugees receive €563 ($609.30) a month through the program.

Shapoval told the Blade it is difficult for him to find a job because his legal status remains uncertain. He also complained about German bureaucracy, which he described as “such a hell here.”

A memorial to Ukrainians who have died during Russia’s war against their country in Berlin on April 13, 2024. The memorial was across the street from the Russian Embassy. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Shapoval’s mother remains in Dnipro, a city on the Dnipro River that is roughly 300 miles southeast of Kyiv.

He said the first year of the war was “pretty quiet” in Dnipro because it is not as big as Kyiv, Kharkiv, Odesa and other Ukrainian cities. Shapoval said the situation in Dnipro changed last fall.

Shapoval told the Blade a Russian missile hit a nine-story civilian building in the city.

“I had the worst day of my life because I knew that my mom was going to Dnipro,” he said.

Shapoval said the building the missile hit struck was close to his grandmother’s home.

“I was so horrified,” he told the Blade. “I was trying to call her to get in touch. She was not answering at all.”

Shapoval said his grandmother called him several hours after the attack. She told him the missile strike damaged the city’s communications infrastructure.

“It’s pretty horrible,” said Shapoval.

Shapoval spoke with the Blade hours before Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky signed a controversial conscription law that seeks to replenish the country’s military. Zelensky last month also enacted a statute that lowers the minimum draft age from 27 to 25.

Shapoval said he does not want to go into the military, and has thoughts that he would die in the war. Shapoval also told the Blade he does not watch news reports about Ukraine because they exacerbate his depression.

“Just seeing these buildings destroyed and sometimes (at night when) people are sleeping there, or also (seeing) news about kids being stolen into Russia and then brainwashed there in these camps … is really bad,” he said.

Dmytro Shapoval in Berlin on July 22, 2022. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

‘You’re a white refugee, so everything’s fine’

Shapoval noted support for Ukrainian refugees in Germany has begun to wane.

He recalled a conversation he had at a queer bookstore in Berlin’s Kreuzberg neighborhood during which someone who he described as German asked him what its like to be a refugee.

“Without even letting me answer without any space, he’s like, ‘Oh, but you’re a white refugee, so everything’s fine,'” recalled Shapoval.

Hamas on Oct. 7, 2023, launched a surprise attack against Israel. 

Shapoval said the Israel-Hamas war in the Gaza Strip has pushed the conflict between Ukraine and Russia and the plight of Ukrainian refugees out of the headlines. He also recalled an exchange he had with a Syrian woman with whom he had become friends in Berlin after Oct. 7.

Shapoval said she wrote in an Instagram post that “one or two years of war in Ukraine, this amount of kids died and two months of war in Palestine, this amount of kids died.”

“I’m like, what the fuck is that?” he recalled. “It’s not a competition of dead babies.”

“The fact you put two in comparison already makes one side less valuable and one side more valuable, but it’s also different pain,” added Shapoval. “I know that it is also horrible there … it seems like people are not understanding that.”

Shapoval said he reached out to her and tried to explain his perspective.

“It’s a bit hard right now,” he told the Blade.  

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Africa

Uganda’s president meets with US ambassador

Unclear whether William Popp raised Anti-Homosexuality Act

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Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni meets with U.S. Ambassador to Uganda William Popp on May 10, 2024. (Photo courtesy of Museveni's X account)

Editor’s note: This article has been updated.

ENTEBBE, Uganda — Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni on May 10 met with U.S. Ambassador to Uganda William Popp.

Museveni in a post to his X account described the meeting, which took place at his official residence in Entebbe, as “productive.”

“We discussed key issues, such as the upcoming Census, regional peace, and socio-economic development. I emphasized the need for an inclusive census for informed decision-making,” said Museveni. “I also shared my views on fostering peace and security in the region. Additionally, we discussed opportunities in transitioning our population from a rural-based pre-capitalist society to industry and services.”

statement the Ugandan Foreign Affairs Ministry released noted Popp “conveyed his appreciation for the president’s valuable time and wise counsel.” 

“He also acknowledged President Museveni’s extensive knowledge and experience, underscoring the importance of their continued dialogue in fostering a strong and mutually beneficial relationship between the United States and Uganda,” said the statement.

The statement further notes Foreign Affairs Minister Jele Odongo; Defense and Veterans Affairs Minister Jacob Oboth-Oboth; Rosette Byengoma of the Defense Ministry; and Lt. Gen. Samuel Okiding, who is deputy chief of the Ugandan defense forces, attended the meeting.

The meeting took place nearly a year after Museveni signed the Anti-Homosexuality Act that, among other things, contains a death penalty provision for “aggravated homosexuality.”

The U.S. has sanctioned Ugandan officials and removed the country from a duty-free trade program. The World Bank Group also suspended new loans to Uganda in response to the Anti-Homosexuality Act.

The Ugandan Constitutional Court last month refused to “nullify the Anti-Homosexuality Act in its totality.” A group of Ugandan LGBTQ+ activists have appealed the ruling.

It is not clear whether Popp raised the Anti-Homosexuality Act with Museveni during their meeting.

“We do not discuss the details of private diplomatic engagements; however, we have regularly raised with the highest levels of Ugandan government U.S. government concerns about democratic space, rule of law, and respect for human rights for all Ugandans, including members of the LGBTQI+ community in relation to the 2023 Anti-Homosexuality Act,” a State Department spokesperson told the Washington Blade on Wednesday.

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World

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

LGBTQ+ news stories from around the globe including Eurovision, United Kingdom, Poland, South Korea & Australia

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Los Angeles Blade graphic

EUROVISION

Eurovision Song Contest 2024: Nemo’s Press Conference (Screenshot/YouTube)

MALMO, Sweden – Swiss Singer Nemo won the Eurovision Song Contest with their operatic pop-rap song “The Code,” about their journey to accepting their nonbinary identity. 

“I went to Hell and back, To find myself on track, I broke the code,” Nemo sang in the chorus of his winning song.

Dressed in a frilly pink blouse and miniskirt, Nemo dazzled the audience at the Malmo Arena in Sweden, home to last year’s winner, Loreen.

Nemo’s win is the first win for Switzerland since Canadian singer Celine Dion competed under the Swiss flag in 1988.

The Eurovision Song Contest is an annual competition held by the European Broadcasting Union since 1956, in which representatives of all member states present original songs. The entrants are voted upon by a panel of judges and by viewing audiences, who award points to their ten favorite performances. 

Over the years, the competition has become well-known as a camp spectacle and a favorite event for the European LGBT community, with many high-profile queer competitors and winners, including Austrian drag queen Conchita Wurst, who returned to this year’s show to perform a tribute to ABBA, who won the competition for Sweden with the song “Waterloo” in 1974.

This year’s UK entrant was openly gay performer Olly Alexander, formerly of the band Years & Years. His song “Dizzy,” a homoerotic pop-dance track that featured a quartet of dancing boxers, finished in 18th place with only 46 points, after receiving no points from the voting audience.

This year’s competition was not without controversy. 

The venue was met with a large protest demanding that Israel, which has competed in Eurovision since 1973, be removed from the competition due to the ongoing war in Gaza. Additional security measures were put in place for the competition

Israel’s entrant, Edan Golan, had been a favorite early in the competition, but her song “Hurricane” finished fifth. The song had also drawn controversy, and Golan was ordered to change the title and lyrics by the EBU from “October Rain” due to its references to the October 7 attacks on Israel. 

Golan travelled with agents of the Israeli Security Agency Shin Bet after death threats were made on her social media. 

Additionally, Dutch performer Joost Klein was disqualified ahead of the final competition after an alleged altercation with a female production staffer that has led to a police investigation.

UNITED KINGDOM

Actor Ian Gelder is best known for his role as Kevan Lannister in the HBO series Game of Thrones. (Screenshot/YouTube)

LONDON, United Kingdom – Actor Ian Gelder, best known for his role as Kevan Lannister in the HBO series Game of Thrones has passed away at age 74, five months after he was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer.

Gelder’s husband Ben Daniels announced his passing in a post on Instagram on Tuesday.

“It is with huge, huge sadness and a heavy heart broken into a million pieces that I’m leaving this post to announce the passing of my darling husband and life partner Ian Gelder,” Daniels wrote in the caption of a photo taken of the couple at Christmas, shortly after Gelder’s first round of treatment for his cancer.

“He was my absolute rock and we’d been partners for more than 30 years. If we weren’t together, we spoke to each other every day. He was the kindest, most generous spirited and loving human being. He was a wonderful, wonderful actor and everyone who worked with him was touched by his heart and light,” Daniels wrote.

Gelder was diagnosed with bile duct cancer in December. Such cancers are often not detected by health care providers until they have spread to other parts of the body. 

Gelder had a long career in film and television and on the British stage, frequently appearing on London’s West End and Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. 

Among his numerous television appearances was a stint on the Doctor Who spinoff Torchwood, and the celebrated UK sitcom Absolutely Fabulous.

POLAND

Polish Equalities Minister Katarzyna Kotula, center, with two participants of the Equality March in Łódź. (Photo Credit: Equalities Minister Katarzyna Kotula/Facebook)

ŁÓDŹ, Poland – Declaring that she would “go to hell and make a deal with the devil” to advance the rights of Poland’s LGBTQ community, Equalities Minister Katarzyna Kotula joined the Equality March in Łódź, the country’s fourth-largest city, on May 11.

The March was the 13th edition of the event, and the first time it had been attended by a government minister. 

Last year, Poland elected a new government coalition of center-left leaning parties that have pledged to support LGBT rights, a sharp contrast to the right-wing, LGBT-hostile government that preceded them. 

Still, the government has been slow to act on its stated promises to the LGBT community, including a law on civil unions, a ban on hate speech, and a gender recognition act, amid squabbling from more conservative members of the coalition. 

Kotula has said that she’s waiting to introduce the civil union bill until she can get agreement from the coalition on key sticking points, including adoption rights. 

“For civil partnerships, for marriage equality, for the Gender Reconciliation Act, for dignity and human rights for the LGBT community, I will go to hell and make a pact with the devil. I promise that when we meet here next year, at least some of these demands will be implemented,” Kotula said at the March. “I will do everything to take care of your dignity and your safety.”

The organizers of the march, The Equality Factory, are calling for even greater rights, including full marriage equality, abortion and contraception rights, comprehensive sex education in schools, and facilitation of medical treatment for gender transition. 

“We are marching because words about equality cannot be thrown around. We are not a bargaining chip. We were promised something and the election promises should be fulfilled. The most important requirement to be implemented is the Act on civil partnerships. This is not only about LGBTQ+ people, but also about protecting heterosexual people in relationships, because there is no such thing as cohabitation in Polish law. This should be important for all Poles,” Ida Mickiewicz-Florczak from the Equality Factory told the Polish news site Odaka.

Even if the civil partnership law passes through Parliament, it may face a veto from President Andrzej Duda of the opposition Law and Justice Party, which has vociferously opposed LGBT rights. So far, Duda, who will be in office until presidential elections in May 2025, has not indicated how he will act on the bill, stating he’s waiting until it is introduced to comment.

SOUTH KOREA

Seoul Queer Culture Festival 2022 (Screenshot/YouTube)

SEOUL, South Korea – The Seoul Queer Culture Festival has found a new home after two years of struggle with the city council repeated denying permits for the annual festival.

The Queer Culture Festival had been held at Seoul Plaza at city hall ever since 2015, but last year it was denied a permit, which the conservative-leaning city council decided to give to a Christian youth concert instead. This year, the city council has announced that the plaza is being used for a outdoor library all through spring and summer, effectively blocking all event applications.

“I think Seoul city is focusing on events that only suit its taste,” Yang Sun-woo, chief organiser of the festival, told Reuters. “If Seoul cared about LGBT people, they would have understood the significance of the event,” Yang said.

In response, organizers of the Queer Culture Festival have decided this year’s edition will take place on a several blocks in downtown Seoul, which only required the permission of police, rather than city council.

The festival, which takes place over two weeks in June, kicks off with a parade on June 1 and will feature a queer film festival, live performances, and 60 booths for vendors and interactive events.

For its part, Seoul City Council denies that anti-LGBT discrimination played a part in its decision to twice deny permits for the event. 

The city government said it is “always listening to voices and providing necessary support to protect human rights of LGBTQ people as members of society,” in a statement.

The Queer Culture Festival was also denied a permit by the Seoul History Museum.

The US Embassy in Seoul will also support the event, as it has in previous years.

“As in past years, embassy representatives will join in Pride events worldwide, including here in the Republic of Korea, to raise awareness of the challenges faced by LGBTQI+ individuals,” the embassy told Reuters in a statement.

AUSTRALIA

City Council building, Cumberland, New South Wales. (Photo Credit: Cumberland NSW Government)

SYDNEY, Australia – Cumberland, New South Wales drew international headlines this week after its city council voted 6-5 to ban books on same-sex parenting from local libraries. Four councilors were not present for the May 1 vote.

The motion amends the council’s library strategy to order “That Council take immediate action to rid same sex parents books/materials in Council’s library service.”

The move from the council, which represents around 250,000 people in the western suburbs of Sydney, was swiftly condemned by residents, LGBT leaders, and representatives of the state government.

New South Wales Attorney-General Michael Daley has referred the motion to the state’s Anti-Discrimination Board for advice, while Arts Minister John Graham has warned the council that the new policy directive puts state library funding for the council in jeopardy, as it would breach public library guidelines. He’s asked council to reconsider the ban.

“It’s a terrible message to send, to have this councilor importing this US culture war into our country and playing it out on the shelves of the local library,” Graham said on a morning television show. “I think the community expectations are clear — the local councilor should be coming around to pick up their bin, not telling them what to read.”

Cumberland’s local council is dominated by the relatively LGBT-friendly Australian Labor Party, but the motion from Our Local Government Party Councilor Steve Christou carried with support from Liberal-Party-affiliated Independents and a single vote from a Labor councilor, who has since been condemned by the party.

The move comes just a few months after the same council voted to ban drag queen storytime events at local libraries.

Christou says the motion was inspired after he received complaints from constituents who saw the book Same-Sex Parents by Holly Duhig on display in the children’s section of a library. The book explores what it’s like to have two moms or two dads from a child’s perspective.

During the debate on the motion, Christou alleged that the book “sexualized” children and repeated dog-whistle allegations against queer people and parents.

“We’re going to make it clear tonight that … these kind of books, same-sex parents books, don’t find their way to our kids,” Christou said, according to The Guardian. “Our kids shouldn’t be sexualised.”

Christou said the proposed amendment was “for the protection and safety of our children”.

“Hands off our kids,” he repeated.

Christou has said the amendment was demanded by his community, which he says is a “very religious community,” despite the fact that a petition against the amendment garnered more than 10,000 signatures in 24 hours.

“This community is a very religious community, a very family-orientated community.

“They don’t want such controversial issues going against their beliefs indoctrinated to their libraries. This is not Marrickville or Newtown, this is Cumberland city council.”

The petition was launched by a Cumberland area grandmother to what she describes as a “rainbow family” Caroline Staples. Staples will present her petition to council on May 15. 

Global LGBTQ+ news gathering & reporting by Rob Salerno 

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Africa

South African president signs hate crimes, hate speech law

Advocates largely welcome new statute

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South African President Cyril Ramaphosa during a campaign stop speaking with attendees at the ANC Party Rally on May 10, 2024 in Tshwane, Gauteng, SA (Office of President Cyril Ramaphosa/Facebook)

PRETORIA, South Africa — South African LGBTQ+ organizations have welcomed a new law that seeks to combat hate crimes and hate speech.

President Cyril Ramaphosa on May 9 signed the Preventing and Combating of Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill that had been introduced in 2018.

According to the new law; the direct or indirect unfair discrimination against anyone on the grounds of age, albinism, culture, disability, ethnic or social origin, gender, HIV status, language, nationality, migrant, refugee status, asylum seekers, occupation, trade, political affiliation, conviction, race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, sex characteristics or skin color is a criminal offense punishable by a fine or up to eight years in prison.

“A hate crime is committed if a person commits any recognized offense under any law that is motivated by prejudice or intolerance based on one or more characteristics or perceived characteristics of the victim, as listed in the legislation or a family member of the victim,” said the president’s office. “The law also makes it an offense when speech material is intentionally distributed or made available in electronic communication, and the said person knows that such electronic communication constitutes hate speech.”

Crimen injuria, the unlawful and intentional impairing of dignity or privacy of another person under common law, was in place before the new law. Crimen injuria, which to extent protected some forms of hate against the LGBTQ+ community, is still active.

The Preventing and Combating of Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill, however, is more comprehensive in the sense that it particularly focuses on hate speech and hate crimes, and therefore makes it easier to seek legal recourse than under crimen injuria.

“As Out, we commend President Cyril Ramaphosa on the move that he has made in making sure that the rights of LGBTQ+ persons are protected. We, as Out, also hope that other African countries can learn from this historic milestone that all people are equal and that their rights should be protected,” said Out LGBT South Rights Human Rights Coordinator Sibonelo Ncanana. 

Ncanana specifically applauded Deputy Justice and Constitutional Development Minister John Jeffrey and the working group that helped secure the bill’s passage.

“We hope that all government departments will enforce the mandate of the act,” said Ncanana. “We also hope that it will help in decreasing the amount of hate crimes that are happening in South Africa, create safer communities, and that LGBTQ+ people will find themselves safe.”

Ruth Maseko of Umndeni LGBTI Group and the Triangle Project said the new law creates a precedent of what constitutes hate crime and the repercussions.

“We are delighted at the passing of the bill after so many years, as it creates a legal definition of hate crimes,” said Maseko. “This now puts in place mechanisms for authorities to collect and report details about these incidents of hate for the effective monitoring, analysis of trends, and appropriate interventions that are needed.”

Maseko added that although the new law will aid in giving the courts a framework to work in when handling cases of hate, it will not really deter people from committing those crimes.

“The new law will provide quantitative and qualitative data as currently we have no way of telling how many of these crimes are committed. The only way we know, is when they are reported to a civil society organization or are reported in the media,” said Maseko.

“Although it will do nothing to change the attitudes of people who act out in these ways, the law does send out a message that hate crimes will not be tolerated in South Africa and will provide additional tools to investigators and prosecutors to hold perpetrators accountable for their actions,” added Maseko.

The law, however, does not consider actions undertaken in good faith as part of hate speech. They include artistic creativity, performance or other form of expression, academic or scientific inquiry fair, and accurate reporting or commentary in the public interest. 

It also excludes interpretation and articulating or espousing of any religious conviction, tenet, belief, teaching, doctrine or writing that does not advocate hatred or constitutes incitement to cause harm. The law also contains directives on training and other measures to be undertaken by the South African Police Service and the National Prosecuting Authority to ensure effective processing of the newly defined crimes. 

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South America

Lesbian couple dead after arson attack in Buenos Aires

LGBTQ groups in Argentina described the blaze as a hate crime because he had already threatened to kill the women because they are lesbians

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Screenshot from Policía de la Ciudad de Buenos Aires [Buenos Aires City Police] video taken after the arson firebombing of the room in the boarding hotel where Pamela Cobbas, her partner Mercedes Roxana Figueroa, and temporarily Sofía Castro Riglos and Andrea Amarante lived in the Barracas neighborhood of Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Editor’s note: Andrea Amarante on Sunday died from injuries she sustained in the fire.

By Esteban Rioseco | BUENOS AIRES, Argentina – Two people died and at least five others were injured on Monday when a man threw a Molotov cocktail into the room of a Buenos Aires boarding house in which two lesbian couples lived.

The fire took place at around 1 a.m. in a house at 1600 Olavarría St., between Isabel la Católica and Montes de Ocoa in Buenos Aires’s Barracas neighborhood. The blaze forced roughly 30 people to evacuate, and the injured were taken to local hospitals.

Police say Justo Fernando Barrientos, 68, sprayed fuel and set fire to the room where Mercedes Figueroa, 52, lived together with Pamela Fabiana Cobas, 52, and Sofía Castro Riglos, 49, and Andrea Amarante, 42.

Figueroa and Cobas both died. Castro and Amarante are hospitalized at Penna Hospital in Buenos Aires.

Witnesses say the fire started on the second floor when Barrientos threw a Molotov cocktail inside the women’s room, and it soon spread throughout the property. LGBTQ organizations in Argentina have described the blaze as a hate crime because Barrientos had already threatened to kill the women because they are lesbians.

“We are in a rather complex context, where from the apex of power, the president himself and his advisors and downwards permanently instill a hate speech, instilling it when they close the (National Institute Against Discrimination, Xenophobia and Racism or INADI), stigmatizing the population that is there and the vulnerable groups,” Congressman Esteban Paulón, a well-known LGBTQ activist, told the Washington Blade.

“All this is generating a climate of violence,” he said. “The fact that it happened in the city of Buenos Aires, which is terrible … has to be investigated.”

Paulón said President Javier Milei’s government has installed in the public discourse speeches and actions against the LGBTQ community that have provoked more violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity. 

“All that is installed … and then there are people who fail to make a mediation of that, that fail to make a critical analysis of that and can end up generating an act of hatred like this, which is tragic and that already took the lives of two people,” he said.

The Argentine LGBT+ Federation on social media said it was looking for the victims’ families and friends, but has yet to be able to connect with them.

“We are going to stand by them, making ourselves available for whatever they and their families need, and we will closely follow the court case so that there is justice,” said the organization. “But we cannot fail to point out that hate crimes are the result of a culture of violence and discrimination that is sustained on hate speeches that today are endorsed by several officials and referents of the national government.”

100% Diversidad y Derechos, another advocacy group, demanded the investigation address the attack “with a gender perspective and as motivated by hatred towards lesbian identity.”

Barrientos has been arrested, and will be charged with murder. Activists have requested authorities add discrimination and hate provisions to the charges.

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Photo Credit: Movilh

Esteban Rioseco is a Chilean digital communicator, LGBT rights activist and politician. He was spokesperson and executive president of the Homosexual Integration and Liberation Movement (Movilh). He is currently a Latin American correspondent for the Washington Blade.

On Oct. 22, 2015, together with Vicente Medel, he celebrated the first gay civil union in Chile in the province of Concepción.

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Canada

Ugandan LGBTQ+ activist asks for asylum in Canada

Steven Kabuye stabbed outside his home on Jan. 3

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Steven Kabuye (Photo via X)

TORONTO — A prominent Ugandan activist who was stabbed outside his home earlier this year has asked for asylum in Canada.

Two men on motorcycles attacked Steven Kabuye, co-executive director of Coloured Voice Truth to LGBTQ Uganda, on Jan. 3 while he was going to work. 

Kabuye posted a video to his X account that showed him on the ground writhing in pain with a deep laceration on his right forearm and a knife embedded in his stomach.

He spoke with the Washington Blade from Kenya on Jan. 8 while he was receiving treatment. Kabuye arrived in Canada on March 6.

Kabuye during an April 27 telephone interview with the Blade from Canada said Rainbow Railroad, a group that works with LGBTQ+ and intersex refugees, helped him “get away from the dangers that were awaiting me in Kenya and Uganda.” Kabuye said he asked for asylum in Canada because he “cannot return to either Uganda or Kenya.”

“The Ugandan government fails to get the culprits who wanted to end my life,” he said.

Kabuye told the Blade that Ugandan police officials threaten his colleagues when he publicly speaks about his case.

“Every time I come up and demand for the police to act out, they end up calling the colleagues of mine that remain in Uganda and intimidate them so they can scare me off, so they can make me pack up and keep quiet,” he said.

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni last May signed his country’s Anti-Homosexuality Act that, among other things, contains a death penalty provision for “aggravated homosexuality.” 

Canadian Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly described the law as a “blatant violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of LGBTQ+ Ugandans.”

The U.S. has sanctioned Ugandan officials and removed the country from a duty-free trade program. The World Bank Group also suspended new loans to Uganda in response to the Anti-Homosexuality Act.

The Ugandan Constitutional Court last month refused to “nullify the Anti-Homosexuality Act in its totality.” A group of Ugandan LGBTQ+ activists have appealed the ruling.

“The previously concluded ruling did not make a difference,” said Kabuye.

Kabuye told the Blade he has an interview with Canadian immigration officials on Friday. He said he will continue to advocate on LGBTQ+ Ugandans from Canada. 

“I’m very grateful to Rainbow Railroad,” said Kabuye. “They’ve still given me a chance to continue my advocacy.”

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Middle East

Tel Aviv’s annual Pride parade cancelled

‘This is not the time for celebrations’

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Tel Aviv's 2023 Pride parade (Photo courtesy of Shlomi Yosef/Tel Aviv-Yafo Municipality)

WDG is the Washington Blade’s media partner in Israel. This article originally ran on their website on Wednesday.

TEL AVIV, Israel — Tel Aviv-Yafo authorities on Wednesday announced the cancellation of Tel Aviv’s annual Pride parade.

The municipality said it will instead hold a rally as a sign of pride, hope, and freedom.

The decision was made after municipality representatives consulted with LGBTQ+ community organizations, LGBTQ+ party promoters, and venue owners in the city. Possible alternatives to the Pride parade were discussed. 

Mayor Ron Huldai in a post he published expressed the self-evident reasons for making the change.

“This is not the time for celebrations,” Huldai wrote. “In coordination with the organizations of the LGBTQ community, we decided that this year, instead of the Pride parade, we will hold a rally in Tel Aviv-Yafo as a sign of pride, hope, and freedom. 132 of our sons and daughters are still kidnapped in Gaza, the circle of bereavement is expanding every day, and we are in one of the most difficult periods of the State of Israel.”

“Tel Aviv-Yafo is the home of the LGBTQ community, it was and always will be,” he added. “Out of our great commitment to the community, this year we decided to divert part of the budget intended for the production of the Pride parade in favor of the activities of the ‘LGBTQ Center’ in Tel Aviv-Yafo. We feel the pain of the entire country, and at the same time we do not stop for a moment the fight for equality and freedom — for everyone and everything. See you at the Pride parade in June 2025.”

The coalition of LGBTQ+ community organizations welcomed the decision.

“We welcome the decision of the Tel Aviv Municipality not to hold the Pride parade as usual this year,” they said. “In these difficult days, when we are all in pain and grieving and when many of our brothers and sisters are not at home, either as evacuees from their homes or kidnapped in Gaza, and our hearts are not whole until they return. It is true that the Pride events will undergo adjustments to the times.” 

“Since time immemorial, the Pride parade in Tel Aviv, in contrast to the other parades and events throughout the country, has been a celebration of freedom, love, and equal rights and now, in these difficult days, it is important to continue to fight for a free and tolerant future even if we avoid the celebration,” they added. “Participation in the various Pride events around the country is more important than ever and we call on all members and members of the gay community and everyone who believes in a liberal, freer, and more just society to get out of the house and take part both in the rally in Tel Aviv and in the various events for the fight for equality and tolerance across the country.”

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Russia

Vladimir Putin takes oath, begins fifth term as Russia’s president

Putin’s inaugural speech today signaled his future intentions on conducting the war in Ukraine and his ongoing persecution of LGBTQ+ Russians

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Vladimir Putin takes his 5th presidential oath of office (Photo by Alexander Kazakov/RIA Novosti)

MOSCOW, Russia – On Tuesday, Vladimir Putin took his oath of office becoming the second ever longest serving leader of the modern Russian state since Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, who held power from 1922 until his death in 1953.

Putin’s tenure in office has been marked by his acquisition of concentrated political power in part due to his eradication and imprisonment or the deaths of his political opponents, such as his rumored unproven involvement in the assassination of fierce Putin critic Boris Nemtsov on February 27, 2015, just steps away from the gate to the Kremlin, and more recently in the prosecution and imprisonment of another high profile Putin critic, Alexei Anatolyevich Navalny, who died earlier this year on February 16 at a penal colony north of the Arctic Circle.

Putin ordered military operations in August 2008, which led to the Russo-Georgian War and diplomatic relations were broken. To this day, the two countries have maintained no formal diplomatic relations. Then in February and March 2014, Russian troops at his direction invaded the Crimean Peninsula, part of Ukraine, and annexed it. The resulting hostilities also spread to the far-eastern Ukrainian oblasts, [provinces] which culminated with Russia invading Ukraine on February 24, 2022, an escalation of the Russo-Ukrainian War that started in 2014. The invasion became the largest attack on a European country since the end of the Second World War in 1945.

As the war drags on Putin’s threats of military escalation against NATO countries and use of battlefield nuclear weapons has created a tense relationship with a majority of the European Union as well as with the United States. Russia has been heavily sanctioned by the West and is turning to other totalitarian regimes like China, Iran and North Korea for support.

In his inaugural speech Putin made oblique reference to his oft stated desire to recreate a hybrid of the former Soviet Union:

“In these solemn and crucial moments of assuming the office of the President, I would like to extend my heartfelt gratitude to the citizens of Russia across all regions of our country, as well as those living in the historical territories of Russia who have won their right to stand united with our Motherland”

The Russian president then thanked the forces fighting in the invasion of Ukraine saying:

“I humbly honour our heroes, the participants in the special military operation, and all those who are fighting for our Fatherland. I would like to thank you again for the trust you have placed in me and for your unwavering support. These words are directed to every citizen of Russia.”

On the domestic front Putin has stifled media outlets with draconian laws passed designed to keep the Russian population largely ignorant of the cost both human lives and governmental spending as the warfare in Ukraine drags on and losses to the Russian military continue.

The Associated Press reported neither the U.S., U.K. nor German ambassadors attended. The U.S. Embassy said Ambassador Lynne Tracy was out of the country on “prescheduled, personal travel.”

A handful of European Union envoys attended even though top EU diplomat Josep Borrell said he told them “the right thing to do is not to attend this inauguration,” because Putin is the subject of an arrest warrant by the International Criminal Court for war crimes, accusing him of personal responsibility for the abductions of children from Ukraine.

In his speech Putin issued a veiled threat to critics of his regime that dissention would not be tolerated:

“We can see that the atmosphere in society has changed, and how much we now value reliability, responsibility, sincerity, integrity, generosity and courage. I will do everything in my power to ensure that those who have displayed these admirable human and professional traits, and who have proved their loyalty to the Fatherland through their deeds, achieve leading positions in state governance, the economy and all other spheres.

We must ensure reliable continuity in the development of our country for decades to come and bring up new generations who will strengthen Russia’s might and develop our state based on interethnic accord, the preservation of the traditions of all ethnic groups living in Russia, a civilizational nation united by the Russian language and our multi-ethnic culture.”

The Russian president has also targeted the country’s LGBTQ+ people with passage of multiple laws that forbid public mention or acknowledgment of queer Russians. In his speech he emphasized his commitment to maintaining “family values.”

“Our top priority is the preservation of the people. I am confident that the support of centuries-old family values and traditions will continue to unite public and religious associations, political parties, and all levels of government.

Our decisions regarding the development of the country and its regions must be effective and fair and must promote the prosperity of Russian families and improve their quality of life,” he said.

The Wilson Center located in Washington D.C., a nonpartisan think tank, noted recently:

“Escalating state discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community in Russia is directly informed by the Putin regime’s struggle to maintain legitimacy and public support, especially as Russia’s war in Ukraine drags on. Russian federal elections are scheduled for 2024, and officials are reportedly planning to project record levels of public support for Putin.”

“The war in Ukraine and discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community are both popular policies among the socially conservative interest groups that make up Putin’s strongest base of support, and Russian policymakers draw clear connections between the Kremlin’s narrative that Russia is fighting Western ideology by proxy in Ukraine and the Kremlin’s attack on the LGBTQ+ experience in Russia.”

Putin’s inaugural speech today signaled his future intentions on conducting the war in Ukraine and his ongoing persecution of LGBTQ+ Russians.

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