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Draft of draconian anti-LGBTQ bill in Ghana leaked

Activists and allies could face up to 10 years in prison

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(Public Domain photo by Jorono from Pixabay)

ACCRA, Ghana — A draft of a draconian anti-LGBTQ bill in Ghana has surfaced online.

The “Proper Human Sexual Rights and Ghanaian Family Values Bill” draft is 36-pages long and contains clauses under which LGBTQ people and allies could be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison for supporting and advocating for LGBTQ rights in Ghana. The Guardian newspaper described the proposed measure as “one of the most draconian and sweeping anti-gay laws proposed around the world.”

The draft, which has yet to be introduced in the Ghanaian Parliament, details a plethora of behaviors between LGBTQ individuals that would be banned. They include “gross indecency,” which is defined as “the public show of amorous relations between or among persons of the same sex.” This act, labeled a misdemeanor, can result in “a term of imprisonment no less than six months and not more than one year.”

The bill in its current form would additionally propose strict media censorship that would ban media entities and creative individuals from producing content that promotes LGBTQ advocacy. Failure to comply with this provision would result in “not less than five years and not more than 10 years” of imprisonment. 

The draft’s release follows the May arrest of 21 activists and paralegals who attended a conference on how to advocate for LGBTQ rights.

Rightify Ghana, one of Ghana’s most prominent LGBTQ rights groups, released portions of the bill on its Twitter page.

“This bill is a homophobe’s dream law,” Rightify Ghana’s Danny Bediako told Reuters. “The community is shocked at how wide-ranging it is. People are even scared to go out now and some members say they will leave the country if the bill is passed into law. Even those who want to help us will be afraid.”

A State Department spokesperson also commented on the situation.

“In Ghana, we are concerned by the increasing anti-LGBTQI+ rhetoric and actions that undermine the human rights of members of that community. We are monitoring the situation closely,” the spokesperson told the Los Angeles Blade on Monday in a statement. “In his video address to the [African Union], President Biden affirmed the United States policy to promote the human rights of all individuals, including women and girls, LGBTQI+ individuals, persons with disabilities, and persons of every ethnic background, faith and heritage.”

The World Congress of Families, a queerphobic organization, hosted an anti-LGBTQ conference in Ghana in 2019.

“It is clear that this [is] an imported bill with a signature of [the] World Congress of Families (WCF). It is a combination of bills from Russia, Uganda, Nigeria and other places where the WCF [has] been. It’s the worst anti-LGBTQ bill ever,” says Rightify Ghana on Twitter. 

The Human Rights Campaign notes the World Conference of Families during their 2019 conference advocated for the adoption of public policies supporting so-called conversion therapy and attacked sex education and women’s rights in Ghana. 

The World Conference of Families is an anti-LGBTQ organization based in the U.S. that the Southern Poverty Law Center has designated as a hate group. The World Conference of Families has supported efforts that have further criminalized LGBTQ identity and activity in Russia, Lithuania, Nigeria and Uganda. 

“[The WCF] has a long history of exporting its anti-LGBTQ narrative to many parts of Africa, often by framing LGBTQ people and the protection of their human rights as somehow foreign and un-African, a fundamentally inaccurate characterization,” says HRC in its report. 

The proposed Ghana bill is not unlike other measures on the African continent.

The Nigerian Senate in 2014 passed the “Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition Bill,” under which anyone convicted of entering into a same-sex marriage or relationship faced up to 14 years in jail. The measure also criminalized witnessing or supporting LGBTQ-related activities and public displays of same-sex relationships. 

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India

Transgender Indian parliamentary candidate vows to continue fight for equality

Rajan Singh, 26, is from New Delhi

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Rajan Singh ran for India's parliament (Photo courtesy of Rajan Singh)

The storm that was India’s general elections has finally settled, leaving behind a landscape transformed by democratic choice. 

The Bharatiya Janata Party, under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, clinched a decisive victory with a majority in parliament with 293 seats. The daily hum of life is returning to normal as the country resumes its rhythm amid the sweltering heat of summer.

Beneath the surface of political triumph and routine, however, there lies an overlooked narrative: The story of the transgender community. In the vibrant tapestry of this election, trans people remained a subtle but significant thread. A few trans people for the first time boldly stepped into the political arena, running for office and asserting their right to representation.

Rajan Singh, 26, was the youngest trans candidate.

She hails from New Delhi, the bustling heart of the nation. Singh secured 300 votes and lost the election, but as the first and youngest independent candidate to run in the recent general elections, her story is one of ambition and audacity. In a political landscape dominated by well-established parties and seasoned politicians, Singh’s decision to enter the fray as an independent was both bold and inspiring.

With her soft and humble voice, Singh told the Washington Blade that even after 75 years of independence, India still lacks even 75 public restrooms dedicated to the trans community. She highlighted a stark reality: There is no platform available for trans people who want to raise their voice on important issues.

Singh expressed her frustration and disappointment, pointing out the irony in India’s highly regarded constitution. 

“Our constitution begins with ‘We, the people of India,'” she said, “Yet in these 75 years, that ‘we’ has never truly included us.” Her words shed light on the ongoing struggle for recognition and equality faced by the trans community in a country that prides itself on its democratic values and inclusive ethos.

“That was the main reason I decided to fight in the 2024 general election,” said Singh. “I am the first, youngest candidate from India’s capital, New Delhi. When I was born in 1997, my identity was male. In 2022, the government certificate indicated I was transgender, and in 2024, the Election Commission of India (ECI) issued a certificate stating me as third gender. When I apply for a government job, I become ‘others.’ so one person has four identities. Most strikingly all these identities are not mine. I identify as a trans woman and no one recognizes my feelings and identity.”

Singh told the Blade that when she filed her nomination for the election, her primary goal was to bring the real identity of the trans community to the center stage of the country. She explained her candidacy was a means to breathe life into the identity of her community, asserting that if people had acknowledged the trans community’s presence over the past 75 years, they would have been granted the same rights as other citizens.

With a voice tinged with pain, Singh told the Blade that if the trans community had been truly recognized as alive, there would have been moments when people saw the community speaking out. 

“There would have been a time when we had a leader to represent us, a chief minister, and even a prime minister,” she said. “But there is no one for the transgender community.”

During her interview with the Blade, Singh shared a slogan she coined for her election campaign: “Sauchalay se Sansad Tak” or “From the toilet to parliament.” This slogan encapsulated her mission to elevate the trans community from the margins of society to the heart of the nation’s decision-making process.

Singh told the Blade only a few trans people voted in the last election. However, this time, however, 228 trans individuals cast their votes in Delhi, a significant increase fueled by the community’s belief that someone was finally standing up for them.

“I was manhandled and threatened on the streets just for announcing my candidacy in the 2024 General Elections,” said Singh. “I was told ‘Chakka’ (a slang word for trans people), I was told how could we fight in election. When I went to the cops to file a First Information Report, they did not file my report. On April 29, Delhi High Court provided me heavy police protection and with that I went to file my nomination for election. If High Court would not have given me the police protection, I would not have been able to file my nomination.”

She told the Blade that society has been conditioned to view the trans community as only beggars and prostitutes, a misconception that is far from the truth. Singh emphasized these stereotypes have long overshadowed the diverse and significant contributions of trans people. Her campaign sought to challenge these harmful narratives and showcase the true potential and worth of the trans community. 

While talking to the Blade, Singh said India’s trans community has not seen much progress in the last 75 years. She acknowledged Modi has taken some steps for the community, notably with the passage of the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act in 2019, which has increased awareness among ordinary citizens.

Singh, however, emphasized these efforts are not enough and much more work needs to be done. With great hope and determination, she called on the prime minister to establish a National Transgender Commission. This, she argued, would provide the necessary platform and resources to address the ongoing challenges faced by the trans community, ensuring their rights and dignity are fully protected and promoted.

“The world has seen for the first time in the last 75 years, that during the prime minister’s swearing-in ceremony this year three transgender people were invited,” said Rajan. “I was one of them.”

With immense pride and positivity, Singh stated this is not a loss for her or the community. She views it as a significant victory. For the first time, the trans community voted for one of their own. It marked the historic moment when a trans individual’s name appeared on the Electronic Voting Machine, an integral part of India’s voting system. This election symbolized a newfound self-respect and empowerment, as members of the trans community proudly pressed the button on the EVM, voting for representation and a brighter future.

“We will prepare and fight for the establishment of National Transgender Commission in the country,” said Singh. “We will pressure those political parties who will support the creation of the National Transgender Commission and basic services for the community, we will support them. I will again fight the election.”

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

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World

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

LGBTQ+ news stories from around the globe including Thailand, France, United Kingdom, Philipines & Namibia

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THAILAND
Thailand Legalizes Same-Sex Marriage, Becomes 39th Country to Do So

The Thai senate approved a bill legalizing same-sex marriage and adoption Tuesday, making Thailand the 39th country worldwide and the first in Southeast Asia to do so.

The vote passed 130-4 with 18 abstentions. The bill now awaits royal assent from King Maha Vajiralongkorn and will take effect 120 days after publication.

Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin celebrated on social media, changing his profile picture to include a rainbow background. He wrote, “We celebrate another significant milestone in our Equal Marriage Bill journey. We’re proud to be a Pride Friendly Destination and look forward to hosting World Pride in 2030.”

The new law grants same-sex couples equal rights to heterosexual married couples. The government plans to amend other laws to be gender-neutral and expand surrogacy and IVF access for same-sex couples, though only for Thai nationals.

Thailand is the third Asian country to legalize same-sex marriage after Taiwan and Nepal, and the largest country to do so since Germany in 2017.

FRANCE

Macron’s Anti-Trans Comments Spark Controversy Ahead of French Elections

French President Emmanuel Macron faced backlash after describing pro-trans policies proposed by his political rivals as “ludicrous” during a World War II commemoration on June 18.

Macron criticized the left-wing New Popular Front’s proposal to simplify legal gender changes, saying, “There are completely ludicrous things, like going to change sex in town hall.”

Opposition leaders quickly condemned Macron’s remarks. Jean-Luc Melenchon, a left-wing party leader, called the comments “outrageous” on social media.

The controversy comes as France prepares for national elections on June 30, with Macron’s Renaissance party facing pressure from both far-right and left-wing coalitions.

UNITED KINGDOM

UK Labour Party’s LGBTQ+ Manifesto Disappoints Trans Advocates

The UK Labour Party, favored to win the July 4 election, released a manifesto with limited LGBTQ+ commitments, disappointing trans rights advocates.

Labour pledges to strengthen hate crime laws and ban conversion therapy, including for trans individuals. However, the party will maintain requirements for medical diagnosis in legal gender changes and support single-sex spaces that may exclude trans people.

The manifesto reflects ongoing debates in British politics over trans rights, fueled by activist groups and high-profile figures like author J.K. Rowling.

Labour leader Keir Starmer’s attempts to balance competing views have drawn criticism from both trans rights supporters and opponents.

PHILIPINES

Filipino Student Challenges Pope on LGBTQ+ Language

During a virtual synod, Jack Lorenz Acebedo Rivera, a Filipino student, urged Pope Francis to stop using offensive language against the LGBTQ+ community.

The request came after Pope Francis reportedly used a derogatory Italian term translated as “faggotry” in closed-door meetings, criticizing its prevalence in Catholic institutions.

The Pope’s reported language sparked protests, including at Rome’s Pride March on June 16. The Vatican issued an apology for the first instance but hasn’t addressed subsequent reports.

NAMIBIA

(Bigstock photo)

Namibia Decriminalizes Homosexuality in Landmark Ruling

Namibia’s High Court struck down laws criminalizing homosexuality on June 21, reducing the number of countries with such laws to 64.

The ruling declared the common-law crimes of “sodomy” and “unnatural sexual offences” unconstitutional, continuing a trend of decriminalization in sub-Saharan Africa.

Gay activist Friedel Dausab, who filed the case, testified about the laws’ personal and professional impact. The court also affirmed that the constitution prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation.

The government hasn’t responded to the ruling. A bill banning same-sex marriage and LGBT rights advocacy, passed last year, awaits the president’s decision.

Global LGBTQ+ news gathering & reporting by Rob Salerno 

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Africa

Prominent South African activist elected to country’s parliament

Steve Letsike founded Access Chapter 2

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Steve Letsike (Photo courtesy of Steve Letsike)

A prominent South African LGBTQ activist has won a seat in the country’s parliament.

Steve Letsike, a lesbian woman who founded Access Chapter 2, a South African advocacy group, is a member of the African National Congress. She is also part of the ANC’s National Executive Committee that determines the party’s direction.

Letsike won a seat in the South African National Assembly in national and provincial elections that took place on May 29.

The ANC lost its parliamentary majority that it had had since Nelson Mandela in 1994 won the South African presidency in the country’s first post-apartheid elections. MPs earlier this month re-elected President Cyril Ramaphosa after the ANC invited the Democratic Alliance and other parties to form a Government of National Unity.

Letsike in a statement to the Washington Blade described her election as “a milestone for the people of South Africa, and also affirmative of our party’s posture that is inclusive and intention to transformation agenda.”

“I am not in parliament for myself but the people that trusted the ANC to send individuals that will put people first,” said Letsike. “In that cohort that includes the LGBTI people like myself. Rooted in the teaching of a just society, that seeks equality and believes in the rule of law. That demand on developmental agenda from a queer lens and clear priorities of the people is important.” 

“I am delighted by this task, trust and hope for our people,” she added.

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Africa

Namibian High Court strikes down Apartheid-era sodomy laws

Gay activist challenged statutes in 2020

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(Bigstock photo)

The Namibian High Court on Friday ruled laws that criminalize consensual same-sex sexual relations in the country are unconstitutional.

Friedel Dausab, a gay activist, in 2020 challenged the Apartheid-era statute.

The Washington Blade previously reported Dausab said the Criminal Procedure Act 51 of 1977, which listed “sodomy” as a Schedule 1 offense, and a second law that criminalized “unnatural” sexual acts, promote stigma and exclusion of LGBTQ Namibians. Equal Namibia, a Namibian LGBTQ advocacy group, on its X account praised the ruling.

“Welcome to a new Namibia. A born-free Namibia,” it said.

Dausab, who challenged the laws with the assistance of Human Dignity Trust, a British NGO, told Reuters he is “just happy.”

“It’s a great day for Namibia,” he said. “It won’t be a crime to love anymore.”

Namibia is the latest country in which consensual same-sex sexual relations have been decriminalized in recent years.

The Namibian Supreme Court in May 2023 ruled the country must recognize same-sex marriages legally performed elsewhere. The landmark decision sparked criticism among leading politicians and religious officials.

Activists say their rhetoric has contributed to increased harassment of LGBTQ Namibians and hate speech against them.

Amnesty International in a press release notes MPs last June passed two bills that “seek to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman, discriminate against trans people and criminalize any support, celebration or promotion of same-sex unions with up to six years in jail and hefty fines.” Khanyo Farise, the group’s deputy regional director for East and Southern Africa, said the organization in recent weeks has “observed alarming rhetoric threatening LGBTI persons in Namibia.”

“Whatever the outcome of the High Court decision on June 21, violence and discrimination against LGBTI people has no place in Namibian society,” said Farise. “Authorities should take decisive action to prevent human rights violations against LGBTI persons and hold perpetrators accountable.”

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United Nations

US ambassador to UN: LGBTQ+ community ‘has shown remarkable bravery and resilience’

Linda Thomas-Greenfield hosted Pride Month reception on Tuesday

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U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield speaks at her annual Pride Month reception at the U.N. on June 18, 2024. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

UNITED NATIONS — U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield on Tuesday at her annual Pride Month reception at the U.N. criticized those in the U.S. and elsewhere who continue to crackdown on LGBTQ+ and intersex rights.

Thomas-Greenfield noted in the U.S. “a small, but threatening group of people continues to garget the LGBTI+ community, and especially trans individuals.” She specifically pointed out the increase of hate crimes in schools, especially in states with laws that target LGBTQ+ students. 

Thomas-Greenfield described Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act — which contains a death penalty provision for “aggravated homosexuality” — as “draconian.” She also cited the case of a Russian woman who authorities jailed because she wore rainbow earrings.   

“Despite these challenges, the LGBTI+ community has shown remarkable bravery and resilience,” said Thomas-Greenfield. 

Lawmakers in Greece, Estonia and Thailand since Thomas-Greenfield hosted her 2023 Pride Month reception extended marriage rights to same-sex couples.

Latvian President Edgars Rinkēvičs and French Prime Minister Gabriel Attal, who are both gay, took office in July 2023 and in January 2024 respectively.

Dominica’s High Court of Justice in April struck down provisions of a law that criminalized consensual same-sex sexual relations. German lawmakers the same month approved a statute that will make it easier for transgender and nonbinary people to legally change their name and gender.

The U.N. has faced criticism over its response to Hamas’s surprise attack against Israel on Oct. 7. The Washington Blade, which attended Tuesday’s reception, saw at least one person wearing a keffiyah, a symbol of Palestinian solidarity.

“Since day one, the Biden administration has made it a priority to prevent and combat discrimination, hatred and violence on the basis of sexual orientation, and gender identity,” said Thomas-Greenfield. “I’m proud of the many, many ways … that U.S. U.N. has led on this front.”

Thomas-Greenfield in 2023 chaired a meeting that examined ways the U.N. Security Council can integrate LGBTQ+ and intersex rights into its work. 

The U.S. is among the dozens of countries that are members of the LGBTI Core Group, a group of U.N. countries that have pledged to support LGBTQ+ and intersex rights.

Thomas-Greenfield on Tuesday noted the U.S. continues to work with the U.N. Economic and Social Council to include LGBTQ+-specific language in resolutions that focus on elections and democracy. She also referenced the group of activists who gathered in Dag Hammerskjöld Plaza, which is across the street from the U.N., in April 1965 to “protest the treatment of gay individuals at home and abroad.”

“We’re following in the footsteps of those marchers outside in Dag Hammarskjöld Plaza all those years ago,” she said.

Jessica Stern, the special U.S. envoy for the promotion of LGBTQ+ and intersex rights abroad, also spoke at the reception. The New York City Gay Men’s Chorus and the West Point Benny Havens Band performed.

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Southeast Asia

Thai marriage equality bill receives final approval

Country third jurisdiction in Asia to allow same-sex marriages

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(Photo public domain)

BANGKOK — The Thai Senate on Tuesday overwhelmingly approved a bill that will extend marriage rights to same-sex couples.

The measure passed by a 152-130 vote margin with four senators voting against it and 18 abstaining. The Thai House of Representatives in April approved the marriage equality bill, with 400 of 415 lawmakers who participated in the vote backing it.

Taiwan and Nepal are the two other Asian jurisdictions that allow same-sex couples to legally marry.

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United Nations

UN Women calls gender-criticals an extremist anti-rights movement

The UN has an important role to play to combat international disinformation regarding LGBTQ+ people, especially transgender individuals

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The United Nations headquarters buildings in New York City. (Washington Blade/Michael K. Lavers)

By Erin Reed | NEW YORK – In an announcement for Pride Month, UN Women—the United Nations entity responsible for global women’s issues—announced that anti-rights movements are on the rise across the world with respect to LGBTQ+ people.

The organization highlighted steps being taken in several countries to target transgender people, women, and LGBTQ+ people with overtly discriminatory policies and restrictions. UN Women also explicitly called out several movements as “anti-rights,” including the “gender-critical” movement, which frames women’s rights as being in opposition to transgender people.

On June 11th, UN Women took to social media to sound the alarm on the surge of anti-LGBTQ+ movements, which have been fueled by a 50% funding increase over the past decade. The UN’s arm for global women’s issues highlighted how these anti-rights movements are gaining traction worldwide, notably those trying to pit trans rights against women’s rights. “Some try to frame the human rights of transgender people as being at odds with women’s rights, for instance, asserting that trans women pose a threat to the rights, spaces, and safety of cisgender women,” the announcement stated.

However, such assertions have no factual basis; transgender people are often the most at risk in such spaces, and hate-fueled rhetoric from these movements can increase that risk.

Security Council Open Debate: “Women, Peace and Security: Towards the 25th Anniversary of 1325.” (Photo Credit: UN Women/Ryan Brown)

Perhaps most impactful, though, is the full report released alongside the announcement. In the report, UN Women explicitly calls out the “gender-critical” movement, which has infamous adherents such as J.K. Rowling, as being an extremist “anti-rights” movement similar to “men’s rights activism” in rhetoric:

There is a long tradition in which anti-rights movements frame equality for women and LGBTIQ+ people as a threat to so-called “traditional” family values. Movements encompassing “anti-gender”, “gender-critical”, and “men’s rights” have taken this to new extremes, tapping into wider fears about the future of society and accusing feminist and LGBTIQ+ movements of threatening civilization itself

Anti-rights movements have pushed for overtly discriminatory policies and restrictions on essential services, and even for the criminalization of people based on their actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.”

Currently, the “gender-critical” movement is most active in the United Kingdom. Recently, Conservative Women and Equalities Minister Kemi Badenoch revealed that members of the movement were put in key health positions to produce the Cass Review, a report that resulted in broad-scale attacks on transgender youth and their medical care in the country. Similarly, the U.K. is currently grappling with attempts to promote conversion therapy of transgender youth, ban trans people from bathrooms that align with their gender identity, and exclude trans women from women’s hospital wards.

In the United States, Republican candidates and legislators have latched onto similar language, passing “Women’s Bills of Rights” that contain little regarding women’s rights but instead target transgender women’s access to bathrooms and seek to end legal recognition of transgender people altogether. Notably, these legislators and the organizations that push the bills often oppose many other women’s rights issues, such as reproductive healthcare access, abortion rights, and generous paid family leave.

The move to declare “gender-criticals” an anti-rights movement is a notable one. In recent years, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women, Reem Alsalem, has supported “gender-critical” issues and been praised by supporters of the movement for doing so.

Notable actions taken by Alsalem include opposing Biden’s Title IX policies for transgender youth in the U.S. and the World Health Organization’s support for self-determined gender identity. In these policies, Alsalem explicitly frames women’s rights and the safety of women’s spaces as being in competition with transgender inclusion.

Alsalem has also historically shared content from far-right, anti-LGBTQ+ organizations like the Alliance Defending Freedom International, which has promoted anti-LGBTQ+ policies globally.

The United Nations has an important role to play in the coming years to combat international disinformation regarding LGBTQ+ people, especially transgender individuals. SPLC-designated hate organizations such as the Society for Evidence in Gender Medicine and Genspect have gained power and operate in multiple countries to oppose transgender rights. Victories obtained in one country are then used as justification to get other countries to follow suit.

In the U.S., they are likewise used in court fights and legislative hearings over transgender rights. The UN’s move signals that such international attacks on transgender people may be beginning to be recognized by one of the world’s most important international organizations, and that recognition could be the most crucial step toward combating further attacks.

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Erin Reed is a transgender woman (she/her pronouns) and researcher who tracks anti-LGBTQ+ legislation around the world and helps people become better advocates for their queer family, friends, colleagues, and community. Reed also is a social media consultant and public speaker.

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The preceding article was first published at Erin In The Morning and is republished with permission.

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World

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

LGBTQ+ news stories from around the globe including Georgia, Poland, Lithuania, Greece, France, Pakistan & Singapore

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GEORGIA

The co-director of Tbilisi Pride, Anna Subeliani. (Photo Credit: Tbilisi Pride/Facebook)

TBILISI, Georgia – The organization that holds Pride events in the Georgian capital Tbilisi has announced it is cancelling all physical Pride festivities this year, in light of an increasingly hostile environment promoted by the Georgian government ahead of elections this fall. 

Tbilisi Pride says in a statement posted to Facebook that they will focus their efforts instead on reaching hearts and minds, with a hope of defeating the government and ending restrictive legislation in the October election.

“We anticipated that the summer before the 2024 parliamentary elections would be filled with physical violence encouraged by the government and rhetoric filled with hate and hostility,” the statement says.

“Now, after ‘Georgian Dream’ adopted the Russian-style law on ‘foreign agents’ and announced a hate-based anti-LGBTQ legislative package alongside constitutional changes, we are even more confident in our decision. We are demonstrating the highest civic responsibility and recognize that the fight for queer rights today is inseparable from the broader people’s struggle against the Russian-style regime. This fight will inevitably end in favor of the people on October 26!

“We will use the coming months to bring the message of queer people to more hearts than ever before! We will explain to everyone that homophobia is a Russian political weapon against Georgian society, against the statehood of Georgia! We are patriots of this country and will always and everywhere be where our homeland calls us!”

The U.S. government slapped visa restrictions on members of the Georgian government in response to actions taken to undermine democracy in the post-Soviet nation, just as the government announced a sweeping package of anti-LGBTQ legislation it intends to pass ahead of fall elections.

U.S. State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller told a June 6 press conference in Washington, DC that the government had slapped sanctions on “between two and three dozen” individuals who were “responsible for or complicit in undermining democracy in Georgia, such as by undermining freedoms of peaceful assembly and association, violently attacking peaceful protestors, intimidating civil society representatives, and deliberately spreading disinformation at the direction of the Georgian Government.”

Citing U.S. privacy law, Miller refused to name any individuals who had been sanctioned. He added that this was considered a “first tranche” of sanctions.

Georgia has been rocked with protests for weeks in response to the “foreign agents” law, which requires media and civil society groups to registers as agents of a foreign power if they receive funding from abroad. 

The law was passed by the ruling Georgian Dream Party, vetoed by the President who is a member of the opposition, and then passed with a veto override on May 28.

Modelled after a similar law in Russia, the law is meant to undermine the credibility and actions of bodies that are critical of the government and has drawn fierce criticism from Georgia’s allies in the US and European Union.

Georgia was recognized as a candidate country from EU membership this year, but EU leaders have warned that the law undermines European values and threatens membership negotiations.

At the same time, the Georgian government has introduced a package of anti-LGBTQ legislation also modelled after Russian laws, which it is hoping will fire up its base and divide the opposition ahead of fall elections.

Under the package of laws, the state would be forbidden from recognizing any relationship other than heterosexual relationships, restrict adoption to married heterosexual couples and heterosexual individuals, ban any medical treatment to change a person’s gender and require that the government only recognize gender based on a person’s genetic information, and ban any expression or organization promoting same-sex relationships or gender change.

The bills are meant to be introduced in parliament before the end of the summer session in July, and the government plans to hold a vote on it ahead of elections scheduled for October.

POLAND & LITHUANIA

Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk. (Photo Credit: Government of Poland)

WARSAW, Poland – Bitter fights are emerging over civil union legislation in the governing coalitions that run Poland and Lithuania, with left-leaning parties insisting on improving the legal rights of LGBTQ couples and families, while more conservative parties want to maintain the status quo.

In Poland, that’s led to protracted negotiations to get a draft civil unions bill introduced, long after Prime Minister Donald Tusk’s original promise to have the law in place within his first hundred days in office. Tusk was sworn in as prime minister in December.

Tusk’s coalition includes his own centrist Civic Platform party, as well as the left-leaning Left party, and the more conservative Poland 2050 and Polish People’s Party (PSL), the latter of which mostly opposes recognizing same-sex couples. The coalition agreement left out any mention of civil unions.

The ambitious civil union bill aims to be an ‘all-but-marriage’ type of union, complete with adoption rights, which has drawn the ire of the PSL. Negotiations within the coalition have focused on finding a way to get the PSL on board but have so far proved fruitless.

The opposition parties are even more hostile to LGBT rights and are not expected to support the bill in any form.

Regardless, Equalities Minister Katarzyna Kotula, who comes from the Left party and has been spearheading the bill, has given the coalition a deadline of the end of June to come to agreement. Failing that, she says she’ll introduce the bill without government support, although that will likely doom it to fail.

A last-ditch negotiation among the coalition partners is expected to take place June 17.

Tusk has struggled to introduce other promised social reforms since taking office. A promised hate crimes and hate speech bill has yet to be introduced. In March, the president, who comes from the conservative opposition Law and Justice Party, vetoed a bill to legalize the morning-after contraception pill.

President Duda has not yet revealed if he will veto a civil union bill. The coalition does not have a+ three-fifths majority in parliament to override a veto. 

Lithuanian MP Tomas Vytautas Raskevičius, is a Lithuanian liberal politician, Member of the Seimas, and LGBTQ+ rights activist
(Photo courtesy of Lithuanian MP Tomas Vytautas Raskevičius)

In neighboring Lithuania, tensions over a long-stalled civil union bill erupted into a dispute between coalition partners this week.

The left-leaning Freedom Party has threatened not to support the nomination of Minister of Foreign Affairs Gabrielias Landsbergis to the post of European Commissioner, given his party’s lack of support for the civil union bill that awaits a third a final vote in parliament.

The dispute has spilled a lot of ink in Lithuanian press, with the coalition partners debating whether or not the threat was appropriate in the circumstances.

Lithuania heads to the polls in October for parliamentary elections. 

GREECE

Greek prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis speaking to reporters at an EU press conference in early 2024. (Photo Credit: Office of the Greek prime minister/Greek government)

ATHENS, Greece – After his party took a drubbing in EU elections last weekend, Greek prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis says he is going to pause pushing forward new LGBTQ rights legislation, suggesting the new priority is changing minds rather than laws. 

Mitsotakis announced his surprise support for same-sex marriage and adoption rights last year after clinching reelection, and his government passed a marriage bill in February.

But in last week’s EU elections, his party’s support dropped nearly 5 percentage points, while the more radical far-right Greek Solution and the anti-LGBT conservative NIKI party collectively gained about 10 percentage points. 

Mitsotakis himself speculated to Bloomberg TV that the new same-sex marriage and adoption law passed this year alienated his party’s traditionally conservative base.

Greece is already one of the highest-scoring countries on ILGA-Europe’s Rainbow Map Index, thanks in large part to reforms that Mitsotakis himself ushered in. In addition to same-sex marriage and adoption, his government has banned conversion therapy, banned unnecessary surgeries on intersex children, and set up a National Strategy for the Equality of LGBTQI+ People.

Queer activists in Greece were still calling on the government to facilitate legal surrogacy and automatic parental recognition for same-sex couples, and a simplified process for trans people to update their legal gender.

FRANCE

Pope Francis is greeted by the President of the French Republic, Emmanuel Macron.
(Photo Credit: Office of the President of France/French government)

PARIS, France – The far-right National Rally party is campaigning on restricting LGBTQ rights in snap parliamentary elections, with prime minister candidate Jordan Bardella supporting restrictions on surrogacy and IVF for same-sex couples.

French President Emmanuel Macron announced snap parliamentary elections after his party’s poor showing in the European Parliamentary elections last weekend. National Rally won the most votes in that election and is polling strongly ahead of the June 30 first-round vote. However, French elections are run in a two-round system, and National Rally often fails to win second-round votes as voters coalesce around a less unappealing compromise candidate to block them.

In the past, National Rally has campaigned strongly against LGBTQ rights, especially same-sex marriage, but they appear to have conceded that marriage equality is settled law.

While campaigning ahead of the EU elections, Bardella appeared on the French television show Le Grand Oral, where he reiterated his opposition to surrogacy. 

Bardella also bitterly opposed Macron’s 2019 law which finally allowed lesbians to have access to in-vitro fertilization. 

He told local television at the time, “There is no right to having children. Children have a right to have a father and a mother and this law creates children without fathers.”

National Rally’s opposition to same-sex parenting mirrors that of Italy’s far-right Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, under whose watch the Italian government has stripped parental recognition from same-sex couples and imposed criminal penalties on Italians who conceive children via surrogacy.

The first week of the truncated election has taken a number of surprising turns. The mainstream right-wing party, The Republicans, has been in turmoil since its president announced his party would consider a coalition with the National Rally, which led party members to oust him and an embarrassing schism where he barricaded himself in the party headquarters and took over the party’s social media.

And in a bit of news that may be a little on-the-nose, the National Rally has nominated a man named Guillaume Bigot as their candidate in Belfort in northeastern France.

PAKISTAN

Atheist Republic/Los Angeles Blade graphic

ABBOTTABAD, Pakistan – A Pakistani man was apparently committed to a mental hospital after he attempted to open a gay bar in Abbottabad, Pakistan this month.

The man, whose identity has not been disclosed, had apparently hoped to open the country’s first gay bar in the city of 250,000 people, about 75 miles north of Islamabad. 

Abbottabad is best known in the west as the city where Osama bin Laden was found and killed by US Forces in 2011.

According to The Telegraph newspaper, the man had applied to open “Lorenzo Gay Club,” which he described in his application to civic authorities for a “No Objection Certificate” as a “great convenience and resource for many homosexual, bisexual and even some heterosexual people residing in Abbottabad in particular, and in other parts of the country in general.”

The application, dated May 8, also insisted that “”there would be no gay (or non-gay) sex (other than kissing)” and that a notice would be posted on the wall to warn against “sex on premises.” 

The applicant describes the club as “a matter of the basic human right of free association, as established in the constitution.”

Gay sex is illegal in Pakistan, which is an officially Islamic republic. A conviction would carry up to two years in prison, but the law is rarely applied as it is difficult for anyone to be openly gay in the strictly conservative country.

The application sparked considerable debate online, after a copy of the application was released to the local media. The application seen in the Pakistan Observer is signed by a Preetum Giani, but it is not clear if that is the applicant or a representative.

According to The Telegraph, the man was committed to the Sarhad Hospital for Psychiatric Diseases in Peshawar on May 9, and friends have been unable to reach him since. Friends who spoke to the newspaper say they are worried about his safety, but also worried for their own safety if they speak out.

The Telegraph also reports that far-right politicians in Pakistan had threatened violence and arson against the club if it had been allowed to open. 

The applicant had previously told the paper that he believed it was important to stand for human rights, and that he would defend the right to open the club in the courts, in hopes that Pakistan’s courts would follow neighboring India’s lead, where gay sex was decriminalized in 2018. 

SINGAPORE

Singaporean LGBTQ+ rights activist Rev. Miak Siew, with Judy & Dennis Shepard in Singapore, May 2024. (Photo Credit: Rev. Miak Siew/Facebook)

SINGAPORE – A new Ipsos poll has revealed a slight majority of Singaporeans support laws banning anti-LGBTQ discrimination, and support legal recognition of same-sex couples and adoption. 

The poll found that 54 percent of respondents agreed that same-sex couples should have the right to marry, and 57 percent agree they should have the right to adopt, compared to only 25 percent who oppose same-sex marriage and 30 percent who oppose same-sex couple adoption rights.

On both questions, a large number of respondents were unsure or had no opinion. 

An even larger number of respondents supported anti-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people. Nearly three-quarters of respondents said that LGBTQ people should have discrimination protections in employment and housing, although only 40 percent supported legislation to that effect, while 20 percent opposed it, and another 40 percent were unsure. 

There are no specific anti-discrimination laws protecting LGBTQ people in Singapore.

The poll found strongest support for LGBTQ rights among younger respondents as compared to older generations.  

Two years ago, Singapore repealed a colonial-era law that criminalized gay sex. But at the same-time, parliament also amended the constitution to require parliamentary approval for same-sex marriage. 

These poll numbers may indicate that eventual legalization could be possible.

Global LGBTQ+ news gathering & reporting by Rob Salerno 

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Australia

Australian & New Zealand medical org rejects anti-trans review

The Royal Australian & New Zealand College of Psychiatrists is the latest rejections of Cass Review’s findings by medical orgs worldwide

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Photo Credit: Trans Justice Project Australia/Facebook

By Erin Reed | MELBOURNE, Australia Two months ago, the Cass Review was released in the United Kingdom. This review, guided and advised by individuals with ties to SPLC-designated hate groups and who met with Governor Ron DeSantis’ medical board—handpicked to ban care in Florida—has led to severe restrictions in the U.K., including criminalizing the possession of puberty blockers.

The response outside the U.K. has been much more critical, with numerous medical organizations and doctors worldwide rejecting its recommendations. The latest major medical body to speak out is the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP), the leading organization for training psychiatrists in both countries.

The Cass Review, a highly criticized evaluation of transgender care, was developed in the United Kingdom by Dr. Hillary Cass, a pediatrician without direct experience in transgender care.

Although it was presented as an unbiased and neutral review, intentionally excluding transgender individuals from the decision-making process, it was later revealed that advisors with ties to the Society for Evidence-Based Gender Medicine, an SPLC-designated hate group, were involved.

Dr. Cass has since controversially blamed being trans on pornography and labeled the American Academy of Pediatrics as a “left-leaning organization” due to its support for the medical care of transgender youth.

Last month, a handful of members of the RANZCP, some of which are notable figures in anti-trans activism in the country, wrote a letter to the organization stating that they had “serious concerns” about gender affirming care for transgender youth.

They pointed to the Cass Review as justification for their concerns. The top signature on the letter is that of Jillian Spencer, who stated in an interview that she was fired for “being a danger to trans and gender-diverse children.” Now, the college has responded.

In a response posted to the RANZCP website, the college announced that the Cass Review is one of “a number of reviews,” and that it rejects the call for a “government inquiry” into trans care in the countries it represents.

It further states that transgender care should be “patient centered” and individualized to a patient’s needs. Lastly, it expresses a full support for transgender youth and rejects claims that being transgender is a “mental health condition”:

The College is committed to respectful, sensitive and appropriate mental health care being provided to individuals who identify as LGBTIQ+. Being Trans or Gender Diverse is not a mental health condition, and the RANZCP unequivocally supports the rights of trans and gender diverse people to have equal access to safe and effective mental health care that is underpinned by dignity, empathy and respect.

The College emphasises that assessment and treatment should be patient centred, evidence-informed and responsive to and supportive of the child or young person’s needs and that psychiatrists have a responsibility to counter stigma and discrimination directed towards trans and gender diverse people.”

The statement from the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists is the latest in a series of rejections of the Cass Review’s findings by medical organizations worldwide.

Last month, the American Academy of Pediatrics responded to the review, disagreeing with many of its claims and asserting that the organization supports “individualized health care for each patient, in consultation with their family and health care team” when it comes to transgender youth. The Endocrine Society also dismissed the recommendations, stating, “Medical evidence, not politics, should inform treatment decisions.”

In Canada, the Canadian Pediatric Society rejected the Cass Review’s recommendations, announcing that “current evidence shows puberty blockers to be safe when used appropriately, and they remain an option to be considered within a wider view of the patient’s mental and psychosocial health.” Children’s Healthcare Canada, which oversees the country’s children’s hospitals, concurred, stating, “Our position remains unchanged on the topic.”

Evidence continues to support the use of gender affirming care for transgender youth. A Cornell review of more than 51 studies found “gender transition is effective in treating gender dysphoria and can significantly improve the well-being of transgender individuals.” Numerous studies show lower suicidality, with as much as a 73% reduction in suicidality for trans youth who are allowed care.

In a recent article that was not considered by the Cass Review in the Journal of Adolescent Health, puberty blockers reduced depression and anxiety significantly. In Germany, a recent review by over 27 medical organizations has judged that “not providing treatment can do harm” to transgender youth. Due to strong evidence around transgender care, the American Psychological Association released a historic policy resolution condemning bans on gender affirming care. Notably, they are the largest psychological association in the world, with representatives elected to represent 157,000 members.

The lack of credibility given to the Cass Review outside the United Kingdom, especially in the United States, has frustrated its proponents. In a recent article published in The BMJ titled “Gender medicine in the US: how the Cass review failed to land,” anti-trans writer Jennifer Block laments that Erin Reed, the author of this article, highlighted the review’s anti-trans political ties with DeSantis’ picks, which hampered its acceptance.

Although Block incorrectly claims that only a single meeting took place (Cass advisor Dr. Kaltiala attended several meetings and even advocated for the ban as a primary witness), she accurately demonstrates that the document’s political roots have been detrimental to its acceptance among credible scientific organizations.

These political roots were recently confirmed when Conservative Women and Equalities Minister, Kemi Badenoch, admitted that “gender critical” individuals were placed in health roles to facilitate the Cass Review—a mechanism remarkably similar to how Florida’s review led to the banning of care in the state, borrowing from DeSantis’ strategy.

Despite its lack of acceptance abroad, the Cass Review continues to do tremendous damage in places predisposed to targeting transgender healthcare. It has already been cited in the United States to ban care in South Carolina, a Republican-controlled state. In the United Kingdom, it has led to the criminalization of possessing puberty blockers. As more medical organizations reject its findings, politicians will undoubtedly use its conclusions to push forward with bans on gender-affirming care for transgender youth, despite having little evidence to justify such decisions.

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Erin Reed is a transgender woman (she/her pronouns) and researcher who tracks anti-LGBTQ+ legislation around the world and helps people become better advocates for their queer family, friends, colleagues, and community. Reed also is a social media consultant and public speaker.

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The preceding article was first published at Erin In The Morning and is republished with permission.

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Africa

Protesters vandalize Zimbabwean LGBTQ+ rights group’s offices

GALZ has reported the incident to the police

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Protesters vandalized GALZ's offices in Harare, Zimbabwe, with homophobic graffiti. (Photos courtesy of GALZ)

HARARE, Zimbabwe — A handful of protesters over this past weekend vandalized the offices of Zimbabwe’s largest LGBTQ+ rights organization.

Although they did not enter GALZ (an Association of LGBTI People in Zimbabwe)’s building in Harare, the country’s capital, they did gather at the gate and sang homophobic songs. The protesters also left anti-gay graffiti on the gate and walls.

Several people after the incident started to question the authenticity of the protesters, arguing GALZ itself organized the protest in order to get funding. They said some of the protesters “looked gay” and even argued the organization had yet to approach the police.

GALZ has sought to discredit some of the reports, while calling the protest disrespectful and uncalled for.

“We categorically condemn the acts of vandalism and intimidation that occurred on Sunday afternoon,” said GALZ in a statement. “A group of individuals claiming to represent various Christian churches descended at our offices. They proceeded to vandalize the property, painting hateful graffiti on the walls. While we respect differences in values, it is utterly unacceptable to deploy acts of vandalism and intimidation against communities who hold different values.”

GALZ said it has filed an official police report, and is “cooperating fully with the ongoing investigations.” 

“We call on the authorities to hold the perpetrators accountable for these criminal actions,” said the organization. 

GALZ also said it remains steadfast in its commitment to LGBTQ+ rights, and urged religious and political leaders to be at the forefront of fostering unity in Zimbabwe.

“This act of violence has not been committed in isolation, it is a stark reminder of the ongoing discrimination and hostility that our community faces,” said GALZ.

“We urge religious and political leaders to condemn such acts of hate and to uphold the  constitutional rights and freedoms for all citizens to be protected by law regardless of their diverse backgrounds including sexual orientation, gender identity and expression. We encourage Zimbabweans to resort to open and respectful dialogue to address indifferences,” added the organization.

Several United Methodist Church parishioners last month held a protest in Harare during which they protested the church’s recent decision to allow LGBTQ+ clergy and same-sex marriages. James Kawadza, one of the protest organizers, said it was un-African to engage in same-sex relations.

“Homosexuality is unlawful in Zimbabwe and marriage is between a man and a woman,” he said. “The church has aligned with the rainbow movement, and this is also a threat to our African traditions and human existence at large. Homosexuality is not contextual, it is an abomination where Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed by fire.”

Section 73 of Zimbabwe’s Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act on sexual crimes and crimes against morality says any “male person who, with the consent of another male person, knowingly performs with that other person anal sexual intercourse, or any act involving physical contact other than anal sexual intercourse that would be regarded by a reasonable person to be an indecent act, shall be guilty of sodomy and liable to” a fine, up to a year in prison or both.

Cases of people being arrested under this provision are rare.

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