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U.N. human rights experts urge Ghanaian government to block anti-LGBTQ bill

Measure is ‘textbook example of discrimination’

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GENEVA — A group of U.N. human rights experts on Thursday sharply criticized a bill that would further criminalize LGBTQ people and outlaw allyship in Ghana, and urged the country’s government to stop it from becoming law.

Victor Madrigal-Borloz, the independent U.N. expert on LGBTQ issues, and 11 of his colleagues in a press release note the “Proper Human Sexual Rights and Ghanaian Family Values Bill” that has been introduced in the Ghanaian Parliament “argues that any person who deviates from an arbitrary standard of sexual orientation or gender identity is immediately to be considered dangerous, sick or anti-social.”

“Such laws are a textbook example of discrimination,” they said.

Madrigal-Borloz and his colleagues in their press release added the bill “promotes harmful practices that amount to ill-treatment and are conducive to torture, such as so-called ‘conversion therapy’ and other heinous violations like unnecessary medical procedures on internet children, and so-called corrective rape for women.”

Madrigal-Borloz and nine other U.N. human rights experts in a letter they sent to the Ghanaian government expressed their concerns over the bill.

“We express our grave concern about the draft bill, which seems to establish a system of state-sponsored discrimination and violence against LGBTI persons of great magnitude,” reads the letter. “As such, the bill appears to constitute an immediate and fundamental breach of Ghana’s obligations under international human rights law.”

The letter notes the bill, among other things, “promotes unnecessary medical interventions on intersex children by offering incentives to parents to ‘realign’ the child to an ‘appropriate (sic) binary designation as determined by a medical practitioner.'” The letter also points out the measure “creates an enforcement system that would require any person witnessing any of the activities prohibited by the law to report them to the police ‘or in the absence of the police, political leaders, opinion leaders or customary leaders in the community.'”

“We respectfully urge your excellency’s government to take all measures necessary to withdraw the proposed bills from consideration,” reads the letter.

The U.N. Human Rights Council in 2017 appointed Madrigal-Borloz to succeed Vitit Muntarbhorn, who was the first independent U.N. expert on LGBTQ issues. The council in 2016 approved a resolution that created the position.

Samuel Nartey George, a member of Ghana’s National Democratic Congress party, and seven other conservative lawmakers on Aug. 2 officially introduced the “Proper Human Sexual Rights and Ghanaian Family Values Bill.” Lawmakers are expected to consider the measure again in October.

A Ghanaian court last week dropped charges against 21 LGBTQ activists who were arrested at a human rights workshop in May.

Tinashe Chingarande contributed to this story.

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Europe

Switzerland marriage equality law goes into effect

Voters last September overwhelmingly approved ‘Marriage for All’ law

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Federal Palace in Bern Switzerland (Screenshot/YouTube)

BERN, Switzerland — A law that allows same-sex couples to legally marry in Switzerland took effect on Friday.

Swiss voters last September voted overwhelmingly in favor of the “Marriage for All” law.

Maria von Känel of Regenbogenfamilien (Rainbow Families) on Friday posted to her Facebook page a picture of her and her wife with a marriage license and a message that said “the celebrations can begin.”

Neighboring Austria, Germany and France are among the European countries that have extended marriage rights to same-sex couples. Scott Miller, the U.S. ambassador to Switzerland and Liechtenstein who is openly gay, is married to Tim Gill.

“Today we celebrate marriage for all,” tweeted the U.S. Embassy in Switzerland on Friday. “Congratulations to Switzerland on this historic day.”

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Russia

Brittney Griner trial begins

WNBA star faces up to 10 years in prison

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(Screenshot courtesy of Russian television)

MOSCOW — The trial of detained WNBA star Brittney Griner began on Friday in Moscow.

Russian media reports indicate authorities initially did not allow journalists into the court room, but two reporters were eventually able to enter. The Washington Post reported U.S. Chargé d’Affaires Elizabeth Rood and other American diplomats were present.

Officials at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport in February detained Griner — a Phoenix Mercury center and two-time Olympic gold medalist who is a lesbian and married to her wife, Cherelle Griner, — after customs inspectors allegedly found hashish oil in her luggage. The State Department later determined that Russia “wrongfully detained” her.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken on May 14 spoke with Cherelle Griner. White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan this week said he has also spoken with her.

Officials with the State Department’s Office of the Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs and Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs on June 13 met with Brittney Griner’s teammates to discuss her detention and efforts to secure her release.

Brittney Griner on June 18 was unable to speak with her wife on their fourth anniversary because the phone at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow that she called went unanswered. A State Department spokesperson later admitted a “logistical error” prevented Brittney Griner from speaking with Cherelle Griner.

Brittney Griner faces up to 10 years in prison if she is convicted.

The Council for Global Equality and the Human Rights Campaign are among the dozens of advocacy groups who signed a letter to President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris last week that urged them to do more to secure Brittney Griner’s release. The U.S. House of Representatives on June 24 approved a resolution that called upon Russia to immediately release her.

“Brittney Griner is wrongfully detained, unjustly detained and we have made that clear as an official determination of the U.S. government,” Sullivan told reporters on Tuesday. “Second, the Russian government should release her and allow her to be returned and reunited with her family and come home safe and sound.”

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Caribbean

Final vote on new Cuba family code slated for September

Same-sex couples poised to receive marriage, adoption rights

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(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

HAVANA — The Washington Blade’s media partner in Cuba is reporting a final referendum on whether the final draft of a new family code that would extend marriage and adoption rights to same-sex couples will take place in September.

Tremenda Nota on June 23 reported a specific date for the referendum has not been announced, but it quoted comments President Miguel Díaz-Canel made the day before during a meeting of the commission that has written the draft. 

“We are entering a decisive stage,” said Díaz-Canel, according to Tremenda Nota. “We are going to need all the support that we need to ensure the emancipatory principles of equality and inclusion that the family code defends are actually approved.”

The National Assembly late last year approved the draft family code. 

A “popular consultation” ended on April 30. Tremenda Nota reported the last of the family code’s 25 drafts was presented to Díaz-Canel and other officials on June 6.

Díaz Canel and Mariela Castro, the daughter of former President Raúl Castro who is the director of Cuba’s National Center for Sexual Education, are among those who publicly support marriage equality. Cuban voters in 2019 overwhelmingly approved the draft of their country’s new constitution, but the government’s decision to remove a marriage equality amendment before the referendum on it sparked outrage among independent LGBTQ+ and intersex activists.

Efforts to implement the new family code are taking place against the backdrop of continued persecution of LGBTQ+ and intersex Cubans and others who publicly criticize the country’s government.

Tremenda Nota Editor Maykel González Vivero is among the hundreds of people who were arrested during anti-government protests that took place across Cuba on July 11, 2021.

Yoan de la Cruz, a gay man who used Facebook Live to livestream the first protest that took place in San Antonio de los Baños in Artemisa province. De La Cruz subsequently received a 6-year prison sentence, but he was released on house arrest last month.

Reports indicate Brenda Díaz, a Transgender woman who was arrested during a July 11 protest in Güira de Melena in Artemisa province, on Wednesday received a 14-year prison sentence. 

Editor’s note: Tremenda Nota’s original story is here.

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