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

LGBTQ+ stories from around the globe including the UN, Russia, Latvia, France, Poland, the EU, & Indonesia focusing on events that matter

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UNITED NATIONS

UN Human Rights Chief Volker Türk (Photo Credit: Press Office UN)

GENEVA, Switzerland – In its review of the United States’ record on civil and political rights released earlier this month, the United Nations Human Rights Committee (HRC) condemned a flood of discriminatory state legislation restricting the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people.

The summary of the UN’s Human Rights Committee was first reported on by Human Rights Watch.

The United States ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) in 1992. Every four years, the HRC reviews laws and policies in countries that have ratified the treaty to evaluate where they are in compliance with the treaty and where they fall short. The review of the US was postponed during the Covid-19 pandemic, making this the first review of the US in nine years.

Among the worrying US laws are those restricting access to gender-affirming care and prohibiting transgender children from participating in school sports or using bathrooms consistent with their gender identity. Also concerning are laws banning books as well as prohibiting classroom instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity, LGBT people, and their families in schools.

In its concluding observations, the committee expressed concern about laws limiting transgender people’s access to healthcare, athletics, and public accommodations, and restricting discussions of race, slavery, sexual orientation, and gender identity in schools. It underscored the prevalence of discrimination against LGBT people in the US, including in housing, employment, correctional facilities, and other domains.

The committee also condemned derogatory speech aimed at LGBT people, including from public officials, and violence against LGBT people and members of other minority groups.

RUSSIA

Screenshot of Seventeen’s hit song “God of Music” showing a rainbow in original video (left) and after censorship by TNT Music, which runs a Russian music chart show dedicated to South Korean pop music. (Image courtesy of HYBE LABELS)

MOSCOW, Russia – TNT Music, which is owned by parent company Fonbet- the largest sports betting company operating in Russia and Kazakhstan, altered a video of the South Korean K-Pop boy band Seventeen’s hit song “God of Music” that showed a rainbow.

 TNT Music transformed the rainbow featured in the original video into a gray cloud. 

According to the English-language Russian news outlet the Moscow Times, TNT Music appears to have erred on the side of caution after a Moscow court fined its owner Fonbet TV 1 million rubles ($10,800) in July for violating the country’s draconian “LGBT propaganda law” when it aired Finnish singer Alma’s music video for the song “Summer Really Hurt Us.”

In a March 2019 article in British publication Gay Times, Alma confirmed she is a lesbian and in a relationship with Finnish poet and human rights activist Natalia Kallio.

The channel faces another fine of up to 16 million rubles ($174,000 USD) on four administrative charges of spreading “LGBT propaganda” among minors, according to Russian state media. 

The Russian Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media, abbreviated as Roskomnadzor, has been directed to ban any websites that contain information about LGBTQ+ identities or anything that could be construed as promoting LGBTQ+ related materials.

According to the Moscow Times, there was fear that the rainbow and an all-boy band would provoke Roskomnadzor into fining TNT again.

LATVIA

The Prime Minister of the Republic of Latvia, Evika Siliņa
(Photo Credit: Press Office European Council)

RIGA, Latvia – In a vote November 9, The Saeima [unicameral parliament] voted to allow same-sex couples to establish civil unions-partnerships, which gives same-sex couples in this Baltic state legal recognition, but fewer rights than married couples.

The country’s Prime Minister, Evika Siliņa, issued a statement applauding the actions by lawmakers.

This is a good day. Society has taken an important step in creating a modern and humane Latvia. With the Saeima supporting the introduction of registered partnerships, the state has fulfilled its legal obligations and given a clear signal that all families are important. Thanks for the intelligent vote!” the prime minister said.

The action by Latvia’s Saeima comes five months after lawmakers in Estonia approved a law that extended marriage rights to same-sex couples in that Baltic nation. However, while the new law allows hospital visiting rights, as well as some tax and social security benefits, the law falls short in other critical areas say LGBTQ+ rights campaigners.

Speaking with Reuters, Kaspars Zalitis, a gay rights activist, noted same-sex couples would still not be able to adopt children and would continue to face inheritance issues.

“This is a great beginning… Latvia is not one of the six countries in the European Union that have no recognition for same-sex couples,” he said.

EUROPEAN UNION

European Union President von der Leyen addresses EU Parliament in October, 2023.
(Photo Credit: Screenshot via Press Office European Council)

BRUSSELS, Belgium – A new global call for civil society organizations (CSO) projects with a projected total budget of 36 million euros under a expanded program on Human Rights and Democracy (part of NDICI/Neighborhood, Development, and International Cooperation Instrument – Global Europe) was announced on Nov. 7.

The present Global Call for Proposals targets:

  • “Fair, Accountable and Inclusive Trade and Business – Flagship Action on Business and Human Rights, Forced and Child Labour and Indigenous Peoples’ Rights;”
    • Global, regional or multi-country projects targeting high-risk sectors, value or supply chains that will contribute to the accompanying measures of the upcoming Corporate Sustainable Due Diligence Directive and Forced Labor Regulation.
    • CSOs will be better equipped to monitor, report, access remedies, partner with the private sector and/or social partners and advocate for the implementation of relevant EU and international human rights principles and legislations. Projects financed will contribute to the sustainable implementation of the Global Gateway Strategy by reinforcing relevant social and environmental standards.
  • “Global actions on human dignity, non-discrimination and inclusion;”
    • Projects will promote equality, inclusion and respect for LGBTQ+ persons at global, regional or national level and more specifically in Sub-Saharan countries where consensual same-sex sexual acts between adults in private are criminalised. Priorities will include advocacy for anti-discrimination laws, support to social inclusion and empowerment of CSOs working on LGBTIQ rights.
    • Promote Freedom of Religion or Belief, and prevent and combat discrimination, intolerance and violence on grounds of religion or belief through regional projects. Under this lot, intersectionality between freedom of religion or belief and gender issues is encouraged. 

Projects will be global, multi-country or regional. The lead applicants should be international organizations given the size of the grants and geographic scope, with at least one local co-applicant and mandatory financial support to local organizations.

FRANCE

During the Sept. 24 football [soccer] match between teams Paris Saint-Germain & Marseille, homophobic chants were audible. (Screenshot/YouTube Ligue 1)

PARIS, France – Attorneys representing Groupe des familles LGBT filed a criminal complaint against Seattle-based Amazon Prime for replay of the Sept. 24 football [soccer] match between teams Paris Saint-Germain & Marseille, where homophobic chants were clearly audible.

According to the French English-language news outlet Le Monde, During the match between the bitter rivals, thousands of Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) supporters chanted homophobic slogans referring to their opponents. An Agence France-Presse (AFP) reporter covering the game said the chanting in PSG’s Parc des Princes stadium went on for around 10 minutes.

Four PSG players, including Randal Kolo Muani and Ousmane Dembélé, were given suspended one-match bans for also chanting insults directed at the Marseille players while celebrating their 4-0 thrashing of their opponents.

In the legal complaint filed, Groupe des familles LGBT noted that under the French criminal code, that while broadcasters are not responsible for offensive content that may occur during a live match they are liable for content offered on replay.

The complaint says that during the replay, “you can hear several chants from fans coming from the stands, some of which are distinctly homophobic in nature.” Two other LGBT rights groups, Mousse and Stop Homophobie, have said they will also join the complaint against Amazon for public insults and incitement to hatred or violence against people based on their sexual orientation.

An Amazon spokesperson told AFP the match was no longer available on Prime Video at the time the complaint was announced and that, as a broadcaster, it did not condone the comments or behavior of certain fans.

“Homophobia has no place in sport or in society, and we condemn it, like all forms of discrimination, in the strongest possible terms”, the spokesperson said.

POLAND

Radosław Brzózka, once a local Świdnik regional elected official and now chief of staff for Polish PiS Education Minister Przemysław Czarnek. (Photo Credit: Government of Poland)

ŚWIDNIK, Poland – In March of 2019, local elected officials of the Polish conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party passed a regional government resolution backed by Radosław Brzózka, who led a vocal and vitriolic anti-LGBTQ+ campaign. Brzózka, is now chief of staff to the country’s education minister Przemysław Czarnek, who labeled LGBTQ+ people, “deviants who do not have the same rights as normal people.”

Earlier this month after the threat of pulling 3.6 million Polish zloty (€810,000 or $867,955 USD) in funding by the European Union the local council rescinded the 2019 resolution.

According to the Polish investigative journalism media outlet OKO.press, in Świdnik, Jakub Osina, a local elected official announced that the resolution has now been repealed and replaced with one that makes no mention of LGBT issues but pledges to protect “the moral development of the young generation and the institution of the family based on Christian values.”

In September of 2021, the executive branch of the European Union, the European Commission, sent letters out to the governors of five of Poland’s voivodeships, (provinces) warning that pandemic relief funds totaling over 126 million euros ($150 million) will be withheld over anti-LGBTQ measures passed in their jurisdictions.

Poland has seen a resurgence in the past three years of rightwing religious ultra-conservative groups backed by nationalistic extremists in this heavily Catholic country of 38 million, which have led to passage of measures to restrict pride parades and other LGBTQ+-friendly events from taking place.

Proponents of these measures claim the necessity of the provinces to be “free of LGBTQ ideology” saying this is mandated by average Poles as well as by the anti-LGBTQ+ views of the Catholic Church.

ILGA-Europe, a Brussels based advocacy group promoting the interests of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex people, at the European level, in a statement it sent to the Blade in June of 2021 after the EU letter was issued, noted that both Hungary and Poland, another EU country in which lawmakers have sought to restrict LGBTQ rights in recent years are at odds with the EU position on LGBTQ+ people.

“For quite some time now, we’ve been informing EU ministers about systematic breaches of EU law committed by Hungary and Poland, which impact on LGBTI rights and the lives of LGBTI people,” says ILGA-Europe.

The threat of losing funds led many Polish local authorities to begin repealing the resolutions local non-profit Polish news outlet Notes from Poland reported.

INDONESIA

Coldplay, Music of The Spheres World Tour at the Tokyo Dome in Tokyo, Japan, November 7, 2023. (Screenshot/YouTube)

JAKARTA, Indonesia – Roughly a hundred conservative Muslims took to the streets of the Indonesian capital city protesting the upcoming concert by British rock band Coldplay on Nov. 15 at Jakarta’s Gelora Bung Karno stadium.

The protestors are angered by the group’s support of the LGBTQ+ community. Coldplay’s lead singer Chris Martin has been known to wear rainbow colors and wave gay pride flags during performances.

The Asian leg of Coldplay’s “Music Of The Spheres World Tour” has been a sell out in every major city on the tour. The AP reported that more than 70,000 tickets were scooped up in less than two hours when sales opened in May as Jakarta is one of the band’s top streaming hubs with 1.6 million fans in the city.

The Associated Press reported that demonstration was organized by Islamist group the 212 Brotherhood Alumni, whose name refers to the Dec. 2, 2016 mass protests against the polarizing Christian politician Basuki Tjahaja Purnama. The crowd chanted “God is Great” and “We reject Coldplay” as they marched to the heavily guarded British Embassy in Jakarta.

“We are here for the sake of guarding our young generation in this country from efforts that could corrupt youth,” Hery Susanto, a protester from West Java’s city of Bandung told AP journalist Fadlan Syam.  “As Indonesian Muslims, we have to reject the Coldplay concert.”

Novel Bamukmin, a protest coordinator, gave a speech criticizing the government for allowing the band to hold a concert in Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country. He said if the concert was not canceled, thousands of protesters would confront the band on its way from the airport.

“Coldplay has long been a strong supporter of LGBT and its lead singer is an atheist,” Bamukmin said, standing on the top of a truck, “We must reject their campaign, their concert here.”

Security concerns in this deeply conservative nation have previously caused other Western musical artists who support the LGBTQ community to cancel their scheduled shows.

Lady Gaga canceled her sold-out show in Indonesia in 2012 over security concerns after Muslim hard-liners threatened violence if the pop star went ahead with her “Born This Way Ball” concert.

Additional reporting by Human Rights Watch, The Moscow Times, Agence France-Presse, Le Monde, Reuters, OKO.press, The Associated Press, and the BBC.

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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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Africa

What’s next for LGBTQ+ rights in South Africa after the country’s elections?

African National Congress lost parliamentary majority on May 29

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Pretoria and Cape Town are the first cities in Africa to install Pride crosswalks. Activists are wondering what the outcome of South Africa's May 29 elections will mean for LGBTQ+ rights. (Photo courtesy of Bruce Walker/Pretoria Pride)

CAPE TOWN, South Africa — More than 50 independent candidates and political parties participated in South Africa’s national and provincial elections that took place on May 29. The Electoral Commission of South Africa declared the results on June 2.

No independent candidate or political party managed to secure the outright parliamentary majority of more than 50 percent of the votes, which prompts the creation of a coalition government. None of the 18 political parties that managed to win at least one seat in the National Assembly wholly represented the LGBTQ+ community.

Although South Africa is the only African country that constitutionally recognizes the rights of the LGBTQ+ community, some of the political parties that managed to secure seats in the National Assembly had signaled they would reserve these gains.

Former President Jacob Zuma, who leads the uMkhonto weSizwe (MK) party, during a January debate said the thought of dating within the same gender was unpalatable and un-African. The MK is now the country’s third largest political party after it won 14.58 percent of the vote, making it a pivotal player in the formation of a coalition government.

Dawie Nel, the executive director of OUT LGBT Well-being, said undermining the constitution is “a dangerous, misguided, and populist strategy to avoid acknowledging the failures of governance and the lack of implementation of constitutional values that are meant to improve the lives of South Africans.”

“South Africa’s constitution is celebrated as one of the most significant achievements of our transition to democracy, ensuring that all citizens are treated with dignity and respect, and that their rights are protected in all aspects of life,” said Nell. 

There now seems to be an impasse on who becomes the government’s next leader because of some of the demands that political parties made before they entered into any negotiations.

Bruce Walker of Pretoria Pride said the best possible outcome for the preservation of LGBTQ+ rights in South Africa would be if the former governing political party, the African National Congress (ANC), which garnered the most support with 40.18 percent of the vote, partners with the Democratic Alliance (DA), which finished second with 21.81 percent of the votes, to form a coalition government.

“I think it will be a good outcome for the community if the DA has some power in a coalition government,” said Walker.

Rise Mzansi, which managed to secure 0.42 percent of the votes with two seats in the National Assembly, said it will continue protecting the rights of the LGBTQ+ community.

“Rise Mzansi reaffirms its commitment in protecting LGBTQ+ rights in South Africa, as outlined in Section 9 of our constitution,” said the party.

Zubenathi Daca, program coordinator for student employability and entrepreneurship development in Nelson Mandela University’s Department of Student Governance and Development said the fight for LGBTQ+ rights in South Africa will continue.

“The battle has not yet been won,” said Daca. “Queer people are still being killed and homophobic remarks are still being made towards us daily, and we need people who have found the confidence to voice out their dissatisfactions against how they are treated and also speak out for the voiceless.” 

“This society is ours just as it is everyone else’s,” added Daca. “We are in corporate spaces, leadership positions, and political spaces to show that we belong here, and that we are here to stay.” 

The constitution says National Assembly members should be sworn in within two weeks of the elections. They will then meet for the first time and elect a new speaker, deputy speaker and president.

Chief Justice Raymond Zondo who will preside over the entire process, on Monday said the National Assembly will meet for the first time since the elections on Friday.

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Africa

LGBTQ+ Nigerians still struggle with housing discrimination and homelessness

Transphobia forced Fola Francis to flee her Ibadan home

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Fola Francis (Photo via Instagram)

By Elvis Kachi | LAGOS, Nigeria — In Nigeria, the pursuit to secure a safe and comfortable home is often fraught with challenges for many, but for the LGBTQ+ community — especially those who are openly gay — these challenges are often insurmountable. 

Some two years ago, Fola Francis, a popular transgender woman who has since passed away, had to leave her home in Ibadan and fled to Lagos due to transphobia. A now deleted video of her had gone viral on TikTok, and it got to the hands of her transphobic landlord and neighbors. They held a rally to make her leave the house, breaking into it many times. 

“I got death threats from my neighbors due to them finding out I’m a trans woman on social media when my videos went viral,” she said to the BBC. 

Francis’s experience doesn’t exist in isolation. 

“For me, all I had to do was be visibly effeminate before my neighbors began to clamp down on and force me to move out,” Damian Okpara, a student at the University of Nigeria, told the Washington Blade. 

Despite the global movement towards acceptance and equality, Nigerian society remains deeply rooted in conservative values that stigmatize and marginalize queer people; and this systemic discrimination is starkly evident in the housing sector, where visibly queer people face significant barriers and prejudices that deny them the fundamental right to safe and secure housing.

“It is nowhere in the constitution that a person should be discriminated against housing of their choice due to their sexuality,” Chizelu Emejuju, a human rights lawyer, told the Blade.

Emejuju founded Minority Watch, which is an organization that focuses on fighting for the rights of minorities, including the queer community, in Nigeria. That said, Nigeria’s legal framework is one of the most hostile in the world towards the LGBTQ+ community. 

The Same-Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act, passed in 2014, not only criminalizes same-sex relationships but also any public display of affection between same-sex couples. This law has legitimized widespread discrimination and has given rise to an environment where queer individuals are systematically marginalized and ostracized.

According to many, homosexuality is often viewed as a Western import, incompatible with the Nigerian values and traditions. Homophobia therefore translates into severe consequences for LGBTQ+ individuals, particularly in the realm of people. 

For Okpara, he’s had to leave his former home to live with a friend, even though it may mean putting both of them at risk of homelessness. 

“Although my friend’s place is more accepting of femme-boys like me, there is still the constant fear that they may switch up on us,” he said. “It’s so hard to be an effeminate man in Nigeria.” 

Okpara’s experience is a stark reminder that for many LGBTQ+ Nigerians, the search for housing is a journey marked by rejection and prejudice. Landlords and housing agents frequently deny rentals to openly queer people or those they suspect are queer. 

A common experience shared by many queer people is being evicted without notice once their sexual orientation or gender identity becomes known. Stories like that of Francis and Okpara are common — tenants, who after months of living peacefully, find themselves suddenly homeless, their belongings discarded, and their safety threatened. This precarious existence forces many into substandard living conditions, or in some cases, into homelessness.

The impact of housing discrimination on queer Nigerians is profound, extending far beyond the physical realm into deep psychological and emotional suffering. 

“Although I am introverted and need friends, I have decided to not even bring anyone into my space anymore,” Valentina Ikpazu, an entrepreneur in Lagos, told the Blade. “At this point, I would rather find other ways to be happy than be homeless.” 

The constant fear of eviction and the relentless search for a safe space create a state of perpetual anxiety and insecurity. This unstable housing situation often leads to chronic stress, depression, and other mental health issues.

The plight of LGBTQ+ people in Nigeria’s housing market exemplifies the broader struggles they face in a society that often rejects their very existence. 

“Queer people need to understand that they have a legal right to stay in a place of choice, especially if the landowners do not include clauses that are discriminatory in the earlier stages of apartment acquisition,” Emejuju said. “Even if they include clauses that are outrightly discriminatory to queer people, it can be challenged in court, as there’s no law [backing up the clauses.]”

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Elvis Kachi is a Nigerian fashion and culture journalist. He’s had in pieces featured across platforms like BBC, Thomson Reuters, Essence Magazine, Condé Nast’s Them, etc. website: www.elviskachi.com

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World

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

LGBTQ+ news stories from around the globe including Qatar, Ukraine, Italy, Thailand, South Korea and Australia

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Los Angeles Blade graphic

QATAR

Manuel Guerrero Aviña (Photo(s) Credit: #QatarMustFreeManuel/X)

DOHA, Qatar — A British-Mexican man who was arrested in a Grindr sting operation has been given a six-month suspended sentence and will be deported – although the state has 30 days to launch an appeal, during which he is not allowed to leave – the BBC reports.

Manuel Guerrero Aviña, 44, was arrested on what his family are calling trumped up drug charges in Doha in February, after being lured to a fake meeting on the gay cruising app Grindr. This week, he was handed his sentence, which includes a fine of approximately $2700.

Guerrero Aviña, who has lived in Qatar for seven years and works for an airline, has told the BBC he is considering an appeal. 

His family has previously told the BBC that he was approached online by a man named “Gio,” who also used the screenname “Mike” on both Grindr and Tinder. Guerrero Aviña invited “Gio” to his apartment, but when he went to the lobby to let him in, police were waiting and arrested him. 

Police searched his apartment and allegedly found amphetamine and methamphetamine. They later administered a drug test which they say show evidence he had used the substances. 

Guerrero Aviña says the drugs were planted as part of a sting operation targeting queer people. Under threat of torture and without a translator or lawyer, he was coerced into signing a document written in Arabic, a language he doesn’t read, admitting his possession of the drugs.

He spent 42 days in pretrial detention before being given provisional release, during which time police attempted to coerce him into naming other queer people. 

Complicating his situation is the fact that he is HIV-positive. While in detention, guards frequently withheld his medication, which could have enabled the virus to build up a resistance to it. He ran out of his prescription, which is not available in Qatar, in April, and has had to use a local substitute.  

Several human rights groups have criticized the lack of due process in Guerrero Aviña’s case, the evidence that he was targeted for his sexual identity, and the implication that a wider crackdown on queer people is in the works. 

“”This has been about his LGBT status from the start and his desire to express that status and his identity, and that’s what this case is about,” James Lynch, co-director of the human rights organization Fair Square, told the BBC. “He’s an LGBT person and he was targeted through a dating app. You don’t do that, unless that’s the thing you are focused on.”

Qatari officials deny that Guerrero Aviña was targeted for any reason other than the possession of illegal substances.

Following Guerrero Aviña’s arrest, Grindr began displaying a warning to users in Qatar that “police are known to be making arrests on the app.”

Same-sex intercourse between men is illegal in Qatar, with potential sentences of up to three years. The law also allows a death sentence to be imposed for unmarried Muslims who have sex regardless of gender, though there are no records it has ever been carried out.

UKRAINE

Photo courtesy of Kyiv Pride 2024

KYIV, Ukraine – The Kyiv City Council denied a organizers of Kyiv Pride a permit to hold the annual human rights demonstration on the city’s metro system, citing security concerns and the need to maintain service on the subway network, the Kyiv Post reports.

Kyiv Pride organizers say they still plan to go ahead with their march in the Metro on June 16 even without a city permit. 

Kyiv has not held a Pride festival since the latest Russian invasion began in February 2022. The organizers of Kyiv Pride say they were inspired to hold their march on the Metro system by a similar event held in the war-torn eastern city Kharkiv in 2022, where the Metro was the safest place to gather during Russian bombardment.

It’s partly because the metro is used as a bomb shelter during Russian attacks that the city denied a permit for the event. The city released a statement on June 3 calling on organizers to find another venue.

“In order not to endanger the participants and passengers, and to avoid possible provocations, the city authorities cannot allow the Equality March to take place in the metro,” it said.

Organizers expect up to 500 people to take part in the Pride march this year. They’re asking participants to register in advance in order to limit the number of participants who show up at metro.

In a lengthy post on Kyiv Pride’s Facebook page, the organizers underscore the importance of holding a highly visible Pride festival, even during the upheaval of wartime. 

“It is our obligation before Ukrainian queer soldiers who are also supporting the March to ensure that they return from the frontlines to a more just legal environment,” the post says.

“Backed by society, the historic same-sex partnerships law and the law on hate crimes dropped from the Parliament’s priority list. We must seize the opportunity to remind the government that ensuring dignity and equality for all Ukrainian citizens is not a second-tier priority. Organizing an LGBTQ+ civil rights march in Ukraine amid the ongoing Russian [sic] invasion is a complex and courageous endeavor.” 

ITALY

Alessandro Monterosso & Alec Sander (Photo Credit: Monterosso/Facebook)

MILAN, Italy – An Italian couple is planning to challenge social conventions even as they challenge the bonds of the earth itself, by becoming the first gay couple to get married in outer space.

Alessandro Monterosso, a 33-year-old health software entrepreneur, and Alec Sander, a 25-year-old recording artist, will exchange vows in 2025 aboard a private spaceflight offered by the US company Space Perspective. 

Space Perspective is not yet in commercial operation, but its website says it will offer bespoke experiences aboard a luxury capsule that is lifted to the edge of space by a hydrogen-filled balloon at a speed of 12 miles per hour.

Monterosso and Sander have booked a whole capsule for them and six guests at a cost of $125,000 per person, an even $1,000,000 total. They say they are not seeking sponsors.

Monterosso and Sander first met in Padua in 2017, and they dated for four years until Sander broke it off because it was difficult to date while Monterosso was still in the closet. A year later, they met up again and Monterosso asked Sander to marry him. Sander agreed, but he didn’t immediately know that his fiancé wanted to hold the wedding in space.

“I was planning the trip as a civilian, to fulfill my childhood desire to become an astronaut. When I came into contact with the aerospace agency we relied on, it came naturally to me to ask: but can I also get married in space?” Monterosso told the Corriere Della Sera newspaper.

“It seemed like such a romantic idea. I had struggled so much to accept myself as homosexual, not because I wasn’t sure, but because of the social context, and I told myself that now I would have to tell the whole world how I felt. Firstly because I know that there are many people who experience what I experienced, and then to confirm the infinite love I feel for Alec,” he says. 

But Monterosso and Sander have a political message behind their space wedding as well. Same-sex marriage is not legal in Italy, and its current far-right government has cracked down hard on same-sex parents.

“Couples like us are not always well regarded in Italy. In other places in the world, they are even illegal. In Russia we are considered terrorists. Well, we just want to say that it’s time to normalize everything and amplify this message as much as possible. And if it is therefore so difficult to get married on Earth, then we are going to do it in space, with a galactic wedding whose aim is precisely to normalize these loves,” Monterosso says. “The message is aimed at people, because even today we still feel eyes on us if we hold hands while walking down the street. But if people normalize, politics must adapt.”

Monterosso and Sander already have their sights set on more distant shores.

“For our 20th anniversary, we are aiming for Mars,” Monterosso says. 

THAILAND

Thai Prime Minister, Sretta Thavisin (Screenshot/YouTube CGTN)

BANGKOK, Thailand – Thai Prime Minister, Sretta Thavisin marched in the annual Bangkok Pride Parade June 1 along with several members of his government, pledging to support the LGBTQ+ community’s fight for equality.

Thavisin was sworn in as prime minister last August following a contentious election in which support for LGBTQ+ rights became a major theme. His government has already made rapid progress on several key demands of the queer community.

Last December, a same-sex marriage and adoption bill passed the lower house of the Thai parliament, and it is expected to receive final approval from the Thai senate June 18. It would make Thailand the first southeast Asian country to legalize same-sex marriage, and only the third in Asia after Nepal and Taiwan.

Thavisin has also directed his government to draft a gender recognition bill that would give Thai people the right to change their legal gender or adopt a non-binary gender.

Bangkok Pride has been celebrated annually since 1999. Thailand has long been seen as a relatively LGBTQ-friendly country, but had begun to lag behind some Western countries on legal rights for LGBTQ people, particularly during the years when Thailand was ruled by a military junta starting in 2014. 

SOUTH KOREA

서울퀴어문화축제 Seoul Queer Culture Festival 2024 (Screenshot/YouTube 서울퀴어문화축제l)

SEOUL, South Korea – The 25th annual Seoul Queer Cultural Festival drew an estimated 150,000 attendees despite a ban imposed by the city council on the use of its usual venue, a victory for the country’s queer community.

The organizers of SQCF have been trying to hold their event at Soul Plaza in front of City Hall since 2015, but every year, their permit is denied by the city. Instead the festival took to the streets of Seoul’s downtown Euljiro district June 1, as they did not require a city permit to use the streets.

“We think that sending out a message of ‘queer is everywhere’ is the most important,” SQFC Organizing Committee Chairperson Yang Sun-woo told a press conference held during the festival. “My message is, do not fear. Open the closet and take a step closer.”

City authorities have repeatedly barred SQCF from booking the plaza and other city venues for events, including for academic events and talks. Recently, authorities denied permits for panel discussions on democracy and American human rights struggles at the Soeul Citizens Hall and the Soeul History Museum, claiming the events were “political” and would stoke “social conflict.”

By comparison, the city has allowed events by Christian organizations to use the plaza and other civic spaces.

The SQCF organizing committee has filed a complaint with the National Human Rights Commission over their treatment by the city. However, South Korea lacks a national law that bans anti-LGBTQ discrimination. 

Reuters reported that a counter-protest called the “Holy Breakwater of Unified Christian Rally” attracted approximately 20,000 participants. 

서울퀴어문화축제 Seoul Queer Culture Festival 2024

AUSTRALIA

Sydney Mardi Gras 2024 (Photo Credit: Government of New South Wales)

SYDNEY, Australia – The government of New South Wales issued a historic apology this week to queer people who were persecuted under old laws that criminalized same-sex intercourse.

New South Wales decriminalized same-sex intimacy in 1984, one of the last Australian states to do so. Forty years later, it has become the last state to issue an apology for criminalizing queer people, after all other states did so in 2016 and 2017.

Delivering a speech in the state parliament, NSW Premier Chris Minns said he “recognizes and regrets this parliament’s role in enacting laws and endorsing policies of successive governments’ decisions that criminalized, persecuted and harmed people based on their sexuality and gender.

Minns’ apology acknowledged people were harmed by these laws even if they weren’t directly charged or convicted under them.

“To those who survived these terrible years, and to those who never made it through, we are truly sorry. We’re sorry for every person convicted under legislation that should never have existed. For every person that experienced fear as a result of that legislation.

“Everyone who lost a job, who lost their future, or who lost the love of family and friends. We are very sorry for every person, convicted or otherwise, who were made to live a smaller life because of these laws,” he said.

People who had been convicted under New South Wales’ old sodomy laws have been eligible to have the convictions expunged since a law change in 2014.

Minns’ government recently passed a ban on conversion therapy in March, making New South Wales the fourth jurisdiction in Australia to do so.

The state’s only openly gay MP, Independent Alex Greenwich, says that the apology has to be followed by more action to promote equality.

He’s put forward his own bill that would close a loophole in anti-discrimination law to ban discrimination by religious schools against LGBT students and teachers, and would allow trans people to change their legal gender without having to undergo a medical procedure.

“I rise as the only openly gay member of the Legislative Assembly to contribute to this apology,” Greenwich said in the state parliament. “I am one of only two in this chamber’s 186-year-old history. This in itself shows how much work we need to do.”

Global LGBTQ+ news gathering & reporting by Rob Salerno 

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Canada

Comedian Rob Schneider booed off stage for transphobic jokes

The Hospitals of Regina Foundation issued an official apology saying they do not “condone, accept, endorse or share Schneider’s positions”

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Former Saturday Night Live performer Rob Schneider telling transphobic jokes at a Turning Point USA gathering in Demember 2023. (Screenshot/YouTube TPUSA)

REGINA, Canada – Former Saturday Night Live performer Rob Schneider was a somewhat popular comedic actor who seemed to have it all. But one day, he became a transphobic anti-vax crusader. And he’s just found out that being full of hate ain’t so great.

While performing at a hospital fundraiser in Regina, Saskatchewan June 1, Schneider was asked to leave the stage after multiple guests lodged complaints with organizers over his transphobic material.

The Hospitals of Regina Foundation issued an official apology Wednesday night, saying they do not “condone, accept, endorse or share Mr. Schneider’s positions.”

“While we recognize that in a free and democratic society, individuals are entitled to their views and opinions and that comedy is intended to be edgy, the content, positions and opinions expressed during Mr. Schneider’s set do not align with the values of our Foundation and team,” the statement from the HRF read.

The fundraiser was a sold-out event that raised $350,000 for the city’s hospitals.

Tynan Allen, a DEI consultant who was in the audience, says the apology isn’t enough.

“What’s missing is an action plan. I love an apology, but it doesn’t mean a lot to show that they’ve learned anything,” Allen told CBC News.

“Not only is this completely inappropriate and offensive and really filled with hatred, but it’s also the first day of Pride and we have to recognize what that means to people, especially in a hospital setting where people go through gender-affirming care… and that’s being challenged and mocked and laughed at,” Allen says.

Attendees have posted on social media that Schneider’s set was mainly rants about COVID vaccines and complaints about the existence of trans people.

“Typical transphobic dumbassery and most of it was an attempt at indoctrination rather than comedy,” said one poster on Reddit.

“The rest was kind of tame but the crowd wasn’t laughing… He was floundering bad and kept looking at his notes to try to figure out what to talk about. I think he was realizing he had burned through stories and ran out of jokes. He said he had one more story, and that’s when the host told him that they had run out of time and had to get to the after party.”

Other users expressed bewilderment that Rob Schneider was booked for a hospital fundraiser in 2024.

“People are still booking Rob Schneider for things? Does anyone actually do any research before booking people?” said one Redditer.

“Did they…not look at his Twitter feed before booking him?” said another.

The Hospitals of Regina Foundation told CBC that it booked Schneider in 2023 through an agent. Schneider’s hard-right political views have been public for over a decade

The San Francisco-born Schneider is best known as an alum of Saturday Night Live, as the star of the Deuce Bigelow films, and from his many collaborations with Adam Sandler.His hard-right political turn seems to have begun with a campaign against vaccine mandates in California schools in 2012. While he was once critical of former President Trump’s plan to build a border wall with Mexico, citing his own marriage into a Mexican family, he claims he voted for Trump in 2016. He’s since become a fairly regular figure on Fox News, which last year aired his poorly reviewed comedy special Rob Schneider: Woke Up In America on its SVOD platform Fox Nation.

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India

Narendra Modi to form coalition government after winning Indian election

LGBTQ+ issues largely absent from campaign

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Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. (Photo by shganti777/Bigstock)

NEW DELHI — In a vibrant democracy like India, the anticipation surrounding election results is always palpable.

On Tuesday, the stakes were incredibly high, especially for the LGBTQ+ community. The air was thick with suspense, and social media platforms buzzed with the anxiety and hopes of millions. As the night wore on, discussions flourished, emotions ran high, and the country collectively held its breath. The results, which trickled in at their own unhurried pace, promised to shape the future landscape of India’s social and political climate.

The Election Commission on Tuesday announced the much-awaited results.

The Bharatiya Janata Party, led by its charismatic leaders, not only retained power but also strengthened its position with a clear majority. With 293 seats, the coalition comfortably surpassed the majority mark, ensuring a third consecutive term for Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Despite supporters’ hopes and high expectations for a resounding victory, the election results did not fully meet their aspirations. This sense of disappointment was palpable, especially considering the extensive campaigns and efforts made ahead the elections.

All the regional and national parties came together, forming the formidable Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance to challenge the Modi-led National Democratic Alliance. This INDIA alliance, a vibrant coalition of 34 parties, stood united, mostly in opposition to Modi’s policies and leadership.

The BJP has recently articulated its position on LGBTQ+ rights in India.

The government’s opposition to marriage equality in the Supreme Court highlighted their stance against nuptials for same-sex couples. By acknowledging the commitment made by the Supreme Court on issues faced by the LGBTQ+ community, however, the government did establish a dedicated committee to address them.

This committee, formed in April and chaired by Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba, aims to address critical concerns that include healthcare access, pension entitlements, and property rights for LGBTQ+ people.

The inclusion of secretaries from various key ministries signifies a comprehensive approach to addressing these multifaceted challenges. The committee’s creation also underscores the government’s recognition of the LGBTQ+ community’s unique needs and its commitment to ensuring their rights and well-being are systematically addressed.

Despite their alliance, the opposition parties approached the election with individual manifestos rather than a unified platform. This disjointed strategy meant that only two of the 34 parties made explicit commitments to the LGBTQ+ community.

The Indian National Congress, one of the major opposition parties, promised to introduce a bill that would recognize LGBTQ+ couples’ civil unions. The Communist Party of India (Marxist) also pledged to enact pro-LGBTQ+ laws and underscored the need for legislative measures to protect and promote the rights of LGBTQ+ people.

The LGBTQ+ community throughout the election campaign found itself largely overlooked in the opposition parties’ public discourse. LGBTQ+ rights were conspicuously absent from Indian National Congress leaders’ campaign speeches, despite the promises they made in their platforms.

Rahul Gandhi, the prominent Indian National Congress figurehead, failed to address LGBTQ+ rights in his speeches, even in Uttar Pradesh and other states with significant LGBTQ+ populations.

Twenty-eight percent of India’s transgender population lives in Uttar Pradesh. The state, along with others with substantial LGBTQ+ communities, saw no mention of issues that are critically important to them during Gandhi’s rallies and public speeches.

This disconnect between the promises made in manifestos and the topics discussed on the campaign trail underscores a broader issue within political campaigning, where marginalized communities often struggle to find a voice. Despite the written commitments to LGBTQ+ rights, the lack of vocal support during the campaign highlights the ongoing challenges in bringing these important issues to the forefront of political debate.

Several independent LGBTQ+ candidates, in a remarkable display of political participation, entered the fray during election campaign. They include Sunaina Kinner, a trans woman who ran for office in Jharkand state’s Dhanbad constituency.

Kinner faced considerable challenges and lost the election.

She received 3,462 votes, a modest number in the face of entrenched political dynamics. The NOTA (None of the Above) option received 7,354 votes in Kinner’s constituency, indicating a substantial number of voters were dissatisfied with all available candidates.

The BJP’s election manifesto reflected a limited focus on the broader LGBTQ+ community, opting instead to highlight specific initiatives for trans people. The party has promised to improve healthcare access for them.

By promising to include trans people in health programs and offer free health insurance coverage through the prime minister’s Ayushman Bharat Scheme, the BJP aims to provide essential medical support and financial protection. This initiative could potentially improve healthcare outcomes for many trans people, ensuring they receive the necessary medical attention without the burden of financial constraints.

The brevity of the party’s mention of trans issues and the absence of broader LGBTQ+ legislation, however, indicates the party’s stance on LGBTQ+ issues.

After a key meeting of the NDA on Wednesday that the BJP led, Modi was elected party leader and will submit to President Droupadi Murmu on Friday a formal request to form the government for the third consecutive time. The INDIA alliance will sit in opposition.

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

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Africa

Kenyan Supreme Court orders MP to pay LGBTQ+ activist $5,000

Peter Kaluma challenged ruling that allowed NGO to register

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Kenyan MP Peter Kaluma (Photo courtesy of Kaluma's X account)

NAIROBI, Kenya — The Kenyan Supreme Court has ordered opposition MP Peter Kaluma to pay an LGBTQ+ activist around $5,000 (Ksh500,000) for challenging its ruling that allowed his former organization to register as a non-governmental organization.

The Supreme Court on Monday ordered Kaluma, who has sponsored the country’s anti-homosexuality bill, to pay former National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission Executive Director Eric Gitari the amount after it dismissed his appeal of its ruling last September.

Gitari was a defendant in the case after leading the push for NGLHRC’s registration as an NGO amid opposition by the government because it championing consensual same-sex sexual relations that Kenya outlaws.

Five of the court’s seven justices, led by Deputy Chief Justice Philomena Mwilu through a virtual hearing, ordered the lawmaker to pay Gitari $5,000 for time wasted and costs incurred in hearing his appeal and an additional $2,000 (Ksh200,000) for bringing the case.

The judges’ ruling comes after Kaluma in January approached the Supreme Court to dispute the Deputy Registrar’s decision to assess the appeal’s costs and the order to pay Gitari after he lost.

The MP argued the Deputy Registrar did not serve him with the ruling’s notice to pay and that he only learned about the court’s decision when Gitari’s lawyer texted him to demand the $5,000.  

Kaluma also argued the lawyer demanded that the court’s seven day timeline to challenge the payment had already expired on Nov. 14, 2023. Kaluma thus urged the Supreme Court to give him more time to challenge the Deputy Registrar’s decision. 

The Supreme Court, however, rejected Kaluma’s plea after establishing he did not tell the truth since legal filings show the Deputy Registrar served him the ruling he disputed through his official email address on Nov. 6, 2023. 

“We note that there have been numerous correspondences from the court through this court’s email address to MP Kaluma and vice versa. Notably, there was correspondence from the court on Sept. 12, 2023, and Nov. 6, 2023, to the MP via his email address,” Mwilu noted.    

The judges also noted that from the court’s records from March 9, 2023, after issuing the first ruling in the NGLHRC registration case and emailing the same to Kaluma, do not indicate his email changed

“Therefore, there is no doubt in our minds that the email address in question belongs to the applicant. We therefore come to the irresistible conclusion that Kaluma was indeed aware and was served with the impugned ruling,” Mwilu stated.  

The court further noted Kaluma did not provide a good reason for not challenging the Deputy Registrar’s decision within the statutory timelines.

“Further, the applicant has not met any of the conditions to convince this court to exercise its discretion in his favor,” Mwilu ruled.   

Her affirmation on behalf of the court to decline to hear Kaluma’s attempt to delay paying Gitari brought the matter to an end. Kaluma is now required to comply with the order without any delay or risk further legal action.   

Kaluma, who was not a party to the Supreme Court’s hearings in the NGLHRC case, lost his appeal last Sept. 12. The judges cited the MP’s filing his application beyond the stipulated timelines and for not being a party to the case during the initial hearings.

“In our view, the application is a disguised appeal from this court’s judgment and does not fall within the confines of the parameters prescribed for review by statute and applicable case law. Therefore, the application stands dismissed,” the court ruled. “On costs, the applicant is an advocate of the High Court of Kenya and a member of parliament. He ought to have known that his application was misconceived. He must consequently bear the costs thereof.”

The judges, while allowing NGLHRC to register as an NGO, stated it would be unconstitutional to limit the right to associate, through denial of registration of an association based on the applicants’ sexual orientation.

The Supreme Court’s ruling — which LGBTQ+ activists received with joy and anti-LGBTQ+ campaigners, clerics and politicians condemned — came 10 years later after Gitari challenged the Kenya NGOs Coordination Board in lower courts for refusing to register NGLHRC.   

He brought the case in 2013.

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