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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FRANCE

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

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

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

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

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

UNITED KINGDOM

UK Labour Party’s LGBTQ+ Manifesto Disappoints Trans Advocates

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

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

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

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

PHILIPINES

Filipino Student Challenges Pope on LGBTQ+ Language

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

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

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

NAMIBIA

(Bigstock photo)

Namibia Decriminalizes Homosexuality in Landmark Ruling

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

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

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

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

Global LGBTQ+ news gathering & reporting by Rob Salerno 

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Africa

Cameroon president’s daughter comes out

Brenda Biya acknowledges relationship with Brazilian model

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Brenda Biya (Photo via Instagram)

The daughter of Cameroonian President Paul Biya has come out as a lesbian.

Brenda Biya, 26, on June 30 posted to her Instagram page a picture of her kissing Brazilian model Layyons Valença.

“I’m crazy about you and I want the world to know,” said Brenda Biya.

Her father has been Cameroon’s president since 1982.

Consensual same-sex sexual relations remain criminalized in the Central African country that borders Nigeria, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, the Republic of Congo, the Central African Republic, and Chad. The State Department’s 2023 human rights report notes harassment, discrimination, violence, and arbitrary arrests of LGBTQ people are commonplace in the country.

Brenda Biya is a musician who does not live in Cameroon.

The BBC reported she told Le Parisien, a French newspaper, in an exclusive interview published on Tuesday that she and Valença have been together for eight months. The women have also traveled to Cameroon together three times, but Brenda Biya did not tell her family they were in a relationship.

Brenda Biya said she did not tell her family that she planned to come out, and they were upset when she did. Brenda Biya told Le Parisien that her mother, Cameroonian first lady Chantale Biya, asked her to delete her Instagram post.

The Washington Blade on Thursday did not see the picture of Brenda Biya and Valença on her Instagram account.

“Coming out is an opportunity to send a strong message,” Brenda Biya told Le Parisien.

Brenda Biya described Cameroon’s criminalization law as “unfair, and I hope that my story will change it.”

Activists applauded Brenda Biya for coming out. The BBC reported the DDHP Movement, which supports Cameroon’s anti-LGBTQ laws, filed a complaint against her with the country’s public prosecutor.

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Caribbean

Dutch Supreme Court rules Aruba, Curaçao must allow same-sex couples to marry

Ruling likely also applicable to St. Maarten

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Curaçao is one of the constituent countries in the Caribbean that are part of the Netherlands. The Dutch Supreme Court on July 12, 2024, ruled Curaçao and Aruba must extend marriage rights to same-sex couples. The ruling will also apply to St. Maarten. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

The Dutch Supreme Court on Friday ruled Aruba and Curaçao must extend marriage rights to same-sex couples.

The Joint Court of Justice of Aruba, Curaçao, St. Maarten and of Bonaire, St. Eustatius, and Saba in 2022 ruled in favor of marriage equality in two cases that Fundacion Orguyo Aruba and Human Rights Caribbean in Curaçao filed.

The governments of the two islands appealed the ruling.

The Joint Court of Justice of Aruba, Curaçao, St. Maarten and of Bonaire, St. Eustatius, and Saba has jurisdiction over Aruba, Curaçao, and St. Maarten —three constituent countries within the Netherlands — and Bonaire, St. Eustatius, and Saba — which are special municipalities within the kingdom. 

Same-sex couples have been able to legally marry and adopt children in Bonaire, St. Eustatius, and Saba since 2012.

Aruba, Curaçao, and St. Maarten must recognize same-sex marriages from the Netherlands, Bonaire, St. Eustatius, and Saba. Aruba’s registered partnership law took effect in 2021.

“Today, we celebrate a historic victory for the dignity and rights of LGBT individuals in Curaçao and Aruba,” said Human Rights Caribbean President Janice Tjon Sien Kie on Friday in a statement.

Aruban Sen. Miguel Mansur, who is gay, on Friday described the ruling to the Washington Blade as “an amazing victory which applies to Aruba, Curaçao, and by implication St. Maarten.”

“Aruba progresses into a society with less discrimination, more tolerance, and acceptance,” he said.

Melissa Gumbs, a lesbian St. Maarten MP, told the Blade the ruling “could very well have some bearing on our situation here.” 

“I’m definitely looking into it,” she said. “We’re researching it to see what is the possibility, and also in touch with our friends in Aruba who are, of course, overjoyed with this ruling.”

Cuba, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, St. Martin, St. Barts, Martinique, and Guadeloupe, are the other jurisdictions in the Caribbean in which same-sex couples can legally marry. 

Mansur said the first same-sex marriages in Aruba will happen “very soon.”

“There are two couples ready to wed,” he told the Blade.

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Caribbean

Black transgender woman from Chicago disappears in the Bahamas

Taylor Casey last seen on June 19 on Paradise Island

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Taylor Casey (Photo courtesy of Facebook)

A Black transgender woman from Chicago disappeared last month while attending a yoga retreat in the Bahamas.

flyer the Royal Bahamas Police Force has distributed says Taylor Casey, 42, was last seen on June 19 on Paradise Island, which is adjacent to Nassau, the country’s capital.

Casey’s family in a press release said employees at the Sivanandra Ashram Yoga Retreat she was attending reported her missing on June 20 “when she failed to attend that day’s classes.” 

Casey’s mother, Colette Seymore, traveled to Paradise Island after her daughter disappeared.

The press release, which advocates in Chicago released ahead of a press conference on Thursday, notes “a search of the area and conversations with the Bahamian authorities left Ms. Colette Seymore with more questions than answers.”

Thursday is Casey’s 42nd birthday.

Seymore is among those who spoke at Thursday’s press conference.

“My child has been missing for almost three weeks,” said Seymore in the press release. “My family, friends, and I are distraught! I am pleading with everyone to call your elected officials and demand the FBI lead this investigation and bring her home safe and sound.”

The Windy City Times described Casey as “a fixture of Chicago’s transgender community and a beloved youth advocate.” Casey has also practiced yoga for 15 years, and went to the retreat “as part of a long-term goal to deepen her yoga practice.”

“She was excited to be participating in the yoga teacher training program and looking forward to sharing her experience with others when she returned,” noted a second press advisory her family released this week.

The Nassau Guardian, a Bahamian newspaper, on June 27 reported authorities found Casey’s cell phone in the ocean, but her other belongings were still in her room at the retreat. 

A spokesperson for Taylor’s family told the Washington Blade they have reached out to the State Department and the U.S. Embassy in the Bahamas for assistance. Eyewitness News Bahamas, a Bahamian newscast, on June 28 reported the Federal Bureau of Investigation is working with Bahamian authorities to investigate Taylor’s disappearance.

The Bahamas Organization of LGBTI Affairs has also offered its support to Taylor’s family and assistance to authorities.

“There is still hope,” Alexus D’Marco, the group’s executive director, told Eyewitness News Bahamas. “They’re just looking for that piece of hope and to have some closure to finding their loved one.” 

D’Marco also called for Bahamian authorities to do more to investigate missing persons’ cases in the country.

“A human being is missing, and that is the whole thing about this,” she told Eyewitness News Bahamas. “Regardless of her gender identity, being identified as a trans person, she’s still a human being and she’s still a visitor to our shores.” 

Anyone with information about Casey’s disappearance can call the Royal Bahamas Police Force’s Criminal Investigation Department at (242) 502-9991, (242) 502-9975, or (202) 502-9976.

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Africa

Ugandan activists again appeal ruling that upheld Anti-Homosexuality Act

Country’s Constitutional Court in April refused to ‘nullify’ law

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(Image by rarrarorro/Bigstock)

A group of LGBTQ activists in Uganda on Thursday once again appealed a ruling that upheld the country’s Anti-Homosexuality Act.

President Yoweri Museveni in May 2023 signed the law, which contains a death penalty provision for “aggravated homosexuality.”

The U.S. subsequently imposed visa restrictions on Ugandan officials and removed the country from a program that allows sub-Saharan African countries to trade duty-free with the U.S. The World Bank Group also announced the suspension of new loans to Uganda.

The Ugandan Constitutional Court on April 3 refused to “nullify the Anti-Homosexuality Act in its totality.” Sexual Minorities Uganda Executive Director Frank Mugisha and Jacqueline Kasha Nabagesara are among the activists who appealed the ruling to the country’s Court of Appeal on April 16.

A picture that Mugisha posted to his X account on Thursday notes he, along with Nabagesara, are two of the 22 activists who filed the latest appeal with the Supreme Court, which is the country’s highest court.

“Today, we have filed an appeal in the Supreme Court of Uganda to overturn the Constitutional Court decision that upheld the Uganda Anti-Homosexuality Law,” said Mugisha.

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Africa

LGBTQ Kenyans join protests against controversial tax bill

More than 40 people killed after protesters stormed parliament on June 25

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There were clashes between police and protesters in Nairobi, Kenya, on June 2, 2024. (Screen capture via AP YouTube)

Queer Kenyans have braved the risks of homophobic attacks and joined young people in the nationwide protests against the government’s proposed tax hikes on bread and other essentials.

The protests, which started mid-last month before the National Assembly on June 25 passed the country’s controversial Finance Bill 2024, have been led by the country’s Gen Z and millennial populations.

The nationwide protests, which culminated with angry mobs storming parliament when the bill passed, have also drawn LGBTQ Kenyans who have marched with Pride flags alongside other protesters with the national flag. The queer protesters, however, stopped carrying the rainbow flags out of fear of anti-LGBTQ attacks after other protesters warned the presence of the Pride flag threatened to spur a serious backlash from parents, clerics, and government loyalists who oppose the championing of homosexuality, which Kenyan laws criminalize.

President William Ruto, who defiantly pushed for the enactment of the bill to raise more revenues to implement projects, bowed to pressure from the protesters and the international community and declined to assent to the proposed law. This decision followed the ugly scenes on June 25 after riot police responded to the peaceful protesters with force that left more than 40 people dead and more than 300 others injured from live bullets, massive looting, and destruction of property.

GALCK, which is a coalition of 16 LGBTQ rights groups, while supporting the anti-tax protests and the participation of their members stated that the Finance Bill “disproportionately burdens Kenyans and threatens our most vulnerable communities including the LGBTQ+ individuals.”

“For LGBTQ+ Kenyans who often face additional healthcare challenges, these taxes pose a significant barrier,” GALCK said in a statement.

The group reiterated that introducing taxes on digital content creation on which the majority of Kenya’s unemployed youths rely as a source of income would have also severely impacted the LGBTQ organizations and activists who depend on online platforms for advocacy and awareness campaigns.

“This stifles crucial efforts to address systemic inequalities faced by the LGBTQ+ community,” GALCK noted.

GALCK also stated the government’s proposed tax hikes on transaction costs for bank and mobile money transfers through the Finance Bill would have impacted LGBTQ people in need of emergency support and smooth flow of funds within the queer community.

Regarding the government’s proposal that would have allowed the country’s tax collector, the Kenya Revenue Authority, to freely access crucial information from people regardless of the existing data protection laws, GALCK noted the move would have amounted to a serious privacy violation to the LGBTQ organizations, activists, and donors.

“This bill is not just about the proposed tax hikes, it is about basic rights and the future of Kenya,” GALCK affirmed. “As GALCK, we will continue protesting and raising awareness until our voices are heard. Together, we can build a safe and sustainable country for all of us.”

Although GALCK has expressed its condolences to the families of protesters killed during the nationwide protests, it has thus far not reported any queer person killed or injured, even as a memorial concert in honor of the more than 40 victims was held last Sunday at Uhuru Park in Nairobi, the Kenyan capital.

The Initiative for Equality and Non-Discrimination (INEND), an LGBTQ+ rights group, has also been instrumental in ensuring both the queer and non-LGBTQ protesters stay safe and healthy during and after protests by sharing informative tips.

INEND, for instance, informed the protesters on the need to bathe to get rid of teargas and other chemical compounds that riot police threw at them, residual dust, and sweat for healthy skin. The group also advised protesters to drink a lot of water to (re)hydrate their bodies, get enough rest after the protest, seek immediate medical care when injured, and receive psychological support.

“Once rested, movements (protesters) should regroup in a day or two to discuss follow-up steps for arrested members, successes or setbacks of the protest, opportunities created for movement-building and the next strategies involving media appearances, following up with institutions, social media campaigns, another protest, and suchlike activities,” INEND stated.

The nationwide protest movement, which is organic, has mostly been mobilized by social media influencers and human rights activists but with no de facto leaders. It is, therefore, difficult for authorities to deal with it and they have resorted to arbitrary arrests and abductions.

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Africa

Transgender woman kidnapped, sexually assaulted in Zimbabwe

Sunflower Sibanda released on July 3, found refuge at LGBTQ group’s offices

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Sunflower Sibanda (Photo courtesy of Sibanda's Facebook page)

A transgender woman in Zimbabwe who was kidnapped late last month has been found alive.

Chayelle Cathro, a missing persons investigator, said Sunflower Sibanda was last seen at the Eclipse nightclub in Harare, the country’s capital, with an unknown assailant on June 28.

Sibanda, who lives in Bulawayo, the country’s second largest city that is roughly 288 miles from Harare, reserved an Airbnb in the capital’s Avonlea neighborhood before she went to the club.

“Sunflower was last spotted at Eclipse club in the inner city by multiple confirmed sources,” said Cathro. “She left the club with an unidentified man who was allegedly taking her to her reserved Airbnb in Avonlea. However, the Airbnb hosts confirmed that she never checked in.”

Cathro said two of Sibanda’s friends began to search for her on June 29 “when she did not make an appearance at an event she was meant to attend.” They looked for her at the Airbnb and then went to the police station and the nightclub “where guards confirmed that there was no unusual activity the previous night.”

They ended their search at Parirenyatwa Hospital, “where they checked the emergency room, resuscitation, and specialist services.” 

Sibanda on July 3 was dumped in a remote area along Bulawayo Road in the Harare suburb of Norton. She then walked 29 miles to GALZ (an Association of LGBTI People in Zimbabwe)’s offices where her family in a press release said she spent the night.

“She never checked in as she was abducted, taken advantage of, and left in a remote area after a night out with friends,” said her family. “She was abducted by someone claiming he would take her to the Airbnb when she was inebriated. He did not take her home but instead robbed and sexually assaulted her.”

“Sunflower is currently receiving support and assistance during this difficult time from loved ones, and has already received medical support,” added her family. “We shall respect her privacy and journey towards healing at the same time while wishing her the best moving forward. It has been a very difficult time for everyone but we are all relieved to have her back home.” 

Samuel Matsikure, a Zimbabwean human rights activist, said it was a huge relief that Sibanda had been found.

“As a citizen and someone I have learned to love I am humbled by the response from the country and worldwide,” said Matsikure

Sibanda’s friend, who asked to remain anonymous, echoed Matsikure.

“I am incredibly relieved and grateful to share that Sunflower has been found and is safe. I know many of you have questions about how, where, and with whom she was found, and I understand the concern and curiosity,” said the friend. “However, what’s most important right now is that she is in safe hands.” 

“I invite everyone to continue holding space for her as she recovers,” they added. “Rest assured, any necessary information will be shared in due time.”

Section 73 of Zimbabwe’s Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act on sexual crimes and crimes against morality states “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.”

Discrimination and violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity remains commonplace in Zimbabwe.

A handful of people last month stormed GALZ’s offices and spray painted homophobic graffiti on the walls. The assailants also made anti-gay slurs.

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World

Out in the World: LGBTQ news from Europe and Asia

Labour Party trounced Conservatives in UK elections

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(Los Angeles Blade graphic)

UNITED KINGDOM

The UK Labour Party won an overwhelming majority in national elections July 4, ending 14 years of Conservative Party rule that have been characterized by a deteriorating human rights situation for LGBTQ Britons, particularly transgender people. 

But the election of Kier Starmer as new prime minister seems to have queer people only cautiously optimistic at best. 

While Starmer’s Labour Party manifesto pledged to improve the queer people’s rights and safety by banning conversion therapy, expanding hate crime laws, and simplifying the gender recognition process for trans people, Starmer has also spent a lot of time playing to the widespread anti-trans hysteria in Britain.

He has said that trans people should not be allowed in single-sex spaces and courted noted transphobic author J.K. Rowling. 

That prompted a rebuke from Darren Styles, editor of Attitude Magazine, the UK’s leading LGBTQ lifestyle magazine. 

Styles had offered Starmer the opportunity to write an open letter to his magazine’s readers ahead of the election, but in an editorial, he writes that he couldn’t publish it without adding his own commentary.

“But between his copy arriving, on 23rd June, and today’s publication the earth moved beneath our feet. Since then, the Labour leader has said that he’d be willing to meet with JK Rowling to discuss sex and gender, and ‘respects’ her views,” Styles wrote.

“Much of … Sir Keir’s missive is positive and indeed impressive, does offer hope of genuine change and will likely reverse, in part, the trend of decline in LGBTQ+ rights in the U.K. But, in our opinion and in light of events, it is equivocal in parts in that it makes no mention of the trans issues that have subsequently come to light,” he wrote.

PinkNews reports that 56 out LGBTQ people were elected to parliament on July 4, including 46 Labour MPs, about 11 percent of Labour’s total caucus. It’s possible they may be able to push Starmer to make progress on LGBT issues.

But the total number of out LGBTQ MPs fell from a pre-election record of 67, after dozens of out Conservative and Scottish National Party MPs lost their seats.

FRANCE

French Prime Minister Gabriel Attal on July 8, 2024, offered to resign after the second round of the country’s parliamentary elections. (Screen capture via Le Huffington Post YouTube)

French voters rejected the far-right in a dramatic reversal of expectations in the second round of parliamentary elections Sunday, choosing a deeply divided legislature where the left-wing bloc of parties will control the most seats and President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist party holding the second-largest number of seats and the balance of power.

In the wake of the results, openly gay Prime Minister Gabriel Attal from Macron’s Renaissance party announced he would tender his resignation Monday morning, however, Macron rejected his resignation, asking him to stay on for stability while a new government is formed. Attal has been prime minister since January 2024.

Macron called the snap election last month after the far-right National Rally party won the most seats in European Parliament elections, seeking a fresh mandate for his government. 

Polls had widely predicted the National Rally would come out on top in the parliamentary election, but a flurry of cooperative deals between the left alliance and the Renaissance party after the first-round vote last weekend led to a consolidation of the anti-NR vote. 

While LGBTQ issues had not played a great part in the election campaign, the National Rally had in the past campaigned on restricting access to IVF and surrogacy for same-sex couples, and even banning same-sex marriage. 

Macron also turned to campaigning against trans rights, accusing the left-wing bloc of wanting to allow trans people to change their legal gender by simple declaration at a townhall, something he called “ludicrous.” Nevertheless, that is already legal in the France of which he is president.

NORWAY

The man who fired a machine gun at an Pride festival in Norway in 2022, killing two people and wounding 21 others in an Islamic State-inspired attack, was found guilty of terrorism and sentenced to 30 years in prison on July 4.

Zaniar Matapour, a 44-year-old Iranian-born Norwegian citizen, fired 10 rounds with a machine gun and eight with a handgun into a crowd in three locations, including outside the London Pub, a popular Oslo gay bar, on June 25, 2022. Civilians assisted police in detaining Matapour at the scene. 

Norway’s Police Security Service told media at the time that Matapour had been known to them since at least 2015 and had grown concerned that he had become radicalized into an unspecified Islamist terrorist network. According to the service’s then-acting Chief Roger Berg, he had a “long history of violence and threats” and known mental health issues. 

The Oslo District Court found that Matapour had sworn allegiance to ISIS, the terrorist organization that governed a large part of Iraq and Syria between 2014-2019 and which has claimed responsibility for terrorist attacks across the globe.

Matapour has never denied carrying out the attack, but he pled innocent, claiming that he had been provoked to carry out the attack by an agent of Norway’s intelligence service posing as a high-ranking officer of ISIS.  

Matapour will be eligible for parole in 20 years, but he can only be released if he is deemed not to be a danger. Four other people are suspected of having been involved in the attack, but they have not been charged.

SLOVAKIA

The Human Rights Institute has filed a criminal complaint against the country’s minister of culture for inciting hatred against immigrants and Jewish people, as well as LGBTQ people.

The nongovernmental organization filed the complaint on July 4, a day after Culture Minister Martina Šimkovičová gave an interview to the Topky network, in which she claimed that the low birthrate among white people in Europe was due to LGBTQ people.

“We heterosexuals are creating the future, because we make babies. Europe is dying out, babies are not being born because of the excessive number of LGBTQ+ [people]. And the strange thing is [that it’s happening] with the white race,” Šimkovičová said.

Homophobic hate speech is not a crime in Slovakia, but racist and anti-Semitic hate speech is.

Human Rights Institute Director Peter Weisenbacher drew a connection between Šimkovičová’s statements and the shocking murder of two gay men outside a Bratislava gay bar in 2022.

“It is shocking that it has not even been two years since the terrorist attack on Zámocká, in which two people died, and a member of the government is saying such things. Even the statements of public figures, which cannot be called anything other than spreading hatred, incite homophobia, racism and anti-Semitism,” Weisenbacher said in a statement. 

Slovakia’s government has long been hostile to LGBTQ rights, including under current left-leaning populist Prime Minister Robert Fico, who was elected last year. 

Before joining his government, Šimkovičová had worked as a journalist, until she was fired for promoting anti-migrant content on social media. She then became a darling of far-right media, promoting anti-vax, homophobic, and pro-Russian content on social media and hosting the YouTube show TV Slovan. 

Her ministry also announced this week that it would cease all funding of LGBTQ-related content. Šimkovičová had called the policy a “return to normalcy” when the idea was announced in January.

INDIA

The Indian Supreme Court (Photo by TK Kurikawa via Bigstock)

A year after the India’s Supreme Court dashed the hopes of the country’s queer community by ruling that there is no constitutional right to same-sex marriage, the court is set to reconsider its ruling at a hearing on Wednesday. 

In October 2023, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously in Supriyo v. Union of India that same-sex marriage is for parliament to decide, not the courts. The court also ruled 3-2 against ordering the government to introduce civil unions. 

However, the court accepted the government’s offer to set up a committee that would investigate other ways to give same-sex couples more rights around inheritance, medical decisions, and other issues, and the court reiterated that anti-LGBTQ discrimination is not allowed under the constitution.

Since the ruling, two of the five justices retired — one who had voted for same-sex civil unions, and one who wrote the majority opinion against it.

One of the petitioners in the same-sex marriage case filed a petition for a review of the decision, noting that the ruling acknowledges that LGBTQ people face unjust discrimination but fails to order any remedy for the injustice.

“The majority ruling is self-contradictory, facially erroneous and deeply unjust. The majority found that queer Indians endure severe discrimination at the hands of the State, declared that discrimination must be prohibited, and then did not take the logical next step of enjoining the discrimination,” Udit Sood said in his petition.

LGBTQ people have made major progress in legal rights in India in recent years, largely through the courts. In 2018, the Supreme Court struck down the colonial-era sodomy law that criminalized LGBTQ people, and the following year, the government passed a law banning discrimination against trans people. 

Courts have also asserted that LGBTQ people have the right to autonomy and cohabitation, and that they cannot be subjected to conversion therapy.

If the Supreme Court does rule in favor of same-sex marriage, India would be by far the largest country in the world to legalize it. 

Also this week, the Court of Cassation in The Hague, Netherlands, is expected to deliver a long-awaited ruling on same-sex marriage in the Caribbean countries of Aruba and Curaçao on Friday.

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Africa

Malawi’s Constitutional Court declines to legalize same-sex relationships

Binational couple brought case in 2023

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(Bigstock photo)

Human rights organizations in Malawi have criticized the country’s Constitutional Court over its June 28 ruling that declined to legalize same-sex relationships.

Wim Akster, a Dutch national, and Jana Gonani, a local transgender woman, through their lawyers last year approached the Constitutional Court over the legalization of consensual same-sex relations under the penal code, which criminalizes so-called acts of “carnal knowledge against the order of nature and gross indecency” with a maximum penalty of 14 years in prison with corporal punishment for both men and women.

The Constitutional Court heard the case and issued its ruling on June 28.

“We echo the concern voiced regarding the recent Malawi Constitutional Court ruling on consensual same-sex sexual conduct,” said U.N. Human Rights Southern Africa. “We urge the government to protect and stand up for the human rights of vulnerable groups, including LGBTQ+ persons, by ensuring domestic laws align with international obligations.” 

Khanyo Farise, Amnesty International’s deputy regional director for East and Southern Africa, described the ruling as a bitter setback for human rights in Malawi.

“The court’s decision to keep these discriminatory laws on the books is a bitter setback for human rights in Malawi. The ruling manifestly flies in the face of Malawi’s constitution, the African Charter and international human rights law, which all clearly prohibit discrimination,” said Farise. “It also makes Malawi an outlier in Southern Africa, where most countries have decriminalized consensual same-sex sexual conduct.”

Farise added “the court’s refusal to overturn these laws means LGBTI persons in Malawi will continue to face discrimination and persecution simply for who they love.” 

“In particular, this ruling translates to continued barriers in access to healthcare and other social services for LGBTI persons,” said Farise. “Amnesty International stands with all LGBTI people in Malawi, who deserve the right to live their lives with dignity and full humanity. We also demand that authorities ensure their safety in the face of threats of violence.” 

U.N. Human Rights said the provisions of the Malawian penal code that criminalize consensual same-sex sexual relations should be repealed.

“The Constitutional Court’s ruling upholding the criminalization of consensual same-sex conduct is deeply disappointing and contrary to the country’s own international human rights obligations,” it said. “The anti-gay law must be repealed and the rights of LGBTQ+ people protected.”

LGBTQ activists in Malawi say the recent surge in demonstrations and actions against the community that traditional and religious leaders have organized have raised serious concerns about the protection of human rights and the principles of equality and nondiscrimination. 

“Homophobic sentiments are leading to higher rates of mental health issues, unemployment and homelessness,” said the Nyasa Rainbow Alliance. “It takes no compromise to give people their rights. It takes no money to respect the individual. It takes no political deal to give people freedom. It takes no survey to remove repression.”

“Gay people are born into and belong to every society in the world,” added the group. “They are of all ages, races, and faiths. They are doctors, teachers, farmers, bankers, soldiers, athletes, and whether we know it or we acknowledge it, they are our family, our friends, and our neighbors.” 

Media reports indicate human rights organizations are considering an appeal of the ruling.

The Namibian High Court last month decriminalized consensual same-sex relations. Mauritius last year declared Article 250 of the country’s penal code that criminalized consensual same-sex sexual relations as unconstitutional following a four year legal battle that Abdool Ridwan Firaas (Ryan) Ah Seek, president of Arc-en-Ciel, the country’s largest LGBTQ rights group, initiated.

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Chilean capital Pride parade participants, activists attacked

Men wearing hoodies disrupted June 29 event in Santiago

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A group of hooded men attacked participants in the Chilean capital's annual Pride march on June 29, 2024. (Photo courtesy of the Movement for Homosexual Integration and Liberation)

A group of hooded men on June 29 attacked LGBTQ activists and others who participated in the Chilean capital’s annual Pride parade.

Witnesses said the men punched and kicked activists and parade participants, threatened them with a skateboard, threw stones and paint at floats and damaged parade infrastructure. The men also broke a truck’s headlight.

The Movement for Homosexual Integration and Liberation, a Chilean LGBTQ rights group known by the acronym Movilh, strongly condemned the acts of violence, calling them deliberate attempts to disrupt a peaceful and safe demonstration.

“Vandalism that seeks to transgress the peaceful trajectory of our demonstrations and that is only useful to the interests of the homo/transphobic sectors,” denounced Movilh.

The attack occurred when the hooded men tried to break through the security fence protecting the participants and the truck that was at the beginning of the parade.

“As we do every year, we fence the truck with our volunteers to prevent anyone from being run over or hurt by the wheels,” said Movilh. “The hooded men approached the fence to break it, hitting our volunteers and people outside of our organization with their feet and fists who, in an act of solidarity, tried to dissuade them.”

The motives behind this attack seem to be related to previous calls on social networks to boycott the event, although the organizers stressed that violent acts are alien to the parade’s inclusive and celebratory purpose.

Movilh spokesperson Javiera Zúñiga told the Washington Blade that “after the attack that we faced during the Pride March, we published in our social networks the few images that were available from that moment.” 

“What we are basically asking is that anyone who has seen something and can recognize any of the aggressors write to our email or (contact us) through our social networks so that we can file complaints and do whatever is necessary to find those responsible.”

Zúñiga stated that “not only was there aggression against people, but there was also damage to private property because they broke one of the truck’s headlights.”

“So for these two reasons we are looking for anyone who may have information to contact us,” she said.

The incident has generated widespread condemnation within the LGBTQ community and outside of it. They say it highlights the need to protect human rights and diversity and promote respect for them.

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Out in the World: LGBTQ news from Europe and Asia

Latvia’s civil unions law took effect Monday

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(Los Angeles Blade graphic)

LATVIA
Latvia’s law allowing same-sex couples to form civil unions came into effect Monday, and the first queer couples have already registered their unions in the Baltic nation.

Maksims Ringo and Janis Locs were the first same-sex couple to register their civil union. They did so in a ceremony at a legal office in the capital, Riga, where they exchanged silver rings, stating that they were saving gold rings for a date when Latvia legalizes same-sex marriage.

“I feel excited, kind of emotional about it as well because it is a really big step and not only for us, for the country itself. And being first, it’s all the publicity that comes with it as well. It kind of is a bit, I would say, a bit stressful, but at the same time I feel happy that we can finally do it,” Locs told Reuters.

Latvia amended its constitution to ban same-sex marriage in 2005, but in 2020, the Constitutional Court ruled that the state must give same-sex couples the same benefits that straight married couples have. In 2022, a deadline imposed by the court lapsed, and couples began applying to the courts to have their relationships recognized. 

Last year, the Latvian parliament finally passed a law formalizing same-sex civil unions, but the compromise legislation has frustrated some LGBTQ activists in the country as it leaves out key rights demanded by same-sex couples. Latvia’s civil unions do not allow couples to adopt children, nor do they get key inheritance rights, they’re concluded at a notary office instead of at the civil registry, and the government still will not recognize foreign same-sex marriages. 

The bill was also bitterly opposed by conservative, anti-LGBTQ groups. They attempted to force a referendum to block the bill but were unable to come up with the required signatures before the legal deadline.

With legal civil unions in Latvia, all but five EU countries recognize some form of same-sex union: Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia, Bulgaria, and Romania. 

In neighboring Lithuania, a civil union bill awaits a final vote in parliament but has stalled amid infighting between liberal and conservative factions of the coalition government. This week, the liberal faction threatened to block the appointment of a European commissioner unless the conservatives agreed to pass the bill.

In Poland, the governing coalition appears to have finally agreed to pass a civil union bill, albeit one that has been watered down significantly. The resulting bill will not allow any adoption rights, nor a common surname, and will be concluded by notaries and without a ceremony rather than civil registries. The government hopes to bring the bill forward this month.

The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that all member states must provide some form of civil union to same-sex couples to be in compliance with the nondiscrimination and family rights guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights. 

The French National Assembly (Public domain photo)

FRANCE
Voters gave a big boost to the far-right National Rally party in Sunday’s first-round parliamentary elections, with the Rally taking 33 percent of the vote, while the left-wing New Popular Front took 28 percent, and President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist Together bloc took 21 percent.

Parties are now jockeying for voter support in the second round, and NPF and Together have begun discussions at mutual endorsements to block the National Rally.

In France’s system, if no candidate in a given district wins 50 percent of the vote, the top two vote-getters, and any candidate who gets at least 12.5 percent of registered voters advances to the second round, which is decided by plurality vote. Because of higher-than-usual turnout of 67 percent, there are a large number of three-way races in the second round — over 300 according to official results, when the previous record was 76. 

The left-wing NPF has announced it will withdraw any candidates who advanced and placed third on the ballot, in order to create a “republican front” against the National Rally. While Macron has not made a formal statement on withdrawing third-place candidates, his prime minister, Gabriel Attal, has called on third-place candidates to step aside.

The National Rally has a long history of campaigning against LGBTQ rights but has not made that central to its program in this election, where it has focused on pocketbook issues and rejection of immigration. The National Rally has long opposed same-sex marriage, and its current leader has campaigned and voted against allowing lesbians to access IVF and supports a bill to ban gender care for minors.

Several reports have emerged of National Rally supporters committing homophobic attacks in France. 

A group of National Rally supporters allegedly attacked a gay teenager in Paris after the results of last month’s European Parliament elections were announced and National Rally was shown to win the largest number of sets. They were reported to have shouted “You’ll see when Bardella is in power and Hitler comes back!” and “In three weeks, we will be able to smash up f*gs as much as we like. I can’t wait.” The attackers were arrested.

GEORGIA
A package of extreme anti-LGBTQ bills sailed through first reading in the Georgian parliament on a 78-0 vote that was boycotted by most of the country’s opposition parties.

Georgia has been rocked by protests since the governing Georgian Dream party introduced a passed a “foreign agents” law, which requires any organization that receives funding from out of the country to register with the government as a foreign agent. The law was inspired by a similar law in Russia and was designed to undermine opposition groups, media, and nongovernmental organizations that are often critical of the government.

The anti-LGBTQ bills are an extreme package of legislation that was also inspired by Russia. The bills ban recognition of any same-sex relationships, forbid recognition of gender other than birth sex, forbid any medical treatment for gender change, and criminalize any advocacy for LGBTQ rights. The government says it hopes to pass the legislation by the fall ahead of national elections in October.

The bills are also designed to undermine the opposition, by forcing them to defend LGBTQ rights, which remain deeply controversial in the conservative Christian country. Opposition leaders have also made it clear that their boycott of the bill does not mean they support LGBTQ rights.

Both the anti-LGBTQ bills and the foreign agents bill have put the country on a collision course with the EU, which it has expressed a desire to join, and which granted it candidate status last year. 

EU accession is very popular among the Georgian public, but the Georgian Dream party is more closely aligned with Russia, and frequently demonizes the EU by equating its values with LGBTQ rights.

Last week, EU candidates Moldova and Ukraine opened formal negotiations to join the bloc, although it is expected that it will be many years before membership is granted.

Indian flag (Photo by Rahul Sapra via Bigstock)

INDIA
The high court of India’s Kerala state upheld the right of LGBTQ people to live autonomously, as it rejected a petition from the parents of a 23-year-old who sought to have their daughter committed to a mental institution to “treat her sexual orientation.”

The young woman had fled her family and was living with her partner, a transgender man. Her family members repeatedly attempted to violently abduct her from her new home.

The court ruled that the woman has a right to live her life on her own terms and that sexual orientation is an innate part of a person’s identity.

The court also directed the parents to hand over all of their daughter’s personal documents, which they had been withholding, in an attempt to force her to return to them, and the court warned the family against committing violence against her.

Same-sex relationships are not illegal in India, although last year the Indian Supreme Court ruled that the government does not have to recognize same-sex marriage, leaving that question to parliament.

HONG KONG
Ten same-sex couples from Hong Kong were legally married in the U.S. over the internet this week, in a mass ceremony to celebrate Pride week.

The 10 couples took advantage of a program available through the state of Utah, which allows people to get married via an internet ceremony. 

Utah has become a go-to destination for same-sex couples seeking to get married even though they live in countries that don’t recognize same-sex marriage. Utah allows couples to get married even if they’re not physically present in the state, while most states require couples to at least be present, if not resident in the state.

Hong Kong does not currently allow same-sex marriage, although last year its Court of Final Appeal ruled that the local government should offer some form of relationship recognition to same-sex couples within two years. That deadline comes up next September.

“In Hong Kong, there’s not yet a way to go to a marriage registry to get married, but there’s still this way we can offer for them to realize their dreams of getting married,” wedding organizer Kurt Tung told the Associated Press.

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