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22 March 2017

Dear friends and colleagues,

From the UN:  SOGI Independent Expert Vitit Muntarbhorn completed his first country visit to Argentina where he met with federal and provincial officials, NGOs, civil society, and other stakeholders. Muntarbhorn applauded innovations in legislation, including the Gender Identity Law, marriage equality, and the Law on Comprehensive Sexual Education. He acknowledged that violence and discrimination continue to be “a major concern”, especially among “vulnerable and invisible” transgender women who are often forced into sex work. 

The 61st Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) with the theme “Women’s Economic Empowerment in the Changing World of Work”, is drawing to a close in New York. Over 8,600 people participated, including Member States, civil society, and UN representatives. Several events were held throughout the week that highlighted lesbian, bisexual, trans, and intersex individuals. ARC International provided a breakdown of some of the important questions affecting LBTI persons.

The 34th session of the Human Rights Council will conclude in Geneva on 24 March. In her second report to the Council, Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights Karima Bennoune evaluated the rise of diverse forms of fundamentalism and extremism across cultures and nations. Bennoune noted: “particular attention” must be paid to the impact extremism has on encouraging violence and discrimination against LGBTI individuals, women, and other minorities.

At a separate event, Ahmed Shaheed, the new Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, delivered his first report to the Council that emphasized the individual right to practice a religion of one’s choice or to practice no religion at all. The report went on to note: 

“It must be clear, however, that the right to freedom of religion or belief does not give the individual – as a right-holder – the power to marginalize, suppress, or carry out violent acts against other individuals and those in vulnerable situations, such as women or members of the LGBTI community, under the guise of manifesting their religion, or as constituting the “moral high-ground.”
Member states of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) issued a series of responses to the report that condemned the inclusion of LGBTI rights in the report. 

HIV, Health, and Wellness:  The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control warned that a Hepatitis A outbreak has spread across 13 EU countries. The majority of cases were reported among gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men. 

Australian Professor Martin Holt discussed how perceptions of ‘safe sex’ have shifted in the era of PrEP and what that means for HIV prevention. US group AIDS United urged health providers to better educate patients on the role of ‘undetectable sex’ and viral suppression. 

Buzzfeed profiled Greg Owen, a British man who, upon discovering he was HIV-positive, invested his energy into helping other gay and bisexual men understand and access PrEP. Epidemiologists suggest his efforts were a significant factor leading to a 40% drop in London’s new HIV infections in 2016.

The US Department of Health and Human Services has deleted questions on LGBT people from federal surveys meant to assess services for disabled people and programming for older Americans. It also canceled data collection on homeless LGBT youth. 

A new statistical analysis of 193 countries found that countries that criminalize homosexuality also report "implausibly low" size estimates of gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men in the country. Because population size is used to assess HIV targets, the authors warn that these countries are exaggerating their success implementing HIV prevention and care.

Researchers in Vietnam performed in-depth interviews with HIV-positive gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men and found that many were not linked to care or not taking antiretroviral therapy.  

A new Peruvian study investigated the reluctance of gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men and transgender women to obtain the HPV vaccine. An estimated 61% of HIV-negative MSM have HPV, while an estimated 93% of HIV-positive MSM have HPV coinfections. 

AIDS and Behavior published a systematic review examining strategies undertaken by gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men who are identified as ‘high risk’ for HIV yet have remained HIV-negative. 

US journalist Michael Hobbes wrote about the "epidemic of gay loneliness", supported by research studies on gay men and their experiences with depression, substance abuse, and poor physical health. Although heralded by many, others reflected on what the essay overlooked, including research on the resilience of gay men and the complications of intersectionality on health outcomes.

UK charity Terrence Higgins Trust launched Friday/Monday, a new digital resource for gay and bisexual men that provides extensive information on drugs, alcohol, sex, and general wellness and offers free online counseling services. The launch comes as many traditional LGBTQ support groups have had funding slashed under the British government’s austerity program. 

Australia’s federal government cut funding to decades-long Indigenous sexual health programs due to “limited evidence” of impact found following a desktop review.  The organizations argue that the Indigenous community, especially marginalized LGBTQI, will be less likely to seek care from other sources. 

Lebanese medical professionals held their first “LGBT health week” with a focus on how marginalization impacts health. The event comes in the wake of Judge Rabih Maalouf’s January ruling that homosexuality should not be a punishable offense. The country’s LGBT community can still be targeted under Article 534 criminalizing acts that “contradict the laws of nature”. 

From the UK, new research found that a majority of lesbian, bisexual, and other women who have sex with women experience discrimination when accessing healthcare, are often provided with inaccurate sexual health advice, and are discouraged from cervical screenings.  

From the Netherlands, activist group Principle 17 published a report that found 43% of surveyed transgender individuals have had negative experiences when accessing basic healthcare.

From the World of Politics:   The European Parliament adopted a new gender equality report that includes calls to strengthen rights and protections for LGBTI people in the workplace, to support LGBTI refugees, and urges the Council to “as soon as possible” reach a common position on the equal treatment of persons “irrespective of religion or belief, disability, age, gender or sexual orientation”. 

With legislation introduced to the national parliament, Iceland will become the first country to require all public and private employers to provide equal pay to workers regardless of gender, sexuality, or ethnicity. 

The Prime Minister of Malta spoke at a celebration of the 40th annual Commonwealth Day held at Westminster Abbey during which he called attention to the 40 Commonwealth countries that continue to enforce anti-LGBT laws.

In Canada, Nunavut and New Brunswick passed trans rights bills that add gender expression and gender identity to each of their Human Rights Acts.  

The Parliament of Japan is reviewing an amendment to the sex crime law that includes an expanded definition of rape that will protect all genders from forced sexual intercourse. Japan also recently elected its second ever trans person to public office. 

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) issued a statement expressing “deep concern” about the US Department of Education and Department of Justice actions rolling back protections for trans and gender-nonconforming students. 

In the US, South Dakota passed a bill allowing adoption agencies to use religious criteria to screen out potential parents, including LGBT, interracial couples, and people of other faiths. The bill is the first of several anti-LGBT state bills pending approval. Despite changes at state and federal level, many local municipalities, including small towns in conservative districts, have passed LGBT nondiscrimination measures. Local leaders believe LGBT-friendly policies will attract jobs and investment to smaller markets. 

In Hungary, mayor László Toroczkai wants his small town of Ásotthalom to be a refuge for Christians who don’t want to live in a “multicultural society” and has enacted local regulations banning “gay propaganda”.  

The Politics of Union:  Romania’s Parliament is considering a bill to legalize civil unions between same-sex couples as a compromise between religious groups who raised 2.7 million signatures opposing marriage equality and LGBT rights groups. 

In Germany, the Social Democratic Party announced a new push to legalize marriage equality in the country. 

In Taiwan, the Judicial Yuan Constitutional Court will convene on 24 March to consider if the prohibition against same-sex marriage violates constitutional rights. Religious organizations rallied outside the Yuan, urging justices not to accept marriage equality for political gain. 

Let the Courts Decide:  The UK Supreme Court heard a case to allow same-sex couples full rights to their partners’ pension benefits. The current law allows companies to withhold pensions earned prior to 2005 when UK civil partnerships were legalized.

In Tunisia, a trial court in Sousse sentenced two young men accused of homosexuality to 8 months in prison. The 20 and 21-year-old were arrested in December for "looking gay" and forced to undergo "anal examinations". 

The Lagos High Court of Nigeria issued an arrest warrant for a man accused of operating a members-only gay bar after another man filed a complaint about the establishment with officials.

In South Africa, the Seshego Equality Court found a school principal guilty of discriminating and harassing a transgender student because of her gender identity. 

The US Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that current workplace discrimination laws do not protect against discrimination based on sexual orientation. 

In the Name of Religion:  The US-based Muslim Association of Puget Sound (MAPS), a mosque of over 5,000 families, banned the group “Just Want Privacy” from collecting signatures for a campaign opposing transgender rights. The group confirmed that they are targeting mosques for their campaign, believing Muslims share their ideas about gender.

In Australia, Somali-born Nur Warsame is the country’s first openly gay Imam. He spoke out about intolerance and sexual identity within the Muslim and greater Australian community. 

Jamaican attorney and activist Maurice Tomlinson wrote of the Church of England’s role in the decriminalization of private same-sex acts between men in England and Wales. On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Sexual Offences Act, Tomlinson discussed how the Global Anglican Communion can continue to impact the decriminalization of LGBTI people worldwide

Fear and Loathing:  In Brazil, a gang was caught on video verbally and physically assaulting a trans woman in the street. In the video, Dandara dos Santos can be heard begging for her life before she is beaten to death. Following the public release of the footage, eight men have been arrested. 

In Saudi Arabia, the Pakistani embassy is investigating claims that two Pakistani trans activists were tortured and died while in Saudi police custody.

From South Africa, Professor Frans Viljoen and Raymond Leteswalo wrote about the lack of police investigation into the murder of gay university student Bobby Motlanta. They note that despite creating a National Task Team to address hate crimes, the Department of Justice has “largely failed in effectively investigating these crimes and bringing perpetrators to justice”.

Across the US, LGBTQ support centers, nonprofit offices, bars, and schools have seen a surge in vandalism, including drive-by shootings and staff harassment. The Anti-Violence Project launched a new initiative called Communities Against Hate to improve reporting and tracking of LGBTQ violence.

In Fiji, the Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission urged the community to report hate crimes after a couple of gay men were attacked. The men declined to report the incident out of fear of reprisals. 

Since challenging his country’s laws criminalizing homosexuality in court, Trinidad and Tobago activist Jason Jones has received nearly 50 death threats. Due to his work with the LGBT community, Cameroonian lawyer Michel Togué has been subject to escalating death threats that earned he and his family US asylum status. Togué stayed behind to continue his work with LGBT Cameroons who, he says, “are entitled to be represented in court”.  Human Rights Watch published a video calling for an end to threats against lawyers

Winds of Change:  Ugandan activist Kasha Nabagesera spoke with CNN about how she came to found Uganda’s LGBT movement at only 19-years-old. Eric Gitari, the Executive Director of Kenya's National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (NGLHRC), spoke with IFEX about the evolution of LGBTQI+ activism in Kenya.

Following a joint meeting, Australian and New Zealand intersex activists issued the Darlington Statement to galvanize the intersex movement and to call on governments to criminalize "deferrable medical interventions" on children who cannot give personal consent. 

From Hong Kong, the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC), Chinese University, and 75 major organizations issued a statement urging the government to create LGBT nondiscrimination legislation to allow the region to recruit and retain local and foreign talent.

Wilson Castañeda, the director of Colombian LGBT advocacy group Caribe Afirmativo, discussed opening four "House of Peace" spaces to provide resources to LGBT and other victims of armed conflict. 

A new US poll found that 53% of those surveyed oppose laws that prevent trans people from using the bathroom corresponding to their gender identity. 

Echoing previous studies, support group Ditch the Label published a survey of UK and US 13 to 26-year-olds that found a majority of young people do not identify as exclusively heterosexual. Additionally, 34% do not identify with any of the traditional labels of straight, bisexual, lesbian, or gay.

For the BBC, journalist Brandon Ambrosino explored the evolution of the language of sexuality, noting that “heterosexuality” was invented in the late 1800s and is becoming an outdated concept: 
"Though the hetero/homo divide seems like an eternal, indestructible fact of nature, it simply isn’t. It’s merely one recent grammar humans have invented to talk about what sex means to us..."

On the March:  The Washington Blade spoke to advocacy groups in El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala about the challenges LGBT migrants face in the region as they flee from violence

Australian activist Dennis Altman urged those who support LGBTQ+ rights to look beyond the country's debate on marriage equality, warning that LGBTQ+ asylum seekers continue to face violence in detention centers on Manus Island and Nauru. 

In both Canada and the UK, LGBT groups renewed protests against police participation in upcoming pride parades. In both countries, groups called attention to the police's role targeting transgender and racial minorities. 

In Trinidad and Tobago, people carrying pro-LGBT signs participated in a march for women's rights. Youth-led NGO the Silver Lining Foundation said support for the LGBT community was “overwhelming” and signaled that LGBT “stand in solidarity with women” who suffer from “common themes of discrimination, exclusion, and inequality”.

Organizers of the US Los Angeles Pride announced that this year the parade will be replaced with an “LGBTQ Resist March”. Founder Brian Pendleton said he was inspired by the Women’s Marches across the country to unite “unique, diverse, intersectional voices” and support immigrants, people of color, and people of different faiths.

School Days:  ​China introduced a new curriculum for primary school students that includes age-appropriate sex education, positive representation of same-sex relationships, and progressive descriptions of gender equality. Although some objected to the content, others applauded, including China’s state media which wrote: “The children of China now have a sexuality education curriculum that we can be proud of, and yet everyone is giving it a thumbs down."

Although Canada’s BC Ministry of Education passed a province-wide requirement that all schools must add explicit policies to protect LGBT students, private schools have been allowed to circumvent the mandate. 

In India, officials of the first school for transgender students announced that the school will accept cisgender students of marginalized castes and religions. School head Vijayraja Mallika said that to obtain societal acceptance transgender students cannot work in isolation.

Business and Technology:  The Economist will host its second annual Pride and Prejudice, a 24-hour event in Hong Kong, London, and New York focusing on LGBT diversity and inclusion in business. 

In response to so-called "bathroom laws", US review website and app Yelp has added a feature to search for businesses with gender-neutral bathrooms. 

British Condoms is taking preorders for i.Con, the “world’s first smart condom” that will enable users to measure their sexual activity on a variety of scales. Meanwhile, a Canadian company was sued for selling Bluetooth-enabled vibrators that secretly tracked consumers usage. Standard Innovation Corp. settled out of court for $3.7 million USD.  

Germany’s Minister of Justice and Consumer Protection, Heiko Maas, proposed legislation that will impose fines of up to €50 million on tech companies that do not properly respond to hate speech on their platforms. 

From the US, the Hawaii Tourism Authority commissioned studies to determine how best to attract LGBT tourists from mainland US, Canada, China, and Australia. ITB Berlin 2017, the world’s largest tourism fair, announced it will host a series of exhibitors focusing on LGBT services and information on how to expand the LGBT market. For more LGBT tourism information and news, check out gAytlas.

Sports and Culture:   UK's Manchester United football team announced a formal partnership with LGBT charity Stonewall—the first British club partnership of its kind. 

Award-winning Archer Magazine published a four-part series on queer young adult fiction that examines the lack of diversity in the Australian publishing industry.

Photographer Mikael Owunna’s project Limit(less) documents LGBT African immigrants living in the US, Canada, Trinidad and Tobago, and Sweden. In Canada, the Men's Health Initiative expanded their "Man-Up Against Suicide" program to include queer men with a new photo exhibit aimed to generate conversation about the need for LGBT–specific suicide prevention.

A new BBC documentary "Gay, trans and illegal in Lebanon" showcases the community as people wonder if the country may soon decriminalize homosexuality. The documentary is available online.

The South African film The Wound is making headlines for its story of gay Xhosa men and the exploration of how Xhosa culture tolerates homosexual ‘behavior’ among adolescents, but following initiation ceremonies, expects men “to leave those sort of childish proclivities behind”. 

Beauty and the Beast had a record-breaking opening weekend despite protests over a gay character.  After Disney refused to release a version of the film cutting the character, Russia gave the film a 16+ rating, Malaysia has indefinitely withheld the film’s release, and some US cinemas canceled screenings. 

Finally, check out the video campaign TRANSparent that lets transgender Serbians explain why the country should pass a Gender Identity Law.

Alan Cumming
One form of fundamentalism or extremism is not a justification for another. Each is a reinforcing reminder of the global humanist crisis that lies before us. We must break out of this vicious circle that will leave youth globally facing a political landscape offering only a bleak choice of competing extremisms.

~ Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights, Karima Bennoune in her report to  the Human Rights Council
Continue for excerpts from the articles
End of Mission Statement to Argentina by UN SOGI Expert, Mr. Vitit Muntarbhorn
excerpt: Argentina has shown great commitment to human rights by becoming a party to the core international human rights treaties, as well as key regional human rights Conventions and other instruments. There are a number of progressive laws and policies at the federal level which help to protect people from violence and discrimination based on SOGI...

Various steps are being taken to counter the violence and discrimination in parts of the country and these need to be expanded and made more effective. 

Read the full statement for more on the 9 key challenges and recommended steps for improvement
Human Rights Council 34th session Cultural rights defenders 
The Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights will present her annual report to the Council this session. It focuses on the threats that fundamentalism and extremism pose to human rights. More specifically, it raises concern over the wave of threats and attacks perpetrated by fundamentalists and extremists against women, minorities and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, as well as their impact on the enjoyment of cultural rights. 

The report highlights that women human rights defenders have been leading the fight against fundamentalism by defending the right of women to take part in cultural life without discrimination. The Special Rapporteur urges States to take all measures to respect and ensure the rights of human rights defenders challenging fundamentalism and extremism, to support them, and guarantee that attacks against them are investigated and measures of protection are adopted when necessary.  Read the full report here
Nations use debate on freedom of religion to address LGBT rights
Mr. Ahmed Shaheed, the new U.N. Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, delivered his first report to the U.N. Human Rights Council. Member states of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) utilized their allotted response time to divert attention from their own restrictions of freedom of religion and instead to attack the rights of LGBT individuals.

Shaheed’s report emphasized that the freedom of religion is an individual right which must be upheld to ensure every individual’s freedom to practice the religion of their choice, or practice no religion at all. The OIC issued a joint statement offering a “differing interpretation,” asserting that the freedom of religion outlines “collective group rights” for religious groups as a whole.

This statement opened the floor for a series of Islamic nations to comment that providing rights to LGBT individuals is a violation of rights against the religion of Islam. Read more via UN Watch
The time has already come for #LBTI persons at #CSW61
Women’s economic empowerment in the changing world of work. This is the priority theme the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) will discuss the next two weeks during its 61st session (CSW61). As ARC’s Communications Officer, I have been investigating data for “talking points” and social media messaging around the theme for this year’s CSW.

In compiling some of this research, some of the questions that I began thinking about included the following:

To what extent is CSW considering the word “women”? How does this word include the enormous and rich variety of lesbians, bisexual women, trans and intersex persons (LBTI)? How do we ensure that no one will be left behind, as promised in the Sustainable Development Goals? Read more via ARC International
Punitive laws, key population size estimates, and Global AIDS Response Progress Reports: an ecological study of 154 countries
UN global plans on HIV/AIDS have committed to reducing the number of countries with punitive laws criminalizing key populations. This study explores whether punitive laws are associated with countries’ performance on targets set in the global plans.

A significantly larger proportion of countries that criminalize same-sex sexual behaviour reported implausibly low size estimates or no size estimates for MSM. This is consistent with findings in qualitative research that MSMs are marginalized and reluctant to be studied in countries where same-sex sexuality is criminalized. Size estimates are often used as the denominators for national HIV service coverage reports. Initially, countries that criminalized same-sex sexuality appeared to have higher HIV testing coverage among MSM than did countries where it is not criminalized. However, investigation of a subset of countries that have reported 90–100% HIV testing coverage among MSM found that most were based on implausibly low or absent size estimates. Read more via Journal of the International AIDS Society
Vietnam will struggle to meet 90-90-90 targets without addressing barriers to HIV care for men who have sex with men
Men who have sex with men in Vietnam risk being left behind as the country strives to achieve UNAIDS’ 90-90-90 targets for diagnosis, treatment and viral suppression, according to a qualitative study published online ahead of print in Culture, Health and Sexuality.

Health services need to make greater efforts to provide services that are acceptable and responsive to the needs of men who have sex with men, the authors say. In particular, better pre-test counselling, peer support and respect for confidentiality is needed to help men accept an HIV-positive diagnosis and engage with treatment services. Read more via AIDSmap
US: Federal surveys trim LGBT questions, alarming advocates
LGBT advocates are questioning the Trump administration's quiet deletion of questions on sexuality from two federal surveys.

Combined with the withdrawal of another planned survey evaluating the effectiveness of a homelessness project for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth, the moves have alarmed watchdogs who worry they may point to a manipulation of government data collection to serve the ideology of a government they view as hostile to their causes. Read more via AP
Sex Lecture - Antiretroviral sex: the transformation of safe sex?
This free, public lecture, given by Associate Professor Martin Holt of the UNSW Centre for Social Research in Health, considers the radical shifts in HIV prevention associated with the use of HIV treatment and pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). These prevention strategies provide new ways to safely avoid HIV, but also pose challenges to the ways communities understand, and potentially practice, ‘safe sex’. As safe sex transforms to accommodate the new possibilities provided by ‘antiretroviral sex’, what are the effects on sexual and social relations, identities and HIV-related stigma?

With introduction by The Hon Michael Kirby AC CMG and moderated by Dr Bridget Haire, AFAO President Watch now via youtube
Clinical Providers Must Do More to Educate People on Viral Suppression
Despite there being constant evidence showing that HIV-positive people who are undetectable cannot transmit HIV to another person, the dialogue seems to be only happening in wide metropolitan areas or small advocacy groups in rural cities. Needless to say, the message is getting missed by those who need to hear it most. 

There are a lot of people living with HIV who aren’t getting information from their clinical providers and communities about the importance of adhering to treatment and sustaining viral suppression. And it’s not only folks living with HIV who aren't getting the memo.

The message is loud and clear throughout the media, as well as HIV-negative people who have little opportunity to educate themselves. 

With more education, we have a bigger chance of stalling existing HIV criminalization laws in the United States and around the world that vilify and marginalize people living with the virus — even those who are undetectable and present zero risk to their sexual partners. Read more via HIVplus
UK: Meet The Man Who Stopped Thousands Of People Becoming HIV-Positive
A few days before Christmas 2016, a phone call took place that no one could have predicted. One of the world’s most esteemed HIV doctors, Professor Sheena McCormack – whose life’s work as an epidemiologist has been to track and fight the virus – picked up the phone to deliver a message that would make headline news: In the space of 12 months, the number of gay men in London being diagnosed with HIV had dropped by 40%. Across England it was down by a third.

No British doctor has been able to report a fall this steep in more than 35 years of the virus. It is the kind of figure that in medical circles is so large as to look jarring, even false; and yet it was true.

Behind this story lay a series of secret meetings and a network of people with one man at the centre who, unknown to the public, helped change medical history. His name is Greg Owen. He was the man McCormack phoned. Today his story is told in full for the first time. Read more via Buzzfeed
Identifying resilience resources for HIV 
This systematic review sought to identify why gay men and other men who have sex with men, at high-risk of HIV, remain HIV negative. HIV-negative, gay men and other men who have sex with men, with a key risk factor for HIV were identified. These risk factors were childhood sexual abuse, partner abuse, substance abuse or mental health symptoms. The authors sought to identify why such men remain HIV negative. Why they are resilient to infection.

Some 20 studies met the inclusion criteria. Four broad categories of resilience were identified; socioeconomic (e.g. degree, full-time job); behavioural coping strategies (e.g. accessing mental health services), cognitions/ emotions (e.g. acceptance of a situation); and relationships (e.g. perceived sufficient social support). Read more via UNAIDS
Study Explores HPV Vaccine Acceptability in Sexual Minorities
Human papillomavirus (HPV), which causes genital warts and can lead to several cancers, is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections. About 630 million people are infected worldwide, with 500,000 new infections added annually. 

Although an HPV vaccine has been available for boys and girls in the United States since 2006, HPV prevalence in heterosexual men is estimated to be about 50 percent. For men who have sex with men (MSM), the estimate is 61 percent for those who are HIV-negative and 93 percent for those who are HIV-positive.  Only limited data exist for transgender women (TW) globally.

Focusing on Peruvian MSM and TW, a team of researchers has found that a preventive HPV vaccine is widely, though not universally, accepted among those populations. Read more via UCR
Hepatitis A outbreak across Europe
Between February 2016 and February 2017, three clusters involving 287 confirmed cases of hepatitis A (HAV) have been reported across 13 EU countries: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Ireland, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom. 

Each of the three clusters involve cases across seven to ten EU Member States. As reporting of cases is limited to those attending healthcare facilities and for those cases for which sequencing was performed, the actual numbers are likely to be higher than what has been reported so far. Read more via ECDC
UK: Online ‘virtual counselling’ service launches for gay men struggling with drugs and chemsex
Two leading charities have launched an online counselling service for gay and bisexual men to get support around drugs, sex and alcohol. Terrence Higgins Trust and London Friend launched the new service via Friday/Monday, a website which offers information about sex and drugs for gay and bisexual men.

The groundbreaking new project includes an online support group and one-to-one virtual counselling, which the charities hope will make it easier for men in rural areas to access support. Read more via PinkNews
UK: Services for LGBT young people will just disappear
Every Wednesday evening, Lukasz Konieczka and his team at the Mosaic youth centre in north London welcome lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) young people from across the capital. Here they can socialise in a safe place, receive support and mentoring from LGBT adults and get answers to questions never addressed at school.

But, come April, Mosaic will have its funding pulled by Brent council, forcing it to shut its doors after 15 years. The council needs to make £54m worth of savings. It has slashed its annual youth service budget of £1.3m by two-thirds and is tendering out the remainder to one provider, which will need to cater for all the borough’s young people. Specialist services are therefore expected to disappear. Read more via the Guardian
US: Together Alone The Epidemic of Gay Loneliness
For years I’ve noticed the divergence between my straight friends and my gay friends. While one half of my social circle has disappeared into relationships, kids and suburbs, the other has struggled through isolation and anxiety, hard drugs and risky sex.

None of this fits the narrative I have been told, the one I have told myself. Like me, Jeremy did not grow up bullied by his peers or rejected by his family. He can’t remember ever being called a faggot. He was raised in a West Coast suburb by a lesbian mom. “She came out to me when I was 12,” he says. “And told me two sentences later that she knew I was gay. I barely knew at that point.” Read more via Huffington Post
The Research on Minority Stress and Gay Men Shows “Loneliness”—but Also Resilience
In the days since its publication last week, Michael Hobbes’ article “Together Alone: The Epidemic of Gay Loneliness” has made such as splash that I’m hard pressed to find someone in the queer community who hasn’t at least heard about it. But what really seemed to catch people’s attention was Hobbes’ use of scientific research to look at gay “loneliness”—and the various mental health issues he conflates under that word—as a structural problem. Hobbes cites a multitude of studies and interviews several researchers on the topics of minority stress—the idea that just being a member of a minority group causes extra strain—and common psychological stresses, such as body image or class status, salient in the gay community itself.

While Hobbes’ account of the hardships faced by gay men resonated with many of us, and the explanations offered seemed important and insightful, the picture of ubiquitous “loneliness” presented also clashed with reality many of us know. And that reality is that while some gay men are struggling, many others are thriving on par with our straight counterparts and have found supportive communities of queer peers that build us up.  Read more via Slate
Lebanon: 'Marginalization is bad for your health'
The Lebanese Medical Association for Sexual Health (LebMASH) launched its first-ever LGBT health week on Saturday, focusing on the community's marginalization in Lebanon and how it negatively impacts health.

The health campaign is addressing several issues that affect the community in Lebanon, starting from physical and mental health, to legal concerns. 

Lebanon is often seen as a liberal beacon in the midst of a conservative region, and this relative openness extends to the LGBT community as well. Several gay clubs and bars operate within Beirut and its suburbs, and NGOs and campaigns supporting the community are frequently in the spotlight. Read more via StepFeed
UK: Lesbian and bisexual women are being incorrectly told they don't need smear tests, LGBT charities say
Lesbian, bisexual and other women who have sex with women (LBWSW) have too often been an invisible group within health care. Their needs can be doubly hidden, both within the topic of women’s health, which often focuses on reproductive health, and in the health needs of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans* (LGBT) community in general.

This report aims to highlight women’s experiences of both good and poor practice in healthcare provision, and make recommendations for both practice and strategy in order to improve women’s health overall. Read more via National LGBT Partnerships
Trans healthcare in the Netherlands
The report “Trans health care in the Netherlands” found that 43% of respondents have negative experiences as care-receivers. They also mentioned rigidity in the medical process and a lack of self-determination. Problems that are mentioned often are: very long waiting times and a lack of respect (name and gedenr indicator) and limited knowledge and insight into non-binary genders (such as genderqueer).

The dissatisfaction addresses quite basic aspects of the health care offered. Hopefully this report demonstrates that these are individual cases that make the exception but that is a generally felt sentiment amongst many trans health care-receivers. Read more via Principle 17
Australia: Indigenous sexual health funding cut without consultation, senators told 
The federal government decided to stop funding two long-running Indigenous sexual health programs without consultation or analysis, and despite a growing sexual health crisis in the Top End, Senate estimates has heard.

Both organisations have accused the government of shortsightedness, and said without their services, or any feasible replacement, Indigenous LGBTQI people will be less likely to seek medical care.

The Northern Territory Aids and Hepatitis Council’s Aboriginal sexual health program, and the Queensland Aids Council’s 2 Spirits program have run for more than 20 years addressing the disproportionately high rate of sexually transmitted infections among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander populations. Read more via the Guardian
Malta PM urges Commonwealth countries to ditch Colonial-era anti-gay laws 
The Prime Minister of Malta has urged Commonwealth countries to throw out their archaic Colonial-era anti-LGBT laws. Malta’s PM Joseph Muscat was speaking at the Service of Celebration for Commonwealth Day at Westminster Abbey, attended by the Queen and a number of other world leaders.

In his address, Mr Muscat, currently the Chair-in-Office of the Commonwealth, alluded to the high number of Commonwealth countries that continue to enforce penal codes that were introduced under the British Empire and never repealed. In total 40 out of the 53 Commonwealth member states still criminalise homosexuality – from India to Barbados, Sri Lanka to Tonga.

Speaking about the need for tolerance, Mr Muscat said: “I want to single out the respect for LGBTIQ persons, the lack of it. The remarkable number of our countries [with anti-LGBT laws] is, arguably, a considerable blot on our family of nations’ standing. Read more via PinkNews
European Parliament: Greater effort necessary for LGBTI equality at EU level
In a key report  on gender equality adopted Tuesday, the European Parliament has demanded to strengthen action on the rights of LGBTI people.

In the annual report on gender equality the parliament urges the Commission to expand the scope of EU hate speech law, as to include incitement to hatred on grounds of sexual orientation, gender identity and sex characteristics. The report specifically highlights that the future EU Strategy for Gender Equality should be inclusive of inclusive of transgender and intersex people. 

Furthermore, Parliament urges Member States to include “the grounds of gender identity and sex characteristics within their gender equality legislation when implementing EU gender equality Directives.”  Read more via Intergroup on LGBT Rights
Japan: Revisions seek to bring Japan’s archaic sex crime laws into modern era
For the first time since the Penal Code took effect in 1907, the Justice Ministry is compiling a package of amendments to Japan’s sex crime statutes that, if passed, will be the first major shake-up of those laws in more than a century.

From redefining rape to increasing the minimum sentence for that crime, the intended revision is largely hailed as a welcome development, if long-overdue, although critics say there is room for improvement.

The Cabinet of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is set to green-light the revised bill for submission to the ongoing Diet session as early as this week. Read more via Japan Times
Japan elects its first out transgender man to public office
Tomoya Hosoda, 25, was recently elected to the council in Iruma, Japan, a city of about 150,000 people. He is at least the fourth transgender man to have been elected to public office globally.

“Until recently, people have acted as if sexual minorities do not exist. We have many hurdles to overcome, but I hope to live up to everyone’s expectations,” he told Stonewall, a Japanese LGBTQ rights organization. Hosoda said he wants to help create a system in which diversity is celebrated and minorities — including LGBTQ people, the disabled, and the elderly — are protected. Read more via LGBT Weekly
Iceland Becomes First Country To Require Equal Pay
Iceland will be the first country in the world to make employers prove they offer equal pay regardless of gender, ethnicity, sexuality or nationality, the Nordic nation's government said Wednesday — International Women's Day.

The government said it will introduce legislation to parliament this month, requiring all employers with more than 25 staff members to obtain certification to prove they give equal pay for work of equal value.

While other countries, and the U.S. state of Minnesota, have equal-salary certificate policies, Iceland is thought to be the first to make it mandatory for both private and public firms. Read more via USA Today
IACHR Expresses Concern over Setbacks in Federal Protections for Trans and Gender-Nonconforming Students in the United States 
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) expresses its deep concern regarding the letter issued jointly by the U.S. Department of Education and Department of Justice on February 22, 2017, informing schools in the country that receive federal funds that the guidance on transgender students issued in a letter by these same agencies on May 13, 2016, was being withdrawn and rescinded.

With this new measure, the government of the United States is withdrawing important federal protections that ensured non-discrimination, inclusion, acceptance, and full recognition of gender identity in the school environment for trans and gender-nonconforming students. Read more via OAS
US: The first anti-LGBT state law of 2017 allow adoption agencies to discriminate
Amidst the chaos and perpetual deluge of shocking headlines out of D.C., state legislatures are quietly moving forward with their anti-LGBT agenda, disguised as a more palatable “protection of religious freedom.”

The earliest out of the gate this year is South Dakota, which just passed a law that would allow child-placement agencies receiving state funds to refuse to provide services to children and families if they have religious objections. You won’t find any references to sexual orientation or gender identity in Senate Bill 149, but this and the dozens of other bills percolating across the country are being promoted by the same groups that are fighting tooth and nail to undermine equality for LGBT people. Read more via ACLU
US: In conservative America, small cities stand up for LGBT rights
When Mike Lujano and George Lenz hoisted a rainbow flag outside their business in a Victorian brownstone on Market Street two decades ago, they found that few neighbors in socially conservative Wheeling, West Virginia, knew it was a symbol of gay pride.

The married owners of Edna's hair salon in this faded industrial city of 28,000 at the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains never dreamed that one day they would be at a packed city council meeting, cheering the passage of an ordinance barring discrimination over sexual orientation and gender identity.

Defying stereotypes in the U.S. culture wars over LGBT rights,  Wheeling is among a recent wave of small cities, many in parts of the country that voted for Republican President Donald Trump, to embrace these protections. Read more via Reuters
Hungary: This Small Town Has Banned 'Gay Propaganda' to Become a Far-Right Refuge
It’s been two weeks since Anna Kiss was summoned to a police station in Szeged, a city in southern Hungary, and asked to rat on her friends.

As she ardently tried to argue that a small town mayor shouldn’t be able to enforce a clear human rights violation, an officer began playing her a CCTV video showing a group of around 35 mainly young Hungarians. Standing somewhat awkwardly in protest on the side of a street in Ásotthalom, a small town close to the Serbian border, they were chanting out a call for “equal love.” Kiss was among them.

As his fingertip moved from face to face, Kiss refused to name anyone. “Of course I said I’m not only a witness but guilty of the same crime,” she recalls. Read more via Time
Canada: Nunavut passes trans-rights law
The Nunavut Legislative Assembly voted unanimously on a comprehensive trans-rights bill on March 13, 2017, making it the latest jurisdiction to acknowledge the need for explicit human rights protections for trans people. 

Bill 31, An Act to Amend the Human Rights Act, had just two clauses, which added the categories “gender identity” and “gender expression” as prohibited grounds for discrimination in the territory.

The massive Arctic territory includes 20 percent of Canada’s land mass and is home to about 35,000 people. Nunavut was created in 1999 as part of a land claims agreement meant to be a separate territory and home for the indigenous Inuit people.  Justice Minister Keith Peterson introduced the bill by speaking of the inclusive values of Nunavut’s people. Read more via DailyXtra

Canada: New Brunswick government introduces trans-rights bill
The New Brunswick government introduced a bill to explicitly protect trans people under the province’s human-rights act, making it the last province in Canada to do so. Bill 51 adds “gender identity or expression” to the list of prohibited grounds for discrimination in New Brunswick. It also adds the category “family status,” intended to protect single parents from discrimination. It was introduced March 15, 2017, and had a second reading the next day. Read more via DailyXtra
Romania: Could Romania be about to pass civil unions for same-sex couples?
Romania could be able to pass civil unions for same-sex couples, as a ‘compromise’ between religious and LGBTI rights groups. For the past year and a half the LGBTI community in Romania has been challenged to respond to a national campaign to ban gay marriage in the Constitution, led by the powerful Orthodox Church and by groups connected with the religious right in the United States.

After raising 2.7 million signatures, the discriminatory initiative lays in the Romanian parliament, with a large majority of political parties and politicians openly expressing their support for the ban. At the same time the public discourse surrounding legalizing civil partnerships has shifted tremendously. Opinion leaders, journalists, even some conservative voices have expressed publicly support for legal recognition of same sex couples. Read more via Gay Star News
Germany's Social Democrats, Greens press for same-sex marriage
Marriage equality is legal in 22 countries, including Argentina, South Africa and the United States. Germany is not one of them. But now members of the junior governing Social Democratic Party (SPD) are pushing to change that. They are calling on their coalition partners, the conservative Christian Democrats (CDU) and Christian Social Union (CSU), to go along with a change of law that would grant same-sex couples the right to get married and not just obtain civil unions.

Thomas Oppermann, the head of the SPD in parliament, said he planned to put marriage equality on the agenda for the next coalition meeting of the SPD, CDU and CSU.

"Everyone's talking about preserving our values these days. That shouldn't just be a talking point in grant speeches, but rather a part of actual policies," Oppermann said. Read more via DW
Taiwan: Same-sex marriage suit criticized 
Religious organizations rallied outside the Judicial Yuan on Thursday, protesting against same-sex marriage and delivering a petition calling on the Council of Grand Justices to not be influenced by political considerations. The rally was organized by the Alliance of Taiwan Religious Groups for the Protection of the Family and drew representatives from Buddhist, Taoist, Christian and Lamaist groups.

The grand justices are to convene a hearing on March 24 to hear arguments in a suit brought by gay rights advocate Chi Chia-wei (祁家威), who argues that the prohibition against same-sex marriage violates the rights guaranteed in the Constitution by Article 7, which declares that all citizens, irrespective of sex, religion, ethnic origin, class or party affiliation, to be equal before the law, and Article 22, which states that all other freedoms and rights of the public that are not detrimental to social order or public welfare are guaranteed under the Constitution. Read more via Taipei Times
UK Supreme Court hears landmark battle over pension rules that ‘rip off’ gay couples
A man’s battle to equalise pensions law for same-sex couples will be heard by the Supreme Court this week. Current pensions law leaves some married gay and lesbian couples worse off than their heterosexual counterparts – because same-sex couples have only been recognised in the eyes of the law since civil partnerships were introduced in 2005.

The loophole means that while elderly straight couples have had decades to accrue rights to partner benefits on private pension plans, a number of plans only offer entitlements from 2005 onwards to gay and lesbian couples. Read more via PinkNews
Nigerian man charged with running a gay bar – faces 10 years in jail
A court in Nigeria has issued an arrest warrant for a man who’s been accused of running a gay bar and could now face ten years in jail.

According to a report by the Daily Trust newspaper, the High Court in the town of Badagry, in the state of Lagos, ordered the “immediate arrest” of the 47-year-old man, identified as Schedrak Azuu. It’s been alleged that Azuu is the owner of a private members-only gay bar in the area, called “Izu home for real men”, located along the Lagos-Badagry highway.

Previous local press reports have indicated that Azuu and five others, including two staff members, were first arrested in February for operating the bar when a member of the public, Richard Okeke, lodged a complaint with the authorities.

The complaint led to a police raid on the bar and a search for the owner. Azuu was arrested and then released after being questioned but it appears that he then failed to appear in court as directed. Read more via Mamba Online
Tunisia: Two men sent to prison because they 'were looking gay' to police
Two men in Tunisia were sent to prison because a police officer suspects them to be gay. Achref, 20, and Sabri, 21, were sentenced to eight months in prison on Friday (10 March).

They were arrested on 7 December last year in the city of Sousse, three hours south of Tunis, according to French newspaper L’Express. ‘You were doing something with your boyfriend, weren’t you,’ one of the police officers told them, Achref said.

‘You bring the curse on the country.’ Mounir Baatour, President of Tunisian LGBTI organization Shams, told Gay Star News Achref and Sabri were just walking down the street when the arrest happened. Read more via Gay Star News
South Africa: Equality Court rules in favour of transgender learner
In a major LGBTI rights victory, the Seshego Equality Court has sided with a transgender Limpopo woman who was the victim of abuse when she was at school.

On Friday, the court ruled in favour of Nare Mphela, who was represented by the SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC), and against a former high school principal and the Limpopo Department of Education.

Between 2013 and 2014, Mphela was the victim of ongoing discrimination by the school and the principal, because of her gender identity. The harassment was so severe that she says this led to her failing matric at the end of 2014. Read more via Mamba Online
US: Court rules anti-gay workplace bias allowed under existing law
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit ruled that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 does not prohibit employers from discriminating against workers on the basis of their sexual orientation. Many federal courts—in addition to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission—have reached the opposition conclusion, finding that Title VII’s ban on “sex discrimination” encompasses anti-gay discrimination. But by a 2–1 decision, a panel for the 11th Circuit bucked this trend, reading Title VII as narrowly as possible and, in the process, ignoring at least one critical Supreme Court precedent.

The  decision, Evans v Georgia Regional Hospital, involved the case of Jameka Evans, a lesbian who presents as traditionally masculine. She sued her employer, alleging that she endured hostility and harassment in the workplace in violation of Title VII. Although that statute does not explicitly outlaw anti-LGBTQ discrimination, it does bar “sex discrimination,” including sex stereotyping. Evans argued that this prohibition bars employers from discriminating on the basis of gender presentation and sexual orientation. Read more via Slate
Brazil: Torture and Killing of Transgender Woman Stun Brazil
The killing of a transgender woman who was beaten, tortured, shot and then bashed on the head with a big stone has horrified and transfixed Brazil, training attention on the violence and discrimination suffered by transgender people in South America’s most populous nation.

The victim, Dandara dos Santos, 42, was killed in Fortaleza, in the northeastern state of Ceará, on Feb. 15, but the case has gained international attention as a cellphone video documenting her abuse has circulated on YouTube and other social media. Read more via New York Times

Eight arrested after viral video causes outrage
Three more men have been arrested on suspicion of the brutal murder of a Brazilian trans woman who begged for her life before being beaten to death in a shocking online video. the footage, which LGBT groups began spreading online on Friday, has helped the police to identify the attackers.

Officers raided homes in Bom Jardim in Fortaleza last week, arresting five people in the same neighbourhood where the murder took place. After revealing the arrests, André Santos Costa, the secretary of public security in the state of Ceará, told Brazilian news channel Globo: “Acts like these, by cowards and vagabonds are not accepted by any good citizen, nor by the police. Read more via PinkNews
South Africa: More than new laws needed to curb and punish LGBTI hate crimes
With police seemingly uninterested in interviewing witnesses or watching video evidence, the killer or killers of LGBTI music student Bobby Motlatla continue to get away with murder. For laws to function, the authorities must do their work, write Prof Frans Viljoen and Raymond Leteswalo.

Hate crimes, especially those targeting LGBTI persons, occur frequently in South Africa, despite the promise (and guarantee) of non-discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in our Constitution. In response to the persistence of hate crimes against LGBTI persons in South Africa, the government established a National Task Team on this topic. The Task Team in turn formed a Rapid Response Task Team comprising representatives of the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development, the National Prosecuting Authority, the South African Police Service and representatives from civil society organisations.

Although it should be commended for having instituted a system of investigating and responding to these crimes, the Department of Justice, together with the SAPS and NPA, has thus far largely failed in effectively investigating these crimes and bringing perpetrators to justice. Read more via Mamba Online
Cameroon: ‘Your Children Will Die if You Don’t Stop’ 
Michel Togué, a lawyer in the African country of Cameroon, has received death threats for defending lesbians and gays.

This one, like the others, came anonymously  “We know that your wife is now shopping in the mall. We know your children are now standing in front of their school. They will die if you don’t stop.”

After the death threats began, he requested help from the Lawyer’s Association in his country, but their president said: “Stop defending the LGBT community and you won’t have problems anymore.”  Read more via Human Rights Watch

The government of Cameroon should immediately take action against a series of death threats made over the last four months to two lawyers who represent clients accused of homosexual conduct, Human Rights Watch said today in an open letter to President Paul Biya. Watch their response here
Trinidad & Tobago: Activist threatened for challenging sodomy law
A Caribbean LGBT activist has received almost 50 death threats following his lawsuit against the attorney general of Trinidad and Tobago to remove the country’s anti-gay sodomy laws.

Jason Jones, who has been an activist in both Trinidad and Tobago and the U.K. for 28 years, filed a claim against the state contesting Sections 13 and 16 of the country’s Sexual Offenses Act (SOA) that criminalizes sodomy between consensual adults and serious indecency. 

Since he has filed his case, Jones has been harassed online by people threatening to hurt and kill him. However, he says many people in his support circles are not taking his threats seriously. Read more via Washington Blade
Saudi Arabia denies claims two Pakistani transgender activists tortured to death in police custody
Saudi Arabia has denied claims by Pakistani activists that two transgender women from Pakistan were beaten to death in police custody after being arrested in Saudi Arabia along with more than 30 other members of the community.

Reports of the deaths had been carried in Pakistani media and decried in an activists' media conference. However, a statement from the Saudi interior ministry early said the reports were “totally wrong and nobody was tortured”.

The ministry acknowledged that one Pakistani had died in custody after the arrests. The Pakistani embassy looked into this case and another one. Read more via the Independent
Anglicans are for the Decriminalization of LGBT People Worldwide
2017 marks the 50th anniversary of the decriminalization of consensual same-gender intimacy in England and Wales, and the Church of England played a significant role in that historic achievement.

It was a 1955 Church committee report that proposed ending criminal sanctions for same-sex conduct, and this contributed to the government-appointed Wolfenden Committee (largely comprised of Anglicans) recommending decriminalization in 1959.

However, anti-gay laws still exist across the Commonwealth, and 38 of 53 countries maintain these archaic relics of British colonization. Church teaching inspired these dreadful statutes, but our beloved Church also called for their repeal, acting according to guiding tenets of Scripture. Consensus on decriminalization has proven difficult amongst independent Provinces because some senior clerics have argued that anti-sodomy laws are critical bulwarks against marriage-equality.

Yet a significant breakthrough occurred last year. Read more via Living Reconciliation 
US: Why A Seattle-Area Mosque Barred Anti-Trans Activists
Just Want Privacy thought that mosques would be the perfect places to drum up support for an anti-trans initiative in Washington state. But they were shown the door.

“The mosques in Washington state will be some of the best places to gather signatures,” Joseph Backholm, the founder of Just Want Privacy, told the local paper. There’s one major problem with that plan, however: Mahmood Khadeer, president of the Redmond-based Muslim Association of Puget Sound (MAPS), the largest mosque in Washington state with over 5,000 families, told The Daily Beast that they’re not interested in Just Want Privacy’s signature-gathering efforts.

“If somebody comes for collecting those signatures, we are not going to subscribe to that because we are against any discrimination of that type,” he told The Daily Beast. Read more via the Daily Beast
Australia’s First Openly Gay Imam on What He's Learned About Intolerance
We don't need to tell you that being a gay Imam—the Islamic equivalent of a priest—is controversial. As Australia throws itself into a One Nation renaissance, and the Muslim community continues to frown upon homosexulity, being both gay and Islamic is hard. And sometimes dangerous.

Imam Nur was born in Somalia, before growing up in Egypt and Canada. In the 90s he moved to Melbourne as a high school student and became an Imam in 2001. He is now the director of Muslim LGBT outreach group Marhaba and has had several threats on his life. 

We caught up with Imam Nur to ask him about intolerance. What has he experienced from both within and outside his community, and what has he learned? Read more via VICE
US: Wave of Vandalism, Violence Hits LGBTQ Centers Across Nation
In February and March, a spate of hate incidents occurred at LGBTQ community centers and similar venues across the nation, in a trend that has gone underreported.

New York's Anti-Violence Project (AVP) cited a "surge" of hate violence and incidents since the 2016 election, tying together recent threats called into Jewish community centers with the attacks on LGBTQ spaces.

AVP Communications Director Sue Yacka told NBC News she sees a connection between direct attacks on LGBTQ community venues and the more than 100 pieces of anti-LGBTQ legislation that have been proposed in just the first few weeks of 2017. Read more via NBC Out
Fiji: Attack On Gay Men Condemned 
Human rights and gay rights advocate Ashwin Raj last night condemned an alleged attack on two gay men. The men said yesterday they did not want to be identified because they feared for their lives. They said they also did not report the incident to the Police for fear of reprisals from the people who alleg­edly attacked them.

Mr Raj, the director of the Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission, said people should speak out because “silence will mean fear and discrimination will flourish.”

He said: “The fact that our Consti­tution has based strong provisions on sexual orientation, gender iden­tity and expression as a prohibited ground of discrimination means that we need to ensure that our so­ciety is free from discrimination. These communities can live with­out fear, without reprisal and re­crimination because they express a sexual value that is not shared by others.

“And that everywhere that people see, witness these acts of violence or where they see that instances that their sense of dignity has been diminished, we must stand up and report these matters to the Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission, report these matters to the Police. Read more via Fiji Sun

Australia:Intersex activists in Australia and New Zealand publish statement of priorities
MORE than 20 intersex activists from around Australia and New Zealand came together last week in Sydney to issue the Darlington Statement, which outlines key priorities for the intersex community.

The statement prioritises legal reform to recognise bodily autonomy, effective rights-based oversight of clinical decisions, access to affirmative heath care, and peer support.

The intersex community is calling for the respect of human rights and bodily autonomy, greater respect for diversity and identity, and effective protection from discrimination. The statement contains calls for action from government, clinical institutions, and LGBTI and other allies. Read more via Star Observer
Kenya: Turning the Tide for LGBT Rights
Imagine being told that you could spend 14 years in prison for having sex. Think about that. For many Kenyans, this is the stark reality.

Section 162 of Kenya's penal code criminalises "carnal knowledge against the order of nature", making life for LGBTQI+ people not only difficult, but dangerous.

Kenya is not the only place where this kind of legislation exists. In fact, more than 70 countries around the world criminalise homosexuality to varying degrees.

What makes Kenya stand out, however, is the courageous struggle being fought by LGBTQI+ activists for legal rights. At the forefront of this battle is Eric Gitari, lawyer and Executive Director of the National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (NGLHRC). Read more via All Africa
Kasha Nabagesera: The face of Uganda's LGBT movement
In Uganda, where homosexual acts are punishable by prison sentences, being openly gay requires an astounding amount of courage.

Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera is not only incredibly open about her sexuality, she's made fighting for the rights of Uganda's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community her life's work.
And it hasn't been easy. Read more via CNN
Hong Kong’s equality watchdog presses for law to protect sexual minorities
Hong Kong’s equality watchdog has issued a statement with the support of 75 major organisations calling for legislation against discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation, gender identity and intersex status.
The signatories include Google, investment bank Goldman Sachs, global law firm Linklaters, and four religious groups. The statement, jointly issued by the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) and Chinese University, urged the government to launch a public consultation as soon as possible as the city was losing its competitive edge in the global talent contest. Read more via South China Morning Post
Colombia LGBT advocacy group opens four "Houses of Peace"
A Colombian LGBT advocacy group has opened four “Houses of Peace” (“Casas de Paz” in Spanish) in support of the implementation of a peace agreement between the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia. 

Each house has a regular schedule of events, workshops and meetings at which LGBT groups, trans women and local residents can discuss preventing violence, fighting the HIV/AIDS epidemic and other issues.

Caribe Afirmativo Director Wilson Castañeda told the Washington Blade the project will last four years. Read more via Washington Blade
Americans oppose bathroom laws limiting transgender rights
The majority of respondents to a new U.S. poll opposed laws barring transgender people from using bathrooms consistent with their gender identities and indicated growing acceptance for gay rights, a nonpartisan research group said on Friday.

Fifty-three percent of the Americans surveyed oppose laws requiring transgender people to use bathrooms that correspond to their sex at birth, according to the national poll by the Public Religion Research Institute.

The survey showed that 39 percent of respondents favored such laws, and almost one in 10 of the 2,031 adults surveyed in February by telephone had no opinion.

The issue of transgender bathroom rights has become the latest flashpoint in the long U.S. battle over lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights. Read more via Reuters
Ditch the Label
With this research, we wanted to explore the current climate of sexuality – proposing a new way to define it, beyond the current binary construct. We wanted to see how access to the internet is redefining sexuality and relationships. This research explores how young people use the internet to explore their sexuality online. This research also explores how technology is impacting on relationships; investigating virtual relationships between consenting young people who have never met face-to-face. Read the report here
The Invention of Heterosexuality
One hundred years ago, people had a very different idea of what it means to be heterosexual. Understanding that shift in thinking can tell us a lot about fluid sexual identities today, argues Brandon Ambrosino.

The 1901 Dorland’s Medical Dictionary defined heterosexuality as an “abnormal or perverted appetite toward the opposite sex.” More than two decades later, in 1923, Merriam Webster’s dictionary similarly defined it as “morbid sexual passion for one of the opposite sex.” It wasn’t until 1934 that heterosexuality was graced with the meaning we’re familiar with today: “manifestation of sexual passion for one of the opposite sex; normal sexuality.”

Whenever I tell this to people, they respond with dramatic incredulity. That can’t be right! Well, it certainly doesn’t feel right. It feels as if heterosexuality has always “just been there.” Read more via BBC
Central America: LGBT migrants flee violence, poverty 
The offices of Colectivo Alejandría, a transgender advocacy group, are located in a house in the Magaña neighborhood of the Salvadoran capital of San Salvador that is surrounded by a thick wall with barbed wire on the top of it.

A heavy metal gate with a narrow slit through which a person can look outside spans the driveway, while bars cover the house’s windows.

Colectivo Alejandría Director Karla Guevara says that an average of 20 people are killed in El Salvador every day. Francela Méndez, a prominent activist who was a Colectivo Alejandría board member, is among the more than a dozen trans women who were known to have been killed in the Central American country in 2015. Read more via Washington Blade
Australia: LGBTQ+ refugees in offshore detention centres
Asylum seekers who have fled states that outlaw their sexuality or gender identity are escaping the threat of abuse, imprisonment and even murder, but the public debate over asylum seekers and offshore detention centres largely overlooks their plight.

LGBTQ+ asylum seekers detained in centres on Manus Island and Nauru are especially vulnerable to violence. The Refugee Council of Australia notes that ‚there have been consistent and alarming reports of abuse (sexual and otherwise), including of those living in the community in Nauru and of gay and lesbian people’. Read more
Trinidad: Gay pride at women's rights march…there is a change sweeping the country says SLF
The Silver Lining Foundation (SLF), a guardian body for marginalised and bullied youths, said on Monday it's been heartened by an “overwhelming” show of support for Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Transgender (LGBT) rights at the weekend's “Life in Leggings Women's Rights March” at the Queen's Park Savannah, Port of Spain.

The Foundation in a statement on Monday, said it had noted a large contingent of supporters at the march, many waving rainbow pride flags, the symbol of LGBT pride and support.

Supporters also hoisted pro-LGBT signs and chanting the slogan “gay rights are human rights”.

The Foundation said this not only demonstrated a monumental moment for the local gay rights movement but also signaled a tide of change sweeping through the country, with more citizens welcoming diversity, celebrating inclusion and seeking equality. Read more via Trinidad Express
Canada: Activists Campaign to Stop Police From Participating in Canadian Pride Events
Black LGBTQ activist Akio Maroon was driving her car in Toronto in May 2015 when she was stopped by a police officer.

She said he asked to see her insurance, stating that people were using fake insurance papers. She said three more police cars showed up, but she was eventually let go without a ticket or explanation of why she was stopped.

"There's this assumption if you're black … you're up to no good," Maroon said. It is that fear of police that has led activists to campaign against police groups attending Pride parades this year in cities across Canada. Read more via NBC Out
UK: Students vote to ban police from Pride
Transgender students have voted to try and block police from attending Pride events – branding them racist, classist and transphobic.

A battle on the issue took place at the National Union of Students transgender conference last week. Students voted to pass the motion  ‘No Pride in the Police’, submitted by University of Manchester Students Union.

The motion vowed to “support and organize actions against police presence at Prides” because “many trans people have faced mistreatment and violence at the hands of the police”. It resolved “to encourage Prides to not have a police presence as part of parades, especially Pride events organized by students unions”. Read more via Pink News
US: This Year The LA Pride Parade Is Being Replaced By A ‘Resist March’
Organizers of Los Angeles Pride have announced a very different plan for the city’s annual 2017 Pride Festival. This year, instead of the annual Pride parade taking place, a #ResistMarch has been scheduled in response to the threat against the rights of minority Americans by current forces in the U.S. government.

The parade will be replaced by an LGBTQ Resist March on Sunday, June 11.

According to a mission statement published on the #ResistMarch’s website, the event is meant to harken back to “1970’s first LGBTQ+ Pride” and will involve marching “...in unity with those who believe that America’s strength is its diversity... Not just LGBTQ+ people but all Americans and dreamers will be wrapped in the Rainbow Flag and our unique, diverse, intersectional voices will come together in one harmonized proclamation.” Read more via Huffington Post
China introduces surprisingly progressive sex education curriculum for kids, some parents freak out
China has made a critical move to help reform its abysmal sex education system by introducing a surprisingly progressive curriculum for primary school students, and some parents aren't happy about it at all.

In this new curriculum which has been introduced in a handful of schools around the country, students in Grade 2 learn about gender equality, and that whatever their ambition in life may be, they can excel at it. Women can make great police officers and even astronauts, and men can be outstanding nurses and kindergarten teachers. They are also taught how life is conceived and how babies are made with the help of some pictures.

In Grade 5, students are taught about sexually transmitted infections such as HIV, and that condoms are the best way to reduce the spread of these infections. Through the accompanying graphics, both straight and gay students are reminded about the importance of using condoms if they should ever decide to engage in sexual intercourse. Read more via Shanghaiist
Canada: Should private schools be allowed to discriminate against LGBT families
Five months after BC’s ministry of education announced that all school districts need to protect LGBT students through mandatory anti-bullying policies, Xtra has learned that private school admissions policies are exempt from the ministry's order.

At least two private schools, both of which receive funding from the provincial government, have anti-LGBT admissions policies posted online that restrict marriage to heterosexual couples.

Langley Christian School and Abbotsford Christian School both require parents to sign a community standards form that says marriage should be a covenant between a man and a woman. Both schools describe their communities as “a group of believers in and followers of Jesus Christ” who strive to honour their faith commitment in all aspects of life. Both schools also receive money from the provincial government. Read more via DailyXtra
India: `Transgenders can't work in isolation if they need societal acceptance'
The exclusive transgender school of alternate learning that was to start functioning from next academic year in Kochi will now admit even students from the marginalized sections.The school authorities said that if transgenders want societal acceptance, then they can't work in isolation.

The school, the first-of its-kind in the country, is headed by transgender activist Vijayraja Mallika. Observing that transgenders too need acceptance in society, Mallika shared a recent experience that helped her decide on this.  Read more via Times of India
Smart condoms: like Fitbit for sex – and you can even share your stats
The i.Con Smart Condom, which markets itself as the "world's first smart condom," is actually a ring that fits over a boring, dumb condom and claims to track the exercise of your man bits, as well as detect chlamydia and syphilis.

The ring, first announced last July, is currently available for preorder on British Condoms for £59.99 (about $74, AU$97) with an unknown release date. In short, the i.Con ring promises to answer every burning question you've ever had about your sex session. Don't worry, it will pair with an app for all your data visualization needs. Read more via CNET
Ottawa Vibrator Company That Tracked Your Jerking Habits Will Pay $5 Million CAD Settlement
The Ottawa-based maker of a smart sex toy has agreed to a $5 million settlement after two people sued, alleging the vibrator collected some very personal information.

The lawsuit claimed the app collected data on use of the vibrator, including the date and time of each use as well as vibration settings, without the user's knowledge. The suit also alleged the data and the user's personal email address were transmitted to company servers in Canada.

Under the terms of the settlement reached last week, the monetary award will be divided between two groups. People in the U.S. who bought the device, downloaded the company's app and used it to control a Bluetooth enabled We-Vibe product prior to Sept. 26, 2016, will be eligible for up to $10,000 US each in compensation. Meanwhile, those who only bought the device will be eligible to get back up to $199 US. Read more via CBC
US: Yelp is making it possible to find businesses with gender-neutral bathrooms
Yelp is rolling out the ability to see if restaurants and other businesses have gender-neutral bathrooms. In the next couple of weeks, people will also be able to search for businesses on Yelp that have gender-neutral restrooms. To be clear, gender-neutral bathrooms are single-stall bathrooms that lock and are accessible to all genders.

In order for this to work, Yelp will start asking people who check into a business or review it if they offer gender-neutral bathrooms. Business owners on Yelp will also be able to edit their profiles to indicate they have gender-neutral restrooms.  Read more via Tech Crunch
Germany unveils law with big fines for hate speech on social media
Social media giants including Facebook and Twitter are not doing enough to curb hate speech on their platforms and could face fines of up to $53 million if they do not strengthen their efforts to delete illegal posts, a German government minister said on Tuesday.

The move by the country’s authorities comes as technology companies face increasing scrutiny worldwide over how they police online material including hate speech, possible terrorist propaganda and so-called fake news. The debate has been particularly acute in Germany, which has become a case study for combating such material because of its stringent laws on what can and cannot be published. Read more via New York Times
Pride and Prejudice Summit
The Economist Events will host its second-annual Pride and Prejudice Summit, a 24-hour event spanning three cities, Hong Kong, London and New York, that will catalyse a fresh global discussion on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) diversity and inclusion, particularly by focusing on the economic and business costs of LGBT discrimination and the profitable opportunities that lie in overcoming it.
“The inaugural summit in 2016 made a powerful business case for LGBT inclusion and diversity,” says Zanny Minton Beddoes, editor-in-chief of The Economist. “This year, we aim to expand on that theme by exploring how companies can be catalysts for change—and why we need them to be.”
Read more via LGBT Weekly
Tourism authority commissions studies to attract LGBT travelers to Hawaii
The Hawaii Tourism Authority commissioned four research studies to better understand and attract LGBT travelers from the U.S. Mainland, Canada, China and Australia.

The studies were conducted by Community Marketing & Insights, a San Francisco-based firm specializing in LGBT consumer research. The goal of the studies is to understand the niche market, which is becoming a new priority for HTA.

According to HTA Director of Tourism Research Daniel Nahoopii, Hawaii’s four target markets include the romance, business, active travel and family segments. Read more via BizJournals
ITB Berlin 2017 will host LGBT tourism presentations
The fast-growing colorful segment will be found at Hall 21B, featuring the Presentation Corner for LGBT products and services. The exhibitors covering this travel sector will focus mainly on strategies explaining which steps to follow to boost the market and on LGBT-friendly hot spots worldwide. Located in the Hall 21B, the presentations will welcome its guests with happy smiles from trans-gender models. Read more via Travel Wire
Vancouver researchers broach silence about suicide and LGBT issues with photo exhibit and studies
While suicide rates have traditionally been significantly higher among men than women, rates are even higher for queer men. And yet, it's an issue that remains largely unaddressed. To help address the lack of dialogue about such issues, Ferlatte also curated a visual art exhibition of works by men who have sex with men (MSM) and LGBT community members.

Men's Health Initiative's Man-Up Against Suicide previously organized a photo exhibit about suicide that primarily featured heterosexual men as well as women who lost their male partners. The participation of a few queer men in that exhibit inspired the researchers to launch an LGBT–specific photo project. 

Ferlatte explained that the exhibit is intended to raise public awareness, to destigmatize issues about mental health, and to generate conversation about the need for LGBT–specific suicide prevention. Read more via Straight
Highlighting The Experiences Of LGBT African Immigrants
The Limit(less) photo project, which features interviews and portraits of LGBT Africans living abroad, is attempting to debunk the stereotype that it is “un-African” to be queer. Read more
UK: Manchester United becomes first sports club to partner with Stonewall Read more 
Lebanon: New documentary explores being gay, trans and illegal in Lebanon Watch now 
South Africa: 'The Wound': LGBT film breaks taboos and ignites debate in South Africa Read more
Serbia: TRANSparent gives transgender people their voice Watch the video now
Malaysian Censor Says Sought 4+ Minutes of ‘Beauty And The Beast’ Cuts Read more 
Examining Australian queer young adult fiction Read more
Equal Eyes is edited by Christina Dideriksen and Richard Burzynski. The views presented here do not necessarily represent the view of UNAIDS or its Cosponsors.
All stories and photographs linked within are the property of the original publishers.
Equal Eyes Copyright © 2017 Richard Burzynski, All rights reserved.

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