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19 January 2017

Dear friends and colleagues,

From the UN: The UN Security Council paid tribute to outgoing Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon celebrating his achievements in office and noting that “the most vulnerable or marginalized have been increasingly heard and assisted by the United Nations". 

During the Secretary General’s term, the UN has taken several steps towards recognizing LGBTI equality, including the first UN Security Council meeting on LGBT issues, high-level meetings of the UN LGBT Core Group, resolutions in the Human Rights Council, and the launch of the Free & Equal campaign.  And in 2015, Ban Ki-moon announced the UN would recognize same-sex marriages and provide spousal benefits to UN staff. 

The UN's first Independent Expert on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity survived another attempt to undercut the position. During a vote on the 2016-2017 program budget, representatives objecting to the Expert proposed an oral amendment suggesting that matters around gender orientation did not have a basis in international law. However, representatives of Argentina and other like-minded states argued that the proposed amendment would reopen a decided issue and would threaten the Human Rights Council’s independence. In a vote the majority opposed the amendment, thereby allowing the Independent Expert to continue unchallenged. 

The Human Rights Council mandate to create the Independent Expert has been challenged several times since the historic vote last summer. ARC International provided a look at the background of each of these challenges

HIV, Health, and Wellness:  This year Russia surpassed 1 million HIV infections and had an estimated 275 new infections per day. Journalist Neil MacFarquhar examined how the continued rise in HIV reflects the tension between civil society and the Kremlin—who earlier this year labeled many AIDS supporting NGOs ‘foreign agents’, banned imported condom sales, and has supported ‘moral education’ for the public while opposing youth sex education.

In China, the rate of HIV among gay men has increased to 27% of new infections—one in 12.5 gay or bisexual men are HIV-positive. Although the government provides HIV drugs free to the public, activists say long-held taboos against discussing sexuality contributes to the continuing rise of HIV within the community.

The US National Institute of Health launched the first large-scale clinical trial of a long-acting injectable drug to prevent HIV, enrolling gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men, and transgender women across eight countries. The injection lasts 8 weeks and is expected to safely protect men and transgender women from HIV as well as daily oral PrEP drugs.

Meanwhile, the Atlantic examined the case for PEPFAR—the US President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief—after news emerged that President-elect Trump's transition team sent the State Department a questionnaire measuring the value of foreign aid that specifically called out the AIDS program, asking: “Is PEPFAR becoming a massive, international entitlement program?”

The Philippines Department of Health announced an effort to curb the HIV epidemic that will include distributing condoms at schools for 15 to 24-year-olds and a sex education program with parental involvement. 

Ireland’s Health Service (HSE) announced it is expanding the HPV vaccination program to include gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men under the age of 26. 

LGBT health organization London Friend announced a meeting with drug agencies and related charities to discuss how to reduce sexual violence and overdoses related to chemsex. The Metropolitan police are reviewing 50 deaths believed to be related to chemsex drug GHB.
A new article in International Journal of Drug Policy argues that the perception that drug use is a common behavior among British gay and bisexual men is not supported by data. The authors warn that promoting this perception normalizes the behavior within the community and may influence more people to participate. 

In Australia, activists for intersex people’s rights warn that the government has failed to implement recommendations made in 2013 by a Senate Inquiry to reduce unnecessary “normalizing” surgeries and medical interventions. 

From the World of Politics: In a nearly unanimous vote, the Parliament of Chad updated the penal code to make homosexuality a misdemeanor punishable by a fine and suspended prison sentence.

This month, the government of Vietnam enacted an amended Civil Code allowing people who have had sex reassignment surgery the ability to change gender in legal documentation.  

The Philippine House of Representatives approved a bill to establish designated LGBT protection positions at all police stations that will respond to criminal and emergency incidents, including violence and sexual harassment. 

The European Parliament adopted a new report on fundamental rights in the EU that condemns discrimination and violence on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. The report also notes that “fundamental rights of LGBTI persons are more likely to be safeguarded” when people have access to legal institutions including marriage, cohabitation, legal sex changes, and adoptions.

From the US, the Human Rights Campaign released the State Equality Index, a comprehensive review of legislation affecting LGBT rights and documenting more than 200 anti-LGBT bills filed in state legislatures this past year. Most recently, South Carolina, Virginia, Washington State, Texas, and Kentucky have introduced legislation preventing trans people from using restrooms matching their gender identity—in several cities the legislation will negate local LGBT non-discrimination ordinances.

Following in the steps of leaders around the world, US Secretary of State John Kerry issued a formal apology to hundreds of people who were fired from the State Department due to their suspected sexuality during the 1950s and 60s—the so-called “Lavender Scare”. 

In the UK, the Ministry of Justice accepted an amendment to the Policing and Crime Bill that will allow men who were convicted for consensual same-sex relations to apply for pardons. Posthumous pardons will be issued to men who have passed. Justice Minister Sam Gyimah said: “I am deeply sorry that so many men died without being pardoned in this way. I am sorry too that our country was blind to a simple fact – that love is love.

The Politics of Union: The Cherokee Nation, the largest federally recognized Native American tribe in the US, announced it will recognize same-sex marriages. In a statement, the tribe’s Attorney General Todd Hembree said that oral histories “suggest a tradition of homosexuality or alternative sexuality among a minority of Cherokees”.

Across Taiwan, protesters continued to rally for and against marriage equality as the Legislature passed the first draft of a bill to amend the Civil Code to include same-sex couples. The bill will be considered in cross-party consultations this spring. 

Guatemalan congress member Sandra Morán introduced an initiative to amend the Civil Code and legalize same-sex marriage.

Although Mexican courts have ruled in favor of individual petitions for marriage from same-sex couples, an organized backlash against national marriage equality has left many in the LGBT community fearful of losing their rights. 

Let the Courts Decide: The Constitutional Court of Indonesia held another hearing to consider whether extramarital sex between unmarried couples and sexual relations between same-sex people should be criminalized in the Criminal Code. The case, filed last May by Islamic activist group Family Love Alliance, was meant to conclude with the latest hearing but the presiding Justice has extended to allow more witnesses on opposing sides to speak. 

Although the Congress of Peru has yet to legalize same-sex civil unions—a bill on the issue has been considered numerous times since 2010 and rejected or shelved for later discussion—the Constitutional Court ruled that the National Registry of Identification and Civil Status must recognize the marriage of a gay couple performed in Mexico. The National Registry has indicated they will appeal the decision. 

The Lahore High Court of Pakistan ruled that it is a violation of human rights to exclude khawaja sira or hijra people from the National Census. Khawaja sira or hijra is an officially recognized third gender in Pakistan generally referring to people identified male at birth, but who self-identify as female or neither male nor female. 

US District Court Judge Reed O’Connor issued a ruling that allows healthcare service providers to discriminate against transgender people and people seeking abortions if the care violates "their religious beliefs”.

For the first time, a US District Court found a man guilty of violating the Hate Crimes Prevention Act when he violently murdered trans person Mercedes Williamson. Though some praised the ruling, saying it shows that the federal government is willing to take a stand against violence based on gender identity, others pointed out the ruling does little to address the main problem: the rise of violence against transgender women of color. 
In a first of its kind case, a Chinese court in the Guizhou province ruled in favor of a trans man suing his employer for unlawful dismissal. While the court specified the termination was unlawful, the court did not find that the discrimination was based on his gender identity.

An Italian Court of Appeal ruled in favor of a gay couple seeking citizenship for their sons born using a US surrogate. Although the boys were conceived via the same egg donor and shared the same womb, the court declined to recognize them as brothers and only granted parental rights to each child’s genetic father. 

Fear and Loathing:  Zambian LGBT activists and health professionals warned that laws criminalizing homosexuality have created a “toxic” environment where imprisonment, emotional trauma, and violence is common and often leads to drug abuse and suicide.  

The Bisi Alimi Foundation released a new report on LGBTQ Nigerians and the violence and discrimination the community has experienced since the adoption of the Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act of 2014.

Kenyan LGBT activists spoke to local newspaper The Star about how anti-gay laws that criminalize “indecent” acts have led to ongoing harassment, violence, and extortion against those accused of homosexuality.  

Bangladeshi newspaper The Dhaka Tribune spoke to transgender girls who have been abandoned by their families, yet managed to find hope in the local trans community. 

Somali group al-Shabaab executed a teenager and young man accused of homosexuality. Sheikh Mohamed Abu Abdalla, a regional governor for al Shabaab, told Reuters news agency that a judge read their charges publically and they were found guilty

Out of India, a story of a young man’s rape went viral after he reached out to a friend in the US. The US friend urged him to report the assault to police, but with local laws criminalizing homosexuality, the man is afraid of being arrested. With the man’s permission, the friend posted their conversation to Facebook to bring attention to the dangers and lack of support the gay community has in India. 

On International Human Rights Day opponents of marriage equality from 20 countries met in South Africa to launch a new group called “International Organization for the Family” with their manifesto pledging to defend their definition of marriage. The declaration stated: “We pledge to resist the rising cultural imperialism of Western powers whose governments seek nothing less than the ideological colonization of the family.”

UK advocate Kevin Maxwell reflected on the experience of racism within the LGBT community, noting: “LGBT people cannot ask for equality on one hand and discriminate on the other. It undermines our cause and our integrity.”

US journalist Shannon Keating reflected on growing national hate crimes statistics 19 years after the brutal murder of young gay man led to the creation of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. Keating questions how backlash against calling out racism, homophobia, & transphobia could be impacting the LGBT movement.

Winds of Change:  The International HIV/AIDS Alliance published a new policy brief examining the impact of ‘hostile human rights environment’ on LGBT communities and HIV and health programs. 

In Cameroon, LGBT rights group Alcondoms provides support groups and HIV education to gay men and other men who have sex with men despite laws that criminalize homosexuality. 

In Iraq, the Kurdish human rights group Rasan Organization and volunteers painted murals at local high schools to bring visibility to LGBTQI+ rights, gender equality, and domestic violence. Although some volunteers were harassed, deputy director Ayaz Shalal reported that due to positive response they hope to spread the campaign to new cities.

And in Costa Rica, the Rahab Foundation works to help transgender youth who have been forced into sex work.

The Williams Institute, global research firm Ipsos, and Buzzfeed collaborated on a comprehensive survey of 23 countries and the public opinion of transgender people and transgender rights. 

ILGA published the first Trans Legal Mapping Report that reviews the laws and legal procedures affecting trans and gender-diverse people around the world. 

Ten Bangladeshi journalists were awarded by the Bandhu Social Welfare Society for reporting on issues affecting transgender people and sexual minorities. 

The National Geographic special edition on the “Gender Revolution” showcased a 9-year-old transgender girl on the cover and explored topics such as expectations of gender, gender diversity, and the challenges faced by children. And the Economist reviewed the way gender identities have been fluid across cultures and nationalities. 

Research and polling firm Gallup released data showing that more people in the US are openly identifying as LGBT than any previous year. Gallup’s 2016 poll found 4.1% of adults—approximately 10 million people identify as LGBT.

Denmark’s Sexology Clinic in Copenhagen revealed that they had vastly underestimated the number of individuals who would seek hormone therapy when they began offering services to children under 18-years-old last January. In May, Denmark officially declared that being transgender is not a mental illness—the first country to make this distinction. 

In the US, New Yorker Sara Kelly Keenan was re-issued a birth certificate designating her gender as “intersex”—the first US birth certificate to recognize the gender category.

On the March:  Montenegro LGBTIQ  activists and allies marched through the capital city to demand anti-discrimination legislation and marriage equality rights. The march, called “Family Values” to urge families to support relatives, was held peacefully under the watchful eye of hundreds of riot police. 

City officials of Bologna, Italy, worked with local LGBTI groups and pro-refugee groups to create housing, counseling, and outreach services specifically for LGBTI refugees. The new accommodations will be adjacent to existing refugee resources.

In the Name of Religion: When Indian trans activist Vijaya Raja Mallika could not find anyone willing to rent facilities for a proposed residential school for transgender people, the Sisters of the Congregation of Mother Carmel opened their buildings to help establish Sahaj International school.  

In Scotland, Reverend John Nugent joined a growing list of religious leaders to support the country’s Time for Inclusive Education (TIE) campaign that seeks new legislation to include LGBTI issues in comprehensive sexuality and relationship education. Noting that traditionally faith was inclusive to all people, Rev. Nugent declared that the “faith agenda” must be “seized back from the bigots and the haters”. 

School Days: Nine UK Accelerated Christian Education (ACE) schools that follow fundamentalist interpretation of Christianity—including that homosexuality is unnatural, evolution is fabricated, and women should be subservient—were downgraded by government inspectors to “inadequate” or “requires improvement” and at one school concluded that “children are at risk”. The ACE curriculum is taught at 26 schools in the UK. 

The UK Parliament rejected an amendment to make sex and relationship education (SRE) mandatory in all UK schools. Speaking against the bill, MP Simon Hoare said the amendment did not allow for faith schools that oppose homosexuality. The Justice Education Minister announced the government plans to bring forward a separate plan to reform SRE. 

After appearing at an event at the US University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee during which he verbally attacked a transgender student, Breitbart editor and alt-right celebrity Milo Yiannopoulos was blocked from appearing at the University of California-Davis by protestors carrying signs that read "Fascism, Hate & Bigotry Will Not Be Tolerated".

The US University of Kansas introduced gender pronoun buttons to students and staff as part of their “You Belong Here” campaign to improve diversity. The buttons were proposed by the library circulation and information desk employees. 

In Australia, members of the group Marriage Alliance used the Christmas holidays to hand out “presents” to school children boarding buses. When unwrapped, the package contained Marriage Alliance pamphlets condemning marriage equality and the anti-LGBT bullying program Safe Schools Coalition.

Sports and Culture:  Israel’s Second Authority for Television and Radio that monitors commercial TV and radio banned a PSA called “Human Rights: Because without I’m not Equal” because it includes statements supporting gay marriage and a statement supporting speaking Arabic. The Authority said advertising must not have "political, social, public or economic matter" that is in "public dispute". 

Pop star George Michael passed away on Christmas. The British singer became an outspoken advocate for HIV and gay rights in the late 90s, unapologetically encouraging sex-positivity.

The Daily Beast presented and in-depth profile of actor Ryan Haddad, whose one-man show Hi, Are You Single? explores being gay and dating while having cerebral palsy.

The New Year brought many reflections on 2016—one standout came from the Advocate that highlighted 21 LGBT Muslims from around the world who have been leaders in fighting Islamophobia and homophobia. 

The first web-series from Nicaragua—MF, La Serie—plans to explore issues of violence, sexuality, and queerness with over 30 film professionals and 300 non-professionals from the community. 

Indian television channel NDTV Prime will broadcast the nation’s first series to include openly gay characters. The show All About Section 377 began as a web-series on YouTube last year.

Finally check out the trailer for biopic Tom Of Finland, the story of Finnish artist Touko Laaksonen known for his highly stylized homoerotic art. 
“Strong efforts must be made to increase LGBT visibility amongst ordinary Nigerians as well as [showing] the average Nigerian the great strides that are being achieved with regards to LGBT rights in other parts of the world.It is a long and arduous journey ahead and the challenge must be met firmly and with courage and determination”

~ 25-year-old gay man living in Nigeria to the Bisi Alimi Foundation in their report Not Dancing to Their Own Music 
Continue for excerpts from the articles
ban ki moon Michel Sidibé UNAIDS report
U.N. Council Thanks Ban Ki-moon for Work with Vulnerable
Russia prevented the United Nations Security Council on Wednesday from thanking outgoing Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon specifically for promoting gay rights during his decade in office, diplomats said.

The United States and other members had wanted a council statement to read: "It is thanks to you, Mr. Secretary-General, that women, young people, and the LGBT community have been heard and assisted, and today their voices sound louder and stronger in this headquarters and around the world."

However, Russia objected, diplomats said. The 15-member council instead agreed to a statement that said because of Ban's human rights promotion "the most vulnerable or marginalized have been increasingly heard and assisted by the United Nations."

Ban has long advocated for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality but faced opposition from  some countries. Read more via Reuters
Bloc fails second challenge against UN investigator of LGBT discrimination
A group of African countries has failed in their second attempt to block a United Nations (UN) expert from working on gender based and LGBT violence. 

Thai law professor Vitit Muntarbhorn became the first ever UN investigator with a mandate to examine violence and discrimination against the LGBT communities worldwide when he was appointed in September.  

But the bloc of mainly African states led by Burkina Faso, have twice tried to pass an amendment to delay his appointment. They claimed there "is no international agreement on the definition of the concept of 'sexual orientation and gender identity.'" Read more via the Independent

See the UN press release on the Fifth Committee here
A Success in 2016: The First UN Independent Expert on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
At the end of 2016, the human rights landscape looks increasingly bleak. In a world made wintry by the election of Donald Trump as the president of the United States, one positive outcome for the human rights struggle more broadly, and for the LGBT struggle more specifically, was the victory in the battle to protect the first UN mandate on addressing violence and discrimination on grounds of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI).

The fight for the establishment of the Independent Expert on SOGI has been uniquely difficult spanning over five key votes in 2016. These five votes on the SOGI mandate provide a significant barometer on the state of LGBT rights globally. Read more via ARC International
Russia: HIV cases surpass a million in Russia, but little is done
Quietly, the number of Russians who have received a positive H.I.V. diagnosis passed the one million mark this year. There is, however, little indication that the government will commit adequate resources to stem the acceleration of the virus from high-risk groups into the general population.

About 850,000 Russians carry H.I.V. and an additional 220,000 have died since the late 1980s, said Vadim Pokrovsky, the longtime head of the Moscow-based Federal AIDS Center, who estimated that at least another 500,000 cases of H.I.V. have gone undiagnosed.

Although the label “epidemic” prompts denials from some senior officials, experts on the front lines like Mr. Pokrovsky are calling it just that. Read more via New York Times
China: ‘Caught in quicksand’ Gay and HIV-positive
China is a country with giant cities, huge skyscrapers, and the world’s second largest economy. But underneath its modern looking facade, the country is still very traditional; this is especially true of attitudes toward homosexuality.

China’s population is 1.37 billion. According to Zhang Beichuan, a professor at the Qingdao University Medical College, there are more than 20 million gay men in the country. That number is equivalent to half of California’s current population. Being gay can make life difficult in China. Homosexuality was a crime there until 1997, and was considered a mental illness by the Chinese Medical Association until 2001.

Although some within Chinese society are starting to become more tolerant of the LGBT community, being gay is still very much stigmatized in China today. The issue becomes more complicated when HIV is involved. Read more via China File
NIH launches first large trial of a long-acting injectable drug for HIV prevention
The first large-scale clinical trial of a long-acting injectable drug for HIV prevention began today. The study, sponsored by the National Institutes of Health, will examine whether a long-acting form of the investigational anti-HIV drug cabotegravir injected once every 8 weeks can safely protect men and transgender women from HIV infection at least as well as the anti-HIV medication Truvada taken daily as an oral tablet.

If injectable cabotegravir is found to be effective for HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis, also known as PrEP, it may be easier for some people to adhere to than daily oral Truvada, the only licensed PrEP regimen. Truvada consists of the two anti-HIV drugs emtricitabine and tenofovir disoproxil fumarate.

“Although daily oral Truvada clearly works for HIV prevention, taking a daily pill while feeling healthy can be difficult for some people. If proven effective, injectable cabotegravir has the potential to become an acceptable, discreet and convenient alternative for HIV prevention.” said Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID).  Read more via NIAID
US: Tragedy Would Unfold If Trump Cancels Bush’s AIDS Program
In 2003, in a move that has been described as his greatest legacy, George W. Bush created a program called PEPFAR—the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. At the time, more than 20 million people in sub-Saharan Africa were living with AIDS, but only 50,000 had access to antiretroviral drugs that manage the disease and prevent its spread. Now, thanks to PEPFAR, 11.5 million people are on those drugs. For good reason, it has been variously described as a “globally transformative lifeline,” “one of the best government programs in American history,” and something “for all Americans to be proud of.”

It seems that some members of President-Elect Trump’s transition team beg to differ. Last Friday, Helene Cooper at The New York Times reported that the transition team sent a four-page questionnaire to the State Department about America’s relationship with Africa, on topics ranging from terrorism to humanitarianism. Several questions indicated “an overall skepticism about the value of foreign aid.” Two mentioned PEPFAR in particular: “Is PEPFAR worth the massive investment when there are so many security concerns in Africa? Is PEPFAR becoming a massive, international entitlement program?”

Without knowing the specific author, “it’s hard to assess the intent of those questions, but at face value, they represent a point of view that is skeptical in the least and barely veiled hostility at the most,” says Jack Chow, who worked at the State Department under Colin Powell and acted as an ambassador focusing on HIV. “They could be aimed at provoking a justification—an aim that is not too uncommon for these kinds of inquiries.” Read more via the Atlantic
HPV vaccine to be provided to men who have sex with men
The HPV vaccine is to be made publicly available to young men who have sex with men (MSM), the HSE has announced. The vaccine, which protects against cervical cancer and genital warts, will be provided to MSM aged between 16 years and 26 years from next January, according to Dr Fiona Lyons, HSE clinical lead for sexual health.

Since 2012, the vaccine has been provided to girls in their early teens but a trenchant campaign of opposition has seen a falloff in the take-up rate from 87 per cent to about 50 per cent.
Philippines: Condom distribution to ‘hopefully’ start in 2017
Thee Philippines is facing one of the fastest-growing epidemics of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) in the Asia-Pacific region. According to official statistics, HIV prevalence among men who have sex with men (MSM) has increased tenfold in the last five years, according to a report published the nongovernmental human rights organization, Human Rights Watch in Dec. 2016.

The organization has criticized the Philippines government in their effort to get the epidemic under control. HIV prevention education in Philippine schools is woefully inadequate and the commercial marketing of condoms to MSM populations is nonexistent, the report notes.

They call on the new Duterte government to turn things around. “President Rodrigo Duterte has inherited a legacy of failed or counterproductive policies of previous administrations that are contributing to the alarming increase in HIV infections among men who have sex with men,” said Carlos H. Conde, Philippines researcher. 
UK: This Is What’s Being Done To Tackle The Harm Caused By Chemsex
Britain’s oldest LGBT charity is spearheading a cutting-edge initiative to tackle the devastating effects of chemsex amid mounting fears about the toll the scene – where men have sex with each other while taking GHB, mephedrone, and crystal methamphetamine – is taking on those involved.

London Friend, the LGBT health organization, has called a meeting next week for more than a dozen drugs agencies and related charities to discuss setting up a London-wide chemsex network for professionals to pool knowledge and resources in a bid to reduce drug abuse and prevent further sexual violence, overdoses, and deaths.

The move, which is supported by a grant from an HIV charity called Wandsworth Oasis, comes in the wake of the conviction of Stephen Port, the serial killer who used the chemsex drug GHB to rape and murder his victims.  Read more via Buzzfeed
Health agencies should challenge the idea that most gay men use drugs
Drug use generally and chemsex more specifically are perceived to be common and normalised behaviours among gay men involved in those scenes in London, but this perception is contradicted by survey data. As social norms influence health-related behaviour, health promotion interventions should challenge the idea that drug use and chemsex are widespread, argue authors from Sigma Research in the International Journal of Drug Policy.

Survey data show that only a minority of gay men use drugs in a sexual context, but that the practice is more common in some cities and social groups. For example, data from 519 gay men attending six sexual health clinics throughout England in 2013 and 2014 has recently been published by researchers from Public Health England in Sexually Transmitted Infections. The men were asked whether, in the past three months, they had been under the influence of recreational drugs with a sexual partner. Read more via AIDS Map
Australia: The medical community's approach to intersex people is still primarily focused on 'normalising' surgeries
 details of a decision by the Family Court to approve gender assignment surgery on a five-year-old intersex child were released to the public. The decision highlights a largely unnoticed human rights issue in Australia—the forced surgeries and sterilisations of intersex people.

As an infant, ‘Carla’, who is genetically male but was born with genitals that "resembled that of a female", underwent surgery to “enhance the appearance of her female genitals”. Now five, Carla’s parents went to the Family Court to approve the more complex surgery of removing the child's internal gonads.

The court heard multiple justifications for the surgery, including a potential increased cancer risk, and that Carla “enjoys toys and colours that are stereotypically female, for example, having pink curtains, a Barbie bedspread and campervan, necklaces, lip gloss and ‘fairy stations’”.

Carla’s case is not uncommon. Research suggests that at least 60% of intersex people have undergone some form of medical intervention based on sex characteristics, with half the procedures being performed before the age of 18.
Chad joins list of countries with anti-LGBT laws
The parliament in the north-central African country of Chad has adopted a new penal code that makes homosexual activity a crime. Chad’s new law provides for violators to be fined and given a suspended prison sentence.

Hamid Mahamat Dahalob, Chad’s justice minister, described the new law as providing a lighter penalty for homosexuality, which apparently means that it is less repressive than the language of a previous, unapproved revision of the penal code in 2014 that called for prison sentences of 15 to 20 years for same-sex intimacy.

In 2014, Chad was added — by mistake — to the list of countries with anti-gay laws because that year’s proposed revision of the penal code would have provided for 15 to 20 years in prison and a fine of 50,000 to 500,000 CFA francs (US $86 to $860) “for anyone who has sex with persons of the same sex.”  Chad was removed from the list after ILGA realized that the proposed change had been approved in 2014 by Chad’s cabinet, but not by the president. Read more via 76 Crimes
Vietnamese law to recognize transgender people in 2017
The newly amended Civil Code, which will take effect in January, will for the first time allow people who have undergone gender reassignment to register under the new gender.

Transgender people's personal rights will be protected by the law, which was passed by legislators in late 2015 in a breakthrough vote.

Huynh Minh Thao, an activist for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights, said: “Transgender people will no longer be rejected at school and at work. They will be able to live the life they want.” Read more via VN Express
New report takes stock of fundamental rights in the EU, including LGBTI rights
The European Parliament adopted a new comprehensive report on fundamental rights in the EU.  The report assesses how fundamental rights are implemented in the EU, and what must still be done to reach standards laid down in the Charter of Fundamental Rights.

The report calls for action in the field of homophobic and transphobic hate crime (par. 123); non-discrimination (par. 55); free movement between Member States, including for same-sex couples and their children (par. 127); and access to employment, goods and services (par. 124).

Furthermore, important parts concerning the rights of transgender people were added through amendments tabled by the Greens/EFA. Read more via European Parliament Intergroup on LGBT Rights
US: Brace yourselves for an onslaught of anti-LGBT proposals in 2017
In 2016, state legislatures across the country proposed more anti-LGBT measures than they had in almost a decade, and activists anticipate more of the same in 2017. There was some good news last year: There was a dramatic jump in proposed pro-LGBT rights bills. And in North Carolina, Gov. Pat McCrory lost his reelection bid, and his defeat was seen as a victory for opponents of the LGBT discrimination legislation that he'd championed. As the Human Rights Campaign, the country's largest LGBT advocacy group, and other allies evaluate the wins and losses from this year, they hope their forward momentum can overpower what is likely to be another year of battling discriminatory legislation.

While the 2015 legalization of same-sex marriage in the Supreme Court's Obergefell v. Hodges decision was a high point in gay rights, there are a number of proposals for 2017 whose intent is to roll them back. During a recent press call, the ACLU predicted a crop of "religious exemption" bills in the near future, laws that allow businesses and service providers to use their religious beliefs as justification for refusing service to a member of the LGBT community. "A Trump administration will embolden some of the folks in state legislatures who already wish to move legislation that harms the LGBT community," Bowman says. "That piece is very concerning."

Lawmakers in a number of states have already pre-filed discriminatory bills for 2017. Here are some of them. Read more via Mother Jones

Read the Human Rights Campaign report on State sanctioned discrimination in the 2016 State Equality Index
Philippines: Santos-Recto’s LGBT protection bill hurdles House committee
A bill seeking to establish police desks for the protection of the LGBT community hurdled the committee level at the House of Representatives. This after the House committee on public order and safety approved House Bill 2952 seeking to establish LGBT help and protection desks in Philippine National Police (PNP) stations nationwide.

The committee chaired by Antipolo Rep. Romeo Acop approved the bill authored by the “Star for all Seasons,” actress and Batangas Rep. Vilma Santos-Recto. According to Santos-Recto’s bill, these LGBT police desks would act on all cases involving crimes against chastity or sexual harassment committed against the LGBT community. Santos-Recto also mandated the PNP to ensure the gender neutrality of its human resources – in the recruitment of police, as well as promotion and deployment of police officers.

“Ultimately, this bill seeks to create a police organization that is able and eager to respond to any criminal or emergency incident, regardless of the gender orientation of the people involved,” Santos-Recto said in her bill. Read more via NewsInfo
UK: Government issues apology for historical anti-gay laws as Parliament gives green light to pardons law
Plans to issue a pardon with men who were convicted under anti-gay laws have been accepted unopposed. The Turing’s Law proposals will see men convicted for consensual same-sex relationships, which were criminalized in England and Wales until 1967, formally pardoned.

Rather than bring about direct legislation on the issue, the Ministry of Justice fulfilled the 2015 Conservative Party manifesto pledge on the issue by accepting a Lib Dem amendment to the Policing and Crime Bill. The amendments were accepted in the Commons today, paving the way for the provisions to become law when the bill gains Royal Assent – expected “within weeks”. according to the Ministry of Justice. Read more via Pink News
US: Kerry issues formal ‘lavender scare’ apology
Secretary of State John Kerry on Monday formally apologized to State Department personnel who were fired during the so-called lavender scare. “As far back as the 1940s, but continuing for decades — the Department of State was among many public and private employers that discriminated against employees and job applicants on the basis of perceived sexual orientation, forcing some employees to resign or refusing to hire certain applicants in the first place,” he said in a statement.

U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) noted in a letter he sent to Kerry on Nov. 29 that “at least 1,000 people were dismissed from” the State Department “for alleged homosexuality” during the 1950s and 1960s. The Maryland Democrat cited the State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security that says employees “were forced out . . . on the ostensible grounds that their sexual orientation rendered them vulnerable to blackmail, prone to getting caught in ‘honey traps’ and made them security risks.” Cardin wrote the State Department also had a screening process to “prevent those who ‘seemed like they might be gay or lesbian’ from being hired.” Read more via Washington Blade
US: Cherokee Nation attorney general says tribe must recognize same-sex marriages
While a tribal court recently avoided ruling on the issue, the Cherokee Nation will begin recognizing same-sex marriages under an opinion issued Friday by the tribe’s attorney general, who said that Cherokees practiced something similar to gay marriage in past centuries.

While agreeing that the tribe, as a sovereign nation itself, was not bound by the 2015 U.S. Supreme Court decision that made gay marriage legal in all 50 states, Todd Hembree echoed the court’s reasoning, deciding that the tribe’s own constitution “protects the fundamental right to marry” regardless of the genders involved in the relationship.

That decision effectively nullifies a law the Cherokee Nation enacted in 2004 to specify that marriages recognized by the tribe had to be between a man and woman. Read more via Tulsa World
Taiwan: Same-sex marriage bill passes first screening
The rights and obligations of marriage between heterosexual couples will apply to same-sex couples, according to a draft bill that passed its initial screening at a legislative committee, moving another step toward legalizing same-sex marriage.

Instead of changing Article 972, which states "an agreement to marry shall be made by the male and the female parties themselves," an amendment to the Civil Code adds another paragraph stating that "an agreement to marry between people of the same sex shall be made by the two parties involved." Read more via Focus Taiwan

Taiwan: Heated debate and rallies over Taiwan same-sex marriage bill

Tens of thousands of supporters and opponents of same-sex marriage have demonstrated in separate rallies outside Taiwan's Parliament in Taipei, where lawmakers reviewed different versions of an amendment to the Civil Code. 

Protesters against the legislation wore white shirts and held up signs reading "Marriage and Family; People decide". They demanded more dialogue with lawmakers, saying legalizing same-sex marriage would damage family values and compromise social stability.

Gay and lesbian rights groups urged quick legislation. Activists waved rainbow flags and held up signs reading "Marriage Equality. Fundamental Human Right" The organizers said they had mobilized about 30,000 people. Read more via Sydney Morning Herald
Guatemala: Introduces legislation to legalize gay marriage
Congressmen of various political parties in Guatemala are preparing an initiative that seeks to reform the Civil Code to legalize same-sex marriage. The proposal was announced by the legislator Sandra Morán, head of the Convergence Block.

According to Moran, Guatemala should recognize and guarantee the rights of persons of the same sex who want to form a family, since these citizens lack legal recognition in family law contexts, including cases of illness, legality, and death. Read more Pan Am Post
Mexico's gay couples fight backlash against same-sex marriage
After 19 years together, Inés Acevedo and Yolanda Torres finally tied the knot last September, at a collective wedding in the Mexican city of Querétaro. But their marriage was tragically short-lived: less than a month later, Torres suffered a fatal heart attack. 

Her death triggered a period of intense grief for Acevedo – but also the start of a bitter legal battle to have the couple’s legal rights respected. When Acevedo tried to obtain a certified copy of the marriage license so she could process her pension, she was told the document didn’t exist. Only after a complaint to state human rights officials did the document appear – though the registry director told Acevedes that she was receiving it “due to extraordinary circumstances”.

Same-sex couples have been able to marry in Mexico since 2009, when the country’s capital became the first city in Latin America to pass marriage equality laws. But in recent months, a well-organized and well-funded backlash has emerged, claiming credit for derailing a presidential proposal to entrench marriage equality in the country’s constitution. Read more via the Guardian
Peru: Court recognizes same-sex marriage
When someone tries to sue you, it’s a better time than ever to step back and reassess how you’ve been doing things.

Six years after marrying his Mexican partner, Fidel Aroche, in Mexico City, Peruvian gay rights activist and economist Oscar Ugarteche wanted to change his marital status on his Peruvian passport. When he attempted to register the marriage at RENIEC (National Registry of Identification and Civil Status) and was subsequently denied, Ugarteche sued.

This past Monday however, the Peruvian court shocked (and pleased) many with the ruling to recognize the same-sex marriage.

While the government agency plans to appeal Ugarteche’s claims, many members of the LGBTQ community in Peru are celebrating the nation’s small step towards equality and recognition of same-sex rights. Read more via Peru This Week
Indonesia: More experts speak at court to have casual, LGBT sex criminalized
Experts taking the witness stand at the Constitutional Court argued that allowing extramarital sex between unmarried couples and LGBT sexual activities might turn Indonesia into an uncivilized nation, in a controversial judicial review that seeks to criminalize both consensual extramarital sex and homosexual sex acts.

Three experts took the witness stand in support of the Association of Muslim Housewives (Persistri), which supports the petition filed by a number of individuals from various backgrounds, including lecturers, housewives and private employees grouped under the Family Love Alliance (AILA) to alter provisions in the Criminal Code (KUHP) for their cause.

Elly Risman, an expert on psychology and parenting, said the existing provisions were outdated in the era of technology and the internet, where information could negatively affect children: "Extramarital sex has turned into a lifestyle," she told the hearing. "How we can save the nation if we don't have the tools [the laws]?" Read more via the Jakarta Post

For more background see Indonesian court mulls gay sex ban from August
Pakistan: Transgenders to be ‘counted’ in census
The Lahore High Court yesterday allowed a petition seeking inclusion of the transgender community in the forms of population and housing census to be held in March this year.

Chief Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah of the LHC passed the order on a petition moved by Waqar Ali, a transgender from Kasur. The chief justice ordered Pakistan Bureau of Statistics to provide a separate category to the transgender community in the upcoming census.

He held they should be treated like other citizens enjoying the same rights in the country under the constitution of Pakistan. It is the first time in the country’s history since its creation in 1947 that the transgender community having their own identity will be included in the national census. Read more via The Nation

*The transgender community in Pakistan primarily refers to hijras or khawaja sira. These terms can describe male identified-at-birth people that identify as female or something else, "transsexuals", and eunuchs. It does not include female identified-at-birth people. For more background on the hijra check out The Third Gender People of Pakistan
US: Transgender hate crime guilty plea in federal court is a first
In the first case of its kind, a Mississippi man pleaded guilty to a federal hate crime Wednesday for murdering his ex-girlfriend because she was transgender.

Joshua Vallum, 29, knew Mercedes Williamson was a transgender teenage girl when they began dating, the US Justice Department's Civil Rights Division said.
Vallum killed her because she was transgender, making him eligible for prosecution under the 2009 Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr., Hate Crimes Prevention Act, named for two of the country's most infamous hate crimes.

The federal law criminalizes violence based on race, religion, gender, sexual orientation or gender identity. Vallum's prosecution is the first to involve a victim targeted for being transgender, the Justice Department said. Read more via CNN
US: Federal judge halts Obamacare transgender, abortion-related protections nationwide
A federal judge in Texas on Saturday issued a nationwide injunction halting enforcement of Obama administration protections for transgender and abortion-related health care services just one day before they were due to go into effect.

The lawsuit — brought by Texas, a handful of other states, and some religiously affiliated nonprofit medical groups — challenges a regulation implementing the sex nondiscrimination requirement found in the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

The Health and Human Services (HHS) regulation “forbids discriminating on the basis of ‘gender identity’ and ‘termination of pregnancy’” under Obamacare, as US District Court Judge Reed O’Connor wrote in his opinion halting enforcement of those provisions in the rule. Read more via Buzzfeed
China: Transgender man was unfairly fired, but bias not proved, Court says
In what has been described as China’s first case involving transgender discrimination in the workplace, a court in the southwestern province of Guizhou has ruled that the plaintiff was illegally fired but that there was no proof that his dismissal was a result of bias against transgender people.

“We found this a little bit of a shame,” Huang Sha, the lawyer for the plaintiff, a 28-year-old transgender man who has been identified in the state news media only as “Mr. C” and who has declined to provide his real name to protect his privacy, said in a telephone interview.

Mr. C, who was born a woman but says he has long considered himself a man, was dismissed from the Ciming Health Checkup Center in Guiyang, the provincial capital, in April 2015 after a one-week probation.  Read more via New York Times
Italy: These two baby boys are twins, but an Italian court says they aren’t brothers
Fifteen months ago in California, a surrogate mother gave birth to twin boys. The babies were the sons of a gay Italian couple who had used in vitro fertilization to have children.

But when the two men returned to Milan with their newborns, a clerk at the registry office refused to transcribe the babies' birth certificates, barring the men from registering the boys as their legal children.

Cases like this have happened before in Italy, where surrogacy is illegal and Italian couples face problems in having babies born to surrogates abroad legally recognized as their own. What's not common is the decision a court in Milan issued earlier this week: Despite being twins, the court said, the two boys aren't brothers. Read more via Washington Post
India: Church in Kerala state forms support group for transgender people
The church in India's Kerala state has formed a group of priests, nuns and laypeople to respond to the pastoral needs of transgender people. The ministry is significant as it is one of the few outreach programs for the transgender community by the institutional church in India.

In mid-December, sisters of the Congregation of the Mother of Carmel offered their buildings to form an exclusive school for dropouts among transgender people, considered the first of its kind in the country. The nuns offered their venue after at least 50 building owners declined to let out their buildings, indicating the discrimination prevalent in the society. Read more via Crux

India opens first school for transgender pupils
A residential school for transgender people has been opened in the Indian city of Kochi, to help adults who dropped out of school finish their education. The students will be prepared for India's Class 10 and 12 board exams, normally sat when students are aged 15-16 or 17-18 respectively. The curriculum will also include some vocational skills.

Transgender activist Vijayraja Mallika, who heads the school, told the BBC: "The school aims at making transgenders eligible for taking decent jobs and living a dignified life." Read more via BBC
Scotland: Churches must tackle ‘bigots’ over LGBT teaching in schools
A Church of Scotland minister has called for the mainstream faith agenda to be “seized back from the bigots” in support of a campaign calling for LGBT issues to be taught in schools. The Rev. John Nugent, of Saint Fergus Church in Wick, claimed a lack of LGBT-inclusive education is a breach of children’s rights, and faith communities should be more accepting of LGBT young people.

A recent report found 90 percent of LGBT people experience homophobia while at school in Scotland, and 27 percent reported they had attempted suicide once due to being bullied. The minister is supporting the Time for Inclusive Education (TIE) campaign, which is lobbying the Scottish Government to introduce a program of LGBT-inclusive education into all Scottish schools as part of a new national approach to tackle high rates of prejudice based bullying.

Nugent said: “I believe that all inhabitants of our planet have rights that go along with being human. “One of those rights grants an education which will further the individual’s development so that she or he can grow into full personhood. Denial of that right is therefore unconscionable. Inclusive education is crucial to the full development of the individual and denying access to inclusion is tantamount to a denial of human rights. Read more via the Scotsman
Nigeria: New report reveals isolation, mistreatment of LGBTQ
The Bisi Alimi Foundation released “Not dancing to their music,” an original report on the trying experiences of LGBTQ Nigerians since the Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act (SSMPA) became law in 2014.

“Not dancing to their music” explores the results of an online survey in which 446 LGBTQ Nigerian respondents relayed how systemic issues with law enforcement, education, healthcare, and the media both limits opportunities for LGBTQ Nigerians and intersects with issues of abuse, exclusion, detention, and more.

Bisi Alimi, the first person to come out live on Nigerian television, is also the Executive Director of the Foundation. He said of the report:

This is not just about data, these are stories and real life experiences of stigmatized and vulnerable citizens of Nigeria. These are the stories of police extortion, family betrayal and rejection, abuse, workplace discrimination and isolation in schools and hospitals. We are hoping that the government, businesses, both local and multinational, powerful organizations such as the United Nations, Commonwealth and other interested parties will look at this report and take action in name of human rights, empathy and justice. Read more via GLAAD
Zambia: For gay men in Zambia, where homosexuality is banned, suicide is a common end
"It's a jungle we live in. We are always hunted," he says. "If I had a choice, why would I choose such a hostile life?"

Chanda, 34, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of being arrested, says he's attempted suicide three times because he couldn't cope with the rejection and harassment he endured from his family and community.

Asked to write about a topic that isn't acknowledged in her community, Prudence Phiri of GPJ's Zambia news desk confronted her own assumptions. She soon discovered that some common beliefs in Zambia aren't reality.  Read more via Zimbabwe Star
Kenya's anti-gay laws lead to harassment, LGBT persons say, want change
Activist and musician Joji Baro (George Barasa) hides his shoulder-length hair under a grey mavin. The 25-year-old likes to put make-up on his delicate face and walk with a bit of a strut.

But Joji Baro chose boyish clothes today and admits that he cannot fully express himself when he is around Kenyans.

“What I fear most is that I am very cute. When I wear make-up, I fear how the public will react when they see that I am too beautiful to be a man,” he explains.

He identifies as a gender non-conformist, saying he answers to either he or she, and adding that he has had several run-ins with the public because of this. His fear makes him overly cautious when navigating public spaces. Read more via the Star
Anti-LGBT activists launch new “International Organization For The Family”
Marriage equality opponents from around the world launched a new group called the International Organization for the Family with a declaration signed in Cape Town, South Africa, last weekend. 

The group’s manifesto, called the “Cape Town Declaration”, pledges to defend the institution of marriage from same-sex couples, bringing together groups and leaders from more than 20 countries.

The group is effectively a reboot of the World Congress of Families, a 21-year-old federation of socially conservative organizations from around the globe. Although the group’s international summits drew attendees from dozens of countries, it was a loosely organized network of anti-abortion and anti-LGBT activists rather than a focused advocacy organization. Read more via Buzzfeed

For another viewpoint read Breitbart's article: Massive pro-family ‘Cape Town Declaration’ defies LGBT culture 
Bangladesh: Injustice of being denied an identity
The Dhaka Tribune recently met with two underage transgender girls who were kicked out of their homes for identifying as girls, but have overcome familial discrimination to find support and love in a community that has accepted them with open arms.

Gender bias discrimination is an unfortunate reality in Bangladesh. It becomes worse when children are born with an extra chromosome making them neither a man nor a woman. That “other” gender is one of the most marginalized groups in our society.
Growing up poor and transgendered in Bangladesh is not easy with the immense societal pressure to conform to the norm.  Read more via Dhaka Tribune
Somali Islamists kill man and teenager for gay sex, another man for spying
Somali Islamist group al Shabaab shot two men and a teenager in southern Somalia on Tuesday, saying one of the men and the 15-year-old had been seen having gay sex, while the other man was found guilty of spying, a senior al Shabaab official said.

Hundreds of civilians gathered in a field in the town of Buale to watch them being shot, the second time al Shabaab has killed men accused of homosexuality, the official said, without giving details of the previous killing.

Homosexuality and gay sex is outlawed in most of Africa's 54 states and can be punishable by imprisonment.

"The judge read their charges publicly and the three men were found guilty. They were executed according to the Islamic sharia. They were shot dead in Buale town," Sheikh Mohamed Abu Abdalla, a regional governor for al Shabaab, told Reuters. Read more via Reuters
India: A man was drugged and sexually assaulted in Delhi, but couldn’t report it because he is gay
Unfortunately, being a homosexual is still a crime in India, and while the LGBTQ community has been fighting to get a valid place in the country’s social fabric, little has been achieved over the years. There are still gay and lesbian couples who can’t accept their sexual orientation in the open; not even in front of their parents, let alone society as a whole.

In such a scenario, what can the homosexuals do if they are raped? This is the question that a viral Facebook post has brought to the fore. Facebook user Arnav Barbaad, who lives in the US, shared a couple of screenshots of the conversation he had with his friend – who is gay – staying in India. The friend alleged that he was drugged and then sexually assaulted by another guy he had gone out with. In the conversation, the man, evidently depressed, said he cannot report because the police will arrest him on charges of being a homosexual and accuse him of going out with the guy willingly.

But does that allow the other man to rape him? This is the question people on social media are asking. Read more via Indian Express
Racism is rife in the LGBT community. Gay people cannot call for equality while discriminating against others
Earlier this week, Jeremy Joseph, owner of the legendary LGBT nightclub G-A-Y, posted a comment on Facebook which surprised me for two reasons – the racial overtones of the remarks, and the numerous supportive comments from his followers that it garnered. Joseph’s outburst read to me like just another remark in a long history of comments by white gay people about those who are not white, feeding racism and resentment within the LGBT community.

In his post, Joseph commented that, in the nine days since he had been away for Christmas, there had been two stabbings in central London. He went on to say, “one was fatal, the scum bags, Somalians, drug dealers are on the increase”, and that his New Year's resolution was to “claim Soho back”.

The post has now been taken down, and Joseph has apologized. But as a black gay man, I took several things from this incident – whether intended or not. Read more via Independent
US: What a gay college student’s murder can teach us about hate in America today
On October 6, 1998, Matthew Shepard, a 21-year-old freshman at the University of Wyoming, was strung up to a fence with a length of rope on a remote country road, beaten, kicked, pistol-whipped, robbed, and left to die. After 18 hours bleeding out in the near-freezing cold, Shepard was discovered by a passing cyclist, who at first thought he’d spotted a scarecrow. The first police officer on the scene noticed tear stains streaking through the blood on Shepard’s face.

One year later, in 1999, Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson — two men Shepard’s age who had left the Fireside Lounge in Laramie, Wyoming, with him the last time he was seen before the attack — were convicted of his murder. Matthew Shepard was far from the first American victim of anti-LGBT violence. 

But as a 5-foot-2, fair-haired college kid with braces, Shepard — white, angelic-looking, seemingly innocent — became an easily embraceable symbol for who we stand to lose, should hatred and revulsion toward queerness remain an unchecked fixture of America’s cultural DNA.  Read more via Buzzfeed
Iraq: Kurdish group launches pro-LGBT human rights campaign
A Kurdish advocacy organization has launched an LGBT-inclusive human rights campaign. The Rasan Organization on Nov. 25 began to paint murals on the walls of three high schools in Sulaymaniyah, a city in the semi-autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq. Staffers and volunteers of the Sulaymaniyah-based organization painted the murals with the help of a local artist.

One of the murals contains images of three rainbow-colored couples — two who are gay and lesbian and one who is straight — above a slogan that reads, “love is love.” Another mural simply reads, “equality” in English and Kurdish. The campaign also sought to highlight domestic violence in the region. Read more via Washington Blade
Cameroon: Gay rights groups brave abuse, violence to fight HIV
Sitting in a circle with several other young men in a charity's offices in Cameroon's capital, Fleur listens intently to the speaker talk about gay sex before slowly raising his hand.

"Can we catch AIDS by swallowing sperm?" he asks, prompting laughter from his peers at the group discussion held by Alcondoms, an organization promoting the rights and health of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people.

Yet HIV and homosexuality are no laughing matter for men like Fleur in a country where being gay is illegal and LGBT activists face rising hostility and violence.

Cameroon has the second highest HIV prevalence rate in West and Central Africa, after Nigeria, and men who have sex with men are hit the hardest, says the U.N. AIDS program (UNAIDS). Read more via Thomson Reuters Foundation
Costa Rica: Transgender women at risk of sex trafficking
On a chilly Saturday night in the Costa Rican capital, fashionable young couples pack into nightclubs and spill onto the sidewalks.

But that's not the part of San Jose that Mariliana Morales wants to show us. She drives us down a quiet side street where the shuttered stores are covered in graffiti. On the corners, solitary women in high heels and bright lipstick stare down cars as they drive by.

"All of this area is prostitution," says Morales, the founder of the Rahab Foundation, a non-profit that rescues, rehabilitates and supports survivors of sexual exploitation and helps those who want a change, to get off the street. Read more via CNN
In the face of Hostility
This policy brief analyses the impact of a negative human rights environment on LGBT communities, organizations, and HIV programs. This policy brief addresses the hostile human rights environment faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people throughout the world. It outlines the type of legal and policy measures that fuel that environment and describes their devastating impact on communities and organizations, as well as programs for health and HIV.

This brief is based on the experiences of the International HIV/AIDS Alliance (the
Alliance) and its partners in over 40 countries throughout the world. Read more here
US: More adults identifying as LGBT
The portion of American adults identifying as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) increased to 4.1% in 2016 from 3.5% in 2012. These figures, drawn from the largest representative sample of LGBT Americans collected in the U.S., imply that more than an estimated 10 million adults now identify as LGBT in the U.S. today, approximately 1.75 million more compared with 2012.

Millennials, defined here as those born between 1980 and 1998, drive virtually all of the increases observed in overall LGBT self-identification. The portion of that generation identifying as LGBT increased from 5.8% in 2012 to 7.3% in 2016. LGBT identification remained relatively stable over the five-year period at 3.2% among Generation X and declined slightly from 2.7% to 2.4% among baby boomers and from 1.8% to 1.4% among traditionalists. Read more via Gallup
Pick and Mx
Jamie Shupe could in 2017 become the first American to be issued with a passport with neither an M for male nor an F for female. Mx Shupe (as the former army sergeant prefers to Miss, Mr or Ms) plans to sue the State Department if it fails to allow a third option. 
“In a lot of ways ancient computer systems are tying this up,” Mx Shupe says. “Forms normally just have two boxes.”

In 2016 Mx Shupe went to a county court in Oregon to fill out the same paperwork as someone who has undergone sex-reassignment surgery. But instead of ticking one of the two gender boxes, Mx Shupe wrote “non-binary”. (This identity is used by people who feel that, regardless of their anatomy, they are a mix of the “man” and “woman” categories.) Mx Shupe became the first American legally to change their gender to non-binary. Read more via the Economist
National Geographic Explores Gender Through New Issue, Documentary
In an effort to shed more light on a topic that has been at the center of social and political debates all year, National Geographic will be debuting a new magazine and accompanying documentary dedicated to examining gender around the world.

"National Geographic is almost 130 years old, and we have been covering cultures, societies and social issues for all of those years. It struck us, listening to the national conversation, that gender was at the center of so many of these issues in the news," Susan Goldberg, editorial director of National Geographic Partners and editor in chief of National Geographic magazine, told NBC Out.

Avery Jackson, a nine-year-old girl from Missouri, graces the cover of the magazine, making her the first transgender person to be on the cover of National Geographic. Read more via NBC Out
Trans Legal Mapping Report
The Trans Legal Mapping Report is a research project of ILGA’s Gender Identity and Gender Expression Programme, which aims to call attention to issues of gender identity and expression around the world.

This report covers laws and legal procedures for trans and gender-diverse people to change their identity markers on official documents, as well as the conditions that allow for these processes to take place. Read more via ILGA
This is how 23 countries feel about transgender rights
As the rights of transgender people became a major political issue in the US with fights over bathroom access, many other countries around the world have been locked in fundamental debates over gender identity.

In 2016, Norway joined a small but rapidly growing number of countries where changing your legal gender is as simple as filling out a form, and a committee of the British Parliament called on the UK to follow suit. Lawmakers in India are weighing laws that would ban discrimination and establish affirmative action for transgender people in response to a Supreme Court order. And a global effort to remove being transgender from the catalog of mental illnesses kept by the World Health Organization has gained ground and appears poised for victory when the list is updated by 2018.

To get a sense of global attitudes on transgender rights, BuzzFeed News and the polling firm Ipsos partnered with UCLA Law School’s Williams Institute to conduct a first-of-its-kind survey of 23 nations asking about everything from bathroom access to sex reassignment surgery. Read more via Buzzfeed

Read the Williams Institute evaluation of the survey
Bangladesh: Journos awarded for transgender issue reporting
Ten journalists from across the industry have been awarded for their reporting on issues related to Hijras or transgender persons.

The Bandhu Media Fellowship 2016, organized by Bandhu Social Welfare Society and funded by the United Nations Development Programme, was handed out yesterday at capital’s Daily Star center. Presiding over the ceremony, Chief Information Commissioner Dr Golam Rahman said that Hijras could become part of the country’s workforce if treated equally. Read more via Dhaka Tribune
Denmark: Demand for transgender medical care rising
Since January, when the Sexological Clinic at Rigshospital in Copenhagen made it possible for Danes under 18 to apply for hormonal therapy that changes sexual characteristics, the institute has received inquiries from over 100 boys and girls wanting to change their gender.

Initially, the clinic, which is the only place in Denmark that refers transgender people to sex reassignment surgeries, expected about 50 children and teens to take advantage of this offer. However, already by June the clinic received 55 referrals and the annual figure is estimated to reach 120-130.

According to Linda Thor Pedersen, the spokesperson for transpeople at LGBT Denmark, the surge in hormone replacement therapy inquiries is not surprising as Denmark has only just started offering this service to young people. Read more via CPH Post
US: Nation’s First Known Intersex Birth Certificate Issued in NYC
Keenan was born intersex, with male genes, female genitalia and mixed internal reproductive organs. Now, Keenan, who uses female pronouns, is making history. Hers is believed to be the first birth certificate ever issued in the United States that reads "intersex" in the gender field, instead of "male" or "female." 

Lambda Legal attorney Paul Castillo commended the New York City agency "for issuing an accurate birth certificate."

"In the United States, birth certificates often provide access to a wide range of public services and critical identity documents, such as state IDs and passports," Castillo said. "Having birth certificates with gender designations other than male or female provides an enormous sense of validation for a number of non-binary and intersex people." Read more via NBC Out
Montenegro Gay community marches for same-sex marriages
Gay activists took to the streets of Montenegro's capital Podgorica on Saturday to demand that rights for sexual minorities, such as anti-discrimination regulations - and others rights still not enshrined in law - be implemented by the Montenegrin authorities. 

LGBT groups called for a same-sex marriage law, the eradication of homophobia and transphobia, and the creation of conditions required to develop the LGBTIQ community in Montenegro.

The NGO organizing the parade, Queer Montenegro, hoped that by the end of next year, Montenegro would adopt a law on same-sex marriages. NGO activists have already prepared a draft law for registered partnerships and submitted it to the Ministry for Human and Minority Rights for consideration. Read more via Balkan Insight
Bologna opens first Italian center for LGBT refugees, following German example
The first Italian center specifically accommodating refugees of LGBT identity will be opened soon in Bologna, according to news agency Ansa. The move follows similar initiatives in Germany over the past year, where first Nuremberg and then Berlin provided facilities for LGBT refugees.

A joint project between the locally-based Trans-Identity Movement (Mit), the pro-refugee Camelot Cooperative, and the LGBTI Resource Center based in Turin, as well as the city administration of Bologna, the center received the go-ahead from the National Office Against Racial Discrimination (UNAR). It is expected to feature housing adjacent to existing resources for refugees, as well as LGBT-specific counseling and outreach services. Read more via Towleroad
Christian schools downgraded by Ofsted over homophobic teachings
A number of Christian fundamentalist schools have been downgraded by government inspectors following an investigation by The Independent which revealed children at some schools that follow the Accelerated Christian Education (ACE) curriculum are taught that LGBT people are inferior and girls must submit to men.

The investigation also uncovered historic allegations of corporal punishment, exorcisms being performed on children and schoolgirls being “groomed” for marriage to much older men.

Inspectors say they fear “children are at risk” at some schools after finding in some ACE institutions safeguarding plans to be flawed or non-existent and that staff who come into contact with children sometimes have not undergone background checks to see if they are safe to work with children. Read more via Independent 
UK: Tories vote to block compulsory LGBT-inclusive sex education, but promise reform
The Conservatives have blocked plans for compulsory LGBT-inclusive sex and relationship education in schools. Education Secretary Justine Greening has repeatedly suggested she is open to reform on sex and relationship education, hinting last summer that the issue was near the top of her “in tray”.

An all-female group of MPs led by Labour’s Stella Creasy this week attempted to secure reform on the issue, tabling an amendment to the Children and Social Work Bill to make lessons on “sex and relationships education, same-sex relationships, sexual consent, sexual violence, and domestic violence” mandatory in all schools.
The law would require education watchdog Ofsted to evaluate school’s provisions on SRE as part of inspections, considering “whether the information provided to pupils is accurate and balanced, age-appropriate, inclusive, or religiously diverse”.

However, the amendment was shot down by the government in a public bill committee, where Tories held 10 of the 15 votes. Read more via Pink News
US: University ignored warnings about far-right speaker, leaving him free to bully trans student on stage
Breitbart editor and homocon Milo Yiannopoulos has made a name for himself by using his megaphone to spread hate, but he stooped to a new low during a recent speaking engagement at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

While the sold-out event was billed as “Master Baitors: The Leftists Keeping America’s Race War Alive,” Yiannopoulos spent part of his speech maligning transgender people in general, and one UWM student specifically. In his response to the protests sparked by Yiannopoulos’ appearance, the chancellor defended UWM hosting the event.

“Free speech is one of UWM’s core values and I will support students’ decisions to bring a wide array of speakers to our campus — even if the speaker is controversial, and even if I disagree with him or her,” he said. “One of the core tenets of public universities is learning about the world by communicating with people who think differently than we do.” Read more via LGBTQ Nation

Protesters shut down Milo Yiannopoulos event at UC Davis
A speech by right-wing commentator Milo Yiannopoulos' at UC Davis was over before it even started Friday after protests erupted, forcing sponsors to cancel the event.

Thirty minutes before the Breitbart tech editor was scheduled to speak, the UC Davis College Republicans canceled the controversial talk after consulting with the university's police department and student affairs officials. As tensions rose between supporters and protesters, a determination was made that it was no longer feasible to continue the event safely.
"It's disgusting," Shkreli told CNN's affiliate KOVR as he left the venue. "Progressivism is about having a conversation."
Read more via CNN
Australia: Marriage Alliance send gift-wrapped anti-safe schools message
Vocal anti Safe Schools’ campaigners, the Marriage Alliance, have taken their crusade against the anti bullying program one step too far.

This time members of the organization have boarded a school bus to pass out literature condemning Safe Schools masquerading the pamphlets as Christmas presents.

Reports on Facebook from a concerned community member from the Kyabram area say an  “older looking person” requested the bus driver hand out the ‘presents’ to every student boarding the bus.

The resident who wishes to remain nameless, said her younger brother attends the Kyabram Public School and he was excited to return home to give his parents the gift. Read more via Gay News Network
US: The University of Kansas is offering students and employees gender pronoun buttons
Libraries at the University of Kansas just took a huge step to ensure that transgender and gender-nonconforming students and employees feel as comfortable as possible. 

As part of the libraries' "You Belong Here" marking campaign, which aims to attract undergrads and make sure all feel welcome, libraries are now offering buttons to help students specify their preferred pronouns. 

One reads "my pronouns are: he him his." On another, it's "she her hers." On the third, it's "they them theirs."  Read more via Mic
Israeli TV Authority Bans Advert for Backing Gay Marriage and Arabic Language 
A PSA entitled “Human Rights: Because without I’m not Equal,” produced by the Association for Civil Rights (ACRI) in Israel has been banned from Israeli TV because of its backing of gay marriage. Read more
Nicaragua’s 1st Web Series Exploring Sexism, Violence, LGBT Issues to Be Launched Read more
NDTV takes “huge step forward” in airing India’s first LGBT TV series Read more
Sex, Dating, and Cerebral Palsy: Ryan J. Haddad Brings Gay Intimacy and Disability to the Stage Read more
Tom of Finland - Officiell trailer - Biopremiär 3 mars
The first full-length trailer for the Tom of Finland biopic is here Watch
Frank, Uncompromising, and Tons of Fun: What Makes George Michael an LGBT Hero Read more 
21 LGBT Muslims Who Are Changing the World 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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