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3 March edition


Dear friends and colleagues,

From the UN:  The UN joined people across the world to celebrate Zero Discrimination Day with the theme 'Stand Out,' encouraging everyone to stand for fair and just societies. Voicing his support, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon noted, “When the most marginalized and vulnerable face discrimination and abuse, all of us are diminished.” And Executive Director of UNAIDS Michel Sidibé urged for the end of stigma and discrimination, adding "By celebrating diversity, we can transform the future.”

The UN Special Rapporteur on torture Juan E. Méndez reported that 'a clear link exists' between criminalization of LGBT people and hate crimes, police abuse, and stigmatization. Méndez warned that these laws foster a climate in which violence is 'condoned.'

UNAIDS issued a call to donors and governments to increase availability of male and female condoms to 20 billion per year by 2020. 
 
UN organizations in Peru and local civil society organizations supported the campaign to reduce discrimination of transgender women through a photo exhibit the highlights their lives, as well as their daily struggles and joys within the community.   

HIV, Health, and Wellness: The Czech Republic's public health department filed criminal charges against 30 gay HIV positive men diagnosed with an additional sexually transmitted infection. Officials claim the men must be having condomless sex, violating national criminal code for HIV+ people. 

In Australia a transgender sex worker was arrested after a client accused her of transmitting HIV.

Namibia's Minister of Health and Social Services called for condoms to be distributed in prisons to aid HIV prevention. However the head of Namibia's largest prison says condoms cannot be distributed because they would 'encourage' same sex activity which is illegal.

Also from Namibia, advocates for sex workers and LGBTI people warn that, though undocumented, HIV rates are high among the community due to discrimination in health services

In the US a new study on LGBT youth who engage in 'survival sex' for money or shelter reports that they often forgo using condoms to earn more

The US Center for Disease Control and Prevention warned that black and Latino gay men and other men who have sex with men (MSM) are in a public health crisis—if current trends continue half of all black MSM and a quarter of Latino MSM will be diagnosed with HIV. And also from the US, new comprehensive research examines the high rates of HIV among transgender people.

From the World of Politics: The Prime Minister of Malta spoke out against gay 'conversion' therapy and noted he would 'never accept a situation where any Maltese was called sick or a pedophile because of their sexual orientation.' Meanwhile, in Brazil, the Rio de Janeiro State Secretary of Social Assistance and Human Rights was fired after he spoke in favor of 'gay cure' therapies

Israel's parliament—the Knesset—voted against multiple gay rights bills, including a ban on conversion therapy and a civil union bill, only a day after the country's first LGBT Rights Day.

The Portuguese Parliament voted to grant same sex couples adoption rights. 

In the US, the governor of North Carolina promised 'immediate' action against a regional nondiscrimination bill. The governor's response is just the latest in a rash of anti-LGBT legislation as 16 states debate 44 anti-transgender bills and 32 states consider 175 anti-LGBT bills.

During Turkey's Grand National Assembly Commision on Equal Opportunity, some Members of Parliament proposed that protection of sexual orientation and gender identity should be included in a new national human rights foundation. 

Amnesty International released their annual report documenting human rights violations and governments that 'brazenly' break international law. The report highlights ongoing discrimination and violence against LGBTI people across the globe.

The Politics of Union: The Italian senate passed a civil union bill, after months of protest. Despite the success, many activists expressed disappointment over the bill's final text. Elsewhere, the Finnish Parliament finalized legislation allowing same-sex marriages. 

And in Australia the Australian Christian Lobby called for a 'temporary' stop on anti-discrimination laws that they claim prevent the lobby from campaigning against same-sex marriage. 

Let the Courts Decide: In Malawi the Mzuzu high court ruled that police must continue to arrest people who engage in same sex activity until Parliament revises the penal code, despite former president Joyce Banda's moratorium on anti-gay laws. 

The European Court of Human Rights ruled against Croatia for discriminating against same-sex couples after state authorities refused to issue residency permits that are given to heterosexual couples. 

In Tunisia, a trial court ruled against the government and in favor of LGBT rights group 'SHAMS' allowing the group to resume activity organizing against criminalization laws. 

A court in Hungary convicted two men of a hate crime after they attacked gay Brazilian students studying in Budapest. Advocate Tamás Dombos noted that the case is representative of the violence 'LGBTQI people face in their everyday life.'

And in Canada, Kael McKenzie was sworn in as the nation's first self-identified transgender judge.

In the Name of Religion: The first ever historic meeting of Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill—head of the Russian Orthodox Church—concluded with a joint statement on many international issues, including 'concern' about the 'crisis' of the family and defined marriage as between a man and a woman. 

From Cameroon activists issued a plea to the Pope to stop 'institutional hatred' and restrain local archbishops from using extreme anti-LGBT rhetoric. 

Although the Anglican Communion recently punished the US branch for accepting marriage equality, the church also 'reaffirmed their rejection of criminal sanctions' against gay people. Adriaan van Klinken examined how they could use sanctions to promote decriminalization.  Meanwhile, South Africa's Anglican bishops published new guidelines explicitly accepting LGBT parishioners, including the approval of baptisms of children from same-sex unions. 

From Indonesia a group of Islamic, Catholic, Buddhist, and Confucianist leaders issued a joint statement calling for a 'peaceful approach' to LGBT people before they could 'turn to faith to be cured.'

In Jamaica, religious groups filed with the Supreme Court to join against activist Maurice Tomilson's constitutional motion to end the 'anti-sodomy law', because they contend decriminalization will promote homosexuality.

Fear and Loathing:  Out of Saudi Arabia, YouTube stars "Fe2aFala" posted a video calling for gay people to be 'executed in the most horrific ways.' Meanwhile on Twitter the hashtag “#اقترح_طريقة_لقتل_الشواذ” or 'suggest a way to kill gays' spread across Arabic-language social media.

From Indonesia the trending hashtag #TolakLGBT or 'reject LGBT' was reflective of a wave of anti-LGBT sentiment across the nation—from police shutting down pro-LGBT rallies, to the closure of a school for trans women, to statements from Defense Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu that the gay community is a threat akin to 'a kind of modern warfare.'

After multiple trans men were murdered in Brazil, author Mitch Kellaway explored the complicated dynamics behind the violence. 

Reports of violence surfaced across the world, including attacks on people who 'appeared' gay in Australia, Sweden, Russia and the US.

A new comprehensive report on US criminal justice and LGBT people found that LGBT people face higher rates of incarceration and abuse than other groups. The report notes that the community, especially low income and LGBT people of color 'pay an extraordinarily high price for the failures' of the system.

Winds of Change: The Ministry of Information of Cambodia announced it is working with local LGBT rights groups to develop a nationwide radio show that will promote LGBT community issues. 

Nigerian author Ethan Regal explored the slowly shifting attitudes of local communities towards gay Nigerians. And journalist Naomi Larsson examined how awareness of intersex issues are changing from Chile to Uganda. 

On the March:  LGBT migrants and refugees have reported physical, verbal, and sexual abuse in shelters across Europe, including the Netherlands, Germany, Spain, Denmark, Sweden, and Finland.

Over 1,300 refugees to Australia have been detained in Papua New Guinea in a center Amnesty International has described as resembling a 'prison and a military camp.' The center is particularly dangerous to LGBT asylum seekers as Papua New Guinea criminalizes homosexuality.

Author Jang Yeong-jin spoke about his experience fleeing North Korea and discovering his place in the LGBT movement of South Korea.

And in Peru activists attending a Valentine’s Day 'kiss in' for LGBT rights were confronted by the police who blasted them with water cannons and kerosene.

School Days: The UK's Secretary of State for Education rejected calls from MPs and from the National AIDS Trust to make sex education compulsory in all schools. 

Also from the UK, primary school teacher Andrew Moffat, a gay man forced to resign his position after coming out who now teaches diversity at a predominately Muslim school, has published a guide for teaching children about the Equality Act.

In Australia Prime Minister Turnbull ordered an investigation into the government funded anti-bullying program for LGBTI students—'Safe Schools Coalition'—which conservative MPs accuse of sexualizing kids and forcing them to conform to a 'gay agenda.'  Meanwhile, after the anti-gay 'Stop Safe Schools Coalition' group attempted to block an LGBTI youth formal, social media raised over $48,000 for Aussie teens to attend for free. 

And as US schools struggle with questions of trans students in bathrooms, Turkish students from Boğaziçi University celebrated 'success' with their 'All Gender Bathroom Initiative.'

Business and Technology: Gay social media network Hornet announced its expansion into Southeast Asia with a new Health and Innovation Strategist to promote health and through 'fun, creative and sex-positive' campaigns. From Thailand, APCOM launched a new YouTube series "GayOk Bangkok" that dramatizes the lives of six men while emphasizing good sexual health.

Twitter announced a new 'Trust & Safety Council,' a joint initiative with 50 nonprofits to reduce bullying and create a 'safe space' online. 

Japanese tech company Panasonic announced it will extend employee benefits to same-sex couples throughout its global workforce, despite a lack of recognition for couples in Japan. Also in Japan, the city of Nara has budgeted ¥2.08 million to educate local businesses about 'LGBT culture' in an effort to improve service and attract LGBT tourism.

And from the US, trans activist Chelsea Manning urged the LGBT community to support Apple in its refusal to hack an iPhone. She warned that a 'backdoor' to the device threatens the safety and privacy of queer and trans people all over the world. 

Sports and Culture: International businesses, athletes, and charities convened in London to discuss 'the intersection of sports and the LGBT experience.'  Nike ended boxer Manny Pacquiao's contract after he stated that gay people are 'worse than animals.' Celebrity athletes from Magic Johnson to Ronda Rousey condemned his statements.  

As the UK museums celebrated LGBT History Month, author Steve Slack examines what makes historical objects straight or gay.  National Geographic photographer Robin Hammond's new photo series captures the secret lives of LGBT people all over the world 'Where Love is Illegal.'

Actress Mya Taylor is the first trans actress to win a major acting award, taking home Best Supporting Actress from the 2016 Independent Spirit Awards for her work in Tangerine. Indian film Aligarh is winning rave reviews, including the British Film Institute who called it the 'best film yet on the Indian gay male experience.'

Finally check out this spoken word piece "Our Love Is Valid" by Kenyan artist Grammo Suspect.
Jensen Byrne
‘We can’t have one group benefitting while another is suffering. We [The Ministry] do not share the view that the rights of citizens are good for one but not the others.’
~ Guyana Minister of Social Protection, Hon. Volda Lawrence
Continue for excerpts from the articles
ban ki moon Michel Sidibé UNAIDS report
Celebrate individuality and stand out on Zero Discrimination Day
On 1 March, people around the world joined together to celebrate Zero Discrimination Day. Discrimination remains widespread—gender, nationality, age, ethnic origin, sexual orientation or religion can all unfortunately be the basis for some form of discrimination. In only four out of 10 countries worldwide do equal numbers of girls and boys attend secondary school and 75 countries have laws that criminalize same-sex sexual relations.

Discrimination in health-care settings also continues to be widely reported. Imagine a young woman newly diagnosed with HIV being told by her doctor that she must be sterilized, a sex worker facing violence or abuse from a nurse, a disabled person denied access to proper advice about their sexual health, a gay man frightened of disclosing his sexuality to medical staff, a person who injects drugs dying after being refused treatment or a transgender person attempting suicide after being turned away from a clinic. Health-care settings should be considered as safe and caring environments, however, such cases are happening too frequently throughout the world. Read more via UNAIDS
UN: Banning homosexuality fosters hate crime and homophobia, says report
Criminalising homosexuality amounts to torture in many of the 76 countries where same-sex relationships are outlawed, a United Nations report has declared. Prof Juan Mendez, the organisation’s special rapporteur on torture, has called for decriminalisation in his latest submission to the UN’s human rights council on the grounds that the bans – which sometimes carry the death penalty – legitimise homophobia and hate crimes.
 
In one of the strongest denunciations of laws that are enforced in many African, Asian and Middle Eastern states, Mendez, a former Argentinian political prisoner, urges governments to reconsider their statute books: “A clear link exists between the criminalisation of LGBT persons and homophobic and transphobic hate crimes, police abuse, community and family violence and stigmatisation,” his report says.  The report says that in countries where homosexuality is criminalised “men suspected of same-sex conduct are subject to non-consensual anal examinations intended to obtain physical evidence of homosexuality, a practice that is medically worthless and amounts to torture or ill-treatment”.

The UN special rapporteur’s statement will provide legal support for groups such as the London-based Human Dignity Trust which campaigns to overturn criminalisation. Read more via Guardian
UNAIDS calls for 20 billion condoms by 2020
Every day, more than one million people acquire a sexually transmitted infection (STI) and every year there are estimated to be around 80 million unintended pregnancies. Condoms are proven to be 98% effective in preventing STIs and HIV. In addition, male and female condoms prevent unintended pregnancies when used correctly and consistently.

Despite increased use of condoms over the past two decades, studies show that reported use of condoms during a person’s most recent sexual encounter with a non-regular partner ranged from 80% in some countries to less than 30% in others. There is an urgent need for countries to strengthen demand for and supply of condoms and water-based lubricant.

UNAIDS is calling for increased investments by donors and governments for the promotion and distribution of male and female condoms in order to ensure everyone has access to condoms to protect themselves and their partners from HIV, STIs and unintended pregnancies: “Investing in condoms saves lives,” said UNAIDS Deputy Executive Director Luiz Loures. “It is unacceptable that so many people are becoming infected with HIV and sexually transmitted infections because they do not have access to something as easy to use, effective and low cost as condoms.” Read more via UNAIDS
Peru: “I have rights” photo exhibition depicts the lives of transgender people 
Transgender people often face violence, unemployment and poverty, owing to ignorance and prejudice. Such stigma and discrimination places transgender women at a higher risk of HIV infection. 

All people are equal and no one should be discriminated for any reason. “In our country it will take a lot to make this affirmation a reality,” the Peru’s Ombudsman Eduardo Vega Luna said in response to the situation. However, he called for “more awareness campaigns that encourage citizens to look at the future with hope and without violence and discrimination.”

One such activity was recently organized by UN organizations in Peru and civil society organizations: The exhibition, “Yo tengo derechos”, meaning “I have rights”, presented photographs taken by Danielle Villasana. 

The photographs in the exhibition—part of the United Nations Free and Equal campaign—showed transgender people with their colleagues and family members in their daily lives as students, artists, professionals and activists. In their testimonies for the exhibition, transgender people spoke about happiness, love and how they cope with daily struggles. Read more via UNAIDS
Namibia: Condoms among inmates divide opinion
The Windhoek Correctional Facility says the constitution does not allow same-sex individuals to engage in sex, hence condoms cannot be distributed in correctional facilities.

"Same sex is still regarded as a crime in Namibia and if we distribute condoms it will be seen as if we are encouraging that. We want to maintain law and order," said the officer in charge of the Windhoek Correctional Facility, Deputy Commissioner Victor Eichab.

His comments came in the light of Minister of Health and Social Services, Dr Bernard Haufiku's call for the distribution of condoms in prisons. Haufiku said that for Namibia to make strides in HIV/AIDS prevention and education, circumcision and the distribution of more condoms is needed including in prisons.

"In most cases we educate offenders to abstain from sexual activities because it's an offence. We know that it is not easy, as studies have shown that being in custody does not take away people's desire for intimacy," said Eichab. Read more via All Africa

Namibia: Sex workers, homosexuals at higher risk of HIV/AIDS…as it is extra hard for them to access health services
Jackie, a trans-woman and another 40-year-old homosexual man *Robin, shared their struggles to freely access health services at state facilities as homosexual men. Not only that, but they are also sex workers. Sex workers and homosexuals are particularly at higher risk of HIV/AIDS because of their lifestyles.

“I don’t know my HIV status. I’m scared of discrimination from the nurses and the reaction of people when I have to go to health facilities,” says Jackie who has been selling his body for money for the last four years. Unlike Jackie, Robin has been living with HIV for the past 20 years. Being gay and HIV positive has not been an easy journey, as he struggles with acceptance. Not self-acceptance but rather being accepted by society for who he is.

In 2010, Robin who has been on antiretroviral treatment since 1996, stopped going to state facilities to get antiretroviral medication after being discriminated against: “The nurse told me ‘God created you as a man, you can’t be gay, a sex worker and also infected with HIV.”

“That was the last time I ever went back for my ARVs because I was shattered." Robin comfortably seeks the services of traditional healers. “They give strong medicines to keep me healthy and I also buy things from the pharmacy to boost my immune system,” explains Robin. Read more via New Era
US: LGBTQ youth engaged in 'survival sex' see perks for skipping condoms – survey
Choosing not to use a condom can mean an extra meal or shelter for LGBTQ youth, according to a survey of young people in New York City who exchange sex for money to pay for basic needs – a practice also known as “survival sex”.

The health habits of 283 LGBTQ youth in New York City who who become involved in the commercial sex market to meet “basic survival needs” were published in a study by the nonprofit Urban Institute.

“A common theme we had through a lot of the conversations was ‘I’m doing this because I have no other choice’ and ‘this is the only way I can get by,’” said Meredith Dank, the study’s lead author. Of those surveyed, 99% said they use protection against sexually transmitted infection and pregnancy, though only 63% said they used protection all the time. Read more via the Guardian
Australia: HIV is a public health issue not a crime say advocates
Advocates for people living with HIV and sex worker support organisations have condemned the arrest and subsequent media stigmatisation of a trans person living with HIV who was also a sex worker in WA. The trans woman was arrested by Sydney police to face charges of grievous bodily harm after allegations of HIV transmission were raised. HIV advocates suggest the move was counterproductive to the strategic plan to end HIV transmissions by 2020 as it compounded unfounded fears surrounding the virus and further stigmatised people living with HIV.  

Janelle Fawkes, CEO Scarlet Alliance, Australian Sex Workers Association says: “The involvement of money in sexual transactions does not increase the risk of HIV transmission. Sex workers with HIV can routinely exchange sex for money without putting themselves, or their clients, at risk. Any suggestion that occupation or gender identity is somehow responsible for HIV transmission is extremely naïve.”

Cameron Cox suggests criminalising HIV transmission not only undermines the notion of shared responsibility to prevent HIV, it creates stigma and discourages people from being tested. Cox also highlighted the important role sex workers had in Australia’s response to HIV: “To date there has not been one documented case of HIV transmission having ever been recorded in a sex work setting.” Read more via Gay News Network
Czech Republic: Officials launch criminal investigation into 30 gay men over HIV exposure
A public health department in the Czech Republic has launched criminal investigations against 30 HIV-positive men whom it alleges had unprotected sex in violation of the country’s laws that make it a crime to expose someone else to HIV.

There are no complainants in the case, nor any evidence anyone has contracted HIV from the 30 men under investigation. The sole evidence against the men is that they contracted other sexually transmitted infections (STI) — like gonorrhea or syphilis — after testing HIV-positive, which the health department contends is proof they had condomless sex in violation of the law.

“There’s absolutely no evidence, there are no victims,” said Jakub Tomšej, a lawyer with the Czech AIDS Help Society, which has provided counseling to some of the men under investigation. “We believe the only consequence [of this kind of investigation] is that HIV-positive people who get another STI will simply avoid doctors.”

Edwin Bernard, the U.K.-based head of the HIV Justice Network, said that the collaboration between a public health agency and law enforcement in this new investigation is alarming because it threatens much of the progress that has been made in Europe in reforming HIV policy. Read more via Buzzfeed
US: High rates of HIV found among trans women as new studies narrow transgender data gap
Although transgender people -- especially trans women of color -- have among the higher rates of HIV infection, this population has not been adequately studied. Many HIV prevention studies miscategorized transgender women as men who have sex with men, and there has been little specific research on HIV among trans men.

However, HIV prevention and services for transgender women and men were the focus of several presentations at the 2015 National HIV Prevention Conference (NHPC), which took place in December in Atlanta, Georgia. In addition, the upcoming Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI) will feature a plenary session on transgender people -- a first for this research conference focused on HIV/AIDS and related infectious diseases. Follow the link for an overview of new data. Read more via The Body Pro

US: Black and latino queer men face a public health emergency with HIV 
Sobering news came from the CDC Tuesday: According to a major new study that covers all 50 states and DC, about 1 in 2 black and 1 in 4 Latino men who have sex with men are projected to be diagnosed with HIV in their lifetime if current trends hold. As a comparison, the study found that white MSM face odds of 1 in 11, while members of the MSM community as a whole are looking at a 1 in 6 chance.

The new study, which used diagnoses and death rates from 2009-13 to extrapolate into the future, also looked at geography and found that individuals living in the South encounter more risk than those in other regions of the country. Washington, D.C., saw the highest rate at a 1 in 13 chance of an HIV-positive diagnosis.

That’s a lot of numbers, but the takeaway is this: Black and Latino MSM, in facing a risk of HIV infection that’s wildly disproportionate to other populations, are embroiled in a genuine public health emergency. Of course, this won’t come as news to advocates already working on HIV/AIDS among those groups; but it reiterates the need for education, community-specific messaging, and, above all, access to prevention tools in the effort to stem the tide. Read more via Slate
Malta: Prime Minister 'immensely disappointed' by Church committee report on conversion therapy for gay people
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said today that he was immensely disappointed by comments by the committee which advised the Church on conversion therapy for gay people. It was unbelievable, he said, that in this day and age, some people thought that sexual orientation was something that could be healed by medication and therapy.

This was an offence to the gay community and all those who wanted to live in a European society which respected the people's freedom. It was a similar offence to link homosexuality with child abuse. 

Dr Muscat said he would defend the right of the Church to speak out, but the government would carry on with its legislation against such conversion therapy. He could never accept a situation where any Maltese was called a sick or a pedophile because of a particular sexual orientation. Read more via Times of Malta
Brazil: State Secretary of  Human Rights dismissed over gay ‘cure’ remarks
A Brazilian governor has fired his official human rights secretary because the man expressed a belief in curing homosexuality. Ezequiel Teixeira told the O Globo newspaper that he believed in a "gay cure" comparable to a cure for AIDS or cancer and declared his opposition to gay marriage. Teixeira's also an evangelical minister.

After the publication of the interview, Rio de Janeiro state Gov. Luiz Fernando Pezao said he was "totally opposed" to Teixeira's comments and replaced him with Paulo Melo, a former president of the state assembly. Rio faces a financial crunch, and it recently closed down four LBGT call centers and an anti-homophobia project run by the state government has fired 78 people. Read more via Gospel Prime
Israel: Knesset scraps bills for LGBT community
A day after marking its first ever LGBT rights day, the Knesset shot down six bills aimed at improving the gay community's status. Several opposition members joined the coalition in voting against the bills.

Two coalition MKs purporting to advance gay rights lent a hand to thwarting the bills. MK Amir Ohana (Likud), the first openly gay right-wing lawmaker, left the plenum without voting, while MK Sharren Haskel (Likud), head of the LGBT Knesset caucus, voted against the bills. The bills, proposed by opposition members only, addressed a variety of gay issues and needs. 

Ohana said he has fought prejudices against gay people all his life and intends to continue doing so in the future. Nonetheless, he refrained from supporting the bills for gay rights "because the result wouldn't have been any different. None of the proposals fell because it was one vote short." Read More via Haaretz 
Portugal: Abortion laws liberalized and same sex couples adoption rights granted
The Portuguese Parliament, ruled by a Socialist-Communist majority coalition, has further liberalized abortion laws and granted same-sex couples the right to adopt children. Overturning a veto by President Aníbal Cavaco Silva last month, the new ruling allows for same sex couples to adopt children and removes the mandatory requirement that women seeking an abortion receive prior counselling and pay for the procedure.

The President explained his veto by asking for more public debate on such “sensitive social topics.”

In 2010, the Portuguese Parliament had approved equal rights for same-sex marriages, excluding adoption rights. Portugal is among the first 10 counties in the world to allow same-sex marriages. Today, Portugal is one of the few countries in the world to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation in its Constitution. Read more via PAJ
Turkey: Human Rights and Equality Foundation of Turkey debate inclusion of LGBT rights
The Grand National Assembly of Turkey Commission on Equal Opportunity for Women and Men discussed the proposal that a Human Rights and Equality Foundation of Turkey should be formed as a subsidiary organ in order to focus on protecting and improving human rights based on individual’s dignity, to ensure their right to be treated equally, and to prevent discrimination in benefiting from lawful rights and freedom.

Candan Yüceer, Republican People’s Party (CHP) Tekirdağ MP, stated that LGBT individuals are faced with discrimination and killed. Yüceer further added that overlooking this problem, and interpreting the recommendations listed in the international agreements would mean ignoring the individuals who are being discriminated against. Filiz Kerestecioğlu, Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) İstanbul MP, emphasized that sexual orientation and gender identity must be included in the proposal, and that turning a blind eye to these individuals would not simply make them disappear.

Ayşe Doğan, Justice and Development Party (AKP) Tekirdağ MP, made the following homophobic remarks in response to Yüceer and Kerestecioğlu responded that homosexuality is 'one of the biggest threats to our society' and should not be included in the human rights agenda. Read more via LGBTI Turkey
Your rights in jeopardy, global assault on freedoms, warns Amnesty International
International protection of human rights is in danger of unravelling as short-term national self-interest and draconian security crackdowns have led to a wholesale assault on basic freedoms and rights, warned Amnesty International as it launched its annual assessment of human rights around the world.

“Your rights are in jeopardy: they are being treated with utter contempt by many governments around the world,” said Salil Shetty, Secretary General of Amnesty International. “Millions of people are suffering enormously at the hands of states and armed groups, while governments are shamelessly painting the protection of human rights as a threat to security, law and order or national ‘values.'"

Amnesty International is warning of an insidious and creeping trend undermining human rights which has come from governments deliberately attacking, underfunding or neglecting institutions that have been set up to help protect our rights. The report breaks down analysis by country and covers rights of all people, including focus on LGBTI, indigenous peoples, women and girls, and refugees. Read more from Amnesty International
US: 2016 is the most dangerous year for transgender Americans
Transgender people are under attack like never before with more than three dozen proposed new laws across 16 states, according to a new report by the Human Rights Campaign. 

“This deeply disturbing trend is a stark reminder of just how vicious and deplorable  opponents of equality are in their relentless attacks against our community,” said HRC President Chad Griffin in a statement.

In all, HRC counts 44 bills targeting transgender people are in the works in 16 states. That’s more than twice as many as were introduced in all of 2015, and nearly two dozen of the measures focus on trans students. HRC called the anti-trans legislation “unprecedented,” “harmful” and “alarming.” According to a release accompanying the report, some bills seek to make it harder for trans people to access gender-affirming health care, others deny trans people access to bathrooms, locker rooms, and athletic teams that align with their gender identity. 

And they are just a portion of what HRC called “a stunning surge of more than 175 anti-LGBT bills in 32 states this year.”  Read more via the Advocate

US: Top North Carolina officials threaten to negate Charlotte LGBT rights law
The Charlotte City Council passed an LGBT nondiscrimination bill in a 7 to 4 vote — leading top NC Republicans to threaten state legislation that would negate the city ordinance. Gov. Pat McCrory had told city officials in an email one day before the vote that state lawmakers may take “immediate” action to block Charlotte’s new policy.

The state’s Speaker of the House, Tim Moore, followed up Tuesday morning to announce he would work with fellow Republicans to explore a “legislative intervention to correct [Charlotte’s] radical course.” Both leading Republicans argued the bill would present safety risks by allowing transgender people into restrooms that correspond with their gender identity. Read more via Buzzfeed

US: Transgender students and ‘Bathroom Laws’ in South Dakota and beyond
The New York Times reviews the state of anti-transgender laws for students across the nation. Read more 
Finland finalizes equal marriage laws… but couples still face a long wait
Finland has finally finished making tweaks to its same-sex marriage legislation – but couples still have another year to wait before marrying. 

Way back in November 2014, the Finnish Parliament passed a citizens’ initiative on same-sex marriage by a tight vote of 105-92. This week – over a year later – the country’s legislation was finalised, as the Finnish Parliament approved an amendment that will allow same-sex couples in registered partnerships to ‘convert’ to a marriage.

However, couples will still be waiting quite a while before marrying – as weddings are not set to begin until March 2017. This delay means a staggering two-and-a-half years will have passed between the equal marriage initiative passing through Parliament, and the first weddings actually taking place. The delay, which came about due to the Citizen’s Initiative process and complexity in Finnish law, stands in comparison to the relative efficiency elsewhere. Read more via PinkNews
Italy: Senate passes watered-down bill recognising same-sex civil unions
Italy has taken a step towards joining every other major country in western Europe with the passage of a landmark civil unions bill in the senate that will give legal recognition to same-sex couples for the first time in Italian history.

The bill overcame staunch opposition from the Roman Catholic church and last-minute political manoeuvring by opponents of the Italian prime minister, Matteo Renzi, that nearly derailed the legislation. 

While it was the first significant win for gay rights following years of failed attempts, Thursday’s developments were nevertheless greeted as a hollow victory by many LGBT activists because the bill was watered down days before its passage. Read more via the Guardian
Australia: Christian lobby seeks anti-discrimination 'override' for plebiscite campaign
The leading advocates for a "no" vote on same-sex marriage are pushing the federal government to "override" anti-discrimination laws during the upcoming plebiscite campaign. The Australian Christian Lobby are calling for the temporary change to ensure the "no" camp can speak freely during the debate to legalise same-sex marriage.

ACL managing director Lyle Shelton told Fairfax Media his organisation was very concerned about fairness during the campaign as state anti-discrimination laws in particular have "such a low threshold". Mr Shelton warned those who argued against same-sex marriage would be faced with the "constant threat of quasi and full-blown legal action." Anti-discrimination laws vary, but include laws against "any public act that could incite or encourage hatred, serious contempt or severe ridicule."

The Law Council of Australia said any exemptions to discriminatory behaviour when it came to marriage equality "should be construed as narrowly as is absolutely necessary": "People cannot use their religious beliefs as an excuse for unlawful discrimination in business and the same principle would apply to public political campaigns," president-elect Fiona McLeod said. Read more via SMH
Croatia: European Court issues fine for violating human rights of same-sex couples
The European Court of Human Rights, ECHR, fined Croatia for discriminating against same-sex couples by not granting residence permits to couples in which one partner comes from abroad. The case was brought by Bosnian national Danka Pajic who claimed the Croatian authorities breach her right to a family and a private life by not granting her a residence permit in 2011 on the basis of her union with her female Croatian partner.

The court ruled that Pajic was entitled to the same treatment as other foreigners have in marriages or non-marital partnerships and issued a 10,000 euro fine and another 5,690 euro in court fees, which Croatia must also pay Pajic. Read more via Balkan Insight
Tunisia: Activist group Shams wins in court
Shams, the Tunisian group pushing for the decriminalization of homosexuality, has won its legal challenge against a government order that it suspend operations: “Shams can resume normal activities, thanks to the decision of the court,” the organization announced on Facebook.

The trial dealt with a legal notification Shams received Jan. 4, ordering the suspension of its activities for 30 days, which was understood to be a first step toward full dissolution of the advocacy group.

The association, created by Tunisians, was intended to open a nationwide debate about homosexuality with the goal of repealing Article 230 of the Tunisian Penal Code, which provides for up to three years in prison for sodomy. Shams has been active in the defense of seven Tunisian men arrested and imprisoned for alleged homosexual activity. Read more via 76 Crimes
Canada: Kael McKenzie sworn in as 1st transgender judge
Winnipeg has sworn in Canada's first transgender judge. After being appointed to the bench in mid-December, former Crown attorney Kael McKenzie officially took his seat in the Manitoba court Friday.

"Kael is the first self-identified transgender judge in Canada and that is something to be celebrated," a judge said to a crowd of applause at the swearing-in ceremony. "Kael is a proud member of the Manitoba Métis Nation. His appointment can only serve to strengthen public confidence in the administration of justice in this province."

McKenzie was praised for his involvement in the legal community before saying a few words himself. Read more via CBC
Malawi: Homosexuals in Malawi can now be arrested
The Mzuzu high court has ordered Malawi Police and the Director of Public Prosecutions to arrest people engaged in same-sex acts. Judge Dingiswayo Madise made the order and warned that any person who disobeys the order shall be guilty of contempt of court. Madise said arrests should continue until there is a judicial review of government’s decision to stop prosecutions of gay people Malawi.

Three Mzuzu based pastors filed a court application to have same sex couples prosecuted arguing that laws of the country forbids homosexuals. In 2012, former President Joyce Banda imposed a moratorium on anti-gay laws and ordered the police to stop arresting people committing homosexual acts.

Sections 153 and 156 of Malawi’s penal code criminalize sexual conduct between men and anyone convicted faces up to 14 years imprisonment, with or without corporal punishment. Section 137A of the penal code criminalizes “indecent practices between females”, with anyone found guilty liable to five years in prison. Read more via Malawi24
Hungary: Gay Brazilian students assaulted in hate crime
Two young men were convicted for the crime of violence against a member of a community for attacking and spitting at two gay Brazilian students studying in Budapest on April 21, 2014.

Levi and Lucas were studying in Hungary for a year on a Brazilian state scholarship. On April 21, 2014 they were heading home with a friend after a movie night, when two men stopped them and started questioning them on their sexual orientation and whether they had slept with women before. The victims tried to get out of the situation, but their attackers stood in the way, kicked one of them, spat at the other, while calling them “faggot” several times.

“The case calls attention to how false the popular misconception is that homophobic and transphobic hate crimes happen only at the Pride March in Hungary” - says Tamás Dombos of the Legal Aid Service of Háttér. “For many LGBTQI people such attacks are part of their everyday life, and yet they do not report it, because they have no trust in the police or are afraid of them. It is very import to report all such incidents, that is why we launched our Report homophobia! website and smartphone app.” Read more via Hatter Society
Saudi Arabia: YouTube stars call for gays to be executed
Popular Saudi Arabian YouTubers posted a shockingly homophobic video to YouTube. Uploaded by Fe2aFala – popular Arabic vloggers who have more than 500,000 subscribers, racking up over 45 million views 

In a shocking video uploaded to the video site, the young men rant about “Deviant marriage in Riyadh”, apparently after a local raid of a ceremonial gay wedding. They added: “We would like to thank the police for beating their asses.”

The men continue to insist that gays are “disgusting and nasty”, asking Allah to send his “godly wrath” upon them. The men then discuss whether gays are “mentally ill” and needing a “cure” – or whether they are “animals” who need to be “executed in the most horrific ways”. After outcry, YouTube took action to pull the video, with a message now explaining though it has been re-uploaded. Read more via Pink News

Saudi Arabia: This hashtag is filled with suggestions of how to kill gay people
Burning and castration are just two modes of executions that have been suggested after a video was posted online that allegedly showed a same-sex wedding in Saudi Arabia.

Over the last few weeks, a new hashtag has begun spreading across Arabic-language social media: “#اقترح_طريقة_لقتل_الشواذ” which translates to “#suggest_a_way_to_kill_the_faggots.” The hashtag appeared to have been born after this video was posted online on January 25 with the hashtag “زواج_للشواذ_في_جدة#” which means “faggots’_wedding_ in_ Jeddah.” Read more via Buzzfeed
Brazil: Making sense out of the murders of trans men
What — if anything — can the murders of four men over a few weeks tell us about fatal violence against trans men? What can we observe from these most recent murders? And what can we speculate about the responses to these cases?

Very little is currently known about violence against trans men as a whole; murder, as a subset of this topic, is even more shrouded in mystery. How often are trans men murdered worldwide? Are any of these cases hate crimes? What are the risk factors? Are there more murders we aren’t hearing about? How can we prevent more deaths?

While it’s impossible to draw conclusions from these four cases — which are almost certainly only a fraction of the total murders committed — that should not stop anti-violence advocates from considering the issue. The safest place to start is by simply making open-ended observations about what we do know and indicating paths for further inquiry. From that space, we can hopefully initiate a conversation that others will carry forward, informed by their own experiences and expertise.  Read more via the Advocate
US: Broken criminal justice system disproportionately targets and harms LGBT people 
There is a rare and growing consensus across the political spectrum that, with the highest incarceration rate in the world, the United States’ criminal justice system is in need of reform. However, the LGBT population has been largely absent from the discussion.

A major report released today offers the most comprehensive analysis to date of how LGBT people—and particularly LGBT people of color—face higher rates of incarceration and unfair treatment and abuse in the criminal justice system. “Unjust: How the Broken Criminal Justice System Fails LGBT People” documents how pervasive stigma and discrimination, biased enforcement of laws, and discriminatory policing strategies mean that LGBT people are disproportionately likely to interact with law enforcement and to have their lives criminalized.

LGBT people are also treated unfairly once they enter the system; the report shows how they are not only more disproportionately incarcerated but also face abuse while incarcerated.  Read more via American Progress
Indonesia: Bound by culture and religion, paranoia reigns over LGBT rights
Against oppressive odds, LGBT communities struggle for acceptance and visibility in Indonesia, where morality comes at the expense of enlightenment. 

#TolakLGBT has been trending in Indonesia in recent weeks, and in Bahasa Indonesia, “tolak” means reject. Then this week Muslim activists held a rally against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights with the message: “LGBT is a disease, not a human right”. “We reject the LGBT because they asked for equality and legality from the government and it’s getting more and more disarming,” Muhammad Fuad, the leader of the Islamic People Forum (FUI) said.

On Tuesday police had shut down a rally held by the Yogyakarta-based Solidaritas Perjuangan Demokrasi in support of equal rights for Indonesia’s LGBT communities at one of the city’s most treasured monuments, Tugu Yogyakarta. But it wasn’t their campaign that filled the dead air in our news cycle that evening, it was the physical confrontation they got into with the local police who were trying to prevent a larger clash with FUI. This is just one of many anti-LGBT moments that have happened in Indonesia in the past month. But it all started with just one incendiary statement. Read more via the Guardian

Indonesia's Defence Minister threatens 'warfare' against gay community
Indonesia's gay community has come under attack, with the country's Defence Minister labelling the community a "threat" and likening fighting it to "a kind of modern warfare". Ministers and religious leaders have denounced homosexuality, blocked lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) websites and emboldened hardliners launching anti-gay raids.

When a minister criticised counselling services for gay students at a university last month, it triggered a heated media debate and was the start of what activists say has been a sustained assault on gay rights. Read more via ABC

Indonesia: Muslim school for trans women shut down
A Muslim academy for transgender women that made headlines in the U.S. and Europe since opening in 2008 was closed on Thursday by officials in Indonesia’s Yogyakarta region following protests by an organization calling itself the Islamic Jihad Front. 

It is the latest development in an uproar over LGBT rights that began in January, which has caught the country’s LGBT activists by surprise. Until last month, anti-LGBT rhetoric was not a major feature of politics in Indonesia, which is home to more Muslims than any nation in the world.  Read more via Buzzfeed
Australia: Man bashed in Waterloo 'for being queer', one of two suspected gay bashings in Sydney
Detectives are investigating two suspected gay bashings in inner Sydney, prompting a warning from police less than a fortnight before the annual Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardis Gras Parade. The NSW Police spokesman on Sexuality and Gender Diversity, Superintendent Tony Crandell, said the occurrence of two "bias-related assaults" over one weekend was uncommon, and was of concern to police.

One of the victims, Dylan Souster, 22, said he was punched in the face by a man who called him "a queer" outside his apartment block in Waterloo in the early hours of Sunday morning. That man had initially been trying to help him, after he was earlier knocked unconscious by a group of young people and woke up in Waterloo Oval. Read more via Sydney Morning Herald 

Russia: This gay assault victim has the best response for those who thinks he should stay closeted
A gay Russian man was brutally attacked outside a grocery store for looking like a ‘fag’.  Posting the images of his injuries on social media, many told him if he dyed his hair a normal color and he should keep closeted for his own safety. He doesn’t agree. 

‘According to some, I need to stop talking about gay rights and to accept the reality that in Syzran and Russia that all gays will never be accepted as the norm,’ he wrote on his VK page. ‘Live as yourself behind closed doors with a boyfriend, and everything will be alright. If I wasn’t “searching for trouble”, my life would be a fairy tale. That “happily ever after” is a lie. If you submit to homophobes, if you submit to the closet, you’re not living your best possible life. While I might have a broken face, you have a broken life.' Read more via Gay Star News
Sweden: Teenagers 'murdered gay man before wrapping snake around his neck and dressing him in women's clothes' 
Two teenagers have been accused of murder after allegedly launching a brutal assault on a gay man which was filmed on a mobile phone. The pair of Moroccan refugees, aged 16 and 19, had travelled from their home country to Sweden. They followed a gay man back to his home in Bergsjön after he offered them clothes and food upon hearing they were in need. However after arriving at the apartment the two refugees allegedly beat him to death, police claim. Read more via Mirror

US: Father aims loaded gun at daughter after she comes out as lesbian
A man has been arrested in North Dakota for aiming a loaded gun at his teenage daughter after she came out as a lesbian. Police responded to a phone call at about 6.45pm Sunday from Bakir’s daughter, who said he was going to ‘blow her head off.’ Bakir surrendered the gun to officers and said he did not intend to harm his daughter but was just upset that she is a lesbian, court papers said. Read more via Gay Star News
The Pope and head of the Russian Orthodox Church release statement against gay marriage
The Pope and Patriarch Kirill of Moscow, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church have released a joint statement condemning same-sex marriage. The statement, consisting of 30 points, holds wide-reaching significance for Catholics and followers of the Orthodox Church. The main message of the statement seems to be the reconciliation of the Orthodox and Catholic churches.

In a similar vein to many statements made by the churches, the “family” was high on the agenda. One point calls family the “natural center of human life and society”, but they say they are “concerned about the crisis in the family in many countries”. They then say that “the family is based on marriage, an act of freely given and faithful love between a man and a woman.”

The Pope and the Patriarch are apparently worried that the “biblical tradition, of paternity and maternity as the distinct vocation of man and woman in marriage is being banished from the public conscience.” Read more via PinkNews
Cameroon: Plea to to Pope, Restrain gay-bashing Catholics
In Cameroon, a recent resurgence of anti-LGBTI rhetoric from the Catholic Church has come in for criticism from the Douala-based advocacy group Alternatives-Cameroon, which fights AIDS and supports human rights for sexual minorities.  In this press release, Alternatives-Cameroon asks Pope Francis to intervene:

We recalled that during the Synod on the Family, held a few months ago, the same prelate declared homosexuality to be a threat to the family. Cardinal Tumi [Cardinal Christian Tumi, the retired archbishop of Douala] even declared that homosexuality was a “threat to the human race.” Catholic lawyers depicted homosexuality to be a clinical pathology that should attract the attention of different hospitals.

This Church wants more than ever to set Cameroonians against each other, ignoring its mission to promote love, tolerance and peace. Has history not taught it a lesson? From slavery to the Holocaust to the Rwandan genocide — now it’s the turn of homosexuals. Read more via 76crimes
Indonesia: Religious leaders soften stance on LGBTs
Amid growing pressure from Muslim clerics to seek harsher punishment for members of the LGBT community, an interfaith forum has agreed to take a more humane approach, defying the Indonesian Ulema Council’s (MUI) calls for prosecution of the minority group. The group, however, said that the religiously devout should only embrace members of the LGBT community in order to “reform” them.

Religious leaders representing Islam, Catholicism, Buddhism and Confucianism held a meeting at the MUI headquarters to issue a joint statement on the LGBT issue, in which they concluded that a peaceful approach was the only way to deal with members of the LGBT community before they could turn to faith to be cured. 

Despite endorsing the interfaith agreement, the MUI maintained its official stance demanding the prosecution of LGBT people, which the organization announced in an edict issued on Wednesday. Read more via Jakarta Post
Criticised for rejecting same-sex marriage, but is the Anglican church actually helping gay rights?
At their recent meeting, the Anglican church leaders did indeed decide to suspend the episcopal church for its “fundamental departure” from the faith. It’s also true that the decision has come as a result of pressure from more conservative church leaders – not at least those from a range of African countries. But one part of the official statement that came out of this meeting has gone largely unnoticed – and that’s the section in which the church leaders “reaffirmed their rejection of criminal sanctions against same-sex attracted people”.

This statement is surprising. Many of the leaders come from countries in which same-sex practices are illegal – particularly those who sought sanctions on the US church. Gay men and women face being ostracised and even imprisoned in countries such as Uganda, Burundi, Nigeria and Rwanda – all of which were represented at the meeting. The Anglican churches in Uganda and Nigeria have even supported introducing new, fiercer anti-homosexual legislation in their countries.

They could do so without facing any “consequences” for their role in the Anglican Communion, while the US church is now being sanctioned for its support for, and blessing of, loving relationships between people of the same sex. Read more via the Conversation
South Africa: Anglican bishops declare gay‚ lesbian couples 'full members' of the church
Anglican Archbishop Thabo Makgoba said new guidelines from bishops which oppose gay congregants being stigmatised and which facilitate the baptisms of children from same-sex unions‚ are “an important first step” towards acceptance of the lesbian‚ gay and transsexual community in Southern Africa.

This comes as Anglican bishops from across southern Africa have resolved that gay and lesbian partners who enter same-sex civil unions under South African law should be welcomed into congregations as full members of the church. 
Archbishop Makgoba acknowledged that southern Africa’s bishops were divided over whether to marry same-sex couples in church‚ or to allow clergy to enter same-sex civil unions. As a consequence they would continue to be bound by the broad consensus in the Anglican Communion‚ which is that the church can neither bless same-sex unions nor permit its clergy to enter them.

He said the differences among the bishops were both over the theology of marriage and a result of realities on the ground in different dioceses. “For example‚ most of our dioceses across Southern Africa are predominantly rural‚ and for many the urgent priorities of food security‚ shelter‚ health care and education crowd out debate on the issue of human sexuality. In some rural dioceses‚ responding to challenges to the Church’s restrictions on polygamous marriages is a much higher pastoral priority.” Read more via Sowetan live
Jamaica: Church group contesting anti-buggery case
Several churches and religious groups have filed an application in the Supreme Court seeking permission to oppose the claim brought by attorney-at-law and gay rights activist Maurice Tomlinson who is challenging the buggery law. The groups contend that decriminalising sodomy in Jamaica will lead to gay marriages and the promotion of homosexuality. They also say it will among other things violate their rights to campaign against homosexuality. 

Tomlinson filed a constitutional motion against the Attorney General last year after Javed Jaghai, a gay rights activist withdrew his challenge against  the buggery law because of threats.

Tomlinson is seeking to have the anti-sodomy law nullified in relation to all cases of adult consensual sex which attracts convictions and prison terms. He also claims that criminalising homosexuality amounts to a direct and blatant denial of equality before the law for him and other gay men.  Read more via Jamaican Gleaner
Nigeria: The trials of modern LGBT life
excerpt: I’ve dedicated some time to write articles on the gay issues in Africa, with a special focus on my home country, Nigeria. The great thing about sharing my story, aside from creating awareness, is that I’ve met lots of African gays who share their own stories, including a friend of mine, Sam, who was in Lagos, when he went to a café to meet up with a guy he found on Grindr last year. The guy followed him from the cafe and asked Sam for his phone. Suddenly, two guys appeared, telling Sam to cooperate. It dawned on him that this was a set up.

Instinctively Sam began yelling, “Thief!” to draw attention from passers-by. He had no gay content on his phone so these men couldn’t prove anything. The men began yelling, “Gay, Gay, Gay!” thinking the passers-by would attack Sam. Sam, with the confidence that there was no evidence of his sexuality, told them he’d get the police involved.

Three passers-by stopped and asked what was wrong. The men told them that Sam was gay and they set a trap for him. They said they had proof that Sam was gay. By then, eight people had joined the onlookers. A lady spoke up, “If he is gay, what’s your business?” Someone else said, “Homosexuality is legal is several countries, what’s your point?” Read more via EQ views
Cambodia: Program to deal with LGBT issues in works
The Ministry of Information says it is working with LGBT rights groups to create a regular radio program that discusses LGBT issues, with the aim of making society more welcoming. Minister of Information Khieu Kanharith is cooperating with NGO Cam-ASEAN Youth Future founder Srun Srorn, who will organise the program.

The radio show will discuss human rights and the needs of the LGBT communities, such as the right to get legal recognition for married status. “LGBTs are also human beings, they are not deputy humans,” said Kanharith. “They are part of society.”

Kanharith on Tuesday organised a meeting with representatives from the Ministries of Health, Education, Interior, and Women’s Affairs. He told them that it’s important to engage LGBT people because they are marginalised and made to feel unwelcome. Read more via Phnom Penh Post
Is the world finally waking up to intersex rights?
Research has found between 0.05% and 1.7% of the global population are born with intersex traits – biological sex characteristics that don’t conform to typical notions of male or female. The upper estimation is around the same number of red haired people, yet intersex people are far less visible.

There are at least 40 intersex variations, ranging from genetic, chromosomal, anatomic and hormonal. In countries with access to western healthcare, it has become common practice to subject intersex children to medical interventions to make their bodies fit into the male/female binary, with damaging results.

Last month a landmark directive on intersex rights was announced by the government of Chile. The ministry of health issued guidance to stop “normalisation” surgeries on intersex children. It is one of two countries in the world that has produced any formal guidelines preventing these medical interventions. The other is Malta, which in April 2015, was the first country to prohibit these surgeries by law. Read more via the Guardian
UK: Sex education will not be compulsory
England's education secretary has rejected MPs' calls to make sex-and-relationship education compulsory in all schools, infuriating campaigners. Four key House of Commons committees wrote to Nicky Morgan last month, pressing for sex education to be made statutory in primaries and secondaries. In response, Mrs Morgan now says the government "will continue" to keep the subject's status "under review".

But the National Aids Trust said it was "extremely disappointed". The trust's chief executive Deborah Gold said the decision meant the subject "will continue to be delivered according to the whims of individual head teachers rather than the needs of young people".

Last month, the chairmen of the education, health, home affairs and business committees wrote to Mrs Morgan saying personal, social, health and economic education (PSHE), which includes sex education, was a "crucial part of preparing young people for life". Read more via BBC
Australia: Safe Schools Coalition: what is the Christian Right afraid of?
At the instigation of conservative Liberal senator Cory Bernardi, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has requested an investigation into the Safe Schools Coalition. In doing so, Turnbull has given voice to, and legitimised, discredited and prejudiced views that inclusive sexuality education will turn kids gay.

Safe Schools is a world-leading, evidence-based program to make schools safe environments for same-sex-attracted, intersex and gender-diverse students, staff and families. 

Sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, and intersex status are protected grounds in international human rights legislation on education. They are also protected in Australian national legislation. Australia’s work opposing homophobia and transphobia in schools is internationally celebrated, and featured in UNESCO best-practice documentation. This begs the question: on what grounds should we be investigating this program? Read more via the Conversation
Australia: After this anti-gay group tried to ruin a dance for LGBTI teens, everyone just donated to it instead 
An anti-gay group’s attempt to ruin a formal for LGBTI youth backfired badly after people on social media responded by donating to the event instead. A Facebook page for 'Stop Safe Schools Coalition' is encouraging followers to buy tickets to an upcoming LGBTI youth formal in order to prevent young people from being able to attend. Ironically, the dance is not funded by Safe Schools Coalition, but another non-profit: Minus18.

After learning of the protest, people began donating to support Minus18 and the formal— exceeding $48,000 via chuffed.org so far (you can still donate). Organisers say they’re “ecstatic”, and are looking at making the event free for all by refunding tickets bought by those actually attending. Read more via Buzzfeed
UK: The gay teacher transforming a Muslim school
It took one complaint from a parent “as a Christian” to undo all Andrew Moffat’s work teaching children respect for people of different sexual orientation. A meeting of 40 parents followed with calls for an apology. Above all, the parents objected that he had told children he was gay. Moffat felt he could no longer continue and resigned. Far from retreating to a safe haven, however, he crossed Birmingham to take up an even greater challenge: assistant headteacher at Parkfield Community school, where 98.9% of pupils are from Muslim families.

That was two years ago. With the backing of the headteacher, Moffat went on to introduce a No Outsiders policy promoting diversity at the 770-pupil school, where 23 nationalities are represented. That includes welcoming people of any race, colour or religion and those who are LGBT.

A gay teacher teaching gay rights to pupils from a faith that believes homosexuality is a sin, punishable by death in some countries? It doesn’t seem possible and yet the school’s Muslim parents appear to have accepted that children can be taught about Britain’s anti-discrimination laws without undermining their religious beliefs. Learning from his unhappy experience at his previous school, Moffat has been careful to centre the policy around the Equality Act 2010, to first gain the support of the governing body, and to keep parents fully informed, inviting them in to see the books that would be used. Read more via the Guardian
Turkey: All gender bathroom initiative achieves success at Boğaziçi University
Today, we talked to Beren Azizi and Görkem Ulumeriç of Boğaziçi University LGBTI Studies Association about the “All Gender Bathroom” campaign, which officially yielded its initial successful outcome.

Beren Azizi: This idea emerged from analyses of the “violation of rights” that result from “deprivation.” Education is a human right, because everyone is equal; however in practice we see that things do not really work that way. LGBTI+ students drop out of their studies, do not come to school, they are depressed or “unsuccessful.”

When you start asking what happened and what went wrong, you realize that places, where a fundamental right such as education is offered, are in fact filled with challenges and obstacles for the LGBTI+’s. Toilets, as we see from numerous scientific studies around the world, are one of those obstacles. Based on the feedback we received from LGBTI+ students, we realized that “All Gender Bathroom” is a right and we should demand it. Read more via LGBTI News Turkey
North Korea: Meet the asylum seeker who learned what homosexuality is, and came out as gay
A gay defector from North Korea has revealed he had no idea what homosexuality was until he left the country. The reclusive Asian country is renowned for its secrecy, warmongering, and the oppressive rule of the Kim dynasty, currently headed by 33-year-old Kim Jong-un, who claims to have cured AIDS and hangovers.

Given the country’s appalling human rights abuses, LGBT rights are seldom on the radar – but the country’s officials are no stranger to homophobia, hitting out at the gay man heading a UN human rights panel as a “disgusting old lecher” in 2014.

North Korean citizen Jang Yeong-jin had never even heard of homosexuality, and was confused to find he “felt no sexual attraction” to his wife. It was only after escaping the country and fleeing to South Korea that he realised he was gay – and came to terms with who he is. Jang, who has recently written a memoir, A Mark of Red Honour, opened up about his experiences in an interview with the European Alliance for Human Rights in North Korea (EAHRNK) Read more via PinkNews
Across Europe, gay migrants face abuse in asylum shelters
Across Europe, LGBT migrants say they suffer from verbal, physical and sexual abuse in refugee shelters, and some have been forced to move out. The AP found out about scores of documented cases in The Netherlands, Germany, Spain, Denmark, Sweden and Finland, with the abuse usually coming from fellow refugees and sometimes security staff and translators.

The cases suggest a possible cultural clash: Many migrants are coming from conservative Muslim countries where homosexuality is taboo into European societies that are more open to it. In Syria, for example, homosexuality is illegal, and the militant Islamic State group has killed more than 30 gays in Syria and Iraq over the past two years, activists say.

The number of migrants accused of gay abuse are just a tiny fraction of the hundreds of thousands of refugees streaming into Europe. However, most abuse is likely not reported because of European privacy laws and the stigma felt by gay migrants, and there is no official tally across the continent. Read more via ABC News
Australia: These are the queer refugees the government has locked up on a remote pacific island
Mohsen is one of more than 1,300 asylum seekers that Australia has sent, since 2012, to what is called the Manus Island detention center. It’s a facility for single men and teenage boys; several hundred women and families are being detained 1,300 miles to the east on the island nation of Nauru. They were all captured at sea while trying to reach Australia by boat from Indonesia, under a policy that even the UN secretary general has personally pleaded with the Australia’s prime minister to bring to an end.

Canberra calls this the “Pacific Solution” to the problem of people attempting to get to Australia by boat. Those it cannot force back into international waters it holds in camps outside its borders in an attempt to prevent them from asserting the right to asylum on its territory.

There’s an added fear for queer asylum seekers like Mohsen. They worry about being targeted by others in the camp, who are mostly from Iran and other countries where homosexuality is criminalized, including Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan. They also are afraid of Papua New Guinea’s police force because the country’s laws punish homosexuality with up to 14 years in prison. “This place is no better than Iran,” Mohsen said. “I wish I had died on that boat 100 times a day.” Read more via Buzzfeed
Peru: Police use water cannons against LGBT activists
Peruvian police used water cannons against a group of activists who staged an LGBT rights protest. More than two dozen people gathered in Lima’s Plaza de Armas to take part in the protest that was described as “kisses against homophobia.” Sin Etiquetas, a Lima-based LGBT website, posted pictures to its website that show same-sex couples kissing and holding hands in the street with armored police trucks in the background. Other pictures show officers confronting the protesters. 

George Liendo of Promsex, a Peruvian LGBT rights group, said that that authorities have banned protests of “any kind” in the square. Although religious processions, cultural events and other demonstrations routinely take place without incident. “They (the police) are obligated to protect the LGBTI community, as it is a population that is particularly susceptible to violence,” said Liendo. Read more via Washington Blade
Japan: City of Nara targets LGBT economy
The city of Nara, Japan’s ancient capital, will target LGBT tourists from Japan and abroad. Plans include earmarking ¥2.08 million in the budget for the next fiscal year to inform hoteliers and innkeepers and other businesses about LGBT culture and how to make same-sex couples feel welcome, the city said.

In addition, Nara has said it will join the Florida-based International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association. It will be the first Japanese municipality to become a member. The budgeted funds will be used for seminars for area businesses interested in attracting more LGBT customers, and the city will seek advice from the association on specific tips for improving service, especially for LGBT couples from overseas.

Kyoto has recently made more efforts to cater to LGBT couples, with both the Hotel Granvia and Kyoto’s Shunkoin Temple now offering same-sex wedding ceremonies. Read more via Japan Times
Japan: Panasonic to recognize people in same-sex unions
From April, Panasonic Corp. will recognize its employees in same-sex unions, possibly conferring on them the paid leave and other benefits currently enjoyed by married employees. The change in policy was prompted by requests from its employees and the International Olympic Committee’s ban on discrimination based on sexual orientation under its Olympic Charter. 

Few Japanese companies have taken such a bold step, but with the group’s global workforce of about 250,000, Panasonic could motivate other firms to follow suit. The company also plans to place a nondiscrimination clause on sexual orientation in its employee code of conduct.

Because only a handful of local administrations in Japan are currently issuing certificates recognize same-sex partnerships as being equivalent to marriage, Panasonic is still trying to determine what kind of documentation it will require to recognize same-sex unions. Read more via Japan Times
Twitter asks for nonprofit help in fighting trolls
Twitter’s new Trust & Safety Council, backed by a wide variety of nonprofits, aims to tackle one of the major struggles that it and its users have faced over the years: the proliferation of harassment on the social network.

The social network, which has faced some high-profile defections in recent months announced that it was collaborating with more than 40 nonprofits on the council. Among the new members are the National Cyber Security Alliance, GLAAD, the Internet Watch Foundation, the Anti-Defamation League, and the Dangerous Speech Project.

“To ensure people can continue to express themselves freely and safely on Twitter, we must provide more tools and policies,” said Patricia Cartes, the company’s head of global policy outreach. Read more via Associations Now
US Op-ed: Why the LGBT community needs to support Apple's battle against the Feds
Last week, the U.S. government revealed that Apple refused a request by the FBI to unlock the iPhone carried by one of the San Bernardino shooters. Following this revelation, Apple CEO Tim Cook said that requiring the company to create a bypass to the phone would set a dangerous precedent and would undermine the security of all such mobile devices.

During my time working for the Army, I lived a "double life" under the military's don't ask, don't tell ban as a closeted trans woman in a relationship with a man. Living under the ban, I regularly used encryption to shield my personal information on my laptop and mobile devices from colleagues living in close quarters. However, things could have been even more high stakes for me. If I were a closeted trans woman, while living and working in less open countries—such as Russia, Uganda, and Nigeria—I could face imprisonment, torture, and even death, if exposed. This is why queer and trans people living in such countries now use encrypted devices, such as Apple's iPhone 5C, to build and maintain its communities while avoiding the dangerous scrutiny of others.

Now, as the U.S. government seeks a novel judicial bac door to one phone, all of our encrypted data on most of our mobile devices and personal computers could be compromised by adversaries of queer and trans people who seek to cause us harm. Read more via Advocate
Asia: Social media app Hornet invests in gay men's health
Hornet is committed to HIV health innovation and is investing in its Health Innovation Group with a new officer for SE Asia. Data shows that HIV prevalence among men who have sex with men in this region continues to increase while prevalence among the general population has been in decline. Very few gay men are knowledgeable about PrEP or the benefits of effective HIV treatment for improved health or prevention. Additionally, gay men continue to encounter significant barriers when accessing treatment or prevention. 

"I want to see more gay men getting tested and accessing appropriate treatment or prevention services following their test," said Lieu Anh Vu, Hornet's new Health and Innovation Strategist for Southeast Asia.  Vu joins Hornet from United Nations Development Programme UNDP where he worked as an LGBT social justice and health advocacy.

Hornet recognizes the unique opportunity that social networking apps present in ongoing efforts to improve the health and wellness of gay men around the globe. The endeavors in Southeast Asia is part of an ongoing investment in the lives of gay men and fostering of stronger community relationships. Read more via PR Newswire
Thailand: A new gay web series that is worth your health
Have we been waiting too long for a realistic storyline of native Asian gay men coping with their sexual health issues? The answer is yes. Despite efforts to expand the visibility of LGBT individuals on mainstream TV series and webseries, there's still not a lot out there that truly empower sexual health and rights of gay men who are living in Asia – the region that’s progressing sluggishly, if not the least, in standing up for health and rights of its sexual minorities.

The tide, however, will turn. GAYOK BANGKOK The Series, a webseries following the lives of six diverse gay men living in Bangkok and their drama – relationship, career, family and, most of all, sexual health – in a manner that Asian gay men can truly relate. Read more via Test BKK
UK: Absolute fear’ keeps gay athletes in the closet
A groundbreaking conference saw corporate sponsors encourage the sporting world to be more LGBT inclusive. 

Former NBA player John Amaechi noted, ‘the business world is starting to look at the people they’re spending £45billion worth of sponsorship on, and they’re saying “How can we spend with you if what you stand for is opposed to what we stand for?” Read more via Gay Star News
Nike ends relationship with boxer Manny Pacquiao over ‘abhorrent’ anti-gay remarks Read more
Our Love is Valid by Grammo Suspect
Critics praise new Indian movie inspired by gay professor who was fired Read more 
What makes a museum object queer? Read more
Mya Taylor wins Best Supporting Female at 2016 Independent Spirit Awards Read more
This beautiful photo series depicts lives of LGBT people around the globe 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 © 2016 Richard Burzynski, All rights reserved.

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