LGBTI equality and human rights in Europe and Central Asia

February 2020

Annual Review launched, Swiss referendum, Court decision in Croatia for foster care, and much more...

 

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No. 293. February 2020. In this issue...

ILGA-Europe

Asylum

Bodily integrity

Diversity

Employment

Equality and non-discrimination

Family

Freedom of assembly

Freedom of expression

Hate speech & hate crime

Health

Legal gender recognition

Notice board

ILGA-Europe

Annual Review 2020 launched

Launched on 4 February, the new edition of ILGA-Europe’s Annual Review details the human rights situation of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex (LGBTI) people across the 49 European countries, and the five countries of Central Asia. Created with LGBTI activists and experts on the ground, the Review identifies trends, both current and on the rise. This year’s review, which charts developments during the 12 months of 2019, paints a complex picture that diverges from the widespread narrative that all is well for LGBTI people.
Read more on our press release.
Download here your own copy of the report.
 

The state of play of LGBTI equality discussed at the European Parliament

To mark the launch of the Annual Review, ILGA-Europe organised an event at the European Parliament in Brussels on 4 February. Emina Bošnjak from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Lilya Dragoeva from Bulgaria, Dan Christian Ghattas of OII Europe, and Silvan Ajius of the European Commission joined the panel to discuss the state of play of LGBTI equality in a landmark year in which official hate speech has arisen in several countries across the region.
Watch the recording of the event from the European Parliament.
Download here your own copy of the report.
 

Voices of ILGA-Europe: Czeslaw Walek on the frontlines for equal marriage in the Czech Republic

Our second Voices of ILGA-Europe contributor was Czeslaw Walek, the Chair of Prague Pride, who we met during our most recent conference in Prague. Czeslaw talked to us about the frustrations that powered his journey from the high offices of government to becoming one of the Czech Republic’s most prominent activists, and how ILGA-Europe has helped along the way.
Watch here the video of Czeslaw.
Our next Voices of ILGA-Europe video interview will be out soon.
 

Personal story inspires support from Dentissimo


Asylum

Letter to Dutch government regarding its asylum policy for Iranian LGBTQI

On 11 February, 6Rang (Iranian Lesbian and Transgender Network), wrote an open letter to the Dutch government urging them to offer "the highest level of protection" to Iranian LGBTI asylum seekers. The reason of the letter is that the Dutch government has lowered the protection level given to Iranian LGBTI asylum seekers. This change in policy is based on the March 2019 report of the Dutch government on the situation of Iranian LGBTI persons. The report claims that the overall situation of LGBTI people in Iran has improved.
Read the letter from 6Rang with a comprehensive analyse of the situation in Iran.
Read more about the background information on our Annual Review chapter for the Netherlands.
 

Gay men flee Uzbekistan seeking refuge in Kyrgyzstan

In February, two gay men fled from Uzbekistan to neighbouring Kyrgyzstan as reported by ILGA-Europe member organisation, Kyrgyz Indigo. Consensual same-sex relations between men are criminal offense in Uzbekistan and are punishable by restriction of freedom from one to three years (usually in mental health institutions), or imprisonment up to three years. LGBT people whose sexual orientation is forcefully disclosed have no other choice but to flee Uzbekistan and often they flee to neighbouring countries such as Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan, although the latter have failed to grant asylum on terms of sexual orientation or gender identity. Kyrgyzstan particularly avoids granting asylum to refugees from Uzbekistan due to political relations between the two countries.
Read about the human rights situation of LGBTI people in Uzbekistan on our Annual Review.

 

 

Take the survey on LGBTI asylum seekers and refugees in Europe

COC Netherlands is working on building a network among LGBTI organisations, self-led groups and individual activists who work with LGBTI asylum seekers and refugees in Europe. As a part of the project, they will assess the needs of the target group through an online survey in order to develop a training program for those who work with LGBTI asylum seekers and refugees. The training program will help facilitating networking and knowledge sharing between organisations and activists to help improve the situation of LGBTI asylum seekers and refugees in Europe.
Take the survey now if you work with asylum seekers and refugees.

 


Bodily integrity

The Council of Europe’s planned activities on the human rights of intersex children

The Committee on Bioethics within the Council of Europe launched its 2020-2025 Strategic Action Plan, which was adopted by the Committee of Minsters on 12 February. The plan includes a seminar of good practices in 2021 about the human rights of intersex children to bodily integrity, as well as a guidebook of good practices concerning the children’s decision-making for their own health. The actions follow the 2017 PACE recommendation on protecting the human rights of intersex people.

Belgian Ministry launched a campaign against medical interventions on intersex children

Together with intersex activists from Intersekse Vlaanderen, the Belgian Minister of Consumer Affairs, Disabled Persons, Economy, Employment, Equal Rights and Fighting Poverty, Nathalie Muylle organised a colloquium in the Belgian Parliament and launched an awareness campaign cautioning against early medical interventions on intersex children on 21 February. The event created an opening for societal discussions on intersex in the Flanders region of Belgium. Parties from the entire spectrum were present, and the session was followed by a radio interview (in Flemish) on intersex people and their human rights.

 


Diversity

Sámi LGBTI community celebrated Sámi National Day

6 February is Sámi National Day, when indigenous communities from the Sápmi region in Finland, Norway, Sweden and Russia commemorate the first Sámi congress, which was held in 1917. LGBTI Sámi activist, Anne Olli told ILGA-Europe what it means to be at the intersection of two minorities. Born and raised in Ivalo, in Finnish Sápmi, and living today in Oulu, the 26-year-old activist talks to us about the milestones on her activist journey and the challenges ahead.
Read more on our interview.

 


Employment

Workplace Pride Global Benchmark is calling for registrations

Workplace Pride Foundation invites you to participate in their 2020 Workplace Pride Global Benchmark Survey, an online tool designed to measure the LGBTI policies and practices for internationally active employers. Participants receive a detailed report of their current situation broken down into actionable sections, which include concrete suggestions for improvement. The survey is open until 31 March.
Read more and register.

 


Equality and non-discrimination

Tajikistan has started drafting an anti-discrimination law

Tajikistan has started drafting an anti-discrimination law as reported by a media source on 17 February. Following the President Emomali Rakhmon’s order, a working group was created for drafting the Bill. The Ministry of Justice, Ombudsman’s office, Members of the Parliament are represented in the working group. LGBTI activists in Tajikistan reported ILGA-Europe that the civil society participation is limited to a few NGOs and it is unclear whether the bill will explicitly include sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) as protected grounds. They also noted that the allies in the working group would advocate for the inclusion of SOGI. In its concluding observation last year, the UN Human Rights Committee recommended Tajikistan to provide effective protection on the basis of SOGI, both in law and in practice.
Read more in Russian.
The human rights situation of LGBTI people in Tajikistan is reported in our Annual Review.
 

LGBTI Stakeholder Group’s call for inputs for a position paper on SDGs

The 2020 High-Level Political Forum for Sustainable Development (HLPF) is takin place between 7 and 16 July. The Forum provides an opportunity for the UN Member States, academics, civil society, and other stakeholders to evaluate the progress made towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The LGBTI Stakeholder Group provides a concrete entry point for meaningful participation at the United Nations. This year for the first time, they need to prepare a Position Paper and this is why they need your input.
 

Family

Constitutional Court decision will allow same-sex couples to be foster parents in Croatia

On 7 February, the Croatia Constitutional Court decided that same-sex couples have the right to be foster parents on the same terms as everyone else. The Constitutional Court did not repeal the challenged legal provisions, but it made clear that the exclusion of same-sex couples from foster care was discriminatory and unconstitutional and provided clear instructions to the courts, social welfare centers and other decision-making bodies that applicants for foster care cannot be excluded based on their life partnership status.

Constitutional amendment on the definition of family has been proposed in Russia

The Russian Federation is going through a process of rewriting of the Constitution; including with the proposal to introduce a clause establish the concept of the family as a “union of a man and a woman”. The proposal was supported by Anatoly Klishas, chair of the Federation Council Committee on Constitutional Legislation and State Building and co-chair of the working group on constitutional amendments. President Vladimir Putin also expressed his commitment to defending ‘traditional family’. Along with about a hundred other amendments, the proposed definition of family has to be approved by the parliament and then will be put up for a vaguely-regulated ‘national popular vote’ in April.

Freedom of assembly

‘Turkey must restore judicial independence and stop targeting human rights defenders’

In a report published on 19 February, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Dunja Mijatović, calls on the Turkish authorities to restore judicial independence and stop the practice of targeting human rights defenders by using administrative and judicial actions. The Commissioner shares also her observations on severe restrictions imposed on the day-to-day functioning of NGOs, “including an indefinite ban declared in Ankara during the state of emergency on all public events focusing on the human rights of LGBTI persons.” Despite court decisions declaring the ban unlawful, it was replaced by an equivalent one and it is currently enforced.

Date announced for the first LGBTQI Muslim Pride in London

The Imaan LGBTQI Muslim charity in the United Kingdom announced the date of their first LGBTQI Muslim Pride festival. The event will take place in London on Saturday, 11 April as the world's first LGBTQI Muslim Pride. At ImaanFest, you will find talks and interactive workshops on a range of subjects from coming out, sexuality in Islam, intersectional identities and lots more. There'll also be a programme of queer Muslim films, dedicated prayer space, a mini exhibition of LGBT Muslim history and our oral history project, "Not Coming Out".

“Pride is a human right that so many of us take for granted, but under threat in many countries”

Evelyne Paradis, ILGA-Europe’s Executive Director was interviewed by the team of the European Pride Organisers Association (EPOA) about the Pride events in our region. “Pride continues to be a crucial test for governments on freedom of assembly, which is a human right that so many of us take for granted, but which is under threat in many countries” said Evelyne in her interview.

Freedom of expression

A petition calling for an ‘anti-propaganda’ law in Belarus received 55,000 signatures

On 6 February, the Metropolitan of Minsk and Mogilev Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz said that they gathered 55,000 signatures on a petition calling on the president to adopt a law "against LGBT propaganda among children and youth." They have been delivered the petition to the president of Belarus. Valentin Tishko, an LGBT activist told the Radio Free Europe Belarus “When we talk about the right to your own life and your integrity, it is not propaganda. In fact, this entire collection of signatures - this is propaganda of intolerance and violence.”

Hate speech & hate crime

Anti-LGBTI hate speech took a sharp rise in 2019

ILGA-Europe’s Annual Review identifies a sharp rise in anti-LGBTI hate-speech across the region, often carried out by public figures. While much of the public and political attention was focused on Poland, the Annual Review 2020 identifies growing official hate speech from political and religious leaders in other countries, where anti-LGBTI rhetoric was propagated with impunity. In most Central Asian countries, including some where LGBT people continue to be criminalised, there are reports of official hate-speech.

Swiss voters said ‘yes’ to extend the legal protection to sexual orientation

On 9 February, Switzerland voted to include ‘sexual orientation’ among the protected grounds against discrimination and incitement to hatred in their Panel Code. The majority of voters (63.1%) said ‘yes’ to the proposed legal changes. For Muriel Waeger, co-director of the “yes” campaign, this result means that “the Swiss people want an open and tolerant society without hatred”.

A gay man in Kazakhstan: “I wish my parents left me alone!”

On 10 February, Kok.Team Information Portal released an interview with a gay man who had been a victim of domestic violence after coming out in Kazakhstan. Currently Bekzat has no means to support himself, his family continues threatening him and demands he returns to his wife. Over the past three months, Bekzat and his boyfriend Arman had been moving between several cities in an attempt to escape threats from his own family. Bekzat has filed charges against his family but so far unsuccessful. He was also forced to undergo conversion therapy and even surgery to ‘change his homosexuality’.

Send your reports on hate incidents that happened in 2019 to ODIHR

The OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) publishes hate crime data every year on 16 November. This provides an overview of hate crimes reported by governments and hate incidents reported by civil society. They are asking civil society groups to report incidents that happened during the 2019 calendar year by 30 April.
Read more about the call and submit your report.
 

Joint statement: One voice one cause for the Victims’ Rights Directive

For the European Day of Victims of Crime on 22 February, ILGA-Europe joined 12 other NGOs calling on the EU Member States, EU institutions and civil society to continue to strive to improve the situation of victims of crime. In particular, the Victims’ Rights Directive, which came into application in 2015, includes clear provisions for LGBTI victims of hate crimes and is thus a key instrument in the current increasingly hostile climate across the European Union. The European Commission needs to ensure that the Directive is fully implemented in all Member States.
Read here our joint statement.

Health

States and health professionals are speaking up against so-called ‘conversion therapies’

On 26 February, ILGA World released its new report on the results of the worldwide survey of so-called ‘conversion therapies’. “As of February 2020, three UN member States (Brazil, Ecuador and Malta) have enacted nationwide laws to restrict so-called ‘conversion therapies’”, explains Lucas Ramón Mendos, Senior Research Officer at ILGA World and author of the report. “Subnational jurisdictions in three more UN member States (Canada, Spain and the United States) have done the same, hopefully paving the way for others to move in the same direction. For too long, experimentation and abuse has taken place under the legitimising cloak of medicine, psychology and science”.

Legal gender recognition

Trans activists demand compensation for the forced sterilisation in the Netherlands

The Netherlands, like many European countries, required sterilisation for trans people to access legal gender recognition up until 2014. Following a trend in the region of pushback against these requirements, Transgender Netwerk Nederland (TNN), the Dutch organisation for sex diversity (NNID) and individual victims have now decided to demand financial compensation for the harm caused by forced sterilisation. The current law is in the process of being further reformed, and activists are also pushing back on remaining restrictive requirements and seeking non-binary inclusion and accessible procedures for minors.

Notice board

Register for the conference: ‘Addressing Statelessness in Europe’

On 6-8 May, the European Network on Statelessness (ENS), in collaboration with Fundación Cepaim, will bring together key actors at a major regional conference to galvanise action to identify and address the protection gaps facing stateless people in Europe. The conference is aimed at a range of different stakeholders working on statelessness and asylum, migration, and minority rights across Europe.

Apply to be a part of IGLYO’s Anti-Racism Task Force

IGLYO (the International Gay Lesbian Trans Queer Intersex Youth Organisation) is calling for members for their ‘Anti-Racism Task Force’ which will be a creative and experimental space for developing ideas and institutionalising strategies for anti-racist advocacy and decolonial perspectives. Applicants must identify as LGBTQI+, not be older than 30 years, live in the Council of Europe region, identify as Black, as a Person of Colour, as Indigenous, as Roma, as a member of racialised groups/ indigenous communities/ minority faiths/ethnic minorities, and be willing to meet in Brussels in mid-June and attend at least one web-based meeting.
Read more and apply by Monday 9 March.