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Ugandan gay activist stresses LGBT equality key to fighting HIV/AIDS

Frank Mugisha attended the International AIDS Conference last week in D.C.



Frank Mugisha (Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Does the fight for LGBT rights directly impact efforts to combat HIV/AIDS, especially in places like sub-Saharan Africa?

Ugandan gay activist Frank Mugisha stressed during an interview with the Blade before he attended the International AIDS Conference at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center last week that he feels the two movements are interconnected. He said that a majority of LGBT Ugandans remain in heterosexual relationships, but a lack of information and pervasive homophobia contribute to the spread of HIV/AIDS. “They’re married, they’re partnered, they’re in heterosexual relationships but as well they’re keeping their same-sex relations,” stressed Mugisha. “So that means there’s no information on any protective measures. There’s no information on anything so that means they’re engaging in unsafe sex and it is increasing HIV/AIDS.”

Mugisha, who is the executive director of Sexual Minorities Uganda, was among who those discussed the virus’ impact on men and boys and ways they can prevent its spread during a July 22 panel at AIDS

He said he also spoke with a Ugandan government official whom he declined to identify about anti-LGBT discrimination in the East African country during the conference. Mugisha told the Blade before AIDS 2012 that he planned to ask other Ugandan politicians who had traveled to D.C. to attend the five-day gathering about the so-called Anti-Homosexuality Bill that once contained a provision that would have imposed the death penalty upon anyone found guilty of repeated same-sex sexual acts and its impact on efforts to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS.

“I think they may be a bit defensive,” he said. “They may say that no, we don’t discriminate against anyone. Anyone can go seek help, treatment. We don’t ask people’s sexual orientation. I’ll tell them let’s be logical here. There’s no programming, there’s no information so how do you expect someone to go and seek genuine services.”

Mugisha, who is the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights’ 2011 laureate, also met with HIV/AIDS service providers and activists from Uganda and across Africa during AIDS 2012 that drew more than 30,000 delegates, journalists and activists to the nation’s capital.

“For me at the conference, the most important part is the network,” he said.

The Jan. 2011 murder of activist David Kato, who was SMUG’s then-advocacy and litigation officer, inside his Kampala home after a tabloid published his name and home address brought the plight of LGBT Ugandans onto the international stage.

While it remains unclear when Ugandan Parliamentarians will once again debate the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, the government last month faced criticism after it shut down a gay rights workshop that the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project presented. SMUG in a lawsuit it filed in a Massachusetts federal court in March accused American evangelical Scott Lively of violating international law when he allegedly conspired with Ugandan political and religious leaders to further exploit homophobic attitudes in the East African country before Parliamentarian David Bahati introduced the Anti-Homosexuality Bill in 2009.

Mugisha, who debated Lively on Al Jazeera English last week, stressed during a Georgetown University panel in May that the case is about highlighting the “ex-gay” leader’s homophobia. President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have both urged the Ugandan government to protect the rights of its LGBT citizens. The White House and British Prime Minister David Cameron have also suggested that the allocation of international aid should hinge upon a country’s record on LGBT rights.

Mugisha said that while this pressure has had some impact among Ugandan officials, he stressed that Americans should speak out against those from this country whom he contends continue to exploit anti-LGBT attitudes to advance their own agenda.

“We’ve seen most of the homophobia come from here — from the U.S. to Uganda, the American evangelicals,” he said.

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Two LGBTQ people named to Chilean president-elect’s Cabinet

Gabriel Boric and his government takes office on March 11



Chilean President-elect Gabriel Boric. (Photo via the Chilean government)

Chilean President-elect Gabriel Boric on Friday named two openly LGBTQ people to his Cabinet.

Marco Antonio Ávila, who is a gay man, will be the country’s education minister. Alexandra Benado, who is a lesbian, will be Chile’s sports minister.

Javiera Zúñiga, a spokesperson for Movilh (Movimiento de Integración y Liberación Homosexual), a Chilean LGBTQ rights group, applauded Boric for naming Ávila and Benado to his Cabinet.

“The visibility of sexual orientation and gender identity is no longer an impediment to access any position in Chile,” said Zúñiga in a press release. “Sexual orientation and gender identity are irrelevant for the positions, whether they are public or private. Capability is the only thing that matters.”

Boric and his government will take office on March 11. Chile’s marriage equality law goes into effect the day before.

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Lesbian couple murdered, dismembered in Mexico border city

Julissa Ramírez and Nohemí Medina Martínez killed in Ciudad Juárez



From left: Julissa Ramírez and Nohemí Medina Martínez. (Photo via Facebook)

Authorities in the Mexican border city of Ciudad Juárez on Sunday found the dismembered bodies of a lesbian couple along a local highway.

The dismembered body parts of Julissa Ramírez and Nohemí Medina Martínez were found in plastic bags that had been placed along the Juárez-El Porvenir Highway.

El Diario, a Mexican newspaper, reported the married women lived in El Paso, Texas, which is across the Rio Grande from Ciudad Juárez. Authorities said relatives last spoke with Ramírez and Medina on Saturday afternoon.

A source in Ciudad Juárez with whom the Washington Blade spoke on Thursday confirmed Ramírez and Medina “were lesbian women” and their murder was “very violent.”

Members of Comité de la Diversidad Sexual de Chihuahua, an LGBTQ rights group in the state of Chihuahua in which Ciudad Juárez is located, and Chihuahua Gov. María Eugenia Campos Galván are among those who have expressed outrage over the women’s murders. Comité de la Diversidad Sexual de Chihuahua on Wednesday also urged local and state authorities to investigate whether the murder was a hate crime.

“People of sexual diversity are questioned, including their existence through heteronormative discourse,” said the group in a statement. “They have the right to a life free of violence in which they exercise all their rights, in addition to living without fear or fear of rejection and aggressions that can unfortunately escalate to hate crimes.”

El Diario reported Ramírez and Medina are two of the nine women who have been reported killed in Ciudad Juárez since the beginning of the year.

Personas de las Diversidades Afectivo Sexuales, an LGBTQ rights group in Ciudad Juárez, and feminist organizations on Thursday organized a protest during which participants demanded local, state and federal authorities do more to end to violence against women in the city. The press release that announced the demonstration specifically cited Ramírez and Medina.

“We seek justice and clarification in the murder of Nohemí and Yulissa, a lesbian couple who was found in Juárez-Porvenir Highway,” it reads.

LGBTQ activists and feminist groups participate in a protest against femicides in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, on Jan. 20, 2022. (Courtesy photo)
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Transgender Mexicans receive amended birth certificates at country’s consulates

New policy announced Wednesday in Mexico City



(Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Mexico’s Foreign Affairs Ministry on Wednesday announced transgender people who were born in Mexico can receive an amended birth certificate at any of the country’s consulates.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Marcelo Ebrard is among those who spoke at a ceremony at the Foreign Affairs Ministry in Mexico City where he and other officials detailed the policy. Trans Congresswomen Salma Luévano and María Clemente García attended alongside Sen. Malú Micher, trans activist Jessica Marjane, Global Equality Caucus Deputy Director Aron Le Fevre and Amicus Director Juan Pablo Delgado are among those who attended.

Amicus, an advocacy group that is based in the state of Guanajuato, represented two trans Mexicans who brought legal action after consulates in the U.S. denied their request for birth certificates that correspond with their gender identity.

Victory Institute International Programs Manager Mateo de la Torre in 2019 sought legal recourse, known as an “amparo” in the Mexican judicial system, after the Mexican Consulate in D.C. said it could not change the sex on his birth certificate.

Delgado earlier this week told the Washington Blade during a telephone interview from Guanajuato that one judge asked De La Torre to file his “amparo” in person in Tijuana because his signature did not correspond with the one on his Mexican ID. Delgado said a trans woman from Guanajuato filed her own “amparo” in 2021 after the Mexican Consulate in Houston said it could not issue her an amended birth certificate.

Trans Mexicans who want to receive an amended birth certificate need to provide their original document, but Delgado told the Blade that consulates can access them through a data base. De La Torre on Wednesday received an amended birth certificate at the Mexican Consulate in D.C.

“This birth certificate comes after a decade of living in my truth as a transgender man and after years of advocating for my right to be recognized as such,” De La Torre told the Blade. “In Mexico and abroad, many trans people face discrimination, violence and endless bureaucratic hurdles in their fight for legal recognition, and after all this time I am most grateful for the ability to vote in my country’s elections.”

“This new process has the possibility of being life saving for many of our most vulnerable community members, and I will continue to advocate for the day that all trans people living in Mexico are also afforded the right to a process that is free of discrimination and based on self-attestation,” added De La Torre.

Delgado described the new policy as “a great advancement towards the recognition of gender identity” in Mexico.

“It’s a super important advancement,” said Delgado.

Delgado noted Mexico City and 18 of Mexico’s 32 states currently allow trans people to receive birth certificates that correspond to their gender identity.

The Mexican Senate has passed a bill that would codify the Foreign Affairs Ministry policy into law. The measure is now before the Mexican Chamber of Deputies, which is the lower house of the country’s Congress.

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