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European court finds Austria’s gay second-parent adoption ban discriminatory

Judges ruled on behalf of a lesbian couple

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European Court of Human Rights, Strasbourg, gay news, Washington Blade

The European Court of Human Rights (Photo by CherryX via Wikimedia Commons)

The European Court of Human Rights on Tuesday ruled Austria’s ban on second-parent adoption for same-sex couples is discriminatory.

Two women who have been raising a son born to one of them in 1995 submitted an adoption application to a local court in early 2005. The couple also requested the Austria Constitutional Court, which is the country’s highest tribunal, declare the portion of the civil code that prevents the same-sex partner of a parent to adopt his or her child.

The Constitutional Court in June 2005 rejected the couple’s petition, and the local court four months later refused to approve the women’s application. A regional court in Feb. 2006 rejected the women’s appeal.

The couple in April 2007 brought their case to the European Court of Human Rights, which is located in Strasbourg, France, after the Constitutional Court ruled against them. The judges heard it last October.

“This is a very significant and important victory for rainbow families in Europe,” Martin K. I. Christensen, co-chair of ILGA-Europe’s Executive Board. “We hope that this judgment will pave the way towards the removal of the remaining legal barriers for these families in Europe.”

Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain and the United Kingdom are among the European countries that currently allow second-parent adoption for same-sex couples.

The French National Assembly earlier this month approved a bill that would extend both adoption and marriage rights to gays and lesbians. Lawmakers in Luxembourg and Switzerland are currently considering second-parent adoption measures.

“We feel very hopeful that this case will lead to our children’s rights gaining better recognition throughout Europe,” Juha Jämsä, vice president of the Network of European LGBT Families Associations, said in a statement. “No group of children should be discriminated against because of their parents’ sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.”

Souhayr Belhassen, president of the International Federation for Human Rights, agreed.

“This is an important step forward towards the application of the principle of non-discrimination based on the sexual orientation and strengthening legal security and certainty for children,” she said. “This ruling should guide not only domestic courts, but also the legislator in European states that have not yet amended their legislation in that direction.”

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Eastern Europe

LGBTQ Ukrainians bear brunt of psychological toll amid ongoing war

Saturday marks two years since Russia invaded country

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A Pride commemoration in Kharkiv, Ukraine, on Sept. 25, 2022. (Photo courtesy of Sphere Women's Association)

As Ukraine weathers Russian missile attacks and endures a harsh winter, the psychological consequences on its LGBTQ community are emerging as a distressing and often overlooked aspect of the conflict.

Recent reports from Human Rights First, based on their visits to the northeastern Ukrainian region of Kharkiv, shed light on the profound emotional impact experienced by LGBTQ individuals amid the sustained Russian aggression.

Saturday marks two years since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine began. Throughout this time, Human Rights First has sought to bring human rights into the heart of the discussion surrounding the conflict, offering support to human rights defenders, activist organizations, and individuals profoundly affected by the war.

Human Rights First last November initially surveyed Kharkiv to understand how communities were preparing for the harsh winter. Returning last month they found the LGBTQ community faced not only the physical challenges of extreme temperatures but also the hidden harm of severe psychological distress.

Human rights defenders on the forefront were documenting war crimes and supporting marginalized communities, including LGBTQ individuals. They emphasized the critical need for specialized psychological support within this community.

Vasyl Malikov, a key figure in Kharkiv-based LGBTQ NGOs Alliance.Global and Spectrum Women’s Association in Kharkiv, spoke about the increasing requests for psychological assistance and counseling. 

Malikov highlighted the urgent need for both psychologists and a more comprehensive education about mental health and trauma issues.

“Some counseling can be done online, and it’s better than nothing, but what’s really needed is face-to-face time with a psychologist. Of course, that’s resource-intensive,” Malikov said, underscoring the unique challenges faced by the LGBTQ community.

Associate Professor Taras Zhvaniia, collaborating with Alliance.Global, shared insights into the growing demand for psychological support within the LGBTQ community. Initially addressing trauma in children, the scope expanded to include adults grappling with anxiety, depression and other emotional challenges related to the ongoing conflict.

Zhvaniia detailed the psychological struggles unique to the LGBTQ community, ranging from anxiety and panic attacks to specific fears such as reluctance to sleep in beds at home, avoiding bomb shelters and apprehension about routine activities during shelling.

Efforts to increase psychological knowledge for the general population are underway, yet the escalating demand for LGBTQ-focused support outpaces available resources. Human rights defenders have proposed measures, including funding for online counseling and visits by foreign psychologists, specifically tailored to address the psychological impact on the LGBTQ community.

The silent struggle faced by the LGBTQ community in Kharkiv and beyond necessitates international attention, according to Human Rights First. The organization added the lack of adequately trained psychologists raises concerns about the unaddressed psychological impact, underscoring the urgency for U.S. officials and the international community to comprehend and respond to the unique challenges faced by LGBTQ individuals in the midst of the ongoing conflict.

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Africa

Zimbabwean vice president reiterates strong opposition to LGBTQ rights

Constantino Chiwenga condemned advocacy group’s scholarship

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Zimbabwean Vice President Constantino Chiwenga (Screen capture via SABC News YouTube)

Zimbabwean Vice President Constantino Chiwenga has expressed concerns over what he has described as foreign recruitment of LGBTQ people in the country.

Chiwenga on Feb. 15 described Zimbabwe as a Christian country and therefore does not have room to accommodate those who identify as LGBTQ. His comments were in response to Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe and the advocacy group’s annual scholarship program that provides funds to people who identify as LGBTQ.

“The government of Zimbabwe strongly and firmly rejects and denounces as unlawful, un-Christian, anti-Zimbabwean and un-African, insidious attempts by foreign interests to entice, lure and recruit Zimbabwe’s less privileged, but able students into lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender activities and malpractices through offers of educational scholarships,” he said.

“Zimbabwe has legislated against all such deviances, making any offers predicated on the same aberrations both unlawful and criminal, and a grave and gross affront on our national values and ethos as a Christian nation,” he added.

Chiwenga said such scholarships are a national threat and highlighted that anyone who identifies as LGBTQ shall not be enrolled at any educational institution.

“To that end, government sees such scholarship offers as a direct challenge on its authority, and thus will not hesitate to take appropriate measures to enforce national laws, and to protect and defend national values,” he said.

“Our schools and institutions of higher learning will not entertain applicants, let alone enroll persons associated with such alien, anti-life, un-African and un-Christian values which are being promoted and cultivated by, as well as practiced in decadent societies with whom we share no moral or cultural affinities,” added Chiwenga.

The vice president also said Zimbabwe shall not be influenced by any country to change its stance with regards to the LGBTQ community.

“Zimbabwe is a sovereign, African state with definite laws and values which typify it, cutting it apart from other mores,” said Chiwenga. “Young Zimbabweans who qualify for enrolment into tertiary institutions here and elsewhere, should approach government departments tasked to give grants and scholarship support to deserving cases. They should never be tempted to trade or sell their souls for such abominable and devilish offers.”

Activists and commentators have sharply criticized Chiwenga’s comments, saying people’s sexual lives should not be of public concern.

“This scholarship has been going on for years and many graduates have been supported and gainfully employed,” noted GALZ Programs Manager Samuel Matsikure. “In the 90s it showed LGBT (people) who were bullied, outed and faced harassment would drop out of school, hence, it was important to provide them with basic education so they can support themselves in life.”

Stacey Chihera, a social commentator, said what consenting adult individuals decide to do behind closed doors should never be up for public discussion. 

“I wish this entitlement about individual sexuality was applied to corruption, service delivery and infrastructure development,” said Chihera. “What consenting adult individuals decide to do behind closed doors with their private parts should never be up for discussion! Not even by the government.”

Namatai Kwekweza a lawyer and an activist, said the vice president was scapegoating the real issues on the ground that are affecting the country on a daily basis.

“The facts being a scapegoat is necessary for an underperforming and evil government that will overzealously and hypothetically talk about morality and Christian values except when it comes to corruption, looting, genocide, abductions, torture, elections fraud, abuse of office, sexual abuse,” said Kwekweza. “These leaders must be seen more, major more and heard loudest in matters of public accountability and returning stolen loot, than in matters of moral grandstanding of which they have no moral authority in the first place.”

Consensual same-sex sexual relations remain criminalized in Zimbabwe with up to 14 years in prison.

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World

ILGA World report highlights digital divide impact on LGBTQ, intersex people

‘Accessing Connection’ released this week

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(Photo by DimaBerlin via Bigstock)

A new ILGA World report has found the digital divide impacts LGBTQ and intersex people in specific ways, and that listening to their stories is essential to building meaningful digital inclusion for all.

The report, titled “Accessing Connection,” is the first of its kind to look at the complex interplay between disparities in digital access and the unique experiences of LGBTQ and intersex people. Researchers mapped the complexities of the digital divide across perspectives of gender, race and migration status, geographic regions, urban-rural contexts, indigeneity and disability.

“LGBTI people have found the online space to be revolutionary,” said ILGA World Communications Manager Daniele Paletta, who edited the report. “However, these possibilities are not equally available for everyone. To date, 2.6 billion people across the world remain offline.”

The report found that LGBTQ and intersex people face a number of barriers to digital access, including:

  • The cost of data, location and having suitable devices and infrastructures
  • Economic precarity due to difficulties finding employment, harassment, societal stigma and hostile legislation
  • Online platforms that are not designed for everyone in mind, such as those that lack inclusive design practices or that predominate in a few languages
  • Fear of online harassment and violence
  • Surveillance and limitations to freedom of expression

Despite these challenges, LGBTQ and intersex organizations are working to find ways to connect with their communities online. The report highlights a number of examples of how organizations are using technology to promote digital inclusion, such as:

  • Promoting rural access to internet services and digital security training
  • Mobilizing to fight against hostile legislation
  • Translating LGBTI-related materials into local languages
  • Harnessing the relative safety of online spaces to conduct work or gather the community

“We know that being online is not the only way to serve our populations,” said ILGA World Co-Secretary General Luz Elena Aranda. “And yet, ensuring meaningful and safe connectivity could open up a whole new avenue of opportunities, especially for those whose voices the digital divide contributes to maintaining unheard. Reaching out to those systemically marginalized — by the digital divide or otherwise — remains at the core of the promise to leave no one behind.”

The “Accessing Connection” report is a call to action, urging stakeholders to recognize and address the unique challenges faced by LGBTQ and intersex people in the digital age and championing a more inclusive, connected future for all.

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