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IOC criticized over latest comments on anti-gay Russian law

Dutch LGBT rights group “outraged” by comments



Athlete Ally, All Out, IOC, International Olympic Committee, Russia, Sochi, gay news, Washington Blade
Athlete Ally, All Out, IOC, International Olympic Committee, Russia, Sochi, gay news, Washington Blade

Members of All Out and Athlete Ally on August 7 presented a petition with more than 300,000 signatures to the International Olympic Committee that urges it to pressure Russia to end its gay crackdown. (Photo courtesy of All Out)

The Associated Press on Thursday reported a member of the International Olympic Committee who is charged with overseeing preparations for the upcoming 2014 Winter Games said the IOC is “fully satisfied” that Russia’s gay propaganda to minors ban does not violate the Olympic charter.

The news agency reported Jean-Claude Killy, chair of the IOC Coordination Commission, made the comments during a press conference in Sochi, Russia. The news agency said Killy indicated the committee also concluded “the IOC doesn’t have the right to discuss the… laws that are in place in the country hosting the games” unless they clearly violate the Olympic charter.

Killy’s comments come against growing outrage over the gay propaganda law and Russia’s overall LGBT rights record that threatens to overshadow the Sochi games that will take place in February.

Actor and playwright Harvey Fierstein and others have called for a boycott of the Olympics. Author Dan Savage and LGBT rights advocate Cleve Jones are among those who have called for a boycott of Russian vodka.

President Obama, who met with Russian LGBT rights advocates during the G-20 summit that took place in St. Petersburg earlier this month, opposes any boycott of the Sochi games. Retired tennis champion Martina Navratilova, gay Olympic diver Greg Louganis and a coalition of LGBT advocacy groups that include have also taken a similar position.

U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) last week criticized the Kremlin over its gay rights record in an op-ed the Russian online newspaper Pravda published. Cher told Reuters on September 17 she turned down a request to perform at the Sochi games because of Russia’s gay propaganda law.

Russian police on Wednesday arrested a group of LGBT rights advocates who tried to stage a gay Pride event outside the Sochi games’ headquarters in Moscow.

An IOC spokesperson provided the Washington Blade with a statement about the IOC Coordination Commission’s latest trip to Sochi to oversee preparations for the games. It did not include any references to the gay propaganda law and Russia’s LGBT rights record.

The IOC later told the Blade the AP misquoted Killy during the Sochi press conference, saying he said “as long as the Olympic Charter is respected, we are satisfied.”

“That is clearly not expressing any view on the law itself, and Mr. Killy made it abundantly clear that the IOC never comments on national legislation,” the Olympic body said.

The IOC added it “will continue to work to uphold the Olympic Charter, which allows all participants, from spectators to athletes, to attend the games regardless of race, gender or sexual orientation.”

Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin is among those who criticized Killy’s remarks on Thursday.

“If this law doesn’t violate the IOC’s charter, then the charter is completely meaningless,” Griffin said. “The safety of millions of LGBT Russians and international travelers is at risk, and by all accounts the IOC has completely neglected its responsibility to Olympic athletes, sponsors and fans from around the world.”

Members of COC Nederland, a Dutch LGBT advocacy group, on September 17 met with members of the National Olympic Committee of the Netherlands to discuss their concerns over the safety of LGBT athletes who will compete in the games and others who will travel to Sochi. They also requested a meeting with Dutch IOC member Camiel Eurlings to address the aforementioned issues.

COC Nederland President Tanja Ineke on Thursday said her organization is “outraged” by Killy’s comments on Russia’s gay propaganda law.

“This conclusion is unheard of,” she said. “The European Union, Council of Europe, United Nations and numerous governments have all clearly stated that this law is discriminatory and an infringement of the human rights of LGBT people. The IOC disregards these conclusions and instead chooses to be the accomplice of the homophobic Russian government.”

Ineke added her organization will “urgently” ask Eurlings to “protest” the IOC’s position on the law.



Indian government announces equal opportunity policy for transgender people

Privacy among regulation’s key tenants



(Photo by Rahul Sapra via Bigstock)

The Indian government has announced a first of its kind equal opportunity policy for transgender people.

The policy will prohibit the disclosure of a trans person’s gender identity without their consent as the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Rules 2020 requires. The Social Justice and Empowerment Ministry says the Equal Opportunity Policy for Transgender Persons will encourage the fair treatment of trans people and create workplaces free from discrimination, harassment and bias. 

The policy seeks to ensure a trans employee’s the right to choose a pronoun, gender and a chosen name — every business, non-governmental organization and other employers in India will be required address the trans individual with the chosen names in all workplace communications. The Indian government, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has circulated the notice to all the states and chief secretaries and asked them to ensure the swift implementation of the policy.

The notified policy highlights the importance of maintaining confidentiality of gender identity. 

“Information related to gender identity will be treated with utmost confidentiality,” it reads. “Employees are expected to respect the privacy of their colleagues and refrain from disclosing any such information without explicit consent.”

The policy also states a business’ HR department will launch an inquiry that could lead to sanctions if the policy is violated. The policy also prohibits bullying against trans people in the workplace.

“Harassment or bullying based on gender identity is strictly prohibited,” it reads. “Any reported incident will be promptly and thoroughly investigated, and appropriate corrective actions will be taken.”

Every organization will have a grievance redress system in order to address policy violations. Workplaces will also be required to have infrastructure facilities for trans employees — unisex bathrooms and amenities that include hygiene products, for example — for trans people to effectively discharge their duties.

Sudhanshu Latad, an advocacy manager at Humsafar Trust, an organization that promotes LGBTQ rights in India, told the Washington Blade he supports the initiative, while adding a person’s identity does play a role in their experiences.

“The care and support, let’s say in this case a trans person requires will be very different than support a cis woman will require,” said Latad. “They need different short of bases to be covered to be able to perform to the same expectations that a cis man like me would require to perform in a situation or a role.” 

“It is important to give everyone an equitable platform, this is a welcome step because it discloses that the government is keen on working with various communities,” he added. “This formal acknowledgement or expression of interest in including gender minorities at workplace by the central government is a welcome move.”

Latad nevertheless told the Blade the policy alone “would not be enough” to address discrimination based on gender identity.

“There needs to be enough focus dissemination of this policy within the existing workforce,” he said. “Until and unless a senior manager from the government understands the use and need of pronouns in the communities … the implementation of this amazing policy will not happen on the ground.”

Latad told the Blade that sensitization, roundtables and equal dialogue will help unlearn and then learn which is the way forward for providing equal rights to the community. He said the use of chosen pronouns does seem like a small effort, but it does take a lot of effort and it is important. Latad added everyone, not just employers, needs to be taught equality.

Doctor Yoga S. Nambiar, founder and director of Global Rights Foundation and the first trans person in India to hold a PhD in mental health, said the new policy is good. They noted the government has announced many policies since the Supreme Court issued its National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) vs. the Union of India ruling, but they’re only on paper.

“Till the time the government does not take the initiative to take care of the policies, nothing is going to work,” said Yoga. “Government promised housing for trans people, government promised transgender cell in police stations, nothing has came in force as of now. So, if things workout, it’s good, if not, we are struggling anyways. We are fighting for our rights.”

The Supreme Court in the NALSA case in 2014 ruled in favor of the trans community, saying state and central governments must fully recognize trans people under the law in order for them to receive an education and health care without discrimination. The Supreme Court also said trans people will be considered a “third gender.”

Ankush Kumar is a reporter who has covered many stories for Washington and Los Angeles Blades from Iran, India and Singapore. He recently reported for the Daily Beast. He can be reached at [email protected]. He is on Twitter at @mohitkopinion. 

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State Department

State Department criticizes passage of anti-LGBTQ bill in Ghanaian Parliament

‘Limiting the rights of one group in a society undermines the rights of all’



(Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress)

The State Department on Wednesday criticized the passage of a bill in Ghana that would further criminalize LGBTQ people and make advocacy on their behalf illegal.

State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller in a statement said the U.S. “is deeply troubled by the Ghanaian Parliament’s passage of legislation, officially called the Human Sexual Rights and Family Values Bill, which would threaten all Ghanaians’ constitutionally protected freedoms of speech, press and assembly.” 

“The bill seeks to criminalize any person who simply identifies as LGBTQI+, as well as any friend, family, or member of the community who does not report them,” said Miller. “Limiting the rights of one group in a society undermines the rights of all. The United States echoes the call by those Ghanaians who have urged a review of the constitutionality of the bill to protect the rights of all individuals in Ghana.”

Miller noted the bill “would also undermine Ghana’s valuable public health, media and civic spaces and economy” and stressed “international business coalitions have already stated that such discrimination in Ghana would harm business and economic growth in the country.”

“Ghana’s tradition of tolerance, peace and respect for human rights is a source of stability and prosperity that has long served as a model for countries around the globe,” he added. “This legislation is inconsistent with these values and will, if it becomes law, undermine this laudable tradition.” 

Ghanaian MPs approved the bill on Wednesday, and it awaits President Nana Akufo-Addo’s signature.

“I am saddened because of some of the smartest, most creative, most decent people I know are LGBT,” said U.S. Ambassador to Ghana Virginia Palmer in a post on the embassy’s X account. “The bill Parliament passed takes away not only their basic human rights but those of all Ghanaians because it undermines their constitutional rights to freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and freedom of the press.” 

“It will be bad for public order and public health,” she added. “If enacted, it will also hurt Ghana’s international reputation and Ghana’s economy.”

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European Union

Surge in transphobic rhetoric across Europe sparks concern ahead of EU elections

ILGA-Europe released comprehensive report on Thursday



The German Reichstag in Berlin in 2022. EU elections will take place in June. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

As the European Union prepares for the upcoming elections in June, an increase in anti-LGBTQ sentiments and transphobic rhetoric in particular from politicians across the continent has sparked concern.

A comprehensive report that ILGA-Europe released on Thursday reveals a stark rise in hate speech from politicians in 32 European countries, with 21 of them being EU member states.

The 13th Annual Review of the Human Rights Situation of LGBTQ People in Europe and Central Asia sheds light on a concerning trend of hate speech targeting the LGBTQ and intersex community. A significant portion of these statements has been directed at trans people in various EU member states that include Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czechia, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Romania, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain and Sweden.

Icelanders participate in Reykjavík Pride in the Icelandic capital in 2022. Iceland is among the countries in which anti-transgender rhetoric has increased in recent years. (Photos courtesy of Inga Straumland/Reykjavík Pride)

Politicians have increasingly utilized anti-trans rhetoric, often weaponizing children as part of scare tactics to generate opposition to trans minors’ access to healthcare and educational restrictions. This strategy extends to a broader trend where politicians argue that limiting information about LGBTQ individuals is necessary to protect minors.

The report underscores the detrimental impact of demonization by politicians and attempts to introduce restrictive legislation. These actions have contributed to a rise in suicide rates and mental health issues, particularly among young LGBTQ individuals. Moreover, the report notes an escalation in violent protests outside schools and libraries, creating unsafe environments for young people.

The fear-mongering tactics have further exacerbated attacks on LGBTQ people. 

Out of the 54 countries covered in the review, only six reported no hate crimes in 2023. In the remaining 48 countries, verbal and physical violence, with a focus on trans people, were prevalent. Only one EU member state reported no hate crimes.

“The very core values and standards upon which the EU was founded are being called into question,” said ILGA-Europe Advocacy Director Katrin Hugendubel.  

She emphasized that human rights, especially those of LGBTQ people, are facing a significant challenge from far-right forces. Hugendubel highlighted the divisive nature of exploiting LGBTQ rights to undermine democracy, human rights and the rule of law.

In response to these alarming trends, ILGA-Europe will launch the “Come Out 4 Europe” campaign next week. The campaign aims to provide candidates for the European Parliament with an opportunity to demonstrate their commitment to supporting and protecting the rights of LGBTQ people. 

“LGBTQ rights are under attack, and children are being harmed in the process,” ILGA-Europe Executive Director Chaber stressed. 

The “Come Out 4 Europe” campaign will call for clear political commitments on safeguarding human rights, democracy, and freedom from candidates in the upcoming European Parliament elections in June.

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