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Report: Anti-LGBT violence, discrimination pervasive in Asia

Researchers interviewed 370 people in five countries

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Philippines, gay news, Washington Blade

IGLHRC’s report focuses on the Philippines and four other Asian countries. (Photo by Junbay; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

An International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission report released on Tuesday indicates discrimination and violence against lesbians, bisexual women and transgender people remains pervasive throughout Asia.

IGLHRC worked with women’s, sexual minority and gender rights groups in Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Pakistan, Malaysia and Japan to interview 370 people — including service providers and advocates — in the five countries from Nov. 2010 through March 2012.

The report notes laws that ban violence against women in Asia were “directly” or “indirectly discriminatory” because they do not extend “adequate protections — or in some cases any protections” to lesbians, bisexual women and trans people. IGLHRC found officials in each of the five countries “not only failed to prevent, but also condoned violence against female-bodied and transgender people.”

Respondents told IGLHRC that emotional abuse was the most common form of violence committed against them, with family members as the primary perpetrators.

The report further notes lesbians, bisexual women and trans people in Asia reported an “unexpectedly high occurrence” of domestic violence. IGLHRC also found heterosexual men were most likely to commit acts of sexual violence against the aforementioned groups.

More than a dozen trans Malaysian women with whom IGLHRC spoke said authorities or Islamic officials arrested them while they were performing in clubs, hanging out or eating outside.

A trans woman in the Malaysian city of Penang told researchers that police asked her for the equivalent of $5-$6 in “protection money” in exchange for not being arrested. A Malaysian Muslim trans woman — known as a mak nyah in Malay — said she was sentenced to a year in jail after authorities arrested her for wearing women’s clothing in a food stall and charged her with “posing as [a woman]” under local Islamic Sharia law.

A 40-year-old woman who lives in the Pakistani city of Karachi said her mother threatened to burn her genitals with an iron as a young child when her brother caught her “fooling around with another girl.” A 36-year-old lesbian who lives in a suburb of the Sri Lankan capital of Colombo said her father beat her after a former girlfriend outed her when she “made a scene outside her house.”

The IGLHRC report notes an incident during which several men publicly assaulted a trans woman on the street because “they were offended by her wearing a dress.” The men allegedly beat her, cut her hair and threatened to shoot her with a gun.

“There are still no laws that protect LGBT people from violence and discrimination,” Kate Montecarlo Cordova, chair of the Association of Transgender People in the Philippines, told the Washington Blade in an e-mail.

More than 50 percent of lesbian, bisexual women and trans people in Japan said they have considered suicide. One of the trans men with whom researchers spoke killed himself before IGLHRC released the report.

More visibility has caused ‘greater frequency’ of violence

The IGLHRC report concludes greater visibility of LGBT people has resulted in a “greater frequency” of violence against lesbian, bisexual women and those who are gender non-conforming in Asia. It states this mistreatment was “especially noticeable” in countries where religion was “used to justify and intensify intolerance.”

“High-level government officials endorsed intolerance and even actively participated in promoting harmful messages that encouraged abuse or discrimination against LBT individuals,” reads the report. “Government-controlled media and state-supported religious leaders perpetuated cultural messaging that preached intolerance against individuals with non-conforming sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.”

IGLHRC and the groups that conducted research urge governments in each of the five countries to “ensure an environment that is supportive of all women’s rights.” They also said authorities must prevent violence and promote “the safety and dignity of all marginalized and vulnerable populations.”

The groups call upon governments to denounce religious rhetoric that promotes anti-LGBT discrimination and violence. IGLHRC further urges them to comply with various international treaties that specifically address lesbian, bisexual and trans issues.

“State actions must be accompanied by stronger community capacity for sustainable and supportive interventions as part of civil society accountability to vulnerable communities,” reads the report. “It should not be the expectation that individual LBT victims be self-reliant and resilient in order to deal with violence on their own while waiting for state action to reduce violence.”

Homosexuality remains criminalized in Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Malaysia and the Filipino city of Marawi that is in the country’s Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

A Malaysian court on March 7 sentenced former Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim to five years in prison after overturning his acquittal of charges under the country’s sodomy law. The opposition leader had been the frontrunner in elections that took place a few weeks later that determined the next head of government of Selangor Province outside Kuala Lumpur, the Malaysian capital.

The IGLHRC report comes against the backdrop of growing global outrage over the new Bruneian penal code that punishes those convicted of homosexuality by stoning them to death. The Indian Supreme Court last month said it would hear a motion to reconsider last December’s controversial ruling that recriminalized homosexuality in the world’s second most-populous country.

The Indian Supreme Court on April 15 issued a landmark ruling that recognizes trans people as a “third gender.”

Neighboring Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh have also legally recognized trans people.

Japanese lawmakers in 2008 passed a law that allows trans people to legally change their gender once they undergo sex reassignment surgery. Gay Pennsylvania state Rep. Brian Sims is among those who spoke at a reception that U.S. Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy hosted at her Tokyo home last December to commemorate the 65th anniversary of the ratification of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights at the U.N.

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Murdered Honduran transgender activist buried

Thalía Rodríguez shot outside her home on Monday

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The funeral of Thalía Rodríguez in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, on Jan. 11, 2022. (Photo courtesy of Reportar sin Miedo)

The Washington Blade on Thursday published a Spanish-language version of this story from Reportar sin Miedo, the Blade’s media partner in Honduras.

A prominent transgender activist in Honduras who was murdered on Monday has been buried.

Reportar sin Miedo reported activists are among those who attended Thalía Rodríguez’s funeral that took place in Tegucigalpa, the country’s capital, on Tuesday.

Rodríguez led Asociación Cozumel Trans, a Honduran trans rights group.

The U.S. Embassy in Honduras, the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights in Honduras and the U.N. Refugee Agency have all condemned Rodríguez’s murder. U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Samantha Power in a tweet said she was “horrified” by the murders of Rodríguez and Pablo Hernández, a leader in Honduras’ indigenous Lenca community who was killed on Sunday near San Marcos de Caiquín, a municipality in the country’s Lempira department, while he was on his way to church.

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France, Greece to end restrictions for MSM blood donors

Calls for U.S. to remove abstinence requirement grow

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(Bigstock photo)

France and Greece this week announced they will allow gay and bisexual men to donate blood without restrictions.

Têtu, a French LGBTQ magazine, noted men who have sex with men previously had to remain abstinent for four months before they could donate blood in France.

French Health Minister Olivier Véran on Tuesday announced this requirement would no longer be in place as of March 16. Têtu also noted officials will no longer ask potential blood donors about their sexual orientation.

“It’s a whole new relationship with the blood donor that we want,” said Véran.

Greece on Monday also said it would allow MSM to donate blood without restrictions.

Greek Health Minister Thanos Plevris and Deputy Health Minister Mina Gaga issued a decree that will become official once the Government Gazette publishes it.

Greece and France are the latest countries to lift restrictions for MSM who want to donate blood.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration currently allows MSM to donate blood if they have not had sex with another man for three months.

The American Red Cross this week declared a blood crisis because of the surge in COVID-19 omicron variant cases. The declaration sparked renewed calls for the U.S. to allow MSM to donate blood without restrictions.

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Kenya bill seeks to ban gays from having children via surrogate

Country’s Senate expected to debate bill next month

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(Bigstock photo)

A bill that is currently before Kenyan lawmakers would prohibit gays and lesbians from using surrogate mothers to have children.

The proposed law — dubbed the Assisted Reproductive Technology Bill, 2019, passed last November by the National Assembly — seeks to assist individuals, including intersex people or couples unable to bear children due to infertility to procure surrogate mothers.

To lock out gays and lesbians, the MPs amended the bill by replacing “husband and wife” to “couple” under Kenyan law, which refers to a male and a female who are in an association that may be recognized as a marriage.

“Of the many amendments that have been carried, this one is the best. This is so that we be specific that in Kenya, we do not recognize marriages between people of the same gender,” MP David Ole Sankok stated during the debate in the National Assembly.  

Any gay or lesbian found guilty of using a surrogate mother to have a child risks a fine not exceeding Sh5 million ($50,000) or a jail term of not more than five years or both. The bill would also require a qualified medical doctor to certify that an individual is infertile before proceeding to find a surrogate mother.

This requirement is not only a big blow to thousands of gays and lesbians in Kenya but also hundreds of surrogate mothers like Mary and Rebecca in Nairobi who, through the Find Surrogate Mother public website, carry pregnancies for all couples including heterosexuals, gays, lesbians, single women and single men who want to have children.

The proposed law, which is the first of its kind in Kenya, also criminalizes engaging in surrogacy to make money. This means surrogate mothers will no longer carry pregnancies for any individual or couple whose infertility is not proved by a doctor.

Currently, the overall cost of surrogacy in Kenya is estimated at Sh4.5 million ($45,000).

“A person who contravenes the provisions of this section commits an offense and shall, upon conviction, be liable to a fine not exceeding Sh5 million ($50,000) or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years, or to both,” reads Clause 23 of the bill.

A special directorate under the Health Ministry would oversee surrogacy activities in the country. The bill requires a surrogate mother to be over 21 years old with at least one child.

The new law adds to other punitive laws against LGBTQ rights in the country.

The Kenyan Penal Code under Sections 162 and 165 criminalize consensual same-sex sexual relations viewed as “acts of indecency or unnatural offenses.” The Penal Code also forbids gays and lesbians from adopting children.  

The passing of the bill in November occurred barely four months after U.S. Transportation Sec. Pete Buttigieg and his husband Chasten broke the news of welcoming their twins to the world.

Buttigieg via a tweet said, “Chasten and I are beyond thankful for all the kind wishes since first sharing the news that we’re becoming parents. We are delighted to welcome Penelope Rose and Joseph August Buttigieg to our family.”

It remains unclear whether the couple had their babies via surrogate or if they adopted them.

Kenya, just like most African countries, has refused to recognize the rights of the LGBTQ community despite pressure from the group and Western countries.     

For instance, in 2015 President Uhuru Kenyatta during a joint press conference with the then-U.S. President Obama at the State House in Nairobi flatly rejected his visitor’s demand for the protection and promotion of gay and lesbian rights in the country.

Kenyatta insisted that though Kenya “shares a lot with the U.S., gay rights were not among them.” Homosexuality is considered both ungodly and against African culture on the continent.  

In July 2021, a coalition of 27 global companies like Microsoft, Google, Barclays, Standard Chartered, IBM, PricewaterhouseCoopers, American Express and Burberry demanded Kenya to fully recognize the rights of gays and lesbians for more billions of Kenyan shillings to be injected into the economy.

The global firms in a report dubbed “The Economic Case for LGBT+ Inclusion in Kenya” warned that the country loses between $65 million and $143 million annually because its discriminative environment was keeping away some tourists. Still, Kenya remained unbowed.   

Several rights groups like the National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Coalition and UNAIDS has criticized the continued enactment of laws that discriminate against the LGBTQ community.

The National Assembly’s Health Committee, the sponsor of the surrogacy law, collected views from numerous key stakeholders in the health sector like the Intersex Persons Society of Kenya which has a population of 1,524 in Kenya as per the 2019 Census. However, the Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya, (GALCK), was notably sidelined in the committee’s public hearings.

The Kenyan Senate is expected to debate the bill once it reconvenes on Feb. 8. The president would sign it if it passes.

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