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Spicer: HB2 replacement doesn’t merit fed’l attention

Trump believes bathroom access is a state issue

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White House Sean Spicer had no comment on the North Carolina HB2 deal. (Photo courtesy CSPAN).

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer declined to comment Friday on the newly enacted replacement to North Carolina’s anti-LGBT House Bill 2, maintaining President Trump believes the issue of transgender bathroom access belongs to localities and is “not one that he believes merits federal attention.”

Spicer made the remarks under questioning from the Washington Blade on whether Trump supports the new law North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper signed Thursday as part of a deal with leaders of the Republican-controlled legislature to replace HB2.

“I have not asked the president,” Spicer said. “I would stay consistent with what he said during the campaign cycle. He believes in state rights.”

Criticized by LGBT advocates as a bait-and-switch that gives the appearance of repeal while doubling-down on discrimination, the new law prohibits state agencies, municipalities and the University of North Carolina from the “regulation of access” to bathrooms, locker rooms and showers unless they have the legislature’s permission. It also bans municipalities until 2020 from enacting LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination measures that would apply to private businesses or public accommodations.

Over the course of the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump expressed views about HB2, but said different things. Initially, Trump said transgender people should be able to use the restroom they think is right for them and Caitlyn Jenner is welcome to use the restroom in Trump Tower, but Trump later said he’s “with the state” on the law.

Spicer referenced Trump’s remarks on Jenner when asked by the Blade about Trump’s personal views on the way states should approach the issue, reiterating localities, not the federal government, should make the decision.

“I think that the president’s made it clear,” Spicer said. “This issue came up when Caitlyn Jenner, in particular, came to Trump Tower, and he said he didn’t really care. But I think it is a state and local issue, not one that he believes merits federal attention.”

Notably, Spicer later during the briefing saw a role for the federal government to intervene in response to a Skype question about the recent threat from the Trump administration to cut U.S. funds from “sanctuary cities.”

“I would say that the president finds its unacceptable that some localities and counties, potentially some states, have prioritized a political agenda over the safety of their people by flouting our nation’s immigration laws, becoming so-called sanctuary cities,” Spicer said. “The failure to follow federal law can have tragic consequences for all of our citizens in all of our country.”

Watch the video here (h/t tommyxchristopher):

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Report details anti-LGBTQ discrimination, violence in Kenya refugee camp

March 15 attack left gay man dead

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Ugandan refugees, gay news, Washington Blade
The Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya (Photo by the E.U. Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations via Flickr)

A new report released on Wednesday indicates nearly all of the LGBTQ people who live in a Kenya refugee camp have experienced discrimination and violence because of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity.

The Organization for Refuge, Asylum and Migration and Rainbow Railroad in May 2021 surveyed 58 LGBTQ asylum seekers who live at the Kakuma refugee camp and the Kalobeyei Integrated Settlement that opened in 2016 to help alleviate overcrowding at Kakuma. The groups also interviewed 18 “key informants.”

More than 90 percent of the LGBTQ asylum seekers who spoke with ORAM and Rainbow Railroad said they have been “verbally assaulted.”

Eighty-three percent of them indicated they suffered “physical violence,” with 26 percent of them reporting sexual assault. All of the transgender respondents “reported having experienced physical assault,” with 67 percent of them “reporting sexual assault.”

Eighty-eight percent of respondents said they had been “denied police assistance due to their sexual identity.” Nearly half of the respondents told ORAM and Rainbow Railroad they had to be “relocated from their allocated shelters to alternative accommodation due to the constant abuses directed at them by neighbors.”

Kakuma, which is located in northwest Kenya near the country’s border with Uganda and South Sudan, is one of two refugee camps the U.N. Refugee Agency operates in the East African nation. The other, Dadaab, is located near Kenya’s border with Somalia.

The report notes upwards of 160,000 refugees from South Sudan, Sudan, Somalia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, Ethiopia and Uganda were living in Kakuma as of January.

Those who responded to the ORAM and Rainbow Railroad survey are from Uganda, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan, South Sudan, Rwanda, Afghanistan, Yemen and Ethiopia and all of them have asked for asylum in Kenya. Ninety-four percent of them live in Kakuma, while the remaining six percent live in Kalobeyei.

The report also estimates there are 350 LGBTQ asylum seekers in Kakuma and Kalobeyei. UNHCR in 2020 created Block 13 in Kakuma that is specifically for LGBTQ refugees.

Gay man died after Block 13 attack

Two gay men suffered second-degree burns during an attack on Block 13 on March 15. One of the men died a few weeks later at a hospital in Nairobi, the Kenyan capital.

Forty-one of the Block 13 residents who participated in the ORAM and Rainbow Railroad survey said that “relocation to a safer place as a priority.” The report also notes some respondents who live outside Block 13 “said that the activism in Block 13 was affecting the overall relationship between LGBTQI+ asylum seekers and service providers in the camp.”

“They expressed concern with some activities conducted as part of their activism,” reads the report. “For example, they alleged that some activists were conducting staged attacks on individuals and false claims of violence to attract media attention as part of their advocacy.”

The report notes “allegations of activity from activists in Block 13 have not been confirmed.” Some of the “key informants” who ORAM and Rainbow Railroad interviewed for their report, however, “observed that LGBTQI+ activists from different countries have been supporting the advocacy in Block 13 without considering the local context and potential negative or unintended consequences.”

“They allege that the advocacy has been antagonizing LGBTQI+ members with other refugees in the camp and service providers,” reads the report. “For example, some of the LGBTQI+ asylum seekers were reported to have deserted their allocated shelters, moved to Block 13 and were persistently demanding new shelters.”

An attack at the Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya on March 15, 2021, left two gay refugees with second-degree burns. One of these men later died. (Photo courtesy of Gilbert Kagarura)

UNHCR in a statement after the March 15 attack noted Kenya “remains the only country in the region to provide asylum to those fleeing persecution based on sexual orientation, gender identity or expression,” even though consensual same-sex sexual relations remain criminalized. The ORAM and Rainbow Railroad report acknowledges both points.

“Asylum seekers and refugees in Kenya are not immune to pervasive anti-LGBTQI+ attitudes in the community,” it reads. “As the number of LGBTQI+ asylum seekers and refugees increases rapidly, it is important to understand their unique protection needs and plan for safe and dignified service delivery to meet those needs.”

The report notes more than 70 percent of respondents have gone to Kakuma’s main hospital the International Rescue Committee operates in order to receive HIV/AIDS-related services. More than 85 percent of respondents said they “preferred to seek all other health services beyond HIV and AIDS services at the main hospital, since the facility was friendly and provided a stigma-free environment for the LGBTQI+ community in the camp.”

“Respondents reported traveling long distances in order to visit the main hospital,” reads the report.

The report notes limited access to cardiologists and other specialists at the eight health facilities in the camp that UNHCR partner organizations operates. Roughly a third of respondents also said they have “been stigmatized in some of the health clinics.”

“This included being referred to as shoga (a derogatory Kiswahili term used to refer to homosexuality) either by staff members or other refugees in the waiting room while waiting to see a provider, or some providers just directing them to the main hospital with snide remarks about how they do not entertain LGBTQI+ persons in their facility,” reads the report.

The African Human Rights Coalition, the Refugee Coalition of East Africa and Upper Rift Minorities are among the other groups that work with the camp’s LGBTQ residents.

The report notes only a third of respondents “were actively engaged in economic activity at the time of the study, a majority depended on the food rations distributed in the camp.” It also contains 10 recommendations, which are below, to improve conditions for LGBTQ refugees in Kakuma.

1) The Refugee Affairs Secretariat of Kenya must fast-track refugee status determination of LGBTQ asylum seekers with further support from UNHCR and civil society organizations.

2) The Refugee Affairs Secretariat of Kenya and UNHCR must create more responsive and sensitive protection services for LGBTQ refugees in Kenya.

3) Civil society organizations and their supporters should provide livelihood support and other support to meet the immediate needs of LGBTQ refugees in Kakuma.

4) Governments of resettlement countries must resume and fast track resettlement of LGBTQ refugees from Kenya.

5) UNHCR and civil society organizations must continue to build skills development programs for employability.

6) LGBTQ civil society organizations should work more closely with refugee-led organizations and collectives to build self-protection services.

7) Donor communities should participate in more long-term development programming for LGBTQI+ refugees in Kenya.

8) LGBTQ civil society organizations providing support to refugees in Kenya must coordinate more closely.

9) LGBTQ civil society organizations and refugee-led organizations should continue to advocate for more inclusive human rights in Kenya.

10) Civil society must continue the push for LGBTQ human rights globally, including decriminalization of same sex intimacy.

“This much-needed report underscores the challenges, dangers and complexities of life that LGBTQI+ refugees and asylum seekers face in Kakuma refugee camp,” said ORAM Executive Director Steve Roth in a press release that announced the report’s release. “The refugees themselves have spoken and they want to be heard. UNHCR, governments and civil society organizations must work together to ensure the immediate safety and well-being of this community while also addressing the longer term, durable solutions we recommend in the report.”

Rainbow Railroad Executive Director Kimahli Powell added refugee camps cannot “become permanent solutions to crises of forced displacement.”

“The findings of this report confirm a key goal of Rainbow Railroad—to fast track resettlement of LGBTQI+ refugees,” he said. “Rainbow Railroad and civil society partners are ready to provide support to LGBTQI+ persons at risk and assist in further resettlement. Ultimately, we need the UNHCR, the government of Kenya and governments of countries that are destinations for refugees to step up an ensure that LGBTQI+ asylum seekers in the camp are resettled in safer countries.”

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¿Cómo debe quedar redactado el Código de las Familias de Cuba?

Activistas presentan sugerencias para que la nueva ley sea más inclusiva

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Activistas LGBTQ en La Habana (Foto de María Lucía Expósito)

Tremenda Nota es el socio mediático del Washington Blade en Cuba. Esta nota salió en su sitio web el 18 de octubre.

LA HABANA — Varios grupos LGBTIQ+ presentaron propuestas sobre el anteproyecto de Código de las Familias, con el propósito de que sean valoradas por la comisión redactora y sirvan para mejorar la futura ley que debe reconocer el matrimonio igualitario, además de otros derechos.

“Quienes firmamos este documento somos proyectos, iniciativas y activistas de la comunidad LGBTIQ+ cubana. A través del mismo deseamos hacerles llegar nuestras consideraciones sobre el anteproyecto de Código de las Familias, el cual se encuentra actualmente en un proceso de consultas especializadas”, escribieron en la presentación del documento, que está firmado por la Plataforma 11M, el Proyecto AfroAtenAs, la campaña Ahora Sí, la Alianza Afro-Cubana, el grupo Dame la Mano, el Centro Social y Biblioteca Libertaria Abra, y la revista Tremenda Nota.

Los activistas consideraron que el anteproyecto de ley “es un documento avanzado y progresista, no solo con respecto a su antecesor, sino incluso comparado con las legislaciones en otros países del mundo”.

A pesar de eso, opinaron que “faltan algunas cuestiones importantes en este documento para que sea un Código verdaderamente revolucionario y atemperado a la sociedad cubana actual y futura”.

Después de mencionar varios “aspectos positivos”, que los activistas asumen como “innegociables” hicieron minuciosas recomendaciones a los redactores del texto legal, “en ejercicio de nuestro derecho ciudadano a participar en la revisión del Código de Familias”.

Estas observaciones tienen el objetivo de que el proyecto de ley “sea lo más abarcador y flexible posible, de modo que refleje el espíritu y letra de la Constitución de Cuba aprobada en 2019 y refrende los tratados internacionales de protección de la infancia, la mujer y la familia de los que Cuba es signataria”.

Sobre el pasaje relativo a “Derechos de la infancia y la adolescencia en el ámbito familiar”, los activistas recomendaron incluir “la libertad del menor a la libre identidad de género y orientación sexual”.

Para el artículo 61, que define el matrimonio como “la unión voluntariamente concertada de dos personas”, recomendaron “que se tomen en cuenta las relaciones de más de dos personas”.

El anteproyecto plantea la posibilidad de una “autorización judicial excepcional” para que personas menores de 18 años puedan casarse. Los activistas, en cambio, sugieren eliminar esa opción, ateniéndose a normas internacionales.

Una de las novedades del nuevo Código de las Familias es la “gestación solidaria”, que la ley autorizará a personas “unidas por vínculos familiares”. Los grupos LGBTIQ+ piensan que la opción debe existir también para personas “afectivamente cercanas”.

También recomendaron que se añada una definición de “gestación solidaria” y se incluyan principios que protejan a las gestantes de cualquier presión o violencia.

“La gestante contará con un asesor legal independiente al de las personas comitentes”, proponen añadir al texto.

Sobre la “responsabilidad parental”, el concepto que sustituye a la “patria potestad” tradicional, los activistas señalaron que los padres deben “proteger” la “libre determinación” de la “identidad de género y orientación sexual”.

En este punto, también recomendaron garantizar “los conocimientos y garantías materiales para el libre ejercicio de su sexualidad sin discriminaciones”.

También propusieron que “los derechos y responsabilidades parentales para con la/el menor no se vean afectados cuando alguno de los padres o las madres lleve a cabo un proceso de transición de género”.

Por último, sugirieron que “en cuanto a los menores bajo la tutela del Estado se les respete y proteja su libre determinación en cuanto a la identidad de género y orientación sexual velando siempre por el interés superior del menor”.

“Esperamos que estas consideraciones y sugerencias sean tomadas en cuenta para la redacción final del anteproyecto que será presentado próximamente a la Asamblea Nacional del Poder Popular”, concluyeron.

Activistas se reúnen con la Unión de Jóvenes Comunistas en Santa Clara

La publicación Entre Diversidades informó que el pasado 12 de octubre un grupo de activistas LGBTIQ+ se reunió en Santa Clara, al centro de Cuba, con funcionarios de la Unión de Jóvenes Comunistas en esa ciudad.

En el intercambio participó el promotor cultural Ramón Silverio, el fundador del centro El Mejunje, considerado un lugar icónico para la comunidad LGBTIQ+ en Cuba.

Estos activistas también hicieron recomendaciones sobre el futuro Código de las Familias y el programa de educación sexual establecido por el Ministerio de Educación, que fue postergado en septiembre, probablemente tras la presión de grupos fundamentalistas cristianos.

Los activistas reclamaron “una educación (escolar y comunitaria) que realmente contemple la diversidad en todo su espectro” y en ese sentido se declararon inconformes con el aplazamiento del programa de educación sexual.

También pidieron espacio en los medios de comunicación para visibilizar a la comunidad LGBTIQ+.

Celebraron la adopción del matrimonio igualitario en el anteproyecto de Código de las Familias, pero solicitaron “que se garanticen los derechos de la comunidad trans en toda su pluralidad”.

Según los activistas, el Estado debe garantizar a las personas trans “cambio de identidad en el carnet, tratamiento hormonal y apoyo en la reasignación de sexo”.

“Además se hace necesaria una estrategia respecto al uso de baños públicos para esta comunidad”, añadieron.

Lo mismo que las organizaciones independientes, señalaron que se garanticen derechos a las “infancias trans”.

Aprovecharon para denunciar la violencia policial contra personas LGBTIQ+.

“Se debe garantizar la protección por parte de los agentes de seguridad ante cualquier acto de discriminación y odio. Se debe abarcar desde un comentario homofóbico hasta la violencia física contra cualquier miembro de la comunidad. Por esta razón, son necesarias leyes que juzguen justamente a quienes nos agraden”, dice la nota de Entre Diversidades.

Los activistas denunciaron “el papel que han jugado las instituciones estatales en la marginación de la comunidad LGBTIQ+”.

“Para demostrar una verdadera voluntad política de cambio, es necesario que estas instituciones apoyen el trabajo de los activistas, ya que estas son las que tienen los medios. También es necesario que de dichas instituciones salgan iniciativas inclusivas y que aporten a la creación de una Cuba verdaderamente diversa”, dijeron.

Por último, alertaron sobre “el ascenso de los fundamentalistas religiosos a puestos directivos y de poder, como universidades y hospitales”. Consideraron que “esto puede poner en peligro los derechos alcanzados hasta al momento y la concreción de las luchas futuras, como la aprobación del Código de las Familias”.

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Transgender activist fights for change in Pakistan

Jannat Ali attended 2018 HRC summit in D.C.

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Jannat Ali at WorldPride 2021 in Copenhagen, Denmark (Photo courtesy of Jannat Ali)

A pioneering transgender activist in Pakistan continues her fight for change in her country.

Jannat Ali—who describes herself as an “artivist”— is the executive director of Track T, a trans rights organization that is based in Lahore, the country’s second largest city that is the capital of Punjab province.

Track T in December 2018 organized Pakistan’s first-ever trans Pride march that drew nearly 500 people. A law that permits trans people to legally change the gender on their national ID cards and other official documents, allows them to vote and bans discrimination based on gender identity in employment, health care, education and on public transportation took effect earlier that year.

“That was an opportunity (for people) to celebrate their real true identities,” Ali told the Washington Blade on Aug. 19 during a telephone interview from Copenhagen, Denmark, where she was attending WorldPride 2021. “People were shaking hands because we did it so beautifully.”

Jannat Ali, left, with Delaware state Sen. Sarah McBride at WorldPride 2021 in Copenhagen, Denmark (Photo courtesy of Jannat Ali)

Ali in March launched “Journey with Jannat”, an “inclusive infotainment show” with episodes on Instagram and YouTube. She is the first openly trans person to host her own program in Pakistan.

Ali in 2018 traveled to D.C. to participate in the Human Rights Campaign’s annual Global Innovative Advocacy Summit. Track-T last year received a $5,000 HRC grant.

“They changed my life,” Ali told the Blade, referring to HRC. “They helped me to fulfill my dreams in my life and make me be able to share my work.”

Pakistan’s Supreme Court in 2009 ruled in favor of recognizing trans people as a third gender on identity cards. The Pakistani government in July opened the country’s first school for trans people.

Section 377 of Pakistan’s colonial-era penal code that criminalizes consensual same-sex sexual relations remains in place. Ali told the Blade that implementation of the 2018 trans rights law— especially in the country’s tribal areas along the border with Afghanistan and in rural Pakistan — remains a problem.

“The government doesn’t (make it a) priority,” she said. “It’s a responsibility of other provinces to adopt or to amend it and present their bill in their own provinces.”

Ali said violence based on gender identity remains prevalent in these areas.

Alisha, a trans activist who worked with Trans Action in Peshawar, a city in Khyber Pakhtunkwa province that borders Afghanistan, died in 2016 after a man who reportedly raped her shot her several times.

Activists said staff at a local hospital delayed treatment because she was trans. The province’s then-governor ordered personnel to place Alisha in a private room, but she died a short time later.

“We are thankful to the governor,” a local activist told the Blade after Alisha’s death. “This was the first time that a government executive showed support.”

Taliban regaining control of Afghanistan ‘really sad’

Ali spoke with the Blade four days after the Taliban entered Kabul, the Afghan capital, and regained control of the country.

A Taliban judge in July said the group would once again execute gay men if it were to return to power in Afghanistan.

Some of the 50 Afghan human rights activists who Taylor Hirschberg, a researcher at the Columbia Mailman School of Public Health who is also a Hearst Foundation scholar, has been able to help leave the country are LGBTQ since. The Toronto-based Rainbow Railroad and Immigration Equality are among the other groups that have continued their efforts to evacuate LGBTQ Afghans since American troops completed their withdrawal from the country on Aug. 30.

“I was really worried,” Ali told the Blade when asked about the plight of LGBTQ Afghans in Afghanistan after the Taliban regained control of the country. “I was really sad.”

Ali this week said she is now “in touch” with LGBTQ Afghans who have fled to northern Pakistan.

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