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Harris meets with Guatemala LGBTQ, HIV/AIDS activists

Roundtable took place during vice president’s first overseas trip

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Two members of Guatemalan civil society who work with the LGBTQ community and people with HIV/AIDS participated in a roundtable with Vice President Kamala Harris on Monday.

Visibles Executive Director Daniel Villatoro and Ingrid Gamboa of the Association of Garifuna Women Living with HIV/AIDS are among the 18 members of Guatemalan civil society who participated in the roundtable that took place at a Guatemala City university. Rigoberta Menchú, an indigenous human rights activist and Nobel Peace Prize winner, is among those who also took part.

Villatoro is among those who attended a virtual roundtable with Harris on April 27.

“When we met last time, I was so moved to hear about the work that you have been doing, the work that has been about helping women and children, indigenous, LGBTQ, Afro-descendants, people who have long been overlooked or neglected,” said Harris before Monday’s meeting began.

Visibles in a tweet acknowledged it participated in the roundtable.

“Today we participated in a meeting with the vice president of the United States to talk about development opportunities for Guatemala and the search for inclusive justice,” tweeted Visibles. “We, as an organization, spoke about the importance of addressing discrimination and acts of violence towards LGBTIQ+ people.”

Villatoro after the meeting said corruption and “the political crisis in terms of justice with which we live in Guatemala” were two of the issues raised with Harris.

“Impunity does not allow us to live freely,” Villatoro told the Washington Blade. “But combating it will open doors to pursue other necessary actions to give us a better life with more opportunities and with respect for our dignity.”

Harris arrived in Guatemala on Sunday.

She met with President Alejandro Giammattei a couple of hours before the roundtable.

Harris, among other things, announced the creation of a task force with the Justice and State Departments that will fight corruption in Guatemala and in neighboring Honduras and El Salvador. Harris will travel to Mexico City before she returns to D.C.

Harris has previously acknowledged that violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity is among the “root causes” of migration from Guatemala and other Central American countries. State Department spokesperson Ned Price last month noted to the Blade during an interview ahead of the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia that protecting LGBTQ migrants and asylum seekers is one of the Biden administration’s global LGBTQ rights priorities.  

The Congressional LGBT+ Equality Caucus and U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.), who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee, urged Harris to raise anti-LGBTQ violence in Central America during her trip.

“Addressing human rights and rule of law as part of the root causes of out-migration in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras is a top priority,” said Meeks in a press release the Congressional LGBT+ Equality Caucus released on Monday. “I am pleased that Vice President Harris will visit Guatemala and encourage her to meet with local civil society leaders, including LGBTQI human rights defenders who often face multiple forms of discrimination at the intersection of race, ethnicity, sexual orientation and gender identity.”

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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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gay blood ban, gay news, Washington Blade
(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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