TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras — In an unprecedented decision in the history of Honduras, the Honduran state was found guilty today of the extrajudicial execution of transgender activist Vicky Hernández, which occurred on the night of June 28-29, 2009.
The crime occurred during a curfew after the coup that overthrew former President Manuel Zelaya to install Roberto Micheletti’s de facto government.
The Inter-American Court of Human Rights’ ruling against the Honduran state is a milestone in the history of justice in the country and for LGBTIQ+ populations in Latin America.
This ruling, unprecedented in Honduran history, came after 12 years of struggle by Hernández’s family and a team of professionals led by Red Lésbica Cattrachas, Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights and other Honduran organizations.
The ruling against the Honduran state, and in favor of Vicky’s family, is an extraordinary event that will result in more protection for all trans, lesbian, gay and bisexual people in Honduras. It is also a precedent for any LGBTIQ+ person violated in Latin America due to discrimination.
Twelve years of fighting for Vicky
The court’s decision against the state of Honduras is the culmination of 12 years of work by a team of lawyers and Hernández’s family. The trans activist was 26-years-old when she was murdered by state security forces, according to her lawyers’ arguments.
The defense work culminated in two virtual hearings before the court in November 2020 in which experts and witnesses from Honduras and the rest of the Americas participated.
Hernández’s lawyers throughout the hearings argued that the Honduran state security forces were responsible for her death, since they were the only ones who could move freely through the streets of San Pedro Sula during the post-coup curfew.
The defense also argued that the State did not perform an autopsy on the corpse or hid it with the excuse that Hernández suffered from HIV/AIDS.
For Cattrachas Coordinator Indyra Mendoza, the important thing is to get “the court to rule on the extrajudicial execution and to investigate the chain of command. Why? Because this makes us equal in the Honduran collective imaginary.”
Justice for all
With today’s guilty verdict against the state of Honduras, justice has been achieved not only for Vicky’s death, because 14 trans women, 16 gay men and many more people were murdered during the coup, according to Mendoza.
This unprecedented sentence means more than justice in Vicky’s case.
“This is the opening for them to see that no struggle is exclusive to one group of people,” Mendoza adds. “If the amnesty given in the coup d’état is eliminated, it would be a great LGTBI contribution to this country where the human rights of journalists, lawyers, defenders of indigenous territories, Garifunas and villagers are violated.”
It is a huge win for Vicky’s mother, Rosa Hernández, who has been demanding “justice for all” for 11 years.
“They have to respect the rights of them for being trans and of them for being lesbians, because they are human. Why discriminate against them? There can’t be discrimination,” adds Rosa, who is 66-years-old.
This brave woman has been at the forefront of the struggle to vindicate the memory of trans women from San Pedro Sula, in northern Honduras, for the past 11 years. With this ruling, her dream of justice is fulfilled.
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The marriage between Maya Ram Bahadur Gurung and Surendra Pandey this past week in the Nepalese capital city of Kathmandu is being hailed by the country’s LGBTQ rights activists. Gurung, a transgender woman and Pandey, who is gay, was registered by the local municipality ward office four months after the Himalayan nation’s highest court legalized same-sex marriages in an interim order.
Sunil Babu Pant, the former executive director/CEO and founder of the Blue Diamond Society, first LGBTQ rights organization in Nepal, who has also served in the country’s parliament was present for the civil ceremony telling the Associated Press: “After 23 years of struggle, we got this historic achievement, and finally, Maya and Surendra got their marriage registered at the local administration office.”
In a later interview with Naya Prakashan news Pant noted. “A wedding in Nepal today can become the signpost in South Asia for a more equal tomorrow.”
Human Rights Watch reported that Gurung, a trans woman who is legally recognized as male, and Pandey, a cisgender gay man, held a Hindu wedding ceremony in 2017. They first attempted to legally register their marriage in June this year at the Kathmandu District Court, following an interim order by Nepal’s Supreme Court instructing authorities to register same-sex marriages while considering a case that argues for marriage equality across the country.
When that court rejected their registration, saying it did not need to recognize a couple that was not one legal male and one legal female, they appealed to the Patan High Court in September.
But the high court judges rejected the appeal, saying that it was the responsibility of the federal government to change the law before the lower authorities could register such marriages, HRW reported.
Nepal’s civil code currently only recognizes marriages between one man and one woman. The Supreme Court attempted to rectify that by ordering the creation of an interim registry for nontraditional marriages until parliament changes the law. The two lower courts then reversed the logic by claiming that the national law must be changed first.
Malaysian LGBTQ rights activists are decrying efforts by the Johor state government to establish a “rehab” center for “people in same-sex relations,” which would use the globally debunked conversion therapy to change sexual orientation.
Malaysian society is predominately Muslim and conservative. Human Rights Watch has noted that the government authorities in the Malay Archipelago are willing to enforce the rigid gender roles by which they compel all Malaysians to abide with few exceptions.
Speaking at the Johor state assembly on Wednesday, the state’s Islamic Religious Affairs Committee Chair Mohd Fared Mohd Khalid said 400,000 ringgit ($86,000) has been allocated for the rehabilitation center, which was expected to open in July next year the South China Morning Post reported.
“This rehabilitation center is established … for them to get back on the right path,” Fared told the assembly.
Aside from same-sex individuals, Fared proclaimed that the centre would also house “those who are deemed deviant” from the state-prescribed religious Islamic orthodoxy, which includes the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community and Baha’i among some 42 groups, the state’s religious affairs body has identified as “deviant.”
The Malaysian government relies on the force of law to prohibit expression and conduct that fall outside of a heterosexual, cisgender norm. It is one of only a handful of countries that explicitly makes gender nonconformity a criminal offense.
Reacting to the rehab news, Justice for Sisters, a trans rights group, told the South China Morning Post that detaining people was a violation of the Malaysian Constitution, which safeguards personal liberty, privacy, dignity, equality and prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender.
“Detaining people on the grounds of changing their SOGIE — sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression — amounts to torture without a doubt,” said the group’s spokesperson, Thilaga Sulathireh.
Malaysia also criminalizes consensual same-sex conduct at both the federal and state levels. Its officials frequently insist that the laws criminalizing lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people are intended not primarily to punish, but rather to return them to “the right path,” statements echoed this past week by Johor’s Islamic Religious Affairs Committee chairman.
Human Rights Watch notes that officials under successive Malaysian governments have typically coded their approach to sexual and gender diversity in a logic of “prevention” and “rehabilitation,” backed by the threat of punishment. Former Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, who was in office between March 2020 and August 2021, described LGBTQ people as a threat to Islam, backed by “foreign influences” and a “disorder” that requires counseling.
Pope Francis this past week further disciplined another American prelate, retired Cardinal Raymond Burke, who has publicly critiqued Francis over the pope’s ongoing efforts for reforming the Catholic Church, especially over issues centered on LGBTQ Catholics and the LGBTQ community.
The Associated Press reported that Francis revoked Burke’s subsidized Vatican apartment and retirement salary, according to sources because he was a source of “disunity” in the church.
The move is “unprecedented in the Francis era,” Christopher White, a Vatican observer who writes for the National Catholic Reporter, told the BBC.
“Typically, retired cardinals continue to reside in Rome after stepping down from their positions, often remaining active in papal liturgies and ceremonial duties,” he said. “Evicting someone from their Vatican apartment sets a new precedent.”
Burke, who spends much of his time in the U.S. at the Our Lady of Guadalupe shrine he founded in his native Wisconsin, has not yet been notified of the pope’s actions according to the AP.
At the end of October, the pope convened a month long conference, known as a Synod of Bishops, followed an unprecedented two-year canvassing of rank-and-file Catholics. During the conference Jesuit Fr. James Martin, a popular spiritual author and editor of the LGBTQ Catholic publication Outreach, noted that on LGBTQ issues, “There were widely diverging views on the topic,” he said.
In early November, Bishop Joseph Strickland of Eastern Texas was “relieved” of his position as head of the Diocese of Tyler by Francis after Strickland’s refusal to resign in a dispute over the church’s LGBTQ inclusion in Catholic practices. Strickland often had echoed Burke’s positions.
Although retired in 2014, Burke had an incredibly anti-LGBTQ public record since, especially in vocalizing his opposition to plans to be inclusive of the LGBTQ community. Burke was once a high-ranking U.S. archbishop and head of the Apostolic Signatura, the Vatican court, but was repeatedly demoted under Francis and then forced to retire.
In March 2020, Burke laid blame on the coronavirus pandemic on the LGBTQ community. As churches were forced to close during the lock-downs ordered by health officials, Burke wrote:
“Worship is particularly needed now because of ‘how distant our popular culture is from God,’ he wrote, noting abortion and euthanasia, then attacking the LGBTQ equality movement, particularly activism for recognition of trans identity.
“‘We need only to think of the pervasive attack upon the integrity of human sexuality, of our identity as man or woman, with the pretense of defining for ourselves, often employing violent means, a sexual identity other than that given to us by God,” he said. “With ever greater concern, we witness the devastating effect on individuals and families of the so-called ‘gender theory.'” Burke went on to say, “There is no question that great evils like pestilence are an effect of original sin and of our actual sins.’”
Burke once compared lesbian, gay, and bisexual people to murderers.
Former British Prime Minister Liz Truss is said to be backing a private bill to be introduced into the House of Commons that will ban minor children under the age of 18 from accessing hormone therapy and block the National Health Service and the UK government from recognizing their social transition.
After Truss was one of 20 backbencher MPs to be selected to bring forward a bill, a source reportedly said she chose the legislation because she believes under-18s need to be protected from “making irreversible decisions about their bodies.”
PinkNewsUK pointed out that argument fails to consider the fact that trans under-18s are typically prescribed physically reversible puberty blockers and are only permitted to do so after lengthy medical checks.
Physically reversible puberty blockers are also typically only given to teenagers over the age of 16. It is exceptionally rare for under-16s to be prescribed puberty blockers.
Despite this, Truss is expected to formally present the bill on Wednesday during a House of Commons hearing where its MP backers will also attend, PinkNewsUK also reported.
A spokesperson for the UK government said in a statement: “This government is clear on the fundamental importance of biological sex.”
A magistrate’s court found a 51-year-old man guilty of a hate crime in an assault on Drag Race UK star The Vivienne this past June at a local McDonald’s. Alan Whitfield told the court that he had struck James Lee Williams, aka The Vivienne, in the face claiming that his actions were not motivated by homophobia but by what he described as “banter.”
During his testimony, 31-year-old Williams said he was subjected to a “barrage of abuse” from Whitfield after entering the fast food restaurant PinkNewsUK reported.
“He [Whitfield] carried on, then after the fourth ‘look at the state of you’ I said ‘look at the state of you’, I said ‘look at the state of your face’, to which he said ‘I’ve got skin cancer’ and then punched me straight in the face.”
PinkNewsUK reported that the RuPaul’s Drag Race UK star, who took home the crown in the first series in 2018, argued that the attack was motivated by homophobia because there were “countless other people” in the McDonald’s at the time.
Whitfield maintained throughout the proceedings that the assault “was nothing to do with him [Williams] being gay,” reiterating that he has LGBTQ members of his family.
After court deliberation, Justice Anthony Canning said that Whitfield’s evidence was “not credible.”
“Having considered this incident from beginning to end, we believe beyond reasonable doubt that the hostility shown by yourself from that outset was motivated and down to the perceived sexuality of the complainant and this was homophobic in nature.”
Whitfield will be sentenced in January.
A 25-year-old second year law student at the University College Cork is set to make history the first openly trans person in history to run for local election in Ireland.
Saoirse Mackin, who co-founded Trans+ Pride Cork in 2022, was nominated by the Social Democrats to run in Cork City North West’s 2024 election. Mackin, who transitioned in 2017, told LGBTQ+ media outlet GCN – Ireland, that if elected, one of her top priorities will be eliminating the excessive healthcare barriers that are in place for trans women in Ireland.
Mackin also advocates for better cycling infrastructures, as well as affordable housing and improved public services GCN noted.
She said, “If elected, my priority areas will include the provision of more affordable housing, improved public services, universal access to healthcare and the development of quality cycle infrastructure in Cork. I will also campaign for better local amenities, such as upgraded parks, green spaces, playgrounds and sports facilities.”
In addition to being a trans activist, Mackin is also a law student and community organiser who has bravely spoken up against the growing far-right movement in Ireland. She was also named in the Irish Examiner’s 100 Women of 2022 list.
Russia’s Supreme Court this past week ruled that “the international LGBTQ movement” is “extremist” which, legal experts and human rights advocates say will lead to all LGBTQ groups and organizations in Russia being banned.
The Russian Justice Ministry had lodged an administrative legal claim with the High Court to recognize the International LGBTQ public movement as extremist and ban its activity in Russia. Justice Minister Konstantin Chuychenko did not specify whether it was seeking the closure of any specific groups or organizations, or if the designation would apply more broadly to the LGBTQ community, causes and individuals.
Speaking with Agence France-Presse, the head of the Sphere human rights group, which advocates for the Russian LGBTQ community, had criticized Chuychenko‘s actions.
“Russian authorities are once again forgetting that the LGBTQ+ community are human beings,” said Sphere head Dilya Gafurova, who has left Russia.
Authorities “don’t just want to erase us from the public field: They want to ban us as a social group,” Gafurova told AFP. “It’s a pretty typical move for repressive non-democratic regimes — the persecution of the most vulnerable. We will continue our fight,” he added.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk in a statement issued from Geneva after the ruling said:
“This decision exposes human rights defenders and anyone standing up for the human rights of LGBT people to being labeled as ‘extremist’ — a term that has serious social and criminal ramifications in Russia,” said Türk. “No one should be jailed for doing human rights work or denied their human rights based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.”
“I call on the Russian authorities to repeal, immediately, laws that place improper restrictions on the work of human rights defenders or that discriminate against LGBT people. The law must uphold and defend the principles of equality and non-discrimination. The law must never be used to perpetuate inequality and discrimination,” Türk added.
Laws that must be reformed include those prohibiting gender-affirming medical and administrative procedures, and banning so-called “LGBT propaganda,” which made it illegal to discuss LGBT issues in Russia on penalty of substantial fines, Türk said.
The Türk also pointed out the wide use of the “extremist” label is more generally used to prosecute all those perceived as opponents, including politicians, journalists, human rights defenders and others.
“LGBTIQ people exist in every country, and a legal ban on the undefined ‘international LGBT movement’ will result in more violence, discrimination, and isolation of LGBTIQ people in Russia, who are already targeted for being who they are,” said Maria Sjödin, executive director of Outright International.
“Russia, which has already restricted access to information about LGBTIQ issues, is yet again violating the human rights of LGBTIQ people by restricting freedoms of association and expression. This is a great concern not just for human rights defenders focused on protecting the rights of LGBTIQ people but for everyone who believes in human rights for all,” Sjödin added.
Within 48 hours of the High Court’s ruling, multiple Russian Law enforcement agencies executed a series of raids multiple queer venues in the Russian capital. At one club located on Ulitsa Malaya Yakimanka Street in the center of Moscow, there were approximately 300 people gathered when Russian security forces burst in under the pretext of searching for drugs in the establishment. Several persons were detained.
“In the middle of the party, they stopped the music and began to enter the halls [the police]. There were also citizens of other countries at the party. At the exit, they photographed passports without permission to do so,” an LGBTQ rights activist who had previously spoken to other media outlets told the Washington Blade in a phone call Sunday.
The raids took place in at least four venues, and were reportedly expected by the clubs management and owners.
Security forces arrived at an establishment near the Avtozavodskaya metro station and a themed strip club for men near the Polyanka metro station in central Moscow. The administration of the clubs warned visitors about the events in advance, the Moscow Times reported.
According to an eyewitness to the police raid on Mono, a bar also located in the city’s central district on Pokrovsky Boulevard, “there was the usual party, then the owner came out and said that within an hour law enforcement would arrive in connection with the recent ruling by the Supreme Court. Within 20 minutes the dance floor started to empty,” Ostorozhno Novosti, an independent Russian news outlet reported.
The Moscow Times could not independently verify Ostorozhno Novosti’s reporting, and employees from at least two of the clubs believed to have been targeted on Friday denied the reports, which they called “fakes.”
“I wake up … and I’m reading the news, and, of course, it’s hilarious. Where was [this raid] when we had nothing going on?” the manager of the club Mono said in a video posted on social media Saturday.
The Blade has also been unable to verify Ostorozhno Novosti’s reporting on the Mono bar raid but in a series of phone calls and Telegram chats was able to determine that multiple raids had in fact taken place across central Moscow and that gay clubs and LGBTQ safe spaces were targeted.
In the Baltic city of St. Petersburg, the largest gay club, Central Station, according to independent news outlet Sota, reported the club’s management said that they were denied further rental of the site due to the “new law.”
Additional reporting from Pahichan Media, the South China Morning Post, Human Rights Watch, The BBC, PinkNewsUK, Agence France-Presse, The Moscow Times, GCN Ireland, the Vatican News and the Associated Press.
Indian Supreme Court agrees to consider petition to appeal marriage equality ruling
Justices on Oct. 17 ruled against nuptials for same sex couples
The Indian Supreme Court on Nov. 23 agreed to consider an appeal of last month’s ruling against marriage equality.
While appearing before Chief Justice Dhananjay Yeshwant Chandrachud’s bench, Justices Jamshed Burjor Pardiwala and Manoj Misra and former Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi referenced the petition. Other lawyers who participated in previous marriage equality cases were also present.
Rohatgi requested the Supreme Court allow the appeal to be heard in open court.
“Apart from this, majority and minority, both views have held that there is discrimination against LGBTQ+ couples,” said Rohatgi. “If there is discrimination, there also has to be a remedy. This is why we have pressed for an open court hearing.”
Chandrachud said he has yet to review the petition and request for an open court hearing.
Udit Sood and other lawyers who had appeared in the original marriage equality case filed the appeal petition. Review and curative petitions are generally not heard in an open court in India, but rather in a closed setting and the chamber of the judges. They can, however, allow open court hearings if they find merit in the appeal petition.
The petition argued the ruling suffered from “the errors apparent on the face of the record,” and the earlier verdict was “self-contradictory and manifestly unjust.”
“To find that the petitioners are enduring discrimination, but then turn them away with best wishes for the future, conforms neither with this honorable court’s constitutional obligation towards queer Indians nor with the separation of powers contemplated in our constitution,” reads the petition. “The majority judgment warrants review because it summarily disregards the foregoing authority to make the chilling declaration that the Constitution of India guarantees no fundamental right to marry, found a family, or form a civil union.”
According to the rule, the review petition should be filed before the same set of judges who considered the original case.
Justice Shripathi Ravindra Bhat, who was in the five-judge bench led by Chandrachud and heard the original marriage equality case, retired on Oct. 20. For the review petition to be heard, Chandrachud will have to add a new judge to the original bench. In the Supreme Court, the chief justice decides the roster inside the judge’s chambers.
Five judges led by Chandrachud in a 3-2 verdict on Oct. 17 ruled against the recognition of same-sex marriage in India.
The Washington Blade reported the Supreme Court recognized it cannot make laws, but can only interpret them. Chandrachud in the ruling noted that the court must be careful not to enter the legislative domain.
The Supreme Court’s ruling was a setback for the LGBTQ community in India and across the world. Many prominent LGBTQ activists and high-profile allies expressed their disappointment.
“I think one of the important things that while the judges said the marriage is not a fundamental right, we want to stress upon the freedom to form a union. humans are social beings,” said Harish Iyer, an equal rights activist in India and one of the original plaintiffs in the marriage equality case. “The truth is that companionship is a human need. And if companionship is a human need, legalizing it will become a necessity from that point of view.”
Harish also told the Blade in an interview that a more nuanced understanding of marriage — one that is not from the lens of being an institution, but rather from the more personal lens — is required. Harish has yet to join the appeal, but said he plans to become part of it.
He said he is not hopeful the appeal petition will succeed.
“I am hopeful of the fact that things will get better, and it will be reviewed,” said Harish. “If they admit it, it will have a fresh take on the judgment and possibly it would be 3-2 in favor of marriage equality.”
Rajesh Srinivas, executive director of Sangama, a Bengaluru-based organization that works for sexual minorities in India, told the Blade said the plaintiffs can argue in court, but nothing will come out of their appeal.
“If you look at the review petition historically, I think it is going to be a long fight,” said Srinivas. “I do not think the government will move an inch, and see where it goes.”
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.
Hamas releases gay Israeli man’s sister
Militants kidnapped Yarden Roman-Gat on Oct. 7
Hamas on Wednesday released a gay Israeli man’s sister who had been held hostage in the Gaza Strip since Oct. 7.
Media reports indicate Yarden Roman-Gat is one of 12 Israelis and four Thai nationals who the militant group released.
Roman-Gat, a physical therapist who works with elderly people and those with physical and mental health issues, and her family had just returned to Israel after a vacation in South Africa when they decided to spend the Simchat Torah holiday with Gat’s parents in Be’eri, a kibbutz that is near the border between Israel and Gaza. They were in their home on Oct. 7 when Hamas launched its surprise attack.
Media reports indicate four militants placed Roman-Gat, Gat, their 3-year-old daughter and two other Be’eri residents into a car. One of them had reportedly been placed into the trunk.
Roman-Gat and Gat jumped out of the car with their daughter as it approached Gaza. Roman-Gat’s brother, Gili Roman, a teacher and member of the Nemos LGBTQ+ Swimming Club who lives in Tel Aviv, on Oct. 30 told the Washington Blade that the militants began to run after them. He said they were shooting at them when his sister handed her daughter to her husband because he was able to run faster.
Gat hid with his daughter for 18 hours before they reached Israeli soldiers in Be’eri. He told Roman he last saw his wife hiding behind a tree to protect herself from the militants who were shooting at her.
“For us it’s like a Holocaust story,” Roman told the Blade. “It’s a horror story, the worst horror story that you can imagine.”
More than 1,400 Israelis have been killed since the war began. This figure includes at least 260 people who Hamas militants murdered at an all-night music festival in Re’im, a kibbutz that is a few miles away from Be’eri. Thousands of other Israelis have been injured and Roman-Gat is among the 240 people who militants from Hamas and other Muslim terrorist groups kidnapped.
The Hamas-controlled Gaza Health Ministry says Israeli airstrikes have killed more than 13,000 people and injured thousands of others in the enclave.
A truce between Israel and Hamas that allowed for the release of hostages in exchange for the release of Palestinians in Israeli prisons took effect on Friday.
The Associated Press notes roughly 160 hostages remain in Gaza. The truce that the U.S., Egypt and Qatar brokered was extended two days on Monday, but is slated to expire tonight.
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