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European court rules Russia violated transgender parent’s rights

Plaintiff denied access to children because of gender identity

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(Bigstock photo)

The European Court of Human Rights on Tuesday ruled Russia violated the rights of a transgender woman who authorities did not allow to visit her children because of her gender identity.

A press release that Transgender Europe and ILGA-Europe issued says Moscow authorities “prevented” the woman “from having contact with her children because of her gender identity and transition.”

The Transgender Europe and ILGA-Europe press release notes Russian courts defended the decision to restrict the woman’s parental rights because any contact with a parent who is trans would have had a “negative impact on the mental health and psychological development” of her children. The European Court of Human Rights specifically ruled Russia violated Articles 8 and 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights that guarantee a person has the “right to respect for private and family life, home and correspondence” and the “prohibition of discrimination” respectively.

“The kids are alright — there is nothing wrong with being a trans parent,” said Transgender Europe Executive Director Masen Davis. “Today, we celebrate this important message together with all trans families. Every fourth trans person in Europe is a parent. Today’s judgement gives legal security to many of them. We congratulate the applicant for having gone all the way to Strasbourg to defend her right to be the best possible parent to her children.”

ILGA-Europe Executive Director Evelyne Paradis echoed Davis.

“Too often we are hearing the best interest of the child being abused as an argument to limit the rights of LGBTI people,” said Paradis. “We are glad to see the court clearly rejecting such an abusive argument, and instead naming very concrete responsibilities for state authorities in ensuring the best interest of the child. Spreading hatred, misinformation and splitting loving parents from their children is not in the best interest of children.”

The press release notes the ruling is the first time the European Court of Human Rights has used Article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights in a decision about discrimination based on gender identity. The ruling also underscores the lack of legal protections and rampant discrimination that LGBTQ Russians continue to face.

Marina and her then-girlfriend in 2015 fled their home Russia with the child they were raising together and asked for asylum in the U.S. as a family.

“If the government knows that I have an LGBT family, like two women and a child, they can take my daughter away,” Marina told the Washington Blade earlier this year during a telephone interview from Guam where she and her child continue to wait for a decision in their case.

Marina’s child has come out as trans and has begun to transition.

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Africa

Uganda government forces advocacy group to shutdown

Sexual Minorities Uganda says NGO Bureau ‘halted’ operations

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An LGBTQ and intersex rights group in Uganda says the country’s government forced it to shutdown on Wednesday.

Sexual Minorities Uganda in a press release said Uganda’s National Bureau for Non-Governmental Organizations, which oversees NGOs in the country, on Wednesday “halted” its operations “for non-registration with the NGO Bureau.”

The press release notes current Sexual Minorities Uganda Executive Director Frank Mugisha is among those who submitted an application with the Uganda Registration Services Bureau in 2012 “for the reservation of the name of the proposed company,” which was Sexual Minorities Uganda. 

David Kato, who was Sexual Minorities Uganda’s advocacy officer, was murdered in his home outside of Kampala, the Ugandan capital, on Jan. 26, 2011. A Ugandan tabloid a few months earlier published Kato’s name and picture as part of an article that called for the execution of LGBTQ and intersex people. 

The Uganda Registration Services Bureau on Feb. 16, 2016, rejected Sexual Minorities Uganda’s application based on grounds that it was “undesirable and un-registrable” because it sought “to advocate for the rights and wellbeing of lesbians, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer persons, which persons are engaged in activities labeled criminal acts under Sec. 145 of the Penal Code Act.” 

Uganda is among the dozens of countries in which consensual same-sex sexual relations remain criminalized.

President Yoweri Museveni in 2014 signed the Anti-Homosexuality Act, which imposed a life sentence upon anyone found guilty of repeated same-sex sexual acts. The law was known as the “Kill the Gays” bill because it previously contained a death penalty provision.

The U.S. subsequently cut aid to Uganda and imposed a travel ban against officials who carried out human rights abuses. Uganda’s Constitutional Court later struck down the Anti-Homosexuality Act on a technicality.

The Uganda Registration Services Bureau’s decision to reject Sexual Minorities Uganda’s registration application was upheld. Ugandan lawmakers in 2019 passed the Sexual Offenses Bill 2019, which further criminalizes homosexuality in the country.

“The refusal to legalize SMUG’s operations that seek to protect LGBTQ people who continue to face major discrimination in Uganda, actively encouraged by political and religious leaders was a clear indicator that the government of Uganda and its agencies are adamant and treat Ugandan gender and sexual minorities as second-class citizens,” said Sexual Minorities Uganda in their press release. “These further compromises efforts to demand for better health services and escalates the already volatile environment for the LGBTQ community.”

Mugisha described the decision as “a clear witch-hunt rooted in systematic homophobia that is fueled by anti-gay and anti-gender movements that have infiltrated public offices aiming to influence legislation to erase the LGBTQ community.” 

Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, which honored Mugisha in 2011, on Friday said it is “outraged by the utterly discriminatory and arbitrary decision of the NGO Bureau in Uganda to shutdown SMUG operations.”

“This endangers the lives and rights of LGBTQ+ (people) in Uganda and shows the extent homophobia has permeated Ugandan authorities,” said Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights in a tweet.

The Council for Global Equality, OutRight Action International and Pan Africa ILGA are among the other organizations that sharply criticized the Ugandan government.

“Very disturbing news out of Uganda,” tweeted Pan Africa ILGA. “SMUG, one of the most influential LGBTIQ+ focused networks based in Uganda, has been suspended.”

Sexual Minorities Uganda, for its part, remained defiant.

“We shall be back,” it tweeted.

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Caribbean

Transgender Cuban woman’s 14-year prison sentence upheld

Brenda Díaz participated in an anti-government protest on July 11, 2021

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Brenda Díaz (Photo courtesy of Ana María García Calderín/Tremenda Nota)

Cuba’s highest court has upheld the 14-year prison sentence that a transgender woman with HIV received after she participated in an anti-government protest in July 2021.

Tremenda Nota, the Washington Blade’s media partner in Cuba, notes Brenda Díaz was arrested in Güira de Melena in Artemisa province on July 11, 2021.

The Güira de Melena protest was one of dozens against the Cuban government that took place across the country on that day.

A Havana court earlier this year sentenced García to 14 years in prison. She appealed her sentence, but Agencia EFE reported the People’s Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld the sentence.

The court, according to Agencia EFE, determined García’s sentence was “legal, just” and rational.” The U.S. Embassy in Cuba on Thursday condemned the decision and its ruling that upheld the 15-year prison sentence that journalist Jorge Bello Domínquez received after he participated in the July 11 protests.

“We condemn the confirmation of the discriminatory and unjust 14- and 15-year prison sentences for Brenda Díaz and journalist Jorge Bello Domínguez for their participation in the July 11 (protests) that were announced yesterday,” tweeted the embassy.

A State Department spokesperson last month told the Washington Blade the U.S. is “very concerned about the well-being of Brenda Díaz, especially given reports that she is being held in a men’s prison and is not receiving appropriate medical treatment.” 

The embassy on Thursday reiterated these concerns.

“We express our deep concern over Brenda’s health and the treatment that she is receiving in prison,” tweeted the embassy. “We call upon the Cuban government to unconditionally release Brenda, Jorge and everyone who has been unjustly detained.”

The tweet ended with the hashtag “Prisoners, why?” 

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South America

Chile Senate votes to equalize age of consent

Activists have sought Article 365 repeal for more than two decades

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Attendees in June's Pride march in Santiago, Chile, call for the repeal of Article 365 of the country's penal code. (Photo courtesy of Gonzalo Velásquez)

The Chilean Senate on Tuesday approved the repeal of Article 365 of the country’s penal code that differentiated the age of consent between same-sex and heterosexual couples.

Article 365 was the last homophobic law in force in the country that has seen an expansion of rights to LGBTQ and intersex Chileans in recent years. A law that allows same-sex couples to marry and adopt children took effect on March 10.

Although the Article 365 repeal bill will go before the Chilean House of Deputies, Movimiento de Integración y Liberación Homosexual (Movilh), the country’s main LGBTQ and intersex rights group, said its passage is assured because the chamber has already approved it.

Movilh, which has been working to repeal Article 365 since 1999, described Tuesday’s vote as “historic” because “it is the elimination from our legal system of the last explicitly homophobic law in force in Chile.” The Chilean LGBTQ and intersex rights organization said the bill “approved today in the Senate will end the stigma that weighs on young gay men, whose sexual orientation and practices are considered a crime despite the absence of abuse or abuse against third parties and despite the absence of any other crime already sanctioned by our legislation.”

Movilh Director Rolando Jiménez said that “with the elimination of this anachronistic norm, the struggle for LGBTIQA+ equality closes a cycle, where no one will ever again be punished for loving or desiring someone of the same sex.”

“Today we took a forceful and decisive step towards full legal equality, a right already guaranteed in the constitution, but which has historically been so elusive for LGBTIQA+ people,” stressed Jiménez.

The Chilean State in the 2016 agreement it signed with Movilh before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights committed to repeal Article 365.

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