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Three people arrested in connection with anti-gay murder in Spain

Samuel Luiz Muñiz was killed in A Coruña on July 3

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Samuel Luiz Muñiz (Photo via Facebook)

Spanish police have arrested three people in connection with the murder of a 24-year-old man that has been categorized as an anti-gay hate crime.

El País, a Spanish newspaper, cited police officials who confirmed those arrested in connection with Samuel Luiz Muñiz’s murder are two men and a woman who are between the ages of 20 and 25.

Muñiz was beaten to death early on July 3 after he and a group of friends left a nightclub in A Coruña, a city in northwestern Spain’s Galicia region. Witnesses say Luiz’s assailants used anti-gay slurs against him.

Luiz’s murder has sparked outrage across Spain and around the world.

Fundación Triángulo, a Spanish LGBTQ rights group, and other advocacy groups have organized protests in Madrid and in other cities across the country.

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South America

Man convicted of killing Daniel Zamudio in Chile seeks parole

Raúl López Fuentes in 2013 sentenced to 15 years in prison

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Daniel Zamudio (Photo courtesy of Jacqueline Vera)

One of the four men convicted of murdering a young gay man in the Chilean capital in 2012 is seeking parole.

Raúl López Fuentes in 2013 received a 15-year prison sentence after he was convicted of killing Daniel Zamudio.

Zamudio was a young Chilean man who became a symbol of the fight against homophobic violence in his country and around the world after López and three other young men with alleged ties to a neo-Nazi group beat him for several hours in Santiago’s San Borja Park on March 2, 2012. Zamudio succumbed to his injuries a few weeks later.

The attack sparked widespread outage in Chile and prompted a debate over homophobia in the country that highlighted the absence of an anti-discrimination law. Lawmakers in the months after Zamudio’s murder passed a law that bears Zamudio’s name.

Patricio Ahumada received a life sentence, while López and Alejandro Angulo Tapia are serving 15 years in prison. Fabían Mora Mora received a 7-year prison sentence.

López has asked the Seventh Santiago Guarantee Court to serve the last three years of his sentence on parole. Zamudio’s family and Jaime Silva, their lawyer who works with the Movement for Homosexual Integration and Liberation, oppose the request.

Movilh represented Zamudio’s family after his murder.

Zamudio’s mother, Jacqueline Vera, during an exclusive interview with the Washington Blade said López’s petition “provoked all the anguish, all the commotion of his time.” 

“It was very cruel because in fact two days before we were at Daniel’s grave, where it was 12 years since his death and the beating,” said Vera. “He really does not deserve it.”

“We have gone through very difficult moments,” she added.

The mother, who later created a foundation to eradicate discrimination in Chile, was emphatic in indicating that she and her family “do not accept the release of this guy because he is a danger to society and a danger to ourselves.” 

“At the last hearing where they were sentenced, they told us that we are going to remember them when they get out,” said Vera. “They threatened us with death. There is a video circulating on social networks where they were in front of me and they laughed and made fun of me. They told me that I remembered that I had three more children.”

Daniel Zamudio’s mother, Jacqueline Vera. (Photo courtesy of Jacqueline Vera)

Regarding the possibility that the Chilean justice system will allow López to serve the remaining three years of his sentence on parole, Vera said “with the benefits here in Chile, which is like a revolving door where murderers come and go, it can happen.” 

“In any case, I don’t pretend, I don’t accept and I don’t want (López) to get out, I don’t want (López) to get out there,” she said. “We are fighting for him not to get out there because I don’t want him to get out there. And for me it is not like that, they have to serve the sentence as it stands.”

LGBTQ Chileans have secured additional rights since the Zamudio Law took effect. These include marriage equality and protections for transgender people. Advocacy groups, however, maintain lawmakers should improve the Zamudio Law.

“We are advocating for it to be a firmer law, with more strength and more condemnation,” said Vera.

When asked by the Washington Blade about what she would like to see improved, she indicated “the law should be for all these criminals with life imprisonment.”

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European Union

Gay Polish government minister represents change of course

Deputy Justice Minister Krzysztof Śmiszek took office in December

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Deputy Polish Justice Minister Krzysztof Śmiszek. (Photo courtesy of Śmiszek's Instagram page)

WARSAW, Poland — Poland’s only openly gay Cabinet minister on Tuesday spoke with the Washington Blade about the fight for LGBTQ rights in his country, Ukraine and U.S. politics.

Deputy Justice Minister Krzysztof Śmiszek assumed his post last Dec. 13 after Donald Tusk became prime minister. 

The Civil Coalition, a group of opposition parties that Tusk leads, two months earlier won a majority of seats in the Sejm, the lower house of Poland’s parliament. President Andrzej Duda, an ally of the conservative Law and Justice party who opposes LGBTQ rights, remains in office as part of the governing coalition.

Śmiszek, a member of the New Left party, has been a member of the Sejm since 2019.

He was born Stalową Wola, a city in southeastern Poland that is close to the country’s borders with Ukraine and Slovakia. Śmiszek now represents Wrocław, the country’s third largest city that is located in southwestern Poland.

He is a lawyer who worked for the Campaign Against Homophobia, a Polish LGBTQ rights group, for several years before he entered politics. Śmiszek’s partner is former MP Robert Biedroń, who is now a member of the European Parliament.

From left: Polish MEP Robert Biedroń and Deputy Polish Justice Minister Krzysztof Śmiszek. (Photo courtesy of Śmiszek’s Instagram page)

Śmiszek noted to the Blade during an interview in his office that the Justice Ministry has introduced a bill that would add sexual orientation and gender identity to Poland’s hate speech and hate crimes laws.

The Council of Ministers, which includes members of Tusk’s Cabinet, is expected to approve the proposal in the coming weeks. Śmiszek said MPs will support the measure, even though critics say it would limit free speech.

“It was quite natural for us, I would say, to agree on that,” he told the Blade. “We all witnessed all these statements and horrible actions towards LGBT (people during the previous government.)”

Duda became Poland’s president in 2015.

He said before he defeated Warsaw Mayor Rafał Trzaskowski in the country’s 2020 presidential election that LGBTQ “ideology” is more dangerous than communism. Duda has also claimed LGBTQ Poles are “a threat to the family” and “want to sexualize children.”

Polish President Andrzej Duda (PBS News Hour YouTube screenshot)

More than 100 municipalities across Poland ahead of the election adopted resolutions that declared themselves “LGBT-free zones.”

The Law and Justice Party and Poland’s influential Roman Catholic Church supported them, while the European Union cut funding to municipalities that adopted them. The Warsaw Voivodship Administrative Court on Feb. 6 struck down the country’s final “LGBT-free zone” resolution that Mordy, a town in Siedlce County in eastern Poland that is roughly half way between Warsaw and the Belarusian border, adopted in 2019.

Tusk has indicated his support of a civil partnership bill, but Śmiszek conceded it will be a “huge” challenge to secure passage in parliament because it is not an official part of the coalition government’s manifesto. 

Śmiszek noted Poland has dropped its opposition to the case of a transgender man who filed a lawsuit in the European Union Court of Justice in Luxembourg after Romania refused to recognize his legal name and gender change that he received in the U.K. 

“We are trying not only to change the legal situation of LGBTI folks here in this country, but also we are taking a completely new approach, also of Poland, as a member of the European Union,” he said.

The Justice Ministry last month for the first time with LGBTQ activists.

Śmiszek said former Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro, a member of the right-wing Sovereign Poland party, wrote many of the previous government’s proposals that targeted LGBTQ people and women. Śmiszek further described the ministry before the current government took office as a “governmental center of anti-LGBTI actions.”

“That was a very moving meeting that after eight years of hatred that was produced here in this ministry,” he said.

Śmiszek pointed out Duda’s first presidential veto was a bill that would have made the process through which transgender Poles could undergo gender-affirming surgery easier. Śmiszek said the new government wants “to make the lives of trans people a bit better and bearable in terms of relations with the state and with relations with the administration,” but conceded it “is difficult.” He also said Duda, the Constitutional Tribunal and the Catholic Church remain barriers to the advancement of LGBTQ rights.

“We are not starting from scratch in terms of new initiatives,” Śmiszek told the Blade. “We are getting back to the good solutions.”

“However, we are fully aware that there are plenty of conservative anchors and blockages in the institutional architecture,” he added.

Śmiszek also said his sexual orientation is not an issue to Tusk, to his fellow ministers and MPs.

“I haven’t heard any discussion or hesitation about should we have this guy in the ministry or not,” he said. “My sexual orientation is not an issue at all.”

A picture of Polish-born Pope John Paul II inside St. Catherine of Alexandria Church in Kraków, Poland. The Roman Catholic Church remains a powerful institution in Poland. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Poland knows Russia ‘very well’

Russia on Feb. 24, 2022, launched its war against Ukraine.

Śmiszek noted upwards of 2 million Ukrainians sought refuge in Poland, and many of them have remained in the country.

“Polish society passed its exam in terms of humanitarian aid and compassion for those who are victims of this aggressive war of Russia,” said Śmiszek.

A Russian missile on Nov. 15, 2022, killed two people in Przewodów, a village Hrubieszów County that is on the Ukrainian border. Another Russian missile on March 24 briefly entered Polish airspace near Oserdów, a village that is less than five miles away from Przewodów.

Śmiszek told the Blade he is increasingly concerned the war will spread to the Baltic countries — Lithuania, which borders Poland, and Latvia and Estonia — and to Poland itself. 

The Russian exclave of Kaliningrad on the Baltic Sea also borders Poland.

 “We are observing now, especially during the last few months, that something is going to happen,” he said.

Śmiszek acknowledged Ukraine in recent months has suffered setbacks on the battlefield, and the U.S. “is not very open to providing any help.”

“You can see Trump, what he is saying. You can also see some Western countries that are still hesitating,” he said. “This is a growing, unspoken emotion within Polish society that something is going to happen, the war will knock on our doors soon, in the next couple of years, and we are the second or third target of Putin if he’s not stopped by the united West.”

Śmiszek added Poland knows the Russians “very well.”

“That is why this is not something unusual when a Pole thinks about Russians invading our country,” he said. “It’s happened before.”

Tusk and Duda last month met with President Joe Biden at the White House in the hopes that Congress would pass a Ukraine funding bill. Śmiszek while speaking to the Blade criticized the delay.

“I know that they are trying to build their popularity, saying we should not spend billions of dollars for the wars that do not concern us and Russia will never attack us, blah, blah, blah,” he said. “In a way I do understand this rhetoric, but I don’t understand … it’s really a short-sighted approach.” 

“I really count on changing the approach of the U.S. because this is really a huge threat to world democracy, to human rights and we always perceive the U.S. as a kind of element of guarantees for democracy around the world,” added Śmiszek. “This time the U.S. is not passing its exam, especially the conservative part of American politics.”

A Pride commemoration in Kharkiv, Ukraine, on Sept. 25, 2022. (Photo courtesy of Sphere Women’s Association)

Śmiszek said Poland will continue to work with the U.S., regardless of who wins this year’s presidential election. He did, however, express concerns over former President Trump based on his positions on LGBTQ and reproductive rights, his U.S. Supreme Court nominees and Ukraine.

“This is kind of worrying,” said Śmiszek. “This kind of approach to fundamental issues very relevant to the stability of the world is now in the hands of the guy who you cannot predict what his decisions will be when the time comes and it will be a need for taking very serious decisions concerning the stability of the world.” 

“He portrays himself as quite unstable I would say in terms of values he wants to defend,” he added.

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Southeast Asia

Thailand’s transgender community struggles to find health care

Trans people cannot legally change gender identity on ID cards, forms

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Bangkok Pride banners (Photo courtesy of Sararat Tosakoon)

Thailand, renowned for its welcoming travel destination for the queer community and its embrace of gender diversity, presents a paradox for its transgender population. Despite a perception of acceptance, the reality for trans individuals in the country reveals a landscape marked by challenges in gender-affirming care, gender recognition and healthcare access that impacts their overall health.

With two decades of activism under her belt, Nachale Boonyapisomparn, also known as Hua, co-founder of the Thai Transgender Alliance (ThaiTGA), sheds light on the pressure placed upon trans people to conform to societal norms, underscoring the limitations of acceptance within rigid societal structures and expectations, such as meeting certain behaviors and beauty standards. 

“Acceptance still comes back to us still having to fit certain boxes,” Hua said.

A poignant example of this struggle is illustrated by Siwanon Khanvilaikul, who goes by Yok, a trans cabaret performer in Phuket who underwent gender reassignment surgery at 18 yet finds herself marginalized within the healthcare system. 

“I feel biased. I am a woman in every way, but why is the final judgment based on that one small title [Mister] in front of my name?” Yok questions, highlighting the frustration of being relegated to a male ward in public hospitals due to outdated bureaucratic classifications as a result of the lack of gender recognition. 

Yok cannot change her gender identity and prefix on government and legal documents, such as passports, birth certificates, identification cards and health forms. This inability to modify gender markers contributes to biased treatment within the healthcare system, creating an atmosphere of discomfort, isolation and frustration for trans individuals.

“When I am going in for care, my mental and emotional state is just as important,” said Yok.

Beyond the limited gender recognition, the lack of gender-affirming care further compounds the challenges trans people face in a healthcare setting. Kritima Jemma Samitpol, who goes by Jemma, a supervisor of the Tangerine Clinic, Thailand’s first trans-led community health clinic, emphasizes the dearth of trans-competent healthcare and the reliance on informal sources for medical guidance, such as TikTok, Facebook and friends. 

“This is a problem,” Jemma declares, noting the risks posed by misinformation on hormone use within the trans community and emphasizing the need for accessible and affordable gender-affirming care to mitigate these risks.

While government-funded public hospitals are an affordable and accessible option due to Thailand’s Universal Health Coverage program implemented in 2002, providing virtually cost-free basic health prevention, screening and treatment, gender-affirming care is not mandated or covered under the current UHC plan. No gender-affirming care in public hospitals has put Yok at risk of discrimination and bias like misgendering. There are LGBTQ-friendly private hospitals and clinics, but they are predominantly concentrated in metropolitan areas, such as Bangkok, Phuket, Pattaya and Chiang Mai, and are not a part of UHC. Trans individuals in Thailand are left with a challenging choice between accessible and affordable but non-gender-affirming public hospitals, potentially laden with discrimination and stigma or LGBTQ-friendly private hospitals and clinics in larger cities that come with a higher price tag.

Despite these challenges, signs of progress emerge. The Tangerine Clinic stands as a beacon of hope, providing comprehensive and affordable gender-affirming care with a “come as you are” motto, encouraging the trans community to utilize health services and manage their well-being effectively. Jemma shared that the clinic continues to engage in capacity building for 11 community-based health clinics throughout Thailand, aiming to replicate the trans health service model of Tangerine Clinic.

The clinic’s collaborative research efforts with the Ministry of Public Health is a push towards integrating gender-affirming care into the national UHC program. 

“There is a clear progress happening,” Jemma said.

The fight for trans rights extends beyond healthcare, with advocacy efforts targeting legal recognition and broader civil liberties. ThaiTGA’s campaign for legal gender recognition and allied causes, including same-sex equality and decriminalizing sex work, reflects a broader struggle for human rights and social justice. 

“Gender recognition is a human right needed for advancing healthcare and ultimately achieving gender-affirming care,” Hua emphasized. 

In the face of entrenched discrimination and institutional barriers, the resilience of individuals like Hua, Jemma and Yok serves as a testament to the ongoing battle for trans rights in Thailand.

“We must fight,” they affirm, embodying a hopeful narrative of progress toward a more inclusive and equitable society.

Editor’s note: The Pulitzer Center supported this story.

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