A group of U.N. human rights experts on Thursday sharply criticized a bill that would further criminalize LGBTQ people and outlaw allyship in Ghana, and urged the country’s government to stop it from becoming law.
Victor Madrigal-Borloz, the independent U.N. expert on LGBTQ issues, and 11 of his colleagues in a press release note the “Proper Human Sexual Rights and Ghanaian Family Values Bill” that has been introduced in the Ghanaian Parliament “argues that any person who deviates from an arbitrary standard of sexual orientation or gender identity is immediately to be considered dangerous, sick or anti-social.”
“Such laws are a textbook example of discrimination,” they said.
Madrigal-Borloz and his colleagues in their press release added the bill “promotes harmful practices that amount to ill-treatment and are conducive to torture, such as so-called ‘conversion therapy’ and other heinous violations like unnecessary medical procedures on internet children, and so-called corrective rape for women.”
Madrigal-Borloz and nine other U.N. human rights experts in a letter they sent to the Ghanaian government expressed their concerns over the bill.
“We express our grave concern about the draft bill, which seems to establish a system of state-sponsored discrimination and violence against LGBTI persons of great magnitude,” reads the letter. “As such, the bill appears to constitute an immediate and fundamental breach of Ghana’s obligations under international human rights law.”
The letter notes the bill, among other things, “promotes unnecessary medical interventions on intersex children by offering incentives to parents to ‘realign’ the child to an ‘appropriate (sic) binary designation as determined by a medical practitioner.'” The letter also points out the measure “creates an enforcement system that would require any person witnessing any of the activities prohibited by the law to report them to the police ‘or in the absence of the police, political leaders, opinion leaders or customary leaders in the community.'”
“We respectfully urge your excellency’s government to take all measures necessary to withdraw the proposed bills from consideration,” reads the letter.
The U.N. Human Rights Council in 2017 appointed Madrigal-Borloz to succeed Vitit Muntarbhorn, who was the first independent U.N. expert on LGBTQ issues. The council in 2016 approved a resolution that created the position.
Samuel Nartey George, a member of Ghana’s National Democratic Congress party, and seven other conservative lawmakers on Aug. 2 officially introduced the “Proper Human Sexual Rights and Ghanaian Family Values Bill.” Lawmakers are expected to consider the measure again in October.
A Ghanaian court last week dropped charges against 21 LGBTQ activists who were arrested at a human rights workshop in May.
Tinashe Chingarande contributed to this story.
Chilean House approves marriage equality bill
Vote took place two days after presidential election’s first round
VALPARAÍSO, Chile — The Chilean House of Representatives on Tuesday approved a bill that would extend marriage rights to same-sex couples.
The measure passed by a 101-30 margin roughly three months after the Chilean Senate approved by a 28-14 vote margin.
Two lawmakers abstained. The bill now goes back to the Senate for a final vote.
“After three decades of struggle, there is only one Senate vote left to achieve the so far elusive legal equality that all couples and families deserve,” said Javiera Zúñiga, a spokesperson for the Movement for Homosexual Integration and Liberation, a Chilean LGBTQ rights group, in a press release. “We celebrate this new step, now with the total conviction that we are at the final leg.”
Tuesday’s vote took place two days after the first round of Chile’s presidential election.
José Antonio Kast, a far-right former congressman, will face off against Congressman Gabriel Boric, who previously led a student protest movement, in a Dec. 19 runoff. Outgoing President Sebastián Piñera in June announced he supports the marriage equality bill.
Esteban Guzmán contributed to this story.
Israeli deputy foreign minister denies country engages in ‘pinkwashing’
Idan Roll, 37, lives in Tel Aviv with husband, two children
Israel’s openly gay deputy foreign minister this week dismissed the idea that his country’s government promotes LGBTQ rights in order to divert attention away from its policies towards the Palestinians.
“I would never, ever, put myself in a position that I would be the face of ‘pinkwashing’ as part of my role because I’m confident that there’s no such thing in Israel,” Idan Roll told the Washington Blade on Wednesday during an interview at the Riggs Hotel in downtown D.C.
Roll, 37, spoke with the Blade at the end of a 4-day trip to D.C., which took place less than six months after eight political parties formed a coalition government that ousted long-time Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The Knesset earlier this month passed Israel’s first national budget in three years. Roll, who is the youngest person in the Israeli government, noted to the Blade it earmarks $30 million (NIS 90 million) to LGBTQ organizations across the country.
Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz in August announced Israel had lifted restrictions on blood donations from men who have sex with men. The Israeli Supreme Court in July ruled same-sex couples and single men must be allowed to have a child via surrogate.
A group of teenagers on Nov. 12 attacked a group of LGBTQ young people near Jerusalem’s main bus station as they were traveling to a transgender rights conference in Tel Aviv. Neil Patrick Harris is among the actors who expressed their support for the Tel Aviv International LGBT Film Festival amid calls from BDS (boycott, economic divestment and sanctions) Movement supporters to boycott it over Israel’s policies towards the Palestinians.
Roll acknowledged Israel does not extend civil marriage to same-sex couples, but he also pointed out to the Blade the country does not “have civil marriage for straight people either” because marriage in the Jewish state is a religious institution. Roll noted he is among the openly LGBTQ people in the Israeli government and they “live a full, fulfilling life.”
“Are we perfect?” he asked rhetorically. “No. Are we one of the best places for gay people to live in the world? Definitely so, and I feel safe. And I feel welcomed. And I feel empowered and I feel like the best of it is ahead.”
Roll told the Blade the idea of “pinkwashing” comes from the fact “that not everyone is as informed as others about life in Israel.”
“That’s something that’s a task this new government and our ministry has, to better convey the Israeli story, and it’s a wonderful and complex and diverse story,” he said.
Roll also stressed he “would love for people to stop pinning one thing against the other.”
“Us doing tremendous work for LGBTQ equality does not get eliminated or erased or cancelled just because we have to also manage a very intricate conflict, which is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” he said. “Promoting progressive values is still something that is worth mentioning, and we are working towards bettering the lives of the Palestinians on a humanitarian and economic level. Things are not as black and white as they are portrayed.”
Roll lives in Tel Aviv with his husband, Harel Skaat, an Israeli pop star who he married in Utah in March, and their two children who they had via surrogates in the U.S.
The lawyer and former model who is a member of the centrist Yesh Atid party founded Pride Front, a group that encourages LGBTQ Israelis to become involved with the country’s political process. Roll told the Blade he decided to run for office after he and his husband started their family.
“It was quite a struggle,” he said, noting their second child was born via surrogate in Oklahoma. “And then it struck me that I have to practice what I preach. I have to not only just encourage others to take political action and move forward, but also I had to take the lead.”
Roll in 2019 won a seat in the Israeli Knesset. Lapid appointed Roll as deputy foreign minister after the new government took office.
“I’m a very young member of this government … and I am an openly gay member of this government,” said Roll. “I am very grateful of the life that I have been able to create for myself in Israel.”
“That’s a story that I feel like I can portray very authentically and I think that’s a story that needs to be told outside of Israel,” he added. “I’m also very proud to be part of the new face of a new government that is doing things differently and in a way I think now allows people of all different ethnicities and colors and agendas to find someone they can relate to in this government.”
U.S. Sens. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Jon Ossoff (D-Ga.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.), U.S. Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-N.Y.) and other members of the Congressional LGBTQ+ Equality Caucus are among those who met with Roll when he was in D.C. Roll also sat down with Deputy National Security Advisor Jon Finer, Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, American Israel Public Affairs Committee members and Jewish students at George Washington University.
I was privileged to meet members of the @LGBTEqCaucus to discuss how we can promote #LGBTQ rights & how much we have in common in the pursuit of #Equality. I met a group of friends who care deeply about 🇮🇱🇺🇸 relations & I look forward to working w/ them to strengthen our alliance pic.twitter.com/9ZTJAAT65G
— Idan roll – עידן רול (@idanroll) November 17, 2021
It was a great pleasure to meet with @RepRitchie today. He is a true friend of Israel and a mensch. The personal experiences he shared provided important insights to help strengthen the U.S. — Israel alliance and I am grateful for his unwavering support for Israel 🇺🇸🇮🇱 pic.twitter.com/EKJRvRhSs2
— Idan roll – עידן רול (@idanroll) November 17, 2021
I enjoyed meeting again with progressive leader @SenatorBaldwin during my visit to Washington. We continued our conversation from just last week in Jerusalem, discussing ways to further strengthen the US-Israel relationship on the basis of our countries’ shared values. pic.twitter.com/K1KkAxZlPz
— Idan roll – עידן רול (@idanroll) November 18, 2021
“We have a new government, and the new government is really different in many great ways,” Roll told the Blade. “It’s the most diverse government in our history and in a way it is the most diverse reflection of a very diverse society.”
He said one of the reasons he traveled to D.C. was “to reach out and to open a dialogue.” Roll also stressed Israel “has always been a bipartisan issue.
“It’s crucial to keep it that way and we intend to do that,” he said. “The U.S. is the most cherished and important ally we have and you need to cultivate relationships.”
Thailand Constitutional Court rules against marriage equality
Advocacy group challenged Section 1448 of country’s Civil and Commercial Code
Thailand’s Constitutional Court on Wednesday ruled a law that defines marriage as between a man and a woman in the country is constitutional.
The Foundation for Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Rights and Justice, a Thai advocacy group, filed a lawsuit that challenged Section 1448 of the country’s Civil and Commercial Code, which does not extend marriage rights to same-sex couples. Bloomberg said the Constitutional Court in its ruling said Thai lawmakers “should draft laws that guarantee the rights for gender diverse people.”
Sunai Phasuk, a senior researcher for Human Rights Watch who focuses on Thailand, in a tweet said the decision makes the “government’s pledges to promote gender equality meaningless.”
Breaking! #Thai Constitutional Court upholds marriage law, which states that marriage can only be contracted between man and woman, making government’s pledges to promote gender equality meaningless. @HRW #WhatsHappeningInThailand pic.twitter.com/cSmQOKE7Pd
— Sunai (@sunaibkk) November 17, 2021
The Thai Cabinet in 2018 approved a bill that would allow same-sex couples to enter into civil unions. The government last year backed a second version of the measure.
Tunyawaj Kamolwongwat, a Thai MP who is a member of the Move Forward Party, has introduced a marriage equality bill.
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