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U.S. condemns so-called honor killing of trans Kurdish woman

Doski Azad’s brother shot her on Jan. 28

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Doski Azad (Photo via Instagram)

The U.S. has condemned the so-called honor killing of a transgender woman in Iraqi Kurdistan.

Media reports indicate Doski Azad’s brother, Chakdar Azad, murdered her in Mangesh, a village in Duhok province, on Jan. 28.

Authorities in the semi-autonomous region of northern Iraq say Chakdar Azad had been living in Europe for several years until he returned to the region in December. Chakdar Azad reportedly shot his sister twice in the head and chest.

Doski Azad was 23 and a make-up artist.

“The United States notes with concern media reports that Doski Azad, a resident of Duhok, was the victim of a so-called ‘honor’ killing,” said the U.S. Consulate General in Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, on Thursday in a statement. “We categorically condemn this violence and the discrimination that is undoubtedly at the root of this crime. We ask the authorities to thoroughly investigate this murder and prosecute the perpetrator to the fullest extent of the law.”

The executive director of IraQueer, an organization that advocates on behalf of LGBTQ Iraqis, on Thursday told the Washington Blade during a telephone interview that Doski Azad was well-known among the region’s trans community.

IraQueer said Doski Azad’s relatives repeatedly threatened her because she was trans. IraQueer told the Blade that her brother killed her because, in their mind, she had “degraded the males in her family.”

“It’s really frustrating what has happened,” IraQueer told the Blade. “I’m really sad.”

Kurdish authorities have issued a warrant for Chakdar Azad’s arrest, but he has reportedly fled the region.

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India

Indian government announces equal opportunity policy for transgender people

Privacy among regulation’s key tenants

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(Photo by Rahul Sapra via Bigstock)

The Indian government has announced a first of its kind equal opportunity policy for transgender people.

The policy will prohibit the disclosure of a trans person’s gender identity without their consent as the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Rules 2020 requires. The Social Justice and Empowerment Ministry says the Equal Opportunity Policy for Transgender Persons will encourage the fair treatment of trans people and create workplaces free from discrimination, harassment and bias. 

The policy seeks to ensure a trans employee’s the right to choose a pronoun, gender and a chosen name — every business, non-governmental organization and other employers in India will be required address the trans individual with the chosen names in all workplace communications. The Indian government, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has circulated the notice to all the states and chief secretaries and asked them to ensure the swift implementation of the policy.

The notified policy highlights the importance of maintaining confidentiality of gender identity. 

“Information related to gender identity will be treated with utmost confidentiality,” it reads. “Employees are expected to respect the privacy of their colleagues and refrain from disclosing any such information without explicit consent.”

The policy also states a business’ HR department will launch an inquiry that could lead to sanctions if the policy is violated. The policy also prohibits bullying against trans people in the workplace.

“Harassment or bullying based on gender identity is strictly prohibited,” it reads. “Any reported incident will be promptly and thoroughly investigated, and appropriate corrective actions will be taken.”

Every organization will have a grievance redress system in order to address policy violations. Workplaces will also be required to have infrastructure facilities for trans employees — unisex bathrooms and amenities that include hygiene products, for example — for trans people to effectively discharge their duties.

Sudhanshu Latad, an advocacy manager at Humsafar Trust, an organization that promotes LGBTQ rights in India, told the Washington Blade he supports the initiative, while adding a person’s identity does play a role in their experiences.

“The care and support, let’s say in this case a trans person requires will be very different than support a cis woman will require,” said Latad. “They need different short of bases to be covered to be able to perform to the same expectations that a cis man like me would require to perform in a situation or a role.” 

“It is important to give everyone an equitable platform, this is a welcome step because it discloses that the government is keen on working with various communities,” he added. “This formal acknowledgement or expression of interest in including gender minorities at workplace by the central government is a welcome move.”

Latad nevertheless told the Blade the policy alone “would not be enough” to address discrimination based on gender identity.

“There needs to be enough focus dissemination of this policy within the existing workforce,” he said. “Until and unless a senior manager from the government understands the use and need of pronouns in the communities … the implementation of this amazing policy will not happen on the ground.”

Latad told the Blade that sensitization, roundtables and equal dialogue will help unlearn and then learn which is the way forward for providing equal rights to the community. He said the use of chosen pronouns does seem like a small effort, but it does take a lot of effort and it is important. Latad added everyone, not just employers, needs to be taught equality.

Doctor Yoga S. Nambiar, founder and director of Global Rights Foundation and the first trans person in India to hold a PhD in mental health, said the new policy is good. They noted the government has announced many policies since the Supreme Court issued its National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) vs. the Union of India ruling, but they’re only on paper.

“Till the time the government does not take the initiative to take care of the policies, nothing is going to work,” said Yoga. “Government promised housing for trans people, government promised transgender cell in police stations, nothing has came in force as of now. So, if things workout, it’s good, if not, we are struggling anyways. We are fighting for our rights.”

The Supreme Court in the NALSA case in 2014 ruled in favor of the trans community, saying state and central governments must fully recognize trans people under the law in order for them to receive an education and health care without discrimination. The Supreme Court also said trans people will be considered a “third gender.”

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. 

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European Union

Surge in transphobic rhetoric across Europe sparks concern ahead of EU elections

ILGA-Europe released comprehensive report on Thursday

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The German Reichstag in Berlin in 2022. EU elections will take place in June. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

As the European Union prepares for the upcoming elections in June, an increase in anti-LGBTQ sentiments and transphobic rhetoric in particular from politicians across the continent has sparked concern.

A comprehensive report that ILGA-Europe released on Thursday reveals a stark rise in hate speech from politicians in 32 European countries, with 21 of them being EU member states.

The 13th Annual Review of the Human Rights Situation of LGBTQ People in Europe and Central Asia sheds light on a concerning trend of hate speech targeting the LGBTQ and intersex community. A significant portion of these statements has been directed at trans people in various EU member states that include Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czechia, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Romania, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain and Sweden.

Icelanders participate in Reykjavík Pride in the Icelandic capital in 2022. Iceland is among the countries in which anti-transgender rhetoric has increased in recent years. (Photos courtesy of Inga Straumland/Reykjavík Pride)

Politicians have increasingly utilized anti-trans rhetoric, often weaponizing children as part of scare tactics to generate opposition to trans minors’ access to healthcare and educational restrictions. This strategy extends to a broader trend where politicians argue that limiting information about LGBTQ individuals is necessary to protect minors.

The report underscores the detrimental impact of demonization by politicians and attempts to introduce restrictive legislation. These actions have contributed to a rise in suicide rates and mental health issues, particularly among young LGBTQ individuals. Moreover, the report notes an escalation in violent protests outside schools and libraries, creating unsafe environments for young people.

The fear-mongering tactics have further exacerbated attacks on LGBTQ people. 

Out of the 54 countries covered in the review, only six reported no hate crimes in 2023. In the remaining 48 countries, verbal and physical violence, with a focus on trans people, were prevalent. Only one EU member state reported no hate crimes.

“The very core values and standards upon which the EU was founded are being called into question,” said ILGA-Europe Advocacy Director Katrin Hugendubel.  

She emphasized that human rights, especially those of LGBTQ people, are facing a significant challenge from far-right forces. Hugendubel highlighted the divisive nature of exploiting LGBTQ rights to undermine democracy, human rights and the rule of law.

In response to these alarming trends, ILGA-Europe will launch the “Come Out 4 Europe” campaign next week. The campaign aims to provide candidates for the European Parliament with an opportunity to demonstrate their commitment to supporting and protecting the rights of LGBTQ people. 

“LGBTQ rights are under attack, and children are being harmed in the process,” ILGA-Europe Executive Director Chaber stressed. 

The “Come Out 4 Europe” campaign will call for clear political commitments on safeguarding human rights, democracy, and freedom from candidates in the upcoming European Parliament elections in June.

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European Union

Czech lawmakers reject marriage equality bill

Lawmakers agree to ‘compromise’ measure

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(Bigstock photo)

The lower house of the Czech Parliament rejected a bid to allow same-sex marriage in the Central European country Wednesday afternoon, instead passing a compromise bill that expand the rights of same-sex couples in registered partnerships and allow them to adopt each other’s biological stepchildren. 

The bill heads to the Senate, where some senators have vowed to continue fighting for full equality.

Czechia has allowed same-sex couples to form registered partnerships since 2006, but these accorded limited rights compared to marriage. Notably, same-sex couples were barred from adoption, and were not allowed a widow’s pension or joint property rights.

Lawmakers were debating a bill that would have legalized same-sex marriage, as well as a set of proposed amendments that would have instead expanded the rights of couples in registered partnerships. While a parliamentary committee had recommended that lawmakers vote on the proposals from the most expansive to the least expansive, Parliament instead reversed that order. In the event, the proposal for full equal marriage didn’t even come for a vote as the compromise amendment was passed first. 

Under the compromise bill passed Wednesday, registered partnerships will be renamed “partnerships,” and same-sex couples will have all the same rights as married couples except with regard to adoption. Joint adoption will not be allowed, and partners will only be allowed to adopt each other’s biological children.

The compromise bill passed with 118 votes in favor, 33 against and 23 abstentions. A proposal that would have allowed full joint adoption rights received 66 votes in favor to 54 against with 64 abstentions, but failed because it required a majority of lawmakers present, or 93 votes, to pass.  

Czech marriage equality advocacy group Jsme Fér says the result was disappointing.

“It is a sad day for thousands of families with children who have two moms or two dads and hundreds of thousands of LGBT people. It is a sad day for justice and equality in our country,” the group posted on X following the vote.

Same-sex marriage has been a live political issue in Czechia for the past several years. Polls have consistently shown wide support for same-sex marriage in the country, but support among lawmakers has long lagged public opinion.

Civil society had also mobilized to support same-sex marriage, with groups representing university students, artists, business groups and large corporations joining campaigns urging legislators to support equal marriage. 

Ahead of the vote Wednesday, President Petr Pavel, who campaigned last year on a promise to support same-sex marriage, urged lawmakers to support equality.

“I recognize the principle of freedom and equality of every person from the point of view of law and see no reason to limit rights based on sexual orientation. I believe we are a tolerant society and we will rectify these rights as soon as possible. There is no change in this position of mine,” Pavel wrote in a post on X.

The compromise bill now heads to the senate, which will need to pass it before it can become law. At least one senator has said he will urge his colleagues to insist on full marriage equality.

“A watered-down version of same-sex marriage is heading to the Senate. I am sorry that the majority of MPs were against equal marriage for all. In the Senate, we still have a chance to fix it, I am ready to file a PN. I don’t want to continue the regime of two categories of people,” Sen. Lukáš Wagenknecht of the Pirate Party wrote on X.

But the bill may face an uphill battle in the Senate, which is slightly more conservative than the lower house. Last month, the Senate rejected ratifying the Istanbul Convention on Domestic Violence, a European treaty meant to protect women, over concerns that the convention would expand LGBTQ rights. In fact, the treaty does not mention LGBTQ people, but anti-LGBTQ forces have been mobilizing against it in Eastern Europe. 

As in many countries in Eastern Europe, support for same-sex marriage has become a proxy for support of Western or pro-European Union values. Of the 27 EU countries, 16 allow same-sex marriage, the most recent being Greece and Estonia. A further five recognize some form of civil union, while a civil union bill has been proposed by Poland’s new government and another civil union bill is before the Lithuanian Parliament.  

The next Czech parliamentary election is not expected until October 2025.

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