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Greek lawmakers ban conversion therapy for minors

Bill passed in country’s Parliament on Wednesday

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Greek parliament building (Photo by katatonia82 via Bigstockphoto)

Greek lawmakers on Wednesday approved a bill that will ban so-called conversion therapy for minors.

Media reports note mental health providers will face fines and prison if they subject a minor to conversion therapy without their consent. The bill will also ban the advertisement of conversion therapy in the country.

“There were some false treatments that stated that when a minor has chosen a different sexual orientation, his parents could supposedly proceed with ‘treatments’ for this child to ‘return to normality'”, Health Minister Thanos Plevris said before the vote, according to Reuters. “Obviously these treatments not only are not a therapy but they are not supported scientifically.”

Laws that ban conversion therapy have taken effect in New Zealand, France and Canada in recent months.

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Europe

Poland LGBTQ ‘Free Zones’ tossed, UK ranking drops, Pussy Riot singer escapes

Maria Alyokhina fled Russia disguised as a food delivery driver

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Sopot (Poland) Vice Mayor Magdalena Czarzyńska-Jachim, right, and LGBTQ marchers (Photo courtesy of Magdalena Czarzyńska-Jachim)

LGBTQ news from Europe this past week saw a major development in Poland after a court annulled actions taken previously to declare ‘LGBT Free Zones’ by provincial governments.

Large parts of Poland were labelled “LGBT-free zones,” where regional governments declared they were against LGBTQ ideology. Last fall the executive branch of the European Union, the European Commission, sent letters out last week to the governors of five of Poland’s voivodeships, (provinces) warning that pandemic relief funds totaling over 126 million euros ($150 million) will be withheld over anti-LGBTQ measures passed in their jurisdictions.

Poland has seen a resurgence in the past three years of rightwing religious ultra-conservative groups backed by nationalistic extremists in this heavily Catholic country of 38 million, which have led to passage of measures to restrict pride parades and other LGBTQ-friendly events from taking place.

Proponents of these measures claim the necessity of the provinces to be “free of LGBTQ ideology” saying this is mandated by average Poles as well as by the anti-LGBTQ views of the Catholic Church.

The majority of Polish people support LGBTQ rights surrounding marriage and family, according to research by Miłość Nie Wyklucza (Love Does Not Exclude.) 

The survey found 56 percent of respondents believe same-sex marriage should be legal to ensure the safety of their children. Even more, 65 percent, said they felt “a biological parent raising a child with a same-sex partner” fits the definition of family. And 58 percent of people said a same-sex couple is a family even without children. 

Lublin Regional Assembly passed a resolution in April 2019 declaring that LGBTQ rights aim to “annihilate” the “values shaped by the Catholic Church” PinkNewsUK reported.

In the same month, Ryki County, a district in Lublin, passed a resolution voting to protect “children, young people, families and Polish schools” from an apparent wave of “homoterror” being unleashed by “left-liberal groups.”

PinkNewsUK also reported that the Provincial Administrative Court in Lublin found the resolutions were “adopted without legal basis and in gross violation of the law” after a legal challenge by the Polish Ombudsman.

They become the eighth and ninth “LGBT-free zones” voided by the courts following interventions by the Polish Ombudsman. Municipal councils in Istebna, Klwów, Serniki, Osiek, Lipinki, Niebylec and the Tarnowski County Council all scrapped such measures in 2019.

This past June, the leaders of 17 European Union countries had signed a letter that urges the EU to fight anti-LGBTQ discrimination. The EU has also called out the anti-LGBTQ measures taken more recently in Hungary.

ILGA-Europe, a Brussels based advocacy group promoting the interests of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex people, at the European level, in a statement it sent to the Blade in June after the EU letter was issued, notes that both Hungary and Poland, another EU country in which lawmakers have sought to restrict LGBTQ rights in recent years are at odds with the EU position on LGBTQ+ people.

“For quite some time now, we’ve been informing EU ministers about systematic breaches of EU law committed by Hungary and Poland, which impact on LGBTI rights and the lives of LGBTI people,” says ILGA-Europe.

The UK has dropped to 14th in the ILGA-Europe’s rankings for LGBTQ rights, scoring 53 out of a possible 100

ILGA-Europe, which produces a yearly “rainbow map” of 49 countries across Europe, revealed this past week that the United Kingdom had the most significant drop in ranking for LGBTQ equality rights this past year falling from 10th to 14th place.

Leading contributors to the loss in ranking and standing on the ILGA annual listing was due in part to the ongoing battles over transgender rights with a failure by the Tory-led government of Prime Minister Boris Johnson to set gender recognition policies especially in regard to a total ban on LGBTQ conversion therapy.

ILGA-Europe’s advocacy director, Katrin Hugendubel, described the UK’s plunging status to The Guardian newspaper as “a sad reminder that when governments don’t stand strong on their commitments to advance minority rights, a powerful opposition can use that space to spread hate and division”.

The chief executive of Stonewall UK, Nancy Kelley, warned that “years of progress on LGBTQ+ policy that was achieved under successive administrations has been rapidly eroded by a UK government that has taken its foot off the pedal”.

The ILGA highlighted the UK government’s failure to extend a ban on conversion practices to transgender people, as well as abandonment of promised reforms on gender recognition and its equality action plan. It added that the UK also lost points because the government’s equalities watchdog, the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), was “not … effectively protecting on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity” the Guardian reported.

Kelley called on the prime minister to “step back into the game” as a leader in protecting and promoting LGBTQ rights.

“As we approach the 50th anniversary of the first Pride in the UK, we call for his active leadership to rebuild our human rights institutions and to deliver a strategic policy programme that enables all LGBTQ+ people in the UK to live their lives in freedom and safety.”

Maria Alyokhina of Pussy Riot escaped from Russia disguised as a food delivery worker

In what could be best described as a story worthy of a Cold-War era spy novel, the leader of the Russian activist band Pussy Riot fled Russia disguised as a food-delivery worker. Maria V. Alyokhina in an interview with the New York Times that she was able to get to her girlfriend’s home in Vilnius, Lithuania, after evading Russian Federal Security Services agents.

The queer singer-songwriter musician and human rights activist who was on house arrest at the time of her escape was set to be transferred to a penal colony in the Russian Far East after being arrested six times in the past year protesting the policies of Russian President Vladimir Putin and more recently his order for the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

According to the account in the New York Times, Alyokhina left her apartment in the food-delivery worker disguise, and an unnamed friend drove her to the Belarusian border. The problem then became exiting from Belarus to Lithuania as she was turned away at the border twice by Lithuanian border agents.

The Times reported that Icelandic performance artist Ragnar Kjartansson eventually helped Alyokhina acquire the necessary travel documents from an unnamed country that in turn assisted her entering into Lithuania, where many Pussy Riot members had already escaped to, including Alyokhina’s girlfriend, Lucy Shtein.

The band has now kicked off their European tour in Berlin.

Pussy Riot concert with activist after escape from Russia

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Ireland

Murder of two men has Irish LGBTQ community on edge

Police have charged one man in connection with the killings

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Michael Snee and Aidan Moffitt (Family photos/BBC)

The LGBTQ community in the city of Sligo, in the north of Ireland, is reeling from the brutal murders of two LGBTQ men and the vicious assault of another man, crimes that were so horrific that Irish Taoiseach Micheál Martin issued a statement on Twitter.

Thousands of people have attended vigils across Ireland in memory of the two men killed, both were found dead in their own homes in the city by the Sligo Gardaí (Police) this past week.

Sligo: Thousands attend vigils in memory of two murdered men:

According to the Irish Examiner, the Gardaí in Sligo are examining whether there is a homophobic motive for the grisly killings of two men in the town over the past two days. 

Michael Snee, 58, was found dead in his home in Sligo Town Wednesday night, while Aidan Moffitt, 42, was found dead in his home in the town on Monday night.

Yousef Palani, 22, has been charged over the murders of the two men — police are investigating if the murders were hate crimes.

Yousef Palani (Screenshot/SKYNEWS UK)

He will also be questioned about an attack on a man at the start of the weekend in which the victim lost an eye.

Sligo Gardaí superintendent Aidan Glacken told reporters in a press conference that Palani was arrested on Wednesday afternoon after the discovery of Snee’s body in his apartment at around 10.30 p.m. on Tuesday.

Snee had been subjected to “serious physical assault and had suffered significant injuries”,  superintendent Aidan Glacken said. Moffitt’s body was discovered in his house in Cartron Heights at around 8.30 p.m. on Monday. He had also sustained “significant physical injuries,” Glacken added.

According to the Examiner police stated that use of a mobile phone dating app was a critical component in the investigation. Glacken told reporters that the Gardaí “will endeavor to seek out all the available evidence, and ultimately it will be for a court to decide on the motivation behind these appalling crimes.”

“I am appealing to any person who may have been subject of any unwanted approaches or who was assaulted or otherwise attacked to contact the incident room at Sligo Garda Station. 

“I have a dedicated diversity team here, we need to hear from you, we are here to listen to you and we are here to support you.

“I continue to appeal to anyone with any information on these crimes to contact us at Sligo Garda station,” he said adding, “No matter how insignificant you think it may be, we need to hear from you.”

Sligo Pride, which organized one of the nationwide vigils for the two victims wrote on Twitter, “If you are meeting someone online in person for the first time, give a trusted friend as much information on this other person as you can and let your friend know where you are. We understand the worries and concerns at this time.”

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Europe

European LGBTQ activists stand in solidarity with Ukraine counterparts

EuroPride fundraiser has raised more than $17,000

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A Budapest Pride supporter protests outside the Russian Embassy in Budapest, Hungary, on Feb. 24, 2022. (Photo courtesy of Budapest Pride/Twitter)

LGBTQ activists across Europe continue to stand in solidarity with their counterparts in Ukraine in the wake of Russia’s invasion of their country.

“We are ready to host LGBT+ people from Ukraine here,” said Anastasia Danilova, executive director of Genderdoc-M, an LGBTQ rights group in Moldova, which borders Ukraine, told the Washington Blade on Sunday. “We will provide all necessary support: Accommodation, meals, counseling and medical support.”

Genderdoc-M members on Feb. 24 participated in a protest outside the Russian Embassy in Chisinau, the Moldovan capital.

Danilova described Russian President Vladimir Putin as a “crazy guy.” Danilova also noted Transnistria, a pro-Russian breakaway region, is in Moldova.

“[Putin] is sick and he is unstoppable,” said Danilova.

“Moldova used to be a part of the Soviet Union and we have a frozen conflict in the Transnistrian region,” added Danilova. “We have Russian troops.”

Mozaika, an LGBTQ rights group in Latvia, a Baltic country that borders Russia, on Sunday tweeted the country’s LGBTQ community is “together with Ukraine, both in thought and deed.” Mozaika through its online Diversity Shop is selling Ukraine-specific t-shirts and other clothes to raise money for the country’s LGBTQ rights groups.

Diversity Shop in Latvia has created a line of merchandise in support of Ukraine.

EuroPride fundraiser has raised more than €16,000 ($17846.32) for Kyiv Pride and Kharkiv Pride in Ukraine. OutRight Action International has raised more than $105,000 for LGBTQ Ukrainians through a fund it created after Russia launched its invasion of the country.

“Let’s give our community some sense of hope and help, by providing the funds they need to survive, and the resilience they need to thrive,” said OutRight Action International in its appeal.

Kampania Przeciw Homofobii (Campaign Against Homophobia), an LGBTQ rights group in Poland, which borders Ukraine, has also urged their members and supporters to help LGBTQ Ukrainians. Kampania Przciw Homofobii, like advocacy groups in Hungary and other European countries, have also participated in protests against the invasion.

“Don’t be passive: Act,” proclaimed Kampania Przciw Homofobii in a Feb. 24 tweet.

A concert hall in Riga, Latvia, lit up in the colors of the Ukrainian flag. (Photo courtesy of Riga Mayor Mārtiņš Staķis’ Twitter page)

Situation for LGBTQ Ukrainians ‘is dire’

The invasion has sparked worldwide condemnation and sweeping sanctions against Russia, Putin and members of his inner circle. 

Magomed Tushayev, a Chechen warlord who played a role in the anti-LGBTQ crackdown in his homeland, on Saturday died during a skirmish with the Ukrainian military’s elite Alpha Group outside of Kyiv, the country’s capital. A White House official late last week told the Blade the Biden administration has “engaged directly” with LGBTQ Ukrainians and other groups that Russia may target if it gains control of their country.

“We remain (in Ukraine) to defend ourselves and our country and will continue to help people,” wrote Olena Shevchenko, chair of Insight, a Ukrainian LGBTQ rights group, on Feb. 24 in a Blade op-ed. “Our activists from the LGBTQI+ communities are staying and keep working, providing support to the most marginalized ones. Honestly, I don’t know how long we will be able to resist, but we will do our best for sure.”

Anna Sharyhina co-founded the Sphere Women’s Association, which is based in Kharkiv, the country’s second-largest city that is less than 30 miles from the Russian border in eastern Ukraine. Sphere Women’s Association, among other things, organizes Kharkiv Pride.

“The situation we, activists, human rights defenders, the LGBT+ community and the entire Ukraine, are in is dire,” wrote Sharyhina on Sunday in an email to supporters. “Several times a day, for hours and hours, we hear explosions of varying intensity and receive information about new shelling and attacks by Russian troops.”

“Even now, while I am composing this address, I hear shootings and explosions,” added Sharyhina. “It is extremely hard to work and make even simple decisions in such conditions. Many have left, others are seeking shelter locally.”

Sharyhina said the organization plans to begin to hold “daily online emergency meetings” and has begun to plan on how “to help people in the LGBT+ community because they are in a very vulnerable state.”

“We have come to a conclusion that funds may be needed for housing, food, relocation from dangerous areas, hygiene products, warm blankets, mats, and so on,” wrote Sharyhina, who asked supporters to make donations.

“With sincere faith in freedom, democracy and human rights in Ukraine,” ends the email. 

                

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