Every month we look at news briefs from around the world — courtesy of Equal Eyes, a news source produced in collaboration with UNAIDS and the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS. This month, we take a look at the unsettling rise of HIV in Russia and nti-gay purges around the world. We also see the monetary cost of homophobia — and more!
HIV is on the rise in Russia
The head of the Russian Federal AIDS Center, Vadim Pokrovskiy, continued to call attention to Russia’s escalating AIDS epidemic that saw over 100,000 new infections in 2016. Pokrovsky and other experts say homophobia, a “negative view” of drug users, and a refusal by officials to admit there is a problem prevents the country from uptaking prevention and treatment policies.
The United Kingdom comes out against conversion therapy
Thirteen leading UK psychological groups, including NHS England and NHS Scotland, published a memorandum against conversion therapy for gender identity and sexual orientation, including asexuality. And in response to a Buzzfeed exposé on electric shock therapy, the UK Royal College of Psychiatrists issued a historic statement acknowledging the use of extreme aversion therapy practices for gay-cure treatments carried out as late as the 1970s. Apologizing for the “damage” caused by “wholly unethical” care, the statement adds:
“We can’t rewrite history, but what we can do is make it clear that today our doors are open and that principles of equality and diversity will be passionately upheld.”
Anti-LGBT purges are on the rise around the world
As state officials in many parts of the world continue to target LGBT people, journalist Max Bearak described the “rising global tide” of “purges” and arrests, many of which appear to follow the same sequence of events. Meanwhile, Burundi police announced a “hunt” for gay people. In Belarus, eyewitnesses say police raided clubs and recorded the names of suspected gay people. And in Tajikistan, an official journal from the Prosecutor-General’s office said that, to protect youth, authorities have created a ‘registry’ of over 300 LGBT people.
Homophobic countries are at an economic disadvantage
From India, authors of the Standards of Conduct for Business argue that the private sector could be a catalyst for change by embracing LGBTI human rights. From South Africa, writer Kholekile Mnisi argued that African countries that ignore institutionalized discrimination and homophobia are missing out on the economic benefits enjoyed by countries that have embraced “Pink Capitalism”.
Transgender inclusion does not mean the exclusion of other groups
In the UK, some activists are struggling to reconcile the feminist and transgender movements. Efforts intended to include trans, intersex, and other non-binary people that remove gendered words from discourse—such as “pregnant people” in place of “expectant mothers”—are considered by some as moves to erase women. A recent incident in Canada highlighted another aspect of the debate when a female-only spa’s “no male genitals” policy sparked social media outcry.
In an op-ed, Mawethu Nkosana Nkolomba, a researcher at the Human Rights Institute of South Africa (HURISA), explored the importance of including trans and nonbinary people in gender-based violence research and urged activists, civil society, and policymakers to continue to “make space for difficult conversations”.
Meanwhile, Stonewall chief executive Ruth Hunt urged people to recognize common ground between the movements, noting:
“We live in a society where, unfortunately, women’s safety isn’t guaranteed. But trans people are not to blame for this, and often they are at risk themselves. They cannot be made the scapegoats, or the distraction from the real issue. Granting them rights does not give violent men permission to be violent.”
Sex education should be queer-inclusive
Paraguay’s Ministry of Education announced a ban on any material on “gender ideology” in public schools, saying the government recognizes “traditional values” and the “traditional family”.
In Uganda, the Ministry of Health refused to endorse new sex education guidelines developed by the country’s reproductive health division, stating that the guidelines would encourage promiscuity. Meanwhile, Namibian religious leaders are objectioning to the Ministry of Education’s plan to adopt the Life Skills curriculum which includes comprehensive sexual education. The Ministry says all information will be age appropriate, though adds that it covers sensitive topics such as sexual health, incest, and rape.
A Brazilian student was suspended and refused re-enrollment next year for objecting to her University’s ban on sex education, ‘gender ideology’, and LGBT activism in the classroom. And from the UK, Emily Bashforth wrote about how inclusive sex education will create a safer environment for LGBTQ+ youth in schools and communities.
A look at gender and fashion
In Lebanon, a university held the first ‘queer fashion show’ showcasing gender fluidity and gender equality. The first Indian plus-sized transgender model, Mona Varonica Campell, spoke about her experience becoming an ‘overnight sensation’ in India’s fashion scene. Belgian intersex top model Hanne Gaby Odiele talked to Gay Star News about coming out as intersex.
Homophobia in the United States affects queer people worldwide
African activists fear anti-LGBT rhetoric and legislation in the US will impact their work at home. In the UK House of Commons, politicians across parties echoed those concerns. They urged the UK to work with like-minded countries to fill the “vacuum” to address global LGBT equality.
Lithuania and Romania try to define marriage as “one man, one woman”
Lithuania’s Parliament adopted “the Law on Strengthening Families” which defines the family as “a free agreement between a man and a woman”. The law is intended to help establish new family-related policies. However, the National LGBT* Rights Organization LGL objected to the new definition and noted that all Lithuanian families should be acknowledged regardless of marital status.
As Romania prepares for a referendum to amend the constitution to redefine marriage as between one man and one woman, hundreds rallied to support legalizing civil partnerships for straight and gay couples. Activists say an amendment will undo decades of equality efforts in the country.
Sexual assault in Hollywood isn’t just a straight problem
The wave of allegations against US entertainment mogul Harvey Weinstein sparked a tsunami on social media as women reached out to join the chorus of #MeToo’s and bring attention to an epidemic of sexual harassment, assault, and rape. Bisexual, trans, queer women, and gay and bisexual men have added their voices to expose the unique and shared pressures the LGBTQ community faces in situations of sexual assault.
Hornet brings attentions to global issues of significance for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people. Our partnership with Equal Eyes, a news source produced in collaboration with UNAIDS, the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS, is part of that effort. To learn more, visit their site at Equal-Eyes.org.
This coverage promotes sexual and gender equality while highlighting issues of health, violence, culture, and legal and human rights. Equal Eyes provides advocates and allies a common frame of reference for the realities of global LGBTI communities. Through followup reporting and disseminating this coverage, our effort is to ensure we have a representation of the global stories that matter most or may have under-reporting.
Featured image by AndreyPopov via iStock