Trump Considers Pulling USA Out Of Human Rights Council; Indonesian President Blames Democracy For Rise of Militant Islamism; Global LGBT Recap

Politico reported this week that the Trump administration is considering pulling the USA out of the United Nations Human Rights Council. The Human Rights Council last year created the UN’s first independent expert position dedicated to investigating anti-LGBT discrimination and violence.

ILGA noted this week that three trans women were reported murdered in El Salvador in less than three days, and that violence against transgender women was reported from Argentina to Pakistan. A transgender Russian and another activists were released by security forces in the separatist-controlled area of eastern Ukraine into whose custody they had disappeared two weeks earlier.

OutRight Action International said that the Trump administration’s decision to reverse federal protections for transgender students is having an international impact. Said Executive Director Jessica Stern, “What happens in the United States makes news around the world, and so this decision will have negative impact beyond US borders, fueling hostility and persecution of trans and gender non-conforming people everywhere.”

Reuters reported that trans people in Ecuador were able to vote “for the first time according to their chosen gender,” a step activists called “signs of progress in the socially conservative and Catholic Andean nation.” Men and women wait in separate lines to vote, “which for years created uncomfortable moments for transgender voters who had to queue up according to their biological sex.” According to Reuters, the law passed last year that allows people to choose the gender on their official identity card was passed after “years of lobbying by the LGBT community and despite opposition by Catholic and increasingly powerful evangelical groups.”

Indonesia: President says fault for rise of intolerant Islam lies with democracy going ‘too far’

The Guardian’s Kate Lamb examines why anti-LGBT hatred is spiking in Indonesia while other Asican countries make progress on LGBT rights:

In the past, vitriol against LGBT occasionally flared up and died down soon enough, a one-off flash in the pan – an Islamic group up in arms about a transgender paegant, or queer film festival, a gay couple arrested and abused by police. And then all of a sudden in 2016, an unprecedented tide of vitriol and violence was unleashed against sexual and gender minorities across the country. Following a series of discriminatory comments from government ministers and officials, reinforced by medical professionals and Islamic clerics, moral panic and paranoia around LGBT set in…

“We thought at the time they were just trying to distract from corruption, but we were wrong. It kept rolling and getting bigger,” explains activist Yulita Rustinawati, from the LGBT advocacy organisation, Arus Pelangi.

“The impact was of course, higher incidents of violence,” she continues, “Houses were raided, LGBT people were evicted, and it happened with legitimation from ministers, mayors and government officials who were making the comments.”

Each inflammatory comment made the news, and was subsequently picked up by hardline religious groups, who started profiling, intimidating and attacking LGBT individuals in their communities, sometimes with the tacit approval of local officials.

President Joko Widodo has blamed the rising tide of intolerant Islamism on democracy having “gone too far.” From Human Rights Watch:

Indonesia unquestionably has a problem with worsening religious intolerance and growing political clout of militant Islamists. Since President Suharto was forced to step down in 1998, viewpoints long repressed – including a strong thread of religious militancy – have emerged. Its fueled by often violent militant Islamist groups who label non-Muslim religions, excluding Christians and Jews, as “infidels,” and declare Muslims who do not adhere to their definition of Sunni orthodoxy as “blasphemers.”

Those same militants have extended that intolerance to harass and intimidate Indonesia’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender population.

Jokowi’s scapegoating of democracy for these ills is disingenuous. It’s also a failure to recognize how government policies have empowered militant groups. The escalation in religious intolerance and related violence can be traced back to 2005, when then-President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono effectively legitimized religious intolerance by vowing strict measures against “deviant beliefs.” During his decade in office, Yudhoyono turned a blind eye to worsening acts of discrimination, harassment, and violence by militant Islamists against religious minorities. The complicity of police and government officials in this intolerance has continued unchecked under Jokowi.

As HRW notes, one of the recent targets of the country’s blasphemy law has been the Christian governor of Jarkarta, Basuki Purnama, who has been facing prosecution while running for reelection.

Barbados: Anglican bishop criticizes Christians who ridicule LGBT people

Donnya Piggott, president of Barbados Gays and Lesbians Against Discrimination, welcomed remarks by John Holder, the Anglican bishop of Barbados and archbishop of the West Indies. According to a February 18 report in Nation News:

During a Press conference on Thursday, Holder enunciated the Anglican Church’s position that every human being should be treated “as a child of God, irrespective of their sexual orientation” and he admonished those Christians who ridiculed members of the LGBT community.

He described as “sad” those Christians who ridiculed other human beings and “give the impression that they are children of the devil and not children of God”.

Hungary: Budapest assembly bucks anti-LGBT trend in country

The local assembly of Budapest adopted a five-year equality program that for the first time identifies sexual and gender minorities as a target group. According to the Hungarian LGBT Alliance, “The program was adopted amidst high level of political homophobia and transphobia in Hungary.”

“We were pleasantly surprised with the turn of events” says Tamás Dombos, board member of the Hungarian LGBT Alliance. “Budapest is currently under a clear conservative leadership, and Mayor István Tarlós is particularly known for his homophobic stance. It is yet to be seen, if the program will bring about any meaningful action, but it is already important as a symbolic statement”.

Budapest, the capital city of Hungary with a population of 1.75 million, was once a stronghold of liberalism run by a coalition of socialist and liberal parties between 1990 and 2010. The shift of the country’s electorate to the right in 2010, however, brought to power Mayor István Tarlós, a notoriously homophobic local politician. In 2001, as Mayor of District III he banned “any programs with a homosexual content” at the popular Sziget youth festival; the ban was later successfully challenged in court. In 2011 he revoked support from the Eurogames LGBTQ sport event offered by his predecessor. In 2015 he called the Budapest Pride March “unnatural and disgusting”. The March was first held in Budapest 20 years ago in 1997, and last year it drew over 20 thousand participants.

In May, Budapest will host this year’s World Congress of Families gathering, a networking and strategy-sharing event for anti-LGBT and anti-SRHR groups worldwide.

Malaysia: Human Rights Watch reports on rise of anti-LGBT Sharia codes

Human Rights Watch reported on the brutal murder of a transgender woman in Kuantan city, connecting it toward a shift in government policies in recent decades – including passage of state-level Sharia criminal codes that institutionalize anti-trans discrimination — that have created a hostile environment for trans people:

Historically, transgender people had a high degree of acceptance in Malaysia. But this began to change with a series of state legislative initiatives, beginning in the 1980s, that criminalized transgender people and forced them underground. Under these discriminatory laws, transgender people can be arrested simply for wearing clothing deemed not to pertain to their assigned sex.

In a 2014 report, “I’m Scared to be a Women: Human Rights Abuses Against Transgender People in Malaysia,” Human Rights Watch documented rights violations by state religious officials and police, including arbitrary arrests, detention, sexual assault, and torture, as well as extortion of money and sex. Human Rights Watch also identified instances of violence by private citizens, employment discrimination, and stigmatizing treatment by health workers.

India: Materials targeting adolescents challenge gender stereotypes and promote respect

The Health Secretary published materials designed to be used by adolescent peer educators on health issues. The materials aim to dispel gender stereotypes and promote relationships based on respect, reports Abantika Ghosh in The Indian Express:

The legality of homosexuality may still be an open question for the judiciary and the Government is yet to change the law but resource material prepared by the Health Ministry for adolescent peer educators has taken a step in the sensitive direction.

It tells young people that it is all right to “feel attraction” for the opposite sex or the same sex during adolescence. The crucial aspects of all such relationships, it says, are consent and respect.

Israel: Knesset rejects gay-rights bills

The Knesset rejected gay rights bills in a series of votes that took place just a day after legislators recognized LGBT Rights Day. From the Jerusalem Post:

Bills proposed by Zionist Union and Meretz MKs allowing gay civil unions and same-sex couples to adopt, educating health professionals about gender identity and sexual orientation, prohibiting “conversion therapy” aimed at changing someone’s sexual orientation, and giving samesex partners of an IDF soldier killed in action the benefits heterosexual widows or widowers would get were all voted down in preliminary readings.

In some of the cases, the responding government representative pointed out that the Ministerial Committee for Legislation had not yet voted on the bill. In other words, it could have had a chance to pass, had the opposition MKs waited.

Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman, in his response to Meretz MK Michal Rozin’s bill on educating health professionals, said “I oppose, and that is all…

The nation had its say, and we are in the coalition, not you.”

Litzman also mentioned that the sin of the golden calf is in this week’s Torah portion, implying a similarity between that and homosexuality.

Pakistan: Marriage, sex, and being LGBT

AFP briefly explores “Marriage, sex, and being LGBT in Pakistan,” a situation that is “complicated by the deeply conservative, traditional Muslim country’s views of sex, sexuality and LGBT rights.”

Tanzania: Government shuts down HIV / AIDS programs, threatens to arrest gay men

Deputy Health Minister Hamisi Kigwangalla warned on social media that the government will use its “long arms” to expose, arrest and prosecute people involved in gay prostitution. He has argued that homosexuality “is not biological, it is unnatural.” Sex between men is a crime punishable by up to life in prison. The Health Ministry has also announced that it was suspending the provision of HIV and AIDS services being offered by at least 40 health centers that the government said were “promoting homosexuality.”

Council of Europe: Human rights commissioner calls for legal recognition for same-sex couples

The Commissioner for Human Rights published a call for legal recognition of same-sex couples in Europe, saying is a question of “legal equality before the law.” The statement notes that while 27 countries in the Council of Europe “provide some form of legal recognition for same-sex couples,” it is also true that many member states “still do not provide any form of legal recognition for same-sex couples at all—with significant negative consequences for the persons concerned and their loved ones.”

The annual general assembly and conference of the Network of European LGBTIQ* Families Associations will be held in Naples in March.

Honduras: Life and death in one of the world’s most dangerous cities

The Washington Blade’s Michael Lavers reported on the deadly violence facing LGBT activists in San Pedro Sula, one of the world’s most dangerous cities. Activists say that police and soldiers are often a bigger threat than the street gangs and drug traffickers. Many LGBT people flee for the United States, Lavers reports, in what a local activist calls a “forced migration.”

Malta: Marriage equality bill being drafted

Times of Malta reported that marriage equality legislation is being drafted; under current law same-sex couples can be recognized in a civil union that gives them the same legal rights as married couples.

Slovenia: Same-sex marriage law takes effect

The first same-sex wedding took place this weekend. The marriage equality law that went into effect does not permit same-sex couples to adopt children or access assisted reproduction techniques.