“Baby S” was born in December 2019 in Spain and although the baby’s birth certificate was issued by Spain with both mothers listed as parents, the baby cannot get Spanish citizenship because neither mother is Spanish. Citizenship cannot be acquired from the British mother of “Baby S” who is from Gibraltar, a British Overseas Territory, as she acquired her British citizenship by descent.
Statelessness may hinder the child from attending school, accessing health care and other social benefits. All three governments involved are parties to the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness and have a duty to prevent the child being stateless.
The European Union Court of Justice (EUCJ), having been referred the case by a Bulgarian court, heard pleadings on behalf of the child “Baby S” this week and is expected to rule in several months’ time.
This is not the first time that the EU Court of Justice has been asked to adjudicate on the rights of a same-sex couple being discriminated against by a European country because of their sexual orientation.
In 2018, the court ruled the term “spouse” in a directive on the exercise of free movement under EU law is gender-neutral and therefore covers the same-sex spouse of an EU citizen. This case centered on whether a gay Romanian-American couple were entitled to the same residency rights in Romania as other married couples in the EU, even though Romania only recognizes civil partnerships rather than marriage between same-sex partners.
“Baby S” and her parents deserve to have their family relationship recognized by the Bulgarian government and the child should have equal access to education, medical care and other needed services. Hopefully the EU Court of Justice will use the opportunity to affirm the rights of same-sex parents and their children.
Oklahoma lawmakers have introduced a new bill that would make it a felony to provide gender-affirming medical treatment, other than counseling, to anyone under the age of 21. Such treatment can alleviate gender dysphoria and postpone puberty to give children time to explore their gender identity. The bill would punish doctors, parents, and even children themselves with penalties of up to life imprisonment.
Oklahoma’s bill is extreme, taking autonomy away from young adults and imposing draconian punishments, and is part of a worrying larger trend. Across the US, state lawmakers are once again introducing a slew of bills that seek to block transgender children from accessing healthcare, sports, and support in schools.
This seemingly coordinated assault on transgender kids flies in the face of what medical professionals, parents, and transgender kids say they need. Studies show that transgender kids can reap huge benefitsfrom being able to socially transition – that is, to have others treat them in a manner consistent with their gender identity. Bills that shut transgender kids out of sports or bar teachers from respecting their gender identity fly in the face of transgender children’s rights and well-being.
It’s equally misguided to restrict medical interventions for transgender or gender non-conforming kids, which are fairly rare. The most common treatment is puberty blockers, which delay the onset of puberty and can alleviate the anxiety and distress that young transgender people might otherwise experience as their body develops. Professional organizations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, support this treatment for some children, allowing them to further explore their gender identity while suspending physiological changes that can be difficult or impossible to reverse later in life.
Unfortunately, lawmakers have used sensationalistic arguments about irreversible genital surgeries as an excuse to ban any kind of transition-related care. This ignores that the World Professional Association for Transgender Health does not recommend genital surgeries for minors, and they virtually never occur.
Whether puberty blockers or steps toward medical transition are appropriate for a given child is a deeply personal determination. For kids who need them, foreclosing these options is a violation of their bodily autonomy and their right to health.
Lawmakers in Oklahoma and elsewhere should roundly reject this bill, and others like it, and instead turn their attention to the real crises affecting trans kids, such as discrimination, bullying, and suicide.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga of Japan should commit to introducing a law to protect against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, J-ALL, Athlete Ally, All Out and Human Rights Watch said today. 116 human rights and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) organizations sent a letter supporting such legislation to the prime minister on January 25, 2021, six months ahead of the day when the torch is scheduled to be lit at the Tokyo Olympics.
Tokyo was slated to host the 2020 Summer Olympics, but the International Olympic Committee and the Japanese government postponed the games for a year due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The Tokyo 2020 Summer Games are advertised as celebrating “unity in diversity” and “passing on a legacy for the future.” To do this, Japan needs to enact a national anti-discrimination law to protect LGBT people and athletes in a way that meets international standards. The groups are running an #EqualityActJapan campaign in Japanese and English in support of a law to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
We call on Japan’s government to introduce and enact legislation to protect LGBT people from discrimination before the Olympics. It’s time for an Equality Act – and the countdown starts now. TAKE ACTION
“LGBT people in Japan, including athletes, are entitled to equal protection under the law, but currently we have only one known openly out active athlete and many remain in the closet from fear and stigma,” said Yuri Igarashi, director of the Japan Alliance for LGBT Legislation (J-ALL), an umbrella organization of 80 LGBT organizations in Japan. “The Olympic Games give Japan a wonderful opportunity to introduce and pass protections so that everyone in society can live openly and safely.”
The Olympic Charter expressly bans “discrimination of any kind,” including on the grounds of sexual orientation as a “Fundamental Principle of Olympism.” Japan has also ratified core international human rights treaties that obligate the government to protect against discrimination, including the International Covenants on Civil and Political Rights and on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
“We have seen through history the power of the Olympics to mobilize athletes and fans to speak out for what they believe in, from Tommie Smith and John Carlos protesting racism in 1968 to the Principle 6 campaign fighting for LGBT athlete rights in 2014,” said Hudson Taylor, founder and executive director of Athlete Ally. “Sport teaches us that we are stronger when we stand together, and now is the time for the global sport community to stand in solidarity with the LGBT community in Japan.”
Japanese LGBT groups have pressed for six years to pass legislation to protect their rights, and their progress is seen in sharply changing attitudes in Japanese society, with public support for LGBT equality surging in recent years. In November, a nationwide public opinion survey found that 88 percent of those polled “agree or somewhat agree” with the “introduction of laws or ordinances that ban bullying and discrimination (in relation to sexual minorities).”
“This year, all eyes will be on Japan,” said Matt Beard, executive director at All Out. “In these trying times, the Olympic Games will be a welcome and much-needed celebration of humanity in all its beautiful diversity. By granting LGBT people protection from discrimination, Japan can prove that it truly supports the Olympic spirit of promoting tolerance and respect.”
Japan has increasingly taken a leadership role at the United Nations by voting for both the 2011 and 2014 Human Rights Council resolutions calling for an end to violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. But LGBT people in Japan continue to face intense social pressure and fewer legal protections than other Japanese.
“By passing landmark legislation to protect LGBT people including athletes, Japan not only can be a global LGBT rights leader, but it would also become part of Japan’s permanent Olympic legacy,” said Kanae Doi, Japan director at Human Rights Watch.
US President-elect Joe Biden should work with global leaders who have sought to shore up a defense of human rights around the world, Human Rights Watch said today in releasing its World Report 2021. His administration should also look for ways to entrench respect for human rights in US policy that are more likely to survive the radical changes among administrations that have become a fixture of the US political landscape.
“After four years of Trump’s indifference and often hostility to human rights, including his provoking a mob assault on democratic processes in the Capitol, the Biden presidency provides an opportunity for fundamental change,” said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, in his introductory essay to the World Report 2021. “Trump’s flouting of human rights at home and his embrace of friendly autocrats abroad severely eroded US credibility abroad. US condemnations of Venezuela, Cuba, or Iran rang hollow when parallel praise was bestowed on Russia, Egypt, Saudi Arabia or Israel.”
World Report 2021, Human Rights Watch’s 31st annual review of human rights practices and trends around the globe, reviews developments in more than 100 countries.READ IT HERE
Roth said that other governments recognized that human rights were too important to abandon, even as the US government largely abandoned the protection of human rights, and powerful actors such as China and Russia sought to undermine the global human rights system. New coalitions to protect rights emerged: Latin American governments plus Canada acting on Venezuela, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation defending Rohingya Muslims, a range of European governments acting on such countries as Belarus, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Libya, Hungary, and Poland, and a growing coalition of governments willing to condemn China’s persecution of Uyghur and other Turkic Muslims in Xinjiang.
“The past four years show that Washington is an important but not indispensable leader on human rights,” Roth said. “Many other governments treated Trump’s retreat as cause for resolve rather than despair and stepped up to protect human rights.”
Biden’s presidency provides an opportunity for fundamental change, Roth said. He said that the president-elect should set an example by strengthening the US government’s commitment to human rights at home in a way that cannot be easily reversed by his successors.
Biden should speak in terms of the human rights involved as he works to expand health care, dismantle systemic racism, lift people out of poverty and hunger, fight climate change, and end discrimination against women and LGBT people. The slim Democratic Party majorities in the US Senate and House may also open possibilities for more lasting legislation. Biden should also allow criminal investigations of Trump to proceed to make clear that no one is outside the rule of law.
Abroad, to better entrench human rights as a guiding principle, Roth said, Biden should affirm and then act on that principle even when it is politically difficult. That should include:
Curbing military aid or arms sales to abusive friendly governments such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, and Israel absent significant improvements in their human rights practices;
Condemning the Indian government’s encouragement of discrimination and violence against Muslims, even if India is seen as an important ally against China;
Re-embracing the UN Human Rights Council, even though it criticizes Israeli abuses;
Voiding Trump’s sanctions on the International Criminal Court, even if he doesn’t like the prosecutor’s investigations; and
Abandoning Trump’s inconsistent, transactional unilateral policy towards China and adopting a more principled, consistent, and multilateral approach that will encourage others to join.
“The big news of recent years isn’t Trump’s well-known abandonment of rights but the less-noticed emergence of so many other countries in leadership roles,” Roth said. “The Biden administration should join, not supplant, these shared efforts. These governments should maintain their important defense of rights, not relinquish their leadership to Washington, while Biden works to entrench a less variable US commitment to human rights.”
We asked four partners to respond to Human Rights Watch’s call on US President-elect Joe Biden and other leaders to prioritize human rights at home and abroad, and why international attention is important to their work. Here are selected quotes:
In 1921, it was a lie that incited the Tulsa race massacre where mobs of white rioters burned down the Black community of Greenwood. And almost 100 years later on January 6, 2021, it was a lie that incited mobs of white rioters to storm our nation’s capital to overthrow our democracy. Confederate flags were waved, nooses were erected, and white supremacy showed its ugly head.
Which is why I’m calling on the Biden administration to attack white supremacy head on its first 30, 60, 90 days of taking office. You must prioritize racial justice and you must re-engage on the issues of human rights, and most importantly you must reverse the regressions from the Trump administration. We don’t need another Breonna Taylor, we don’t need another Tamir Rice, another George Floyd, another Terence Crutcher. You must demand a just America and be the change that we so desperately need in this country right now.
Russia Tatiana Glushkova, a board member of the Russian group Memorial Human Rights Center, recalls the arrest on bogus charges of Memorial’s lead researcher in Chechnya, Oyub Titiev, and the difference international attention made in his fate:
The goal was to force Memorial to close its office in Grozny and to complicate the collection of information about human rights violations in Chechnya. However, the case itself was so crudely and clumsily fabricated and so obviously in retaliation for Oyub’s human rights work, that it attracted intense attention from the international community. Oyub’s case was discussed at the Council of Europe, the UN, European parliament, and FIFA. It was discussed in foreign ministries of many different countries, and numerous human rights organizations, both Russian and international. For nine months, foreign diplomats and journalists regularly visited the Shali city court [where Titiev’s trial was held].
Such attention did not escape the authorities of the Chechen Republic. Their most important reaction was, of course, the fact that Oyub’s verdict was relatively light, and also that he was very quickly released on parole. Such a reaction by the Chechen authorities, given their longstanding and deep hatred for Memorial, can only be explained by their desire to quickly turn this page, get rid of this case, of this political prisoner, and of the intense interest of the international community. The result we now have, that our colleague has been free for over a year, would not have been possible without [this] international attention. We are extremely grateful to everyone who took part in this effort.
Cameroon Cyrille Rolande Bechon, head of Nouveaux Droits de l’Homme Cameroun, a human rights organization based in Yaoundé, discusses the international response to the massacre of 21 civilians in Ngarbuh, Cameroon:
This is the place for me to thank the organizations that come together in the Coalition for Human Rights and Peace in the Anglophone Regions, international organizations like Human Rights Watch, [and countries like] France, the United States, who supported us and conveyed the message with us about the need to set up a commission of inquiry into this massacre.
Although this commission has announced its conclusions and a trial opened last December 17 against the four members of the security forces identified by the commission as having participated in this massacre, we’re still dissatisfied. Dissatisfied because the chain of responsibility in this massacre has yet to be established. We would like all those responsible, whether directly or indirectly, including high-ranking army officials, to be prosecuted and sentenced.
Venezuela Feliciano Reyes, a Venezuelan human rights defender deeply involved in providing humanitarian support to Venezuelans in need, on the country’s humanitarian emergency:
The complex humanitarian emergency that has affected Venezuela for at least four years has caused enormous damage to the population, for example, their lack of access to food, health services, [and] education. [These things] also generate mass forced migration because it’s so hard to survive in the country. The root causes include political conflict and years of abuse of power, of erosion of the rule of law. The international community has a fundamental role to play, not only in terms of diplomatic political actions in fora such as the Human Rights Council, the United Nations General Assembly, [and] the Security Council, to help find solutions to the political conflict, but also in providing vital international humanitarian assistance for Venezuela.
This has produced visible effects but is still insufficient. We hope the World Food Program will enter the country this year, for example, since there are reports of Venezuelans facing serious levels of food insecurity. This work is fundamental. This work of political and diplomatic pressure and humanitarian cooperation to restore decent living conditions for the Venezuelan people, and, eventually, to redirect the country towards development and well-being for its people.
Salvadoran president Nayib Bukele agreed on December 15 to implement an Asylum Cooperative Agreement with the US government. It allows US immigration authorities to transfer non-Salvadoran asylum seekers to El Salvador, instead of allowing them to seek asylum in the US.
US President-elect Joe Biden has pledged to terminate the deeply flawed agreement, a deeply flawed deal that presupposes El Salvador can provide a full and fair asylum procedure and protect refugees. But for some groups, including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people, El Salvador provides no safe haven. Its own LGBT citizens lack protection from violence and discrimination.
A recent Human Rights Watch report confirms the Salvadoran government’s own acknowledgmentthat LGBT people face “torture, inhuman or degrading treatment, excessive use of force, illegal and arbitrary arrests and other forms of abuse, much of it committed by public security agents.” Social and economic marginalization further increase the risk of violence. Many LGBT people flee from home.
Between January 2007 and November 2017, over 1,200 Salvadorans sought asylum in the US due to fear of persecution for their sexual orientation or gender identity. In a groundbreaking judgment, a UK court recently granted asylum to a non-binary Salvadoran, finding that their gender expression exposed them to police violence and daily abuse and degradation.
Five years ago, El Salvador seemed poised to champion LGBT rights. It joined the UN LGBTI Core Group. It increased sentences for bias-motivated crimes. Its Sexual Diversity Directorate trained public servants and monitored government policies for LGBT inclusiveness.
The Salvadoran government should back a gender identity law and comprehensive civil non-discrimination legislation, prosecute anti-LGBT hate crimes, and reestablish a well-resourced office to promote inclusion and eradicate anti-LGBT violence. It should axe the Asylum Cooperative Agreement.
As things stand, El Salvador fails to provide effective protection to its own LGBT citizens, let alone LGBT people fleeing persecution elsewhere.
On October 6, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) activists in Tunisia raised their voices and banners in the street, amid the hundreds of demonstrators who were peacefully protesting a draft law that would drastically limit criminal accountability for the use of force by the security forces. By a cruel irony, police attacked the demonstrators, including LGBT activists, and arbitrarily arrested them.
The proposed law, if passed, would embolden security forces in their use of excessive force and send an alarming message to Tunisians, especially members of marginalized groups, already vulnerable to police misconduct, that they will not be protected from police violence.
For LGBT people, who are often excluded from government protection, the passage of this law is terrifying. Here’s why:
On August 5, Ahmed El-Tounsi, a transgender Tunisian man and founder of the trans rights organization OutCasts, thought he would bleed to death on the street.
El-Tounsi and other trans activists were walking near the French Embassy in Tunis when police officers guarding the embassy approached them and asked for their IDs. When the officers saw the mismatch between their IDs and their gender expression, and after a verbal altercation, the police physically and verbally assaulted them, the activists said.
Bloodied and humiliated, they tried to run, but additional police officers arrived and beat the activists, while inciting bystanders to join in – cursing, hitting, and dragging the activists by their clothes on the street, they told me.
“Kill them, they are sodomites,” the officers told bystanders, El-Tounsi said.
“They [private individuals] followed us into alleyways and beat us unconscious,” he said. “They snatched our phones to delete evidence of the assault, and said, ‘We will slaughter you,’ It felt like our entire country beat us that day.”
When he sought medical care at Habib Thameur Hospital, El-Tounsi was denied treatment based on his gender expression. “The doctor said, “You’re a special case, I can’t treat you here. Go somewhere else,”” El-Tounsi said.
“My chest was swollen from the beatings, I couldn’t breathe, I was bleeding profusely, I could barely stay conscious,” he said. When he went to Charles Nicole Hospital, administrative staff refused him entry after seeing his ID, and referred him to a women’s hospital, despite his self-identification as a man.
Activists took El-Tounsi to Wassila Bourguiba Hospital, which specializes in women’s health. “I’m bleeding, I’m going to die, please treat me,” El-Tounsi pleaded, but the doctor responded, “You look like a man, this is a women’s hospital.”
After he waited for hours and negotiated with the doctor, she checked El-Tounsi’s injuries while seven nurses stood around him, interrogating him about his gender identity, and addressing him with female pronouns. “They mocked me. They didn’t treat my injuries. They didn’t even give me a medical report.”
Activists turned to the courts and filed a complaint, seeking to hold police and embassy officers accountable. Several lawyers involved in the case told me that the head of a first instance court in Tunis dismissed the request to review camera footage near the embassy, which lawyers said would show the officers’ role in the assaults. The lawyers appealed in late October and await a decision.
Saif Ayadi, a social worker at Damj, a Tunis-based LGBT rights group, was there during the attacks on trans activists in August, and was among those arbitrarily arrested and beaten at the protest in October. He spoke to me about the increasing police violence against LGBT people in Tunisia, and the insurmountable dangers that would accompany the passage of the draft impunity law.
Ayadi said that in 2020, Damj provided legal assistance to LGBT people at police stations in 75 cases and responded to 98 requests for legal consultations. “These figures are five times higher than those we recorded in 2019, indicating an alarming increase in persecutions of LGBT people during the Covid-19 pandemic,” he told me.
Ayadi said that between March and September, his organization recorded 21 cases of violence against trans people in public, 10 torture cases, and 2 cases of bullying by security officers against trans people in detention facilities. There were also 12 prison sentences against trans people and gay men under articles 230, 225, and 125 of Tunisia’s penal code, which criminalize “sodomy,” “indecent behavior in public,” and “insulting a public officer,” respectively.
Tunisian law does not provide a clear or accessible path to legal gender recognition for transgender people, who face systemic discrimination compounded by the incongruity between their official documents and gender expression.
Amal Ayari, a prominent advocate for women’s and LGBT rights in Tunisia, told me, “Tunisia is considered a country where rights and freedoms are protected, but such flagrant violations of citizens’ rights show that this discourse is just slogans, and is an attempt to whitewash Tunisia’s international image.”
Instead of granting more power to the police, the Tunisian government should decriminalize same-sex conduct and protect LGBT people from discrimination and police violence. The proposed bill, Number 25/2015, a shameful step backward, should not pass.
After training for hours on end, year after year, some women athletes – particularly those competing on the world stage – are getting their careers and successes ripped away because of “sex testing,” practices, which are invasive and medically unnecessary procedures based on disputed science that dictates what “natural” testosterone levels can be for women, and the role it plays in performance. Women from the global south are disproportionately targeted. Sporting officials demand that these women undergo irreversible sterilization surgeries or hormone therapies to have a chance at competing again. Philippa Stewart spoke to Dr. Payoshni Mitra, who has worked for years with affected athletes, about a new Human Rights Watch report, “‘They’re Chasing Us Away from Sport’” and why these tests have to end.
What is it that singles women out?
Often it is just that they look different, less “feminine” than men, and it often is men, in charge of the national or international sports federations, who think they should.
These policies disproportionately target women from the global south, specifically black and brown women. It is important to note that there aren’t any similar rules governing men’s bodies.
There is evidence of research studies by doctors affiliated to the World Athletics where women’s bodies have been investigated and operated on. They treated these women like guinea pigs. They would not have done this to an athlete from Europe or America.
Do the athletes give consent to be tested?
Not informed consent. They are normally not told exactly why they are being tested or what is going to happen. In the case of one athlete, she was told it was about high performance, others are told various things that aren’t true.
There is also no privacy, the coach is there when the physical exams are done. Then the women are pressured into surgery or hormone therapy as the only ways they could possibly be allowed to compete in their preferred event.
Often these women start competing because the prizes are a way to survive, to pull their family out of poverty. They love sports and see it as the thing that can change the fate of their family. And then suddenly they are told they don’t have a chance unless they take irreversible medical steps.
They are also told not to talk about it and to come up with some excuse about why they are not competing. This creates a feeling of shame for them, like there’s something wrong with them and they shouldn’t talk about it. It makes them feel inadequate, like they’re not the “correct” kind of woman. Athletes told me it feels like a way of telling them they aren’t good enough.
Are doctors willing to perform these tests without consent?
This isn’t a normal doctor-patient relationship. The athletic federations that are directly connected to the doctors are both requesting the invasive treatment and being given information by the doctors about the athletes. The athletes don’t have any autonomy around this process. Their medical information is passed on from the doctor to the athletic federation that decides their future and whether they will be allowed to compete.
Some people believe that if a woman doctor performs the test then it is fine. But it isn’t necessarily so. It is still an extra pair of eyes and hands on your body in a way you haven’t consented to. That is not fine.
The women are told not to speak about it because of “confidentiality,” but this protects the federations and the people performing the tests and not usually the athletes.
The World Medical Association has said these tests shouldn’t be performed. Has that made a difference?
Honestly, no. The WMA made it clear that the sex testing regulations are unethical and instructed doctors not to implement them. But the doctors are not controlled by medical authorities, they do what their collaborators – the athletic federations – tell them to do, and they follow what the international bodies say. There needs to be a change in sporting policy at the international level for these harmful practices to stop.
What happens after women are told they can’t compete?
Often these women start competing because of the prizes. Sometimes the prize is some food, and one woman told me she won a cow as a young girl, which meant her family could have milk every day. Sport, competing for the national team, it’s something to aim for because it pulls you out of poverty, it helps your family. Athletes in many countries get lifetime government jobs after they finish competing if they did well and brought pride to their country.
These policies disproportionately target women from the global south, specifically black and brown women. Dr. Payoshni Mitra
When that goes away, often the woman’s family stops supporting them. Especially because there are all these rumors around why they had to stop competing – that there is something shameful about them. These women can lose their support network overnight and they don’t even get told exactly why.
There are also long-term effects for these women if they try to stay in sports. They are constantly under scrutiny, they start to feel unsafe, people gossip about them constantly. It is a very hard thing to deal with when no one has told you why it is happening in a way that you understand.
South African runner Caster Semenya is probably the most famous case of gender testing. Is that where most people’s knowledge of these examinations comes from?
I am privileged to know Ms. Semenya, and she is a wonderful and extremely resilient champion, both on and off the field, who has a very important story to tell. But she is not the whole story. She was already at the top of her career when this happened and people are, rightly, rallying around to support her. She has support in a way that a lot of these women, at the start of their careers, often young and alone and not aware of their rights, do not have. It is, to my mind, a good thing more people are aware of these horrific tests now, but even with that, people don’t realize how many women it affects and what they go through, what they have to overcome.
She is a wonderful champion, but the media should highlight other stories too, of the women who don’t rise to those heights. The women who are just mid-level, proud to represent their country, and trying to build a better life, and then they have it ripped away.
What can be done to protect those women?
Education on rights – many athletes didn’t even know that the court of arbitration for sport existed, let alone that they could take their case there. I have been working with women athletes for years trying to make them aware of their rights. It is no coincidence that these policies affect women from poorer countries, where they don’t have the same level of awareness about their rights.
I advise athletes not to allow federations to communicate with them verbally. It is important to have evidence of what the federations ask athletes to do in writing. If they ask for every communication to be in writing, federation officials realize that they must take that athlete seriously and treat her respectfully.
Women are now challenging these policies in courts of law, both national and international. This is a recent development and it makes me happy to see that more and more women athletes from Asia and Africa are becoming conscious of their rights.
What about the testing policies?
They need to end. At a national level, and at an international level. There are some women who compete nationally, and then just as they are about to make it to the international stage, they get tested and dropped. There’s major downstream impact from the global regulations. That’s because the national federations or sport ministries see these international federation policies and think they have to test first. All levels of sport need to stop these tests now.
Is there anything that makes you hopeful things can change for the better?
These women have been scrutinized for so long and now, finally, that is being switched and it is the federations dealing with scrutiny for what they have done.
This report is the first time the world is truly hearing the voices of some of the women affected by these policies. Annet Negesa, the Ugandan runner who was sex tested and ruled ineligible, broke her silence for first time in an interview to Human Rights Watch last year. That was incredibly brave. Finally, after more than a decade of work, the world is paying attention.
I believe it is extremely powerful that all the affected athletes I am working with are now refusing harmful medical intervention. Dutee Chand and Caster Semenya have spoken openly about not succumbing to any pressure of taking medical steps. They have inspired athletes across the world to switch to a completely new, unrestricted event, rather than consent to these harmful and irreversible medical interventions. Switching events often outs them as having high testosterone. But that is not deterring them. It is a clear message to the World Athletics: “Enough is enough.”
William Alejandro Martínez, a trans man from Honduras, stood up for his rights when military police officers stopped him in Comayagüela in May 2019 and asked to see his identity card. They questioned him about his gender identity, physically assaulted him, and threatened to arrest him. “Don’t touch me, I’m a human rights defender,” Martínez insisted. That’s when an officer pointed a rifle at him, saying “I don’t give a damn what you are.” “My life passed before my eyes,” Martínez remembered.
Ten years before Martínez stared into the barrel of a gun, Vicky Hernández, a trans woman, sex worker, and activist, was killed on the streets of San Pedro Sula. Last week, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights heard a case arguing that the Honduran government is responsible for Hernández’s loss of life.
The petitioners acting for the deceased, Cattrachas Lesbian Network and RFK Human Rights, argue the government bore direct responsibility for Hernández’s death, and that in failing to conduct an effective investigation into her killing, including whether it was motivated by anti-LGBT prejudice, Honduras violated her right to life under the American Convention on Human Rights.
The case reached the Inter-American Court because Honduras failed to comply with recommendations the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights issued in 2018. These included establishing a rights-respecting process to secure legal recognition for trans people’s gender identity, mapping violence against LGBT people and introducing a comprehensive policy to address its structural causes, and training security forces on anti-LGBT violence.
Human Rights Watch made similar recommendations in a report published today, part of our work on anti-LGBT violence and discrimination in Central America’s Northern Triangle. The report found that the Honduran government has failed to effectively address violence and entrenched discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation, leading many to seek asylum in the US. In some cases, security officers themselves are perpetrators of violence.
After William Martínez survived a second assault by military police in June 2019, he fled the country. Exile should not be the only way to escape violence. Honduras should take urgent steps to protect LGBT people from violence and discrimination.
A Hungarian government proposal to amend the constitution to restrict adoption to married couples is designed to exclude lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people and families and is an affront to common European values, Human Rights Watch said today.
The Hungarian parliament should reject it resoundingly. And the European Commission should make clear that the government’s latest slew of legal changes is not compatible in a European Union based on tolerance and nondiscrimination.
“It seems nothing will derail this government from cruelly and pointlessly targeting one of the most marginalized groups in Hungarian society, not even soaring coronavirus infections and Covid-19 related deaths,” said Lydia Gall, senior researcher in the Europe and Central Asia Division at Human Rights Watch. “Under the pretext of combatting a misguided conception of ‘gender ideology,’ the government further restricts rights and stigmatizes thousands of Hungarian citizens.”
The government presented to parliament a number of constitutional amendments on November 10, 2020, the same day parliament had voted to extend by 90 days the state of emergency Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s government declared on November 3. The ruling party, Fidesz, which has a two-thirds majority in parliament, is set to vote on the proposals within weeks. If passed, it would be the 9th of constitutional amendments since the Orban government came into power for the second time in 2010.
The bill states that only married couples will be eligible to adopt children, with the minister in charge of family policies able to make exceptions on a case-by-case basis. It effectively excludes same-sex couples, single people, and unmarried different-sex couples from adopting children.
The bill includes language that stigmatizes transgender people, stating that “children have the right to their identity in line with their sex at birth” and rejecting diversity and inclusivity by mandating that children’s upbringing should be “in accordance with the values based on our homeland’s constitutional identity and Christian culture.”
The bill is the latest attack on LGBT people in Hungary. In May, the parliament, during the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, banned legal gender recognition meaning transgender and intersex people in Hungary cannot legally change their gender or sex (both called “nem” in Hungarian) assigned at birth. The restriction has serious repercussions for people’s everyday lives, Human Rights Watch said. It also follows increasingly hostile anti-LGBT statements by high-ranking public officials, including Prime Minister Orban.
In September, a Hungarian children’s book was published, with new versions of well-known fairy tales, featuring members of marginalized groups, including LGBT people, Roma, and people with disabilities. It sparked a wave of homophobic attacks, with right-wing extremist politicians publicly shredding the book. Other key government officials added their voices to the hate campaign in October, and Orban, on a radio show, commented on the book, saying that the LGBT community should “leave our children alone.”
The vice president of the EU Commission, Vera Jourova, on November 12 stated that abuse against the LGBT community “belongs to the authoritarian playbook and has no place in the EU.” The increasingly homophobic policies of populist conservative governments in Hungary and Poland are at odds with the Commission’s proposed LGBTIQ strategy and the principles of tolerance and nondiscrimination it is designed to protect, Human Rights Watch said.
Hungary’s justice minister, Judit Varga, dismissed the strategy, calling it a “seemingly limitless ideology [being] forced on Member States” and saying that Hungary would “not accept any financial threats for protecting the traditional role of family and marriage.” The Hungarian government on November 16blocked the adoption of the seven-year EU budget because the budget ties access to some EU funds to respect for the rule of law.
Earlier in the year, parliament blocked ratification of a regional treaty on violence against women. The Council of Europe Convention on Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence, known as the Istanbul Convention, has established a gold standard for inclusion, recognizing everyone’s right to live free from violence, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, or other characteristics.
The government submitted a separate bill to amend the electoral law, which would make it much harder for opposition parties to win elections. It would effectively require opposition parties to create joint party lists and run joint candidates to have any chance of winning an election.
“The Hungarian government’s latest efforts to cement intolerance and remove safeguards against the abuse of power should set off alarm bells in Brussels,” Gall said. “The EU Commission and other member states should strengthen scrutiny and use the EU’s systems and funds to increase respect for EU’s common democratic values and to protect marginalized populations.”
An Algerian court on September 3, 2020 sentenced 2 men to prison terms and 42 others to suspended terms after mass arrests at what the police alleged was a “gay wedding,” Human Rights Watch said today. The authorities should void the charges and release them immediately.
On July 24, 2020, police raided a private residence and arrested the 44 – 9 women and 35 men, most of them university students – in el-Kharoub, a district in Constantine Province, northeastern Algeria, after neighbors complained. An Algerian lawyer involved in the case told Human Rights Watch that the court used police reports describing the decorations, flowers, and sweets indicative of a wedding celebration, and the men’s supposedly gay appearance, as evidence of guilt.
“Algerian authorities’ attack on personal freedoms is nothing new, but arresting dozens of students based on their perceived sexual orientation is a flagrant infringement on their basic rights,” said Rasha Younes, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights researcher at Human Rights Watch. “They should immediately release from prison the two men who would be free today were it not for Algeria’s regressive anti-homosexuality laws.”
The court convicted the 44 of “same-sex relations,” “public indecency,” and “subjecting others to harm by breaking Covid-19-related quarantine measures.” Two men were sentenced to three years in prison and a fine, and the others to a one-year suspended sentence.
These convictions contradict the right to privacy under international human rights law. This right is also reflected in Algeria’s constitution, which provides for the protection of a person’s “honor” and private life, including the privacy of their home, communication, and correspondence. The convictions of the 44 for “same-sex relations” indicate that Algerian authorities are discriminating against them based on their perceived sexual orientation and gender expression, Human Rights Watch said. The appeal of their convictions has not yet been scheduled.
In Algeria, same-sex relations are punishable under article 338 of the penal code by up to two years in prison. Additionally, article 333 increases the penalty for public indecency to six months to three years in prison and a fine if it involves “acts against nature with a member of the same sex,” whether between men or women.
Arrests for “moral” offenses that involve consensual adult activities in private settings violate international human rights law, including the right to privacy, nondiscrimination, and bodily autonomy protected under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Algeria is a state party. Algeria has ratified the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR), which affirms the rights to nondiscrimination, and has joined the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights. However, Algerian law does not extend antidiscrimination protections to discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
In light of the Covid-19 pandemic and the risk of outbreaks in detention sites, Human Rights Watch recommended that governments refrain from custodial arrests for minor offenses that do not involve the infliction or threat of infliction of serious bodily injury or sexual assault or a known likelihood of physical harm. Officials should also release anyone held pretrial, unless they pose a specific and known risk of harm to others that cannot be managed through measures other than detention.
Since March, Algerian authorities have imposed a ban on all social gatherings to slow the spread of Covid-19. Breaking quarantine and social distancing measures to attend a social gathering does not justify arbitrary arrests and prolonged pretrial detention, Human Rights Watch said.
“While people in Algeria continue to demand their basic rights to protest, the authorities are dedicating their time and resources to crack down on students and stockpile discriminatory charges against them,” Younes said. “Instead of policing its citizens’ private lives, the Algerian government should carry out reforms, including decriminalizing same-sex conduct.”