Uganda’s parliament passed a law on Tuesday making it a crime to identify as LGBTQ, handing authorities broad powers to target gay Ugandans who already face legal discrimination and mob violence.
More than 30 African countries, including Uganda, already ban same-sex relations. The new law appears to be the first to outlaw merely identifying as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ), according to rights group Human Rights Watch.
In addition to same-sex intercourse, the law bans promoting and abetting homosexuality as well as conspiracy to engage in homosexuality.
Violations under the law draw severe penalties, including death for so-called aggravated homosexuality and life in prison for gay sex. Aggravated homosexuality involves gay sex with people under the age of 18 or when the perpetrator is HIV positive, among other categories, according to the law.
The legislation will be sent to President Yoweri Museveni to be signed into law.
Frank Mugisha, a prominent Ugandan LGBTQ activist denounced the legislation as draconian.
“This law is very extreme and draconian … it criminalizes being an LGBTQ person, but also they are trying to erase the entire existence of any LGBTQ Ugandan,” he said.
Museveni has not commented on the current proposal but he has long opposed LGBTQ rights and signed an anti-LGBTQ law in 2013 that Western countries condemned before a domestic court struck it down on procedural grounds.
Supporters of the new law say it is needed to punish a broader array of LGBTQ activities, which they say threaten traditional values in the conservative and religious East African nation.
“Our creator God is happy (about) what is happening … I support the bill to protect the future of our children,” lawmaker David Bahati said during debate on the bill.
“This is about the sovereignty of our nation, nobody should blackmail us, nobody should intimidate us.”
In recent weeks, Uganda authorities have cracked down on LGBTQ people after religious leaders and politicians alleged students were being recruited into homosexuality in schools.
This month, authorities arrested a secondary school teacher in the eastern district of Jinja over accusations of “grooming of young girls into unnatural sex practices”.
She was subsequently charged with gross indecency and is in prison awaiting trial.
The police said on Monday they had arrested six people accused of running a network that was “actively involved in the grooming of young boys into acts of sodomy.”
World Athletics on Saturday said it is consulting with member federations on a proposal that would impose more stringent testosterone limits on transgender women athletes competing in women’s track and field events.
The governing body’s proposal stops short of calling for an outright ban on trans athletes and said it arrived at its “preferred option” after reviewing a number of new and existing scientific studies and observations from the field.
World Athletics stressed that no final decision has been made on the matter after the U.K.’s Telegraph newspaper reported on the discussions.
“Putting forward a preferred option is the best way to gather constructive feedback, but this does not mean this is the option that will be presented to Council or indeed adopted,” World Athletics said in a statement.
The option being discussed would cap the maximum amount of plasma testosterone for transgender women and those with differences in sex development (DSD) at 2.5 nanomoles per liter — half of the current limit of 5 nanomoles.
It would also double the amount of time the athlete would need to remain below that level to two years.
A final decision over the proposal will be made by the council in March, the Telegraph reported.
In June, World Athletics and soccer’s governing body FIFA both said they were reviewing their transgender eligibility policies after swimming’s world governing body FINA passed rules banning transgender participation in women’s events.
World Athletics president Sebastian Coe at the time praised FINA’s decision, which has been criticized by transgender rights supporters.
Advocates for transgender inclusion say that there are relatively few trans women athletes and that not enough studies have been done on the impact of transition on physical performance.
Opponents say testosterone suppression does not fully remove the advantages for someone assigned male at birth who has gone through puberty prior to transitioning.
The Church of England will refuse to allow same-sex couples to get married in its churches under proposals set out on Wednesday in which the centuries-old institution said it would stick to its teaching that marriage is between a man and a woman.
The proposals were developed by bishops, who form one of three parts of the Church’s governing body known as the General Synod, after the Church of England’s six-year consultation on sexuality and marriage — among other subjects — and will be put to the General Synod at a meeting next month.
The Church of England is central to the wider Anglican communion, which represents more than 85 million people in over 165 countries.
Under the proposals, same-sex couples could have a service in which there would be “prayers of dedication, thanksgiving or for God’s blessing on the couple” in church after a civil marriage. Gay marriage was legalized in Britain in 2013.
Still, the prayers would be voluntary for clergy to use and could be used in combinations “reflecting the theological diversity of the Church”, the Church of England said, implying spiritual leaders could choose not to offer such blessings.
“I am under no illusions that what we are proposing today will appear to go too far for some and not nearly far enough for others, but it is my hope that what we have agreed will be received in a spirit of generosity, seeking the common good,” said Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury.
Separately, Church of England bishops will be issuing an apology later this week to LGBTQ people for the “rejection, exclusion and hostility” they have faced in churches, according to the statement.
The Church of England, which was founded in 1534, has been divided for years on how to deal with same-sex marriages, with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer activists fighting for the same rights as heterosexual Christians.
Seeking to address the contentious issue, Welby called on the bishops last year to “abound in love for all,” even as he backed the validity of a resolution passed in 1998 that rejected “homosexual practice as incompatible with Scripture.”
Britain will seek to ban conversion therapy targeting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, cracking down on so-called treatments that claim to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
Culture minister Michelle Donelan said on Tuesday the government would publish draft legislation soon, setting out proposals to ban conversion practices in England and Wales.
“The Bill will protect everyone, including those targeted on the basis of their sexuality, or being transgender,” Donelan said in a statement.
Conversion practices, which may include extreme or harmful methods, are aimed at suppressing or preventing a person from being gay or existing as a gender different from the sex recorded at birth. A 2017 national LGBTQ survey people found that 5% of respondents had been offered conversion therapy and 2% had undergone it, with over half of it done by religious groups.
Donelan said on Tuesday the draft legislation will aim to cover transgender people as well, and that the government will ask for pre-legislative scrutiny of the bill by a joint committee.
Many advocates have long called for a ban on conversion therapy, but others have argued that any ban should not outlaw conversations with clinicians or therapists helping people with gender issues.
“The legislation must not, through a lack of clarity, harm the growing number of children and young adults experiencing gender related distress, through inadvertently criminalizing or chilling legitimate conversations parents or clinicians may have with their children,” Donelan said.
Over two dozen health and counseling groups signed an updated memorandum of understanding last year, agreeing that “conversion therapy, whether in relation to sexual orientation or gender identity, is unethical and potentially harmful.”
Separately, Britain said on Monday it would block a bill passed by Scotland’s devolved parliament that makes it easier for people to change their legal gender.
Kenyan police have discovered the body of a prominent LGBTQ rights campaigner stuffed inside a metal box in the west of the country, local media reported on Friday.
Motorbike taxi riders alerted police after they saw the box dumped by the roadside from a vehicle with a concealed number plate, The Standard and The Daily Nation newspapers reported, quoting police sources.
Activist Edwin Chiloba’s remains were found on Tuesday near Eldoret town in Uasin Gishu county, where he ran his fashion business, independent rights group the Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC) said.
“He was brutally killed & dumped in the area by unknown assailants,” KHRC said on Twitter. “It is truly worrisome that we continue to witness escalation in violence targeting LGBTQ+ Kenyans.”
Research suggests acceptance of homosexuality is gradually increasing in Kenya, but it remains a taboo subject for many. The country’s film board has banned two films for their portrayals of gay lives in recent years.
Kenya National Police Service spokesperson Resila Onyango said she would comment at a later time. Uasin Gishu County Commander Ayub Gitonga Ali declined to comment.
“Words cannot even explain how we as a community are feeling right now. Edwin Chiloba was a fighter, fighting relentlessly to change the hearts and minds of society when it came to LGBTQ+ lives,” GALCK, a Kenyan gay rights group, said on Twitter.
Singapore’s parliament on Tuesday decriminalized sex between men, but, in a blow to the LGBTQ community, also amended the constitution to prevent court challenges that in other countries have led to the legalization of same-sex marriage.
The moves come as other parts of Asia, including Taiwan, Thailand and India are recognizing more rights for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender and queer community.
Activists cheered the repeal, but said the amendment to the constitution is disappointing because it means citizens will not be able to mount legal challenges to issues like the definition of marriage, family, and related policies since these will only be decided by the executive and legislature.
The government has defended amending the constitution saying decisions on such issues should not be led by the courts. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his successor have ruled out any changes to the current legal definition of marriage as being between a man and a woman.
“We will try and maintain a balance…to uphold a stable society with traditional, heterosexual family values, but with space for homosexuals to live their lives and contribute to society,” Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam said in parliament this week.
Both the repeal and the constitutional amendment were passed with an overwhelming majority, thanks to the ruling People’s Action Party’s dominance in parliament. There is no timeline yet for when the new laws take effect.
The changes do, however, leave room for a future parliament to expand the definition of marriage to include same-sex relationships.
Bryan Choong, chair of LGBTQ advocacy group Oogachaga, said it was a historical moment for activists who have been campaigning for a repeal of the law known as Section 377A for 15 years. But he added that LGBTQ couples and families also “have the right to be recognized and protected”.
In Singapore, attitudes towards LGBTQ issues have shifted toward a more liberal stance in recent years especially among the young, though conservative attitudes remain among religious groups. Of those aged 18-25, about 42% accepted same-sex marriage in 2018, up from 17% just five years prior, according to a survey by the Institute of Policy Studies.
Security forces in Qatar arbitrarily arrested and abused LGBTQ Qataris as recently as last month, Human Rights Watch said on Monday, in the run-up to hosting soccer’s World Cup which has put a spotlight on human rights issues in the Gulf Arab state.
Homosexuality is illegal in the conservative Muslim country, and some soccer stars have raised concerns over the rights of fans traveling for the event, especially LGBTQ individuals and women, whom rights groups say Qatari laws discriminate against.
A Qatari official said in a statement that HRW’s allegations “contain information that is categorically and unequivocally false,” without specifying.
Organizers of the World Cup, which starts on Nov. 20 and is the first held in a Middle Eastern nation, say that everyone, no matter their sexual orientation or background, is welcome, while also warning against public displays of affection.
“Freedom of expression and nondiscrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity should be guaranteed, permanently, for all residents of Qatar, not just spectators going to Qatar for the World Cup,” HRW said in a statement.
The organization said it had interviewed six LGBTQ Qataris, including four transgender women, one bisexual woman and one gay man, who reported being detained between 2019 and 2022 and subjected to verbal and physical abuse, including kicking and punching.
They were detained without charge in an underground prison in Doha, HRW said, and one individual was held for two months in solitary confinement.
“All six said that police forced them to sign pledges indicating that they would ‘cease immoral activity,’” it said, adding that transgender women detainees were mandated to attend conversion therapy sessions at a government-sponsored clinic.
Qatar does not “license or operate ‘conversion centres,’” the Qatari official said.
One of the transgender Qatari women interviewed by HRW told Reuters on condition of anonymity that she was arrested several times, most recently this summer when she was held for several weeks.
Authorities had stopped her due to her appearance or for possessing make-up, the woman said, adding that she had been beaten to the point of bleeding and had her head shaved.
The behavior center she was mandated to attend told the woman she had a gender identity disorder and accused her of being transgender in search of “sympathy from others.”
“The last thing I want is sympathy, I just want to be myself,” she said.
LGBTQ beachgoers are wrestling with New York City’s plan to tear down a long-abandoned tuberculosis hospital that has served as a landmark for the community.
Graffiti on the outer walls declare “QUEER TRANS POWER” and “KNOW YOUR POWER.” Air conditioning units rust in the shattered windows of Neponsit Beach Hospital, once also a nursing home, but empty since 1998. A shrine on the chain-link fence memorializes a queer icon found dead off the waters nearby.
The city wants to create a park on the site, wiping out the decrepit structure facing a clothing-optional beach in the borough of Queens.
The LGBTQ community has long embraced that section of Jacob Riis Park, sunbathing nude and holding gatherings such as memorials for Ms. Colombia, also known as Oswaldo Gomez, who is believed to have drowned nearby in 2018.
Novels by LGBTQ authors including Audre Lorde and Joan Nestle helped to turn the area into a fabled haven.
“We would like to be assured that we will continue to have this space, which has always been our space, where people from the queer community always end up,” said Victoria Cruz, 76, who has been coming to the beach since the 1960s.
“This is the people’s beach. And we are the people,” said Cruz, nicknamed the “Queen of Riis.”
But what makes that beach section more isolated and exclusive for the LGBTQ community, is deemed an ugly health hazard by area residents.
“The community is concerned about the remediation of vermin and asbestos and whatever else is in there,” said Jenna Tipaldo, a 25-year-old PhD student who lives nearby.
The New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation, which owns the site, has met with neighbors and LGBTQ community members to discuss their concerns.
“We will continue to engage these communities to learn how we can accommodate their concerns while ensuring public safety,” Stephanie Buhle, deputy press secretary for the agency, said in an email.
The public hospitals agency has not announced specific plans for the site, and Buhle has not responded to requests for more details.
But Joann Ariola, the city councilwoman whose district includes the building, said in an email this week that a park has been proposed, and surveys and other demolition preparations are underway.
The public hospitals agency has not said when major demolition will begin, but told Reuters by email this week it aims for completion before the 2023 beach season.
Casey Morrissey, a Brooklyn-based bookseller, said they do not mind the demolition as long as the beach is not lost to the LGBTQ community.
“It has been a sanctuary for us. We just come here without planning and always find friends,” Morrissey said during a visit with their partner. “We don’t have many spaces like these.”
Slovak media reported the main suspect had posted messages with the phrases “hate crime” and “gay bar” hashtagged on Twitter. The Dennik N news website said the attacker had posted a manifesto against the LGBT and the Jewish communities before the killings.
The Duhovy Pride Bratislava group said it was shocked by the attack, while Slovak President Zuzana Caputova offered her support to the LGBT community.
“I want to say to the LGBT community, it is not you who don’t belong here, it is not you who should be afraid to walk in the streets. It is hate that does not belong in Slovakia,” she told reporters after visiting the scene of the attack.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said her thoughts were with the families of the victims.
“These abhorrent murders are a threat to our societies built on respect and tolerance. The E.U. is committed to helping fight hate crime and speech in all form. We must protect the LGBTIQ community,” she added.
The triumph of a right-wing alliance in Italy’s election has raised concern among LGBTQ advocates, who fear nationalist leader Giorgia Meloni could adopt anti-gay policies as prime minister and set back their efforts to boost equality.
Meloni, who is set to become Italy’s first woman premier at the head of its most right-wing government since World War Two, fiercely denounced what she calls “gender ideology” and “the LGBT lobby” just months before Sunday’s vote.
But she has also played down her party’s post-fascist roots and portrays it as a mainstream group like Britain’s Conservatives.
So what would her leadership of Italy’s new government mean for the LGBTQ community?
What is Meloni’s stance on LGBTQ rights?
Meloni, a Christian, has sprinkled speeches with anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric and conservative statements on family-related issues.
“Yes to natural families, no to the LGBT lobby, yes to sexual identity, no to gender ideology, yes to the culture of life, no to the abyss of death,” she said as she addressed supporters of Spain’s rightist Vox party in the southern Spanish city of Marbella in June.
But in the past few weeks, Meloni has repeatedly denied suggestions she might roll back legislation on abortion or LGBTQ rights, while reaffirming her opposition to adoptions and surrogacy for same-sex couples.
Days before the election, however, a senior member of her Brothers of Italy (FdI) group suggested same-sex parenting was not normal.
Federico Mollicone, culture spokesman for the FdI, reiterated his criticism of an episode of the children’s cartoon “Peppa Pig” that featured a polar bear with two mothers.
He said further that “in Italy homosexual couples are not legal, are not allowed” — despite the country having legalized same-sex civil unions in 2016, a reform the FdI opposed in parliament.
FdI does not mention LGBTQ rights specifically in its election manifesto, but calls for “support for childbearing and the family.”
In a Facebook message to an LGBTQ activist who confronted her earlier this month, Meloni said: “I believe a child has the right to grow up with a father and a mother.”
What is the state of LGBTQ rights in Italy?
Italy ranks 23rd in the 27-member European Union when it comes to legal protections for LGBTQ people, according to advocacy group ILGA-Europe.
It is the only major country in Western Europe that has not legalized same-sex marriage, though some microstates such as Monaco and San Marino have also not done so.
Italy has legalized same-sex civil unions, but these do not grant gay couples the same rights as married heterosexual couples, particularly when it comes to parenting. Joint adoption is not available for same-sex couples.
“Even if she doesn’t introduce any anti-LGBT laws, she will not speed up what we’re trying to do to improve the current situation,” Roberto Muzzetta, a board member at Italy’s biggest gay LGBTQ group Arcigay, said from Milan.
“In fact, she will slow it down, or do nothing about it, even though we’re already lagging behind our neighbors.”
Last October, the Italian Senate voted to block debate over a bill that would make violence against women and LGBTQ people a hate crime, effectively killing off a proposal previously approved by the lower house of parliament.
The bill, championed by the center-left Democratic Party (PD), triggered fierce discussion in Italy, with the Vatican saying that it could restrict the religious freedom of the Roman Catholic Church.
Arcigay said it records more than 100 hate crime and discrimination cases a year.
Despite lagging most of its EU neighbors on LGBTQ rights, a 2020 study by the U.S.-based Pew Research Center found 75% of Italians think homosexuality should be accepted.
“Still, Meloni’s opponents were just not able … to make these issues more meaningful (and) promote a different, more progressive vision of society,” political analyst Martina Carone at Torino-based consultancy firm Agenzia Quorum said
What are ordinary LGBTQ Italians concerned about?
Some gay, bisexual and transgender people fear Meloni’s nationalist stance could increase discrimination against LGBTQ people in Italy.
“This morning, when I woke up, I had a feeling of strong discomfort. I felt a great uncertainty, as if I had become aware that things could change for me and my safety,” said Cristian Cristalli, a 34-year-old trans man based in the northern city of Bologna.
“I wondered if I didn’t deserve a future elsewhere, perhaps in a country worthy of our lives,” Cristalli added.
In the northern city of Verona, Stefano Ambrosini, a gay 28-year-old PhD student, said he feared Meloni’s election triumph could lead to an increase in homophobic violence.
“A lot of the people who voted for her are the ones who are already perpetuating violence and discrimination against the community,” he said.
“Now that she has won, these people will feel empowered and definitely safe in doing the terrible things that they want to do to our community.”
Activist Muzzetta said a clear majority in parliament could pave the way for the right-wing alliance to introduce anti-LGBTQ policies that have already been discussed in some regions or municipalities, such as LGBTQ-related books and events bans.
But both Cristalli and Ambrosini said they are determined to defend their rights.
“Let’s see how it goes. I’m ready to fight back,” Ambrosini said.