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.
Greece’s parliament has banned “sex-normalizing” surgeries on babies born intersex, with atypical chromosomes that affect their bodies in a way that does not fit with the normative definitions of male or female.
Under a new law approved by parliament on Tuesday, surgeries that seek to ensure a child ascribes to traditional notions of male and female on people under the age of 15 years are banned in Greece, unless there is a court decision stating otherwise.
The bill stipulates fines and a prison term for doctors conducting such surgery.
Operations, including corrective surgeries or hormonal therapies to change face or body characteristics, on intersex people over the age of 15 years will be permitted if the teenagers consent, according to the law.
Rinio Simeonidou, mother of an intersex teenager and secretary general of Intersex Greece, told parliament before the vote that the approval of the bill would be “a truly historic moment for all intersex children in Greece” and a good start in eliminating violations of intersex people’s rights.
Malta, Portugal and Germany have already banned such surgeries, which in the past have led intersex people to sterilization, loss of sexual sensation, psychosomatic trauma and health problems, Simeonidou said.
Earlier this year, Greece banned so-called conversion therapy for minors, practices aimed at suppressing a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity and which health experts have condemned as psychologically harmful and unethical.
“I was truly saddened by the mistakes of the past that led to dramatic situations because we were lacking the knowledge and courage,” Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, who faces elections next year, told parliament before the vote as he urged lawmakers to endorse the legislation.
U.S. Republicans in Congress are lining up behind legislation that critics say would roll back protections for transgender people, setting a playbook for action on a divisive social issue should they take control of Congress this fall.
Republicans in the House of Representatives have introduced a bill that would block federal funding to colleges where transgender women are allowed to participate in sports with cisgender women. A separate bill would allow transgender people to sue medical personnel who helped them transition as minors.
Another bill would block funding to schools that disobey state laws regarding “materials harmful to minors,” mimicking state laws that have been used to remove books discussing history around race and LGBTQ themes.
The bills have support from key Republicans in the House and Senate. Republican House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy has promoted the sports bill at a press conference and in a conservative newspaper. It is backed by 127 of 211 House Republicans.
In the Senate, five Republicans have sponsored a version of the bill targeting medical providers, including Senators Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley and Marco Rubio.
Republicans would be in a position to advance those bills next year if they win control of the House or the Senate in the Nov. 8 midterm elections, which analysts say is likely.
“I hope these are legislative initiatives that we can pass when we get the majority back,” said Rep. Jim Banks, who sponsored the medical providers bill and represents a district in Indiana, which banned transgender students from playing on girls’ sports teams at schools this May.
Fears of discrimination
Critics say the legislation proposed by House Republicans would reduce access to care needed by transgender people to transition. Transgender people are significantly more likely to attempt or commit suicide, often due to lack of access to gender-affirming medical care, according to the Human Rights Campaign, an LGBTQ advocacy group.
Banks called such criticism “outrageous” and said he did not see how his legislation would contribute to an unsafe environment for transgender people.
Violence against LGBTQ people has also increased fourfold between 2020 and 2021 in the United States, according to ACLED, a nonpartisan organization that tracks violence globally. The increase occurred during a three-year uptick in anti-LGBTQ bills introduced in state legislatures, according to the Human Rights Campaign.
“There has always been fringe voices who oppose LGBTQ equality, but now, unfortunately, that fringe has grown loud and is being given national platforms,” said Sarah Kate Ellis, president of GLAAD, a LGBTQ advocacy group.
Eighteen Republican-led states have enacted bans on trans girls and women participating in publicly funded women’s sports, while more than a dozen have introduced legislation mimicking Florida’s law limiting classroom instruction on sexual orientation and gender, according to the Human Rights Campaign.
A Japanese court ruled on Monday that a ban on same-sex marriage was not unconstitutional, dealing a setback to LGBTQ rights activists in the only Group of Seven nation that does not allow people of the same gender to marry.
The ruling dashes activists’ hopes of raising pressure on the central government to address the issue after a court in the city of Sapporo in March 2021 decided in favor of a claim that not allowing same-sex marriage was unconstitutional.
Three same-sex couples — two male, one female — had filed the case in a district court in Osaka, only the second to be heard on the issue in Japan.
In addition to rejecting their claim that being unable to marry was unconstitutional, the court threw out their demand for 1 million yen ($7,400) in damages for each couple.
“I actually wonder if the legal system in this country is really working,” said plaintiff Machi Sakata, who married her U.S.-citizen partner in the United States. The two are expecting a baby in August.
“I think there’s the possibility this ruling may really corner us,” Sakata said.
Japan’s constitution defines marriage as being based on “the mutual consent of both sexes.” But the introduction of partnership rights for same-sex couples in Tokyo last week, along with rising support in opinion polls, had raised the hopes of activists and lawyers for the Osaka case.
The Osaka court said that marriage was defined as being only between opposite genders and not enough debate on same-sex marriage had taken place in Japanese society.
“We emphasized in this case that we wanted same-sex couples to have access to the same things as regular couples,” said lawyer Akiyoshi Miwa, adding that they would appeal.
Japanese law is considered relatively liberal in some areas by Asian standards, but across the continent only Taiwan has legalized same-sex marriage.
Under current rules in Japan, members of same-sex couples are not allowed to legally marry, cannot inherit each other’s assets — such as a house they may have shared — and also have no parental rights over each other’s children.
Though partnership certificates issued by some municipalities help same-sex couples rent property together and have hospital visitation rights, they do not give them the full legal rights enjoyed by heterosexual couples.
Last week, the Tokyo prefectural government passed a bill to recognize same-sex partnership agreements, meaning local governments covering more than half of Japan’s population now offer such recognition.
While Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has said the issue needs to be carefully considered, his ruling Liberal Democratic Party has disclosed no plans to review the matter or propose legislation, though some senior party members favor reform.
An upcoming case in Tokyo will keep alive public debate on the issue, particularly in the capital, where an opinion poll by the local government late last year found some 70 percent of people were in favor of same-sex marriage.
Legalizing same-sex marriage would have far-reaching implications both socially and economically, activists say, and would help attract foreign firms to the world’s third-biggest economy.
“International firms are reviewing their Asian strategy and LGBTQ inclusivity is becoming a topic,” said Masa Yanagisawa, head of prime services at Goldman Sachs and a board member of the activist group Marriage for all Japan, speaking before the verdict.
“International businesses don’t want to invest in a location that isn’t LGBTQ-friendly.”
The International Rugby League (IRL) banned transgender players from women’s international competition on Tuesday until further notice, following global swimming’s decision to restrict trans athletes’ participation at the elite level.
The league said it needed to further consult and balance transgender participation against “perceived risk” to other players.
“Until further research is completed to enable the IRL to implement a formal transgender inclusion policy, male-to-female (trans women) players are unable to play in sanctioned women’s international rugby league matches,” the IRL said in a statement.
“It’s disappointing. We’re human beings the same as everyone else,” transgender woman Caroline Layt, who played elite women’s rugby league in Australia after transitioning, said.
“It just tells trans kids and trans adults that you’re not worthy. Don’t even bother. Don’t even bother showing up. What’s the point?”
Other sports have policies restricting transgender athletes in top women’s competition, including rugby union, cycling and Australian Rules football.
The International Olympic Committee, however, said in November that no athlete should be excluded from competition on the grounds of a perceived unfair advantage, while leaving it up to sports federations to decide.
The International Cycling Union said last week it had tightened its eligibility rules.
Other sports are reviewing their policies.
World soccer governing body FIFA said it is in a consultation process over transgender participation while World Athletics boss Sebastian Coe praised FINA for its stance.
A top medical official at FINA told Reuters on Monday he hoped other sports would follow the organization’s lead.
“We’re (framing) everything through ‘God forbid a trans person be successful in sports.’ Get a grip on reality and take a step back,” she told Time magazine.
The IRL said it would work with the eight nations competing at the women’s Rugby League World Cup hosted by England in November to obtain data to inform a transgender policy in 2023.
“The IRL will continue to work towards developing a set of criteria, based on best possible evidence, which fairly balance the individual’s right to play with the safety of all participants,” the organization added.
Ian Roberts, the first elite rugby league player to come out as gay, said transgender athletes should be welcomed into the sport and likened concerns about their participation to the homophobia he experienced in the 1990s.
“This is almost like the modern day equivalent,” the 56-year-old said.
“I would have hoped we would have matured as a community and as a society beyond that. Equal is equal.”
The ban is unlikely to affect many international players in women’s rugby league.
There are no transgender players competing at the international level in the sport’s heavyweight nations Australia and New Zealand.
The governing body of Australia’s domestic National Rugby League (NRL) competition declined to comment on the international ban and said it was still formulating its own transgender policy.
When Hurricane Agatha battered a Mexican beach hamlet popular with LGBTQ residents and visitors earlier this week, members of the community sprang into action to help the town rebound.
Zipolite, located on the enchanting southern Pacific coast of Oaxaca state, found itself directly in the path of the storm on Monday. The storm touched down only about six miles (10 kilometers) west of the town as a Category 2 hurricane, damaging buildings and filling the beach with debris.
By Thursday afternoon a GoFundMe campaign had already raised over $21,000 to be used “for the reconstruction of this paradise,” the GoFundMe page said.
Zipolite Diverso, a group of over 30 LGBTQ-owned and LGBTQ-inclusive small businesses, organized the fundraiser to address such immediate needs as food and water and to help the community rebuild in coming months.
“None of us were expecting to have such a large response,” said Ricky Castellanos, one of the fundraiser’s organizers and the owner of a bed-and-breakfast that was damaged in the storm.
Castellanos said the donations could help “provide sustainable services to people who won’t be able to get back on their feet right away.”
The group raised its fundraising goal to $50,000 from $10,000, saying on its website the damage was huge.
“Thanks to all, Zipolite will come back, and stronger,” it added.
Zipolite is famous for being one of Mexico’s few nude beaches and has become increasingly popular in recent years with LGBTQ tourists attracted to the town’s laid-back attitude.
The popularity boom has strained the water supply and other services and has at times caused tensions between tourists and locals.
“We’re organizing this as members of the LGBTQ community, but the aid will be directed to those who need it the most, whether they’re part of the community or not,” said Thomas Flechel, an artist, business owner and coordinator of Zipolite Diverso.
On social media, the fundraiser was being shared far beyond Mexico’s borders.
Tristan McAllister, a brand strategist and podcast host in New York who has visited Zipolite since he was a child, said he had donated to the campaign so the community “can keep on creating the best possible place for the people that need it the most.”
“This is a place that young, queer Mexicans need. It’s a one-of-a-kind place for Mexico and for the world,” McAllister said.
North Carolina lawmakers advanced legislation on Wednesday that would prohibit classroom instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity for some public school students, a move decried by opponents as harmful to LGBTQ youth.
The “Parents’ Bill of Rights,” a broad piece of legislation that opponents say mirrors Florida’s so-called Don’t Say Gay bill, cleared the state’s Republican-led Senate and will head to the House of Representatives, which also has a Republican majority.
It could reach the desk of Governor Roy Cooper as soon as this week. Cooper, a Democrat, has spoken against the bill and is all but certain to veto it.
Advocates and civil rights groups have tracked hundreds of bills this year across state legislatures directed at lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, including many that target transgender youth specifically.
Florida measure, officially titled the Parental Rights in Education Act, was signed into law in March. In April, the governor of Alabama signed a bill prohibiting classroom discussion of sexual orientation or gender identity in certain grades, and similar measures are being considered in Louisiana and Ohio.
The North Carolina measure would prohibit mention of sexual orientation or gender identity in curricula for students from kindergarten through third grade. Schools would also have to notify parents if a student requests to be addressed by a different name or pronoun.