16 Jan 2020 - NPWJ News Digest on LGBTI Rights


European court rules against Lithuania for failing to act on online hate speech
By Euronews, 15 Jan 2020

In a landmark ruling, the European Court of Human Rights has condemned Lithuania’s failure to investigate online hateful comments against a gay couple. In 2014, Pijus Beizaras posted a photograph of him kissing his partner Mangirdas Levickas on his Facebook page. The post triggered hundreds of hateful comments. Some were about LGBT people in general while others specifically threatened the two young men, the court said in a press release. On Tuesday the court ruled the authorities' refusal to launch a pre-trial investigation violated the couple' rights to private and family life and was being discriminatory on the ground of sexual orientation. The Lithuanian government had argued that the applicants themselves had never lodged a criminal complaint - the case was brought by a non-governmental organisation. The government also said the comments at issue, although deplorable, had not given rise any criminal act, according to the ruling. But the court rejected the authorities' arguments.

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Indonesia: LGBT community faces backlash after Reynhard Sinaga's rape conviction
By The Guardian, 13 Jan 2020

The mayor in the home city of an Indonesian man described as Britain’s “most prolific rapist” has ordered raids to uncover members of the LGBT community, prompting fears of a growing homophobic backlash across the country. The mayor of Depok, a city south of Jakarta, asked residents to report any signs of LGBT activity which he characterised as “deviant behaviour”. Mohammad Idris also called on several agencies to improve efforts to prevent the “spread of LGBT” in order to “strengthen families and … protect the children” and instructed police to carry out raids to uncover “LGBT behaviour”. His comments follow the conviction of Reynhard Sinaga, 36, a mature-age student from Indonesia, who was found to have abused at least 195 men, luring them to his flat in Manchester before drugging and attacking his victims. Sinaga was sentenced to life in prison earlier this month. Last week a coalition of 16 LGBT and human rights groups, including queer rights advocacy groups, issued a joint statement condemning Sinaga, but said that his crimes should not be used to incite hatred. 

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Same-sex marriage now legal in Northern Ireland
By BBC News, 13 Jan 2020

From Monday, same-sex couples will be able to register to marry, meaning the first ceremonies will take place in February. For couples who are already married, their marriage will now be legally recognised in Northern Ireland. However, those who are already in a civil partnership will not be able to convert it to a marriage at this stage. The Northern Ireland Office is set to begin a consultation later this year about converting civil partnerships and the role of churches in same-sex marriages. Heterosexual couples will also be able to enter into civil partnerships from today.

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Israeli education minister implies homosexuality is unnatural
By Reuters, 12 Jan 2020

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Several Israeli school districts held impromptu tolerance classes on Sunday after the country’s education minister, an Orthodox rabbi, angered LGBT campaigners by implying homosexuality was unnatural. The furor over the remarks by Education Minister Rafael Peretz - who last year spoke favorably about gay “conversion therapy”, a widely discredited method - reached into the Israeli cabinet, one of whose members is openly homosexual. Asked by the weekend edition of the top-selling Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper what he would do if one his children had a “different sexual orientation”, Peretz said: “Thank God, my children grew up in a natural and healthy way. They are building their homes on the basis of Jewish values. I don’t bother my head with ‘what if’ thinking.” Several Israeli municipalities said they would open the new school week with tolerance classes in response.

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US: ‘Unalienable Rights’ Commission Risks Rights Protections
By Human Rights Watch , 10 Jan 2020

(Washington, DC) – The United States State Department’s Commission on Unalienable Rights risks calling for a dangerous downgrading of international human rights protections. On January 10, 2020, the Human Rights Watch executive director, Kenneth Roth, testified at the commission’s fourth open session. While the fundamental rights set out in the human rights treaties are clear, the Trump administration has taken issue with the rights they uphold, such as reproductive freedom or the rights of LGBT people not to face discrimination. Human Rights Watch expressed concern that the commission’s exercise in identifying “unalienable” rights is the administration’s unilateral attempt to rewrite international law based on its own beliefs.

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Bhutan: Historic opportunity to decriminalize same-sex relationships
By Amnesty International, 09 Jan 2020

Bhutan must seize an historic opportunity to secure equal rights for LGBTI people in the country, Amnesty International said today, calling on the upper house of parliament to pass a bill decriminalizing same-sex relationships. Following the lower house’s vote in favour of repealing discriminatory sections of the penal code last June, the bill proposing amendments will be presented to the National Council, the upper house of parliament, this month. “If the amendment bill is passed by the upper house, this will be an important step in recognizing that Bhutan supports the equality of all citizens regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. Although no one is believed to have been convicted or prosecuted under these provisions until now, the mere existence of such discriminatory laws creates a chilling effect, and exacerbates discrimination and stigma against LGBTI people - subjecting them to harassment, blackmail and violence. 

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