The worldwide offensive against the rights of the LGBTQ+ commmunity

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The worldwide offensive against the rights of LGBTQ+ people

The community, which is celebrating International Pride Day, has been hit by both the rise of the far right and hate speech in democratic countries and by the wave of religious extremism in authoritarian regimes

Whenever the rights of LGBTQ+ people move forward in the world, be it with laws that recognize same-sex marriage or the administrative identity of trans people, there is backlash, to a greater or lesser degree. The historical struggle of the LGBTQ+ community, which today celebrates Pride Day, is full of advances and setbacks, but now that dynamic is rapidly going backwards. And it is happening all over the world.

The offensive can be clearly seen in several countries of the European Union, fueled by a far right that has found that attacks on LGBTQ+ rights can be a powerful electoral and ideological tool. This is the case in Hungary and Poland, where there are doubts about the administrations’ democratic rigor, and in Italy, where the far-right government of Giorgia Meloni is seeking to block the legal recognition of families with same-sex parents. Spain, which has been consolidating LGBTQ+ rights for almost two decades, recently approved one of the most progressive laws to protect the LGBTQ+ community, but the so-called trans law is now under attack by the conservative Popular Party (PP) and far-right Vox, which have put it in the spotlight ahead of the general elections on July 23.

If in democracies, hate speech and the political use of LGBTQ+ rights are being utilized as an ideological weapon that poisons public discourse and puts the physical safety of LGBTQ+ people at risk, authoritarian regimes and dictatorships such as Russia and Saudi Arabia are penalizing — with the death penalty in the case of Saudi Arabia and Iran — marginalizing and erasing any expression of sexual diversity. In 32 of the 54 countries in Africa, homosexuality is prohibited, as an ultra-conservative religious trend sweeps the content and grows, almost contagiously, in more tolerant countries such as Senegal.

The world map of LGBTQ+ rights is immense and uneven. “What is really new is that more and more countries are experiencing legal setbacks and worsening legal situations,” explains Julia Ehrt, executive director of Ilga Mundo, the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association, which is made up of more than 1,800 organizations from 160 countries. “There are countries that are moving forward and changing law and policy in a positive direction when it comes to protecting people from discrimination and violence. But more and more places are going backwards,” says Ehrt. “Our feeling is that hostility against LGBTQ+ people is on the rise,” she says.

According to Ehrt, the wave of setbacks has to do, first of all, with the surprising progress that the LGBTQ+ community has made in the last decade, and which has triggered negative backlash. This has been seen in Spain, where the recent trans law has been fiercely attacked. And also in Brazil, where trans people have great visibility and a presence in companies and institutions, but simultaneously the highest number of trans deaths. Compounding the situation, says Ehrt, is the rise of right-wing governments — in Israel, for example, several ministers are openly homophobic — and the growing prominence of the conservative, anti-LGBTQ+ narrative in political debate, particularly in Western countries. Finally, these setbacks are also due to the way in which more conservative governments are attacking LGBTQ+ rights as a way to win over voters.

EL PAÍS has analyzed the situation of LGBTQ+ people in the world, highlighting the hot spots of the global offensive, region by region. “The reactionary wave, which is already here, is global,” says Gracia Trujillo, a sociologist who is a specialist in this field. “There is a feeling that we cannot let our guard down now. We have to defend what we have won. It’s our lives, the lives of our families, our students, our neighbors…“


Still the safest region for the LGBTQ+ community


Despite setbacks in some countries and the rise of hate speech, Europe continues to be one of the regions in the world where the LGBTQ+ community feels the safest. Of the 35 countries in the world where same-sex marriage is legal, 20 are in Europe, starting with the Netherlands, the first nation in the world to allow gay couples to marry, in 2001, to the microstate of Andorra and Estonia, which this year, become the first Baltic country — and a former Soviet republic — to take that step. Spain, what’s more, recently approved a pioneering law to protect and expand the rights of trans people and the broader LGBTQ+ collective.

Even so, these advances have been overshadowed by an alarming anti-LGBTQ+ undercurrent that goes beyond the two most openly anti-LGBTQ+ countries in Europe: Poland and Hungary. The EU Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) warned of this problem back in 2020, when it published one of the largest surveys — involving 140,000 respondents — in Europe. The poll found that European averages “hide huge differences between countries, in some of which more 70% of the LGBTQ+ population say that society is more tolerant, while in others 68% say that it is less so.” And this trend is continuing: in its latest annual report on Europe, ILGA-Europe warned that 2022 was the “most violent year in a decade for the LGBTQ+ community” in Europe. “We have seen proof that anti-LGBTQ+ hate speech is not just the words of marginal leaders or would-be autocrats, but a real problem with dire consequences for people and communities,” said Evelyne Paradis, ILGA-Europe’s executive director.

This is a dangerous trend that last year resulted in a deadly attack against a gay bar in Oslo that killed two people, left nine more with gunshot wounds and caused injuries to 25 others. There was a similar attack in Bratislava (Slovakia) that caused two more deaths. And last week, Austrian police revealed that they had detained three suspects with links to Islamic extremism who had allegedly been planning a terror attack on the Pride parade in Vienna. “This phenomenon is not only in countries where hate speech is rife, but also in countries where it is widely believed that LGBTI people are increasingly accepted,” warned Paradis.

Hungary and Poland

Ban on LGBTQ+ content in schools

Although in 2020 Poland was ranked as the worst European country with respect to LGBTQ+ rights, Hungary is close behind. In July last year, the European Commission announced that it would refer Budapest to the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU) over a law passed by the government of Viktor Orban that bans materials seen as promoting homosexuality and gender change at schools and TV shows for under-18s. According to European Commission, the law “discriminates against people on the basis of their sexual orientation and gender identity.” The complaint, filed in April, became one of the largest human rights cases in the European Union, after a total of 15 countries, in addition to the European Parliament, decided to back the legal action. Notably absent from the list of supporters was Italy, where the far-right government is taking steps to curtail LGBTQ+ rights.

Just a few weeks ago, Hungary also joined Poland in vetoing a declaration from the Council of the EU that called on states to “promote and support the fundamental right of all persons within the EU, including LGBTI persons, to be safe from violence, harassment and discrimination” and to protect the community from hate speech and “conspiracy narratives,” among other threats. At the end of last year, in an attempt to limit the wave of anti-LGBTQ+policies, specifically in Hungary and Poland, the European Commission proposed a regulation to ensure the rights of the children of LGBTQ+ couples are upheld across all member states. But this did not stop Meloni’s government from demanding Italian councils stop registering the children of same-sex parents a few months later.


Plans to ban gender reassignments and fear of ‘re-education’ centers


The Russian LGBTQ+ community was first silenced with the excuse that one’s sexuality should not be discussed outside the home. Once this step was taken, even more serious threats have begun to emerge. The Russian Parliament is processing a bill that will ban transgender people from having gender reassignment, a right recognized by the United Nations and even, to a degree, by the former Soviet Union. What’s more, Russian President Vladimir Putin wants to create an institute to “investigate the sexual behavior of LGBTQ+ people” — a move that has sparked fears that it will lead to a rise in so-called “re-education centers” aimed at “curing” gay people. For the activists who spoke to EL PAÍS, the life of “an entire generation” has been cut short.

United States

An unprecedented siege that began with an attack on women’s rights


A report published last week by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) estimates that there have been at least 356 attacks against the LGBTQ+ community between June 2022 and April 2023. These attacks include everything from “demonstrations aiming to intimidate organizers and attendees at drag shows, to bomb threats against hospitals that offer health care for LGBTQ+ people to a mass shooting that took the lives of five people in Colorado.” The rights of the LGBTQ+ community are under an attack in the United States, in an unprecedented siege has not stopped gaining force since the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in 2015.

Trans people are the most persecuted community. In just two years, at least 19 states governed by the Republican Party have enacted or are in the process of passing laws that ban gender-affirming treatments for minors. In some places, such as Florida, state authorities have also limited access to such care for adults. Florida has also banned drag shows, although a fedral court has temporarily blocked its enforcement.

The annual Trans March in San Francisco, on Friday, June 23, 2023.
The annual Trans March in San Francisco, on Friday, June 23, 2023.Santiago Mejia (AP)

These are the effects of the ideological war declared by the U.S. conservative movement after the conservative-majority Supreme Court ruled to curtail women’s reproductive health rights by overturning the constitutional right to abortion last year. That battle — which began with laws that persecuted the presence of trans athletes in women’s sports and rules for the use of public bathrooms for trans people — is also being fought in schools, where books about sexual diversity are being persecuted, banned from libraries and removed from academic curricula.

The issue has become a hot topic for the Republicans hoping to win the party’s 2024 presidential nomination. And, according to a 2022 poll by the Trevor Project, a youth suicide prevention group, it is having a serious impact on the mental health of trans people. Eighty-six percent of transgender and nonbinary youth say recent debates around anti-trans bills have negatively impacted their mental health. while nearly half seriously considered suicide in the last year.


Equality on paper, hate and murders in the street


In the last two decades, Latin America has made steady progress in recognizing the rights of LGBTQ+ people. However, what has been achieved through legislative and judicial channels has not translated into less violence, homophobia and transphobia. On the contrary, these manifestations of hate have been on the rise. Between 2014 and 2021, around 3,961 LGBTQ+ people were murdered in the region, according to Sin Violencia LGBTI, which brings together organizations from 11 countries in the region. The progress of laws on paper has not materialized in on-the-ground changes in the region, which is traditional and historically conservative. While some Latin American countries have taken steps forward, there have also been setbacks as a result of backlash from conservative groups, churches and right-wing governments. This, for example, has led to the rise of so-called “conversion therapies.”

Despite this, activism on the streets and the mobilizations of civil society have played a key role in the winning better recognition of LGBTQ+ rights. While Argentina, Mexico and Colombia are leading the advance, Central America and the Caribbean are lagging behind. Same-sex marriage is still prohibited in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, while homosexuality is a crime in Jamaica.

Members of the LGBTQ+ community, detained at the Men's Prevention Center of the East in Mexico City, in June.
Members of the LGBTQ+ community, detained at the Men's Prevention Center of the East in Mexico City, in June.Sáshenka Gutiérrez (EFE)

Bolivia, Ecuador, Mexico and Cuba have enshrined the rights of LGBTQ+ people in their constitutions, while same-sex marriage is recognized in Argentina (which in 2010, become the first country in Latin America to approve it), Uruguay, Mexico, Colombia, Costa Rica, Brazil, Ecuador, Chile and Bolivia, and the United States, which legalized it in 2015. Cuba only recognized same-sex marriage last year, and it is still a pending issue in Peru, Paraguay and Venezuela. Meanwhile, laws that recognize the gender identity of trans and non-binary people have been passed. In Latin America, 19 countries recognize a person’s right to change their name, sex and gender on their official documents.

However, Latin America continues to be one of the most dangerous regions in the world for the LGBTQ+ community. It’s difficult to know the true scope of the violence due to the lack of official government figures and the fact that these crimes are not always classified as hate crimes. LGBTQ+ organizations warn that the official figures are grossly underreported, with the trans community hardest hit by the violence. Around 90% of these attacks are reported in Colombia, Mexico and Honduras —countries where there is widespread violence that permeates the attacks on LGBTQ+ people.


Rising discrimination amid general violence


In Colombia, the LGBTQ+ population has been caught in the crosshairs of the resurgence of the armed conflict. The South American country — where at least 148 LGBTQ+ people were murdered in 2022, according to the organization SinViolencia LGBTI — has seen a comeback in armed groups and a rise in conflicts in many states. And that violence puts LGBTQ+ people at greater risk. The community has been targeted by different groups for decades, regardless of the changes in the armed conflict in Colombia. This time is no different. Marcela Sánchez, executive director of the NGO Colombia Diversa, explains: “Between the FARC and the other groups, the only difference is in intensity. Everyone uses discrimination for control and to gain advantage.” What’s more, these tactics have intensified in recent months. For example, the paramilitaries of the so-called Clan del Golfo, also known as Gaitanist Self-Defense Forces of Colombia , have increased their control in the towns of the Colombian Caribbean. Through murder, extortion and violence, the paramilitary group seeks to “impose order” — a goal that in the past has ended in acts of violence against the LGBTQ+ population.


More visibility, more attacks from the far right


Brazil can be considered a kind of paradise for trans people, while still being hell for the community, with more than 1,700 deaths in 14 years. For more than a decade, Brazil has had the highest official number of murders of trans people. At the same time, however, the trans community in Brazil has much greater visibility compared to many countries. In the last elections, two trans activists — Duda Salabert and Erika Hilton — were even elected to the Chamber of Deputies. But the LGBTQ+ community is also a victim of lethal violence.

The most recent figures from Trans Murder Monitoring — an international network of NGOs — reported 327 murders of trans and gender diverse people worldwide between October 2021 and 2022. Of those, almost a third (96) took place in Brazil, followed by Mexico (56), the United States (51) and Colombia (38). A total of 71% occurred in Latin America.

In addition to violent intolerance and machismo, there are other factors that help explain why Brazil is at the top of the list: the visibility and growing empowerment of the LGBTQ+ community, a large population of 210 million, and general violence, with 40,000 murders a year. In Brazil, as in the rest of the world, the vast majority of trans victims are women who were forced into sex work due to the lack of opportunities.

The election of two trans lawmakers coincided with the most conservative parliament in Brazil’s history, and the reactionary right has responded fiercely. The right has jumped on the issue of trans rights as a way to attack the progressive lawmakers; it has proposed bills to set back the community, and has turned the collective into the butt of jokes in a bid to mobilize supporters of former president Jair Bolsonaro.

And it’s not just the trans community that is being affected by the violence. Last year, 134 gay men, four lesbians, five bisexuals and two heterosexuals who were mistaken for gay men were murdered, according to a count by the Gay Group of Bahia. In parallel, leading politicians have become openly homophobic, so much so that it has ceased to be news. This is the case of two governors who were recently reelected: Eduardo Leite and Fatima Bezerra.

Artist Jaqueline Andrade (c) during an LGBTQ+ art show titled "Noite das Estrelas" or the Night of the Stars, at the Mare Favela complex, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Sunday, June 25, 2023.
Artist Jaqueline Andrade (c) during an LGBTQ+ art show titled "Noite das Estrelas" or the Night of the Stars, at the Mare Favela complex, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Sunday, June 25, 2023.Associated Press/LaPresse (APN)


A wave of homophobia fueled by religious extremism


A wave of homophobia is spreading across Africa. Uganda has just passed one of the most repressive laws against the LGBTQ+ community in the entire continent, but it is not the only place where there are setbacks. Countries such as Tanzania and South Sudan and even more democratic regimes such as Ghana and Kenya are also considering toughening laws against LGBTQ+ people. Activists believe there are two reasons behind the strong popular support for these measures: the growing influence of religious extremism, both Christian and Muslim, and the boom in anti-Western sentiment that identifies gender diversity as “deviations” alien to African cultures.

Homosexuality is prohibited in 32 of the 54 countries in Africa. South Africa has one of the most progressive laws with respect to the recognition of LGBTQ+ rights, having approved same-sex marriage, and in other countries such as Angola or Mozambique, progress has been made towards decriminalizing homosexuality. But the general trend has been backwards.

Leyes homofobas Uganda
A rally against Uganda's anti-gay bill in South Africa on April 4, 2023.Themba Hadebe (AP)

Five years ago, Laye (not his real name), a 28-year-old Senegalese man, was a prominent member of a collective to fight HIV/AIDS — in countries where homosexuality is prohibited, the LGBTQ+ community typically comes together in these types of associations. Laye was often seen taking part in public debates, working with European NGOs and even publishing articles in the media. Today he has disappeared from the public life and is practically in hiding. “They have tried to lynch me on several occasions,” he tells EL PAÍS by phone. “I don’t want to talk to journalists anymore. I have dedicated a good part of my life to this fight, but I can’t anymore. Even my family was threatened.”

Senegal is a Muslim-majority country with a strong tradition of tolerance. However, the emergence of Islamic groups and sects under foreign influence, especially from countries such as Qatar and Saudi Arabia, is starting to change society. “Before it was difficult, but now it’s hell,” says Laye. So far, the Senegalese government has managed to resist pressure to toughen anti-LGBTQ+ legislation, which already sentences people accused of “acts against nature” to up to five years in prison. But it’s unclear if they will be able to hold out for much longer. The main opposition leader, Ousmane Sonko, who is especially popular among young people, has vowed to raise the penalty if he’s elected into office.


20 years in prison for "promoting homosexuality"

“There’s now an attempt at social imperialism — to impose social values of one group on our society. We’re sorry to see that you [the West] live the way you live, but we keep quiet about it!” said the president of Uganda, Yoweri Museveni. He made this statement in May to justify a new anti-LGBTQ+ law, which allows the death penalty for homosexual acts, and up to 20 years in prison for the “recruitment, promotion and funding” of same-sex “activities.” For lesbian feminist Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera, the law — approved by a majority on May 19 — is a victory for “the ultra-right factions of Western churches that have settled in Uganda in the last decade.”


Life imprisonment for recidivism in "homosexual practices"

The Family Protection Bill. That’s the name of a legislation being considered in Kenya, where so-called “homosexual practices” are already punishable by up to 14 years in prison. The bill includes life sentences in case of “recidivism” and even the death penalty for “aggravated homosexuality,” in cases where one person in the same-sex relationship is minor or mentally handicapped. “It is a hateful piece of legislation that will truly make the lives of queer Kenyans unbearable if passed,” Annette Atieno, a member of the National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission campaign group, told Reuters.


Where discrimination is the law


Almost all countries in the Middle East criminalize homosexual sex in law or in practice, with few exceptions such as Bahrain and Jordan, where same-sex relationships between consenting adults are not illegal as long as they are kept hidden, according to ILGA data. Among the states that have institutionalized the persecution of the LGBTQ+ community, three stand out for their habitual use of capital punishment: Saudi Arabia, Iran and Yemen, which punish same-sex relations with death by beheading, hanging or stoning. In Yemen, only men are executed, while lesbians risk three to four years in prison, provided they are not also convicted of other crimes unrelated to their sexual orientation.

In Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Afghanistan and Pakistan, death sentences are sometimes handed down against LGBTQ+ people, but it is most common for them to be sentenced to prison, as is the case in Iraq, Egypt and Oman. These prison sentences range from several months to up to seven years, depending on the country. In 2020, Sudan repealed the death penalty as punishment for gay sex.

Saudi Arabia and Iran

From lashes to death penalty

Mehrdad Karimpour and Farid Mohammadi, 32, had spent six years in prison when they were hanged for “sodomy” in January 2022 in the Iranian city of Maraghe. The two men were executed in a country where just kissing someone of the same sex “with lust” can be punished by up to 74 lashes. It is not even known how many LGBTQ+ people have been hanged in Iran. According to human rights organizations, LGBTQ+ people often end up being hanged due to convictions for serious crimes unrelated to their sexual orientation, such as “enmity with God” or “corruption on Earth.”

The paradox is that Iran does allow gender reassignment thanks to a 1980 religious ruling by the then supreme leader, Ayatollah Khomeini, who considered transgender people to be patients born in the wrong body. This relative tolerance from which many transgender Iranians have benefited has, however, worsened the situation of the LGBTQ+ collective as a whole. LGBTQ+ people are now not only persecuted, imprisoned, and often tortured, but are also under severe pressure to get hormones and undergo gender reassignment surgery.

The other main executor of LGBTQ+ people in the Middle East is Saudi Arabia, according to ILGA. That country lacks a criminal code and its courts are governed by Islamic law, which equates “sodomy” with adultery, a crime punishable by stoning. As in Iran, LGBTQ+ people have been charged with “corruption on Earth” or spying for other countries, charges that also carry the death penalty. Saudi courts can order torture such as flogging or conversion therapy.


A traditional oasis with a homophobic government

By ANTONIO PITA, Jerusalem

The election of a government with openly homophobic ministers and the unprecedented power of religious and far-right parties have filled the LGBTQ+ community with fear. Israel does not recognize same-sex marriage or adoption, but it is the country in the Middle East that is most respectful of LGBTQ+ rights, where the president of Parliament is openly gay. Israel likes to present itself as an island of modernity in a sea of intolerance, both for political reasons and due to the fact that Tel Aviv is a popular destination for gay tourists.

But the election of the far-right government has served as a reminder that Israel does not end at Tel Aviv. Just a few days ago, on June 20, Yitzhak Pindrus, a lawmaker for United Torah Judaism, one of the ultra-Orthodox parties that make up the government coalition, defined the LGBTQ+ collective as “the most dangerous thing to the state of Israel — more than Islamic State, more than Hezbollah, more than Hamas.” “That is why… I need to not only prevent the Pride parade, but in general to prevent this movement,” he added.

And he is not the only one in government who thinks this way. Itamar Ben Gvir, the Minister of National Security (which is in command of the police), is a far-right politician who participated in a counter-march against Jerusalem Pride with donkeys and goats. It was called the “March of the Beasts,” in order to compare the LGBTQ+ community with farm animals. Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich has defined himself as a “proud homophobe”; and the Minister of Heritage Amihai Ben-Eliyahu wrote an op-ed on “LGBTQ+ terrorism.” The most homophobic figure is arguably Avi Maoz, the Secretary of State, who wants to reintroduce the “father” and “mother” boxes on state forms (including forms for military service, which is compulsory). Currently there is a neutral formula.

A Pride Week party in Tel Aviv, Israel, on Friday, June 9, 2023.
A Pride Week party in Tel Aviv, Israel, on Friday, June 9, 2023.Associated Press/LaPresse (APN)

The legal rights of the LGBTQ+ community remain intact, although proposals — such as allowing employers to discriminate against gay people on the grounds of their “religious beliefs” — are being discussed. At the moment, LGBTQ+organizations are on guard and mobilized, and are backed by internationally allies, as evidenced by Pride March in Jerusalem, on June 1, which was the biggest in history. They have also spoken out against an attitude that legitimizes attacks on LGBTQ+ people. According to a May survey, 86% of the collective feels less safe.

Israel is also heterogeneous. At least half of the population (Palestinians with Israeli citizenship, ultra-Orthodox, religious nationalists...) overwhelmingly rejects or persecutes homosexuality, as shown by the recent murder of Sarit Ahmed. She was an 18-year-old Druze lesbian who had been threatened with death by two of her brothers because of her sexual orientation. After a failed attempt at reconciliation, she moved in with her sister. When her brothers were released from prison, she asked the police for help and was sent by taxi to a shelter for young women in danger. However, she changed her mind before stepping through the door. She thought she would be safer with her sister. A few days later, her body was found with several gunshot wounds. The main suspect is one of her brothers. The local Druze sheikhs did not attend her burial.


Invisibility, persecution and stigma


Asia is a varied continent, and also varies in terms of LGBTQ+ rights. The disparity is immense. In many countries progress has been made, while in others, there have been steps back. But overall it is light years away from the European Union. The self-governing island of Taiwan was the first and so far the only place to recognize same-sex unions (in 2019). In Thailand, which is one of the most tolerant countries, the winners of the last elections (who have not yet formed a government) want to take the same step. In several countries, invisibility is the main approach. In others, persecution and stigma. Indonesia, the country with the world’s largest Muslim population, passed a law in December banning extramarital sex and cohabitation between unmarried couples, a blow that “violates the rights of women, religious minorities, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people,” according to Human Rights Watch. Singapore, on the other hand, legalized gay sex in January, while it is still illegal in Malaysia, Bangladesh and Myanmar, according to the ILGA database.

The pandemic also worsened the situation. The Covid-19 lockdowns in Asia an led to an increase in transphobia and homophobia and in prejudice, stigmatization, verbal abuse and physical violence, according to the latest report from the Asia Pacific Transgender Network. Between October 2021 and September 2022, 40 trans or gender diverse people were killed in Asia, according to Amnesty International.


A bleak outlook

These are bad times for the LGBTQ+ community in China. In a country that decriminalized homosexuality in 1997, the early years in the 2000s marked an awakening of the movement and the defense of LGBTQ+ rights. But recently, that openness has changed course. “The tightening of regulations has reduced the visibility and media coverage of the LGBTQ+ cause in China,” reported the Rainbow China collective in a document prepared for the European Union delegation in Beijing. The text paints a bleak picture. The laws, it says, have restricted civil society and have disproportionately affected the LGBTQ+ movement, reducing its ability to mobilize. “Extrajudicial persecution” has become commonplace for activists, who routinely suffer from “harassment and intimidation,” while almost all organizations have been forced to close completely or suspend activities.

In May, the organization Beijing LGBT Center was forced to close due to “force majeure,” it said in a statement. The organization, which opened in 2008, was dedicated to all kinds of services for the LGBTQ+ community, from psychological help and education on gender diversity to support on issues such as living with HIV. Its closure has been a huge blow to the community. In 2020, Shanghai Pride, the organization that promoted the largest pride event in the country for 11 years, announced that it was canceling all its activities.

“Although LGBTQ+ people in China suffer from stigma and discrimination, this does not usually lead to hate-motivated violence,” said the internal document from the EU delegation in Beijing. The text highlights that homosexuality and same-sex relationships are often in conflict with Chinese cultural traditions, which is why they are disapproved of by society.

China allows trans people to change the gender marker on their official documents, as long as they have undergone surgery, but has not prohibited so-called conversion therapy. Lawmakers considered recognizing same-sex unions during a 2020 review of the civil code, but it was not finally proposed. Beijing does not have any official body in charge of the LGBTQ+ community, according to LGBT Rights Advocacy China. In 2021, the government censored the appearance of effeminate men on public television. According to activists, the social media accounts of LGBTQ+ university groups are being shut down. LGBTQ+ events of all kinds are intercepted by the police, especially when their organizers contact the media and Western embassies or international organizations. “Activists have come under pressure for their work and have even been summoned and detained in police custody. In some cases, their relatives are also harassed by the authorities,” said Rainbow China. The LGBTQ+ movement in China has been “intentionally decimated by the Chinese authorities,” it concluded. Although there have also been advances, such as the 2021 opening of the first clinic for gender-affiiming treatment for minors at the Children’s Hospital of Fudan University in Shanghai.


A complex taboo

India decriminalized homosexuality in 2018 thanks to a landmark Supreme Court ruling that upended a colonial-era rule. But everything that has to do with diversity is still a complex taboo in the country. “India’s LGBTQIA+ community still faces systemic discrimination at the best of times, and insidious violence at the worst,” reported a recent article published by the Women’s Media Center Foundation. The article added that Indian law recognizes the basic rights of the community, including gender self-determination and identification as a third gender. Cohabitation between people of the same sex is not penalized, but same-sex marriage is not legally recognized, “barring couples from making decisions as a new family,” it added. This could soon change: several couples have asked the Supreme Court to legalize same-sex marriage.

In 2022, a qualitative study on the treatment of LGBTQ+ people in Indian hospitals — published in Sexual and Reproductive Health Matters — concluded that “patients faced intersectional discrimination, which had implications for their dignity and well-being.” The study went further and dissected many of the social and family pressures faced by the LGBTQ+ community. One of the interviewees, a 26-year-old queer patient, recounted how people close to him spent a fortune on conversion therapies, which are illegal without the patient’s consent. First, he says, they took him to a religious healer who charged him 500,000 rupees (about $6,090) for a hawan, or fire ritual. When he didn’t convert, his relatives paid another 100,000 rupees (about $1,200) for him to spend time “in a hospital for conversion psychotherapies.”

A 2022 report from the U.S. government highlights positive points, such as a resolution of the Supreme Court of the city of Madra, which recommended awareness courses for public officials and police, and also for“state and central governments to be ordered to create reform plans to protect the rights of LGBTQ+ people. The court further suggested the revocation of the licenses of doctors who claim to have a “cure” for homosexuality and recommended gender-neutral bathrooms in schools and universities, according to the document. As for the negative: NGOs have complained about “discrimination and violence including physical attacks and rape of members of the LGBTQ+ community” and the fact that some police officers committed crimes against members of the community and used “the threat of arrest to coerce the victims to not report the incidents.”


Design: Ana Fernández
Art direction: Fernando Hernández
Development: Alejandro Gallardo

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