08 JAN 2016: Rainbow InFocus is your monthly wrap of LGBT news from around the world, spotlighting friendly places to travel to, latest developments in human rights, and other travel related tidbits of knowledge to make planning your next journey that much easier.

Travel Tips

There are several apps, gadgets, and organizations out there that make the process of planning travel easier for those in the LGBT community. One of the newest innovations is Misterbnb, an off-shoot of the popular Airbnb that is specifically aimed toward this demographic. This follows other similar type offerings such as Gay Homestays.

Another new gay travel user generated app is Gaybrhood, offering real-time information on events and social activities in various destinations. So far Dublin and New York are included, with London and Manchester soon to follow. The developers plan to fully launch in at least 10 cities in the next year, and over 90 cities over the next two years. Mexico’s Federal Secretary of Tourism had previously set up their own gay travel app, MexicoGayde offering similar information such as gay-friendly destinations in Mexico including bars, restaurants, theaters, spas, exhibitions and NGOs.

North American News

Following this past summer’s nationwide legalization of same-sex marriage in the United States, the Human Rights Campaign Foundation's Municipal Equality Index that rates over 400 US cities, including all state capitals, on how well they protect LGBT residents against discrimination. This year saw a record number of cities (47) with a perfect 100 score, including 19 that lack comprehensive protections against anti-LGBT discrimination. Every region in the country had at least one 100-point city, with the West, Great Lakes, Mid-Atlantic, and New England regions having the densest concentration of top-scoring cities, while the Mountain, Plains, Southeast, and Southwest regions fell below the average national score. Click here to see the full report.

International News

Currently 40 out of the 53 Commonwealth member states criminalise homosexuality, including Uganda, Cameroon, Nigeria and Brunei. Activists are demanding that Commonwealth member states “decriminalise homosexuality and legislate equal rights for their LGBTI citizens, in accordance with the human rights principles of the Commonwealth Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”

Ninety per cent of Commonwealth citizens live in Commonwealth countries where homosexuality is a criminal offence and where LGBT people have no legal protection against discrimination and hate crime.

Caribbean and South/Central America

Bermuda’s Hamilton Princess, cancelled a discriminatory event after realizing the nature of it which was booked under a different premise by the group “Preserve Marriage and Concerned Citizens of Bermuda”.

The general manager was quoted as saying the hotel would not be a ‘venue for anti-diversity discussions’. In related news, Bermuda’s Supreme Court ruled that individuals in same-sex bi-national partnerships with Bermudian citizens are guaranteed the same rights to reside and seek employment in Bermuda as their spouses. Same-sex marriage is currently not legal in Bermuda.

A prominent LGBT rights lawyer, Maurice Tomlinson, who lives in Montego Bay and Toronto has filed a lawsuit that challenges his country’s anti-sodomy law, citing the right to privacy and protection, as well as a deterrence to having effective HIV policies being implemented. Currently those convicted under the sodomy law face up to a decade in prison with hard labor and registration as a sex offender. There have been some advances in Jamaica, such as the first-ever Pride festival in Kingston.

Transgender people in Bolivia will soon be able to officially change their name, sex and gender on legal documents, according to a government statement. This comes on the news of more than 50 recent targeted murders on the LGBT community across the country.

Europe

Cyprus has legalized same-sex civil unions providing the same rights and obligations as married couples in a recently passed Civil Partnerships bill. However, this does not include the adoption of children as joint parents.

Slovenia held a referendum vote on same-sex marriage, and the bill was defeated by a slight majority. Voters were being asked whether to uphold a law passed in March, which would have made same-sex marriage legal.

The Greek parliament voted in favour of civil partnerships for same-sex couples. The bill does not allow same-sex couples to marry or adopt children and does not give them similar pension, labour and tax rights. The new legislation makes Greece the 26th European country to recognize same-sex partnerships.

Malta has allowed same-sex civil unions since 2014, has some of the world’s best trans and intersex laws, and may soon become the first country in Europe to ban ‘gay cure’ therapy. The World Health Organization has agreed conversion therapy is dangerous to a person’s mental and physical health.

Asia

Several people in Singapore protested the appearance of former American Idol contestant Adam Lambert performing at a free New Year’s Eve event, despite having already performed in the city three times prior already. Organizers went ahead with the booking of the openly gay singer to the delight of his many supporters there.

Lambert said, “My goal as an artist has always been to unite people. To try to find the common denominator to link all these different people from all over the world".

In similar news, the Singaporean government decided to keep its anti-gay law in effect, which criminalizes consensual sex between men for which the maximum penalty is two-years imprisonment, and gay couples receive no recognition from the state.

Results of the second, annual China LGBT Social Climate Survey report were fairly positive, with most agreeing on equality in the workplace, but less were supportive of same-sex marriage.

Of the 4,000 polled, 5% identified as gay, and a further 5% as bisexual. Nine per cent preferred not to say, and 81% identified as heterosexual. Support also seemed to increase for those who personally know someone from the LGBT community.

Almost one third of LGBT Cambodians have never come out and more than one-fifth wish they were straight, according to a recent survey. Discrimination was the main reason for staying in the closet. Both straight and LGBT people support anti-hate crime law, education for parents, eliminating classroom discrimination, and anti-bullying campaigns in schools.

The Indian Parliament has voted to keep gay sex illegal, with punishment of up to 10 years in jail. The Delhi high court decriminalised gay sex by ruling that Section 377 was discriminatory. But the high court in 2013 reversed the lower court’s order. Indian society sees homosexuality as taboo, and same-sex relationships are widely regarded as illegitimate.

Japan’s Democratic Party has drawn up an LGBT non-discrimination bill it plans to put forward in January. In November, Tokyo’s Shibuya ward became the first jurisdiction in Japan to issue certificates recognizing same-sex unions, and Tokyo ward Setagaya soon followed. A poll taken in late November showed a majority of Japanese approving of same-sex marriage. A total of 16 same-sex couples have received papers from the two wards to date. The city of Iga in Mie Prefecture located in the Kansai region of Japan on the island of Honshu, is also set to recognize same-sex partnerships as being equivalent to marriage in April.

As well, the city of Takarazuka in Hyogo Prefecture will start issuing partnership certificates to gay couples in June. Japan’s Democratic Party recently introduced a bill banning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. The proposed law would prohibit discrimination against LGBT employees of central and local governments, as well as private businesses.

Gay couples registered as partners in the Taiwanese cities of Taipei and Kaohsiung are now automatically recognized in both cities. While registered couples are not given all the same rights as married couples, they can act as each other’s legal representatives. Taiwan does not recognize gay marriage.

Africa/Middle East

Several men who attended a gay marriage ceremony in Kaolack, Senegal were arrested and accused of having gay sex according to local reports, and are now subject to punishment of up to five years in prison and fines of up to US$2,500. Earlier in the year, seven men were jailed for six months after being caught having sex during a police raid.

There are still 85 countries that have laws that criminalize homosexuality, ten which impose a death sentence, and others like Egypt that do not have explicit laws criminalizing homosexuality but can arrest people under morality laws without any recourse. Egypt’s current President, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, is accused of this and has been giving direction for mass arrests within the LGBT community. There are an estimated 150 arrests since 2013 when he assumed Presidency, the majority having to serve multiple year jail sentences.

Events

Archbishop Desmond Tutu will receive the International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association’s prestigious Chair Award for 2016, for being an individual or business that has made the world a more welcoming place for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender travellers. IGLTA Board Chair Dan Melesurgo said Tutu “is a true leader in the fight against HIV/AIDS, poverty, racism, sexism, homophobia and transphobia.” The award will be presented at the organizations global convention on April 14 to 16 in Cape Town, South Africa.

 

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