Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 12 / 22 March 2018

Greece passes gender recognition law


Protesters gather outside Parliament in support of a gender identity bill in central Athens, on Monday, October 9. Photo: AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris
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Greek lawmakers this week passed a controversial gender recognition law.

Of the 300 members of Greece's parliament, 171 cast votes in favor of the law, which was passed October 10.

The law will allow transgender individuals as young as 17 to legally change their gender on government-issued documentation without undergoing mental or physical medical procedures.

"To have access to the labor market, to travel, and deal with daily life under a name that they want, and which corresponds to how they feel, should not be negotiable," said Syriza lawmaker Anneta Kavadia, reported Reuters.

The bill was supported by the Syriza party, Greece's left-leaning ruling party, but opposed by conservative lawmakers and Archbishop Ieronymos, head of the powerful Greek Orthodox Church.

The archbishop's spokesman, Haris Konidaris, called the bill "extremely provocative for the core values of society" and said it "threatens to dissolve family as an institution and actually undermines and underestimates the value of each and every human being."

According to media reports, the church unsuccessfully pressured lawmakers to withdraw the bill.

Some conservative lawmakers expressed concerns that young men would use the law to dodge compulsory military service, according to media reports.

Transgender activists gathered outside of parliament hailed the bill as a "historic" step, but said it stopped short of full equality.

The bill will make it easier to handle quotidian tasks, such as looking for a job and housing, as well as accessing education and traveling.

"For the transgender community, this is a first, big step leading to a better life," said Apostolos Staikos, a reporter with Euronews.

Prior to the bill, transgender people were forced to go through medical hurdles to legally change their gender.

Many transgender individuals were forced into prostitution to earn a living, said Anna Apergi, director of the Greek Transgender Support Association.

"This is a historic moment. For so many years, transgender people were in the dark. With this bill, it's no longer the case. It's important, because finally the state recognizes our existence," said Apergi.

Anna Kouroupou, 53, a trans woman who spent 30 years working as a sex worker, said, "The legal recognition of gender identity is a huge positive step."

However, limitations for some transgender individuals remain. Transgender people who are married cannot legally change their gender without getting a divorce. While the law has simplified the administrative process, transgender individuals still need to have their gender identity change approved by the courts. Youth 15 to 17 years old are still required to obtain a medical certificate to change their gender, according to transgender activists.

Transgender refugees and migrants were left out and won't be able to legally change their gender.

Richard Kohler, senior policy officer at Transgender Europe, said in a news release that the law failed the organization's human rights test.

"Having to appear before a judge is contrary to the idea of self-determination," he stated. "While the requirement to be single forces loving families to be ripped apart. This is cruel and violates the constitutional right to the protection of families,"

Transgender Europe has worked with the Greek Transgender Support Association on the gender recognition law since 2015.


US votes against death penalty ban

Members of the United Nations Human Rights Council voted 27-13 late last month on a resolution banning the death penalty under certain circumstances, including for LGBTs, during its 36th session in Geneva, Switzerland.

The United States was among 13 nations that voted against the resolution. While there was some criticism of Trump administration officials, others pointed out that the Obama administration abstained from a similar vote a few years ago.

Ty Cobb, director of Human Rights Campaign Global, called out U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley and the Trump administration, stating they "failed" by not standing up for the LGBT community on the global stage.

"This administration's blatant disregard for human rights and LGBTQ lives around the world is beyond disgraceful," said Cobb in a statement following the vote.

Former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice, who served under President Barack Obama, tweeted, "shame on US!" in response to the vote.

"I was proud to lead U.S. efforts at the U.N. to protect LGBTQ people back in the day when America stood for human rights for all," she tweeted.

Haley fired back, "Fact: There was NO vote by USUN that supported the death penalty for gay people. We have always fought for justice for the LGBT community.

"Fact: The vote that took place in Geneva is the same U.S. vote that took place under the Obama admin. It was not a vote against the LGBT," she continued.

Haley was partially on point. The U.S. vote against the death penalty ban wasn't completely out of character for the super power. The U.S. has never backed any measure that condemns the death penalty at the U.N.

The Obama administration abstained from a similar vote that didn't include sexual orientation and gender identity in 2014.

The U.S. is one of the few industrialized nations that retains the death penalty in 31 out of its 50 states as an acceptable form of punishment, reported BuzzFeed. The Death Penalty Information Center reported that the U.S. is in the top 10 countries worldwide with confirmed executions of prisoners in 2016.

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert called the media coverage of the vote "misleading," reported BuzzFeed.

"The United States voted against this resolution because of broader concerns with the resolution's approach in condemning the death penalty in all circumstances and calling for its abolition," said Nauert.


Crackdowns spread in anti-gay countries

Police crackdowns on LGBT communities have been reported in Burundi, Egypt, and Indonesia.

On October 6, Burundi became the most recent country to issue arrests for LGBT people, following the detainment of several queer people, including two teenagers, reported Gay Star News.

Individuals are reportedly being extorted in exchange for their freedom. Those who can't pay are being beaten and threatened with extreme fines and up to two years in prison.

The African nation is located just below Rwanda nestled between the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Tanzania. The countries are all homophobic, but Rwanda has resisted implementing harsh anti-gay laws despite President Paul Kagame's close relationship with anti-gay pastor Rick Warren, founder and leader of Saddleback Church, based in Lake Forest, California.

Burundi was one of the 13 nations that recently voted against the United Nations ban on the death penalty for LGBT people.

Similar calls for arrests and raids erupted in Egypt and Indonesia.

As previously reported, police raided popular gay hangouts and arrested people last month following a Mashrou Leila concert where some people raised the rainbow flag.

An alleged gay sauna in Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia, was raided by police October 6. Officers arrested 58 men, including some foreigners, police spokesman Argo Yuwono told reporters.

Seven men, including the sauna owner, face charges under Indonesia's pornography law.

Many of the 51 men were released Saturday after they were found not to be criminals or carrying drugs, according to media reports.

In May, 141 men at a popular bathhouse frequented by gay men were arrested. In April, 14 men attending a private party were arrested in similar raids, according to Human Rights Watch.

In September, 12 women were evicted from their home for allegedly being lesbians, according to HRW.


Got international LGBT news tips? Call or send them to Heather Cassell at Skype: heather.cassell or email


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