International News: January 10, 2020


Pakistan issues health IDs for trans people to improve care

Pakistan began issuing special health ID cards for transgender people on Tuesday as a way to lessen health care discrimination.

Trans people have often been denied treatment in Pakistan because doctors could not decide whether to treat them in a male or female ward and have even died for lack of care.

The government plans to set up separate wards in hospitals around the country for transgender patients, according to Dr. Zafar Mirza, a special aide to Prime Minister Imran Khan for health services.

Pakistan, a conservative, majority Muslim nation, officially recognized transgender as a third gender in 2012.

Yet transgender people are still largely confined to the margins of society, often taunted in public, ostracized by family and targeted in violent attacks. Most transgender people in Pakistan are forced to survive by begging, dancing or prostitution. Gender affirmation surgery requires a court order, family approval, a psychiatrist’s note and a medical recommendation.

The Supreme Court ordered the government to list transgender as a third gender on ID cards, and the national agency responsible for issuing them will also handle the new health cards.

The health ministry will immediately start giving health cards to all transgender people who are registered, said Dr. Mirza.

Transgender people face greater peril in more conservative areas of Pakistan, where Islamic extremists associate them with homosexuality and prostitution.

But there are also signs of progress. In 2018, Marvia Malik made history by becoming Pakistan’s first transgender newscaster at 21 years old.

Rio police identify suspect of attack on Netflix filmmakers

Police in Rio de Janeiro have identified one of the people responsible for a gasoline bomb attack targeting satirists behind a Christmas program on Netflix that some critics described as blasphemous.

Officers carried out a search warrant the morning of Dec. 31 and found money, a fake firearm, ammunition, a “political-philosophical” shirt and computers, police said in a written statement. Police also had a warrant for the suspect’s arrest, but he remains at large.

Police did not immediately release other details, including the suspect’s name, but planned a news conference for Dec. 31.

The Christmas Eve attack on an empty video production house didn’t injure anyone but came as a shock. A video circulating days later on social media showed three men claiming responsibility for the attack, and said they had targeted Brazilian comedy group Porta dos Fundos for its Portuguese-language program.

The comedy group’s short film, “The First Temptation of Christ,” depicts Jesus returning home on his 30th birthday and insinuates he is gay. Religious groups bristled at the depiction. Creators of the film have defended it as legitimate freedom of expression.

At least four people were involved in the attack, police said previously.

Belize appeals court upholds decision overturning law criminalizing gay sex

Belize’s Court of Appeals has upheld a 2016 Supreme Court ruling that overturned the country’s colonial-era anti-sodomy law.

Belize’s attorney general appealed the high court’s ruling, but the Court of Appeals upheld it, and, what’s more, endorsed a portion of the decision recognizing protections for sexual orientation, the human rights website Erasing 76 Crimes reports.

The anti-sodomy law, which called for a 10-year prison sentence for anyone convicted of engaging in consensual same-sex relations, was challenged by Caleb Orozco, a health educator, who argued that it was unconstitutional.

Orozco claimed that the law violated Belize’s constitutional guarantees of personal privacy and human dignity, and infringed not only on his right to live free from discrimination but on his freedom of conscience and freedom of expression.

He also noted that criminalization of consensual same-sex acts would exacerbate the spread of HIV by discouraging people from getting tested and put LGBTQ people at risk by intimidating them from reporting instances of violence, sexual assault or discrimination.

Writing for the court, Kenneth Benjamin, the chief justice, found that the anti-sodomy law was indeed unconstitutional and could not be applied to consensual sexual acts conducted in private.

Benjamin also found that Belize’s law prohibiting discrimination based on sex applies to instances where someone has been discriminated against because of their sexual orientation. 

Reporting via Associated Press