International News: May 8, 2020


Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro claims WHO advises kids to be gay

On April 29, Jair Bolsonaro made the false claim on Facebook that the World Health Organization (WHO) encourages kids to be gay and to masturbate.

“This is the World Health Organization whose advice on coronavirus some people want me to follow,” Bolsonaro wrote. “Should we follow their education policy guidelines, too? For children zero to four years old: satisfaction and pleasure when touching their bodies, masturbation…. For children four to six years old: a positive gender identity… masturbation in early childhood, same-sex relations…. Nine to 12 years old: first sexual experience.”

There are no such posts in the WHO handbook, but the allegations appeared to stem from social media posts suggesting the WHO encourages such practices among young children.

Bolsonaro has been at odds with the WHO since the coronavirus pandemic began.

He has claimed social distancing measures are ruining Brazil’s economy over a virus he compares to a “little flu.” Bolsonaro recently fired health minister Luiz Henrique Mandetta, who had gained popularity in national polls for his pro-quarantine, pro-science handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

Uganda LGBT shelter residents arrested on COVID-19 pretext

Police in Uganda are using presidential directives meant to combat the spread of COVID-19 to arrest LGBT people. According to Ugandan police, 23 people were arrested for living at a shelter serving LGBT people in Kampala, the Ugandan capital. Those arrested were charged with being guilty of “a negligent act likely to spread infection of disease,” as well as “disobedience of lawful orders.”

Those arrested were homeless youth at a shelter in Nsangi, near Kampala. The shelter is run by the nongovernmental organization Children of the Sun Foundation. While the COVID-19 orders limit groups of more than 10, no order limits the number of residents in a private home or shelter.

Police released two people for medical reasons, and also released a nurse who worked at the shelter’s clinic. But the 20 remaining LGBT people were remanded to prison. According to the legal aid group Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum (HRAPF), homophobia prompted the arrests. HRAPF asserts that neighbors complained to local leaders about the sexual orientation of shelter residents, prompting the mayor, Hajj Abdul Kiyimba, to lead a raid on the shelter.

Human Rights Watch reports a video shows Kiyimba berating residents for “homosexuality” and beating them with a stick. According to HRAPF, police searched the shelter for “evidence of homosexuality.” In Uganda, homosexuality is punishable by up to life in prison. Police confiscated HIV medication, self-testing kits, and condoms. At least three of those arrested were undergoing HIV treatment at the shelter. Police used the COVID-19 rules to instigate the raid.

Lawyers for the Children of the Sun detainees cannot visit them in prison — Uganda’s latest COVID-19 guidelines only allow people outside for essential services, which do not include legal services.

According to HRAPF, their application to visit the detainees was rejected by the Ministry of Works and Transport. Human Rights Watch and HRAPF are pursuing efforts to get legal representation and have the detainees released.

Canada to honor victims of Cold War-era ‘gay purge’

In 1953. President Dwight Eisenhower signed Executive Order 10450, which set security standards for federal employment that barred “homosexuals” from working in any aspect of the federal government. The restrictions forcibly outed thousands of lesbians and gay men who were then fired from the State Department and other U.S departments as Cold War security risks.

In Canada the same purging of gays and lesbians was occurring throughout the armed forces, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and other government agencies. Canada’s “gay purge” lasted from the post-WWII era through 1992 when a legal battle finally ended the policy,

In 2017, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau formally apologized to all the LGBT people who faced “state-sponsored, systematic oppression and rejection.” On May 3, it was announced that a national monument would be built in Ottawa to memorialize those harmed by the purge.

“Monuments can unite us in grief, help us learn about our past and bring us together as Canadians,” Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault said. “This monument will invite Canadians to reflect on this shameful time in our history and allow us to move forward together toward a future where all Canadians are respected for who they are.” The coronavirus pandemic has put the international design competition for the monument on hold for now, but the plan is to complete the $5.6 million monument by 2024.

Colombia, Panama and Peru gender restrictions harm transgender residents during pandemic

Colombia, Panama and Peru have all enacted gender-based restrictions to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Under these strictly enforced rules, women and men have been assigned different days to leave their homes. The rules are intended to limit the number of people in public. The binary restrictions are harming trans, nonbinary and gender nonconforming (TNBGNC) people, according to activists, who assert that police are using the rules to harass TNBGNC people.

Peruvian President Martín Vizcarra and Bogotá, Colombian Mayor Claudio López included clauses requiring law enforcement to respect the gender identities of transgender residents, but trans women have faced harassment and assault due to the restrictions, according to the Bogotá-based transgender rights activist group GAAT. In a statement, GAAT said gendered days “open the door to situations of discrimination and police abuses.”

In response to complaints, Human Rights Watch issued a letter to Panamanian President Laurentino Cortizo Cohen detailing the accounts of “12 transgender people of discrimination they experienced while leaving the house to purchase essential goods.”

Police in Panama have enforced the rule by checking national ID cards, but these often do not reflect the gender identity of TNBGNC people. Activists assert that trans women have faced arrests and fines because their IDs and gender presentation did not match. President Vizcarra replaced the gendered restriction with a gender-neutral one that allows one member of each household to go out to buy essentials.

The Victory Institute said these incidents highlight how “Colombian, Panamanian and Peruvian transgender communities lack representation in higher-level government, leading to officials passing restrictions like this one without their input.”