It May Be Pride Month, but Not Every Country Gets a Parade

The month of June has been filled with colorful images of people all over the world donning the many shades of LGBTQIA+ pride from the 50th anniversary of Stonewall to the recent legalization of same-sex marriage in Taiwan. However, while the majority of coverage has focused on how far the LGBTQIA+ community has come, very few publications have addressed how far some international communities still have to go.

In July 2017, United States President Donald Trump announced his plans to ban people who identify as transgender from serving in the military. This ban was deemed unconstitutional by multiple judges, but this past January, the Supreme Court overruled the lower courts’ rulings which would have prevented the ban from being implemented.

Earlier this month, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ordered Seattle-based U.S. District Judge Marsha Pechman, to reconsider her ruling. Judge Pechman had ruled that the ban was likely unconstitutional but the 9th Circuit Court believed that she did not weigh the military’s judgment heavily enough. This was considered by many LGBTQIA+ advocates to be a step backward for transgender rights. 

Kenya, which was once thought to be one of the safer African nations for people in the LGBTQIA+ community, has seen a recent spike in hate crimes. According to Time Magazine, refugees that identify as LGBTQIA+ have been harassed by police, arrested without clear charges and the victims of physical attacks.

There have also been reports of local residents threatening LGBTQIA+ refugees to the point where they are afraid to leave their apartments for food. Advocates believe that the increase in police hostility is a result of a ruling by the High Court upholding the criminalization of gay sex last month.

Currently, there are still 12 countries where being a member of the LGBTQIA+ community is punishable by death. Those countries include Yemen, Iran, Brunei, Mauritania, Nigeria, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Somalia, Sudan, United Arab Emirates and Pakistan.

In May, Brunei abolished the death penalty for members of the LGBTQIA+ community after receiving backlash by the international community for its stoning practices.. This was the first sign of progress for the LGBTQIA+ community in Brunei, where Sharia law has made homophobia and discrimination omnipresent.

In 2017, there was a slew of coverage from many major western media outlets including The New York Times, The Guardian and The Washington Post on Russia’s campaign to abduct and torture LGBTQIA+ people in Chechnya. Advocates report that this abuse has since continued, but the issue has received little coverage until now. Media outlets such as NPR, NBC, BBC and others have published a new surge of articles to match the recent surge in gay killings in Chechnya. More than 100 people have been abducted and Human Rights Watch discovered torture tactics include electrocution and rape.

Even though many people around the world continue to be discriminated against by their governments for being who they are, there have been a handful of victories in recent months.

On May 24, Taiwan became the first territory in Asia to legalize same-sex marriage, almost two years after the Constitutional Court declaredthe previous law defining marriage solely between a man and a woman unconstitutional. According to Time Magazine, hundreds of same-sex couples exchanged vows in Taipei’s Shinyi District. 

Austria and Ecuador also legalized same-sex marriage this year, becoming the 26th and 27th countries to do so. Ecuador took this momentous step on June 12 following a lawsuit involving two gay couples whose requests to get married were denied by the country’s civil registry. Austria, on the other hand, legalized same-sex marriage in 2017 by the constitutional court, but the ruling only went into effect January 1 of this year.

In September, India’s Supreme Court reversed colonial-era legislation banning gay sex. This victory comes after the Indian Supreme Court passed multiple protections for transgender people in 2014, resulting in a number of transgender people running for office this past May.

In the United States 2018 midterm elections, there were more LGBTQIA+ candidates than in any other national race in American history. Furthermore, a record number of LGBTQIA+ people were elected into office. Currently, the United States 2020 presidential race includes a diverse range of Democratic candidates, including openly-gay Mayor Pete Buttigieg from South Bend, Indiana.

Though there has been recent progress in a few nations, coverage of Pride Month should not only focus on rainbow-clad festivities but also on the  human rights abuses in countries where being a member of the LGBTQIA+ community is a crime.   

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