European court rules Hungary must recognize gender identity

  • by Heather Cassell, BAR Contributor
  • Wednesday July 22, 2020
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The European Court of Human Rights this month ruled that Hungary must recognize gender identity. Photo: Courtesy European Court of Human Rights
The European Court of Human Rights this month ruled that Hungary must recognize gender identity. Photo: Courtesy European Court of Human Rights

Transgender advocates applauded the European Court of Human Rights' July 16 landmark decision that Hungary is legally obligated to recognize gender identity.

It is the first ruling of its kind for the court, which recognized transgender refugees. The case is Rana v. Hungary.

The court also awarded plaintiff Jafarizad Barenji Rana, an Iranian transgender refugee, payment of $7,531 (6,500 euros) for non-pecuniary damages and $1,746 (1,500 euros) for court expenses incurred.

The ruling goes directly against a ban on gender recognition passed by the Hungarian parliament in May.

"It confirms that trans rights are indeed human rights and trans refugees enjoy the same protection under the European Convention for Human Rights as everybody else," said Jonas Hamm, policy officer at Transgender Europe, in the joint release with International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association-Europe and Transvanilla following the decision.

The court ruled that Rana was wrongfully denied the right to change his name and sex marker on his new identification documents in 2016 under Article 8 of the European convention.

Rana was granted asylum by Hungary in 2015 because he is transgender. He currently lives in Budapest, the Hungarian capital.

At the time, Hungary allowed transgender individuals to formally change their identification documents to reflect their gender change. However, there wasn't a law that covered asylum seekers, refugees, or naturalized citizens.

The Hungarian Constitutional Court and the European Court of Human Rights determined the legislative gap "disproportionately restricted their right to human dignity," according to the release.

The court's decision not only covers Hungarian transgender people born in the country, but also all legally settled non-national citizens.

Barnabas Hidasi, president of Transvanilla, noted in the release there are 23 similar cases against the Hungarian government that were filed in 2017 and 2019.

The transgender advocates called upon Hungary's government to swiftly recognize and comply with the decision.

Gay refugee launches 'LGBTQ Asylum' podcast

In the wake of President Donald Trump's recent threats to permanently close asylum and his decision to limit refugee resettlement, a queer refugee launched a new podcast focused on LGBTQ asylum seekers and refugee rights and issues.

The podcast, "LGBTQ Asylum," was launched by Sayid Abdull, a 28-year-old queer Uyghur refugee, on July 15. Its purpose is to demystify what it means to be an LGBTQ asylum seeker or refugee searching for safety in the United States.

Homosexuality is criminalized in nearly 70 countries around the world. Five countries impose the death penalty.

Abdull was granted political asylum in 2018. He left his family and home country of Kyrgyzstan due to persecution and anti-gay violence. Despite not being out at the time, he was often bullied and denied services based on the sound of his voice. Things weren't any better at home. His own family told him, "it would be better to be a rapist, a killer than to be a gay son," he said in the introduction of the first episode of "LGBTQ Asylum."

Abdull, who lives in Queens, New York, is involved in the local queer refugee and asylee communities and was recognized as a Forbes 30 under 30 and ADCOLOR Future, according to the July 17 news release announcing the new podcast.

In the first episode, Abdull interviews Aaron Morris, executive director of Immigration Equality, a New York-based legal advocacy organization focused on assisting LGBTQ and HIV-positive immigrants.

Immigration Equality helped Abdull with his asylum process when he first came to the U.S. 11 years ago.

During the episode, Abdull and Morris discuss some of the challenges that LGBTQ asylum seekers currently face under the Trump administration's new rules in their quest for asylum in the U.S.

Abdull will interview asylum experts and LGBTQ asylum seekers in future episodes of the podcast.

The podcast is available on iTunes, Google Podcasts, and Spotify.

Sudan reduces punishment for gay sex

In a surprise move, the transitional government of Sudan will no longer punish gay sex with death or flogging.

Gay men will no longer face 100 lashes for the first offense, five years in jail for the second offense, and the death penalty for a third offense for having sex with another man under the northeastern African country's old sodomy law.

The punishment for gay sex is now five years to life in prison.

The law was quietly changed as a part of a series of legal reform amendments by Sudan's transitional government on July 16. The new government took over after autocrat Omar al-Bashir was ousted last year. Al-Bashir had been in power since 1989.

Included in the new reforms is the banning of female genital mutilation. Women were also given more freedom. They will no longer have to ask a man for permission to travel with their children, reported Thomson Reuters Foundation.

African LGBTQ advocates were tentative in praising the changes.

"There was joy and hope," when the news spread, Noor Sultan, founder of Bedayaa, an LGBT+ group in Egypt and Sudan, told Out magazine.

However, she was cautious, citing the fact that the government is transitional, not fully in power. She added that there is always the possibility of another political coup, like the one last year, or a power grab by the previous regime.

"The political situation is very shaky," she said.

Yet, in her eyes, "these amendments are still not enough," Sultan told Reuters in another interview. "We see this as a positive change on the path to reform."

She told Out that it was a "great first step," but she wants to take advantage of the transition of power to push for more progress. "This is the time to advocate for more change."

Some Sudanese gay men don't believe life will change under the new law.

"We are still deprived (of) our right to live like any other members of society," Fabo Elbaradei, an LGBT+ activist living in the Sudanese capital city Khartoum, told Reuters.

Got international LGBT news tips? Call or send them to Heather Cassell at WhatsApp: 415-517-7239, or Skype: heather.cassell, or [email protected]

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