Out in the World: LGBTQ rights at the center of tug of war globally in 2022

  • by Heather Cassell, BAR Contributor
  • Wednesday January 4, 2023
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Ukrainian soldiers squat during a patrol in a recently retaken village north of Kharkiv in Ukraine on May 15. Photo: Mstyslav Chernov/AP file
Ukrainian soldiers squat during a patrol in a recently retaken village north of Kharkiv in Ukraine on May 15. Photo: Mstyslav Chernov/AP file

LGBTQ people around the world faced challenges with ongoing attacks and groundbreaking wins in an action-packed 2022.

Gunmen struck fear in the heart of queer communities in Europe with mass shootings at popular gay bars in the capital cities of Norway and Slovakia.

Nine months into the Russian war in Ukraine, openDemocracy reported Russian soldiers targeted LGBTQ people in occupied territories. Ukrainian LGBTQ soldiers took up arms and wore unicorn badges on their uniforms, fighting against the Russian soldiers while support came from LGBTQ Ukrainians and allies abroad.

Russia and Uganda stripped the countries' leading LGBTQ organizations — the Sphere Foundation, the parent organization of the Russian LGBT Network, and Sexual Minorities Uganda — of their legal recognition as registered organizations in April and August, respectively. By the end of the year, Russian President Vladimir Putin criminalized all public expression of sexual orientation and gender identity, extending the 2013 Anti-Homosexual Propaganda law from minors to adults. The new law also includes gender identity and expression.

Sports entered the global political arena. Russia imprisoned WNBA star Brittney Griner for 10 months before she was freed. Qatar came under fire leading up to the World Cup for its poor human rights record, especially its suppression of LGBTQ Qataris. Queer and ally soccer fans questioned if they would be safe at the games in Qatar and San Francisco-based gay Qatari activist Dr. Nasser Mohamed came out to bring attention to LGBTQ Qataris in the Middle Eastern country.

Russia's top tennis star Daria Kasatkina came out as a lesbian in July.

Olympian Russian tennis star Daria Kasatkina, left, with her girlfriend, figure skater Natalia Zabiiako, posted on Instagram after she came out during an exclusive interview with Russian vlogger Vitya Kravchenko that aired on YouTube July 18. Photo: Court  

Some victories
Despite the challenges that made headlines in 2022, the year also brought the LGBTQ community some historical moments and wins.

The U.S. signaled its commitment to LGBTQ people around the world with the passage of the Global Respect Act by the House of Representatives. The bill, however, stalled and spent 2022 in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. It would need to be reintroduced in the new Congress.

In July, the European Commission took Hungary to the European Court of Human Rights for its passage of anti-LGBTQ laws in 2020 and 2021. As the court reviews the case, Hungary's right-wing Prime Minister Viktor Orban remains defiant. On December 21, he called for the dissolution of the European Parliament following reports of corruption, reported Radio Free Europe.

An Australian Special Commission of Inquiry began landmark hearings in November reviewing four decades — 1970 to 2010 — of cases of suspected hate crimes against gay men and transgender people in New South Wales in Sydney. Believed to be the first hearing of its kind in the world, the inquiry heard from LGBTQ experts and victims of hate crimes. The inquiry's report is expected in June.

South Korea's high court issued a groundbreaking decision overturning a military court's conviction of two gay soldiers caught having sex off base.

On November 11, Peru officially apologized to Azul Rojas Marín, a transgender woman who was raped and beaten by a group of police officers in 2008, reported the Washington Blade. The apology was compelled by a 2020 Inter-American Court on Human Rights ruling.

IACHR called upon states in the Americas to protect lesbians from all forms of attempts to change their sexual orientation and expression in April.

Queer scientists Carolyn Bertozzi of the U.S. and Svante Pääbo of Sweden were awarded the Nobel Prize in 2022. Bertozzi won in chemistry while Pääbo received it in physiology.

Hate crimes
Hate crimes against the LGBTQ ticked upward in 2022. Gay bar shootings around the world made the biggest headlines last year. They weren't the only assaults on LGBTQ activists and the community.

By November, Transgender Europe reported that 327 transgender people were killed globally in 2022.

Notable killings of gay men and lesbians also happened in 2022. Azerbaijani journalist Avaz Shikhmammadov, 24, was slain in February and Palestinian Ahmad Hacham Hamdi Abu Marakhia, 25, was killed in October.

Shikhmammadov's cousin, Amrulla Gulaliyev, 24, was sentenced to nine years and six months in prison for his murder in August, angering Azerbaijani LGBTQ activists. Authorities arrested Palestinian Abu Murkhiyeh on suspicion of Marakhia's killing. Police did not release a motive or the relationship between the two men.

Lesbians were also victims of violence and two were sentenced to death in 2022. Mexican lesbian newlyweds, Nohemi Medina Martinez and Tania Montes Hernandez, who was also known as Yulisa Ramirez on social media, were killed in Juarez, a U.S.-Mexico border city, on January 15. Authorities arrested David R., 24, and Jacqueline Isela C.R., 25, on January 24. Authorities only identified the suspects by their first names and last initials.

Kenyan nonbinary lesbian Sheila Adhiambo Lumumba, 25, allegedly was gang-raped and killed April 27, which drew a global outcry for justice. By the end of 2022, it was unclear if authorities had identified suspects.

The United Nations called out Iran to stop executing LGBTQ people after the Middle Eastern country sentenced two lesbian Iranian activists to death in September.

High courts in Antigua and Barbuda (July), St. Kitts and Nevis (August), Singapore (November), and Barbados (December) decriminalized homosexuality, determining the British colonial-era laws were unconstitutional.

Mariana Varela and Fabiola Valentin shared a kiss on their Instagram post announcing their marriage. Photo: Via Instagram  

Marriage equality
October saw one of the most beautiful same-sex weddings happen in 2022. Former beauty queens Fabiola Valentín of Puerto Rico and Mariana Varela of Argentina tied the knot, announcing the news on Instagram October 28. Same-sex marriage is legal in both Argentina and Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory.

Same-sex marriage became legal in all 32 states in Mexico in 2022. The feat came 13 years after Mexico City first legalized marriage equality in 2009 and Mexico's Supreme Court ruled bans on same-sex relationships unconstitutional in 2015.

Courts in Andorra (March) and Slovenia (July) ruled bans on same-sex marriage unconstitutional. Andorra also allowed transgender people to self-identify their gender identity. Slovenia is the first Central European and post-communist country to legalize same-sex marriage. The country also granted same-sex adoption rights.

More than two-thirds of Cubans voted "yes" for same-sex marriage and adoption rights in the Caribbean country's new Family Code in a September referendum. Cuba was the fourth country in the world to grant same-sex marriage through a referendum rather than through the courts. Ireland (2015), Australia (2018), and Switzerland (2021) previously voted for marriage equality.

Liechtenstein's Constitutional Court and legislature granted adoption rights to same-sex couples while lawmakers voted 23-2 to introduce a bill to legalize same-sex marriage in the small Alpine country in September. The bill is anticipated to be introduced sometime in the spring of 2023.

While there were big and small strides for marriage equality around the world in 2022, in March, the United Kingdom's Privy Court upheld the British Overseas Territories Bermuda and the Cayman Islands' bans on same-sex marriage.

Singapore also banned same-sex marriage in its constitution at the same time the country decriminalized homosexuality in December.

In 2023, Japan and Thailand will continue their countries' race to become Asia's second country to usher in marriage equality. The Asian countries have new competition with India entering the race in December, reported Voice of America.

Japan suffered a setback when a Tokyo court ruled the East Asian country's ban on same-sex marriage was constitutional November 30, agreeing with an Osaka court ruling in June. Last year, a Sapporo court ruled the ban was unconstitutional. However, the court in Japan's capital city ruled that not protecting same-sex couples was also unconstitutional. Tokyo started issuing partnership certificates November 1.

Two weeks after the shooting at a gay bar in the country's capital, Bratislava, Slovakian lawmakers voted against allowing same-sex couples to legally register their relationships October 24. The bill granted fewer rights than civil unions and marriage.

Competing same-sex marriage and civil union and opposition bills in the Czech Republic's and Thailand's respective parliaments will roll over into 2023.

Thailand has two bills that would legalize same-sex marriage and another, the Civil Partnerships Bill, that would grant some rights of marriage to same-sex couples. The bills are currently in committee. It is uncertain if Thailand's Parliament will vote on any of the bills before it is dissolved ahead of the country's elections in May.

The Czech Republic's lower house of parliament approved the same-sex marriage bill introduced in 2018 in April 2022. The bill will move to the upper house of parliament. Czech President Miloš Zeman vowed in June to veto the same-sex marriage bill if it came to his desk. A constitutional amendment limiting marriage to a union between a man and a woman was introduced in August. The Czech Republic legalized civil unions in 2006.

Ukrainian same-sex couples found unlikely support due to the Russian invasion. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy responded positively to a petition calling for the introduction of marriage equality. Ukraine is attempting to fast-track its membership in the European Union. He saw the need but opted to propose a civil partnership law. The law wasn't introduced by the end of the year. Ukrainian lawmakers could take it up sometime in 2023.

Georgia and Moldova also applied for E.U. membership, signaling increased LGBTQ rights on the horizon in Europe. One of the requirements to enter the E.U. is to improve human rights records, including LGBTQ rights.

Conversion therapy
At the beginning of 2022, two reports found so-called conversion therapy was thriving online despite recent progress made with various bans made by countries, regions, and cities around the world.

In February 2022, New Zealand and Israel banned conversion therapy for all ages.

The U.K. dropped plans to ban conversion therapy in March, then did an about-face a month later. However, U.K. lawmakers decided to only ban the practice for lesbian and gay people. In November, MPs called on the U.K. government to stop stalling and ban the practice, reported Gay Times.

By the year's end, Western Australia made moves to ban the practice.

Transgender and gender variant issues
Spain and Scotland gave hope to the world's transgender community at the end of the year, passing gender-affirming bills on the same day, December 22.

Spain's lower house of Parliament passed a bill allowing anyone older than 16 years of age to legally change their gender without medical supervision. Minors aged 14 to 16 years will need parental or guardian supervision, and those 12 and 13 years of age will need a judge's approval, reported Gay City News.

The Scottish Parliament passed legislation allowing transgender people to legally self-determine their gender and making it easier to update their legal documents without medical approval. It is a first for the U.K., which has been embattled in gender wars in the last two years.

Got international LGBTQ news tips? Call or send them to Heather Cassell at WhatsApp/Signal: 415-517-7239, or [email protected]

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