The LGBTQ+ news round-up: 20 March 2016

In the first edition of TQ’s weekly global round-up, blogger and campaigner Tom Ana gives you the run-down on some of the world’s most important LGBTQ+ news stories from the last seven days.

In Nigeria, campaigners launched the #ImAkin online campaign to raise awareness of the ongoing violent persecution of LGBTQ+ individuals after the death of Akinnifesi Olumide in early February. Olumide was severely beaten by anti-gay attackers and later died of his injuries. His death sparked further homophobic bigotry online, which campaigners are hoping to combat.

Russia has announced plans to close a United Nations human rights office in Moscow. The decision has been seen as part of an ongoing crackdown on foreign criticism over ongoing human rights abuses and the silencing of local critics.

Welsh Communities Minister, Lesley Griffiths, has launched a Transgender Action Plan to target some of the issues faced by Wales’ transgender community. The plan aims to ‘advance equality for transgender people’ and identifies issues such as bullying, health and housing as particular concerns.

African LGBTQ+ campaign group, Out & Proud, launched an online petition calling for Commonwealth leaders to promote LGBTQ+ equality in future meetings. The petition was launched to coincide with Commonwealth Day and also hopes to raise awareness of the 40 out of 53 commonwealth countries in which same-sex relationships remain illegal.

In, the USA, the White House has promoted its first openly transgender member of staff to serve as LGBTQ+ liaison. Raffi Freedman-Gurspan, a Honduran Jewish woman born in Massachussets, will serve as a representative for LGBTQ+ groups across the US after being in her current role for just over a year.

Religious leaders of the Mormon Church denounced so-called conversion therapies after a memoir was published detailing writer Alex Cooper’s personal experiences as a teenager. The news comes just days after research revealed that LGBTQ+ teenagers raised in Mormon households were at a much higher risk of suicide than peers from different religions.

In Georgia, USA, local lawmakers passed an anti-gay ‘religious freedom’ bill. The new law makes it legal for business owners and medical professionals to discriminate against individuals on religious grounds.

Legal proceedings have begun in Canada in the case of Paul Ritchie, a retired naval officer who has claimed he was unfairly dismissed from the Royal Canadian Army due to his sexuality. Ritchie, who is openly gay, claims that he was treated differently by officials during his time at the Halifax Naval Engineering School.

Botswana LGBTQ+ rights group, LEGABIBO, won an historic legal case after the High Court of Appeal ruled that the government must recognise the group as an NGO. The additional legal rights will be a significant boost to the group, who are the first to campaign for LGBTQ+ rights in the country. Although homosexuality is illegal in Botswana, growing sympathy for the LGBTQ+ community has helped fuel slow progress towards equality.

A new documentary by independent filmmakers, Mark Kenneth Woods and Michael Yerba, will focus on the hidden history of LGBTQ+ Inuit people. The film, to be released later this year, is intended to depict the story of a group often excluded from their people’s history.

According to the Human Rights Watch, growing religious fundamentalism is helping fuel the rise of LGBTQ+ persecution in Indonesia.

A pro-LGBTQ+ festival held in Lviv, Ukraine was attacked and besieged by far-right protestors. Despite threats received earlier in the week, organisers at Lviv Equality Fest angered anti-gay groups by stating that the event would continue as planned. Shortly after the event began, around 200 protestors surrounded the event venue. LGBTQ+ campaigners attempted to continue with events until a bomb threat made to local law enforcement forced the event to be evacuated. Eyewitnesses on Twitter also reported that police stood by as LGBTQ+ campaigners were attacked with bricks and stones. The attack on demonstrators mirrors similar anti-gay protests seen in 2015 and 2014 by far-right groups across the country.

A state visit by Ghanaian President John Dramani Mahama has angered Scottish LGBTQ+ activists and politicians. Members of the Scottish Parliament called for their government to confront Mahama’s anti-gay policies during a visit to Holyrood earlier this week. Mahama, whose government has overseen ongoing persecution of LGBTQ+ citizens, visited Scotland to receive an honorary degree from the University of Aberdeen.

In Kutaisi, Georgia, LGBTQ+ NGO Identoba held a small protest against the government’s recent approach to LGBTQ+ rights. In particular, campaigners are concerned over a draft bill that may help to ban same-sex marriage at a constitutional level. The protest marks one of the group’s only public events held since anti-gay protestors attacked a pro-equality march on the International Day Against Homohphobia in 2013, which has led many groups to fear similar actions in recent years.

Over 100 French doctors have admitted to helping same-sex couples conceive children in protest against discriminatory fertilisation laws. Although in-vitro fertilisation is legal in France, local laws restrict same-sex partners in accessing the treatments, as well as other similar surrogacy procedures.

Follow Tom on Twitter (@tom_ana_)

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