Discrimination and Disparity in the Covid-19 Pandemic
Covering the nearly two-year span of the COVID–19 pandemic to date, this roundup is a collection of reporting and research on communities around the world that have experienced the dual perils of discrimination and disparity. In addition to bearing the brunt of the disease, marginalized communities around the world have become the pandemic’s scapegoats and the targets of rumor, distrust, and disinformation campaigns, resulting in the “racialization” of the virus and creating further insecurities during the crisis. Beyond local inequalities, the coupling of discrimination and disparity has generated transnational inequities such as the outbreak of anti-Asian racism, the targeting and marginalization of migrants and refugees, and the disproportionately worse illness outcomes of Indigenous and Black people.
The situation has created obstacles to protecting communities against the ongoing effects of COVID–19. Among historically persecuted communities, longstanding distrust of government brought about by historical injustices has cultivated resistance to state-driven medical interventions such as vaccine campaigns. And local inequalities have been exacerbated by structural inequalities at the international level, with the wealthy West accused of hoarding health resources such as vaccines.
This collection contains more than 160 news reports, research articles, and data sources covering conditions and developments at the global, regional, and national levels. Data and information in older items are likely outdated and should be treated as historical records, reflecting emergent problems and understandings that have produced the current social, political, and economic landscape of the pandemic. However, the unfolding of coverage reveals how knowledge of the differential impact of the pandemic has shifted, from early awareness of racial and ethnic mortality disparities and reports of discrimination to recent concerns about vaccine nationalism and the long-term economic impacts of the pandemic.
Demands for government to deal with far-right extremism grow in Australia
Groups such as the now-defunct United Patriot Front and the Lads Society and the current National Socialist Network have created space for White nationalists in Australia to organize both online and offline.
All 27 currently listed terrorist organizations are extremist Islamist groups, despite the fact that the Australian Security Intelligence Organization (AISO) reported that far-right terror accounted for 40% of its caseload; in the two decades since membership in a terrorist organization was criminalized in response to the 9/11 attacks in the U.S., no far-right group in Australia has been classified as a proscribed organization.
The increasingly transnational dimensions of far-right organizing have posed a particularly difficult challenge, including the influence of the mainstreaming of far-right politics in the U.S. and fallout from the 2019 Christchurch massacre in which an Australian national killed 51 in an attack on the Al Noor Mosque and the Linwood Islamic Centre.
New Zealanders rally in support of Muslim community as government takes action
Some 15,000 people attended a rally in Christchurch to honor the memory of the 50 who died in the recent terror attacks.
The country’s chief censor issued a ban on the attacker’s manifesto, classifying the document in the same way as other terroristic propaganda such as Islamic State materials.
More than 1,000 voluntarily turned in their weapons as the government moved to ban military-style semiautomatic weapons, with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announcing she expects legislation to be in place by mid-April.
Australian Parliament legalizes same-sex marriage following postal referendum
With a near-unanimous vote, the House of Representatives voted to amend the Marriage Act to remove the barrier to marriage rights for same-sex couples, following a similar vote in the Senate.
A postal referendum, the result of a controversial decision by the Tony Abbott–led government in 2015 to put the marriage right question to popular referendum, returned 61.6% of Australians voting in favor of removing orientation-based discrimination in marriage law.
The Marriage Act had been amended in 2004 to deny same-sex couples the legal right to marriage.
Indigenous leaders in Australia seek formal legal and political representation with government
More than 250 Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander leaders met in Uluru to discuss political recognition, agreeing formal treaties were necessary beyond proposed symbolic representation in the constitution.
The government issued an apology for historical injustices in 2008, although community leaders and activists have sought legal commitments to reparative measures beyond symbolism.
The push is likely to face strong opposition as the Australian Constitution has only been amended eight times in 44 attempts in its 116-year history.
For six decades across the 20th century, the Australian government pursued a ruthless policy of the forced assimilation of its indigenous population, tearing mixed-race children from their communities and creating “stolen generations” deprived of access to the culture of their aboriginal roots. The policy, similar to those pursued in Canada and the U.S., forced children into boarding schools, church missions, and adoptions to erase connections to their communities. Canadian photographer Matthew Sherwood has documented the stories of those in the Northern Territory through his photo series Generations Stolen, profiled in The New York Times.
The Fight for Indigenous Equality, from Australia to Canada
As increased attention to negative outcomes in indigenous communities has pushed their governments to address racial disparities, Australian and Canadian indigenous advocates have drawn attention to the markedly similar ways in which English settler colonialism and systemic racial inequality unfolded in their countries. In both countries, indigenous peoples make up at least a quarter of the prison population, 40% of incarcerated children, and half of those in the child welfare system. Similar policies of forced family dissolution, detention, and delayed dismantlement of legal inequality have pushed advocates an ocean apart to come up with comparative solutions to the persistent indigenous/non-indigenous gap in their countries.
On the day following the inauguration of U.S. President Donald Trump, millions gathered in demonstrations taking place across all seven continents in support of women’s rights. Trump, who was elected despite having been accused of sexual assault by at least two dozen women, ran a campaign that attacked reproductive rights, disparaged high-profile women (including his opponent, Hillary Clinton), and equivocated on issues like gender pay equity, and of the 25 members of his incoming senior leadership team, only three are women. From Austin to Antarctica, women and allies around the world mobilized around issues including women’s security, reproductive rights, racial and immigration justice, climate change, and LGBTQ rights.
South Australia approves bill to recognize same-sex partnerships
The South Australia Legislative Council approved a bill to establish a relationship registry for same-sex couples in the state and recognize overseas same-sex marriages, including of Australian nationals who travel to New Zealand to be married.
The new law will allow same-sex couples to enjoy some of the partnership rights of opposite-sex couples, including recognition of next-of-kin status, and introduces protections for intersex people.
The bill followed the death of British national David Bulmer-Rizzi on honeymoon in South Australia, which prompted international outcry after his marriage to his husband Marco went unrecognized for end-of-life decisions and on the death certificate issued.
Despite its reputation as a beacon—however imperfect—of multiculturalism in the Asia Pacific region, Australia has increasingly come under scrutiny for its asylum policies, which make it nearly impossible for refugees to find haven in the country. International outrage has grown over more than a decade as an evolving set of agreements and restrictions have made the country’s practices increasingly less transparent and, some advocates argue, more inhumane.
Rejection of refugee-carrying vessels, offshore processing, indefinite detention, poor conditions in detention centers, and questionable legal maneuverings have caused humanitarian monitors to sound the alarm, questioning Australia’s commitment to international human rights laws. The most recent development in Australia’s ever-evolving asylum-seeker drama has involved an agreement with the U.S. to take those currently held in offshore detention on the island of Nauru, but the election of Donald Trump has introduced uncertainty into a situation already defined by precarity.
The International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia & Biphobia
Commemorating the day when homosexuality was de-pathologized by the World Health Organization in 1990, the 13th-annual International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia & Biphobia (IDAHOT) stands as an occasion for global mobilization towards LGBT visibility and security. The day, like many global celebrations, is also one many governments choose to speak out on global human rights and minority security, announcing initiatives to support their LGBT citizens and international projects.
Even today, ongoing disagreements between nations over LGBT rights have prompted diplomatic rows and roadblocks to international cooperation, including the recent objection of 51 Muslim countries to the participation of LGBT groups in a U.N. AIDS forum in June. The push to extinguish homophobia, transphobia, and biphobia at all geographic levels remains important to the global mobility of LGBT people worldwide.
LGBT Nigerians have continued wrestling with conflicting legal messages, with the recent passage of the landmark HIV Anti-Discrimination Act doing little to undo the effects of a 2014 anti-homosexuality law.
The Gay and Lesbians Association of Zimbabwe (GALZ) organized events for IDAHOT in Bulawayo, focusing on mental health as ongoing social and healthcare difficulties plague the community.
Though homosexuality remains criminalized in Tunisia, activists have achieved increased visibility and pushed for legal reform amidst ongoing discrimination.
Israel reaffirmed its commitment to LGBT Israelis, announcing funding to support an emergency shelter for LGBT youth and a hostel for trans people who have recently undergone gender confirmation surgery.
Days before IDAHOT, activists staged a sit-in outside of a Beirut gendarmerie, protesting Lebanon‘s anti-homosexuality legal holdovers from French occupation. Similarly, the Lebanese Medical Association for Sexual Health (LebMASH) issued an appeal to the Lebanese government to decriminalize same-sex relations, arguing for recognition of homosexuality’s presence within the natural variation of human sexuality.
Across Latin America, important gains in same-sex partnership and family rights and gender identity healthcare and legal protections have heartened LGBT Latin Americans, but the region continues to have some of the highest reported rates of violence against the LGBT community in the world.
LGBT organizations held cultural and political events throughout Argentina to highlight conditions facing the Argentine LGBT community, call for an anti-discrimination law, and press for federal recognition of the International Day Against Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Discrimination, as the day is known.
Cuba celebrated the day fresh off Pride events in Havana, where Mariela Castro, daughter of President Raúl Castro, led a parade of thousands through the city streets.
In China, a study conducted by the U.N. Development Programme, Peking University, and the Beijing LGBT Center, the largest of its kind to date, was released revealing that only 5% of LGBTI Chinese are fully out at school and work, but also showed encouraging levels of acceptance of LGBTI people among China’s youth. The head of Hong Kong’s Equal Opportunities Commission expressed support for anti-discrimination legislation at IDAHOT festivities in the city.
In Fiji, former President Ratu Epeli Nailatikau joined festivities at the French Ambassador’s residence to celebrate the island’s LGBTQI community.
A tug-of-war over LGBT rights between Islamic fundamentalists and pro-diversity moderates in Indonesia has led to mixed messages about LGBT security in the nation, spurring anti-discrimination protests.
A recent Human Rights Watch report on anti-LGBT bullying in Japan served as a reminder of the purpose of the day, highlighting rampant anti-LGBT sentiment even as the government has initiated broad efforts to combat bullying in schools.
The divergent prospects for LGBTI people across Europe, from Western Europe’s distinctive commitment to the protection of gender diversity to ongoing persecution in the East, was further confirmed through a UNESCO report highlighting anti-LGBT violence in schools released as global education ministers met in Paris.
In Gibraltar, organizers canceled event plans in support of action on marriage equality legislation currently under consideration, arguing that holding a rally in front of the Parliament as uncertainty prevails would undermine pressure on MPs.
Kosovo‘s first Pride march brought out hundreds from the LGBT community to Pristina, including the U.S. and U.K. ambassadors.
Organizations in Luxembourg planned a silent march to call attention to the plight of LGBTI individuals worldwide and call for increased international protections (including asylum).
Organizers in Serbia took the day to announce the date of this year’s Pride parade (September 18) and address concerns of homophobia as right-wing parliamentary representation has increased.
After advocates scrapped plans for IDAHOT activities in Georgia due to security concerns, a group of activists were arrested for painting pro-LGBT graffiti on administrative buildings. A “Family Day” protest against LGBT rights and visibility, the third such anti-LGBT demonstration, brought together members of Georgia’s conservative Orthodox community and international religious groups.
In the U.K., London’s new mayor promised to make the city a more just place for its LGBT residents as a rainbow flag flew over the Mayor’s Office.
Dozens of refugees held in Nauru while seeking asylum in Australia protest their detention
Protests have continued for more than a week as some of the asylum-seekers have been detained in the open-air center Nauru runs for Australia for 1,000 days.
The demonstrations coincided with Australian protests decrying Australia’s controversial offshore detention policy sending refugees who attempted to enter the country without authorization almost 2,800 miles away to Nauru.
Despite reports to the contrary, Australian and Nauruan authorities argue facilities are well-maintained, have good healthcare and activities, and, except during times of protest, allow for detainees to travel into the surrounding community.
Few of Australia’s controversial temporary visas for refugees are reaching their targets
Temporary protection visas (TPVs) and the Safe Haven Enterprise Visa (SHEV) were introduced as three-year and five-year work or education visas for refugees, respectively, requiring them to work or study to avoid losing their residency.
While some 2,000 have applied for the SHEV, refugee advocates say only 20 have been processed in the 18 months since the immigration ministry announced they would be used instead of opening pathways to permanent residency.
Without a SHEV, refugees are forced to remain in offshore detention, another of Australia’s controversial refugee policies.