Tag Archives: Pacific Islands

Australia Features | Asylum-Seekers

Australia’s Refugee Hot Potato

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.

Read:
Offshore detention: Australia’s recent immigration history a ‘human rights catastrophe’” (The Guardian)

Additional:
The Nauru files: cache of 2,000 leaked reports reveal scale of abuse of children in Australian offshore detention” (The Guardian)
Refugees in Australia’s remote camps offered US resettlement” (AFP via Yahoo! News)

(Image Credit: Dean Lewins/AAP, via The Guardian)

International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia & Biphobia

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.

Here are highlights from IDAHOT 2016:

Africa & the Middle East


Video Credit: Collectif Arc-en-Ciel

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.

While a moratorium on LGBT criminalization is officially in place in Malawi, individuals are subject to entrenched marginalization and stigmatization in healthcare services, with a national referendum on LGBT rights having stalled.

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.

The Americas


Video Credit: teleSUR

U.S. President Barack Obama released a statement of support as his administration lended its voice to a national debate over the bathroom rights of trans people.

In Canada, PM Justin Trudeau announced an anti-discrimination bill protecting trans security as advocates organized a demonstration for trans healthcare rights following the firebombing of a trans health clinic.

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.

Asia Pacific


Video Credit: Out for Australia

As the country continues contentious battles including the push for marriage equality and erasure of “gay panic” legal defenses, rainbow flags and celebrations appeared across Australia, including over police stations in Canberra, in the streets of Brisbane, and in the senior-care facilities of Tasmania. In Victoria, officials announced a retreat for Aboriginal gender minorities to be held later in the year.

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.

Advocates took to op-ed columns in India to confront ongoing transphobia, reflect on gay representation in film, and highlight everyday homophobia in urban life.

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.

Europe & Eurasia


Video Credit: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

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.

Rainbow colors appeared in the shopping district of Cyprus‘s capital as 22 organizations came together to organize events to launch the country’s third Pride Festival, focusing on the need to increase legal recognition of both sexual and gender minorities in the country.

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.

Advocates, allies, and diplomats gathered around the rainbow flag raised at the US Embassy in Latvia.

On the island of Gozo in Malta, NGO leaders celebrated gender diversity in the country.

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.

(Image Credit: EPA, via The Straits Times)

Papua New Guinea & Australia News | Asylum Seekers

Papua New Guinea court and PM say offshore refugee detention center for Australia to close
  • The PNG supreme court ruled the Manus Island-based center, one of two offshore centers Australia funds, was unconstitutional, with some detainees having been held for more than 1,000 days.
  • With only eight refugees having been resettled, PNG PM Peter O’Neill stated that Australia would have to make new arrangements for the 850 men who have been detained in the Manus center.
  • Australian immigration minister Peter Dutton has reiterated that the government will not allow the asylum-seekers onto Australian soil.

Read more:
Manus Island detention centre to close, PNG Prime Minister says following court bombshell” (The Sydney Morning Herald)
Manus Island detention centre to close, Papua New Guinea prime minister says” (The Guardian)
Papua New Guinea Finds Australian Offshore Detention Center Illegal” (The New York Times)

(Image Credit: Ben Doherty/The Guardian)

Nauru News | Refugees

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.

Read more:
Locked gates and erected fences contain Nauru asylum seeker protests” (The Guardian)
Asylum seekers on Nauru determined to keep up protests” (Radio New Zealand)
Rapes and fears for safety on Nauru uncovered by independent Moss review” (The Guardian)

(Image Credit: via The Guardian)

World’s smallest country legalizes same-sex marriage
  • The Pitcairn Islands, a British overseas territory, has opened up marriage rights to all of its 56 residents, regardless of sex-pairing.
  • The Pitcairns were colonized at the end of the 18th century by British naval mutineers and the Tahitians who accompanied them.
  • With all residents adherents to Seventh-Day Adventism, Pitcairn Islanders built a strictly conservative society that has only recently begun to loosen.

Read the full story at NewNowNext.

(Image Credit: via NewNowNext)

The U.N.’s safe cities initiative integrates women’s safety into development projects globally
  • The cross-sector “Safe Cities Global Initiative” aims to stem sexual violence and harassment of women in urban spaces through infrastructure and program development.
  • In Delhi, mobile app Safetipin crowdsources safety reviews of public spaces and integrates GPS for personal tracking and security.
  • Projects have sprung up in other cities as well, including Cairo, Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea, and Kigali in Rwanda.

“Unsafe public spaces limit women’s and girl’s life choices. This daily reality limits their freedom to participate in education, work, recreation, and in political life.”

More on this story at the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Judge strikes down Guam’s law against same-sex marriage, paving the way for couples to be married beginning next week.
  • Because Guam, a U.S. territory, falls under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, Chief Judge Frances Tydingco-Gatewood ruled Guam must follow its 2014 ruling striking down same-sex marriage bans.
  • Governor Eddie Calvo’s defense acknowledged the inevitability of the outcome given the earlier ruling.
  • Plaintiffs Loretta Pangelinan and Kathleen Aguero hope to be able to file for a marriage license next Tuesday, when Chief Judge Tydingo-Gatewood’s ruling is expected to go in effect.

“It’s a battle we shouldn’t have had to fight…I mean, it’s love and love must win, so we’re just grateful.”

More on this story at Pacific Daily News.

(Image Credit: Rick Cruz/Pacific Daily News)