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 Data and information in older items are likely outdated and should be treated as historical records, reflecting emergent problems and understandings that have produced the current social, political, and economic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.
LGBTQ+ center in Accra closes after police raid, public outrage
A community center opened by LGBT+ Rights Ghana was temporarily shut down following a police raid and outcry and harassment from religious leaders, government officials, and anti-LGBTQ+ organizations.
Opened in January, the center provided paralegal services, counseling, and education to the queer community in Ghana, despite homosexuality still being criminalized in the country.
The attendance of Danish and Australian ambassadors at a fundraising event led authorities to accuse the center of being a front for European intervention and an imposition of non-Ghanaian values and beliefs.
A relatively stable constitutional democracy, Ghana has seen the beginnings of official outreach to its LGBT citizens in recent years as it has signed on to pro-LGBT international accords and treaties, but new research from Human Rights Watch (HRW) reveals ongoing persecution and gender-based vulnerabilities. Though rarely enforced, a law criminalizing same-sex relations that emerged from the country’s colonial legacy has led to the political and corporal endangerment of LGBT Ghanaians, exposing them to intimidation, violence, fears of public exposure, and little to no recourse to law enforcement protection. Lesbians, bisexual women, and trans men have faced especially high levels of violence and labor precarity, and anti–domestic violence laws have done little to protect them given the lack of trust in the legal system. In response, HRW conducted interviews with LGBT Ghanaians to track insecurity across a range of social, legal, and economic domains and issued a set of recommendations to improve protections for the community.
The Mutual Tensions of Chinese-Senegalese Relations in Senegal
At 2,000-strong, the population of Chinese immigrants in Senegal has become a visible presence in major urban areas like Dakar, though immigrants remain largely cloistered within enclaves. With commercial potential driving immigration into the country, Chinese people in Senegal have depended on an uneasy relationship with native Senegalese, a microcosm of a broader burgeoning relationship between China and African countries built on uncertain economic hopes. The New York Times profiles the Chinese community in Dakar and the state of Chinese-Senegalese relations in the country.
The Forum of Imams and Ulemas recently issued a fatwa calling for Mkhaitir’s execution in line with absolutist laws regarding heresy in Islam.
If carried out, Mkhaitir’s execution would be the first in the country since 1987, prompting international human rights organizations including Amnesty International and Reporters Without Borders to advocate for his pardon.
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.
Despite political and social efforts to eliminate the practice, female genital mutilation (FGM) has continued unabated in Guinea. The West African country has actually seen support for the ritual increase in the last couple of decades, and the trans-ethnic prevalence of the procedure has made FGM rates in the country one of the highest in the world. The UN recently released a report on the current state of FGM in Guinea and the cultural difficulties in ending the practice, including anti-Western sentiment, social norms, and religious traditions.
96% (2005) vs. 97% (2012)
Percentage of Guinean women aged 15-49 subjected to FGM
96.8% (urban) vs. 97% (rural)
Percentage of women subjected to FGM by area of residence
92% (low-income) vs. 68% (higher-income)
Percentage of women subjected to FGM by socioeconomic status
69% (currently aged 20-24) vs. 61% (currently aged 45-49)
Percentage of women cut prior to the age of 10 (2012)
As Boko Haram’s successes in northeastern Nigeria have been rolled back, the extremist group’s attentions have turned elsewhere in the region, including neighboring Cameroon. Rare in other global terrorist activity, female suicide bombers between 14 and 24 years of age have formed the lion’s share of suicide attacks in Cameroon, comprising some 80% of incidents. Female suicide bombers have also been deployed in Nigeria, most recently in Maiduguri. Reuters investigates the pipeline from abduction to sexual slavery to suicide attacks that women captured by Boko Haram have found themselves caught up in.
Sierra Leone backs women’s rights treaty, but faces uphill road to eradicating female genital mutilation
The country has become the latest to ratify the Maputo Protocol, which establishes political commitment to women’s rights issues such as violence against women, child and forced marriage, and female genital mutilation (FGM).
Rights organizations expect Sierra Leone’s ratification to bind it to criminalizing FGM.
With nine in ten girls cut across the country, the practice has continued through the support of traditionalist groups, though the government began levying fines against practitioners as its Ebola crisis spread.
“The FGM crackdown needs to reach out to people on the ground and women in villages across the country, and a government-led outreach program may be required. Sierra Leone must take a blanket approach to include politicians, health workers and communities, and even consider how to involve the cutters in the discussions to eliminate the practice.”
Read the full story by the Thomson Reuters Foundation at Reuters.