On June 14th, Sarah Hegazy, a 30 years-old Egyptian queer activist, took her own life in Canada, where she moved out after being detained in Egypt. The news spread throughout mass media: three years ago, during Mashrou’ Leila’s concert, she waved the flag symbol of LGBT+ rights and movement, which was the cause of her painful detention that lasted three months.
After her released on bail, she narrated her own story of torture, sexual assault, and verbal abuse suffered in prison and the obstacles met by those who are not “male, Muslim, Sunni, straight” in Egypt.
Few days ago, Romania passed a law to ban gender identity studies, considered by Reuters as putting the country on the same authoritarian tracks as Hungary and Poland, and it explains the comparison:
“in Hungary, lawmakers voted last month to ban transgender people from changing their gender on identity documents, while Polish President Andrzej Duda Poland this week compared LGBT “ideology” to communist doctrine in an election campaign speech”.
Conversely, in US, the Supreme Court ruled that Title VII of the United States Civil Rights Act of 1964 covers also cases of anti-discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
First of all, the Civil Rights Act was proposed by President John F. Kennedy to ensure constitutional rights for African Americans and other minority groups in US, but after his premature death, the law was implemented by President Lyndon Johnson.
Title VII concerns Equal Employment Opportunity Definitions and defines as unlawful the discrimination on the workplace on the basis of race, colour, religion, sex or national origin. The nation’s top court decided that people cannot be fired or discriminated against for being gay or transgender; thus “sex” has he broader meaning to include sexual orientation and gender identity.
As reported by Un News:
“The court’s decision was issued in relation to three cases: Gerald Bostock, who was fired from a county job in the United States state of Georgia after he joined a gay softball team; Donald Zarda, a skydiving instructor who was fired after disclosing he was gay to a client; and Aimée Stephens, who was fired from her job at a Michigan funeral home two weeks after telling her boss she intended to live full-time as a woman.”
Victor Madrigal-Borloz, UN Independent Expert protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, considers the judgement as a step up in addressing stigma and promoting inclusion.
But, as we have seen, LGBT+ rights are not protected everywhere at any time.
Even if WHO on 17th May 1990 declassified homosexuality as a mental disorder and that specific date is now used to celebrate The International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (IDAHOT), the challenges remain: same-sex relations are illegal in 70 countries around the world, mostly African countries.
In Iran, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Nigeria, Sudan and Somalia consensual same-sex sexual acts are punishable by death penalty. Another 26 nations impose maximum penalties for same-sex sexual relations of between 10 years and life imprisonment. Homosexual intercourse between adults is legal in 123 of the 193 member states of the United Nations. Countries that have most recently decriminalised homosexuality included Botswana, Angola and India.
To Sarah and to all persons that are fighting: you are not alone. Thank you for your bravery, your fight and your pride.
“All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.”Universal Declarations of Human Rights, Article 1 (10 December 1948)