Showing posts with label LGBT Ban. Show all posts
Showing posts with label LGBT Ban. Show all posts

November 30, 2017

The Fight For LGBT Asylum Seekers Out of Ukraine Just Got Tougher

Soldado Kowalisidi had fought for LGBT rights in Siberia since 2012, and had come out as a transgender man in 2015, when last year he finally sought shelter in Ukraine, convinced he couldn’t continue his work in Russia anymore. Russia had just passed legislation widely known as the “Yarovaya package” — twin anti-terrorism laws that dramatically expanded the government’s surveillance powers. As one of Siberia’s first openly transgender activists, Kowalisidi had long been a target for Russia’s security service, and for homophobic gangs.
Ukraine, he hoped, would offer him protection.
He was wrong. The 25-year-old was last month denied refugee status by Ukraine’s migration service, his case the latest in a string that human rights activists believe could be the result of discrimination. Just the week before Kowalisidi’s verdict, a Ukrainian court had sided with the migration service in its decision to deny another LGBT activist, Belarusian Edward Tarletsky, refugee status the previous year. 
Human rights activists say the treatment of LGBT asylum seekers is symptomatic of Ukraine’s attitude toward the wider LGBT community. Homophobia remains prevalent across the country at a time when Ukraine is preparing to take a seat on the U.N. Human Rights Council for the 2018–2020 term, following its election in October. That means Ukraine will soon hold others accountable for their human rights record while it still faces questions about its treatment of sexual minorities.
One caseworker handling Kowalisidi’s application had no idea what a transgender person was. A second was more blunt. “If you haven’t had gender reassignment surgery, you are a woman,” Kowalisidi recalls the officer telling him. The interviews, he says, made him feel as though he were at fault for being transgender. For sure, Ukraine’s migration service isn’t welcoming in any case for asylum seekers, irrespective of why they’re seeking shelter in a foreign land — only 71 applicants out of 656 received protection in 2016. But human rights advocates say minorities such as the LGBT community face further discrimination. (A migration service spokesperson said they had no knowledge about discrimination within the body.)
Oleksandra Lukianenko, a lawyer at Right to Protection, a refugee-aid nongovernmental organization, says officers at the migration service are not trained enough to work with this vulnerable category of people, and don’t understand their fear of returning to their home countries. This, she says, leads to the rejection of their claims. Her nonprofit is currently working with four LGBT asylum seekers, none of whom have so far been granted protection.

People hold placards reading 'Members of parliament do not be indifferent', 'We all equal, we all worthy' during a rally of Ukrainian activists and representatives of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community
People hold placards reading “Members of Parliament, do not be indifferent” and “We all equal, we all worthy” during a rally of Ukrainian activists and representatives of the LGBT community.
For the moment, the total number of LGBT asylum seekers applying for shelter in Ukraine is small, says Anna Kuznyetsova, a resettlement associate at the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) office in Ukraine. Though exact numbers are unclear, Kuznyetsova says these cases are new for the migration service, only really emerging in the past two years.
That may appear to partly explain the ignorance Kowalisidi experienced. But Ukraine faces a deeper challenge, suggests Irene Fedorovych, project coordinator at the nonprofit Social Action Centre in Ukraine. The country, she says, receives LGBT refugees but also produces them. Ukraine, she adds, has never been “very human rights orientated,” an approach reflected in how authorities handle LGBT cases. “When you start talking to them, they genuinely do not understand that their attitude is part of what we call discrimination,” she says.
It was a very different Ukraine that activists had envisioned following the Maidan revolution, which ousted Russian-allied President Viktor Yanukovych in 2014. The country, they had hoped, would adopt a more progressive attitude toward the LGBT community as part of its new pro-European rhetoric. But there has been little improvement either socially or legally on protections for the community, says Olena Shevchenko, executive director of LGBT nonprofit Insight. Just two weeks ago, a gay couple from Odessa fled Ukraine, fearing for their lives after they were targeted in a homophobic attack. “We have a pride parade now,” Shevchenko says. “But we would like to feel safe at other times of the year too.”

Far-right activists burn the rainbow LGBT flag outside the Small Opera House in Kiev on June 13, 2017 during the official opening of Kiev Pride 2017.
Far-right activists burn the rainbow LGBT flag outside the Small Opera House in Kiev on June 13, 2017, during the official opening of Kiev Pride 2017.
Officially, the UNHCR says it has not received any complaints of discrimination against LGBT applicants while seeking asylum in Ukraine. It has, however, resettled four LGBT asylum seekers who were turned away by Ukraine in third countries, since 2015. It will also this year partner with the European Asylum Support Office to train migration-service caseworkers how to assess with sensitivity claims related to sexual orientation and gender identity.
And while Ukraine is expected to use its seat on the U.N. Human Rights Council to highlight Moscow’s abuses in Crimea and parts of Donbas that are under Russian occupation, next year’s membership could cut both ways. “With a seat on the council, the spotlight on the human rights situation of the members is that much brighter,” says Human Rights Council spokesman Rolando Gomez. “We would expect with a seat on the council that they would [take their] human rights obligations that much more seriously.”
For those expectations to turn into reality may take time, though. And for Kowalisidi, who is in the process of appealing the decision of the migration service, it may be too late by then.
  • Natalie Vikhrov, OZY Author

August 8, 2017

LGBT Org Planning to File Suit Against Transgender Ban

 News: There is nothing new happening in the transgender ban. Trump has surrounded himself with generals and generals had implemented successfully this policy under the last administration. I don't know what is happening underneath but all seems to be quiet in the Southern front. As it stand the Military will not move on a tweet even if it is from the tweeter in general. They want the orders and instructions to comedown as a change in policy through the chain of command but such a thing is not an easy thing to happen without Trump appointing someone to move this thing along. There are careers, pensions and much more that goes with any class of soldiers already in the forces and serving in the theatre of combat with distinction.   

"As members of Congress with an abiding interest in our nation's military and its policies towards the LGBTQ community, we write to not only express our strong opposition to President Trump's recent tweets seeking to ban transgender individuals from the military, but to remind you not to comply with any unconstitutional directive which may ultimately be issued", the letter reads.

Titled, "A Guidance Policy for Open Transgender Service Phase Out", the document has not yet been made public.

Sasha Burchett, a transgender military veteran and staff attorney for Lambda Legal, said the policy is "mean-spirited" and the "discriminatory attack on our community is capricious, irrational and clearly driven by anti-LGBT forces in the administration who care more about harming transgender people than keeping our nation safe". "Basically, said a source, 'the administration wants to get rid of transgender service members as fast as they can, '" the Washington Blade reports. "It is also a slap in the face of the leadership who have worked diligently to develop and implement the current policy which has been in place for more than a year without incident". In addition to LGBT organizations, 56 retired generals and admirals, Democratic lawmakers and even many Republicans, including Senator John McCain who heads the Senate Armed Services Committee, all denounced the ban.

The letter was responding to a Trump tweet that transgender individuals will not be allowed to serve in "any capacity in the US military".

According to Lambda Legal, they have teamed up with OutServe-SLDN, an organization that advocates on behalf of LGBT military members around the world.

Over a week ago, Donald Trump tweeted about how he plans to purge the military of transgender people.

August 4, 2017

Generals say Trumps' Transgender Ban Will Hurt the Military

Fifty-six retired generals and admirals have a message for the president: His proposal to ban transgender troops would weaken the U.S. military, not make it stronger.

“This proposed ban, if implemented, would cause significant disruptions,” the retired generals wrote in a letter released Tuesday, “and compromise the integrity of transgender troops who would be forced to live a lie, as well as non-transgender peers who would be forced to choose between reporting their comrades or disobeying policy.” 

Trump’s sudden, three-part tweet last Wednesday about the ban caught the Pentagon off-guard and plunged the future of thousands of active-duty transgender service members into uncertainty. The following day, the Department of Defense pushed back against the president’s abrupt proclamation reversing an Obama-era policy.

“We don’t have guidance. We have a tweet,” Pentagon spokesperson Capt. Jeff Davis said. “We don’t execute policy based on a tweet.” The Pentagon told VICE News Tuesday that it still hasn’t received any further information from the Trump administration about the ban.

Hours after Trump’s tweets, Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee explained that Trump believed transgender troops were disruptive and expensive. “This was about military readiness,” Huckabee told reporters. “This is about unit cohesion.”  

“We respectfully disagree and consider these claims to be without merit,” the retired generals and admirals wrote Tuesday. Their letter cites Pentagon-commissioned research by the RAND Corporation and the New England Journal of Medicine that estimates the annual cost of providing healthcare to transgender service members to be about $8.4 million — one-hundredth of one percent of the military’s annual healthcare budget.

“As for ostensible disruptions, transgender troops have been serving honorably and openly for the past year,” the letter continued. The Obama administration last year ended the ban on transgender individuals serving in the military.

Separately, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen compared the ban on transgender troops openly serving to the “flawed ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy” (which the Obama administration also repealed in 2011). Mullen said he “saw firsthand the harm to readiness and morale when we fail to treat all service members according to the same standards.”

Some active-duty generals and officials have also taken a public stand. The commandant of the Coast Guard said Monday that he had no intention of leaving transgender Coast Guard personnel high and dry.

“I will not turn my back,” said Adm. Paul Zukunft during remarks at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “We have made an investment in you, and you have made an investment in the Coast Guard, and I will not break faith.”

The letter, however, is not necessarily representative of the shared position held by former military officials. There are more than 4,000 generals and admirals enjoying retirement; 56 is just a tiny fraction. Still, a Reuters/Ipsos poll found that 58 percent of Americans supported transgender troops in the military, while 27 percent were actively opposed to the idea.

The Obama administration faced heavy criticism from some top-ranking military personnel when it first announced its policy change regarding transgender troops. Some accused President Obama of social experimentation at the expense of military readiness. Even some conservative lawmakers weighed in.

“How about having military focusing on hunting down and killing the bad guys,” Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz said,  “instead of treating it as this crucible for social justice innovations. We’ve lost sight of what their job is.”

By Tess Owen 

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