A huge crowd gathered at Mr Andargachew’s house to celebrate his release British citizen Andargachew "Andy" Tsege, who was being held on death row in Ethiopia, has been freed.
He has been greeted by jubilant relatives and supporters at his family home in the capital, Addis Ababa.
The Ethiopian government had accused him of plotting a coup and he was sentenced to death in absentia in 2009.
Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said he was "pleased" with the development and praised his department’s staff for their "tireless" work on the case.
Almost four years ago, Mr Andargachew was apprehended at an airport in Yemen while in transit and turned over to the Ethiopian authorities.
He denied the charges and was pardoned on 19 May, along with 575 other inmates, as part of the Ethiopian government’s current effort to promote reconciliation. More about Ethiopia
Ethiopia to release political prisoners
Mr Andargachew, a father of three, fled Ethiopia in the 1970s and sought political asylum in the UK.
He was the secretary-general of banned Ginbot 7 (15 May) movement, named after the date of the 2005 elections that were marred by protests over alleged fraud that led to the deaths of about 200 people.
"I did not expect this much turnout," he told supporters at his home after his release.
"Four years in prison is not that much of a sacrifice. I’m meeting you first because I respect you; I haven’t yet my father. Now, I’d like to go and greet my father." Andy Tsege has not seen his wife or three children since his arrest in 2014 Attorney General Berhanu Tsegaye said his pardon was part of an initiative to "widen the political space".
Maya Foa, the director of the human rights charity Reprieve, which has campaigned for Mr Andargachew’s release, said the new Ethiopian government "should be recognised for what they have done".
Mr Johnson also commended the Ethiopian government, saying its actions sent a "positive signal" that it remained serious about "following through with promised reforms to increase political space".
Mr Andargachew’s partner Yemi Hailemariam’s has led a campaign for his release.
"I am so thankful that the pain and anguish my children have had to go through could now soon be coming to an end," Ms Hailemariam, who lives in Islington, north London, said last week in a statement released by human rights group Reprieve.
Abiy Ahmed, Ethiopia’s new prime minister, has pledged to carry out reforms following anti-government protests that broke out in 2015.
The civil unrest led to the resignation in February of Mr Abiy’s predecessor Hailemariam Desalegn, who had defended the arrest of Mr Andargachew, saying the activist had wanted to destablise Ethiopia .
Kat Charles, pictured with her son Jacob and husband Jason, was told in 2014 that she had three months to live A vaccine could help to significantly extend the lives of people diagnosed with the brain cancer that killed ex-Labour cabinet minister Tessa Jowell, early trial results suggest.
People with glioblastoma who took part in the study lived more than twice as long as those on standard treatments in many cases, researchers say.
The vaccine works by using the body’s immune cells to target the cancer.
A cancer charity said preliminary results seemed "remarkably promising". Extra cancer funding in Tessa Jowell tribute
Brain cancer vaccine trial begins
The standard treatment for glioblastoma, the most aggressive of brain tumours in adults, involves removing the tumour followed by radiotherapy and chemotherapy.
But it is difficult to treat and patients live on average for only 15 to 17 months after surgery.
For this phase three trial of 331 people from the UK, the US, Canada and Germany, 232 patients were given the immunotherapy vaccine DCVax on top of standard treatments while the rest received a placebo along with normal care.
The vaccine works by taking immune cells, known as dendritic cells, from the patients’ bodies and then combining them with a sample of their tumours.
When the vaccine is injected back into the patient, the body’s entire immune system recognises the cancer to attack.
Preliminary results from the 11-year study, published in the Journal of Translational Medicine, found those involved in the trial survived for more than 23 months on average after surgery, with 100 living for 40.5 months at the time of the researchers’ analysis.
Because the study has not concluded yet, the data does not break down who received the vaccine and who had the placebo, but this will be released when the trial concludes.
The longest survivors have lived for more than seven years after surgery.
The study’s authors said it appears that patients on the trial who reach a certain threshold beyond diagnosis "may continue onwards to unusually long survival times". Vaccine did ‘what everyone said was impossible’
Kat Charles was told in 2014 that she had three months to live after NHS doctors ran out of options to treat her brain cancer.
"They said there was nothing more they could do for me," says Kat, now 36 from Milton Keynes.
"I was distraught."
After undergoing the standard forms of treatment, and even taking part in a clinical trial for another medicine, she and her husband Jason raised funds to pay for DCVax privately.
After receiving the treatment, Kat’s most recent MRI scan showed no trace of the tumour.
"DCVax has done what everyone said was impossible," her husband Jason says. "If not for this treatment, I would be without my wife and without a mother for our child."
Kat continues to have regular injections of the vaccine.
"I go to London on the train, I have a shot in each arm and then I’m free to go home. It doesn’t give me any side-effects. It’s fantastic." What is glioblastoma?
Glioblastoma is the most common type of brain tumour that starts in the brain
It is the most aggressive form of adult brain tumour and is often resistant to treatment
It is believed that the variety of cells in a glioblastoma is one of the reasons it is so hard to treat because current drugs are not able to effectively target all the cell types in the tumour
As with most brain tumours, the cause of glioblastoma is not known
Source: The Brain Tumour Charity ‘Major breakthrough’
Keyoumars Ashkan, professor of neurosurgery at King’s College Hospital in London, who was the trial’s European chief investigator, said the results gave "new hope to the patients and clinicians battling with this terrible disease".
"Although definitive judgement needs to be reserved until the final data is available, the paper published today hints at a major breakthrough in the treatment of patients with glioblastoma.
"Cautious optimism is welcome in an area where for so long the disease and suffering have had the upper hand."
Dr David Jenkinson, chief scientific officer for the Brain Tumour Charity, said: "These results appear remarkably promising for a community of patients who have been given little hope for decades.
"We need further analysis of the data from this trial and more research in this area to ascertain the role that immunotherapy can play in the battle against brain cancer."
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WASHINGTON — A flood of lawsuits over LGBT rights is making its way through courts and will continue, no matter the outcome in the Supreme Court’s highly anticipated decision in the case of a Colorado baker who would not create a wedding cake for a same-sex couple.
Courts are engaged in two broad types of cases on this issue, weighing whether sex discrimination laws apply to LGBT people and also whether businesses can assert religious objections to avoid complying with anti-discrimination measures in serving customers, hiring and firing employees, providing health care and placing children with foster or adoptive parents.
The outcome of baker Jack Phillips’ fight at the Supreme Court could indicate how willing the justices are to carve out exceptions to anti-discrimination laws; that’s something the court has refused to do in the areas of race and sex.
The result was hard to predict based on arguments in December. But however the justices rule, it won’t be their last word on the topic.
Religious conservatives have gotten a big boost from the Trump administration, which has taken a more restrictive view of LGBT rights and intervened on their side in several cases, including Phillips’.
“There is a constellation of hugely significant cases that are likely to be heard by the court in the near future and those are going to significantly shape the legal landscape going forward,” said Shannon Minter, legal director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights. A wedding cake is decorated with messages from guests at a ceremony to celebrate the wedding of Paul Katami and Jeff Zarrillo at Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, California June 28, 2014. A year after becoming among the first same-sex couples to wed legally in California, the two men who were plaintiffs in the case that led to a court overturning the state’s five-year ban on gay marriage held a lavish ceremony on Saturday with family and friends including Hollywood stars to celebrate their wedding. Photo by Reuters.
Several legal disputes are pending over wedding services, similar to the Phillips case. Video producers, graphic artists and florists are among business owners who say they oppose same-sex marriage on religious grounds and don’t want to participate in same-sex weddings. They live in the 21 states that have anti-discrimination laws that specifically include gay and lesbian people.
In California and Texas, courts are dealing with lawsuits over the refusal of hospitals, citing religious beliefs, to perform hysterectomies on people transitioning from female to male. In Michigan, the American Civil Liberties Union filed suit against the state’s practice of allowing faith-based child placement agencies to reject same-sex couples.
Advocates of both sides see the essence of these cases in starkly different terms.
“What the religious right is asking for is a new rule specific to same-sex couples that would not only affect same-sex couples but also carve a hole in nondiscrimination laws that could affect all communities,” said Camilla Taylor, director of constitutional litigation at Lambda Legal, which supports civil rights for LGBT people. Jim Campbell of the Christian public interest law firm Alliance Defending Freedom said the cases will determine whether “people like Jack Phillips who believe marriage is the union of a man and a woman, that they too have a legitimate place in public life. Or does he have to hide or ignore those beliefs when he’s participating in the public square?” ADF represents Phillips at the Supreme Court.
The other category of cases concerns protections for LGBT people under civil rights law. One case expected to reach the court this summer involves a Michigan funeral home that fired an employee who disclosed that she was transitioning from male to female and dressed as a woman.
The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the firing constituted sex discrimination under federal civil rights law. That court is one of several that have applied anti-sex discrimination provisions to transgender people, but the Supreme Court has yet to take up a case.
The funeral home argues in part that Congress was not thinking about transgender people when it included sex discrimination in Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. A trial judge had ruled for the funeral home, saying it was entitled to a religious exemption from the civil rights law.
“Congress has not weighed in to say sex includes gender identity. We should certainly make sure that’s a conscious choice of Congress and not just the overexpansion of the law by courts,” Campbell said. ADF also represents the funeral home.
In just the past week, two federal courts ruled in favor of transgender students who want to use school facilities that correspond to their sexual identity. Those cases turn on whether the prohibition on sex discrimination in education applies to transgender people. Appeals in both cases are possible.
In the past 13 months, federal appeals courts in Chicago and New York also have ruled that gay and lesbian employees are entitled to protection from discrimination under Title VII. Those courts overruled earlier decisions. Title VII does not specifically mention sexual orientation, but the courts said it was covered under the ban on sex bias.
The Obama administration had supported treating LGBT discrimination claims as sex discrimination, but the Trump administration has changed course. In the New York case, for instance, the Trump administration filed a legal brief arguing that Title VII was not intended to provide protections to gay workers. It also withdrew Obama-era guidance to educators to treat claims of transgender students as sex discrimination.
There is no appeal pending or expected on the sexual orientation issue, and there is no guarantee that the court will take up the funeral home’s appeal over transgender discrimination.
The trend in the lower courts has been in favor of extending civil rights protections to LGBT employees and students. Their prospects at the Supreme Court may be harder to discern, not least because it’s unclear whether the court’s composition will change soon.
Justice Anthony Kennedy, 81, has been the subject of retirement speculation, though he has not indicated he is planning to retire. When Justice Stephen Breyer turns 80 in August, he will join Kennedy and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 85, as octogenarians on the bench.
If President Donald Trump were to replace any of those justices, the court probably would be much less receptive to LGBT rights. Even the landmark gay marriage ruling in 2015 that Kennedy wrote was a 5-4 decision.
“We’re very concerned about the composition of the federal bench. Under the Trump administration, we’ve seen a number of federal nominees who have been ideologues, who have taken positions about the very right to exist of LGBT people that is simply inconsistent with fitness to serve as a federal judge,” Taylor said.
The ADF’s Campbell said that even with the current justices, he holds out some hope that the court would not extend anti-discrimination protections. “Justice Kennedy has undoubtedly been the person who has decided the major LGBT cases, but to my knowledge he hasn’t weighed in some of these other issues,” he said.
Alhassan Suhuyini, Tamale North MP The Member of Parliament (MP) for Tamale North, Alhassan Suhuyini has challenged President Nana Akufo-Addo to declare his stance on issues relating to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) movement.
Speaking to Host of the Morning Xpress on Radio XYZ 93.+1 MHZ, Neil Armstrong-Mortagbe, on Tuesday in relation to some groups that have started mounting pressure on Legislators to initiate discussions on LGBT, the former broadcaster blamed President Akufo-Addo for appearing to be yielding to the persuasion from such groups.
Members of Parliament (MPs), on Tuesday, May 22, 2018, were shocked when a group of LGBT advocates in Ghana stormed Parliament to demand their rights.
This corroborates reports that some LGBT groups had been lobbying some MPs to speak on their behalf and ensure that their rights and freedoms are guaranteed in the laws of Ghana.
But, Mr Suhuyini, who did not mince words, said Ghana was not ready for the legalization of LGBT, explaining that the group’s action is because President Akufo-Addo could not condemn the act outright when he was interviewed on CNN earlier this year.
“…It comes to me as strange that you have our current President on an international platform put it the way he did as if to say that we can’t do anything about it as a country… [the President said] the situation is the way it is because the agitations are low but eventually predicting that the agitations will grow and we’ll have no alternative than to let it happen,” he explained while citing that former Presidents, the late Professor JEA Mills and John Mahama made their stances clear to Ghanaians. For Alhassan Suhuyini, therefore, Mr Akufo-Addo should do same to clear the doubts in the mind of Ghanaians.
He commended the Speaker of Parliament, Professor Mike Ocquaye, who has kicked against LGBT on various media platforms and asked President Akufo-Addo to do same so that Ghanaians will not read meanings into his interview with CNN.
“We have heard the Speaker of Parliament, Professor Mike Oquaye, who has stated clearly that if there is an attempt to bring a Bill to Parliament that seeks to accommodate and legalise same-sex marriage in this country, he would resign as Speaker. That is a principled position. You don’t need to explain it to anybody; you can’t explain it in any other way, but our President, Nana Akufo-Addo, left us all choosing to believe what we think he meant depending on perhaps where we stand,” he added.
He went on to say that, although many, including some members of the clergy, have tried to read meanings into what the President said, to him, “If the President is not for same-sex [and] homosexuality, let him state so clearly.”
LGBT travel Supporting LGBT travellers is becoming an important part of duty-of-care responsibilities, taking account of changing laws and regional attitudes
Russia, Russia, Russia – it’s been almost impossible to ignore the media obsession with the country this year. There has been the nerve agent attack in Salisbury, talk of cyber warfare and the US probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 election. Meanwhile, the country will be hosting the World Cup football tournament this summer.
Russia is also a good case study of the complexities and potential problems faced by LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) travellers. While same-gender sexual relations are legal in Russia, the country implemented a law in 2013 that bans the “promotion of non-traditional sexual relations to minors” – a move that has led to reports of increased harassment, threats and attacks on LGBT people.
Equality campaign group FARE has even warned LGBT visitors to the World Cup that they may not be safe if they hold hands in public in certain host cities and is producing a guide for LGBT fans giving advice on how to avoid potential problems during the tournament.
Having said that, Russia is relatively liberal compared to some countries’ legal position on LGBT relationships. According to a report by the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA), there are 72 countries that continue to criminalise same-gender sexual acts between consenting adults, including eight nations that impose the death penalty for these activities.
However, it’s not all bad news – Aengus Carroll, co-author of the ILGA’s report State Sponsored Homophobia: A World Survey of Laws: criminalisation, protection and recognition of same-sex love , says that laws criminalising same-sex sexual acts have been “slowly annually decreasing”, while the number of countries allowing same-sex marriage has also been rising, with Australia becoming the latest to change its laws on the issue.
So what does this mean for LGBT business travellers and the organisations that may require them to travel to non gay-friendly destinations? What sort of advice and support should travel managers provide for their LGBT employees as part of their duty-of-care obligations?
LGBT publication Man About World has produced its own guide to business travel that focuses on the potential problems faced by road warriors, including anecdotes from travellers about their experiences visiting different parts of the world with very different laws and social attitudes.
“Vacation travellers can choose their destinations but business travellers don’t have that luxury,” stresses the guide. “We go where the job sends us and when the job sends us to a country where sexual orientation or gender identity are criminalised or marginalised, it adds layers of complexity.”
Jean-Marie Navetta, director of learning and inclusion at US-based LGBT network PFLAG National, adds: “The reality of the situation is that in a number of countries – and, in some cases, in parts or regions of some countries – the world remains a very unsafe place for LGBT travellers.
“If assignments are made to these locations, there needs to be a real awareness that this is a very tangible threat for LGBT employees. This kind of education needs to happen so employees who have disclosed their sexual orientation or gender identity are briefed, and organisations have advice on working in the country and plans should anything go awry.”
Many organisations and companies use specialist security companies to provide updated advice and guidance for LGBT business travellers, including employees who may be seconded for several weeks or months to another country with very different laws and social attitudes than the UK or other parts of the Western world.
Erika Weisbrod, director, security solutions – Americas, at security firm International SOS and Control Risks, says: “Organisations should develop and maintain inclusive policies and procedures to support a diverse workforce and meet their duty-of-care requirements. Policies and procedures should incorporate inclusive training, pre-travel advice and awareness, educating travellers on what to expect when on assignment, as well as what to do and whom to call in case of an emergency.
“Travellers should be made aware of specific legal or social attitudes at their destination. This is another example of how pre-travel advice can be especially helpful,” she adds.
One of the issues organisations face is that they probably will not know exactly how many of their employees identify as LGBT, as some may choose to keep this information confidential. This makes having strong diversity and equality policies crucial so that an employer can try to improve duty-of-care to all travellers, regardless of sexuality or gender identity.
Being seen as a good employer for LGBT people by ensuring workplace inclusivity and equality is becoming increasingly important. LGBT rights group Stonewell produces an annual list of the UK’s top 100 employers through its Workplace Equality Index , which measures how organisations create an inclusive environment, communicate their commitment to LGBT equality and have visible LGBT role models.
London-based law firm Pinsent Masons has ranked second on Stonewall’s Workplace Equality Index for the past two years and this culture of inclusiveness is reflected in the way it manages travel.
Rosie Mohammad, Pinsent Masons’ head of travel, says: “We are respectful of local laws and customs but we are also committed to upholding our values and doing business responsibly wherever we work. Our first priority is the safety of our staff; we recognise the need to ensure people who identify as LGBT are aware of the risks and the legal and cultural differences, and are sufficiently prepared before undertaking international secondments.”
The firm has also created diversity network groups where experienced travellers can give “confidential support and guidance” to employees who have concerns about travelling to particular countries or regions. “Within the LGBT network, we have created a contact list of people along with the countries they have worked in to make it easier to access support and expertise quickly,” explains Mohammad.
Pinsent Masons is also keen to ensure that the careers of LGBT employees are not adversely affected if they turn down a travelling opportunity for personal reasons. Kate Fergusson, the firm’s head of responsible business, adds: “Our policy is very clear that people will not be disadvantaged if they turn down an opportunity for international travel because of, for example, their sexual orientation and gender identity.”
Having employee network groups is crucial to successfully dealing with issues that LGBT travellers can face on the road, agrees International SOS’s Weisbrod, who adds that organisations also need to “respect confidentiality and allow for anonymity” of employees who do not want to disclose personal issues.
“Employee resource groups, such as an LGBT internal advocacy and support group, help staff find support, information and assessment before taking overseas work and travel assignments,” she says.
One of the challenges of dealing with these issues is that laws (and whether they are actually enforced, or not, in certain countries) can change in some destinations – often for the better but sometimes for the worse. This means that buyers and HR departments have to work closely together to ensure advice is kept up to date. Social attitudes can often be slower to change in a country, regardless of the legal landscape, which travellers need to be aware of, as well.
There can also be regional differences within some countries between a major city and a more socially conservative rural area where what is socially acceptable varies enormously. For example, the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) issued warnings in 2016 for LGBT travellers to be careful in two US states – North Carolina and Mississippi – due to the passing of legislation in those states. The FCO has a dedicated section for LGBT travellers giving general advice about what precautions to take when on the road in less LGBT-tolerant destinations, alongside specific country advice.
The FCO and the Passport Office also offer guidance for transgender travellers who “sometimes face difficulties or delays at border controls overseas if they present as a different gender to what is stated in their passport”.
There are plenty of other external resources provided by LGBT groups such as ILGA, International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association (IGLTA), human rights campaign group Out Right Action International and UK-based Stonewall.
But the most important responsibility lies within the traveller’s organisation itself – not just in how it deals with diversity culturally but also in setting up the appropriate internal networks and resources to help LGBT travellers without compromising their confidentially and privacy.
“Ensuring that your resources and tools are accurate and inclusive takes education, and it needs to be ongoing,” says Jean-Marie Navetta of PFLAG. “Making sure that there are people or organisations that companies know and trust to serve as advisors is a practical and effective step.
“Review your policies annually to make sure that the language is current – such as moving away from gendered his/her language to they/them – and that the policies reflect current laws,” she adds. “When it comes to being inclusive, the job is constantly evolving.”
Supporting LGBT travellers is becoming a more important part of employers’ duty-of-care responsibilities, but it needs to be part of a wider corporate inclusivity policy. It is a complex area, requiring senior management buy-in and a commitment to creating a more “accepting culture”.
But it is also good for business with evidence that LGBT people who feel they have to “stay in the closet” due to an “unwelcoming” culture at work are less productive – by up to 30 per cent, according to a survey by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, which also found that 26 per cent of LGBT staff chose to stay with an organisation because of its “accepting” environment.
Illinois Senate passes legislation to change history courses Currently there is a bill that was advanced into the Illinois House earlier this month that is waiting for approval to be pushed forward that would mandate the lesbian, gay, transgender and bisexual histories to be taught in classes across the state.
The bill would require that LGBT history be worked into the current curriculum for both American and state history courses throughout schools. The focus would largely be on the contributions of prominent LGBT people in American history.
State Sen. Heather Steans, D-Chicago, was a leader in pushing the amended bill through Senate, saying in an interview with Illinois News Network that the bill aimed to get school curriculums to talk about LGBT histories “like it does for many other populations in this state.”
The bill has not been without its opponents. Many, including state Sen. Chuck Weaver, R-Peoria, have said that the bill could hinder “religious freedom” for students who may disagree with the topics that are discussed in the new curriculums.
Other groups have said that the new law would be able to take the choice for each local school board to decide what is taught within their schools and gives the power to the state – a controversial measure that has been hotly debated across the United States. Sally Ride was the first American woman in space in 1983. It wasn’t until after the astronaut’s death in 2012 that the world found out her partner of 27 years was a woman. While Ride was always known for being private, her family has said she was open with them about her relationship with Tam O’Shaughnessy.
“We have a clear directive from our membership to oppose all curricular mandates that come before the General Assembly,” said Zach Messersmith, Director of Government Relations for the Illinois Association of School Boards (IASB). “We believe that locally elected school boards should be able to determine curricula for their students as long as it meets Illinois Learning Standards.”
Kamila Zaremba is a DePaul student who is currently working as a high school history student teacher. She said that while LGBT history needs to be taught, she agrees with the IASB that the state shouldn’t be mandating certain lessons.
“My hold up with this passing is mostly what it will mean as yet another mandate set forth by the state for teachers to teach,” Zaremba said. “What the passing of a specific curriculum usually means is that teachers have to teach the particular lessons that were required by the state.
Ultimately, if there is a continuation of different curricula becoming Marsha P. Johnson was an African-American activist who has been known for being one of the most prominent figures during the 1969 Stonewall uprising. Johnson was a well known gay rights advocate at the time and had self-identified as a drag queen. mandated, teachers lose any shred of autonomy left in the classroom and teach predefined lessons.”
Zaramba also believes the new curriculums would place additional difficulties on teachers, who would have to incorporate the lessons into their already busy schedules without receiving any more in-class time in which to do so.
“There is also a worry of how to fit in the entire history of the United States into less than 180 days,” Zaramba said. “Most teachers barely get around to the Civil Rights Movement at the end of the year. It feels as if the requirements are never-ending, but the funding for proper resources is not there, nor is there then an extension of time.” Audre Lorde was a prominent poet who spoke openly about being a black lesbian woman. Lorde’s poetry, which was frequently published in the 1960’s, was well-known for talking about her struggles and her sexuality. She even described herself once as a “black lesbian mother warrior poet.” Illinois is not the first state to introduce a bill such as this one. California enacted a similar LGBT education law in 2017. The bill was followed by 10 textbooks being approved for use within public classrooms that would focus on LGBT and people with disabilities in K-8 history classes. Should Illinois pass its own LGBT education bill, it will be only the second state to require LGBT history to be taught in public schools.
The bill is currently waiting to be approved by the House. Regardless, many have used this as a catalyst to help promote private schools within the state. Zarambe said she has already witnessed a principal of a Chicago-area Catholic school trying to recruit new students using the bill.
“The purpose is to teach tolerance and simply that the LGBTQIA+ community has also made an impact on American society and it should be elaborated upon,” Zaramba said.
Students at an annual leadership summit for LGBT youths gain confidence and connect with others. A new report says LGBT students face increasing violence in Oregon schools. A new report from University of Oregon researchers shows bias-based bullying and violence is on the rise in Oregon schools, especially aimed at LGBT students, who experience twice as much verbal, physical, psychological and sexual violence as their peers.
The “State of Safe Schools Report,” a collaboration between UO researchers and the Oregon Safe Schools and Communities Coalition, analyzed survey results from 600 schools and 27,000 students to assess school safety and student well-being in Oregon. The report indicates that LGBT youths face unsafe conditions at school due to high rates of bullying, violence, sexual assault and suicide ideation. Those students also report higher rates of fear-based absences from school and mental health risks.
“In 2017, bias-based bullying, violent harassment, sexual assault and fear-based absences were at alarming rates among our LGBT youth,” said Julie Heffernan, graduate director of teaching and licensure at UO’s College of Education and co-chair of the Oregon Safe Schools and Communities Coalition. “We’ve known these are issues for a long time, but this is the first time we’ve had Oregon data that highlights just how bad conditions can be in our schools.” LGBT youth were three times as likely to miss school because they were afraid for their safety.
The primary reason the data has not existed until now is because most surveys don’t include enough questions to capture a complete picture of student gender identity and sexual orientation. To address that deficiency, Heffernan and colleagues from across the state crafted new language for the Oregon Health Authority to use in its biannual Oregon Healthy Teens Survey.
That change allows the agency to collect deeper demographic data and gain a better understanding of students’ learning environments and communities. The 2017 survey was the first time the new language was utilized.
“This survey gave us rich information about school climates,” Heffernan said. “We’re now compiling some of the best data in the country for school safety related to gender identity and sexual orientation. And that data confirms that there is an immediate imperative to address school climate for LGBT youth in Oregon.”
One of the data points Heffernan points to as among the most urgent and troubling is the number of youths who were threatened with a weapon at school, which was 1 in 5 among transgender youth and 1 in 10 LGBT students. Another is the rise in suicide ideation and suicide attempts among all youth, with one-fifth of Oregon youth considering suicide in 2017, including close to half of Oregon youths identifying as transgender and just under half of LGBT students.
Some relevant data was getting captured prior to the new survey results, but Heffernan said it was primarily on the crisis end of the issues. She hopes the recent survey results will help localize the problems and spur policymakers and school administrators to implement new practices and support services that will help address underlying issues and improve the learning environment and safety for all students.
“The focus on the well-being of LGBT youth has impacts for all young people,” Heffernan said. “The treatment of LGBT youth in schools is one clear hot spot impacting the overall climate in our schools, but past research has shown that when Oregon schools and communities are inclusive of LGBT diversity, there are mental health improvements for all students as well as a decline in school bullying and violence directed at all students.”
The report includes a number of policy recommendations to improve school climates and adolescent well-being. These recommendations include administrative oversight for anti-bullying policies, inclusive curriculum, trauma-informed classrooms, educator training and student support through groups like gay-straight alliances, which help underrepresented students connect with others from their communities.
One of Heffernan’s top recommendations for educators is to focus on community-based outreach to raise awareness and address bias-based bullying. Locally, the College of Education is implementing those practices in Lane County through a number of different events and programs.
They include an LGBT inclusive Pink Prom, which was attended by 200 students from 12 regional high schools this spring, and an annual TeachOUT youth leadership summit that hosts hundreds of students from 29 different schools to promote confidence and expression in education.
“We need to create inclusive spaces for these students that build community and provide positive narratives for LGBT youth,” Heffernan said.
A Duckfunder crowdsourcing campaign is underway to help support the youth leadership summits for regional LGBT middle and high school students and their allies. The campaign hopes to raise $8,000 to help pay expenses.
Heffernan and other UO faculty and students are also involved in advocating for inclusive literature in the Oregon Battle of the Books, which has faced pressure in some schools to ban or drop a book about a transgender child from its 2018-19 reading list.
“Unfortunately, this kind of silencing of a minority group is not unusual in our country right now, which may be associated with a rise in bias-based bullying and unsafe conditions for our LGBT youth,” said Heffernan. “The findings and recommendations included in this report are urgent, given our current political climate where we’re seeing many public challenges to civil rights and troubling examples of bullying and violence aimed at marginalized communities.”
— By Emily Halnon, University Communications
LGB soccer fans heading to the World Cup in Russia have already been warned not to publicly display affection , and members of the transgender community told to bring a friend with them to the bathroom to avoid attacks. Now there are reports of anti-LGBT Russians threatening violence against the community.
Joe White of LGBT soccer fan group Pride in Football said it has received numerous threats to England fans planning on making the trip to cheer on national team Three Lions during the World Cup, taking place June 14 through July 15.
White told the Mirror the group has reported the threats to police.
“We’ve had people say that if they find us they’ll stab us, so it’s been a mixture but they’re being dealt with seriously and those investigations are still ongoing,” he noted. Russia passed a so-called “gay propaganda” law in 2013, ostensibly to prevent the normalization of homosexuality among minors. It has been used to shutdown demonstrations and rallies for LGBT rights, which have ended in bloody clashes on the few occasions they’ve been held in the aftermath of that legislation passing.
Further adding to legitimate cause for concern, anti-LGBT hate crimes have doubled in the past five years.
The country has also been condemned for the anti-LGBT purge taking place in Chechnya, a federal subject of Russia, where over 100 people have been detained, beaten, and murdered. People protesting supporting LGTB in Chechnya White said he plans to test the promise by some officials that rainbow pride flags won’t be banned at the World Cup, unlike at the 2014 Sochi Olympics where they were not allowed .
He said he hopes to get “some form of visibility in stadiums to show that LGBT football fans do exist and, just as much as any fan, we’re a valid part of the game.”
“Unless there is someone kind of putting their head above the parapet, it’s very easy for them to say we don’t exist,” he added. He resents the idea that he should “go out and almost go back into the closet and act butch,” saying that would make him complicit in “what we are trying to show is an issue.”
“We shouldn’t have to feel that we have to behave any differently than we would,” he continued. “It’s not like I’m going to be sticking my tongue down people’s throats or anything. I’m going out there for the football and to experience the World Cup.”
Expand Participants in a LGBT community rally in central Moscow, Russia hold a rainbow flag that reads, "Love. Don’t make war", as a policeman stops them, May 30, 2015. FIFA, the governing body of international soccer, had a reputation problem. In 2015, Sepp Blatter, the organization’s president at the time, and other top executives were facing corruption charges and, after awarding the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar, a public backlash over those countries’ poor human rights records.
As part of cleaning up its act, FIFA agreed to require minimum human rights standards for countries that apply to host soccer competitions, including zero tolerance for discrimination based on sexual orientation.
The first test of these new policies will come on June 14 as the 2018 FIFA World Cup opens in Russia, a country openly hostile to LGBT people. Billions of fans will watch as 32 national teams play in the premier global soccer competition in 11 cities across Russia. The World Cup is meant to be a joyful celebration of sport and humanity. Yet many LGBT people will not be celebrating the games.
FIFA needs to make clear now that it expects Russia to abide by its rules during the tournament. Establishing human rights policies was a vital first step for FIFA. The hard part is implementing them, especially with repressive prospective hosts who intend to “sportswash” their international images.
June will mark the fifth anniversary of Russia’s discriminatory anti-gay “propaganda” law. Adopted months before the 2014 Sochi Olympics, the law penalizes LGBT advocacy and creates a dangerous climate of stigma and violence for LGBT people. Anti-gay violence has increased so much in Russia that F.A.R.E., an organization that works to counter discrimination in soccer, warned fans attending the World Cup with their same-sex partners not to hold hands in public.
In 2017, the Russian republic of Chechnya carried out a horrific anti-gay purge. Chechen security forces rounded up suspected gay and bisexual men , torturing them and kidnapping some. “We don’t have any gays,” Chechnya’s ruler, Ramzan Kadyrov, said to HBO last year. “To purify our blood, if there are any here, take them.”
Instead of speaking out, FIFA is at best turning a blind eye to such homophobia and, at worst, rewarding it. The organization placed Grozny, the Chechen capital, on a list of World Cup training sites.
Qatar, which has punished gay people with one to three years in prison, will be the next World Cup host, in 2022. And on June 13, FIFA will vote between a joint United States-Canada-Mexico bid and Morocco to host the 2026 cup — even though Morocco’s national penal code punishes same-sex relations with prison terms. The law has resulted in numerous arrests in recent years, including of two teenage girls in 2016 for kissing.
These anti-gay laws clash with FIFA’s statutes , which warn that discrimination of any kind “is strictly prohibited and punishable by suspension or expulsion.” As part of a two-year process of implementing the rights reforms promised in 2015, FIFA’s president, Gianni Infantino, created the organization’s first human rights policy , which says that FIFA “is committed to addressing discrimination in all its forms.” Mr. Infantino also agreed to apply the United Nations guiding principles on business and human rights across all operations.
FIFA claims it will act on violations. “If there are any cases of abuse, or even possibility of human rights defenders or journalists being forced into a difficult corner, then according to our statutes and human rights policy, FIFA will intervene,” Federico Addiechi, FIFA’s head of sustainability and diversity, told The New York Times last year. In a 2017 letter on Chechnya’s anti-gay purge to activists, the secretary general of FIFA, Fatma Samoura, wrote that the organization’s events need to be “discrimination-free environments, including concerning discrimination based on sexual orientation.”
Hosting the World Cup entails trading away some sovereignty. FIFA has demanded and been given changes to domestic laws ahead of past World Cups. South Africa set up dozens of “instant courts,” chiefly to prosecute petty crimes related to the tournament, and Brazil overturned legislation that banned beer in stadiums. This kind of pressure should be used to further basic human rights.
FIFA needs to say publicly to Russia that it expects a welcoming atmosphere for LGBT people at all World Cup events and make clear that the country will be held responsible for conveying that message to all of local officials and staff, at the matches and beyond the playing fields.
This would send a strong signal to countries like Qatar and Morocco that they won’t be able to host major FIFA tournaments unless they reform anti-LGBT laws and policies.
If FIFA is not able to enforce its rules, top sponsors should act. Coca-Cola, Adidas, McDonald’s, Visa and other multinationals with policies banning discrimination need to protect their own reputations by insisting that FIFA live up to its promises. McDonald’s has already expressed “ concerns to FIFA regarding human rights issues in Qatar,” and announced it will not be a World Cup sponsor after 2018.
Thinking beyond Russia this year, FIFA needs to put Qatar on notice that four years is enough time to repeal its anti-LGBT laws, and to make the requirement public and essential in selecting future hosts. In short, FIFA needs to say: If you can’t play by the human rights rules, you can’t play. Your tax deductible gift can help stop human rights violations and save lives around the world.
(Creative Commons) A new study has claimed that lesbian, bisexual and ‘mainly heterosexual’ women are not accessing treatment for mental health issues including alcohol addiction.
The study, published on May 15 in the peer-reviewed BJGP Open journal, involved researchers from five universities across Australia who surveyed over 500 women.
The research found that while women who are attracted to other women experienced higher rates of substance abuse and mental health issues than heterosexual women, they were less likely to seek and receive treatment for these issues. (Creative Commons) In the study of 521 lesbian, bisexual or ‘mainly heterosexual’ women (referred to as same-sex attracted women or SSAW by the study), the research only 41.4 percent who needed mental health or addiction treatment had actually accessed support services.
70 percent of 18 to 25-year-olds in the survey also reported regularly drinking in excess of recommended health limits, with only six percent of these accessing treatment.
Related: What it’s like to deal with mental health issues when you’re LGBT, and how to find the help you need
The research found that the women were more likely to reach out for medical treatment if they felt connected to the LGBT community and had a doctor they were out to. University of Melbourne professor Ruth McNair stated that this was partially caused by a fear of being discriminated against by health professionals.
McNair stated that having a regular, supportive doctor was highly important in helping these women access mental health services.
She said: “It’s even more important for people who have suffered some discrimination and that’s one of the underlying reasons for their drug or alcohol use.
“Same-sex attracted women are consistently less likely than heterosexual women to use alcohol treatment services, despite reporting more problematic drinking.” (Creative Commons) Related: Women who have sex with women orgasm much, much more, new study shows
McNair added: “Bisexual and ‘mainly heterosexual’ women demonstrate even higher risks than lesbian women.
“Disclosing sexual identity to a regular, trusted GP correlated with improved utilisation of alcohol and mental health treatment for same-sex attracted women. (Creative Commons) “The benefits of seeking help for alcohol use, and of accessing LGBTI-inclusive GPs to do so, should be promoted to them.”
This study echoes previous research into the mental health of LGBT people in the UK and the US.
Previous research in the UK has shown that bisexual people earn less on average , feel less happy and suffer from higher levels of anxiety than other sexualities.