Germany Approves Third Gender Option for Intersex People

Germany has approved draft legislation that would add a third gender to options on official identity records. Though the German cabinet has approved it, Parliament must now pass the law for it to be officially signed this year.

Germany would join countries like Australia, Canada, India, Nepal, and New Zealand in having a third option. It is the first European country to do so.

Germany’s new law would allow intersex people to register as “divers,” which could be translated to “other,” according to Deutsche Welle. It comes after a Constitutional Court ruling in 2017 that sided with an intersex defendant. The court found that the current system in place had violated Germany’s anti-discrimination laws and had violated a citizen’s individual rights.

Lawmakers have come out supporting the new legislation.

Franziska Giffey, the minister for families and a member of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) said, according to DW, that the legislation is “an important step toward the legal recognition of people whose gender identity is neither male nor female.”

The German Justice Minister, Katarina Barley, also of SPD, hailed the bill. On Twitter, she wrote: “No human being is to be discriminated against for their sexual identity. The introduction of a third gender option was overdue.”

DW reported that the Justice Ministry is in the process of changing other policies that currently exclude intersex people. The outlet reports that there are up to an estimated 120,000 intersex-identifying people in Germany.

The new law comes after a case involving an intersex person who argued that the state should not be allowed to force intersex people into choosing either female or male on identity documentation. In 2013, Germany began to allow intersex children to not be required to register as female or male, according to Reuters.

“The legislature [parliament] has until 31 December 2018 to create a new regulation,” the Constitutional Court’s ruling said, reported PinkNews“Courts and administrative authorities are no longer allowed to apply the relevant standards, insofar as they amount to an obligation to indicate sex to persons whose sex development has variations in relation to female or male sexual development and who therefore do not permanently assign themselves to male or female sex.”

“Bureaucratic and financial cost, or regulatory interests of the state, cannot justify the refusal of a new, positive option for registrations,” it continued.

Some LGBTQ activists, however, say the legislation isn’t enough.

“For trans people, nothing has changed regarding the obstacles they face to change their registered name and gender,” Markus Ulrich, a spokesman for the Lesbian and Gay Federation in Germany, told Reuters.

Richard Koehler of Transgender Europe also called out the law, telling Reuters that it could potentially be invasive in determining if a person is intersex.

“Those who cannot or do not want to submit themselves to such invasive medicalization will remain excluded and without legal recognition. This is discriminatory,” he said.

Still, others have worked for the law to be passed, including Moritz Prasse of the Third Option, the organization that backed the first legal challenge.

Prasse tells Reuters, “It is a step in the right direction and we hope other states will follow.”

Image via Getty

Oregon Man Arrested For Threatening to Bomb HIV/AIDS Housing

An Oregon man is facing criminal charges for threatening to murder the residents of an apartment complex that primarily houses gay residents and people with HIV/AIDS, according to court documents.

On Monday, Portland resident Scott Wayne Smith allegedly told his neighbors at Hopewell Apartments he would bomb the building and kill “all you people.”

Hopewell resident Joshua Jackson told police that Smith started threatening him and a friend because they ignored Smith’s request for a cigarette, according to an affidavit signed by Multnomah County Deputy District Attorney Melissa Marrero. 

Jackson and his friend were sitting outside when Smith reportedly approached them. When they failed to respond, he became enraged.

“Stop whistling and talking about my girl and if you keep doing that, I’m gonna kill all you faggots,” Smith allegedly said.

Smith then reportedly walked back to his house across the street. Jackson told police he feared for his life. Most of the residents in Hopewell are gay, he said, and he had been harassing them for weeks.

KATU reported that other residents also had worries about with Smith. Donnie Blodgett told the station Smith threatened to set the building on fire. Wade Jorgenson reported similar problems.

“When I walked by the hedge where he lives, he was saying all kinds of hate stuff about [slurs deleted], and they should all die. Just really awful stuff,” Jorgenson said.

Smith faces a Class A misdemeanor charge of intimidation, which could result in the maximum punishment of a year in prison. Smith has pled not guilty. He is due back in court in September.

Smith’s arrest comes against the backdrop of a spike in reported hate crimes in major cities over the last four years. A study released by the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism this year found that hate crimes reported to police in the country’s largest cities jumped by 12.5 percent in last year alone. From the police departments that classified the victims targeted by bias, the most common victim groups were Black, Jewish, and LGBTQ.

Lithuanian LGBTQ NGO Allegedly Attacked With Molotov Cocktail

Last Friday, August 10, an alleged arsonist attacked the Lithuanian LGBTQ rights organization the Lithuanian Gay League (LGL), as well as the apartment building of its executive director. The fire left the office, located in the capital of Vilnius, with damage to the door and blinds, in the first attack in recent memory for the Baltic country. 

LGL is the only non-governmental organization in Lithuania dealing solely with LGBTQ topics, according to its website. It is also one of the oldest rights groups in the country, having been founded in 1993, only a couple of years after Lithuania gained independence from the Soviet Union.

“It was obviously a hate crime,” says Egle Kuktoraite, communications coordinator at LGL. She tells INTO that she and her LGL colleagues found out about the attack on the office when they arrived at their office around nine in the morning.

The clothing store owner they share an entrance with told them that police had called her when it happened, saying the attack happened around four in the morning. The fire also damaged that store. Police said they called the owner because her number was listed on the shop’s door.

“[The store owner] told us that somebody threw a Molotov cocktail at the door and there was a huge fire, but a taxi driver incidentally passed by and put out the fire with a fire extinguisher,” says Kuktoraite.

The same owner allegedly told the LGL activists that an investigator said she should put more signs up around her shop to deter another attack. It would be important, the investigator said, to make sure they know her shop was there and not just the NGO.

LGL has rainbow flags in its windows and on the crosswalk outside of it.

The group still does not know why authorities did not inform them as soon as the attack was reported.

Police are not treating it, at the moment, as a hate crime. “In the evening we read on local media that a police spokesman said they are not familiar with the concept of a hate crime,” Kuktoraite says. They said it would be investigated as a common crime.

This shouldn’t be the case, she says. Lithuania has an anti-discrimination law as well as hate crimes legislation, “but there are problems with the practical use of the law.”

Police often don’t implement it or even know how to report it as such. This leads to authorities downplaying the number of hate crimes that are carried out against the LGBTQ population, Kuktoraite explains.

Besides the attack on the office, executive director Vladimir Simonko’s apartment building was also reportedly attacked. When Simonko got home, Kuktoraite tells INTO, he discovered what happened. The media, Kuktoraite says, only reported that a clothing store and a massage salon had been attacked.

“It’s very unsettling for us,” she says. In order to have attacked Simonko’s home, the assailants would have had to follow him.  

Kuktoraite says this is the only such attack in recent memory. The organization is confused as to why they were targets of a Molotov cocktail: “We didn’t do anything that would gain a lot of visibility in the last few months that could have even provoked this sort of incident.”

“This incident clearly indicates that hate crimes on the ground of sexual orientation and gender identity remain an important issue in Lithuania. It is disappointing to see that such horrific crimes still take place in 2018 in the heart of our beautiful capital Vilnius,” Simonko said in a statement after the incident.

“We would like to kindly thank the taxi driver who took the initiative to extinguish the fire and saved our offices from more major damages. We hope that the true motives of the incident will be duly clarified.”

In February, Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis called for parliament to pass same-sex partnership legislation, according to media reports. However, international LGBTQ human rights group ILGA-Europe ranked Lithuania 37th out of 49 in their latest annual Rainbow Europe map with a score of 20.73 percent.  

Fox News Claims Vermont’s Trans Governor Nominee Has ‘Transgender Privilege’

Chadwick Moore is at it again.

After complaining about getting banned from Grindr last month for having a transphobic profile, the gay conservative writer claimed Vermont gubernatorial nominee Christine Hallquist won this week’s Democratic primary because she’s trans. In an interview with Fox News host Tucker Carlson, Moore claimed the victory was an example of “transgender privilege.”

On Tucker Carlson Tonight, the oft-incendiary conservative interviewed Democratic strategist Robin Biro about Hallquist’s history-making win, as well as comments she made about the religious right on Twitter.

Responding to an LGBTQ Nation story about an eight-year-old who was not allowed to play girls’ soccer because she “looks like a boy,” the nation’s first trans governor candidate claimed in a June 2017 tweet: “Radicalized Christians are a part of the American landscape, and we tolerate it.”

“And we worry about sharia law!!” Hallquist added.

“I don’t want to besmirch her free right to speech,” Biro claimed when Carlson brought up the year-old social media post, adding: “As a transgender woman, she’s come under a lot of criticism.”

Carlson, though, suggested she had gotten a free pass to criticize Christians because of her gender identity.

“Oh well, I don’t know if she has or not,” he responded, with his trademark air of condescension. “I think she’s celebrated for it, actually. Let’s stop pretending — of course, she is celebrated for it.”

Moore agreed, claiming her status as a trans woman affords Hallquist a Get-Out-of-Jail-Free card.

“You’re absolutely right to acknowledge [Christine] Hallquist’s transgender privilege,” he said. “She can get away with many, many things simply by being transgender. I mean, who knows if that’s even how she won this primary.”

“But while the entire country is fixated on the fact that she’s transgender, nobody knows anything about her policies,” Moore added.

Biro jumped in to say that he does know what Hallquist stands for.

“Yeah, you know that she’s for Medicaid for all,” Moore claimed, deflecting his response. “She’s a climate alarmist, she believes in $15 minimum wage, and that’s kind of it.”

“Not correct,” Biro interjected.

That’s when Moore began criticizing Hallquist’s appearance. The former Out editor, who was fired following universal condemnation of a flattering profile of alt-right enfant terrible Milo Yiannopoulos, claimed she appeared “half dead” during a cable news appearance the same day.

“She was on CNN this morning, looking half dead, very low energy,” he said.

Moore’s attack on Hallquist — which included two instances of misgendering her — wasn’t even the first transphobic incident of the day on Fox News. Earlier in the day, Fox & Friends anchor Ainsley Earhardt referred to the Democrat as “that transgender.”

Earhardt further suggested that Hallquist only won the race because she had little competition, despite facing three challengers in the primary.

“That transgender beat a 14-year-old!” the anchor said, referencing high school student Ethan Sonneberg. “They didn’t have an age limit, so the 14-year-old said, ‘I’m going to run!’ Ran in the primary, didn’t win.”

Earhardt apologized for the remark, saying that she “never, ever meant anything derogatory,” but not before her comments went viral on Twitter. “Her name is Christine Halquist,” responded former First Daughter Chelsea Clinton, while Dictionary.com corrected the broadcaster.

“Transgender is an adjective, not a noun,” the website claimed, in a tweet which has been liked more than 4,300 times.

But if the disproportionate violence faced by trans people or Hallquist’s own treatment on Fox News wasn’t an indication she does not enjoy so-called “transgender privilege,” a glance at her Twitter timeline may further disabuse critics of that notion. Trolls called Hallquist a “psycho woman,” “mentally insane,” and an “atypical nutcase psychopathic politician” following the Carlson segment.

“Can you really look at your face in the mirror every morning when you shave?” claimed Twitter user @Libeccio42 on Wednesday. “I doubt it!!!”

“We also tolerate radical mental Illness, the fact you’re not institutionalized is testiment [sic] to that fact,” added @LibertyRanger. “Embrace our tolerance as it far exceeds anything you are capable of.”

“All we need, a pedo freak trying to tell everyone normal how we should live,” said @Psycotic70.

After her historic 26-point win on Tuesday, Hallquist will face off against Republican Gov. Phil Scott in the November general election. Real Clear Politics counts Scott a heavy favorite in the progressive state, but as INTO previously noted, the once-popular incumbent’s poll numbers have eroded in recent months.

Gay Pride In Russian Village Of Seven People Is Shut Down By Officials

Nikolay Alexeyev, a gay Russian activist and founder of Gay Russia, recently received a letter from the government that said that gay pride events would be permitted by the government only if they moved their route away from the major city of Novoulyanovsk.

According to a social media post, with translation from Newsweek, Alexeyev was told that they needed to move because their current route “[passed] through the central part of the city of Novoulyanovsk… which is visited by a large number of citizens, including minors.”

In the same post, Alexeyev also mentioned that the head of Novoulyanovsk’s city administration had allowed them to conduct the parade in a small village populated by seven people. “In this way, the first ever approved gay parade in Russia should go ahead on 26 of August 2018 between 12 AM and 14 PM in the village of Yabloneviy,” Alexeyev posted. “The main thing is not to exceed the stated number of participants. We declared 300 people. We will begin assembling a list of participants. It will be the coolest event in Russia’s history.”

According to Newsweek, less than a day after Alexeyev announced the alternative route proposal, Novoulyanovsk authorities started pulling back on their decision. An anonymous city official told a Russian radio station that “the head of the city here was not in the loop about this event and that is why he has banned it.”

According to Newsweek, Alexeyev has decided to stand by the the original permission that was granted. If the female official who granted the original permission was to be reprimanded, Alexeyev offered to defend her personally. Alexeyev first gained a public platform from his work as a lawyer — in 2010, Alexeyev won the first LGBT human rights case at the European Court of Human Rights.

Since 2013, Russian officials have been cracking further down on LGBT folks due to the visibility law that now lists LGBT displays or symbols as “adult content,” which makes Alexeyev’s goal to host a Pride event all the more complicated.

BenDeLaCreme Cancels Shows in Solidarity With Unpaid Drag Performers

Since All Stars 3 BenDeLaCreme has been doing what she thinks is right, even when it goes against the grain. When RuPaul talked about trans contestants on the show, DeLa was one of the queens to speak out against her by mentioning her trans partner.

“Help anyone who tries to tell him what he can and can’t do,” DeLa tweeted.

DeLa is standing up for others yet again, but this time it’s other for drag performers. DeLa, who has been traveling all over with her show, “Inferno A Go-Go,” has canceled some of her upcoming Australian shows to show solidarity with other performers who haven’t been paid for the last time they performed in the land down under.

In a Facebook post announcing the cancellation, DeLa mentions that she feels like promoters are trying to take advantage of people who lack her platform.

“I cannot in good faith continue to tour with a promoter who is not treating performers without my platform with the same consideration as those who have been on TV,” DeLa wrote about the situation. “It is my hope that this situation will be rectified very soon.”

BibleGirl666, a drag performer who tweeted about not being paid for her work in Australia, also mentioned the fact that she was an outlier in both not being paid and also not being an Drag Race girl.

BibleGirl also applauded DeLa on Twitter for showing solidarity, calling her “a true sister.” Outside of all of the drama surrounding Drag Race, both with the fans and among the queens themselves, it is definitely nice to see queer people supporting each other where it matters — helping each other get paid.

Aretha Franklin’s Activism Included Support for Black Queer Icon Angela Davis

The Queen of Soul was willing to put her money where her mouth was.

Aretha Franklin passed away on Thursday morning, but news of her illness had been circulating for several days online prior to the announcement. As people prepared to say goodbye to the beloved singer, the voice of the US civil rights movement, they also shared stories about Franklin and her dedication to black liberation. One of those stories includes black queer icon Angela Davis.

According to a clip from a December 1970 issue of Jet magazine, Franklin declared her support for Davis, who had been arrested by the FBI after J. Edgar Hoover put her on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitive List when she was charged with aggravated kidnapping and first degree murder. She hadn’t committed the crime, but had purchased the weapons used in the crime and was thus charged.

Franklin was quoted in Jet as saying that she would be willing to pay Davis’ bail, “whether it’s $100,000 or $250,000,” herself.

“Black people will be free,” Franklin said. “I’ve been locked up (for disturbing the peace in Detroit), and I know you got to disturb the peace when you can’t get no peace.”

She added, “Jail is hell to be in. I’m going to see her free if there is any justice in our courts, not because I believe in communism, but because she’s a Black woman and she wants freedom for Black people.”

Davis was recently in the news after fashion label Prada began selling shirts featuring the anti-capitalist pro-Black icon for $500 and a coat with her likeness for $1700.

A Third Small Mississippi Town Just Passed An Anti-Discrimination Ordinance That Protects LGBTQs

Earlier this week, the city of Clarksdale, Miss. passed a citywide ordinance that prevents discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in housing, employment, and public accommodations. It is now the third city in the state to pass this kind of legislation following the state capital of Jackson, which passed a similar ordinance in 2016. The city of Magnolia followed suit in 2017.

The ordinance was passed Monday night in a unanimous vote by the board of commissioners.

Rob Hill, the Mississippi state director for the Human Rights Campaign, claimed its passage is a victory for the LGBTQ community not only in Clarksdale and the state of Mississippi but in municipalities across the United States.

“This is exciting for the community of Clarksdale and shows the LGBTQ community that Mississippi is a place of acceptance,” he told INTO in a phone interview. “It means a lot for myself, as an LGBTQ Mississippian. To have a community say that people like me are valuable. That we are worth protecting.”

The ordinance has the full support of Clarksdale Mayor Chuck Espy, who told INTO that LGBTQ inclusive laws should be a no-brainer.

“Passing a non-discrimination ordinance in the current climate and culture in the United States today is just the right thing to do,” he claimed over the phone. “It goes beyond saying that in this country there needs to be all levels of protection for all people. We didn’t want to see our city make a mistake in 2018 and not pass this kind of ordinance with the environment we currently live in.”

Even as increasing numbers of municipalities recognize the needs of their LGBTQ communities, the state of Mississippi has previously struggled with queer and trans inclusion. The city of Starkville was the center of nationwide controversy earlier this year after it initially denied a petition for the town’s first Pride parade. That decision was reversed after a lawsuit was brought forward on behalf of parade organizers Bailey McDaniel and Emily Turner.

Mississippi is among 30 states which lack comprehensive LGBTQ discrimination protections. There are no protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in places like Louisiana, South Carolina, and Texas, which supporters say makes ordinances like Clarksdale’s all the more important.

Those local protections are particularly crucial in Mississippi, which passed one of the most sweeping pieces of anti-LGBTQ legislation in the U.S. two years ago. Entitled the “Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act,” House Bill 1523 allows for discrimination against LGBTQ people by faith-based organizations, as well as single mothers and unwed couples.

Furthermore, schools, service providers, and employers can deny trans people access to sex-segregated facilities based on their gender identity.

HB 1523 also provides people in taxpayer-funded roles the opportunity to discriminate based on their beliefs. That part of the law came partly in response to Kim Davis, the Rowan County, Ky. clerk who gained national attention in 2015 for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. She was later jailed for contempt of court.

Since HB 1523 went into effect after a federal injunction against the law was lifted last year, advocates note there have been few instances of such discrimination.

“We don’t know of any instances where a county clerk has denied a marriage license to a same-sex couple in Mississippi,” Hill said. “I think when the legislature passed [HB 1523,] it overestimated the appetite for discrimination.”

While HB 1523 doesn’t preempt any local municipalities from passing non-discrimination legislation, it does provide for a potential conflict between the anti-LGBTQ legislation and city ordinances passed in Jackson, Magnolia and now Clarksdale. The ordinance provides an opportunity to make non-discrimination the norm in Mississippi.

For instance, if an LGBTQ resident of Clarksdale is discriminated against, it allows an opportunity for advocates to bring a lawsuit overturning HB 1523 through federal action.

But until LGBTQ Mississippians are viewed as fully equal, Hill believes Clarksdale’s ordinance is a step in the right direction.

“There’s a perception that Mississippi is discriminatory, and it certainly feels like, with HB 1523’s passing, it has perpetuated that narrative and perception,” he claimed. “Then you see something like this and it’s a ray of light coming out of a dark place.”

Image via Getty

Study Finds Queer Teens More Likely to Use Illegal Drugs

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, or questioning youth are two times more likely than straight teens to use illegal drugs such as cocaine, heroin, and meth, according to a recent study in the American Journal of Public Health.

The authors write: “Considering how both drug use trends and sentiment surrounding sexual minorities has changed in recent years, contemporary data providing a holistic perspective of LGBQ substance use risk…are needed to guide comprehensive public health and policy strategies.”

The research builds on previous studies that found stressors like being closeted or being rejected by family and friends could lead to increased substance abuse in LGBQ teens.

According to the Human Rights Campaign, LGBTQ youth are twice as likely to be bullied, excluded, and even assaulted at school. That along with being 40 percent less likely to have a family member they can turn to can push these teens to try drugs and alcohol.

In an email to Reuters Health, one of the study’s co-authors, John Ayers, said that these issues “may make drugs foolishly appear attractive as a coping mechanism.”

The recently published study sampled over 14k high school students who were surveyed in 2015. The study asked these students about their lifetime and recent use (less than one month) of 15 substances that included both illegal drugs but also substances such as alcohol, tobacco, and even medication that did not come from a prescription.

Eleven percent of the teens surveyed identified as somewhere along lesbian, gay, bisexual, or questioning. Two percent identified themselves as lesbian or gay, six percent as bisexual, and three percent said they were questioning.

Students who identified as LGBQ were over three times more likely to use heroin or meth at least once, according to the study. They were twice as likely when it came to trying ecstasy or cocaine.

“Even experimentation with these harder drugs can derail a teen’s future,” Ayers warned.

There was also a 12 percent higher chance that LGBQ youth would report substance abuse in their lifetimes compared to heterosexual youth. Within the past month, the number was 27 percent higher.

The researchers reported that over six percent of queer teens used heroin sometime in their lives. In comparison, only about one percent of straight youth had.

Almost nine percent of queer teens had used methamphetamines, while 2 percent of straight teens reported using them.

About half of LGBQ teens used marijuana compared to 38 percent of non-LGBQ teens.

In something that is not such a surprise, alcohol and tobacco were more often used. However, these numbers are still higher in queer youth than non-queer youth.

Seventy-two percent of queer teens reported drinking alcohol compared to 63 percent of other teens. Forty-seven percent of queer teens reported they had smoked at least one time, while that number was 31 in other teens.

Overall, the study found that 51 percent of LGBQ teens reported taking one of the listed substances (illegal and otherwise) in the past 30 days, and 80 percent reported taking one in their lifetime. This is compared to 42 and 71 percent of non-LGBQ teens respectively.

The researchers note that overall most teens, LGBQ or not, did not use illegal drugs. They also write that the study is the first to their knowledge to show an increased risk of substance use besides drinking alcohol and smoking cigarettes.

Kimberly O’Brien, who was not involved in the study, researches LGBTQ youth drop-in centers, exploring substance use and risk and protective factors among them. She is a researcher at Boston Children’s Hospital and Education Development Center and a psychiatry instructor at Harvard Medical School and she told Reuters in an email that the study from Ayers and his colleagues could bolster claims made by smaller studies that had found that LGBQ youth are at a greater risk for substance use.

“The fact that the proportion of youth who identify as LGBQ is increasing (makes) it even more important for families and professionals to pay attention to this relationship because of the increasing numbers of youth affected,” she said, according to the outlet.

What about trans-identifying teens? The researchers in the study concentrated on sexual orientation. Because of that, data on trans youth is absent, which they write is one of the limitations of their study.

As the Human Rights Campaign notes in its brief on LGBTQ youth substance abuse, “We know less about substance use and abuse among teens who are transgender…we do know that transgender young people experience certain substance abuse risk factors, such as peer victimization and psychological distress, even more often than lesbian, gay, bisexual or queer youth who are cisgender (non-transgender). This fact suggests that we should be particularly concerned about substance abuse among transgender youth.”

Authors of the study concluded that LGBQ teens are a “substantially greater risk for substance use” and that lawmakers should put more effort and resources behind early intervention and prevention to address the issue.

Image via Getty

Amnesty International Calls on Malaysia to Stop Caning Lesbians For Having Sex

Advocacy organizations are calling on Malaysian authorities to suspend the punishment of two women sentenced for having lesbian sex.

In a statement released Wednesday, Amnesty International claimed the Southeast Asian country should drop charges against two women arrested in April after Terengganu police discovered them together in a car parked in a public square. Reports broke earlier this week that the pair — who have not been named in press coverage — were each sentenced to six strokes of the cane as a result. They also face an $800 fine.

If the couple declines to pay the penalty, they face up to four months in prison.

“This deeply cruel sentence marks yet another severe setback in Malaysia’s treatment of LGBTQ people, which is increasingly troubling,” claimed Gwen Lee, Amnesty International Malaysia’s Interim Executive Director, in a statement. “Across the country, LGBTQ people are facing a climate of growing discrimination and persecution.”

The international human rights group added that the harsh punishment affirms that “Malaysia is becoming a more hostile place for its LGBTQ population.”

Terengganu prosecutors noted the punishment was a first in the north-central state. Although sodomy is punishable with up to 20 years in prison under Section 377A of the Malaysian Penal Code, prosecutions for offenses “against the order of nature” were at one time relatively rare.

But a national turn toward religious conservatism in recent years has increasingly placed LGBTQ people in the crosshairs.

After government health officials held a contest encouraging young people to submit videos on the “prevention” of homosexuality, reports broke in January that federal authorities were funding conversion therapy clinics for transgender women. A Terengganu council member claimed the goal was to “give [trans people] a path to make the best choices for their lives.”

“Transgender women are part of our society,” councilman Ghazali Taib told the AFP. “They are our responsibility.

Last week, the Islamic affairs minister ordered the portraits of two LGBTQ activists be removed from an art exhibition held on Penang Island. He accused organizers of the “Stars and Strokes” exhibit of promoting “LGBTQ culture in Malaysia.”

But after these repeated assaults on queer and trans people in the nation of 32 million, advocates are taking action. Justice For Sisters (JFS), a transgender advocacy group in Malaysia, claimed this week’s sentencing amounts to “a gross violation” of the lesbian couple’s right to dignity and privacy.

“The role of the court is to ensure justice is served and upheld, not to increase victimisation of persons based on personal prejudice,” the organization said in a statement.

“Punishment cannot be used as lessons for society,” JSD continued. “Punishment as a means to serve as lessons for others unfairly exploits and burdens the individuals with severe punishments as stand-ins for others. Such prejudicial thinking can dangerously allow for the abuse of power and exploitation of innocent people, perpetuating injustices.”

The statement was co-signed by a coalition of advocacy organizations, including All Women’s Action Society (AWAM), Association for Women Lawyers (AWL), Malaysian Atheists and Secular Humanists (MASH), and Pelangi Campaign, a leading LGBTQ group in Malaysia.

OutRight International, a human rights group based in the U.S., added that caning amounts to “torture.”

“Two adults engaging in consensual sex should never be punished,” claimed OutRight Deputy Director Maria Sjödin in a statement to INTO. “Caning these two women amounts to torture and is a clear human rights violation. Malaysian authorities must stop this barbaric punishment.”

Advocates estimate that more than 10,000 people are caned in Malaysia every year, although the punishment takes place outside of the public eye.

But despite growing international pressure, Malaysian authorities are unlikely to drop the sentence. Noting that “sexual intercourse between people of the same sex is forbidden in Islam,” Terengganu religious department prosecutor Mohamad Khasmizan Abdullah called sodomy “morally wrong,”

“The caning would be carried out within the court premise,” he told Reuters. “Under the sharia rules, they will be whipped with a rattan cane on their back with their clothes on while they are seated.”

Image via Getty