Japan’s Gender Identity Disorder Law

Japan’s Gender Identity Disorder Law

 

Under the current Gender Identity Disorder Special Cases Act (GID) in Japan, transgender citizens must undergo forced sterilization for their gender identity to be legally recognized.

A report by Human Rights Watch titled “A Really High Hurdle: Japan’s Abusive Transgender Legal Recognition Process” examined the human rights violations perpetuated under GID, based on interviews with 48 transgender Japanese citizens, as well as lawyers, health providers and academics from 14 districts in Japan.

The GID has been criticized internationally for coercing invasive and largely unwanted surgeries, justified by an outdated law that classifies being transgender as a mental health condition. The procedure involves a mandatory psychological diagnosis – with lengthy waits for clinic appointments and subsequent transferals that can take up to a year – and subsequent irreversible medical procedures.

Citizens struggle in the education system and finding employment, which like Spain and Turkey that have similar laws, classifies people under strict binaries. This puts pressure on transgender people to follow the procedures before entering the workforce while suffering ever-present barriers to inclusion within society. This forces people to come out to their parents before they are ready, as the procedures often require applicants to use their family’s health insurance.

Further rules under GID mean eligible applicants must be single and without underage children (under 20-years-old), rules which further violate UN Human Rights like the right to have a family, the right to privacy, and the right to freedom of expression.

Most notably, the law violates the right to equality and freedom from discrimination, while the required medical procedures violate the right to freedom from degrading treatment or punishment.

Japan’s Supreme Court argues for sterilization as transgender males becoming pregnant would cause “confusion” in society, in effect maintaining homogeneity in a largely conservative society. Polls suggest, however, that citizens should be legally recognized.

The GID came into force in 2004, but changes have come about since then in terms of taking steps to recognize transgender people, both in Japan and internationally.

The World Health Organization published its new International Classification of Diseases (ICD), which will be presented to member states in May this year. The revised edition moves being transgender from a mental illness to ‘gender incongruence’, under conditions related to sexual health – meaning the term ‘gender identity disorder’ no longer exists internationally. Meanwhile, the American Psychological Association revised the terms in 2012.

In 2016, the Japanese Education Ministry issued a Guidebook for Teachers on how to treat LGBT students in schools. In 2017, the Ministry announced that it had revised the national bullying prevention policy to include LGBT students.

In 2018, in anticipation of hosting the 2020 Olympics, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government passed a law that disallows the city government, citizens, and enterprises from discriminating based on gender identity or sexual orientation. The county has also voted for two UN Human Rights Council resolutions which aim to end violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

In 2018 a UN independent expert on sexual orientation and gender identity also recommended in his address to the UN General Assembly to eliminate abusive requirements in the legal process to change gender in Japan. He further recommended that a revised version of the law ensure legal recognition in all aspects of people’s lives, whether it be in education, employment, or personal matters.

These changes and recommendations provide Japan with a prerequisite to alter its law. A revision of Japan’s current law would bring the broadly unheard-of topic to the limelight and educate people on what it means to be transgender. Citizens could escape marginalization from society and humiliating, irreversible procedures.

 

 

 

 

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Image courtesy of Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

 

A global surge in measles infections raises concerns

A global surge in measles infections raises concerns

 

Measles infections have risen in the last year, causing alarm in both developed and developing countries. While outbreaks in developed countries can largely be attributed to the so-called ‘anti-vaxxer’ movement – as reported by STAND earlier this year – the causes behind the outbreaks in developing countries are often different and more likely to relate to a lack of access to the vaccine as a result of conflicts or weak health infrastructures. According to the World Health Organization, more than 95% of deaths caused by measles occur in low income countries, with young children under the age of five at the highest risk.

After vaccinations had led to an 80% drop in infections between 2000 and 2017, 98% of countries worldwide reported an increase from 2017 to 2018.

The most notable increase occurred in Ukraine, with an increase of 30,338 more infections than the year before, and a total of 35,120 infections in 2018. In the first two months of 2019, there were already 24,042 cases reported in the country.

This is followed by notable increases in the Philippines, Brazil (which had no infection in 2017 compared to 10,262 in 2018), Yemen and Venezuela. Several of these countries suffer from ongoing conflicts, making access to vaccinations more difficult.

According to UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore, there is “a safe, effective and inexpensive vaccine” but once infected, there is no specific treatment against the disease. Measles are highly contagious and are spread through air, even up to two hours after an infected person has left a room. As a result, UNICEF is undertaking large-scale campaigns in affected countries, where weak health infrastructure and low awareness for the danger of the disease are the main causes for lack of prevention efforts.

 

 

 

 

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Image courtesy of UNICEF Ethiopia via Flickr

 

Uganda prepares for Ebola Zaire Virus to cross border from DRC

Uganda prepares for Ebola Zaire Virus to cross border from DRC

Since the outbreak of the Ebola Zaire Virus in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) on 1 August 2018, neighbouring African states have been ramping up prevention and awareness campaigns in hopes of keeping the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) from spreading to the Ugandan, Rwandan, and South Sudanese populations.

One factor affecting the Ebola preparedness operations, specifically in Uganda, is the number of refugees and migrant groups travelling in the region, which increases the risk of disease spreading. Conflict in neighbouring regions of South Sudan and DRC has resulted in increased displacement of individuals moving into Uganda. The World Food Program (WFP) reports that Uganda is now the third largest refugee hosting country in the world, with 1.1 million refugees living in settlements across the country. Of that 1.1 million, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reports 785,104 from South Sudan, 284,265 from DRC, 33,657 from Burundi, and 51,326 from Somalia, Rwanda and other countries.

Following the outbreak in the DRC, the WFP has been working with Ebola case management subcommittees, UNICEF, World Health Organization (WHO) and the Ugandan Ministry of Health (MoH) to increase Ebola prevention awareness among refugees and host communities. This includes displaying posters at food assistance centres, broadcasting spot messages through local radio stations, distributing Ebola preparedness packages to local school districts, household visits, and community meetings. Awareness for migrant populations is largely targeted towards the settlement areas of Kyaka II and Kyangwali, refugee camps located in western Uganda.

Monitoring and screening of individuals at main refugee entry points, formal and informal border crossings in the high risk districts along the DRC-Uganda border, and all health facilities continues in an effort to remain vigilant to potential Ebola cases in Uganda. Alert cases continue to be identified and isolated with blood samples taken for testing to the Uganda Virus Research Institute.

As of 28 November 2018, the Ugandan MoH together with the WHO country office wish to reiterate that there are no confirmed cases of Ebola Virus Disease in Uganda, and are working tirelessly to keep the country safe from the deadly disease.

Ebola in DRC Update

As of 27 November 2018, there have been a total of 422 cases of Ebola Zaire Virus – 375 of those confirmed, and 242 resulting in death. Women account for 60% of all confirmed cases. A total of 41 health workers have been infected to date, including 12 deaths. It is now being called the second worst Ebola outbreak in history, with conflict in the region placing increasing stress on humanitarian aid.

The DRC National Malaria Control Programme, supported by the World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF, the Global Fund and the United States President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI) have began malaria vaccination campaigns. Mass drug administration and the distribution of insecticide treated mosquito-netting helps to aid in combating the spread of malaria. Malaria shares similar early symptoms with EVD, and greatly overburdens medical facilities and Ebola responders. Controlling a malaria outbreak will lessen the workload on already stretched Ebola Treatment Centres.

Political instability, violence, and population displacements have made the current Ebola outbreak one of the most complex and difficult public health challenges in recent history. DRC officials and aid organisations continue to work to control the outbreak in the provinces of North Kivu and Ituri, while neighbouring states remain on alert to protect their populations from the possible spread of EVD.

 

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Image ©UNHCR / F. Noy via Flickr

Reaching a new threshold in the persecution of the Rohingya

Reaching a new threshold in the persecution of the Rohingya

In Myanmar, the ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya minority is still on-going. While thousands of people are fleeing the country every day, a new threshold has recently been reached.

Bangladesh and India, two countries taking in the great majority of the refugee’ influx, are set to send back their refugees to Myanmar under a recent agreement.

The first deportations started in spite of warnings from the UNHCR, the refugee agency, calling for a safe and dignified return of those who would voluntarily settle back in Myanmar. After five years of persecution, the UN emphasises the ongoing violence and discrimination suffered by the Muslim minority. However, India is already planning to deport 40,000 people, and Bangladesh has provided the names of 5,000 refugees listed for return to the Myanmar authorities.

India’s authorities consider all those who entered the country without a legal permit as illegal immigrants, who will be identified and sent back. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is said to be strongly influenced by some Hindu groups calling for the deportation of the Myanmar refugees. These same groups could prove to be useful to Modi ahead of the 2019 elections. These groups suggest that the Rohingya are easy targets for radicalisation by extremist groups, as well as their possible -yet unproven- links with Pakistan-based terror organisations.

After a first draft in 2017 and under pressure from China, both Bangladesh and Myanmar authorities have drawn up a concrete plan, which enables “repatriations” to start from mid-November. China’s economic investment in both countries gives it substantial leverage. The East Asian country previously supported Myanmar at various occasions, preventing the UN Security Council and General Assembly from interfering in the western region of Myanmar. Originally coming from the Rakhine province of Myanmar, the Rohingya have been welcomed into Bangladesh from the beginning of the crisis, but the cost of basic refugee camps has become a burden for the impoverished country. Indeed, Dhaka has seen international donors shifting from emergency to integration funding. Back in Myanmar, government authorities in Naypyidaw have so far failed to address security, safety and stability issues that have affected and continue to affect the Rohingya population. Therefore, this deal also aims to inform the global community of the many problems that still face the Rohingya.

Bangladesh’s integrity has also been put into question after a revelation from Canadian and UN officials stating that Dhaka has stopped a bilateral programme aiming to resettle Rohingya refugees in Canada. According to Bangladeshi officials, this incentive increased the number of refugees hoping to be resettled in a Western country.

The future of this ethnicity is at stake. Living in the poorest conditions in India and Bangladesh, the Rohingya once hoped to integrate into the societies to which they fled. Today, they are being forced to go back to the very same place where everything started, leaving the question of their survival open.

 

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Image courtesy of Mohammad Tauheed via Flickr.

Yemen fast approaching deadly famine

Yemen fast approaching deadly famine

The impact of food scarcity in Yemen now rivals attacks on civilian lives, as violence continues. Centred around the port city of Al-Hudaydah (Hodeidah), the ongoing conflict poses a serious threat to the effectiveness of humanitarian aid in the area. Al-Hudaydah is located in eastern Yemen on the Red Sea coast, with a population of approximately 2.4 million.

The crisis is being called Yemen’s worst in 100 years, as food and fuel prices soar due to deflation of the Yemeni Rial.

Stopping humanitarian aid from preventing Yemen’s impending famine is a lack of consistent access from ports centres to large population centres in the north and west areas of the country. Bombings to major centres like Al-Hudaydah destroys infrastructure relied upon for food production, and Yemen now depends largely on external resources. According to the World Food Programme, clashes on Al-Hudaydah’s outskirts have prevented access to the Red Sea Mills, where 51,000 metric tons of wheat grain is stored – enough to feed 3.5 million people for a month.

Displacement also affects the efficacy of humanitarian operations, as camps often fail to provide adequate shelter during winter months, and food supplies insufficient for growing numbers of the displaced. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported on 9 November 2018 that the total number of internally displaced persons (IDP) in Yemen, since the conflict began in 2015, has reached 2 million. 89% of those people have been displaced for a year or more. According to IOM’s Emergency Displacement Tracking Matrix, conflict in Al-Hudaydah accounts for the displacement of 74,468 households (446,808 individuals) since June 2018.

Loss of public health, water, and sanitation facilities to armed groups intensifies the consequences of food scarcity. Al-Hudaydah continues to experience heavy bombing and gunfire, enclosing on the area around Al-Thawra hospital, the only remaining functioning hospital in the district. Loss of access to Al-Thawra would greatly endanger the lives of injured civilians requiring medical attention, and those suffering from acute malnutrition and the spread of disease.

Lacking the safety and facilities to operate, humanitarian aid workers cannot administer medical assistance and immunisation campaigns. Not only are the Yemeni people being starved by those perpetuating armed conflict; they lack access to life-saving immunizations to prevent the spread of diseases, like Cholera.

“We have to keep all the ports open, we have to keep all the main roads open, we have to keep them functional, we have to keep them safe. No humanitarian site should be used for military purposes … the lifeline through which the aid operation runs now hangs by a thread.” – United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Mark Lowcock.

Belgian NGO, International Crisis Group (ISG), reported 21 November 2018 the dire situation that will result if Saudi/Emirati backers like the United States continue to enable coalition attacks on the eastern coast. Read more on how ISG suggests the international community prevent Yemeni famine here.

“International stakeholders thus face a stark yet simple choice: prevent a destructive battle for Hodeida or assume complicity, through inaction, in mass starvation. They should not only choose the former but also move quickly to end the siege of Hodeida so that the present emergency does not recur.” – International Crisis Group

In an attempt to bypass the conflict in Al-Hudaydah, humanitarian aid agencies supported by the UN and World Food Program have organized the logistics of food and supplies distribution from other port cities like Aden, on Yemen’s south coast, and Mokha on Yemen’s south west coast. From here, trucks transport rations and supplies throughout the country to clusters of IDP. Take a look at the process in Aden here.

Save the Children reports that it can take two to three weeks longer for supplies to reach areas in need from Aden than it would from the Al-Hudaydah port. Lack of access to transportation routes, combined with spreading of displacement away from Yemen’s west coast adds to this time frame. Further funding is needed on a continuous basis for humanitarian aid operations too keep up with growing need in Yemen, and to combat the impact of the region’s conflict on aid distribution and insufficient infrastructure.

 

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Photo © European Union 2018 (photo by: Peter Biro) via Flickr

LGBTQ+ under fire in Tanzania

LGBTQ+ under fire in Tanzania

 

 

Close your eyes and imagine for a second. Imagine that you are living in a country where the very fabric of who you are puts you at risk of persecution. Imagine that you are living in a country where an inherent part of your being is the reason you are being targeted for a life sentence. Imagine that you are living in a country where you are forced to try and hide a part of yourself that you cannot control.

Right now as I write, and as you read, this is the reality for hundreds of LGBTQ+ individuals in Tanzania. These people have been forced to flee or go into hiding after a senior official commenced a taskforce with the sole aim of identifying and punishing gay people. Paul Makonda, the head of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania’s largest city, announced in late October that he had put together a team of officials and police that would intensify persecution of LGBTQ+ individuals, who would face lengthy prison sentences if arrested. Makonda is a devout Christian who has stated that homosexuality “tramples on the moral values of Tanzanians” and that he would prefer to anger Western liberal countries than to anger God. Makonda subsequently released an interview on YouTube, calling for Tanzanians to report gay people to the authorities, an action with an unmistakable whiff of Nazi Germany surrounding it.

The Guardian spoke to LGBTQ+ activists who told stories of their houses being raided and people fleeing the cities for the countryside, describing the situation hauntingly as “open season on gay people”. The activists stated that lists of names had been published on social media in order to “out” people. U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, responded to the worrying situation in Tanzania by releasing a statement warning that, “this could turn into a witch-hunt and could be interpreted as a licence to carry out violence, intimidation, bullying, harassment and discrimination against those perceived to be LGBT.”

While the Tanzanian foreign ministry has not explicitly endorsed Makonda’s actions, the office has been a supporter of several homophobic measures since 2015. The government has reacted to the creation of the “task force” by saying that the action is the personal position of Paul Makonda and not of the official government.  Tanzania’s colonial constitution and laws prohibit same-sex relations and in October 2017, 13 health and human rights activists were arrested and detained for promoting “carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature”, an offence which can lead to 30 years or more in a jail cell. Furthermore, in October 2016, the Minister of Health imposed a directive which suspended the provision of HIV/AIDS services and ordered the closure of clinics supporting LGBTQ+ individuals.

On November 6, 10 men were arrested on the island of Zanzibar after police were tipped off about a possible same-sex marriage ceremony. Amnesty International officials expressed fear that the individuals would be subjected to forced anal examinations, the government’s method of choice for finding “proof” of homosexual activity among men.

Since the introduction of the barbarian persecution team, Denmark, Tanzania’s second biggest aid donor, has decided to suspend 9.8 million dollars of pledged aid money, while the World Bank has stated that it will not go through with a plan to loan Tanzania 300 million dollars.

It is absolutely chilling to think that such hatred and intolerance still exists in such an open atmosphere and it is even more chilling to think that these ideas are being spread under the guise of “religious beliefs” and “morality”. While it may seem like such heinous persecution exists only in another world and another time, the reality is that this fear is just daily life for hundreds of individuals in Tanzania.

 

 

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Image courtesy of Jiroe at Unsplash