Luxembourg – Gay and Lesbian Representation in Politics
Bethany Houghton (Durham University)
It has recently been announced in Luxembourg that the openly gay leader of the Democratic Party Xavier Battel is to form a coalition with the Socialist Workers Party, which is led by another openly gay politician Etienne Schneider, and the Green Party. If the deal goes ahead as expected it will be the first time in history that both the prime minister and deputy minister of any country have been openly identified as homosexual. It comes just a few years after the world’s first lesbian head of government in Iceland – Johanna Sigurdardottir, who was elected in 2009. Sigurdardottir was followed by Elio Di Rupo, who became Belgium’s Prime Minister in 2011 and the world’s first openly gay man to be head of government.
After announcing the deal, Battel has stated in a conversation with social sharing site Buzzfeed that in Luxembourg ‘people don’t care what you do at the end of the day’. It would be easy to be sceptical of these claims; however, back in 2006 a poll of European countries showed Luxembourg to be near the top for public support of same sex marriage and adoption, with 58% and 39% acceptance respectively, compared with an average of 44% and 32% in other EU countries. Despite this acceptance, there is still no same sex marriage (legal recognition based on the French PACS model has been in force since 2004) or same-sex parenting adoption legislation as yet. However, bills are currently passing through the Luxembourg Parliament and Battel has stated that a same sex marriage bill will be passed quickly when he takes power, within the next year.
Luxembourg might not be at the forefront of LGBT rights, and it might not feature prominently in polls for gay-friendly living, but for a small country that is the home of the European Court of Justice, its likely electorate of the pairing of Battel and Schneider will put it at the forefront of LGBT firsts.
China’s One-Child Policy to be Relaxed
Tammie Chung (Durham University)
The Chinese government has announced a series of reforms, one of which is to relax the existing one-child policy. The policy was first introduced in 1979 as a means of population control, and has constantly been criticized for its role in the widening of gender imbalance in China. The one-child policy has long been considered one that perpetuates traditional views that a son is more valuable than a daughter, and has reportedly led to practices such as sex-selective abortions and the abandonment of baby girls. Furthermore, under the current regime, families in rural areas are permitted to have a second child only if their first one is a girl, which implies that the law allows for a second chance to have a son, but not a second chance to have a daughter. There is hope that the gender imbalance will gradually improve with the new changes to the one-child policy, but some speculate that with the current practices of sex-selective abortions in China and other countries, it may not be enough.
Hijras Now Recognised as a Third Gender in Bangladesh
Gita Keshava (Durham University)
The Prime Minister of Bangladesh announced on November 11th 2013 that Hijras will now be considered a separate, third gender category alongside the traditional male and female categories. Hijra, a term that will be used both in English and Bangla, is an individual who does not identify as male or female. It is a broad term and includes both transgender and intersex individuals although it does not fit neatly into either category. According to the Ministry of Social Welfare, there are about 10,000 Hijras living in Bangladesh. Although they already have voting rights, this recognition will enable them to reflect their gender identity on formal documents such as passports and identity cards. In addition, this will allow them to have priority for education, housing and health services, and other rights. This is a landmark decision and one which will hopefully improve their current status as a neglected group in society.