The Gender Beat: Punjab Opens First HIV/AIDS Testing Clinic for LGBT; UN Initiative Empowers Women in Rural Ethiopia

A round-up of what’s happening in the worlds of gender and sexuality.


A UN joint programme has benefitted over 19,500 women in Ethiopia. Credit: Reuters

In rural Ethiopia, women are gaining empowerment through a UN programme

The UN’s Joint Programme on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment, which was launched in Ethiopia in 2011, provides interest-free loans and entrepreneurship training to the women in the African nation. According to Huffington Post, the programme has benefitted over 19,500 women in Ethiopia, among who is Kimiyaa Umar, a 35-year-old mother of six.

A year ago, Umar was struggling to run a viable business due to the lack of financial resources and knowledge. She then received an interest-free loan of 3,000 Birr (US$ 140) as part of the UN programme.

“We were selected to benefit from the programme for being the neediest. We had no capital or the knowledge on how to deal with business,” Umar, who now leads a group of 13 women under the programme, told the Huffington Post. “Today, we are models in our village and many women have started to organise themselves by self-initiation.”

The programme has helped these women save money and invest in an energy-saving cooking stove technology cooperative targeting women in their village and beyond. Before they were given the loan, they were also provided with training on how to start and manage a business.

“Using the skills gained, all of us started different businesses and now each one of us has finished paying back the 3,000 Birr loan, and saved enough to invest in a different cooperative business of labour, time and energy-saving cooking stove technology,” Umar said.

Umar added that the joint programme has helped these women make a difference at the community level in a short time and has motivated them to keep working harder.

US state department asked to reconsider denying passport to ‘intersex’ veteran

The US state department has received an order from a federal judge in Denver to reconsider its denial of a passport to a Navy veteran from Colorado who identifies as neither male or female.

According to a Reuters report, the ruling was issued in response to a lawsuit filed by Dana Zzyym, who was born with ambiguous sex characteristics.

Keith Coffman of the Thomson Reuters Foundation writes that Zzyym had been attempting to travel to Mexico City for a meeting of intersex people – those born with reproductive or sexual anatomy that does not fit the typical definitions of male or female.

A man holds a flag as he takes part in an annual Gay Pride Parade in Toronto June 28, 2009. REUTERS/Mark Blinch

A man holds a flag as he takes part in an annual Gay Pride Parade in Toronto June 28, 2009. Credit: Reuters/Mark Blinch

“I shouldn’t have to suffer at the hands of my government,” said Zzyym, who was born in 1958 and raised as a boy.

Zzyym’s lawsuit argued that the government’s policy of requiring the designation of either male or female on an application for a passport was in violation of due process and equal protection rights for intersex people.

According to Reuters, the US district court Judge R. Brooke Jackson concluded in his ruling that the state department’s “binary-only gender passport policy” did not follow a rational decision-making process and ordered officials to reconsider it.

Punjab gets its first HIV/AIDS testing clinic for LGBT community

Punjab recently saw the opening of its first HIV/AIDS testing clinic for the over one lakh members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community in the state.

According to The Tribune, the clinic has hired a doctor and a nurse from the LGBT community to help put LGBT community members at ease to come forward and get tested for the disease at an early stage.

“Due to the stigma attached to the community, members are hesitant to go to any of the HIV/AIDS testing centres fearing further stigma and so they die forlorn,” the clinic manager Deepak Rana told The Tribune.

The centre will be run by Shaan Foundation as a part of project SAMARTH (Strengthen Abilities to Manage and Respond Effectively to HIV and AIDS in India) along with the Elton John AIDS Foundation.

A report released by UNAIDS ahead of World AIDS Day on December 1 claims that there has been a decline of 66% in new HIV infections in India since 2000, however the stigma surrounding the disease continues.

There are 36.7 million people worldwide who are living with HIV, while there were 1.1 million AIDS-related deaths in 2015, according to Hindustan Times.

“While India has made significant progress in preventing new infections and extending treatment to those who need it, HIV-related stigma continues to affect the lives of people infected and affected by the virus,” said Prasada Rao, special envoy of UN Secretary General on AIDS. “All key populations – injecting drug users, men who have sex with men, transgender and sex workers continue to suffer criminalisation under the national laws.”

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