Romania is a society that is dominated by conservative social norms and as a consequence the LGBT community in the country is under tremendous strain. In some ways Romania is more liberal than other states in Eastern Europe- LGBT-based discrimination is illegal, LGBT individuals can adopt children, trans people can recognised by their preferred gender, and gays and lesbians can serve in the military. Unlike in other Eastern European states, the constitution does not prohibit same-sex marriage and this will remain the case after a referendum seeking to clarify ‘marriage’ as between ‘one man and one woman’ failed to pass.
Civil society is full of anchor institutions that often provide leadership by setting agendas and raising awareness of certain issues. One such group of these institutions is universities and due to the recent dispute with the UCU these organisations have often found themselves in the news. Although this trade union confrontation being at the forefront of discussions of campuses around the country, a number of universities are also making headlines by divesting themselves from fossil fuel companies. Removing universities’ financial support for companies destroying the earth will be a major step forward and has the potential to radically change the debate around anti-climate change measures.
Germany has become a world leader when it comes to renewable energy and climate action. According to the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy, over 31% of the country’ energy needs come from renewable energy which is significant given how many countries in the developed world are nowhere near that level. The consequence of this has been that air pollution emanating from Germany has declined but the nature of air pollution is that it crosses national barriers and as a result German cities are looking at new ways to reduce air pollution further. One such announcement made in the last week was that some are considering making public transport entirely free.
For a number of years Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has been seeking to gather political support for the idea of amending the Japanese constitution. Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) is a commanding position in the Diet with significant majorities in both the House of Councillors and the House of Representatives, but the process of constitutional amendment requires, in the first instance, a two-third majority in both Houses. Although the LDP has the numbers to pass a bill mandating a constitutional change, such a vote would be on a knife-edge in the House of Representatives and as such Abe will seek to get the support of other parties.
The Chinese government have correctly been praised from people around the world for its rapid expansion of renewable energy capacity, especially in regards to solar power. However increasing the amount of electricity generated from sustainable sources is not enough to slow down the impacts of climate change and reduce pollution. One of the other aspects of this issue is afforestation as this reduces the aggregate amount of carbon dioxide filtered out of the atmosphere. Thankfully it appears that China will act on this issue as well because the government has announced that it will plant enough trees to cover an area around the size of the Republic of Ireland.
The Indian Supreme Court is to announce the result of its review of Section 377 of the Penal Code which criminalises homosexual sex. The announcement of the Court will be made no later than October 2018. In early 2016 the Court announced that they would be renewing the provision, giving hope to LGBT activists that the infamous section, a hangover from British colonial rule, would be struck down. In August 2017 the Court ruled that the right to privacy was “intrinsic” and “fundamental” which galvanised the LGBT rights movement in India. India is more tolerant of LGBT people than in other parts of Asia but it is by no means a country that is welcoming to sexual and gender minorities.
In many ways 2018 could be a titanic year for LGBT rights and knowing where advances could be made can be a cause for spurring on activists on the ground and increasing the international attention paid to these struggles. In the first article on this subject, I looked at four countries that could see significant progress made in the coming year. These four were examples of nation-states where I would be actively surprised if something substantial didn’t happen in the next 12 months. The four countries at the focus of this article are still noteworthy, but would require a bigger push by campaigners and activists. This distinction in no way means that the follow countries are out of reach in 2018 as anti-LGBT attitudes are softening and the prospects for equality have never been better. In each instance there is either increasing public support for LGBT equality but an absence of political or new policy-makers are coming to the fore that would be sympathetic to a pro-equality agenda. Sustained international pressure could both force legislators into action and provide much needed solidarity to those activists on the ground. Continue reading →