It’s time for the Sexual Year in Review where we look at all the notable and newsworthy moments of 2022 regarding sexuality, gender, and gender equality.
Most years are a mixed bag and 2022 was no different. There were some sweet victories and prideful moments. But this year was particularly challenging, as we saw a sweep of ever-bolder fascist movements around the world doing their darndest to turn back progress for LGBTQ+ rights, women’s rights and reproductive justice.
In the United States, there were two important and devastating trends in 2022: the reversing of Roe vs. Wade and the resulting state laws that have made it harder to control our reproductive destinies and access to safe abortion, and; the aggressive rate of anti-LGBTQ+ bills that have been introduced in the U.S.
Let’s break it down…
According to the Human Rights Campaign, over 300 new anti-LGBTQ bills were introduced across 36 states in 2022. On the eve of Transgender Day of Remembrance, there was a tragic mass-shooting at an LGBTQ club in Colorado Springs, resulting in the death of 5 people and many more injuries. There has been a steady flow of mass shootings in the U.S., but this one was a hate crime targeting the LGBTQ community and was a chilling reminder of the growing divisive backlash as we fight for and gain fragile human rights for queer folks.
In other parts of the world, there is a lot of good news that shows how behind the U.S. is in progressing LGBTQ rights. Many new laws protect LGBTQ people from violations of our “right to liberty, protection of the law, freedom of expression, protection of personal privacy, and protection from discrimination.”
In Switzerland, a law allowing a simple gender change and first name change without a sex reassignment surgery went into effect on January first. A ban on conversion therapy went into effect in Canada–they joined about a dozen other countries in putting forth this ban. New Zealand also outlawed conversion therapy for anyone under 18 years of age and made it possible to change the gender on one’s birth certificate.
In February, Kuwait struck down a law that has been used to arrest and criminalize transgender people. On the same day, India’s Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment announced that gender-affirming healthcare will be covered by insurance in the nation. Chile’s new law legalizing same-sex marriages went into effect in March. And on April 11, U.S. passports were issued with a non-binary “X” gender option for the first time.
By summer, we saw a sweep of new LGBTQ+ rights laws around the world. In July in Switzerland, same-sex marriages came into effect, and Andorra allowed same-sex marriages, while Antigua and Barbuda decriminalized same-sex behavior. In August, the India Supreme Court expanded the definition of family to include “queer relationships” in a landmark decision.
And this fall, Singapore repealed a gay sex ban, and the Cuban people voted in a referendum to make same-sex marriage and same-sex adoption legal. After the reversal of Roe vs. Wade, in order to prevent the loss of the right to same-sex marriage, the United States House of Representatives passed the Respect for Marriage Act, which would nullify DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) and protect both same-sex and interracial marriages.
In the lead up to the 2022 World Cup, it became widely known that the Qatari government basically used modern-day slave labor to build the stadiums for the cup, resulting in over 7,000 people dying in the intense heat of Qatar summers. When it was publicized that same-sex relationships are illegal and punishable by up to three years of jail-time, several European football teams, led by Germany, decided to wear rainbow Love armbands as a visible response to the World Cup games being hosted by Qatar. FIFA, who hosts the World Cup, threatened the players with sanctions and every team backed down.
Women’s Rights and Gender Equality
In 2022, there were rollbacks of women’s rights but there were also some real triumphs and moments of solidarity. All eyes are still on Iran as the Iranian people work to end the Islamic regime’s oppressive and abusive gender morality code. Worldwide, a woman is still killed every 11 minutes by violence.
According to the World Bank, nearly 2.4 billion women globally still don’t have the same economic rights as men. In fact, according to the World Bank’s Women, Business and the Law 2022 report, “178 countries maintain legal barriers that prevent their full economic participation.”
Some good news: Ketanji Brown Jackson became the first Black woman to sit on the U.S. Supreme Court, while women were elected in record numbers to state legislatures, Congress, and governorships across the country. The U.S. Soccer Federation announced a deal to pay the U.S. men’s and women’s national teams equally, including World Cup prize money. And in November, the European Parliament passed a law to ensure there are more women represented on publicly traded companies’ boards by July 2026.
For American women, we were dealt a huge blow many never imagined we would see in our lifetimes, as the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization Supreme Court case struck down the U.S. constitutional right to an abortion. Many of us who have fought for decades for the right to safe and accessible abortion and to keep Roe v. Wade in tact were devastated. The real repercussions of this overturn are still being unveiled and it will take years to fully appreciate the impact of this decision. As is always the case, women with the least access to resources are the most affected.
In case it’s unclear how regressive and out-of-touch the U.S. is, we became one of just four countries to roll back abortion rights in the past 25 years. At least 55%-60% of the U.S. public disapprove of overturning Roe, according to Brookings. Most abortions are now banned in 13 states, but medical abortion is available by mail for people in most states, until trigger laws go into effect. You can continue to track the trends across the country at the NYT.
The Battles for Women’s Safety, Security & Basic Human Rights
This year has been especially horrific for girls and women in Ukraine. Women are always used as a weapon of war and this war is no different. Not long after the February Russian invasion, reports emerged about the widespread threat and use of sexual violence by Russian forces. Many cases of rape, sometimes before the victim was murdered, are being uncovered. It is not easy to tell if rape is being used as a war tactic by the Russian state, which would be a war crime, but the scope of the problem is growing. Much work is being done on the ground by NGOs and the Ukraine Center for Civil Liberties won a Nobel Peace Prize this year.
In Afghanistan, the Taliban’s March decree forbidding girls and women to attend secondary school or enter the workforce obfuscated the progress made over the last two decades. While the Taliban made promises several times to open schools, they went back on that promise, and limited the majors women can pursue at university including economics, engineering, journalism, and veterinary medicine.
The Supreme Court of Mexico unanimously ruled in 2021 that penalizing abortion is unconstitutional. Because Mexican organizers had been fighting and showing open defiance of their government’s laws against basic reproductive health care for decades, they were ready to provide resources to U.S. organizers when Roe vs. Wade was overturned. They knew what it could look like and have stood in solidarity with Americans to resist unjust laws.
On December 7, President Biden signed into law the “Speak Out Act,” a bi-partisan bill which prohibits the enforcement of non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) and non-disparagement clauses when a workplace sexual harassment or assault claim is made. NDAs have silenced people from coming forward when they have been harassed or assaulted at work and this law will diminish the protection of perpetrators that fuels and maintains workplace sexual violence.
In sexism-as-usual, U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez came to the defense of Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin, who made headlines as online videos surfaced showing her dancing and drinking with friends and celebrities. Marin was publicly shamed and forced to take a drug test, and asked if she was meeting with the New Zealand prime minister because they are “similar in age.” Ocasio-Cortez posted a video of her dancing in front of her Capitol Hill office in solidarity and support of “elected officials who dance”.
The Story of the Year
Finally, the big international news story of the year are the three-plus months of protests in Iran, instigated by the state murder of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini for wearing her hijab improperly.
Boys and men are protesting alongside the women and girls who are fighting for their lives and their freedom. Men are being publicly executed as an example by the Islamic Republic. Women and teens are being quietly abducted for their public outcry, and then tortured, raped and murdered, out of plain sight. They are disappearing.
At least 100 people have been taken into custody and threatened with death for participating in protests, including well-known actor Taraneh Alidoosti and Iranian footballer Amir Nasr-Azadani, as well as many journalists. The U.S. has sanctioned Iranian officials and the United Nations finally removed Iran from the UN Commission on the Status of Women.
It remains unclear how the world will respond to the hundreds of killings of Iranian citizens, including children, by their government. These protests could finally topple the fundamentalist religious regime that has reigned since 1979 in Iran. Yet, the people remain steady in their fierce outcry, pushing to end the oppressive and harmful laws that keep women as second-class citizens.
Please follow and donate to the Center for Human Rights in Iran for the latest on-the-ground updates.
It was a Doozy
This year was a doozy and our work must continue to make this a world safe for people of all genders and sexualities, and to advance the human rights of all people. Our voices and resolve are needed more than ever to counter the fascist forces that seek to undermine our progress. If you have a platform, use it. Amplify the voices of Iran. Keep talking about these issues. Engage in dialogue and educate people in your life.
None of us are free until we are all free. May we see continued progress in 2023.