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The Global Legal Monitor is an online publication from the Law Library of Congress covering legal news and developments worldwide. It is updated frequently and draws on information from official national legal publications and reliable press sources. You can find previous news by searching the Global Legal Monitor.

Brazil: Fines to Bars and Restaurants in Rio de Janeiro Increased Due to Crowding amid Pandemic

(Sept. 25, 2020) On September 18, 2020, the mayor of the city of Rio de Janeiro, Marcelo Crivella, announced during a press conference an immediate increase in the fines imposed on bars and restaurants that violate previously established rules limiting the number of occupants at one time. The mayor was spurred to take action because of a recent spike in the spread of COVID-19 cases in the city.

The mayor was quoted as saying that the people of the city bore the responsibility for the increase in coronavirus cases, citing the crowding on the beaches and bars and the failure of residents to responsibly protect themselves from exposure to the virus by wearing masks.

The level of seriousness of the violation has been raised to “very serious,” with a corresponding increase in fines ranging from 15,000 to 26,000 Brazilian reals (about US$2,732 to $4,737). Previously, the violations were considered “serious” and punished with fines ranging from 700 to 2,700 reals (about US$127 to $492).

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Australia: Bills Banning Conversion Therapy Enacted in Two Jurisdictions

(Sept. 25, 2020) Two Australian jurisdictions recently enacted legislation banning practices that seek to change a person’s sexual or gender identity, often referred to as “conversion therapy.” The government of the state of Victoria has also committed to prohibiting such practices, releasing a discussion document seeking public comment on legislative options in October 2019.

Queensland Legislation

On August 20, 2020, the Health Legislation Amendment Act 2019 (Qld) (Qld Act) was enacted in Queensland. Part 5 of the Act includes provisions prohibiting “conversion therapy,” which it defines as “a treatment or other practice that attempts to change or suppress a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.” (Qld Act s 28, inserting new s 213F(1) into the Public Health Act 2005 (Qld).) Such therapy expressly does not include a practice that

(a) assists a person who is undergoing a gender transition; or

(b) assists a person who is considering undergoing a gender transition; or

(c) assists a person to express their gender identity; or

(d) provides acceptance, support and understanding of a person; or

(e) facilitates a person’s coping skills, social support and identity exploration and development. (New s 213F(2).)

“Gender identity” is also defined in the act, which provides that

(1) Gender identity, of a person, is the person’s internal and individual experience of gender, whether or not it corresponds with the sex assigned to the person at birth.

(2) Without limiting subsection (1), the gender identity, of a person, includes—

(a) the person’s personal sense of the body; and

(b) if freely chosen—modification of the person’s bodily appearance or functions by medical, surgical or other means; and

(c) other expressions of the person’s gender, including name, dress, speech and behaviour. (New s 213G.)

Under the act, a health service provider commits an offense if he or she performs conversion therapy on another person, and may be subject to a fine of  AU$13,345 (100 penalty units) (about US$9,750) or 12 months’ imprisonment, or to a fine of about AU$20,000 (150 penalty units) (about US$14,620) or 18 months’ imprisonment if the other person is a “vulnerable person.” A vulnerable person includes a child, a person with impaired capacity for making decisions about a particular service, and a person with an impairment “that is likely to significantly limit the person’s ability to understand a particular service offered by a health service provider.” (New s 213H.)

Australian Capital Territory Legislation

On September 4, 2020, the Sexuality and Gender Identity Conversion Practices Act 2020 (ACT) (ACT Act) was notified in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT), having been passed by the ACT Parliament in late August. The act includes an objects clause, which states that

The objects of this Act are—

(a) to affirm that—

(i) all people have characteristics of sexuality and gender identity; and

(ii) no combination of those characteristics constitutes a disorder, disease, illness, deficiency, disability or shortcoming; and

(b) to recognise and prevent the harm caused by sexuality and gender identity conversion practices. (ACT Act s 6.)

The act defines “sexuality or gender identity conversion practice” as “a treatment or other practice the purpose, or purported purpose, of which is to change a person’s sexuality or gender identity.” (S 7(1).) It also excludes certain practices using essentially the same terminology as the Queensland legislation, quoted above. (S 7(2).) It further excludes from the definition a practice by a health service providers that, “in the provider’s reasonable professional judgment,” is necessary to

(a) provide a health service in a manner that is safe and appropriate; or

(b) comply with the provider’s legal or professional obligations. (S 7(3).)

There are two offense provisions in the act, with the first prohibiting a person from performing a sexual or gender identity conversion practice on a “protected person” (s 8)—being a child or “a person who has impaired decision-making ability in relation to a matter relating to the person’s health or welfare” (ACT Act Dictionary). The penalty for this offense is up to AU$24,000 (about US$17,530), imprisonment for 12 months, or both. The second offense prohibits the removal of a protected person from the ACT for the purpose of a sexuality or gender identity conversion practice being performed on that person, and is subject to the same penalties. (S 9.)

The act “also provides for civil penalties, giving the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal the power to issue orders against people complained about, and order redress and compensation.” (See ACT Act sch 1, inserting new provisions into the Human Rights Commission Act 2005 (ACT).)

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Italy: New Law Addresses Violence against Health and Socio-Health Professionals

(Sept. 25, 2020) Italy recently enacted a law to address violence against health and “socio-health” professionals in the performance of their duties. Law No. 113 of August 14, 2020, which took effect on September 24, 2020, applies to those health professionals regulated under Law No. 3 of January 11, 2018, including doctors-surgeons (medici-chirurghi), dentists, veterinarians, pharmacists, biologists, physicists, chemists, nursing professionals, midwives, health technicians, medical radiologists, technical health professionals, rehabilitation and prevention professionals, osteopaths, chiropractors, and in general socio-health professionals.  (Law No. 113 arts. 1(1).)

National Observatory Created

The law directs the creation of a National Observatory on the Safety of the Health and Socio-Health Professions under the Ministry of Health within six months of the law’s effective date. The functions of the Observatory will include the gathering of data and assessment of acts of violence that cause injury to health and socio-health professionals during the performance of their duties, or threats of such acts. The Observatory will also promote studies for the formulation of measures aimed at reducing health professionals’ exposure to risk factors; monitor the implementation of safety measures, including video-surveillance tools; and promote good practices and training courses for health professionals. (Law No. 113 art. 2(1)(a)—(f).)

Duties of the Health Ministry

The law requires the Ministry of Health to promote the dissemination of information on the importance of respecting health and socio-health professionals. The Ministry must also transmit an annual report to the Chamber of Deputies on the activities carried out by the Observatory. In addition, the law institutes a National Day of Education and Prevention against Violence against Health and Socio-Health Professionals, which is to be established by decree of the Health Ministry. (Law No. 113 arts. 2(4), 3(1), 8(1).)

Criminal and Administrative Penalties

Law No. 113 amends article 583-quater of the Criminal Code to extend the incarceration penalties specified in that provision, which range from four to 16 years, to persons who cause serious or very serious personal injuries to health or socio-health professionals during the performance of their professional activities, including injuries caused to those who render assistance or emergency services to such professionals. (Law No. 113 art. 4(1).)

The law establishes administrative fines of €500 to €5,000 (about US$591 to $5,912) for those who engage in an action that, short of constituting a crime, involves violence, abuse, offense, or harassment against a person who is legitimately exercising a health or socio-health profession or who is rendering assistance to such professionals. (Law No. 113 art. 9(1).)

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South Korea: Government Orders Striking Doctors-in-Training to Return to Work

(Sept. 24, 2020) On August 26, 2020, five days after thousands of doctors in South Korea launched a nationwide strike, the Ministry of Health and Welfare (MOHW) ordered striking doctors-in-training in the greater Seoul area to return to work, citing concerns over spiking coronavirus cases. The Medical Service Act stipulates that the minister, or related regional governors, can issue an order for hospitals to open if “a serious hazard occurs or is likely to occur to public health.” (Act No. 8366, Apr. 11, 2007, amended by Act No. 17069, the Medical Service Act, Mar. 4, 2020, art. 59, paras. 2 & 3.) Those who do not follow the government’s order without probable cause could face imprisonment for up to three years or a fine of up to 30 million won (about US$25,000). (Medical Service Act art. 88.) In the past, this kind of order was issued to hospitals to prevent medical strikes, but never to individual doctors. Violators of the order could also have their medical licenses revoked if they are found guilty and sentenced to a term of imprisonment. (Art. 8.)

The MOHW filed complaints with the police against 10 doctors for allegedly rejecting its back-to-work order. However, the MOHW withdrew the action for four of them on September 2, 2020, after they were found to have followed the order. The MOHW dropped complaints against six doctors-in-training on September 4, 2020, when the ruling Democratic Party, the MOHW, and a group of representative doctors led by the Korean Medical Association (KMA) reached an agreement to halt the government’s medical reform plan.

Background

Doctors-in-training and medical students began protesting against the MOHW plan on August 7, 2020, in Seoul. On August 26, 2020, the doctors went on strike, organized by the KMA. The walkout brought some minor disruptions to medical services at a time when the nation was struggling to cope with an ongoing resurgence of COVID-19 cases because major general hospitals had reduced clinic hours and postponed some surgeries. However, doctors vowed that they would not opt out of COVID-19 duties and that essential staff would remain in place.

The MOHW estimates that South Korea needs about 60,000 more doctors than it currently has. The number of doctors per 1,000 people in South Korea is 2.3, while the average for members of the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development is 3.4. As part of the country’s medical workforce reform plan, the MOHW announced on July 23, 2020, that it was expanding admission quotas at medical schools by 4,000 over the next 10 years, starting in 2022. The number of students admitted annually to medical schools would be increased between 2022 and 2031 from the current 3,058 to 3,458. The MOHW planned that about three-quarters of the 4,000 would be deployed over a 10-year period in rural parts of the country for at least ten years. The MHOW also planned to open a new public medical school and extend national health insurance coverage to traditional herbal medicine and introduce remote medical services.

Doctors in the country have raised strong objections to the government’s reform plan. The KMA, which represents about 130,000 doctors, claims that South Korea has the best health care access among OECD member states, and population projections show the doctor-to-patient ratio will surpass the OECD average by 2028. In addition, South Korea had already tried a rural rotations program in the past that failed to retain young doctors because of poor working conditions and little to no chance of career advancement. The doctors claim that increasing the number of new doctors will lead only to more competition among doctors and will not help ease the disparity in medical infrastructure among regions.

The striking doctors have also criticized the plan to create a public medical school. The MOHW has stated that the envisioned medical school would recruit students on the basis of recommendations by a committee composed of representatives from civic organizations. Because many civic bodies are under the influence of local government heads, this scheme could help children of influential local figures enter medical schools.

The doctors have also protested against the plan to include traditional oriental medicine in the nation’s public health insurance system, as they consider the field to be insufficiently scientific and vital.

In addition, they have criticized how the MOHW unilaterally decided on the plan without providing doctors with the opportunity to discuss it with the MOHW.

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Jordan: Cabinet Approves New Amendments to Anti-corruption Law

(Sept. 24, 2020) On June 14, 2020, Jordan’s minister of state for media affairs, Amjad Al-Adaileh, announced that a draft law amending Law No. 13 of 2016, the Integrity and Anti-corruption Law had been approved by the cabinet. The new amendments will be introduced to Parliament in accordance with constitutional principles.

Background

The Integrity and Anti-corruption Commission was established by article 2 of the Integrity and Anti-corruption Law in 2016. The commission was created as part of a comprehensive reform process in the belief that combating corruption and consolidating the foundations of integrity, transparency, justice, and equality would create the basic foundations of good governance in Jordan.

The main purpose of the commission is to combat corruption in all its forms. It aims at establishing and applying national integrity principles, and developing a national environment that rejects corruption and prevents corruption before it occurs.

The commission aims to ensure adherence to the principles of national integrity and to combat corruption through

  • ensuring that the government provides service to citizens with transparency and fairness;
  • collecting information from concerned citizens and whistleblowers to investigate governmental corruption in all its forms;
  • prosecuting those who commit any acts of corruption, seizing their movable and immovable property, and enforcing a travel ban on them;
  • ensuring that the public administration adheres to the principles of good governance and standards of equal opportunity;
  • enhancing citizen confidence in the state and its institutions;
  • supporting sustainable development by enhancing investor confidence in the integrity of state institutions; and
  • ensuring the existence of a legal framework that strengthens the accountability of officials and decision-makers in the public administration.

Overview of Proposed Amendments

The amendments approved by the cabinet provide the country’s Integrity and Anti-corruption Commission with more financial and organizational independence, enabling it to enhance its capabilities in pursuing cases related to corruption. These amendments uphold the government’s will to eliminate corruption, develop tools for legal prosecution of corruption crimes, and improve Jordan’s international reputation in the anti-corruption field. They also bring Jordan’s laws into closer accord with article 23 of the United Nations Convention against Corruption of 2003 and article 4 of the Arab Anti-corruption Agreement of 2010, both of which recognize the laundering of criminal proceeds as a form of corruption. The new amendments give the Integrity and Anti-corruption Commission the right to conduct corruption investigations related to money laundering crimes, as well as make settlements with the perpetrators of these crimes if they return the money in accordance with the provisions of the Economic Crimes Law. The settlements are subject to the approval of the Judicial Committee formed under the Economic Crimes Law.

The new amendments also address the abuse of power in crimes of corruption, through which the abusers obtain or attempt to obtain public office, public services, bids, contracts, or any other undeserved advantage from the government. Additionally, the new amendments consider as corruption the criminal acts stated in article 59 of Election Law No. 6 of 2016—namely, bribery to “induce voters to vote in a particular manner, or to abstain from voting, or to influence others to vote or abstain from voting.”

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