Monkeypox, trans athletes and the Tory leadership race: 5 things you need to know this week

Rishi Sunak (L) and Liz Truss will battle it out to be the next prime minister.

Monkeypox has been classed a global health emergency by the World Health Organization (WHO), while trans people are facing fresh attacks in the sporting arena.

Elsewhere, Tory leadership hopefuls Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak are exchanging increasingly personal attacks as the race heats up.

It might seem like there’s a lot going on in the world, but don’t worry – we’ve got you covered. Here are five things you should know this week.

1. Monkeypox labelled ‘public health emergency of international concern’


A section of skin tissue, harvested from a lesion on the skin of a monkeypox patient, under a microscope. (Smith Collection/ Gado/ Getty)

Monkeypox has been declared a global health emergency by the WHO, the organisation’s highest level of alert.

Speaking at a briefing on Saturday (23 July), WHO director-general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the outbreak represents “a public health emergency of international concern”, meaning the situation is considered “serious, sudden, unusual or unexpected”.

The virus has spread rapidly around the world in recent weeks, with the bulk of cases detected among gay and bisexual men.

It is thought that monkeypox is spread through close skin-to-skin contact, meaning it is often spread through sex.

2. Tory leadership race heats up

Liz Truss meets Polish Prime Minister at Chancellery in Warsaw, Poland, on April 5, 2022.

Liz Truss meets Polish Prime Minister at Chancellery in Warsaw, Poland, on April 5, 2022. (Mateusz Wlodarczyk/NurPhoto via Getty)

The Tory leadership race has been narrowed down from 11 candidates to just two – Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak.

Conservative Party members will now be asked to vote on which candidate they would like to see lead the country, with the result announced in September.

In the mean time, Truss and Sunak are ramping up their attacks on each other in a bid to win the race. The pair have clashed on issues such as detention of migrants they deem “illegal”, while Truss ally James Cleverly has accused Sunak of being too late to the debate on China.

Truss and Sunak will go head-to-head in a televised debate on Monday (25 July). For now, it appears that trans issues have taken a back seat – but neither candidate is averse to weaponising trans rights to curry favour among voters.

3. It’s 55 years since homosexuality was decriminalised in England and Wales

A person waving a Pride flag.

A person waving a Pride flag. (WOJTEK RADWANSKI/AFP via Getty)

On Wednesday (27 July), it will be 55 years since the Sexual Offences Act 1967 was given Royal Assent, meaning homosexuality was officially decriminalised in England and Wales.

It was a landmark moment for queer people in England and Wales, but it wasn’t everything it cracked up to be either – prosecutions of gay and bisexual men ramped up in the years after decriminalisation, with a number of problematic laws and double standards remaining on the statute books.

There’s no denying it was a significant moment, but 55 years on, LGBTQ+ people are still under attack. Hate crimes are on the rise and trans people are facing greater scrutiny than ever before.

As we mark 55 years since decriminalisation, we should also remember how far we have to go to achieve true equality and liberation for LGBTQ+ people.

4. War in Ukraine enters its sixth month

A Ukrainian person holds a sign reading "Ukraine" at a protest outside Downing Street against the recent invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022 in London, England.

Ukrainians demonstrate outside Downing Street against the recent invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022 in London, England. (Jeff J Mitchell/Getty)

Russia’s barbaric war in Ukraine has now entered its sixth month, with violence showing no sign of abating just yet.

There was widespread shock and horror in February when Russia invaded Ukraine, prompting the start of a war that has displaced millions and caused the deaths of innocent people.

Months on, the war shows little sign of stopping. The country’s LGBTQ+ community is rallying together to stay afloat – one activist has even set up queer-specific shelters to help LGBTQ+ folk weather the storm.

5. Trans women could be affected by rugby rule change

Several women rugby players wearing white gather around in celebration after they win a match. Some of hugging each other while others are running towards the crowd

The Rugby Football Union said the current guidelines on trans participation will stay in effect should the recommended ban not be voted in. (Adrian Dennis/AFP via Getty)

Trans women could be barred from playing women’s rugby in England if new recommendations from the Rugby Football Union (RFU) are adopted.

World Rugby, the global governing body for the sport, banned trans women from playing at an elite level in 2020. The RFU later began its own consultation on the issue – it received 11,000 responses and found “the inclusion of trans people assigned male at birth in female contact rugby cannot be balanced against considerations of safety and fairness”.

The RFU will vote on 29 July to decide if only cis women should be permitted to play women’s rugby at a community level.

If enacted, the new policy could result in trans women being pushed out of rugby altogether after they were already banned from playing at an elite level.


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