Novelist Marlon James became the first Jamaican author to be awarded the Man Booker Prize. “However,” writes Joe Williams at Pink News, “a number of Jamaican commentators have highlighted that while being celebrated as a Jamaican author, James in fact fled the country due to his sexuality.”
Terrified and tired of living as a closeted gay man in Jamaica, James described the moment he realised he had to get out of the country – alive or dead.
Speaking before the awards, the author also described being labelled a “gay batty man” whilst growing up as “pretty traumatic”.
“Whether it was in a plane or a coffin, I knew I had to get out of Jamaica,” he said.
United Nations: US Ambassador to UN Honored
I’d like to start my remarks by sharing a story of a young man named Subhi Nahas. Subhi, who is now 28 years old, was born in Idlib, Syria. And Subhi is gay. In Subhi’s words, “It was never okay to be gay in Syria,” but for Subhi it got much harder when the civil war broke out. The Assad regime, which had long criminalized homosexuality, began specifically targeting LGBT people – running anti-gay propaganda on TV, calling all dissidents homosexuals, and raiding the cafes and parks where LGBT people gathered. In 2012, Subhi was riding a bus to university, when suddenly soldiers boarded the bus and pulled him and about a dozen other young people off it. They took him to a house where they taunted him, insulted him for his sexuality, and assaulted him. He feared, of course, that he would be raped or killed. But, miraculously, they eventually let him go.
Months later, as if things couldn’t get worse, the violent extremist group al Nusra seized Idlib, and promptly announced over mosque loudspeakers that they would cleanse the city of all engaged in sodomy. Subhi’s life at home – in his own house – worsened. His father increasingly mocked the way Subhi dressed, talked, and walked. One night after a particularly heated argument, the father attacked Subhi, grabbing the back of his head and slamming it into the kitchen counter – an assault that sent this young man to the hospital. Then a gay friend of Subhi’s was captured and tortured by men who forced him to name all the LGBT people he knew, including Subhi. Fearing for his life, Subhi fled Syria, made his way to an LGBT safe house in Lebanon, and eventually arrived in Turkey. Even there, he was unable to escape persecution. A boy he had known growing up had joined ISIL, and was telling people he planned to kill Subhi; and not long after, the former acquaintance called to threaten Subhi from a Turkish phone number.
Power noted that Subhi spoke at a recent UN Security Council Session, the first-ever dedicated to LGBT rights, which she said was an important precedent to set:
But also, it allowed us to convey, in a single voice, and with the authority of the Security Council – which is the premiere global enforcement body for peace and security – it allowed us to convey that it is wrong to violate people’s rights because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. And this allowed us to pose a more fundamental question to the nations represented in that room: If we are horrified by ISIL singling out LGBT people for attacks and executions – and, of course, we should be – why shouldn’t we be horrified when other rights of LGBT persons are violated? When, for example, police refuse to investigate attacks against LGBT persons; or when businesses, schools, or other institutions turn away LGBT persons because of who they are. While the gravity of these abuses obviously vary, all of them reject the inherent rights and dignity of LGBT people.
The Sexual Rights Initiative, a coalition of organizations that advocate for human rights related to gender and sexuality at the United Nations Human Rights Council, released its analysis of the 30th session of the Human Rights Council, which met September 14 – October 2.
Family Synod: One Week Left; Conservative Bishops Ignore Call to Walk Out
Last Monday a letter supposedly sent to Pope Francis from 13 conservative cardinals was leaked by conservative Catholic press. The letter complained that the synod had been hijacked by progressives and griped about the integrity of the synod process. But shortly after the letter leaked, four cardinals denied having signed it and two others said the letter differed from what they had put their names to.
Archbishop of Washington Donald Wuerl, considered a moderate, spoke with Crux on Monday:
Wuerl is part of a 10-member drafting committee charged with producing the synod’s final document, a role he also held last year during the 2014 edition of the synod. Napier, who was added to that group halfway through in 2014, is currently serving as one of four delegate presidents at the 2015 synod.
Wuerl is known as a moderate on most political and theological questions, while Napier emerged during the 2014 synod as a leader of the conservative opposition to progressive proposals on matters such as divorce and homosexuality.
Wuerl bristled at suggestions that the outcome of the synod has been pre-determined, which were widely voiced among predominantly conservative commentators prior to the event, and which he said are also shared by some inside the synod itself.
“I had never been in a synod that has been as open,” Wuerl said of the 2014 gathering, “and the one we’re in right now follows that same openness.”
“I don’t see this intrigue, because I don’t know how you could make that happen,” he said.
Some conservatives suspicious of liberal skullduggery distributed an online petition calling on conservative bishops to walk out of the synod. That didn’t take hold. But there is likely to be more controversy leading up to this coming Saturday’s paragraph-by-paragraph votes by bishops on a final document. Writes John Allen:
If the impression is that the document honestly and fairly presents the results of synod discussions – pointing to consensus where it exists, but also candidly acknowledging areas where it simply wasn’t there – then perhaps the “hermeneutic of suspicion” will begin to ebb.
If not, the death of the gentlemen’s agreement among the bishops could become a permanent feature of the Pope Francis era in Catholicism, and not just during occasional summits in Rome. That’s probably not in anyone’s interest – beginning, of course, with Pope Francis himself.
At mid-week, the halfway point of the synod, David Gibson and Rosie Scammell at Religion News Service reported that common ground seemed “elusive.”
The bishops and cardinals, who meet most days in a Vatican lecture hall presided over by the pope, are also struggling to find ways to be more inclusive and welcoming to cohabiting couples and gays and lesbians.
But even before the synod convened on Oct. 4, sharp differences emerged between bishops from different continents, and between those who saw any softening of language toward gays — not to mention any suggestion of adapting church practices on receiving Communion — as tantamount to heresy.
For example, in one particularly eye-opening speech to the assembly last week, a leading African cardinal blasted the “idolatry of Western freedom” as equivalent to “Islamic fundamentalism” and compared both to “apocalyptic beasts.”
Cardinal Robert Sarah of Guinea, a top official in the Roman Curia, also said that divorce, abortion and same-sex marriage in the West, and Islamic fundamentalism in Africa and elsewhere, both had a “demonic origin” that the synod had to combat.
“What Nazi-fascism and communism were in the 20th century, Western homosexual and abortion ideologies and Islamic fanaticism are today,” Sarah said.
Allen reported on Sunday, the eve of the Synod’s final week, on a conversation with Bishop Borys Gudziak, who questioned the predominant focus given to “family” issues given the intensity of other issues, including a global refugee crisis and war in the Middle East.
“Chaput wrote that while he feels compassion for gay Catholics and the divorced and remarried, ‘mercy without truth is a comfortable form of lying.’
” ‘The central issue is, do we and they want Jesus Christ on his terms or on ours? If we can’t in principle accept the possibility of discomfort, suffering and even martyrdom, then we’re not disciples. We can’t rewrite or overlook what Jesus requires in order to follow him.’
Australia: Conservative Christian Leaders Step Up Opposition to Marriage Equality
Anti-marriage-equality Christian leaders have reportedly decided to boost the volume of their opposition.
The Catholic Archbishop of Sydney, Anthony Fisher, has painted the most frightening picture yet of how gay marriage might threaten democracy itself.
Should the plebiscite on the issue expected in the next parliament be successful, within a decade bishops could be imprisoned, political dissent silenced, scripture lessons banned, and tax exemptions for religious institutions discarded, he said this week in an address to the free market think-tank, the Centre for Independent Studies.
Anglican Archbishop of Sydney Glenn Davies issued a call to arms for opponents of marriage equality, telling an annual gathering of church leaders that “the virulent challenge to the definition of marriage” reflects that “antagonism of the world to the word of God.”
“We need to be courageous in our discussions both in private and in public, yet we also need to be sensitive and loving in our defence of biblical truth.
“Yes, it will kindle criticism, provoke ridicule, and invite hatred … yet such hatred should not silence us.”
Davies was critical of political leaders who support marriage equality, including Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. Meanwhile, marriage equality advocates are pushing Turnbull to stop backing former Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s plan for a national referendum on marriage.
France: Mixed Reports on Status of Gay Ambassadorial Nominee to Holy See
French media reported that the government of François Hollande was abandoning its efforts to name Laurent Stefanini, a gay mean, as ambassador to the Holy See. The Vatican has refused to accept his credentials. The New York Times has more:
Mr. Hollande will not nominate someone else for the Holy See post until 2017, when France holds its next presidential election, the newspaper said.
Mr. Stefanini, a Roman Catholic who was second in command at the French Embassy to the Vatican from 2001 to 2005, is widely recognized as an expert on religious issues…
At a news briefing on Tuesday, a spokesman for the French Foreign Ministry declined to answer questions about whether France planned to nominate someone else for the post, indicating that Mr. Stefanini was still France’s nominee.
“Mr. Laurent Stefanini, who has major diplomatic experience and in-depth knowledge of international religious issues, has been proposed to the Holy See to succeed Ambassador Bruno Joubert,” the spokesman said. “The procedure is continuing.”
Italy: Civil Unions legislation debated
A civil unions bill was presented in parliament last week. Reuters reports:
Italy is the only major country in the West that has not yet offered homosexual couples any legal rights as successive governments ran into determined opposition from parties close to the Roman Catholic Church.
Prime Minister Matteo Renzi had promised that a bill allowing civil unions would become law this year, but that looks highly unlikely, with his main coalition partner, a small center-right group, fiercely opposed to the project.
However, looking to speed up the process, the government on Wednesday briefly presented its bill to the upper house Senate, a move which could open the way for its approval in early 2016….
A number of opposition parties, including former premier Silvio Berlusconi Forma Italia group, have said they support the plan, meaning it should pass relatively easily when it finally comes to a vote, despite Roman Catholic opposition.
The parliamentary move coincides with a meeting in the nearby Vatican of bishops called to discuss the role of the family. The Church has warned there will be protests if the law passes and Pope Francis said this month that marriage between a man and a woman was “God’s dream for his beloved creation”.
Italian philosopher Robert Marchesini, a behavioral scientist said that gay people do not mature emotionally, and that therefore, a priest’s homosexuality is “a problem.”
Despite Italy’s history of Catholicism, a religion that has often opposed same-sex marriage, recent polling data showed that nearly three of four Italians supported the bill. A June poll reported that 74 percent of Italians approved of the legislation, the Local reported Thursday.
Cambodia: Some Parents Turn To Traditional Healers To ‘Cure’ LGBT Children
Dominique Mosbergen reports at Huffington Post on efforts by some parents in Cambodia to “cure” LGBT people through a traditional healer known as a Kru Khmer.
Such attempts at “curing” are not uncommon in Cambodia, where LGBT people are often seen as being mentally ill or as being possessed with “bad spirits.”
“Usually the Kru Khmer will chant something [at the LGBT person], sometimes they burn the head, back or palm,” Srun Srorn, an LGBT activist, says of a typical “curing” ritual. “When they burn they believe the bad spirits will fly away. Sometimes they use the bamboo to hit the person.”
Homosexuality is not criminalized in Cambodia, which is a predominantly Buddhist country, but marginalization of the LGBT community is widespread…
“While Buddhism is very tolerant of LGBTI generally, Cambodia still has a deep-seated family-oriented traditional culture that creates an overall negative perception of LGBTI people,” Nuon Sidara of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights tells The Huffington Post. “Most LGBTI people still find it difficult to come out because stigma and discrimination against them is highly prevalent. All classes — from the poor to the highest-ranking officials — are likely to hide their sexuality out of fear for their reputation, and of being associated with mental illness or sin.”
Trinidad and Tobago: Anti-Gay Insult in Parliament Spurs Conversation on LGBT Rights
Homosexuality is illegal in Trinidad and Tobago, but a homophobic insult uttered in a verbal exchange in parliament has encouraged a religious leader to speak out, reports Adam Armstrong at Out:
Recently during a meeting regarding the country’s budget, Sports Minister Darryl Smith allegedly insinuated that opposition Member of Parliament Barry Padarath was gay with a homophobic insult. This verbal exchange caught the attention of one of Trinidad and Tobago’s top religious leaders.
Annabell Lalla-Ramkelawan, the Moderator of the Presbyterian Church of Trinidad and Tobago, has called on the government to initiate talks regarding equal rights for the LGBT community. Coming from a country where not only is it illegal to be gay, but it’s illegal for gays to travel into the country, this is a big deal.
Even though no talks have been made yet regarding LGBT equality, the fact that a prominent religious leader wants to speak up for the LGBT community marks a big moment in Trinidad and Tobago’s march towards equality, and here’s hoping they only move forward.
Zimbabwe: Official Warns LGBT Activists Not to Protest AIDS Conference
Health Minister David Parirenyatw warned gay groups not to protest during the upcoming International Conference on AIDS and STIs in Africa, which begins in late November.
Kenya: President Says LGBT Rights Not on Country’s Agenda
President Uhuru Kenyatta told CNN’s Fareed Zakaria that the Kenyan people have “more pressing issues” to address than LGBT rights.
Argentina: Prominent Transgender Advocate Killed
China: Report on “Gay Cure” Therapy
A report on Channel 4 in the United Kingdom includes undercover reporting from clinics in China that use electroshock therapy and other techniques meant to “cure” gay people of their homosexual desires.
Africa: Activist Joel Nana Dies; Report on Economic Costs of Homophobia
Nana helped focus global attention on the alarming rates of HIV infection among gay men and men who have sex with men in sub-Saharan Africa – and articulated how the HIV epidemic can be attributed to fear, violence and discrimination against gay men.
British journalist David Smith writes at EconomyWatch about “The Hidden Cost of Homophobia in Africa.” He cites a study estimating that anti-LGBT prejudice costs the Nigerian economy 1% of GDP, based in part on a brain drain with gay engineers, doctors, lawyers and others taking their skills overseas.
Nigerian gay rights activist Adebisi Alimi has personal experience of how African homophobia is not only a human-rights issue, but also an economic one. Back in 2004, Alimi had a burgeoning career as an actor on prime-time television, but there were persistent rumours about his private life. He took the bold step of becoming the first Nigerian to declare openly his sexuality on national TV.
Almost immediately, the show axed Alimi’s character. Disowned by his family, he fled Africa in fear of his life in 2007. Alimi has written about how “like many gay men and lesbians in Africa, my choice was between economic freedom and mental imprisonment”.
Now living in London, Alimi is an ardent campaigner against the rising tide of homophobia in Africa, but he is also an academic lecturer at two universities in Berlin as well as an advisor to the World Bank. Alimi says the consequences of homophobia in Africa have been legal penalties, social ostracism and mob justice. Much less widely understood is the large amount of money lopped off the continent’s annual GDP. In Africa, where homosexuality is illegal in 36 out of 54 African states according to Amnesty International, those losses probably run to hundreds of millions of dollars a year. Alimi is working on a research project to come up with a more precise figure for his homeland of Nigeria.
Europe: Rainbow Families Meeting
LGBTI parents and their children gathered in Portugal over the past several days for the 2015 European Rainbow Families Meeting. From a press release about the event:
Not all children in Europe enjoy the same rights. This situation is not acceptable as all children – and all parents – need to be recognised as such by the law everywhere. Parents who are not recognised by the law cannot benefit from joint parental rights, nor can corresponding obligations be enforced. In case of custody disputes, the non-recognised parent is often left out with no rights, including visitation rights, which also affects the well-being of children. In the worst case scenario, when the recognised parent dies, the non-recognised parent risks losing custody rights resulting in their children being left unprotected, and possibly taken away from the surviving parent. The European Court of Human Rights has made it clear that equal protection of children is a core obligation for European countries.