Gambian President Threatens to Kill Asylum Seekers

Gambia: President Threatens to Kill Asylum Seekers

Fiercely anti-gay President Yahya Jammeh, who has called gay people “vermin,” went a step further last week, threatening to kill Gambians who seek asylum in Europe to avoid anti-gay persecution at home.

From an APA report in Star Africa:

Gambian leader Yahya Jammeh has warned asylum-seekers not to use his government’s position on gays and lesbians to tarnish his image as they attempt to resettle in the West as refugees…President Jammeh said those among his compatriots leaving the country to tarnish his image abroad are doing so at his own detriment.

“Some people go to the West and claim they are gays and that their lives are at risk in The Gambia, in order for them to be granted a stay in Europe. If I catch them I will kill them,” the Gambian leader warned.”

WCF’s Nigerian Honoree: Gay Rights Activists Conspire with Boko Haram

The World Congress of Families, a U.S.-based organization that partners with many Religious Right groups to promote its anti-gay and anti-choice work globally, announced this week therecipients of its Lifetime Achievement Award and “Natural Family Man and Woman of the Year Awards.” Notes Miranda Blue at Right Wing Watch:

Naturally, WCF – which recently suspended planning on a conference at the Kremlin due to the crisis in Ukraine – has chosen to present the awards to an array of activists who have been working to suppress reproductive rights and to push harmful anti-gay policies around the world.

The recipients include an Australian cabinet minister, the leader of a British social conservative group who has campaigned against gay rights in Jamaica and Russia, and a Venezuelan activist close to the Vatican who has warned that expanding gay rights in Latin America will lead to “people dying of AIDS like flies.”

Among the recipients is Theresa Okafor of Nigeria, a regional director for WCF. Okafor backs Nigeria’s harsh new anti-gay law, which has led to stepped up violence and legal persecution.

In a speech to the World Congress of Families annual gathering in Madrid in 2012, Okafor speculated that Western countries advocating for gay rights in Africa were involved in “a conspiracy” to “silence Christians” with the terrorist group Boko Haram. “Unfortuntately, in Nigeria where I come from, we have these fundamentalists, the Boko Haram – I’m sure you’ve heard about them in the news – bombing churches. They seem to be helping some people in Western countries who are out to silence Christians. The Boko Haram are targeting Christians in Nigeria, so you wonder if there’s a conspiracy between the two worlds,” she said.

Asia: IGLHRC Report on Anti-LBT Violence in Japan, Malaysia, Pakistan, Philippines, Sri Lanka

This week the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission released an in-depth report on violence against lesbian and bisexual women and trans people in Asia. Research teams working in five countries conducted 370 interviews, 230 with LBT people who had experience violence and the others with stakeholders such as lawyers, mental health professionals, educators and service providers. On Monday, IGLHRC honored groups that participated in producing the report: Gay Japan News, KRYSS Malaysia, O Pakistan, Rainbow Rights Philippines, and Women’s Support Group Sri Lanka.

According to researchers who held a teleconference call this week, family members are often the perpetrators of violence. Religious beliefs and leaders are often a source of persecution. For example:

  • In Malaysia, harsh regulation under Sharia law is enforced by officers with a religious department. Harsh penalties for lesbianism can include fines, whipping, and prison.  One story involved a trans whose hair and clothes were cut off in an episode of public humiliations by Sharia enforcers.
  • In Sri Lanka, a Buddhist nationalist group has emerged, which interprets Buddhism as being non-accepting of LGBT people
  • In the Philippines, the Catholic bishops conference has been “very adamant and assertive” in blocking passage of anti-discrimination legislation for sexual orientation and gender identity.

Although religious beliefs and institutions are often a source of discrimination, researchers said that some individual faith leaders are a source of compassion and solace for LBT people.

Africa: Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights Condemns Anti-LGBT Violence

Political Research Asociates reports, “The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) has taken a major step toward protecting the rights of LGBTI people by adopting a resolution condemning violence against individuals based on their ‘real or imputed sexual orientation and gender identity.’” (See the full text of the ACHPR Resolution on LGBTI People.)

Meetings earlier this month in Angola, ACHPR “acknowledged the need to respond to the ongoing human-rights violations experienced by LGBTI people” writes PRA’s Cole Parke.

It’s impossible to stop that which is unseen. When we fail to acknowledge the existence of sexual minorities, transgender people, and intersex people, their oppression, too, remains invisible. By recognizing that the violence experienced by LGBTI people is real and distinct, the ACHPR has taken a major step forward in the fight for LGBTI safety, respect, and justice in Africa.

Many conservative lawmakers and faith leaders in Africa—urged on by their U.S.-based conservative benefactors—will undoubtedly argue that this resolution is part of some imagined international “gay agenda” to create new, special rights for LGBTI people. But the ACHPR has simply affirmed that the application of existing human rights standards should also apply to those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex. The work of ensuring the protection of human rights for all people is not a zero-sum game—addressing human-rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity takes nothing away from the ongoing efforts to combat discrimination based on race, religion, gender, socioeconomic status, and other grounds.

Latin America: US Latino Evangelical Leader Goes Global

Samuel Rodriguez, head of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Council, has spent years trying to build bridges between American Latinos, the Religious Right, and the conservative movement. Rodriguez is an ardent opponent of marriage equality and under his leadership the NHCLC has established formal partnerships with Liberty University and the far-right anti-gay Liberty Counsel.

We reported in December that Liberty Counsel’s Mat Staver had traveled to Peru to urge lawmakers there to resist calls for LGBT equality. That trip has now apparently led to a merger between the NHCLC and a Latin America-based organization called Conel , a group that NHCLC says serves more than 487,000 churches.

“This merger is a win-win for both NHCLC and Conela, and we are thrilled to join together to better serve Hispanic Evangelicals worldwide,” said Dr. Samuel Rodriguez, president of the NHCLC. “Under the new NHCLC, we will continue to unify, serve and represent the Hispanic Evangelical community with the divine and human elements of the Christian message all while advancing the Lamb’s agenda.”

This merger, which came at the request of Conela President Ricardo Luna, will result in a worldwide organization that represents over half a million churches and millions of individuals, making it the largest Evangelical association in the world.

RD’s coverage of Samuel Rodriguez includes stories by Sarah Posner and Peter Laarman.

Uganda: Reports Document Worsening Human Rights Violations

Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International released a joint report on the “surge in human rights violations” since the passage of the Anti-Homosexuality Act in December.

The advocacy group Sexual Minorities Uganda also released a new report  documenting more than 160 Ugandans that have been targeted since December 20. The report estimates that the Anti-Homosexuality Act promoted by some US evangelicals and praised by many Ugandan religious leaders has led to an almost 20-fold increase in anti-LGBT incidents, reports Buzzfeed’s Lester Feder:

The incidents documented in this report range from blackmail to eviction to torture. Twenty-four of the documented cases involve physical attack, including one incident in which a woman was assaulted and had her home burnt to the ground before being arrested. In at least 25 cases, the victims have fled the country to seek asylum.

Torture “is becoming so routine that a ‘torture house’ has been established, designed specifically to terrorise LGBTI people,” the report states. In one incident, a group of people posed as police officers to force three gay men to go to this house, where they were “subjected to sustained physical abuse and were told that they needed to be taught a lesson in ‘how to be a man’.”

Almost half of the people whose cases are included in this report were evicted from their homes, in part because landlords fear being prosecuted under the charge of “abetting homosexuality.

Russia: Orthodox Church Denounces Conchita Wurst, Earns Social Media Mockery

Russian Orthodox Church officials condemned last week’s Eurovision victory by bearded drag performer Conchita Wurst (whose real name is Tom Neuwirth), denouncing the result as “yet one more step in the rejection of the Christian identity of European culture.” The Orthodox Church’s statements were mocked by Russian blogger Rustem Adagamov, who, reports the Independent, “tweeted a picture of  [heavily bearded] priests wearing full ceremonial robes with the message: ‘The ROC categorically opposes bearded men in dresses!’” Russian politicians and anti-gay activists had also slammed Wurst as the singer advanced in the competition.

India: Profile of an Openly Gay Prince

Manvendra Singh Gohil, Crown Prince of Rajpipla, India, was profiled this week in Frontiers, a Los Angeles-based publication.

Manvendra was born and raised to assume the custodianship of the crown, with all the discipline, expectations and circumspection his catered life allowed. He was always surrounded by servants, so protected that he didn’t even cross the street alone until he was 16. “Quite a nightmare,” he says, especially on Indian roads.

Like many LGBT people, his being way has been a source of family tention:

He publicly came out on the front page of the local newspaper, Divya Bhaskar, on March 14, 2006, in an interview that has been described as “sensitively handled.” At that point he was disowned by his family, burned in effigy by people in his hometown of Rajpipla and withstood calls to strip him of his title and make him an outcaste….Today, Manvendra is accepted by his family, though his mother is still a holdout, and he publishes two magazines—one on gay life called Fun and Fantasy, a kind of Indian version of Playboy.

Manvendra has become an activist and was honored in Los Angeles earlier this month:

But on May 3, Manvendra, now 48, strode across the stage at The Globe Theatre in Universal City to accept the Humanitarian Award from the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles during the organization’s 2014 Voice Awards…And here, on this stage, Prince Manvendra presented a portrait of fighting for self-empowerment while armed with empathy and humor.

“I am still enjoying the monopoly position as the world’s only openly gay royal. I hope I find a competitor soon,” Manvendra said to much laughter. Other royals, he added, have “confided in me. But they are still feeling shy about coming out of the closet. So I remain the only one as of now. Sometimes it makes me wonder whether I’m really the prince or a queen.”

Manvendra, who has protested the recent Indian high court ruling that effectively recriminalized homosexuality, discussed it with humor:

“Ours is a secular country, so we have the Hindus, Muslims, Christians—and they all fight like cats and dogs. But I think this was the first time they all came together on a platform to be anti-gay. I think they should thank us for that,” Manvendra said. “Anyway, that hasn’t discouraged me from fighting. I’m a warrior. I will fight.”

Manvendra and other LGBT Indians, and religious minorities, face some uncertainty with the overwhelming election victory this week of the Hindu Nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party.

 

Peter Montgomery, an associate editor for Religion Dispatches, is a Senior Fellow at People For the American Way Foundation where he was on staff for 15 years. Before that he was associate director of grassroots lobbying for Common Cause and wrote for Common Cause Magazine, an award-winning journal featuring investigative reporting about the federal government.