World AIDS Day was commemorated on December 1; Pope Francis put out a statement that included a call for “responsible behavior,” which New Ways Ministry’s Robert Shine suggests is notable for its lack of condemnation of people or condom use. US President Barack Obama posted a video statement.
On the same day, Gambian voters rejected their intensely anti-gay President Yahya Jammeh, who proclaimed that he invented an herbal cure for AIDS and once said he would rule for a billion years. Jammeh, who has ruled the country since he took over in a 1994 coup, surprised many by conceding to his opponent. Part of his statement said, “As a true Muslim who believes in the almighty Allah I will never question Allah’s decision. You Gambians have decided.” More from the Guardian:
Inside, the first lady-elect, Fatou Bah, the first of Barrow’s two wives, arrived in a blue dress and large gold earrings and was blessed by a close family friend, Catholic priest Bruno Toupan.
Barrow is a devout Muslim, and Toupan said his decision to call a Catholic to bless the family was proof that he would be a president for all Gambians.
“We have great hope in the Gambia,” he said. “It’s a great relief, as Jammeh was planning to bring in sharia law. I would have been a second-class citizen.”
Trump and LGBT Human Rights
Writing for the Washington Post, Samar Habib reported that “the administration of President-elect Donald Trump is likely to reverse” the Obama administration’s role in promoting LGBT equality around the world. Indeed, many LGBT rights activists worry that a U.S. retreat from the LGBT human rights cause at a time of intense backlash from anti-gay governments and NGOs could be harmful for LGBT people in many countries.
The story notes that Vice President-elect is a long-time opponent of LGBT equality and compares his positions to Russian leader Vladimir Putin’s and those of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, which is leading attacks on LGBT human rights at the United Nations. “In Congress, Pence said that ‘in embracing the advocacy of changes in laws regarding homosexuality around the world, [this legislation] advocates a set of values that are at odds with the majority of the American people.’”
United Nations: Independent Expert on SOGI Addresses ILGA World Conference
Thai diplomat Vitit Muntarbhorn, who is filling the independent expert position created by the UN Human Rights Council to investigate discrimination and violence against people based on their sexual orientation or gender identity, gave the keynote speech to the opening session at the ILGA World Conference which was held in Bangkok on November 30 – December 2. From his remarks:
Various historical antecedents and narrow interpretations of religions and beliefs aggravate the situation as part of the political-cum-cultural challenge. The classic case is the variety of laws in a number of countries derived from the colonial era which still criminalize same-sex sexual conduct, even when and where the colonizing power discarded such laws a long time ago. On another front, while care, kindness and consideration are at the heart of religions in their common humanity and linkage with human rights , various interlocutors misconstrue or resort to less than inclusive interpretations to justify violence and discrimination. At times, the misconstruction is for political purposes to constrain the call for a more pluralistic environment where a variety of ideas, beliefs and public formations and associations, complemented by respect for privacy and intimacy, should enjoy much needed space. This is hampered by the overuse of national security and public morality by the authorities in some settings , for their political agenda, to curb freedom of speech and peaceful assembly, as also in regard to LGBTI people.
Stereotyping, stigmatization and ostracism are often the result of a non-liberal mind and non-peaceful behavior, currently witnessed by the proliferating hate speech , often rampant on media and social web/networks, which fuels the antagonism steeped in homophobia and transphobia. This is compounded by overemphasis on the binary approach to gender-sex and inadequate integration of gender diversity in the educational setting and people’s upbringing from a young age which should open the door to a less binary , or non-binary, understanding. The vortex of violence and discrimination, in their multiple forms, often starts in the home, at school, in the community and in the surrounding environment, with violations breeding violations
Bangladesh: ILGA panel on LGBT issues in Asia
The Daily Beast’s Philip Sherwell writes about “the brave activists fighting for LGBTQ Equality in Muslim countries.”
As the killers no doubt hoped, in one blood-soaked frenzy, they also paralyzed—for now at least—the small but vibrant gay rights community in the predominantly Muslim country.
The panel also included activists from Indonesia, Thailand and Burma.
The ILGA panel, held at the British embassy and supported by Stonewall U.K., was organized by APCOM, a Bangkok-based coalition of campaign groups from across the region.
“Asia and the Pacific have seen recent successes, and some major steps backwards, on LGBTI rights,” said Midnight Poonkasetwattana, executive director of APCOM. “We are here to celebrate the gains and mourn the losses.”
Most sobering have been the developments in Bangladesh since the murder of Mannan and a friend who was with him at the time of the attack…
There were words of support and encouragement from Dede Oetomo, an Indonesian professor who has witnessed the waves of progress and setbacks during three decades of involvement in the gay rights and pro-democracy struggle.
“As we’re coming of age for the movement in parts of Asia, Bangladesh is facing harsh times,” he said. “But I say we simply can’t and must not give up, we have to continue to push back.”
The Netherlands: Backlash to hate speech exception granted to Muslims
“Furious Dutch MPs have demanded an immediate public inquiry after a government-backed watchdog said it was acceptable for Muslims to send gay people death threats,” writes Nick Gutteridge at the Express. According to the story, the anti-discrimination bureau, in regard to death threats “made in the comments section of an article about a Dutch-Moroccan gay society,” ruled that “while homophobic abuse was usually a crime, it was justifiable if you were Muslim due to laws on freedom of religious expression.” After a backlash, the anti-discrimination bureau said “it had concluded that the complaint had been ‘unjustly assessed.’”
Romania: Constitutional court will confer with European Court of Justice on recognizing marriage
Associated Press reported this week that the country’s constitutional court announced that it would consult with the European Court of Justice about the case of a same-sex couple who wants to have their marriage, performed in another country, recognized by the government.
Lawyer for the two men Iustina Ionescu told The Associated Press: “This is encouraging. … The court is giving the message that Romania is a member of the European countries that share common values, such as the free movement of people together with their families.”
She said she was confident that the European court would consider free movement “a fundamental right” and recognize a husband regardless of the sex of his partner.
Opposition to same-sex relationships is often fierce in Romania, where homosexuality was only decriminalized in 2002.
Religious groups want the constitution amended to define marriage as the union of a man and a woman. Nearly 3 million people have signed a petition demanding a referendum to change the constitution, which currently states that marriage is a consensual act between spouses.
Indonesia: Islamist group and police work together in raid on gay party
Human Rights Watch reported that a militant Islamist group “with a well-earned reputation for harassment and violence against minorities led police to raid a gathering of men for a so-called sex party.”
The group, the Islamic Defenders Front (or FPI), claimed its investigative unit tipped off police to conduct a “successful raid” Saturday on a home in Jakarta. The FPI’s social media accounts posted photographs of police taking in men for questioning, and local media reported that mobile phones and HIV/AIDS medication were confiscated from the premises.
That the FPI prompted such a raid is no surprise; that the authorities followed the Islamist group’s tip to round-up an innocuous gathering that violated none of Indonesia’s laws is also disappointingly familiar…
Close ties between militant Islamist groups and law enforcement continue to create an environment of widespread social sanction and impunity for attacks on minorities. Just this year, Indonesian officials and security forces were complicit in the violent forced eviction of more than 7,000 members of the Gafatar religious community from their homes.
President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo recently said he opposes criminal sanctions for LGBT people. Now his administration should demonstrate that commitment by ordering an investigation into why the police took cues for a discriminatory raid from a militant Islamist group.
Saudi Arabia: Profile of transgender man
The Thomson Reuters Foundation’s Ellen Wulfhort profiles Salman Al-Dukheil, a transgender man from Saudi Arabia, spoke publicly about his identity for the first time at Trust women, a conference on women’s rights and human trafficking.
“If I can help one person, if one person can somehow benefit from my having gone through this, why not? I kind of hope for a ripple effect.”
Saudi Arabia has no law against transgender people, but the desert kingdom has carried out arrests for cross-dressing and ordered the imprisonment and flogging of men accused of behaving like women, according to the U.S.-based Human Rights Watch.
Homosexuality is illegal in Saudi Arabia and punishable by death. Same-sex sexual contact is still illegal in about 72 countries, according to recent legal changes and the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA).
While stigma against LGBT communities is lessening in some countries, transgender people still live at risk in some countries, according to The Trans Murder Monitoring project, coordinated by LGBT rights group Transgender Europe.
More than 2,000 transgender and gender diverse people were murdered in 65 countries between 2008 and 2015, it said.
Taiwan: Call for Catholics to support marriage equality
In Taiwan, where movement toward marriage equality continues in spite of religious opposition, Frank Wong contributes a commentary to the Taipei Times urging Catholics to accept marriage equality. An excerpt:
I would say to my Catholic brothers and sisters: I used to feel the fear that you are feeling now. By embracing same-sex marriage, you will allow the next generation to learn how to love one another; it will not turn the next generation into a generation of homosexuals.
The greatest pain suffered by homosexuals is that, living in a heterosexual world, we cannot see the hope that we should be entitled to feel as people. Please allow us to return to the love of God. Please learn from God’s example, turn nobody away, give others hope and give gay people love — and let them know that their love, too, is blessed by God.
Australia: Catholic priest leads campaign to eliminate “gay panic” defense
A Catholic priest’s years-long campaign to do away with a legal “gay-panic” defense in the state of Queensland reached a milestone when the attorney general introduced legislation to do away with the defense, which has allowed for charges of murder to be downgraded to manslaughter in cases where a killer was supposedly out of his mind believing someone had made a homosexual advance toward him.
India: Report on activism to eliminate criminalization
The Wall Street Journal posted a video report about LGBT rights advocates in India who recently rallied in New Delhi, three years after the Supreme Court re-imposed a colonial-era sodomy law. Some activists said that the ruling undermined the LGBT community’s legitimacy and contributed to violence against it.
Africa: New issue of women’s journal published
Emergence, an artistic journal of Women and Gender non-conforming Africans published its 11th issue this week.