Global LGBT Recap: Ugandan Law Unleashes Vigilantes, Anti-Gay Americans Want to Boost Homophobia Exports

With anti-gay legislation and violence on the rise around the world, National Public Radio examined the challenges facing LGBT people hoping to be granted political asylum in the U.S.  Meanwhile, LGBT community centers and activists in the U.S. are working to raise funds and provide support for asylum seekers, such as the new Chicago Asylum  Support Program (CLASP), which was launched with the help of the interfaith LGBT Faith and Asylum Network which we wrote about last month.

Uganda: Museveni Signs Anti-Gay Law and Anti-Gay Vigilantes Jump Into Action

The biggest news this week was the signing of Uganda’s brutal anti-gay law, which calls for life imprisonment for gay people and long prison terms for anyone who even advocates on behalf of LGBT equality. Human rights activists worldwide had mounted a campaign urging President Yoweri Museveni not to sign the law; they were joined by U.S. officials. Among those urging Museveni not to sign the law was retired Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa, who had spoken personally with Museveni. Said Tutu:

“We must be entirely clear about this: the history of people is littered with attempts to legislate against love or marriage across class, caste, and race. But there is no scientific basis or genetic rationale for love. There is only the grace of God. There is no scientific justification for prejudice and discrimination, ever. And nor is there any moral justification. Nazi Germany and apartheid South Africa, among others, attest to these facts.”

Museveni signed the legislation on Monday, and on Tuesday the tabloid Red Pepper launched a vigilante campaign naming “Uganda’s 200 Top Homos” and giving names and home addresses of both well-known activists and private citizens, some of whom may not even be LGBT. Attacks may have already left one dead.

After Museveni signed the bill into law, some American religious conservatives supported him. American Family Association spokesman and radio host Bryan Fischer tweeted: “Winnable war: Uganda’s president signs a law that protects the natural family and restrains sodomy.” Dr. Michael Brown, a North Carolina-based pastor and activist who has had infamous anti-gay Ugandan pastor Martin Ssempa on his show (Ssempa backed the earlier death penalty-containing version of the law), also defended the law, saying Uganda had “very strong reasons” for passing it. And, he said, America “absolutely, certainly” does not ‘have the right to lecture other nations about sexual morality.”

Museveni justified the bill’s signing based on a “scientific” report he that he said proved nobody is born gay, but Jim Burroway reports at Box Turtle Bulletin that Museveni and his political allies distorted the contents of that report.

Rev. Dr. Kapya Kaoma, an outspoken critic of American evangelicals’ anti-gay efforts in Africa, discusses their role in the Uganda law in a new video interview with The Real News Network; Kaoma, a researcher with Political Research Associates, played a central role in God Loves Uganda, a documentary on the same topic.

In a related story, Ethiopian Minister of Women, Children and Youth reportedly tweeted in opposition to the new Ugandan law, but her twitter account was then shut down amid government claims that her account had been hacked.  Activists believe she was silenced.

Daniel Berhane, one of Ethiopia’s most prominent bloggers stated: “The mere fact that a single not-that-much-pro-gay statement resulted in the death of Zenebu’s twitter account probably speaks volumes on the direction to which the leadership is leaning.”

He added: “The dead twitter account of Minister Zenebu can be taken as a symbolism of the looming danger on real and perceived Ethiopian gays.”

Norway, Denmark and the Netherlands have suspended direct aid to Uganda; American officials are considering their next steps. ThinkProgress reports that the U.S. “might just let Uganda get away with its new anti-gay law,” citing military cooperation and strategic regional interests.

Nigeria: Author Says Violence in Wake of New Law Destroying Subculture

Author and theologian Rev. Irene Monroe writes that the homophobic violence that has erupted since the signing of Nigeria’s draconian anti-gay bill is destroying a long-lived subculture.

For more than a century, the “yan daudu” (shorthand for “men who act like women” or cross-dressers) population was an accepted Hausa subculture in the Muslim north.

As a Muslim Bori practice, the yan daudu’s religious ritual is traditionally practiced and celebrated among its most marginalized populations, like sex workers, and gay, bisexual and transgender men.

Since January, however, the group that was surprisingly driven underground is now being unearthed and actively pursued for punishment and persecution by murderous marauding gangs of their fellow Muslim brothers….

With Nigeria’s passing of the Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act, murderous marauding homophobic gangs in the Christian south will continue to chase LGBTQ citizens from their homes while leaving their signature message, “Homosexuals, pack and leave!” And in the Muslim north, the century-old small and marginalized yan daudu subculture will simply over time become extinct.

Kenya: Relatively Ripe for LGBT Advance?

Jacob Kushner wrote last week for the Global Post, “Kenya may be uniquely ripe for advances in gay rights.” He says that while homosexuality is a criminal offense, there has yet been no attempt like those in Uganda and Nigeria to reduce legal protections for LGBT people. And, he says, “many Kenyans seem increasingly willing to accept homosexuality as a fact of life or to move beyond political posturing over the subject altogether.

As noted in an earlier recap, renowned Kenyan author Binyavanga Wainaina recently came out. Kushner writes:

“In Nairobi, Binyavanga is walking around very freely and casually, almost like a hero,” said Tom Odhiambo, a Professor of Literature at the University of Nairobi and editor of a new collection of stories by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Kenyans. “He could not do that in Lagos (Nigeria).”

Kushner also quotes Reverend John Makokha, director of a Kenyan gay rights alliance:

“The source of homophobia is the Church,” said Makokha, the reverend who works with churches and mosques throughout Kenya to promote acceptance of gays. He said he and fellow activists spend most of their time convincing families of LGBT individuals that “Having an LGBT child is not a curse from God.”

Makokha said Muslims “are a bit radical when it comes to the dialog on sexuality and faith. The Koran says (homosexuals) should be stoned to death.” But unlike in Nigeria, Kenyan Muslims do not act upon such decrees. Indeed, Makokha said many religious edicts are interpreted less strictly in Kenya than elsewhere in the region.

“If a man should be stoned to death for sleeping with another woman outside marriage, we wouldn’t have many men left,” he said.

One of the most vocal opponents of homosexuality in Kenya is Anglican Archbishop Eliud Wabukala, who is also Chairman of a regional African Anglican group that opposes gay marriage. Last week Wabukala published a letter criticizing two prominent Anglican leaders in England for speaking out against anti-gay legislation in Uganda and Nigeria.

Zambia: Amnesty International Raises Concerns

Amnesty International reports that attacks on individuals by both vigilantes and police “have been instigated by a series of inflammatory statements made by senior government officials instructing the public to report anyone they suspect of being a homosexual or “promoting homosexuality.” As in Uganda, reports AI, Zambian publications have been “outing” individuals.

 Zimbabwe: Mugabe Denounces Homosexuality (Again)

 Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe celebrated his 90th birthday by denouncing homosexuality, something he has done many times before.

Russia: More on the World Congress of Families, Fears of Loss of Olympic Spotlight

We have written about the World Congress of Families and its plans for a 2014 summit in Moscow. Writing in Mother Jones, Hannah Levintova examines the WCF’s history and the role of its leaders and other American evangelicals who fostered Russia’s anti-gay movement.

WCF has lent its support to anti-gay politics elsewhere in Eastern Europe—Serbia, Lithuania, Romania—but it has had its biggest and most notable successes in Russia. Indeed, the rise of anti-gay laws in Russia has mirrored, almost perfectly, the rise of WCF’s work in the country, with 13 new anti-gay laws passed since [WCF vice president Larry] Jacobs first traveled there. When I ask Jacobs if WCF’s work has contributed to this pattern, he laughs and says, “Yes, I think that is accurate.”

The article also looks at the relationship between the Putin government and the Russian Orthodox Church:

The church is a marker of national identity, a source of political endorsements, and an official participant in the legislative process: In a 2009 agreement with Putin’s ruling United Russia party, the country’s top Orthodox official, Patriarch Kirill, won the right to review (and suggest changes to) any legislation being considered by the Duma. Since then, both Putin and Patriarch Kirill have stated explicitly and repeatedly that they believe in collaboration between church and state—a partnership that is helping to drive the government’s campaign against homosexuality.

The article also focuses on WCF’s man in Moscow Alexey Komov and his financially useful friendship with some Russian oligarchs:

Those friends have proven helpful to WCF. “He has appointments, connections with the Orthodox Church and with several wealthy Russian leaders who are also Christians,” Carlson explains. Specifically, two Orthodox Russian billionaires who are footing many of the WCF’s Russia bills: Vladimir Yakunin, the president of the Russian railways and a Putin adviser (and possible successor), and Konstantin Malofeev, an Orthodox philanthropist who happens to be the founder and managing partner of Marshall, the firm whose conference room we’re sitting in.

Meanwhile, the week brought more evidence of the Putin government’s resistance to dissent. Members of Pussy Riot were arrested again this week protesting harsh four-year prison sentences handed down to people involved in an anti-Putin protest in 2012.The LGBT-friendly Russian Open Games, scheduled to run February 26 to March 3, struggled to open in the face of bomb threats and attempts by some politicians to shut them down. In a bit of good news, a Russian court reportedly dropped charges under the anti-gay “propaganda” law that had been brought against the creators of an online support group for gay teenagers. The Washington Blade reported this week that activists fear that, with the Olympic spotlight no longer on Russia, human rights activists are worried that lawmakers will consider a bill that would take children away from gay parents.

Slovakia: Activists in Uphill Battle Anti-Gay Revision to Constitution

According to ILGA-Europe, the Slovak Parliament is scheduled to discuss a constitutional amendment to limit marriage to “a man and a woman” when a new legislative session begins next week. A press release from the group quotes Paulo Côrte-Real, Co-Chair of ILGA-Europe’s Executive Board:

“Recent and similarly restrictive constitutional amendments in Latvia, Hungary and Croatia demonstrated they are sponsored by religious extremists and ultra-conservatives who do not hesitate to abuse such democratic tools as constitutional amendments or referenda to pursue their narrow homophobic agenda. 

Slovak parliamentarians must prevent yet another country falling into such a populist homophobic trap and reject this proposal.” 

But news outlets reported this week that leftist Prime Minister Robert Fico said he would back the amendment, which has been pushed by more conservative parties.

USA: Anti-Gay Religious Activists Hope to Boost Homophobia Exports

Anti-gay activists Scott Lively and Peter LaBarbera launched a new global anti-gay network they call the Coalition for Family Values.  At a Washington, D.C. press conference, Lively said governments have an affirmative duty to uphold a biblical view of sexuality, which he called the “one flesh paradigm.” That means discouraging and suppressing homosexuality.

Lively’s new effort has  drawn quick support from other religious right leaders like Liberty Counsel’s Matt Barber and The American Family Association’s Tim Wildmon and Bryan Fischer.

Like the World Congress of Families at its recent press conference, Lively and his partners praised Russia’s anti-gay laws and encouraged the rest of the world to follow suit. From my report on the event at Right Wing Watch:

Lively, who played an active role in fomenting homophobia in Uganda, now claims he thinks the new law there is too harsh. His goal is not to put people in jail, he says, as long as they keep their sex behind closed doors and don’t try to change society. He says government has “an affirmative duty” to discourage all sex outside marriage and to encourage the biblical “one flesh paradigm” regarind sexuality.

 The coalition’s statement says:

 “…the vast majority of the people of the world do not accept the notion that sexual deviance should be normalized. It is time that these voices are heard on the world stage before the so-called elites of the Western powers impose their inverted morality on everyone through the manipulation of international law, which they clearly intend to do.” 

Lively said his new group is needed because too many religious conservatives are afraid to really speak their minds on homosexuality.

“We believe that the pro-family movement is not being well represented at the moment. Because most of the people that are in the leadership positions are afraid to speak the plain truth because of the media….We’re not against gay marriage and gay adoption because they’re just bad public policy. We’re against them because homosexuality itself is harmful to the people who practice it and to society.

Peter Montgomery, a Washington, DC-based writer, is an associate editor for Religion Dispatches and a Senior Fellow at People For the American Way. His work focuses on religion, politics, and LGBT issues. Follow him on twitter @petemont.

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