Amnesty International has released its annual report on human rights across the globe, and the news isn’t good. The report says there is a “global assault on people’s basic freedoms, with many governments brazenly breaking international law and deliberately undermining institutions meant to protect people’s rights.” The report said that 2015 brought evidence that “the system of international protection of human rights itself needs to be protected.” The report documents human rights abuses country-by-country and regionally, including persecution and criminalization of people who are, or are perceived to be, LGBTI.
The United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees has created a training package on the protection of LGBTI people in “forced displacement.”
Indonesia: Religious and Political Officials Continue Anti-LGBT Campaigns
Indonesia has been making a regular appearance in this recap, with a wave of homophobic rhetoric from religious and political officials. That wave continued this week, as Lester Feder and Rin Hindryati report at BuzzFeed. Last Friday, the former Information and Communications Minister Tifatul Semberling, currently a member of Parliament from the Islamist Prosperous Justice Party, tweeted that the Prophet Mohammed said “Whomever you find committing the acts of the community of Lot (homosexual) should be put to death.”
Sembering later deleted the tweet in response to online criticism. A few people, including religious studies scholar Akhmad Sahal, suggested Sembering was importing the rhetoric of ISIS, which has publicized the execution of many alleged gay men that it justifies with this same passage of scripture, to Indonesia.
On Monday, “Defense Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu said the LGBT community is more dangerous than nuclear weapons, because ‘it skews the mindset of our nation away from our base ideology.’” And on Tuesday, police banned pro-LGBT activists from holding a rally at a public monument site.
Meanwhile, a school for trans women, which had “made headlines as a symbol of Indonesia’s religious pluralism,” has been shut down after protests by the Islamic Jihad Front. More from Feder and Hindryati:
Until last month, anti-LGBT rhetoric was not a major feature of politics in Indonesia, which is home to more Muslims than any nation in the world. The country has long been home to a community of transgender women known as waria, and the school — which has about 40 students — has received so much attention in the Western press in part because it symbolized pluralism and strands of progressive Islam that distinguished Indonesia’s religious life.
The storm over LGBT issues began in January when the minister with oversight of higher education pronounced LGBT student groups to be incompatible with “standards of values and morals” expected at the country’s universities.
Though some political leaders appear to have tried to quiet the uproar, others are eagerly pouring flames on the fire.
On Friday, Stanley Widianto wrote in the Guardian that a hashtag, #TolakLGBT (reject LGBT) has been trending in recent weeks, and that “this week Muslim activists held a rally against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights with the message: ‘LGBT is a disease, not a human right.’”
“We reject the LGBT because they asked for equality and legality from the government and it’s getting more and more disarming,” Muhammad Fuad, the leader of the Islamic People Forum (FUI) said. “If legalised, this disease will be more contagious and harmful to our children. Why would they even ask for legality?”
On Tuesday police had shut down a rally held by the Yogyakarta-based Solidaritas Perjuangan Demokrasi (SPD, which translates to Solidarity to Fight for Democracy) in support of equal rights for Indonesia’s LGBT communities at one of the city’s most treasured monuments, Tugu Yogyakarta.
Still, writes Widianto, there is hope that the conversation will lead to people hearing from members of the LGBT community who are defending their rights. “Focusing on how unbecoming the first has been distracts us from one important point: that it exists,” Widianto writes.
The anti-gay forces were given moral support by Muhammad Ahmad Al Thayyib, Grand Imam of Al-Azhar University in Cairo, who made his first visit to Jakarta this week, to, in the words of the Jakarta Post, “further enhance cooperation with Indonesia in promoting moderate Islam.” From the Imam’s interview:
This major propaganda is orchestrated by various international institutions and organizations using all kinds of methods and instruments such as the mass media and seminars, involving a number of celebrated figures and other possible means. The objective is to promote and solidify homosexuality.
Al-Azhar, in a previous statement, reiterated that the amoral and satanic propaganda launched by these various, vicious, parties has the purpose of destroying the human moral order respected by all religions and schools, because this moral order is in line with humanity’s innate quality (fitrah) created by Allah.
Promoting homosexuality and this moral decadence is not a victory for human rights but is a moral disease that undermines humanity’s fitrah and is contrary to the nobility granted by Allah to human beings. Homosexuality constitutes humanity’s deep moral decadence, a crime against humanity itself, an obvious violation of our humanity and a contamination of freedom. And we certainly reject all these ruthless efforts.
Various facets of homosexual propaganda have invaded the Islamic world under the name of “same-sex marriage”. This is being performed after they successfully launched the propaganda in a number of other countries, hence accepted by religious leaders and groups in these countries. We oppose this sexual deviation being called marriage. In Islam marriage can be only exist between a man and a woman in accordance with the teaching of noble religions, under which the terms and conditions have been stipulated.
New Zealand & Polynesia: Anglican Church Group Proposes Liturgies To Bless Same-Sex Couples
This week the Way Forward Working Group has proposed two new liturgies for blessing same-sex couples, which will be considered by the General Synod in Maine. From Anglican Taonga:
These liturgies have been designed to allow for the blessing of couples who have been married in a civil ceremony – according either to New Zealand law, or to the law in the Pacific Island nations which form part of this church. These liturgies also create a pathway for the people in such relationships to become ordained.
Civil marriages between a man and a woman have long been recognised in law in both New Zealand and in those Pacific Island nations. In New Zealand’s case, of course, an amendment to marriage law came into effect in August 2013 – which allows same-sex couples to legally marry.
The Way Forward Working Group (WFWG) report makes a precept-upon-precept case for how such civil marriages could be blessed by the church.
The Anglican Church in this province is governed by a set of documents, the most significant of which are the Church of England Empowering Act of 1928, and Te Pouhere , the Constitution of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia, which came into force in 1992.
The working group report acknowledges that the group’s believe “that the proposed liturgies do not represent a departure from the Doctrine and Sacraments of Christ” will be controversial, “a crucial matter for debate.”
Italy: Senate Passes Civil Unions Bill Without Adoption Rights
This week the Senate passed a civil unions bill after Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, who has been a strong advocate for the legislation, agreed to strip the bill of a provision that would allow a person to adopt the child of their same-sex partner. Public opinion polls have shown strong support for legal recognition of couples, but widespread opposition to the adoption provision. Some LGBT advocates had harsh words for the tradeoff.
“Pontius Pilate could not have done better,” a broad coalition of LGBT groups said in a statement denouncing the compromise issued shortly before the Senate vote, calling for a protest on March 5. If this bill is adopted, the groups said, would make Italy “unlike almost any other country in [the European Union] and unique among its founding countries, [ignoring] completely the existence and needs of the sons and daughters of gay couples.”
“Now our battle — concluding the associations — will continue in the streets and in the courts,” they vowed.
The civil unions bill has been opposed by Catholic Church officials and by the European Center for Law and Justice, an affiliate of the American Center for Law and Justice, the Christian Right legal organization created by televangelist Pat Robertson.
While the Vatican and the Italian hierarchy opposed the bill, the removal of a “stepchild adoption” clause was seen as a significant triumph for the Catholic Church. The measure was set to allow a person to adopt their partner’s biological child, which conservatives argued was a threat to the “traditional” family model.
Italy’s interior minister, Angelino Alfano, had strongly opposed the clause and succeeded in stripping it from the bill ahead of Thursday’s vote.
After the vote, Alfano said he was inspired by the words of St. John Paul II, who died in 2005.
“When it’s not possible to prevent or repeal an (intrinsically unjust) law … one could rightly offer their support to proposals to limit the damage of such a law,” he wrote on Facebook, citing the late pope.
Scammell writes that in spite of their victory on the adoption provision, religious conservatives were still unhappy with the civil unions bill:
Moreover, the Vatican’s secretary of state, Pietro Parolin, reinforced the church’s position earlier this week when he supported the removal of the stepchild adoption measure. “The fundamental point is that civil unions are not equated in any way with marriage, that is that they are two completely distinct disciplines,” Parolin said, according to the Italian news agency ANSA.
The mixed result in the end left many unsatisfied.
The bill’s passage marked an “anthropological revolution” said Gianfranco Amato, one of the organizers of a huge, Catholic-led “Family Day” protest in Rome last month against the measure.
“For the first time … it’s Catholics that are doing these things,” he said, referring to Alfano and Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, who strongly supported the bill.
“This is incredible, they have produced a new family model,” Amato said. The outcome of the vote, he added, demonstrated that participants in the January protest had “no political representation” in Rome.
Kenya: Report on Lives of LBQ Women Identifies Religious Sources of Homophobia
This month the Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya released a report, “Research on the Lived Realities of Lesbian, Bisexual and Queer Women in Kenya.”
From the report:
Most religious institutions in Kenya are unashamed incubators for homophobia and intolerance for sexual and gender minorities. Religious leaders speak out regularly against equality and inclusion of LGBTIQ persons within Kenyan society. This homophobic rhetoric encourages and is used to justify violations against persons perceived to be queer. It normalizes systematic attacks against sexual and gender minorities and exacerbates the self-stigma among religious LBQ women…
Although Kenya is a secular state, it is nonetheless strongly influenced by religious institutions that serve a population of about 75% Christians and 14% Muslims. The Christian vote is therefore heavily coveted by politicians who frequent churches and popularize themselves through irresponsible politi8cal gimmicks, such as advocating for homophobia. Some of the most homophobic speeches by the political elites are made during Sunday church services amid prayers and changing in tongues by the fervent believers.
Neela Ghoshal at Human Rights Watch comments:
The report addresses the often overlooked experiences of queer women. In much human rights reporting, violations against queer women, which often occur in the private sphere of the home, are overshadowed by violations in the public sphere…Many of the stories center around family, including abuse when families discover queer women’s sexuality. Rose, in Kisumu, described how her brother literally threw her out of the house, grabbing her by the throat and accusing her of being Satanic.
Europe: Legal Victory for Same-Sex Couples
This week the European Court of Human Rights ruled that it was discriminatory to deny same-sex couples the same treatment as other couples regarding resident permits to facilitate family reunification.
Daniele Viotti MEP, Co-President of the Intergroup on LGBTI Rights, reacted: “I strongly welcome this judgement by the European Court of Human Rights, which illustrates just one of the practical problems same-sex couples encounter due to institutional discrimination. Same-sex couples, just like opposite-sex couples, often like to live together and should have equal access to this right.”
“The ruling shows the way forward for the EU, and beyond. Discriminatory provisions still prevent same-sex couples, often with children, to exercise their right to freedom of movement. I hope this ruling encourages the Commission to prepare legislation on mutual recognition of civil status documents, including registered partnerships.”
Africa: African American LGBT Faith Activist Supporting African LGBTs
Alturi profiles Joseph Tolton of the Fellowship of Affirming Ministries whose work in Africa has grown 2009, when news reports about Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act began circulating and Tolton traveled to the country.
“I fell in love with the people, I fell in love with the land, I fell in love with the possibilities. I felt very connected to their struggle,” he says. “There was this idea of what it meant to participate in reconciliation as an African American going home to the continent. So on so many levels and layers, it was a relationship that just made sense.”
Bishop Joseph also recognizes that LGBTI Africans and LGBTI African Americans share a common antagonist in the conservative religious right of the United States. While this group continues to oppose public policies in the U.S. “that would benefit low-income people, which we think would also benefit black and brown people,” they are also working against LGBTI rights abroad because they feel they have lost the culture war at home….
TFAM is currently working in Rwanda, Kenya, Uganda, the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo, and in Cote d’Ivoire.
Tolton says “his calling and his identity make it harder for anti-LGBTI Africans to accuse him of imposing Western values on their countries.”
“It’s much harder for people to do that when they’re talking to a dark-skinned African American man,” he notes. “My ethnicity and presence create a little bit of a speed bump as people are rushing hurriedly toward that argument.”
As a person of faith, Bishop Joseph is able to communicate in a way that many in the secular LGBTI movement cannot. “Being able to speak the language of faith is central and vital if you’re going to work in particular on the continent of Africa, because religion plays such a dominant role in politics, in defining culture, in shaping the economy,” he asserts. It also helps, he says, that his organization has “had the good sense to go in and partner in a humble and gracious manner and yet be very present. We are the rainmakers, they on the ground are the changemakers, and the work has grown.”
Bishop Joseph has faith in a brighter future for LGBTI Africans. “Homophobia on the continent of Africa is not intractable,” he says.
The Washington Blade’s Michael Lavers reported this week that LGBT activists in Uganda fear that newly re-elected President Yoweri Museveni may continue an anti-LGBT crackdown following an election in which politicians inflamed anti-gay sentiment to win political support.
Philippines: Catholic Leaders Offer Criticism, Support to Boxer Pacquiao After Anti-Gay Comments
At New Ways Ministry, Bob Shine reviews some of the reaction by Catholic officials to the international controversy over anti-gay comments by boxer Manny Pacquiao, who said in a recent interview that people in same-sex relationships are “worse than animals,” comments that cost him a Nike for which he later apologized. Shine says Pacquiao is “a convert to Catholicism from a more conservative Evangelical Christian background.”
Shine writes, “Fr. Jerome Secillano, head of the Public Affairs Office for the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, said the Leviticus quote posted on Instagram is undeniably in Scripture, and it was ‘unfair’ to criticize Pacquiao for quoting it.” Archbishop Emeritus Oscar Cruz said the boxer’s comments were shocking because they don’t reflect Christian teaching to love other people, but he expressed admiration for Pacquiao’s opposition to marriage equality.
Turkey: Call For LGBT Rights Met With Hostile Response
LGBTI News Turkey reports that when a member of the opposition party argued before the legislature’s Commission on Equal Opportunity for Women and Men that LGBT people face discrimination and violence and should be protected, a ruling party MP responded:
“There is no need to change our commission’s agenda by including a different subculture, with artificial sexual tendencies that are not in line with human nature and our society’s customs and traditions. Here, we discuss values in professional life as ladies and men. There is no point in bringing up [a] different group’s private life and their private gender identities in bedroom. Everybody knows that this can be one of the biggest threats to our society.”
Switzerland: Voters May Put Anti-Gay Discrimination In Constitution In Guise Of Tax Change
Voters will go the polls on Sunday, February 28 to vote on a constitutional change ostensibly meant to eliminate a tax penalty for married couples, but the change will also enshrine a man-woman definition of marriage, and discrimination against same-sex couples, in the Constitution. The initiative is backed by the Swiss Christian Democratic People’s Party.
Tunisia: LGBT Advocacy Group Wins Right To Operate
Shams, a group that advocates for decriminalization of homosexuality, announced that it had won a legal battle against government officials who had ordered them to suspend their activities.
Armenia: On Popular Talk Show Lawyer Says LGBT People ‘Must Be Burnt’
According to the PINK Armenia newsletter, a gay man and his mother were invited onto a popular talk show where they “faced inhumane and unprofessional attitudes from other invited experts.” One of the other guests, a lawyer who is a member of the Chamber of Advocates of the Republic of Armenia, said “Whenever I see them [LGBT people], I will smash them, trample them, and yes – they must be burnt….” PINK Armenia also reports that five LGBT activists, including two PINK Armenia staffers, were attacked in Yerevan last week. The group filed a complaint with the ministry of health about hospital staff who mocked one of the victims.
Mexico: Marriage Equality Spread Continues
The first marriage between two men who did not receive an amparo, or federal court injunction, in Guadalajara was held last week; as was the first same-sex wedding in Guadalajara. The ongoing spread of marriage equality across Mexico is being tracked by journalist Rex Wockner.
Japan: Gay-Friendly Workplace Policies Reflect Company Mergers, Generation Gap
Bloomberg reports that gay-friendly workplace policies are beginning to catch on in Japan, where taboos against discussing homosexuality and strong pressures to conform have traditionally made it hard for people to be open about their sexuality in the workplace. Among the reasons for the change are the integration of employees after the merger between U.S. and Japanese companies, as well as the existence of younger generation that is “among the world’s most accepting of sexuality diversity.”