Photographer Robin Hammond has launched a social media campaign with the hashtag #WhereLoveIsIllegal to document through captioned portraits the stories of LGBT people from around the world who are living in fear. One participant, a lesbian woman from South Africa, recounts surviving rape and other attacks and writes, “People say it is wrong to date the same sex, but to God, we are all his people, and I truly know that Jesus loves me.” More on the campaign from GLAAD:
The campaign’s images feature LGBTI individuals and their personal testimonies of injustice and discrimination. Spanning the world–from Uganda to Russia–#WhereLoveIsIllegal not only brings awareness to the violent consequences of anti-LGBTI forces, but encourages viewers to donate to grassroots LGBTI organizations in target countries as well. Through a partnership with the Fund for Global Human Rights, #WhereLoveIsIllegal contributions are disseminated to Hope Alive Initiative, helping LGBTI communities in northeastern Nigeria; Kuchu Times, a Ugandan LGBTI publishing house; and PASSOP, supporting LGBTI refugees and asylum seekers who have fled to South Africa.
United Nations: Right claims victory on LGBTs, abortion in sustainable development agreement
After a marathon negotiating session that ran through last weekend, a new agreement on sustainable development was announced at the United Nations on Sunday evening, and the conservative group C-Fam (formerly known as the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute) declared victory in a press release titled “No Abortion, No Gays, in Massive New UN Development Goals.” C-Fam boasted that the agreement “did not stray from previous agreements that left abortion to be decided by national legislation, and expectedly does not broach the subject of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) rights,” saying that it had been “sanitized” of “terms that have been used by the US bureaucracy to include LGBT rights.”
Ambassador Usman Sarki of Nigeria, who vocally denounced any attempt to impose LGBT rights on his country, and demanded that the draft agreement be “cleaned” during negotiations this week, also denounced ongoing attempts to read abortion and LGBT rights into the agreement through implementation efforts that are already underway.
But the Center for Economic and Social Rights said that “human rights survive” in the final text, “despite sordid final compromises.” From a blog post by Kate Donald, Director of CESR’s Human Rights in Sustainable Development program:
For CESR it was particularly disappointing to see human rights language become a bargaining chip at the eleventh hour, given that we have been striving since 2010 to see human rights principles and obligations meaningfully reflected in the post-2015 agenda.
Donald’s post walks through the details, including two blocs – the African Group and the Arab Group – which “raised fierce (and legally incoherent) objections” to language contained in the draft Declaration as late as Friday:
“This is an Agenda which seeks to respect, protect and fulfil all human rights. It will work to ensure that human rights and fundamental freedoms are enjoyed by all without discrimination on grounds of race, ethnicity, color, sex, age, language, religion, culture, migration status, political or other opinion, national or social origin, economic situation, birth, disability or other status.”
In the end, she says, “the compromise the drafters found was to replace the text with a verbatim cut-and-paste of language from the Rio+20 outcome document, The Future We Want.” Donald calls this “a savvy political strategy, as the Rio language still includes the all-important phrase ‘or other status’ (recognizing that discrimination on any ground is unacceptable) but would have been nigh impossible for the African and Arab Groups to object to, given its status as agreed language in a political declaration which is a foundation text for post-2015.” But she says the compromise was “profoundly disappointing” given other gaps in the Rio language.
While Donald says “it is deeply frustrating and disconcerting that we are still fighting these battles in the halls of the UN,” she concludes that “there is other powerful human rights language in the outcome document to take solace in, including a recognition in the preamble that the SDGs ‘seek to realize the human rights of all’.
Indeed, despite its compromises and shortfalls, this 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development gives the human rights movement much to work with over the next 15 years. In its universality, in its focus on tackling inequalities and insistence on ‘leaving no one behind’, and in its declaratory anchoring in international human rights commitments, it has the potential to be truly transformative for human rights enjoyment. The real litmus test will of course be implementation, in particular whether we will see meaningful reforms that remove the systemic obstacles to equitable, sufficient and accountable financing for sustainable development, and whether the monitoring and accountability infrastructure put in place at the national, regional and global levels ensures that all states and other power-holders are answerable to the people whose lives and rights they affect.
South-South News includes another analysis of the process and document.
Iain Levine, director of programs at Human Rights Watch, says that even in the absence of direct language for LGBT persons in the SDGs, the overarching imperative of anti-discrimination and anti-marginalization pervades strongly and will likely impact national-level decision-making.
“For all human rights groups engaged in the process, it’s been really important to emphasize the issues of discrimination and exclusion, and remind the governments drafting the text that even if they don’t mention all groups as we want, they still have to agree to the commitment that discrimination goes across all lines in which it can take place. This includes discrimination against LGBT, women, and the disabled,” Levine told South-South News.
Switzerland: Bishop stokes controversy with anti-gay remarks
At Joy in Faith, a conference held in Germany, Swiss Bishop Vitus Huonder defended Church teachings on sexuality and marriage.
He said: “If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.”
“Both of these passages alone suffice to clarify unambiguously the church’s position on homosexuality.”
More from a Swiss Broadcasting report in Swissinfo, which said Huonder “stumbles from one controversy to the next.”
In his opinion, the passages also had implications for the definition of marriage and the family. “There is no diversity when it comes to marriage and family models, although a book has just come out in my bishopric called ‘Family Diversity’,” he said.
“Even speaking of family diversity is an attack on the Creator.”
The book he is referring to is “Family Diversity in the Catholic Church” by Hanspeter Schmitt, a professor at the Chur University of Theology, and Arnd Bünker from the socio-pastoral institute in St Gallen. The book addresses church teachings on the issue of family.
A Swiss LGBT equality group Pink Cross asked for a public apology.
On Monday, Huonder released a statement in which he regretted that his comments had been misunderstood and interpreted as contemptuous towards homosexuals.
“That wasn’t my intention,” he said, before referring to the catechism of the Catholic Church on the issue.
Back in March, liberal Catholics took to the streets to protest Huonder for promoting “a policy of exclusion.”
Canada: Controversy over food bank’s worship, dogmatic requirements
Richard Friesen was banned from volunteering at a food bank in Winnipeg after objecting to a form he was asked to sign which required him to “respect the relationship of only a man and a woman in marriage.” After Friesan contacted Winnipeg Harvest, which distributes food to agencies like Bethlemen Aboriginal Fellowship, the food bank changed its form but kept its ban on Friesen in place. After the story broke, other people began to come forward with their own complaints, reports Dennis Ward for Aboriginal People’s Television Network: “others are coming forward to say they’ve also felt religion was forced upon them when all they really wanted was food for their family.”
Tanya Smith doesn’t like how the food bankrequires her to sit through church services she doesn’t agree with before she’s allowed to have access to the assistance programs.
“In the end, you just stay quiet,” Smith explained, “because you know you need the food, and if you rock the boat something bad might happen, like you get refused services, or the people that are providing you the services may treat you differently.”
Another resident, Althea Guiboche, feels that practicing religion shouldn’t be associated with using a food bank.
“Food is a basic human right, and religion should not have to come in to play with that,” Guiboche said. “We should just feed and we should just help because that is what they need. They need somebody to care, and to make them, you know, do a song and dance or whatever before they eat is just not dignified.”
Jamaica: Kingston mayor joins first pride celebration
Angela Brown-Burke, mayor of the capital city of Kingston and a member of the Jamaican senate, participated in opening ceremonies for city’s first-ever LGBT pride celebration last weekend, telling the Washington Blade, ““I come from the point of view that I, as mayor, have a responsibility to all the individuals of Kingston.” Homosexual conduct is still illegal in Jamaica, and, as we have reported, conservative religious figures from the U.S. have lobbied against efforts to do away with the colonial-era sodomy law. Notes the Blade’s Michael Lavers:
Liberty Counsel Chair Mat Staver and Piero Tozzi of the Alliance Defending Freedom are among the anti-LGBT advocates from the U.S. who have traveled to the country in recent years and attended events organized by groups that oppose efforts to repeal its colonial-era sodomy law. Berry and Larson’s trip sparked protests in Kingston that local religious groups and other anti-LGBT organizations organized.
The celebration continued throughout the week in what the Associated Press’s David McFadden called “a weeklong event that was previously almost unthinkable in a Caribbean country long described as the one of the globe’s most hostile places to homosexuality.”
Jamaican gay rights activists said Tuesday the peaceful events are a clear sign that tolerance for LGBT people is expanding on the island even though stigma is common and longstanding laws criminalizing gay sex between men remain on the books.
“I think we will look back on this and see it as a turning point because many persons thought that it would never actually happen,” said Latoya Nugent of the Jamaica Forum of Lesbians, All-Sexuals and Gays, or J-FLAG, the rights group that organized the event…
“Yes, there’s still ridicule on the streets and some people look at you and laugh, but it’s not as violent as it was and we will insist on living our lives. There is a certain change going on,” 26-year-old Nas Chin told The Associated Press after dancing at a secure pride event.
Many Jamaicans consider homosexuality to be a perversion from abroad and a newspaper-commissioned poll has suggested there is overwhelming resistance to repealing anti-sodomy laws. In late August, a young Jamaican gay rights activist who brought an unprecedented legal challenge to the anti-sodomy law withdrew his claim after growing fearful about possible violent reprisals.
But Human Rights Watch has noted that there’s been a “groundswell of change” in the way Jamaica is responding to human rights abuses against LGBT people.
In recent days, Kingston’s mayor and the island’s justice minister have even publicly supported the weeklong pride activities, a major change in a nation where politicians once routinely railed against homosexuals and former Prime Minister Bruce Golding vowed in 2008 to never allow gays in his Cabinet.
Philippines: Couples challenge same-sex marriage ban supported by Church and state
Two same-sex couples applied for marriage licenses and were turned down by the government. According to Ross Semple at Pink News:
The right to marry is not the only issue LGBT Filipinos face. There are no anti-discrimination laws covering hate speech, and lesbian couples cannot access IVF services. This is largely due to the influence of the Catholic Church on legislation.
The Philippines is the only country in the world where divorce is not permitted, and abortion is illegal.
According to an AFP report published in Singapore’s Straits Times, “Government officials have previously said no same-sex unions will be recognised unless a law is passed for the purpose, adding that it would likely be blocked by legislators allied with the Catholic church.” The story reports that 80 percent of Philippines’ population is Catholic.
In a column for Outrage, Patrick King Pascual takes soon-to-depart President Noynoy Aquino to task for having neglected to take action on behalf of LGBT people.
Uganda: Pride, but no parade; the difficult plight of asylum-seekers
Uganda’s week-long LGBT pride celebration kicked off on Wednesday amid safety concerns. The Guardian’s Maeve Shearlaw reported on Wednesday:
Uganda’s annual Pride festival begins in Kampala today, with organisers promising a week-long celebration for the country’s LGTB community. But rather than a triumphant parade through the city centre, in Uganda Pride will be marked at secret locations away from the public eye.
“It’s not a protest but a celebration,” says organiser Richard Lusimbo of the fourth annual Uganda Pride, which includes film screenings, a cocktail party, a (discreet) parade and a Mr and Ms Pride contest.
Because of security fears in a country where homosexuality remans illegal and homophobia is widespread, the events are by invitation only. Locations have been kept secret, with details circulated on private online networks.
Lusimba admits that Uganda has “a long way to come” before all sexualities are accepted, and says that as a public face of the event he does have concerns about his safety. “Sometimes I check behind my shoulders, but I can’t run for the rest of my life. I need to live it like a normal Ugandan,” he says.
Last year’s Pride coincided with the overturning of a draconian anti-gay law, which made some same-sex acts punishable by death. But homosexuals still face lengthy jail terms if convicted under colonial-era laws.
The Commonwealth Foundation published a long article by Isaac Otidi Amuke on the plight of Ugandan LGBTI refugees and asylum-seekers in Kenya and their struggles with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. A snippet from one of the stories he tells:
Then, in tears, Christopher tells me a part of his story which he says he hasn’t used in his asylum seeking application because it may not be politically correct or sexy enough to have him granted refugee status. This is that his mother was a Muslim when she married his Christian father, and eventually converted to Christianity. Years later, when his family got to know that Christopher was gay, the whole blame was placed squarely on his mother, who was told her son’s supposedly deviant sexual orientation was punishment for her abandoning Islam. The resulting friction strained his parent’s marriage so much, he says, that they eventually parted ways.
Arab countries and emigres: youth on challenges of being LGBT
Last week International Political Forum published a piece profiling four gay Arab youth talking about the challenges of life in several Arab countries, including Libya, Oman, Palestine, and Saudi Arabia. One of them, Nuwas, has studied the Qur’an and describes his take on religion as “neo-Islam”:
“In Oman, we have bars and clubs where alcohol is sold. Alcohol is explicitly mentioned in the Qur’an. We’re fine with people getting drunk, but being gay is frowned upon.
“My atheist and agnostic friends are like ‘Come on, you’re not really Muslim’ and the Muslims are always preaching. So both sides are pulling me in situations I don’t want to be in. I’m happy where I am.”
Vancouver’s Vancity Buzz invited LGBT readers so submit coming out stories; one they published is from 27-year old Hasan Abood, born in Iraq to Muslim Iraqi parents. Abood writes about his father asking him to move out of the family house after he came out to him, trying to “change” his sexuality by becoming a devout Muslim, and eventually finding peace with himself and God:
I went through a religious phase. I became so devout to Shia Islam. I started going to the Huseneya [Shia Mosque] and I became very devout. I thought that if I became religious, I’d change and I’d become straight. Then, I realized that I have been going to the mosque, yet I have not changed. So, I left God altogether and realized that God really hated me and I was not proud to be Muslim.
Then, I started to accept myself slowly. I started to hang out with some of my gay friends. I started going to clubs and meeting gay guys. And then, I met my Tarn. My heart just told me he’s the one…
I realize, in the end, that God is so great and accepting despite what others say. I know God created me this way and He loves me just the way I am.
I found the balance between religion and my sexuality, and I am still a proud Muslim and yet I’m gay. I may not be a practising Muslim, but I inherit all the beautiful things that my religion taught me and the most important thing that sadly many radicals seem to overlook is love and through love is what I will live.
Spain: Bishop refuses to allow trans godparent, then relents
Bishop Rafael Zornoza Boy refused to allow a Alex Salinas transgender man to serve as a nephew’s godparent, then reportedly relented in the face of public criticism. The bishop had said the Church required baptismal sponsors to be living in accordance with Church teachings. According to Pink News:
However following an intense backlash on social media, including a Change.org petition, Bishop Zornoza has changed his mind.
“I am very happy because of what this means for me, but above all, because what is good for me is good for other transsexuals who are Catholic and want to be part of the Church,” Salinas said.
United Kingdom: MP says anti-extremism laws threaten Christian teaching
A Conservative Member of Parliament, Mark Spencer, is complaining that a law aimed at radical Islamic clerics who promote extremism and encourage children to become terrorists is, in a misguided notion of fairness, being applied to Christian churches that teach traditional views about sexuality and marriage.
Australia: Marriage equality bill may be moving
The long-stalled effort to move marriage equality legislation appears to be moving forward, with reports that a bill will be put before parliament on Tuesday. The bill’s supporters come from ruling and opposition parties. As has long been the case, Prime Minister Tony Abbott is the sticking point; as we have reported, his opposition has been backed by the country’s Catholic bishops.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott — a former trainee Jesuit priest who in 2010 said he felt “a bit threatened” by homosexuality — in June declined to allot parliamentary time to debate the issue. He’s refused to grant his party’s lawmakers a free vote on the issue, a decision which could make it impossible to pass any bill without government support.
“The Liberal Party loses nothing, gains much by accepting this is an issue of conscience for its elected reps,” Abbott’s sister, Christine Forster, wrote on her Twitter Inc. account Thursday. Forster is a lesbian and a Liberal Party councilor, and had a portrait painted with her partner last year, in which she’s holding a sign reading, “Marry me???”
Separately, Australian Human Rights Commissioner Tim Wilson proposed in a commentary in the Australian newspaper on Saturday to separate the legal definitions of civil and religious marriage. Religious marriage would only be permitted in line with a faith’s teachings, he said. Butler told the paper that such a compromise might not be workable and risks creating two classes of marriage.
Israel: Student stabbed at pride parade dies; member of Knesset comes out
A 16-year old high school student who was stabbed by an ultra-Orthodox Jewish man during the Jerusalem pride parade, an attack we wrote about last week, has died from her injuries. According to the Jerusalem Post, “The family called for ‘a little less hate and a lot more love,’ and announced that it had decided to donate her organs in order to save the lives of others.”
Also, in the wake of the attacks, a member of the Knesset came out in a Hebrew-language newspaper. Itzik Shmuli, a member of the Zionist Union Party, wrote:
“We cannot be silent any longer,” Shmuli wrote. “We cannot be silent any longer because the knife is raised on the entire LGBT community — my community — and it won’t stop there.”
“This is the time to fight the great darkness,” he concluded.
Northern Ireland: Push for marriage equality at Belfast Pride
Last weekend, Belfast Pride saw big crowds take to the streets, with a focus on winning marriage equality. Northern Ireland is the last country in the United Kingdom that does not allow same-sex couples to marry.
However, anti-gay Christian protesters also turned out in force, protesting outside the City Hall with their own banners, with some claiming that marriage between same-sex partners is “unholy” and others comparing the LGBT community to “whoremongers” and “adulterers”.
Although that did little to dampen the festival goers spirits – with a spokesperson from Belfast’s city hall announcing it will be lit up “like a rainbow” tonight in honour of Pride Day.
Vietnam: US diplomat joins pride celebration
Vietnamese Pride was celebrated last weekend in Hanoi. US Ambassador Ted Osius and his husband joined the festivities, which ended with a bike ride.
Russia: Anti-gay leaders target Facebook, Nike with ‘propaganda’ law
Also being targeted by an anti-gay politician, Nike’s “Be True” collection.
Nepal: First third-gender passport issued
The country’s first third gender passport has been issued, a move first announced in January.