OutRight Action International’s Rashima Kwatra reviews the record of human rights work by Vitit Muntarbhorn, who has been tapped to fill a historic role created by the UN Human Rights Council this summer over the strong objections of anti-gay countries, an Independent Expert position designed to investigate discrimination and violence against LGBT people. Kwatra writes that Vitit Muntarbhorn’s new assignment could “solidify his place in LGBTIQ history.”
Julie Moreau, a post-doctoral research fellow in Women’s Gender and Sexuality Studies at Washington University in St. Louis, writes about dispelling the “myth of ‘African Homophobia.’” She reports on research conducted in Africa in eight languages and released by the Other Foundation. The results, Moreau writes, challenge “stereotypes of Africans’ feelings toward LGBTQ people.” The report examines problems that arise from international organizations assuming “a model of social change based on European and North American histories, cultures and styles of government.”
Indonesia: More on ‘bleak time’ facing LGBT community
The Australian Broadcasting Company reported on the “bleak time” facing Indonesia’s LGBT community, which has been under rhetorical assault from religious and political leaders, and could be on the verge of being criminalized if the Constitutional Court does what Islamist groups are asking. Some conservative areas already criminalize “immoral” behavior.
In addition, reports BuzzFeed, “Grindr, Hornet, and a total of more than 80 other apps and websites with LGBT content face a ban in Indonesia, the world’s fourth most populous country, following a closed-door interagency summit held Wednesday at the country’s Ministry of Communications.” He reports, “The panel included representatives from the Ministry of Human Development, the National Police, and the Ministry of Religious Affairs, which was represented by a member of the country’s Muslim clerics association.” Critics worry this could be the start of broader government bans on internet content and activity:
Indonesia is 90% Muslim, and the call to reign in LGBT content online has been enthusiastically endorsed by the country’s largest religious organizations, which have increasingly warned that the internet is bringing toxic influences from abroad.
Said Aqil Siradj, chairman of the Nahdlatul Ulama, the world’s largest Muslim organization claiming 91 million members, described the internet as an “oppression against Islam” during a speech delivered in August.
“All news and information is dominated by Westerners, by outsiders — they intentionally aim to influence our mind, our way of thinking,” he said, so that “our next generation might not recognize anymore” fundamental aspects of their faith “because their thought have been shaped by Facebook, Twitter, social media, YouTube.”
Siradj told BuzzFeed that the group is also fighting the use of the Internet by radical extremists like ISIS.
Hornet CEO SeanHowell asked, “How many other Islamic states will follow this?” Rather than being a “tool of freedom,” he said, the internet “is becoming a tool of dictator states.”
South Africa: Government Bans Extremist Anti-Gay US Pastor
Minister of Home Affairs Malusi Gigaba announced that Steven Anderson, a rabidly anti-gay US pastor, would be denied entry into South Africa. Anderson has drawn attention to his Arizona-based Faithful Word Baptist Church with online videos of his extremist positions, including one in which he celebrated the June massacre at an Orlando gay bar.
Mamba Online says the decision “follows a determined campaign by LGBT activists, led primarily by GaySA Radio, to stop the preacher, who calls for the execution of gay people, from spreading his shocking views in the country.” More details:
“We have a duty to prevent harm and hatred in all forms against LGBTI, as any other person in a democratic state,” said Gigaba, including, he explained, needing to “prohibit foreigners who are likely to promote hate speech”.
Gigaba revealed that not only had he declared Anderson an “undesirable person” under the Immigration Act (as someone who advocates “social violence”), but that he had also withdrawn his visa waiver status, granted to US citizens.
“South Africa does not need more hatred advocated to our people,” said Gigaba, confirming that if the pastor attempted to enter the country he would be detained and deported.
Hendrik Baird,GaySA Radio’s station manager, joined Gigaba at the press conference:
Baird thanked Minister Gigaba “for taking this matter seriously and for coming to the right decision that is in the best interests of South Africa,” and for making “an important statement here today”.
He added: “We vow to stay vigilant and to campaign against others who may want to follow in this group’s footsteps.”
Baird also addressed the South Africans who invited Anderson to the country in the first place: “Your hatred has not gone unnoticed, but it has been ineffective. You should hang your heads in shame today, and should take a long and hard look at yourselves and the way you try to make people other than yourself, less than human. We urge you to start a conversation, to put aside your fears and prejudice, and find the truth – we are all the same, no matter whom we love.”
The decision was praised by Matt Beard, executive director of All Out, who said:
We’ve seen how U.S. religious extremists have fueled violence and hate against LGBT people in other parts of Africa. It’s inspiring to see that the South African Government has made a stand for human rights and for the protection of their hate speech laws and constitution.
Anderson told Associated Press that he still plans to go forward with a trip to Botswana for a September 25 event.
Mexico: Religious groups intensify resistance to marriage equality; advocates defend secular state
Anti-marriage-equality forces, led by both Protestant and Catholic religious leaders, are planning a massive march in Mexico City next Saturday, September 24, building on rallies held earlier this month across the country. US anti-gay activist Brian Brown, who heads both the National Organization for Marriage and the World Congress of Families, announced this week that he will be heading to Mexico to lend his support. The National Organization for Marriage is also organizing an anti-marriage-equality rally on Friday September 23 at the Mexican embassy in Washington, D.C.
Despite the backlash against the president’s proposal to guarantee marriage equality in the country’s constitution, legislators with the Morena party announced plans to push legislation making marriage equality a reality nationwide. Pro-equality activists protested in the state legislature in Puebla.
At a press conference, a mother of a lesbian woman criticized the “wave of hatred” represented by the National Front for the Family’s anti-equality marches. She and other speakers called for a defense of Mexico’s secular government. In fact, BuzzFeed’s Lester Feder reports:
They are now putting a good deal of effort in trying to flip the debate into a referendum on the separation of church and state. Mexico has a long tradition of limiting the church’s involvement in politics — for much of Mexican history priests were not allowed to vote — and LGBT activists are trying to portray religious opposition to marriage equality as crossing a bright line.
On Monday, Equality Mexico filed a formal complaint against the Archdiocese of Mexico with the Ministry of the Interior, alleging that the church had violated constitutional limits on church political activity by directly opposing the marriage equality proposal. It followed this with a similar complaint against the Archdiocese of Tijuana, and complaints against other archdioceses are reportedly in the works.
Méndez, the group’s legal director, told BuzzFeed News he was prepared to take the matter to the Supreme Court if national authorities did not sanction the church for actions like directly opposing the president’s legislative proposal in church publications and “fomenting hate speech.”
A young boy who stood in front of an anti-marriage-equality march in Guanajuato became an icon for the Mexican equality movement when a photo went viral. The boy told a reporter that he had a gay uncle.
Russia: Government-Orthodox Church partnership expands power of both
In the New York Times, Andrew Higgins explores the Putin government’s aggressive support for the Russian Orthodox Church as a means to extend the power of both Russia and the church around the globe. An excerpt:
While tanks and artillery have been Russia’s weapons of choice to project its power into neighboring Ukraine and Georgia, Mr. Putin has also mobilized faith to expand the country’s reach and influence. A fervent foe of homosexuality and any attempt to put individual rights above those of family, community or nation, the Russian Orthodox Church helps project Russia as the natural ally of all those who pine for a more secure, illiberal world free from the tradition-crushing rush of globalization, multiculturalism and women’s and gay rights…
Moscow’s quest to gain control of churches and graves dating from czarist times and squeeze out believers who look to the Constantinople patriarch is part of a broader push by the Kremlin to assert itself as both the legitimate heir to and master of “Holy Russia,” and as a champion of traditional values against the decadent heresies, notably liberal democracy, promoted by the United States and what they frequently call “Gayropa.”
“The church has become an instrument of the Russian state. It is used to extend and legitimize the interests of the Kremlin,” said Sergei Chapnin, who is the former editor of the official journal of the Moscow Patriarchate, the seat of the Russian Orthodox Church and affiliated churches outside Russia.
QueerFest, celebrated annual in St. Petersburg since 2009, is under way. “To fight against homophobia, biphobia, transphobia and xenophobia in general, festival chooses a language understandable to everyone – the language of culture, art and beauty,” says the group. It includes cultural events and public discussions of human rights.
Anglican Communion: Retiring Archbishop calls sex in committed gay relationship perfectly proper
Archbishop of Wales Dr. Barry Morgan, who is the longest serving primate in the Anglican Communion and will be stepping down in early 2017, “used his final address to the governing body of the Church in Wales, ahead of his retirement, to urge members to rethink traditional beliefs about same-sex relationships as being sinful,” reports The Telegraph’s John Bingham:
Christians who support same-sex marriage are not “abandoning the Bible” the Archbishop of Wales has insisted, as he told leading Anglicans that sex in a committed gay or lesbian relationship is perfectly “proper.”
… Even Biblical texts often cited as condemning homosexuality, such as the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah with fire and brimstone, could be “interpreted in more than one way,” he said.
Ireland: Conservative Catholic publisher launches new conservative advocacy group
Anthony Murphy, the conservative Catholic publisher of “Catholic Voice,” is creating a new group, “Lumen Fidei Institute, “with the intention of furthering orthodox Catholic teachings in both Irish politics and the Church.” Murphy had previously stirred controversy by pressuring a married lesbian couple to drop out of the choir and resign their positions as Eucharistic ministers in their County Kildare parish church. Many parishioners reportedly ostracized Murphy, while conservative Catholics have rallied around him. More from The Times:
“The church was always involved in politics. Lay people were always called to political action. If the bishops of Ireland are too timid to do that, then the lay people must come together to stand with Christ,” he said.
Right-wing Catholic groups around the world have been posting updates on Mr Murphy’s campaign on social media and congratulating him on his stance against the couple who were married in July…
He said that the new group would likely launch in a Dublin city centre hotel and would have high profile patrons. It would lobby for orthodox Catholic teaching within the church and in politics and would run a daily blog, he added.
“We certainly have some high profile patrons and it’s important to state that our group will not act in opposition to the church, but in obedience to the bishops and the magisterium of the church,” he said.
Catholic Voice describes itself as Europe’s latest and fastest growing Catholic newspaper. Its stated mission is to “serve the Church in complete fidelity to the Holy See through our writing and publishing”.
Philippines: Boxer apologizes for comparing gays to animals, maintains ‘biblical beliefs’ on sexuality
Manny Pacqquiao, the Filipino boxer who has drawn international criticism for anti-gay comments, “admits he was wrong to compare gay people to animals, but stands by his biblical beliefs concerning homosexuality,” according to an article in the Christian Post.
Hungary: Perpetrators of right-wing, anti-gay violence sentenced to prison
Fifteen members of a far-right group “The Arrows of the Hungarians” were convicted and sentenced to prison terms ranging from five to 13 years for acts of terrorism committed in 2007-2009 that included “Molotov-cocktail attacks against two gay venues a few days before the 2008 Budapest Pride March,” reports Háttér Society. Some additional historical context:
Pride marches have been taking place in Budapest since 1997 – peacefully until 2007. In that year extreme right wing protesters disrupted the march by throwing stones, vegetables and Molotov-cocktails at the participants, several of whom were injured after leaving the premises. In 2008, the Budapest Chief of Police tried to prevent the incidents by banning the march, but within 24 hours he revoked his own decision. After the Molotov-cocktail attacks against the gay venues, the violence continued at the march: even though over two thousand police officers were called out to protect the one-thousand marchers, dozens of them were injured. Four months later the Parliament adopted an amendment to the hate crime legislation, which until then only covered race, ethnicity, nationality and religion. Sporadic attacks against participants going to or leaving the Pride March continued until 2015. In 2016, nine years after the first attacks, the Budapest March was held once again peacefully with over 20,000 people participating.
Australia: Battle continues over marriage equality, potential plebiscite, and religious exemptions
Battling over a potential national plebiscite on marriage equality continues, with the attorney general announcing that voters would be asked “Should the law be changed to allow same sex couples to marry?” on February 11, 2017 if the Labor Party would agree to the enabling legislation. Some legislators are still fighting what they believe is an unnecessary expense and could lead to a divisive campaign that “opens up the gay and lesbian community to a summer of hate.”
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull accused opponents of the plebiscite of “preaching hatred” and using “extraordinary hateful expressions” against people opposed to same-sex marriage. His comments drew a rebuke from lesbian comedian Rebecca Shaw.
According to a report by Guardian Australia, the government is planning to include “extensive exemptions” to nondiscrimination laws in the event that the plebiscite endorses marriage equality. A government note said the amendments would “include appropriate protections for religious freedom and conscientious objections.”
Long-time marriage equality advocate Rodney Croome told Guardian Australia he was “deeply concerned” by the “undefined exemptions on the grounds of religion and to allow conscientious objection”.
“I believe ministers of religion should be free to marry who they want, but the government’s proposal could mean civil celebrants, marriage registrars and wedding service providers like bakers and florists are all free to discriminate.”
The Greek Orthodox Church of Australia is among those opposing marriage equality; a recent post on the marriage page of the church’s website explains why the author believes “saying ‘no’ to same-sex marriage is a way of showing love, not rejection.”
Hong Kong: Openly gay legislative council member re-elected
Ray Chan Chi-chuen celebrated his re-election to Hong Kong’s legislative council, saying it demonstrated that being openly gay or supporting LGBT equality is not “box office poison,” reports Fridae, even though Chan also spoke of facing some homophobic abuse while campaigning.
Tunisia: Feminist and LGBT advocate says police fail to protect her
Amina Sboui, a prominent campaigner for feminist and majority rights, reported this week that her home, which she shares with several LGBT people, had come under repeated attack from a group of men. Sbouit said the police response was lackadaisical:
Speaking to Tunisia Live, Sboui said, “Tunisian police are homophobic. They did not help me one single bit mentally, or physically. They are just homophobic. (there was) No support.” As Sboui was talking, she was accompanying her lawyer to the police station in an effort to secure some form of action against her alleged attackers.
Argentina: Progressive laws but worsening anti-LGBT violence?
From the Buenos Aires Herald:
Despite Argentina standing at the forefront of progressive legislation protecting LGBTI rights and its reputation as something of a “gay Mecca” for tourists in Latin America, there are worrying signs that the country may be taking backward steps in terms of violence, discrimination and acts of cruelty against LGBTI persons, activists and NGOs have told the Herald.
The article cites local activists as well as a recent report from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. Among the examples of discriminatory language in mass media cited in the article was “an offensive op-ed” written by archbishop of La Plata Héctor Aguer:
Aguer, writing in the La Plata newspaper El Día, wrote that “there is fornication ‘against nature,’ now endorsed by the iniquitous laws which have destroyed the natural reality of marriage and are based on the negation of the concept of nature and the notion of natural law,” going on to condemn homosexuality as “unnatural.”
China: Report examines gender and sexuality in China’s relationships in Global South
Ford Foundation program officer Susie Jolly has published an article entitled “Why gender and sexuality are central to China’s relationships with the Global South,” an outgrowth of a May workshop sponsored by Ford and the Center for Emerging Worlds at the University of California, Santa Cruz.