There are reportedly a record number of openly lesbian, gay, and bisexual athletes competing in this year’s Olympics, which the Washington Blade’s Michael Lavers wrote are getting under way “against the backdrop of rampant anti-LGBT violence.” According to news reports, out lesbian soccer players have endured homophobic taunts during matches at the Rio Olympics, although USA Today reported that “there were signs of acceptance during the opening ceremony.” At Outsports, Tony Scupham-Bilton estimates that “more than 250 LGBT Olympians have made their mark in sport” since 1928.
The shortlist for the UK’s sixth annual Polari First Book Prize, which is awarded to a writer “whose first book explores the LGBT experience, whether in poetry, prose, fiction or non-fiction,” has been released.
Catholic Church: Pope Francis decries ‘ideological colonization’ on gender
LGBT hopes for the who-am-I-to-judge Pope Francis sank a bit this week when the Vatican released the transcript of a meeting between the pope and bishops in Poland last week, in which Francis used harsh language to decry what anti-LGBT conservatives call “gender ideology.” From the transcript:
I would like to conclude with this aspect, since behind all this there are ideologies. In Europe, America, Latin America, Africa, and in some countries of Asia, there are genuine forms of ideological colonization taking place. And one of these – I will call it clearly by its name – is [the ideology of] “gender”. Today children – children! – are taught in school that everyone can choose his or her sex. Why are they teaching this? Because the books are provided by the persons and institutions that give you money. These forms of ideological colonization are also supported by influential countries. And this terrible!
In a conversation with Pope Benedict, who is in good health and very perceptive, he said to me: “Holiness, this is the age of sin against God the Creator”. He is very perceptive. God created man and woman; God created the world in a certain way… and we are doing the exact opposite. God gave us things in a “raw” state, so that we could shape a culture; and then with this culture, we are shaping things that bring us back to the “raw” state! Pope Benedict’s observation should make us think. “This is the age of sin against God the Creator”. That will help us.
The New York Times Mike McPhate noted in a story on the pope’s remarks that Francis had used similar language in a trip to the Philippines last year, warning of “the new ideological colonization that tries to destroy the family.”
Indonesia: Islamist activists ask Constitutional Court to criminalize homosexuality
As we have been reporting, religious and political figures have been engaged in a rhetorical campaign of homophobia since early this year. Now, Ali Kotarumalos reports for Associated Press that “Indonesia’s Constitutional Court is considering whether to make gay sex a crime after accepting a judicial review petition from Islamic activists.” As the story notes, “Indonesia’s image for tolerance and moderation has been tested this year by a campaign of denigration against LGBT people involving conservative politicians, mainstream Muslim groups, professional associations and media organizations.”
More from the story:
A group calling itself the Family Love Alliance says an existing law that criminalizes sex between adults and minors of the same gender, and which mandates prison sentences of up to 15 years, should be amended to also apply to sexual acts between adults of the same gender.
Rita Hendrawaty, chairwoman of the group, said Wednesday it was not trying to criminalize lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
“The real reason is so that we have much clearer norms,” she said. “We are not intending to criminalize those who have a deviant sexual orientation. That is not the point. They can be free to live but not show their lifestyle.”
…Homosexuality is not illegal in Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim nation, but LGBT people can face stigma and discrimination. Criminalizing sexual activity between consenting adults would be a major backward step for human rights in the country.
Experts presented by the anti-LGBT group at a hearing on Tuesday testified that homosexuality was inherently immoral and went against Indonesia’s state ideology. Later this month, groups and individuals opposed to criminalizing gay sex will testify.
Egypt: Grand Mufti says no one has right to hurt homosexuals
The Washington Post’s Melissa Etehad reports on July comments by Egypt’s grand mufti Shawki Allam in which “he condemned the Orlando massacre in which 49 people were killed and that no one had ‘the right to hurt homosexuals or to take the law into their own hands.’”
Allam’s comments, which were part of a discussion about moderate Islam, are a historic milestone for Egypt’s religious institution. Along with the grand imam of al-Azhar mosque, the grand mufti of Egypt holds one of the highest positions on religious authority and plays an important role in determining opinions on religious law.
Allam noted that other religious communities in Egypt, such as the Coptic Church, have also condemned homosexuality but say gays and lesbians should be treated fairly.
The interview comes amid a crackdown on Egypt’s gay community, which has led many people to hide their identity because of fear of being arrested or harmed…
“Egyptian authorities routinely subject allegedly gay men arrested for ‘debauchery’ or ‘insulting public morals’ to forced anal exams, which amount to torture,” the Human Rights Watch 2016 world report said…
Allam, who took the position of grand mufti in 2013, is widely known for his moderate views, and his comments on homosexuality come in stark contrast with other religious authorities in Egypt.
Imam Sheikh Ahmad Al-Tayyeb, who leads the al-Azhar mosque in Cairo, said during a local television interview in June, that “no Muslim society could ever consider sexual liberty, homosexuality to be a personal right. Muslim societies consider these to be a disease that has to be fought and treated,” according to the Middle East Media Research Institute, which posted a video of the interview online.
According to the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, over the past few years, police have been monitoring websites and social media used by the LGBT community in Egypt, including Grindr, a gay dating application, and have set up fake accounts to entrap individuals.
India: Activists slam trans legislation; film board censors gay-themed movie for insulting Hinduism
Activists said that a transgender rights bill proposed by social justice minister Thaawarchand Gehlot “diluted several key provisions of previous versions of the bill, while injecting harmful new language that could undermine protections extended for transpersons in India.” More from the Hindustan Times:
Activists and lawyers complained the bill encouraged corruption, was full of provisions open to abuse and directly opposed the spirit of a 2014 Supreme Court verdict that recognized the third gender and called for a raft of rights and measures for transpersons.
“It is difficult to be calm and hopeful reading the bill. It stinks of callousness and ignorance,” said activist Vyjayanti Vasanta Mogli.
“By the looks of it, the transgender community and allies may have to gear up for a long struggle.”
In other news, the Central Board of Film Certification “has refused to certify for public exhibition” a film about the lives of two gay men and a woman in Kerala. More from The News Minute:
The board has stated that the film is “ridiculing, insulting and humiliating Hindu religion, in particular portraying Hindu Gods in poor light”.
Prathibha A, the regional officer of the Censor Board, in a letter, wrote, “Derogatory words are against women. The Hindu God ‘Hanuman’ is shown as coming in the Books titled ‘I am a Gay’ and other homo-sexual books. The film has also references to lady masturbating, highlighting ‘Gay’ by many ‘Gay’ posters. The film offends women’s sensibilities by vulgarity, obscenity, or depravity.”
Filmmaker Jayan Cherian denies that the movie shows the Hindu god Hanuman in a bad light:
Stating that the makers are planning to move the court against the Board’s decision, he said, “CBFC treats being “Gay” as being ‘criminal’, the film is a same-sex love story, of course, there are several gay characters in it… We believe that we have a right to make our films according to our artistic convictions, and we are not ready to take any editorial advice from the state… It is unfortunate that CBFC is being used as a tool to propagate homophobia and sexual bigotry.”
In an interview to The News Minute earlier this month, Jayan spoke about the hassles he was facing to get his film released in India and blamed the Censor Board for being “feudal, homophobic and very much misogynist”.
Uganda: Police arrest pride participants; parade cancelled under mob threat from govt official
Organizers cancelled Saturday’s pride parade “after a tense meeting between a senior government official and one of Uganda’s top human rights lawyers,” reports BuzzFeed’s Lester Feder. The government’s Ethics Minister Simon Lokodo reportedly threatened to mobilize a mob if the event went forward. Earlier in the week police raided a gay pride event taking place at a club. From Human Rights Watch:
The police locked the gates of the club, arrested more than 16 people – the majority of whom are Ugandan LGBT rights activists – and detained hundreds more for over 90 minutes, beating and humiliating people; taking pictures of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) Ugandans and threatening to publish them; and confiscating cameras. Witnesses reported that the police assaulted many participants, in particular transgender women and men, in some cases groping and fondling them. One person jumped from a sixth-floor window to avoid police abuse and is in a hospital in critical condition.
“Lokodo reportedly told the activists that Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni had instructed Lokodo to shut down Pride,” according to the Advocate’s Sarah Prager. “The government official then compared the activists to terrorists and promised to arrest anyone who attempted to assemble for Saturday’s event.”
Australia: Some equality activists resigned to marriage plebiscite, others continue fight
The head of Australian Marriage Equality quit his job in order to lobby parliamentarians to block legislation that would allow a plebiscite on marriage equality to take place. LGBT rights advocates have opposed a plebiscite as expensive, unnecessary, and sure to fill the country’s airwaves with divisive rhetoric, but some other activists have resigned themselves to the ruling government’s insistence on holding a plebiscite before any parliamentary vote has been taken and have started preparing for campaign. Earlier this year, the Australian Christian Lobby called for a suspension of the country’s anti-discrimination laws “to ensure the ‘no’ camp can speak freely” during the campaign.
Middle East: “Oriented” film examines life of gay Palestinians
At Good, Yasha Wallin interviews Khader Abu Seir, the protagonist of the film “Oriented,” which examines the lives of gay Arabs in the Middle East. Wallin describes the movie this way:
As the Israeli-Gaza conflict escalates in 2014, viewers follow Khader and his friends Fadi Daeem and Naeem Jiryes, all Palestinian, through the daily complexities in their world; waiting out incessant air raids, navigating family dynamics, and the moral implications of dating Jewish men.
And while Khader and his friends are free in many ways, they are also bound: bound by living as a Palestinian in Israel; being gay within sometimes conservative Arab communities; and bound by being labeled something they are not simply because of their religion, ethnicity, and sexual orientation.
Khader is Muslim, his boyfriend is Jewish, and his two friends who are also featured followed in the movie are Palestinian Christians, but the movie does not focus on religion. “We are human,” says Khader, “We are not religious people. But for me, it’s super-important for me to say I’m Muslim because I want to show the world, the sheiks, the Muslim fanatics, that we have LGBTs and gays inside our community, to understand that we are here and we are not afraid.”
Some excerpts from the interview:
[Oriented] is the first time you can watch a movie that three gay Arabs are the heroes and not the victims. Usually it’s their family trying to kill them, they’re running away, etc. This is the first time you can see open-minded, really educated people that speak at least three languages, Arab gay guys who are actually not so far from the Western [way of] life and can talk at the same eye level as Western people…
I identify with almost 80 percent of the Arab world because there is at least 20 percent that I cannot even relate to. I’m talking about fanatic Islam and I’m talking about Muslims that are homophobic. But 80 percent of the Arab world today are fighting the same fight that Europe and America are fighting, the common people who just want to live in peace. I can relate to that totally.
What would it mean for you if there was a recognized Palestinian state?
We don’t really know. I can say for sure just one thing: that would make my life so much easier or maybe so much harder. But I would have just one cause to fight, over my sexual and personal identity. But because I’m living under the occupation, because I’m living in Israel, I need to talk about two things: the fight of being proud saying that I’m Palestinian without judgment, without racism or without people thinking that I’m going to kill them. The second thing is the fight over my sexual identity in front of my community. I’m not sure that I’m going to see it in our generation, but maybe in the future…
I think that everybody has their own fight. I was so sad when I saw what happened in Orlando because the guy who did it was a Muslim and said he was in ISIS. I started to see a lot of articles and Facebook statuses about Islam—we need to bomb them, destroy them all—coming from within the LGBT society. That was so sad because we are Muslims and we are part of the LGBT community and you are calling for killing all of us. For sure, somebody needs to destroy ISIS. I’m into that. I want that to happen but you cannot blame all of us. We should fight them together.
We need to start from the understanding that ISIS are not representing all of Islam. We will not participate in this game of Donald Trump, ISIS and I don’t know who. We shouldn’t all go right wing and hate each other. I will not hate Christians. I will not hate Americans. I will not hate English people because they are not from the European Union anymore and going right. Our generation really wants peace. I think that the first step is to say no to this whole system, to the government, to the people who are trying to separate us by our ethnicities, colors, and I don’t know what.
Turkey: Gay Syrian refugee murdered
Cagil Kasapoglu of the BBC Turkish Service says hate crimes against LGBT individuals in Turkey mostly go unreported.
According to kaosgl, there has been a rise in human rights violations based on sexual orientation in recent years.
Under the heading “hate crimes” the organisation recorded five murders, 32 attacks and three suicides in Turkey last year.
It believes the number of such murders over the past six years is more than 50.
Syrian gay refugees in Turkey suffer even more, as their legal status is precarious – they are usually undocumented and most are reluctant to report assaults to police, our reporter says.
The Turkish authorities cited “safeguarding security and public order” as the reason for banning Gay Pride in Istanbul this year. The parade was also banned last year.
Assaults on LGBT people in Turkey have mostly been blamed on ultra-conservative Muslims and an ultra-nationalist youth group, the Alperen Hearths.
Iraq: Queer Iraqi exile activist profiled
The Washington Post recently profiled Amir Ashour, a queer Iraqi man now living in Sweden, who founded IraQueer, “a support network and digital resource on queer issues available in Arabic, Kurdish and English.”
“There are no spaces for our community in Iraq,” he says. Until 2006, a few gay-friendly cafes or the occasional party was organized by underground groups for the LGBTQ community, he says, “but armed militias and government-affiliated groups have been actively targeting those places especially in the last few years.” Over the weekend, for example, an independent Syrian news agency reported that Islamic State fighters threw an Iraqi man off a building in Kirkuk, after he was accused of being gay.
It’s hard to tell when exactly the gay community is being targeted, but it’s certainly been ensnared in recent violence. A report from the International Lesbian and Gay Human Rights Commission (ILGHRC) and MADRE found that Shiite militias were acting under the Iraqi government in persecuting the LGBTQ community. Ashour says the militias “have more space to cover up their activities” under the guise of fighting the Islamic State alongside the Iraqi government, “which is why we haven’t heard much about killing campaigns against LGBTQ+ people.”
Scotland: Gay and Lesbian politicians back call for anti-bullying curricula in all schools
“A group of high-profile gay and lesbian Scottish politicians have stepped forward to back calls for LGBTI issues to be taught in all schools in order to tackle discrimination, bullying and homophobia,” reports Hannah Rodger at the Herald Scotland.
The campaign for LGBTI education in Scottish schools – by the lobby group Time for Inclusive Education (TIE) – has sparked a mini culture war in Scotland which has played out in the pages of the Sunday Herald over recent weeks, with some religious figures vociferously opposed to the move…
The SNP [Scottish National Party] MP Mhairi Black said she never had to come out as her peers were already aware of her sexuality from a young age. However, other pupils in her Catholic secondary were bullied for their sexuality.
“People knew what I was like and they were too feart to ask me as they knew I’d go through them.
“I went to a Catholic school, it was quite intense – very much ‘We don’t think you’re wrong, just what you do is wrong”.
“I was lucky I had a supportive family and a brass neck, but for people who didn’t have that it was very different. Other people in my class who were openly gay had a horrendous time. It was constant, incessant bullying every day of their lives.”
She compared LGBTI education to education about racism and sexism, adding: “[People who say it is] indoctrination…that’s a lot of rubbish. Would it be indoctrination to tell kids that it’s not okay to call somebody a ‘Paki’? No. Homophobia needs to be in the same category. We’ve come on leaps and bounds but we’re still not there yet.”
Austria: Survey says society not ready for gay couples as parents
A survey found that two-thirds of Austrians “do not think society is ready to see gay couples raising children,” writes Beata Stur in New Europe. It also notes, “According to gay rights organisation Rechtskomitee Lambda, Austria is the only country in the world which has granted full adoption rights for same-sex couples but not allowed the parents of these children to marry.”
Northern Ireland: Pride activists push for marriage equality; DUP not budging
Marches at Belfast’s pride parade chanted calls for marriage equality, reports Pink News:
Northern Ireland remains the only part of the UK where it is not legal for same-sex couples to marry.
The Northern Irish Assembly backed equal marriage by a vote of 53 to 51 last year – but the DUP [Democratic Unionist Party] used peace process powers to override the democratic process and block equality for a fifth time.
China: Survey shows generation gap on LGBT issues, some rise in media coverage
A survey on attitudes toward sexual orientation and gender identity and expression carried out by the UN Development Program found a generation gap on the issues as well as growing media coverage in China, where only 15 % of LGB people are out to friends and family and only 5% publicly. Variety reports:
“The younger the respondent the higher the proportion of those opposed to the pathological view of homosexuality, stereotype-based prejudices, gender binary ideas, and even HIV-related stigma” says the report in its introduction.
The report does not focus specifically on connections between LGBT people, discrimination and the media. But it says Chinese media could do more to portray a positive image.
“The majority of (Chinese) people do not hold negative or stereotypical views of sexual and gender minorities. They simply do not know,” said Agi Veres, UNDP Country Director for China, as part of the report. “Education and evidence-based information, including more realistic portrayal of sexual diversity in the media have a pivotal role to play going forward…
The more progressive approach towards LGBT issues on the part of Chinese officialdom stands in contrast to a succession of recent illiberal measures in regulation of the media and entertainment sectors. These have included crimps on imported content and the banning of original news reporting by non-state online media…
Chinese literature documents centuries of gay men. But homosexuality was stigmatized after the Communist revolution in 1949, largely because it was associated with western decadence.
Japan: Business community ‘tiptoes’ into LGBT issues
The Japan Times reported on July 28 that the country’s business community is “increasingly showing support” for LGBT people, as are some local governments.