Samantha Power, US Ambassador to the United Nations, took 17 other UN ambassadors to see “Fun Home,” the Tony Award-winning play based on Alison Bechdel’s autobiographical novel about growing up as a lesbian with a closeted gay father. Power told Edith Lederer of Associated Press that the play dramatizes issues facing LGBT people “in a way that (U.N.) resolutions and statements never can.”
At the UN Women’s Conference in Asia, OutRight regional program corrdinator Grace Poore gave opening remarks. Some excerpts:
In my communication with lesbians, transwomen and transmen from the ASEAN region, I have learned that LBTI persons standing up for their rights are facing death threats, rape threats, family exclusion, forced marriage, forced pregnancies, criminalization, police intimidation, and widespread discrimination in many areas of their lives. Some of these activists are also targeted for attacks by religious extremists and their allies. Without a groundswell of support and pressure from within countries, as well as by the United Nations and countries that are more conducive for LGBTIQ communities, these violations will continue unchecked. Furthermore, in Asia, even in countries where there is progress towards LGBTIQ rights, this progress is uneven and concerns of lesbians, bisexual women, trans men and intersex persons generally tend to be less visible, often ignored, under-documented, and under-resourced.
Poore said that effective implementation of The Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women will require UN Women “to reframe its understanding and definition of gender and intentionally counter stereotyping and stigmatization of gender variant individuals and women who choose same sex partners. It means standing up to coordinated state and non-state pushback.”
As we all agree, ending violence against women is contingent on women being able to enjoy all the other rights – from the right to housing, to employment, equal protection under the law, freedom of expression, the right to consensual partnerships regardless of sexual orientation and gender, the right to bodily autonomy, and the right not to be criminalized.
I would like to see women’s movements and LBTI groups work together for a tipping point of culture when it no longer pays to continue bullying, humiliating, and violating women for not conforming.
Romania: Marriage Initiative Backed by Orthodox Church Tops 2 Million Signatures
The Coalition for Family has reportedly gathered more than 2 million signatures supporting an initiative to enshrine an exclusively man-woman definition of marriage in the country’s Constitution. The initiative was launched by Orthodox Metropolitan of Banat Ioan Selejan at the end of his Christmas mass, and Orthodox priests are among those who have been urging people to sign. Romania Insider reported in January:
The Romanian Patriarch Daniel said that the believers “must support the Church’s effort to protect the natural, traditional and universal family, and to resist in front of some new family models which consider that the natural woman-man union would be only a model among others,” reports Basilica.ro, the Romanian Patriarchy’s news service.
According to him, the family is in a fragile and difficult situation, as some think that the traditional family model is outdated.
“The number of those who treat marriage as a simple contract or partnership between two persons of different gender or the same gender keeps increasing nowadays. However, the social partnerships between people can’t be classed as traditional families and any attack on its traditional identity is an artificial innovation which can’t be called natural reality,” the Patriarch said.
He believes that the Christian family not only faces an economic crisis (poverty, unemployment, emigration, and so on), but also a moral crisis (libertinism, abortion, divorce, child abandonment, domestic violence, juvenile delinquency, human trafficking) and a spiritual one (sectarianism, fanaticism, and so on).
“When God made the world, the crown of His creation was the family: the man and the woman, who have received the blessing to grow, multiply, and possess the earth,” Patriarch Daniel added.
Egypt: Doctor Sentenced To Year In Jail As Part of Larger Political Targeting
At Human Rights First, Chrisopher Plummer writes that LGBT people are being used by the country’s military leadership “to signal that conservative Muslim values would be respected in the new regime.” And that has led to more frequent and public arrests even though Egypt “does not explicitly criminalize same-sex activity.” Last month a doctor was sentenced to a year in jail after someone reported him to “morality police.” More from Plummer:
A special section of Egyptian law enforcement monitors so-called “moral crimes” in the country. Typically targeting homosexual men and transgender people, this police unit increasingly monitors social media platforms to secure arrests. The doctor, whose name remains confidential, allegedly used the mobile messaging application WhatsApp to “practice immorality” and “debauchery.” Law enforcement have used Facebook, Twitter, and Grindr to target and entrap gay men, effectively taking away the ability of LGBT Egyptians to acknowledge their sexual orientation and gender identity in both the real and virtual world.
Indonesia: Pushback to Recent Anti-LGBT Efforts
We have been reporting for several weeks on the wave of anti-LGBT rhetoric and actions by government officials and Muslim religious leaders. A commentary by author Intan Paramaditha in the Jakarta Post last Saturday says the situation “reflects the fear of the dissolution of heteronormative values and national morality, which, since the Reform Era, have been embedded within a conservative interpretation of religion.” Paramaditha writes that opposition to the visibility of LGBT activism is grounded in the fear of a “movement” that induces memories of other political disturbances.
This week APCOM issued a call for people to stand up against “the recent unprecedented, sustained attacks against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals in Indonesia.”
“We are gravely concerned that growing anti-LGBT sentiment in Indonesia and elsewhere represents a significant threat to our quest for freedom and equality,” said Midnight Poonkasetwattana, APCOM Executive Director. “These words and actions unacceptably legitimise discrimination towards LGBT in society, and undermine Indonesia and other countries’ previously stated commitment to regional and global human rights and civil society empowerment protocols.” –
…“It is all the more ironic and shocking that Indonesia – where the ground-breaking Yogyakarta Principles were established in 2006 – should witness such dangerous and regressive homophobia and transphobia,” concluded Poonkasetwattana.
These landmark principles, under the guidance of the United Nations and human rights partners, responded to well-documented patterns of abuse, to outline a set of international principles relating to sexual orientation and gender identity. The Yogyakarta Principles are a universal guide to human rights which affirm binding international legal standards with which all States must comply. They promise a different future where all people born free and equal in dignity and rights can fulfil their precious birth right. APCOM and our partners urge the Government of Indonesia, which is a secular democracy, to heed these Principles and help lead the Asia-Pacific region to shape a future of safety, equality and freedom for one and all.
Also this week, the British Psychological Society denounced a reported proposal by the Indonesian Psychiatric Association to classify lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender sexual and gender identities as mental illnesses.
Australia: Muslims Against Homophobia Will March at Sydney Mardis Gras
Muslims Against Homophobia Australia will march in this year’s Gay and Lesbian Mardis Gras Parade in Sydney. The group was founded in 2011 by Alice Aslan to “promote the rights of LGBTI people as well as stand in solidarity with them.” More from Shannon Power at the Star Observer:
“There’s a lot of homophobia in the Muslim community that’s widespread and I wanted to challenge that,” Aslan said.
“I have many queer Muslim friends that can’t come out and I wanted to support them.”
Aslan, who comes from a Turkish cultural background, is also a board member of Muslims for Progressive Values and believes people need to speak up for the rights of persecuted groups such as LGBTI Muslims.
Africa: Open Letters, Literary Anthology, Regional Organizing
“Walking the Tightrope: Poetry and Prose by LGBTQ Writers from Africa” was published last month. The anthology includes works from 30 writers from 13 African countries, “including first and second generation Africans in the diaspora.” Among the reviews:
”The publication of Walking the Tightrope could not be more timely or relevant. It questions the wave of homophobic fervor currently sweeping across contemporary Africa, and the single code of heterosexuality hoisted on the flag of nationalism to score points on religious and moral superiority. Unequivocally, the voices assert, they are not a symbol of moral decadence, or a ‘choice’; rather, their sexuality, their gender is natural to their creation. These voices are pressing, vital, and cause for deep reflection.” –Omofolabo Ajayi Soyinka, Professor Emerita of Women’s Studies and Gender& Sexuality Studies
Sometime in the coming months, the national assembly of Seychelles will be asked to consider legislation decriminalizing homosexuality, reports the Seychelles News Agency. Homosexuality is criminalized under a law dating to British colonial rule over this island nation off the eastern coast of Africa in the western Indian ocean. The country gained its independence in 1976. According to the country’s 2010 census, the population is more than 75 percent Catholic, with various Protestant groups accounting for another 11 percent.
Davis Mac-Iyalla, a gay Nigerian Christian living in London, has published an open letter to Uganda’s anti-gay Anglican Archbishop Stanley Ntagali. An excerpt:
The church should be a sanctuary of love for everyone. But in Uganda, in Nigeria and throughout Africa, it has stoked the fires of persecution.
The heart of Jesus was open to everyone. He embraced sinners and tax collectors alike, and preached a message of inclusiveness. Where is your love?
I find it astounding you should claim to feel betrayed by the Anglican Communion. If anyone should feel betrayed it is LGBTI Anglicans in Africa, who have suffered a holocaust of violence and cruelty, incited by people such as you. You are like the Pharisees of the Gospels, following what you think is the letter of the law, while completely missing the fundamental message.
I am happy the South African Church is now accepting and welcoming everyone including us homosexuals. However, I will not rest until all of Africa, and the entire world has followed in their Christian footsteps, and shown love and acceptance to LGBTI people everywhere.
Human rights lawyer Walter Atoh has written an open letter to the president of Cameroon, Paul Biya, urging him to take action to repeal the provision of the country’s penal code that criminalizes homosexuality.
The Queer African Youth Network and partner organizations have published a report, “We Exist: Mapping LGBTQ Organizing in West Africa.” From the report:
Almost no work is being done to support LGBTQ people and MSM to reconcile their faith with their sexual orientations and gender identities. House of Rainbow in Nigeria is the only LGBTQ faith-based organization in the region. It works primarily in Anglophone countries but has plans to expand further in Africa, with additional focus on Francophone regions. There is no group or organization in the region that addresses the needs of LGBTQ and MSM Muslims.
Mambaonline.com published an interview this week with a lesbian couple whose marriage in December generated media coverage that led to both positive and negative responses, mostly positive. The couple incorporated a traditional custom of lobola – “a payment or gift from the groom’s family to the parents of the bride – into their betrothal.
“It’s not really about the exchange of gifts or money,” said one of the women. “it’s about two families coming together. It’s bringing together two ancestral clans… an introduction and way of communicating to the ancestors that there’s a new person in the family. It’s really a binding of the families.” She said that on the wedding day “we really felt that God was showing off because we had prayed for the day to go well and it went perfectly.”
Switzerland: Voters Narrowly Reject Constitutional Amendment on Marriage
Voters rejected by a very narrow margin a constitutional amendment that would have enshrined a man-woman definition of marriage into the country’s constitution under the guise of a measure on taxation. The initiative was backed by the Christian Democratic People’s Party. “This initiative was anti-LGBTI sentiment masquerading as tax reform,” said Joyce Hamilton, co-chair of ILGA-Europe’s Executive Board. “The Swiss public saw through the proposal and said they didn’t want to be part of it.” You can see more at the opposition campaign’s website.
Malta: Prime Minister Vows to Push For Marriage Equality
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat announced that he is favor of marriage equality and said his government would provide “strong leadership” to push it forward. The country has civil unions and progressive laws on gender. Pink News reports that Muscat is also moving to outlaw therapy to ‘cure’ gay people. “I will defend the Church’s right to express its position,” he said, “but I’m also free to say that this government will keep moving forward with its plans.”
Northern Ireland: Justice Minister Hurt That Support for Civil Marriage Cost Him Church Position
Justice Minister David Ford, the leader of the Alliance Party, told the BBC’s Nolan Show that he is still hurt about having stepped down as an elder at his Presbyterian Church in 2013 after some members of the congregation complained about his support for civil same-sex marriage. It hurts to walk into church, he said, where some of his relationships have been damaged. Ford said he was saddened at “a lack of understanding from some people about the role I had as a legislator, compared to the role I have within the church.”
The Alliance leader said that although he supports the introduction of civil marriage for same-sex couples, both he and his party respected the separate rights of churches “to practise and define their own beliefs”.
He said the issue was about “providing equality in the way that the public receives services from the state” and civil marriage was not a matter for churches.
“I have my own beliefs as a member of a church, as to how the church role fits in,” he said.
“But in terms of civil society, the services which are provided, I don’t believe that it is for those of us who are in the heterosexual majority to tell people who are in the homosexual minority that they’re not being discriminated against, when they feel that they are being discriminated against.”
The Presbyterian Church teaches that marriage should be a “lifelong union of one man and one woman”.
Ford recently confirmed that he will not seek to be reappointed as justice minister after elections in May.
Caribbean: Anti-Gay Stigma and Discrimination Hinder Health
The Saint Lucia Times reports that AIDS Action Foundation director Joan Didier, participating in a conference of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States this week, said that anti-gay stigma and discrimination are hindering people from seeking support for their health.
The AAF Director was of the opinion that the issues of stigma and discrimination need to be addressed before the sub-region can even think of same sex marriages.
She noted that an election process is now in place here, but felt that none of the candidates would address those issues since the majority of the population are Catholic or Christian and would be offended.
Didier said that buggery still remains an offence on the statute books, which is another issue that needs to be addressed.
“I think we across the board we need to start speaking the language of human rights, so that people are entitled to be different to you, to love differently and have sex differently in their private space. You need to recognize that they do have those rights and let them be.”
The representative of the British High Commission told the conference that the British government was proud to stand up for the rights of LGBT people everywhere, by promoting tolerance and non-discrimination and addressing discriminatory laws – especially those that criminalize homosexuality.
The first comment on the news story comes from a pastor arguing that homosexuality should be criminalized as a “crime against God and against the Holy Bible.”
Columbia: First Same-Sex Couple Registers Overseas Marriage
Two men made history this week as the first same-sex couple to officially register their marriage, which was celebrated in Spain in 2013. They men had been turned down last May by a notary in Bogotá, after which they petitioned the National Registry, which has issued instructions to notaries or civil registration office legal documents verifying their marriages in other countries.
Chile: Court Will Hear Marriage Equality Case
The Court of Appeals of Santiago has agreed to consider a marriage equality case brought by gay-rights advocates on behalf of two men who have been in a relationship for 16 years.
Bermuda: Government Plans Referendum on Marriage Equality and Civil Unions
Government officials announced this week that legislation will be introduced to put a referendum on marriage equality and civil unions before voters, reports the Royal Gazette. An earlier Supreme Court ruling that same-sex partners of Bermudians from other countries must be treated equally under immigration laws as bi-national male-female couples went into effect on Tuesday. The Human Rights Commission denounced the decision, saying, “We specifically reject the notion that the opinion of the majority should impinge on the right of equal treatment for minorities.”
China: Broadcast Officials Censor Gay Characters From TV, Online Streaming
Chinese officials have moved to censor gay characters from television and online streaming, reports BuzzFeed. New government guidelines state, “No television drama shall show abnormal sexual relationships and behaviors, such as incest, same-sex relationships, sexual perversion, sexual assault, sexual abuse, sexual violence, and so on.” Also banned are historical depictions “harmful to the unity and sovereignty of the country and its territorial integrity.”
Israel: Study Examines Queer Israelis Who Emigrate
At 972mag.com, doctoral student Hila Amit writes about research based on 42 interviews with queer Israelis who have emigrated to London, Berlin, and New York City. Amit’s subjects gave a range of reasons for leaving the country, from escaping family pressures to conform to social norms to wishing to raise children away from mandated military service and the country’s activities in the occupied territories.