Two Former Nuns Get Civil Union in Italy; Kenyan Govt Partners with World Congress of Families; Mexican Activists Debate Outing of Priests; Global LGBT Recap

The President of the Human Rights Council announced this week that he had chosen Vitit Muntarbhorn to fill the newly created position of Independent Expert to investigate violence and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Muntarbhorn is an international law professor who has held many positions at the UN.

Global Action for Trans Equality and ILGA organized a side event during the Human Right’s Council’s meeting on Gender Identity at the UN; video of the event has been posted online.

“The Many Faces of LGBT Inclusion,” a forum sponsored by Salzburg Global and Being LGBTI in Asia in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme, is being held in Thailand this week.  You can follow via @SalzburgGlobal and @beinglgbti.

At Vice, Khalid El Khatib asks, “Why Are There So Few Resources for Gay Muslims Online?”

Kenya: Activist criticizes government for sponsoring World Congress of Families meeting

Jade Maina, deputy director of Trust Indigenous Culture and Health, published a commentary in the Daily Nation criticizing the Ministry of Labour for hosting the recent World Congress of Families regional meeting in Nairobi. From Maina’s op ed for the Daily Nation.:

The WCF is an arm of the US religious-right movement focused on exporting conservative, neo-colonialist agendas throughout the Global South. It advances an agenda to roll back women’s rights, as well as deny people of diverse sexual orientations and gender identities their basic human rights.

Whereas understanding, tolerance and generosity have been the values of the African tradition, groups like WFC export hate and propaganda to our countries, disguised in flowery and seemingly harmless language like “Family Values.”

Maina writes that a proposed “National Family Protection and Promotion Policy,” which could “have a significant effect on the quality of Kenyans’ lives,” has not been made public. Maina concludes:

These recent developments threaten to tarnish Kenya’s reputation as a free and fair democracy guided by the rule of law, and expose a worrying move to develop laws and policies based on religion and not law, with the potential of institutionalising discrimination and the violation of human rights.

Mexico: Activists debate outing Catholic priests as response to anti-equality organizing

New Ways Ministry’s Bob Shine highlights a report from the Telegraph on the controversial decision of the National Pride Front to respond to church support for recent anti-gay rallies by publicly naming nearly 40 Catholic priests and religious as gay.”

The Front said they were not condemning the relationships, but the double standards of church leaders in them who then forcefully oppose marriage equality. The list included ranking church officials and, according to Galarza, not only consensual relationships but “also cases of sexual abuse.”

The decision to publish this list has not only been criticized by conservative opponents of LGBT equality, but by LGBT groups who are upset that anyone would be forcibly outed. Enrique Torre Molina of All Out told The Telegraph: 

“‘They can spin it anyway they want, but they’re ultimately using someone’s sexual orientation as a tool against that person, which is exactly what the LGBT movement is not about. . .If anyone knows how tough it can be to have your sexual orientation used against you, it is a gay or lesbian person.’”

Caribbean: Will Belize ruling lead to greater progress in region?

Caleb Orozco, the plaintiff in the legal case that led to Belize’s Chief Justice ruling the colonial-era sodomy law, told the Washington Blade’s Michael Lavers that he hopes the ruling will help bring change to other countries in the Caribbean.

Consensual same-sex sexual relations remain criminalized in Jamaica, Antigua and Barbuda, St. Kitts and Nevis, Dominica, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Grenada and Trinidad and Tobago.

Donnya Piggott, director of Barbados Gays and Lesbians Against Discrimination, told the Blade last month that sodomy laws will tumble “like dominoes in the Caribbean” because of the Belize ruling. The government of Antigua and Barbuda told a local newspaper a court would likely find the country’s law that criminalizes consensual same-sex sexual conduct unconstitutional if were legally challenged.

“There’s a shift in political tone,” Orozco told the Blade.

After meeting with religious leaders last month, Prime Minister Dean Barrow reversed his government’s initial decision not to appeal the ruling to the Caribbean Court of Justice and said that the government will appeal part of the ruling that interprets “sex” in the country’s constitution to include sexual orientation. Barrow also called for the creation of a “morality commission” that would include religious leaders, something Orozco said could mean “the formalization of the system of oppression that we already have in our country.”

More from the Blade:

The National Evangelical Association of Belize and the Belizean Catholic Church have announced they plan to appeal the ruling. A Belizean television station reported Scott Stirm, an evangelical pastor from the U.S. who is vice president of the National Evangelical Association of Belize, spoke about efforts to challenge the decision at a press conference that took place on Sept. 16.

“This is the day for us a church to be able to stand strong particularly for family protections,” he said. “I think that people have tried to wrongfully paint this as people trying to dictate what’s happening in the bedroom. For us it’s not about that at all, it’s about protecting the children.”

Orozco specifically criticized the National Evangelical Association of Belize in his speech at an event the U.N. LGBT Core Group, which includes more than 20 countries and the European Union, hosted on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly on Sept. 21. He described Stirm to the Blade as a “power hungry con artist” after his group announced plans to appeal the decision.

Boris Dittrich, advocacy director for Human Rights Watch’s LGBT Rights Program, published a column celebrating the recent vote by Aruba’s parliament to recognize registered partnerships for same-sex couples. He wrote that the heads of three political parties in the parliament “withstood pressure from several religious groups” to negotiate and pass amendments. Dittrich calls the change “a bit step in the right direction” in a “notoriously homophobic region.”

The proponents of registered partnership said in the debate that while they were not ready to introduce marriage equality, they wanted to make sure that same-sex couples had equal rights. In the parliamentary debate they made reference to the European Convention on Human Rights, which is binding on Aruba, as part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. They also acknowledged that the European Court of Human Rights decided in June 2015 in the case of Oliari vs Italy that if a country does not want to open its civil marriage to same-sex couples, it is obliged to provide a reasonable alternative.

Dittrich contrasts the recent progress with the hostile reception he and other Dutch parliamentarians received in 2005 when they traveled to Aruba to raise the question of legal recognition for same-sex couples married in the Netherlands; at the time the justice minister had suggested that homosexual conduct should be criminalized.

Germany: Why does Germany lag its European neighbors on equality?

Alexander Görlach, a visiting scholar at the Center for European Studies at Harvard University, published an op ed in the New York Times entitled “Germany’s Retrograde Record on Gay Rights.”

Görlach identifies Chancellor Angela Merkel and the Christian Democratic Union party as the reason Germany does not recognize marriage equality, something Merkel has said explicitly will not be a reality as long as she is in office.

Ms. Merkel governs in partnership with the left-wing Social Democrats, who support marriage equality, but in populous Bavaria the conservative wing of the coalition is represented by the C.D.U.’s sister party, the Christian Social Union, which strongly celebrates its closeness to the Roman Catholic faith, the church and its religious customs. At the same time, the party is drifting ever further to the right, embracing openly xenophobic, anti-refugee ideas (to such an extent that the Catholic bishops of Bavaria and the archbishop of Cologne, among the most powerful clergymen in the country, found themselves compelled to reprimand the C.S.U. for its un-Christian conduct).

The C.D.U. is also looking to reinforce its conservative image. In recent years the party has capitulated on several key issues, which until then were considered to lie at the core of their policy: compulsory military service and nuclear energy, to name just two prominent examples. There aren’t many such issues left, but marriage equality is one of them. For many in the party, giving in on gay rights would be the equivalent of selling the silverware. Several C.D.U. members have defected to the upstart, far-right Alternative for Germany Party, which upholds the biblical family model and rejects marriage for all…

A result, at least for now, is an odd reversal of Western Europe’s league tables for social progress. Traditionally, it is the Protestant countries of the north that have led on progressive social issues, with the Catholic south dragging behind. This time, though, it is Germany, the leading country in Protestant Europe, that lags the rest. Without a major realignment in German politics, that is unlikely to change for a long time to come.

Italy: Former nuns join in civil union

Two former nuns who met in a convent have been joined in a civil union in a ceremony in a small town in northern Italy,” reports Associated Press.

Serbia: Priests and nuns hold exorcism to purify city after pride march

A group of priests and nuns held an “exorcism” to “purify” Belgrade after last month’s successful pride celebration, reports Gay Star News.

Uruguay: Diversity March draws 50,000 people

More than 50,000 people reportedly participated in this year’s Diversity March in Montevideo. The theme was “Discriminar también es violencia, que no te gane la indiferencia” (Discrimination is also violence: indifference won’t win.) Montevideo celebrates September as Diversity Month.

Haiti: Police force cancellation of film festival after arson threats

Police in Port-au-Prince ordered organizers of what was to be Haiti’s first LGBT film festival to cancel the event after death and arson threats were made by phone and social media. According to Reuter’s Makini Brice, “A senator added to the pressure to cancel the Massimadi festival, saying it would promote homosexuality and that impoverished Haiti had other priorities.”

Australia: Poll confirms majority support for marriage equality, rejection of plebiscite

A new poll released this week that most Australians support marriage equality but not the government’s plan to hold a national plebiscite on whether the law should be changed to recognize same-sex couples’ right to marry. Marriage equality advocates have called the proposed plebiscite a waste of time and money, and said it would unnecessarily invite a divisive campaign.

Hungary: LGBT alliance opposes ‘hatemongering’ against migrants

The Hungarian LGBT Alliance urged members of the LGBT community to cast invalid votes in Sunday’s referendum on migrant quotas “to send a clear message to the government that hate mongering against any social group is unacceptable.”

Philippines: First trans lawmaker urges support for nondiscrimination bill

Geraldine Roman, the first transgender legislator in the Philippines, urged her colleagues in the House of Representatives to pass a bill outlawing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

Norway: Changing gender ‘as easy as filing a tax return’

Associated Press reports that a person can now change their legal gender in Norway as easily as filling a tax return.

Iraq: Social media used to entrap gay men

The Washington Blade interviewed Iraqi activist Ayaz Hassan, who says anti-gay militants are using social networks to identify gay men and kill them.

Afghanistan: Activist charges security officials with waging extermination campaign

Activist Nemat Sadat writes at Huffington Post that sources tell him Afghan security officials are engaged in a campaign that “exterminates homosexuals one-by-one in a ‘kill and dump’ policy meant to eliminate an entire generation of LGBT people—all for the sake of protecting national security and preserving the tribal order and Islamic status quo.”

United Kingdom: Asylum seeker faces deportation after officials say he hasn’t proven he’s gay

Valerie Ediage from Cameroon is the latest asylum seeker who, reports the BBC, “faces deportation “because he has not done enough to prove he is gay.”