Anti-Gay Forces On Offense in Europe; ‘African Islam’ Challenged by Extremists; Irish Marriage Foes & ‘Sounds of Sodomy’; Global LGBT Recap

In our precap of global LGBT stories we expect to follow in 2015, we discussed the global culture war and specifically religious conservatives’ use of “religious liberty” claims and demonization of “gender ideology” as strategies for opposing reproductive choice and LGBT equality.

Both strategies are discussed in a report released this week by the Croatia-based Center for Education, Counseling and Research (CESI). “Neo-Conservative Threats to Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights,” a report that examines the intensifying efforts of the Catholic hierarchy and its conservative political allies to influence policy on sexuality issues in Europe, also notes the role that U.S.-based religious conservatives have played in promoting conservative policies and the political tactics used to advance them. The report discusses the right’s use of “gender ideology,” which it describes as a “pseudo-scientific term” that “is used as a political tool to curtail further development of sexual and reproductive health and rights.” From the report (with source citations removed):

This strategic attempt by Catholic church to redefine cultural and political debate regarding said issues has caught on only recently in Europe, appearing in public and political discourse almost simultaneously with neo-conservative organizing and mobilization attempts in last few years. This concept also has a manifest capability to hide its true nature of political tool, and to impose itself as a socially valid term, which in itself holds a potential to reshape the public and political discourse. “Gender ideology” has been operationalized as a cunning plan that extracts many “fears” caused by accepting same-sex and transgender families and practices, comprehensive sexual education in schools, and promoting principles of gender equality. All those are claimed to be a result of imposed equality and de-naturalization. “Gender ideology” does not require additional explanations, for it essentially works as a threat: “Gender ideology preys on your children!” However, the concept of “gender ideology” has lately been criticized even from the theological circles; the hollow, selective and unscientific nature of reasoning logic has also been pointed out, as well as the insufficient explanation and terminology manipulations used by Catholic church and its allies.

“Religious freedoms” is the basic concept used here to try and provide some legitimacy for discrimination and intolerance towards anything other and different, i.e. towards anything that does not fit within their narrow definitions of life and family.

Slovakia: Traditionalists ‘On the Offensive’

Cato Institute analyst Dalibor Rohac wrote last week in the New York Times that while “it is probably just a matter of time until gay unions and same-sex adoptions become palatable to most Slovaks, opponents of these reforms have launched a pre-emptive assault to make these reforms legally and politically costly.” Last year a constitutional amendment was adopted to defined marriage as a union “solely between man and woman,”and Rohac reports “traditionalists are on the offensive.” A nationwide referendum in February will address several questions regarding same-sex couples, including a ban on their adopting children. Even while pushing anti-equality policies, anti-gay advocates posture as defenders of liberty:

Anton Chromik, one of the leaders of the Alliance for Family, claims that “homosexuals are not asking just for ‘rights,’ but want to shut the mouths of other people. They will be making decisions over other people’s lives, careers, and that has always in history resulted in dictatorships and sometimes even in mass murders.”

Catholic Church: Cardinal Says ‘Feminized’ Priests Responsible for Abuse

The recently demoted Cardinal Raymond Burke made news this week when he said the Catholic Church has become too “feminized” and blamed the introduction of altar girls for the decrease in vocations. David Gibson at Religion News Service reports that Burke also said that “priests ‘who were feminized and confused about their own sexual identity’ were the ones who molested children.”

Also in the news this week was Miami Archbishop Thomas Wenski, who sent a memo to all employees of the diocese reiterating that they could be fired if they express support for gay marriage on social media. New Ways Ministry’s Bob Shine called the memo “a most tragic way to start the new year.”

Africa: ‘Distinctive, Moderate and Tolerant Islam’ Challenged by Extremists

The Mail & Guardian Africa profiles African Muslims who embody “a distinctive, moderate and tolerant Islam” that has been practiced on the continent for decades, and still is in spite of the rise of more extreme and violent Islamist groups.

After all, Africa for one has been the continent where a distinctive, moderate and tolerant Islam has been practiced for decades. A phenomenon sometimes referred to as “African Islam”.

This moderate form of Islam is widespread on the continent, practiced in the nine predominantly Muslim countries, and another 10 countries with Muslim populations of near or over 50%, and at least 12 more with significant Muslim minorities.

Many of these African Muslims are Sufi in orientation. This form of the Islamic faith is more personal and more emotional stressing the love of God, as opposed to the fear of God.

However, it’s true that in in recent years, Sufism has increasingly been displaced by more radical, extremist versions of Islam – often termed Islamism. It has resulted in Islamist violence which plagues Libya and Nigeria.

Among those featured in the story is Muhsin Hendricksi, a gay South African Imam, and Taj Hargey, founder of the “Open Mosque” in Cape Town.

Egypt: Anti-Gay Crackdown Drawing International Attention

Over the past year we have reported on the Egyptian government’s use of anti-gay persecution as a means of placating Islamist factions. Meredith Kucherov reported for Human Rights First this week that “the current crackdown is exceptional in its intensity.”

Rights activists in Egypt have started calling for international pressure on the Egyptian government to respect the human rights of LGBT people. This is a dire sign, since international pressure can sometimes cause backlash against local activists. Such a call signals that human rights defenders believe the situation is desperate.

This week the New York Times editorial page noted, “In a deeply conservative Muslim country, demonizing sexual minorities has served in the past as an effective way of deflecting attention from actual problems the state has failed to fix.” The Times called the ongoing trial of men arrested in a bathhouse raid “particularly cruel.” Last week, the Daily Beast’s Bel Trew published a piece in which a student said of the made-for-tabloid-TV bathhouse raid, “exposing a gay person like this is akin to torturing him slowly to death.”

The Times urged “strong international condemnation” of the current crackdown, which it said “may keep authorities in Egypt from victimizing more men.”

Canada: Activists Fight Deportation of Gay Palestinian Convert to Christianity

Canadian activists are urging the Canadian government not to deport a gay Palestinian who converted from Islam to Christianity. He received a letter on New Years Eve, reports the Huffington Post, because of family ties with Hamas. “If deported, he could be executed on both counts of apostasy and homosexuality,” writes Junaid Jahangir, Canada West Coordinator of Universalist Muslims. The Times of Israel reports that the man, going by the name of John Calvin, rejected the extremist ideology of Hamas and converted to Christianity at age 18, but that five of his uncles have been jailed in Israel for terrorist activity. “Calvin” said returning to the West Bank would be a death sentence, since “he has been convicted of apostasy for deserting his religious beliefs.”

Scotland: Gay Couples Marry, Church of Scotland Presbyteries Vote on Ordination

Gay couples in Scotland started marrying legally on December 31. More than two thirds of the presbyteries of the Church of Scotland – 32 out of 45 – have voted for changing rules that have until now banned the ordination of ministers in same-sex relationships. Pink News reports that the size of the victory will help the changes win approval in the General Assembly.

Ireland: Opponents of Marriage Equality & ‘The Sounds of Sodomy’

The Irish Taoisceach (equivalent of Prime Minister) Enda Kenny has said he will “campaign strongly” for a yes vote on a referendum on marriage equality that will be held in May. Meanwhile, opponents in Ireland distributed flyers asking, “Should children be exposed to sounds of sodomy?” More from the flyer:

Marriage is between one man and one woman. Our legislators are without the Light of Our Lord. At this very moment the liberal agenda conspires to undermine God’s Word and is drafting laws to allow homosexuals to adopt children. Should children be3 exposed to this beastly obsession with unholy acts? Should the sounds of sodomy echo in the halls of a Christian home?

The flyer inspired widespread mockery.

Dominican Republic: Gay Couple Marries in British Embassy

A British man and a Dominican man were married inside the British embassy in the Dominican Republic, but the marriage will not be recognized by the Dominican government. Religious conservatives in the Dominican Republic are reportedly “furious.” Pink News reported that the chair of the Dominical Council of Evangelical Churches said it “brings a curse to the nation.”

Nepal: Third Gender Option Added to Passports

In what Reuters calls “a sign of the conservative Hindu-majority country becoming moreliberal since the end of a decade-long civil war,” Nepal’s government announced that new passport regulations “will add a third category of gender for those people who do not want to be identified as male or female.” According to Reuters,

The country is preparing its first constitution after the abolition of the 239-year-old Hindu monarchy in 2008. The charter due to be adopted this month is expected to ensure greater rights to minority groups such as the LGBT community.

Macedonia: Constitutional Marriage Ban Advances

Two-thirds of the members of the Macedonian Assembly voted for a constitutional amendment to forbid same-sex couples from getting married.

Luxembourg: Marriage Equality Law Goes Into Effect

A marriage equality law passed year went into effect on January 1. The country’s prime minister, Xavier Bettel, is openly gay.

Gambia: Anti-Gay President Survives Coup Attempt

The anti-gay dictator-president of Gambia, Yayha Jammeh, survived a clumsy coup attempt last week, which seems likely to lead to even more brutal political repression.

Vietnam: New Law Drops Ban on Same-Sex Couples Marrying

Vietnam’s new marriage law, which went into effect New Year’s Day, abolished regulations that ‘prohibit marriage between people of the same sex,’” write Bloomberg’s John Boudreau and Nguyen Dieu Tu Uyen. “Same-sex marriages can now take place, though the government does not recognize them or provide legal protections in cases of disputes. The government abolished fines that were imposed on homosexual weddings in 2013.”

India: Hundreds Arrested Since High Court Re-Criminalized Homosexuality

The Deccan Herald reports that at least 600 people were arrested under Section 377 of the penal code – the colonial-era anti-sodomy law – last year after the Supreme Court reinstated the law, which had been struck down in 2009.

Russia: Putin Makes It Illegal for Trans People to Drive

The government of Vladimir Putin has decreed that trans people and others who have “sex disorders” may no longer get drivers licenses.