October 20 was Spirit Day, organized to create visible support for LGBT youth. October 22 was the annual Day of Action for Trans Depathologization; Trangender Europe released a video on human rights and the classification of trans identity as a mental and behavioral disorder. Intersex Awareness Day will be observed October 26.
The International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA) released a survey of almost 100,000 people in 65 countries. The survey, which includes questions about whether a respondent personally knows a gay person, and how they feel about various aspects of sexuality and gender, reports findings for Africa, Asia, the Americas, Europe and Oceania. In answer to the question, “Is there a conflict between same-sex desire and your religious beliefs,” 30 percent answered yes, 30 percent answered no, 15 percent said they do not know, 10 percent said they hold no religious beliefs, and 15 percent preferred not to answer. From the report:
Over the past decade in particular, while the visibility of LGBTI people has increased across the world, there has been a concurrent backlash amongst religious communities that outlaws, and stigmatizes, same-sex desire and same-sex family formation. In this period, ardently conservative scriptural interpretation has translated into legal and social policy in countries such as Russia, Uganda and Indonesia, usually supported by media. In some Muslim States, actual national legislations are theocratic, resulting in severe punishments, including death. When the forces of media, State and religion combine to portray particular populations as ‘undesirable’, and public dialogues on issues of sexual and gender diversity are severely curtailed, determining the prevalence or strength of religion in the content of personal attitudes is challenging. Similarly, in largely secular States where international or covenant-based human rights standards inform legislation and policy, the influence of religious doctrine on segments of populations can be much underestimated. The data found in this survey demonstrates that no matter how insistently the voices representing organized religions condemn same sex relationships, huge swathes of the populations see no conflict between those religious beliefs and same sex desire. This suggests that anti-LGBT rationales based on religious dogmas are often given disproportionate focus: a point that advocacy at local or national levels could address.
A Reuters report on the survey focused on the marriage question: 32 percent supported legal same-sex marriage while 45 percent were opposed and 23 percent were uncertain.
The rights group said a breakdown of the results highlighted deep regional divisions.
Only 19 percent of respondents in Africa and 26 percent in Asia said they approved of same-sex marriage, against 35 percent in the Americas, 41 percent in Europe and 56 percent in Oceania the online survey found.
These divisions reflect that rights advocates in Africa and Asia have focused on more pressing issues, such as fighting discrimination against gays rather than promoting acceptance of same-sex marriage, said study co-author Aengus Carroll.
“This is so far off the agenda for Africa and Asia,” Carroll told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
France: Conservative Catholics resisting ‘revolutionary notion’ of individual freedom
“Gay marriage fires up the conservative Catholics,” writes Anne-Sylvaine Chassany in a Financial Times story about the continuing resistance to marriage equality in France.
This streak of French Catholic conservatism goes back a long way. In 1905 Catholic conservatives fought anticlerical Republicans seeking to establish a strict separation of state and religion. Today they mobilise on matters dear to them: family and private education.
In 1984 they protested en masse against François Mitterrand’s bill to limit the public funding available to private schools (most of which are Catholic), forcing the Socialist president to retreat. More recently, French opposition to same-sex marriage has been the fiercest in Europe.
“It is a constant force since the Revolution,” Laurent Bouvet, a political-science professor at Versailles Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines university, says. “They never really accepted the Revolutionary notion that individual freedom should supersede the moral authority of the priest or the family head. They are a rightwing patriarchal bunch wary of the concept of equality.”
Netherlands: Anti-gay religious flyers distributed in Amsterdam
Amsterdam police received more than 20 complaints about an anti-gay leaflet that was distributed to homes in the western part of the city stating that homosexuality is forbidden in Islam, Christianity and Judaism. The flyer says 29 percent of children raised by gay parents are sexually abused. According to Gay Star News, “Police have identified the supporters of Turkish hate preacher Harun Yahya.” But, according to the same article, “The Telegraaf newspaper however also suggests I could be linked to Dutch Turkish campaigner Berrak Su, who regularly presents homophobic videos on their Facebook channel.”
Indonesia: President speaks out against anti-gay discrimination and violence
This week President Joko Widodo decried anti-LGBT discrimination and violence and said police must protect LGBT people and other minorities, a statement described by Human Rights Watch’s Phelim Kine as “long overdue” after months of ugly anti-LGBT rhetoric from political and religious leaders:
Jokowi’s statement in defense of the rights of LGBT people is long overdue. It follows months of increasingly hateful rhetoric from government officials and religious organizations. Anti-LGBT statements by politicians and officials in 2016 ranging from the absurd to the apocalyptic have been accompanied by many threats and violent attacks on LGBT activists and others – including on a Muslim house of worship – primarily by militant Islamists. In some cases, the threats and violence occurred in the presence, and with the tacit consent, of government officials or security forces. Government commissions and ministries proposed discriminatory and regressive anti-LGBT laws, and officials testified in a court case attempting to criminalize consensual adult same-sex behavior.
Romania: President warns against ‘religious fanaticism’
President Klaus Iohannis “called for ‘tolerance and acceptance’ of minorities Wednesday as the nation’s highest court considers whether to legally recognize a same-sex marriage between a U.S. citizen and a Romanian man,” reported Associated Press.
The Constitutional Court will rule next week on a petition to recognize the couple’s union, which is currently invalid in Romania. The influential Romanian Orthodox Church opposes the petition.
Claibourn Robert Hamilton, an American graphic designer and Adrian Coman, a rights activist, have petitioned the court to recognize their marriage. They married in Belgium in 2010, where same-sex marriages are legal, and live in the United States…
Religious groups connected to the Orthodox Church want the constitution amended to state that marriage is a union between a man and a woman. The constitution currently says that marriage is a union between spouses.
Iohannis noted that as an ethnic German and a Lutheran, he belongs to two minorities, and he said “religious fanaticism does not help society. If being a Christian leans toward fanaticism…it sends a wrong signal.”
South Africa: International gathering of queer Muslims
The Inner Circle, a queer Muslim organization, held its 14th annual international retreat in Cape Town this past week. A preview story in Mamba Onilne said that about 80 percent of the delegates were from other countries:
“Some of the tracks being covered this year will focus on transgender health and education which will look specifically at accessing educational resources, advocacy and sifting mind sets; while the Program for the Development of Youth will look at developing spiritual leadership amongst Muslim youth,” said Nair.
“The International Gender Forum will address ways of narrowing the gap between the struggles of women and queer people resulting from patriarchal systems; and the Islamic Peace Circles will focus on the creation of safe spaces in various provinces,” he added.
Previous retreats have produced networks such as the Global Queer Muslim Network. Its member groups work within their respective contexts to create change for queer Muslims within the Muslim community.
Scotland: ‘Profound cultural shift’ behind embrace of gay politicians
In the New York Times, Katrin Benhold writes about a “profound cultural shift” that has led to the country’s embrace of openly gay politicians, including leaders of three of the five major political parties, four government ministers, the secretary of state for Scotland in Britain’s government, and “the gayest Parliament in the world.”
In the span of a generation, Scotland has shed much of its traditional social conservatism and enthusiastically embraced diversity in sexuality, a process led and reinforced by a remarkable transformation in its political culture.
Homosexuality was illegal in Scotland until 1980 — in England it was decriminalized in 1967 — and as recently as 2000, billboards financed by a Christian millionaire campaigning to uphold a ban on schools’ talking about homosexuality urged Scots to “Protect Our Children.”
The transformation, Benhold writes, is emblematic of changes in many western countries:
But the shift in Scotland has also reflected trends closer to home. Scotland’s Parliament is young. Established in 1999 as part of a deal to devolve more power from London, it has given a platform to a new generation that grew up with greater tolerance about sexuality; has made politicians, because they are in Edinburgh, more accessible to interest groups like L.G.B.T. advocates; and has injected new energy and pride into Scottish politics. In turn, the openly gay politicians who have emerged since then have helped champion L.G.B.T. rights.
“It’s a big cultural shift,” said Ms. Dugdale, who became engaged to her girlfriend this summer. “When you say you’re gay, people just shrug their shoulders. There is almost a feeling of ‘so what?’”
Scotland has long voted to the ideological left of England. It was a stronghold of the Labour Party before Scottish voters switched to the even more left-wing Scottish National Party, now the dominant political force. But a mix of Calvinism and Catholicism meant that on issues like abortion, divorce and homosexuality, Scotland remained more conservative than England for decades. The Scottish nationalists were once known as the “Tartan Tories.”
Now they are the third-largest party in the British Parliament in London, and eight of their 56 members of Parliament are openly gay, bisexual or lesbian, a higher proportion than in the other main parties.
Mexico: More pro- and anti-equality organizing
In the face of growing activism by anti-LGBT religious groups, advocates of marriage equality have launched a new social media campaign, #SíAcepto. The National Front for the Family delivered more than half a million signatures opposing the presidential initiative on marriage equality and the teaching of “gender ideology.”
Some LGBT activists have blamed demonstrations by “the Catholic Church and reactionary political groups” for creating an anti-LGBT climate that contributed to the recent killings of five transgender people.
Bangladesh: Arrest made in murder of pro-LGBT editor and atheist blogger
Police arrested the top suspect in the April murder of Julhash Mannan, a pro-LGBT magazine editor, and Nuazimuddin Samad, an atheist blogger. Asia News reported that police say the suspect, Rashidum Nabi, “is an operative of Ansaral al Islam or Ansarullah Bangla Team (ABT), which is said to be ideologically inclined to al-Qaeda.”
Europe: LGBT progress met with backlash
A survey by Dalia Research reported that about 6 percent of Europeans identify as LGBT. In some countries, the figure was twice as high for people under 30. AFP examines what it describes as rising intolerance, a backlash against progress made on LGBT rights since the 1990s:
ILGA-Europe, an umbrella organisation for LGBTI groups, was marking its 20th anniversary in the Cyprus capital Nicosia.
It said the movement had achieved things “we would not have dreamed of back in 1996”, with countries passing laws allowing same-sex marriage and letting transsexual people gain legal recognition in their preferred gender.
But conference-goers said hate speech and the scapegoating of LGBTI campaign groups were fuelling a rise in attacks.
The article quotes Drexel University’s Phillip Ayoub:
Ayoub said populist politicians in Poland, Hungary and other European countries were presenting gay rights as a threat to family values.
“That’s been promoted by key figures around the globe including the Russian state and the Orthodox church,” he said.
As tensions with Brussels spiralled over Ukraine in 2014, some of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s supporters took to calling Europe “Gayropa” and promoting Russia as the antithesis of the West.
Singapore: New rules require government permission for foreign involvement in pride
Reuters reported this week that Singapore has posted new rules about public speaking that will restrict foreign firms from funding or publicly supporting a gay pride event without a special permit. This year’s pride celebration in June had been sponsored by Facebook, Google, and Goldman Sachs, among others.
“The government’s position has always been that foreign entities should not interfere in our domestic issues, especially those of a political or controversial nature,” the ministry said.
“Foreigners will need a permit if they organize or participate in an event at the Speakers’ Corner, subject to assessment.”
Sex between two men is illegal in Singapore and punishable with up to two years in prison, though the law is rarely enforced. The law, which dates back to the island’s colonial period, makes no mention of lesbians.
Observers say foreign companies are unlikely to get a permit to get involved in the event in 2017.
United Kingdom: Government will issue posthumous pardons for men convicted of sodomy
The government announced on Thursday that it would back a proposal from the Liberal Democrats that would allow men who had been convicted under laws criminalizing homosexuality to apply for a pardon and would posthumously pardon thousands of men. But, as BuzzFeed’s Jim Waterson reports, Justice Minister Sam Gyimah used a parliamentary equivalent of a filibuster to kill a more expansive version of the Alan Turing bill, that would have automatically granted a pardon to all men currently living with those convictions on their legal record. Supporters of the Turing bill challenged Gyimah’s assertion that the bill might allow pardons to be granted accidentally to people whose convictions had involved underage or nonconsexual sex.
Australia: First gay Aboriginal parliamentarian makes pitch for marriage equality
Chansey Paech, described as Australia’s first openly gay Aboriginal politician, used his maiden speech in the Northern Territory parliament to make a pitch for marriage equality. Voters had rejected opponents’ efforts to smear him based on his sexuality. From BuzzFeed’s report:
“I am young, I am gay, I am black: a true-blue Territorian,” he said.
“I am a Centralian man. I am the nation’s first openly gay Indigenous parliamentarian. I am eternally proud of who I am and where I come from. I own it and wear it with pride.
“I look forward to the day when this country will recognise my rights as equal rights, when I too can marry in my country, on my country, as a recognised first Australian.
He also said he would fight to have indigenous people recognized in the national constitution.
Earlier this month, a federal report on the alarmingly high rate of suicide in indigenous communities acknowledged the need for attention to the especially vulnerable “indigenous people identifying as LGBTQI.”
Grenada: Government postpones referendum on marriage equality fears
Government officials postponed a referendum on a new constitution that had been scheduled for October 27 based on fears raised by some people that the Rights and Freedom Bill “creates a loophole that could result in Grenada legalizing same-sex unions,” reports the Jamaica Observer. The chairman of the Constitutional Reform Committee said the legislation guarantees legal equality between men and woman but has nothing to do with same-sex marriage.
Papua New Guinea: Activists call for investigation on murder
Colin Stewart reports at 76 Crimes that LGBT activists are calling for an investigation into the murder of Harry Peter who was reportedly killed after being confronted by a family member for “not being proper.”
Under Papua New Guinea law, same-sex intimacy between men is punishable by between three and 14 years in prison.[Tharani] Rengessamy said Harry Peter’s murder had split the residents of Alotau insoutheastern Papua New Guinea.
“You’ve got the community that’s accepted the gay community, and you’ve got the community that is very happy of Harry’s death because they believe that the gay community is a disgrace and should not actually exist,” she said.