Gambian Leaders Portray Anti-Gay Law as Defense of Islam, Ugandan Politicians as ‘Christmas Gift’; Global LGBT Recap

Gambia: President, Foreign Minister Portray Anti-Gay Persecution as Defense of Islam, Africa

We have reported previously on Gambia’s viciously anti-gay president Yahya Jammeh. Buzzfeed’s Lester Feder reports on the politics behind the latest wave of violence, which includes raids on people’s homes and arrests carried out by the National Intelligence Agency:

But the raids come as Jammeh appears to have ratcheted up his presence on the international stage, which some observers suggest is part of a strategy to court support and aid from Africa and the Middle East as he has lost support from nations like the United States and Great Britain.

Last fall, Jammeh pulled the Gambia out of the Commonwealth of former British colonies. That was just days after declaring at the United Nations in New York, “Those who promote homosexuality want to put an end to human existence. It is becoming an epidemic and we Muslims and Africans will fight to end this behavior…. Homosexuality in all its forms and manifestations which, though very evil, antihuman as well as anti-Allah, is being promoted as a human right by some powers.”

Fatou Camara, who briefly served as Jammeh’s communications director and hosted a Gambian television program before she was charged with sedition and fled to the United States, noted that the current wave of arrests took place just before Jammeh made a state visit to the Persian Gulf state of Qatar. While there, he signed a cooperation agreement with Qatar’s leader, Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani.

Camara said that she spoke with sources who accompanied Jammeh on the visit, and that they told her he was using this issue to make the case for Qatari support. “This is one point he used to talk to the emir: ‘I cannot get along with the West because they want [me] to promote homosexuality,’” she said.

Gambia’s Foreign Minister Bala Garba Jahumpa went on television last week in a prime-time address to say the country would refuse to negotiate with the European Union over its anti-gay laws, regardless of how much foreign aid might be in question. According to Pink News, he “attacked homosexuality as ‘Satanic’ ungodly behaviour, which is ‘detrimental to human existence.’”

“Our country’s socio-economic development depends only on the Almighty Allah’s benevolence.

“We also hereby declare that The Gambia will always be an independent, dignified and Allah worshipping Muslim country where our way of life; our laws will be based on our Islamic values, that is, the strict adherence to our Islamic faith.

“This being the case, any agreement, convention or protocol that is at variance with our Islamic faith, economic prosperity and our national security interest will be surely rejected outright.

“We will never be a party to such decadence and will never ratify such conventions.

“Our laws are promulgated to ensure peace, security and our African and Islamic heritage and will be strengthened and enforced to the letter and spirit and will not be repealed.”

His speech denounced the history of colonialism as well as the treatment of African migrants currently living in Europe.

“They facilitate the continuous looting of African resources by the same forces that enslaved Africans; who still believe that we blacks are monkeys and not human and, therefore, should not benefit from our Allah-given vast natural resources that we have on the African continent.”

“This being the case, the Republic of The Gambia will never be a party to the so-called EPA with the European Union as it is designed to continue the same exploitation and impoverishment of the African continent. We will rather die than be colonised twice, enslaved twice and be robbed of our resources; our dignity and our humanity twice.”

“Our relationship with any country or any bloc will be based on mutual respect and the respect of the sovereignty and independence and religious values of our country. We will no longer be a member of any sub-regional, regional and international bloc or organisation that will allow the continuous racist exploitation and humiliation and the looting of the African continent in particular and the black race in general.”

“In conclusion, we are no longer going to entertain and dialogue with the European Union either directly or through the sub-regional, regional and international blocs to which we are members.”

“Allah willing, we will continue to develop our country in dignity and prosperity with our independence and Islamic values intact. We will also continue to depend on and worship only the Almighty Allah.”

Uganda:  Will Anti-Gay Law be Christmas ‘Gift’ to the Nation?

We have reported on efforts by anti-gay Ugandan lawmakers to draft a new bill to replace the Anti-Homosexuality Act that was thrown out by courts based on a procedural issue. Now a lawmaker on the committee drafting the new bill says it is ready and to pass to that the entire country can “celebrate it as a Christmas gift.”

As Reuters reports, [President Yoweri] Museveni is walking a political tightrope with regard to the new antihomosexuality bill. Museveni is keenly aware of the political backlash that befell his country in the wake of his signature on the Anti-Homosexuality Act of 2014, which saw tens of millions in aid dollars suddenly vanish from Western and European nations, including Sweden, Norway, Denmark, the Netherlands, and ultimately, the United States. Such foreign aid makes up a full 20 percent of the country’s budget and helps prop up Museveni’s administration, notes Reuters.

Despite the international outrage at the law’s enactment, Museveni was actually greeted by throngs of cheering Ugandans who carried him through the streets of Kampala in a five-hour celebration of “thanksgiving” after he signed the Anti-Homosexuality Act in February. A repeat of such adulation could prove a campaign stunt too tempting to decline.

Kapya Kaoma at Political Research Associates reports that in advance of the new legislation, Rebecca Kadaga, the Speaker of the Parliament, is “ramping up her U.S. conservative-fed talking points.” Kaoma notes that the headline of a Uganda Daily Monitor story about a recent speech was “Gay groups targeting church leaders, schools – Kadaga.”

Speaking at the golden jubilee celebrations of St. Stephen’s Church in Uganda on November 30, Kadaga repeated the U.S. culture warriors’ claim that “computers and books donated to (underfunded and technology starved) schools are installed with software and literature that promote homosexuality in the institutions.” She went on to say, “Homosexuals are recruiting members of religious institutions,” and homosexuals are now “adopting” vulnerable children and turning them gay. “Be very careful because gays are here to distort our heritage. We have discovered that they adopt our children and confine them in gay communities abroad to train them on gay practices. By the time they come back home, they are already influenced by homosexuality and are used to influence others in the community,” Kadaga told her audience.

Kaoma writes that Kadaga’s claims reflect “the changing religious landscape of Africa’s homophobia.”

After many unchallenged years of demonizing sexual minorities and human rights activists by U.S. culture warriors and their African allies, pro-human rights clergy are growing slowly on the continent. Many are realizing that the U.S.-born campaigns of demonization and violence against sexual minorities goes against their religious convictions. As the KwaZulu Natal Declaration showed, some African clergy opposed to the violent persecution of sexual minorities are now speaking out. In almost all Sub-Saharan African countries, religious voices against hate are slowly emerging. Since these leaders are preaching love and acceptance of sexual minorities as opposed to hatred, anti-gay pastors’ voices are now being challenged. To dismiss their critical voices, they are being branded as homosexuals themselves. African anti-gay pastors and their U.S. Right allies have entirely branded affirming Religious leaders such as Bishop Christopher Ssenyonjo of Uganda, Revds. MacDonald Sembereka of Malawi, Benebo Fubara-Manuel of Nigeria, Michael Kimindu of Kenya, this author, and many others as homosexuals. Regardless, their numbers are growing—forcing anti-gay pastors and their Western allies into social panic.

Kadaga’s claim to have discovered Western homosexuals adopting African children and “confining them in gay communities abroad to train them on gay practices” is certainly a new low in her attempts to vilify LGBTQ people. Kadaga does not, of course, have any evidence for such claims—it is just another way anti-gay groups incite hatred against gay communities. African sexual minorities and their allies are also frequently accused of receiving “millions of dollars” to recruit people into homosexuality. The reality, however, being that the majority of LGBTQ people in Africa live in extreme poverty.

Finland: Thousands Quit Lutheran Church Over Pro-Marriage-Equality Archbishop

Last Friday, lawmakers voted 105-92 to approve a citizens initative to allow same-sex couples to get legally married. Opponents used now-familiar rhetoric about children having a right to a father and mother. Kari Makinen, the Lutheran Archbishop of Finland, said last Friday that he supported the government’s decision to legalize same-sex marriage, setting off a protest in which thousands of people left the church. Makinen had celebrated the vote by saying, “I know how much this day means for rainbow people, their loved ones and many others. I rejoice with my whole heart for them and with them.” He said it was time for churches to make a “fundamental examination” of their concept of marriage, but he also reached out to those opposing the change.

“There are many who are now disappointed and feel concern. This is understandable.

“Their experience will be respected, and the Church will listen to their fears in future, as well as in society as a whole.

“I would like to say to them: I don’t think anyone’s marriage will lose importance, the Church’s faith is not under threat, and human dignity is not in decline – quite the contrary.”

“I hope and pray that this discussion is open to all in the future, and portrays the diversity and richness of the world.”

Within 24 hours, almost 7,800 people had reportedly “resigned from the church using an online system that aims to ease people’s resignation.” According to Finland’s YLE, resignation also means a withdrawal from paying taxes to support the church, which is its main source of income. The first marriages would not take place until 2017, and Paivi Rasanin, leader of the country’s Christian Democrats, has reportedly said she will fight the law.

Latvia: Ruling Party Official Praises Nazi Killing of Gays, Says She Was ‘Upholding Christian Values’

Inga Priede, a member of the executive board of Latvia’s Unity Party resigned after posting a series of anti-gay tweets, including one that said “Thank God — at one time, the Germans shot them. It improves fertility.” After condemnation from other members of her party, she said she had not been calling for violence but was “urging the upholding of Christian values.”  Latvia’s Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs, also a member of the ruling Unity Party, recently came out as gay.

In a separate story, BuzzFeed’s Lester Feder and Anton Lysenkov examine the history of a Latvian crusader against “gay propaganda” and that campaign’s reflection of the  struggle between Latvians who look to Europe and those who are seeking the patronage of Russian strongman Vladimir Putin.

Norway: Anti-Equality Forces Gaining Strength in Norwegian Church, Both Sides Organizing

A commentary by Hanne Skartveit published in Norway last week suggests that changes in the church, and the appointment of new bishops who oppose allowing gays to marry in the church, have shifted the college of bishops away from majority support for marriage. She says opponents of gay marriage use similar arguments as those used against women priests a few decades ago. She writes that conservatives mobilized to support their candidates for the General Synod while liberals slept. But now both sides are activated now (awkward translation via Bing):

The next church election is next year, under municipal – and county elections in September. But mobilization on both sides are well underway. On New Year shall parish councils propose their candidates. By March 1 must be submitted proposals for lists based on these suggestions. After this, other present their own lists. This is completely new – previously there was only a single list that voters could pick from.

Advocates of gay marriage have already announced that they will promote their own lists in all dioceses. Opponents have said they will wait until they see the first lists submitted in the spring. Their strategy seems to be to get their people in here, as they have been previously.

Poland: First Openly Gay Mayor Elected

Vanessa Gera reports for Associated Press that Robert Biedron had already made history by becoming the first openly gay parliamentarian in 2011. On Monday, he was elected mayor of Slupsk, a city in northern Poland. Writes Gera, “The 38-year-old’s political successes are a marker of how quickly this deeply conservative and Catholic country has changed in the decade since it joined the European Union. Back then, in 2004, gay rights marches were still being banned and homosexuality was treated as a huge taboo. Since then a growing acceptance of gays and lesbians has arrived hand-in-hand with a flourishing economy.”

But it’s not just him. In what the Polish media are calling “the Biedron effect,” a record number of candidates also came out publicly before the local elections, which took place in two rounds over the last two weeks.

None of the others won seats, but gay rights activists are still hugely encouraged by the change. Their poor showing can be attributed largely to the fact that they were mostly young first -time candidates with left wing parties, which saw little support.

Greece: Justice Minister Says Gay Marriage Dangerous to Society, Traditions

Stoyan Zaimov writes in the Christian Post, “Greek Justice Minister Haralambos Athanasiou has said that he will never back legalizing same-sex marriage in the country, arguing that it harms society and poses a danger to traditions.”

“I won’t discuss it, I can’t conceive of it,” the conservative politician told Greece’s Mega TV. “Besides, the convention of human rights forbids it. When it speaks about marriage it speaks [of marriage] between a man and woman. We are a country that respects traditions, respects human nature, and it’s not possible at least with this government and this ministry, to permit marriage.”

Athanasiou said that Greece will not be influenced by other European nations’ embrace of marriage equality:

“Our country has structures. We have to look at it from the religious point of view, the political point of view, the social point of view. The ministry of justice will not, under the pressure of anyone, examine such an issue without calmness and composure,” he added.

The Greek Orthodox church, the largest denomination in the Eastern European nation, has called homosexuality “a perversion of human existence.”

Catholic Church: Commentary on Catholics and Anti-Gay Violence

Celso Perez, a Gruber Fellow at Human Rights Watch, has published a commentary in America magazine urging Catholics to show “zero tolerance” for anti-gay violence. Regarding the recent bishops’ synod on the family, he writes, “Despite a significant opening in dialogue, the synod discussions made relatively little mention of the violence that sexual and gender minorities regularly face in communities around the world.” The article provides extensive documentation both of church officials whose actions he sees as signs of a positive shift within the church – including those who have spoken against explicitly against anti-gay violence — and of those who “have remained silent in the face of terrible atrocities committed against vulnerable minorities.”

Egypt: More on Rising Anti-Gay Persecution

We have reported on the increasing persecution of LGBT people in Egypt. This week, Najma Kousri Labidi covers the topic in-depth at Huffington Post, reporting, “The renewed prosecution of LGBT individuals is illustrative of the continuous deterioration of the overall situation of Egyptian human rights.”

In Egyptian civil society, a political agenda has been observed behind the more frequent police roundups on the streets, at police checkpoints, or in clubs.

On the one hand, this crusade is designed to illustrate a rehabilitated security apparatus, publicly excoriated by revolutionaries in 2011, and to demonstrate a newly re-established control and surveillance of private life. On the other hand, several activists confirm that this sudden police interest in the gay community is part of efforts by the al-Sisi regime to inculcate a conservative image. Upon being contacted on the matter, Mo. R., a militant and defender of sexual, physical, and individual freedoms who chose to remain anonymous, said, “The regime is attempting to appear as the guardian of morality in Egypt in order to prevent the Islam-oriented parties from attacking them.”

Ireland: Catholic Church Says Marriage Equality Would Be ‘Grave Injustice”

Reuters reports this week that the Irish Catholic Church “said it would be ‘a grave injustice’ if gay and lesbian couples were granted equality in marriage as it began an uphill battle to persuade voters to reject same sex marriage in a referendum next year.

Ireland will hold the vote just over two decades after the once stridently Catholic country legalised homosexuality and as the once dominant role of Catholicism fades amid revelations of rape and beatings by priests and members of religious orders.

With a recent poll showing 67 percent support for enshrining same-sex marriage in the constitution and 20 percent opposed, Ireland’s Catholic bishops launched a 15-page pamphlet setting out its position….

“To put any other view of unions on the same level as christian marriage would be disservice to society rather than a service,” Bishop Liam MacDaid told a news conference.

“In a same sex union, children would be deprived of what a man and woman can give to children in a stable marriage.”

Chile: Son of Former Interior Minister on Being Gay and Jewish

Raimundo Hinspeter, the son of a former Minister of the Interior, published a reflection in the Jewish Journal on being gay in a religious Jewish school and community in Chile. “It is not easy being Jewish or gay, nowhere in this wicked world,” he writes, much less in a country where “discrimination is formally punished, but also practiced daily.”

Slovakia: Marriage Referendum Announced

Last week President Andrej Kiska announced that a referendum on same-sex marriage would be held on February 7, reports Associated Press. A conservative group, the Alliance for Family, gathered about 400,000 signatures calling for such a vote in this predominantly Catholic country. Slovakia already “doesn’t allow same-sex partners to live in registered partnerships and the country’s constitution was already amended earlier this year to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman,” according to AP. The initiative will ask Slovaks “whether they agree that a marriage can be called only a union between a man and a woman, same-sex partners can’t adopt children, and that children wouldn’t have to attend school classes on sex education if their parents don’t agree with them.”

Trinidad: Catholic Archbishop Tells Parents Not to Kick Out Gay Kids

Trinidad Catholic Archbishop Joseph Harris spoke last week at the opening of a shelter for children that, according to its administrators, will welcome children regardless of their sexual orientation.

Asked about parents who abandoned their children when they learned they were gay or lesbian, Harris condemned the practice.

‘I think that is the worst thing that you can do,’ the Archbishop said, according to Trinidad and Tobago Newsday.

‘People are people. All people have to be respected. All people, whatever orientation, are made in the image and likeness of Almighty God. We have to find God in them.’

According to Gay Star News, “The opening of the center was attended by both Minister of State in the Ministry of Gender and Child Development Raziah Ahmed, and Opposition MP Marlene McDonald, both of whom shared the Archbishop’s sentiments.”

‘All children have the right to care, love, support and interventions where needed in keeping with the rights of the child,’ Ahmed told Newsday.

‘I don’t think that anybody should be thrown out because of their sexual orientation,’ McDonald said, ‘Not at all.’

‘I do not subscribe to discrimination because of your sexual orientation. And I say that with confidence.’

Nigeria: Novelist Says Anti-Gay Law Driving People Into Shadows

Novelist Judge Dibia says in an interview with Lisa Schlein, that he called his first novel Walking With Shadows, which features a gay man who lives as a married family man, because gay people in Nigeria do not officially exist and are forced to live in the shadows. He says even though bookstores have refused to carry the book, it has gotten around by word of mouth and triggered discussions on the taboo topic of homosexuality. But writes Schlein, Dibia says the country’s harsh anti-gay law that went into effect earlier this year “is having a profoundly chilling effect upon the gay community.”

Russia: Lawyer Defending LGBT Activist Attacked, Russians Gays Seek Asylum in US

“A human rights lawyer who was employed to defend an LGBT activist said he was attacked after leaving a St. Petersburg court, identifying one of the assailants as an Orthodox activist and aide to a local anti-gay lawmaker,” the Moscow Times reported last week.

Vitaly Cherkasov, a member of the Agora human rights group, said a group of men accosted him when he came out of the courthouse and splashed him with an unidentified “corrosive, smelly liquid” that got on his hands, neck and clothes, news site reported Tuesday…

The lawyer identified one of his assailants as Anatoly Artyukh, an activist from the Narodny Sobor conservative organization and aide to St. Petersburg municipal lawmaker Vitaly Milonov, who is known for his virulently anti-gay stance.

In a related story, David Crary reported for the Associated Press that scores of Russian gays are seeking asylum in the United States.

European Union: Court Bans Requirement that Asylum Seekers ‘Prove’ Their Sexuality

The European Union’s top court has said that countries cannot violate the privacy of LGBT asylum seekers by forcing them to “prove” their sexuality. BuzzFeed’s Lester Feder reports:

The European Court of Justice ruling comes in response to a petition brought by three people denied asylum in the Netherlands because their claims to be gay were not considered “credible.” One of the petitioners had attempted to prove his sexual orientation by submitting a sex video, and another offered to submit to a “‘test’ that would prove his homosexuality or to perform a homosexual act to demonstrate the truth of his declared sexual orientation.” The third had his asylum claim rejected because statements “concerning his homosexuality were vague, perfunctory, and implausible” and officials believed he “ought to have been able to give more details about his emotions and his internal awareness of his sexual orientation.”

The court’s ruling that intimate sexual evidence is out of bounds was part of a much broader ruling faulting Dutch officials for evaluating asylum claims by measuring their stories against stereotypes about how gay people ought to behave rather than reviewing the specific stories and evidence presented. That is what the standard EU rules require, the court held, and it needed to be applied to people seeking asylum on the basis of their sexual orientation as it would be to any other asylum seekers.

Mexico: Officials in Baja California Thwart First Gay Wedding

In November, a same-sex couple and their family and friends were frustrated that local officials in Mexicali refused to marry them in spite of orders from the federal courts:

As they arrived at City Hall on Friday, surrounded by family members and friends, they walked past a dozen Catholic opponents of same sex marriage who held signs and prayed. Once inside the Civil Registry offices, a registry official told them that she had not been told of the ceremony, that she could not perform the marriage, and no one was available to provide an explanation….

The head of the Civil Registry office, Guadalupe Adriana Nevarez, said there were inconsistencies in the signatures of two of the witnesses, and that there was problem with a federal identification document. The couple and their supporters said the city’s position was simply the latest example of the city’s unwillingness to perform a same-sex ceremony, and making demands that are not required of heterosexual couples.

Kyrgyzstan: United Nations Human Rights Officials Urge Against Anti-Gay Bill

The United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has urged the government of Kyrgyzstan not to adopt the anti-gay law that has moved through the parliament.

The experts include the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom or opinion and expression, David Kaye; the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, Maina Kiai; the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Michel Forst; and the Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, Dainius Puras.

The explanatory note accompanying the bill defines non-traditional sexual relations as “sodomy, lesbianism, and other forms of non-traditional sexual behaviour.” It bans the dissemination of information in the media and on the Internet, as well as the organization and participation in peaceful assemblies on these issues….

For his part, Mr. Forst warned that “the draft law not only discriminates against a specific subset of the population, but would also chill the legitimate work of human rights defenders advocating for the human rights of the LGBT community.”

France: Far-Right Looks to Putin for Funding

TIME magazine reported that Marine Le Pen has received a multi-million dollar loan from a Moscow bank to fund the National Front Party.

“At this stage, Russia is trying to influence French domestic policy,” says Jean-Yves Camus, a political researcher at France’s Institute of International and Strategic Relations (IRIS). If so, Putin’s strategy resembles the Soviet Union before its collapse in 1991, when Moscow funded trade unions and political groups in western Europe in an attempt to buy influence and destabilize foes. “In this respect Putin is pretty much in line with the former USSR. It is the same policy all over again,” says Camus.