Is LGBT-Muslim Clash Aiding Rise of Right in Europe?

OutRight Action International has published quotes from speakers at the meeting of the LGBTI Core Group during the recent United Nations General Assembly.

The LGBTI Equal Rights Association for Western Balkans and Turkey held its annual conference in Podgorica, Montenegro on September 20-23. AP reported that police provided protection for “an LGBT pride event” in a country “noted for its macho culture.” Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported that an event organizer “says LGBT right activists want harsher penalties for antigay attacks that he says currently are treated as ‘ordinary fistfights.’”

Activists around the world marked Celebrate Bisexuality Day (Bi Visibility Day) on Saturday, September 23, capping off Bisexual Awareness Week.

Hanoi Pride’s week of events concluded on September 24.

Catholic Church: Controversy over bridge-building book reflects larger struggle within hierarchy

James Martin, a Jesuit priest whose book promoting bridge-building between the church and gay Catholics has exposed him to vehement criticism from anti-LGBT Catholics, described his experience at the hands of “the Catholic alt-right” in a Washington Post op ed. For just one example, see Claire Chretien’s attack for Life Site News on what she calls the “extreme” things Martin has said about Catholics and gay marriage. (Life Site is promoting a petition to have Martin removed as a Vatican adviser.)

The backlash against Martin takes place in the context of a larger ideological struggle within the Catholic hierarchy. From an AP report from Vatican City this weekend:

Several dozen tradition-minded Roman Catholic theologians, priests and academics have formally accused Pope Francis of spreading heresy with his 2016 opening to divorced and civilly remarried Catholics.

In a 25-page letter delivered to Francis last month and provided Saturday to The Associated Press, the 62 signatories issued a “filial correction” to the pope — a measure they said hadn’t been employed since the 14th century.

The letter accused Francis of propagating seven heretical positions concerning marriage, moral life and the sacraments with his 2016 document “The Joy of Love” and subsequent “acts, words and omissions.”

The initiative follows another formal act by four tradition-minded cardinals who wrote Francis last year asking him to clarify a series of questions, or “dubbia,” they had about his 2016 text.

AP notes that none of the signatories of the “correction” letter are cardinals.

Germany: Right-wing party with lesbian leader gains; do results reflect Muslim-Gay clash in Europe?

The far-right and anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany party (AfD) pick up seats in Parliament on Sunday, coming in third overall, as voters gave Angela Merkel a fourth term as prime minister. The party is led by lesbian Alice Weidel, who Ha’arest says has been running on her own story as a lesbian mother of two and former Goldman Sachs banker, trying to put a softer, more tolerant face on the far-right of German politics.” But when marriage was legalized for same-sex couples in June, AfD’s website “ran an obituary for German family values.”

Earlier this month, CNN examined “why some gay men in Germany support the far right.” The story features a gay victim of a brutal assault at the hands of “two locally known Muslim extremists” who fled to Syria and have not been arrested. In a related story, Bruce Bawer, writing at the right-wing PJ Media, says that gays in Europe are “alarmed by Islam” and “moving to the Right.”

South Korea: Religious opponents of marriage equality campaign against high court nominee

The opposition Liberty Korea Party has been waging a campaign of opposition to the confirmation of Kim Meong-su to the constitutional Court, in part over his support for LGBT rights. From the Korea Herald:

Rep. Chung Woo-taik, the party‘s floor leader, highlighted Kim’s alleged advocacy for homosexuality, saying his appointment is feared to “rock the legal, religious values about same-sex marriage and homosexuality in our society.”

“There is no change in our position that nominee Kim is unfit for head of the judiciary,” he said.

Chung also emphasized that Kim hosted an academic seminar on homosexuality. Kim, if approved, could designate judges supportive of homosexuality to be Constitutional Court justices. Under law, the Supreme Court‘s chief is supposed to name three of the Constitutional Court’s nine justices.

Brazil: In victory for evangelical psychologist, Court reverses of 18-year-old ban on gay ‘cure’ therapy

A court overturned an 18-year-old ban on “conversion” therapy meant to “cure gay people, sparking street protests. According to The Guardian, “Coming a week after a bank cancelled an exhibition of gat art after protests from rightwing and evangelical Christian groups, the ruling has raised fears that progressive policies could be overturned.

More from Jill Langlois at the LA Times:

The challenge to the ban — which was instituted in 1999 by Brazil’s Federal Council of Psychology — came in a lawsuit this year from Rozangela Justino, a psychologist and evangelical Christian who had her license revoked in 2016 for offering the therapy and referring to homosexuality as a “disease.”

Ruling in her favor last week, Judge Waldemar de Carvalho wrote that people who want help in relation to their sexuality should not be prevented from voluntarily pursuing the therapy.

The judge has since released a statement saying that his ruling was misunderstood and that he does not believe homosexuality is a disease. He did not address the fact that experts have deemed the therapy ineffective and harmful.

Celebrities have led an immediate and widespread public backlash using the slogan “love is not a disease, it’s the cure” and the hashtag #curagay to discuss the decision.

Ivete Sangalo, one of Brazil’s most popular singers, wrote on Instagram: “The sick ones are those who believe in the great absurdity.” …

Evangelical Christians have been avidly protesting the novela, “A Força do Querer,” or “Willpower,” because of its storyline that depicts the struggles of transgender people in their day-to-day lives.

Langlois notes that while “Brazil is far more liberal than many other Latin American countries when it comes to sexuality and gender,” it is also true that “violence targeting gay, lesbian and transgender people has been on the rise nationwide.”

In a statement critical of the ruling, Human Rights Watch noted that a 2015 statement issued by 12 United Nations agencies, including the World Health Organization, called for an end to “unethical and harmful so-called ‘therapies’ to change sexual orientation.”

Azerbaijan: Activists report mass arrests, torture; politician denounces ‘creatures…cursed by God’

Eurasianet reports that at least 100 gay and transsexual people were arrested in raids around Baku, “with reports of torture and beatings.”

“Suddenly, without any clear reasons to us, police officers of the Ministry of Internal Affairs organized raids against gay and transsexual people,” said Javid Nabiyev, the president of the Nefes LGBT Azerbaijan Alliance, in a video message published on September 22.

Nabiyev said that the raids took place in private homes and public places where gay people are known to congregate. Some of those detained have been forced to inform on their friends. Family members and lawyers have been denied access to the detainees.

The Sweden-based human rights group Civil Rights Defenders spoke to several activists in Baku on condition of anonymity.

“Activists report that the detainees were subjected to beatings, verbal abuse, and forced medical examinations, as well as transsexual women’s heads being forcibly shaven,” the group said in a statement. “Many were released only after giving up the addresses of fellow members of the LGBTI community, who were then in turn arrested and subjected to the same treatment. An undetermined number of those detained have been sentenced to either 20 or 30 days of administrative detention.”

Police have said that the detentions are unrelated to the sexual orientation of the detainees and accuse them of being engaged in prostitution.

Eurasianet quotes a political party official says that “Western circles are trying to destroy our national traditions under the name of ‘human rights’” by defending “creatures who are sources of immorality, dangerous diseases, and who have been cursed by God.”

The early reporting on the incident recalls Azerbaijan’s neighbor to the north, Chechnya, which in recent months has also carried out raids and arrests of gay people, in some cases torturing and murdering the detainees.

Azerbaijan has a notoriously poor record on LGBTI issues. The country was recently ranked the worst place to live in Europe as an LGBTI citizen by a leading rights group.

Australia: Catholic, Muslim leaders ramp up ‘no’ vote campaign in ‘horror week’ for marriage equality

Marriage equality activist Matt Baume writes that the marriage equality mail ballot is “turning into a colossal disaster” for equality proponents, including misinformation and flat-out deceit by anti-equality campaigners, an increase in calls to mental health crisis lines and a drop in support for marriage equality as measured by pollsters.

Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott, a high-profile opponent of marriage equality, said he was headbutted by a man wearing a pro-equality “vote yes” badge. Abbott used the incident to repeat claims made by marriage opponents that intolerance and bullying of people with traditional views on marriage would worsen if marriage equality became a reality. The man charged with assaulting Abbott said it had nothing to do with marriage equality. But publicity over the attack was part of what one commentator called a “horror week” for marriage equality supporters:

 Sources inside the Yes camp have told they are “frustrated” that the actions of a few individuals have “derailed” what they have insisted has otherwise been a respectful and dignified campaign.

They’re also surprised at how much traction the No campaign has managed to achieve over a small number of incidents yet attacks on same-sex marriage campaigners, some violent, have gone relatively unnoticed. …

Melbourne University’s Associate Professor Sally Young, an expert in political campaigning, said the tone of the campaign may have now pushed some people into the No column.

“It’s tapping into what the No side is talking about, which is a fear of change.”

The Catholic Church is “ramping up its involvement in the same-sex marriage debate,” reports Emma Reynolds at

Sydney Archbishop Anthony Fisher sent hundreds of flyers to city churches and published articles available on many church websites encouraging worshippers to volunteer and donate to the Coalition for Marriage.

“Vote No in the Postal Plebiscite on Marriage,” reads an entry in this weekend’s bulletin at St Anthony of Padua Parish Clovelly. “A change in the marriage law has consequences for freedom of religion, including the ability of individuals to live out their faith in everyday life, for Priests to preach and Catholic schools to teach about marriage, and for faith-based charities to continue to take a pro-marriage stance.”

Others — including the Holy Family Parish Maroubra and Waverley Catholic Church — use almost identical wording, directing readers to the Coalition for Marriage website.

“As survey forms begin arriving in letterboxes across Australia, it is important that we are fully equipped with information about the consequences of changing the definition of marriage and the impacts this will have on individuals, families, education and churches,” it reads. “The Coalition for Marriage has released a comprehensive guide to some of the key consequences and questions around this important conversation.”

Gay Star News profiled Fahad Ali, whose “Musli faith and queer identity are colliding” because of the mail survey on marriage. “To help secure a ‘yes’ vote, Ali started the Muslims for Marriage Equality group.”

‘It’s important that queer identifying Muslims take leadership positions on these issues… we need to say this is a part of us like anyone else in the (Muslim) community,’ Ali said.

The activist said the popular belief that all Muslims oppose marriage equality is not actually true.

‘The notion that all Muslims are opposed to equal rights for same-sex couples is absolutely incorrect,’ Ali said.

‘There is a strong thread of egalitarianism and social justice within the Qur’an and we think that it is very applicable to the question of same-sex marriage.’

Australia’s Muslim population is diverse with its 604,000 strong population representing many different countries.

In contrast, the Daily Mail reports that Jamil El-Biza, a “fundamentalist Muslim sheikh” from south of Sydney, used derogatory anti-gay language in calling marriage equality evil. He said “it is a healthy sign that people in the community Muslims and non-Muslims have openly said this is wrong and shouldn’t happen.” The Daily Telegraph also reports, “Imams and Islamic leaders are ramping up a campaign against same-sex marriage, using their sermons in mosques across Australia to urge the Muslim community to vote no”:

Sheik Muhammad Saleem, a spokesman for the Victorian Board of Imams, said they were running a social media campaign urging their community to vote no.

“Like Catholic and Jewish people, we have always maintained marriage is between a man and a woman and that’s widely known to people,” he said.

“This is a democracy, we are being asked to vote, and we’ve had a say on that matter.”

The Grand Mufti did not respond to request for comment, but Mr Trad said Dr Mohamed gave a sermon on Friday where he expressed concerns the law, if changed, would stop parents telling children homosexuality was wrong.

People who attended the sermon also said that he told them that they should vote no, along the lines that it would threaten their ability to tell their children about the rights and wrongs of that particular behaviour.

Margaret Court, a former tennis great who is now a Christian minister, continued to be an outspoken opponent of marriage equality:

Tennis legend Margaret Court has returned serve to a Perth tennis club that turfed her out as a patron this week, saying she is being silenced for her views on same-sex marriage.

Despite being dumped by Cottesloe Tennis Club, Mrs Court remained defiant yesterday, accusing the LGBTQI community of wanting to “destroy marriage”.

Mrs Court said she was disappointed the tennis club had dumped her as vice-patron, saying the move was “politically motivated”.

“I think it’s sad. You don’t have the freedom of speech today to really defend yourself,” she said.

“It’s a sad day for our nation when it comes to that.

“Ian Thorpe can stand for the other side and there’s no criticism but when we stand for our Christian beliefs or God’s side I feel sporting people are very intimidated, they’re put down.” …

Mrs Court, a Christian minister based in Osborne Park, said the consequences of a Yes vote would be severe.

“It’s not about marriage. It will affect Christian schools, it will affect freedom of speech,” she said.

“There will be no Mother’s Day, there will be no Father’s Day, there will be no Easter, there will be no Christmas.”

She also defended her committed religious adherence.

“Some say Christianity should not come into politics but we’re human beings. If we believe that marriage is between a man and a woman and it’s in this Bible, we should be able to say that,” she said.

Participants in a “Straight Lives Matter” rally in Sydney were outnumbered by police and counter-protesters. Meanwhile, ballots have reportedly been stolen from people’s mailboxes.

In other news, the Tasmanian Parliament approved legislation to allow people convicted under pre-1997 laws against homosexual activity to have those offences stricken from their records.

Philippines: Anti-discrimination bill gets final House approval; legislation goes to Senate

Legislation banning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity was approved unanimously on its third and final reading in the House of Representatives. ABS-CBN News reports:

The measure prohibits and penalizes discriminatory acts by a fine not less than P100,000 and not more than P500,000, or imprisonment of not less than one year but not more than six years, or both.

It mandates existing women’s desks in police stations to be renamed as Women, Children, and LGBTQ++ Protection Desks, to attend to complaints.

The measure also orders establishments to make available their existing toilets with facilities designated for persons with disabilities as gender-neutral toilets.

It also prohibits publishing information seeking to reveal a person’s SOGIE without their consent.

The bill also penalizes the following acts:

  • gender profiling
  • denying or revoking a professional or other similar kind of license, clearance, except marriage license, issued by the government
  • denying access to public service, including military service including SOGIE as criteria for human resource action
  • refusing admission or expelling a person from any educational or training institution
  • denying a person access to public or private medical and other health services open to general public.

Sen. Risa Hontiveros, has a similar bill currently pending at the Senate.

In 2015, the ASEAN SOGIE Caucus met in Quezon City for a conference on SOGIE and intersectionality. The conference report noted that, at the time, it had been 16 years since the first anti-discrimination bill had been filed. It identified the Catholic Church as “the main opponent of the anti-discrimination bills.”

Namibia: Lutheran bishop denounces same-sex marriage

Shekutamba Nambala, presideing bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Namibia (ELCIN), “one of the largest Christian denominations in the country,” denounced same-sex marriage during a sermon in Windhoek:

He said God has created marriage as a vehicle of generational renewal and childbirth, and it is from that perspective that ELCIN views marriage and will only allow a marriage between a man and a woman and not those between same-sex persons.

“There is no procreation in same-sex marriage,” observed the bishop, saying marriage as established by God has the main purpose of ensuring continuation of the human race.

Tanzania: Mass arrest follows spike in anti-gay rhetoric from government officials

More on the mass arrest in Zanzibar, from DW:

Police in Tanzania’s semi-autonomous Zanzibar island have arrested 20 people suspected of homosexuality, police said Saturday, in the latest crackdown on the gay community.

“Yes, we rounded them up because we suspect that they were engaged in homosexuality in Zanzibar, which is illegal in Zanzibar and is against the law of the country,” he said, adding that police “will intensify (their) vigilance against those groups.”

Eight men and 12 women were arrested in a hotel where they were attending a training session from a NGO that works on education programs for HIV/AIDS.

The Tanzanian government announced in February that it would crack down on privately run health centers that provide AIDS-related services, which Health Minister Ummy Mwalimu said promoted homosexuality.

Gay sex between men is severely punished in Tanzania. Those convicted could receive anything from 30 years to life imprisonment. However, there is no such ban on lesbian sex.

Until recently the gay community in Tanzania had not be subjected to levels of discrimination seen in other African countries, such as neighboring Uganda.

Politicians had largely ignored the gay community until a recent spike in anti-gay rhetoric by the government.

Deputy Health Minister Hamisi Kingwangalla vowed in front of parliament Friday to “fight with all our strength against groups supporting homosexuality in our country.”

The government has recently vowed to deport foreigners who “campaign for homosexuality.”

Pan Africa ILGA strongly denounced the arrests as part of a pattern of arbitrariness and abuse of power in Tanzania and other African countries.

Indonesia: Government rejects most UN recommendations; ban on unmarried sex could snare tourists

Human Rights Watch criticized the Indonesian government for accepting two vague pro-human-rights recommendations made by the UN Human Rights Council during its Universal Periodic Review, while rejecting more specific calls to  “repeal or revise legislation, notably the relevant provisions of the Aceh Islamic Criminal Code, which criminalizes sexual relations among consenting adults of the same sex,” as well as to “guarantee the rights of…[LGBT] persons, through effective legal action against incitement to hatred and violent acts, as well as by revising legislation that can have discriminatory effects.”

Meanwhile, an effort by Islamist groups to include a ban on unmarried couples having sex in the country’s criminal code could lead to punishment for tourists visiting Bali.

Chile: Marriage equality legislation could take two or three years to become law

President Michele Bachelet, while speaking to the United Nations general assembly, mentioned marriage equality legislation and a partial decriminalization of abortion as advances in “individual freedoms.” But a local activist leader predicted that it could take two or three years for the marriage equality law to become a reality. From La Tercera:

Opponents of egalitarian marriage and adoption, only wielding religious and ideologically conservative reasons, have never been able to point out how egalitarian marriage and adoption by same-sex couples violate third-party rights or weaken the various forms of marriage. existing families. They only explain prejudices, caricatures and rightly lie about the existence of “studies” that are coincidentally financed by institutions linked to Catholic and Protestant churches or far-right foundations defenders of the “family.”

Italy: Activist says LGBT refugees from anti-LGBT nations need designated shelters

At Open Democracy, Claudia Torrisi argues that Italy needs shelters designated for LGBT refugees who “often find persecution has followed them to Europe.” Eight of the top 10 countries from which people seek asylum in Italy “have harsh anti-LGBT legislation.”

Amani Zreba, 36, was forced to flee Tripoli six years ago because of her sexuality. “I had a girlfriend from Egypt, and the whole society was hostile to us. At first I went to Egypt with her. I stayed there for a year, but I had to move even from there,” she told me. …

When Zreba arrived in Italy, she was sent to a reception centre where she felt intimidated by other asylum seekers because of her sexuality. “I was told that there was a guard from Libya in the centre. I was afraid that he or others could find out the reason of my asylum request and my sexual orientation,” she said.

Zreba recalls being “isolated and fearful for the whole time” she was in the centre waiting for her application to be accepted: “It was intolerable. I was afraid for my family in Libya because of the war, but I was worried about my situation too. It was the toughest human experience I ever lived.”

Trinidad and Tobago: Activists debate wisdom of legal challenges versus hearts-and-minds efforts

The Institute for War and Peace Reporting notes differing opinions among LGBT people about whether legal challenges or other strategies are the best way to move toward more acceptance. “The law doesn’t make people homophobic, culture and religion do,” says the head of the Coalition Advocating for Inclusion of Sexual Orientation. The article reports on mixed messages sent by the government over the past decade, sometimes in opposition to, and sometimes in alignment with, positions taken by local Anglican and Roman Catholic officials.

The article also profiles Jowelle de Souza, described as “Trinidad and Tobago’s most high-profile transgender person.” Her public life as a civil society activist “illustrates the contradictions over LGBTI rights in Trinidad and Tobago, one of seven Caribbean nations that criminalises same-sex relationships.” While laws criminalizing homosexuality and barring LGBT people from entering the country are on the books, activists say they are not enforced.

Hong Kong: Can Hong Kong follow Taiwan’s lead on marriage in spite of religious opposition?

At the South China Morning Post, David Ogilvie asks whether Hong Kong can “follow Taiwan’s lead on same-sex marriage and live up to its Asia’s World City tag.” He notes that anti-gay religious activists, while not large in number, are relatively vocal:

Choi Chi-sum, general secretary of the conservative Christian group, the Society For Truth And Light, for example, has been given an increasingly prominent stage to present his views following Taiwan’s legislative change. His opinions on same-sex marriage, sexual minority anti-discrimination laws, and even the recent “controversy” over a homosexual character in the Disney film Beauty and the Beast are well known.

Also, a surprisingly large number of politicians in Hong Kong profess to be devout Christians, although this does not of course automatically denote anti-gay or even anti-same-sex-marriage sentiment. …

Moreover, it seems that Hongkongers are increasingly unlikely to be swayed by the traditionalist views of local religious authorities any time soon, given the results of a WIN/Gallup International poll in 2015 that found Hong Kong was rated second lowest in the world in terms of religious belief – behind only China – with 34 per cent claiming they did not believe in a deity. Other polls have put that number far higher, with as much as 80 per cent stating that they do not have any particular religious affiliation.

It seems that the powers that be in Hong Kong will, therefore, face increasing pressure on this issue.

Russia: Dozens cross border to attend pride in Norwegian town; plight of lesbians in Chechnya

The Independent Barents Observer reports that about 50 people from Russia, Belarus and Kazhakstan “joined the first ever pride parade in Kirkenes, Norway’s border town to Russia in the north.” More:

Both Amnesty International and the Norwegian Helsinki Committee participated in the parade that ended a weekend where lack of LGBT rights in Russia were discussed at workshops and a in panel debate at the Community House.

Amnesty has campaigned against Chechen authorities since the Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta earlier this year published reports that Chechen authorities had detained, tortured and even killed gay men. In Grozny, authorities responded by claiming that gay men do not exists in the Republic, even as they defended killing them in the name of “honor.”

Investigative reporter with Novaya Gazeta, Elena Kostuchenko, was one of the participants that travelled all north to Kirkenes for the seminar and pride parade.

“This is wonderful,” she tells the Barents Observer. “It is very significant because it is so close to Russia. People here live their life without fear.”

At home, Elena has been assaulted and arrested on several occasions in retribution for her journalism and activism.

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reports on the plight of lesbians in Chechnya, recouting the story of a young woman whose planned escape was foiled by a taxi driver who heard her discussing plans, locked the doors, and drove her home; she was dead within a week, with family members claiming it was due to kidney failure. Noting that lesbians have not faced the same kind of high-profile campaign of violent persecution that has been waged against gay men, the article says:

Hovering over them is the pervasive fear of being outed and ostracized in a society where a woman’s reputation is considered a linchpin of family honor — or of falling victim to an “honor killing” in a putative bid to protect the family’s name.

The young woman who died in July after trying to flee, whom RFE/RL is not identifying due to the stigma and reported abuses lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people face in Chechnya, assiduously hid her sexual orientation. But somehow screenshots of her online conversations with her girlfriend and other friends ended up in the hands of her relatives, who became enraged. …

“Before the story with gay men, we would interact on social media, but now everyone is lying low,” one Chechen lesbian told RFE/RL on condition of anonymity.

Previously, she said, members of the LGBT community would meet for offline connections at secret parties held in rented apartments, obtaining alcohol through trusted contacts and keeping the noise to an absolute minimum so as not to tip off the neighbors. But the alleged campaign of violence against gay men has put an end to these gatherings, she said.

In its July report, the Russian LGBT Network calls LBT women “the most vulnerable group” subjected to the “strict traditions” of the North Caucasus, the mountainous southern Russian region where Chechnya and other mainly Muslim republics are located.

“Women, more often than men, are subjected to honor killings, and they can be judged only based on suspicion, even in the absence of facts,” the report notes.

Honduras: LGBT activist plans to stay in spite of recent attack

David Valle, a prominent LGBT activist who was attacked in his home in July told the Washington Blade that he has no plans to leave the country.