LGBT Editor In Bangladesh Murdered by Islamists—and More, In this Week’s Global LGBT Recap

Xuhlaz Mannan, who was murdered this month at the age of 35, was the editor of Bangladesh's first LGBT magazine.

The Global Philanthropy Project has published “The Perfect Storm: The closing space for LGBT civil society in Kyrgyzstan, Indonesia, Kenya, and Hungary.” The report notes that governments have responded to growing pressure for democracy, transparency and accountability by passing new laws to restrict freedom of expression and association, including bans on pro-LGBT “propaganda.” In addition, some politicians exploit nationalist sentiment by scapegoating LGBT people as representing “foreign values.” The report examines how these overlapping trends “have created a ‘perfect storm’ for LGBT civil society organizations caught in simultaneous waves of political pressure.”

Bangladesh: LGBT editor murdered by Islamists

Xulhaz Mannan, editor of Roopbaan, the country’s first LGBT magazine, was hacked to death last Monday along with a friend Tanay Mjumdar. An al-Qaeda affiliate took credit for the killing

A Twitter handle that identified itself as an outlet of Ansar Al Islam said its fighters had killed the two men, calling them “the pioneers of practicing (sic) and promoting homosexuality in Bangladesh”. The group has made similar claims about the deaths of other liberal activists in Bangladesh.

The Washington Blade notes:

Mannan’s death comes two days after members of the so-called Islamic State claimed responsibility for the hacking death of Rezaul Karim Siddique, a university professor, in northwestern Bangladesh. A number of other secular academics, writers and bloggers and members of religious minority groups have also been killed by Islamists in Bangladesh over the last year.

An LGBT rights advocate in Bangladesh who asked the Washington Blade not to publish their name because of safety concerns said an Islamist group really wrote on its Facebook page that “it is high time to eliminate gays” from the country.

Roopbaan cancelled a “Rainbow Rally” that was to have taken place during a Bengali New Year celebration in Dhaka on April 14 because Islamists had threatened to attack participants. The advocate with whom the Blade spoke on Monday said that Roopbaan was also targeted.

More from Human Rights Watch:

The killings follow a spate of recent targeted attacks on writers, educators, bloggers, and editors who promote liberal and secular ideas that radical groups believe are against Islam. The killings of Mannan and Mahbub brings to nine the number of liberals hacked to death in Bangladesh in 2016…

In a 2015 report, Bangladeshi LGBT rights groups said that, “Visibility…can be life-threatening and isolating due to social stigma, religious beliefs and family values that create a hostile environment for LGBT individuals.” Following a 2015 visit, the United Nations special rapporteur on freedom of religious belief said, “Sexual minorities do not find much acceptance in the society and often experience verbal or other abuse.”

Human Rights Watch interviewed LGBT people in Bangladesh in recent months and found that they faced threats of violence, particularly after homophobic public comments by Islamic leaders. Activists working on gender and sexuality said that to ensure their personal safety, they conceal their identities and constrain their work. Those who were exposed in the media and public spaces felt particularly vulnerable.

Human Rights Watch called for a more effective response from the government:

Several bloggers and their publishers were similarly hacked to death by Islamist militants in 2015 for promoting secularism. Religious extremist groups have claimed responsibility for murders and even published a hit list of activists and bloggers. The government offered police protection for those on the hit list, but the protection has clearly been inadequate as several on the list have been killed since. Prime Minister Sheik Hasina advised bloggers to use restraint in their exercise of free speech or leave the country for their safety.

Although the prime minister has promised to take action against the attacks, authorities appointed by her have instead prosecuted bloggers for “hurting people’s religious sentiments.”

Bob Shine at New Ways Ministry notes that two Catholic officials in Bangladesh condemned the killings:

Fr. Albert Thomas Rozario, head of the Archdiocese of Dhaka’s Justice and Peace Commission and a Supreme Court lawyer, told UCA News that justice must be ensured for the two gay men murdered:

‘The church always supports the demands of LGBT people for equal rights and opportunities as ordinary citizens. . .We call on the authorities to ensure justice is meted out for the killings, and also to take steps to end discrimination against this community.’

Rosaline Costa, a Catholic who is Executive Director of Hotline Human Rights Trust Bangladesh, said the government must do more than just investigate these killings:

‘God has given us freedom of choice and nobody is allowed to persecute people for their sexual orientation because of so-called traditional values based on conservative religious norms. A truly democratic society can’t accept abuse in the name of religion. . .

‘A proper probe and justice for the killings won’t do much protect the community. The government must ensure that the discrimination of LGBT people ends in this country even though the so-called protectors of Islam might not like it.’ 

Mannan also worked at the U.S. embassy. BuzzFeed’s Lester Feder profiles the murdered activists.

Jamaica: Opponent of decriminalization says ‘buggery’ law protects freedom for church, business

Wayne West, an outspoken supporter of Jamaica’s colonial-era “buggery” law, said during a public lecture that he believes the law is not about “peeping into anybody’s bedroom” but protecting the rights of anti-equality people.

“We are talking about what is happening on the streets and what is going to happen in your business, what is going to happen in your church, what is going to happen in your school, or whether you will be able to keep your job or your business, because this is in the public domain, and what we are seeing really is a plan for sexual anarchy and sexual nihilism,” said West.

He charged that persons who opposed the homosexual lifestyle in some countries are prosecuted, and Jamaicans need to be free to practise their democratic rights.

“If Jamaica wants to go that way, then fine, but this must not be forced upon us and certainly must not be sneaked upon us …,” said West.

West is a representative of the Jamaica Coalition for a Healthy Society, a group that has worked with American evangelicals to resist moves toward decriminalization of homosexuality.

Caribbean: Report examines support for anti-gay laws in Barbados, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago

Mahalia Jackman at the University of Manchester has published “They Called it the ‘Abominable Crime’: An Analysis of Heterosexual Support for Anti-Gay Laws in Barbados, Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago.” Punishments for violations of anti-sodomy laws in the three nations are quite severe, including sentences of up to life imprisonment in Barbados and Guyana. The study models support for anti-gay laws “as a function of religion, socio-demographics, beliefs about the origins of homosexuals and interpersonal contact with homosexuals.”

Among its findings:

With respect to religiousness, there was some (albeit weak) evidence that the more involved an individual is in their religion, the more likely they are to support the laws. The probability that an individual who is actively involved in their religion will want the laws maintained is roughly 4.5 percentage points greater than that of persons passively involved in their religion. Similar differences are found for the law enforcement category. However, in both equations, the religious participation variable was only significant at the 10 % level of testing. Meanwhile, the probability that an individual whose views on sexuality have a theological base will support the statutes is greater than that of an individual whose views on sexuality were not religiously inspired.

The author also concludes that religiously unaffiliated people “were less likely to support both maintenance and enforcement of the laws, but more likely to want the laws in place as a symbol—that is, maintained but not enforced…. Interestingly, while the religious tend to be more disapproving of the laws, there is no evidence of differing levels of support across religious denominations.”

Singapore: Prominent pastor calls gay Christians ‘an oxymoron’

Yang Tuck Yoong, senior pastor of Cornerstone Community Church, recently responded to an online video feature a lesbian Christian and a straight friend and ally. More from Gay Star News:

Yang writes on his church’s website : ‘There’s been a disturbing video that’s been making its rounds, promoting a Christian lady who’s a lesbian and Christian at the same time. She’s promoting the virtue of being a happy homosexual Christian. I find this very disturbing and misleading.’

He slams Pastor Pauline Ong of Free Community Church, who identifies herself as a gay believer. Yang calls gay Christians an oxymoron:

‘A homosexual Christian is an oxymoron. You cannot live a lifestyle that the Bible condemns and say you’re a believer in Jesus Christ at the same time,’ says Yang. He further condemns Pauline’s story as ‘deceptive for untaught people.’ ‘Her misleading testimony represents an insidious attempt to corrupt, undermine, distort and confuse the basic tenets of our Christian faith,’ Yang continues. ‘Please read your Bible and don’t misquote it. I assure you that a practicing homosexual will not see the insides of heaven if they continue down this path.’

Ong’s church responded by posting an FAQ that includes this:

‘Nowhere in the Bible is a person condemned for their gender identity or sexual orientation. When someone says the Bible condemns “homosexuality”, they usually mean behaviour that they think God finds unacceptable. ‘The Bible condemns lust and immorality of any sort (whether heterosexual or homosexual). But nowhere does the Bible discuss same-sex attractions or how to live as a Christian if you have such feelings. ‘These are subjects where we must seek God’s heart through prayer and the guidance that we do have in Scripture.’

In 2013, Yang Tuck Yoong urged the church to be “battle ready” and get into “battle footing” to take on the “LGBT bloc” as he rallied opposition to a court case challenging the colonial era law criminalizing gay sex.

Italy: Court grants lesbian couple adoption rights that were stripped from civil unions law

On Friday, a lesbian couple won a landmark court case allowing each other to legally adopt each other’s children. A legislative provision on adoption rights was stripped from recent civil unions legislation after it drew vehement opposition from the Catholic Church and Catholic politicians. Joseph Patrick McCormick at Pink News has that background:

The civil unions bill came about after the European Court of Human Rights upheld complaints of discrimination by same-sex couples, who currently have no legal rights in Italy

However, it has stirred up resentment between the LGBT community and the country’s powerful anti-gay Catholic lobbying groups – with large rallies and political manoeuvring against the measure.

Vile signs at one rally linked to Catholic groups compared gay people to Nazis – leading Prime Minister Renzi to tell the Church to keep out of the debate, given the legislation does not actually impact religious marriage.

Uzbekistan: LA Times profiles persistent transgender man who transitioned in spite of long odds

In the Los Angeles Times, Mansuy Mirovalev profiles a transgender man, Yan, who was able to transition thanks to Soviet-era regulations still in the family code that “allow a sex change after an evaluation by a commission of psychiatrists.” Still, “Yan has a harrowing reminder of how haters in Uzbekistan treat transgender people.

“There’s a scar left by a screwdriver next to my liver,” the craggy-bearded and long-haired transgender man says, describing how his college classmates attacked him in 1997 in Tashkent, the capital of this former Soviet republic, a mostly Muslim nation of 31 million.

Yan was helped by living in the relatively cosmopolitan city of Tashkent, which he says is a world apart from the countryside when transgender people can be raped and killed with impunity.

“Their parents, family won’t even interfere,” Yan says over a steaming cup of tea. “Because they think it is a sin, a crime against God.”

The LA Times notes that homosexuality is still a crime in Uzbekistan, and that the anti-gay law “is rarely enforced but remains a tool to imprison whistle-blowers, rights advocates and reporters.” Adds Mirovalev, “Few Uzbeks draw disctinctions between transgender people and gays and lesbians.”

Armenia: Violence produces nationalist backlash that targets LGBT people

Pink Armenia reports that the country’s Ombudsman’s annual report says that sexual minorities experience discrimination in employment, healthcare, and education as well as harassment and physical violence.

The group also reports that an outbreak of violence in the Nagorno-Karabakh region near the border with Azerbaijan “produced a frightening wave of nationalist rhetoric” and a backlash against woman and LGBT people. An in-depth Open Democracy report from April includes some details about “traditional values” and the nationalist backlash:

Hostile attitudes towards LGBT people in Armenia have become caught in a tug of war between pro-European and pro-Russian constituencies. To the dismay of Armenia’s LGBT community, gender and gay rights have become geopolitical.

“People are aggressive,” begins Armen, a young gay man I spoke to. “We are denied housing, communication with our families or friends, and are subject to physical and psychological violence.”

Armen’s experience is not unusual for LGBT people. Armenian society is aggressive towards anything outside the culturally accepted binary of gender and sexual behaviour. Armenia’s Conscript the Inside armed Forces, homosexuality is Treated as with an Illness or pathology ….

“Perverts” or “deviants” are just to two two terms of abuse That people CAN face. In some cases, LGBT people are even called “Turks”. (The hatred must run deep: Turkey is still seen as an enemy as a result of the 1915 genocide.) Today, as Armenia experiences constant depopulation of rural areas – a threat to population growth – Armenia’s LGBT people are seen as an existential threat to the nation, agents of enemies past and present.

According to the Open Democracy report, when a gay man appeared on a popular television talk show, he was jeered and a lawyer declared that he would prosecute homosexuals. “I will smash them and trample on them,” he said, adding, “and yes, they must be burnt.”

The report also reviews the history of conservative backlash against “gender ideology” over the past several years, with the word “gender” itself becoming “an adjective, an insult to humiliate LGBT people or their allies.” And the need to protect Armenia from such “western perversions” was used to support the president’s decision in 2013 to join the Russian-led Customs Union rather than associating with the European Union.

Egypt: Eleven people sentenced to jail terms for ‘debauchery’

Solidarity with Egypt LGBT announced on its Facebook page that eleven people were sentenced to terms ranging from three to 12 years for “debauchery.” Mada Masr reported that the 11 individuals sentenced by the Agouza Criminal Court were arrested last September:

Head of the gender program at the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights Dalia Abdel Hameed said the case was indicative of the state’s practices in its ongoing crackdown on LGBT individuals.

Abdel Hameed says that moral police targeted one of the accused using a dating application, reportedly entrapping the individual by posing as someone interested in a relationship. Through the application’s messaging feature, they acquired the accused’s address and then were granted permission by the public prosecutor to raid the apartment.

When the moral police conducted the raid, they found eight men present at the residence, all of whom would eventually be included in the case, according to Abdel Hameed. They then acquired the address of another apartment where they arrested three other men who would also be accused in the case.

An officer from the morality police who wished to remain anonymous confirmed to Mada Masr that morality police officers heavily monitor LGBT people using the community’s dating websites and internet forums. He stated that it is common practice for a police officer to engage with someone online, agree to meet him or her in person, and then send the messages to the public prosecution to issue a warrant of arrest.

As we have reported, homosexuality is not illegal in Egypt, but LGBT people are often targeted for persecution and prosecution under debauchery laws.

Abdel Hameed states that Judge Mohamed al-Husseiny who presided over the case is known for his homophobia. In a similar debauchery case, one of EIPR’s lawyers heard Husseiny say that the crime “shakes the throne of God.”

The Solidarity with Egypt LGBT campaign estimates that 172 LGBT individuals were arrested between October 2013 and December 2015, a figure the group reports is based on media reports. In their statement on Facebook condemning the recent verdict, the campaign stated they document a new case against LGBT individuals every two weeks.

Faroe Islands: Civil marriage equality becomes law, but no church weddings

On Friday, April 29 the Faroe Islands became the final Nordic country to extend legal marriage equality to same-sex couples. Details from Pink News:

While the country is seen as a kingdom of Denmark, which legalised same-sex marriage back in 2012, including religious ceremonies, the Faroese raised concerns that Christians would be opposed to the measure if it included church weddings.

So the population of 48,000 will only be able to marry in civil ceremonies for the time being.

The Maghreb: Activists challenge asylum-limiting policy in Germany

Human rights activists are opposing German government proposals to declare Morocco, Tunisia, and Algeria as “safe countries of origin” with regard to asylum seekers, reports Tunisia Live. Amnesty International argues that the criminalization of homosexuality in all three countries means that German officials should more carefully consider individual asylum applications from LGBT people.

Tunisia LGBT-rights groups say Germany’s position with regard to Maghrebi asylum seekers is particularly dangerous for their members. “Putting countries like Tunisia on the list of ‘safe countries of origin’ prevents multiple asylum seekers from having a protection that they can’t have in Tunisia,” said the cofounder of the LGBT-rights group Mawjoudin, who goes by the initials S.B. “The number of attacks based on the victim’s sexual orientation keeps rising. Arrests and prison sentences are more and more common.”

This month has seen a wave of homophobic rhetoric in Tunisia with numerous shopkeepers and taxis posting signs refusing service to LGBT individuals and with violent homophobic messages being posted to social media. The rise in intensity of anti-LGBT sentiment comes after the homophobic comments of actor Ahmed Landolsi on Tunisian television channel Al Hiwar Ettounsi…

The pressure on Germany to change the designation of Tunisia and its neighbors comes just weeks after the largest ever deportation to a Maghrebi country, when German authorities sent home 24 Tunisian asylum seekers earlier this month. At the time, German press reported that many of the deportees had a criminal record, and there was no indication of whether any of the asylum claims were based on an LGBT identity. The event followed a series of agreements made in March between Germany and Morocco, Tunisia, and Algeria to make the deportation process easier.

Jordan: Band banned and unbanned

The interior ministry blocked a performance by the band Masrou’ Leila; officials later lifted the ban but that decision came too late for a scheduled Friday concert, reports Pink News:

The reasons officials gave to the band were that its songs, which deal with taboos in the Arab world such as homosexuality, were “contradictory” to religious beliefs in Jordan…The ministry had said that the performances by Mashrou’ Leila had gone against Islamic and Christian beliefs in Jordan.

On Facebook the band thanked other musicians and activists who had stood with them.

Ukraine: Kyiv Post profiled LGBT support group

The Kyiv Post profiles Tergo, “the first and only registered organization in Ukraine that helps the parents of LGBT people, as well as LGBT Ukranians who are rejected by their families.” The story features Antonina Yankovaya, who says she “went wild” when her son started bringing his boyfriend home, but that a three-day counseling session at Tergo changed her life.

South Korea: Human rights activists call for government to recognize LGBT group

Human Rights Watch has echoed calls from the United Nations special rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association for the government of Korea to stop stalling the Beyond the Rainbow Foundation’s efforts to register as a nongovernmental organization.

LGBT activists in South Korea have faced strong resistance from conservative Christian organizations.

Europe: European Parliament calls from stronger measures against online harassment

The European Parliament adopted a report on Thursday that calls for measures to counter homophobic and transphobic hate speech online.

Malin Björk MEP, Vice-President of the LGBTI Intergroup, who was involved in the writing of the report, continued: “Many women and LGBTI people face online harassment, hate speech or blackmail. However, it is often unclear how to report the offence and where to seek help.”

“This report seeks to address this gap. We need to ensure that protection from harassment and abuse against women and LGBTI people in the real world exists in the online world too.”

Colombia: Court gives final approval to marriage equality

The Constitutional Court gave final approval to legal marriage equality on Thursday, April 28, after waiting for nearly five years for Congress to act on a 2011 ruling that said couples had the right to ask judges and notaries to solemnize their relationships.

From Human Rights Watch:

The Colombian Congress shirked his obligation to pass legislation to give effect to the judgment of the Constitutional Court of Colombia and ended with the arbitrary discrimination of the rules on marriage in the country, ” said José Miguel Vivanco , Americas director at Human Rights Watch. “The decision of the Court to recognize all Colombians, regardless of their sexual orientation, the right to marry the person they want to represent a paradigmatic step for human rights in the country.”

Isle of Man: Marriage equality gets final approval

Marriage equality received final approval in the legislative council. More from the Perchy Bird:

Same-sex couples currently in civil partnerships will be able to convert their union to a marriage. Civil partnerships on the island already allowed full adoption rights and the Isle of Man’s leader, Chief Minister Alan Bell, who publicly announced his relationship with a man last year, called the bill a way of crossing off a dark chapter in the island’s history regarding LGBT issues.

The Chief Minister hopes to have weddings start in the summer.

Northern Ireland: Sinn Fein will make marriage equality a priority

Martin McGuinness, leader of Sinn Fein, said the party’s first act in the next Assembly term will be to push for marriage equality, which has been rejected five times previously.

Zimbabwe: Opposition leader says he will not persecute gays

Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai told reporters that while he doesn’t support homosexuality, “I will not persecute or prosecute gays because in the constitution they are given that right.”

Albania: Organizers celebrate upcoming pride on social media

In advance of the upcoming 5th anniversary of Tirana’s gay pride celebration on May 14, activists from Albania, Kosovo, and Macedonia have been using social media to express support using the hashtag #Kurajo, which means courage, according to Historia IME.