Religious Traditionalists Resist Marriage Equality, Artist Questions What Is “Un-African” & More in This Global LGBT Recap

Limit(less), Mikael Owunna

ILGA notes that some women in more than 50 countries went on strike on Wednesday’s International Women’s Day:

“We demand that our lives and labour be treated with dignity for they form the basis of this society,” the platform of the International Women’s Strike reads, calling for “full reproductive justice for all women, cis and trans” and “complete autonomy over our bodies and full reproductive freedom.”

OutRight Action International’s Jessica Stern, in a commentary posted on the eve of International Women’s Day, called for recognition that lesbian and bisexual women and trans and intersex people “face multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination daily.”

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights published a statement welcoming recent progress on the human rights of LGBTI people in the region, from Argentina to Canada. But the IACHR also noted concerns, particularly “disinformation campaigns on measures that different States are promoting in this regard, which contributes to accentuate the stigmatization of LGBT people, to incite violence, to accentuate hate speech and to hamper implementation Of certain measures already adopted by States.”

Africa: Photo project challenges idea that being queer is ‘un-African’

BuzzFeed’s Sarah Karlan highlights the Limit(less) photo project by “queer Nigerian-Swedish American photographer and writer” Mikael Owunna, which publishes portraits and interviews of LGBT Africans living abroad in an effort “to debunk the stereotype that it is ‘un-African’ to be queer.” Owunna grew up “with tremendous anxiety from constantly balancing being both Nigerian and queer,” writes Karlan.

Owunna was outed to his parents at the age of 15 and they responded with “a barrage of homophobia” and even told him his identity was “un-African.” They believed their son had been corrupted growing up in America.

“For several years I was sent back to Nigeria during holidays, with the hope that re-immersing me in my culture could ‘save me’ from gayness,’” he said.

When he reached the age of 18, he was put through a series of exorcisms to “drive” the gay out of him.

Russia: Report on Putin, the religious and nationalist right, and rise of ‘traditionalist international’

People For the American Way (where I am a senior fellow) published a report by journalist Casey Michel entitled “The Rise of the ‘Traditionalist International’: How the American Right Learned to Love Moscow in the Era of Trump.” The report examines two American constituencies that backed Donald Trump’s election and have cultivated relationships with Vladimir Putin’s government: the religious right and white nationalist right. Michel writes:

For white nationalists, in their blinkered understanding of recent developments in Moscow, Putin presents something of an ur-leader: a head of state embodying an idealized view of masculinity, undistracted by legal or cultural niceties in pursuit of his ultimate end-goals. Rather than remaining within the understood boundaries of post-Cold War politics, Putin has, to America’s white nationalists, reclaimed the primacy of a white, Christian population within a multi-ethnic federation: a model white nationalists envision as a possibility under Trump. The Religious Right, meanwhile, stands enthralled with Putin’s willingness to bolster the church, with the Russian Orthodox Church maintaining a clear, superior role both within the state and over other non-Christian religions.

More from the report:

Since he returned to the presidency in 2012, Putin has made a concerted effort to establish his country as a center for religious, especially Christian, conservatives throughout the world, most notably for those who oppose any legal or public support for same-sex relationships. This shift has taken the form of legislation that prioritizes the interests of the Russian Orthodox Church, that rolls back abortion rights, and that sidelines attempts within the LGBT community to obtain any kind of societal acceptance. Even Moscow’s ban on Americans adopting Russian children managed to gain support within the U.S.’s far-right, with anti-equality Christian activists praising Putin’s move as one that would prevent children from living with same-sex parents.

Likewise, Putin’s attempts to distance himself from the West with this focus on “traditionalism” both mirror and reinforce the increasing geopolitical distance Moscow has created between itself and Western governments, as seen most explicitly with Russia’s ongoing occupation of Crimea. All the while, those close to the Kremlin have been expanding their outreach to members of Europe’s far-right, ranging from directing funding to France’s National Front party to inviting Hungary’s far-right Jobbik party to visit the Crimean peninsula, allowing the West’s far-right an opportunity to support Moscow’s claims to Ukraine’s peninsula.

As if to make Michel’s point, the same day his report was posted, globe-trotting anti-gay activist Scott Lively posted a virtual love letter to Russia, in which he praises “the dramatic reversal of Russian culture since Ronald Reagan facilitated a Christian revival in what is now the Russian Federation and various independent nations in Eastern Europe.”

Lively is unhappy about political criticism of Russia in the U.S., writing that “ideologically and culturally the Russian people are the closest match to American conservatives and populists in the entire world, and it is only the constant Obama/McCain/Soros/MSM/Deep State anti-Russian propaganda that keeps the Americans from seeing it.”

Lively proposes a new “overtly Judeo-Christian” global alliance to be led by Trump, Putin, Hungary’s Viktor Orban, Israel’s Benjamin Natanyahu and other “like-minded world leaders,” that Lively says would make the world “a far better place” than it is “under the greedy, Godless globalists.”

Also from Russia, Vitaly Milonov, the lawmaker behind the country’s infamous anti-gay “propaganda” law, is trying to use the law to prevent distribution of Disney’s new “Beauty and the Beast” movie based on what the New York Times describes as “a seconds-long glimpse of a gay character near the end of the movie dancing with the object of his affections.” Milonov’s letter to the Russian Culture Ministry blasts the “obvious, blatant, shameless propaganda of sin, of perverted sexual relations.”

More from the Times’ Ivan Nechepurenko:

Fighting homosexuality has been a recurrent theme for Mr. Milonov, 43, a champion of the Russian Orthodox Church. In 2013, he lobbied successfully for the “homosexual propaganda” law banning the distribution to minors of materials depicting “nontraditional sexual relations.”

He and some associates also raided gay clubs in St. Petersburg to evict underage customers and once demanded the prosecution of the pop stars Madonna and Lady Gaga for spreading what he considered “homosexual propaganda.”

Algeria: Novelist facing blasphemy charges in part over gay character

Human Rights Watch has called on the Algerian government to drop its criminal blasphemy investigation against novelist Anouar Rahmani. Judicial police arrested him last month, saying that his novel insults Islam.  The penal code provides for fines and prison terms of three to five years for “offending the Prophet” and “denigrating the dogma or precepts of Islam.” More from HRW:

Rahmani told Human Rights Watch that he received a police summons on February 27, 2017 at his house. When he went to the Tipaza police station the following morning, seven policemen interrogated him about his novel. In one chapter, a child converses with a homeless man who calls himself “God” and claims that he has created the sky out of chewing gum. The novel also depicts a gay romance between a freedom fighter and a French settler during the Algerian war for independence.

Rahmani said the policemen asked him questions such as, “Do you pray?” “Why did you insult God?” “Why did you write such a novel?” They told him that the novel’s mocking tone insulted Islam and that its sexual vocabulary contravened good morals. …

Rahmani said he was the target of threats and slander campaigns on the internet and in the Algerian media for defending the LGBT communitycriticizing the use of religion to restrict rights, and defending religious minorities on his blog, Journal of an Atypical Algerian. On June 2, 2016, the international nongovernmental group Frontline Defenders denounced the accusations of blasphemy and apostasy against Rahmani on the social media pages of students in his university, as well as in an Algerian daily journal.

“The biggest blasphemy is to think that God could be hurt by a novel, and that he is so weak that he needs to be defended by the police,” Rahmani told Human Rights Watch.

UK: Openly gay priest rejected for bishop position in Wales

Jeffrey John, an openly gay priest and dean of St. Albans Cathedral, was rejected for the fourth time for an appointment to become a bishop. From Christian Today:

Neither the Church in Wales nor the Church of England are opposed to clergy being in civil partnerships. The Church of England requests that clergy in civil partnerships vow to remain sexually chaste, but the Church in Wales has no such restriction.

Currently Dean of St Albans, Dr John was previously nominated to be Bishop of Reading in 2003 but was forced to withdraw himself under intense pressure from traditionalists.

He was later in the running for Bishop of Bangor in 2008 and then again for Bishop of Southwark in 2010 but was both times turned down with conservatives threatening a split in the Church.

But Dr John’s latest rejection to be Bishop of Llandaff is particularly striking because of the strong support he received among local clergy and parishioners in the largely liberal diocese.

It comes after the recently retired Archbishop of Wales used his final address to urge the Church to rethink its stance on LGBT couples.

Taiwan: Religious conservatives rally against marriage equality lawsuit

In advance of a scheduled March 24 judicial hearing in a marriage-equality lawsuit, some religious groups lobbied outside the Judicial Yuan urging judges not to be influenced by pro-marriage-equality politicians, including President Tsai Ing-wen. From the Taipei Times:

Religious organizations rallied outside the Judicial Yuan on Thursday, protesting against same-sex marriage and delivering a petition calling on the Council of Grand Justices to not be influenced by political considerations.

The rally was organized by the Alliance of Taiwan Religious Groups for the Protection of the Family and drew representatives from Buddhist, Taoist, Christian and Lamaist groups.

A spokesperson for the alliance said “The constitutional interpretation must not deviate from issues of morality, common sense and the laws of nature.”

The Taipei city government, meanwhile, is moving forward changes to housing regulations that would allow registered same-sex couples to rent public housing.

Peru: Religious conservatives protest inclusive sex education curriculum

Conservative Catholic and evangelical groups have mobilized protests against the country’s new curriculum, which they label “gender ideology.” But the Ministry of Education has defended the curriculum’s approach to gender equality and say they will stick with it.

According to EL PAÍS, Pastor González Cruz, “the visible face of the World Missionary Movement,” said in a homily before the march that “homosexuals are rotten, corrupt and unhappy people, and they are condemned to death.”

Australia: Interview with openly gay imam on Islamophobia and homophobia

At Vice, Mahmood Fazal profiles and interviews Imam Nur, “Australia’s first openly gay Imam,” who discusses the prejudice he has received both for being Muslim and for being gay.

We don’t need to tell you that being a gay Imam—the Islamic equivalent of a priest—is controversial. As Australia throws itself into a One Nation renaissance, and the Muslim community continues to frown upon homosexulity, being both gay and Islamic is hard. And sometimes dangerous.

Imam Nur was born in Somalia, before growing up in Egypt and Canada. In the 90s he moved to Melbourne as a high school student and became an Imam in 2001. He is now the director of Muslim LGBT outreach group Marhaba and has had several threats on his life. As he told ABC News, two men came to his door last year and threatened to kill him, after he’d appeared on the Melbourne-based LGBT radio station Joy FM. “They wanted me to stop talking about gay Muslims,” he explained. “But luckily the Victorian Police were very helpful and I am OK.”

In the interview, Nur talks about two HIV-positive young Muslim men who died “because they couldn’t live with the stigma from their own families and had gone on a self-destructive path.” Muslim leaders were in denial that HIV was an issue in the Muslim community, he says. “But what really moved me the most was that no mosque would provide funeral services for these young men, which is a shameful lack of dignity in the name of religion.”

In spite of intolerance and a rising tide of Islamophobic rhetoric Nur says he is optimistic about the youth.

Also from Australia, the Daily Mail profiles Susan Carland, wife of TV presented Waleed Aly and a prominent convert to Islam.

Yemen: ‘The secret life of a lonely gay Christian in Yemen’

The Week highlighted “The secret life of a lonely gay Christian in Yemen,published on Narratively by Maria de la Guardia two weeks ago. The subject of the profile is identified as Nader, a pseudonym:

A resident of Aden, a regional capital in southern Yemen, Nader converted to Christianity from Islam more than two decades ago. He is also gay.

“In Yemeni society I wish people would see me not as ‘just gay’ or ‘just Christian,'” he says between numerous glances out an open window. “I am a human being, a person. I wish they would see me as that.”

Yemen law is based in part on the principles of Sharia, declaring homosexuality illegal and punishable by death. Yemenis like Nader are trapped, and receive little attention from international media or governments. As war broke out here, all of the country’s foreign embassies shuttered their doors years ago, so he has nowhere to go for help.

Nader says most of the 14 gay men killed in Aden in the past year were murdered by al Qaeda member who had been romantically linked to their eventual victims before joining the group. “After relationships end, he says, the men pledge their allegiance to al Qaeda as a front or for redemption.”

Nader says he survived an attack meant to kill “the infidel.”

The persecution, threats and assaults have left Nader wanting to leave Yemen. “I want a place that gives me freedom, to worship my religion, to be gay without consequence, to practice art,” he says.

But if an offer came to relocate, he would still have concerns. “I worry they will take my passport, essentially my country and my family from me,” he says. “I will not be able to come back; I will not be able to support my siblings.”

China: Some parents unhappy with new inclusive sex ed curriculum

Pink News reports on a new and “surprisingly inclusive” sex education curriculum that addresses issues from sexual intercourse to LGBT identity in a matter-of fact way:

“A minority of people experience attraction to members of the same sex,” reads one section.

But the textbook does not only define sexual orientations as gay or straight, it points out that people are bisexual too.

“Did you guys hear about the celebrity that came out as bisexual?” one girl says in the book.

Her friend responds: “Didn’t Teacher tell us? Some people like both spicy and sweet. There’s nothing to be shocked about.”

Some parents are reportedly complaining about the new illustrated textbooks, but “LGBT groups, other parents, medical professionals and the Chinese media have all applauded the move, saying it is ‘long overdue.’”

Vatican: Sex scandals rock church in Italy

From Josephine McKenna for Religion News Service:

Lurid accusations of priests involved in sex orgies, porn videos and prostitution have emerged from several parishes in Italy recently, sending shock waves all the way to the Vatican and challenging the high standards Pope Francis demands of clergy.

In the southern city of Naples, for example, a priest was recently suspended from the parish of Santa Maria degli Angeli over claims he held gay orgies and used Internet sites to recruit potential partners whom he paid for sex. …

In the northern city of Padua, a 48-year-old priest, the Rev. Andrea Contin, is facing defrocking as well as judicial proceedings amid accusations he had up to 30 lovers, some of whom he took to a swingers’ resort in France. …

Francis has frequently called for a more rigorous screening process for seminarians, and he has taken direct action when scandals erupt in Italy.

A case in point: When reports of “playboy priests” surfaced in the Italian diocese of Albenga-Imperia in the northern region of Liguria in late 2014, the pope sent a special envoy to investigate claims that clerics had posted nude photos of themselves on gay websites, sexually harassed the faithful and stole church funds.

Two years later the pope replaced the leader of the diocese, Bishop Mario Oliveri.

Germany: Some Merkel allies to push for marriage equality

A January poll by the federal anti-discrimination agency found that 83 percent of Germans support marriage equality, but opposition by conservative Christian Democrats and Prime Minister Angela Merkel have to date limited legal recognition for same-sex couples for civil unions. According to Deutsche Welle, there’s a renewed push from some of Merkel’s coalition partners:

Marriage equality is legal in 22 countries, including Argentina, South Africa and the United States. Germany is not one of them. But now members of the junior governing Social Democratic Party (SPD) are pushing to change that. They are calling on their coalition partners, the conservative Christian Democrats (CDU) and Christian Social Union (CSU), to go along with a change of law that would grant same-sex couples the right to get married and not just obtain civil unions.

DW reports that a gay DCU deputy, Stefan Kaufmann, said religion is part of the resistance to marriage equality:

“Redefining what marriage means is harder for a party like ours, which carries the ‘C’ in its name, than it is for strictly atheist parties,” Kaufmann said, referring to the word “Christian.”

To Gutfleisch, Christianity and marriage equality aren’t at odds with each other. He believes that the issue shouldn’t be painted as a zero-sum game in which extending rights to all people somehow put other people at a disadvantage.

“A marriage stands for authentic values – no matter the sexual orientation,” Gutfleisch said. “Legalizing gay marriage will take nothing away from couples living in heterosexual marriages.”

Reuters reports that Germany’s Green Party is also supporting a move toward marriage equality.

Uganda: Profile of activist Kasha Nabagesera

CNN profiles Kasha Nabagesera, who it calls “the face of Uganda’s LGBT movement.” Nabagesera co-founded Freedom and Roam Uganda (FARUG) in 2003.

FARUG took it upon itself to defend marginalized women by meeting with politicians, increasing positive media coverage around LBT issues and conducting workshops and conferences.

Its website says the organization, which still runs today “recognizes diversity, challenges male chauvinism, patriarchy and cultures that aim at oppressing women.”

Uganda has drawn global controversy over the Anti Homosexuality Act that was passed into law bu then suspended by the courts on a procedural issue. More from the story:

In Uganda, where homosexual acts are punishable by prison sentences, being openly gay requires an astounding amount of courage.

Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera is not only incredibly open about her sexuality, she’s made fighting for the rights of Uganda’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community her life’s work.

Nabagesera was among the “top 100 homos” whose personal information was published by an anti-gay tabloid in 2010. She began Kuchu Times in 2014 to provide a media alternative and voice for the LGBT community; in 2015 she started the magazine Bombastic.

She says while change is slow, it is happening. “There’s a shift in mindset and that’s really something to celebrate,” she says. “It doesn’t mean everything is OK but at least there’s a very, very big difference from where we began.”

Mexico: Marriage equality legislation introduced in Chihuahua

Crystal Tovar Aragón, a lawmaker from the state of Chihuahua, introduced marriage equality legislation to bring the law into alignment with federal court rulings that make marriage equality legal for all couples in the state. Mexican federal courts have ordered federal judges to rule in favor of same sex couples seeking an injunction allowing them to marry, but under Mexico’s governmental structure, five such injunctions, or amparos, must be awarded to couples or groups of couples from a given state before that state’s law is considered changed for all couples. Mexico’s complicated legal march toward marriage equality is tracked by journalist Rex Wockner.

Brazil: Gay mayor marries longtime partner

Edgar de Souza, mayor of the city of Lins, married his longtime partner, businessman Alexsandro Luciano Trindade, after “a 13-year courtship.”

CNN reports:

“It’s the first time in Brazil that a mayor has starred in his own same-sex marriage!” Souza said with a laugh. “We want to give visibility to gay marriage and encourage others to take advantage of their rights.”

He said he has received some hate mail, but mostly messages of support on social media.

Same-sex marriage has been legal in Brazil since 2013 after a decision by the National Council of Justice recognized marriage as a right for same-sex couples across the country. In the first three years, more than 14,000 same-sex couples were married.

Once a bastion of conservative Catholic values, Latin America has become something of a trailblazer for gay rights, with Argentina, Uruguay and Mexico City leading the charge along with Brazil.

South Africa: New movie with gay love story draws controversy for including Xhosa ritual

CNN reports on the “critically lauded but publicly divisive” film “The Wound.” The film by director John Trengove is a love story between two Xhosa men set against “ulwaluko,” the Xhosa coming-of-age circumcision ritual. The film’s star, Nakhane Toure, has reportedly been receiving “homophobic abuse” amid boycott calls. From CNN:

The furore threatens to cloud a gripping study of inter-generational attitudes towards homosexuality, illuminating a corner of the LGBT community, stifled, if not silenced, by the precedents of its cultural traditions.

The film has drawn comparisons to “Moonlight” (2016), recent Oscar winner and a movie which called black masculinity into question. So can “The Wound” do the same for one of southern Africa’s most entrenched acts of heteronormativity?

Saudi Arabia: Government denies police killing of arrested trans women

The government is denying activists’ claims that “two transgender women from Pakistan were beaten to death in police custody after being arrested in Saudi Arabia along with more than 30 other members of the community.”

Northern Ireland: Marriage-blocking party loses seats

In Northern Ireland, the Democratic Unionist Party has repeatedly blocked marriage equality legislation with a mechanism known as a “petition of concern,” which requires that a measure get majority support from both nationalist and unionist groups of lawmakers, rather than simply a majority. But in recent elections, the DUP lost seats, bringing their total below the 30 lawmakers required to invoke the petition of concern mechanism.

Colombia: Gay legislator plans run for Senate

Angélica Lozano, the first openly LGBT person elected to Congress, is planning to run for a Senate seat in elections being held next year.

Asia: Look at rise of LGBT film and culture

At The Advocate, Diane Anderson-Minshall writes that an “unprecedented amount of LGBT art and activism is coming out of China, Taiwan, and Singapore.”