The Politics of Anti-Gay Persecution: Gambia, Egypt, Jamaica, Russia, with a Helping Hand from US Religious Conservatives; Global LGBT Recap

Human Rights Day was celebrated this week, on December 10.  Michael Adee celebrated with a post about the International Consultation on the Church and Homophobia, which was held in Jakarta, Indonesia in November.

Inspired by the theme, I John 4: 18 “Perfect Love Casts Out Fear,” the conference offered an introduction to LGBT issues in the context of God’s call to accept and love all persons including those with different sexual orientations and gender identities. Human dignity, human rights and LGBT equality were central to every conversation, presentation and worship service.

Sixty participants from Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Philippines, Jamaica, Angola, Togo, Sweden, Germany, England and the United States attended the conference.

Religious conservatives in the US and abroad have labeled American efforts to promote LGBT human rights overseas as imperialism. But activists at a conference coinciding with the third anniversary of a memorandum from President Obama charging US foreign policy agencies to promote LGBT rights said that US efforts have been important to activists promoting equality and facing persecution around the world. Read the Washington Blade’s report here.

On Wednesday, the Daily Beast hosted an event called Quorum: Global LGBT Voices that featured interviews with more than 25 activists from around the world to talk about “what is happening on the front lines of the global fight for equality.” Talks and panel discussions will the broadcast in the coming months. RD contributor Jay Michaelson profiled one of the participants, Cameroonian human rights attorney Alice N’kom.

The International Olympic Committee unanimously voted to add language opposing discrimination on sexual orientation to the Olympic Charter.

Vatican: Pope says Church should help parents ‘stand by’ their gay children

Pope Francis gave an interview with the Argentine daily La Nación in which he reflected on the recent synod of bishops. From the International Business Times:

“We come across this reality all the time in the confessional: a father and a mother whose son or daughter is in that situation. This happened to me several times in Buenos Aires…. We have to find a way to help that father or that mother to stand by their son or daughter,” he said in a wide-ranging interview with the Argentine daily La Nación. While it is important to find ways to welcome gay Catholics, gay marriage is still not on the church’s agenda, Francis said.

Jamaica: More US conservatives back anti-gay organizing

As we have reported before, American religious conservatives have been actively opposing efforts to decriminalize homosexuality in Jamaica. Last weekend, Liberty Counsel chair Mat Staver and anti-gay author Judith Reisman were the latest to attend an anti-gay event that, in Orwellian fashion, was called the International Human Rights Conference. The conference was hosted by the Jamaica Coalition for a Health Society. Miranda Blue at Right Wing Watch reports:

The groups organizing the conference have opposed efforts to overturn the country’s anti-sodomy laws, which impose up to 10 years imprisonment for gay sex. Jamaica CAUSE, a cosponsor, organized rallies earlier this year to oppose an effort to overturn the law. The main sponsor, Jamaica Coalition for a Healthy Society, also supports keeping the laws. On its website, JCHS provides a document called “Frequently Asked Questions About The Buggery Law” that attributes homosexuality to “economic reasons, direct Satanic influence, media and entertainment enticement, and experiences during incarceration” and cautions, “If determining human rights is separated from morality and based on individual freedom without any restraints, all perversions will in due time become ‘rights’.”

The Washington Blade reports:

The Jamaica Coalition for a Healthy Society, the Lawyers’ Christian Fellowship and Jamaica CAUSE are also organizing a rally at a Kingston park on Dec. 10 that will coincide with International Human Rights Day. They describe the event as “an evening of song, dance and poetry celebrating God the giver of perfect law and rights.”

Recently, Grace Phelps-Roper, a former member of the notoriously anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church and a granddaughter of its founder, traveled to Jamaica with the group Planting Peace, reports Metro Weekly, “to learn about the plight of LGBT people there.”

“I spent twenty years learning why God hates gays, preaching that they’re ‘beasts’ and ‘depraved,’ and protesting anyone who dared to speak up for them,” Phelps stated. “When I heard about the young people living in Jamaican sewers because their parents kicked them out for being gay, my heart hurt for them. I know what that’s like, being rejected by your family for not going along with their beliefs. There’s an irony there that I couldn’t ignore: that I share a fate with the very people I was taught to dehumanize so fiercely. I wanted to meet them, to see their plight for myself, and help tell the world their story.”

An Anglican priest who invited LGBT people to attend his service in commemoration of Human Rights Day, and washed the feet of two lesbians, is reportedly facing some backlash from his congregation and “questions” from the Jamaica Council of Churches.

Gambia: President whips up anti-gay sentiment with public rally

Gambian political leaders stepped up their ongoing campaign against LGBT people this week. President Jammeh was among thousands of Gambians who took part in a march to denounce homosexuality. Marchers also criticized attempts by donor nations to promote LGBT rights. From a report in the Daily Observer in Banjul:

Protesters, who started the procession at the National Assembly through State House carried placards and banners bearing; “Homosexuality is Inhuman”; “Even cows don’t do it!” “Homosexuality is forbidden in Islam”. It was calculated move by the demonstrators in a way to show to Gambian development partners and the rest of the world that the West African nation is one of God-fearing people who will under no circumstances accept homosexuality, lesbianism and the likes.

At the July 22nd Square in Banjul where demonstrators gathered to mark the end of the procession, a petition against homosexualism was read on behalf of protesters by the permanent secretary at the Ministry of Lands and Regional Government, Saihou Sanyang.

It reads: “Your Excellency Mr. President, it is important to contextualise such a lofty statesmanship within the overall provisions of the Constitution of the Republic of The Gambia 1997. This, in clear terms and provisions has stipulated that The Gambia is an independent sovereign state on equal status with all other nations irrespective of geographic size, economic or political might or wherewithal.

It is on the basis of principles of the equality, self-determination, and mutual co-existence that our foreign policies, which are but extensions of our domestic policies, are based. It is important to state that the spirit of the Constitution irrespective of its legalistic architecture in both its totality and otherwise is not the voice of the philosophical, religious, ethical, moral, and social values. As a country of religious people who live by the dictate of Allah as commanded in the religious preachings and their protractors, the stance on the principle of secularity in no way admits or accepts the principle to immoralities.

“Your Excellency Mr. President, it goes without saying that our intolerance with the unnatural and abominable malpractices of homosexuality and lesbianism on the one hand, and the other, our government’s position are not negotiable. It is on the basis of such religious, social, moral and ethical upbringing built on high moral grounds that we stand by our government’s position to zero tolerance to either homosexuality or lesbianism or both. There shall not be any turning point and that the people are ready for eventuals in good defence of the people and country’s independence”.

Russia: ‘Pro-Family’ allies promote Putin’s geopolitical agenda

BuzzFeed reported this week that, according to leaked emails between right-wing activists, “Russian nationalists and social conservatives appear to be working together to use links with ‘pro-family’ organizations in the U.S. and around the world to promote Russia’s geopolitical agenda.” The leaked emails include documents related to the “pro-family” summit held in Moscow in September which American religious conservatives helped organize and participated in.

The spreadsheet shows confirmed attendance at the conference “gala” from government officials, religious leaders, and activists from around 50 countries. These include France’s Aymeric Chauprade — a member of the European Parliament from the far-right Front National party — the Hungarian Minister of State for Family Affairs Katalin Veresné Novák, and Kyrgyzstan’s First Lady, Raisa Atambaeva. The guest list notes that several members of parliament from European countries had been “recommended” for the event by Russian MP Yelena Mizulina, author of the so-called “gay propaganda” law. Nineteen are identified as coming from the United States — including the National Organization of Marriage’s Brian Brown — most of whom were “recommended” by the World Congress of Families….

Russians invited include Igor Shchegolev – a senior aide to Putin – and Father Tikhon, an Orthodox monk said to be Putin’s confessor, but the list including their names does not indicate whether they accepted the invitation.

Chile: Marriage equality bill introduced

The Washington Blade’s Michael Lavers reports that lawmakers in Chile introduced a bill to extend marriage rights to same-sex couples.

“With this bill we are looking to eradicate the historic discrimination that affects people simply for loving and living with someone of the same sex,” said the Movement for Homosexual Integration and Liberation in its press release. “Respect for family diversity is at the heart of this bill that we celebrate with backing throughout the political world and also with the broad support of citizen organizations.”

The same-sex marriage bill’s introduction comes against the backdrop of the ongoing debate on a separate measure that would allow gays and lesbians to enter into civil unions.

Egypt: Anti-gay persecution cheered on by tabloid TV

We have been reporting on Egyptian officials using anti-gay persecution as political distraction and a way to mollify Islamist factions. Morals police reportedly arrested men at a Cairo bathhouse on Sunday and accused them of “perversions.” A reporter for a pro-regime TV channel that instigated the raid gloated over the arrest and posted photographs of the men on Facebook. At the Guardian, Brian Whitaker examines the ways Egyptian governments have made political use out of anti-gay persecution, “even though homosexuality is not actually illegal in Egypt.” He recounts the Mubarak regime’s use of sensational trials as a diversion from economic and political problems and concludes, “It seems very likely that the crackdown under President al-Sisi is occurring for similar reasons: to distract attention from bigger issues, to show that while suppressing the Muslim Brotherhood the regime is still capable of playing the ‘morality’ card, or a combination of both.”

United Kingdom: Activists resist deportation of Ugandan lesbian

Activists in the UK continue to press the case of a lesbian seeking asylum in the country who won a last-minute, but possibly temporary, reprieve from deportation to Uganda this week. She told PinkNews that she would rather die in a British detention center than be returned to Uganda. “Campaigners say Ms Twikireze was forced to undergo ‘a torturous exorcism’ ritual in Uganda as a young child in a bid to ‘cure’ her from being gay.”

A Catholic monk who is the director of a Scotland-based charity was arrested for distributing anti-gay leaflets in Cambridge.

Japan: Zen Buddhist temple offers same-sex couples symbolic wedding ceremonies

Japan does not legally recognize marriage by same-sex couples, but a Zen Buddhist temple in Kyoto offers symbolic ceremonies. The Advocate notes that the temple’s website includes this statement:

“Shunkoin Temple is against any forms of ‘Human Rights Violations’ in the world. No religion teaches how to hate others. Religion teaches how to love and respect others.”

Scotland: Episcopal Church warns priests away from soon-to-be-legal marriages

The Scottish Episcopal Church’s House of Bishops warned its clergy that even though same-sex couples will be able to legally marry on December 31, the church does not permit clergy to perform or enter into a same-sex marriage.

South Korea: Protesters occupy city hall after nondiscrimination charter dropped

LGBT protesters occupied City Hall in Seoul this week after the government dropped plans to enact a human rights charter that would have banned anti-gay discrimination. According to Pink News, the charter was to have been enacted on Human Rights Day – December 10 – but “after it picked up flack from church groups and conservatives, the planned charter was postponed indefinitely.”

New Zealand: first gay judge on high court

Matthew Muir has become the first openly gay member of the country’s highest court.

Australia: Gay man becomes chief minister of capital territory

Andrew Barr was appointed Chief Minister of the Australian Capital Territory, making him the country’s first openly gay government leader.