Will International Criminal Court Bring Charges Against ISIS For Gender-Based Persecution?; And More in Global LGBT Recap

Yesterday's Polish Nationalist Youth March.

Gay Times (U.K.) has compiled a map with nations marked by colors representing eight legal status categories for LGBT people, ranging from marriage equality to death penalty.

“Original Sin,” a book by Italian journalist Gianluigi Nuzzi, alleges “a host of Catholic sins, including gay sex in the Vatican’s youth seminary.”

Islamic State: Lawyers ask International Criminal Court to Charge ISIS with Gender-Based Persecution

The City University of New York School of Law has teamed up with Madre, a New York-based women’s rights group, and the Organization for Women’s Freedom in Iraq to petition the International Criminal Court to bring charges against the Islamic State for gender-based persecution, reports BuzzFeed’s Lester Feder:

The ICC is not obligated to take up these charges, but if Bensouda were to convinced to do so, they would be the first criminal cases for LGBT persecution before an international tribunal. The ICC prosecutor has been considering bringing charges against ISIS fighters for a wide range of crimes, but not yet moved forward because neither Syria nor Iraq are signatories to the treaty that gives the court jurisdiction. In 2015, Bensouda said she might consider bringing charges against foreign fighters who joined ISIS from countries that are party to the treaty, however, including the UK, Germany, Belgium, and Jordan.

The case laid out against ISIS in the petition is based in part on extensive evidence compiled by activists working on the ground who had contacts inside the territory ISIS controlled until July 2017.

The more than 300 pages of documentation that supports the petition includes accounts of more than 60 people accused of being LGBT who were raped, set on fire, beheaded, thrown off buildings, or otherwise tortured and publicly executed over a 14-month period in and around Mosul. Accounts of executions of LGBT people have been posted on ISIS media accounts as it captured territory in Syria and Iraq, suggesting this is just a small fraction of the victims of LGBT persecution by ISIS. …

Some nations fiercely opposed language in the treaty that created the ICC in 1998, known as the Rome Statute, precisely because they worried it could lead to legal protections for LGBT people. The Rome Statute was the first international criminal law treaty that used the word “gender” rather than “sex,” a change in language that states including the Vatican and members of the Organization for Islamic Cooperation continue to contest in international agreements partly for the same reason.

Russia’s ‘Propoganda’ Law Encourages ‘Traditional Values’ Attack on LGBT Rights

Graeme Reid, director of the LGBT Rights Program at Human Rights Watch, published an article on “traditional values” as “a potent weapon against LGBT rights” in countries that were formerly part of the Soviet Union.

The regional leaders’ rhetoric and their modus operandi show that these events are linked by a discourse on “traditional values” that situates LGBT people as the aberrant “other.”  The idea of a timeless, unchanging tradition is particularly powerful in these times of social uncertainty, political instability, and economic pressure.

Reid notes that Russia’s anti-gay “propaganda” law has been discussed in many other countries, “leading to an increase in public discourse on ‘traditional values’ as a way to sabotage the rights of LGBT people throughout the region.”

The echoes of “traditional values” rhetoric can be heard of course much further afield including in Egypt, Indonesia, Nigeria, and Uganda.  Russia is not directly responsible for this proliferation of laws outlawing the promotion of homosexuality, or for the renewed zeal for using existing morality laws against LGBT people, such as in Egypt. But Russia has positioned itself as the champion of traditional values, both domestically and internationally. …

“Traditional values” is the staple language of Russia’s alliance with countries from the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) and the Africa Group at the United Nations.  The rights of LGBT people are the wedge issue used to undermine the universality of human rights and to position Russia in opposition to the West on the global stage. …

LGBT people are certainly not the first to be persecuted following this logic.  But through a persistent rhetoric, powerfully promoted by Russia and its allies, LGBT people have come to embody all that is antithetical to so-called “traditional values.”  And when that rhetoric lays the groundwork for ostracizing LGBT people, it takes little to tip the balance against their basic security—raids, round-ups, and purges are the violent consequence of political homophobia.

Egypt: The Politics Behind the Anti-LGBT Crackdown

Antoun Issa, senior editor at the Middle East Institute, wrote at Huffington Post about the politics behind Egypt’s anti-LGBT crackdown.

All of Egypt’s anti-LGBT campaigns are repetitive in content and application. Government, media, and religious bodies coordinate efforts to publicly expose and humiliate LGBT citizens, raids are made on LGBT-friendly venues, while authorities emphasize their moral justification in the crackdown. And they almost always serve a political purpose—this time is no exception.

In Egypt’s current climate, the targeting of the LGBT community is part of a wider crackdown on political activism and civil society that has been ongoing under President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. On the broader scale, the persecution of Egypt’s LGBT community is a rule out of an old playbook among Arab regimes: espouse a conservative social policy, particularly on matters of gender and sexuality, to appease Islamic sensibilities and maintain “religious” legitimacy.

Much of the Arab world remains highly conservative, and as such, Islamic bodies—ranging from legitimate institutions to extremists—yield considerable influence, and enough to threaten ruling regimes. Even secular Arab leaders require some level of endorsement from religious authorities in order to acquire the legitimacy needed to be respected by their largely conservative constituency. That is why women’s rights in the region remain the most regressive in the world, and hate campaigns targeting the LGBT community regularly flare up. …

At a time of high tension between the state and the nation’s Islamists, reasserting Islamic legitimacy is more crucial than ever for the Egyptian government, and it turns to the old playbook of accommodating conservative Muslim views on social policy to do just that.

Issa contrasts the actions of the Egyptian government with reforms made by the “young and ambitious Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman” which “push back on Saudi Arabia’s powerful religious establishment.”

Poland: Massive Nationalist Independence Day Rally: Racist Slogans, Calls for ‘Islamic Holocaust’

The eighth annual independence day rally organized by far-right nationalists drew 60,000 people, including representatives of “Neo-Nazi, white nationalist, and racist groups,” Newsweek reported. The National Radical Camp, which organized the rally, “has told its followers on social media that the Syrian migration is part of a conspiracy between Jewish financiers and Communists to destroy the European Union with Islam, Sharia law and homosexuality,” reports Newsweek. “The group considers itself the new version of a movement with the same name in the 1930s that tried to drive out Jews from Poland years before the Holocaust started.”

Among the banners and chants were “White Europe,” “Clean Blood,” “Europe Will Be White,” “Pray or Islamic Holocaust,” and “We Want God.”

“Supporters of the country’s governing conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party took part in the annual march,” reported the BBC, which noted that Interior Minister Mariusz Blaszczak called the gathering a “beautiful sight.” It said the event also drew about 2,000 anti-fascist counter-demonstrators.

Suriname: Equality Advocates Urge Cautious Lawmakers to Act in Spite of Religious Opposition

Human Rights Watch’s Boris Dittrich reported on a late October conversation among parliamentarians and NGOs during Pride month activities. A couple of parliamentarians said in response to questions about changing pension laws to make them fairer to people in same-sex partnerships, saying society is not yet ready for equal rights.

This answer did not sit well with representatives from the many groups that attended, who pointed out that human rights are universal. “LGBT people are humans too!” one person said.  Other parliament members chimed in, several making the argument that the first step should be to create public understanding of LGBT issues and tackle religious opposition: “Once we have created broad support then we can legislate,” one said.

Many fingers in the air to respond, a lively discussion ensued. One representative from a non-governmental group said: ‘There is a separation between church and state in Suriname. We don’t ask you to change the doctrine of the church. We ask you to give us our civil rights we are entitled to.’

Romania: US Clerk Kim Davis Meets With Orthodox Archbishops to Back Anti-Marriage Amendment

American county clerk Kim Davis, who became a Religious Right folk hero for refusing to provide marriage licenses to same-sex couples after the U.S. Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling, recently spent nine days in Romania on a speaking tour designed to drum up support for a referendum to put a man-woman-only definition of marriage in the country’s constitution. Davis and Liberty Counsel VP Harry Mihet, who accompanied her on the trip, met with “four out of the six top archbishops of the Orthodox Church” as well as evangelical leaders and the heads of “pro-family” organizations, according to a conversation Mihet had with Liberty Counsel President Mat Staver on his weekly radio show. Mihet said Davis had a “powerful” message about the need to put a restrictive definition of marriage in the constitution to prevent the kind of “judicial activism and judicial overreach” experienced in the U.S., which he said has had a “Devastating” impact on people of faith in the U.S.  (Davis has said she plans to run for re-election in 2018; a man denied a marriage license by Davis said he may run against her.)

Australia: Marriage Vote Results Announced This Week; Catholic Writer Urges Reconcilition

The deadline for voting in Australia’s non-binding referendum by mail on marriage equality was Tuesday, November 7. Results will be released on November 15. If the “yes” side is victorious, a parliamentary vote could follow soon, though marriage equality opponents plan a series of amendments granting exemptions based on religious beliefs.

A Lonergan Research poll found that 65 percent of Australians support marriage equality and that 49 percent of Australians believe that service providers with religious objections to same-sex marriage should be permitted to refuse to serve same-sex couples’ weddings.

At New Ways Ministry, Robert Shine reviews recent comments by several Catholic leaders in Australia and New Zealand.  that several Catholics in Australia and New Zealand. An excerpt:

Giving an LGBT Catholic view from the pews is Benjamin Oh, an Australian gay man, who is a leader in the Global Network of Rainbow Catholics, as well as several Australian LGBT Catholic and interfaith groups.   In a podcast interview with Eureka Street, Oh said that the experience of the postal survey debate, “I don’t know how many times I’ve broken down crying, together with my partner.”  The long process, he said has been “quite draining for many people.”  [His interview, which be accessed by clicking here, also touches on a number of other issues facing LGBT Catholics.]

Three Australian bishops vocally opposed marriage equality. Archbishop Anthony Fisher of Sydney “sent hundreds of flyers to city churches and published articles available on many church websites” encouraging Catholics to vote no, reported News.com.auArchbishop Denis Hart of Melbourne said church workers might be fired if marriage equality was legalized, though this report was later clarified that it would be up to each bishop to decide on their employment policies. Archbishop Mark Coleridge of Brisbane recently said the love of same-gender couples is “like the love of friends.”

But Catholics, including some bishops, have also been prominently supportive of marriage equality, or at least the faithful’s right to vote according to their consciences. Bishop Vincent Long, OFM Conv., of Parramatta said Catholics are free to decide how they will vote, and will have their own reasons for doing so that may include having LGBT members of their family. Bishop Bill Wright said Catholics should discern their vote carefully, but ultimately, “people of good will might honestly disagree.” Earlier this year,  two rectors at elite Australian Catholic schools came out publicly for marriage equality, as has the Rainbow Catholics InterAgency for Ministry which released a pro-LGBT voting guide this summer.

On November 15, the results of the postal survey will be released. Though it is expected that the “Yes” campaign will win, whether or not Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who is Catholic, will introduce equal marriage legislation is unclear. Early in the survey process, I suggested the intense and harmful debate was a moment for Catholic reflection on how the debate was being addressed by the faithful. As the survey concludes, it is another moment for Catholic reflection on how there can be reconciliation and whether church leaders are willing to move on fully so as to focus on real priorities for the common good. For such a path forward, I vote yes.

Bolivia: Constitutional Court Overturns Portion of Law Giving Legal Rights to Transgender People

The TCP (Plurinational Constitutional Court) declared that an article of the gender identity law that gives transgender people the right to marry, adopt, and raise children is unconstitutional. Some officials criticized the ruling, with one deputy saying it reflects the remnants of a “macho, patriarchal, conservative, transphobic, homophobic” society. The president of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal, Katia Uriona, asked the court to clarify the impact of its ruling on the political rights of transgender people.

Cayman Islands: Advocates Petition EU on Anti-LGBT discrimination.

Colours Cayman, an LGBT advocacy group, submitted a petition to the European Parliament after efforts to engage British authorities about anti-LGBT discrimination failed. The Cayman Islands are a British Overseas Territory. The petition has been accepted, meaning that the “legal institutions of the European Union will be giving consideration to claims of discrimination,” the Cayman News Service reports:

LGBT people in the UK’s Caribbean territories are being discriminated against compared to other British Overseas Territories, where they are enjoying equal rights to same-sex couples. Colours Cayman stated in a release that “the sad reality is that the unwillingness to change with respect to the remaining …territories”, which includes Cayman, is as a “result of their bigotry, hidden under the guise of cultural differences”.

Colours Cayman cited a case in the European Court of Human Rights last year, Taddeucci v Italy, where the court “held expressly and unanimously that the European Convention on Human Rights requires that states that are subject to the Convention (this includes the Cayman Islands) recognise same-sex couples for immigration purposes regardless of whether the country has in place, locally, a legal framework providing rights for LGBTI people”.

The group therefore believes the rejection of  the rights of a same-sex spouse of a Caymanian is discriminatory.

“Not only does this decision breach the Cayman Islands Constitution and a prior decision of Immigration that benefited various expats, but it also breaches international law,” Colours stated.

The activists said that the UK government has the constitutional powers to redress the breaches of international law in Cayman but it has been reluctant to step in, making it an accomplice to Cayman’s discrimination.

United Kingdom: Marriages of Convenience Among LGBT South Asians

The BBC reports on LGBT people from South Asian communities—Muslim, Hindu, and Sikh—who use social media to find people of the opposite sex willing to be part of a marriage of convenience to meet familial and community expectations:

Whilst homosexuality is considered a sin in Islam, some imams have said the bigger sin is the deception of being involved in a marriage of convenience.

Imam Ajmal Masroor, based in London, said: “I would recommend to those people doing this, do not do two wrongs because two wrongs will not make it right.

“If you are struggling with your faith, that’s your personal journey with God. However, deceiving other people is in itself a moral problem.”

It is not just Muslims who are turning to these online websites, the BBC has also seen posts from individuals from Sikh and Hindu backgrounds.

Dipen Rajyaguru, the director of human rights and equality for the Hindu Council UK believes it is a cultural problem rather than a religious one.

“People are forced into marriages of convenience because of those [cultural] pressures,” he said.

“But, in terms of Hinduism, there is no discrimination. We do not discriminate against people regardless of their sexual orientation.”

Ireland: Child Denied Irish Citizenship Because Law Does Not Recognize Lesbian Parent as Mother

A lesbian who had one of her eggs fertilized by a sperm donor and implanted into her British wife’s womb was denied an Irish passport for her son, reported the Irish Sun. The denial was based on a 1965 law, which recognizes as a child’s mother the person who gives birth to the child. She was told that, because his mother is British, her son “cannot be regarded as an Irish citizen.”

But Katie, who lives with Holly in Suffolk, England, said: “We are so frustrated and heartbroken that we can’t get an Irish passport for our son because of an antiquated law passed in 1956.

“I applied for an Irish passport and on the form it states that if a child is born abroad, there must be an Irish parent, which I am.

“It doesn’t state mother and father, just parent. By law, Holly is down on ­Griffin’s birth cert as his mother because she gave birth to him and I am down as a parent.

“However, Irish law still only ­recognises a male and female parent and this hasn’t been addressed despite the historical same-sex ­marriage referendum.”

Hong Kong: Journalist Criticizes City’s ‘Lukewarm’ Welcome for Gay Games

Luisa Tam, a senior editor at the South China Morning Post, criticized the Hong Kong city government for its “lukewarm” response to the city’s selection as the host of the 2022 Gay Games, which will make it the first Asian city to host the event:

It goes to show that officials pay lip service when it comes to supporting the city as a diverse and inclusive society. They only boast about how multicultural the community is or take pride in identifying Hong Kong as “Asia’s world city”, but they take no action to nurture and support diversity in all forms. …

It’s pitiful that many Hong Kong officials still hold on to the notion of “culture fit”. It’s a common term used in the private sector to describe whether a prospective candidate is a good match with a workplace culture. This tribal mentality that favours people similar to us and promotes conformity is not only terribly outdated, it’s also fraught with bias. The idea has become so unpopular that it’s being dropped by more and more companies and progressive governments. …

Hong Kong needs to make progress in this regard or risk falling behind. Our government officials need to lead by example and show how much they really care about equality and universal values.

First, they need to understand that supporting the Gay Games is an affirmative obligation to demonstrate to the world that this government accepts people with dissimilar backgrounds, cultures, religions, and lifestyles that don’t necessarily align with those of the administration or individual officials.

Costa Rica: Gathering on Civil Marriage Equality Addressed by U.S. Diplomat

U.S. Embassy official Eric Catalfamo addressed the Civil Marriage Equality Congress at the Inter-American Institute of Human Rights, reports the Washington Blade’s Michael Lavers:

Catalfamo in his speech noted he himself is gay and cited Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s Pride month statement in which he said, among other things, the State Department and the U.S. “will continue to support the human rights of LGBTI persons together with like-minded governments, businesses and civil society organizations globally.”

“The dignity and equality of everyone is engrained into the constitutional, fundamental principles of the U.S.,” said Catalfamo, referring to the statement.

Catalfamo also highlighted efforts to secure marriage rights for same-sex couples in the U.S. that culminated with the 2015 Obergefell decision that allowed gays and lesbians to tie the knot throughout the country.

Singapore: ‘Uneasy Compromise’ on LGBT Rights Keeps Many in Closet

“LGBT activists have made great strides toward equality but the criminalization of gay sex and official homophobia still keep many in the closet,” writes Kirsten Han at Asia Times. The story says there are more community resources for LGBT people now than in the 1990s, and notes that even official restrictions on financing and attendance by foreigners did not prevent a successful Pink Dot event this summer. But the current situation is far from legal equality:

The government continues to retain Section 377A of the Penal Code, which criminalizes sex between men. The law is sandwiched between codes that ban sex with corpses (Section 377) and sex with animals (Section 377B) in the Penal Code, indication of official attitudes towards homosexuality in the wealthy city-state. Convictions under 377A allow for two-year prison terms.

In a bid to placate both liberals and conservatives, the government has said that it will neither repeal the law nor proactively enforce it.

“[Singapore] is a society which is not that liberal on these matters. Attitudes have changed, but I believe if you have a referendum on the issue today, 377A would stand,” Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong told the BBC in an interview in February.

“My personal view is that if I do not have a problem, this is an uneasy compromise, I am prepared to live with it until social attitudes change.”

Media policies, meanwhile, continue to block any positive portrayals of same-sex relationships, and conservative elements are both vocal and organized in lobbying against any move towards greater equality for LGBT people.

Mexico: Marriage Equality Moving in States Over Continuing Objections.

In Aguascalientes, Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) official Efraín González Muro said he is “almost sure” that the state legislature will pass marriage equality legislation, but said that legislators are being pressured by the Catholic Church and the National Front for the Family, reports La Jornada Aguascalientes.

Netherlands: Some LGBT Asylum Seeks Deemed ‘Not Gay Enough’

PRI’s The World reported on the plight of some LGBT asylum speakers in the Netherlands: “Increasingly, advocates say, these asylum-seekers are facing local immigration authorities who think they are lying.” An activist said it is “becoming quite common” for immigration officials to disbelieve that applicants are gay.