Activists from around the world celebrated the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHOT). The Arab Foundation for Freedoms and Equality compiled 14 IDAHOT projects from the Middle East and North Africa region.
The World Congress of Families, a global network of anti-LGBT and anti-abortion activists held this year’s global summit in Budapest, Hungary, last week. Many American religious conservatives participated, along with activists from around the world. Event organizers hailed Hungary’s strongman leader Viktor Orban as a pro-family “hero.” Orban addressed participants on Thursday with what the Guardian called a “typically pugnacious speech” that accused the European Union of being “dominated by a ‘relativising liberal ideology that’s an insult to families.’” More from the Guardian:
The four-day pro-family extravaganza—which will be attended by 3,000 delegates and will include events at the national parliament and other venues of symbolic importance—is the latest episode in Orban’s quest to position himself as a self-styled defender of “European Christian values”, a role he has used to justify his Fidesz government’s draconian treatment of mainly Muslim refugees and migrants.
At BuzzFeed, Lester Feder reports that Orban also announced new incentives for larger families.
In an interview about the pro-marriage-equality ruling from Taiwan’s constitutional court, marriage equality activist Evan Wolfson was asked about countries in which marriage equality is far from a priority for LGBT people seeking the most basic human rights protections. Here’s how he responded:
We all know that working for LGBT rights, women’s rights, and human rights around the world involves confronting some real terrible situations. Just look at Chechnya, Indonesia, Uganda, Saudi Arabia, Iran—countries where homosexuality is illegal, where gay people are put to death. It’s absolutely crucial that we work on these dire places, and help gay refugees, and push for decriminalization of homosexuality, and so on. All that work is extremely important and should not be lost in the shuffle. But it’s also important that we get rule-of-law countries where they need to be in order to create human rights momentum that’ll be helpful in moving the world forward. We have to make sure that we win the freedom to marry in countries where we can win and use those victories as building blocks so we can to lift up everyone, everywhere.
Taiwan: Religious conservatives call for referendum against court ruling on marriage equality
The Constitutional Court ruled on May 24 that it was unconstitutional to deny same-sex couples the right to marry. The Court gave the parliament two years to amend the civil code; codifying the ruling would make Taiwan the first country in Asia to embrace legal marriage equality. Marriage equality has the vocal support of the president; the chairman-elect of the Kuomintang said in the wake of the ruling that “everyone is equal in the face of love,” a shift in position from his earlier description of same-sex marriage as “horrible and creepy” and something that would “ruin our traditional family values.”
The Alliance of Taiwan Religious Groups for the Protection of the Family secretary general Chang Shou-yi called the ruling a “farce” and a “stain on Taiwan’s judicial history.” Anti-marriage equality groups, including the Protect the Family Alliance and the Coalition for the Happiness of the Next Generation, have announced plans to seek a referendum. According to the Shanghai List:
The Chinese Regional Bishops Conference, which oversees affairs related to the Roman Catholic church in Taiwan, expressed opposition to the ruling in a statement. “We urge believers in every parish to perform eucharistic adoration, to enter into a period of fasting, and to perform acts of penance,” the statement added. “Pray for the sacred union of one man one woman, for God’s blessing on national policy, and lift up the people of Taiwan to Jesus Christ, our compassionate savior, and Mary, mother of compassion.”
Along with Christian condemnation, opponents of same-sex marriage have also argued that Taiwanese society has its roots in Confucianism, which promotes a strong adherence to traditional family values, and of course, producing offspring. They argue that the fundamental concept of marriage should be between a man and a woman, otherwise it would be “very confusing for children.”
The South China Post said the court ruling in Taiwan “has reverberated across Asia, but the fight for equality is not over yet in a region where gay sex remains illegal in some countries.” Among the examples it cited were the caning of two Indonesian gay men and South Korea’s military court sentencing a gay soldier to a suspended prison term.
Indonesia: anti-LGBT crackdown continues
“Police in Indonesia’s most populous province plan to deploy a taskforce to investigate lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) activity,” report Tom Allard and Steffano Reinard in The Independent, “a move likely to fuel concerns of a widening crackdown on the community in the Muslim-majority country.” The plan was disclosed by the West Java police chief the same week that two men were caned in the Aceh province, where a form of Sharia law is enforced.
Indonesia’s reputation for tolerance is already under scrutiny after Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, a Christian, was sentenced this month to two years in prison for blasphemy.
Responding to Sunday’s Jakarta raid, Charliyan told reporters in Bandung, the capital of West Java, a province with a population of about 47 million, that LGBT people suffered a “disease of the body and soul”.
He called on the public to report their activities.
“I hope there are no followers in West Java, no gay or LGBT lifestyle or tradition, Charliyan said. ”If there’s anyone following it, they will face the law and heavy social sanctions. They will not be accepted in society.”
Reuters reported on the caning:
Religious police in Indonesia caned two men for gay sex on Tuesday, with hooded men inflicting 82 lashes on each of them as hundreds of people watched the punishment ordered by an Islamic court.
Cheers and applause went up from a crowd gathered outside a mosque in the city of Banda Aceh, capital of the conservative province of Aceh, as the masked men took turns to flog the pair on a raised platform.
The men stood quietly, their heads down, as spectators heckled them and shouted insults.
The punishment, condemned by rights groups, marked the first application of anti-homosexuality laws introduced in the province in 2014.
In Jakarta, the nation’s capital, police arrested 141 men in a raid on a gay club. From the New York Times:
Analysts said the arrests in Jakarta were part of enforcement efforts by the police before Ramadan, the monthlong holiday in which observant Muslims fast throughout the day.
Tobias Basuki, an analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Jakarta, said the police appeared to be formally taking on a role that had previously been held by hard-line Islamist groups.
“The government is trying to co-opt the religious narrative,” he said.
The Indonesian government, under the leadership of its pluralist president, Joko Widodo, has been engaged in political battles with hard-line Islamist factions that recently succeeded in getting a close presidential ally, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, Jakarta’s Christian governor, imprisoned on blasphemy charges.
South Korea: Military sentences against gay captain
An Army captain faces dishonorable discharge after a military court sentenced him to a suspended prison term for having sex with a fellow male soldier. From Kim Tong-Hyung’s Associated Press report:
In conservative South Korea, gays, lesbians, bisexual and transgender people are harshly stigmatized and struggle to be politically visible, while a powerful Christian lobby immobilizes politicians seeking to pass anti-discrimination laws. That stigma is amplified in the military, where most able-bodied South Korean men are required to serve about two years as the country maintains a large force in the face of potential conflict with North Korea.
Gay men are not exempt from conscription but are banned from engaging in homosexual activity while serving, leading to an environment in which they serve without revealing their sexual identity for fear of discrimination and reprisals.
Bermuda: Marriage equality group loses charity status, still fighting
Opponents of marriage equality rallied outside parliament next week and urged the government to appeal the recent Supreme Court ruling in favor of same-sex couples seeking to get married. A smaller group of pro-equality activists held a counter-protest. The couple that brought the lawsuit leading to the ruling got married in Toronto, Canada, one of the men’s home town, where they said they could more easily have a small, private service. Meanwhile, the group primarily responsible for organizing opposition to marriage equality, Preserve Marriage, lost its status as a charity after a commission rules that its purposes caused “more detriment than benefit.”
Cambodia: challenges for LGBT people in spite of royal support
At The Diplomat, Luke Hung and Molyny Pann review the status of LGBT people in Cambodia, which “has seen increasing numbers of gays emerging into public life as the country continues to rapidly normalize after three decades of war.”
Cambodians have traditionally shunned the gay community, and LGBT practices are often viewed as being against nature and a threat to rebuilding the social order in the aftermath of three decades of war, which obliterated the country’s social fabric.
Overcoming prejudices was initially tackled by the late King Norodom Sihanouk, who in 2004 was widely applauded for supporting the LGBT community and same sex marriage. That stand has remained unchanged under current King Norodom Sihamoni.
Since Sihanouk expressed his support, the pink economy has flourished, with LGBT-friendly bars and coffee shops opening alongside a fledgling gay media and entertainment industry, while activists have organized themselves into non-governmental organizations (NGOs).
But despite royal support many LGBT individuals still face abuse at home, in school, and in the workplace. Many are rejected by their families, sometimes bullied into a conventional marriage, while others are simply locked-up in their village homes until they recant.
Moldova: Police stop pride march to avoid confrontation with counter protesters
A march by LGBT activists on May 21 in the capital of Chisinau was stopped by police to avoid a confrontation with “Orthodox priests and believers” who had set up a counterprotest. According to a report by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty:
Scores of participants in the LGBT march, who were wearing white shirts with the logo of the No Fear social campaign, were evacuated in buses by police after eggs and water were thrown at them by those attending the counterprotest.
The march had been called to protest what members of the LGBT community perceive as antigay legislation in Moldova.
Meanwhile, Moldova’s pro-Russian President Igor Dodon, who has been critical of the LGBT community and its march, which he said contradicted “our traditional values,” attended a separate counterrally in downtown Chisinau, called the Traditional Family Festival.
Russia: Human Rights Watch releases report on Chechnya
Human Rights Watch released a new report on the systematic detention and beating of gay and bisexual men in Chechnya, which has taken place within a larger context:
For the past decade, Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov has, with the Kremlin’s tacit blessing, built his rule on brutal repression, Human Rights Watch said. Law enforcement and security agencies under Kadyrov’s de facto control have abducted people from homes, work places, and the streets, held them in secret locations, and carried out enforced disappearances, torture, extrajudicial executions, and collective punishment practices. For years, their targets were alleged armed insurgents and their suspected collaborators, but over time, police and security forces used these methods against local dissenters, independent journalists, Salafi Muslims, people who use drugs, and other people the Chechen leadership deems “undesirable.”
… Chechnya is a highly conservative majority-Muslim society and homosexuality is generally viewed as severely tainting family honor – an attitude fueled by high-level Chechen officials who have publicly condoned honor killings of gay and bisexual men.
As “Magomed,” one of the purge victims, told Human Rights Watch, “They have long arms and they can find me and the others anywhere in Russia, just give them time.”
While Russian federal officials have pledged to investigate the anti-gay purge allegations, they have repeatedly pointed to the lack of victim complaints to suggest the allegations are merely rumors. However, Human Rights Watch noted that Chechnya’s authorities are known to ruthlessly retaliate against local residents who dare to protest against abuses.
In recent years, Human Rights Watch has documented numerous cases of local Chechen officials retaliating against relatives of individuals who fled the region and then attempted to seek justice for the abuses they had suffered.
The New York Times reported that LGBT Russians who emigrate to the U.S. and settle in Russian neighborhoods often find themselves facing homophobic attitudes.
Bangladesh: Mass arrest of men charged with being gay
Police arrested 27 men on suspicion of being gay, although the Associated Press reported that they may be charged with drug possession rather than homosexuality. The owner of the community center where the men gathered was also arrested.
From the Washington Post’s Annie Gowen:
Homosexual acts are illegal in Muslim-majority Bangladesh — as in more than 70 other countries in the world, including neighboring India. The mass arrests come on the heels of a recent high-profile case in Indonesia, where two men were sentenced to public lashings for gay sex under a strict new provincial sharia law.
Bangladesh’s legal code prohibits “unnatural offenses,” which it says includes voluntary “carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal.” The offense is punishable with life in prison.
The law is rarely enforced, but LGBT groups have reported that police use the law as a pretext to bully gay or simply effeminate individuals to prevent the formation of LGBT organizations, according to a 2016 U.S. State Department report on human rights practices from its Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor.
A nascent gay rights movement that included pride rallies and the country’s first LGBT magazine, Roopbaan, crashed to a halt last year, when one of its founders, 35-year-old Xulhaz Mannan, a USAID official, was hacked to death by suspected Islamist extremists.
AFP noted, “Bangadesh criminalizes gay sex under a law dating back to the British colonial era that has never been repealed but is rarely enforced.”
Scotland: Church of Scotland moves toward blessing same-sex couples’ weddings
The Church of Scotland’s governing body accepted the recommendations of its theological forum, moving the church toward approval of same-sex couples getting married in church, while preserving the option for clergy not to officiate at same-sex weddings. Same-sex couples have been allowed to legally marry in Scotland since 2014.
Ireland: Gay Irish-Indian cabinet member favored to become next prime minister
Leo Baradkar, the current minister for social protection, is considered the front-runner in a field of people seeking to become the next prime minister after Edna Kenny stepped down. Baradkar had been a leader in Ireland’s 2015 marriage equality campaign. The Irish Times noted that “as the openly gay son of an immigrant, his election would represent a break with the past and probably make headlines around the world.” Added Irish Central: “This is not your grandfather’s Ireland any more folks.”
China: Propaganda officials tell media to play down Taiwan marriage ruling
According to Radio Free Asia, “China’s state propaganda machine has warned the country’s media not to ‘make a big deal’ of” Taiwan’s marriage equality ruling.
The government of Hong Kong has appealed a ruling by the city’s high court that the city must provide spousal benefits to civil servants who married same-sex partners abroad. Alfred Chan, the South China morning post reported that the chairman of Hong Kong’s Equal Opportunities Commission, said he thinks he “can do better in terms of fighting for the legal protection and rights of sexual and ethnic minorities.
When 11 parents with gay sons and daughters tried to join a “marriage market” in a Shanghai public park where parents seek to find partners for their children, other parents objected and police ordered the parents to leave.
Romania: 1,000 people attend pride parade
The Associated Press’s Alison Mutler reported that about 1,000 people joined a gay pride march in Bucharest, which came after lawmakers approved an initiative to amend the constitution to restrict marriage to a man and a woman.
Australia: Tennis stars spar over marriage equality
A new development in a long bitter public debate over marriage equality, former women’s tennis star Margaret Court, who is now a church pastor, said she would try to avoid flying Qantas airlines due to the company’s public stance in favor of marriage equality. In response, Martina Navratilova called for changing the name of the Margaret Court Arena, a site of the Australian Open. A few years ago, Court had written a letter to a newspaper denouncing an article about the birth of a baby boy to a gay couple’ in the letter she described herself as “a patron of the Australian Family Association.”
Cuba: Independent gay rights activist describes increasing persecution
The Washington Blade’s Michael Lavers spoke with Nelson Gandulla, president of the Cuban Foundation for LGBTI Rights, who said he has faced increasing persecution by agents of the government or criticizing Mariela Castro, daughter of Raul Castro and leader of a government-approved organization that advocates for LGBT rights.
Kenya: Ugandan refugees imprisoned after protesting conditions in camp
76 Crimes reported that 17 LGBT Ugandan refugees were sentenced to a month in prison after being transferred from one refugee camp to another for protesting against police brutality and homophobia in the camp.