Anti-LGBTI laws in India and Nigeria were the focus of protests over the past week in the United States and the United Kingdom.
Local activists say police estimate 3,000 people protested outside of San Jose’s SAP Center Sunday during Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Silicon Valley tour with tech leaders to draw attention to Modi’s record on India’s religious minorities (including Muslims, Sikhs, and Christians), women, LGBTQ people, historically marginalized castes, environmental issues, free speech issues, and free internet issues….
Modi’s “unwelcome” included billboards across Silicon Valley drawing attention to Modi’s human rights record; hundreds of bottles of Purell hand sanitizer sent to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, each with a name of a person killed in the Gujarat riots; challenges from South Asian LGBTQ employees of high-tech companies of India’s Penal Code 377; a “faculty statement” from 125 academics on Modi’s history; a “die-in” dramatizing continuing attacks against minority groups; and social media campaigns using the hashtags #ModiFail, #ChallengeModi, #ModiLiestoUS, #ZuckWashYourHands.
LGBTQ Indian Americans and their allies are calling on Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Apple CEO Tim Cook, and Google CEO Sundar Pichai to challenge Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to overturn India’s homophobic Victorian-era law when Modi visits Silicon Valley this weekend. A petition asking these CEOs, previously vocal supporters of LGBTQ rights in the United States, to #ChallengeModi on his institutionalized homophobia has gathered nearly one thousand signatures. On the afternoon of Sunday September 27, over one thousand people are expected to protest Modi’s human rights record in San Jose, California.
Facebook, Apple, and Google claim to be LGBTQ-friendly. Cook, a global LGBTQ role model, said he would challenge anti-LGBTQ legislation “wherever it emerges.” Zuckerberg describes Facebook as “a proud supporter of Pride,” and sports a rainbow-colored profile photo. All three companies have challenged DOMA, supported marriage equality, and provided benefits for LGBTQ employees before they were legally mandated to do so.
However, these same CEOs are now turning their backs on LGBTQ Indians, as well as their own LGBTQ employees and allies, by welcoming the controversial Indian politician, previously banned from the United States for complicity with genocide, and now refusing to take a position on Section 377, the homophobic 1860 law imposed on India by British colonizers.
Today [Sept. 30] in London a petition of over 65,000 signatures [was] marched to the Nigerian High Commission. The activists are demanding that Nigeria repeal it’s archaic anti-gay law.
Nigeria has one of the harshest anti-gay laws out of the 76 countries that currently criminalise LGBTI people. The Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Bill punishes same-sex “amorous relationships” with 10 years in prison. It also prohibits same-sex marriage with up to 14 years and jails members of LGBTI equality or advocacy groups for 10 years.
The author of the Care2 Petition, Aderonke Apata, says: “Since the insidious 2014 anti-LGBTI law was passed in Nigeria, there have been waves of police arrests and torture, anti-LGBTI mob attacks, public whippings, evictions from homes, harassment and discrimination against ‘suspected’ LGBTIs. Equality advocacy organisations and activists in Nigeria are not spared mistreatment.
“Growing up in Nigeria, I was unable to disclose my sexuality, yet unable to hide it. The culture in Nigeria makes it clear that being gay or transgender is a sin, a sentiment that is fuelled by homophobic messages from faith communities, political leaders, families, and schools. I took these messages in, identified with them, and carried the shame of being a lesbian woman in Nigeria. I was arrested, tortured and extorted by the Nigerian Police. I demand a repeal of this toxic law.”
[Supporters of the protest included the Out & Proud Diamond Group, the Peter Tatchell Foundation, African Rainbow Family and members of the Care2 petition site.]