U.N. keeps focus on anti-LGBTI violence; Africa divided

Display shows U.N. Human Rights Council votes on the SOGI resolution.

Display shows U.N. Human Rights Council votes on the SOGI resolution.

The U.N. Human Rights Council today passed a resolution opposing violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Contrary to some predictions, the proposal, pushed by Latin American countries, did not face united opposition either from all African nations or all countries with anti-gay laws.

The resolution reinforces a resolution on the same subject, proposed by South Africa, that the council passed in 2011. It  asks the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights to gather and publish information on how best to overcome discrimination and violence.

Seven amendments to gut or water down the resolution were defeated.

In a photo showing council members’ votes on the proposal,  the following African countries registered no opposition to it: South Africa (voting yes, contrary to some supporters’ fears), Burkina Faso, Congo, Namibia and Sierra Leone (each abstaining).

The following countries with anti-gay laws registered no opposition to it: India, Namibia and Sierra Leone (abstaining).

Ivory Coast voted against the resolution, despite local activists’ plea to the government to support it.

South Africa’s permanent representative to the United Nations, Abdul Samad Minty, said of the vote in favor of the resolution:

Abdul Samad Minty, South Africa's representative to the United Nations. (Photo courtesy of sahistory.org.za)

Abdul Samad Minty, South Africa’s representative to the United Nations. (Photo courtesy of sahistory.org.za)

“The South African government believes that we as a country will benefit from such a report. Despite our enabling laws, people in our country are still  subjected to discrimination and violence based on their sexual orientation  and gender identity. The scale of the violence has resulted in our Justice  Department establishing a hate crimes unit to deal specifically with this kind  of discrimination and violence.

“The same applies as to why South Africa could not support the proposed  paragraph (pp9), which referred to existing national laws, customs or beliefs.  This clause is not relevant to a resolution that will look at the development  of a best practice report on measures to reduce discrimination and violence,  which may have to look at the role that policies, laws, religion and customs  may play in the very issue that we are trying to address.

“The essence of this resolution is to help us all understand what we can do  better to protect the lives and dignity of all our citizens.”

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New in Burundi: An arrest for ‘homosexual practices’

Location du Burundi en Afrique.

Location of Burundi in Africa.

A Vietnamese telecommunications worker was arrested Sept. 16 in northern Burundi on charges of “homosexual practices,” according to Agence France-Presse and other media accounts.

Under a Burundian law, passed in 2009, homosexual intimacy is punishable by three months to two years in prison and/or a fine of 50,000 to 100,000 Burundian francs (US $32 to $64).  At least until this month, that law reportedly had not led to any convictions.

The man was arrested after he was found with a Burundian partner, AFP was told by Richard Nzokirantevye, governor of  Karuzi Province.

The Burundian partner escaped and is sought by police, Nzokirantevye said.

The arrestee, whose name was not released, is an employee of the Vietnamese telecommunications company Viettel, which received a license in February to provide mobile phone service in Burundi.

Posted in Africa, Africa (Sub Saharan), Trials / punishments | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Russian police, anti-gay activists seek to stop QueerFest

Polina Andrianova of the Russian LGBT group Coming Out reports on the increased harassment that LGBTI people are facing during the ongoing QueerFest celebrations in St. Petersburg:

QueerFest logo

QueerFest logo

The Russian LGBT festival QueerFest [International Queer Culture Festival], traditionally a space for celebration, this year resembles a battleground, with each day a fight for survival. 

Sept. 18, QueerFest opening ceremony. Two hours before the event, main venue calls to cancel. Reason: “…compromised integrity of the arch over the entrance, which may result in its collapse.” At the same time, all other events continue.

The new venue is attacked by 20 “orthodox activists” accompanied by Vitaly Milonov, insulting, spraying green liquid and unknown gaseous substance.

24 complaints were filed with the police, including one from a member of the St. Petersburg ombudsman’s staff.

Sept. 19. The venue Etazhi, well known as a site for social events in St. Petersburg, cancels QueerFest’s events, including an event for Manifesta 10 [the European Biennial of Contemporary Art]. Organizers learn that Etazhi received a phone call from the police. Another venue, planned for the next day’s event, cancels the same evening.

Scene from QueerFest's independent music concert, before the bomb threat. (Photo courtesy of QueerFest via Facebook)

Scene from QueerFest’s independent music concert, before the bomb threat. (Photo courtesy of QueerFest via Facebook)

Sept. 20. The planned “Night of Independent Music,” which had been moved to a different venue, starts as planned, but mid-way receives a fake bomb threat.

Sept. 24. Police attempt to shut down a press conference on the theme “Who is Shutting Down QueerFest?” There is now concrete proof that it is police, not extremists, that are scaring the venues. The Institute of Regional Press, hosting the press conference, is pressured by police officials to cancel the event under the pretext that “violations of public order may ensue.” IRP becomes the first and only venue that resists the pressure, so the  media and the public learn what is occurring.

At this point, the organizers stop publishing the names of locations where the festival will be held; instead, the wider public is invited to view events online. Hundreds of people do so.

Polina Andrianova, one of the festival’s organizers, commented:

“In the six years of organizing the festival, there has never been such a consistent and organized attack on our freedom of assembly and expression. Instead of ensuring public order by providing protection, the police create a pretext to shut down events. Instead of bringing the perpetrators to justice, the authorities look the other way.

“Every means is used to push us into the “ghetto.” Yet, the festival is about dialogue and being open in society, and our best defense right now is to stay visible.”

QueerFest’s organizers ask partners to publicize the attacks on the festival and to take a firm stand against the unlawful actions used to foil the festival with the acquiescence of the authorities.

QueerFest’s organizers urge St. Petersburg authorities to:

1.       Ensure that the attacks at the festival’s opening are properly investigated and perpetrators are brought to justice.
2.       Ensure that the festival’s events can proceed with sufficient police protection.

The festival program for Sept. 18-28 can be found here. People can follow festival events online, on Twitter, or on Facebook.


Posted in Europe, Harassment / murders | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Egyptian, Jamaican activists seek international outcry

Defendants cover their faces during Cairo trial that followed the last wholesale arrests of LGBTI Egyptians, back in 2001. (Photo courtesy of Scott Long)

Defendants cover their faces during Cairo trial that followed the last wholesale arrests of LGBTI Egyptians, back in 2001. (Photo courtesy of Scott Long)

Activists in Egypt and Jamaica are seeking outpourings of international support for their efforts to combat homophobia.

The request from Egyptian activists is for online messages in blogs and on Twitter  on Sept. 24 and 25 to protest an ongoing wave of arrests and harassment of LGBTI people.

The request from Jamaican activists is for emails to the parliamentary committee that is reviewing the country’s Sexual Offenses Act, which includes an anti-sodomy provision that remains on the books from colonial times.

EGYPT — from activist commentator Scott Long

Graffiti in Cairo by street artist Keizer, 2012. (Photo courtesy of Scott Long)

Graffiti in Cairo by street artist Keizer, 2012. (Photo courtesy of Scott Long)

URGENT! This Wednesday and Thursday, September 24 and 25, Egyptian activists want a worldwide storm of tweeting and blogging to protest the recent, massive wave of brutal repression of LGBT people.

Here’s the call to action in English … (You can learn more and join the event on Facebook — and while you’re at it, check out the Solidarity with Egypt LGBT page as well.) …  Paste the hashtag #ضد_حبس_المثليين in Arabic, or use it in English —  #stopjailinggays. Please share widely and join in!

Two days of tweeting and blogging: #StopJailingGays

Because the Egyptian government has recently focused its efforts on monitoring people’s private lives, whether in the bedroom or on their facebook accounts …

Because the police have paused in chasing “terrorists” and are going after people for their sexual orientation and gender identity …

Because since October 2013, police have arrested more than 80 people for the “crime” of being gay or transgender …

Because some of these people receive humiliating treatment including physical violence and rape threats in detention …

Because the Forensic Medical Authority conducts anal examinations on these people, considered sexual assault and a violation of human rights and medical ethi
cs …

Because they are sentenced for up to 10 years on charges of debauchery — a vague word …

Because the media has been waging a sensational campaign against LGBT people in Egypt, violating people’s privacy by publishing names and photos …

Because of all of this, on September 24 and 25 we will be tweeting and blogging using the hashtag  #ضد_حبس_المثليين which means “Against the Jailing of Gays.”

Join us. Invite your friends. Raise your voices.

JAMAICA — from activist attorney Maurice Tomlinson

I have been asked how international allies can show support for the review of the Jamaican anti-sodomy law [which got under way this month].

Firstly, I think that the primary benefit of having US entities write to the joint select committee of Parliament reviewing the Sexual Offenses Act (that retains the anti-sodomy law) is that it will signal that the world is watching.

Mark Golding, Jamaica's minister of justice

Mark Golding, Jamaica’s minister of justice

So, allies could start their letter by saying who they are/represent and why the anti-sodomy law matters to them (e.g., they visit Jamaica, they work in HIV prevention and know the impact of punitive laws, they have heard and are concerned about homophobic abuses in Jamaica, etc.)

Then, they should acknowledge that the other countries also had these anti-gay laws and that it took some time for them to be repealed due to conservative religious thinking.  However, it was done, and those societies did not descend into chaos.  Neither will Jamaica.

Next, they should indicate the benefits to societies that have repealed these laws (more inclusive society, etc.), and respectfully suggest that the same will happen to Jamaica. Our national motto “Out of Many One People” and our national anthem which says “Teach us true respect for all” can also be invoked.

The aim is to keep the letter short (preferably no more than 1 page), respectful of the Jamaican legislative and democratic process, but expressing concern that the law is harming Jamaica’s citizens and international reputation.

The letter should be emailed to the Chair of the joint-select committee reviewing the Sexual Offences Act, Minister of Justice, Senator the Honourable Mark Golding: mark.golding@moj.gov.jm.

A copy should also be sent to the Clerk of the Houses of Parliament: clerk@japarliament.gov.jm.

And the clerk of the actual joint select committee: Monica Robinson at monica.robinson@japarliament.gov.jm.

Thanks for considering this!  The anti-gay groups in Jamaica are massing their support.  We need to amplify the voices of reason and compassion globally to push back against their hate and misinformation.

Posted in Americas, Anti-LGBT laws and legislation, Harassment / murders, International pressure for LGBT rights, Middle East / North Africa | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ivory Coast activists join push for U.N. rights resolution

U.N. Human Rights Council (Photo courtesy of Daily Maverick)

U.N. Human Rights Council (Photo courtesy of Daily Maverick)

Human rights defenders in Ivory Coast today urged their country to support a  U.N. Human Rights Council (UNHRC) resolution seeking action against discrimination and violence targeting people on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity (SOGI).

The resolution, proposed by Brazil, Chile and Uruguay, calls on the High Commissioner of the UNHRC to issue reports on the problem every two years. [A revised version of the resolution, presented today, called for a report next year, but without mentioning regular reports afterwards.]

South Africa and Brazil submitted a resolution on the problem in 2011, but South Africa’s stance on this year’s resolution remains unclear, although the South African constitution prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

As the South Africa-based Daily Maverick online newspaper reported:

Maite Nkoana-Mashabane (Photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

Maite Nkoana-Mashabane (Photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

This week, in response to the lack of clarity on the vote, a group of concerned South African-based NGOs wrote to Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, the Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, Michael Masutha and Minister of Social Development, Bathabile Dlamini, urging them to support the SOGI resolution, a key human rights resolution.

“Naturally a vote against this resolution would be contrary to South Africa’s foreign policy and constitutional mandate. An abstention would be seen in a similar light: a failure to speak up and show the commitment to the human rights of all people. In that vein, we also vehemently oppose the bringing of, or support for, procedural measures at the Council that prevent issues being discussed and/or voted-on. This is an issue on which we need more – not less – discussion at the Council,” the letter to the Ministers reads. …

There are countries that view the Uruguay/Chile/Brazil SOGI resolution as being somehow “pushed” by Western countries. The African bloc is opposed to the resolution and it is believed that Namibia and Botswana were unlikely to support it due to trade agreements with China.

In June last year South Africa voted with Russia for a no motion on a debate about the protections on nine categories of family, as set out in South Africa and which includes same-sex families. Russia is vehemently opposed to SOGI issues, as is Egypt.

The human rights defenders’ letter in Ivory Coast is similar to the appeal to  South African leaders. It states that the resolution “does not seek to create new rights, but simply applies existing standards for human rights to people who suffer violations because of their sexual orientation and / or gender identity. [The resolution] also welcomes positive developments while seeking more information and dialogue about violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity.”

Jean Marc Yao

Jean Marc Yao

The Ivory Coast letter is signed by leaders of the Inter-African Association for the Promotion of Health and Human Rights and of the anti-AIDS, pro-human rights group Alternative Côte d’Ivoire, which was the target of homophobic violence earlier this year. It is also signed by legal consultant Claude Alain Yao Kra and  by human rights defender Jean Marc Yao, who also writes for this blog.

The resolution is scheduled for a vote during the current session of the UNHRC in Geneva, Switzerland, which ends Sept. 26.

This is the full letter from the Ivory Coast human rights defenders, translated into English:

Abidjan, 23 September 2014

From: Human Rights Defenders Collective in support of the resolution on
human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity
08 BP 2056 Abidjan 08 [Ivory Coast]
77 05 64 33/05 53 46 53
yaokjmarc (at) gmail.com

To: Minister of State and Foreign Affairs, Republic of Ivory Coast

Subject: Request

Mr. Minister of State,

We, human rights defenders united together, hereby request you to support the resolution on human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity presented jointly to the Human Rights Council (UNHRC) by Brazil, Chile and Uruguay.

The resolution reiterates the universality of human rights, and notes a concern about acts of violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. It does not seek to create new rights, but simply applies existing standards for human rights to people who suffer violations because of their sexual orientation and / or gender identity.

It also welcomes positive developments while seeking more information and dialogue about violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity. It also asks for a regular report from the High Commissioner in accordance with the recommendations of Resolution 17/19, presented by South Africa and adopted by the HRC on June 15, 2011.

Mr. Minister of State, in view of the merits of the resolution, please kindly support it wholeheartedly so that it will be adopted by the United Nations Human Rights Council. Such a commitment on your part could only honor Ivory Coast by strengthening its reputation as tolerant country,

Mr. Minister of State, in hopes that you will lend an attentive ear to our just request, be assured of our deep consideration.


Yao Konan Jean Marc, Human Rights Defender
Kra Yao Claude Alain, Legal Consultant
Touré Ningwele Claver, Executive Director of Alternative Côte d’Ivoire (ACI)
Koudou Youhoyéré Josiane, President of the Inter-African Association for the Promotion of Health and Human Rights (IPSDH)



Posted in Africa, Africa (Sub Saharan), Americas, Human Rights, International pressure for LGBT rights | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Proposal in Chad would make gay sex a crime

La localisation du Tchad en Afrique.

Location of Chad in Africa.

The north African country of Chad is considering adopting a new penal code that would punish homosexual activity with up to 20 years in prison, Agence France-Presse reports.

The proposed legislation was adopted by the country’s cabinet on Sept. 4, but would need parliamentary approval to become law. AFP obtained a copy of it last week.

Article 361 bis of the draft of a new penal code calls for punishments of 15 to 20 years in prison and fines of  50,000 to 500,000 CFA francs (76 to 762 euros) for same-sex activity.

The issue of homosexuality, “has never really been an issue” in Chad, according to Florent Geel, Africa director of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH).

FIDH logo

FIDH logo

He called the proposal discriminatory, demagogic and counter-productive and urged parliament to amend the text before passing it.

According to the latest report from the ILGA (International Association of lesbians, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex), Chad has no law against homosexual activity, although the AFP article said homosexual activity is currently a misdemeanor.

According to Radio France Internationale, “The old code was not explicit enough. This time, homosexuality is strongly repressed. Officials in Chad say that law is needed to ‘protect the family and to comply with the Chadian society.’ “

Posted in Africa, Africa (Sub Saharan), Anti-LGBT laws and legislation | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

Indonesia plan: 100 lashes for gay sex, Muslim or not

Indonesia map shows Aceh province. (Map courtesy of PBS.org)

Indonesia map shows Aceh province. (Map courtesy of PBS.org)

The Indonesia’s Aceh province is considering adopting a new bylaw that would impose public floggings for homosexual activity by non-Muslims as well as Muslims.

Under sharia law, which is in effect in Aceh, Muslims are already subject to that punishment for gay sex, as well as penalties for adultery, public intimacy and wearing shorts or tight dresses.

Agence France-Presse reported today:

“Gay sex could be punishable by 100 lashes of the cane in Indonesia’s staunchly conservative Aceh province if parliament passes a draft law that critics say violates basic human rights.

“Aceh is the only part of the world’s biggest Muslim-majority nation to enforce Islamic sharia law and has been slowly implementing it since 2001, when it gained some powers of autonomy.

“A draft bylaw sent to AFP on Saturday outlaws anal sex between men and “the rubbing of body parts between women for stimulation”, and for the first time applies Islamic laws and punishments to non-Muslims.

“The bylaw also punishes adultery with 100 lashes of the cane.”

Illiza Sa’aduddin Djamal, deputy mayor of Banda Aceh (Photo courtesy of Acehterkini.com)

Illiza Sa’aduddin Djamal, deputy mayor of Banda Aceh (Photo courtesy of Acehterkini.com)

Illiza Sa’aduddin Djamal, the deputy mayor of Banda Aceh, the province’s capital, has been pushing for the legislation since at least May 2014, according to the Jakarta Globe.

“There is no law that could be used to charge them,” the newspaper quoted Illiza as saying. “The existing [regulations] only stipulate about khalwat [being in close proximity] for intimate relations between unmarried males and females.” Banda Aceh’s Shariah Police have struggled to crack down on same-sex relationships, Illiza said. Couples meet in rented rooms and pursue relationships under a veil of secrecy, she said.

“Even if one case of homosexuality found, it’s already a problem… we are really concerned about the behavior and activities of the gay community, because their behavior is deviating from the Islamic Shariah,” Illiza stated.

The Aceh proposal continues a legislative and human-rights struggle that has been going on for years.  As the Star Observer of Australia reported in 2009:

“In 2002 the Indonesian Government granted legal autonomy to Aceh, allowing the province to institute Islamic Sharia law, a framework that explicitly punishes homosexual acts.

“It was subsequently reported that 52 regions across the islands of Sumatra and Java adopted laws prohibiting homosexuality, including the city of Palembang in South Sumatra where punishment includes jail and fines.

“Indonesian lobby group Arus Pelangi launched a campaign against these regional statutes in October 2006. Many LGBT people are arrested and detained, often without charges or clear reason, only to be released after a few days, Arus Pelangi spokesman Widodo Budi said.”


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