Catholic setback? LGBT hope remains for long-term change

The Rev. Canon Albert Ogle

The Rev. Canon Albert Ogle

In the short term, the final report of this month’s gathering of Roman Catholic bishops discussing homosexuality and family issues eliminated the welcoming words that the preliminary report had included about LGBTI people. The news of that reversal was reported here:

But the Rev. Canon Albert Ogle says that a longer-term view is needed, especially a view that focuses on more than same-sex marriage and that recognizes the importance of simultaneously combating hostility to gays and to women.

Jesus, protect us from your followers

By the REV. CANON ALBERT OGLE

Pope Francis (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Pope Francis (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

The medieval Irish pilgrim once quipped: “Going to Rome is a lot of work and is exhausting, but you will not find your God there unless you take God with you.”

The quest for the perfect family, even in Rome, may be equally hazardous or fruitless.

My RGOD2 column last week intimated the important significance of the Roman Catholic Synod on the Family but nobody could have anticipated the enormous attention that has been given to LGBT issues by the media, over other equally, if not more important issues.

Although Pope Francis encouraged the 190 bishops and 60 additional advisors to have a frank and candid discussion, as they prepared a preliminary document for greater exploration and discussion over the next 12 months, the media defaulted to our “instant news, instant gratification” cycle that removed any sense of confidentiality and ongoing debate such Papal candor requires. The carefully prepared document released on Monday was meant to be a springboard for the church universal to dive into important and contentious issues as we try to swim towards a common shoreline in the next 12 months, rather than liberals or conservatives struggling to win a race by the close of business tomorrow.

Context, context, context!

The preliminary document is really worth everyone reading and taking a collective long and deep breath.

LGBT people cannot de-contextualize our own issues from those of the rest of the community. This document is complex and sensitive, and however flawed and couched in churchy language, it is an attempt to include our issues with the wider issues. Poverty and sexism are integrally connected to LGBT global issues. They are much more important in my list of priorities than say, gay marriage. The media and the Vatican Curia often disagree about these priorities. It is a shame western gay marriage debate takes center stage to more significant issues that the church and society has difficulty facing like LGBT poverty or sexism.

This document includes everything from the issue of gender inequality, domestic violence and polygamy. Sexism is the deep root of homophobia and we will never experience equality and dignity while the majority of women on the planet are seen as the possessions of men and their patriarchal structures. What linkages might we, within the LGBT movement globally, create with the women’s community in the coming year, as this document stimulates discussion and policy changes, towards this greater task?

LGBT and gender equality must be linked more strategically

Maxensia Nakibuuka

Maxensia Nakibuuka

For example, Maxensia Nakibuuka from Uganda, a leading Catholic lay woman and straight ally, told me last week before she left California that she would like to return to New York to take part in discussions during the Commission on the Status of Women at the United Nations in March 2015. How do we build a case for global equality for women and LGBT people?

This past week, activists from several countries where LGBT people are still criminalized met with the president of the World Bank to build a case for safeguards for gender and LGBT equality. This is an important strategic and in my framework, a theological priority. St. Paul’s Foundation was invited by the LGBT community in Cameroon last February to offer papers at the African Sexual and Reproductive Rights Conference in Yaoundé beginning to link these two issues. Maxensia and I were well-received by the conference, but it is difficult to ask for LGBT rights in a country like Cameroon where 40% of the population still sell their girl children into sexual abuse by older men. It is called by a number of names including “child brides” or even the practice of female genital mutilation is allowed to exist, without little condemnation from religious bodies in Cameroon including the Roman Catholic Church.

We need to develop a moral framework where all forms of sexual violence is not only outlawed, but repaired. Because it may be culturally and socially acceptable to sell children or lock up LGBT people, the church is failing to give moral leadership to these obvious forms of socially acceptable dysfunctions. The more issues of sexual violence and injustice are worked on in isolation from one another, the longer it will take us to find sexual wholeness as a human race.

How long, Lord? How long?

Two observations may be helpful to how we see the Synod both as an opportunity for deeper dialogue, if the LGBT community will hold back on our own forms of (media driven, instant results) judgment and re-tool that energy into constructive debate and deeper and more strategic collaboration with the gender equality movement.

Malcolm Boyd on the cover of his book "Are You Running With Me, Jesus?"

Malcolm Boyd on the cover of his book “Are You Running With Me, Jesus?”

The first comes from a story told by pioneer LGBT and civil rights activist Canon Malcolm Boyd of Los Angeles. He describes a mainstream church in the Southern part of the USA struggling with the issue of racial equality in the 1960s. This all-white congregation, like the nation, was deeply divided on the issue of racial equality and for several years the congregation debated and struggled with the issue of how they might reflect a more inclusive interpretation of the gospel to welcome everyone, including African-Americans, who were still seen as “the other.” Many of this all-white congregation had little experience or relationship with the African-American community and what experience they had was often expressed in employee/employer terms only.

The congregation polarized, fought, some left and eventually, after years of struggle, the leaders of the congregation came to a place where they agreed to welcome African-Americans to pray and share the good news of the love of God in Jesus. They opened their doors, but to their surprise, no African-Americans joined them. Week after week, month after month, the doors were open, but no-one came. There were other places and forms of community and worship that were fulfilling this important community need, but the deep wounding and damage had been done, and institutions like the congregation Boyd described, were not going to be part of the fabric of the new America that many had worked for. America at prayer is still a divided nation. There is still enormous repairing to do, even though most congregations in this country claim to be inclusive and welcoming of their neighbors.

The Synod on the Family is a welcomed and refreshing change in the often one-sided conversation between church and society, but is it too little and too late? I don’t see hordes of remarried straight couples flocking to church or LGBT people sitting in the pews these days because of a few symbolic gestures from a deeply loving pastoral Pope.

All of our churches continue to give answers to questions that most people I know, are simply not asking. We are simply and largely out of touch. We are becoming irrelevant and yet global religious extremism has become one of the most important forms of political exchange in recent years that we cannot simply disown religious traditions and institutions. The recent report from Maurice Tomlinson, a fearless advocate for LGBT people in Jamaica, shows how important the churches can be to our work, mainly in opposition.

Maurice Tomlinson (Photo courtesy of Macalester.edu)

Maurice Tomlinson (Photo courtesy of Macalester.edu)

The parliament is struggling with the question about how to be an inclusive state, or is Jamaica, basing its laws on Judeo-Christian values, merely a theocracy? These are bigger questions and often LGBT issues prove to be the litmus test for the majority community to decide on bigger issues. All the more reason for us to be part of the debate, as Maurice and people like Angeline Jackson are doing. They have spent all week in parliament. They understand the difficult work ahead.

Like a mighty tortoise, moves the church of God

The second story is about how my own global church comes to decisions and, as Anglicans, we are very similar to Roman Catholics with the important leadership of senior management (the bishops) taking a significant role in debating church teaching and pastoral practices. Every year (until recently) for the past century, bishops from around the world meet for the Lambeth Conference in England.

Bishop Gene Robinson (Photo courtesy of CambridgeBlog.org)

Bishop Gene Robinson (Photo courtesy of CambridgeBlog.org)

The conference provides us with a remarkable photograph on where the management of the church is on a particular issue (not always where the laity and clergy are on an issue) at a particular period in history. The pattern can be seen woven through our handling of contentious issues like birth control, (hotly opposed by the conference at the beginning of the 20th century) women’s ordination, (hotly opposed at the end of the 20th century) and the place of LGBT people in society, which still deeply divides our bishops globally. It takes 30 years for an institution like Anglicanism to first raise an issue on their radar, (often in fear and opposition) then for another 10-20 years, to struggle and study the issue at a local level, but within 30 years, that which we feared and excluded most, has often become part of the management and polity itself. Women bishops sat in several Lambeth Conferences and Gene Robinson, our first openly gay bishop was more present in Lambeth than absent because of the sheer fuss of excluding him from the last conference. The fact that it is raised and discussed at all, signifies the beginnings of its inclusion.

Turning the Queen Mary

The Roman Catholic Church is much, much larger than our 80-million-member Anglican Communion, so we cannot expect these issues of gender and LGBT sexual violence to be changed significantly, even when the final report comes out of the 2015 gathering. Our institutions just cannot function in this way and to expect them to do so is simply a waste of time.

In the meantime, criminalization of LGBT people will continue, the degradation of women will be tacitly or sometimes explicitly endorsed by our major world religions and the difficult process of changing hearts and minds will go on. This is the work we are called to do, but we cannot do so in isolation from many of the issues this closing Synod has named. The more we engage these other issues, the more we will be taken seriously and build allies who are struggling as much as we are to repair a bad theology, limited and contradictory interpretations of holy texts and a broken world.

This commentary appeared first in the San Diego Gay & Lesbian News.

Posted in Africa, Africa (Sub Saharan), Anti-LGBT laws and legislation, Commentary, Faith and religion, International pressure for LGBT rights | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Egypt: New legal guide for LGBT communities; please share

Illustration from legal guide for LGBT Egyptians.

Illustration from legal guide for LGBT Egyptians.

In response to Egypt’s ongoing crackdown on LGBT people, Egyptian activists and legal experts have drawn up a guide on how LGBT people can reduce their chances of being arrested and how to act if they are arrested.

In the past year, police in Egypt have arrested more than 80 people for the “crime” of being gay or transgender.  They can be sentenced to as much as 10 years for alleged “debauchery” (an Egyptian legal term for same-sex intimacy), in addition to suffering from anal examinations by medical officials, physical violence and rape threats while in detention.

The guide cannot be published on the websites of gay-friendly Egyptian organizations because they are currently under threat from the government. It is available online (in Arabic only) on the “A Paper Bird” blog of activist Scott Long.

Other blogs and websites are invited to share the link or republish the text in order to reach the greatest number of people.

Posted in Africa, Middle East / North Africa | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Two tiny nations drop anti-gay laws: Palau and Sao Tome

Location of the island nation of Palau.

Location of the island nation of Palau.

Two tiny island nations have dropped their laws against same-sex intimacy.

Palau in the western Pacific Ocean, north of Indonesia, took that step earlier this year.

São Tomé and Príncipe, in the Atlantic Ocean off Gabon in central Africa, did so two years ago, but that fact wasn’t widely known.

In addition, the island nation of Seychelles in the Indian Ocean, northeast of Madagascar, has made a commitment to take the same step, but has not yet done so. Seychelles is one of a handful of countries that still have anti-gay laws on the books along with laws that prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

This blog has revised its list of countries with laws against same-sex intimacy, eliminating Palau and São Tomé / Príncipe. That brings the list’s total to 79 countries, excluding Iraq, where the situation is unclear, and Russia, where same-sex intimacy is legal, but which in 2013 adopted a repressive law against making positive statements about homosexuality in the presence of minors.

A similar tally from Human Dignity Trust lists 80 countries, including Iraq but not Russia.

PALAU

Regarding Palau, Human Dignity Trust reported:

Human Dignity Trust logo

Human Dignity Trust logo

The Attorney General of Palau has confirmed that the country has decriminalised homosexuality by removing its sodomy laws.

Palau repealed its legal provisions that criminalised consensual same-sex sexual activity between gay men, introducing a new Penal Code with no such provisions, which was signed by the President in April 2014. …

The benefit of legislating, rather than litigating to do away with laws criminalising gay men means that an individual need not be forced to use the courts to uphold his rights. …

The Attorney General of Palau has confirmed directly, in an email to the Human Dignity Trust, that the former crime of sodomy has been repealed and a new penal code has been adopted.According to the previous provisions, sodomy was banned under section 2803, Chapter 28 ‘Sex Crimes’ of Title 17 of the Palau National Code and was punishable by up to 10 years imprisonment. …

The Government of Palau has engaged constructively with the United Nations on the issue of decriminalisation of consensual same-sex sexual activity between adults.In 2011, at its Universal Periodic Review (UPR) at the UN Human Rights Council, Palau accepted the recommendations to repeal all provisions in domestic legislation criminalising consensual sexual activity between same sex adults and to combat discrimination against LGBT people through political, legislative and administrative measures.

Location of Sao Tome and Principe off the west coast of Africa.

Location of São Tomé and Príncipe off the west coast of Africa.

SAO TOME / PRINCIPE

In São Tomé and Príncipe, the repeal of the former anti-gay law occurred with the adoption of a new penal code in 2012.

ILGA’s latest “State-Sponsored Homophobia” report states that the new Penal Code of São Tomé and Príncipe took effect in November 2012. It cited the Portuguese-language articles “Código Penal: Aprovado pela Lei 6/2012″ and “Novo Código Penal já entrou em vigor.”

SEYCHELLES

Seychelles location in the Indian Ocean. (Map courtesy of WorldAtlas.com)

Location of Seychelles in the Indian Ocean. (Map courtesy of WorldAtlas.com)

The newspaper Today in Seychelles reported recently on its Facebook page about a discussion of decriminalization by LGBTI advocates, legal experts and religious leaders, who opposed it:

The context for the discussion was that “At the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process in 2011, the Seychelles Human Rights record was considered and Seychelles confirmed its commitment to the decriminalization of homosexual activities.” The report added:

“The British High Commissioner, Mrs. Lindsay Skoll was also present at the discussion and she said that if Seychelles went ahead and decriminalized homosexual activities, the country ‘would be making an important step from politics to humanity. Despite conservatism and the power of the church power, the step will be easy,’ she said adding that she was pleased lawyers had taken the first step towards this goal.”

In the panel discussion, one panel member noted:

“The government of Seychelles has already committed to the United Nations to repeal these laws in conformity with its international obligations.”

Related articles

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Kyrgyzstan votes for anti-gay ‘propaganda’ bill

By Tom Ana
Editor of Caucasus Equality News

Kyrgyz parliament (Jogorku Kenesh) building

Monumental building houses the Kyrgyz parliament (known as the Jogorku Kenesh)

The parliament of Kyrgyzstan voted today for an anti-gay “propaganda” bill modeled on Russia’s 2013 “gay propaganda” law.

The proposal, which still needs two votes in parliament and a presidential signature before becoming law, would outlaw all LGBT groups operating in the former Soviet country, as well as allowing possible prison sentences for individuals guilty of promoting “non-traditional” sexual relations. Critics of the bill have noted that the punishments for breaching the new laws are even harsher than current punishments being seen under Russia’s anti-“gay propaganda” law.

As a country, Kyrgyzstan has a largely conservative Islamic community, with around 80 percent of the population identifying as Muslim. The government of the country has maintained close ties to Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Anti-gay sentiment is common in Kyrgyzstan and concerns have been raised that this new bill would legitimise homophobia and hate crimes in the country. Earlier this year, the international group Human Rights Watch reported on Kyrgyz police subjecting LGBT men to physical and psychological torment and threats of violence. In response to those claims, the country’s Interior Ministry alongside leading religious figures failed to recognise the crimes and used the incident as a chance to voice further anti-gay hate speech.

Arrow indicates the location of Kyrgyzstan in central Asia.

Arrow indicates the location of Kyrgyzstan in central Asia.

Criticism of the bill has been seen internationally, with many LGBTI and human rights groups quickly condemning the bill when it first came to parliament. In an official statement made earlier this week, the United States embassy in the Kyrgyz capital, Bishkek, said that if the bill were to pass it would cause serious damage to the nation’s civil society.

Support for the legislation was widespread among Kyrgyz lawmakers. The parliament passed the bill by 79-7.

Proponents of the legislation say it would provide support for “traditional families” and would combat the supposed damage done by Western ideologies supporting the LGBT community. Critics have however claimed that the bill’s authors, including Kremlin-backed Kurmanbek Dyikanbayev, are attempting to strengthen ties to Russia at the expense of sacrificing the LGBT community.

The parliament have recently been accused of pro-Russian political posturing in the run up to the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union, which is set to begin in 2015 and which Kyrgyzstan is currently attempting to join. Similar criticisms were also raised regarding another Russian-inspired bill which would limit the activities of foreign NGOs by reducing the rights of “foreign agents.”

However, despite large-scale support for the bill in parliament, some parts of Kyrgyzstan were vocally against any proposed changes.

Responding to an earlier draft of the law, the Bishkek-based LGBT group Labrys stated that the new legislation contradicted the country’s current constitution. They also expressed fears that LGBT individuals would become further targets for violence after being denied what little support they still have when groups such as Labrys are forced to cease operation.

In response to the bill, Labrys launched a support campaign calling upon LGBTI supporters globally to condemn the actions of Kyrgyzstan’s government and to support the country’s LGBTI community. The group have expressed that they intend to fight the new laws with the support of the international community, though concerns have been raised over whether legal prosecution will force the group to close.

Sources include:

 

Related news:

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3 ways to tell if Catholics are serious about welcoming gays

Pope Francis opens the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the Family with a mass.

Pope Francis opens the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the Family with a mass.

The Roman Catholic Church is showing signs that it might accept LGBTI people as no better and no worse than anyone else.

But how to tell whether the church is merely giving lip service to the idea of welcoming all people or is serious about its surprising, still-tentative admission that it sees good qualities in LGBTI people and same-sex relationships?

Here are three ways to measure the sincerity of those statements, which emerged from the ongoing Extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the Family at the Vatican.

1. Will the church answer to its hope-inspiring question?

The synod’s preliminary report stated:

“Homosexuals have gifts and qualities to offer to the Christian community. Are we capable of welcoming these people, guaranteeing to them a fraternal space in our communities?

“Often they wish to encounter a Church that offers them a welcoming home. Are our communities capable of providing that, accepting and valuing their sexual orientation …?”

When the synod issues its final report, those questions need to be answered. The answer should be “Yes.”

2. Will the church stop discriminating against LGBTI people, especially those in same-sex marriages?

Bruce Knotts, director of the United Nations Office of the Unitarian Universalist Association, stated:

Bruce Knotts, director of the United Nations office of the Unitarian Universalist Association. (Photo courtesy of UUA)

Bruce Knotts, director of the United Nations office of the Unitarian Universalist Association. (Photo courtesy of UUA)

I share the hope that the Catholic Church will change.  For me the proof will be if the firings of same-gender loving staff stop.

Here in the United States, a number of teachers in very good standing at Catholic schools have been fired the moment they have entered into a same-sex marriage.  It seems that the Catholic Church was fine when people had a relationship outside the bonds of marriage, but once a same-sex wedding occurs, the Catholic Church will immediately terminate your employment.

I note this is not done to other Catholic employees who are unfaithful to their opposite-sex spouses or who abuse children.  This is rank hypocrisy and antithetical to healthy committed loving married relationships, which the Church claims to endorse, even if only of a certain kind.

I understand that the tone will change to “give time for people to grow into conformity with the faith.”  I really don’t want to grow into a faith which denies the sanctity of same-gender loving marriages.

It seems the Church wants peaceful coexistence.  That can happen when dedicated Catholic LGBTI employees can remain employed even if they enter into a same-sex marriage.  The violence and reprisals against our community need to stop in substance, not just in tone.

3. Will the church oppose imprisonment of LGBTI people in countries with anti-gay laws?

Mgr. Victor Tonye Bakot, former archbishop of Yaoundé

Mgr. Victor Tonye Bakot, former archbishop of Yaoundé, Cameroon

The Catholic Church is strong in many of the 76-plus countries with laws against same-sex love. If it is serious about accepting and valuing the sexual orientation of LGBTI people, the church will oppose those laws.

That’s not what Archbishop Victor Tonye Bakot did in Cameroon, where he fueled that nation’s anti-gay fervor by saying that “homosexuality opposes humanity and destroys it” and calling same-sex marriage “a serious crime against humanity.”  But last year Pope Francis removed Bakot as archbishop, without explanation, so there’s reason to hope.

Another hopeful sign: During the synod, Roman Catholic Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama of Nigeria spoke out against jailing LGBTI people for their sexual orientation, which Nigerian police and courts have done to dozens of people since the enactment of a harsh Nigeria anti-gay law early this year.

Will that remain a sentiment that Kaigama expresses only when in Rome, or will he follow it up when he returns to Nigeria by insisting on an end to the persecution of innocent LGBTI people?

Posted in Africa, Africa (Sub Saharan), Anti-LGBT laws and legislation, Commentary, Faith and religion | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Kyrgyz appeal for protests against anti-‘gay propaganda’ bill

Protest against Kyrgyzstan's proposed anti-"gay propaganda" law

Protest against Kyrgyzstan’s proposed anti-“gay propaganda” law

Activists in Kyrgyzstan are appealing to international LGBTI rights supporters to protest against a proposed Russian-style ban on “gay propaganda” that is scheduled for a vote in the Kyrgyz parliament tomorrow (Oct. 15).

Poster opposing Kyrgyz anti-gay bill. (Click image to download more such posters.)

Poster opposing Kyrgyz anti-gay bill, which would provide up to a year in prison for making positive statements about homosexuality. (Click image to download more such posters.)

The Kyrgyz LGBTI group Labrys says that enacting the bill, which calls for up to a year in jail for anyone who advocates LGBTI rights, would be the equivalent of recriminalizing homosexuality. The ban would outlaw LGBT rights and advocacy groups and make the discussion of LGBT issues an arrestable act.

The Kyrgyz proposal relies on terminology and justifications (defense of family and traditional values) that are similar to those of Russia’s “anti-“gay propaganda” law of 2013, but it is harsher than its Russian counterpart. Unlike the Russian law, the Kyrgyz bill would provide for a year in prison for any  positive references to sexual minorities, which would not be limited to banning discussions and presentations made in the presence of minors.

Activists say:

Poster opposing Kyrgyz anti-gay bill. (Click image to download more such posters.)

Poster opposing Kyrgyz anti-gay bill. (Click image to download more such posters.)

Without any clear and concrete explanation, the text of the bill uses such blurred concepts as:

  • Traditional values
  • Propaganda
  • Formation of positive attitudes
  • Nontraditional sexual relations

Such blurred concepts will create problems in actual implementations of the proposed law, leading to absurd cases as it already happens in Russia.

WHAT WILL BE FORBIDDEN UNDER THE PROPOSED LAW?

  • Distribution of photo, video and text materials, promoting nontraditional sexual relations in open or indirect way (According to members of parliament it also includes any information about violence faced by LGBT)
  • Organization and participation in peaceful assemblies, which aimed at distribution of opinions or materials in any forms linked to nontraditional sexual relations

MAJOR CONSEQUENCES OF THE BILL IF SIGNED TO THE LAW:

1. LGBTIQ organizations will no longer operate legally

2. More hate crimes and violence against LGBT people

3. Organized hate groups to attack LGBT people

4. Initiatives for sexual and reproductive rights and health will be closed down

5. Increased blackmailing from law enforcement officers and strengthened corruption

6. Emigration of queer people from Kyrgyzstan to abroad

7. HIV programs among men who have sex with men and transgender people may be closed down

Kyrgyz activists asked their supporters to:

1. Spread information about the bill

Logo from Labrys for this year's Week Against Homophobia and Transphobia

Logo from Labrys for this year’s Week Against Homophobia and Transphobia

Use all means to contact international organizations, foreign ministries and mass media to inform them about propaganda bill in Kyrgyzstan. Also, use social media to speak up against the bill. (For more information, see links below.) Labrys is on Twitter and on Facebook, both in English and in Russian.

Supporters are encouraged to photograph their posters and protests at the local embassy or consulate of  Kyrgyzstan, and share them via social media with the hashtag #supportLGBTkg. Photos should be sent to Nika Yuryeva, coordinator of the Labrys human rights program at  nikayuryeva@gmail.com.

2. Speak up and act up, including corporate pressure

We ask you to join and participate in all offline and online campaigns/flashmobs/demonstrations against the bill. Organize meetings in front of Kyrgyz embassies abroad and create international pressure onto the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Kyrgyzstan as well as onto the Parliament. We ask you to meet and discuss the bill with diplomats who work in the region,or with respective officials at the Ministries of Foreign Affairs.

Kyrgyz parliament (Jogorku Kenesh) building

Kyrgyz parliament (Jogorku Kenesh) building

By now we exhausted almost all domestic means to stop the bill, including internal procedures of Jogorku Kenesh, the Parliament. Now there’s a need of strong international pressure “behind the scenes.” We also need public statements from officials from “non-Western” countries: Asian and Latin American. Outreach to friendly Imams and Islam religious leaders to openly condemn the law bill would also be very helpful.

All messages must be well articulated and evidence-based. They should always mention progress of the Government and the Parliament in achieving parliamentary democracy, fighting corruption and devoting to universal human rights standards.

We also ask you to demand international corporations, presented in Kyrgyzstan to speak up against the law bill, expressing their concerns for the safety of their own employees (Coca Cola bottlers, Nokia Tietoliikenne Oy, Apple, Kumtor Gold Company, etc.).

3. Donors should review programs to avoid supporting homophobia

We demand donors to carefully assess their programs in Kyrgyzstan and make sure that their local partners do not support homophobia and transphobia. We demand donor organizations to review their funding to organizations that fail to respect human rights and/or support the bill, propagate hate or encourage violence against LGBTIQ. We are also against any cuts in general funding of crucial services, instead we prefer reviewing and re-structuring policies to make sure that they are human rights based and prioritize the most vulnerable communities.

If donors support service providers they must demand the service providers to address the needs of LGBTIQ communities. Donors also must prioritize funding urgent advocacy, communities mobilization and politicization, movement building, forming public opinion, security for LGBTIQ human rights defenders, and alternative mass media that focus on human rights.

4. Sanctions against public homophobes

We demand any sanctions (for instance, visa restrictions or denial for entrance, freezing the financial holdings) towards the public homophobes, who expressed hate speech in local media and incite violence and hatred against LGBTIQ. Many of these homophobes travel a lot in Europe, the USA and other countries as a part of various developmental programs and even programs on human rights. We ask international organizations not to support financially these public homophobes and avoid inviting them to their meetings and conferences until they overcome their homophobia and publicly condemn the law bill. The updated list of public homophobes can be found here: https://dastanik.jux.com/3281714

5. Push to improve asylum rules for LGBTIQ people forced to flee

We ask you to advocate for more transparent, abuse- and violence-free asylum procedures and for prioritizing asylum-granting to LGBTIQ.

What’s next

Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambayev (Photo courtesy of RIA Novosti)

Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambayev (Photo courtesy of RIA Novosti)

If the bill is passed in its first reading on Oct. 15, activists say that it will still need second and third readings in parliament and then would need the signature of Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambayev before it would become law.  That could happen by early 2015, they say.

In addition to the efforts in Kyrgyzstan, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s government has supported several neighboring nations’ efforts to pass laws similar to Russia’s “anti-“gay propaganda” law of 2013. The goal of this initiative is to build solidarity against Western influences.

The government of Kyrgyzstan also wants to strengthen its relations with Russia as a potential member of the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union that will come into effect in January.

Articles and press releases in English, listed by Kyrgyz activists:

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Mixed reception for Vatican’s positive view of LGBTI people

Pope Francis (Photo courtesy of Sourcefed.com)

Pope Francis (Photo courtesy of Sourcefed.com)

LGBTI rights activists welcomed today’s Roman Catholic Church statement that expressed recognition of positive aspects of LGBTI people and same-sex relationships. Some Catholics weren’t so accepting of the bishops’ words.

The preliminary report, which came in the midst of the ongoing Extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the Family at the Vatican, suggested no change in Catholic opposition to same-sex marriage, but was close in tone of Pope Francis’ response last year to a question about a gay priest — “Who am I to judge?” 

Today’s statement also included a seeming jab at Western governments’ use of foreign aid as a tool for encouraging countries to drop repressive anti-gay laws, a practice that it called “international bodies mak[ing] financial aid dependent on the introduction of regulations inspired by gender ideology.” The statement will now be discussed and fine-tuned by the gathering of bishops.

This is the section of the statement related to homosexuality:

Homosexuals have gifts and qualities to offer to the Christian community: are we capable of welcoming these people, guaranteeing to them a fraternal space in our communities? Often they wish to encounter a Church that offers them a welcoming home. Are our communities capable of providing that, accepting and valuing their sexual orientation, without compromising Catholic doctrine on the family and matrimony?

The question of homosexuality leads to a serious reflection on how to elaborate realistic paths of affective growth and human and evangelical maturity integrating the sexual dimension: it appears therefore as an important educative challenge. The Church furthermore affirms that unions between people of the same sex cannot be considered on the same footing as matrimony between man and woman. Nor is it acceptable that pressure be brought to bear on pastors or that international bodies make financial aid dependent on the introduction of regulations inspired by gender ideology.

Without denying the moral problems connected to homosexual unions it has to be noted that there are cases in which mutual aid to the point of sacrifice constitutes a precious support in the life of the partners. Furthermore, the Church pays special attention to the children who live with couples of the same sex, emphasizing that the needs and rights of the little ones must always be given priority.

Responses to the statement included the following:

A stunning change

“This is a stunning change in the way the Catholic church speaks of gay people. The Synod is clearly listening to the complex, real-life experiences of Catholics around the world, and seeking to address them with mercy, as Jesus did.”

– Jesuit author the Rev. James Martin

Seismic shift

HRC President Chad Griffin (Photo courtesy of GLAAD)

HRC President Chad Griffin (Photo courtesy of GLAAD)

“For the LGBT Catholics in the United States and around the world, this new document is a light in the darkness—a dramatic new tone from a Church hierarchy that has long denied the very existence of committed and loving gay and lesbian partnerships.”

– Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign in the HRC article “Seismic Shift in Rome: New Catholic Church Document Praises Committed Gay and Lesbian ‘Partnerships’ “

Watch out, gay bashers

“Considering that the Church in Uganda is the leader in promoting homophobia. I say to you: Watch out, gay bashers. God disapproves of your *****!”

– Clare Byarugaba, Ugandan LGBTI rights activist

Betrayal of Catholic families

The report “betrayed Catholic families worldwide” and “in effect gives tacit approval of adulterous relationships.” … The Vatican now sees “positive and constructive” aspects to mortal sins.

– The anti-gay Voice of the Family as described in the National Catholic Register article “Serious Reservations Expressed About Content of Synod Report.”

‘Kind of okay’

“Vatican To Cohabitators And Gays: Actually, You’re Kind of Okay”

– Mother Jones magazine

Asking new questions, no answers yet

“Some questions were asked here that have never been asked publicly by bishops: What good can we find in same-sex unions? In many ways for the first time in a long time the Catholic Church is saying it wants to ask really hard questions about how people truly live their lives. …

“But the fact that the question is being asked doesn’t mean the answer will be what progressive and liberal Catholics want it to be…. It would be a  mistake to see this document as in any way definitive or significantly revolutionary.”

– Patrick Hornbeck, chair of the theology department at Fordham University, a Catholic school, as quoted in the Washington Post.

 

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