Indonesian activists reject Muslim clerics’ anti-gay fatwa

Indonesia, with Aceh at the North-West tip of Sumatra island (map courtesy of PBS.org)

Indonesia,. (Map courtesy of PBS.org)

Criticism greeted a harsh proposal from Indonesia’s top Islamic clerical group, which called for the country to enact a law against same-sex intimacy and to impose the death penalty.

The proposal was contained in an edict, or fatwa, from the Indonesian Council of Ulema, which is known as the MUI, from its Indonesian name, Majelis Ulama Indonesia.

The Jakarta Globe reported:

Haris Azhar, the coordinator of the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence, or Kontras, calls the MUI’s statement regrettable and says the council has long tried to exceed its actual authority.

“Homosexuality isn’t a crime, nor it is a deviant thing. It is merely one’s preference and it’s private,” he said. “Besides, it isn’t the duty of MUI to determine national law. The MUI is supposed to educate Indonesia’s Muslims. Proposing severe punishment [such as death] shows the MUI’s less-than-mature mind-set.”

“It isn’t official,” he emphasized of the fatwa.

But the Jakarta Globe article pointed out dangers of the fatwa, even though it is unofficial:

Radical groups such as the Islamic Defenders Front, or FPI, have been known to justify their frequent violent attacks on the [modern Islamic] Ahmadiyah community by citing an MUI fatwa branding the sect heretical.

By inveighing against the LGBT community with its latest fatwa, the council is helping to propagate hatred of an already beleaguered community, says [an LGBT activist].

“Issuing such a fatwa is the same as promoting hatred and motivating people to carry out violence against others,” he said. “If the MUI dislikes homosexuals, it should express its disapproval through other means, in educated and peaceful ways. It shouldn’t shroud its message with hate and violence.”

Indonesia has no national law against homosexual activity, but two Indonesian provinces do.  In the Jakarta Globe account:

In 2004, municipal authorities in Palembang, South Sumatra, issued a regulation clumping all LGBT-related activity under “prostitution” — an umbrella term that also includes sodomy, sexual abuse and pornography. Under the regulation, anyone charged with committing any of these “prostitution” activities faces the prospect of up to six months’ imprisonment and Rp 5 million ($380) in fines.

Meanwhile, in staunchly Islamic Aceh province, the only region in the country allowed to implement a version of shariah, local authorities adopted a shariah-based criminal code last year that stipulates punishment of up to 100 lashes of the cane and 100 months in prison for those convicted of same-sex acts, even if consensual.

The province’s criminal code also makes sodomy and the uniquely Islamic offense of zina, or sexual relations out of wedlock, punishable with up to 100 lashes.

While such bylaws have often been greeted as extremist sideshows, the MUI carries more clout with both conservative and moderate Indonesian Muslims, even if its edicts are not legally binding.

 Fridae.Asia reported:

MUI logo

MUI logo

The Indonesian Ulema Council said its fatwa was required due to an increase in reports of deviant behavior and because homosexuality is a serious disease.

The March 4 fatwa issued by the MUI is not legally binding because even though Indonesia is the world’s most populous Muslim country it has never been an Islamic state. But prejudices against the LGBT community are largely formed by Islam, whose followers make up about 90 percent of its 250 million people.

The United Kingdom-based Independent reported:

While Indonesia does not have a reputation for being particularly welcoming of the LGBT community – and same-sex marriage is not permitted — homosexual relations are not prohibited. Most individuals can go about their lives without prejudice.  But the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) views homosexuality as a sin. …

The propagation of intolerance is seen as particularly dangerous in this instance, given the MUI’s influential position.

Posted in Anti-LGBT laws and legislation, Asia | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Threats, arson can’t stop Caribbean LGBTI activist (video)

Kenita Placide (Click image for link to video. Photo courtesy of YouTube)

Kenita Placide (Click image for link to video. Photo courtesy of YouTube)

“I felt like someone had just cut off my feet off from my knees down,” LGBTI rights activist Kenita Placide says about the day when an arsonist destroyed the headquarters of her LGBTI rights group, United and Strong, on the Caribbean island of St. Lucia.

Violent attacks like that are part of her personal story of becoming an LGBTI activist in the Caribbean, where barriers against women’s and LGBTI leadership are challenging.

Placide, who now is Eastern Caribbean Coordinator at CariFLAGS (the Caribbean Forum for Liberation and Acceptance of Genders and Sexualities), describes her personal story of becoming an LGBTI activist in the latest video in the “Quorum: Global LGBTI Voices” series about international LGBTI issues.

In her video, she tells how, despite turmoil in her personal life, she became “the voice and the face of the LGBT community in St. Lucia,” making a presentation to the nation’s Constitutional Reform Commission.

She was threatened at knifepoint for her advocacy of LGBTI rights.

Kenita Placide at St. Lucia's Constitutional Reform Commission. (Photo courtesy of YouTube)

Kenita Placide at St. Lucia’s Constitutional Reform Commission. (Photo courtesy of YouTube)

When the  arsonist struck the group’s headquarters, “every single thing was gone in less than one hour,” Placide says. “That did not stop United and Strong. That didn’t stop me.”

They rebuilt and resumed their work representing the LGBTI community in St. Lucia, to bring them together and to continue educating and sensitizing the general public.

The Placide video is the seventh of 11 discussions of international LGBTI issues that overall are designed to “reverse the megaphone,” allowing activists from abroad to tell Western viewers about the challenges that LGBTI people face worldwide. The videos were recorded at a December 2014 meeting in New York.

The series, under its full title “Quorum: Global LGBT voices,” is presented by The Daily Beast. The Erasing 76 Crimes blog, as a member of the advisory board for the project, helped The Daily Beast select Quorum speakers.

The video is on the Quorum page and on YouTube.

Posted in Americas, International pressure for LGBT rights | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Nigerian challenger: Vote for me; I too oppose gay marriage

Muhammadu Buhari (Photo by Wikiregina via Wikimedia Commons)

Muhammadu Buhari (Photo by Wikiregina via Wikimedia Commons)

Anti-gay politics continued this week in Nigeria, as the presidential campaign of Muhammadu Buhari denied his opponent’s accusation that Buhari struck a deal with Western nations to repeal Nigeria’s new anti-gay law in exchange for supporting his campaign to unseat President Goodluck Jonathan.

“There is no relationship between General Buhari and any western nation concerning gay marriage and such pervasive orientations that are not in conformity with our cultures and values,” said Olayemi Success, national coordinator of the campaign’s Buhari Volunteer Network, as reported in The Nation and other Nigerian newspapers.

Buhari will not seek to repeal the Same-Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act, Success said.

That law, signed by Jonathan in January 2014, provides up to 14 years in prison for anyone who enters into a same-sex marriage and up to a 10-year sentence for anyone who attends a same-sex wedding in Nigeria, makes a  “public show of same-sex amorous relationship,” or belongs to a “gay organization.”

Jonathan’s spokesman at the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) campaign  accused Buhari on March 12 of striking a deal to repeal it if elected in the presidential election scheduled for March 28.

In a statement before Buhari’s latest response, Nigerian LGBTI rights activist Davis Mac-Iyalla, who had to flee to England for safety, said he saw some reason for optimism that the issue of gay rights is at least being discussed in Nigeria:

Davis Mac-Iyalla (Photo courtesy of LGBT Asylum News)

Davis Mac-Iyalla (Photo courtesy of LGBT Asylum News)

“Out of nowhere the issue of Same Sex Marriage has become a central battlefield for the two main political party in Nigeria.

“There is no reactions yet from the Nigeria LGBTI community who are still waking up to this shock. …

“It’s now very clear that the ruling party PDP and their religious allies sure have an agenda to win the next presidential election on the blood of Nigeria LGBTI.

“I don’t know what profit will come out of all this, but I do know that there is no bad press. Nigerians are now talking homosexuality again at every level.”

Posted in Africa, Africa (Sub Saharan), Anti-LGBT laws and legislation, International pressure for LGBT rights | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Hearings begin over LGBT rights to travel in Caribbean

LGBTI rights activist Maurice Tomlinson provides this report on the first day of hearings at the Caribbean Court of Justice in connection with his case challenging the ban against gays entering Belize and Trinidad & Tobago.

 

Caribbean Court of Justice. (Photo courtesy of WelchMorris.com)

Caribbean Court of Justice. (Photo courtesy of WelchMorris.com)

The case started with me giving evidence based on my witness statement. As expected, the lawyer for Trinidad and Tobago (who had previously said that the ban on gays was necessary to keep out “terrorists”) tried to undermine my credibility. So he:

1) Questioned if I was really a homosexual because I had been married and have a son (clearly he has no concept of the distinction between sexual BEHAVIOR and sexual PRACTICE).

2) Questioned my statement that Hijra is a universal belief and/or practice of the Hindu faith, including in the Hindu communities of Trinidad, Suriname, and Guyana;

3) Questioned how, as a lawyer, I was not able to say, on the witness stand, if a later law directly repealed an earlier one (I had not reviewed the later law so I seriously could not offer any opinion).

4) Questioned if the Belizean Trans* person, Mia, who had been stopped and interrogated for several hours by a Trinidadian immigration officer was detained because of her sexual orientation or her gender expression.

The Acting Director of Immigration for Belize then gave her testimony and said that the country has no intention of actually enforcing the law against gays entering, but admitted that this is an unwritten policy.

Caribbean Court of Justice seal

Caribbean Court of Justice seal

The Acting Chief Immigration Officer for Trinidad and Tobago similarly said that the country has no intention of enforcing the law, but again, there is no written policy to this effect. Justice Witt put the point to him that the later law, which the government of Trinidad spoke about as having repealed the immigration ban, would only apply to persons who have a CARICOM Skilled National Certificate. I do not have such a Certificate, so, I am not covered by this exemption. It would therefore mean that my entry into Trinidad would be illegal.

One question that my attorney put to both heads of the respective immigration departments is: What would prevent the government, or an immigration officer, from unilaterally enforcing the law in future? They repeatedly said that since it was not enforced, then it would never BE enforced(!)

My lawyer then presented my case, which included the fact that, at the very least, the absence of a clear documented policy NOT to prosecute homosexuals created uncertainty, and was therefore a breach of the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas, as well as the 2007 Conference Decision. Both of these documents require that CARICOM nationals be guaranteed uninhibited travel throughout the region.

We are relying on decisions from the European Court of Justice that say that mere practice does not satisfy the legal certainty required to guarantee treaty compliance. The court questioned if there was any harm as I have not been turned away from Trinidad or Belize.

My personal preferences is not to force a prosecution or deportation in order to bring a claim. As my lawyer said repeatedly, all that the governments have to do is get rid of the offending sections, since they claim to have have no intention of enforcing them.

The lawyer for Belize then presented the state’s case and again reiterated that because the law was not regularly enforced there was no breach of the treaty. He also declared that there was no potential for a breach. Most alarmingly, he wants me to pay costs to Belize for bringing the claim, even though he indicated that there were important questions for the court to answer with regard to how state compliance with treaty obligations are to be measured.

[Today] is the final day of hearings, and the lawyer for Trinidad and Tobago will make the country’s submissions. He will then be followed by counsel for CARICOM.

More anon!

Posted in Americas, Anti-LGBT laws and legislation, International pressure for LGBT rights, Trials / punishments | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

Assaults in Tunisia: ‘daily violence remains unpunished’

Two members of the activist organization Chouf of lesbian, bisexual and trans Tunisians fighting discrimination against women were the targets of assaults  in recent weeks. Chouf issued this statement:

Logo of Chouf

Logo of Chouf

In only one week, two friends and members of Chouf were horrifically attacked. One of the members of our office was raped by a man who threatened her with a knife to her throat, and another member was beaten by a group of men because of her sexual orientation. The attackers asked her to “show how she could fight if she wanted to marry a woman.”

Confronted with the inhumanity of such acts of barbarism, no words are able to express what we feel. Anger, rage and indignation are empty words about the feelings within us.

We are denied our ability to live in security, in public and private spaces without being in danger. The violence we are facing every day remains unpunished. Assaults and harassment we suffer are realizing the negation of our beings and our identities. We are refused the right to be ourselves, we are denied the right to be women.

We are women and as women we will never cease to claim our right to exist by and for ourselves.

We are all united and we give our full and complete support to both our members and through them to all women who are attacked, beaten, raped, and killed every day.

That statement was published here at the request of Chouf.

The rape was reported in the Mahgreb edition of the Huffington Post, which stated that the victim, identified as “Sarah,” age 25, a student and activist, was assaulted Feb. 26 by a stranger in Tunis.

She said that the man threatened to kill her with a knife pressed against her stomach. She said:

“I had no choice. I had to follow him. We walked in the woods for a long time, and then he put me on my knees.”

She reported the rape to police, who followed her to the scene of the crime, where the indentations from his knees were still visible in the mud.  Police did not collect any evidence there, she said.

Photo illustrating Sarah's story in the Mahgreb edition of the Huffington Post.

Photo illustrating Sarah’s story in the Mahgreb edition of the Huffington Post.

She also went to the Charles Nicoles public hospital, where she was met with indifference and told to return the next morning, when the forensic department would be open, she said.

Police told that she would need to present a medical certificate if she wanted to pursue her complaint.

In the morning, after spending a night without a shower in order to preserve the evidence of the rape, she had to wait until doctors finished their breakfast, then had to wait two more hours for an examination, during which the nurses gossiped about her, she said.

She received no advice about future health care or prevention of sexually transmitted disease, she said.

What Sarah endured was typical of the experience of rape victims in Tunisia, according to the Tunisian Association of Democratic Women, which said that the women who are raped are often blamed for the crime, then stigmatized.

In Tunisia, one in two women suffers verbal, physical, or financial abuse, according to Neila Chabaane, former Secretary of State in charge of Women’s Affairs.

In 2011, a national survey of nearly 4,000 adult women by the National Office of Family and Population found that more than 15 percent of Tunisian women reported having been victims of sexual violence.

Sarah stated:

“All I want is justice to be done. I do not want my abuser to be beaten up by the cops, not tortured or unjustly imprisoned. … All I want is to confront him at a fair trial.”

Posted in Africa, Harassment / murders, Middle East / North Africa | Tagged , | 2 Comments

‘My selfish reasons for fighting Jamaican homophobia’

Maurice Tomlinson displays the Jamaican flag. (Photo courtesy of Maurice Tomlinson via Facebook)

Maurice Tomlinson displays the Jamaican flag. (Photo courtesy of Maurice Tomlinson via Facebook)

LGBTI rights activist Maurice Tomlinson is back in Jamaica this week, preparing for a hearing at the Caribbean Court of Justice in connection with his case challenging the ban against gays entering Belize and Trinidad & Tobago. That case is just one instance of his work combating anti-gay laws and homophobia in the Caribbean, particularly in his native country. Tomlinson has lived in Canada since 2012, because he received multiple death threats after the publication of the news of his marriage to Tom Decker, a pastor in the Metropolitan Community Church.

Here he explains his activism:

I admit it. My reasons for fighting homophobia in Jamaica are not entirely altruistic. Some of them are downright selfish.

You see, I have property and family in Jamaica and I hope, someday, to retire or spend a portion of my retirement in my warm, sunny homeland. And I want to do so with my husband, Tom. And we want to be safe. And neither of us is getting any younger. So, there is some urgency to this.

To those who think that I am pushing too hard, and am too impatient, I crave your indulgence. You may have time on your side. However, I can’t and won’t wait a lifetime for my equality and humanity to be recognized.

Posted in Americas, Anti-LGBT laws and legislation, Commentary, International pressure for LGBT rights | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Nigerian leader: Vote for me if you oppose gay rights

Muhammadu Buhari (Photo courtesy of Daily Post)

Muhammadu Buhari (Photo courtesy of Daily Post)

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan has injected the issue of gay rights into his campaign to win the presidential election scheduled for March 28.

Femi Fani-Kayode, Jonathan’s spokesman at the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) campaign, today accused challenger Muhammadu Buhari of striking a deal with Western nations to repeal last year’s new anti-gay law in exchange for their support for his campaign.

The 2014 law, formally known as the Same-Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act, calls for prison sentences of up to 14 years for any Nigerian who enters into a same-sex marriage and up to 10 years to anyone who attends or assists in a same-sex wedding in Nigeria, who makes a  “public show of same-sex amorous relationship” or belongs to a “gay organization.”

Buhari has given no indication that he opposes the harsh new law, which Jonathan signed in January 2014.  (See, for example, the political commentary in the article “For LGBTIs, Nigeria vote is ‘Sharia fanatic’ vs. ‘inept incumbent.’ “

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan signed the so-called "Jail the Gays Bill" on Jan. 7, 2014. (Photo courtesy of Onobello.com)

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan signed the so-called “Jail the Gays Bill” on Jan. 7, 2014. (Photo courtesy of Onobello.com)

Jonathan’s allegation made the headlines of many Nigerian newspapers:

Fani-Kayode also claimed that Buhari’s supporters are preparing to air a “documentary” about the personal lives of Jonathan, his wife and other leaders that is “riddled with falsehood” and “vulgar, smutty, cheap, shameful and salacious.”

Buhari did not respond directly to Fani-Kayode’s statements. BuzzFeed reported:

Garba Shehu, media director for Buhari’s campaign, responded to the attack in a phone interview with BuzzFeed News by saying, “That man who is speaking for President Jonathan is a mad man. He is in the gutter, and we’re not going to dignify it with a response.”

Shehu added that the attacks reflected desperation from Jonathan’s camp because they “have no issues” on which to run. The campaign’s “real issues,” Shehu said, include security, widespread unemployment, and rampant corruption, and “the government has no answers for this.”

Buhari, a Muslim from Muslim-dominated northern Nigeria, has a Christian running mate from the south. Jonathan, a Christian from Christian-dominated southern Nigeria, has a Muslim running mate from the north.

Although Buhari lost decisively to Jonathan in the 2011 presidential election, some observers predict a close race this year because of Jonathan’s inability to defeat the Boko Haram insurgency in the north.

(This article was revised on March 12 to add the Buhari campaign’s response to BuzzFeed.)

Posted in Africa, Africa (Sub Saharan), Anti-LGBT laws and legislation, International pressure for LGBT rights | 8 Comments