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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Nigerian activist to archbishop: Nice words, now help us

Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama

Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama

A prominent Nigerian archbishop has spoken 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 anti-gay law in January.

In response, a Nigerian activist has urged Roman Catholic Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama to back up his words with action.

In a press briefing on Oct. 8 at the Vatican, reported in the London-based Catholic news weekly The Tablet, Kaigama said:

“We are not supporting the criminalisation of people with different sexual orientations.

“We would defend any person with homosexual orientation who is being harassed, who is being imprisoned, who is being punished. …

“The Government may want to punish them – we don’t. In fact we will tell the Government to stop punishing those with different orientations.”

Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria supported Nigeria's anti-gay law in January 2014, as reported by the Catholic News Service of Nigeria.

Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) supported Nigeria’s anti-gay law in January 2014, as reported by the Catholic News Service of Nigeria (CNSN).

Kaigama distanced himself from his announcement earlier this year that the Catholic Church supported Nigeria’s “Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act,” which  provides for 10 years in prison for any public display of same-sex affection, for joining an association of LGBTI people or attending a same-sex wedding. He said it was a “gross misinterpretation” to understand his previous statement as anything more than support for the law’s prohibition of same-sex marriage.

At that time, the Catholic News Service of Nigeria reported that Kaigama wrote to President Goodluck Jonathan to congratulate him on signing the law, stating that he showed courage in opposed “unethical and immoral practices of same-sex union and other related vices.”

The archbishop’s latest comments came during the ongoing Extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the Family, a gathering of church officials that included a talk by a married Roman Catholic couple from Australia who said parishes should welcome gay couples, citing the example of a family who welcomed their gay son and his partner at Christmas time.

Kaigama spoke favorably about that talk, telling The Tablet:

“If the son is part of the family it is only natural that the family should be together. You cannot exclude a family member from a feast, from a meal. Our arms should be open.”

An estimated 14 percent of Nigerians are Catholic. Overall, the country is divided fairly evenly between Christians and Muslims.

In response to Kaigama’s statements, Nigerian LGBTI rights activist Davis Mac-Iyalla challenged the archbishop’s account of the church’s stance in Nigeria, stating that “there is no record anywhere to prove that your church or any other church has seriously challenged the persecution of gay people in Nigeria.”

But Mac-Iyalla urged Kaigama to press onward: “I applaud what you are doing, but for the love of God, please continue to speak out, as strongly as you can against the barbaric treatment of gay people in Nigeria.”

This is Mac-Iyalla’s open letter to the archbishop, as published in PM News Nigeria and elsewhere:

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

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

Dear Ignatius,

I read with joy your comments condemning Nigeria’s draconian anti-gay legislation, and the consequent un-Christian persecution of gay people published in the PinkNews paper.

You added that there had been a “gross misinterpretation of the law” by the media. This is not true. As a Christian Nigerian man who is openly homosexual, and having lived in Nigeria until 2008 when I was forced to leave, I have been challenging the Nigerian churches over their homophobia for many years, and have seen and experienced the terrible persecutions which gay people face in their homeland.

I continue to receive reports from friends and colleagues of what gay people are going through in Nigeria. If anything the media underplays the terrible violence which this legislation has unleashed.

I strongly believe in family and marriage, but also believe that if two people of the same-sex want to make their relationship more stable and commit themselves more deeply to each other, this can only be for the good of Nigeria. It makes no difference whether the couple is gay or straight.

You said “we are not supporting the criminalisation of people with different sexual orientations. We would defend any person with homosexual orientation who is being harassed, who is being imprisoned, who is being punished”.

Following the passing of the Nigeria’s anti-gay law there was and continues to be wide-spread violent attacks against those suspected of being homosexuals in Nigeria. Indeed, the persecution of gay people in Nigeria is strongly influenced by religious homophobia.

The Nigerian Christian Association has stood firm in supporting the new laws, and there is no record anywhere to prove that your church or any other church has seriously challenged the persecution of gay people in Nigeria.

I applaud what you are doing, but for the love of God, please continue to speak out, as strongly as you can against the barbaric treatment of gay people in Nigeria. All right thinking Christians throughout the world, including His Holiness, will be listening.

Posted in Africa, Africa (Sub Saharan), Anti-LGBT laws and legislation, Faith and religion, International pressure for LGBT rights | Tagged , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Cameroon arrestees freed, but possible probe looms

By Erin Royal Brokovitch

Michel Togué (Photo du DialogAI.org)

Cameroonian attorney Michel Togué (Photo courtesy of Global Rights)

At exactly 5:45 p.m.  Tuesday, Oct. 7, an assistant of attorney Michel Togué sent him a text message informing him of the provisional release of two allegedly gay detainees and two trans women, Jonas and Franky.

Those four arrestees breathed a huge sigh of relief, as did the defense team and the whole community of Cameroonian LGBT activists, who had mobilized earlier this month to monitor the case and work to prevent the detainees at the police station from being sent to prison.

It is a case that has troubled LGBT rights advocates worldwide, who learned of the plight of six people who were arrested  and held in custody at the Kondengui police station in Yaoundé, the capital of Cameroon. (Previous articles had put the number of arrestees at seven.)

They had been arrested Oct. 1 on charges of homosexuality and prostitution after police raided a home belonging to a person suspected of homosexuality.

One of the arrestees, a minor, was released on Oct. 2 after his mother explained that her son was still a student and pleaded emotionally for his release.

Another arrestee was released after influential people intervened on his behalf,  investigators said.

Of the remaining four, the best known are trans women Franky and Jonas, who had been convicted and imprisoned for homosexuality in 2011 and released in early 2013.

On Friday, Oct. 3, the police commander ordered that the detainees be turned over to the Ekounou district court.  There, one of Togué’s assistants urged the prosecutor to send them back to the police station.

That request was granted in the late afternoon, which meant that the defendants spent the weekend in detention at the police station.

On Monday, Oct. 6, the defense team was unable to discuss the case with the police commander, who was out all day.

On Tuesday, Oct. 7, the commander returned and sent the detainees back to the court.  The defense team argued with the prosecution that, because the police lacked crucial elements in their case and had not completed their investigation, the arrestees should be released.

The prosecutor agreed to their release after warning that they would be ordered to return to court if the investigation found that the charges against them were valid.

The defense team celebrated the release as a victory, even though it is only a provisional release.

Togué’s assistant said “it would be premature” to attempt to predict what will happen next. But she questioned whether any further investigation will actually occur.

The author of this article is an LGBT rights activist in Cameroon who writes under a pseudonym.

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Cameroon: 7 detainees win their release

Trois avocats (de gauche à droite: Michel Togué, Alice Nkom et Saskia Ditisheim (Photo de Saskia Ditisheim)

Three lawyers who support LGBT people in Cameroon (from left to right): Michel Togué, Alice Nkom and Saskia Ditisheim (Photo courtesy of Saskia Ditisheim)

Seven LGBT people who were arrested Oct. 1 on homosexuality-related charges have been released in Cameroon.

All had faced charges of homosexuality and prostitution, including four who were released today and three released previously.

The anti-AIDS, pro-human rights group Camfaids announced the release.

Camfaids said that the LGBT detainees expressed their thanks to their attorneys, Michel Togué and his assistant, who convinced the prosecutor to release the detainees, and Saskia Ditisheim, president of the Lawyers Without Borders, Switzerland, who provided advocacy and support from abroad.

They also expressed thanks to other international and local supporters who lobbied in private for their release and to Camfaids for emotional, financial and legal support.

The seven arrests occurred after a police raid in the Kondengui neighborhood of Yaoundé, the capital of Cameroon, targeting a home that neighbors suspected belonged to a homosexual man.

More information will be published later, as it becomes available.

Posted in Africa, Africa (Sub Saharan), Positive steps, Trials / punishments | Tagged , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Kyrgyzstan to vote on ‘gay propaganda’ ban

By Tom Ana
Editor of Caucasus Equality News

Kyrgyzstan is located between Kazakstan and China (Map courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Kyrgyzstan is located between Kazakstan and China (Map courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

A committee of Kyrgyzstan’s parliament this week approved a proposed “gay propaganda” ban, moving the bill one step closer to being brought into law.

The ban will now go up for vote in the nation’s assembly this Thursday, Oct. 9.

Under the proposed ban, heavily modeled on current Russian laws, any individuals found guilty of spreading “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations” would face up to a year behind bars. The ban would also outlaw LGBT rights and advocacy groups and make the discussion of LGBT issues with a minor an arrestable act.

Proponents of the bill claim that the ban would “defend the institution of the traditional family.” The bill’s sponsor, member of parliament Kurmanbek Dykanbaev, told RFE that “under the West’s influence, the norm of same-sex families is being imposed upon us.”

As a country with a mostly conservative religious population Kyrgyzstan has faced much public opposition to the LGBT community in recent years. Formerly Soviet Kyrgyzstan is also heavily influenced by Russia, which supports the proposed bill.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s government has previously supported the efforts of many nations to pass laws similar to Russia’s in an attempt to build solidarity against Western and European human rights laws, which often influence many former-Soviet countries.

The government of Kyrgyzstan is also keen to maintain good relations with Russia, as a potential member of the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union that will come into effect in January. The EEU will create a single economic market across Russia and other member states and is predicted to be a huge economic boost for poorer member countries. Kyrgyzstan has previously expressed a desire to join the union, though Russia has yet to approve the application.

If the bill is passed tomorrow, it is expected to take effect later this month.

OPPOSITION

Kyrgyz LGBT activists
“Kyrgyzstan plea: Please help oppose anti-gay bill” (July 2014, 76crimes.com):

Kyrgyz LGBT activists cite:

  • Negative effects of the bill on the LGBTI communities, their health, rights and freedoms, as well as on the general political and social situation in Kyrgyzstan.
  • The bill is one of many other anti human rights legislative initiatives that contribute to a shrinking space for civil society.

European officials
Kyrgyzstan on the verge of adopting harsh anti-gay law (June 2014, 76crimes.com):

The bill was condemned by two rapporteurs for the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe — both Andreas Gross, who is responsible for relations with Kyrgyzstan, and Robert Biedroń, responsible for LGBT issues.

Ulrike Lunacek, co-president of the European Parliament’s Intergroup on LGBT Rights, stated:

“In a country where LGBT people experience blatant discrimination, severe violence – not the least by police forces – and have no access to their human rights, this bill will only further worsen their situation by curtailing their right to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly.

“I expect the EU to raise this at the highest levels with Kyrgyz authorities, to make sure that LGBT people will stop being scapegoated and ensure that human rights of all Kyrgyz citizens are protected.”

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Gay Briton freed in Morocco; no word on his local partner

Ray Cole (Photo courtesy of The Guardian)

Ray Cole (Photo courtesy of The Guardian)

After 23,738 petitioners complained and British diplomats intervened, Morocco has released a British tourist who had been sentenced to four months in  prison on homosexuality charges.

The BBC and The Guardian reported the news of 69-year-old Ray Cole’s release today.

Their articles did not say what happened to Cole’s Moroccan partner, Jamal Jam Wald Nass, age 20.

Like Cole, Nass also was sentenced to four months in prison. Unlike Cole, petitioners and diplomats did not come to his aid.

Under Moroccan law sexual intimacy between individuals of the same sex is punishable by prison terms of six months to three years.

For more information, see the previous article, “8 jailed on homosexuality charges in Morocco, Egypt.”

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