Progress and persecution from Jamaica to Myanmar

Many signs of progress, but also many instances of ongoing persecution of LGBTI people, are contained in the following round-up of the world’s recent LGBTI-related news, most of which was excerpted with slight modifications from the UNAIDS publication Equal Eyes:

The first Pride march in Odessa, Ukraine, held on Aug. 12. (Anton Skyba photo courtesy of NBC News)
The first Pride march in Odessa, Ukraine, held on Aug. 12. (Anton Skyba photo courtesy of NBC News)
Human rights

Activists in Odessa, Ukraine, convinced authorities to reconsider a last-minute ban that would have canceled the city’s Pride celebration. More than 50 local community members and activists showed up for the event, the city’s first-ever LGBTQ Pride march.

At the United Nations, the UN Human Rights Council began evaluating candidates for the new independent expert to monitor human rights violations against LGBTI people. A five-member Consultative Group announced three top candidates. However, Egypt‘s ambassador to the group refused to participate and released a statement reiterating that the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) will not recognize or cooperate with the new expert.

In Myanmar—where homosexuality remains criminalized—advocates are lobbying to include transgender women in the Prevention of Violence Against Women legislation.


A new study of sub-Saharan Africa evaluated how to reach and provide HIV prevention services to men who have sex with men in Lesotho, Swaziland, and Malawi. The study concluded that respondent-driven sampling is a ‘promising method’ to identify gaps in information and services in order to reach this underserved community.

In Tanzania, Justice Minister Harrison Mwakyembe continued the country’s recent crackdown on LGBT people, announcing that the government will revoke the registration of any charity or NGO that ‘supports homosexuality.

The African Queer Youth Initiative and Advocates for Youth published the results of their survey on the needs, challenges, and priorities of young LGBTIQ Africans. They are denied access to comprehensive sexuality education, access to information on sexual health and life-saving services.

Violence and harassment

Reports came from Iraq that ISIS continues to execute men accused of homosexuality as four men were thrown from a building and then stoned to death in front of a crowd of onlookers.

Participants in a Russian LGBT Sports Federation weekend event near the city of Nizhny Novgorod, Russia, were beaten and robbed at their campsite by a gang of unknown assailants.

Human Rights Watch released a report on the violence and discrimination faced by gender non-conforming and other LGBTI people in Sri Lanka. The report emphasized how police harassment and arbitrary detention prevents victims from reporting crimes.

In Uganda, Kuchu Times issued a warning about a man using bogus Facebook accounts to harass and extort money from members of the LGBTI community.


Manerela+ cartoon
Manerela+ cartoon
In Malawi, the organization MANERELA+—an interfaith network of religious leaders living or affected by HIV—hosted a regional dialogue with leaders, pastors, and sheiks and openly practicing LGBTI people.

Archbishop Thabo Makgoba of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa announced that the Church will consider expanding provisions for LGBT people, including blessing civil unions and allowing LGBT clergy in civil unions to minister.

The Anglican Church of Southern Africa represents about 3 to 4 million people in South Africa and nearby countries. Most of those countries — South Africa, Mozambique, Lesotho and the British overseas territory of Saint Helena — have repealed or never had laws against LGBT sexual activity.

But the church also is active in three of the world’s 76+ countries that criminalize homosexuality:

  • Angola, which has a law allowing up to three years of internment for “people who habitually practice acts against nature”
  • Namibia, where sodomy remains a common-law crime on the basis of legal precedents, although no specific law has been passed against same-sex intimacy.
  • Swaziland, where intercourse between men is a common-law crime.
    Members of Jamaica's "Gully Queens" were photographed in menswear label Hood by Air menswear. (Pieter Hugo photo courtesy of Design Indaba)
    Jamaica’s “Gully Queens” were photographed in Hood by Air menswear. (Pieter Hugo photo courtesy of Design Indaba)

Business and technology

In his new series, South African photographer Pieter Hugo captured the ‘Gully Queens’  of Jamaica — the community of gay and trans men who live in the city’s storm drains. As the Design Indaba website stated, “In collaboration with cult favourite menswear label Hood by Air, Hugo and his collaborator Carlos Nazario photographed these men clad in seminal pieces from the Hood by Air archive. It was an endeavor that in the hands of anyone else could have been exploitative, but Hugo’s images are arresting, dark and poignant. His photos make visible those who have been driven into the literal shadows.”

Rainbow Mirrors, an LGBTI group in Uganda, has begun bottling wine as an income generating activity. Group executive director Abdul Jamal says the wine provides an alternative revenue source to members whose only other option is sex work.

Two new studies from Kenya and South Africa analyzed how marginalized communities including LGBTQ people use technology and are impacted by transparency and privacy issues.


In Qatar—where homosexuality is penalized with up to 3 years in prison—an op-ed from a young man on the challenges of being gay sparked fierce backlash on Twitter. Publisher Doha News has since amended the essay with an editor’s note reaffirming that they do not ‘advocate breaking the law.’


The Associate Press reported that over the past year data dumps by WikiLeaks have revealed sensitive information of private citizens in Saudi Arabia, including medical data and HIV status, rape victims, and names of people arrested for being gay.


Written by Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart is a 45-year journalism veteran living in Southern California. He is the president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which supports LGBTQ+ rights advocacy journalism, Erasing 76 Crimes. Contact him at [email protected]

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