Setbacks, ongoing arrests and anti-gay violence marred 2016, despite substantial advances for LGBT rights in several countries.
This article is the second of three recaps of the events of 2016. The other two are:
- “2016 in review: Progress toward LGBTI equality” and
- “2016 in review: Progress in repealing anti-LGBT laws”
The challenges of 2016 included:
Indonesia and Tanzania were swept by anti-LGBT panics of that type that occur from time to time, for some reason, when societies that have been rather passively homophobic become temporarily fixated on and energized by their opposition to homosexuality.
In Indonesia, anti-LGBT rhetoric and violence accompanied an effort by conservative Islamist organizations to criminalize all sex outside of marriage, including consensual same-sex relations. The Minister of Higher Education said LGBT students should be banned if they “engage in disgraceful behavior like making love or showing affection.” In response to anti-LGBT violence, President Joko Widodo said that “the police must act” to protect LGBT Indonesians even though “Islam does not allow” same-sex intimacy. The country’s anti-AIDS programs are at risk; the country’s vice president urged the UN Development Program to deny funding to LGBT programs.
In Tanzania, the government decided to try to reduce homosexuality through the implausible method of limiting sales of lubricants. That put the country’s anti-AIDS efforts in jeopardy, as did the decision to suspend HIV/AIDS outreach projects aimed at gay men. In the port city of Dar es Salaam, police focused on arresting suspected gays in clubs.
In Malaysia, trans woman continue to be victimized by police and the media, which treat them as disreputable criminals. The Malaysian trans advocacy group Justice for Sisters continued its call for the repeal of anti-trans laws and an end to arbitrary police action, such as 21 arrests in fall 2015, a further 12 arrests in March 2016 and June’s legal proceedings against a trans woman with tuberculosis but without an attorney.
Frequent reports of arrests on homosexuality charges continued in Nigeria, Tunisia and Morocco.
In Bangladesh, prominent LGBT rights activists Xulhaz Mannan and Tonoy Mojumdar were hacked to death by a members of a violently anti-secular political movement. As in Egypt, LGBT people have not been the only victims. In the past two years, machete-wielding assailants have killed secular bloggers, authors, publishers, teachers and religious minorities in Bangladesh. Unlike in Egypt, the repression has not been state-sponsored.
In Pakistan, transgender human rights defender Alesha died from six gunshots that apparently were fired by members of a criminal gang with police connections in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. Alesha’s organization, Trans Action, had been campaigning against that gang for coercing and attacking LGBTI people and others. After surgery, she was denied access to the intensive care unit at Lady Reading Hospital and was left on a stretcher in a corridor. Activists said that about 45 transgender people have been killed and 300 have suffered various forms of violence in the previous two years in the province.
The deaths of 49 people killed in June by an anti-LGBT gunman in Orlando, Florida, United States, inspired dozens of protests and memorial services worldwide, including Uganda and Russia, where a gay couple was arrested for leaving a “Love Wins” sign at the memorial. LGBTI African exiles joined the protest in London. The attorney general of Jamaica objected when the U.S. Embassy flew a rainbow flag as a show of sympathy for Orlando victims.
Conservative anti-LGBT leaders in the 85-million-member Anglican Communion seemed to have won when a gathering of Anglican leaders voted in January to discipline Episcopalians over same-sex marriage. But that gathering did not have authority to enforce its ruling, so it did not result in the Episcopal Church being excluded from international Anglican gatherings.
Criminal activity targeted LGBTI rights activists in Uganda and Cameroon.
Anti-gay Cameroonians threatened and harassed LGBTI rights advocates in Douala, Cameroon, driving some of them from their homes. In Yaoundé, Cameroon, Jules Eloundou, president of Humanity First, was the target of two homophobic attacks in the guise of burglaries. The intruders left a threatening note for him to find. Another Cameroonian LGBTI rights group, Camfaids, lost it executive director, Eitel Joris Ella Ella, but that was as a result of illness, not violence.
In Uganda, a series of break-ins targeted human rights organizations, culminating in the murder of a security guard at the offices of HRAPF, the gay-friendly Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum.
Ugandan police raided the Mr. and Miss Pride pageant in August, which led activists to delay that month’s planned Pride Parade. The parade was rescheduled for September, but police blocked and disrupted it.
Other forms of repression were reported in many locations:
Anti-‘gay propaganda’ bill is back in Kyrgyzstan (but it still has not taken effect).