Although many parts of the world made progress toward recognition of LGBT rights during 2017, it was also a year filled with senseless, brutal anti-LGBT crackdowns. Among the worst were those in Egypt, Chechnya, Indonesia, Nigeria and Tanzania.
Reviewing the horrors of 2017 is painful but important. Many such human rights abuses are likely to continue into 2018 unless international outrage forces homophobic countries to stop:
EGYPT: Rainbow flag accelerates crackdown
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is a favorite of U.S. President Donald Trump despite ongoing repression of Sisi’s political opponents, journalists and LGBT people. The anti-gay crackdown accelerated in September after a rainbow flag was hoisted at a rock concert in Cairo. The arrests were a continuation of the repression that started in late 2013, primarily targeting human rights defenders and Sisi’s political opponents. During that period, at least 274 LGBTQ people in Egypt were targets of police action, prosecution and hate crimes, according to a tally last year from the advocacy group Solidarity with Egypt LGBTQ+. After the concert, Egyptian police arrested from 30 to 57 people on charges of debauchery and inciting sexual deviancy.
Egypt’s parliament is considering a bill nicknamed the Wipe-Out-the-Queers Bill. It calls for imprisonment of up to three years for people who:
- “Advertise or publicize any homosexual gathering”;
- Manufacture, sell, market, advertise or carry “any symbol or code for homosexuals”; or
- “Instigate” or “prepare a place” where same-sex relations occur.
Egyptian activists: Anti-LGBT repression is getting worse A report by the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights stated that police specifically targeted persons whose sexual orientation or gender identity does not conform to socially sanctioned norms. The three and a half-year period ending in March 2017 saw a total of 232 such arrests, or about 66 each year, compared to an average of 14 people a year in the period from 2000 to 2013.
INDONESIA: Police work with militant anti-LGBT Islamists
Indonesian police push anti-LGBT militant Islamic agenda. Police in Muslim-majority Indonesia are working with militant Islamists to curtail the human rights of LGBT Indonesians, Human Rights Watch reported.
- Police raided a private gathering of gay and bisexual men in the city of Surabaya, arrested and detained 14, and subjected them to HIV tests without their consent.
- Police raided the Atlantis Spa in Jakarta, arrested 141, and charged 10 for holding an alleged sex party. Officers allegedly paraded the suspects naked in front of media and interrogated them still unclothed.
- The West Java police chief announced plans to create a special police unit to detect and punish LGBT people.
Study: Anti-LGBT bias costs Indonesia up to $12 billion. Discrimination against LGBT people in Indonesia costs that country an estimated $900 million to $12 billion per year, according to a report by the Williams Institute at UCLA.
The Trump administration is clueless, or worse, about what is going on: Mike Pence praises anti-LGBT Indonesia as modern Islamic model.
‘Now Indonesia Wants to Hide Its Floggings’ Confronted with international outrage over the public flogging of gay men, the Indonesian province of Aceh didn’t abandon that brutal practice. Instead, it has moved them out of the public eye.
Indonesia’s House of Representatives threatened to pass a law to ban all positive representations of LGBT people on television, including films, TV shows, and advertising. Under the bill, all shows would need to be screened in advance to make sure that no films, TV shows or advertising would violate the ban.
Police raided a sauna and arrested 58 men under charges of providing pornographic services. Although homosexual activity is not explicitly criminalized except in two provinces, police routinely use charges of debauchery and prostitution to detain people who are assumed to be gay.
TANZANIA: Anti-gay crackdown hits HIV clinics, human-rights lawyers
Tanzania ramps up anti-gay panic, risks HIV expansion. Tanzania is intensifying its anti-gay crackdown, declaring an end to HIV/AIDS services at 40 health drop-in centers that serve the LGBT community, accusing them of promoting homosexuality.
Tanzania threatens to arrest all gay rights activists. Tanzania threatened to arrest and deport those campaigning for gay rights and de-register organisations protecting homosexual interests.
Tanzanian AIDS event disrupted by arrest of 20 allegedly gay suspects. Tanzanian police arrested 20 people who were meeting in the middle of a training session about how to fight HIV/AIDS.
Tanzania: 12 arrests for allegedly ‘promoting homosexuality’. About 12 men were arrested on homosexuality charges in Dar es Salaam as they met to discuss legal action against the government’s crackdown on HIV clinics that serve the LGBT community.
Among those arrested were 3 anti-AIDS lawyers, who were soon deported for ‘promoting homosexuality’.
NIGERIA: Mass arrests — 53 people, 42 people, 70 people
Police in Nigeria continue their practice of arresting individuals suspected of homosexual activity. For example:
- Suspected Nigerian gay man allegedly abducted, blackmailed
- Nigerian court releases 2 charged with homosexuality. Nigerian police have dropped charges against two men accused of same-sex intimacy after they spent five months in prison.
- Defending gays in Nigeria: ‘dangerous, risky, stigmatizing’. Nigerian human rights activist Kayode Gomes describes the intense challenges faced by anyone who defends LGBT people in Nigeria.
Against that background of ongoing repression, three large-scale incidents stood out:
53 arrests in Nigeria for alleged same-sex wedding. Prosecutors in Muslim northern Nigeria charged 53 people with attending a supposed gay wedding. The arrestees pleaded not guilty to the charge, saying that they were at a birthday party, not a gay wedding. As is often the case in Nigeria, the outcome of this case was not reported.
42 Nigerians face homosexuality charges. As many as 42 men and boys were jailed on homosexuality charges after their arrest during an HIV awareness event in July.
Muslim police arrest 70 Nigerian youths for ‘gay’ party. Religious police in northern Nigeria’s Kano State reportedly arrested 70 youths following accusations that they were planning to organize a gay party.
CHECHNYA: Mass arrests, some murders
Report: Mass arrests of gays in Chechnya; 3 or more killed. Authorities in the Russian republic of Chechnya have reportedly detained more than 100 people suspected of being homosexuals.
Russian LGBT Network seeks to rescue imperiled gay Chechens. The Russian LGBT Network is seeking to evacuate endangered people from Chechnya to save them from the mass arrests and incarceration.
BANGLADESH: Increasing desperation
Bangladeshi repression leaves LGBT community reeling. Increasing desperation in the Bangladeshi LGBT community came to a head Friday, May 19, when police in Bangladesh broke up a social gathering, making 29 arrests in what seems to be part of a government crackdown against the LGBT community. Initially, police said the arrests were for homosexuality, but they soon realized that they had no evidence of same-sex sexual activity, so they pressed drug charges instead.
Perhaps the year’s saddest story came from Bangladesh: Family forced him to marry; he chose death instead.
KENYA: LGBT refugees flee Uganda, find new trouble in Kenya
Hundreds of LGBT Ugandas fled from their violently homophobic homeland to neighboring Kenya, only to end up stuck in violently homophobic urban slums or in the Kakuma refugee camp, surrounded by tens of thousands of homophobic refugees from elsewhere in East Africa.
Kenya arrests LGBTI refugees, sends them into danger (May) Eighteen Ugandan LGBTI refugees in Kenya have been arrested, abused and sent to the Kakuma refugee camp.
The lonely life of an LGBT Ugandan refugee in Kenya. In Kenya, LGBT Ugandan refugees turn to each other for support and companionship, but some are abandoned to a life of solitary struggles. Here is one such LGBT refugee’s story.
Some relief efforts are under way: Kakuma refugees gain supporters, need more help. LGBTI Ugandans at Kakuma Camp in Kenya found some reasons to celebrate, despite the refugee camp’s food cutbacks and continuing hostility from other refugees. As of late December, an online funding campaign had raised $2,673 for supplementary food for about 200 LGBTI refugees there. That campaign is ongoing.
UGANDA: Police shut down Pride Uganda and film festival
The now-overturned Anti-Homosexuality Act of 2014 and its never-enacted harsher predecessor, the “Kill the Gays” Bill, helped earn Uganda a reputation as one of the world’s worst countries for LGBT people. Many Ugandan LGBT rights activists are hard at work trying to reduce repression, but there’s must work still to do. As this year’s prime example: Under threat, activists cancel Pride Uganda 2017. LGBTI rights activists cancelled Uganda Pride 2017 in August in the face of threats of arrest and physical harm.
Police raid shuts down Ugandan LGBT film festival. In December, Ugandan police raided the second annual Queer Kampala International Film Festival after allegedly being tipped off about its secret location.