Archive for May, 2010

Statement by the Press Secretary on Today’s Pardoning in Malawi

THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release

May 29, 2010

Statement by the Press Secretary on Today’s Pardoning in Malawi

The White House is pleased to learn of President Bingu wa Mutharika’s pardon of Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza. These individuals were not criminals and their struggle is not unique. We must all recommit ourselves to ending the persecution and criminalization of sexual orientation and gender identity. We hope that President Mutharika’s pardon marks the beginning of a new dialogue which reflects the country’s history of tolerance and a new day for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights in Malawi and around the globe.
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Zuma slams Malawi imprisonment of gays

Repost From

Times Live | May 27, 2010 3:39 PM | By Brendan Boyle

President Jacob Zuma today condemned Malawi’s imprisonment of two gay men who publicly announced their intention to marry.

Zuma has been under fire from civic and religious groups for failing to speak out against the persecution of the two men recently jailed for 14 years for conducting a homosexual relationship in violation of the country’s anti-gay laws.

But he told MPs while answering questions in parliament that South Africa had condemned the prosecution, saying members of the national assembly must have missed the statement.

“Why are you and your government, completely silent on this despicable homophobic assault on the human rights and dignity of our brothers and sisters across Africa,” Democratic Alliance MP Dion George asked.

Zuma said South Africa had spoken out against the arrest and trial of the two men, but no such statement could be found in a quick internet search as he spoke.

“I don’t think we have kept quiet, so we are with you on this issue as representing the country and the continent. We are working hard to change attitudes and we will continue to do so.

“We have condemned the action taken to arrest people in terms of our constitution because our constitution says so. We have stated the views of this country contained in the constitution,” Zuma said.

UNAIDS and the Global Fund meet with Chair of the African Union

Press Release Issued by UNAIDS and Global Fund

Executive Directors discuss the Millennium Development Goals and human rights as they complete joint visit to Malawi

LILONGWE, Malawi, 25 May 2010—In a joint official visit to Malawi, the Executive Directors of UNAIDS and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria commended President Bingu wa Mutharika on Malawi’s progress in the AIDS response and his leadership as Chairperson of the African Union on AIDS, health, food security and development.

“President Mutharika’s vision for the African Union is essential to a sustainable response to AIDS and the Millennium Development Goals,” said Mr Michel Sidibé, Executive Director of UNAIDS.

“As Chair of the African Union, President Mutharika can showcase Malawi’s achievements in health,” said Prof. Michel Kazatchkine, Executive Director of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. “President Mutharika can be a strong voice for Africa as the international community focuses on achieving health-related and other Millennium Development Goals.”

During their meeting with the President, the Executive Directors emphasized the pivotal role of African voices in advocating for strong leadership in the response to HIV and health. The Executive Directors also emphasized the link between sustaining progress in the AIDS response and ensuring a fully funded Global Fund.

Mr Sidibé and Prof. Kazatchkine also expressed their concern over the recent conviction of Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga, two men in Malawi who were sentenced to 14 years in prison with hard labour for “indecent practices between males” and “unnatural offenses.” They discussed with President Mutharika the health, societal, cultural and human rights ramifications of this case, which has attracted international attention.

“Criminalizing sexual behaviour drives people who engage in same-sex relations underground and hampers HIV-related programmes aimed at addressing their needs,” said Prof. Kazatchkine.

“Evidence from several countries in Africa shows a significant number of new HIV infections occurring among sex workers, people who use drugs and men who have sex with men. Opening a societal dialogue on these sensitive and critical issues is the only way to guarantee access to health services and restore dignity to all,” said Mr Sidibé.

President Mutharika expressed his appreciation to Mr Sidibé and Prof. Kazatchkine for raising these issues. He said that he is confident the cultural, religious and legal dimensions of the debate generated around this case will lead to a positive outcome. He also recognized the importance of good health and development and proposed to serve as a strong advocate for the replenishment of the Global Fund, and work towards an HIV-free generation in Africa.

[END]

Zimbabwe police raid gay group offices, arrest 2

Associated Press
By CHENGETAI ZVAUYA (AP)

HARARE, Zimbabwe — Police have arrested two members of a gay organization after they posted a letter in their office from former San Francisco Mayor Willie Lewis Brown criticizing the Zimbabwean president’s opposition to homosexuality, their lawyer said Monday.

Ellen Chadehama, 34, and Ingatius Mhambi, 38, are employees of the Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ) organization. They were arrested on allegations under Zimbabwe’s censorship laws on Friday.

Attorney David Hofisi said the two will remain in jail until Wednesday — Tuesday is a public holiday in Zimbabwe — after police seized the letter from the organization’s suburban offices. Read More.

The Case of Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga

Many of you have been following the case of Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga, two young Malawi individuals who have been sentenced to fourteen years of hard labor for their same-sex marriage. Both the State Department and the White House have condemned this harsh and unjustified sentence; so have House Foreign Affairs Chairman Berman (D-CA) and Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI). Their statements, along with that of the French Government, can be found on our website.

Homophobia is Defeated but Not Yet Deterred: Next Steps in the Struggle for Equality in Uganda and Beyond

Reports from Uganda this week suggest that the notorious “Anti-Homosexuality” bill, which has been pending in the country’s parliament since last year, may finally be quashed.  The head of a special committee that was set up by the President to investigate the proposal announced the committee’s recommendation that the bill should be withdrawn from parliament.  This is welcome news, even if many human rights activists are justifiably concerned that the bill could be revived at a later date, when the rest of the world is not paying as close attention.  But for now, following an unprecedented campaign of condemnation that was led at every step by Uganda’s own civil society movement and amplified by governments and civil society leaders the world over, it looks like this sad effort is finally about to tossed on the junk heap of intolerance, where it belongs.

The “kill the gays bill,” as it came to be known in many circles, represented one of the most pernicious assaults on LGBT rights in any country anywhere, with provisions that would have instated the death penalty as punishment for same-sex relationships, while requiring every Ugandan to turn suspected homosexuals over to the authorities.  It was breathtaking in its unrelenting intolerance.  But even if the reports are true and the President of Uganda has decided that the bill’s popularity is outweighed by its potential cost to Uganda’s reputation and foreign aid, the bill’s proponents show no sign of giving up.  To the contrary, they remain committed to an agenda of hate, and they are still being encouraged in that campaign by religious bigots from the United States.  Earlier this month, U.S. evangelist and anti-gay crusader Lou Engel was in Uganda encouraging the bill’s passage.  He called Uganda “ground zero” in the global crusade against civil liberties for LGBT individuals.  And so it is.  But while the dust has yet to settle over that distant ground, it appears that homophobia and transphobia have been temporarily defeated, even if the proponents of intolerance have hardly been deterred.

This is an important time to take stock of where we are, and where we need to go.  Even with the defeat of the kill the gays bill, homosexual conduct still remains criminalized in Uganda.  The existence of the law continues to provide cover—and encouragement—to the police and the public, often even to family members, to harass, extort and commit violence against the country’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender citizens.  That intolerance is amplified in the media, and it seems to be spreading to other regions of Africa, with the help of religious bigots from various faith traditions.  The human rights landscape is bleak, but the struggle continues and the human rights community is more united than ever.

There is more good news to be found in the campaign itself.  The campaign against the bill was waged and won by Ugandans for Ugandans.  They requested and directed outside pressure, but they were very much in charge of the timing and tactics of the international campaign against the bill. Indeed, there is an impressive coalition website in Uganda, www.ugandans4rights.org, to help coordinate the struggle against the bill and the larger movement for LGBT equality in the country.  Moreover, after responding so forcefully to the request for international solidarity, the Obama Administration and leaders from both political parties in the U.S. Congress have pledged to carry on, declaring that the effort must now shift to broader legal reform, including total decriminalization of consensual conduct in Uganda and elsewhere.

Decriminalization has emerged as a leading human rights priority of the Obama Administration, and Secretary Clinton is one of the most outspoken proponents of this new doctrine.  In the 2003 case of Lawrence v. Texas, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a homosexual sodomy law in Texas, stating that sometimes “laws once thought necessary and proper serve only to oppress.”  As a matter of foreign policy, the Obama Administration, with Secretary Clinton on the diplomatic offensive, now makes this same argument on the world stage.  In an odd way, a handful of religious bigots in the United States and Uganda provided the necessary clarity to help crystallize this new foreign policy doctrine.

In Uganda, the United States is flexing its diplomatic muscle.  We are defeating intolerance, we are formulating policy, and we are assembling a new diplomatic toolkit to confront these sensitive human rights issues.  But much more remains to be done to help build a human rights culture.  As we continue to address these human rights struggles in Uganda, while also meeting them head on in other countries and different diplomatic contexts, we must do so with the humility of our own national shortcomings and the understanding that tolerance alone is not enough.  It is relatively easy to stand in opposition to ludicrous laws in other countries.  It is another matter altogether to commit ourselves and our human rights policy to building global equality.  This will require a new investment of development assistance to prioritize the rights and needs of LGBT communities abroad, including through broad-based legal reform.  As the dust settles on ground zero, we see that the arc of justice is indeed long, but as it bends it takes on a refracted hue.

Violence as Lithuania gay pride march goes ahead

From BBC News

Police fired tear gas and arrested at least 12 people as opponents of Lithuania’s first gay pride parade threw stones and fireworks at marchers.

Hundreds of people took part in the march in the capital, Vilnius.

Holding rainbow flags and dancing to music, they paraded along a road near the city’s Neris river.

The event, originally allowed by the city council, was banned by a court on security concerns, but on Friday an appeals court overturned the ban.

The ban was criticised by President Dalia Grybauskaite, some European governments, and the international rights watchdog Amnesty. Read more.


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