Archive for February, 2011

Malawi Council of Churches (MCC) Backup Government’s Criminalisation of Homosexuality

Bishop Joseph Bvumbwe

repost from African Activist

The Malawi Council of Churches (MCC) issued a media statement in support of the criminalisation of sex between women by the Malawi government and criticised Germany and the United States for threatening to withhold aid. Malawi’s penal code already prohibits sex between men and the law was applied in the case of Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza. Continue Reading

Hungary: Ruling on Gay March a Human Rights Victory Hu

press release from Council member, Human Rights Watch

Hungary: Ruling on Gay March a Human Rights Victory

Protect Demonstrators from Violence, Guarantee Rights to Expression, Assembly

(New York, February 18, 2011) – The Budapest Metropolitan Court’s decision on February 18, 2011, to allow an extended route for a gay pride march was an important victory for freedom of assembly in Hungary, Human Rights Watch said today. The Budapest police had denied permission to extend the route for the march, planned for June 18.

“The court’s decision was a victory not only for the  community of lesbians, gays, bisexual and transgender people, but for the right of all Hungarians to freedom of assembly,” said Boris Dittrich, acting director of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights program at Human Rights Watch.

The Metropolitan Court of Budapest overturned the February 11 decision of the Budapest police to deny an application by Rainbow Mission Foundation, a lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) organization, to extend the route of the 2011 Budapest Gay Pride March to the parliament building.

Rainbow Mission Foundation made a formal request to the police in September 2010 to hold the gay pride march in June 2011. Because the police did not deny the request within two days, it was automatically approved under national law. In February, the organizers of the event decided to extend the route to end at Parliament Square, but the police denied their request. The court refuted the police claims that the extended route of the march would unduly obstruct traffic.

In 2008, the police had denied a permit for a gay pride march on similar grounds but withdrew its objections following a letter from 15 LGBT organizations and the rejection by Gábor Demszky, the Budapest mayor at that time, of the claim that the parade would unduly obstruct traffic. Approximately 450 lesbians, gays, and supporters gathered in the city center for the event.

During the march, though, several LGBT people were subjected to physical and verbal abuse, and crowds of counter-demonstrators threw explosive devices, eggs, cobblestones, and bottles at the participants. As a result 10 people were injured and 45 detained.

The right to the freedom of assembly is enshrined in Article 11 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. In Bączkowski and Others v Poland in 2005 and Alekseyev v. Russia in 2010, the European Court of Human Rights ruled unanimously that banning a LGBT pride parade violated the right to freedom of assembly and association.

On March 31, 2010, the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe adopted a set of recommendations (CM/Rec (2010), 5 addressed to member states, including Hungary, on measures to combat discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity. The recommendations are minimum standards. Relevant articles are:

  • Article 14. Member states should take appropriate measures at national, regional and local levels to ensure that the right to freedom of peaceful assembly, as enshrined in Article 11 of the Convention, can be effectively enjoyed, without discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity.
  • Article 15. Member states should ensure that law enforcement authorities take appropriate measures to protect participants in peaceful demonstrations in favor of the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons from any attempts to unlawfully disrupt or inhibit the effective enjoyment of their right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.
  • Article 16. Member states should take appropriate measures to prevent restrictions on the effective enjoyment of the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly resulting from the abuse of legal or administrative provisions, for example on grounds of public health, public morality and public order.

“Instead of trying to obstruct the fundamental rights to freedom of assembly and expression, the police authorities should fulfill their obligation to protect the demonstrators,” Dittrich said. “The court has done the right thing. The police should follow suit.”

For more Human Rights Watch reporting on LGBT rights, please visit:
http://www.hrw.org/en/category/topic/lgbt-rights

For more information, please contact:
In New York, Boris O. Dittrich (English, Dutch, German): +1-917-535-3863 (mobile)

Additional Information:

Amnesty International

EU Observer

The Sudden Rise of a Pro-Gay Foreign Policy in the United States

repost from Huffington Post

by Javier Corrales | Professor of Political Science at Amherst College

The Obama administration is often criticized for betraying gay rights. Despite having helped repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, critics still charge that the White House continually reneges on its pledge to work hard to end marriage bans and gay bashing. Yet, on another unnoticed front, the administration has actually gone far beyond anything ever promised. The administration is taking steps to establish the first pro-gay foreign policy in the history of the United States.

So far, this foreign policy effort is off to a good start. But unless a more systematic approach is taken, the administration’s baby steps will remain just that: a decent impulse with little reach.

Arguably, the administration’s first steps have been laudable. In January, President Obama issued a public condemnation of the killing of gay activist David Kato in Uganda and of five members of the LGBT community in Honduras. In reality, Obama is merely treading behind the footsteps of Hillary Clinton, whom the The Advocate, a magazine covering LGBT news recently described as the “fiercest advocate” of gay rights in the administration. In fact, Clinton was the first first lady to march in a gay pride parade eleven years ago. Today, she intends to become the first secretary of state to make the State Department pro-gay.

Clinton’s mission is simple: eliminate “violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity” anywhere in the world. She declared this in a speech in June 2010, in which she also called on U.S. ambassadors and foreign governments to join this battle. She even designated staff to work on ways to advance LGBT rights, created funds to help victims of hate crimes abroad, and even came up with a new slogan — “Human rights are gay rights, and gay rights are human rights,” an adaptation of a similar slogan she once used on behalf of woman’s rights. Continue reading article on the Huffington Post

Congressman Payne Joins LGBT Caucus to Honor the Life of Ugandan Human Rights Activist David Kato

Donald Payne (D) New Jersey

Congressman Donald Payne

Tenth District – New Jersey

For Immediate Release: February 12, 2011
Contact: Algene Sajery or Natalie Chwalisz (202) 226-7812

Congressman Payne Joins LGBT Caucus to Honor the Life of Ugandan Human Rights Activist David Kato

Calls on the Government of Uganda to Protect the Basic Human Rights of All its Citizens

Washington, DC –Yesterday, Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin, and Congressman Barney Frank, Jared Polis, David Cicilline, together with Congressman Donald Payne, sponsored a briefing to highlight violence against sexual minorities in Uganda and honor the life of human rights activist and Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) Advocacy Officer, David Kato, who was brutally murdered in his home last month.

Congressman Donald M. Payne, Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health and Human Rights released the following statement:
“My condolences go out to the friends and family of David Kato, whose courage and devotion in the face of adversity will forever be respected by defenders of human rights around the world. David dedicated his life to advocating for the universal human rights of Uganda’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community.   Through dedicated and brave public service, he worked to improve the lives of minority populations in Uganda and was an inspiration to human rights defenders around the world”.

“David’s work was just beginning to bear fruit when he was tragically taken from us.  In October 2010 due to the steadfast advocacy of David and other courageous Ugandan activists, the Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC) determined that Uganda’s draft “anti-homosexuality bill” violates international human rights standards and the Ugandan Constitution.  On January 3, Uganda’s High Court determined that the publication of names and photographs of individuals suspected to be gay or lesbian by local media violates Ugandan’s constitutional right to privacy and human dignity”.

Now Ugandan authorities must work to ensure that David’s death was not in vein. I call on Ugandan authorities to actively investigate David’s murder and to take immediate steps to protect its citizens from future discriminatory acts and campaigns rooted in misperception, fear and ignorance. Ugandan authorities should speak out against hate speech that contributes to discrimination, harassment, and intimidation of Uganda’s LGBT community and other minorities.
“During my many years of travel across the African continent, I have met hundreds of human and civil rights activists like David Kato.  Impressed by their courage and strength, I am always sure to let them know that America stands with them and that they should never give up on their commitment to justice and equality for all.  We all share a responsibility to denounce violence against individuals on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, or gender identity wherever it may occur.  We must respect the basic human rights of all people.”
###

Sex Between Women Now a Crime in Malawi: New Law Violates Human Rights Obligations of Malawi

press release from International Commission of Jurists

IMMEDIATE RELEASE
8 February 2011

Sex Between Women Now a Crime in Malawi: New Law Violates Human Rights Obligations of Malawi

The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) expresses grave disappointment at Malawi’s recent enactment of a law criminalizing sexual relations between women. Such a law is an affront to human dignity and seriously undermines Malawi’s human rights commitments under international law.

The ICJ urges that the Parliament undertake an immediate review with an eye to repealing all laws that currently criminalize sexual activity on the basis of the sex of the partners.

In December 2010, the Parliament passed a bill amending the Penal Code of Malawi. In late January 2011, President Bingu Wa Mutharika assented to the bill, thus completing its enactment into law. The new Section 137A, captioned “Indecent practices between females,” provides that any female person who, whether in public or private, commits “any act of gross indecency with another female” shall be guilty of an offence and liable to a prison term of five years.

“The criminalization of private sexual activity between consenting adults of the same sex, whether women or men, runs counter to Malawi’s obligations to protect the human rights of all citizens of Malawi, regardless of sexual orientation,” said Alli Jernow, Senior Legal Advisor for the Sexual Orientation & Gender Identity Project. “If used to prosecute women for their private consensual sexual relationships, the new law threatens the universal rights to privacy and freedom from discrimination.”

Speaking in Geneva last September, the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stated, “Laws criminalizing people on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity violate the principle of non-discrimination. They also fuel violence, help to legitimize homophobia and contribute to a climate of hate.”

The Republic of Malawi has turned a deaf ear to the calls of UN Secretary-General Ban Kimoon, High Commissioner for Human Rights Navanethem Pillay, and Archbishop Desmond Tutu and many others. Indecent practices between males are already criminalized in Malawi. Last May Tionge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza were convicted of this offense and were sentenced to 14 years in prison before receiving a presidential pardon. By adding “indecent practices between females” to the Penal Code, the Republic of Malawi has not only acted contrary to its own human rights obligations, it has contributed to the severe stigmatization and discrimination experienced by gay and lesbian Malawians. All laws criminalizing consensual sexual activity between adult same-sex partners should be repealed.

read the full statement here

NYC Vigil to Remember David Kato

When: February 3, 2011 4:00 pm
Where: Dag Hammarskjold Plaza (E 47th street and Second ave). Vigil will be followed by a procession to Uganda House 336 East 45th Street.

Who: The keynote speech will be delivered by Val Kalende, Board Chair of Freedom and Roam Uganda, an LBT organization in Uganda.

Recently added speakers include:
Christine Quinn, Speaker of the New York City Council

Additional speakers include:
* Cary Alan Johnson (International Gay & Lesbian Human Rights Commission)
* Reverend Kapya Kaoma (Public Research Associates)
* Amanda Lugg (African Services Committee)
* Kagendo Murungi (Wapinduzi Productions)
* Pastor Joseph Tolton (Global Justice Initiative)
* Dr. Cheikh Traore
* Invited guests include United States and New York City government officials.
* Speaker list in formation.

On Thursday, February 3rd, the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) and other concerned organizations* will hold a peaceful vigil near the Ugandan Mission to the United Nations in New York City to remember the life of David Kato, Ugandan LGBT human rights defender, murdered on January 26 in his home. View the facebook event page.

The vigil will honor his struggle for human rights for all people, regardless of sexual orientation or g ender identity. Join us in mourning David and showing the Ugandan government that there must be no more violence and discrimination against LGBT Ugandans.

Co-sponsors include:
ACT UP/New York
African Services Committee
American Jewish World Service
Amnesty International
amfAR
The Foundation for AIDS Research
ARC International
Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice
Center for Constitutional Rights
Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies
Center for Women’s Global Leadership
Council for Global Equality
Freedom and Roam Uganda
Gay By God
The Gay Men’s Health Crisis
Global Forum on MSM & HIV
Global Justice Ministry
Health Global Access Project (GAP)
House Of Rainbow Fellowship
International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission
Immigration Equality
The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center
LGBT Rights Program at Human Rights Watch
National Black Justice Coalition
The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force
The New York City Anti-Violence Project 
None on Record
Political Research Associates
The Queer African Youth Networking Center
Queers for Economic Justice
Sexual Minorities Uganda
Stonewall Community Foundation
St. Paul’s Foundation For International Reconciliation
Wapinduzi Productions

The Council supports the global community on MSM field guidance

Amb. Eric Goosby

On February 1, 2011, the global community urged the U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator, Ambassador Goosby, to issue a PEPFAR Field Guidance on Men who have Sex with Men (MSM).  The Council for Global Equality is one of the many signatories urging the release, and the broad international response is indicative of the wide support that exists for this effort.

As noted in the letter, by releasing the MSM guidance the United States will demonstrate “that the U.S. government prioritizes an evidence-based response that aligns with the global HIV epidemic, one that seeks to stem the tide of new infections among most-at-risk populations.”

Read the full letter here.


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