Archive for the 'Europe' Category

Spread of Russian-Style Anti-Propaganda Laws

Repost from Human Rights First
Countries-enacting-anti-LGBT-laws-3-12-2014-01

We saw what Putin can do to LGBT Russians while the international media was camped in Sochi covering the XXII Winter Olympiad. What kind of crackdown might happen when it’s all over?

Additionally, as the world watches what will transpire domestically, the international LGBT community waits to see if Russia’s brand of discriminatory legislation will take root elsewhere. The flagship piece of that legislation, the federal law banning “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations,” may soon be Russia’s number one export. Since the propaganda law went into effect, in June, 2013, legislators from Eastern Europe to Central Asia have begun to emulate the Russian Duma by introducing nearly identical versions of the law in their legislative bodies.

Continue reading and find a link to the fact sheet here

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From St Patrick’s Day to the “Anti-Gay” Laws: The Common Theme of the Invisibilization of Homosexuality

Guest Blogger:  Fabrice Houdart, President World Bank GLOBE

As St Patrick’s Day parade organizers in Boston and New York were arguing today that the parade “isn’t a sexually oriented parade” to justify banning LGBT people from marching with signs indicating their identity, I was reminded of conversations on the “anti-gay” laws in Uganda, Nigeria and Russia.

The reasons why LGBT Americans are so eager to be visible in this parade is the same that drove homophobic parliamentarians to push “anti-gay” laws: visibility is key to greater acceptance of homosexuality. Tolerance of homosexuality is not only correlated with high visibility of LGBT people in the media and their communities, it is its single most important predictor even more than economic development. This transformative effect is what St Patrick’s Day parade organizers and Ugandan, Russian and Nigerian lawmakers want to avoid by locking the closet doors.

The historical tragedy and blessing for gay people is that they can avoid discrimination and violence provided they do not reveal their sexual orientation. But in exchange they must relinquish hope of progress and greater equality for their community. This was never an option for most other marginalized communities: such as racial minorities, people living with disabilities or women.

However, for LGBT people to be out in the workplace, in the medias or in community parades can have a transformative effect. The “contact theory” is now accepted as the main explanation from the sudden change of attitude towards homosexuality in the United States. As Herek and Glunt famously expressed in 1993 “heterosexual men and women who report knowing someone who is gay express generally more positive attitudes toward lesbians and gay men then do heterosexuals who lack contact experiences”.

In France or Spain, a mostly hidden gay population, particularly in very conservative workplace environments, has been a key impediment to greater acceptance. As a result France, which was well positioned culturally to be inclusive, remains today the least tolerant country in Western Europe towards homosexuals, with 28.8 per cent of the population responding that they would not want a homosexual neighbor in the World Values Survey (WVS) On the other hand, Nepal (which was not part of the WVS) where sexual minorities are increasingly visible is apparently showing clear signs of greater acceptance of homosexuals.

One of the most surprising aspects of our conversation on the “anti-gay” laws has been the perception by many that the impact of these laws is blown out of proportion and instrumentalized by western LGBT groups to their benefit. They point to the fact that there have been few reports of arrests, imprisonment and lynching. Similarly, they remind us that people who experience same-sex sexual attraction in these countries reject themselves the idea that such feelings make them “gay”.  A prominent African decision-maker – who has been silent publicly on the “anti-gay” laws passed in her own country – even called in a private conversation for patience with Africa reminding her interlocutor that it took centuries for western countries to experience this rapid rise in acceptance of homosexuality.

These arguments ignore the fact that “anti-gay” laws will actually prevent this cultural evolutionary process to even start. Ever. But beyond that, it is important to remember that this greater invisibilization is a step towards deshumanization, reinforcing the message that gays are outsiders. By deshumanizing LGBT people, politicians legitimize the violence, bullying and discrimination that many LGBT people experience everyday paving the way for a  possible more radical and systematic persecution.

I have no doubt that LGBT Americans will succeed in ensuring that the St Patrick’s Day parade becomes inclusive: it is too late in the United States to send back the LGBT community to the closet. Hopefully, the Russian community is too at the tipping point and they will find the courage and resources to overcome legal challenges. For Ugandan and Nigerian sexual minorities, the impact of the laws is tragic, reinforcing the existing widespread homophobia and annihilating hope for change.

Op-Ed “Demonizing Gays in Africa”

Repost from the New York TimesBy 

As acceptance of gays and lesbians has grown in the United States and Europe, intolerance and persecution has been rising in other parts of the world. African nations are leaders in this cruel and dehumanizing trend.

The latest alarms were triggered by a ban in Nigeria on same-sex relationships that was passed by Parliament in May and signed by President Goodluck Jonathan on Jan. 7. Nigeria is a leading oil producer and Africa’s most populous country, and the ban is considered the most significant setback yet to gay rights on the continent.

Although gay sex has been illegal in Nigeria since British colonial rule, the draconian new law criminalizes homosexuality, banning same-sex marriage and prescribing years in prison to anyone who makes a “public show” of same-sex relationships or participates in gay organizations. Even people who simply support gays are subject to criminal arrest and penalties.

Before the new law was enacted, convictions for gay sex were rare in the southern part of Nigeria and occasional in the mostly Muslim north. But since the law went into effect, as Adam Nossiter has reported in The Times, arrests of gays have multiplied and some people have sought asylum overseas. According to Amnesty International, homosexuality is illegal in 38 of 54 countries in Africa. It carries the death penalty in Mauritania, Sudan and Somalia; in northern Nigeria, where Islamic law is practiced, the penalty can be death by stoning. In Senegal, the press regularly “outs” gays and same-sex relations carry a penalty of five years in prison. Another severe law has been passed by Uganda’s Legislature, but President Yoweri Museveni has not and should not sign it.

Such laws violate commitments made by United Nations members in theUniversal Declaration of Human Rights and other human rights documents.

If these nations cannot do the humane thing, they should at least consider their self-interest. For any leader who values stability, it makes no sense to promote new laws that foment greater hostility among people, like in Nigeria, where there is already ethnic tension.

Even in countries where antigay laws are not enforced, they provide an excuse for abuse — including blackmail and extortion — by police, Amnesty International said. It is unlikely that any of these countries can reach their full economic potential because many foreign entities may find it too risky to invest in such hostile environments. These governments, in abusing their citizens, are moving in dangerous and destructive directions.

Tammy Baldwin, Susan Collins, David Cicilline and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen Pen Op-Ed “Human Rights Issues Pollute Olympic Spirit”

Repost from USA Today

Host countries should promote tolerance. IOC failed on this principle in picking Russia.

On Friday, the world will come together to open the Olympic and Paralympic Games in Sochi, Russia — a celebration of hard work and fair play, social responsibility, and international friendship. Every two years, the Olympic Games bring the world together, regardless of political ideology, to compete in feats of endurance, strength and sportsmanship. The issues that often divide our world seem to be suspended or even temporarily disappear during the Olympics. And instead of focusing on our differences, we come together as a global community to focus on what we have in common and our shared appreciation for our athletes and the games.

Although some individuals or groups have threatened to use the Games as an opportunity to wreak violence, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) continues to organize the Games to promote peace through sport — diplomacy through fierce, but friendly competition. In many ways, the IOC has been successful in its mission, as stated in the Olympic Charter, “to place sport at the service of the harmonious development of humankind.”

The Olympic Games are unparalleled in their ability to bring together people of diverse cultures and backgrounds, and to promote tolerance and acceptance of these differences. Fundamental Principle Six of the Olympic Charter explicitly prohibits “(a)ny form of discrimination with regard to a country or a person on grounds of race, religion, politics, gender or otherwise.” This principle reflects the basic human right of equality before the law — the idea that everyone enjoys the same basic human rights free of discrimination. Continue Reading

Ban Ki-moon condemns persecution of gay people in Russia

Click image to watch short video of the speech

Click image to watch short video of the speech

Repost from The Guardian

The United Nations secretary-general has used a speech ahead of theWinter Olympics in Sochi to condemn attacks on the LGBT community, amid growing criticism of Russia‘s so-called “gay propaganda” laws.

Ban Ki-moon, addressing the IOC before Friday’s opening ceremony, highlighted the fact that the theme of the UN’s human rights day last December was “sport comes out against homophobia”.

“Many professional athletes, gay and straight, are speaking out against prejudice. We must all raise our voices against attacks on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or intersex people,” he said. “We must oppose the arrests, imprisonments and discriminatory restrictions they face.”

“The United Nations stands strongly behind our own ‘free and equal’ campaign, and I look forward to working with the IOC, governments and other partners around the world to build societies of equality and tolerance. Hatred of any kind must have no place in the 21st century.” Continue Reading

Attorney General Eric Holder Delivers Remarks at the Parliament of Sweden

Attorney General Eric HolderAttorney General Eric Holder addressed the Swedish Parliament today and pledged continued support by the U.S. Government to advance the equality of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender people. Mr. Holder commended Sweden on being a champion of human rights including LGBT rights and quoted from President Obama’s second Inaugural address,

“Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law – for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love that we commit to one another must be equal as well.”

He went on to say,

“I believe one of these struggles is the fight for equality for our lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender – or LGBT – citizens.  And that is why my colleagues and I are working alongside leaders like you and people around the world to make a positive difference.”

The Attorney General is visiting Sweden as part of a European trip to attend a G6 ministerial conference in Poland.

You can read the full speech here.

Last Law in Europe Criminalizing Homosexuality is Scrapped, in First Win for the Human Dignity Trust

Press Statement from Human Dignity Trust

London-based legal organisation the Human Dignity Trust, which exists to support local challenges to anti-gay laws, is today celebrating its first win.

Northern Cyprus was, until today, the last jurisdiction in Europe to criminalise gay people. Homosexual acts between adult males were punishable by 5 years in prison in Turkish Northern Cyprus due to an antiquated law, a hangover from British colonial rule.

The Human Dignity Trust launched a challenge in the European Court of Human Rights to the existence of this law in January 2012, citing that it breached international human rights law, as well as Northern Cyprus’ own constitution. The Northern Cypriot Parliament soon after undertook to examine the provisions in their Criminal Code that made homosexual acts against the law.

Today lawmakers abolished these provisions, thereby decriminalising homosexuality in Northern Cyprus and, effectively, in Europe.

Jonathan Cooper, Chief Executive of the Human Dignity Trust, said:

“This is a historic day for gay people in Europe and a major victory for human rights, equality and the Human Dignity Trust.

Our case before the European Court required the law to be changed. Nowhere in Europe now still criminalises gay people and we are proud to say that we have played a significant role in bringing this shameful chapter in European history to an end.

Laws against private, consenting homosexual acts between adults criminalise someone’s very identity and have no place in the modern world.

These pernicious anti-gay laws, which protect no one and cause deep distress and harm to gay and lesbian people, still exist in 82 legal jurisdictions. But that is one fewer than yesterday, and this we must celebrate.”

Though the Northern Cypriot Parliament has voted in favour of amending the Criminal Code to decriminalise homosexual acts, the final stage in the process requires the President’s assent, which he is expected to give within 15 days.

The Human Dignity Trust’s case has been supported by the Northern Cypriot LGBT organisation Queer Cyprus (formerly ‘Initiative Against Homophobia’). The legal team, led by Nigel Pleming QC, includes Northern Cypriot lawyer Oncel Polili and Tom Mountford. Instructing solicitors are international law firm and member of the Human Dignity Trust’s legal panel, Taylor Wessing LLP

Related Content: 

Northern Cyprus votes to legalise gay sex - The Guardian

Gay sex legalized in northern Cyprus - Euronews

Evangelicals Are Winning The Gay Marriage Fight — in Africa and Russia

Photo: Walter AstradaA/AFP/Getty Images

Photo: Walter AstradaA/AFP/Getty Images

Repost from National Journal

Long before President Obama selected three gay athletes to lead the American delegation to the Sochi Olympics, long before President Vladimir Putin declared Russia to be the world’s new “moral compass,” and long before practically anyone in the West had even heard of that country’s new “homosexual propaganda” law, one American had thought deeply about it—because he’d helped invent it. “My greatest success, in terms of my own personal strategy, is Russia,” Scott Lively says from his native Massachusetts, where he launched a quixotic bid for governor this year.

Lively, who is being sued in U.S. federal court by a gay-rights group for alleged crimes against humanity over his work fighting “the gay agenda” in Uganda, led a 50-city tour through the former Soviet Union several years ago to warn its citizens about the international gay conspiracy. His message and his proposed solution—to criminalize LGBT advocacy—were received with open arms in town-hall meetings, local legislatures, and St. Petersburg, which sent an open letter to the Russian people and later became one of the first cities in the country to outlaw “homosexual propaganda,” paving the way for the national legislation.

“I was an alcoholic and a drug addict until I got saved in 1986, and since that time my focus has been to restore a biblical focus with regards to marriage and sexuality,” he says. Lively became a lawyer, author, and advocate in pursuit of the cause, but he gave up on the United States almost a decade ago, when one of his cases (challenging an antidiscrimination law)failed. “I began shifting my emphasis, which is going to the other countries in the world that are still culturally conservative to warn them about how the Left has advanced its agenda in the U.S., Canada, and Europe—and to help put barriers in place. And the goal is to build a consensus of moral countries to actually roll back the leftist agenda in my country,” he explains matter-of-factly.

For Lively and the rest of a small but incredibly influential band of American activists who spend their time crisscrossing the globe to meet with foreign lawmakers, deliver speeches, make allies, cut checks, and otherwise foment a backlash against the so-called international gay-rights agenda, this is nothing less than a war for the fate of human civilization. Continue Reading

For LGBT Donors, Russia Is The New Marriage

Melissa Ethridge - Russia Freedom Fund

John Minchillo / AP Images for Arcus Foundation

Repost from BuzzFeed, by J. Lester Feder

Can the strategies that turned the U.S. LGBT movement into a money machine work when the fight goes abroad? Melissa Etheridge headlined a celebrity fundraiser for a new coalition that hopes to make that true.

When Julie Dorf started trying to raise money for international LGBT rights work more than two decades ago, she said, people looked at her like she was nuts.

“When we started [the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission] in the middle of the AIDS epidemic, people would look at me and say, ‘I have people dying in my backyard; I don’t have time to think about gay people in Russia.’”

And while U.S. support for LGBT advocacy abroad has grown over the years since IGLHRC came into being as the first international gay rights organization in 1990, it has claimed a tiny sliver of the dollars going to LGBT advocacy. Major grassroots fundraising efforts with the celebrity glitter that the domestic movement became so adept at were not a part of the equation.

But a fundraiser headlined by Melissa Etheridge on Monday night in Manhattan showed how much times have changed. Etheridge has partnered with Dustin Lance Black and other entertainment industry figures to form a coalition to raise funds for Russian LGBT activists, which they’re calling Uprising of Love. That’s also the title of the anthem Etheridge penned for the movement resisting Russia’s “homosexual propaganda” law. It will go on sale in January with proceeds going to LGBT activists.

By the time the Uprising of Love coalition launched, the Human Rights Campaign had already made waves by diving into international work with a $3 million investment from Republican financiers. Its first initiative was also a fundraising campaign for Russian activists, under the banner “Love Conquers Hate.” It uses the classic retail strategy that HRC perfected to support its domestic work: selling campaign-branded t-shirts advertised with photos of celebrities in campaign gear.

In remarks before performing the new song, Etheridge gave voice to the mood among Americans that seem to make them ready for international LGBT fundraising pitches.

“It seemed to be just weeks after we had just had this incredible high of that decision of the Supreme Court knocking down DOMA” that she learned about the anti-gay crackdown in Russia, she said. “We’ve been pushing this boulder for 20, 30 years up this hill [in the U.S.]. And we made it, and we can breath…. All of us who have gone that journey, when we see what’s happening in Russia, [we say] “No no no no. We are never ever ever going back.” Continue Reading

Related Content:

Open Letter to President Putin on Russia’s Discriminatory Anti-LGBT Laws
Russia Freedom Fund

Open Letter to President Putin on Russia’s Discriminatory Anti-LGBT Laws

Washington DC, November 15, 2013

Dear President Putin:

Like many of our generation, we have applauded Russia’s 20-year turn toward democracy, confident in the prospect it lays not only for closer relations between our countries, but for the freer and more prosperous future that the Russian people deserve.  In that light, we write to express grave concern at recent legislation – signed by you into law, or otherwise under consideration in the Duma – that demonizes and discriminates against Russian citizens who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT).

These laws are tearing apart the lives of Russian LGBT citizens and their families. They also impact Russian and foreign citizens, organizations and businesses that want the best for your country, and that are committed to building partnerships that are in your interests.

The range of legislation to which we refer is broad; among other things, it restricts public gatherings; classifies as “foreign agents” those who receive funding from abroad; denies orphaned and abandoned children the opportunity to be brought up in families by individuals with the commitment, the resources, and the love needed to raise them; and makes it a crime to speak openly or provide information about homosexuality. We are also extremely concerned about pending legislation that threatens to remove children from same-sex parents – the homes they’ve known, the families they love.

These discriminatory, anti-LGBT laws call into question the democratic path that Russia ostensibly has chosen.  They disregard the obligation carried by all democratic societies to respect and protect minority populations of any kind.  And they deny not only the promise of equality under the law, but the fundamental freedoms of speech, assembly, and association that are core to any democratic system.

Some proponents of these laws have sought to justify them for the purpose of “protecting children.” These ideas are based on false “science,” deliberately erroneous claims, and clear bias. Homosexuality and pedophilia are not, in fact, related. Modern science and the medical establishment consider homosexuality as a statistically normal human sexual variation. Pedophilia, on the other hand, is a crime, and is not a factor of one’s sexual orientation.

We strongly support child protection legislation that penalizes inappropriate sexual conduct with minors.  However, such legislation cannot single out one minority population, as Russia’s laws now do.  By inaccurately placing pedophilia at the door of LGBT citizens, Russia’s laws harm rather than protect LGBT youth, and have a negative impact on broader non-discrimination efforts within society.  Further, these laws create a climate of fear and repression that leaves LGBT children, and even those merely suspected of being so, vulnerable to physical and mental abuse, while substantially diminishing their educational and employment-related opportunities and achievements.  In this manner, these laws are harmful to children and society in equal measure. They also provoke increased violence against LGBT Russian youth and adults, the rise of which should be a matter of concern to you, as President, as it is to us.

To date, the media has viewed Russia’s repressive laws largely through the prism of the upcoming Sochi Olympics.  The reason for this is clear:  the Olympic Charter proclaims that “…any form of discrimination with regard to a country or a person on grounds of race, religion, politics, gender or otherwise, is incompatible with belonging to the Olympic Movement.”  Russia’s new laws squarely defy the Charter; its role as host, while failing to amend or abrogate these laws, cheapens Olympic ideals.

However, concern about Russia’s laws is not limited to their inconsistency with Olympic principles – nor, indeed, to the narrow question of how Russia will treat LGBT foreigners who participate in or attend the Sochi Olympics.  The fundamental question raised by Russia’s anti-LGBT course is why Russia treats its own LGBT citizens with such disregard for democratic principles – and why you and Russian legislators have chosen, as part of your legacy, to foster a climate of hostility toward LGBT people that has made those citizens so unwelcome on their own soil.

You have made public assurances that all visitors are welcome to Sochi, regardless of sexual orientation.  These assurances, however, cannot be taken at face value without a more detailed understanding of how Russia’s anti-LGBT laws apply to a range of specific questions.  For instance:

  • Can Olympic athletes or spectators be arrested or otherwise sanctioned for wearing “Gay Pride” or similarly themed clothing or accessories at the Games, or clothing items/accessories containing an LGBT-related insignia?
  • Can these same athletes or spectators sport officially licensed rainbow pins or other apparel from the 2012 London Summer Olympics?
  • Can athletes or spectators carry Gay Pride flags?
  • Should two individuals of the same sex either hold hands or kiss in public, would that be seen as contravening Russian law?
  • What would happen should a person speak in favor of the equal treatment of LGBT persons – whether publicly or in what was intended to be a private conversation?
  • Can a parent of an LGBT athlete – Russian or foreign – speak affirmatively of his/her child, including with reference to that athlete’s sexual orientation or gender identity, in pre- or post-competition interviews?
  • Can athletes or spectators distribute pamphlets concerning the human rights of all individuals, including those in “non-traditional sexual relationships,” as a reflection of both their beliefs and their rights to freedoms of opinion, speech and expression?
  • Can media coverage of the Games include examination of Russia’s discriminatory legal climate directed against LGBT people?
  • Might a reporter asking questions related to the law be accused of violating the law?
  • Would the public dissemination of same-sex attraction (e.g., through a gay or lesbian couple holding hands) by television, newspaper or internet potentially subject the media outlet to legal response by Russian authorities?
  • Would capture and public dissemination of LGBT insignia by the media, including the internet, in the course of reporting on the Games (or subsequently), subject that outlet to legal response?
  • Are private sector companies free to include same-sex couples in their advertising related to sponsorship of the Games?  Are they permitted to include pro-LGBT messages of solidarity in their advertising?
  • Would children who have been adopted by lesbian or gay individuals or couples be allowed to enter the country?
  • Could a child be taken from a couple if that couple either was or appeared to be gay or lesbian?
  • Is there a distinction in how any of these scenarios would be handled (a) within the Olympic Village, (b) in the broader Olympic security zones in and around Sochi, or (c) outside of those zones?
  • Would the response to any of these questions differ depending on the citizenship of the individual(s)?  Would foreign nationals be treated differently, inasmuch as the law specifies different penalties for foreigners?

To be clear, these questions deserve response before the Sochi Olympics, so that all of those who support the Olympics – whether athletes, spectators, sponsors, media, or prospective national delegation members – can have certainty as to how these laws might impact their participation, or indeed their prospective travel to Sochi.  Importantly, however, these questions must be answered with respect not only to foreign visitors, but to Russia’s citizens as well.  They also must be answered not only with respect to the specific period embraced by the Sochi Olympics, but thereafter.

We ask you, as President, to ensure that Russian officials clearly address, with a sense of urgency, each of the scenarios noted above.  But we also ask that you take on the leadership role of pressing for these laws to be repealed in order that LGBT citizens of your country can enjoy the same rights and expectations as any of their heterosexual fellow citizens, and so as to rein in the hostility directed against LGBT Russians that these laws have entailed.

Finally, we ask that you address these questions with a sense of urgency, not only in view of the rapid approach of the Sochi Olympics, but with regard to the distraction that these laws pose to our shared interest in a broad and stable partnership between our countries.

Sincerely,

Mark Bromley        
Council Chair      

Julie Dorf          
Senior Advisor

Michael Guest
Senior Advisor


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