Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who said that persecuting LGBT people was the ultimate blasphemy. Photograph: Reuters
In 1967 it was the then archbishop of Canterbury, Michael Ramsey, who spoke in the House of Lords to support the decriminalisation of homosexuality in this country, thus making a clear distinction in British law between a moral and a criminal issue.
No such distinction exists in many parts of the world and, as a result, people are suffering horrendous abuse and even death for being who they are and loving who they love. Many of us have met people who have shared the most disturbing personal stories, including a very small number who have been granted asylum on grounds of sexual orientation in this country.
Others in this debate have rehearsed the ways in which laws criminalising same-sex sexual activity between adults have been repeatedly found in international law to violate fundamental human rights, and this debate serves also to highlight effectively the way in which criminalisation gives rise to persecution. I want, however, to concentrate on the way in which discriminatory interference in the private sexual conduct of consenting adults is an affront to the fundamental Christian values of human dignity, tolerance and equality.
It is of course no secret, as others have made clear, that on the ethics of homosexual practice the churches in general and the Anglican communion bishops in particular are deeply divided, but that cannot and must not be any basis for equivocating on the central issue of equality before the law of all human beings whether heterosexual or homosexual. Further, many of us who are bishops in this country value and treasure our links with particular dioceses around the Anglican communion. We respect and appreciate the different, and often sharply divided, theological approaches which lead to different stances on the ethical issues. But, as the Lambeth conference of 1998 made clear, there is not and cannot be any place for homophobia in the church, and all are to be welcomed regardless of sexual orientation.
Few have spoken on this issue as unequivocally as archbishop Desmond Tutu, who said in 2010 at a United Nations high-level panel:
“All over the world, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people are persecuted. They face violence, torture and criminal sanctions because of how they live and who they love. We make them doubt that they too are children of God – and this must be nearly the ultimate blasphemy.”
Indeed, in recent years, successive statements from the leaders of major Christian denominations in the west have made similar points, including perhaps most consistently, those from the Society of Friends, which has stated:
“We affirm the love of God for all people, whatever their sexual orientation, and our conviction that sexuality is an important part of human beings as created by God, so that to reject people on the grounds of their sexual behaviour is a denial of God’s creation.”
Many people the world over are now asking the churches to put their position beyond all doubt, by saying simply and clearly that criminalisation is wrong. I will put my position beyond all doubt by stating it in as clear terms as I can. If criminalisation leads, as it evidently does, to gay people concealing their own identity, that must be wrong; if criminalisation leads to many living in fear, that must be wrong; if criminalisation leads to the prospect of persecution, arrest, detention and death, that must be wrong; and if criminalisation means that LGBT people dare not turn to the state when facing hate crimes and violence, that must be wrong too.
It is within the adult lifetime of most of us in this House that the law was changed in this country to decriminalise homosexual acts. However, for our children’s generation, such a state of affairs must feel like ancient history – as appropriate to the moral climate of today’s society in this country as the burning of witches. We must all urgently pursue this journey to a completely new climate in those many countries of the world where same-sex relations are criminal offences.
(Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Friday praised activists who opposed a tough draft law in Uganda targeting gays and lesbians, calling them an inspiration for others struggling to secure equal rights around the world.
Clinton presented a coalition of Ugandan rights groups with the State Department’s 2011 Human Rights Defender Award, a signal to African and Islamic nations that Washington will not backtrack in its fight against the legal and political persecution of homosexuals.
Picture: U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (L) meets with Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni at the State House in Kampala August 3, 2012. REUTERS/Jacquelyn Martin/Pool
“It is critical for all Ugandans – the government and citizens alike – to speak out against discrimination, harassment, and intimidation of anyone. That’s true no matter where they come from, what they believe, or whom they love,” Clinton said.
Clinton said she raised the issue in talks on Friday with Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, whose government has been accused of allowing political and religious leaders to drum up anti-gay feeling in the deeply conservative East African nation.
“You are a model for others and an inspiration for the world,” Clinton said to representatives of the group, formed in 2009 to combat draft legislation which proposed the death penalty for anyone convicted of “aggravated homosexuality”.
The bill, which spurred a global outcry, stalled in parliament but has been reintroduced in a watered down form by a member of Museveni’s party.
The new version dropped the death sentence, but would still outlaw the “promotion” of gay rights and punish anyone who “funds, sponsors or abets homosexuality”.
Clinton’s strong expression of support for Uganda’s beleaguered gay community came as she continued a seven-nation trip across Africa.
She began Friday with a visit to South Sudan, Africa’s newest nation, where she urged the new government in Juba to make a deal with their old rulers in Khartoum to resolve a dispute over oil revenues which has driven both countries to economic crisis.
On Saturday, she will continue on to Kenya, before heading south to Malawi and South Africa.
COULD DRONES HUNT KONY?
In Uganda, Clinton visited a military base where Ugandan and U.S. soldiers showed her the U.S.-made “drone” aircraft now patrolling the skies over Somalia, where an African Union force is seeking to crush al Shabaab Islamist insurgents.
Uganda, a strong U.S. security partner, has contributed the bulk of the Somalia force and Clinton said she foresaw a day when drones might help the United States and Uganda with another of their joint military efforts – the hunt for renegade Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony.
“Now we have to figure out how to look through thick vegetation to find Joseph Kony,” Clinton said, after inspecting a drone, a small unmanned aircraft no more than a yard long and mounted with cameras.
The United States last year dispatched about 100 military advisers to help Uganda and other central African nations track down Kony, whose Lord’s Resistance Army has been charged with repeated atrocities against civilians.
But Kony is at large in a vast and often heavily-forested part of Africa, making finding him difficult.
U.S. officials stressed that Clinton’s visit to Uganda was aimed at thanking it for its strong security assistance in Somalia and elsewhere.
But the visit highlighted lingering tensions between Washington and Museveni, accused by critics of increasingly authoritarian policies and of bending the constitution to prolong his rule.
Before her meeting with the Ugandan leader, Clinton indicated that she would gently press him to think about a day when he might leave the political stage.
“It is important for leaders to make judgments about how they can best support the institutionalization of democracy,” Clinton told reporters. “It’s not about strong men, it’s about strong institutions.”
(Writing by Andrew Quinn and James Macharia; Editing by Andrew Osborn)
Forum for the Empowerment of Women, is celebrating its tenth anniversary of serving the Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender women in communities of South Africa. The lgbti community and allies will come together on August 4, 2012 to recognize and celebrate our accomplishments/ existence.
We have been fortunate during the ten years to have navigated the non-profit sectors, when many similar organizations have not been as fortunate. Our anniversary approaches when our services are needed more than ever, as crimes against the Lesbian community have increased.
FEW, wishes to extend our gratitude of appreciation to our founders, Zanele Muholi, Donna Smith and so many others. Special thanks are extended to our funders and donors that have been instrumental in our ten years of success.
The Forum for the Empowerment of Women (FEW) is a national, Non-Profit organization based in Johannesburg, South Africa, which aims to articulate, advance, and protect the rights of Black Lesbians, Bisexual and Transgender women. Our work, energy and resources are focused and deeply rooted in, informed and shaped by our constituency.
Our Mission is the empowerment of women by focusing on developing a Black Lesbian identifies and raises awareness of Black Lesbian women and youth rights.
Our Vision is to champion the rights of Black Lesbian women in a transformed society where all the rights enshrined in the South African Constitution are realized for the benefit of all.
As an activist and feminist organization, we support and build the ability of LBT women to live and work as human rights defenders. We view ourselves as an integral part of the LGBTI sector, the feminist, women’s rights and human rights sectors.
We are involved in a number of projects that address the issues of the LGBTI community which expresses publicly and celebrates our identities through activism and the resilience as Lesbian women. Our activism over the last ten years has raised the consciousness regarding the violations against women particularly hate crimes targeted at Lesbians.
FEW aims to make schools a safe environment for all learners especially the LBGTI learners and build Lesbian activists and organizations that create a safe space for Lesbian women in the Townships.
FEW contributes toward empowering Lesbian women, to address the gender-based violence targeted at lesbian women through the use of media to raise awareness to society about the life experiences of the LBT women in South Africa. FEW continues to work with Community Based Organizations in local Townships to address issues that affect Lesbians
All Friends of FEW are invited to attend our 10th year Anniversary Celebration
Date: Saturday, August 4, 2012
Time: AGM 1:00pm – 4:00pm – The Reception 6:00pm – 8:00pm
Venue: Constitution Hill Atrium
The AGM is aimed at updating FEW constituency and partners on the work of the organization in the past year and provide opportunity for input to the future direction of the organization.
The Evening Event: “Celebrating FEW’s 10th Anniversary” Tie Gala Dinner & Reception Time: 6:00pm – until late
After Party Celebration Open Closet @ Roxy’s Melville
By Melanie Judge, a member of CALBiA Advisory Board
Lesbian and gay rights activist Melanie Judge responds to the M&G’s June 28 article “Gentle man’s brutal murder turns spotlight on intolerance”. Victoria John’s report (Gentle man’s brutal murder turns spotlight on intolerance, June 28 2012) on the murder of Thapelo Makhutle’s made for shocking reading. The full page spread gave a detailed and gruesome account of his killing and brought to mind that old media adage – if it bleeds it leads. John’s report commences with the statement that “most people in the Kuruman area believe it is ungodly and unAfrican to be gay”. On reading the article it is apparent that this bold statement, posing as fact, is drawn solely from the account of an individual, contemplating what one might find “if one walked around the streets of Kuruman”. Basic journalistic ethics requires that such a sweeping assertion be properly substantiated. If not, such a statement risks reproducing the normalisation of the very homophobic discourses it ostensibly ‘reports’ to exist. The media has a particular responsibility to resist this naturalisation of the injured/murdered LGBTI ‘victim’ that everyone loves to hate.
In the midst of murder, local contestations around “Africanness”, sexuality and gender are very much alive. Recent resistance to the Traditional Courts Bill and to homophobia by traditional leaders are cases in point. LGBTI people are increasingly claiming political and social space, and women are challenging cultural systems that undermine their rights. This is partly why violence based on sexuality and gender occurs.
John’s report, in which Thapelo’s body becomes central to the replay of a horror, details the violent minutiae of his murder. In reports on homophobic attacks, it seems all too easy the way in which the black (because they mostly are) and blue bodies of LGBTI people are represented, particularly female bodies. Widening the lens – such that the horror is contextualised – will work against the impulse for homophobic violence and its ‘necessary victims’ to become normalised and the stuff of its making to therefore be obscured.
Slavoj Zizek’s caution, in his typology of violence, asks, “is there not something suspicious, indeed symptomatic, about this focus on subjective violence – that violence which is enacted by social agents, evil individuals, disciplined repressive apparatuses, fanatical crowds? Doesn’t it desperately try to distract our attention from the true locus of trouble, by obliterating from view other forms of violence and thus actively participating in them?”
This calls attention to the symbolic and material aspects of violence that are part of what we see as the ‘normal’ state of affairs – the “most people” status quo. Unlike the bodies they claim, systems of violence, such as heteronormativity, sexism, racism and impoverishment, are seldom laid bare.
Heteronormativity is a social system that privileges heterosexuality at the expense of sexualities and gender identities that don’t conform to it. As a function of power it operates through, amongst other means, violence as a policing and correcting force. From this perspective, violence against LGBTI people is partly a response to those who, in different ways, pose a threat to heteronormative privilege and power.
For example, lesbians and gay men challenge what it is to be masculine and feminine and that only opposite sexes attract. Transgender and intersex people disrupt the idea that there is a fixed relationship between biological sex and gender. The mere existence of queer people subverts gender binaries and the myths around its ‘naturalness’.
All movements for social change, the anti-apartheid struggle included, are grounded in the pain, rage and resistance of the injured. A growing movement of LGBTI people is increasingly asserting that their bodies matter and have the value to be mourned. These are political acts of staking a claim to, as philosopher Judith Butler frames it, “what counts as a livable life and a grievable death”. The full picture then, is not one of injurability alone. It is also about democracy at work, the expansion of citizenship and voices for social justice making themselves heard. These pressures on systems of dominance have the potential to generate new and hopefully more equitable, forms of power and politics.
Violence tells us something about who we are – both the injured and the privileged. This invites us to question: How are gender hierarchies sustained through violence? How do sexism, racism and class inequalities enable homophobic violence? Whose interests are served by peddling prejudice and what is its political function? How does homophobia relate to current re-assertions of colonial and apartheid identities? How do we all – not just queers – hold leaders to account when they promote hatred in the name of culture?
These are some of the issues that violence based on sex, gender and sexuality compels us to consider, lest we remain forever transfixed by the horror of bleeding bodies, while safely ensconced in our own participation in the very exercise of power that makes such violence possible.
““Given the epidemic proportions of violence against women in South Africa, it is an indictment of government’s attitude towards services for rape survivors that Rape Crisis has had to retrench all its staff – especially because Rape Crisis provides the very services that government itself is responsible for, but fails to provide effectively,” the Women’s Legal Centre’s Sanja Bornman, told the Daily Maverick. “The state should have stepped in and provided emergency funding. Civil society is fed up with the irrational funding practices of government and the National Lottery.”
The Western Cape department of social development did not respond to the Daily Maverick’s request for comment on the matter, but in November last year spokeswoman Melany Kuhn told the New Age that the department had to weigh Rape Crisis’s applications for funds against those of the 1,902 other NGOs in the province that the department also funded with a budget of R628-million. This year the department continued to support Rape Crisis, but the funding provision was cut by about a third.
When it comes to government funding, Rape Crisis director Dey says the problem is partly that it’s difficult to get reliable statistics on violence against women, therefore budgets are set unrealistically low.
“But the main question is: who will take responsibility for funding the kinds of services provided by Rape Crisis, the Saartjie Baartman Centre and so on?” Dey asked.
She said the reason the government provides funding for these NGOs in the first place is because of the “unspoken contract” which holds that they have expertise and resources to provide services that the government cannot – so government essentially contracts them to fill the gap. ”
She noted Member of Parliament Nkosi Patekile Holomisa, chairman of the Review Committee who is a member of the African National Congress, proclaimed: ‘The ANC knows that the great majority of South Africans do not want to promote or protect the rights of gays and lesbians.’
On her site ologdeeoblogda.me, Nathan says: ‘How many more South Africans will die as a result of homophobia before the Zuma led government steps forward to announce that homophobia is un-African?
‘Instead the audible silence, together with the recent anti-gay attacks on the South African Constitution by Traditional leaders, serves to perpetuate the myth that being gay is un-African and hence violence is justified.’
Gay activist works for LGBTI and human rights in Uganda.
By Deborah Creighton Skinner
(Photo: Courtesy Rafto Foundation for Human Rights)
Gay rights are human rights, says activist Frank Mugisha. But in many countries, that is not the case. Uganda, Mugisha’s home, is one of those countries where homosexuality is a criminal offense. A proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill would make homosexual activities punishable by life in prison.
For years, Mugisha, an Ugandan advocate for the rights of sexual minorities in Uganda, has worked tirelessly for equal rights for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) people in the East African country.
If you are gay in Uganda you must watch your back for fear of attacks or arrest. Many who have come out to their families are shunned. People lose their jobs. You are not guaranteed basic human rights as other citizens of Uganda. It is not right, and Mugisha wants change.
“A veil of silence enforced by thuggish street violence and official criminalization is falling over much of Africa. Being a gay activist is a sacrifice,” Mugisha wrote in the New York Times in 2011. “You have to carefully choose which neighborhood to live in. You cannot go shopping on your own, let alone go clubbing or to parties. With each public appearance you risk being attacked, beaten or arrested by the police.”
Mugisha began advocating for LGBTI rights and HIV/AIDS awareness as a university student in 2004. He launched the support group Icebreakers Uganda, which provides resources and support to those who are openly gay or are coming out. He was smuggled out of Uganda after being targeted for arrest. He has since returned and is now the executive director of Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), where he continues to shine a light on one of the most vulnerable groups in the country.
“We are driven by the conviction that we are part of a larger story of global human rights, and we will not give up until we have built the future we all deserve,” he recently wrote.
In an April 2012 issue briefing on human rights and homophobia in Uganda, the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights said:
Threats to the LGBTI community often result in physical harm. Statements made by public officials and the Ugandan media consistently reinforce homophobic sentiment, and at times advocate directly for violence against LGBTI people. One tabloid published the names and photographs of over 100 suspected LGBTI Ugandans, with a caption that read: “Hang Them.” Soon after, on January 26, 2011, LGBTI activist David Kato, whose picture had appeared on the front page, was brutally murdered inside his own home. Sadly, Mr. Kato’s case was not an isolated occurrence — death threats and physical violence against LGBTI people are common and seldom result in investigation by the government.
The Root: The Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award recognizes individuals who stand up, at great personal risk, to oppression in the nonviolent pursuit of human rights. Are you afraid for your safety, or even for your life?
Mugisha: I fear. I fear for what will happen to me from the community, from people around me, from my friends. But my biggest fear is not coming from the government because, as an activist, I have a little bit of protection. My biggest fear is from the everyday people on the street. From my neighbors. Because I don’t have any security, I could be attacked and killed like my friend [David Kato] was.
Root: What is life like every day for gays, lesbians and other sexual minorities in Uganda? Mugisha: There are different categories. If you are an activist, then you have to calculate and decide, “Should I take that street, should I go to that shopping mall, should I do this today, even?” Because you don’t know where the harassment will come from. Then you have an openly gay man who’s not an activist — the fear is as he’s doing his everyday work. He has to ask, is he going to be harassed, is he going to be beaten, is he going to be a target?
Then you have people who are not out, but they are gay. Their fear is the media. Their family finding out about them, the media finding out about them. Their workplaces finding out about them. They fear that they could be fired, that they could be thrown out of their homes.
Root: You have discussed the way the media fuel homophobia by outing people. What else is driving homophobia in Uganda? Mugisha: Culture. People think homosexuality is not African, that [it] is from somewhere else, from the West. People believe the Bible has been very clear that homosexuality is a sin, and a big percentage of Uganda — 80 percent — is Christian, so that has also greatly increased homophobia.
Despite the efforts of Mugisha and SMUG, it appears that homophobia is rising in the nation. Just last week, Simon Lokodo, the Minister of Ethics and Integrity, announced he would ban 38 non-governmental gay-rights groups that it accused of promoting homosexuality.
Lokodo has been accused by gay activists of orchestrating a hate campaign against gays, including “breaking up gay conferences and threatening to expel civil society groups he says promote homosexuality in the conservative East African country,” writes the Associated Press. He is being sued by activists who say he violated the right of Ugandans to assemble when he had police break up a gay meeting in February. You can help Frank Mugisha and SMUG battle discrimination by showing your solidarity with LGBTI people around the world by contacting your local lawmakers and clergy and urging them to stand up against acts of violence against LGBTI people. Use your voice to denouce the proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill and spread the message that the bill threatens the rights of all Ugandans. Let the government of Uganda and other nations that discriminate against gays and lesbians know that their actions will no longer be tolerated.
“What we have here is a humanitarian crisis.”
- Val Kalende, Ugandan LGBT rights activist
(NEW YORK, June 25)—Police raided a workshop for East African lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights activists being held in a suburb of Kampala, Uganda on June 18th. One day later, Rev. Fr. Simon Lokodo, Ugandan Minister of Ethics and Integrity announced his intention to “de-register ‘gay’ supporting organisations and others.” Ugandan human rights defenders and the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) reacted with outrage to the latest violation of the rights to assembly and expression for LGBT rights advocates.
East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project (EHAHRDP) and other human rights organizations have reported that uniformed and plain-clothed police detained participants for several hours at the workshop venue and took six people into custody in a police bus for one hour. EHAHRDP also reported that police instructed the conference organizers to end the workshop, provide their organization’s registration information to the Regional Criminal Investigations Department, and alert police of future gatherings to prevent further interruption in what amounts to a violation of domestic law.
Lokodo issued a statement in defense of the raids, saying, “Police intervened in the meeting that was suspected to be promoting gay activities and questioned the participants who were later released.” Lokodo denied that any discrimination took place and encourages all Ugandans to “stay away from unlawful activities.”
The three-day workshop, organized by the EHAHRDP, marks the second time a gathering of LGBT activists has been shut down by Ugandan police this year. Today, members of the Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights and Constitutional Law had their first hearing in a lawsuit against Lokodo and Uganda’s Attorney General for the February 2012 closure of a LGBT rights workshop. According to a report from Freedom and Roam Uganda, the government had not submitted their files. The next hearing is scheduled for July 6th.
The actions of the Ugandan Police and threats by Lokodo have sparked an outrage among human rights advocates in Uganda and internationally. Adrian Jjuuko of the Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum Uganda said, “I believe it is the time we all took up the struggle and oppose this blatant abuse of rights.”
Val Kalende, Ugandan LGBT rights activist, said, “Fr. Lokodo’s closure of two of our workshops is not just illegal, it’s blatant misuse of power. Clearly, his actions are intended to draw attention to himself by terrorizing our community. The international community should not give credence to his statement. Violence against LGBTs in Uganda is real. What we have here is a humanitarian crisis! We need new approaches and broader support networks.”
Kasha Jacqueline, Executive Director of Freedom and Roam Uganda, who was leading the activist workshop that was shut down four months ago, said in a statement delivered to the UN Special Rapporteur on Peaceful Assembly and Association at the UN Human Rights Council on June 21st, “This has become a regrettable pattern around the world, as we have seen pride parades, peaceful demonstrations, and pro-human rights gatherings organized by LGBT organizations dispersed and organizers arbitrarily arrested.” Jacqueline issued a call to “all States to fulfill their human rights obligations” and for the “Council not to remain silent in the face of these repeated human rights violations.”
Kasha Jacqueline speaking about Freedom of Assembly at the UN Human Rights Council on June 21st. Photo courtesy of John Fisher.
Nobel Peace Laureates Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Muhammad Yunus and Dr. Shiri Ebadi have also issued a statement regarding this incident.
Jessica Stern, Acting Executive Director of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC), said, “The harassment of human rights defenders committed to LGBT Ugandans can no longer be called anything less than systematic. However, in spite of Hon. Simon Lokodo’s most recent attacks, the LGBT community in Uganda will prevail because his attacks only make them more resilient, smarter in their use of the law, stronger in the community they build, and increase their number of friends in every country of Africa and around the world.”
The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC), founded in 1990, is a leading international human rights organization dedicated to improving the lives of people who experience discrimination or abuse on the basis of their sexual orientation, gender identity or expression. We are dedicated to strengthening the capacity of the LGBT human rights movement worldwide to conduct documentation of LGBT human rights violations and by engaging in human rights advocacy with partners around the globe. We work with the United Nations, regional human rights monitoring bodies and civil society partners. IGLHRC holds consultative status at the United Nations as a recognized Non-Governmental Organization representing the concerns and human rights of lesbian, gay bisexual and transgender people worldwide. For more information about the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission visit: www.iglhrc.org.