Monthly Archives: September 2009

India: Government Defers Decision on 377 to Supreme Court

http://www.iglhrc.org/cgi-bin/iowa/article/takeaction/resourcecenter/974.html

09/18/2009

The government of India decided on September 17, 2009 that it will not oppose the Delhi High Court verdict on Section 377 of the Penal Code, which decriminalizes homosexuality by “reading down” the section pertaining to same-sex relations between consenting adults in private. Indian activists are praising this decision as a symbol of tacit support for decriminalization in this landmark case.

Following the High Court’s ruling on July 2, 2009, a panel composed of Law Minister M. Veerappa Moily, Home Minister P. Chidambaram, and Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad was assembled to consider the advantages and disadvantages of changing the law. After reviewing the findings of the panel, the government has opted not to join the appeal and to let the Supreme Court determine the “correctness” of the High Court’s ruling. Upon announcing the decision, Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni added that the Cabinet would ask Attorney General Goolam Vahanvati to assist the Supreme Court in any way possible, suggesting that the government could still weigh in during the appeal.

The Cabinet’s deference to the judiciary effectively leaves the fate of Section 377 in the hands of the Supreme Court, which can be unpredictable or unwilling to intervene on moral issues. The Supreme Court has received several private challenges to the Delhi High Court’s verdict in this case, some of which are led by religious organizations using language reminiscent of Christian fundamentalism in the United States. The government’s neutrality on the issue – despite varying degrees of support for reading down Section 377 from all three members of its exploratory panel – suggests that the government may be reluctant to bear the furor of opponents from conservative political parties and unleash a backlash from conservative community groups.

Gay journalist and activist Vikram Doctor says, “We knew there was resistance from some members of the government but saner voices have prevailed, and this is a really important signal to the Supreme Court on how the government would like the case to proceed.”

While IGLHRC appreciates that the Cabinet has refused to join the appeal, the government must also be a proactive voice for vulnerable segments of India’s society who are targeted for their sexual orientation and subjected to all kinds of abuses, including sexual violence, physical assaults, blackmail and intimidation by unscrupulous members of the community and police force who use the presence of Section 377 to act with impunity. Unequivocal support for the Delhi High Court’s decision by the central government will send a powerful message that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in India are entitled to human rights.

As noted by Chief Justice A.P. Shah of the Delhi High Court in his ruling on Section 377, “Indian Constitutional law does not permit the statutory criminal law to be held captive by the popular misconceptions of who the LGBTs are.” Enacted by the British in 1868 when they ruled India, Section 377 is inconsistent with the Indian Constitution, specifically Article 14 on equality before the law, Article 15 on non-discrimination on grounds of sex, Article 19 on freedom of expression, and Article 21 on right to life and personal liberty.

At a September 16, 2009 forum on HIV, human rights and MSM in Washington, D.C., Michel Sidibe, Executive Director of UNAIDS linked homophobia and continued criminalization of homosexuality to a lack of HIV-related services. According to Sidibe, “We have to remove these laws as they reflect deep-seated stigma and prejudice. Instead of universal access, we have universal obstacles. Gay people are the ones who brought attention to HIV and AIDS but as we moved on to generalizing services for people with the virus, we forgot them.” Sidibe added that India’s decision on 377 is a huge victory because “removing laws that criminalize and discriminate herald a new framework and new commitment and a new movement to universal access to health and human rights.”

Click http://www.iglhrc.org/cgi-bin/iowa/article/takeaction/globalactionalerts/931.html to see the full text of the Delhi High Court decision. Click http://www.iglhrc.org/cgi-bin/iowa/article/takeaction/partners/205.html to read the court proceedings on the 377 case.

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European Parliament to debate Lithuanian homophobic law this Wednesday

This Wednesday the European Parliament will discuss the situation in Lithuania regarding recently adopted homophobic legislation. The oral questions by various members of the European Parliament are scheduled as last item for the session between 15:00 and 18:00. As usual, it is possible to watch EP debate live on the Parliament’s website:

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Nepal: Progress on same sex marriage bill

Forwarded by Sunil Babu Pant:

Dear Friends

All is going Good in Nepal. I just received a letter from the government of Nepal that the government now has authorized the 7 members committee
to study same sex relationship bills from other countries and make recommendations to pass the same in Nepal. The committee needs our support. I need suggestion from you all which countries are best to review the same sex marriage bills.
The health ministry of Nepal will be the focal point (office) for this committee and budget allocated is very small.
We just have 6 months to act. and hope Nepal will be the first country in SAsia to have same sex marriage bill or something similar…

Look forward to hear from you soon.

Sunil B Pant

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Allah’s Pink Sons; Persecution of Homosexuals in Islamic Countr‏ies


Protests to support Ayatollah al-SistaniImage via Wikipedia

Source: Der Spiegel (via Welcome To A Pakistani Humanist’s World!)

By Juliane Von Mittlestaedt/Daniel Steinvorth
Translation by Faris Malik of Queer Jihad

In most Islamic countries, homosexuals are despised, persecuted and sometimes even killed. Repressive regimes foment hatred against “effeminized men.”

Bearded men kidnapped him in the middle of Baghdad, threw him into a dark hole, bound him with a chain, urinated on him and beat him with an iron pipe. But the worst moment of all for Hisham, 40, came on the fourth day when his abductors called his family. He became scared they would tell his mother that he was homosexual and that this was the reason they had abducted him. Then he would never see his family again. The shame would be unbearable for them.

“Do what you want with me, but don’t tell them!” he cried.

Rather than humiliate him in front of his family, the abductors demanded 50,000 dollars in ransom, a huge sum for an ordinary Iraqi family. The parents had to borrow money and sell all of their son’s possessions. A short time later, the abductors threw Hisham out of a car in northern Baghdad. They did not shoot him, they let him walk, but they yelled after him: “This is your last chance. If we see you again, we’ll kill you.”

That was four months ago, and Hisham has gone to Lebanon. Helies to his family, telling them he was fleeing violence and terror, and had found a job in Beirut. He kept it to himself that, as a gay man, he could not remain in Iraq because of the death squads that are hunting down “effeminized” men.

At the beginning of the year in Baghdad, there began a new series of murders of men suspected of homosexuality. They are often raped,their genitals cut off, their anuses glued shut. Their corpses end up in trash dumpsters or on the street. There is a “systematic campaign” with hundreds ofmurder victims, according to Human Rights Watch, which has documented this string of violence.

The trigger for the murders, rapes and kidnappings isconsidered to be the video of a party in Baghdad in the summer of 2008, at which men danced with one another. It was viewed thousands of times on handheld devices and the Internet. Islamist preachers then began agitating against the spreading danger of a “third sex,” brought into the country by American soldiers. Especially followers of radical Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr have since then felt called to restore “religious morality.” Their black-clad militiamen patrol their bastion, the Sadr City district of Baghdad, and lie inwait for everyone whose “unmasculine behavior” catches their attention. Longhair, tight t-shirts and pants, or a strutting walk often enough bring a death sentence.

Other groups, too, not only the Mahdi Army, are said to be involved in the murders of gays: for instance, Sunni militia who are close to Al-Qaida, but also Iraqi security forces.

The lives of homosexuals are particularly endangered in Iraq at the moment, but they are ostracized virtually throughout the Islamic world.More than 100,000 women and men are discriminated against or threatened,according to gay groups. Thousands commit suicide, end up in prison, or have fled.

More than 30 Islamic countries prohibit homosexuality bylaw. The punishments range from flogging to life in prison. In Mauretania, Bangladesh, Yemen, in parts of Nigeria and Sudan, in the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Iran, gays even face the death penalty.

But even in countries where homosexuality is not prohibited by law, gays are persecuted, arrested, and sometimes murdered. Egypt is particularly harsh, although the country was long known for its open gay scene. Homosexuals are pursued by a morals police force that taps phones and recruits informants. Then they are charged with “debauchery.”

In Malaysia, homosexuality is even used as a political weapon: In the year 2000, the well-known politician Anwar Ibrahim was sentenced to nine years in prison for “unnatural sexual intercourse” with his chauffeur and a speechwriter, but then was exonerated on appeal in 2004. In the summer of2008, the macabre drama was repeated. The charge was “homosexual sexual intercourse,” and the trial still continues.

Anwar was once the protégé of Mahathir Mohamad. He was supposed to succeed him as prime minister, until Mahathir sacked him in 1998. Ten years later, Anwar won back his seat in Parliament – but that is as far as his comeback has made it so far.

Even in cosmopolitan Lebanon, homosexuals are threatened with one year in jail. Still, Beirut is the home of the only gay and lesbian organization in the Arab world, called “Helem” (meaning “dream”). At an office in the middle of the city, posters about AIDS education and tips against homophobia are on the walls. Helem is no more than tolerated, as the Interior Ministry has yet to issue an official permit to the organization. “And it is hardly conceivable that we will ever get it,” says executive director Georges Azzi.

In Istanbul, there is a free homosexual scene and a Christopher Street Day festival, and even devoutly religious fans rave for transsexual pop diva Bülent Ersoy or gay singer Zeki Müren. But away from the catwalk or the stage, it is considered a disgrace, a disease, to be a “götveren” (meaning”faggot”). In the army, homosexuality is grounds for discharge. To unmask fakers, military doctors require photos or videos as evidence, showing the recruit having sex with a man – in the “passive” role, of course, because being active passes as masculine enough in Turkey.

It looks as though a wave of homophobia has gripped the Islamic world, which was once known for its openness. Homoerotic literature was widespread here, sex roles were less narrowly defined, and, like the ancient Greeks, men let themselves be entertained by dancing youths.

But now the Islamists have assumed cultural hegemony. They include men like popular Egyptian television preacher Yusuf al-Qaradawi, who demonizes gays as perverse. Shiite Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani published a fatwa four years ago, in which he called for the most brutal possible murder of gays. These opinion leaders justify their aversion with the history of Lot in the Qur’an: “You approach men in lust instead of women. You are immoderate people.” For these sins, the people of Lot are destroyed along with their cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. In addition, there are a few statements of Muhammad, in which he condemns the “act of the people of Lot,” once even calling for the death penalty.

However, the Lot story and other Qur’anic verses were not clearly applied to homosexual sex until the 20th century, says New York professor Everett Rowson. He says this redefinition originated in the West, of all places – due to the prudery of European colonial masters, who spread their sexual morality in the newly conquered world.

In fact, half the prohibitions of homosexuality that still exist worldwide go back to a single law promulgated by the British in India in1860. “Many attitudes toward sexual morality, that are said to be identical with Islam, owe more to Queen Victoria than to the Qur’an,” Rowson declares.

Modern persecution of gays was brought on, above all, by the politicization of Islam, because since then sexual morality has been no longer private, but rather is regulated and instrumentalized by the state.

“The most repressive are secular regimes like Egypt, Morocco and Turkey, which are under pressure from Islamists and therefore try to outdo them when it comes to morality,” says Scott Long of Human Rights Watch. “In addition, the persecution of homosexuals shows that a regime has control over the private lives of citizens – that is a sign of power and authority.” Thus for the last few years there has been a deliberately fomented “moral panic” in many countries.

For instance, in Iran. Since the Islamic Revolution,homosexuals have been persecuted, sometimes more, sometimes less – and rather more since President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad took office, who never tires of stressing that there are no homosexuals in his country at all.

Even the suspicion of “unnatural” acts is enough to earn a whipping. Anyone who is caught multiple times faces the death penalty. So far148 gays have been executed according to official figures, but presumably the number is far higher. The most recent case to draw attention was that of 21-year-old Makwan Moloudzadeh, who was hanged in December 2007. He is alleged to have raped three boys years before. Homosexuals are almost always charged with other crimes in addition,like rape, fraud, or theft, in order to justify the execution.

Thousands of gays and lesbians have fled Iran for this reason, and for most the first stop is Turkey. “There was no alternative for me but to flee,” says Ali, a 32-year-old doctor. “If I had stayed, they would have killed me.”

Ali had been careful. He only rarely went to parties, used several different Internet cafés for chatting, and he did not even tell his family his secret. That went well, until his boyfriend’s father caught the two of them kissing. Two days later, Ali lost his job at the hospital, then he washit by a car, apparently not by accident, and a short time later he received a call: “We want to see you hang.”

What he had not known before was that his boyfriend’s father was a high-ranking member of the Revolutionary Guard.

Ali withdrew his savings from his account and took a train to Turkey, where he applied for asylum. Since then, he has been living in a tiny apartment in Kayseri in Central Anatolia – one of 35 gay Iranian exiles living in this city.

Arsham Parsi, 29, fled too from Shiraz four years ago. This graceful man with downy cheeks and glasses is one of Iran’s “most wanted” men,because he founded the country’s first gay network in 2001. They only communicated by e-mail, few people knew his real name, yet he was still found out. Parsi managed to escape the morals police at the last second. He received a visa for Canada, where he founded the “Iranian Queer Organization,” which now has 6000 members in Iran. They include many transsexuals – or people who consider themselves such. After all, Parsi estimates: “Nearly half of all sex changes are undergone by gays.”

Gay persecution has led to a boom in sex changes, so that more operations are performed in the Islamic Republic of Iran, of all places,than anywhere else in the world except Thailand. They were permitted in 1983 by Ayatollah Khomeini himself, who defined transsexuality as a disease that could be cured with an operation. Since then, thousands have sought the treatment,with a portion of the costs borne by the state.

“Relatives and doctors push gays to undergo operations to normalize their improper sexual orientation,” says Parsi. This is also how a high-ranking Shiite religious scholar was able to finance a female body for his secretary and then marry him afterwards.

The ultra-conservative Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is the only Arab country where Shari’ah law is applied exclusively – homosexuals are whipped or executed. “Nonetheless, gays are much freer here than in Iran,” says Afdhere Jama, who traveled through the Islamic world for seven years researching his book “Illegal Citizens.”

The Kingdom leaves gays an astonishing amount of freedom in everyday life. Newspapers report on lesbian sex in school bathrooms. Certain shopping centers, restaurants and bars in Jeddah and Riyadh are considered gay meeting places, which is an open secret.

“There are many Saudi Arabs who take boys as love objects,because they are single or because their wives happen to be pregnant,” says Jama. Homosexual sex is often the only option to have sex at all – extramarital affairs with women are virtually impossible. “Here in the West, a man would be considered gay in that case, but in countries like Saudi Arabia, it is harder to make that classification,” says Jama. Most Muslims hardly know what to make of the Western conception of a “gay identity” – there is no gay lifestyle or movement here.

Daayiee Abdullah, 55, is an imam, he wears a prayer cap and a beard – and he is gay. That makes him one of only two imams in the world who openly declare their homosexuality. He voluntarily chose Islam, having grown up a Baptist in Detroit. During his studies in Beijing, he came to know Chinese Muslims and converted to Islam. “They told me it was no problem to be gay and a good Muslim.”

The imam – and not only he – interprets the history of Lot differently: The people whom God condemned were not homosexuals, but rapists and robbers. It is not homosexuality, but rape, that the Qur’an detests. “The rejection of gays is based on culture and politics,” he says. “Just like honor killings and arranged marriages – those things are not in the Qur’an, either.”

Abdullah lives in the US capital of Washington, and says prayer at funerals of homosexuals, especially when they died of AIDS, since no other imam is willing to do it. He performs same-sex marriages and has counseled pious gays for eleven years through his “Muslim Gay Men” Internet forum.

He receives death threats over and over, but at this point he laughs about it, saying: “How can two loving gays shake the foundations of God?”

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Indonesian province introduces severe penalties for homosexuality


By Staff Writer, PinkNews.co.uk • September 14, 2009 – 16:52

Indonesia allows regions semi-autonomy

Indonesia allows regions semi-autonomy

Aceh, a devoutly Muslim province of Indonesia,as passed new laws allowing heavy punishments for homosexuality, adultery and alcohol consumption.

Under the new laws, those convicted of homosexuality may face public lashings and up to eight years in prison.

For married people found guilty of of adultery, the penalties are even greater, with the harshest being stoning to death.

Aceh is a semi-autonomous region and has the power to decide its own laws. It currently abides strictly by Sharia law and the latest bill reinforces this.

The decision to allow regions semi-autonomous power was made by the central government in 2001 in an attempt to pacify separatist rebels.

Indonesian local authorities were granted the right to use Islamic law, the result being a strict conservative attitude to homosexuality often leading to the prosecution of gays, despite a federal constitution supposed to protect LGBT civil rights.

The move has also led to strict prohibitions on alcohol and gambling in Aceh, while women must wear headscarves.

Human rights groups have condemned the move and the region’s vice-governor Muhamad Nazar has said he opposes stoning to death.

The bill will pass into law in 30 days’ time, two weeks before a new parliament led by the moderate Aceh Party is sworn in.

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Iran set to allow first transsexual marriage



Source: The Guardian

By Robert Tait

Iran is set to allow what is believed to be its first transsexual marriage after the would-be bride asked a court to override her father’s opposition to the match.

The woman, named only as Shaghayegh, told Tehran’s family court that she wanted to wed her best friend from school, who had recently undergone a sex-change operation to become a man, but was unable to obtain her father’s blessing, as legally required.

Now her father has agreed to permit the union on condition that the male partner, Ardashir, who was previously a woman called Negar, undergoes a medical examination intended to prove it would be a proper male-female relationship.

The case comes against the backdrop of Iran’s notoriously repressive policies on homosexuality, which is illegal under the country’s strict theocratic code. Gay rights groups have accused the authorities of executing homosexuals, although officials deny the charge.

The father’s change of heart came after he was summoned to court to explain his opposition. He told the judge, Alireza Sedaghati, that he had been driven by “fear of humiliation”.

“During the last several years, Ardashir came to our house many times and all the neighbours and relatives know him as a girl,” he said.

“Now she has changed gender and turned into a man, I can’t sit and watch my daughter’s friend turning into my son-in-law.”

But he relented in the face of his daughter’s insistence that she be allowed to wed Ardashir.

“Ardashir and I have been together since adolescence and know each other very well. This familiarity can make us happy,” she told the court.

Etemaad newspaper reported that the two had been friends for 12 years after meeting at school and had later studied at the same university, where their close relationship had been well known to fellow students.

After graduating, Negar changed sex under Iran’s Islamic laws which deem transsexuals religiously permissible, in contrast to the blanket ban on homosexuality, which is considered a sin.

Iran carries out more sex change operations than any other country apart from Thailand after the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, spiritual leader of the 1979 Islamic revolution, issued a religious fatwa approving the practice, which has government funding. Critics have suggested that some of those changing sex are not true transsexuals but gays or lesbians who feel forced into the operation by social pressure.

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How Islamist gangs use internet to track, torture and kill Iraqi gays

Iraqi militias infiltrate internet gay chatrooms to hunt their quarry and hundreds are feared to be victims

The bodies of gays on the streets of Iraq

The bodies of gays on the streets of Iraq. Photograph: Bilal Hussein/AP

Sitting on the floor, wearing traditional Islamic clothes and holding an old notebook, Abu Hamizi, 22, spends at least six hours a day searching internet chatrooms linked to gay websites. He is not looking for new friends, but for victims.

“It is the easiest way to find those people who are destroying Islam and who want to dirty the reputation we took centuries to build up,” he said. When he finds them, Hamizi arranges for them to be attacked and sometimes killed.

Hamizi, a computer science graduate, is at the cutting edge of a new wave of violence against gay men in Iraq. Made up of hardline extremists, Hamizi’s group and others like it are believed to be responsible for the deaths of more than 130 gay Iraqi men since the beginning of the year alone.

The deputy leader of the group, which is based in Baghdad, explained its campaign using a stream of homophobic invective. “Animals deserve more pity than the dirty people who practise such sexual depraved acts,” he told the Observer. “We make sure they know why they are being held and give them the chance to ask God’s forgiveness before they are killed.”

The violence against Iraqi gays is a key test of the government’s ability to protect vulnerable minority groups after the Americans have gone.

Dr Toby Dodge, of London University’s Queen Mary College, believes that the violence may be a consequence of the success of the government of Nouri al-Maliki. “Militia groups whose raison d’être was security in their communities are seeing that function now fulfilled by the police. So their focus has shifted to the moral and cultural sphere, reverting to classic Islamist tactics of policing moral boundaries,” Dodge said.

Homosexuality was not criminalised under Saddam Hussein – indeed Iraq in the 1960s and 1970s was known for its relatively liberated gay scene. Violence against gays started in the aftermath of the invasion in 2003. Since 2004, according to Ali Hali, chairman of the Iraqi LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) group, a London-based human-rights group, a total of 680 have died in Iraq, with at least 70 of those in the past five months. The group believes the figures may be higher, as most cases involving married men are not reported. Seven victims were women. According to Hali, Iraq has become “the worst place for homosexuals on Earth”.

The killings are brutal, with victims ritually tortured. Azhar al-Saeed’s son was one. “He didn’t follow what Islamic doctrine tells but he was a good son,” she said. “Three days after his kidnapping, I found a note on my door with blood spread over it and a message saying it was my son’s purified blood and telling me where to find his body.”

She went with police to find her son’s remains. “We found his body with signs of torture, his anus filled with glue and without his genitals,” she said. “I will carry this image with me until my dying day.”

Police officers interviewed by the Observer said the killings were not aimed at gays but were isolated remnants of the sectarian violence that racked the country between 2005 and 2006. Hamizi’s group, however, boasts that two people a day are chosen to be “investigated” in Baghdad. The group claims that local tribes are involved in homophobic attacks, choosing members to hunt down the victims. In some areas, a list of names is posted at restaurants and food shops.

The roommate of Haydar, 26, was kidnapped and killed three months ago in Baghdad. After Haydar contacted the last person his friend had been chatting with on the net, he found a letter on his front door alerting him “about the dangers of behaving against Islamic rules”. Haydar plans to flee to Amman, the Jordanian capital. “I have… to run away before I suffer the same fate,” he said.

According to Human Rights Watch, the Shia militia known as the Mahdi army may be among the militants implicated in the violence, particularly in the northern part of Baghdad known as Sadr City. There are reports that Mahdi army militias are harassing young men simply for wearing “western fashions”.

A Ministry of Interior spokesperson, Abdul-Karim Khalaf, denied allegations of police collaboration. “The Iraqi police exists to protect all Iraqis, whatever their sexual persuasion,” he said.

Hashim, another victim of violence by extremists, was attacked on Abu Nawas Street. Famous for its restaurants and bars, the street has become a symbol of the relative progress made in Baghdad. But it was where Hashim was set on by four men, had a finger cut off and was badly beaten. His assailants left a note warning that he had one month to marry and have “a traditional life” or die.

“Since that day I have not left my home. I’m too scared and don’t have money to run away,” Hashim said.

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