World LGBT News of Continued Repression

2011 International LGBT Roundup: Backlash and Repression

by Paul Canning
2011 International LGBT Roundup: Backlash and Repression
I’m rounding up the year in a series of posts, in which no doubt I’ve missed something, so please let me know what I’ve missed in the comments!

Backlash and repression

A whole new country, South Sudan, was born with a sodomy law and exclusion of LGBT from rights supposedly promised to ‘all.’

Turkish LGBT groups suffer repeated attempts to legally shut them down and to block their websites.

The increasingly visible LGBT organizing in Malaysia suffered a backlash, including law change proposals in two states and the banning of events.

An attempt to use gay rights as a ‘wedge’ issue failed in Zambia as the opposition leader Michael Sata was elected President. Gay rights was also used as a ‘wedge’ in Zimbabwe, most awfully to divide the Anglican Church leading to Church resources like orphanages closing and children going hungry.

Malawi criminalized lesbians. This was an issue, but a minor issue, in a subsequent aid reduction by the country’s biggest donor, the UK. It was mainly the Malawian government’s other walk-backs on human rights and a diplomatic spat which caused the UK’s change of approach on aid, but it was played up by them as a wedge issue against the opposition with protests against the state of the economy and human rights abuses called ‘gay rallies’ in state media.

The so-called ‘Kill the Gays’ bill failed to pass at the end of Uganda’s parliament in May, probably more by luck than design. It has been reintroduced into the current parliament. The bill provoked the biggest international petition drive for LGBT rights ever, with well over two million people supporting different efforts. Activists pleaded for such support to be offered in the context of the general human rights problems in the country, but most solidarity work continued to single out the gay issue from the bigger crisis. Protests against the bill raised, again, the use of development aid redirection from governments and other government-to-government ‘leverage’ by Western countries in front of and behind the scenes. The atmosphere generated by the bill led to increased government and societal repression of Ugandan LGBT, highlighted by the murder of leader David Kato in January. Three brave Ugandan activists won international human rights awards, including one described as the most important after the Nobel Peace Prize.

There were a series of arrests of gays in Cameroon, followed by convictions including some based solely on people’s appearance, not their acts. There was violent rhetoric, organized hunts for gay people using entrapment and the government ended the year proposing a ‘tightening’ of the anti-gay law.

Anti-gay rhetoric in Ghana’s media and agitation by religious leaders over the past few years produced a proposed witch-hunt by a state leader – and subsequent international attention. In the ensuing fallout, local human rights and civil society groups failed to defend LGBT people. The year ended with proposals in parliament for further criminalization of gay people.

Nigeria reintroduced anti-gay legislation which was then extended in the parliament to attack any pro-LGBT human rights organizing, potentially fatally undermining HIV/Aids work, among other impacts.

There were sporadic reports of death sentences for homosexual offenses in Iran but little follow-up on these reports by either media, human rights or LGBT groups due, in part, to issues with verification and dangers to sources in Iran.

Honduras finally acted on the large number of unsolved murders of LGBT people in that country, after US prompting. The rate of murders of LGBT elsewhere in Latin America — particularly in Brazil, Mexico and Venezuela — drew little international attention. As did the failure of the international community to support devastated local LGBT in Haiti following the earthquake, though the UN finally pledged a response.

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