Today is Sunday, February 16, 2014.
The world has been enjoying watching the Sochi Olympics, but the world is also mindful of the situation for LGBT people in Russia. Gay activists in Russia have filed numerous discrimination claims with the European Court of Human Rights as well as this last week a major complaint has been filed with the Russian Supreme Court. It remains to be seen if the Russian Supreme Court will go against Putin’s obvious and vocal anti-Gay stance. In spite of the world-wide negative reaction to last June’s ‘gay propaganda’ law, Putin pushed through a new anti-gay law just this week–no more adoption of Russian orphans by gay couples from other countries. This includes no adoption by single men and women who are ‘perceived as gay.’ Gay people from Spain and France, particularly, have often over the last decade adopted Russian children. Putin has signed this new law which puts and end to such adoptions.
It’s pathetic and morally twisted to pass such an obviously discriminatory law. But it is not the only unreasonable law to codify such bigotry and hatred. Last December the Ugandan parliament passed an anti-gay law that was originally called the ‘Kill the Gays’ bill. Under international pressure, the Ugandan President, Museveni, dropped the death penalty, but life imprisonment is still the punishment for ‘aggravated homosexuality’ (whatever the hell that means) and ‘repeat offenders.’ Museveni will apparently sign the law into effect this week. He already signed a separate directive telling the courts to eliminate all potential for bail if same-gender sex is the charge. There MUST be a major, international outcry and uproar against this monstrous law, Museveni and the evil-minded Ugandan parliament members who voted for this. From reports, many gay Ugandans are fleeing the country for fear of their lives.
There is another such bill in Nigeria. President Goodluck Jonathan quietly and surreptitiously signed the bill into law, ostensibly to avoid international attention and criticism. I can’t imagine he could be that stupid to think the world would not find out. The sad situation has resulted in mob violence and inhumane persecution of the LGBT community in Nigeria and there has been a call for an international day of solidarity for African gays set for March 7, 2014. There must be an all out effort in the U.S. and Europe to raise our voices very loudly at these inhumane laws and horrible treatment of gay people.
In Malawi, the current penalty for same-gender sex is a maximum fourteen years, but the Muslim community is advocating the death penalty, although no bill has yet been proposed to the parliament. There has to be pressure put on the Malawi government to stop any further erosion of human rights when it comes to their LGBT community.
In Kansas this last week, the state Senate thankfully rejected a new law passed by the House that would reinstitute a kind of Jim Crow, this time aimed at the LGBT Community. The law would have made it legal to discriminate against gay couples in restaurants, hotels, theaters, stores, etc. The proponents maintained it was only to allow people to exercise ‘religious conscience’ when faced with a gay couple seeking services–it was really only about gay marriage and gay civil-unions. The law, however, would have forced a separation of gay people and straight people in all areas of Kansas society, where gay people would only be allowed to go to those services that cater to their community. Governor Brownback, openly hostile to the gay community and a so-called fundamentalist Christian, said he would sign the bill. Fortunately, there was no support for the law within the Senate.
There was apparently a vocal reaction to the law from the GOP itself, warning Kansas that passing such a law would make them a laughing-stock and virtually end any chance of Republican success in ’14 and ’16. If the GOP ever wanted anyone under the age of 40 to join the party or even vote for their candidates, they couldn’t have this discriminatory law passed by Republicans in Kansas. Well, let’s hear it for a rational response from the GOP! But many are saying the bad national press about the Kansas situation has further damaged the party’s reputation.
So, as gay people in America and Europe further integrate into the civil society-at-large, and gain more rights to equal treatment under the law, there is an equally long step backwards in Russia and Africa. Although same-gender sex is not illegal in Russia, gay people have lost their freedom of speech and expression, freedom of association and assembly and have lost their inalienable right to life, liberty and their pursuit of happiness. The Russian government has pushed them all back into the closet and locked the door. They are not allowed to be visible in Russian society anymore. Gays can live their lives in the shadows without much interference as long as they don’t have parades, wave rainbow flags, or create organizations, clubs, political groups, or make political speeches for gay rights. And President Putin stands at the forefront of this anti-gay movement. And now in Uganda and NIgeria, gay people are threatened with arrest, prosecution, persecution and imprisonment, and they would be executed as well if the international community hadn’t stepped in and put a stop to it.
So, MARCH 7, 2014!! Please, on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, or whatever social media you use, make a statement in support of the gay community in Russia and Africa. Change your profile photo to something that shows your support. Make a noise! Let this be just the start of a solidarity with gay Russians and gay Africans!