Crisis in Russia: two brutal murders for being gay within weeks. One man was stabbed to death by neighbours, and a younger man was beaten to death with rocks after coming out.
The rise in attacks is happening as President Putin wages war on gays and lesbians. His government has banned Pride marches and is trying to bring in a new anti-gay law. And this Wednesday, a major Russian gay organisation will go on trial to fight closure.
Putin is getting away with the crackdown because there’s little international media attention and no real pressure from other world leaders.
We can work to get the crisis on the to do list of every world leader and onto the front pages of newspapers. I’ve just signed a big, global petition with All Out. Can you sign too before the trial on Wednesday?
Russian Anti-Gay Law Violates the Constitution and European Human Rights Law
The Russian parliament has unanimously passed a harsh new anti-gay law that criminalises LGBT freedom of expression, under the guise of suppressing the spread of ‘propaganda’ to minors in support of "non-traditional sexual relations".
It is one of the most draconian laws against LGBT freedom of expression anywhere in the world and a further reversal of the liberalisation of the early 1990s, when homosexuality was decriminalised in Russia. Not since the days of Stalin have LGBT Russians experienced such repressive legal measures.
Although the legislation is ostensibly aimed at prohibiting the dissemination of so-called ‘gay propaganda’ to young persons under 18, in reality it will criminalise any public advocacy of LGBT equality or expression of same-sex affection where a young person could potentially see or hear it.
LGBT organisations, meetings, festivals, marches, posters, newspapers, books, films, counselling and safer sex education are likely to face criminal prosecution. The same risk of criminalisation will apply to same-sex couples who publicly identify and affirm themselves or who express affection in public. Any suggestion that homosexuality is just as valid as heterosexuality will incur the danger of a police knock on the door.
The Duma vote, 436-0, imposes severe penalties for infringements, including huge fines, by Russian standards, on individuals, organisations, media and foreigners. Individuals will face fines of up to £2,000 and organisations and media may be liable to fines close to £10,000 plus closure for up to 90 days. In an apparent move to deter support from foreign LGBT activists, such as myself, non-Russian violators will face 15 days jail and £2,000 fines, followed by deportation.
President Vladimir Putin seems hell-bent on forcing LGBT people back into the closet and locking the door. He wants homosexuality to once again be the love that dares not speak its name.
The new law is effectively a blanket censorship of any public expression of same-sex love or LGBT human rights.
It could result in the purging of books, films and plays with LGBT characters and story-lines from libraries, galleries, theatres and cinemas, including many classic works of art and literature.
LGBT visibility and pro-gay posts on social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, will also be an offence if there is a possibility that a person under 18 could access and see them.
There is a fear that people may be liable to arrest and prosecution if they mention the homosexuality or bisexuality of great Russian icons such as the composers Peter Tchaikovsky and Modest Mussorgsky, film-maker Sergei Eisenstein, the novelist Nikolai Gogol and dancers Nijinski, Sergei Diaghilev and Rudolf Nureyev. Under the new law it will be risky for Russian people to publicly acknowledge and affirm the “non-traditional sexual relations” of some of the greatest Russians in history.
Russian LGBT campaigners - and their straight human rights allies - did not allow the law to pass without protest. They rallied peacefully and defiantly outside the Duma as the vote took place. Far right extremists responded by violently assaulting them, with Moscow police collusion. The LGBT activists stood their ground; showing amazing, inspirational courage in the face of repeated brutality.
I know about such things; having been bashed and arrested for participating in successive Moscow Gay Pride parades, from 2006 to 2011 - my worst assault being in 2007 when I was beaten almost unconscious and was left with minor brain and eye injuries.
The new homophobic law is not just about the LGBT community and its rights. It is symptomatic of President Putin’s increasing authoritarianism and his wider crackdown on civil society. His autocratic Czarist pretentions and methods have become more evident with every passing year in office.
Shortly after voting through the Section 28-like legislation, the Duma also approved a new statute criminalising anyone who causes offence to “religious feelings.” This carries a maximum jail sentence of three years and is the hardliners response to the church protests of the anti-Kremlin punk band Pussy Riot.
Despite its popularity with parliamentarians, the new anti-gay law clearly violates the Russian constitution, which guarantees freedom of expression, and the European Convention on Human Rights, which Russia has signed and pledged to uphold.
Will the Council of Europe do anything to punish Russia’s defiance? Unlikely. The Putin regime has been previously found guilty of violating LGBT human rights by the European Court of Human Rights. It ignored the ruling and the Council of Europe did nothing; sending a signal that member states can breach the Convention with impunity.
In the short term, the omens are not good for any reversal of this latest homophobic crackdown. Anti-gay prejudices and fears have been deeply ingrained in the Russian psyche by the twin historical influences of Stalinist communism and the Orthodox church; plus the modern neo-Nazi and ultra-nationalist movements whose xenophobic, chauvinist, macho politics has no place for queers. “Moscow is not Sodom” they chant, as they bash LGBT campaigners.
It seems that LGBT people, and the supposed social threat they pose, are a convenient scapegoat to distract the Russian public from corruption, repression, economic injustice and dysfunctional public services. It’s a familiar tactic exploited by past tyrants and now by would-be Czar, Valdimir Putin.
Lech Walesa, Nobel Peace Prize winner, just said gay people should sit at the back of Parliament or “behind a wall,” causing a media storm around the world.
Walesa could get away with his open hatred of gay people - unless thousands of us call for him to apologise! His international reputation as a leader in peace and democracy is in danger of being completely ruined.
Sign the petition asking Lech Walesa to apologise - and recognise that equal rights are the basis of any peaceful democracy.
Uganda is set to put to a legislative vote during this year’s parliamentary session, the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, which punishes gays with capital punishment.
The ‘Order Paper’ for parliamentary business 2013 was published yesterday (5 January) and listed the Anti-Homosexuality Bill (known as AHB or ‘Kill the Gays’), 2009.
Its currently listed as the eighth item of ‘business to follow’ once the rest of the agenda is listed.
The law will broaden the criminalization of same-sex relationships by dividing homosexuality into two categories; aggravated homosexuality and the offense of homosexuality.
Under the only version of the bill currently in the public domain, it gives the death penalty for ‘aggravated homosexuality’.
That is defined as gay acts committed by parents or authority figures, HIV-positive people, pedophiles and repeat offenders.
The ‘offense of homosexuality’ includes same-sex sexual acts or being in a gay relationship, and will be prosecuted by life imprisonment.
The bill also includes harsh penalties against people who fail to report LGBT people to Ugandan authorities.
In November 2012, the speaker of the parliament of Uganda promised to enact the bill, which was originally put to the government in 2009.
The bill remained on the parliament’s Order Paper of 2012 and was widely expected to go before parliament before Christmas but was delayed.
The Anti-Homosexuality Bill had been temporarily shelved because of international criticism.
Several European countries have threatened to cut aid to Uganda if it passes, with the UK government warning Uganda it would face severe reductions in financial help.
US President Barack Obama has described it as ‘odious’, and Canadian politician John Baird has said it is ‘vile, abhorrent, and offends decency’.
Speaking with GSN, Geoffrey Ogwaro, co-cordinator of Uganda’s Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights and Constitutional Rights (CSCHRCL) expressed grave concern about its re-introduction.
He said: ‘The AHB is rearing its face again, since parliament opened from its recess on 4 February, the bill has been scheduled on the list of business to follow at number eight.
‘We as the CSCHRCL are opposed to this bill and we are surprised that even as parliamentarians are continuously being cautioned as to the economic, health, social, political and international relations ramifications if the bill is passed into law, they still insist on going ahead with it.
‘Our only hope is that if the bill gets to the floor for debate, that the debate will be informed and considering of the different dimensions on the issue. And that those MPs who are more critical in their approach will find the courage to air their views.’
Bill now faces bruising passage through the House of Lords before almost certainly becoming law this year
Members of Parliament have overwhelming endorsed historic legislation that will give gay couples the equal right to marry.
Almost half a century after homosexuality was legalised in Britain the House of Commons voted by a majority of 400 to 175 to redefine marriage and make it available to all.
But embarrassingly for David Cameron he failed to get a majority of his own MPs to support the move. 139 Tories, including two cabinet ministers, rebelled against the Government with just 132 supporting the measure. There were 75 abstentions.
Nick Clegg hailed the result as a “landmark for equality in Britain” which showed “no matter who you are and who you love, we are all equal” while Ed Miliband said it was “an important step forward in the fight for equality”.
Mr Cameron said that while “strong views” existed on both sides he believed voting for gay people being able to marry was “a step forward for our country”.
However opponents vowed to fight on. The Conservative MP David Burrowes more people would oppose the Bill as it progressed through the Houses of Parliament.
“(The vote) was significant perhaps, even unprecedented, in terms of a government not being able to rely on half… of their own benches,” he said. “It shows the deep concern that there is in the party and I think as we go through the passage of the bill we will see increasing numbers voting (in) opposition”
Seven hours of intense and often heartfelt debate revealed deep divisions on both sides of the House.
Dozens of Conservatives, including the Environment Secretary Owen Paterson and the Welsh Secretary David Jones, defied the appeals of Mr Cameron to vote against changing the law claiming it would impinge upon religious freedoms. Others, such as the Government’s Attorney General Dominic Grieve abstained, with some MPs deliberately voting in both lobbies to express how torn they were.
A number of Labour and Liberal Democrats also chose to vote against the Bill which will now face a bruising passage through committee and the House of Lords before almost certainly becoming law later this year.
To the dismay of gay marriage supporters neither Mr Cameron nor the string of senior Conservative ministers who have recently come out to back the change sat in the Commons as the Culture Secretary Maria Miller outlined the Government’s plans.
In recent days Mr Cameron has also declined to reiterate his public support for the Bill with Downing Street insisting it was a genuinely free vote. However an hour before the vote he recorded a television interview saying the move would make society stronger.
“Marriage helps people commit to each other and I think it is right that gay people should be able to get married too,” he said. “This is, yes, about equality. But it is also about making our society stronger”
Ms Miller said the bill would allow society to recognise in law that gay couples had the same “depth of feeling, love and commitment” as heterosexual couples.
“I don’t think it’s the role of Government to tell people what to believe,” she said. “But I do think that Parliament and the State have a responsibility to treat people fairly.”
She was forcefully backed up by her Labour opposite number Yvette Cooper, who said: “Marriage has changed many times over the centuries… and it should change again.
Mike Freer (Con)
“When colleagues talk about gay marriage making them physically sick or suggesting it is a step toward legitimising polygamy or incest they need to remember that there are people involved. Words spoken in this chamber hurt far beyond this chamber.”
David Lammy (Lab)
“The Jesus I know was an illegitimate refugee born with a death sentence on his head. He would stand up for minorities.”
Stephen Gilbert (Lib Dem)
“Love should be there for one and all. Marriage should not be an exclusive institution. Let me say to honourable members who would say ‘he would say that he’s a gay man’. It’s not. This view is one which is born of a hatred of discrimination of all types”
Margot James (Con)
“The modernisation of the Conservative Party is not yet complete. I believe my party should never flinch from the requirement that we must continue this progression.”
Edward Leigh (Con)
“We should be in the business of protecting cherished institutions and our cultural heritage otherwise what, I ask, is a Conservative Party for? We are alienating people who have voted for us for all their lives, leaving them with no one to vote for.”
Graham Brady (Con)
“I voted in favour of an equal age of consent and civil partnerships because it righted an injustice. This measure does not. I will vote against this motion tonight not because I think the world will end but because it is impossible to guarantee that religious freedoms will not be compromised.”
Stephen Timms (Lab)
“Children are at the heart of marriage… but they are barely mentioned at the Bill. It would be a mistake to lose the value on the creation and bringing up of children and in the end it will be children who lose out if we do.”
David Simpson (DUP)
“This is not the jurisdiction of this government, of any European government or any government in the world. This is an ordained constitution of God. In the Garden of Eden it was… Adam and Eve. It wasn’t Adam and Steve.”
Timeline: 500 years of gay rights in Britain
1533 Buggery Act: Britain’s first civil sodomy law passed during the reign of Henry VIII
1861 Offences Against the Person Act removes death penalty for sodomy
1885 Labouchere Amendment introduces offence of gross indecency – in practice, the law is used to prosecute homosexuals when sodomy could not be proven
1895 Oscar Wilde sentenced to two years’ hard labour for gross indecency
1954 Lord Montagu imprisoned for 12 months for “consensual homosexual offences” in landmark case along with two other men
1957 Wolfenden Report concludes: “Homosexual behaviour between consenting adults in private should no longer be a criminal offence”
1965 Tory Whip Lord Arran proposes the decriminalisation of homosexual acts
1966 Conservative MP Humphry Berkeley proposes decriminalisation. He loses his seat at the general election. Labour MP Leo Abse takes up the issue and persuades Home Secretary Roy Jenkins to support him
1967 Sexual Offences Act allows homosexual acts in private between consenting men aged over 21 in England and Wales. Homosexual behaviour remains illegal elsewhere in the UK
1981 Homosexuality decriminalised in Scotland and in Northern Ireland in the following year
1988 Local Government Act prohibits “the intentional promotion of homosexuality” in a provision known as Section 28
1992 Homosexuality decriminalised in Isle of Man
1994 Age of consent reduced to 18 by the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act
1999 Lifting of ban on gays in armed forces
2000 Age of consent equalised at 16
2002 Adoption and Children Act allows same-sex couples to adopt
2003 Section 28 repealed
2004 Civil Partnership Act: same-sex couples granted same rights as those in civil marriages
2007 Sexual Orientation Regulations prohibit discrimination in provision of goods and services on grounds of sexual orientation
2008 Offence of hate crime introduced on grounds of sexual or gender identity
2009 David Cameron apologises over introduction of Section 28; same-sex couples given equal rights to IVF
2011 Civil partnerships allowed in places of worship
I just signed a petition to help stop Uganda’s notorious “Kill the Gays” bill - which could legalize the death penalty for gay and lesbian people. President Museveni promised to veto it but he’s under pressure from Uganda’s parliament who desperately want to pass it. We can hold him to his promise by taking action right now.
We’ve done it before - by creating a global outcry of literally millions of people. I know we can stop it again, but only if you sign this petition and share it now.
The bill could move forward at any moment - will you join me and stand with Ugandans against this horrific law?
Linda Pastan, What We Want (via atomiclanterns)
Shakespeare - Much ado