LGBT rights on the backfoot

While US,France and Germany legislate marriage for gays and lesbians,“gay” is not even a term used in Ukraine,according to reports.

Published:August 27, 2013 12:29 am

UKRAINE

While US,France and Germany legislate marriage for gays and lesbians,“gay” is not even a term used in Ukraine,according to reports. Two drafts for legislation – one that would make “homosexual propaganda” in the arts and media punishable,and the other that provides for jail term for any suggestion that homosexual relationships are equal to traditional ones–are being mooted. Both drafts are inspired by the Russian Bill and are aimed at silencing homosexuality in public,and “protecting the children”. However,what they’re not saying is that Ukraine has the fastest growing rate of HIV infection in Europe and homosexuals are a high-risk group.

CAMEROON

In July,Cameroon’s most prominent LGBT rights activists,Eric Ohena Lembembe,was murdered. A country where homosexuality is punishable,violence and harassment of the LGBT community is common. Equality lawyers Alice Nkom and Michel Togue have been threatened; Togue’s office was broken into and files stolen in June this year. Two men were sentenced under Cameroon’s anti-gay laws in July. Men,who are perceived to be gay,are arrested,sometimes only on basis of suspicion and forced to undergo rectal examinations and torture. After Lembembe’s death,gay rights groups have stopped all work seeking protection by international donors.

NIGERIA

Nigeria’s anti-gay laws have taken a turn for the worse. The country recently passed a Bill outlawing same-sex marriage,punishable with a 14-year prison term. The Bill also has provisions that allow it to ban the formation of groups that support LGBT rights. Under the proposed law,Nigeria will also ban same-sex marriages from being conducted in either churches or mosques. Witnesses who help couples marry could be sentenced to 10 years. Anyone caught in a “public show” of affection could also face 10 years in prison if convicted by a criminal court. Ironically,the same senate that passed this Bill also approved a Bill allowing child marriages.

UGANDA

In Uganda,activists are fighting a Bill that is one of the most punitive anti-gay measures in the world. Dubbed the “kill the gays” Bill,it includes provisions to punish homosexual relationships with death. The provisions of the original Bill required parents and teachers to report LGBT children or face penalties and banned landlords from providing lodging to homosexuals. The Bill was first introduced in 2009 and is only a few votes away from being passed,strengthening existing anti-gay laws in Uganda. A recent documentary,Call Me Kuchu,profiled the life of David Kato,Uganda’s first openly gay man,and a community of activists at the centre of a political and cultural storm.

RUSSIA

On June 30 this year,Russian President Vladimir Putin signed into law a Bill banning the “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations to minors”,opening a dark new chapter in the history of gay rights in Russia. The law comes at the end of a crackdown by the Russian government aimed at limiting the rights of the country’s LGBT people. This includes bans on gay pride parades in Moscow and other cities,and fines on gay rights groups accused of acting as “foreign agents”. An international backlash against this law is gathering steam,from calls for a boycott of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi,gay bars in the US planning “vodka-dumping” protests to Moscow’s mayoral candidate publicly opposing the law.

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