More on the Anti-Gay Seminar in Uganda

IGLHRC Update: More on the Anti-Gay Seminar in Uganda The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) and Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) have learned new details about the ongoing 3-day anti-gay conference in Uganda featuring some of the most virulent homophobes from the U.S. religious right. Here are some developments from the first day, reported by our partners who attended the event: Prior to the start of today’s workshop, Stephen Langa, leader of Family Life Network (the Ugandan organization hosting the workshop) and his American guest speakers met with several members of the Ugandan parliament.

During the morning session, Stephen Langa told the group that homosexuality is a big problem in Uganda and the existing laws that criminalize gay people are not good enough. He claimed that gay rights activists recruit young people into homosexuality. Langa told the audience that he knows 2 girls at a particular boarding school who were given a lot of money by gay activists in Uganda to recruit their colleagues into lesbianism. “By the end of the year, they had managed to recruit 13 friends, all of whom were given money to recruit others,” Langa alleged.

Don Schmierer, a member of the board of the American “ex-gay” organization Exodus International told participants that one of the biggest causes of homosexuality is the lack of “good upbringing” in families. He said that 56% of homosexuals experience abuse and violence in their families during their childhood. The abuse leads to pain, anger and hatred in the life of a child and this turns them into homosexuals.IGLHRC and SMUG will continue to monitor the situation and will post new updates on our blog as more information becomes available. The workshop will end on Saturday, March 7. To read the full account of today’s event, please visit IGLHRC’s blog: iglhrc.org/blog You can also read IGLHRC and SMUG’s joint press release about this conference on our website: http://www.iglhrc.org/cgi-bin/iowa/article/pressroom/pressrelease/868.html

Gay Activists/Lawyers Attend Groundbreaking Meeting in Africa

The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC), Global Rights, Interights and the Kenyan Section of the International Commission of Jurists have just concluded a groundbreaking four-day workshop on legal strategies for promoting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights in Africa. The meeting, the first-ever dialog between lawyers who have worked on litigation related to LGBT rights and African LGBT leaders, was held in Cape Town, South Africa and attended by 45 participants from 11 African countries— Botswana, Cameroon, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Morocco, Namibia, Nigeria, South Africa, Uganda, and Zimbabwe.

Participants reviewed key pieces of litigation to document lessons learned. These cases included an unsuccessful challenge to Botswana’s sodomy laws in 2003 (Kanane v. Botswana), the prosecutions of 11 gay men in Cameroon in 2006, the arrests of two women in Rwanda on charges related to sexual orientation in 2008, and the ongoing trial of 18 young men in Northern Nigerian on charges of cross-dressing and homosexuality.
A high point of the meeting was the discussion of Ooyo and Mukasa v. Attorney General of Uganda, a case settled in December 2008, in which two transgender activists successfully challenged the unconstitutional invasion of their home and their mistreatment by local police and elected officials. One of the litigants, as well as the lead counsel, key donors, and local organizers from Uganda were present at the meeting.

Cary Alan Johnson, IGLHRC’s new Executive Director was present.

Lawyers, activist leaders and donors attending the meeting acknowledged the importance of impact litigation for repealing sodomy laws and challenging other discriminatory statutes and policies. Such litigation however needs to be situated within the context of local, national and regional LGBT organizing. Participants discussed the need for security for lawyers defending LGBT clients and causes. Many of the lawyers at the meeting had faced attacks on their reputations, attempts at disbarment, and even physical violence.
Participants ended the meeting with a call to create a multi-faceted LGBT legal fund for Africa and a training and support network for African lawyers working on sexual rights cases.

UN General Assembly to Address Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

Statement affirms promise of Universal Declaration of Human Rights

For Immediate Release
(New York, December 11, 2008) –

As the world celebrates the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), the UN General Assembly will hear a statement in mid-December endorsed by more than 50 countries across the globe calling for an end to rights abuses based on sexual orientation and gender identity. A coalition of international human rights organizations today urged all the world’s nations to support the statement in affirmation of the UDHR’s basic promise: that human rights apply to everyone.

Nations on four continents are coordinating the statement, including: Argentina, Brazil, Croatia, France, Gabon, Japan, the Netherlands, and Norway. The reading of the statement will be the first time the General Assembly has formally addressed rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
“In 1948 the world’s nations set forth the promise of human rights, but six decades later, the promise is unfulfilled for many,” said Linda Baumann of Namibia, a board member of Pan Africa ILGA, a coalition of over 60 African lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) groups. “The unprecedented African support for this statement sends a message that abuses against LGBT people are unacceptable anywhere, ever.”
The statement is non-binding, and reaffirms existing protections for human rights in international law. It builds on a previous joint statement supported by 54 countries, which Norway delivered at the UN Human Rights Council in 2006.

“Universal means universal, and there are no exceptions,” said Boris Dittrich of the Netherlands, advocacy director of Human Rights Watch’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights program. “The UN must speak forcefully against violence and prejudice, because there is no room for half measures where human rights are concerned.”
The draft statement condemns violence, harassment, discrimination, exclusion, stigmatization, and prejudice based on sexual orientation and gender identity. It also condemns killings and executions, torture, arbitrary arrest, and deprivation of economic, social, and cultural rights on those grounds.
“Today, dozens of countries still criminalize consensual homosexual conduct, laws that are often relics of colonial rule,” said Grace Poore of Malaysia, who works with the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission. “This statement shows a growing global consensus that such abusive laws have outlived their time.”
The statement also builds on a long record of UN action to defend the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people. In its 1994 decision in Toonen v. Australia, the UN Human Rights Committee – the body that interprets the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), one of the UN’s core human rights treaties – held that human rights law prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation. Since then, the United Nations’ human rights mechanisms have condemned violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity, including killings, torture, rape, violence, disappearances, and discrimination in many areas of life. UN treaty bodies have called on states to end discrimination in law and policy.

Other international bodies have also opposed violence and discrimination against LGBT people, including the Council of Europe and the European Union. In 2008, all 34 member countries of the Organization of American States unanimously approved a declaration affirming that human rights protections extend to sexual orientation and gender identity.
“Latin American governments are helping lead the way as champions of equality and supporters of this statement,” said Gloria Careaga Perez of Mexico, co-secretary general of ILGA. “Today a global movement supports the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people, and those voices will not be denied.”

So far, 55 countries have signed onto the General Assembly statement, including: Andorra, Armenia, Australia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Canada, Cape Verde, the Central African Republic, Chile, Ecuador, Georgia, Iceland, Israel, Japan, Liechtenstein, Mexico, Montenegro, New Zealand, San Marino, Serbia, Switzerland, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Uruguay, and Venezuela. All 27 member states of the European Union are also signatories.
“It is a great achievement that this initiative has made it to the level of the General Assembly,” said Louis-Georges Tin of France, president of the International Committee for IDAHO (International Day against Homophobia), a network of activists and groups campaigning for decriminalization of homosexual conduct. “It shows our common struggles are successful and should be reinforced.”

“This statement has found support from states and civil society in every region of the world,” said Kim Vance of Canada, co-director of ARC International. “In December a simple message will rise from the General Assembly: the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is truly universal.”
The coalition of international human rights organizations that issued this statement include: Amnesty International; ARC International; Center for Women’s Global Leadership; COC Netherlands; Global Rights; Human Rights Watch; IDAHO Committee; International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC); International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex Association (ILGA); and Public Services International.

For more information, please contact:
In New York for Human Rights Watch, Scott Long (English): +1-212-216-1297; or +1-646-641-5655; or longs@hrw.org
In London for Amnesty International, Kate Sheill (English: +44-20-7413-5748; or ksheill@amnesty.org

In Halifax, for ARC International, Kim Vance (English, French): +1-902-488-6404
In Geneva for ARC International, John Fisher (English, French): +41-79-508-3968; or arc@arcinternational.net
In Amsterdam for COC Netherlands, Bjorn van Roozendall (Dutch, English): +31-6-22-55-83-00; or bvanroozendaal@coc.nl

In Washington for Global Rights, Stefano Fabeni (English, Italian, Spanish): +1 202-741-5049; or stefanof@globalrights.org

In New York for IGLHRC, Hossein Alizadeh (English, Persian): +1-212-430-6016; or halizadeh@iglhrc.org

In Brussels for ILGA, Stephen Barris (English, French, Spanish): +32-2-502-2471; ormailto:orstephenbarris@ilga.org;
or in New York, +39 33-5-606-7158, or media@ilga.org

(December 14-18)
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The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) is a leading human rights organization solely devoted to improving the rights of people around the world who are targeted for imprisonment, abuse or death because of their sexuality, gender identity or HIV/AIDS status. IGLHRC addresses human rights violations by partnering with and supporting activists in countries around the world, monitoring and documenting human rights abuses, engaging offending governments, and educating international human rights officials. A non-profit, non-governmental organization, IGLHRC is based in New York, with offices in Cape Town and Buenos Aires. Visit http://www.iglhrc.org/ for more information

African LGBTI People Demand a Strong Response to AIDS

For Immediate Release, December 5, 2008
Media Contact: Hossein Alizadeh, 212-430-6016, halizadeh@iglhrc.org

Dakar, December 5, 2008- A group of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people from more than 25 African countries has demanded an urgent response to the HIV pandemic affecting their communities. At a pre-conference held 3 days before the start of the International Conference on AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Infections in Africa (ICASA), delegates voiced concern about various human rights violations experienced by LGBTI people in Africa and the diaspora. These included socio-political exclusions related to HIV/AIDS, sexually transmitted infections (STIs), access to adequate health services and other related issues.

Men who have sex with men (MSM) in Africa are nine times more likely to be HIV positive than their heterosexual counterparts. In Dakar, Senegal where the ICASA conference is being held, the prevalence of HIV infection among MSM is 21% versus less than 1% for the total population. “The deliberate refusal to address the needs of men who have sex with men in Africa or anywhere in the world will never help us end the spread of AIDS,” said Paula Ettelbrick, Executive Director of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC), which organized the pre-conference, “The refusal to treat the health needs of this population blatantly defies the human rights obligations incumbent on states.”

Despite the theme of this year’s ICASA, “Africa’s Response: Face the facts,” there are still few prevention programs targeting sexual minorities on the African continent. Only seven African countries have included MSM in their national plans for AIDS prevention, and among these countries only South Africa has made the commitment to include women who have sex with women as part of its response to addressing the HIV/AIDS pandemic. According to Fikile Vilakazi, Director of the Coalition of African Lesbians, “the gendered nature of the limited interventions seeking to address LGBTI people’s needs on the African continent aggravates the situation even further.”

More than two-thirds of African nations still explicitly criminalize same-sex conduct. The East African nation of Burundi recently passed a bill that moves the country closer to adopting a new sodomy law. The United Nations Human Rights Committee, UNAIDS, the Global Fund for AIDS, Malaria and Tuberculosis and other key organizations have made clear that laws against homosexuality fuel the spread of HIV.

“Same-sex practicing people have always been excluded from major African policy meetings because of homophobia,” said Joel Nana, IGLHRC’s Program Associate for Southern and West Africa, “We are invisible when serious matters such as HIV are concerned.”
Workshop participants will attend the ICASA conference, where they will submit their concerns to international donors, national organizations dealing with HIV/AIDS, and African governments, which have thus far failed to respond to the challenges of HIV/AIDS among sexual minorities.

Issued by:
International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC)
Behind the Mask (BTM)
Coalition of African Lesbians (CAL)
Alternatives-Cameroun
Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya (GALCK)
Aids Project of the East Bay (APEB)
Center for the Right to Health (CRH)
Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals of Botswana (LEGABIBO)
Sexual Minorities of Uganda (SMUG)
Arc-en-ciel Plus
African HIV Policy Network
OUT-Well Being

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The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) is a leading human rights organization solely devoted to improving the rights of people around the world who are targeted for imprisonment, abuse or death because of their sexuality, gender identity or HIV/AIDS status. IGLHRC addresses human rights violations by partnering with and supporting activists in countries around the world, monitoring and documenting human rights abuses, engaging offending governments, and educating international human rights officials. A non-profit, non-governmental organization, IGLHRC is based in New York, with offices in Cape Town and Buenos Aires. Visit http://www.iglhrc.org for more information

Burundi: Government Moves to Criminalize Homosexuality; Activist Groups Express Outrage

For Immediate Release, November 24, 2008

Media Contact: Hossein Alizadeh, 212-430-6016, halizadeh@iglhrc.org

(New York, November 24, 2008) – In an unexpected move, the National Assembly of Burundi passed a law on Friday November 21, 2008, making same-sex acts punishable by between 3 months and two years in prison, along with a substantial fine. The following day, the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) and the Association pour le Respect et les Droits des Homosexuels (ARDO) issued strongly worded letters to the entire membership of Burundi’s Senate, asking them to vote against the legislation, which would criminalize homosexuality for the first time in the history of the country. The Senate may vote on the bill as early as tomorrow and if it passes Burundian President Nkurunziza will likely sign it into law.

IGLHRC and ARDO also wrote to President Nkurunziza, asking him to veto the legislation should it be presented to him for his signature. Both groups encourage others to contact Burundian authorities to protest the measure.
“Imprisoning people simply because of who they love offends every principle of human rights practice, which is to ensure dignity and respect for all people,” said Paula Ettelbrick, IGLHRC’s executive director. “This is less about sexuality and more about the visibility of a growing community of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Africa refusing to be treated as dirt. These laws are meant to silence and terrorize our community and must be stopped.”

Burundi—a small country in the Great Lakes region of Eastern Africa bordered by Rwanda to the north, Tanzania to the south and east, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the west—has been locked in an ethnically-based conflict for much of its post-independence history. A negotiated peace settlement, brokered with the assistance of a number of African states, has led to the installation of a multi-party government. The last few years have seen a certain level of reconstruction in the country, increased stability and the emergence of a nascent civil society.
The government of Burundi’s latest move comes in the context of considerable hostility to homosexuality in the region; two-thirds of African nations maintain criminal penalties for consensual same-sex behavior. In recent years several countries, including Nigeria and Uganda, have threatened to strengthen laws against homosexuality. New criminal codes in Zimbabwe broaden the definition of sodomy to include “any act that involves physical contact… that would be regarded by a reasonable person to be an indecent act.” Several nations, including Burundi, have enacted legislation criminalizing same-sex marriage, though little or no advocacy to promote such marriages has taken place. These laws appear to be emerging in response to an increasingly visible, outspoken, and organized sexual rights movement.
The United Nations has condemned laws that criminalize homosexuality as being violations of the rights to privacy and equality and has called upon member states that maintain such laws to review them. Members of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights have condemned physical attacks on and the imprisonment of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

International and local human rights defenders have expressed grave concern not only about the nature of the current legislation in Burundi, but also about the way in which it has been promulgated. “The government has moved this bill quickly and unjustly through the legislative process,” said a representative of ARDO. “The whole process has happened over the course of a weekend, with no input from civil society or general discussion about the issue of homosexuality and freedom of expression within Burundi.”

If the current legislation passes, it is likely that the country’s HIV prevention efforts will suffer. Burundi has made commendable efforts to fight HIV and AIDS during the last decade. But IGLHRC’s 2007 report on HIV and AIDS in Africa, Off the Map, demonstrates how laws that criminalize homosexuality drive communities underground, making men who have sex with men less able to access HIV-related prevention information. UNAIDS, the Global Fund and other key international institutions concur.

An action alert related to this issue will be posted on IGLHRC’s website on November 25, 2008. For an update on the status of the legislation in Burundi, or to take action, visit: http://www.iglhrc.org/.

The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) is a leading human rights organization solely devoted to improving the rights of people around the world who are targeted for imprisonment, abuse or death because of their sexuality, gender identity or HIV/AIDS status. IGLHRC addresses human rights violations by partnering with and supporting activists in countries around the world, monitoring and documenting human rights abuses, engaging offending governments, and educating international human rights officials. A non-profit, non-governmental organization, IGLHRC is based in New York, with offices in Cape Town and Buenos Aires. Visit http://www.iglhrc.org for more information

email: executive_director@iglhrc.org
phone: 212-268-8040
web: http://www.iglhrc.org/

The Mission of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission is to secure the full enjoyment of human rights of all people and communities subject to discrimination or abuse on the basis of sexual orientation or expression, gender identity or expression and/or HIV status.