Thursday, February 9, 2012

Good week or bad week?

It's been a great week for the human rights of LGBT folk with both a federal court of appeal win on the Proposition 8 case in San Francisco, and also the legalisation of same-sex marriage in Washington State by legislators in Olympia.  This is so exciting and important!  So much progress has been made on so many fronts.

But I can't help thinking that it's been a bad week too, and a bad week in places where things are bad already.

Fly across the Pacific Ocean from San Francisco or Olympia and you get to Indonesia where the human rights of LGBT citizens are impacted this week by the blocking of the website of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission.  In a case of apparent state censorship, it is being listed as "pornographic".  I can confirm that you should feel free to click on their website in front of your grandma.  This organization is dedicated to human rights advocacy on behalf of people who experience discrimination or abuse on the basis of their actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity or expression.  While Indonesia is not the worst place for LGBT people - it has not, for example, criminalized same-sex sexual activity (other than in the strongly Muslim province of Aceh) - that's about as good as it gets for the millions of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people in the world's fourth largest country.  There is no protection against discrimination, no protection for same-sex couples, and traditional Indonesian society finds LGBT practices abhorrent.  So there's a lot to do.  These days Indonesia is in many wonderful ways a shining beacon of democracy in South-East Asia.  But the censorship of an organization working to protect the rights of some of its vulnerable citizens fundamentally undermines basic democratic principles.

Fly a few thousand miles to the west across the Indian Ocean, and things get truly awful.  The anti-gay bill is back on the table in Kampala.  Shelved after some parliamentary floor-time last year, the first draft of the legislation infamously contained a provision for the death penalty for certain homosexual acts.  Although that specific provision is now removed there remains clause after clause of legislated hate.  You only have to read its provisions to realise how truly horrifying it is.  This is law-making at its most hideous.  Thankfully, the efforts to push through this odious piece of legislation are being widely reported in the international press and almost universally condemned.  But it remains a popular piece of legislation in many quarters in Uganda, and Kampala is no place to be gay.

Homosexuality is already illegal there, and this is a country where the government routinely threatens lesbians and gays.  A Ugandan radio station was fined $1,000 and forced to issue a public apology after hosting homosexuals on a live talk show, and an LGBT rights activist - David Kato - was murdered shortly after winning a lawsuit against a magazine which had published his name and photograph identifying him as gay and calling for him to be executed.

Thankfully there are real people on the ground in Uganda fighting for change, receiving international support as the world stands in solidarity with them.

So, was it a good week, or a bad week?

Congratulations San Francisco!  Well done, Olympia!  But let's not forget Jakarta.  And Kampala.

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