Thursday, November 24, 2016

Where Life Is Getting Worse for LGBT People

As LGBT Americans gather for Thanksgiving this year, in many cases a pall will color the celebration as we await for the other shoes to fall in the wake of Donald Trump's election and the elevation of homophobes and Christofascists to positions where they can harm and undermine the lives of the LGBT community.  Sadly, this trend is not unique to America and defeating it will require renewed resolve and efforts to resist and defeat the pestilence of fundamentalist religion and the hatred that it promotes.   As we have seen over and over again, religion is the principle threat to human rights and a never ending justification for evil and hatred. A piece in The Daily Beast looks at the negative, animus inspired trend in other parts of the world.  Here are highlights:
The moral arc of history bends toward justice. Right?
Not necessarily, especially when it comes to justice for LGBTQ people and other sexual and gender minorities. Here in the United States, recent gains are now imperiled by the upcoming Trump presidency. And around the world, there are many places where, contrary to Dan Savage’s popular video series, it is steadily getting worse.
Consider three very different examples: Brazil, Indonesia, and Nigeria. Three continents, three different cultural and religious contexts, different forms of government with different kinds of leaders. And yet, in all three, a steadily worsening situation for LGBTQ people.
1. Brazil
For sexual and gender minorities, Brazil has long experienced the best of times and the worst of times. The country is cosmopolitan, libertine, and legally progressive, with laws against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI in international human rights parlance).
But Brazil is also the deadliest place in the world to be gay. An astonishing 1,600 people have died in anti-LGBTQ hate attacks over the last four and a half years—nearly one person every day.
[A] primary reason is the export of U.S.-based homophobia. Evangelicals have risen from 5 percent of the Brazilian population in 1970 to nearly 25 percent today, and their leaders—many trained in the United States—have exported the U.S. Christian right’s extreme homophobia to the Brazilian context.
They are also in Brazil’s congress. The “parliamentary coup” that removed liberal president Dilma Rousseff from office was accomplished with back-benchers affiliated with evangelical Christian groups.
Now, with the conservative government led by Michel Temer (and his all-male cabinet), those factions are in power. Investigative journalist Joao Ximenes Braga told The Daily Beast that the Temer government has already shut down human rights programs in the country and that members of his coalition have called for a repeal of laws protecting LGBTQ people.
[W]ith Brazil’s right wing in power, the precarious situation of LGBTQ people in the country is threatened still further.
2. Indonesia
Indonesia is half a world away and threatened by right-wing Islam, rather than right-wing evangelical Christianity—but some of the patterns are eerily familiar.
According to a recent report by Human Rights Watch, 2016 has marked a turning point in the country. “Beginning in January 2016,” the report said, “a series of anti-LGBT public comments by government officials grew into a cascade of threats and vitriol against LGBT Indonesians by state commissions, militant Islamists, and mainstream religious organizations. That outpouring of intolerance has resulted in proposals of laws which pose a serious long-term threat to the rights and safety of LGBT Indonesians.”
The severity and swiftness of the persecution . . . . is particularly surprising for Indonesia, which prides itself on its moderate form of Islam. In the past, anti-LGBT acts were largely confined to militant Islamists, even though anti-gay sentiment is widespread.
But this was different. Government officials have called for LGBT organizations to be banned from campuses and for LGBT people to be banned from holding office. One minister called being LGBT “a disease of the chromosome, and it should be treated.” . . . Meanwhile, a group of conservative law professors has filed a court case attempting to force the criminalization of same-sex sexual behavior. A paramilitary training program with 1.8 million participants declared homosexuality to be one of the nation’s enemies.
What’s behind the flareup? Activists say the abrupt shift in government rhetoric is “cower[ing] in the face of militant Islamists.” And indeed, the rightward drift in Indonesian political life—not entirely unlike that in Brazil—appears to be part of the reason for the change in official rhetoric, with the attendant consequences felt in the streets of Jakarta. Ironically, Indonesia’s relatively tolerant indigenous form of Islam is being supplanted by fundamentalist Islam brought in from outside—yet the Islamists claim to be protecting Indonesian culture.
3. Nigeria
Nigeria is the most populous nation in Africa, with 173 million people. And in 2014, it passed one of Africa’s worst anti-gay laws, the so-called Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition Act.
On paper, the SSMPA merely prohibits anything that could support same-sex marriage. In reality, however, it’s known as the “Jail the Gays Law” and has been used as a pretext for horrifying violence, state-sanctioned or state-tolerated, against LGBTs.
Nor was the SSMPA a backlash against the United States—or to same-sex marriage, which no one has advocated for in Nigeria. Rather, Christian LGBT activist Davis Mac-Iyalla told The Daily Beast, the real battle is religious in nature. African Anglican Church leaders, “tainted” by the Episcopal Church’s support for LGBT people, took a hard line in order not to seem more lenient than Muslims (Sharia governs 12 Nigerian states and punishes homosexuality by imprisonment, caning, or stoning).
“It is time the international community take a pause on its relationship with Nigeria,” Alimi said, “and demand a detailed evaluation of the Nigeria human rights record as it concerns LGBT people. The picture is more bleak than we imagined.”

While the husband and I are thankful for the good things in life that we enjoy, we also understand the precarious nature of our rights and safety.  Be thankful, but be prepared to fight and resist.  

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