2012 saw mixed
record on global LGBT issues
by Heather Cassell
Advocates for global LGBT rights had high hopes this year following the release of the United Nations' first-ever report on global queer rights and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's order that U.S. embassies support LGBT rights.
The call to action remained high throughout 2012 on the agendas of the U.N., the U.S., and the European Union.
At the same time, 2012 saw a vicious global backlash that wound up being a constant threat throughout the year, particularly in Africa, Russia, and Eastern Europe.
Russia, the Ukraine, Hungary and other Easter European nations attempted to silence LGBT people. Russia was successful with the passage of its "homosexual propaganda" ban.
African LGBT activists and human rights defenders continued to be on edge as Uganda revived the legislation dubbed the "Kill the Gays" bill for the fourth year in a row. Introduced in 2009, the bill would criminalize LGBT individuals up to the death penalty and levy a hefty fine and jail acquaintances of LGBT individuals.
The bill also brought the discussion of homosexuality to the forefront of Ugandans' minds and gave LGBT activists in the African nation ammunition, said Ugandan LGBT movement leaders. The bill was ultimately tabled until the beginning of 2013, but it potentially still has the chance of becoming the law of Uganda for the first time, according to experts.
Nigeria followed suit with its own proposed law, tagged by activists as the "Jail the Gays" bill. It remains in Nigeria's legislature.
A Cameroon court upheld the three-year prison sentence of Roger Jean-Claude Mbede for sending an amorous text to another man. Other LGBT Cameroonians caught in the country's crackdown await their legal fate in prison. Cameroon also hosted its first "Gay Hate Day."
Malaysia continued its assault on LGBT individuals. This year the Malaysian court ruled against two cases: the Sexual Diversity Day festival that was shut down in November 2011 and a challenge to the ban on cross-dressing. Government officials continued spewing homophobic rhetoric and attempted to silence the country's LGBT community. Similar to Cameroon, Malaysia had its own anti-gay rally allegedly hosted by a homophobic youth organization.
In Thailand, queer activists revealed the murders of 15 lesbians over a period of six years. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations failed to include LGBT individuals in its human rights report this year.
The United Arab Emirates continued to be hostile toward LGBT rights and its delegation walked out of the U.N. Human Rights Council's first-ever meeting focused on the issue.
In Iraq a rash of killings of emos (short for "emotional" young people suspected of being gay due to their Western fashion and music preferences), and murders of alleged LGBT individuals continued to be reported from the Middle Eastern country. Information about murders of alleged LGBT people in Iran continued to be leaked to the media.
Transgender individuals in Kuwait became a target for transphobic harassment by authorities this year.
Transgender individuals in Turkey continued to see the murder rate and threats against their community increase totaling five reported murders this year, two of which were within the past two weeks, according to Transgender Europe.
The year wasn't completely grim. Much progress was made toward LGBT rights.
Russian and Ugandan LGBT activists fought back in the face of death. Honduras and Kenya, two countries not always associated with acceptance for LGBTs, saw openly gay candidates running for congressional seats, David Kuria of Kenya and Erick Vidal Martinez of Honduras, respectively. While they didn't win their seats, it was a win for the local LGBT communities.
Justice finally came to Zoliswa Nkonyana, a South African lesbian who was raped and murdered by four men. The men were sentenced to serve 18 years in prison.
In South America, Chile made great gains. Karen Atala won her case against the government at the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, safeguarding LGBT parental rights in the country, and Jaime Parada Hoyl, spokesman of the Movement for Homosexual Integration and Liberation, became the country's first openly gay elected official, grabbing a municipal council seat in Providencia. Chile finally passed an anti-discrimination law to protect LGBT individuals after the death of openly gay Daniel Zamudio by alleged neo-Nazis.
Argentina passed a landmark gender identity bill.
Marriage equality moved forward in South America with Uruguay legalizing same-sex marriage and Mexico extending same-sex marriage rights throughout the country this month. Chile and Colombia both have proposed legislation that would essentially legalize same-sex marriage, as Latin America moves toward marriage equality and acceptance of LGBT people. In Bogota, Colombia Mayor Gustavo Petro opened the first LGBT Affairs Department to educate and raise awareness of LGBT people.
Asian countries also saw positive steps toward marriage equality in Taiwan, with a gay couple's case making its way to the top judge in the country. Vietnam made moves down the aisle with the national assembly announcing it would debate the issue sometime in 2013.
Carina Vance Mafla became Ecuador's highest ranking openly lesbian government official when President Rafael Correa appointed her as the director of the Ministry of Health. She immediately continued her longtime campaign to shut down illegitimate alcohol and drug rehab centers that were practicing alleged gay conversion therapy, but in reality were torturing individuals and violating human rights.
A chorus of LGBT artists and allies produced works from film to stage poetically depicting the queer experience and speaking out against discrimination.
Nepal hosted its first South Asian LGBTI sports festival.
New leaders stepped onto the global stage in new positions: Jessica Stern took the helm of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission; and Dr. Mark R. Dybul was appointed to head the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, simply known as the Global Fund. Selisse Berry, founding executive director of Out and Equal Workplace Advocates, an LGBT workplace advocacy organization, took the organization beyond the borders of the U.S. to the global stage during World Pride in London.
The world saw transnational corporations standing up for LGBT rights in unprecedented ways during the second half of this year.
The Gays and Lesbians in Foreign Affairs Agencies organization celebrated its 20th anniversary.
Got international LGBT news tips? Call or send them to Heather Cassell at 00+1-415-221-3541, Skype: heather.cassell, or .