Issue:  Vol. 44 / No. 38 / 18 September 2014
 
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Uganda arrests LGBT
activists at media rally

NEWS


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A member of an organization for transgender women holds up a centerfold in the February 24 issue of the popular tabloid Red Pepper that attacked LGBT Ugandans. The African country's media outlets have a long history of inciting prejudice and violence against members of the LGBTI community in Uganda. 
Photo: Evan Abramson/AJWS
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Two LGBT activists peacefully protesting Uganda's government black out of independent media, along with three human rights activists and one photojournalist, were arrested May 23.

The protest was in response to Ugandan officials shutting down independent newspaper and radio outlets.

Police surrounded the protesters, Ugandan LGBT activists Richard Lusimbo and Komugisha Shawn, along with American photojournalist Tim McCarthy, for an estimated 40 minutes after a peaceful rally demanding freedom of the press, wrote Frank Mugisha, executive director of Sexual Minorities Uganda, in an emailed response to the Bay Area Reporter .

The activists were arrested and taken to Kabalagala Police Station. Mugisha and other representatives of SMUG, along with several lawyers, arrived at the police station after the arrest.

The activists, including McCarthy, who was bruised from falling during the police round up, were released three hours later. McCarthy immediately received first aid and is doing well, wrote Mugisha. The police did not detain anyone, he added.

The arrested protesters were requested to report to the police station on May 27 at 9 a.m. They did and were asked to report back again on June 7.

At the same time, Ugandan LGBT and human rights activists remain on edge as Uganda's Members of Parliament closed the second session on May 23 without discussing the so-called "Kill the Gays" bill.

The Anti-Homosexuality Bill continues to drop down the list of important issues for members of Uganda's Parliament to discuss and vote on. By the close of the country's second Parliamentary session on May 23, the bill had dropped from the high position of 5th place in March to 9th place as of May 21 and disappeared from the topics of discussion after that date.

Uganda has been yo-yoing the legislation dubbed the "Kill the Gays" bill, which was introduced in 2009 by Member of Parliament David Bahati, for years, trotting it out usually when issues of corruption are discussed, said Gitta Zomorodi, program officer of Africa at the American Jewish World Services.

LGBT Ugandans, AJWS and other human rights organizations remain hopeful in spite of the current criminalization of homosexuality in the African nation and the Anti-Homosexuality Bill continuing to hang over the country's LGBT community.

"One thing that is a little bit hopeful, the president of Uganda has said that the bill is not politically smart for Uganda in terms of its international relations," said Zomorodi.

The Jewish organization has made LGBT rights one of the key issues in its mission to help marginalized communities. It's particularly important to Laura Talmus, executive director of the San Francisco Bay Area and the Western Region for AJWS.

Representing one of the largest U.S. LGBT and Jewish populations, Talmus said LGBT global rights are a high priority for AJWS members in her region.

AJWS supports a number of Ugandan and other grassroots organizations through grants. Currently, LGBT organizations in Uganda have received anywhere from $5,000 to $30,000 in funding, said Zomorodi.

The funds, along with optional trainings, help strengthen the organizations. For some groups the AJWS grants are the only funding the organizations receive, said Zomorodi, a 34-year-old straight ally.

Currently, AJWS is partnered with seven organizations, three of which are LGBT ally organizations, said Zomorodi, who's visited Uganda half a dozen times since 2009.

In addition to funding local activists and organizations, the AJWS San Francisco Bay Area and Western Region office keeps the conversation going by bringing Ugandan activists to the West Coast.

Last week, a crowd came out to view the film God Loves Uganda and participate in a discussion afterward that filled up the 550-seat auditorium at the SFJazz Center on May 22. AJWS and the Horizons Foundation, an LGBT grant-making nonprofit, co-produced the event to celebrate Harvey Milk Day and the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia that occurs May 17.

Talmus believes it's important to keep the conversation going and continue the organization's mission to help some of the most marginalized people in the global south.

"It's essential that people meet the folks that are fighting for rights on the ground and make them available to as many people as we can," said Talmus, a straight ally who declined to provide her age.

Zomorodi agreed, noting that because America's cultural wars are being exported to other countries, local activists overseas and in the U.S. have to work together to fight back against the anti-gay laws being proposed.

"It's really important for people to be informed, not just in Uganda, but anywhere where these issues are happening," she said.

Talmus is following up the Uganda film event by bringing Julius Kaggwa, executive director of Support Initiative for People with Atypical Sex Development, to the Bay Area June 5 and 6. SIPD is a grassroots organization promoting human rights for intersex adults and children in Uganda.

Kaggwa will tour the West Coast and stop in Portland, Oregon, said Talmus.

The organization is also launching a yearlong global justice fellowship program that will include a 10-day trip to Uganda in February 2014. Recruitment is set to begin this fall.

Individuals interested in applying can contact Erica Hymen at ehymen@ajws.org.

To learn more, visit http://ajws.org.

 

UK marriage bill closer to passage

The British House of Commons late on May 21 passed the third and final reading of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill for England and Wales 366-161 after two days of embittered debates by conservatives.

The bill will now move to the House of Lords, the upper chamber of parliament, to be debated again in June.

Prime Minister David Cameron, who supports the bill and is pushing it through the political process, hopes it will become law soon. If the bill is adopted, then the first weddings could potentially begin in the summer of 2014, reported Gay Star News.

Conservatives bitterly fought to water down the bill by allowing marriage registrars to opt out of conducting same-sex marriages and educators to not have to teach students that same-sex marriage is legal. Both proposals were rejected.

Religious organizations will be able to opt out of performing marriages for same-sex couples.

Civil partnerships between heterosexual couples were also not included in the bill, according to media reports. Such unions for LGBT couples were passed in 2004 in order to grant them similar legal rights as heterosexual married couples.

In what appeared to be a protest against Parliament's vote on same-sex marriage, a woman drove her car into the House of Commons around 7:15 p.m. on May 21, reported GSN.

The woman, who was reported to be in her 40s and dressed in a hijab, drove her red Volkswagen into the parliamentary estate at the Carriage Gates. The car was stopped by a security ramp, according to the news outlet.

The woman at first resisted arrest. She was eventually removed from the car and arrested for "trespassing on a designated site," reported GSN.

 

Activist Shivananda Khan dead at 65

Shivananda Khan, an LGBT and HIV/AIDS activist, was found dead in his Lucknow home in India in the morning of May 20. The cause of death is unknown.

The Times of India reported that Khan was suffering from a heart condition for several months.

HIV/AIDS experts and LGBT activists around the world mourned as news of his death spread. Khan was awarded the Order of the British Empire in 2005 for his tireless work on behalf of LGBT issues and HIV/AIDS.

Khan was the founder and chief executive of Naz Foundation International, chairperson of the Asia Pacific Coalition on Male Sexual Health, and a founding member of the Global Forum on MSM and HIV.

NFI successfully challenged India's anti-sodomy law known as Section 377 and won. The Delhi High Court struck down the anti-gay law in 2009.

"Shiv was unafraid and fierce in his advocacy on behalf of gay men and transgender people," said Dr. George Ayala, executive director of the MSMGF, based in Oakland, in a May 21 news release. "He was a fiery powerhouse who deliberately mixed piercing cultural analysis with wit and humor to model effective activism." 

Representatives from APCOM stated that Kahn "forged a pioneering path across the decades in helping achieve rights and equality for LGBT individuals and communities in diverse geographies and sociocultural environments from Europe to Asia and the Pacific."

Khan, known to friends as Shiv, was born in India in 1948 to Anglo-Indian parents. He moved to England at the age of 10 and graduated from a Manchester university in the 1960s.

He founded Shakti, a UK South Asian gay and lesbian organization in 1988. A few years later he founded NFI after witnessing the death due to AIDS of a gay Muslim man, whose family had rejected him, reported Gay Star News.

Khan is survived by his partner, Ravindra Yadav.

 

Got international LGBT news tips? Call or send them to Heather Cassell at 00+1-415-221-3541, Skype: heather.cassell, or e-mail oitwnews@gmail.com.

 






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