Human Rights Campaigner Was Protesting Legally
LGBT+ and human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell has been arrested during a one-man protest against Russia's mistreatment of LGBT+ people, as the 2018 FIFA World Cup kicks off in Moscow.
Mr Tatchell was holding a banner supporting gay men who have been violently targeted in a purge in Chechnya while standing next to the statue Marshal Zhukov close to the Kremlin.
This is the campaigner’s sixth visit to Russia in solidarity with the LGBT+ freedom struggle there. He was previously arrested twice during protests in Moscow and suffered brain damage after being attacked by Russian neo-Nazis in 2007.
Peter Tatchell, speaking from Moscow before the protest, said:
“I was exercising my lawful right to protest, under the Russian constitution, which guarantees freedom of expression and the right to protest in Articles 29 and 31. A one-person protest, which is what I did, requires no permission from the authorities and the police.
“Getting arrested is standard for Russians who protest for LGBT+ rights or against corruption, economic injustice and Russia’s annexation of Crimea and its bombing of civilians in Syria.
“Unlike brave Russian protesters, I have the ‘protection’ of a British passport, which means I have been treated more leniently than they are.
Following a fierce and glamorous stage battle, Crystal Gunz, a 21-year-old graphic design student from Alexandra, was crowned Miss Gay Jozi 2018 at Club Simply Blue, one of Johannesburg’s longest running LGBT nightclubs.
Crystal, who identifies as gender fluid, wowed the audience and the judges on Saturday night with her beauty, poise, spectacular outfits and passion for making a difference in the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community.
“The fact that I won hasn’t really sunk in yet,” says a delighted Crystal, after beating out 11 other contestants to take the coveted crown. This was her third time entering the pageant, Gauteng’s most prestigious drag competition. In her first attempt she did not make the finals and in 2017 she was chosen as 1st Princess. This year, she finally achieved her dream of winning the title.
“I told myself that I really wanted this crown and I decided to work really hard for it,” says Crystal, who credits her drag mentors for her success. “I learned a lot from the previous Queens and other contestants. They taught me so much and guided me to get where I am today. I became a better ‘me’ and went for what I wanted.”
International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (IDAHOT) is marked annually on the 17th of May to draw the attention of policymakers, opinion leaders, social movements, the public and the media to the violence and discrimination inflicted upon lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people, as well as all those who do not conform to majority sexual and gender norms. This year, Alliances for Solidarity has been chosen as the event theme, because fighting violence, lobbying for legal change and campaigning to change hearts and minds cannot be done in isolation.
“With a report by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) revealing that 8 out of 10 LGBTI students are being harassed at school each year simply because of who they are, this is a very important day particularly for LGBTI youth,” says Riaan Norval, Project Manager for Young Heroes - a campaign being run by Anova Health Institute and funded by the Elton John Aids Foundation aimed at empowering adolescent LGBTI youth, specifically young men who identify as gay or bisexual, or who are questioning their sexuality.
The GLSEN report also found that LGBTI students have lower grades, more attendance problems and are less likely to complete high school than their heterosexual counterparts. What’s more, many experience long-term emotional effects from the bullying, harassment and intolerance they face as students.
Norval shares that it is important to clarify the difference between a ‘phobia’ and ‘prejudice’. “A phobia is a strong, uncontrollable, unpleasant often irrational emotion caused by an actual or perceived danger or threat, like spiders or a fear of clowns. Prejudice, on the other hand, is an adverse judgment or opinion formed without knowledge of the facts. What people call homo- and transphobia is actually prejudice. You don’t go seeking out something you fear, whereas with homo- and transphobia, people seek to harm others with insults, discrimination, extreme levels of intimidation and even violence.”
“It can also be more subtle – a feeling that you're being ignored or treated with less respect than your peers ,or seemingly innocuous statements like the good old, ‘I'm not prejudiced, I even have a gay friend’ or ‘that's so gay’. The sad truth is that if you're gay, you will probably encounter homophobia at some point. While being picked on for your sexuality can be upsetting and embarrassing, always remember that you are not the problem, they are. The majority of homophobes act out of ignorance and fear. Often it's a question of immaturity. Like bullies, homophobes get satisfaction and power from putting others down.”
He urges young people who are experiencing homophobia, transphobia or biphobia to utilise the information, safe spaces, resources and supportive community offered by the campaign through its social media, website and mobile platforms. “Young Heroes also provides access to mental health support, should you need it.”
by Richard de Luchi - Courtesy of the Peter Tatchell Foundation
In early 2014, Uganda passed the Anti-Homosexuality Act in an atmosphere of toxic, belligerent homophobia. It was overturned later, on a technicality, but the damage had been done - and is still being done.
The hateful, often violent, 'kill the gays' rhetoric has encouraged much of the population to turn on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people. Many LGBTIs had no option but to flee to neighbouring countries - notably Kenya - as their families, friends, neighbours, employers, landlords and society at large, hunted them down. They faced discrimination, mob violence and the threat of arrest under a British-imposed colonial-era law that carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment for same-sex acts.
Now, Ugandan MPs are agitating to re-introduce the anti-homosexuality law, and they have the support of Rebecca Kadaga, the aggressively homophobic Speaker of the Ugandan Parliament. This is prompting more LGBTIs to flee across the border into Kenya. They fear jail - and worse.
Until recently, the time required to screen, process and resettle a Ugandan LGBTI refugee who sought asylum in Kenya was around 18 months, if they were one of the lucky minority to get resettled. But now it extends to three years or more as the number of LGBTI asylum seekers has dramatically increased, in parallel with homophobic prejudice, discrimination and violence in both Uganda and Kenya - and alleged obstruction by anti-LGBTI refugee agency officials.
According to the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) newssheet, Refugee Resettlement Facts, published in January 2018, less than 1% of refugees are ever resettled.
Nowadays, new LGBTI asylum seekers are not accepted by the UNHCR in Nairobi. They are sent direct to Kakuma refugee camp in the north of Kenya.
The Government of Kenya (GoK) does not recognise LGBTI people as refugees. It considers them as illegal sexual criminals under a law dating back to British rule in 1897 and has taken over the resettlement process from the UNHCR. The UNHCR appears to be powerless to challenge the GoK's determination to invalidate the requests for safe haven made by LGBTI asylum seekers from Uganda.
The UNHCR has ceased granting monthly stipends of some 4,000kes, roughly US$40, to all but a few of the several hundred men and women who remain in Nairobi, and who struggle to survive there, often alone and isolated.
While the official line of the UNHCR is that all is calm, and that harmony reigns in both Nairobi and Kakuma, the situation described by many LGBTI refugees is very different.
Kenyan law makes it very difficult to get the required Aliens card in order to work. The Kenyan police are a particularly brutal force and frequently round up LGBTIs, especially Ugandans, and cart them off to jail - often beating them up and humiliating them sexually in the process. They usually only get released on the payment of bribes. UNHCR appears to be powerless to stop this arrant abuse of human rights.
The general Kenyan population is frequently hostile. They are responsible for much of the violence towards LGBTI people; being deeply suspicious of the Ugandan refugees renting houses in their neighbourhoods.
In Afghanistan, as part of an illegal but traditional practice, men recruit young boys, luring them with gifts and money with the intention of having sex with them. They do it under the guise of a disgusting old sexual traditional practice called “bacha bazi” (boy play).
The practice has been widely discussed — for example, in The New York Times, Newsweek and The Daily Mail. Further coverage comes in a video documentary titled ‘They don’t just dance’ that is now available online through RTDoc – an English-language documentary channel created by Russia’s government-backed media company RT.
The documentary shows how under-aged boys are recruited and taught how to dance like women in parties organized by rich folks, who then later select their favorite boy for sex.
In Afghanistan, this is not viewed as homosexuality, even though there are strict laws prohibiting the act.
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