Archive for the ‘Gender and LGBTQ Rights’ Category

Argentina’s Senate Approves Same-Sex Marriage Bill

Thursday, July 15th, 2010

After a 16-hour debate, and a vote that ended in the wee hours of the morning, Argentina’s Senate passed a bill recognizing same-sex marriages, thus becoming Latin America’s first nation to grant homosexual couples the same rights, protections, and privileges of marriage as heterosexual couples. Less comprehensive measures towards marriage equality have been instituted in other regions of Latin America, such as the legalization of same-sex civil unions in Uruguay and in a small number of states in Brazil and Mexico. And recently last year, Colombia’s Constitutional Court granted equal civil, political, social and economic rights to gay couples, including such protections as inheritance rights and the inclusion of partners in health insurance plans. In Buenos Aires, proponents of the same-sex marriage bill framed the issue in terms of fulfilling the constitutional mandate of equality before the law and ending discrimination towards individuals based solely on their sexual orientation. Opponents, on the other hand, argued that the passage of such a bill would signify a threat to the “existence of the human species.”

Despite the existence of  reasonable objections to gay marriage based on religious belief, I find the argument that a bill granting same-sex couples the right to marry if they so choose will endanger the survival of humanity a bit absurd, if not dangerous in its fear-mongering. Passing legislation that grants homosexual couples equal rights will not magically change the sexual orientation of heterosexuals. The earth is currently the home of 6,830,000,000 human inhabitants; and according to a 2004 UNICEF report, more than 16,000,000 children are without parents, a number which is only increasing with the spread of HIV/AIDS. It doesn’t take a genius to realize that procreation is not an issue for the human race. It seems to me that the larger, more pressing issue for humanity is caring for humanity, and creating a world where all 7 billion of us have an equal chance at healthy, self-determined lives, free of discrimination in all of its forms.

Gay Pride Argentina

Gay Pride Activists in Buenos Aires (AP Photo)

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Malawi President Pardons Gay Couple Sentenced to 14 Years of Hard Labor

Tuesday, June 1st, 2010

On May 29, President Bingu Wa Mutharika of Malawi pardoned Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza, who were sentenced to 14 years of hard labor for homosexuality. The couple was arrested in December, a day after celebrating their engagement. Since the arrest, Malawi has faced international criticism for their criminalization and harsh punishment of individuals based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. Celebrity advocates such as Madonna are publicly celebrating the release of the two men, yet concerns still remain for their safety and the possibility of a backlash of homophobia-related hate crimes in the country. While it is clear that intense international pressure helped to bring about the pardon of Chimbalanga and Monjeza, what is the role of the international community in combating the pervasive stigma and bigotry related to homosexuality that millions of people face on a daily basis, both in Africa and around the world?

Gay Engagement Featured in Malawian National Newspaper

Gay Engagement Featured in Malawian National Newspaper

Repression and Resistance in Honduras

Tuesday, May 11th, 2010

HonduranWatch_logoLast week the Honduran government inaugurated a truth commission to investigate the June 2009 coup. The commission will “document human rights abuses related to the coup, address grievances where they are found and consider reforms to prevent similar incidents from happening again.” Human rights groups have, however, criticized the commission. Committee for the Families of the Detained and Disappeared of Honduras (COFADEH) states,the only purpose of the Lobo commission is to support the Honduran regime’s continued efforts to whitewash those responsible for the coup and its violent aftermath.” Since last year’s coup, a powerful nonviolent resistance movement has emerged. Women make up the majority of the movement and play a critical leadership role. The resistance is united not just by opposition to the regime but also a positive vision of a new Honduras, characterized by this slogan: “Por un constituyente no excluyente” (For a constitutional convention that doesn’t exclude). The regime has responded with brutal repression. As of last August, women’s groups documented 249 cases of violations of women’s human rights, including beatings, sexual assault and gang rapes by police. To date, COFADEH has registered 47 assassinations of anti-coup activists. On May 10, the U.N. Human Rights Council urged protection for Honduran journalists after seven were killed in the past six weeks. The truth commission has no mandate to examine these current human rights violations.

Defending Rights in the U.S. Military

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2010

The rights of those serving within the ranks of the U.S. military (or employed by its contractors) made the news this week. On Monday, the 2011 Defense budget proposal was released and included prohibitions against defense contracts with companies that deny court hearings for sexual assault victims. The prohibitions mirror Sen. Al Franken’s Anti-Rape Amendment, which was adopted in December in spite of opposition from the Defense Department. On Tuesday, during a Senate hearing top U.S. military officers endorsed the gradual repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,” the policy which “forces young men and women to lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens.” Controversial statements by Sen. John McCain speak to some of the issues at hand: “Many gay and lesbian Americans are serving admirably in our Armed forces, even giving their Lives so that we and others can know the blessings of peace…{this is} military life which is characterized by its own laws, rules, customs and traditions.” How much longer will the U.S. military exempt itself from the very values that it purports to defend?

Johnny Symmons Ask Not

Photo Credit: Johnny Symons, Ask Not

The Gay Rights Debate in Africa

Tuesday, January 5th, 2010

An article in January 4th’s New York Times presents Uganda as the epicenter of the debate on homosexuality in Africa, with American groups on both sides – the Christian right and gay activists – directing support and money to the country. This article comes in the wake of the proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill which mandates death for homosexuals, and the imprisonment of anyone who fails to report within 24 hours the identities of everyone they know who is lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender, or who supports human rights for people who are. Since the bill was first introduced on October 14 there has been widespread debate about the role that American evangelicals played in its drafting, and the influence they wield in the general debate over homosexuality in Africa. A recent report by Rev. Kapya Kaoma, a Zambian who went undercover for six months to chronicle the relationship between the African anti-homosexual movement and American evangelicals, argues that conservative evangelicals have been immensely successful in depicting the movement for gay equality as the neocolonialist agenda of an imperial West that seeks to undermine African values. Religious and political leaders quote American evangelicals like Rick Warren – saying that “homosexuality is not a natural way of life and thus not a human right” – to justify discriminatory policies and practices. Warren only recently publicly condemned the proposed legislation through an “encylical video” to the Pastors of Uganda. Meanwhile, on December 16 the BBC launched an online debate: “Should homosexuals face execution?” A senior BBC executive later apologized for treating the execution of gays as a legitimate topic for debate. Personally, as I attempt to discern the growing number of voices in the current debate over gay rights in Uganda, and Africa more broadly, I am particularly struck by this New York Times quote by a gay man at a club in Uganda: “It’s not homosexuality that it is imported. It’s homophobia.”

(Photo credit: Marc Hofer for The New York Times)

(Photo credit: Marc Hofer for The New York Times)

Same-Sex Marriage in Argentina: First in Latin America

Monday, December 28th, 2009

Earlier today, two men exchanged rings at a civil ceremony in Ushuaia, Argentina, and became the first gay couple to be joined in marriage in Latin America. In an article published by the Associated Press, the governor of the state Tierra del Fuego said in a statement that gay marriage “is an important advance in human rights and social inclusion…” Tierra del Fuego authorized the wedding based on interpretation of the Argentine Constitution and its human rights obligations under international treaties.

Argentina Gay Marriage

Senate Passes Hate Crimes Prevention Act: A Victory for LGBT Human Rights

Friday, October 23rd, 2009

Yesterday, on Thursday, October 22, the U.S. Senate passed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. The name of the Act is in honor of Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr., an African-American man who was dragged to death behind a pick-up truck in Texas in 1998. This Act serves as the first major federal civil rights law protecting lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people, which will protect them from violence and provide justice for the families of hate-crime victims. The bill will now go to the desk of President Obama for his signature. An article about the history and current status of the bill, as well as the perspectives of those that oppose it, is featured in The Washington Post.

International Coming Out Day: Gay Rights, Identity, and Consciousness

Monday, October 12th, 2009

October 11th is Coming Out Day, an internationally-recognized awareness day meant to recognize gay identities and open community dialogue on Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer issues. In the largest demonstration for gay rights this decade, thousands of gay activists and their allies took to the streets in Washington in the National Equality March, which was covered in this New York Times article. Meanwhile, here in Atlanta, I read a very powerfully written student op-ed in the Emory Wheel entitled Gay Consciousness Beyond Politics which highlights the importance of developing a consciousness that embraces the inherent dignity of gay individuals, in addition to the fight to gain equality in legislation and the larger political arena. I was moved when author Daniel Turton made the big-picture connection across movements and referenced South African anti-apartheid leader, Stephen Biko, whose phrase “Black is Beautiful” signified that in order for oppressed people to achieve liberation in society, they must first achieve liberation in their minds- which requires a transformation in consciousness in which they must first see themselves as human beings above all else.

Education and Self-Expression

Friday, October 9th, 2009

A teen in Cobb County, GA withdrew from his high-school after being told to dress “more manly.” Read the story here. The school says his mode of dress disrupted class. He says he won’t attend where he’s not allowed to express himself. Does the student have a right to dress however he wants? Is the school’s response smart policy or gender discrimination? Should the school have taken a position on the matter at all? If so, what do you think it should have been?