Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Human Rights Council Passes First-Ever Resolution on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

(Geneva, June 17, 2011) In a groundbreaking achievement for upholding the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), the United Nations Human Rights Council has passed a resolution on human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity (L.9/Rev.1).

The resolution, presented by South Africa along with Brasil and 39 additional co-sponsors from all regions of the world, was passed by a vote of 23 in favour, 19 against, and 3 abstentions. A list of how States voted is attached. In its presentation to Council, South Africa recalled the UDHR noting that “everyone is entitled to all rights and freedoms without distinction of any kind” and Brasil called on the Council to “open the long closed doors of dialogue”.

Today’s resolution is the first UN resolution ever to bring specific focus to human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity, and follows a joint statement on these issues delivered at the March session of the council. It affirms the universality of human rights, and notes concern about acts of violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. This commitment of the Human Rights Council sends an important signal of support to human rights defenders working on these issues, and recognizes the legitimacy of their work.

“The South African government has now offered progressive leadership, after years of troubling and inconsistent positions on the issue of sexual orientation and gender identity. Simultaneously, the government has set a standard for themselves in international spaces. We look forward to contributing to and supporting sustained progressive leadership by this government and seeing the end of the violations we face daily”. (Dawn Cavanagh, Coalition of African Lesbians)

The resolution requests the High Commissioner for Human Rights to prepare a study on violence and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, and calls for a panel discussion to be held at the Human Rights Council to discuss the findings of the study in a constructive and transparent manner, and to consider appropriate follow-up.

“That we are celebrating the passage of a UN resolution about human rights violations on the basis of sexual orientation is remarkable, however the fact that gender identity is explicitly named truly makes this pivotal moment one to rejoice in,” added Justus Eisfeld, Co-Director of GATE. “The Human Rights Council has taken a step forward in history by acknowledging that both sexual and gender non-conformity make lesbian, gay, trans* and bi people among those most vulnerable and indicated decisively that states have an obligation to protect us from violence.”

"As treaty bodies, UN special procedures, and national courts have repeatedly recognized, international human rights law prohibits discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity.” (Alli Jernow, International Commission of Jurists)

The resolution is consistent with other regional and national jurisprudence, and just this week, the 2011 United Nations Political Declaration on HIV and AIDS recognised the need to address the human rights of men who have sex with men, and the Organization of American States adopted by consensus a resolution condemning violence and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

Earlier in this 17th session of the Human Rights Council, the UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, Rashida Manjoo, reported to the Council that:

“[C]ontributory factors for risk of violence include individual aspects of women’s bodily attributes such as race, skin colour, intellectual and physical abilities, age, language skills and fluency, ethnic identity and sexual orientation.”

The report also detailed a number of violations committed against lesbian, bisexual and trans women, including cases of rape, attacks and murders. It is therefore regrettable that a reference to "women who face sexuality-related violence" was removed from the final version of another resolution focused on the elimination of violence against women during the same session.

"Despite this inconsistency, we trust the UN resolution on sexual orientation and gender identity will facilitate the integration of the full range of sexual rights throughout the work of the UN." (Meghan Doherty, Sexual Rights Initiative)

A powerful civil society statement was delivered at the end of the session, welcoming the resolution and affirming civil society’s commitment to continuing to engage with the United Nations with a view to ensuring that all persons are treated as free and equal in dignity and rights, including on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity.

“Now, our work is just beginning”, said Kim Vance of ARC International. “We look forward to the High Commissioner’s report and the plenary panel next March, as well as to further dialogue with, and support from, those States which did not yet feel able to support the resolution, but which share the concern of the international community at these systemic human rights abuses.”

ARC International, John Fisher (Geneva) +41 79 508 3968 or

Amnesty International, Peter Splinter (Geneva) +41 (0) 22 906 9483 or Emily Gray (London) +44 (0) 20 7413 5865
CAL – Coalition of African Lesbians, Dawn Cavanagh (South Africa) + 27 11 918 6115 or COC Nederland, Björn van Roozendaal(Netherlands) +31 6 22 55 83 00 or

Council for Global Equality, Mark Bromley (Washington) +1.202.719.0511 or

GATE - Global Action for Trans* Equality, Justus Eisfeld (New York), +1-646-341-1699 or Mauro Cabral (Argentina) or +54 9 351 5589876
Heartland Alliance for Human Needs & Human Rights, Stefano Fabeni (Washington) +1 312-919-3512 or

Human Rights Watch, Siphokazi Mthathi (South Africa) or + 27 82 777 1319/ +27 11 484 2640 or Juliette De Rivero (Geneva) +41 079 640 1649 or

IDAHO - International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, Joel Bedos (France)

IGLHRC - International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, Jessica Stern (New York) + 1 212 430 6014 or

ILGA- the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association, Renato Sabbadini, +32 474 857 950 or

International Campaign Stop Trans Pathologization STP 2012, Amets Suess, stp2012@gmail.comInternational Commission of Jurists, Alli Jernow (Geneva) +41(0)22 979 3800) or

International Service for Human Rights (ISHR), Bjorn Pettersson (Geneva),, +41 22 919 7117
Sexual Rights Initiative, Meghan Doherty, Sexual Rights Initiative, +41 (0)78 871 6713 or Thailand's Sexual Diversity Network, Paisarn Likhitpreechakul +66 81 634 3450 or forsogi@gmail.comTransgender Europe (TGEU), Carla LaGata (Germany),

Attachment (Records of Vote and Co-Sponsorship)

States supporting the resolution: Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Chile, Cuba, Ecuador, France, Guatemala, Hungary, Japan, Mauritius, Mexico, Norway, Poland, Republic of Korea, Slovakia, Spain, Switzerland, Ukraine, Thailand, UK, USA, Uruguay

States against the resolution: Angola, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Cameroon, Djibouti, Gabon, Ghana, Jordan, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritania, Nigeria, Pakistan, Qatar, Moldova, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Uganda.

Abstentions: Burkina Faso, China, Zambia

Absent: Kyrgyzstan, Libya (suspended)

Co-Sponsors of the resolution: Albania, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Honduras, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Timor-Leste, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, United States of America, and Uruguay.

A Christian Response to Homosexuality

By Rev. Stephen R. Parelli, Executive Director of Other Sheep
December 27, 2010, Bronx, New York; email:
Prepared for Trivandrum Theological Forum (TTF), Trivandrum, Kerala, India
TTF website:; TTF email:

Sexual traditions of India suppressed by British colonizers
Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code which makes it a crime to engage in “carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal”, and which was read down by the Delhi High Court judgment in the Naz Foundation v. Union of India on 2 July, 2009, so that gay sex between consenting adults was decriminalized, was originally “drafted by Lord Macaulay and enacted in 1860 during British colonial rule.”
In the years leading up to the 2009 Naz decision, the Ministry of Home Affairs of the Government of India, in its 2003 affidavit supporting the retention of Section 377, argued that the law “was brought under the statute as an act of criminality [because] it responded to the values and mores of the time [1860] in the Indian society,” to which the petitioners, in their reply to the court, countered by saying Section 377 evinced only “the British Judeo-Christian values of the time.”
Ruth Vanita and Saleem Kidwai, in their book Same-Sex Love in India: A Literary History, provide an invaluable anthology of Indian writings from ancient times to the present on the subjects of the love of a man for a man, and of a women for a women. Robert Goldman calls the collection “a powerful corrective to the often expressed opinion that the Indian tradition is either unaware of or openly hostile to same-sex love.”
According to Dr. George Nalunnakkal of the Malankara Jacobite Syrian Orthodox Church, “India’s traditional silence on ‘sexuality’ is nothing but a celebrated myth. In fact, the Indian mind had always engaged sexuality in a very open and radical manner. It was, in fact, the colonizers who had brought to India their ‘values’ and ethos, which suppressed the Indian tradition.”
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832), regarded by many to be one of the most important thinkers in the West, wrote with some wit: "The unnatural, that too is natural." The “British Judeo-Christian values” of the 19th century, and well into the 20th century, on homosexuality, are in keeping, not with the wit of von Goethe, but with a literal reading of the Epistle to the Romans by the Apostle Paul, so that, for the British, same-sex sex-acts were most assuredly “against nature.”
The problem is how we read the Bible

“The ‘problem,’ of course, is not the Bible, it is the Christians who read it. . . . No credible case against homosexuality or homosexuals can be made from the Bible,” says Peter Gomes, “unless one chooses to read Scripture in a way that sustains the existing prejudice against homosexuality and homosexuals.”
As a young man in my early teens, I was conditioned to think a certain way – to think Biblically. I would attend church three or more times a week. On a daily basis I would engage myself in systematic Bible study. With paper and pen I would write out my thoughts on the Scripture I had read for the day. In the course of my religious experience, while still at a very young age, I came to believe that the Bible condemned same-sex sex acts. I was terrified by those Bible passages that appeared to undoubtedly condemn me for my homoerotic feelings and my desire to act upon them. Some of these texts were: “Bring them out to us that we may know them,” Genesis 19:5; “Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination,” Leviticus 18:22. “And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another,” Romans 1:27a.
During my years in Bible college and seminary, and as an ordained Baptist minister, my spiritual discipline and the vigilance I kept were constant, but by the time I reached my mid-40s I was weary and weak. I put myself into reparative therapy with counselor Joseph Nicolosi of NARTH and began attending area “ex-gay” support groups. Once these attempts for change ran their course, and having rigorously put into practice my spiritual disciplines for more than twenty years, I found myself thinking critically. “What if the church is wrong about homosexuality,” I asked myself. It was an astounding thought, something like an epiphany. I had never thought like this before, that a way of thinking, almost universally received, could be flawed. I found my new open-mindedness exciting as I considered the possibilities of study, and yet somewhat unsettling as I began to consider the ramifications of my new direction in thinking, i.e., ‘what if the universe is wrong?’
I began to read authors, who like me, questioned the church’s teaching on homosexuality. I read every book I could find. I began to build a library of books on the topic of faith and LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) concerns. I was amazed to find that serious theologians and scholars, most of them gay, had already been addressing the topic for about twenty-five years or more. I had never seen their books before. How isolated I had been. I was a recluse in my own spiritual, ecclesiastical, evangelical waist land.
Against Nature – Romans 1:26, 27
The second major critical thought I remember having at some later point in time was this: The only way Romans 1:18-32 could be about me was if I were to read the chapter backwards, beginning with verses 26 and 27, the “against nature” part. This realization was a new beginning for me; I was no longer under the condemnation of Romans 1. I had memorized Romans 1:18-32 as a young man and would quote this passage as a means of spiritual defense whenever tempted by homoerotic thoughts or desires. Now, in my late 40’s, I was free: nothing in this passage leading up to verses 26 and 27 (“against nature”) was descriptive of me, and therefore, verses 26 and 27 did not apply to me. It was my second epiphany. I was somewhat transformed by it. It was an intellectually violent upheaval, an about-face, a metamorphosis, a radical change in my thinking: Romans 1, including verses 26 and 27, isn’t about me.
Elizabeth Stuart says the Apostle Paul uses this phrase, against nature, “to describe, not homosexual people, but Gentiles who characteristically engaged in same-sex activity, a characteristic that distinguishes them, not from heterosexuals, but from the Jews” [emphasis mine].
“Certainly, biblical writers knew of homosexual acts, but they apparently understood those acts as being done by heterosexual people (they assumed everyone was heterosexual). Thus, when persons engaged in same-sex genital behavior, they were departing from their natural and given orientation.”
Mr. Shyam Divan, in his Outline of arguments submitted to the Bench in The Naz Judgment, says “Section 377 criminalizes ‘carnal intercourse against the order of nature.’ For a homosexual male or female, his or her sexual orientation is ‘natural’. The sexual orientation of an individual arises from the depth of his or her being and it is not an aspect of his or her conduct that can be termed as ‘unnatural’ or ‘against the order of nature’. In most reported studies, persons have either no choice or very little choice in their attraction to members of their own sex.”
Sodom and Gomorrah – Genesis 19
Dale Martin, in his book Sex and the Single Savior, says that in interpreting Biblical texts, “we read [them] certain ways because we are socialized to do so; . . . we read [them] differently on a second reading because we ourselves have been (socially!) changed in the meantime.”

The now somewhat popular “second reading” of the Biblical account of Sodom and Gomorrah, a paradigm shift witnessed in my own life time, from the traditional “Sodomy” interpretation to the “inhospitality” interpretation (cf. Mark 6:7-11) is a striking example of the fact that different “social and psychological constraints” were evidently brought to bear on this text. Michael Carden, in his book Sodomy: A History of a Christian Biblical Myth, says “my engagement with the texts will not pretend any dispassion.” Gay theologians, having brought their queer selves to the Sodom and Gomorrah story, have concluded, and widely published, that the sin of Sodom (cf. Ezekiel 16:49 ) was “oppression and injustice, not sexual sin” [emphasis mine].

So effective has “gay theology” been since its beginnings in the 1970’s that, as early as 1993, Bob Davies and Lori Rentzel, two popular evangelical “ex-gay” authors who maintain that all same-sex sex-acts are forbidden by Scripture, dismiss Gen. 19 as a text that can support their view. In Coming Out of Homosexuality: New Freedom for Men & Women, they admit “pro-gay theologians are correct in saying that this passage [Sodom and Gomorrah] does not provide a strong argument against prohibiting all homosexual acts” [emphasis mine].

The lyings down of a woman – Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13

The Hebrew text of Leviticus 18:22 reads “And with a male (וְאֶת־זָכָר ve’et zakhar) you shall not lie (לֹא תִשְׁכַּב lo tishkav) the lyings down of a woman (מִשְׁכְּבֵי אִשָּׁה miskab issah).” To lie “the lyings down of a woman” (מִשְׁכְּבֵי אִשָּׁה miskab issah, Lev. 18:22 and 20:13) is, according to Saul M. Olyan, a reference “specifically to intercourse and suggest[s] that anal penetration was seen as analogous to vaginal penetration on some level.”
Therefore, the prohibition is against male-to-male anal intercourse, nothing more. Strictly speaking, other forms of homoeroticism between men are therefore permitted, such as oral sex, mutual masturbation, and intercurural sex.

Beyond the literal rendering of the verse itself, and in the greater context of Israel’s “strategy to survive,” Nissinen sees the Leviticus prohibition as a prohibition against confusing gender roles. “Interpretation of gender,” says Nissenin, was “a fundamental factor of social structure and control.” On the other hand, Miner and Connoley understand the Leviticus prohibition to be “clearly directed at homosexual temple prostitution.” In either case, it would be difficult to show how Israel’s Holiness Code – of which Lev. 18 and 20 is a part – fits the context of same-sex lovers today. Nissinen notes, “in no way can the code be likened to civil or criminal law in the modern sense of the word.”

Malakoi and arsenokoitai – I Corinthians 6:8-10 and I Timothy 1:10

The list of sins in these two Pauline texts include malakoi (I Cor. 6:9) and arsenokoitai (I Cor. 6:9 and I Tim. 1:10). Both words have been sorely mistranslated as “homosexuals” (malakoi, NKJV ; arsenokoitais, I Tim. 1:10, NAS, HCSB, LEB ).

Malakoi literally means soft; it is a “type of moral weakness.” Because it is listed in I Cor. 6:9-10 with sins that are clearly sexual, malakoi might best be rendered, as it is by quit a few versions, as “male prostitute” (see NRSV, NIV, NLT, HCSB, NCV, ISV, and TNIV for this rendering).

One can easily see that there is a radical difference between “homosexuals” and “male prostitute.” “Homosexual” is a modern term in common use today which identifies a person’s sexual orientation as being attracted to the same sex. “Homosexual,” like “heterosexual,” says nothing of a person’s lifestyle as being moral or immoral which raises the question as to why would “homosexual” be placed in a list of sins along with thieves, drunkards, adulterers, murderers and liars, which is what the Bible translators do here. “Male prostitute,” on the other hand, says nothing about one’s sexual orientation. A male prostitute could be homosexual or heterosexual. His lifestyle is prostitution, but his sexual orientation is not known. That modern Bible translators can translate each of these words, malakoi and arsenokoitai, using words with such wide-ranging differences in meaning, indicates that the meaning of the original Greeks words are difficult to discern, and/or the translators are culturally biased in their translation work.

Arsenokoitai is, in fact, a difficult word to translate. It occurs only 73 times over a period of around 600 years following Paul and generally occurs in lists, in which case there is little to no context by which to provide a sense of meaning. In one such list, “the term is used by a Greek author when cataloguing the sins of the Greek gods” and is, perhaps, a reference to Zeus, who, by force, abducted and raped Ganymede, a young man. There is a second text which gives us a further indication as to the possible meaning of arsenokoitai. According to Greek legend, Naas (the name given to the snake in the garden once it became a Satantic figure) commits “adultery” with Adam. Hippolytus writes that it is by this act of “adultery” that arsenokoites enters into the world, and compares Naas and Adam with Zeus and Ganymede. In this context, arsenokoitai conveys the idea of a strong individual taking sexual advantage over a weaker individual by use of position and power.

Miner and Connoley make the observation that arsenokoitai in Paul’s two lists of sins (I Cor. 6:9-10 and I Tim 1:10) comes at the end of a list of sexual sins (male prostitutes and fornication ending each list respectively) and at the beginning of a list of economic sins (thieves and slave traders heading each list respectively), suggesting that arsenokoitai “describes a male who aggressively takes sexual advantage of another male.” Tom Hanks notes that “Paul’s vice list” in I Cor. 6:8-10 is “headed with the reference to oppression (akikia), implying that the homoerotic acts condemned [there] are those characterized by exploitation, injustice and violence (rape), all especially experienced by slaves.” Hanks further notes that the oppression heading is paralleled in Romans 1:18, 29; 2:8; and 3:5, which, again, implies that the homoerotic acts in Romans are “characterized by exploitation, injustice and violence (rape).”

There is no biblical sex ethic; only a love ethic

James B. Nelson, Professor of Christian Ethics at United Theological Seminary, Minneapolis, from 1963-1995, says it is problematic to use “direct guidance from Scripture” for determining “specific sexual behaviors” because “the Scriptures are multiform and inconsistent in the sexual moralities endorsed therein” such as “polygamy, levirate marriage, concubinage, and prostitution. . . .

“Even on such a major issue as sexual intercourse between unmarried consenting adults there is no explicit prohibition in either Hebrew Scripture or the New Testament (which John Calvin discovered to his consternation). Indeed, the Song of Solomon celebrates one such relationship. . . I believe that our best biblical scholarship reaches Walter Wink’s conclusion: ‘There is no biblical sex ethic. The Bible knows only a love ethic, which is constantly being brought to bear on whatever sexual mores are dominant in any given country, or culture, or period’” [emphasis his].

Purity codes and Outcasts

The religious leaders of Jesus’ day – the Sadducees, Pharisees, and priests – were strict adherents and guardian of the purity codes. This meant they were concerned with a certain “habitual arrangement of things.” The arrangement was what was valued, not the people (Mark 2:27 ). In this context, the religious leaders had “narrowed the love of God until it included only themselves.”

In their arrangement of things, the Jews had reduced the Samaritans to the “lowest degree” within the social order, ranking them with Gentiles. After the Israelites, at the top of the strata, were the despised trades, like tax collectors. Then after them, in a general descending order, were Jewish and Gentile slaves; proselytes; freed gentile slaves; and – just above the stratum of the Samaritans and Gentiles – were Israelites with serious blemishes like bastards, the fatherless and eunuchs.

By repeatedly recounting a discriminating story-of-origin about the Samaritans, and by observing day-to-day ritualized actions against them, the Jews had ostracized the Samaritans socially and religiously. They “cursed the Samaritans in their synagogues and considered their touch as pollution. . . . Their very name became a term of abuse, ‘Thou art a Samaritan and hast a devil’, John 8. 48. The Jews were “righteous,” while the Samaritans were “outcasts.”

The need to belong

In their book What God Has Joined Together: The Christian Case for Gay Marriage, the authors show that, essentially, you and I, straight and gay, are social beings created with the innate desire to belong. To be avoided, shunned, ignored or excluded can have damaging effects on our emotional well-being. “Those who’ve experienced the silent treatment” from family, groups, or society, “have called it ‘emotional abuse’ and ‘a terrible, terrible weapon to use.’”

Social exclusion can result in depression, loss of self-esteem, delinquency, violence, and suicide. This is especially true for LGBT youth who, according to one American report released in 2006, “are up to four times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers.” Findings in another American study released in 2009 showed that “adolescents who were rejected by their families for being LGBT were 8.4 times more likely to report having attempted suicide.”

In the morning sessions of Day 3 (25 September 2008) of the proceedings before the Delhi High Court in the matter of Naz Foundation vs. Union of India, Mr. Shyam Divan, in his arguments for Voices Against 377, said, “Homosexuals suffer tremendous psychological harm. Fear of discrimination leads to a concealment of true identity. . . . [I]n the case of homosexuals it is the tainting of desire, it is the attribution of perversity and shame to spontaneous bodily affection, it is the prohibition of the expression of love, it is the denial of full moral citizenship in society because you are what you are, that impinges on the dignity and self worth of a group.”

In the “habitual arrangement of things” today, where “humans use ostracism to control social behavior,” in too many cases, LGBT people have been placed outside the circle of inclusion by their local church and by their devout families. An eminent African American civil rights activist of the 1950’s and 60’s, who was doing LGBT faith-based activism with me with Soulforce in 2008, told me this: “Something the African American had in his struggle for civil rights was his family and his church. When society would reject the African American in his struggle for equality, he or she could repair to their family and church and there find solace, belonging, love and hope. Not so for the LGBT person,” he said. “For them, family and church, two basic units for belonging and empowerment, have joined society in ostracizing the LGBT person in his struggle for equality and acceptance, and he or she is left with the realization that they are completely cut off.”

The reign of God on earth

When Jesus was brought before Pilate, he was charged with subverting the nation (Luke 23:2, NIV). He had brought into question the existing value system. He had crossed social boundaries and had disrupted the “habitual arrangement of things.” By his subversive teachings and actions, he had freed things and people from their “proper” broken places in the arrangement of things. He had “widened the love of God until it reached out to all men.” He was creating the reign of God. His was the message of inclusion.

Criminalizing HIV/AIDS care and support: Discrimination laws threatening the fight against HIV/AIDS in Africa

A paper presented to a workshop organized by Salud por Derecho on
“Challenges on the road to Universal Access on the 30th Anniversary of HIV/AIDS”
Wamala Dennis Mawejje
Since it was discovered over two decades ago, HIV/AIDS has claimed so many lives and attracted a lot of attention. In this regard, so many interventions have been designed and implemented to curb this epidemic. However much multi-pronged the interventions claim to be, there are still areas where a lot of work still needs to be done- some of these areas have actually slowed or retarded progress in this fight. One such area is the majorly ignored issue of sexual minorities.
These have been ignored in many countries and some have even argued that the LGBT community does not exist. This has meant discrimination in the application of interventions for prevention, treatment and care in combating HIV/AIDS.
Discrimination against the LGBT community is also multi-pronged; it comes from cultural, religious, economic and legal angles to mention but a few. Today I will look at the legal angle of discrimination and how it is impacting on the fight against HIV/AIDS in the world generally but with specific interest in Uganda where discrimination is at unprecedented levels.
Despite the call for non-discrimination by different documents like the yogyakarta principles on the application of international human rights law in relation to sexual orientation and gender identity, Universal Declaration Human Rights, African Commission on Human and People’s Rights, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, HIV/AIDS declaration and many others, many countries still treat LGBT people if not as second class citizens then as worthless members of society. This is reflected even when it comes to dealing with HIV/AIDS.
Like is the case that a medical practitioner should report any bullet wound they treat, practitioners in some countries where same sex relations are criminalized tend not only to shy away from dealing with such people as they believe it to be abetting crime but are also not well trained in dealing with MSM issues since these are seen as illegal. Today over 80 Countries around the world still criminalize same sex relations and Uganda is one of them.
These laws mainly affect men having sex with men (MSM).
Uganda was one of the first African countries to respond aggressively to the HIV/AIDS epidemic, moving rapidly to introduce measures to prevent HIV transmission. Thus, in Uganda HIV prevalence rates that once hovered around 30%, declined to under 10 % over the last two decades (Okero et al, 2004). Nevertheless, there is presently some concern that HIV prevalence rates are once again on the rise or at best reached a plateau where the numbers of new HIV infections match AIDS-related deaths. Reasons advanced for this state of affairs include increasingly active restrictive legislation to HIV related issues like same sex relations, the government’s shift towards abstinence-based prevention programs, general complacency (‘AIDS-fatigue’) and the changes in the perception of AIDS as a treatable and manageable disease with the availability of ART.
Though the constitution of Uganda calls for the establishment of rights and freedoms for all, the LGBT community has not been able to enjoy these freedoms as a minority group.
• Section 140 of the penal code of the republic of Uganda criminalizes “carnal knowledge against the order of nature” with maximum penalty of life imprisonment. Also, Section 141 prohibits “attempts at Carnal knowledge” with maximum penalty of 7 years’ imprisonment. Section 143, punishes acts of procurement of or attempts to procure acts of gross indecency” between men in public or private with up to 5 years imprisonment
We even saw a push further in the wrong direction by an MP belonging to the ruling party who introduced the anti-homosexuality bill 2009 with severe punishments for same sex relations including a death penalty, jail terms for issues like mandatory reporting and many other extremely ridiculous provisions.
Restrictive legislative environments in some countries hinder effective HIV service provision to MSM. In fact, sexual acts in private between consensual adults of the same sex are still criminalized in most of Africa.
These restrictive legislations have meant that most LGBT people live their lives underground (very secret lives) and it makes provision of care and support in terms of LGBT health initiatives very difficult and unlikely because you cannot provide care to someone you are not aware of.
Also using the law, we have seen security personnel arresting LGBT people with the intention of extortion. Some of these people are raped in detention and this worsens the HIV/AIDS situation as well as bringing down their self-esteem to deal with the infection.
LGBT activists who have braved the storm to advocate for equal access to HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment and care have many times been arrested like was the case in the HIV/AIDS implementer’s meeting held in Kampala where three activists were arrested. This discourages other activists from coming out against discrimination as they find the issue tricky hence worsening the HIV/AIDS situation both for LGBT people and female partners to MSM.
Also during post-test counseling and treatment of STIs, individuals are encouraged to bring their partners along but the laws against same sex relations make it difficult for people in such relations to benefit from this. This means that the counselors will not do their job well and the fight against HIV/AIDS becomes even more difficult.
Because anti-homosexuality laws basically legitimize discrimination, those who come out to defy this order face isolation not only from the public but also from the LGBT community itself. You find that some LGBT people shun service providers who openly work with same sex loving couples for fear that they might get exposed and face the stigma that comes with being a known homosexual.
Since the law does not recognize same sex relations, the health sector establishment in its bid to fight HIV/AIDS does not include consumables for MSM and WSW like lubricants, IEC materials, etc, meaning that they use all types of crude and dangerous consumables which ultimately expose them to HIV.
Worst of all, to evade the law, some LGBT people live double lives. A man will get married to a woman to hide the fact that he is sleeping with men. This means that if because of the reasons I have mentioned above he catches HIV from his male partner, he will pass it on to his female partner and the chain of HIV transmission then becomes endless. This is a serious issue in Uganda and that is why we argue that protecting MSM from being infected and affected by HIV and AIDS means we are protecting the whole community.
To achieve this, we need to rethink our restrictive legislations against same sex relations and embrace a more broad based approach.
I thank you.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Obama says gay couples deserve same rights as all

NEW YORK – Treading carefully, President Barack Obama praised New York state lawmakers who were debating landmark legislation Thursday to legalize gay marriage, saying that's what democracy's all about. But as expected, the president stopped short of embracing same-sex marriage himself, instead asking gay and lesbian donors for patience.

"I believe that gay couples deserve the same legal rights as every other couple in this country," the president said at a Manhattan fundraiser, his first geared specifically to the gay community. Coincidentally, the long-planned event occurred just as lawmakers in Albany were debating legislation that would make New York the sixth and by far the largest state to legalize gay marriage.

That served to spotlight the president's own views on same-sex marriage, a sore point with gay supporters who've otherwise warmed to Obama. The president has said his views are "evolving," but for now he supports civil unions, not same-sex marriage.

Obama said progress will be slower than some people want, but he added that he was confident that there will be a day "when every single American, gay or straight or lesbian or bisexual or transgender, is free to live and love as they see fit.

"Traditionally marriage has been decided by the states and right now I understand there's a little debate going on here in New York," he said to laughter. New York's lawmakers, he said, are "doing exactly what democracies are supposed to do."
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The lawmakers ended their session late Thursday in Albany without voting on the bill.

As Obama spoke a handful of people shouted out "marriage!" And Obama said, "I heard you guys." He never directly mentioned gay marriage.

Obama said there were those who shouted at him at events about other causes of the gay community, such as the need for anti-hate crimes legislation and for the repeal of the "don't ask, don't tell" ban on openly gay military service, and both of those have since been achieved.

Obama also has won favor by instructing the Justice Department to stop defending in court a law defining marriage as between a man and a woman.

Obama told of receiving a letter last year from a teenager in a small town. He said the boy was a senior in high school who was gay and was afraid to come out. The boy wondered to the president why gays shouldn't be equal like everyone else.

"So, yes, we have more work to do," Obama said. "Yes, we have more progress to make. Yes, I expect continued impatience with me on occasion."

He said teenagers such as the one who wrote to him "remind me that there should be impatience when it comes to the fight for basic equality. We've made enormous advances just in these last two and half years. But there's still young people out there looking for us to do more."

In a direct appeal for votes, Obama said: "With your help, if you keep up the fight, if you will devote your time and your energies to this campaign one more time, I promise you we will write another chapter in that story. ... I'll be standing there, right there with you."

Overall the reaction Obama got was warm from the crowd of nearly 600 who paid up to $35,800 each to hear him speak at a midtown hotel. And only a small group of protesters showed up to demonstrate outside for marriage equality. It was a measure of how much the gay community has warmed to Obama since earlier in his administration when donors threatened to boycott Democratic fundraisers to pressure Obama on "don't ask, don't tell."

If Obama were to endorse gay marriage, it would give a jolt of enthusiasm to his liberal base and perhaps unlock additional fundraising dollars from the well-heeled gay community. It's not clear it would get him too many additional votes in 2012 though, because the Republican field's general opposition to gay rights gives activists no alternative to Obama.

At the same time, supporting gay marriage could alienate some religious voters that the politically cautious White House might still hope to win over for Obama's re-election campaign.

Obama has indicated support in the past for states allowing gay people to marry. As a presidential candidate, he went so far as to congratulate gay couples in California who married during the short period when gay marriage was legal in that state before voters shut it down.

The president also signed a questionnaire in 1996 as a candidate for Illinois state Senate saying he supported gay marriage, something the White House hasn't fully explained.

Even as the president deliberates, public sentiment is marching decisively in the direction of supporting gay marriage. Depending on the poll, people are now about evenly split or narrowly in favor.

"There's been a noticeable shift the last couple of years," said Carroll Doherty, associate director of the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press. In March, the center found that 45 percent of those surveyed favored gay marriage and 46 percent opposed it. That was the first time that the survey found an essentially even split instead of majority opposition.

It's something the president has noted, telling liberal bloggers in October that "it's pretty clear where the trend lines are going."

The question is when, how and if the president goes there too.