To mark the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, Human Rights Watch (HRW) has released its annual LGBT rights "Hall of Shame," highlighting those who are "undermining human rights by actively promoting homophobic policies." On the list this year are the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ); President Yahya Jammeh of Gambia; Vadym Kolesnichenko, a member of Ukraine's parliament; and the Ukrainian political party Svoboda. In a statement, the LGBT Rights director at Human Rights Watch, Graeme Reid, said that while "there have been significant strides in many parts of the world toward equality for LGBT people, including in Uruguay, New Zealand, and France ... Homophobia and transphobia are still very much alive and pose a daily threat to the basic human rights of LGBT people."
The four candidates were "selected for endangering the lives and dignity of LGBT people in 2013" and highlight the fact that despite the significant progress that has been made towards recognising LGBT rights over the past year, there is still a lot of work to be done.
The ACLJ is a law firm founded in 1990 by attorney and evangelical minister Pat Robertson (you might have heard of him before) and headed by Jay Sekulow, its chief counsel (also a former adviser to Mitt Romney). Seemingly not content with campaigning against LGBT equality and reproductive rights in the U.S., the ACLJ has also been trying to spread its message of discrimination and bigotry to other parts of the world through its various offshoot organisations, including in Brazil, Kenya, and Zimbabwe.
According to HRW, the East African Centre for Law and Justice (EACLJ) "lobbied against Kenya’s progressive new constitution in 2010 solely on the basis that the constitution’s anti-discrimination clause could eventually be used to advance LGBT equality and that it allows for abortion when the mother’s health is at stake." Fortunately, it was unsuccessful. The director of the organization, however, previously said that the EACLJ plans to go to court over these two issues and also "carry out further civic education to warn people of the dangers of homosexuality and abortion in Kenya."
African Centre for Law and Justice (ACLJ) pursued a similar tactic in Zimbabwe, proposing constitutional language, along with another Christian group, that said it is "murder to terminate a pregnancy" and that same sex marriage is illegal and homosexual relations will "remain a criminal activity."
President Jammeh's latest homophobic outburst took place at the opening of the Gambian Parliament in Banjul in March this year, where he said that there would be "no mercy" for anyone convicted of homosexuality and that:
"Homosexuality is anti-god, anti-human, and anti-civilization. Homosexuals are not welcome in the Gambia. If we catch you, you will regret why you are born. I have buffalos from South Africa and Brazil and they never date each other. We are ready to eat grass but we will not compromise on this. Allowing homosexuality means allowing satanic rights. We will not allow gays here."
And it was not the first time he has made such vitriolic remarks. HRW also notes that because "Gambia is the host country of the African Commission on Human and People's Rights, its laws pose a threat to LGBT rights defenders throughout Africa who regularly conduct advocacy in Banjul."
According to HRW, Kolesnichenko, a member of the Party of Regions which won last year's election, currently has two bills before the Ukrainian parliament that would discriminate against LGBT people:
"The first bill would prohibit the dissemination of positive information about homosexuality, including through such activities as rallies, parades, demonstrations, discussions, or special courses. The second bill provides for similar prohibitions on the publication and distribution of written or recorded products that present homosexuality in a positive light. Violators of the laws would face up to six and five years in prison, respectively."
Svoboda, which ironically translate as "freedom," is a radical nationalist party and currently one of the five biggest parties in the country. Following elections last year, Svoboda secured seats in parliament for the first time ever, winning 10 times more votes than it had previously ever won. Part of its platform during its election campaign included a pledge to "introduce criminal responsibility for propaganda of drug use and sexual perversions."
According to HRW, the:
"... party repeatedly speaks out against LGBT people’s rights and has announced its support for homophobic bills. On May 14 Iryna Farion, a Svoboda member of parliament, told media, referring to LGBT people: 'They should be cured. I do not make comments about sick people. I don't understand what you are asking me about. They need to be cured.' In July and December 2012, Svoboda party members were involved in attacking a peaceful protest against homophobic laws."
Clearly there is a lot of work still to be done to continue to advance LGBT rights around the world, including here in America too.
Are there any other groups or individuals that you think should have made this list? Let me know in the comments below.