Political homophobia escalates | Human Rights Watch

During Pride Month in June, LGBT rights again became a flashpoint in Europe, where the rights of LGBT people became a central issue, deployed for political ends. This latent conflict reaches its climax between Hungary and Poland and the EU.

What is happening in Europe raises questions about the limits of EU membership for states that flout basic standards. But it also has a global resonance, as the latest manifestation of a familiar trope, the attempt to relegate LGBT people to the realm of religion, morality and culture, not human rights.

This quarrel was played out with great animosity at the UN in 2014, around the establishment of a mandate based on sexual orientation and gender identity. States opposed to the mandate, including Egypt on behalf of the OIC, and Botswana on behalf of the African Group, and Russia, opposed the establishment of the mandate, as the Russian Federation said: “The notion of sexual orientation and gender identity did not exist in international law.

During its most recent universal periodic review, the United Nations human rights monitoring system, Egypt refused to recognize the terms “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” despite arrests, l routine imprisonment and torture of LGBT people.

Since 2016, Indonesian authorities have used an anti-pornography law to arrest gay men in private locations, while a Malaysian government task force in June proposed Sharia amendments to curb “fashion promotion. LGBT life ”on social networks. Honduras institutionalized discrimination, passing a constitutional amendment in January that entrenched severe restrictions on reproductive rights and the ban on same-sex marriage.

In Ghana, 21 people were arrested in May for attending a legal assistance workshop on documenting human rights violations against LGBT people. Police justified the arrest on the grounds that the training session promoted homosexuality and that the rally was an illegal assembly. And a recently proposed “sexual rights” and “family values” bill is so onerous it boggles the mind.

LGBT organizations continue to face obstacles to registration, such as Eswatini Sexual and Gender Minorities (ESGM), who appealed their case to the High Court in October 2020, after the Registrar of Societies of Eswatini denied their application for registration on the grounds that “the purposes of ESGM were illegal because same-sex sexual acts are illegal in the country.

In the Middle East, the smothering of the Covid-19 pandemic has once again revealed how LGBT people, who already face healthcare discrimination and economic marginalization, are being scapegoated in times of crisis. In North Africa, Tunisia has stepped up its crackdown on LGBT organization and increased persecution of LGBT people during the pandemic, arresting LGBT activists and assaulting them during protests. Algeria justified its wrongful conviction of 44 LGBT people at a private party because they had violated the quarantine measures linked to Covid-19. Meanwhile, gay and bisexual men “exposed” on gay dating apps in Morocco had nowhere to go after being evicted from their homes in a nationwide lockdown.

The showdown in Europe hangs over core EU values, with LGBT rights and equality at the forefront. LGBT rights have long been a symbolic shorthand for the political difference between areas of Russian and European influence. A marker of this has been the proliferation of copiers bills on “gay propaganda” in a number of countries in the region that followed Russia’s draft, adopted in 2013, shortly before the Sochi Olympics.

LGBT rights as a divisive issue within the EU, putting Poland and Hungary on a collision course with the bloc, is a more recent development, resulting from the election of right-wing nationalist governments in these countries. country. The stakes are high, not only for the LGBT people directly affected, but also for fundamental human rights and the future of the EU.

It is no coincidence that Poland’s far-right nationalist government has embarked on a frontal attack on an independent judiciary and has put civil society and the free press under considerable pressure. On the eve of the 2020 presidential elections, the incumbent president of the ruling Law and Justice party (Prawo i Sprawiedliwość, PiS), Andzrej Duda, approved the symbolic “Family Charter”. The charter opposed same-sex marriage and adoption rights as well as comprehensive sex education in schools, written in the language of protecting the “traditional family”.

Viktor Orbán, the autocratic and populist Hungarian Prime Minister, has attacked academic institutions, restricted independent media and regularly vilified vulnerable groups – first migrants, then LGBT people – in the name of protecting Hungary from influences and perceived foreign threats. Unsurprisingly, the latest salvo, a law that equates pedophilia with homosexuality and prohibits “portraying or promoting homosexuality” or gender variance in the presence of children, precedes next year’s elections.

An August government decree implementing the anti-LGBT law, which is expected to come into effect in September, prohibits stores from displaying anything that can be associated with promoting or portraying homosexuality, changing sex or gender identity. Stores within 200 meters of churches or schools cannot sell such items at all. Think of the rainbow flags, for example.

Meanwhile, in July, in the Georgian capital, Tbilisi, a March for Dignity that was part of the pride celebrations was called off after far-right protesters violently attacked participants and journalists and ransacked offices. organizers, in the midst of inadequate police protection. A cameraman who was seriously injured during the violence of the homophobic crowd, was found dead days later. “We cannot go out into the streets full of oppressors backed by the government, patriarchy and pro-Russian forces, and risk people’s lives,” the organizers said in a statement. declaration.

“LGBT people are not people, it’s an ideology” Polish President Duda said in June 2020 at an election campaign rally. His statement that dehumanizes LGBT people and relegates them to a threatening ideology has gained traction in recent years because political leaders keep repeating it. The “anti-gender movement” has successfully mobilized this rhetoric in Europe, Latin America and Africa, to push back progress on women’s rights, LGBT inclusion, and in particular the notion of gender self-determination for trans people. In 2016, Pope Francis, despite his conciliatory remarks towards homosexuals and transgender people, called the discussion of gender diversity in schools “ideological colonization”.

This goes to the heart of why LGBT rights are seen as so threatening and why they become such a powerful symbol in a rhetorical clash between “traditional values” and “human rights”. LGBT rights are projected as a marker of modernity, foreign influence and an attack on family and tradition. When Duda and his ilk present “LGBT” as an ideology, not as a people, it is effective because the ideologies seem unsettling, threatening, while people arouse sympathy.

It is not in their political interest for the general public to recognize that “LGBT people” is people. People like AM have denied access to her children through Russian courts just because she is trans. People like Nur Sajat, persecuted by Malaysian religious authorities for expressing her gender identity. People like Agnes, a lesbian from Ghana, who said when her family found out she was dating LGBT people, they kicked her out of the house with a machete. In Spain, thousands of people took to the streets to protest the murder of Samuel Luiz, a gay man beaten to death outside a gay club in which the police are investigating as a possible hate crime.

Attacking LGBT rights has political value, but LGBT people pay the brunt.

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