While Shaun White perfects his half-pipe routine, punk rock artists Maria Alekhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova sit in prison. As NBC welcomes Apolo Ohno to its winter coverage team, NGOs in Russia struggle to survive. And as the spotlight turns to the 2014 Olympics games in Sochi and as the International Olympic Committee is issuing assurances that gay visitors would be safe in Russia, the Russian government and authorities are instigating a campaign of homophobia that reveals an ugly truth about the country’s human rights record. The spotlight turns to Russia as the world prepares for the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, revealing an ugly truth.
The upcoming 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia has been controversial for a while, compliments of host country’s president Vladimir Putin.
His homophobic policies have lead to widespread boycott calls, but have not sparked official outrage in the former Soviet Union.
On the contrary. This week, Armenia’s state police posted online a legislative proposal to fine up to $4,000 for promoting “non-traditional sexual relationships” among minors. It swiftly took down the proposal from the website after some protest, citing lack of priority and shortcomings. The police credited “several dozen intellectuals” for prompting the legislation in the first place.
“For us, there were two hours of terror, but for the people there, it’s something that never ends, it’s daily. In this sense, we have to use what has happened to denounce nationally and internationally what is occurring in this region.”
-Orlane Vidal, a French volunteer abducted while working with Honduran activists in Nueva Esperanza
Less than a week ago, I posted about the killing of an indigenous community leader when Honduran troops opened fire on a peaceful march. I also reported a sad update on the case of a Honduran journalist who was abducted in June – Amnesty confirmed his mutilated body had been located.
Now, I have three more cases of attacks on human rights defenders to tell you about:
Since January 2009, the US State Department requires a comprehensive and holistic human rights agenda including pressuring for the recognition and protection of the rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community. In light of yesterday’s Supreme Court ruling regarding the unconstitutionality of DOMA, it was great to see President Obama raise the issue in Senegal yesterday. I hope he continues to push the issue as he moves on to South Africa and Tanzania later this week.
In four African countries, homosexuality is punishable by death. But being killed by your government is often the least of the concerns of the LGBT community. In 2011, Ugandan gay rights activist David Kato was murdered. That same year, Noxolo Nogwaza was raped, stabbed and beaten in South Africa-apparently based on her sexual orientation. Noxolo was a gay rights activist in her community. Her killer(s) have not been caught despite our pressure for a proper investigation of her murder. Currently, two men are in prison in Zambia facing criminal penalties, subjected to forcible anal examination by the government, on allegations of homosexuality.
For 44 years, Edie Windsor and Thea Spyer shared their lives together as a couple. After more than four decades together, they finally married in 2007 in Canada, a decision compelled, in part, by Thea’s advancing multiple sclerosis.
In 2009, Thea passed away. Despite their valid marriage and lifelong commitment, the federal government treated them as strangers. Edie was forced to pay hundreds and thousands of dollars in estate taxes on Thea’s property; taxes that a heterosexual couple would not have been required to pay. The reason? A discriminatory law ironically named the “Defense of Marriage Act” (DOMA).
Like so many human rights defenders that we’ve written about before, Edie refused to stay silent when her human rights were violated. Edie went to court.
By Suzanne Trimel, Amnesty USA Media Director
Denis Nzioka, a gay activist in Nairobi, was harassed constantly by neighbors who finally sent a letter demanding he leave his apartment because: “We know you are homosexual.”
Frank Mugisha in Uganda had his tires slashed and once was slapped across the face by a man who told everyone nearby: “He is a homosexual.” He recalls a neighbor coming up to him and saying: “Why are you still alive?”
“There is so much homophobia here,” said Mugisha. “I am so paranoid and do not sleep very well.”
Since President Putin’s election, Russian authorities have intensified their assault on basic freedoms and undermined rule of law. The assault takes many forms. New bills restrict the activities of non-governmental organizations, criminalize public actions “committed to insult the religious feelings of believers” and outlaw activism by LGBTI individuals and their supporters.
New controls over the media are being used to smear government critics and bolster the government’s policy line. Authorities use secret detention facilities and torture, especially in the North Caucuses region, to silence critics and deny them access to counsel. These measures are widespread and systematic.
This crackdown,should be a matter of grave concern to the United States. Moscow’s lack of respect for human rights speaks volumes about its reliability as a potential partner to the United States and Europe in addressing pressing international security concerns, from the conflict in Syria to the danger of nuclear proliferation.
Today, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) individuals and activists around the world will recognize the International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO). Exactly twenty-three years after the World Health Organization’s landmark decision to declassify ‘homosexuality’ as a mental disorder, LGBTI people and allies continue their work to ensure that the full spectrum of their human rights is respected and upheld.
Just last week, news out of the Russian Federation served as a tragic reminder of just how critical that work is.
It’s almost time to get out your boa, rainbow sunglasses, and camera, and download Amnesty International USA’s 2013 Pride Tool Kit for activists! Pride season will soon be upon us in June. Whether you prefer to celebrate at home with an informative documentary or by marching through the streets completely covered in body paint, it is an excellent opportunity to reflect on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) human rights. That’s the beauty of LGBT Pride Month. It is a time to celebrate who you are, ally or activist, homebody or exhibitionist.
Pride events are primarily a place where LGBT communities celebrate who they are and create positive visibility for a community that has suffered greatly under a cloak of invisibility. Some events feature over-the-top parade floats, drag costumes, dance, music and great festivities.
We often hear the egregious acts of violence perpetrated against women in South Africa. Yet the headlines often forget to mention the violence carried out against members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) community. Violence directed at individuals perceived to be LGBTI has steadily increased, yet there has been a consistent failure of police authorities to address these acts of targeted violence.
April 24, 2013 marks the two year anniversary of the brutal death of Noxolo Nogwaza. The 24-year-old was raped, repeatedly beaten and stabbed, apparently because of her sexual orientation. Two years after her death, no progress has been made into the investigation of her murder and her killer(s) remain at large.
To mark the two year anniversary, Amnesty International, together with Ekurhuleni Pride Organizing Committee (EPOC), a local community-based organization, are organizing a Day of Commemoration in honor of all LGBTI individuals murdered due to their sexual orientation. A short memorial service will be held and participants will be given the opportunity to write messages of hope/condolence which will remain at the site as a memorial.