As the World Celebrates IDAHO, Homophobia in Russia is on the Rise

Russian LGBTI activists. The LGBT community faces increasingly repressive legislation in Russia (Photo Credit: Charles Meacham/Demotix).

Russian LGBTI activists. The LGBT community faces increasingly repressive legislation in Russia (Photo Credit: Charles Meacham/Demotix).

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.

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Get Ready to Celebrate LGBT Pride Month!

amnesty_activistsBy Emily McGranachan, Member of Amnesty International USA’s LGBT Human Rights Coordinating Group

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.

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Hope for Victim of Cameroon's Draconian Anti-Gay Law?

Jean-Claude Roger Mbede

Jean-Claude Roger Mbede

After all the solidarity actions and appeals you sent on behalf of Jean-Claude Roger Mbede and others imprisoned in Cameroon under the discriminatory Section 347a of the penal code, which criminalizes homosexuality, Jean-Claude Roger Mbede and other men serving similar sentences in the same prison sent us a letter saying:

“…your support represents hope, for LGBT people in Cameroon in general, and for us in prison in particular.

The hope to one day leave this prison that we’ve been thrown in, but also the hope that one day LGBT people will be able to walk fully free in Cameroon, holding their heads high, without any humiliation.”

Since we last asked you to take action on his case, we’ve learned that Jean-Claude’s next appeal hearing, which has been pushed back several times over the last few months, is now planned for April 16th. Unfortunately, his request for provisional release (while awaiting appeal) was rejected on March 19th by the Court of Appeal.

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Cameroon: Stop Discriminating Against LGBT People

Jean-Claude Roger Mbede

Jean-Claude Roger Mbede sentenced to 3 years in prison for “homosexuality.”

Back in December, we told you about several countries where LGBT people are at risk, and Cameroon was one of the countries we listed, and we highlighted the case of Jean-Claude Roger Mbede, sentenced to three years in prison on charges of “homosexuality” under Section 347a of Cameroon’s penal code.

The situation in Cameroon continues to be dangerous for LGBT people, or those perceived as such. Since Amnesty began working on Jean-Claude’s case, at least two more men have been sentenced to prison terms for “homosexual acts” in Cameroon. We can’t let this discrimination continue.

Jean-Claude is scheduled to have an appeal hearing on Monday, March 5th, and we’re taking action—delivering petitions and reminding the president about all the appeals he’s already received—to make sure he hears these three things loud and clear:
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Clinton to United Nations: "Gay Rights Are Human Rights"

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton addresses the assembly at the United Nations in Geneva on December 6, 2011. ©J. SCOTT APPLEWHITE/AFP/Getty Images

The fight for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) human rights took not one but two critical steps forward this week with President Obama’s release of a Presidential Directive on LGBT rights followed closely by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s international human rights day speech at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland.

As we’ve pointed out, in too many countries being gay, or being suspected of being gay, can get you thrown into jail, tortured, raped or killed.  From the so-called corrective rape of lesbians to proposed legislation to institute the death penalty for homosexuality, LGBT people around the world face the daily threat of violence simply for who they are.

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7 Discriminatory (or Deadly) Countries for LGBT People

A quick glance at Wikipedia or this ILGA report is enough to tell you that there are a LOT of countries where it’s dangerous or deadly to be (or even to be perceived as) lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT).

There are still more than 80 countries with sodomy laws, and punishment can include flogging, imprisonment, and in about a dozen jurisdictions, the death penalty. Those suspected of being LGBT are also routinely the victims of harassment, discrimination and violence. Many of those who speak up for LGBT rights – regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity – are themselves persecuted with impunity.

Here are 7 countries Amnesty International has recently had particular concerns about:

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Take Pride in the Latest UN Resolution

Amnesty International activists take part in Gay Pride in Paris, 28 June 2008.

This past Friday, June 17th, was a remarkable day for the advancement of international lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights.

The United Nations Human Rights Council adopted the first ever UN resolution on the human rights of LGBT persons.

All people, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, enjoy the full range of human rights, without exception. But all too often across the globe LGBT people are targets of discrimination and horrific acts of violence.

Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity continually leads to abuse in the form of violence, imprisonment, torture, or even execution. These methods of persecution, which include criminalization in many places, violate the human rights of LGBT people.

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Human Rights Don't Discriminate: Join Us For Pride Month

Amnesty International activists take part in Gay Pride in Paris

Join us in celebrating Pride Month this June by standing up for LGBT rights!

Pride Month is the annual commemoration of the 1969 Stonewall Riots where courageous members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community stood up to police brutality and discrimination at the Stonewall Inn in New York City. This resistance galvanized the LGBT community and gave birth to the modern LGBT rights movement.

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Relief Tempered By Sadness: The World Is Still A Dangerous Place To Be LGBT

© Getty Images

It’s been a week of incredible ups and downs for LGBT people around the world. We hardly had time to feel joy for the legalization of same-sex civil unions in Brazil, when we learned that the Ugandan parliament was getting ready to vote on a law that would have outlawed homosexuality and imposed the death penalty for some homosexual acts.

Amnesty International and many others called on the Ugandan parliament to reject the bill, and we all felt great relief today when the parliament dissolved without debating or voting on the bill. It’s entirely possible that the bill could be reintroduced when new members of parliament are sworn in next week, but at least it wasn’t passed today, as had been feared.

But the feeling of relief is mixed with sadness, because LGBT people continue to be killed because of who they are in many countries, regardless of what the laws say. On May 4th, Quetzalcoatl Leija Herrera, an outspoken advocate of LGBT rights in Mexico, was attacked and killed when he was walking home in the evening, in what appears to have been a homophobic attack. Police are investigating, but as so often happens in these kinds of cases, their inquiries are strangely focused almost exclusively on Herrera’s friends in the LGBT community.

This isn’t the first instance of police being less than sympathetic toward LGBT people that Amnesty International has documented: in 2009 we issued an Urgent Action on three transgender women in Honduras, two of whom were killed, and one of whom was beaten by police.

So while it’s great that we can celebrate progress like the legalization of same-sex unions in Brazil, it’s clear there’s a long way to go, and a lot more action needed, before the world will truly be a safe place to be LGBT.