A sampling of This Way Out arts and culture features to remind us that there were beautiful rest stops along the road that was 2019: Sebastian Hernandez’ Hypanthium, PJ Raval’s Call Her Ganda, Négar Djavadi’s Disoriental and country music star Ty Herndon!
Gabon outlaws same-gender sex, the “Nigerian 47″ re-affirm their innocence, Australia’s “religious rights” bill is still wrong, good news in Australia for an asylum-seeking Saudi gay couple, Finland elects a rainbow-raised woman P.M., Megan Rapinoe gets Sports Illustrated’s 2019 crown, and the gender-neutral “they” is Webster’s top word for 2019!`
Complete Program Summary and NewsWrap Transcript for the week of December 16, 2019
Dance, Doc, Story and Song!
Program #1,655 distributed 12/16/19
Hosted this week by Greg Gordon and produced with Lucia Chappelle
NewsWrap (full transcript below): The west central African nation of Gabon
Feature: Promo for next week’s Sydney-based WILLIAM BROUGHAM
A summary of some of the news in or affecting global LGBTQ communities for the week ending December 14, 2019 Written by Greg Gordon, edited by Lucia Chappelle,reported this week by Laura Dickinson-Turner and Wenzel Jonesproduced by Brian DeShazor
It’s a big step back in Gabon while much of the world has taken two steps forward on LGBTQ rights. The west central African nation’s new penal code was just revealed this week, although it passed in July. It includes up to 6 months in prison and fines equivalent to about 8500 U.S. dollars for “sexual relations between people of the same sex.” Even “sexual relations” between consenting adults in private are now criminal.
Davis Mac-Iyalla of the Ghana-based Interfaith Diversity Network of West Africa told Reuters that, “The corrupt police now use [the new law to] arrest people, and then people have to bribe their way out.”
Equality activists were hoping that the decriminalization of gay sex by India’s Supreme Court late last year would have a domino effect on other former colonies, especially in Asia and Africa. Botswana decriminalized same-gender sex in June, but a Kenyan court upheld its colonial gay sex law ban in May.
Forty-seven men arrested during a police raid at a hotel in the Nigerian capital of Lagos late last year were in court again on December 12th. They’re all pleading innocent to charges of “public show of same sex amorous relationships with each other in hidden places.” Their attorneys say it was simply a birthday party, but police claim that the men were attending a gay club’s secret “initiation.”
Xeenarh Mohammed of The Initiative for Equal Rights in Lagos told CNN that police detained a taxi driver delivering a birthday cake to the party. Another man who was trying to book a room at the hotel was also arrested. Mohammed said, “We are handling cases of people who were arrested because they had a certain hairstyle or dressed in a way perceived to be gay, being forced to pay bribes because they are threatened with 14 years in jail if they don’t pay up.” She said police had paraded the men on television after the raid, and that several of them became victims of homophobic attacks, were disowned by their families, lost business at shops they owned or were fired from their jobs. According to CNN, the case of the “Nigerian 47” has been postponed until February.
Human Rights Watch researcher Neela Ghoshal told Reuters that 33 of the 54 countries on the African continent still criminalize consensual adult same-gender sex. But she noted that six African countries have repealed those laws since 2012. Ghoshal said, “In general, across the continent, things are moving more in the right direction than in the wrong direction … I’m guessing you’ll see a lot of change in the next 10 years or so.”
A second draft of Australia’s “Religious Discrimination Bill” was unveiled on December 10th. Attorney-General Christian Porter said that the measure would allow healthcare professionals to refuse, in his words, “a procedure, not a person” based on their personal religious convictions. It would also allow religious charities, hospitals, and aged care providers to hire and fire people on religious grounds.
All sides criticized the government’s first draft in about 6,000 written submissions from religious, business, and LGBTQ advocacy groups. Prime Minister Scott Morrison claims that, “Australia is a country of respect and of tolerance.” Human rights groups protest that the new draft is still a “license to discriminate” under the guise of religious belief. Equality Australia’s Anna Brown told the Sydney Star Observer, “Australians who don’t hold religious views, or disagree with the religious views held by others, will have less protections under the law. … This Bill divides our communities, provides different standards for different people, and allows people with extreme views to define their own rules.” Veteran activist and JustEqual spokesperson Rodney Croome warns: “it opens the floodgate to any kind of prejudice and bigotry camouflaged as religious belief.”
Professional medical groups are not happy, either. Anthony Tassone of Victoria’s Pharmacy Guild of Australia branch told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, “[I]t may be a perceived solution looking for a problem … our members certainly haven’t been calling for it.” A joint statement from Dr. Chris Moy of the Australian Medical Association and Annie Butler of the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation also expressed reservations. They said, “[We are] very concerned that employers might have increased powers or rights to discriminate on faith based grounds.”
Mark Spencer of Christian Schools Australia told The Guardian that he liked the second draft. He thinks the government has “listened to the concerns of faith communities” and is “well on the way” to getting the bill right.
The Morrison government has promised to introduce the “Religious Discrimination Bill” in Parliament in early 2020. Public submissions will again be solicited until January 31st.
We can update our report about the gay Saudi Arabian couple being indefinitely detained in an Australian refugee center until their asylum requests are processed. The Australian Senate passed a resolution urging the expedition of the requests of the couple known as “Sultan and Nassar”. Queer rights groups have made the couple a national cause celebre.
The Sydney Star Observer now reports that “Nassar” was finally released on December 13th, after two months in detention. “Sultan” remains in detention, however, apparently due to a clerical error. His release is imminent, and he appears to be in good spirits. “Sultan” said, “If you are ever going to go to jail, then it is best that you go with your boyfriend … You’re a team, and it makes things much easier.”
“Sultan” was a Saudi Information Ministry official and liaison field producer working with journalists from abroad. There were rumors that he was under investigation for conspiring with foreigners to cast Saudi Arabia in a bad light. He denies that charge, but says that his relationship with “Nassar” may have become known to higher ups. When he and “Nassar” each received notices to report to the police station, they knew they had to flee.
The Observer says that the couple’s lawyer Alison Battisson has paid for a hotel room for “Nassar.” She’s been giving him a tour of Sydney to get him “accustomed to freedom.”
Finland’s new Prime Minister Sanna Marin is making history multiple times this week. At the age of 34, the Social Democrat becomes Finland’s youngest-ever Prime Minister, and the youngest head of state on the planet. She’ll form her new government with a coalition of 5 political parties – all of them led by women. And oh, by the way, Marin was raised by two working-class women in what she calls a “rainbow family.” She talks about feeling a sense of isolation in her youth because same-gender couples were not as accepted as they are now. But she says, “for me, people have always been equal. It’s not a matter of opinion. That’s the foundation of everything.”
The goals of Marin’s coalition government include increasing public spending on infrastructure and welfare, and honoring Finland’s promise to be carbon neutral by 2035.
Megan Rapinoe is Sports Illustrated’s 2019 Sportsperson of the Year, and graces the magazine’s cover this week. The sometimes defiantly out U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team co-captain is the fourth woman to grab that honor in the magazine’s 66-years. Rapinoe tweeted, “I couldn’t have done it without the fans. This award is for all of you.”
Long before her team won the FIFA World Cup in France earlier this year Rapinoe vowed that she would never visit the current president as winning U.S. athletes usually do. Not shy about wanting the man she calls “that maniac” out of office, the super star endorsed the presidential candidacy of Democratic Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren this week. Rapinoe says she’s focusing on the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, not on any political plans of her own.
Finally, the people at the venerable Miriam-Webster Dictionary have named the gender-neutral “they” their word of the year for 2019. Miriam-Webster joins the Oxford English Dictionary and Dictionary.com in recognizing “they” as a singular pronoun that may be used by non-binary people.
Miriam-Webster’s press release notes that, “English famously lacks a gender-neutral singular pronoun,” compared with many other languages, and that in reality, “’they’ has been used for this purpose for over 600 years.”
They cite the fact that searches for that word jumped 313 percent over the previous year. The American English-language dictionary noted that “quid pro quo” came in second. [Trump drop-in sound: “A lot of people were in on it … and they got caught.”] It also comes as no surprise that the word “impeach” also made the Dictionary’s top ten most looked up words in 2019.
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