Up and coming under-25 LGBTQ singer-songwriters serenade the world in a whirlwind The Way Out Music Focus tour around the globe!
A proud dance performance piece steps over social stereotypes in Hypanthium)!
A Rainbow Minute tells the story of the children’s book that frightened homophobic adults!
New wave of torture and humiliation targets gays in Chechnya, Sultan’s promise to soften Brunei Sharia seen with skepticism, Ankara students busted for “attempted Pride,” Cuba cancels Conga Against Homophobia — but activists defy the ban, and more international LGBTQ news!
Complete Program Summary and NewsWrap Transcript for the week of May 13, 2019
Harmony & Hypanthium!
Program #1,624 distributed 05/13/19
Hosted this week by Lucia Chappelle and produced with Greg Gordon
NewsWrap (full transcript below): The purge of LGBTQ people resumes in
A summary of some of the news in or affecting global LGBTQ communities for the week ending May 11, 2019 Written by Greg Gordon and Lucia Chappelle,produced with Brian DeShazor,reported this week by Michael LeBeau and Wenzel Jones
Human Rights Watch reported this week that in the mostly Muslim Russian region of Chechnya, gay men are still being illegally detained, humiliated, tortured, and in some cases outed to their family members. The global rights group says that they spoke with four men who had been arrested in the Chechen capital city of Grozny between December 2018 and February 2019, and held for from three to 20 days. They reported being boot-kicked by police and beaten with sticks and hollow pipes. Three of the four said they’d been tortured with electric shocks to get them to reveal other gay men in their social circles. Police confiscated the cell phones of each detainee to further that purpose. One man said that policemen had raped him with a stick. Another also told Human Rights Watch that the police outed him to his family when he was finally released – and that can have deadly consequences in a conservative Muslim society where an “honor killing” might be in store for a relative who is considered to have shamed the family. In some cases, police demand large sums of money as “ransom” for a relative’s release.
The purge of LGBTQ people in Chechnya was first reported two years ago. Despite accounts of a continuing crackdown, both the Chechen and Russian governments claim to have investigated the charges and found them baseless. At least 40 people were reportedly rounded up earlier this year in Grozny, where two detainees died while being tortured.
The Russian LGBT Network now says that at least 25 Chechen men perceived to be gay were detained between December of last year and April of this year.
A spokesman for Chechen dictator Ramzan Kadyrov described the reports of a renewed crackdown earlier this year as “an absolute lie.” Vladimir Putin has consistently insisted that a “thorough” investigation by Russian authorities found the reported detentions to be “fabrications.”
A statement by Human Rights Watch charged that, “There wasn’t anything remotely resembling an effective investigation into the anti-gay purge of 2017 … [and] impunity for [those actions] has sanctioned a new wave of torture and humiliation in Chechnya.” The statement called on Russia’s international partners to continue to press Putin to put an end to the purge. It named the European Union and its member states, ¥, and the United States as countries with the weight to pressure Putin to truly investigate the accounts of torture, and to hold those responsible accountable.
In an attempt to stem worldwide criticism for introducing harsh Islamic law in Brunei, Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah claimed in a televised speech on May 5th that he would extend a moratorium on all capital punishment. The leader of the small Southeast Asian country also promised to ratify the United Nations Convention Against Torture.
The move follows the announcement in early April that the Sultan had decided to fully impose Sharia and the subsequent global boycott of all things Brunei, led by George Clooney, Elton John, Ellen DeGeneres, and other high-profile celebrities. Since they publicized the planned criminal punishments like amputation, and death by stoning for consensual adult gay sex, the Sultan’s luxury hotel properties around the world and the Sultan-owned Brunei Airlines have taken a hit. A number of large multi-nationals, including Deutsche Bank, JP Morgan/Chase, Citibank, and Richard Branson’s Virgin group of companies, are refusing to do business with Brunei, as are some major travel companies and the advertising arm of London’s transport network.
A gay man from Brunei who’s seeking asylum in Canada told Gay Star News that the Sultan’s announced moratorium “changes nothing.” He said it was not a decree and could easily be reversed by the Sultan or his successor. “I do not think he has had a change of heart,” the refugee said. “The Sultan may have less money than we think … he is really feeling [the boycott].”
Several human rights groups remain skeptical of the Sultan’s motives, and are urging that the boycott continue. A local Brunei rights group warned in a statement that the Sultan’s announcement “changes very little … the fact that these laws are not being repealed remains a concern.”
Also pointing out that “the law is still in place,” George Clooney is one of a number of boycotters who are calling on others to keep the pressure on the Sultan. He said in a May 7th statement that the backlash to the laws also sends “a very crucial message to [other Muslim-majority] countries like Indonesia and Malaysia that there is a cost for enacting [similar] laws.”
Amnesty International is reporting that some 25 students were arrested on May 10th in Turkey for attempting to hold a Pride march at Middle East Technical University in Ankara. Police used pepper spray, plastic bullets and tear gas to disperse the crowd. The global human rights group said in a statement that, “reports of excessive use of force by the police must be urgently investigated.”
Even though a Turkish court lifted bans on Pride marches in the country in late April, the administrators at the university refused to issue a permit for the student-led demonstration. The participants knew they were violating the school ban. An Amnesty International statement noted that, “For the last eight years students at this university have marched through their campus to celebrate Pride and demand equality and dignity for LGBTI people. … the university should be supporting and protecting such marches and challenging homophobia and transphobia.” Students held their traditional march last year despite a similar ban, but the university took no action in the face of strong protests against the ban.
The Amnesty International statement condemned the violent actions of the police this year, and called for the immediate and unconditional release of all the detainees.
Conservative Christian forces are stepping up their pressure on the Cuban government to slow advances being made on LGBTQ rights. The government backed down last year after suggestions of adding marriage equality to a new constitution prompted loud protests from religious groups.
Now a colorful and festive 12-year tradition has ended. The government cancelled the annual “Conga Against Homophobia” scheduled for May 6th in Havana citing “new tensions in the international and regional context.” Leading Cuban playwright and activist Norge Espinosa Mendoza joined many others to wonder what the cryptic statement actually meant. Mendoza said the cancellation was “a new step backwards. … “The enemies of a more diverse and progressive Cuba will be happier now.”
Reuters reported that some people believe that the event was banned because the government “didn’t want to risk a public forum for criticism amid rising tensions with the Trump administration.” The report said that the government deferred the issue of marriage equality to a pending update of the Family Code. That update is “to be decided on by referendum in the next two years.”
One of the “Conga” organizers, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, told el Nuevo Herald that the “true motive” for the cancellation was “to avoid confrontations with Christian groups.”
Queer families made news in two countries this week. Mexico’s Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation ruled for a married lesbian couple’s right to both be registered on their son’s birth certificate. According to a May 8th online report by Melenio, authorities had told the couple that only the biological mother could register the baby as her son, and that the other woman could do so only through adoption. The Court said that both women should be recognized as mothers of the child. It was the first such ruling in Mexico.
That’s not how it worked out in Italy. The highest appeals court there ruled on May 8th that a gay couple could not register as the co-parents of their two children. The couple’s children were born in Canada through a surrogate, and both men are named as the fathers on the Canadian birth certificate. Back home the court ruled that only the biological father can be registered in Italy as the legal parent, and that the other man will have to apply to adopt them.
Surrogacy is illegal in Italy, and one of the gay couple’s lawyers said that the “silver lining” in the setback is that the ruling was more concerned with surrogacy than the sexual orientation of the parents. Attorney Alexander Schuster also told reporters that the family had a “high probability of success” if they take their case to the European Court of Human Rights.
And finally, operators of the Dingle Oceanworld Aquarium in Kerry, Ireland have announced a rarity. Eight of the 14 Gentoo penguins they care for have same-gender mates. There are two lesbian couples and two male couples. Penguins of the same gender nesting and even raising chicks is nothing new. The popular and much-attacked children’s book And Tango Makes Three tells the true story of male penguins Roy and Silo. That New York Central Park Zoo couple mated and raised an unwanted egg into a healthy chick together. Queer couples outnumbering heterosexual penguins at the Kerry zoo is somewhat unique, however.
Louise Overy, Oceanworld’s animal manager, told the Irish Mirror that lesbian penguins will mate with the males and then raise the chicks with their female partner. She said that in penguin mating rituals, “They woo each other with stones, which the other partner uses to build a nest. … It’s far cheaper than diamond rings and flowers.”
UPDATE from CUBA!
In late-breaking news from Havana, there’s an update on Cuba’s cancelled “Conga Against Homophobia.” Some 100 activists defied the government’s ban on the annual LGBTQ event and marched for about eight blocks before they were stopped by security officials. Several arrests were made when some marchers refused to disperse. The unofficial march was promoted through social media. Some organizers reported that they received messages from the government warning them not to attend, while police prevented others from leaving home. The real reason for the government’s ban on the 12-year old event remains unclear. [reported by LUCIA CHAPPELLE]
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