Denise Ho has been on Beijing’s bad list since the lesbian Cantopop star came out in 2012, then the Hong Kong democracy advocate spoke at the UN Human Rights Council, and now her free press activism has led to her arrest.
Black feminist theorist bell hooks leaves behind the challenge “Why Choose to Love?” and Professor Beverly Guy-Sheftall remembers her prolific friend.
And in NewsWrap: Senegal legislature nixes tougher anti-queer laws, two tortured Tunisian gays seek sex crime repeal, U.K. expands "Turing's Law" pardon eligibility, Israel opens surrogacy services to queer couples, Taiwan court grants adoption rights to gay co-dad, Cuba proposes new pro-marriage equality Family Code, India’s major matchmaking site opens to LGBTQ hopefuls, and more international LGBTQ news!
All this on the January 10, 2022 edition of This Way Out!
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Complete Program Summary and NewsWrap Transcript
for the week of January 10, 2022
Denise Ho Jailed & Farewell, bell!
Program #1,763 distributed 01/10/22
Hosted this week by Lucia Chappelle and produced with Greg Gordon
NewsWrap (full transcript below): A parliamentary committee in Senegal rejects a proposal to make the West African nation’s anti-queer laws even worse … two men who served a year in prison in Tunisia for consensual adult gay sex are challenging the North African country’s laws against it … the U.K. expands criteria under which men convicted under since-repealed laws against consensual adult gay sex can be pardoned and have their criminal records expunged … Israel’s government expands the country’s surrogacy services to include LGBTQ people and single men … a court in Taiwan becomes the first to allow a gay man to adopt his husband’s child … Cuba’s National Assembly unanimously approves a revised Family Code that includes marriage equality, sending the new Code to a public consultation period, hoped-for support in a voter referendum, and final lawmaker approval … a popular online matchmaking business in India expands its services to include love-seeking LGBTQ people even as civil marriage equality in the populous South Asian nation remains elusive (written by GREG GORDON, edited by LUCIA CHAPPELLE, reported this week by JOHN DYER V and SARAH MONTAGUE, produced by BRIAN DeSHAZOR).
Feature: Lesbian Cantopop star Denise Ho was arrested by Hong Kong’s national security police on December 29th. Ho was born and is based in the semi-autonomous region now, but she spent her formative years and holds citizenship in Canada. Some of what she learned there was the value of a free press. Ho is a former board member of Stand News, one of the region’s last surviving independent news outlets. She was taken from her home during a massive raid on the website’s office, and was detained along with five of its journalists for allegedly “conspiring to publish seditious material.” Ho really became a thorn in Beijing’s side when she spoke to the U.N. Human Rights Council in July 2019 (with additional Ho comments to the CBC and AP, and intro/outro music from Ho’s New York City concert in October 2019).
Feature: Black feminist theorist bell hooks died on December 15th at the age of 69. hooks taught at Stanford, Yale and Oberlin College, and authored some 40 books. It’s hard to describe what bell hooks brought to the table. Her close friend Professor Beverly Guy-Sheftall made the effort on Democracy Now! hooks addressed the question Why Choose to Love? at a Los Angeles Public Library-sponsored discussion in 1999 (with intro/outro music by NONA HENDRIX).
A summary of some of the news in or affecting global LGBTQ communities
for the three weeks ending January 8, 2022
Written by Greg Gordon, edited by Lucia Chappelle,
reported this week by John Dyer V and Sarah Montague,
produced by Brian DeShazor
Queer people in Senegal are “exhaling” now that a bill to increase penalties for same-gender sex has been rejected by lawmakers. The legislation would have even outlawed advocacy for LGBTQ rights. In fact, just being queer would have become a crime.
Convictions for private consensual adult same-gender sex in the West African nation are already punished by up to five years in prison and fines equivalent to thousands of U.S. dollars.
The Bureau of the National Assembly decides whether or not a proposed law should be considered by the full unicameral legislature. Its members announced on January 4th that “the existing legislation is sufficiently clear and the resultant penalties are severe.”
Human Rights Watch has been just one global advocacy group to report that arrests and prosecutions for so-called “acts against nature” in Senegal have risen sharply during the past decade. Researcher Dipika Nath noted, “People live in constant fear of losing their jobs, their families, their livelihoods, their freedom, and their very lives because they are seen as different.”
Lawmakers in neighboring Ghana are still considering their version of amplified anti-queer legislation.
The North African nation of Tunisia also punishes same-gender sex. Article 230 is a remnant of French colonial rule that punishes consensual adult gay or lesbian sex acts with up to three years in prison. Two men convicted under the statute went to the nation’s top court to challenge it in mid-December. Attorney Hassina Darraji called the convictions they are asking the court to overturn “a cruel sentence that violates international standards.” She charged that the men were found guilty because they refused to undergo anal exams to determine if they had engaged in homosexual acts. Such exams have been medically debunked, and are defined by some human rights groups as torture.
The two men spent more than year in prison after their July 2020 convictions. Activists are applauding the courage it took to seek to have them overturned, even after they were released. Badr Baabou of the LGBTQ rights group Damj points out that they’ve paid a price, since they now have “no work and nowhere to live.”
His group maintains that more than 2,600 people have been jailed under Tunisia’s Article 230 since 2008, and that some 150 people convicted of the “crime” are behind bars today.
The U.K. government made 2022 a truly New Year for men convicted under the old laws criminalizing gay sex. Until now, only men convicted of nine specific civil statutes were eligible for pardons. The criteria now include any repealed or abolished civilian or military offense imposed on someone purely for, or due to, consensual homosexual activity.
The new plan expands the eligibility for pardons under Turing’s Law, enacted in 2017. It was named for World War II Nazi code-breaking hero Alan Turing. The father of the modern-day computer was convicted under laws against “buggery” and “gross indecency” in 1952, and committed suicide a few years after choosing chemical castration over a prison term.
Turing’s Law granted pardons to surviving and deceased convicts, but did not cover related laws, such as solicitation of homosexual acts. Activity that’s still illegal today is not included, and anyone else involved must have been at least 16 years of age.
Pardoned men can also have their criminal records expunged.
Israel begins the New Year with the opening of surrogacy services to LGBTQ people and single men. Out and proud Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz announced the extension of the services already available to heterosexual women. It came in response to a July 2021 Israeli Supreme Court ruling ordering the government to allow queer couples and single men to have a child via surrogacy. The high court gave the government six months to implement its decision.
Same-gender couples in Israel have more obstacles to overcome in trying to form families than heterosexual couples. There is no civil marriage. All marriages must be conducted by religious authorities, and no mainstream faith in Israel recognizes lesbian and gay couples. Until now, queer couples and single men had to hire expensive surrogates outside the country if they wanted to have a child that way.
The new surrogacy policy takes effect on January 11th.
A family court in Taiwan has approved a gay man’s adoption of his husband’s child for the first time.
One of the men adopted the baby girl before the couple married. On December 25th, a court in the southern city of Kaohsiung allowed the spouse to become the legal guardian of his husband’s adopted daughter. The ruling was only made public late this week.
Activists are hailing the decision, but sobered by the fact that it sets no legal precedent. They’re calling on the government of the only Asian nation to open civil marriage to same-gender couples to give those couples the same adoption rights as heterosexuals. Jennifer Lu of the Taiwan Equality Campaign says that her group has heard from more than 500 queer families seeking to adopt a partner’s children.
Queer activists in Cuba are hoping that the second time will be the charm in their efforts to secure marriage equality.
The National Assembly unanimously approved a revised Family Code on December 21st that specifically defines civil marriage as “the union of two people with legal aptitude, who voluntarily agree to enter into it in order to build a life together based on affection and love.” Equality advocates are applauding additional language that protects “all expressions of family diversity and each person’s right to build a family in coherence with the Constitution and its principles of equity, non-discrimination and human dignity.”
The proposed new Family Code now enters a period of public consultation. Then there’s another vote in parliament, followed by voter approval in a public referendum, and final formal approval in the Assembly. Activists are hoping for a successful conclusion sometime this year.
Cuban lawmakers included marriage equality in a new Constitution in 2018. The politically powerful Roman Catholic Church of Cuba and other rightwing forces got that provision pulled before the voter referendum, which subsequently approved the new Constitution.
It comes as no surprise that the Church continues to call on its followers to voice their support “for the marriage of men and women.”
Finally, one of India’s most popular matchmaking websites is opening its services to marriage-seeking LGBTQ people. Shaadi.com founder and CEO Anupam Mittal told Business Insider in late December, “We see ourselves as a platform for companionship and matchmaking. … That could mean for different markets, different regions, different countries, different sexes.”
Mittal stressed that his company serves people interested in finding a compatible companion, not just casual dating. He said, “That’s not a business we are in or we want to be in.”
The announcement comes four years after India’s Supreme Court decriminalized same-gender sex. However, queer couples’ access to civil marriage is not as easy as accessing love online. There are six active lawsuits in Indian courts filed by couples demanding the right to wed.
Politically conservative opponents have condemned the Shaadi.com announcement as implicit support for marriage equality, while some LGBTQ activists think it’s too implicit. They say that it would mean a lot more if the company not only sold its business services to queer couples, but also vocally supported civil marriage equality.
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