Museveni Plays Politics with Human Rights

On Friday, Uganda’s Constitutional Court struck down the country’s Anti-Homosexuality Act (AHA) on procedural grounds, ruling that it was invalid because Parliament lacked a quorum when it passed the legislation on December 20, 2013. (In Uganda’s Parliament, a quorum requires that at least one third of members are present when a vote is held.) Thanks to this decision, LGBTI Ugandans no longer face the risk of life imprisonment, and advocacy for LGBTI rights is no longer criminalized. While this ruling is a significant victory for Uganda’s LGBTI community, the road forward remains rocky and steep. And the timing of the decision raises concerns that President Museveni is once again playing politics with human rights.

It’s ironic that the court struck down the law based on an issue that President Museveni himself raised in his letter to Ugandan Speaker Rebecca Kadaga on December 28, 2013—the very letter that led many people to the incorrect conclusion that Museveni would not sign the bill into law. Despite his criticism of the Speaker, succession struggles in his own party compelled Museveni to sign the bill—making him the hero of Uganda’s highly influential anti-gay pastors.

With the U.S. Africa Leaders Summit in D.C happening this week (an event that Museveni is expected to attend, despite significant outcry from international human rights advocates), the timing of the court’s ruling should be viewed with suspicion. Some analysts claim that Museveni forced the courts to rush this ruling in time for his U.S. trip.

Quite probably, Friday’s ruling is Museveni’s attempt to silence the international outrage that has been directed against him and his country since he signed the AHA into law in February. Beyond that, it is an attempt to clear his path to yet another term as president. (He has already been in power for 28 years.) Since Uganda’s opposition candidates have condemned the law, this ruling works to the advantage of Museveni at home as well as internationally, allowing embargoed aid from the World Bank, the U.S., and other Western nations (approximately $118 million in total) to resume its flow into the country’s coffers.

The Court did not consider substantive objections to the legislation made by those challenging its constitutionality, ruling only on the technical issue of the quorum. That is, the ruling establishes no precedent with respect to human rights. The legislation could potentially be reintroduced. However, Museveni understands the cost of this law to his own image abroad and it seems unlikely he would welcome a re-tabling of the measure anytime soon. Regardless, sodomy laws imposed on Uganda during British colonial rule (which exact upon guilty parties a maximum punishment of seven years in jail) are still in place, and, more significantly, the anti-LGBTI, anti-woman ideologies imported and propagated by Christian fundamentalists from the West remain deeply entrenched.

Following the ruling, Frank Mugisha, director of Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) and one of the petitioners contesting the validity of the law, expressed relief. He also acknowledged, “Society won’t give in.” The LGBTI community in Uganda is braced for a surge in violent retaliation from supporters of the legislation.

Mugisha’s concern warrants reflection: the striking down of this law will not put an end to the violence and persecution experienced by LGBTI persons. If anything, demonization of sexual minorities is likely to escalate. Notorious homophobic pastor Martin Ssempa, a key promoter of the legislation, charged that the “gay lobby” bought off the judges. The reality is that a justice based on technicalities is not trustworthy. We need justice that accepts the full humanity of African LGBTI persons—a justice based on fundamental human rights.

But currently, there is no political will to put the persecution of LGBTI persons in Uganda to rest. It wasn’t long ago that the very same legal system that struck down this law callously threw out SMUG’s case against the Minister of Ethics and Integrity, Simon Lokodo—a person known for persecuting LGBTI persons in Uganda.

And we must not forget that all of this is happening on Museveni’s watch. For all of his flaws, Museveni is a clever politician, and he knows how to please the West. Now, at the U.S. Africa Leaders Summit, he is about to meet with the very people he has previously referred to as the “homosexual lobby”—and with the law out of play, he can once again feign innocence, alongside other African presidents who are busy imprisoning LGBTI persons using colonial anti-sodomy laws.

Rather than give these African leaders a pass at the Summit we must support African human rights leaders who demand that colonial-era sodomy laws (and their neocolonial expansions supported by U.S. conservatives) be struck down. If we miss this opportunity, we will have allowed Museveni to divert us from our commitment to justice for African LGBTI persons—a dream that will only be realized when sexual minorities are decriminalized.

The process of dismantling these systems of oppression is tedious and difficult, and it requires perseverance, courage, creativity, sacrifice, and steadfast commitment. To endure the journey, we need to pause periodically to celebrate our progress, and when a panel of five judges unanimously nullifies a law that violates the human rights of LGBTI persons—even if the ruling is based more on technicalities than true justice—we are assuredly seeing progress. But after we have paused, momentarily allowing a relieved exhale to quietly escape our lungs, we must inhale once more and cry out even louder than before—tirelessly working for a durable and lasting justice.

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RELEASE: Rev. Dr. Kapya Kaoma Applauds Obama Admin Sanctions on Anti-LGBTQ Ugandan Leaders

BOSTON, 6/19/14 – After the Obama administration announced new sanctions against officials responsible for human rights violations in Uganda on Thursday, PRA applauds the plan for targeted sanctions against officials responsible for human rights violations in Uganda, including persecution based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
From the administration’s press release:

Today, we are announcing several additional steps. Specifically, the Department of State is taking measures to prevent entry into the United States by certain Ugandan officials involved in serious human rights abuses, including against LGBT individuals. In addition, the United States will take steps, consistent with current authorities, to prevent entry into the United States by Ugandans who are found responsible for significant public corruption.

“This is a wonderful first step,” says Rev. Dr. Kapya Kaoma, whose groundbreaking research first brought global attention to the American right-wing religious groups behind Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act. “While we await the details of the State Department’s plan, we have been a critic of blanket sanctions on Uganda and support approaches that target the leaders most responsible for human rights violations. But this action must  be expanded. Uganda is not the only African nation with life-threatening human rights violations being passed by governments. We hope to continue working with the State Department to create similar sanctions against leaders in Nigeria, Zambia, Rwanda, Cameroon, and other nations.”

“What we need to be careful about,” added Tarso Luís Ramos, executive director of PRA, “is about falling into the trap of thinking this is a problem happening exclusively across the ocean in Africa. The exportation of homophobia and sexism comes from U.S.-based conservatives, and we would like to see the U.S. government take a closer look at American culture warriors like Scott Lively, Rick Warren, Lou Engle, and Sharon Slater, who are just as much responsible for these massive human rights violations against sexual minorities and reproductive autonomy as their African allies are.While one of them, Scott Lively, is going to trial for crimes against humanity, most have not been held accountable.”

It is not yet known which anti-LGBTQ political and religious leaders in Uganda will face the sanctions, but PRA is encouraging the State Department to include:

  • MP David Bahati, author of the Anti-Homosexuality Act
  • Pastor Martin Ssempa, who was instrumental in garnering support for the Anti-Homosexuality Act, including its original form which called for the death penalty for LGBTQ people
  • Stephen Langa, leader of the Family Life Network, who hosted the infamous 2009 anti-homosexuality conference in Kampala which featured U.S. Pastor Scott Lively
  • Gary Skinner, who used his position at Wototo church to host meetings with members of parliament to build support for the Anti-Homosexuality Act
  • Julius Oyet, who served on a 2009 task force to raise funding for anti-LGBTQ programs at the behest of MP David Bahati

Rev. Dr. Kapya Kaoma is the senior religion and sexuality researcher at Political Research Associates, and the author of Globalizing the Culture Wars, and Colonizing African Values (the primary research reports which exposed U.S. conservative influence and involvement in anti-LGBTQ and anti-reproductive freedom initiatives in Africa). He is also the author of the new book American Culture Warriors in Africa: A Guide to the Exporters of Homophobia and Sexism.

Kaoma is also featured in the award-winning documentary, God Loves Uganda.

Relevant Links: 
Globalizing the Culture Wars: http://www.politicalresearch.org/2009/12/01/globalizing-the-culture-wars-u-s-conservatives-african-churches-homophobia/

American Culture Warriors in Africa: A Guide to the Exporters of Homophobia and Sexism: http://www.politicalresearch.org/africa/book-american-culture-warriors-in-africa/

Exclusive undercover video of Scott Lively in Uganda: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e9F9k4guN3M

About PRA:
Political Research Associates is a social justice think tank based in Boston, MA, devoted to supporting movements that build a more just and inclusive democratic society. We expose movements, institutions, and ideologies that undermine human rights.
Media Contact:
Eric Ethington
Communications Director
617-666-5300 ext 19
press@politicalresearch.org

pra press release

Meet Seyoum Antonios, Ethiopia’s Martin Ssempa

In American Culture Warriors in Africa, I argue that the U.S. culture warriors in Africa are a diverse group. At the individual level, they range from Massachusetts’ Scott Lively, a Holocaust revisionist, to mainstream figures like California’s Rick

Seyoum Antonios

Seyoum Antonios

Warren, a megachurch pastor and best-selling author. Some are longtime leaders of the Christian Right, recycling old arguments for a new audience in the Global South, while others are relative newcomers to the national and international arena of culture-war politics. Institutionally, they range from small organizations, like Sharon Slater’s Family Watch International, to large and well-funded organizations with global affiliates, such as Focus on the Family and the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ). Yet the role of parachurch organizations, such as World Vision and Campus Crusade for Christ, is often overlooked, even as these groups are run by individuals who are allies of key culture war-exporters and African preachers of hate.

In January 2013, Campus Crusade for Christ sponsored the “Pamoja III” conference in Lagos, Nigeria, which drew thousands of attendees. There, Dr. Seyoum Antonios was introduced by Bekele Shanko of the Campus Crusade for Christ, and he gave a presentation on the international “gay agenda.” As has become a standard for these persecutors of sexual minorities and women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR), Antonios criticized and blamed Western influence (for the existence of sexual minorities in Africa), while hiding the fact that his entire presentation was based on U.S. conservatives’ talking points.

Halfway through Antonios’ presentation, he shared a video clip promoting a meeting he had previously organized in Ethiopia, which he claimed was attended by over 2,000 people. According to Antonios, the audience included government officials and religious leaders from the Evangelical Fellowship, the Ethiopia Orthodox Church, the Islamic Affairs Council, and the Roman Catholic Church—among other organizations. In the video clip, Antonios could be seen telling the audience that homosexuality is the “pinnacle of immorality” and claims that the international “gay agenda”—which Antonios declares has taken over the whole world—is now attempting to claim Ethiopia, the Horn of Africa. He then told his audience in Nigeria that they should stand firm against this agenda:

“Ethiopia shall be the graveyard for homosexuality, not its bleeding ground. Ethiopia shall be the place where people from all other nations will be coming to—seeking healing from their homosexual life styles. Ethiopia shall present itself again as the beacon of hope and an emblem of freedom, by leading the fight against homosexuality in the continent of Africa—making Africa also the graveyard of homosexuality.”

Antonios’ presentation rejected LGBTQ rights as human rights—just as Pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Baptist Church did in 2008, while visiting Uganda, Rwanda, and Kenya. Like notoriously anti-gay Ugandan pastor Martin Ssempa, as well as U.S. conservatives like Lively, Antonios warned his audience that gays were planning to take over Africa through the promotion of sexual immorality. Antonios may not be as charismatic as Ssempa or Scott Lively, but his Powerpoint presentation—filled with pornographic photos of gay sex and claims that “gays put on diapers for life” and “enjoy eating feces”—are almost identical to the ways Ssempa manipulates his audiences into a dangerous frenzy.

Also like Ssempa, Antonios presented LGBTQ persons in Africa as Western infiltrators who are working with foreign governments to impose homosexuality on Africa. He does not shy away from calling for the destruction of gays, while also promoting the myth that homosexuality can be “cured.”

But the persecution of African sexual minorities was not the only set of talking points Antonios borrowed from U.S. conservatives and Ssempa. He concluded his presentation by discussing women’s reproductive rights and abortion—again parroting U.S. Christian Right talking points. Mirroring language of the U.S. personhood movement, Antonios claimed that life begins on conception and showed graphic pictures of fetuses to further inflame his audience. Like his American right-wing counterparts, his message was simple: women’s reproductive and bodily autonomy is not a human right.

Many evangelical leaders seek to paint Antonios as a fringe element or outcast within the evangelical leadership, but that is not the case. Antonios was among those who gathered for the 2010 Lausanne Conference—the gathering of world evangelical religious leaders in Cape Town, South Africa—where American conservatives associated with the Exodus Global Alliance and the now-defunct Exodus International presented papers on homosexuality. He was even quoted by The Guardian newspaper in their coverage of the conference.

The partnership between Campus Crusade for Christ, Advocate International, and Alliance Defending Freedom in African sexual politics is just one among many networks of U.S. conservatives using their power to police sexuality around the globe. U.S. evangelical leaders’ claims that they do not share the views of these dangerous opponents sexual minorities and women should translate into official denouncements, but just as World Vision has found it hard to reject religiously based homophobia both at home and in Africa, well-meaning evangelical leaders have failed to officially condemn people like Antonios.

As my friend and Political Research Associate fellow Victor Mukasa has been known to say, “Homophobia kills, but so does silence.”

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ITN News’ Channel 4 and PRA’s Kapya Kaoma Take Down Scott Lively

Channel 4

PRA’s senior researcher Kapya Kaoma joined ITN News’ Channel 4 (England) in a spotlight feature about Scott Lively’s involvement in the creation of Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill. The piece includes PRA’s exclusive video of Lively’s presentation at a Uganda anti-gay conference in 2009.

Watch the embedded video below, or on Channel 4′s website.

Scott Lively & Rick Warren: The PR Campaign to Whitewash the Right’s Anti-Gay Uganda History

scott lively, rick warren, uganda

As a comms person myself, I can really appreciate a good PR campaign, and the best I’ve seen in a long time is the new effort by U.S. right-wing evangelicals to completely whitewash their own history of involvement with Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality law.

For the last five years, human rights advocates around the world been discussing how U.S. conservative figures were integrally involved in the creation of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill (originally called the “Kill the Gays Bill”). Vast amounts of research have been produced on the involvement of conservatives such as Rick Warren (who posted a YouTube video supporting California’s Prop 8 only to later take it down and deny it ever happened), and hours of undercover footage were taken of Scott Lively (famous for claiming the Nazi Party was really a gay club in his book The Pink Swastika) in Kampala, Uganda, advocating the bill’s creation with local political and religious leaders.

As evidence of their involvement has spread throughout the U.S., the public’s sentiment on these characters’ involvement has soured considerably. This was exacerbated when, last month, Uganda President Yoweri Museveni signed the Anti-Homosexuality Bill into law, ascribing life-in-prison sentences to LGBTQ people in the African nation, criminalizing advocacy of homosexuality, and requiring authority figures (parents, teachers, doctors, etc.) to report LGBTQ people to the government.

The American public is finally taking notice. Story after story in major media outlets (The GuardianReal News NetworkThe Rachel Maddow Show, and the National Journal in just the last few weeks) is running about these right-wing evangelicals’ involvement, and the millions of dollars they’ve poured into Uganda, Nigeria, Russia, and elsewhere in carefully crafted campaigns to train local pastors and political leaders how to use culture wars-talking points for an all-out attack on LGBTQ people.

So if you were a right-wing public figure, and all of a sudden found yourself standing alone, staring down the barrel of public anger over your past work, what would you do?

For most public figures, it would be a career-ending disaster. But when you’ve got the money, the personnel, and a stellar PR team, you just might be able to convince the rest of us of a simple little lie: They were against the law in the first place.

The process of turning someone who claims “gay = Nazi” and that “equal rights = condoning pedophilia” into a “moderate” is quite the sight to behold.

Step 1: Float the New Idea 

In an interview on NPR’s “Tell Me More” program, Scott Lively wasted no time distancing himself from the criminalization measures in the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. Almost before host Michel Martin could finish introducing him, Lively jumped in with, “I have mixed feelings about the bill. I support the provisions that increase penalties for homosexual abuse of children and intentional spreading of AIDS through sodomy. But I think the other provisions are too harsh, and I don’t support those and I wish they’d gone in a different direction.”

Quite the change from the Scott Lively of 2009, who wrote a blog post while in Uganda where he admitted meeting with local lawmakers, warning Ugandans “how bad things would be” if it was not illegal to be an LGBTQ person, and that his campaign to enact legislation further persecuting sexual minorities was “a nuclear bomb against the ‘gay’ agenda in Uganda.” He concluded, “I pray that this, and the predictions, are true.”

Step 2: Create a New Image

For the last several years, Pastor Rick Warren has been successfully advancing his media blitz to get people talking about anything other than his stance on homosexuality. In December of last year, he was featured in TIME Magazine talking about his new weight-loss plan. This same story has been pushed hard by Warren’s PR team, resulting in features in Parade Magazine and NPR—none of which mentioned his flip-flop on Prop 8, or his involvement with the Anti-Homosexuality Bill in Uganda.

Step 3: Strategically Place Reinforcements of your Talking Points

Following the NPR story with Lively, a new article surfaced on the Religious News Service, expertly titled “U.S. evangelicals on the defense over Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act.”

Staging the piece as a journalistic interview, author Sarah Pulliam Bailey basically transcribes a press release from Scott Lively and Rick Warren, disavowing themselves of their involvement:

California megachurch pastor Rick Warren, too, posted on his Facebook page on Sunday (March 2) denying allegations that he ever supported the Uganda bill…

Scott Lively, a Massachusetts pastor and head of Abiding Truth Ministries, said that he is not responsible for the bill.

“It’s a very insulting argument, that somehow an American evangelical pastor is so powerful that I’ve overwhelmed the intelligence of an entire government and turned them out to do my will,” Lively said. “The Ugandans knew what they wanted to hear.”

He said he does not support the bill in its final form.

Never mind that Lively himself has admitted on several occasions that he had seen and reviewed the original “Kill the Gays Bill” before it had been released to the public. Despite the ample evidence of Lively and Warren’s involvement in Uganda, none of it is mentioned. There isn’t even a hint at what pro-human rights groups have found in their research.

Step 4: Spread the Word

Now that they’ve gotten their press release printed as if it were an accredited journalistic account, the right-wing PR campaign can push to get mainstream outlets to reprint. The whitewashed article has been republished not only on small sites like Spokane Faith & Values, but on major outlets like The Washington Post.

As is typical with controversial and nuanced stories, the simple talking points are much easier to publish. Why bother researching what these right-wing evangelicals have said and done beyond U.S. borders, when they’re willing to tell American media a completely different—and significantly more palatable—story on camera?

The Fatal Flaw

This massive PR campaign has only made one mistake so far, but it’s a big one. Rick Warren has, by far, been the most successful at misleading the public into thinking he’s a moderate. He’s been at it for years. If the campaign had aimed to only wash Warren’s hands of Ugandan LGBTQ blood, it would probably succeed with flying colors. But the efforts have been ambitious than that.

The inclusion of Scott Lively throws the door wide open for the public to see this PR stunt for what it is. While few people other than researchers on the ground have seen Warren at work in Africa—partnering with local anti-gay clergy and feeding them the funds necessary to push through the Anti-Homosexuality Bill—plenty of people have heard Scott Lively on air or in his writings comparing LGBTQ people to rapists and pedophiles. Plenty of people have seen the undercover videos from Rev. Dr. Kapya Kaoma of Scott Lively in Uganda explaining that if they don’t enact anti-gay legislation then gays from America will come and recruit their children. And plenty of people have seen the videos of Scott Lively on Ugandan TV with the vehemently anti-gay Pastor Martin Ssempa, saying that Uganda needed to enact the Anti-Homosexuality law and criminalize LGBTQ people in order to save children from being “recruited

There’s no question of right-wing evangelical involvement in Uganda’s anti-gay legislation. The work has been verified and fact-checked by researchers around the globe, organizations like Amnesty International, and outlets such as the New York Times. There’s a reason a court refused to throw out the case against Scott Lively for crimes against humanity.

It’s not just human rights advocates who are shocked by the turnabout from these conservatives. The anti-gay clergy in Uganda they’ve spent years training are shocked as well. Pastor Martin Ssempa was so surprised he published a letter addressed to Rick Warren, asking why he is now changing his story.

When you came to Uganda on Thursday, 27 March 2008, and expressed support to  the Church of Uganda’s boycott of the pro-homosexual church of England, you stated; “The Church of England is wrong, and I support the Church of Uganda”.

You are further remembered to say, “homosexuality is not a natural  way of life and thus (its) not a human right. We shall not tolerate this  apect at all”.

Good PR work has a tendency to override facts. Tell people that something didn’t happen enough times, and eventually they’ll start to believe it. It’s up to us to tell the truth louder and more often.

National Journal: PRA Researchers Describe U.S. Evangelical Involvement in Russia & Uganda

cole parke, kapya kaoma

PRA’s religion and sexuality researcher, Rev. Dr. Kapya Kaoma (left) and LGBTQ rights researcher, Cole Parke (right)

In the latest issue of the National Journal, Political Research Associates’ researchers Rev. Dr. Kapya Kaoma and Cole Parke discuss how U.S.-based conservatives are working directly with the governments of nations like Russia and Uganda to bring about anti-LGBTQ legislation.

Check out the snippet below, and read the full article, “Evangelicals Are Winning The Gay Marriage Fight — in Africa and Russia” here.

national journal logoThings have only gotten worse for LGBT Russians since then: Moscow’s city council passed a 100-year ban against gay-pride parades in 2012; TV personality Anton Krasovsky was fired in 2013 after coming out as gay; and the parliament approved a national version of the propaganda law, which had been overwhelmingly rejected as recently as 2009. When gay Russians have tried to demonstrate in recent years, they’ve been subject to violence from antigay mobs and even the police, who often arrest LGBT activists and leave violent counterprotesters alone. Putin’s government has encouraged the crackdown, finding that strident social conservatism is useful in uniting his base and building power internationally. “He’s saying essentially that to be pro Russia is to be anti-LGBTQ, and to be pro-LGBTQ is to be pro-Western and anti-Russia,” says Cole Parke, who studies LGBTQ rights in Russia for Political Research Associates.

American social conservatives realize that associating with these countries looks bad, but they insist they “hate the sin and love the sinner,” as the saying goes. “We really are not monsters,” Ruse says. “We really do not want to harm anyone.” Indeed, they all distanced themselves from Uganda’s antigay bill when it included the death penalty. Lively, perhaps the most extreme of the bunch, calls even the life-in-prison version overly draconian and says it’s his “biggest failure.”

But for LGBT-rights advocates, that’s not enough. Even if the U.S. conservatives don’t support laws that harm gays, they say, LGBT people are being harmed in places where the Americans work. “The blood of African gays in places like Uganda and other parts of the world is on the hands of the U.S. extreme Right,” [Political Research Associates' religion and sexuality researcher Kapya] Kaoma says. “When you lie to people, when you tell Ugandans that ‘there is a well-financed group that is coming after your children—defend yourself against this movement,’ they will take the law into their own hands and you don’t know what they’ll do.” 

 

Different Countries, Common Threads: Connecting the dots in the global surge of anti-LGBTQ attacks

God_Loves_Uganda_insert

The passage of Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill last Friday brings renewed attention to the plight of LGBTQ people in Africa. Initial outcry sparked by the bill’s introduction in 2009 faded into the shadows of shrinking attention spans and the challenge of sustaining interest in an issue that isn’t constantly confronting our daily lived realities. It reemerged periodically, but mostly disappeared from the headlines.

However, ignorance is only bliss for some. While many in the U.S. were still sleeping, the nightmare haunting thousands of Ugandans for years became real. Unless President Yoweri Museveni vetos the bill (which seems highly unlikely), the legislation that passed on Friday will put LGBTQ Ugandans in jail for life if they’re found guilty of being “repeat offenders” of homosexuality, and will further silence the human rights community by criminalizing advocacy on behalf of Uganda’s sexual minorities. Additionally, it calls for a witch-hunt by compelling Ugandans to inform on their LGBTQ sisters and brothers or risk imprisonment themselves.

Unfortunately, this nightmare isn’t unique to Uganda.

Being gay is still a crime in 76 countries—a crime that’s even punishable by death in several, including Iran, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and parts of Nigeria. This might seem unthinkable to many in the United States, but it was only ten years ago that our last sodomy law was finally struck down, and regardless… marginalized and oppressed communities throughout history can attest to the fact that equality and acceptance are difficult things to legislate. No matter what judges and legislators might say about who we are, how we dress, what we do in our bedrooms, or whom we love, LGBTQ people experience untold amounts of violence and discrimination all around the world.

Sadly, this oppression is easily justified when politicians, community leaders, priests, and other authority figures offer their condemnatory endorsement. Under the guise of “protecting children” and “preserving the natural family,” we are witnessing a growing surge of homophobia and transphobia across globe. Though Russia has consumed much of the international human rights spotlight recently, since passing its own slate of anti-LGBTQ legislation earlier this year, India’s Supreme Court recently re-criminalized homosexuality, and just this week Nigeria passed a law prohibiting same-sex marriage and any form of LGBTQ organizing (building on existing laws that already punish consensual same-sex activity with 14 years in prison, or death in 12 northern states).

But oppression isn’t the only link between these regions. The same U.S. evangelicals responsible for promoting the initial drafts of Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill (often referred to as the “Kill the Gays” bill due to clauses in its original form that would have applied the death penalty to individuals found guilty of “aggravated homosexuality”) are also well-known figures in Russia’s anti-LGBTQ movement. Scott Lively, who’s currently being charged with “crimes against humanity” for his involvement in Uganda’s attack on LGBTQ people, has also claimed credit for Russia’s gay propaganda law. Rick Warren, who was also influential in the conception of Uganda’s anti-LGBTQ legislation, is in the process of launching a new branch of his ministry in Moscow. Don Schmierer, another of the U.S. evangelicals guilty of endorsing Uganda’s anti-LGBTQ movement, has gone to the effort of having his book (a guide for how to “prevent the homosexual condition”) into Russian.

It’s often said that imitation is the best form of flattery, and beyond sharing common cheerleaders, the legislation in Uganda, Nigeria, and Russia also shares common language, revealing what seems to be a great deal of mutual admiration amongst the countries leading these recent legal attacks on LGBTQ people. For example, echoing Russia’s gay propaganda legislation, Uganda’s law criminalizes “the promotion or recognition” of homosexual relations “through or with the support of any government entity in Uganda or any other nongovernmental organization inside or outside the country.”

Fortunately, though equality and acceptance might be difficult to legislate, love and truth are impossible to legislate, and resistance continues. Human rights advocates around the world are rallying behind those who find themselves at the frontlines of U.S. culture wars gone global. In addition to offering resources, diplomatic strength, and support, there is much work to be done here at home. As Americans, we have greater access to the U.S.-based propagators of LGBTQ oppression, and it’s imperative that we do our part to clip their wings – to stop the Livelys and Warrens and Schmierers of our communities from jet setting around the world and hold them accountable for the harm they’ve done.

RELEASE: Uganda Passes Anti-Homosexuality Bill

press release:

The Uganda Parliament has passed the infamous Anti-Homosexuality Bill, first proposed in 2009 and condemned by the international human rights community, President Obama, and other international dignitaries.

Political Research Associates, the social justice think tank that first exposed the U.S.-based right-wing evangelicals who proposed and promoted the bill at a 2009 conference in Kampala, now calls on the U.S. State Department to step up pressure on President Yoweri Museveni to veto the bill.

The legislation would put LGBTQ Ugandans in jail simply for being who they are and aims to silence the human rights community by criminalizing advocacy on behalf of Uganda’s sexual minorities. Further, it calls for a witch-hunt by compelling Ugandans to inform on their LGBTQ sisters and brothers under penalty of law.

“This human rights crisis was made here in the United States,” says Tarso Luís Ramos, Executive Director at Political Research Associates. “Scott Lively, one of the right-wing U.S. evangelicals most responsible for the legislation, has had charges filed against him in American courts for persecution of Uganda’s sexual minority community. Even as we call on the U.S. State Department and the international community to do everything possible to secure a veto from President Museveni, we ask all Americans of conscience to demand accountability from those U.S. conservatives who planned and encouraged these human rights violations and now hide behind the African pastors and politicians who are their willing partners in persecuting people because of who they love.”

When the 2009 bill was originally proposed by MP David Bahati, PRA’s researchers brought to light the role of Scott Lively, Lou Engle, Rick Warren and other U.S. evangelicals in exporting the U.S.-style culture wars to Uganda.

“As one of the founders of the struggle in Uganda, today I am in despair and fear,” says Victor Mukasa, co-founder of Sexual Minorities Uganda and fellow at Political Research Associates who is living in America under asylum after being persecuted in Uganda. “With the passage of this bill, thousands of lives are now under extreme risk, with nowhere and no one to turn to. Let’s all rise up with local activists. LGBT rights globally are under attack.”

“The Uganda situation must be seen in context,” adds PRA senior religion an sexuality researcher Rev. Dr. Kapya Kaoma. “It is part of a larger trend. The persecution of sexual minorities in other African nations such as Zambia and Zimbabwe has been especially severe in recent months. Also, we have to consider that the actions of Russia’s Vladmir Putin to criminalize both homosexuality and reproductive freedom in Russia may provide cover as well as courage to human rights violators. Of course, in all of these regions, we find the active involvement of American conservatives who, having lost public opinion in the United States, have determined to take their culture war crusades abroad.”

Background on the Anti-Homosexuality bill, and how U.S. evangelicals came to be involved can be found at www.PoliticalResearch.org/Africa

Press Contact:
Eric Ethington
Communications Director
617-666-5300
press@politicalresearch.org

East vs. West? Russia, Ukraine, and the Anti-Gay Wedge

Pro-European Union activists gather next to Ukrainian riot police guarding the Ukrainian Government buildings in Kiev, Ukraine, Dec. 9, 2013. Hundreds of police in full riot gear flooded into the center of Kiev on Monday as mass anti-government protests gripped the Ukrainian capital for yet another week, raising fears of an imminent crackdown. (Sergei Grits/AP Photo)

Pro-European Union activists gather next to Ukrainian riot police guarding the Ukrainian Government buildings in Kiev, Ukraine, Dec. 9, 2013. Hundreds of police in full riot gear flooded into the center of Kiev on Monday as mass anti-government protests gripped the Ukrainian capital for yet another week, raising fears of an imminent crackdown. (Sergei Grits/AP Photo)

Braving freezing temperatures and violent police brutality, protesters continue to stand their ground at Independence Square in Ukraine’s capital city, Kiev. Demonstrations have been growing in size and intensity over the last month, after Ukraine’s president, Viktor Yanukovych, refused to sign an association agreement with the European Union (EU), indicating a shift in favor of Russia’s own integrationist project, the Eurasian Union.

In the debates leading up to this current political moment, the LGBTQ community became a useful scapegoat for pro-Russia factions. Ukraine was the first post-Soviet country to decriminalize homosexuality following independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, but violence and intolerance have grown steadily, mirroring the rising wave of homophobia in neighboring Russia.

Seeking to capitalize on the stigmatization of Ukraine’s LGBTQ community (a 2012 Gorshenin Institute study showed 72 percent of those polled had negative attitudes toward sexual minorities), Viktor Medvedchuk, a wealthy businessman, former parliamentarian, and close friend to Vladimir Putin, launched his own propaganda campaign.

Medvedchuk is the founder and major financial backer of Ukrainian Choice, an organization dedicated to lobbying against forming ties between Ukraine and the EU (despite advocating the opposite in 2002). One of their primary strategies for mobilizing pro-Russia support has been a targeted campaign against LGBTQ people, that equates association with the EU to same-sex marriage. Russia, on the other hand, is presented as the bastion of traditional morality.

The issue, however, has less to do with any sort of alleged risk presented by LGBTQ equality, and more to do with the political and financial aspirations of Medvedchuk. In August, the EU news website Euractiv reported on a leaked Russian document that said the Kremlin would do everything in its power to assure the defeat of President Yanukovych in the 2015 election and install Medvedchuk in his place.

Scapegoating the LGBTQ community is far easier than confronting political scandal and economic crisis, so in October 2012, Ukraine’s parliament approved a law that would punish anyone convicted of importing, producing, or spreading “works that promote homosexuality” with jail terms of up to five years. (The proposed law was similar to laws passed in several Russian cities earlier that year, as well as Russia’s federal “anti-gay propaganda” law that went into effect this past August.) Ukraine’s law was subsequently shelved after much outcry from EU officials, but it was reintroduced this past July by a pro-Russia parliamentarian, Vadim Kolesnichenko, who explained to Buzzfeed’s J. Lester Feder, “This is an issue of protecting our society from corruption and from an attack on the foundations of our society’s spirituality and an issue for health–our country’s population is dying out.”

Kolesnichenko’s sentiment is eerily similar to the expressed concerns of the World Congress of Families (WCF), which–not surprisingly–sent a delegation to Kiev last October for a meeting organized by Alexandar Skvortsov, co-chairman of the All Ukrainian Parents’ Committee.

The WCF functions as an umbrella organization for groups and individuals who fight against LGBTQ equality and women’s bodily autonomy in defense of what they call the “natural family.” According to a WCF press release following the Kiev meeting, “The Ukrainian leaders expressed concern about the pressure brought to bear on their nation to accede to the homosexual agenda (including ‘gay marriage’) as a condition for membership in the European Union.”

Echoing this fear in a statement on his organization’s website last month, Skovortsov said, “We oppose the signing of the association agreement with the EU, because it will lead to the inevitable homosexualizing of Ukraine,”

To be clear, the relationship proposed between Ukraine and the EU would not require Ukraine to legalize same-sex marriage. The EU’s only explicit requirement is an eventual ban on employment discrimination against gays and lesbians.

Unfortunately, exploiting LGBTQ people for political gain under the guise of religious morality is a well-practiced strategy, perfected here in the U.S. and exported all around the world. Just as we’ve seen in Uganda, Kenya, Nigeria, Russia, and elsewhere, the fingerprints of right-wing evangelicals from the U.S. are all over the current crisis for LGBTQ people in Ukraine. Here’s a small sampling:

  • The Trinity Broadcasting Network has been in the region since 1999.
  • The Christian Broadcasting Network launched a Ukrainian version of The 700 Club in 2010.
  • In 2004, Peter Wagner, one of the leaders of the New Apostolic Reformation, assembled a gathering of evangelical leaders in Kiev where he prayed for the day when “the government of the Church and the political governments will enter into a harmony.”
  • In 2008, former Exodus International board member, Don Schmierer, conducted a seminar in Donetsk, Ukraine, promoting his anti-LGBTQ, ex-gay theories.
  • Earlier that same year, Kay Warren, Rick Warren’s wife and co-pastor of Saddleback Church, visited Kiev, Ukraine to preach at a women’s conference.
  • Mike Bickle of the International House of Prayer spoke to an evangelical revival in Kiev in 2010.
  • And the infamous Scott Lively traveled through Ukraine just last October.

Despite being charged with “crimes against humanity” for his role in promoting violence and discrimination against LGBTQ people in Uganda, Scott Lively continues to do damage all around the world. May those in Springfield, Massachusetts who seek to bring him to justice be emboldened by the protesters in Kiev who refuse to be silenced.

ISSUE BRIEF: This Month In LGBTQ Justice

Every Friday, PRA brings you a monthly update on a different social justice issue. This week, we are recapping the last month in LGBTQ Justice.

Ecuador’s “Gay Addiction” Clinics Continue Torturous Practices
On November 7th, the Union and Hope Clinic in Pisuli, Ecuador was raided by police. The clinic is one of many in Ecuador that deals with “gay addiction,” and uses rape and torture as clinical tools to “cure” people of homosexuality. Seven people were arrested after the police found patients in “inhumane conditions.” The seventeen people rescued from the clinic adds to the approximately 500 people who have been freed from such clinics this past year. Carina Vance Mafla, Ecuador’s openly lesbian health minister, has vowed to work with LGBTQ organizations to shut down these clinics. The Health Ministry has already ordered the closure of 30 clinics, although many have already re-opened under different names. An article published recently in the Sunday Times focuses on the practice of kidnapping people, with parental consent, to be sent to these clinics to be “cured” of homosexuality.

Suggestive Pants Amount to Homophobic Act In Lithuania
A recent survey shows that Lithuanians have become less tolerant of homosexuals, and more tolerant of their homophobic neighbors in Russia. Recently, Petras Grazulis, a member of the Law and Order Party in Lithuania who is known for his anti-gay views, personally delivered a pair of pants with a zipper on the rear to the Lithuania Gay League (LGL). LGL members had been taking part in a European Union conference on hate crimes in Vilnius, and it appears that Grazulis’s actions were in response to this. Back in May 2012, Gazulis crashed an LGBTQ rights event and declared that all gays should leave the country, asking, “How are homosexuals better than necrophiliacs or pedophiles?” Grazulis’s actions can be seen as part of a greater trend towards homophobia and transphobia in Lithuanian politics. In December the Lithuanina parliament is slated to consider five separate anti-gay and anti-trans bills, including a ban on gender reassignment and a legislation legalizing hate crimes against LGBTQ people.

ENDA Loses Momentum in the U.S. House

John Boehner currently sees “no need or no basis” for ENDA.

While the Senate passed the Employment Non Discrimination Act (ENDA) on November 7, progress on the legislation has hit a wall in the House.   LGBTQ rights advocates have been pushing for an executive order to prohibit federal contractors from engaging in anti-LGBTQ discrimination. The White House has been withholding with the order, citing the need for Congress to act. While an executive order would not be be as comprehensive as ENDA, it would protect as many as 16 million workers while the legislation stalls in the House. Meanwhile, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) has said he sees “no need or basis” for ENDA, and is refusing to bring the legislation to the floor for a vote. In response to Boehner’s dismissal of ENDA’s necessity, LGBTQ advocates cite the plurality of states in the U.S. where there is no law in place prohibiting anti-LGBTQ discrimination. Currently, 22 states have statutes that explicitly prohibit sexual orientation-based employment discrimination. Eighteen states have gender identity and anti-discrimination laws in place. A recent study by the U.S. Government Accountability Office shows that there are relatively few discrimination complaints in states with such laws.

Fenway Institute to Host Webinar on Transgender Health
The National LGBT Health Education Center at the Fenway Institute will host a webinar entitled “Transgender Medical Care: Advanced Case Discussion” on December 10 from 3-4 pm EST. Their website was launched in 2012 as part of LGBT Awareness Month, and provides educational programs, resources, and consultation to health care organizations with the goal of optimizing quality, cost-effective health care for LGBT people. All webinars are available on-demand.

NOM’s 990 Reveals They Finished 2012 $2.7M In the Red
A recently released 990 tax form reveals the the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) finished 2012 $2.7 million in the red (although Maggie Gallagher is still somehow pulling $160K from them). Some people have seen the 990 as an indicator that NOM can no longer profit from their anti-LGBT agenda. NOM and the Far Right may be losing the battle to define marriage in this country, but there are other wells for them to draw from in the LGBT community, and NOM seems to be aware of this. The Supreme Court struck down a key section of DOMA and invalidated California’s Prop 8, but NOM has recently joined the fight against a bill signed by California Gov. Jerry Brown that allows students to define their gender for themselves, choose which restroom they want to use, and decide whether they wish to play on male- or female-gendered sports teams. NOM may have had a rough year in 2012, but if the fight for transgender rights turns out to be NOM’s newest cash cow, 2014 could see their anti-LGBT agenda become lucrative again.

World Congress of Families Hosts Discussion on Family Policy Abroad
The anti-gay World Congress of Families (WCF) hosted a discussion in Washington, D.C. on “What America Should Learn” from family policy abroad. The meeting was originally intended to be held in a Senate meeting room, but Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL) withdrew his sponsorship after an outcry from LGBT activists. House Speaker John Boehner then provided the group with a meeting space. During the discussion, the WCF touched on the subject of encouraging the growth of grassroots conservative movements in France, Spain, and Nigeria. Much of the discussion, however, centered on how the U.S. media has “distorted” the Russian anti-propaganda law. “They are trying to build a pro-family movement in Russia, and we’re working with them,” said Allen Carlson, founder and international secretary of WCF. The World Family of Congress is an organization that has become infamous for both exporting conservative ideologies from the U.S. as well as brining conservative ideals and strategies back into the country. The group will be holding their 2014 summit in Moscow.

Scott Lively Has A “Theory” About the Anti-Gay Violence In Russia
While on “Mission America”, Linda Harvey’s radio show, Scott Lively espoused his theory on the true nature of the anti-gay violence in Russia. Lively is claiming that the widely seen (thanks to YouTube) violence against LGBT people in Russia is actually to “gay-on-gay crime”. Lively alleged, “The guys that are beating up gays in Russia—and it’s not any more prevalent than it ever has been really and it isn’t all that prevalent at all—but the ones that are doing it are butch homosexuals who are beating up effeminate homosexuals.” Lively, known for his work exporting homophobia to Uganda, has recently turned his attention to Russia (perhaps because he is on trial for crimes against humanity in Uganda). In October, he participated in a planning meeting for WCF’s 2014 conference in Moscow.

Harry Reid Says Mormon Views On LGBT Rights “Evolving”
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said that members of his faith, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon Church), are evolving their views on LGBT rights, citing recent support of church members for ENDA.  While it may be true that members of the church are evolving their views, recent news of the Church itself, the body that governs LDS members, shows little sign of change. The Church has continually told its members that it is their duty to oppose gay marriage, saying that “unlike other organizations that can change their policies and even their doctrines, our policies are determined by the truths God has declared told to be unchangeable.” One of the Church’s highest leaders, Russell M. Nelson, recently said, “Marriage between a man and a woman is God’s pattern for a fullness of life on Earth and in heaven. God’s marriage pattern cannot be abused, misunderstood or misconstrued.” While it is encouraging that members of the church may be changing their views on LGBT rights, the Church itself, which yields a great deal of financial and ideological influence in U.S. government, continues to oppose marriage equality. In Hawaii, before marriage equality was passed earlier this month, the Mormon Church lobbied extensively against the law.

Being Gay Now Grounds For Asylum in European Union
The EU’s top court, the European Court of Justice, ruled this month that being gay is now grounds for asylum. LGBT people fearing imprisonment in their home countries will now have grounds for seeking asylum in any of the 28 EU member states. The case in question centered on three gay men from Sierra Leone, Uganda, and Senegal who had unsuccessfully fought to be given refugee status in the Netherlands. The Dutch Council of State asked whether homosexuals could be considered a “particular social group”, since under international law a particular social group with a well-founded fear of persecution can claim refugee status if the persecution amounts to a severe violation of human rights. The Court ruled existence of laws imprisoning gay people “may constitute an act of persecution”, although the mere existence of a ban on homosexuality is not grounds in itself for seeking an asylum request.

This Past Month Has Been Big For Marriage Equality

http://www.freedomtomarry.org/states/

In slightly less than a month, three states have passed marriage equality. On October 21, LGBT New Jerseyans began to marry at midnight. Just hours later, Gov. Chris Christie announced his plans to drop his appeal of the law. On November 13, in Hawaii, Gov. Neil Abercrombie signed a marriage equality law after a Special Session during which legislators discussed why marriage equality matters to same-sex couples and their families. LGBT people in Hawaii will begin to marry on December 2. Finally, on November 20, in Illinois, Gov. Pat McQuin signed the freedom to marry law after it was approved earlier this year by the State House and Senate. LGBT couples will begin marrying there in June, 2014. As of right now, 16 states and the District of Columbia have legalized marriage equality, with over 38% of the U.S. population living in these states. It also seems possible that the high court in New Mexico may rule in favor of marriage equality by the end of the year, although some state Republicans are already creating a plan to strike back by pursuing a statewide constitutional referendum to ban the unions.