Tag Archives: LGBTI Rights

Activists prepare to take action on Uganda’s anti-gay bill

Photo credit: The Guardian

Photo credit: The Guardian

Ugandan lawmakers have threatened to pass a so-called “Kill the Gays” bill for years. In December, they finally succeeded—and the bill now awaits approval or rejection from Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni.

Calling for life imprisonment for homosexual acts, the bill is poised to create serious penalties for LGBT people and anyone who advocates for their rights. If the bill becomes law, simply discussing homosexuality in Uganda—without simultaneously condemning it—could lead to a prison term.

Contrary to many international media reports, a recent letter Museveni wrote about the bill does not amount to a legal rejection of it. In the letter, Museveni described LGBT people as “abnormal” and lesbians in particular as suffering from “sexual starvation,” but he also said they should not be jailed or killed for their “deviant” behavior.

“The letter was offensive no matter what side you are coming from,” Caroline,* AJWS’s Ugandan country consultant, explained. Museveni still has weeks to sign the bill or reject it.

Photo credit: The New York Times

Photo credit: The New York Times

Some LGBT activists in Uganda are reconsidering whether they feel safe mobilizing opposition to the bill. A few human rights organizations in Uganda have “backed off,” Caroline said. “If we’re all out there [advocating] now, it could come back to haunt us,” she explained. “[Human rights NGOs] already have so many challenges in dealing with the government.”

But many Ugandan LGBT activists —including several AJWS grantees in the country—continue to bear the potential risks of speaking out. On Monday, Feb. 10, Ugandan activists are launching a “Global Day of Action,” working with advocates inside the country and throughout the world to oppose the anti-homosexuality bill and the hatred it represents. AJWS is joining with our partners to take action at this critical time.

After years of brainstorming ways to halt the bill’s progress, Ugandan LGBT rights advocates are also coming up with legal strategies for challenging its constitutionality, should it become law. Caroline said the bill has not created the anti-LGBT movement in Uganda that its masterminds intended.

“It’s been positive in a strange way,” Caroline said. She cited the way human rights groups and activists from Uganda and across the globe have consistently worked together to fight the bill. “I think the discussions that have happened never would have happened otherwise.”

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TAKE ACTION: Speak out against Uganda’s anti-homosexuality bill and join the Global Day of Action on Feb. 10. 

*Last name excluded to protect Ugandan staff from any potential government retribution.

Elizabeth Daube is a communications officer for American Jewish World Service.

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A New Year of Promise

It’s hard to believe fall is here, and Rosh Hashanah has already come and gone.

Ruth Messinger in Kenya with an AJWS grantee staff member

Ruth Messinger in Kenya with an AJWS grantee staff member

As my thoughts turn to the Jewish New Year, I begin to think about all the exciting ways American Jewish World Service will continue to deepen its work in developing world. Here’s what we’re working toward this year: Read More »

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A Win for LGBTI Rights in Uganda and Around the World

Eight months ago, I stood shivering with my Ugandan colleagues on the steps of the Massachusetts federal court house. We had just witnessed the first hearing in the case Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) v. Lively—a suit filed by a group of Ugandan LGBTI rights organizations against American evangelist Scott Lively for his role in inciting the persecution of LGBTI Ugandans. Lively is well-known for advocating that homosexuality should be criminalized around the world.

At the time, we were cautiously optimistic that the case would move forward. Today, we are celebrating. Read More »

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AJWS Shows Its Pride in NYC

AJWS staff and friends marching in the 2013 NYC Pride parade.

Staff and friends of American Jewish World Service marching in the 2013 NYC Pride March.

Staff and supporters of American Jewish World Service hit the streets of New York City last week, joining the NYC Pride March and serving as the Jewish voice for LGBTI rights worldwide.

My colleagues and I were so excited to show our pride, celebrate the latest victory in the struggle for marriage equality in the U.S. (the Supreme Court decision to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act and Proposition 8) and make it clear that our work will not be done until the human rights of people of all sexual orientations are respected worldwide.

Read More »

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LA’s Pride Parade, with Ugandan LGBTI partner Julius Kaggwa

Julius Kaggwa and a group of AJWS LA staff and supporters ready to march!

Julius Kaggwa and a group of AJWS LA staff and supporters ready to march!

Los Angeles celebrated LGBT Pride the first weekend in June with its  spectacular annual pride parade through West Hollywood. AJWS supporters marched with a banner proudly declaring that we are the leading Jewish voice for LGBTI rights around the world. Surrounded by volunteers decked out in feather boas, beads, and rainbow flags, we were privileged to march with Julius Kaggwa, a prominent LGBTI leader from Uganda, whose work AJWS supports. Perched on the back of a white convertible, Julius held up his arms in a victorious salute and crowds of jubilant supporters reacted with joy and admiration when they saw him. To say the least, this warm reception in LA is quite a contrast to what Julius experiences in Uganda, where the LGBTI community lives in fear and secrecy, persecuted by the state and right-wing religious activists. Read More »

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Alarming Statistics About Attitudes Toward LGBTI People

A Ugandan activist holds up a popular tabloid 'Red Pepper,' one of several newspapers inciting prejudice and violence against LGBTI people in Uganda, where homosexuality is illegal and LGBTI people are routinely denied their rights. Photo: Evan Abramson

A Ugandan activist holds up a popular tabloid ‘Red Pepper,’ one of several newspapers inciting prejudice and violence against LGBTI people in Uganda, where homosexuality is illegal and LGBTI people are routinely denied their rights. Photo: Evan Abramson

A new report released last week by the Pew Research Center reveals alarming data about attitudes toward lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) communities around the world. Here are a few statistics that shine a spotlight on the countries in which AJWS works:

  • In El Salvador, 35 percent of survey respondents believe the LGBTI community should be accepted, whereas 62 percent do not;
  • In Kenya, 8 percent of survey respondents believe the LGBTI community should be accepted, whereas 90 percent do not;
  • In Uganda, 4 percent of survey respondents believe the LGBTI community should be accepted, whereas 96 percent do not.

These attitudes are symptomatic of the oppression LGBTI people face on a regular basis—the loss of their jobs, unequal access to healthcare and limited opportunities for education. LGBTI people are ostracized, rejected, threatened and assaulted just for living their lives.

It gets worse.

Read More »

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Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill Is Delayed Once Again

Good news: A vote on Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill has been delayed once again. Despite a promise by the Ugandan speaker of parliament to deliver the bill as a “Christmas gift to the nation,” it was repeatedly downgraded on parliament’s agenda.

Last Friday, parliament adjourned without taking action on the proposed legislation. It’s unclear whether the bill will resurface when the parliament reconvenes in February.

Local LGBTI activists are relieved but wary about what may come next. At a public event on Monday, Uganda’s President Museveni sent mixed messages about the bill, saying “If there are some homosexuals, we shall not kill or persecute them but there should be no promotion of homosexuality.”

Gitta Zomorodi is an AJWS program officer for Africa.

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Gender and Justice in the Torah and Around the World

This week’s Torah portion, Parashat Ki Tetze, contains 74 interesting and illuminating commandments—including one that, at first glance, gets my hackles up: “A man’s apparel should not be on a woman, and a man should not wear a woman’s clothing, for whoever does these things is an abomination before Adonai your God.” For many of us—and especially for those of us who identify as transgender or gender non-conforming—this apparent prohibition against cross-dressing feels problematic. Why should wearing clothes that are not “gender-appropriate” earn the harsh title of abomination? Read More »

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Risk and Pride in Uganda

Ugandan activists holding posters during the first Ugandan Pride celebration, which took place on August 4, 2012. (Photo Credit: The New Yorker)

Even though I live in New York, Uganda is often on my mind; especially the LGBTI Ugandan activists who are working to advance their human rights in an environment of violence, hostility and homophobia. Why do I think of Uganda and my LGBTI friends there so often? Because I work for American Jewish World Service, which supports grassroots organizations in Uganda that are fighting for the human rights of LGBTI people.

So, last week, when photographic images of Uganda’s first-ever LGBTI Pride event began to circulate through emails and online, including in The New Yorker, my first reaction—and the reaction of many other allied activists outside Uganda—was one of alarm. We worried about the risks of this kind of exposure in a country in which  tabloids are notorious for publishing photos, names and addresses of outed “homos.” The aggressive outing of LGBTI people by the local media has helped fuel homophobia in the country. A photo of Ugandan gay activist David Kato appeared alongside the headline “Hang Them” just months before he was murdered in his home.

Read More »

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Live Tweeting, Learning and Networking with the International Human Rights Funders Group

A few weeks ago, I attended the International Human Rights Funders Group (IHRFG) conference with several other AJWS colleagues. My first time at IHRFG, I decided 2 furiously abbr., #hashtag & @mention for 2 days str8 (AKA Live Tweet) the sessions I attended in an effort to document the fascinating conversations going on at #IHRFG2012NY. Shameless plug: follow @AJWSinASIA!

Tweets from the 2012 International Human Rights Funders Group conference.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with IHRFG or AJWS’s involvement, here’s a quick rundown:

What is IHRFG? IHRFG defines itself as a “global network of donors and grant-makers committed to advancing human rights around the world through effective philanthropy.” What does that mean, minus our wonk-speak? We’re a group of donors passionate about funding social justice movements and human rights work globally. We work all over the world. We come together to share experiences and learn from each other. We want to be the most strategic grant-makers we can be. Read More »

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