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Posts for October, 2009

Uganda Parliament Takes Up Anti-Gay Bill Adding Death Sentence and Bans on Free Speech

Jim Burroway

October 14th, 2009

Uganda’s Parliament took up the new Anti-Homosexuality Bill of 2009 today, giving the bill its first reading. Bills undergo three readings before becoming law. BTB previewed the bill last month when we received a surreptitious copy dated April 20. According to the pro-government New Vision newspaper, the bill appears unchanged from the earlier draft:

Aggravated homosexuality will be punished by death, according to a new bill tabled in Parliament yesterday. …A person commits aggravated homosexuality when the victim is a person with disability or below the age of 18, or when the offender is HIV-positive. The bill thus equates aggravated homosexuality to aggravated defilement among people of different sexes, which also carries the death sentence.

The Bill, entitled the Anti-Homosexuality Bill 2009, also states that anyone who commits the offence of homosexuality will be liable to life imprisonment. This was already the case under the current Penal Code Act. However, it gives a broader definition of the offence of homosexuality. A person charged with the offence will have to undergo a mandatory medical examination to ascertain his or her HIV status. The bill further states that anybody who “attempts to commit the offence” is liable to imprisonment for seven years. The same applies to anybody who “aids, abets, counsels or procures another to engage in acts of homosexuality” or anybody who keeps a house or room for the purpose of homosexuality.

The bill also proposes stiff sentences for people promoting homosexuality. They risk a fine of sh100m or prison sentences of five to seven years. This applies to people who produce, publish or distribute pornographic material for purposes of promoting homosexuality, fund or sponsor homosexuality.

The bill’s language prohibiting “promoting homosexuality” does not restrict itself to “pornographic material.” That is an invetion of the New Vision reporter, who equates anything advocating on behalf of LGBT people as pornographic. Instead, the bill addresses anyone invloved in the “production, trafficking, procuring, marketing, broadcasting, disseminating, publishing homosexual materials,” or “who acts as an accomplice or attempts to legitimize or in any way abets homosexuality and related practices.”

The bill also adds an unusual extraterritorial jurisdiction for those who are Ugandan citizens but who engage in same-sex relationships or LGBT advocacy overseas.

Opposition to the bill appears minimal according to The New Vision. It is highly unlikely that many lawmakers will vote against the bill, given the current environment where accusations of homosexuality have become a potent political tool.

This drafting of this bill appears to have coincided with intense lobbying efforts by anti-gay activists following a conference held in Kampala which featured American Holocaust revisionist Scott Lively and Exodus International board member Don Schmierer. Exodus International released a statement “applauding” Don Schierer’s participation in the conference which ended with calls to strengthen Uganda’s homosexuality laws. Exodus International president Alan Chambers denies that Exodus supports criminalizing homosexuality. Scott Lively, however, defended criminal laws against gay people.

That anti-gay conference quickly spawned other anti-gay meetings and rallies, including a march on Parliament on April 24, about the time this draft was written. By then, rumors were already circulating that anti-gay politicians sought to eliminate free speech by criminalizing LGBT advocacy, a rumor which was confirmed in Julyby Uganda’s Minister of State for Ethics and Integrity James Nsaba Buturo. Meanwhile, a full-fledged public vigilante campaign was released on Uganda’s gay community, leading to several reports of arrests and investigations.

The full text of the draft is available here.

Click here to see BTB’s complete coverage of recent anti-gay developments in Uganda.

Judge Jerry Buchmeyer (1933-2009)

Jim Burroway

September 21st, 2009

buchmeyer_portrait2The Dallas Voice is reporting that Federal district court Judge Jerry Buchmeyer has passed away. Judge Buchmeyer declared Texas’ anti-sodomy law unconstitutional in 1982, writing, “Homosexuals are not ill or mentally diseased… Homosexuality is not communicable… There is simply no rational connection between the acts proscribed by [the law] and the claimed interests of morality, decency, health, welfare, safety and procreation.” Judge Buchmeyer’s ruling in Baker v. Wade was later overturned by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. Texas’s anti-sodomy law remained on the books until 2003, when the U.S. Supreme Court overturned it in Lawrence v. Texas, a ruling that also swept away all other remaining anti-sodomy laws nationwide.

One of may notable points in Baker v. Wade is that Judge Buchmeyer had to deal with Paul Cameron, who was just starting out in his career as an “expert witness” on homosexuality. Let’s just say Judge Buchmeyer wasn’t impressed with Cameron’s professionalism. In his written opinion, Judge Buchmeyer condemned Cameron by name for having “himself made misrepresentations to this Court,” and called out two specific examples:

(i) his sworn statement that “homosexuals are approximately 43 times more apt to commit crimes than is the general population” is a total distortion of the Kinsey data upon which he relies–which, as is obvious to anyone who reads the report, concerns data from a non-representative sample of delinquent homosexuals (and Dr. Cameron compares this group to college and non-college heterosexuals);

(ii) his sworn statement that “homosexuals abuse children at a proportionately greater incident than do heterosexuals” is based upon the same distorted data–and, the Court notes, is directly contrary to other evidence presented at trial besides the testimony of Dr. Simon and Dr. Marmour. (553 F. Supp. 1121 at 1130 n.18.) n30

We have more details on those distortions here. Judge Buchmeyer’s smackdown stung Cameron, who is still complaining about it on his Family Research Institute web site nearly thirty years later.

Judge Buchmeyer was nominated by President Jimmy Carter as federal judge for the Northern District of Texas on August 3, 1979. He was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on October 4, and received his commission on October 5, 1979. He served as chief judge from 1995 until his retirement in 2002. According to Wikipedia, he was known around the courthouse as a Talking Heads fan, and after retirement he maintained a legal humor blog with the Texas Bar.

Draft Anti-Gay Bill Circulating In Uganda

Jim Burroway

September 15th, 2009

Uganda appears to be inching closer to “strengthening” its already draconian anti-gay laws which already provide for a possible life sentence for those convicted of homosexuality. A draft of the proposed bill obtained by Box Turtle Bulletin indicates that Ugandan lawmakers intend to go much further.

In a draft dated April 20, 2009 and being circulated surreptitiously, the proposed bill creates an offense of “aggravated homosexuality” and provides for the death penalty under specific circumstances. It also provides for at least five years imprisonment (and no apparent maximum) for advocating on behalf of LGBT people. This extends not just to activists and organizations, but to individuals as well, including bloggers or anyone else using the internet or mobile phones — as well as anyone who makes a donation or offers a safe refuge for LGBT people. Furthermore, if anyone is “aware of the commission of any offense under this Act” and fails to report it to the police, they will be liable of up to six months imprisonment.

The draft also extends jurisdiction to people who are Uganda citizens or permanent residents but who commit offenses outside the country.  This could mean that LGBT Ugandans abroad who engage in advocacy work could find themselves in danger of being imprisoned should they return to Uganda. LGBT Ugandans fleeing the country could also face extradition should they find themselves in a similarly hostile country.

The accompanying memorandum calls on the Uganda government to withdraw from any international obligations or treaties which the government interprets as running counter to the country’s anti-gay policies.

It is unclear at this time whether the proposed bill has undergone any modifications since April. There is no word yet on when the bill will be formally introduced into Parliament. It is believed that under current conditions when accusations of homosexuality have become a potent political tool, that few if any lawmakers will vote against the bill. It will be passed into law upon its third reading.

This drafting of this bill appears to have coincided with intense lobbying efforts by anti-gay activists following a conference held in Kampala which featured American Holocaust revisionist Scott Lively and Exodus International board member Don Schmierer. Exodus International released a statement “appauding” Don Schierer’s participation in the conference which ended with calls to strengthen Uganda’s homosexuality laws with a proposal to force LGBT people into ex-gay therapy upon conviction. That proposal does not appear in this draft.

That anti-gay conference quickly spawned other anti-gay meetings and rallies, including a march on Parliament on April 24, about the time this draft was written. By then, rumors were already circulating that anti-gay politicians sought to criminalize LGBT advocacy, which this draft appears to confirm. In July, Uganda’s Minister of State for Ethics and Integrity James Nsaba Buturo confirmed their intention to eliminate free speech for and on behalf of LGBT people. Meanwhile, a full-fledged public vigilante campaign was released on Uganda’s gay community, leading to several reports of arrests and reports.

The following is the full text of the draft that we received.


 

APRIL 20, 2009

THE ANTI – HOMOSEXUALITY BILL,   2009

 MEMORANDUM

1. The Principle

 The object of this Bill is to establish a comprehensive legislation to protect the traditional family by prohibiting (i) any form of sexual relations between people of the same sex; and (ii) the promotion or recognition of such sexual relations in public institutions as healthy, normal or an acceptable lifestyle, including in the public schools, through or with the support of any government entity in Uganda or any non- governmental organization inside or outside the country.  Research indicates that the  homosexuality has a variety of negative consequences including higher incidences of violence, sexually transmitted diseases, and use of drugs.  The higher incidence of separation and break-up in homosexual relationships also creates a highly unstable environment for children raised by homosexuals through adoption or otherwise, and can have profound psychological consequences on those children.  In addition, the promotion of homosexual behavior undermines our traditional family values.

Given Uganda’s historical, legal, cultural and religious values which maintain that the family, based on marriage between a man and a woman is the basic unit of society. This Bill aims at strengthening the nation’s capacity to deal with emerging internal and external threats to the traditional heterosexual family.  These threats include: redefining human rights to elevate homosexual and transgender behavior as legally protected categories of people.    

This legislation is aimed at halting the advance of the “sexual rights” agenda, which seeks to establish additional legally protected classes based on sexual preferences and behaviors, as well as claims that people have rights based on these preferences and behaviors.  Sexual rights activists have created new euphemisms to promote this agenda such as “sexual orientation,” “gender identity,” “sexual minorities” and “sexual rights.”

This legislation further recognizes the fact that same sex attraction is not an innate and immutable characteristic and that people who experience this mental disorder can and have changed to a heterosexual orientation.  It also recognizes that because homosexuals are not born that way, but develop this disorder based on experiences and environmental conditions, it is preventable, especially among young people who are most vulnerable to recruitment into the homosexual lifestyle.

The Republic of Uganda needs comprehensive and enhanced legislation to protect our cultural, legal, religious, and traditional family values against the attempts of sexual rights activists seeking to impose their values of sexual promiscuity on Uganda.

There is also need to protect our children and youths who are made vulnerable to sexual abuse and deviation as a result of cultural changes, uncensored information technologies, parentless child developmental settings and increasing attempts by homosexuals to raise children in homosexual relationships through adoption, foster care, or otherwise. 

2. Defects in the existing law.

This legislation is designed to fill the gaps in the provisions of the constitution of Uganda and the penal code Act by establishing that, in Uganda, marriage is only between a man and a woman and that no other sexual unions or relationships will be recognized by the government. 

The Penal Code Act (Cap 20) does not directly address this issue of homosexuality. It instead talks about unnatural offenses under section 145. This section does not specifically talk about homosexuality as an offense. It does not even have any reference to homosexuality. Not surprisingly the Act does not have a definition for homosexuality in the definition section.

The Penal Code Act does not explicitly address the issue of same sex unions and gender identity disorders which are damaging the social fabric of our nation at an alarming rate. There are no provisions in the Penal Code Act panelizing the procurement, promotion, disseminating literature and other forms of report for the offenses of homosexuality hence the need for legislation to provide for charging, investigating, prosecuting, convicting and sentencing of offenders   on the above law. There is need for equal treatment of man and woman before the law in regard to homosexual offenses.

This legislation comes to complement and supplement the provisions of the Constitution of Uganda and the Penal Code Act by   not only criminalizing same sex marriages but same -sex sexual acts and other related acts.

3.1. The objectives of the Bill 

The objectives of the Bill are:

(a) To protect marriage as that only between a man and a woman in Uganda;

(b) To prohibit homosexual behavior and related practices in Uganda as they constitute a threat to the traditional family; 

(c) To safeguard the health of Ugandan citizens from the negative effects of homosexuality and related practices;

(d) To establish progressive legislation protective of the traditional family that can serve as a model for other countries;

(e) To prohibit ratification of any international treaties, conventions, protocols and declarations which are contrary or inconsistent with the provisions of this Act;  

(f) To ensure that no international instruments to which Uganda is already a party can be interpreted or applied in Uganda in a way that was never intended at the time the document was created; 

(e) To withdraw from any international agreements to which Uganda already is a party, or file reservations to them, which are re-interpreted to include protection for homosexual behavior, or that promote same-sex marriage, or that call for the promotion or teaching about homosexuality as being healthy, normal, or an acceptable lifestyle choice, or that seek to establish sexual behavior, sexual orientation, or gender identity, or sexual minorities as legally protected categories of people; and

(f) To prohibit Uganda from becoming a party to any new international instruments that expressly include protection for homosexual behavior; promote same-sex marriage; call for the promotion or teaching about homosexuality or homosexual relations as being healthy, normal, or an acceptable lifestyle choice; and/or seek to establish sexual behavior, sexual orientation, gender identity or sexual minorities as legally protected categories of people

3.2. Part 1 of the Bill incorporating clauses 1 and 2 provides for Preliminary matters relating to commencement and Interpretation of the words and phrases used in the Bill

3.3. Part II of the Bill incorporating clause 3 to clause 6 prohibits homosexuality and related practices by introducing the offences of engaging in homosexuality, and the penalties of imprisonment upon conviction. This part also creates offences and penalties for acts that promote homosexuality, failure to report the offence and impose a duty on the Community to report Suspected Cases of homosexuality.

3.4. Part III of the Bill incorporating of clause 7 to clauses 9 provides for the jurisdiction of Ugandan Courts in Case of Homosexuality, including extra territorial Jurisdiction.

3.5. Part IV of the Bill incorporating clauses 10 and 11 provides for miscellaneous provisions on International Treaties, Protocols, Declarations and Conventions and the Minister to make regulations to give effect to the Act.

4. Schedule 1 of the Bill gives the value of the currency.

Hon. David Bahati
MP, Ndorwa County West
Kabale

 

ARRANGEMENT OF CLAUSES 

PART I ­-PRELIMINARY

Clause.

1. Commencement
2. Interpretation

PART II – PROHIBITION OF HOMOSEXUALITY

3. Offence of Homosexuality
4. Aggravated Homosexuality
5. Promoting Homosexuality
6. Failure to report  offence

PART III – JURISDICTION

7. Jurisdiction
8. Extra – territorial Jurisdiction
9. Extradition

PARTIV – MISCELLANEOUS PROVISIONS

10. International treaties
11.  Regulations

 Schedule 1

Currency point.

PART I – PRELIMINARY

1 – Commencement

This Act shall come into force upon publication in the Gazette.

2 – Interpretation

In this Act, unless the Context otherwise requires –

“Gender” means male or female;

“Homosexuality” means same gender or same sex sexual acts;

“Homosexual” means a person who engages or attempts to engage in same gender sexual activity.

“Minister” means the Minister responsible for Ethics and Integrity.

 “Sexual act” means –

(a)  Stimulation or penetration of a vagina or mouth or anus or any part of the body, however slight of any person by a sexual organ;

(b)  The use of any object or organ by a person on another person’s sexual organ or anus or mouth;

“Sexual organ” means-a vagina or penis.

 
PART II:  PROHIBITION OF HOMOSEXUALITY AND RELATED PRACTICES

3. Prohibition of homosexuality

(1)  Homosexuality is prohibited.

(2)  Any person who engages in homosexuality contrary to sub-section (1) commits an offense and on conviction is liable to a fine not exceeding 500 currency points or imprisonment not exceeding 10 years or both.

4. Aggravated homosexuality

(1)  Any person who commits the offense mentioned in section 3 above with another person who is below the age of 18 years in any of the circumstances specified in sub-section (2) of this section commits the  offense and on conviction is liable to suffer death.

(2)  The circumstances referred to in sub-section (1) are as follows: -

(a)   Where the person against whom the offense is committed is below the age of 14;

(b)   Where the offender is infected with HIV;

(c)  Where the offender is a parent or guardian or a person in authority over, the person against whom the offense is committed;

(d)  Where the victim of the offense is a person with disability; or

(e)  Where the offender is a serial offender.

(3)  Any person who attempts to commit the offense of homosexuality with another person below 18 years in any of the circumstances specifies in sub-section (2), commits an offense and is liable on conviction to imprisonment for life.

(4)  Where a person is charged with the offense under this section, that person shall undergo a medical examination to ascertain his or her HIV status.

(5)  Any person who without the consent of an adult victim being under their authority or not commits the offense mentioned in this section

5. Promotion of homosexuality

(1)  Any person who,

(a) Participates in production, trafficking, procuring, marketing, broadcasting, disseminating, publishing homosexual materials;

(b) Funds or sponsors homosexuality and related activities

(c) Offers premises and other fixed or movable assets

(d) Uses electronic devices which include internet, films, mobile phone and

(f) Who acts as an accomplice or attempts to legitimize or in any way abets homosexuality and related practices

Commits an offense and on conviction is liable to a fine of five thousand currency points or imprisonment of at least five years or both.

(2)     Where the offender is a corporate body or a business or an association or a Non-governmental organization conviction its Certificate of Registration shall be cancelled and the Director(s) or proprietors or promoter(s) shall be criminally liable. 

6. Failure to report the offense

Any person who being aware of the commission of any offense under this Act omits to report the offense to the relevant authorities within 24 hours commits an offense and on conviction is liable to a fine not exceeding five hundred currency points or imprisonment not exceeding six months year.

PART IV -JURISDICTION

7. Jurisdiction.

Save for aggravated homosexuality which shall be tried by the High Court, other offenses under this Act shall be tried by the Magistrates Court.

8. Extra – Territorial Jurisdiction.

This Act shall apply to offences Committed outside Uganda Where-

(1)  A person who, while being a citizen of, or permanently residing  in Uganda, Commits an act Outside Uganda, which act would Constitute an offence had it been Committed in Uganda.

(2)  The offence was committed partly outside and or partly in Uganda.

9. Extradition.

A person charged with offence under this Act shall be liable to extradition under the existing Extradition laws.

PART V-MISCELLANEOUS

10.  Nullification of inconsistent International treaties, protocols, declarations and conventions.

(1). Any international legal instrument whose provisions are contradictory to the spirit and provisions enshrined in this Act, are null and void to the extent of their inconsistency.

(2). The foreign definitions of “sexual orientation”, “sexual rights”, “sexual minorities”, “gender identity” shall not be used in anyway to legitimize homosexuality, gender identity disorders  and related practices in Uganda.

11. Regulations.

The Minister may by statutory instrument make regulations to effect implementation of the provisions of this Act, and Promote the objects of this Act.

 SCHEDULE  1

CURRENCY POINT

One currency point is equivalent to twenty thousand Shillings.

Click here to see BTB’s complete coverage of recent anti-gay developments in Uganda.

India’s Reversal of Sodomy Laws to go Nationwide

Timothy Kincaid

September 2nd, 2009

In July, the Delhi High Court declared that India’s law which criminalizes sex between consenting adults of the same gender is a violation of fundamental human rights. Since that time, various factions have argued against the decision and there was some uncertainty as to whether this was binding only in the Capital.

It now appears that the government will allow the decision to apply to the entire nation. (AFP)

The July verdict by the Delhi High Court was non-binding outside the Indian capital, meaning the government had the choice to appeal to the Supreme Court or repeal the law nationwide.

A note from the cabinet, reproduced by the CNN-IBN television network, recommended that the government should accept the court ruling while letting the Supreme Court rule on appeals by some religious groups.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is expected to make a final decision this week, but CNN-IBN said he was in favour of following the advice in the cabinet note.

Teen Arrested In Senegal For Homosexuality

Jim Burroway

August 21st, 2009

The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) reports that a 17-year-old Senegalese man from the town of Darou Mousty in Louga, Senegal, was arrested for sexual acts “against nature.” The young man will stand trial on August 24. According to the IGLHRC, two other men, also from the same town, were convicted on identical charges during the week of August 10, 2009. They were sentenced to two and five years in prison respectively. According to the HRC, the only evidence against them were denunciations from neighbors.

All three men were arrested on June 19. A fourth man was arrested, but his current status is unknown. Homosexual acts are punishable in Senegal with prison terms of one to five years.

Nine AIDS workers were jailed earlier this year on similar charges. The judged sentenced them to prison terms ranging from one to eight years. He added three more years for being members of a “criminal group,” presumably the HIV services organization they worked for which provided services for Senegal’s beleaguered gay community. Tthe men were freed in April following an international outcry.

Uganda May Ban All LGBT Advocacy

Jim Burroway

July 3rd, 2009
Uganda Minister of Ethics and Integrity, Nsaba Buturo speaking about the government’s stand on homosexuality at a press conference on Wednesday. (Anna Batcheller/Daily Monitor)

Uganda Minister of Ethics and Integrity, Nsaba Buturo, speaking about the government’s stand on homosexuality at a press conference on Wednesday. (Anna Batcheller/Daily Monitor)

Uganda’s Minister for Ethics and Integrity, James Nsaba Buturo, announced at a press conference on Wednesday that he would be submitting a bill before the Uganda Parliament to ban all forms of expression in support for LGBT people in that country:

He noted that once the Bill is passed into law, it will be an offence to publish and distribute literature on homosexuality or advocate for it. He also stated that it would become impossible for homosexuals to address press conferences and attract people to their cause, once the Bill becomes law. He, however, declined to reveal the penalties for offenders.

Buturo acknowledged that several donor organizations have asked for the elimination of that nation’s draconian anti-sodomy law. Many of those service organizations see the law as being a huge roadblock to their health and anti-HIV/AIDS efforts. Current law punishes homosexual acts with a lifetime sentence. Buturo was defiant against calls to ease these restrictions:

“I have been pressured by some donors to allow homosexuality, but I have told them they can keep their money and the homosexuality because it is not about charity at the expense of our moral destruction,” Mr Buturo said.

Mr Buturo said the homosexual forces are very powerful and operating through powerful governments to have their desire fulfilled but Uganda will not succumb to any pressure to legalise unnatural sex and homosexuality in particular.

Click here to see BTB’s complete coverage of recent anti-gay developments in Uganda.

Times of India: Delhi Court Ruling Legalizing Homosexuality Binding Nationwide

Jim Burroway

July 3rd, 2009

The Times of India answers the question of whether the Delhi High Court ruling which “read down” Section 377 of the India Penal Code is binding nationwide:

Since a high court has a limited territorial jurisdiction, is homosexuality decriminalized only in Delhi or the whole country? Although legal pundits are divided on this, the law laid down by a 2004 SC judgment implies that homosexuals across the country may rest assured that they too are entitled to the benefits of the historic Delhi high court decision on Section 377 IPC.

In Kusum Ingots vs Union of India, a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court had ruled: “An order passed on writ petition questioning the constitutionality of a Parliamentary Act, whether interim or final, will have effect throughout the territory of India subject of course to the applicability of the Act.”

Thursday’s Delhi High Court ruling touches on the constitutionality of an Act of Parliament in effect throughout the country like the one stuck down in Kusum Ingots vs Union of India, The Times concludes that this ruling is also binding nationwide. This makes the impact of this ruling staggering. With a population of over one billion people, seventeen percent of the world’s gays and lesbians have now been legalized in one fell swoop.

The case is expected to be appealed to India’s Supreme Court. Also according to The Times of India, the India government now appears unlikely to challenge the ruling to the Supreme Court.

[Hat tip: Rex Wockner]

Delhi High Court: Homosexuality Is Not A Crime

Jim Burroway

July 2nd, 2009
Marchers at Delhi Pride Parate, 2008 (Sonali Gulati/Wockner News)

Marchers at Delhi Pride Parade, 2008 (Sonali Gulati/Wockner News)

It appears that about seventeen percent of the world’s population of gay people are about to become legal. The Delhi High Cort “read down” section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, striking India’s law which criminalizes sex between consenting adults of the same gender. The court ruled that the law is a violation of fundamental human rights:

A bench of Chief Justice Ajit Prakash Shah and Justice S Muralidhar said that if not amended, section 377 of the IPC would violate Article 21 of the Indian constitution, which states that every citizen has equal opportunity of life and is equal before law.

The court said that this judgement will hold till Parliament chooses to amend the law.

“In our view Indian Constitutional law does not permit the statutory criminal law to be held captive by the popular misconception of who the LGBTs (lesbian gay bisexual transgender) are.

“It cannot be forgotten that discrimination is antithesis of equality and that it is the recognition of equality which will foster dignity of every individual,” the bench said in its 105-page judgement.

This ruling, which is being hailed as “India’s Stonewall” by India’s LGBT advocates, appears to be legally binding only in the Union Territory of Delhi over which the Delhi High Court has jurisdiction. But it is expected to become an important precedent for the rest of the country. It is also expected that opponents will appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court.

The ruling overturns a 148-year-old colonial law left over from the British Raj. Homosexual acts were punishable with a ten year prison sentence.

Senegal Court Frees Nine Men Convicted Of Homosexuality

Jim Burroway

April 26th, 2009

Last January we reported on nine men who were sentenced to eight years in prison on charges of engaging in an “unnatural act.” Those men were ordered free last Monday by a Dakar appeals court. According to Biram Sassoum Sy, the lead lawyer for the defense, the nine have been completely cleared and the case has been dropped.

Most of the defendants worked for HIV/AIDS programs targeting men who have sex with men. They were arrested at the home of a prominent gay activist in December without warrants, and police elicited confessions after mistreatment, according to the group’s lawyers. Senegalese law provides for a five year prison sentence on conviction of homosexual acts, but the court piled on an additional three years for “criminal association.”

The conspiracy charge appears to be related to their work with AIDES Senegal. The men were arrested only days after Senegal hosted the 15th International Conference on AIDS and STIs. This conviction has had a deep chilling effect among all HIV/AIDS workers in Senegal.

CORRECTION: Video Determined To Be From Iraq, Victims Likely Weren’t Gay (Was: Video of Iranian Gays Thrown From Roof)

Jim Burroway

March 18th, 2009

This disturbing video comes to us via Gays Without Borders. It’s how one country deals with the “crime” of homosexuality. This video shows Iranian gay men being thrown off of a rooftop as their sentence for homosexuality.  According to Gays Without Borders, this video purported to show Iranian gay men being thrown off the roof of a building as punishment. They apparently found the video on the French-language Iran-Resist.org web site, posted on Feb 21, 2009. Iran-Resist.org, in turn, appears to have obtained that video from IranPressNews, which published a story containing that video on Feb 20, 2009.  Gays Without Borders posted the video on March 5.

However, thanks to Steven Milerton we’ve been able to confirm that the video appeared much earlier in a 2003 CNN report, which showed troops from Iraq’s Fedayeen Saddam throwing soldiers off the roof in order to “instill discipline.”

A few hours before Steven left his comment, I posed a question asking Gays Without Borders to provide information as to the video’s authenticity. That’s how I got the two links to IRanPressNews and Iran-Resist.org. I am now attempting to notify Gays Without Borders about what appears to be the actual source of the video. 

Gays Without Borders has posted the video twice, once at the link where we first noticed it, and again as an introduction to a reprinted opinion piece by UK LGBT advocate Peter Tatchell. (Tatchell’s original article does not include the video.)

Meanwhile, we have removed the misidentified video from BTB. We regret the error.

Update: Gays Without Borders has now taken down the video from their web site.

US To Call for Worldwide Decriminalization

Jim Burroway

March 17th, 2009

Via the Associated Press:

The Obama administration will endorse a U.N. declaration calling for the worldwide decriminalization of homosexuality that then-President George W. Bush had refused to sign, The Associated Press has learned.

U.S. officials said Tuesday they had notified the declaration’s French sponsors that the administration wants to be added as a supporter. The Bush administration was criticized in December when it was the only western government that refused to sign on.

…The official added that the United States was concerned about “violence and human rights abuses against gay, lesbian, transsexual and bisexual individuals” and was also “troubled by the criminalization of sexual orientation in many countries.”

“In the words of the United States Supreme Court, the right to be free from criminalization on the basis of sexual orientation ‘has been accepted as an integral part of human freedom’,” the official said.

In light of recent failures of American ant-gay leaders to denounce recently announced criminalizing initiatives in Uganda and elsewhere, this is very welcome news.

Nine Men Jailed in Senegal for Homosexuality

Jim Burroway

January 8th, 2009

Diadji Diouf, who heads an organization which provides HIV prevention services to gay men in Senegal, was been convicted along with eight other men of homosexuality and sentenced to eight years in prison. This depite the fact that Senegalese law only provides for five years in prison for homosexuality. The judge added three more years, claiming the men were also members of a “criminal group,” presumably the HIV services organization.

Diouf’s organization, AIDES Senegal, provided condoms and HIV treatment out of his apartment. Police raided his apartment on December 19 and arrested the men. The raid came just weeks after Senegal hosted an international AIDS conference which included LGBT participants.

The head of a Senegalese gay rights group, speaking anonymously to AFP news, said that conditions in the country were getting steadily worse for LGBT people. “Many gays are already fleeing to neighboring countries because of our living conditions,” he said.

Is Pope Benedict XVI Just Being Ironic?

Jim Burroway

December 11th, 2008

The Catholic Church is not known for its ironic sense of humor. But how else do we read this statement from Pope Benedict XVI on the occasion of 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights?

Some 60 years ago, on Dec. 10, the U.N. General Assembly, meeting in Paris, adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which still today constitutes a very high point of reference in the intercultural dialogue on liberty and the rights of man. The dignity of every man, really guaranteed only when all his fundamental rights are recognized, protected and promoted. The Church has always confirmed that the fundamental rights, beyond the different formulations and the different weight they might carry in the realm of the different cultures, are a universal fact, because they are inscribed in the very nature of man.

…I support these good wishes with the prayer that God, Father of all men, will enable us to build a world where every human being feels accepted with full dignity, and where relations between individuals and peoples are governed by respect, dialogue and solidarity.”

The Vatican has taken a nonsensical, contradictory position by opposing a U.N. resolution calling for the elimination of anti-homosexuality laws around the world, even though a Vatican spokesman claims they oppose all criminal penalties against homosexuality. The Vatican has staunchly opposed the death penalty while opposing a measure calling on nations to lift the death penalty and other criminal penalties for LGBT people.

And despite all of that, the Pope calls for a world where people are “goverened by respect, dialogue and solidarity.” What solidarity? What respect? What dialogue? I am truly at a loss for words.

I think maybe he’s confused the meaning of Matthew 6:3. He must think it says, “Don’t let your left hand catch what your right hand is doing.

U.S. Catholic Groups To Hold Vigils At Cathedrals

Jim Burroway

December 10th, 2008

Three Catholic groups which support LGBT equality have announced plans to hold vigils in five U.S. cities today to call attention to the Vatican’s opposition to a U.N. resolution calling for the decriminalization of homosexuality. DignityUSA, New Ways Ministry, and Call To Action will hold vigils in the following locations:

  Read the rest of this entry »

Hundreds Protest Vatican’s Opposition to Decriminalization of Homosexuality

Jim Burroway

December 8th, 2008

According to AFP, about 250 people protested in St. Peter’s Square on Saturday over the Vatican’s opposition to a U.N. resolution calling for member nations to decriminalize homosexuality.

Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi exhibited more of the Vatican’s intrinsically disordered logic by saying the Church opposed “all forms of violent or discriminatory penal law regarding homosexuals…. No one obviously wants to defend the death penalty for homosexuals.” Some 80 countries have laws against homosexuality, with some including the death penalty or long terms of up to life imprisonment.

And yet the Vatican claims to oppose all “discriminatory penal law regarding homosexuals” by actively lobbying against a U.N. resolution calling for the repealing of all such laws. It certainly can’t get any more contradictory than that.

Here is an Italian news report of the protest:
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[Hat tip: Towleroad]

Vatican’s Intrinsically Disordered Opposition To Decriminalizing Homosexuality

Jim Burroway

December 2nd, 2008

The Catholic church — as part of a what it sees as a consistent “pro-life” ethic — opposes the death penalty. But the Vatican’s representative in the United Nations is opposing a measure calling on governments around the world to decriminalize homosexuality — including countries which impose the death penalty on gays:

Archbishop Celestino Migliore said the Vatican opposed the resolution because it would “add new categories of those protected from discrimination” and could lead to reverse discrimination against traditional heterosexual marriage.

“If adopted, they would create new and implacable discriminations,” Migliore said. “For example, states which do not recognize same-sex unions as ‘matrimony’ will be pilloried and made an object of pressure,” Migliore said.

The proposed measure does nothing to extend rights to anyone — unless you consider the elimination of the death penalty, imprisonment or fines for homosexuality a special right. Because that’s all the proposed resolution does: it only calls for decriminalization.

Homosexuality is still punishable by imprisonment or fines in more than 85 countries. Some, including Afghanistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Yemen, impose the ultimate penalty of death. A Vatican spokesman argues that the church is against all that, saying that “no one wants the death penalty or jail or fines for homosexuals.” And yet the Vatican opposes a measure calling for the elimination of these very penalties that “no one wants.” Because, according to the Vatican, the only way to prevent adding “new categories of those protected from discrimination” is to preserve the most egregious examples of discrimination — criminal sanctions against gay people.

No wonder an editorial in Italy’s La Stampa called the Vatican’s stance “grotesque.” Me, I think that this sort of flawed and inconsistent reasoning is just instrinsically disordered.

Burundi Outlaws Homosexuality

Jim Burroway

November 23rd, 2008

The central African nation of Burundi adopted a new set of laws abolishing the death penalty for the first time in the troubled nation’s history. The sweeping law was seen as an important reform. It incorporated parts of international law on genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. It includes important safeguards against torture as well as sexual violence against women and children.

It also criminalizes homosexuality.

The law was overwhelmingly passed by Burundi’s Parliament, 90-0 with ten abstentions. It still needs to be ratified by the Senate and signed by President Pierre Nkurunziza, which is seen as a mere formality. Nkurunziza is described as an ex-Hutu rebel leader and born-again Christian, whose presidency has been marred by accusations of assassinations and torture. Burundi is still emerging from a twelve-year civil war that engulfed neighboring Rwanda.

[Hat tip: Stefano]

Today In History: Lawrence vs. Texas Begins Its Journey Through The Courts

Jim Burroway

November 20th, 2008

Ten years ago today, on November 20, 1998, John Geddes Lawrence and Tyrone Garner pleaded no contest to charges of violating the Texas “Homosexual Conduct” law which banned “deviant sexual intercourse with another individual of the same sex.” They were convicted of the Class C misdemeanor by a Justice of the Peace in Houston, and were fined $250 with an additional $141.25 in court costs.

That conviction led to a series of appeals: the Texas Criminal Court (which rejected the defense’s request to dismiss the charges), a three-judge panel of the Texas 14th Court of Appeals (which ruled the law unconstitutional), and the full nine-judge panel of the 14th Court of Appeals (which reversed the three-judge panel).

The appeals then reached the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, which serves as Texas’s Supreme Court for criminal cases. That court refused to hear the case, which left the lower court’s decision standing.

Lawrence vs. Texas was then appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which agreed to hear the case. On June 26, 2003, the U.S. Supreme Court, in a 6-3 ruling, struck down the Texas anti-sodomy law, along with similar laws in twelve other states.

At last report, John Lawrence still works as a medical technologist in Houston. Tyrone Garner died in 2006 of meningitis.

Today In History: A Bugger Was Hung

Jim Burroway

August 12th, 2008

“Buggery” — the quaint British legal term for homosexual activity — was a capital offense until 1861, when the laws were finally relaxed to allow for life imprisonment. But that change came almost thirty years too late for Captain Henry Nicholas Nicholls, who was hanged 175 years ago today for the “abominable vice.”

According to the London Courier:

Captain Henry Nicholas Nicholls, who was one of the unnatural gang to which the late Captain Beauclerk belonged, (and which latter gentleman put an end to his existence), was convicted on the clearest evidence at Croydon, on Saturday last, of the capital offence of Sodomy; the prisoner was perfectly calm and unmoved throughout the trial, and even when sentence of death was passed upon him. In performing the duty of passing sentence of death upon the prisoner, Mr. Justice Park told him that it would be inconsistent with that duty if he held out the slightest hope that the law would not be allowed to take its severest course. At 9 o’clock in the morning the sentence was carried into effect. The culprit, who was fifty years of age, was a fine looking man, and had served in the Peninsular war. He was connected with a highly respectable family; but, since his apprehension not a single member of it visited him.

[Hat tip: ExecutedToday.com (which proves that there is truly a blog for everything!) via Andrew Sullivan.]

Lawrence vs. Texas Revisited

Jim Burroway

June 26th, 2008

Driver error led me to prematurely celebrate the five year anniversary of the Supreme Court ruling which struck down anti-sodomy laws across the nation. Dr. Gregory Herek apparently is in better control of his blogging software than I am of mine.

Dr. Herek is a prolific researcher and professor of psychology at U.C. Davis. Today he posted excerpts from a longer article he wrote to commemorate the ruling. In it, he explores the role that social science played in that ruling and what it tells us today in our current debates over same-sex marriage. He concludes:

Because current debates about law and policy concerning sexual orientation inevitably raise questions about the nature of intimate relationships, parenting, family dynamics, and the personal impact of sexual stigma – phenomena that have been extensively studied by behavioral and social scientists – psychologists and other behavioral scientists have an ongoing role to play in communicating our knowledge to policy makers, jurists, and the public.

By doing so, we will continue to fulfill our longstanding commitment to take the lead in removing the stigma historically attached to homosexuality and same-sex intimate relationships.

Like everything else Dr. Herek writes, this is well worth reading and bookmarking.

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