Malawi Actions Show the Need for Full Decrminalization

The pardon and release of Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza was celebrated across the world, but according to The Times of South Africa, Tiwonge, who identifies as a woman, and Steven were separated and sent to their respective family villages.   This couple reminds the us all that decriminalizing lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people is an imperative.  

 A statement from  The Center for the Development of People:

 “We applaud President Mutharika for this bold decision,” said Gift Trapence, Executive Director of the Center for the Development of People. “As Chairperson of the African Union, his actions should set a precedent for African leaders to respect, protect and fulfill the rights of all Africans, including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons. We hope that the President now pardons all Malawians imprisoned on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, that the judiciary overturns all such convictions, and that the government ensures the constitutional rights to equality and non-discrimination for all.

Sign the Uganda Declaration:  http://welcomingresources.org/uganda.htm

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Malawi Couple Pardoned

by Cindi Creager, GLAAD Director of National News

The New York Times, CNN and several other outlets are reporting today that the Malawi couple,  jailed for being who they are, have been pardoned by Malawi’s president, Bingu wa Mutharika.  Tiwonge Chimbalanga, who identifies as a woman, and Steven Monjeza were arrested last December after their wedding made headlines around the world. The couple had received the maximum sentence, 14 years imprisonment with hard labor because of so-called “unnatural acts and gross indecency.”

According to the CNN report:

President Bingu wa Mutharika announced his pardon of Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga after meeting with U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, Kamanga said.

Authorities arrested Monjeza and Chimbalanga in December at their home in Blantyre, Malawi after the couple professed their love in a traditional engagement ceremony. Police discovered the couple when local newspapers reported on their engagement ceremony.

CNN also reports that Human Rights Groups are praising the news:

The director of an organization that helped provide legal support to the couple, Gift Trapence of the Center for the Development of People, welcomed the news.

The president’s decision provides an example to African governments and the world in general, he said.

A BBC report quotes UN chief Ban Ki-moon as calling the president’s decision, “courageous.”  He went on to say, “This outdated penal code should be reformed wherever it may exist.”

We here at GLAAD are  relieved to hear that Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza have been pardoned.  We also urge media outlets to report this story accurately.  Most mainstream reports continue to call them a gay couple, but it is clear from many sources that Tiwonge Chimbalanga identifies as a woman.

We’ll keep you posted on any new developments in this story.

 Sign the Uganda Declaration:  http://welcomingresources.org/uganda.htm

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“Missionaries of Hate:” American Architects of Uganda’s Anti-Gay Bill

May 24, 2010 by Ann Craig, GLAAD’s Director of Religion Faith and Values 

As faith leaders ramp up a campaign to sign the “Uganda Declaration” to challenge state-sponsored violence against LGBT people in Uganda, Malawi and in 80 other countries, CURRENT TV’S VANGUARD media will premier “Missionaries of Hate,” a one hour documentary that exposes “ The American Architects of Uganda’s Anti-Gay Bill”– evangelicals who export a message of hate to Uganda—and many other places in the world.  

Take the time to research what channel your cable company uses for CURRENT TV and watch or record it on Wednesday, May 26, at 10 p.m. ET / 7 p.m. PT.  View the trailer.  You won’t want to miss this sobering look at the impact of homophobia. http://current.com/122404c

 Ugandan LGBT people say in the film that this is a “witch hunt” and it could get worse.  Despite various announcements that the bill will be modified, it is still pending in the Ugandan legislature.  The names and photos of LGBT advocates have been in local tabloids under headlines like “Top Homos Named” and “Homo Terror.” 

Long Johns, an LGBT advocate in the documentary says that, if the “anti-homosexuality” bill is passed, we are “finished.” He predicts that with a current list of LGBT activists, they could all be arrested on the day the bill passes. The bill proposes the death penalty for LGBT people and would require friends and family members to report anyone who is LGBT.

“Missionaries of Hate” features exclusive video of American Evangelical Lou Engle who visited Uganda on May 2 to support the major backers of the proposed legislation. Mariana van Zeller also interviews Pastor Martin Ssempa, one of the most famous religious leaders in Uganda and an anti-gay crusader, whose preaching methods include showing gay pornography in church. She also talks to Ugandan citizens (both gay and straight) about the new proposed law, and the effect it will have on their lives.  

SIGN THE UGANDA DECLARATION http://welcomingresources.org/uganda.htm

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THE UGANDA DECLARATION

Launched May 17, 2010, International Day Against Homophobia

Introduction and Background

In the very first years of the HIV/AIDS pandemic across the world, people with AIDS were shunned by their families, religions and communities. It wasn’t long, however, before faith communities began to reach out to support orphans, provide medical care, engage in grief ministries and more. Stigma and discrimination of HIV positive people declined and grassroots leaders and experts emerged in Africa, Asia, Europe and the Americas inspiring millions to work for prevention. Whole cultures shifted and paired traditional music, storytelling and healing models with medical models to stem the spread of HIV.

Today, this progress is being threatened by increasing homophobia in the name of religion. When religion is quick to judge, condemn and reject rather than love, inspire and bless, it becomes a damning force rather than a life giving one.

Uganda’s harsh “anti-homosexuality” bill originally proposed the execution of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people and became a widely publicized example of state sanctioned persecution of people based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The bill included penalties for giving information about homosexuality, even life-saving HIV/AIDS prevention information. Pro-LGBT leaders from Uganda and across the world spoke out and pushed Uganda’s parliament to reconsider their actions.

But, even if this draconian bill is defeated or modified, life imprisonment is already a punishment for LGBT people under Ugandan law. Sexual minorities there have few rights and live in constant fear. Uganda is not alone in its criminalization of LGBT people. Seven countries allow the death penalty for homosexuality and 73 more have laws that make people criminals because of who they love or who they are. These laws combined with religious persecution based on sexual orientation or gender identity are the backdrop for so much violence. For example:

  • In Malawi, a couple was imprisoned for announcing their engagement.
  • Lesbians in the townships of South Africa can still expect to be raped as a “cure.”
  • Young gay men in the privacy of their own home in Jamaica were attacked with machetes.
  • Transgender women and men are often targets for violence in the United States.
  • In Pakistan, lesbians may face “honor” killings, and gay men are targets for police actions.
  • Since November 2008, at least 8 transgender people have been murdered in Turkey.

With the increase of religiously based homophobia and violence against gay people, the infection rate around HIV/AIDS also increases. People are afraid to be identified, to get tested, and to be treated.

Uganda’s culture, like many the world over, is a faith-based one. Its population is over 40% Catholic and 35% Anglican. Core Christian values of love of neighbor and welcome of strangers are part and parcel of the culture’s fabric and do not allow for the persecution of LGBT people. All religions hold human beings as worthy of respect.

And, despite consistent condemnation of LGBT people, even Vatican officials could not rationalize the imprisonment or execution of LGBT people and publicly announced its support for the decriminalization of homosexuality in 2008 and 2009. Tragically, no further statements or actions have followed—in Uganda or anywhere. Protestant national and international groups also have policies in support basic human rights for all people. Because of fear of controversy, too often leaders in denominations and faith traditions do not speak out.

Today, we speak out because 80 countries criminalize people based on their sexual orientation or gender identity—and 7 of those countries include the death penalty. Public law must protect the vulnerable and stop the misuse of power in society, no matter its basis or source. People must not be imprisoned or executed because of who they love or their gender expression.

The Uganda Declaration:

As faith leaders from many traditions, we, the undersigned, commit ourselves to:

  • Pray for God’s peace between all nations, peoples, traditions and cultures and all the diversity of God’s creation;
  • Teach the simple spiritual truth that loving, not hating or harming our neighbors, is the will of God in all things, including for people living with HIV/AIDS and people who are sexual minorities;
  • Apply existing statements on human rights in our own faith traditions to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in policies and programs, in congregations, national and global agencies and partner groups;
  • Advocate for the elimination of all laws which criminalize people based on sexual orientation or gender identity;
  • Push for prosecution of crimes committed because of perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.

Sign the Uganda Declaration

I am signing the “Uganda Declaration” because as a person of faith, I believe it is time to apply human rights to everyone and work to eliminate imprisonment, execution and persecution of lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender people.

Click Here to Sign:  http://welcomingresources.org/uganda.htm

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Uganda Declaration

UNITARIAN-UNIVERSALIST –  UNITED NATIONS OFFICE 777 West UN Plaza, Suite 7G, New York, NY 10017

 Media Release  – May 17, 2010

Media Contacts:  Patricia Ackerman  917-488-9929   packerman@uu-uno.org OR Ann Craig  213-703-1365    craig@glaad.org

COALITION LAUNCHES “UGANDA DECLARATION” FOR LGBT HUMAN RIGHTS:

International Day Against Homophobia is first day of the “Uganda Declaration” campaign to mobilize faith leaders to decriminalize people based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

NEW YORK, NY, Monday, May 17, 2010 – On the annual International Day Against Homophobia, a coalition of national faith leaders announced that they are launching a campaign based on the “Uganda Declaration” to begin mobilizing faith leaders to work for decriminalization of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people based on their tradition’s human rights policies and official statements against violence.

Motivated by Uganda’s proposed “anti-homosexuality” bill, with its death penalty and extradition clauses, the coalition began its work by challenging the export of homophobia to Uganda by evangelicals from the United States.  It is expanding its concerns to asking faith leaders from all traditions to use their faith networks and official policies on human rights to challenge the more than 80 countries with laws against homosexuality—seven with the death penalty.

“Faith leaders in the United States know that almost all faith traditions have statements on the books that support human rights for all people,” said, Bruce Knotts, Executive Director of the Unitarian Universalist United Nations Office.  “They are realizing that, regardless of their beliefs about sexual orientation or gender identity, their traditions support the human rights of all people.  Faith leaders are stepping up to take action to stop state sponsored violence and all violence against LGBT people.”

The “Uganda Declaration” gave examples of violence against LGBT people such as

  • Lesbians in the townships of South Africa can still expect to be raped as a “cure.”
  • In Malawi, a couple was imprisoned for announcing their engagement
  • Young gay men in the privacy of their own home in Jamaica were attacked with machetes
  • Transgender women and men are often targets for violence in the United States
  • In Pakistan, lesbians may face “honor” killings, and gay men are targets for police actions.
  • Since November 2008, at least 8 transgender people have been murdered in Turkey.

The campaign will seek a cross section of officials in denominations and faith traditions as well as LGBT faith leaders and concerned people to sign the “Uganda Declaration” and commit themselves to work proactively for decriminalization of LGBT people throughout the world.

Louise Brooks, Communications Director for Integrity, said, “Fair-minded faith leaders in places like Uganda, the United States and throughout the world must speak out and use their faith networks to stop the hate, get rid of the anti-LGBT laws and live out their own core values of care for God’s people.”

“People of faith are seeing that their international HIV-AIDS grants are being undermined by fear and homophobia,” sad, Dr. Sylvia Rhue of the National Black Justice Coalition.  “When homophobia rules the day, LGBT people are afraid of getting attacked at the clinics so they stop going.  Fear and misunderstanding make the HIV/AIDS epidemic much more lethal.”

Sign the Uganda Declaration

Click here to sign the Uganda Delcaration

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Standing with Bishop Christopher Senyonjo

click on link to view full video

Bishop Christopher Senyonjo of Uganda is leading the way for faith leaders to take the risk and speak out for all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.

http://www.allsaints-pas.org/videos/CSenyonjo100516Forum.wmv

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