By George Harvey, LGBTI Coordinator
By Alexander Kennedy, LGBTI Coordinator
In June 2005, I sat in the gallery of the House of Commons the night the Civil Marriage Act was passed. It was a moment of joy, the culmination of years of work by LGBTI activists, and yet in the midst of the celebrations I found myself wondering when trans people would get our moment, the recognition that our rights matter too.
This morning, more than a decade later, I sat in the gallery of the House of Commons as the Minister of Justice introduced Bill C-16 to extend human rights protections to trans people in Canada, surrounded by some of the many trans activists who have worked long and hard to make this day a reality.
We're still celebrating the release of scores of prisoners of conscience in Myanmar, including student leader Phyoe Phyoe Aung, on April 8!
And now we get to take a moment to reflect on how amazing March was for human rights – activists were released, unfair laws were changed, and people who committed serious human rights abuses were brought to justice. We’ve picked out 15 successes, wins and pieces of good news, and they were all made possible thanks to your support.
>> For the latest good news stories, click here!
By Lorna Hayes and Khairunissa Dhala from Amnesty’s refugee and migrants’ rights team at Amnesty's International Secretariat
Said and his partner Jamal – who is living with HIV – fled Syria after being tortured for their political activism. They are excited about starting a new life in the capital, Berlin, after being resettled there.
“We were so happy that we cried,” says Jamal* about the moment he and his partner Said* found out that Germany had opened its doors to them.
“It was a moment of victory,” Jamal continues. “We were shocked that we were accepted for resettlement so quickly, [after just] six months.”
They were lucky – many other refugees who qualify for resettlement wait much longer for that all-important phone call to say they can settle down for good somewhere peaceful and safe.
A new home in Berlin
By Lesly Lila, London, UK
As the 2015 Pride season ends, we look at why Pride events are still so important for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people and activists across the world.1. People are still attacked because of their real or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity
The case of a 22-year-old student sentenced to one year in prison for engaging in “homosexual relations” has finally sparked public debate on same-sex relations in Tunisia. Yesterday, the Minister of Justice Mohamed Salah Ben Aissa made a ground-breaking public call for the decriminalization of same-sex relations.
A court in Sousse convicted the man, known under the pseudonym Marwan, on 22 September after forcing him to undergo an anal examination to establish “proof” of anal sex. Amnesty International considers people who are arrested and detained solely on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity to be prisoners of conscience.
On 6 September, police had summoned Marwan in relation to the murder of a man in Sousse. When he denied any involvement in the crime, but admitted to having sex with the victim reportedly after the police threatened to bring a murder charge against him, he was charged with “sodomy” under Article 230 of the Penal Code which carries a maximum three-year prison sentence. The article also criminalizes “lesbianism” although it is rarely used to detain lesbian women.
Chelsea Manning is serving a 35-year prison sentence for leaking classified US government documents to the website WikiLeaks. Two years after she was first sentenced, Chelsea tells us why speaking out against injustice can be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
Q. Why did you decide to leak documents about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan?
These documents were important because they relate to two connected counter-insurgency conflicts in real-time from the ground. Humanity has never had this complete and detailed a record of what modern warfare actually looks like. Once you realize that the co-ordinates represent a real place where people live; that the dates happened in our recent history; that the numbers are actually human lives – with all the love, hope, dreams, hatred, fear, and nightmares that come with them – then it’s difficult to ever forget how important these documents are.
By George Harvey, Amnesty International Canada, LGBTI Coordinator
A landmark ruling from the Supreme Court in the United States calling for marriage equality in all 50 states! A successful referendum on marriage equality in Ireland! Discriminatory laws challenged and repealed in a number of countries, and peaceful Pride marches in cities where they've been met with violence and counter marches in the past. We have much to celebrate during Pride this summer.
Pride season is in full swing. As I type this blog I am gearing up to coordinate Amnesty's contingent in Toronto Pride this Sunday. Amnesty marches in Pride parades throughout Canada and around the world. We promote our actions at festivals and info-fairs, and we honour the lives lost to homophobia and transphobia at human rights vigils. Some of us are Amnesty activists who are members of the LGBTI community; many are allies marching in solidarity with the LGBTI community. All of us stand firmly against discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, and all of us stand firmly for the right to loudly, proudly, and publicly be who we are.
Around the world, people face violent attacks and threats simply because of who they are or who they have sex with. But some brave activists are still standing up for their rights. To mark the International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (IDAHOT) on 17 May, we celebrate the courageous activism of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people worldwide.1. Pushing to end hate crimes in Greece
In Greece, LGBTI rights organizations tell us violent attacks on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity have more than doubled over the last year. In August 2014, Kostas and Zabi, a Greek-Pakistani gay couple, were brutally beaten up in a homophobic and racist attack in central Athens.
By Jackie Hansen, Major Campaigns and Women’s Rights Campaigner
There appears to be a rise in homophobia around the world. From Russia and Kyrgyzstan to Nigeria, Uganda, and beyond, homosexuality is becoming further criminalized. This is particularly hard to understand here in Canada where we are steadily marching in the opposite direction—we have had marriage equality for a decade, and several provinces and territories have legislation in place to protect the transgender community from violence and discrimination.
When we hear about new legislation criminalizing or further criminalizing same sex sexual conduct we are enraged. And we want to act. And when activists in Uganda ask us not to act—or at least not act in the ways we would normally work here at home—we are confused. We want to be supportive. We want to help. We want to send a message to the Ugandan government that LGBTI rights are human rights. And sometimes the hardest thing we can do is nothing.
There is nothing bogus about the real life events which Gary shared with me. As a gay man in a small Caribbean Island country he tells me he had no social life. He was afraid of being out in public, and pretty much went from home to work and not much else. He had a job but was repeatedly the target of verbal and psychological abuse as a man who everyone suspected was gay.
There were no shelters or social groups for him to turn to. He never got beaten up, but that was because he didn’t put himself into dangerous situations. He thought the best way to stay safe was to stay under the radar and not make himself visible. The laws in his country provide for a 15 year prison sentence for homosexual acts. He knew it would be foolish to make complaints about mistreatment which might only draw further unwanted attention.
By Khairunissa Dhala, Refugee Researcher at Amnesty International
When Khalil, 26, entered Lebanon having escaped the conflict and humanitarian crisis in Syria, he thought his life would finally improve.
But one night, he was lured into a meeting with two men. He says they raped him, stole money from his wallet and his mobile phone.
Khalil never reported the alleged rape to the police. He is a refugee, and he is also gay. He feared he would be penalized, and that no one would care about what had happened to him.
Since then, he has tried to commit suicide – a friend found him and took him to hospital.
Although Lebanon is often perceived as more tolerant than most countries in the region, like in Syria the Lebanese Penal Code considers ‘homosexual acts’ illegal. The country’s lesbian gay, bisexual, transgender or intersex (LGBTI) community is growing in prominence but the issue is still a taboo.
As one of the nearly one million refugees from Syria in Lebanon, Khalil claims to suffer daily discrimination on the basis of his nationality. But as a gay man he faces further hardship.
Jean-Claude Roger Mbede, a 34-year-old former Amnesty International prisoner of conscience, recently died an untimely death in Cameroon. © Private
Jean-Claude Roger Mbede died an untimely death on 10 January in his hometown, Ngoumou, Cameroon.
According to media reports, his family prevented him from receiving necessary medical treatment – leaving him fighting for his life whilst his lawyers fought in the courts to appeal his earlier conviction for “homosexuality”.
By George Harvey, the action circle coordinator on LGBT issues in Toronto.
Amnesty International joins human rights enthusiasts everywhere in applauding the recent decision by the governments of Uruguay, New Zealand, and France to legalize same sex marriage.
Equal marriage is an important step for the LGBTQ community on the path towards equality, freedom from discrimination and the right to live with dignity.
The path towards marriage equality has been a challenging one and the courageous and determined work of equal rights activists should be acknowledged. LGBTQ individuals have faced many challenges, even within the activist community. It is important to realize that the loving relationship between two individuals of the same gender is just as deserving of the legal and social recognition that comes with the term marriage as every other relationship.