In my last post I lamented the “attitudes, words, and actions of incredible ignorance, insensitivity, and even cruelty and violence,” that are all too often directed toward gay people and the reality of their lives and relationships.
Currently at the United Nations an effort is underway to address such deplorable attitudes, words, and actions. But as Peter Tatchell notes in his article below, leading the charge against the UN efforts to decriminalize homosexuality is the Vatican and the Organization of Islamic States.
Yet why, you may ask, is such a declaration of decriminalization necessary? Well, as Tatchell points out: “Eighty-six countries (nearly half the nations on Earth) still have a total ban on male homosexuality [while] a smaller number also ban sex between women. The penalties in these countries range from a few years jail to life imprisonment. In at least seven countries or regions of countries (all under Islamist jurisdiction), the sentence is death.”
The Vatican’s opposition to the UN efforts to decriminalize homosexuality, and accordingly its alignment with Islamic fundamentalists, have left some Catholics wondering: “Are we the new Taliban?” Actually, the Roman Catholic hierarchy, largely as a result of its own “unhealed wound” around sexuality, has always been somewhat of a Taliban-equivalent when it comes to gay people. As I’ve documented in a previous Wild Reed post, “in their understanding and treatment of gays, aspects of both Roman Catholicism and Islam share a common, blood-soaked thread.”
Tatchell’s article provides an excellent (albeit disturbing) socio-historical context for the declaration currently being discussed at the UN, a declaration that, as he says, could well be a “watershed for gay rights.”
I particularly appreciate his critique of the Vatican’s opposition to the declaration. Writes Tatchell: “[According to the Vatican] protecting LGBT people against discrimination is an act of discrimination against those who discriminate. Since the Vatican is against discrimination, it opposes discrimination against countries that discriminate. This is the mediaeval mindset of the Pope and his placemen.”
Tatchell’s December 8 article is reprinted in its entirety below.
A Watershed for Gay Rights
By Peter Tatchell
December 8, 2008
By Peter Tatchell
December 8, 2008
A historic declaration calling for the worldwide decriminalisation
of homosexuality, shortly to be put to the UN, must win support.
A declaration calling for the global decriminalisation of homosexuality will be put before the United Nations general assembly in the next two weeks. It will be the first time in its history that the UN General Assembly has considered the issue of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) human rights.
Although it will not be binding on the member states, the declaration will have immense symbolic value, given the six decades in which homophobic persecution has been ignored by the UN.
If you want to understand why this decriminalisation declaration is so important and necessary, ponder this: even today, not a single international human rights convention explicitly acknowledges the human rights of LGBT people. The right to physically love the person of one's choice is nowhere enshrined in any global humanitarian law. No convention recognises sexual rights as human rights. None offers explicit protection against discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
Yet 86 countries (nearly half the nations on Earth) still have a total ban on male homosexuality and a smaller number also ban sex between women. The penalties in these countries range from a few years jail to life imprisonment. In at least seven countries or regions of countries (all under Islamist jurisdiction), the sentence is death: Saudi Arabia, Iran, Yemen, Sudan, Mauritania and parts of Nigeria and Pakistan.
Many of the countries that continue to criminalise same-sex relationships are in Africa and Asia. Their anti-gay laws were, in fact, imposed by the European powers during the period of colonialism. With the backing of Christian churches and missionaries, the imperial states exported their homophobia to the rest of the world. In many of the conquered lands, little such prejudice had previously existed and, in some cases, same-sex relations were variously tolerated, accepted and even venerated. This importation of western homophobia happened in countries like Ghana, Jamaica, Nigeria and Uganda, which now absurdly decry homosexuality as a “white man’s disease” and “unAfrican,” while vehemently denying and suppressing all knowledge of their own pre-colonial era indigenous homosexualities.
Unsurprisingly, the Vatican and the Organisation of Islamic States are leading the fight against the UN declaration. The opposition of the Pope is truly sickening, depraved and shameless.
Of course, the Vatican has form. In 2004, it teamed up with Islamist dictatorships in the UN Commission on Human Rights to thwart a resolution sponsored by Brazil that opposed homophobic violence and discrimination. The Holy See is so viciously homophobic that it opposed the UN condemnation of the murder of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
Last week, the papal envoy to the UN, Monsignor Celestino Migliore, explained the “logic” of this opposition when he announced the Vatican’s rejection of this week’s decriminalisation declaration. The monsignor argued that the UN declaration would unfairly “pillory” countries where homosexuality is illegal; forcing them to establish “new categories (gay people) protected from discrimination.” Such laws would “create new and implacable acts of discrimination ... States where same-sex unions are not recognized as ‘marriages,’ for example, would be subject to international pressure.”
In other words, protecting LGBT people against discrimination is an act of discrimination against those who discriminate. Since the Vatican is against discrimination, it opposes discrimination against countries that discriminate. This is the mediaeval mindset of the Pope and his placemen.
Never mind, there are already plenty of countries committed to supporting the UN decriminalisation declaration.
It will be tabled on Wednesday by France with the backing of all 27 member states of the EU; plus non-EU European nations including Norway, Switzerland, Iceland, Ukraine, Andorra, Liechtenstein, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro, Serbia, Ukraine, Armenia and Macedonia. Russia and Turkey are not signing.
The call for the decriminalisation of same-sex relationships also has the support of the Latin American states of Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, Mexico and Uruguay but not, notably, Columbia, Guyana or Venezuela.
Only three African nations – Gabon, Cape Verde and Guinea-Bissau – are endorsing the declaration so far. South Africa has not signed up. No Caribbean nation has offered its support, not even Cuba.
Although New Zealand is committed to the declaration, Australia is not. Nor is the US. But Canada is a sponsor.
No country in the Middle East, apart from Israel, endorses the declaration, and in Asia only Japan has agreed to approve it. China and India are silent on where they stand.
The initiative for the UN universal decriminalisation declaration came from the inspiring French black activist and gay rights campaigner, Louis-Georges Tin, the founder of the International Day Against Homophobia (IDAHO). He lobbied the French government, which agreed to take the lead in getting the declaration tabled at the UN. Member organisations of the global IDAHO network then petitioned their individual governments to support it.
What is truly remarkable is that IDAHO is just a loose, unfunded global grassroots LGBT activist network, with no office, no staff and no leaders. It has pulled off something that none of the well paid LGBT professionals, working for often lavishly financed LGBT non-governmental organisations, have managed to come even close to achieving.
A reminder as to why this UN declaration matters occurred last Friday, a sad anniversary. On December 5 2007, Makvan Mouloodzadeh, a 21-year-old Iranian man, was hanged in Kermanshah Central Prison, after an unfair trial. A member of Iran's persecuted Kurdish minority, he was executed on charges of raping other boys when he was 13. In other words, he committed these alleged acts when he was minor. According to Iranian law, a boy under 15 is a minor and cannot be executed. At Makvan's mockery of a trial, the alleged rape victims retracted their previous statements, saying they had made their allegations under duress.
Makvan pleaded not guilty, telling the court that his confession was made under torture. He was hanged anyway, without a shred of credible evidence that he had even had sex with the boys, let alone raped them. The lies, defamation and homophobia of the debauched Iranian legal system was exposed when hundreds of villagers attended Makvan’s funeral. People don't mourn rapists. This execution was bare-faced homophobic judicial murder, according to Arsham Parsi, Executive Director, of the underground Iranian Queer Railroad, which helps Iranian LGBTs fleeing arrest, torture and execution.
Makvan’s fate is just one example of the thousands of state-sponsored acts of homophobic persecution that happen worldwide ever year. It shows why the upcoming UN declaration is so important and so long overdue.
Editors’ Note: Since this article was published, it has been confirmed that the UN declaration on decriminalisation is now likely to be put to the general assembly sometime in the period December 15-20, and not on December 10 as previously reported. Minor corrections have been made at the request of the author.
Recommended Off-site Link:
Vatican Upholds Criminalization of Gays Against United Nations - Joseph S. O’Leary (Essays on Literary and Theological Themes).
See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
The Blood-Soaked Thread
Listen Up, Papa!
What the Vatican Can Learn from the X-Men
A Catholic’s Prayer for His Fellow Pilgrim, Benedict XVI
Homosexuality and the Priesthood
What Is It That Ails You?
Image: “Jesus Dies” (from The Passion of Christ: A Gay Vision) by Doug Blanchard.