Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday spoke at an LGBTQ and intersex rights event that took place on the eve of the U.N. General Assembly.
Blinken in his remarks at the LGBTI Core Group, a group of U.N. countries that have pledged to support LGBTQ and intersex rights, noted the meeting took place at “a time when the movement for equality is showing some encouraging momentum.”
He pointed to the decriminalization of consensual same-sex sexual acts over the summer in St. Kitts and Nevis and Antigua and Barbuda. Blinken also noted the Vietnamese Health Ministry’s announcement last month that it no longer considers LGBTQ people to be sick.
“At the same time, for that progress, which is real and which is worth underscoring, we know that people worldwide continue to experience alarming levels of violence, discrimination, isolation,” said Blinken. “Risks are the highest for people with disabilities, people of color, refugees and LGBTQI+ women. Transgender people are often denied access to legal identity documents that reflect their names and gender markers. Intersex people, including minors, continue to be subjected to unnecessary surgeries without their consent.”
Blinken further stressed that members of the U.N. LGBTI Core Group and countries around the world “have work to do to ensure that LGBTQI+ people have the same rights, the same protections as all other people.”
“Defending these rights is central to the health of our democracies,” he said. “Any system where some groups are treated as ‘less than’ simply because of who they are is fundamentally flawed.”
President Joe Biden in February 2021 signed a memo that committed the U.S. to promoting LGBTQ and intersex rights abroad as part of his administration’s overall foreign policy. The White House four months later appointed Jessica Stern as its special envoy for the promotion of LGBTQ and intersex rights overseas.
The State Department in April began to issue passports with “X” gender markers. The White House’s efforts in support of LGBTQ and intersex rights abroad now includes marriage equality in countries where activists say such a thing is possible through legislation or the judicial process.
Blinken in his speech noted Biden in June issued a sweeping executive order that, among other things, prohibits the use of federal funds to support so-called conversion therapy. The ceremony, which occurred during the White House’s annual Pride reception, took place against the backdrop of the passage of Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law and efforts in several other states across the country to curtail the rights of transgender students.
“Standing up for LGBTQI+ people is a top priority for our administration,” said Blinken.
Blinken also referenced the 1969 Stonewall riots.
“Everything we’re doing builds on the work of literally generations of advocates who have — and still are — risking so much to put LGBTQI+ people and their rights on the map,” he said. “And I have to say, as I read the history, learn the history, hear of experiences, I’m quite in awe of generations of advocates who have done so much to put us where we are today. The work we’re doing is only possible because of the work they did — but not only the work they did, the courage that they showed.”
“The 1969 protest at the Stonewall Inn marked a turning point in our nation’s struggle for LGBTQI+ rights and helped galvanize the global movement,” added Blinken. “This is something that is seared into the memories, seared into the consciousness of so many of us. And particularly for me as a native New Yorker, it’s something that I have seen and been inspired by for many, many years.”
Blinken further noted “Stonewall is also a stark reminder of all the places worldwide where people are still subject to abuse simply for being themselves.”
State Department spokesperson Ned Price, Icelandic Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir; Permanent Brazilian Representative to the U.N. João Genésio de Almeida Filho, Peruvian Foreign Minister Cesar Landa Arroyo, Norwegian Foreign Minister Anniken Huitfeldt and OutRight Action International Executive Director Maria Sjödin are among those who attended the event alongside Stern and Victor Madrigal-Borloz, the independent U.N. expert on LGBTQ and intersex issues.
As ensuring adequate supply and distribution of the monkeypox virus vaccine becomes “less of an issue,” efforts have shifted toward maintaining demand, Dr. Demetre Daskalakis, White House national monkeypox response deputy coordinator, said on Sept. 7.
This will mean, “making sure that people know that a effective and safe vaccine is available for those that could benefit,” he said, during a press briefing that also featured National Response Coordinator Dr. Bob Fenton and White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre.
The officials said they were pleased with the impact of their targeted allocations of vaccine doses to events with large numbers of gay and bisexual men who have sex with men, populations considered high risk for MPV infection.
“Thousands of shots were administered” at Southern Decadence in New Orleans, Black Pride in Atlanta and Oakland Pride in the San Francisco Bay Area, Fenton said. These efforts “were, frankly, wildly successful,” Daskalakis said.
During a Q&A with reporters that followed the briefing, Daskalakis addressed questions about the racial disparities that have begun to emerge with respect to infection and vaccination rates.
According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, “Black people have received 22 percent vaccines, while they account for 36 percent of cases. In contrast, White people have received 63 percent of vaccinations but account for 42 percent of cases.”
Daskalakis explained the events that were targeted this summer were a major part of addressing the disproportionately higher rates of infection and lower rates of vaccination among people of color.
“It’s not about just the vaccine allocation,” he said. “It’s about that intense community engagement that happens on the ground because, ultimately, public health is a local event.”
From the beginning of the outbreak, those engaged in the federal response were in touch with community organizations, Daskalakis said: “Giving the tools that people need to be able to sort of reach health goals is what we’ve been doing. And the support of organizations that serve Black and brown people have been pivotal in really turning the tide in what I think you’re going to see, the new vaccine numbers emerging over the next few weeks.”
A court in Iran has sentenced two LGBTQ and intersex activists to death after their arrest for “promoting homosexuality.”
Iran Human Rights, a Norway-based NGO that champions human rights in Iran, on Tuesday noted the Urmia Revolutionary Court in Iran’s West Azerbaijan province sentenced Zahra (Sareh) Sedighi, 31, and Elham Coobdar, 24, to death after it convicted them of “corruption on earth” charges.
Members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps on Oct. 27, 2021, arrested Sedighi while she was trying to enter Turkey.
Police in Iraqi Kurdistan reportedly detained Sedighi for three weeks after she spoke with BBC Persian about the treatment of LGBTQ and intersex people in the region. Sedighi had reportedly entered Iran in order to cross the country’s border with Turkey and ask for asylum.
Iran Human Rights cited Iranian media reports that said Sedighi and Coobdar faced charges of “deceiving and smuggling women and young girls to a regional country.”
“This is while human rights sources and LGBTQI+ activists stress that Zahra and Elham were arrested and convicted for their activism,” said Iran Human Rights. “This claim was confirmed in reports aired on IRIB (Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting) and other official media that cited ‘promoting homosexuality’ as one of the reasons for the two activists’ arrests.”
Iran Human Rights said Sedighi and Coobdar learned the court sentenced them to death on Sept. 1.
“Zahra Sadighi and Elham Choobdar were sentenced to death without due process and in unfair legal proceedings based on forced confessions,” said Iran Human Rights Director Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam. “Their convictions have no legal validity. Islamic Republic authorities have also cited promoting homosexuality as one of the reasons for their arrests. Their lives can be saved by immediate and strong reactions by the international community and civil society.”
ILGA Asia on Tuesday described the death sentences as “concerning.”
Two candidates who came out on top in the primary season in two gubernatorial elections — Maura Healey in Massachusetts and Tina Kotek in Oregon — could be on track to make history and become the first openly lesbian women elected as governor in the United States.
Healey, currently the Massachusetts attorney general, joined Kotek as a fellow Democratic gubernatorial nominee after winning in the primary Tuesday night in Massachusetts, becoming the overwhelming victor by securing 85.5 percent of the vote against State Sen. Sonia Rosa Chang-Díaz.
Following her primary victory, Healey issued a statement seeking to capitalize on the win and envisioned the way forward into the general election in November, pledging to “run a campaign for everyone.”
“I got into this race because I believe in Massachusetts,” Healey said. “We have the best people, innovation and know-how in the world. As governor, I want to harness that potential, bring people together and build a state where every person and every business can thrive.”
Whether or not both Healey and Kotek win in November remains to be seen. Healey, who’s running against Geoff Diehl, a former state lawmaker endorsed by former President Trump, is heavily favored to win in November.
Kotek, on the other hand, faces a more difficult path and is running in a state where outgoing Gov. Kate Brown, a Democrat, is deeply unpopular. Kotek faces a potential three-way race between unaffiliated candidate Betsy Johnson and Republican Christine Drazan, who has recently obtained support from Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan.
Although Healey and Kotek could achieve firsts as out lesbian candidates, other members of LGBTQ community have significant broken barriers in gubernatorial. For example, Brown became the first openly LGBTQ person elected governor in the United States Oregon upon winning election in 2016 as as an openly bisexual candidate.
Other firsts include Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, who’s the first openly gay men to win election as governor. The distinction of the first openly LGBTQ person to serve as governor belongs to former New Jersey Gov. Jim McGreevy, who came out as gay amid scandal before he resigned. In 2018, Christine Hallquist of Vermont became the openly transgender to obtain a major party nomination to run for governor, although she came up short in the general election.
The independent U.N. expert on LGBTQ and intersex issues has expressed concern over efforts to curtail the rights of LGBTQ and intersex people in states across the U.S.
“I am deeply alarmed by a widespread, profoundly negative riptide created by deliberate actions to roll back the human rights of LGBT people at (the) state level,” said Victor Madrigal-Borloz on Tuesday during a press conference. “The evidence shows that, without exception, these actions rely on prejudiced and stigmatizing views of LGBT persons, in particular transgender children and youth, and seek to leverage their lives as props for political profit.”
Madrigal-Borloz last month traveled to D.C., Alabama, Florida and California.
Madrigal-Borloz met with officials from the State and Justice Departments, the National Security Council and the Departments of Homeland Security and Health and Human Services.
Florida state Sen. Shevrin Jones and staffers of the Birmingham (Ala.) Civil Rights Institute and the Human Rights Campaign are among those with whom Madrigal-Borloz sat down. A U.N. press release also notes Madrigal-Borloz met “with authorities” at a detention center for asylum seekers at the San Ysidro Port of Entry in San Diego.
“Despite five decades of progress, equality is not within reach, and often not even within sight, for all persons impacted by violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in the United States,” said Madrigal-Borloz.
Madrigal-Borloz in his comments noted the White House continues to promote LGBTQ and intersex rights in the U.S. and around the world.
President Joe Biden on June 15 signed a sweeping executive order that, among other things, directs federal government agencies to develop policies that will counter Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law and other anti-LGBTQ laws that states have enacted.
Biden during his remarks at a White House Pride event that took place on the same day he issued the directive noted violence against transgender people of color and other vulnerable LGBTQ people has increased in the U.S.
Biden in February 2021 signed a memo that committed the U.S. to promoting LGBTQ and intersex rights abroad as part of his administration’s overall foreign policy. The White House a few months later appointed Jessica Stern as the special U.S. envoy for the promotion of LGBTQ and intersex rights abroad.
The State Department in April began to issue passports with “X” gender markers. Stern later noted to the Washington Blade during an exclusive interview that marriage equality “is one element of our longstanding and ongoing commitment to advance the rights of LGBTQI+ persons.”
“The Biden-Harris administration has adopted powerful and meaningful actions that are in conformity with international human rights law, reveal a thoughtful strategy created through participative approaches, and provide significant capacity for their implementation,” said Madrigal-Borloz. “This is exactly the combination of values, knowledge, and muscle that can drive social change.
“In light of a concerted attack to undermine these actions, I exhort the administration to redouble its efforts to support the human rights of all LGBT persons living under its jurisdiction, and helping them to safe waters,” he added.
The Blade has reached out to the White House for comment on Madrigal-Borloz’s comments.
A State Department spokesperson on Thursday told the Blade the State Department supports “the important work of (the) Independent Expert for Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity and look forward to reviewing his final report in the coming months.”
“We welcomed the Independent Expert and coordinated meetings with federal, state and local governments and civil society organizations across the country,” said the spokesperson.
The spokesperson referred the Blade to Biden’s June 15 executive director. The spokesperson further stressed that “human rights are at the core of U.S. foreign policy, and that includes standing up for and defending the full recognition of the human rights of LGBTQI+ persons.”
“We engage in this work with humility, knowing that our road forward on these issues at home has been complex, and progress has been non-linear, and has come at the cost of great struggle and loss,” said the spokesperson. “We believe LGBTQI+ rights are human rights.”
After months of political organizing on behalf of candidates running to replace two anti-LGBTQ members of the school board in deep red Flagler County, Fla., rising high school senior Cameron Driggers was ready to celebrate their improbable electoral wins this week.
The upset shows that even voters in very conservative districts can see the dangers of extremism, Driggers told the Los Angeles Blade by phone Wednesday evening. “It was a great feeling,” he said, proof that “we shouldn’t give up on Florida just yet.”
After the polls closed Tuesday night, Sally Hunt managed to eke out a razor thin victory against the far-right incumbent school board member for District 1, Jill Woolbright, who handily won her 2020 race and this year had secured the coveted endorsement of the state’s Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis.
Courtney VandeBunte, meanwhile, beat GOP candidates Lance Alred and Will Furry in a three-way race for the school board seat representing District 2, which will be vacated by conservative Woolbright ally Janet McDonald (who is running for county commission.).
Six percentage points shy of the 50 percent threshold that would have allowed her to claim victory, however, VandeBunte will again face off against Furry in the November runoff elections, which is where Driggers’ sights are now set. “We’re not done,” he told the Blade. “We’re just getting started.”
For Driggers, the outcome was a successful referendum on two “lunatics.” (Woolbright made headlines last year after calling the police on a school librarian for offering books with LGBTQ themes and has characterized opposition to her position on the school board as the work of satanists.)
As co-founder and deputy director of Recall Flagler County School Board (Recall FCSB), Driggers and his friends Jack Petocz and Alysa Vidal mobilized a massive political organizing effort in the weeks and months ahead of Tuesday’s elections.
The group reached tens of thousands of voters through digital campaigns across multiple social media platforms and partnered with the Florida Democratic Party to “change hearts and minds” by knocking on nearly 5,000 doors, Driggers said.
“I think the contribution from my organizers and volunteers and Recall FCSB had a huge impact on the results,” he said, adding that the margin of Hunt’s victory over Woolbright was only about 800 votes.
Driggers said he was optimistic as the polls opened on Tuesday, but mindful that Republicans constitute the overwhelming majority of the area’s elected representatives. Donald Trump carried Flagler County in the 2016 and 2020 presidential elections, winning 21 percent and 20 percent more votes than Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden.
Additionally, campaigning for Hunt and VandeBunte, “We were up against thousands of dollars from conservative super PACs,” Driggers said. These groups, some with links to DeSantis, poured money into the race with mailers that made outlandish claims about the Democratic school board candidates, he said.
Cynicism towards politics is common among young people, Driggers said. But “nights like these prove you can effect change, even in the most conservative areas, with the most uphill battles.”
The murder of a prominent transgender activist in Argentina has sparked outrage across the country.
Clarín, an Argentine newspaper, reports Alejandra Ironici was found dead in her home in Santa Fe, a city in Santa Fe province that is roughly 285 miles northwest of Buenos Aires, the country’s capital, on Sunday.
Ironici’s 22-year-old nephew found her body at around 11 p.m. local time (10 p.m. ET).
Reports indicate Ironici’s body showed signs that she had been beaten and burned. A 32-year-old man with whom Ironici had been in a relationship has been charged aggravated feminicide and transfemicide.
Ironici, 45, in 2012 became the first trans person in Argentina to legally change their gender on their national ID document without a court order. She was also the first trans woman to undergo sex reassignment surgery at a public hospital in the country.
Ironici was the first openly trans person elected to Santa Fe’s city government.
Activists who participated in a march in Santa Fe on Monday demanded justice for Ironici.
Esteban Paulón, an LGBTQ and intersex activist in Argentina who lives in Santa Fe province, on Tuesday told the Washington Blade that he knew Ironici for more than 20 years.
Paulón said Ironici “more than anything was a militant, was a committed person who gave everything she had and more to the community.”
“She was one of the biggest motivators behind many of the advances that we have achieved in the province,” Paulón told the Blade.
“Alejandra Ironici’s femicide is evidence that machismo, patriarchy and violence is taking lives with impunity,” added Paulón.
ATTTA (Asociación de Travestis, Transsexuales y Transgéneros de Argentina) in a statement noted Pancha Quebracha, a well-known drag queen in Mar del Plata, a city in Buenos Aires province, was found dead inside her home on Sunday. ATTTA pointed out violence and discrimination based on gender identity remains commonplace in Argentina, even though the country remains at the forefront of the global LGBTQ and intersex rights movement.
“The life expectancy for trans women in Argentina is 41 years,” said ATTTA. “Our community faces violent situations that often times end in transfemicides because of machismo and patriarchal impunity.”
ATTTA in its statement also calls upon Argentina’s government to strengthen existing laws that are designed to protect LGBTQ and intersex people and to implement “an agenda of public policies where nobody is left behind.”
White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Thursday legislation seeking to codify same-sex marriage, left by the Senate as unfinished business before adjourning for August recess, continues to be “incredibly important” to President Biden.
Jean-Pierre, responding to question to the Washington Blade on whether Biden will reach out to Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) to get a vote scheduled on the Respect for Marriage Act, said she had no private conversations to read out, but pointed to a formal Statement of Administration Policy from the White House as of evidence’s support for the bill.
“As you know, we are constantly in conversation with Congress — members of Congress,” Jean-Pierre said. “This is something that we put out a SAP when it first passed the House supporting the marriage equality bill. This is incredibly important to the president. We heard from him back in 2012 when he was one of the first voices to talk about how important marriage equality was being ahead of many others. He has been an advocate for the community. He will continue to be advocate for the community.”
Jean-Pierre was making a reference to Biden’s comments in 2012 on “Meet the Press,” when he spoke out in favor of marriage rights for same-sex marriage and beat President Obama to the punch by several days in coming out for gay nuptials.
Asked by the Blade about talk of an amendment for religious accommodations to obtain the necessary 10 votes from Republicans to end a filibuster in the Senate, Jean-Pierre said the White House would leave the details to Congress.
“We’ve always said we leaver the mechanics of the Senate, or Congress, in this case the Senate, to the Senate and the leadership, but we’ll continue to have those conversations,” Jean-Pierre said, “This is an issue that is…tremendously important to this president.”
An American soldier who texted him on Aug. 26, 2021, 11 days after the Taliban regained control of Afghanistan, told him to go to Kabul International Airport. Khan, along with a group of other LGBTQ and intersex Afghans and members of the country’s special forces, were able to pass through Taliban checkpoints after a mullah with whom they were traveling said they were going to their cousin’s house for a child’s funeral. The group of LGBTQ and intersex Afghans were able to enter the airport, but Khan and several soldiers who were members of the country’s special forces were outside the perimeter when a suicide bomber killed more than 180 people at a gate the U.S. Marines controlled. They returned after the attack, but were then forced to leave.
Khan was still in Kabul on Aug. 30, 2021, when the last American forces withdrew from the country.
Kabul Luftbrücke, a German group, on March 18, 2022, evacuated Khan from Kabul to Pakistan. Khan arrived in Germany less than a month later and now lives in Korbach, a city in the country’s Hesse state.
Khan’s partner and many other LGBTQ and intersex Afghans he knows remain in Afghanistan.
“I’m still hoping that an angel will come and will save their lives before the Taliban finds them,” Khan told the Washington Blade on Monday.
Khan is among the LGBTQ and intersex Afghans who have been able to leave Afghanistan since the Taliban regained control of the country.
Dane Bland, the director of development and communications for Rainbow Railroad, on Monday told the Blade the Toronto-based organization has been able to evacuate 247 LGBTQ and intersex Afghans to the U.S., the U.K., Canada and Ireland.
A group of 29 LGBTQ and intersex Afghans who Rainbow Railroad helped evacuate from Afghanistan with the help of the British government and two LGBTQ and intersex rights groups in the country — Stonewall and Micro Rainbow — arrived in the U.K. on Oct. 29, 2021. A second group of LGBTQ and intersex Afghans reached the country a few days later.
Taylor Hirschberg, a researcher at the Columbia Mailman School of Public Health who is also the Hearst Foundation scholar, said he has helped upwards of 70 LGBTQ and intersex Afghans and their families leave the country.
“I know that there are some people who are still fighting to get people out, but now it has come down to a trickle,” Hirschberg told the Blade on Monday.
A Taliban judge in July 2021 said the group would once again execute gay people if it were to return to power in the country.
A report that OutRight Action International and Human Rights Watch released earlier this year notes a Taliban official said his group “will not respect the rights of LGBT people” in Afghanistan. The report also documents human rights abuses against LGBTQ and intersex Afghans, including an incident in which the Taliban beat a transgender woman and “shaved her eyebrows with a razor” before they “dumped her on the street in men’s clothes and without a cellphone.”
OutRight Action International on Monday told the Blade that it has had “at least one confirmed report of the killing of an LGBTQ activist, police searching for another and several more reports of extrajudicial killing and other forms of persecution that are difficult to confirm given the danger to political witnesses.”
“The U.S. and other governments that profess support for human rights need to do more to ensure the Afghan regime respects fundamental rights of all Afghans and help those in danger to reach safety,” said OutRight Action International.
Bland said Rainbow Railroad “absolutely” feels “governments, including the governments of the United Kingdom, Canada and the United States, should be doing more to help LGBTQI+ Afghans fleeing the current crisis.”
Immigration Equality Legal Director Bridget Crawford on Monday noted her organization’s LGBTQ and intersex Afghan clients who “survived unspeakable trauma, both as a consequence of sharia law and existing brutal homophobic practices” are “now safely resettled in Canada.” Crawford nevertheless added that Immigration Equality recognizes that “many more queer people are still at grave risk in Afghanistan.”
“The Biden administration must prioritize these LGBTQ Afghans as refugees in the United States,” said Crawford. “President Biden himself has expressed that the U.S. has the good will and capacity to take in vulnerable refugees, but he must back up those words with action.”
State Department spokesperson Ned Price on Monday told reporters during a briefing that nearly 90,000 Afghans have been “evacuated or otherwise transported to the” U.S. since Aug. 15, 2021. Price also noted the U.S. has “facilitated the departure of some” 13,000 Afghans from Afghanistan since the last American troops withdrew from the country.
“There are a number of priorities, a number of enduring commitments we have to the people of Afghanistan,” said Price. “At the top of that list is to use every tool that we have appropriate to see to it that the Taliban lives up to the commitments that it has made publicly, that it has made privately, but most importantly, the commitments that the Taliban has made to its own people, to all of the Afghan people. And when we say all of the Afghan people, we mean all. We mean Afghanistan’s women, its girls, its religious minorities, its ethnic minorities. The Taliban has made these commitments; the Taliban, of course, has not lived up to these commitments.”
Price, who is openly gay, did not specifically refer to LGBTQ and intersex Afghans during Monday’s briefing.
Hirschberg said Canada, France, Germany and the U.K. have “come to bat” and “are really supporting getting LGBTQI Afghans out, along with others.” He told the Blade the U.S. has not done enough.
“We’re not seeing quite the eagerness from the United States, unfortunately,” said Hirschberg.
The Blade has reached out to the White House for comment on the first anniversary of the Taliban regaining control of Afghanistan and efforts to help LGBTQ and intersex Afghans leave the country.
Ukraine overshadows plight of LGBTQ and intersex Afghans
Russia on Feb. 24 invaded Ukraine.
The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees notes more than 6 million Ukrainians have registered as refugees in Europe.
The European Union allows Ukrainians to travel to member states without a visa.
Germany currently provides those who have registered for residency a “basic income” that helps them pay for housing and other basic needs. Ukrainian refugees can also receive access to German language classes, job training programs and childcare.
Dr. Ahmad Qais Munhazim, an assistant professor of global studies at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia who is originally from Afghanistan, has helped three groups of Afghans leave the country since the Taliban regained control of it.
Munhazim on Monday noted to the Blade his family has lived in a Toronto hotel room for three months. Munhazim also pointed out the treatment that Ukrainian refugees once they reach the EU, the U.K., Canada or the U.S.
“Countries of course would claim they were not prepared, but we can see that it was a very racialized response,” said Munhazim. “The way they responded to Ukraine, they weren’t prepared for that either, but we know that these borders immediately started opening up, assistance was offered in a very, very humanitarian way to Ukrainians just because they had blond hair and blue eyes, which was not offered to Afghans or Syrians earlier when they were fleeing Syria.”
Maydaa told the Blade that countries had “this huge concern about LGBT people coming from Afghanistan.”
“It was related to, I believe, terrorism and all this prejudgment of Afghan people,” said Maydaa. “I also think this is playing a huge role when it comes to resettlement and international action.”
Maydaa, like Munhazim, also noted the different reception that Ukrainian refugees have received once they reached the EU or the U.K.
“They, especially in Europe and the U.K., feel they have more responsibility towards Ukraine,” said Maydaa. “[There was] all this racism on the news. ‘They look like us. They are blonde, green eyes, white skin, Christians.’”
Pan Africa ILGA once again urged authorities across the continent to investigate the murders of LGBTQ and intersex people and to work to reduce violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
The organization — which comprises 268 groups that work for LGBTQ and intersex rights across Africa — in a report it issued in July noted a number of high profile murders that have taken place this year. They include Sheila Lumumba, a 25-year-old Kenyan woman who was murdered in April, Pinky Shongwe, a 32-year-old South African who was stabbed to death in March, and Obisike Donald Ibe, a 31-year-old doctor in Nigeria who was slain in January.
Lumumba, a lesbian who was reportedly targeted because of her sexual orientation, was raped before her murder. A South African court in April sentenced two men to life in prison for raping a 19-year-old lesbian woman in 2020
“LGBTIQ+ persons deserve to thrive without fear of being persecuted,” said Pan Africa ILGA Executive Director Nate Brown. “The recent murder of Sheila in Kenya reflects the realities of the LGBTIQ+ community in Africa. It bears mentioning that unfortunately, these are not isolated incidents. They are part of a pattern of attacks, violence and murders against LGBTIQ+ persons across the continent.”
Pan Africa ILGA board co-chairs Star Rugori and Barbra Wangere at the same time said the organization is in the process of developing a crisis reporting center that will document human rights violations against LGBTQ and intersex people in Africa and advocate for increased protections and respect for them.
“The inhumane violations and slaughter of LGBTIQ+ persons should prompt thorough investigations, aimed at prosecuting those responsible,” said Rugori and Wangere in a joint statement. “Government needs to protect activists and the greater LGBTIQ+ community and to call a halt to the impunity that links this chain of vicious murders. LGBTIQ+ lives matter and should be protected at all costs just like the rest of our African citizens.”
Bishop Sithembele Sipuka of the Catholic Diocese of Mthatha in South Africa during an interview with the Catholic Information Service for Africa said people who identify as LGBTQ or intersex should be treated with dignity.
“The most we can do, for now, is to grapple with it, to try and understand, and to see how to continue treating these people with the dignity that they have because, despite their sexual orientation, they are still children of God, they have the same dignity,” said Sipuka. “I have known people, credible people, authentic people who are gay or lesbian, very intelligent, very integral people, very committed people, very loving people, and so it is difficult to say that there’s something wrong with this one, you know because some of them really are in terms of integrity full of admiration, the way they are as a person that is difficult for me to condemn them, and say that there is something wrong with them.”
Sipuka also touched the issue of marriage equality, which is usually a catalyst for homophobic statements.
“The process and teaching of the church so far is still that marriage is between a man and a woman, but on the other hand, it does not mean at all that we should despise or think of people who are gay and lesbian as any less than heterosexual people,” said Sipuka.
I cannot say you can go ahead and get married because I don’t have the mandate to do that. I do things on the mandate of the church. I am open to hearing more on how pastorally to deal with this matter. I am also open for it to be discussed theologically. In the end, the teachings about the church are always about love even exactly everything that they touch is about love,” added Sipuka.