April 18, 2016 at 6:00 am EST | by Michael K. Lavers
State Department releases annual human rights report

ISIS, gay news, Washington Blade

The so-called Islamic State in 2015 released pictures and videos the Sunni militant group claims shows the executions of men accused of committing sodomy.

The State Department’s annual human rights report that it released last week notes anti-LGBT violence, persecution and discrimination persisted in many parts of the world in 2015.

The report notes that the so-called Islamic State released videos last year that the Sunni militant group said showed the executions of men in Syria and Iraq who had been accused of committing genocide.

Colombian officials were investigating “at least” 55 reported murders of LGBT people in the South American country since Jan. 1, 2015. The State Department report also notes the murders of two transgender women in Latin America last year — Diana Sacayán, a prominent trans rights advocate in Argentina, and Yosvani Muñoz Robaina, a sex worker in the Cuban province of Pinar del Río.

Diana Sacayán, Argentina, gay news, Washington Blade

Diana Sacayán was found stabbed to death in her Buenos Aires apartment on Oct. 13, 2015. (Photo courtesy of Esteban Paulón)

The State Department report notes that Shira Banki, a 16-year-old teenager, died last summer after Yishai Schlissel, an Orthodox Jewish man, allegedly stabbed her and five others during a Jerusalem Pride march. A Ukrainian nationalist group and dozens of other men injured nearly 20 people during clashes that broke out last June at an LGBT Pride march in Kiev.

Nigerian authorities in January 2015 arrested a dozen people who were reportedly attending a same-sex wedding at a resort outside the city of Kano. The State Department report also notes that police in the Iranian city of Shiraz arrested several dozen people last September during a raid on “a social gathering.”

“LGBTI rights organizations reported that police forced several individuals to undergo rectal examinations while in custody and that prison authorities beat many of them while incarcerated,” reads the report.

An Egyptian court in January 2015 acquitted 26 men who were charged with “debauchery” after police raided a Cairo bathhouse. The State Department report notes that authorities used social media, online websites and apps “to entrap persons they suspected of being gay or transgender.”

The State Department report notes that a Gambian court in July 2015 acquitted three men who had been charged under the country’s “aggravated homosexuality” law. A Honduran judge last September found a man guilty of killing a trans person in 2012.

LGBT advocates fearful of Uganda NGO Act

The State Department report notes the Ugandan Parliament last November approved a controversial bill that seeks to regulate non-governmental organizations in the country.

A State Department spokesperson told the Washington Blade last month after news that Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni signed the Non-Governmental Organization Act of 2015 broke that the there were “no indications” the measure was “designed to target the LGBTI community.” Advocates in the East African country continue to insist that Museveni will use the controversial law to continue his anti-LGBT crackdown.

“Parliament worked closely with civil society leaders on the bill and adopted most civil society recommendations in a parliamentary committee report,” notes the State Department report. “While most of this report was incorporated in the final bill, Parliament left intact a clause on ‘special obligations’ that require NGOs to receive approval from the local NGO monitoring committee and local governments before initiating activities and prohibits NGOs from engaging in acts ‘prejudicial to the interests of Uganda and the dignity of the people of Uganda.’”

The State Department report “a homophobic campaign continued in state-controlled media” in Russia in 2015 in which “officials, journalists and others called LGBTI persons ‘perverts,’ ‘sodomites’ and ‘abnormal’ and conflated homosexuality with pedophilia.” It also indicates that some Chinese mental health care providers continue to offer so-called “conversion therapy” to their LGBT patients.

Mozambique decriminalizes homosexuality

More than 70 countries continue to criminalize consensual same-sex sexual activity. Homosexuality remains punishable by death in Saudi Arabia, Iran, Mauritania, Sudan and a handful of other nations.

The State Department report notes LGBT rights advances that took place in several countries in 2015. It’s release also coincides with the year anniversary of Special U.S. Envoy for the Rights of LGBTI Persons Randy Berry assuming his post within the State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor.

Mozambique’s revised legal code that decriminalized homosexuality took effect in June 2015. Lawmakers in Malta two months earlier approved a bill that allows trans people to legally change their name or gender without sex-reassignment surgery and extends legal protections to intersex children.

Mozambique, gay news, Washington Blade

Mozambique’s revised penal code that decriminalizes homosexuality took effect on June 30, 2015. (Photo courtesy of Danilo da Silva/Lambda)

The State Department report notes a Pope Francis-backed referendum on whether to amend Slovakia’s constitution to define marriage as between a man and a woman and to ban gays and lesbians from adopting children failed in February 2015 because of insufficient voter turnout. It also notes that Burmese LGBT rights organizations began to form against the backdrop of political reforms in the Southeast Asian country.

Myanmar is among the countries in which consensual same-sex sexual relations remain criminalized.

The full State Department report can be found here.

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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