June 6, 2018 at 9:20 am EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
Global Pride events celebrate progress, highlight challenges

Guyana’s first Pride parade took place on June 2, 2018. (Photo by Paul Persaud of Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination Guyana)

LGBTI rights activists around the world will hold Pride celebrations this year against the backdrop of recent legal and political advances and lingering challenges.

Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination Guyana, an LGBTI advocacy group in Guyana, organized the South American country’s first-ever Pride parade that took place on June 2.

Activists in Swaziland, a small African country that borders South Africa and Mozambique, are organizing their nation’s first-ever Pride event that is scheduled to take place on June 30. All Out, a global LGBTI advocacy group, has launched a campaign to help activists raise money.

LGBTI refugees who live in the Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya are organizing a Pride event that is scheduled to take place on June 16. Moses Mbazira, who is from Uganda, on Monday told the Washington Blade organizers hope the event will “awaken” the U.N. Refugee Agency and organizations that work with it about the plight of LGBTI refugees who live in the camp.

“It promotes unity amongst the LGBTIQ refugee community members,” said Mbazira.

LGBTI rights advocates at the Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya are planning to hold a Pride event on June 16. (Photo courtesy of Moses Mbazira)

The Seoul Queer Culture Festival will hold its annual parade and festival in Seoul on July 14. J-FLAG, a Jamaican LGBTI advocacy group, is organizing a series of Pride events that will take place in the country’s capital of Kingston from July 31-Aug. 6.

U.S. embassies, consulates commemorate Pride month

Jamaica and Guyana are among the more than 70 countries in which consensual same-sex sexual relations remain criminalized. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is among the heads of government and state over the last year who have formally apologized to those prosecuted under their country’s anti-LGBTI laws.

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier on June 3 apologized for the persecution and discrimination that gay men suffered at the hands of the Nazis and in the decades after World War II.

British Prime Minister Theresa May on April 17 said she “deeply” regrets colonial-era laws criminalizing consensual same-sex sexual relations the U.K. introduced in Commonwealth countries. A judge on Trinidad and Tobago’s High Court five days earlier struck down the country’s sodomy law.

The New Zealand Parliament last July formally apologized to men who were convicted under the country’s sodomy law.

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights in January issued a landmark ruling that recognizes same-sex marriage and transgender rights in the Western Hemisphere. The European Court of Justice on Tuesday ruled gay couples should receive the same residency rights that married couples have in the European Union.

Openly bisexual Colombian Congresswoman Angélica Lozano in March became the first openly LGBT person elected to the country’s Senate. Enrique Sánchez, the first openly gay man elected to the Costa Rica National Assembly, was sworn in on May 1.

A law that repeals marriage rights for same-sex couples in Bermuda took effect on June 1, even though a lawsuit challenging it was still before the British island territory’s Supreme Court. Mariela Castro, the daughter of former Cuban President Raúl Castro, last month said she and her organization, the National Center for Sexual Education, will submit proposals to the Cuban National Assembly that would extend marriage and other rights to LGBTI Cubans.

Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination Guyana Education Coordinator Anil Persaud on Monday told the Blade that LGBTI people in Guyana “continue to be discriminated against and severely stigmatized,” even though the country’s sodomy law is not “constantly enforced.” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in his Pride month statement made a broad reference to laws that criminalize consensual same-sex sexual relations.

“In many parts of the world, LGBTI individuals and their supporters continue to face violence, arrest, harassment and intimidation for standing up for their human rights, participating in peaceful marches and rallies, expressing their views and simply being who they are,” he said. “LGBTI persons — like all persons — must be free to enjoy their human rights and fundamental freedoms, including freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association, without fear of reprisal. As Americans, we place a high value on these rights and freedoms, which all persons deserve to enjoy fully and equally.”

Pompeo during his confirmation hearing did not specifically answer a question about whether he thinks “being gay is a perversion.” Pompeo’s opposition to marriage rights for same-sex couples and the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” also came under scrutiny.

American embassies and consulates around the world are nevertheless commemorating Pride month, even as President Trump’s record on LGBTI-specific issues in the U.S. continues to face criticism.

A Pride flag is attached to the fence around the U.S. Embassy in Havana on May 13, 2018, in commemoration of the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Pride month events highlight anti-LGBTI violence, discrimination

Activists around the world are also using Pride month to highlight violence and discrimination based on gender identity and expression.

Mônica Tereza Benício, the widow of Rio de Janeiro Councilwoman Marielle Franco, a bisexual human rights activist who was murdered earlier this year, is among those who spoke at São Paulo’s annual Pride parade that took place on June 3. Trans rights advocates on the same day interrupted the opening of a civil society forum at the annual Organization of American States General Assembly that was taking place in D.C.

A declaration the Latin American and Caribbean Network of Trans People, which is known by the Spanish acronym REDLACTRANS, released includes, among other things, a call that Trump respect “the right to residence of all trans people who have lived and contributed to their country for many years and today face a harsh situation of immigration persecution by their policies.”

“We are very concerned about the situation of trans people in the region,” REDLACTRANS Regional Coordinator Marcela Romero told the Blade on Monday in a statement. “Forced migrations have been increasing in recent months with a surge of violence against trans people.”

The OAS protest took place less than two weeks after Roxana Hernández, a trans woman with HIV from Honduras, died while in the custody of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Hernández was among a group of trans women who were part of a caravan of Central American asylum seekers who entered the U.S. last month.

The Los Angeles Blade previously reported Hernández had been in ICE custody since May 13. She was transferred to a facility in El Paso, Texas, before ICE placed her in a trans housing unit in the Cibola County Correctional Center in Milan, N.M., on May 16.

“The persecution of trans people in the United States has been increasing with Trump’s immigration policies, which have put us on alert,” Romero told the Blade. “We demand that all countries in the region implement real policies to protect trans people and end stigma, discrimination and death.”

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

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