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OAS commission calls for Venezuela to protect LGBTQ rights

Country remains embroiled in political, economic crisis

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The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has called for Venezuela to do more to protect LGBTQ people from violence and discrimination.

The report the commission released on Sept. 8 specifically notes six men on May 31, 2020, attacked Jorge Granado in Ciudad Guayana, a city in Bolívar state, because of his sexual orientation. The report also notes Marcy Ávila, an LGBTQ rights activist, has suffered “harassment.”

Violence against transgender Venezuelans remains commonplace in Caracas, the Venezuelan capital, and throughout the country.

Yonatan Matheus and Wendell Oviedo, co-founders of Venezuela Diversa, a Venezuelan LGBTQ rights group, received death threats after they publicly urged authorities to investigate the murders of two trans women. Matheus and Oviedo in 2016 fled to New York, and have asked for asylum in the U.S.

Members of Venezuela’s General Directorate of Military Counterintelligence on Jan. 12, 2021, raided the offices of Azul Positivo, an HIV/AIDS service organization in Maracaibo, a city in Zulia state, and arrested President Johan León Reyes and five other staff members. Venezuelan police on Feb. 15, 2019, raided the offices of Fundación Mavid, another HIV/AIDS service organization in Valencia, a city in Carabobo state, and arrested three staffers after they confiscated donated infant formula and medications for people with HIV/AIDS.

“The IACHR reminds the state of Venezuela of its obligation to guarantee the protection of LGBTI persons; address the underlying causes of violence and discrimination against them; as well as act with due diligence to prevent, investigate, adjudicate, sanction and remedy the human rights violations against LGBTI people,” reads the report.

The report also notes the lack of legal protections — including in the country’s hate crimes law — for LGBTQ Venezuelans and adds the country uses Article 565 of the Organic Code of Military Justice and other statutes “to criminalize people based on their real or perceived sexual orientation.”

“For the above, the commission reminds the state of Venezuela of its duty to repeal legal provisions that criminalize, directly or indirectly, the conduct of people based on their sexual orientation, gender identity or expression,” reads the report.

The report notes trans Venezuelans cannot legally change their gender without medical interventions. Venezuela’s constitution also defines marriage as between a man and a woman.

“The IACHR reiterates to the state its recommendation to legally recognize the unions or the marriage of people of the same gender, affording the same rights conferred to partners of different genders, including economic rights, and all of the rest that derive from that relationship, without distinction by motives of sexual orientation, gender identity,” reads the report.

LGBTQ migrants also targeted

The Organization of American States, which is based in D.C., created the commission in 1959 as a way to promote human rights throughout the Western Hemisphere. It works closely with the Inter-American Court of Human Rights to enforce the American Convention on Human Rights.

Venezuela in 2012 officially withdrew from the convention, but the Venezuelan National Assembly in 2019 once again ratified it.

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights, which is based in Costa Rica, in 2018 issued a landmark ruling that recognizes same-sex marriage and trans rights in the Western Hemisphere. The previous White House that same year called for the OAS to suspend Venezuela.

The U.S. is among the countries that continues to recognize Juan Guaidó, a former member of Assemblywoman Tamara Adrián’s party, as Venezuela’s president. The report notes Adrián, who in 2015 became the first openly trans person elected to the National Assembly, but it also highlights the country’s political and economic crisis the pandemic has made even worse.

Tamara Adrián, Venezuelan National Assembly, gay news, Washington Blade
Tamara Adrián (Photo courtesy of Tamara Adrián)

The report cites statistics from the Coordination Platform for Migrants and Refugees from Venezuela that note upwards of 5.4 million Venezuelans had left their country as of November 2020. The report notes the majority of them have sought refuge in Colombia, Brazil, Ecuador, Peru and Chile.

“In relation to the situation of LGTB people who are Venezuelan migrants; this community would face various acts of discrimination; such as barriers to access to the labor market, insults and physical attacks,” it reads.

Matheus welcomed the report.

“The communique the IACHR released in relation to the situation of the rights of LGBTQ people in Venezuela is totally pertinent,” he told the Washington Blade on Friday. “It gives visibility to the more than a dozen murders of LGBTIQ people that have occurred in the country during 2021 that we as organizations have been denouncing.”

Matheus said the report will also “allow us to be able to continue taking actions to get international support over the impact of the complex humanitarian crisis that makes it difficult to access health care, food and other social rights that continue to generate forced migration of LGBTIQ people and activists.” Matheus also cited “the enormous levels of impunity and actions from (Venezuelan) police agencies towards hate crimes and the silence of the Supreme Judicial Court and the National Assembly on issues related to gender identity of trans people, marriage equality and the right to form a family that LGBTIQ people have.”

Matheus told the Blade he also thinks the report will “also motivate” Victor Madrigal-Borloz, the independent U.N. expert on LGBTQ issues, to “speak out about the situation of LGBTIQ people in Venezuela.”

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Africa

Zambia president reiterates opposition to LGBTQ, intersex rights

Hakainde Hichilema made comments in response to anti-LGBTQ protest

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Dr. Brian Sampa has organized protests against LGBTQ and intersex rights in Zambia. (Photo via Dr. Brian Sampa's Facebook page)

Zambian President Hakainde Hichilema on Monday reiterated his government does not support LGBTQ and intersex rights.

In a video posted to his Facebook page on Monday, Hichilema said Zambia is a country deeply rooted in Christianity and therefore does not support same sex relations. The president’s remarks came after Dr. Brian Sampa on Sept. 15 held an anti-LGBTQ rights protest.

The police stopped Sampa’s protest, which was to have taken place at the State House in Lusaka, the country’s capital. Officers said he did not have the necessary permits and told him and the handful of other protesters to instead approach the country’s Gender Ministry.

“Zambia is a Christian nation it’s clear! We all agree, but sometimes we want to extract sections of our communities and say these are not Christians. Religion in diversity. Churches in diversity but one body of Christ and I want to say it is not right,” said Hichilema in his video. “I have been following what is happening in the country and to say that the new dawn government is promoting lesbian rights or gay rights that is not right. We have said it before in opposition and now in government that we do not support gay, lesbian rights as a government.” 

“The records are there,” he added. “The media houses carry those records from years back but now in the last recent days people are propagating in churches preaching about lesbian rights that is divisive you know, the new dawn government this and that it’s not right let’s focus on unity, let’s focus on materiality, things that matter for this country, our children keeping them in school matters more than the peripheral petty side of a divisive behavior.” 

Sampa, meanwhile, has said he will be leading another anti-LGBTQ protest under the banner #BanNdevupaNdevu (#BanBeardonBeard) on Sept. 28. He said he plans to deliver a letter to the State House pertaining to what he labelled “the rise in unnatural acts like homosexuality.”

“Our fight is non-political. It’s for Zambians regardless of your color, creed, religion or political affiliation,” said Sampa on Facebook. “The president needs to be making it clear to those ambassadors from some countries our stance about homosexuality. Here we chase ambassadors who support homosexuals because it’s criminal under our constitution. The government has got power to end all this, but we are lacking political will against homosexuality. Use the law to the latter.”

“Parents make time to talk to your children and visit them in boarding schools,” he added. “Male boarding schools are no longer safe. The homosexuals are sodomizing children as they initiate them into this bad vice.”

Sampa also posted to Facebook a picture of a bed with what appears to be human feces on sheets. Sampa said it was a result of too much anal sex and cautioned that heterosexuals should be concerned if their partner wants to engage in it.

“Before you join them no matter the amount they will offer you, remember this picture. This is a picture of a bed used by a person with fecal incontinence due to anal sex what you are seeing are feces leaking from the anus because the sphincter muscle is destroyed due to anal sex,” he said. “This is an example of a male-to-male relationship. Don’t be deceived; the anus is not a sexual organ. Would a normal person be happy to dip their penis in feces? Nobody enjoys the smell of feces unless there is some psychological problem.”

“For ladies, how to know that you are dating a homosexual,” added Sampa. “If the guy keeps demanding for anal sex make sure you report him to the police.”

Zambia criminalizes same-sex sexual activity between men and between women. Sentences include a maximum penalty of 14 years in jail.

A court in 2019 convicted two gay men of engaging in same-sex sexual activity and sentenced them to 15 years in prison. They received a presidential pardon in 2020 amid international pressure, but reports of discrimination and violence against LGBTQ and intersex Zambians remain commonplace.

Daniel Itai is the Washington Blade’s Africa Correspondent.

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United Nations

Biden notes LGBTQ, intersex rights in UN General Assembly speech

President stressed ‘fundamental freedoms’ at risk around the world

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President Joe Biden speaks at the U.N. General Assembly on Sept. 21, 2022. (Photo courtesy of the White House/Twitter)

President Joe Biden on Wednesday reiterated his administration’s commitment to LGBTQ and intersex rights abroad.

“The future will be won by those countries that unleash the full potential of their populations, where women and girls can exercise equal rights, including basic reproductive rights and contribute fully to building stronger economies and more resilient societies, where religious and ethnic minorities can live their lives without harassment and contribute to the fabric of their communities, where the LGBTQ+ community, individuals live and love freely without being targeted with violence, where citizens can question and criticize their leaders without fear of reprisal,” said Biden in his speech at the U.N. General Assembly.

Biden specifically referenced the Universal Declaration of Human Rights the U.N. General Assembly ratified in 1948. Biden also noted “fundamental freedoms are at risk in every part of our world” with specific references to the Taliban’s repression of women and girls in Afghanistan, the persecution of pro-democracy activists in Myanmar and human rights abuses against Uyghurs and other predominantly Muslim ethnic groups in China’s Xinjiang province that now former U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet documented in a report her office released just before her tenure ended on Sept. 1.

Biden also sharply criticized Russia over its war against Ukraine.

“The United States will always promote human rights,” he said.

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.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday spoke at a meeting of the LGBTI Core Group, a group of U.N. countries that have pledged to support LGBTQ and intersex rights. Jessica Stern, the special U.S. envoy for the promotion of LGBTQ and intersex rights abroad, was among those who were in attendance.

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Europe

More than 10K participate in anti-LGBTQ rights march in Turkey

Organizers called for protection of children from ‘LGBTQ terrorist propaganda agenda’

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Anti-LGBTQ+ protestors gather in Saraçhane Park in Istanbul on Sept. 18, 2022, to listen to Kürşat Mican and other anti-LGBTQ+ rally organizers. (Photo courtesy of Kürşat Mican/Twitter)

Despite heavy downpours mixed with light rain showers, more than 10,000 anti-LGBTQ protestors gathered in this ancient city and principal seaport of Turkey on Sunday, protesting what organizers said was to protect their children from the “LGBTQ terrorist propaganda agenda.”

Billed as the “Great Family Walk” lead organizer Kürşat Mican, speaking to the crowds gathered, demanded that the Turkish government ban all LGBTQ activities and shut down all LGBTQ organizations. The organizers were also demanding that Turkey’s parliament ban what they called LGBTQ “evil,” which they claimed pervades Netflix, social media, arts and sports in the country.

Gathering at Saraçhane Park, protestors carried signs with the slogan “protect your family and generation,” the speakers, in addition to Mican, told the crowd that they were taking action to combat the “LGBT lobby,” which they alleged “has become a global problem.”

In a tweet Monday, Mican wrote (translated from Turkish): “The fact that tens of thousands of people from all walks of life came together to put a stop to #LGBTdayatması (#LGBTimposition) and draw attention to the danger is an indication of how much our ‘Necip Nation’ values (a reference to Necip Fazil Kisakürek, Turkish poet, novelist, playwright, and Islamist ideologue) his family and generation. No lobby can bring this strong will to its knees, biiznillah! (Will of Allah.)

The anti-LGBTQ rights were organized by Mican, Ersin Çelik and non-governmental organizations. The march, in which 150 NGOs participated, had a great impact organizers claimed.

Ersin Çelik, a writer for a conservative, Islamist Turkish daily newspaper, Yeni Şafak, has been fighting against LGBTQ rights and making efforts to what he has said on his social media accounts is to “protect young people and children from this trap,” called for the march on his social media account.

Mican and other organizers had also circulated a video prior to Sunday’s rally that showed clips from previously LGBTQ Pride parades, which was then also broadcast as a public service announcement by Turkish state media, prompting an angered response from the country’s LGBTQ advocacy groups and activists.

Others who supported the rally included a popular female Turkish writer known by her pseudonym of Tahteşşuûr who tweeted: “LGBT looking for children to recruit! God damn you. #LGBTdayatması (#LGBTimposition.)”

This year, hundreds of LGBTQ people, allies, and supporters took to the streets of Istanbul this past June in defiance of the Turkish government’s ongoing 2014 ban of LGBTQ Pride parades and Pride Month festivities. Protestors violently clashed repeatedly with police and security forces in various neighborhoods located around the Bol Ahenk Sokak and other sections of the central downtown areas.

Government security forces arrested more than 373 people and the largest Turkish LGBTQ activist group, the Ankara-based Kaos GL, documented the arrests and clashes which occurred prior to the 5 p.m. planned parade kick-off in a series of Twitter posts.

Turkish Media Independent Media/News Outlet Ahval has reported that Turkey’s LGBTQ groups accuse the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of waging a “hate campaign” against them, encouraging violence against a vulnerable community.

Turkey has ranked second worst country in the European Union for LGBTQ people, scoring only above Azerbaijan, according the 2022 “Rainbow Europe” ranking compiled by Brussels-based ILGA-Europe.

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