10 LGBTQI Activist Moments of 2013

At Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice, the last days of the year are a time to honor brave leaps forward and take stock of political set backs for LGBTQI rights activism in 2013. By no means comprehensive, we offer a brief survey of ten moments of LGBTQI activism around the globe in 2013. Join the conversation online and share more moments with us on facebook and twitter using #LGBTQIActivistMoments!

At Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice, the last days of the year are a time to honor brave leaps forward and take stock of political set backs for LGBTQI rights activism in 2013. By no means comprehensive, we offer a brief survey of ten moments of LGBTQI activism around the globe in 2013. Join the conversation online and share more moments with us on facebook and twitter using #LGBTQIActivistMoments!

1. Edith Windsor’s win for Marriage Equality: the Defense of Marriage Act is declared unconstitutional by U.S. Supreme Court. Federal recognition is afforded to same-sex marriages performed under state law. The U.S. becomes one of a handful of countries pushing same-sex marriage forward.

2. In a set back in Colombia, the nation’s same-sex marriage bill failed to pass the Senate and bypass coalition opposition led by the Attorney General. Legal ambiguity remains, however, with constitutional recognition of legal registry in effect. Couples can approach notaries or judges to marry, but their requests remain in the hands of officials who can deny them.

3. Years of policy advocacy, movement building, and direct action by LGBTQI activists of color produced hard-fought victories for immigration rights in California. The city of San Francisco passed an ordinance limiting the Secure Communities program (S-Comm), effectively reducing the threat of deportation to anyone arrested by local police. And the state of California passed the Trust Act, prohibiting local law enforcement agencies from detaining people for deportation if arrested for a minor or non-violent crime and are otherwise eligible to be released from custody.

4. New York City Council passed the Community Safety Act, winning New Yorkers protection from the New York Police Department’s stop-and-frisk policy. Simultaneously, Federal Judge Shira Scheindlin issued a decision declaring stop-and-frisk as practiced by the NYPD unconstitutional. While this ruling was appealed by Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s administration, Mayor-Elect Bill DeBlasio has pledged to drop this appeal and it remains to be seen exactly how these new protections against police abuse will be enacted.

5. Ugandan LGBTI advocacy groups made collective strides pinpointing American evangelist involvement in anti-gay persecution in Uganda. The U.S. court case “Sexual Minorities Uganda vs. Scott Lively” moved forward while the Ugandan parliament unexpectedly passed its “Kill the Gays” bill.

6. Cuban lawmakers approve a proposal to ban employment discrimination based on sexual orientation.

7. LGBTQI activism swelled after India’s Supreme Court upheld a colonial-era law, Section 377 of India’s penal code, and recriminalized same-sex relations. The Court’s decision overruled a previous ruling of 377 as unconstitutional by the Delhi High Court, and severely set back LGBTQI human rights protections in India.

8. LGBTQI human rights activists in Russia witnessed a show of support around the winter Olympic games in Sochi. Activists called for action, reporting heightened LGBTQI violence since the Russian government passed an anti-gay propaganda law and conducted nationwide raids of nongovernmental organizations to identify “foreign agents” earlier in the year. International advocacy efforts include Billie Jean King, Brian Boitano, and other gay athletes joining a U.S. delegation to the Olympics.

9. In a unanimous 9-0 ruling, Canada’s Supreme Court decriminalized sex work offering constitutional protections to sex workers’ health and safety.

10. Guyana courts upheld a partial ban on cross-dressing deeming it illegal if done for “improper purposes.” LGBTQI rights groups in Guyana including Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination rallied to appeal the judgment to protect transgender people from being persecuted by 120-year-old law.

Astraea Decries the Murder of Ugandan Human Rights Defender

Astraea decries the brutal murder of David Kato, a tireless human rights defender for LGBTI people in Uganda and sends deep condolences to his family, friends, and fellow activists. We stand with our partners in Uganda and the region in their uncompromising fight for human rights and call for a full investigation of David’s death and for increased protection for the rights and safety of human rights defenders.

David Kato (c) 2009 AP Images

Attend a vigil to remember David Kato in New York on Thursday, Febuary 3rd at 4pm.

David Kato was the litigation officer of Sexual Minorities Uganda and a former teacher.  On January 3rd, he was one of three plaintiffs who won a Supreme Court case in calling on a Ugandan paper, Rolling Stone Magazine (no affiliation with the U.S. publication), to stop publishing the names, addresses, and photos of “alleged homosexuals” with calls for their deaths. David had been receiving death threats ever since his photo appeared on the cover in October 2010.

David was also a leading voice in the human rights coalition against the Ugandan Anti-Homosexuality Bill since its introduction in October 2009. Val Kalende, the Chair of the Board of Freedom and Roam Uganda said in a statement, “David’s death is a result of the hatred planted in Uganda by U.S Evangelicals in 2009. The Ugandan Government and the so-called U.S Evangelicals must take responsibility for David’s blood!” (Read the full press release below.)

Astraea is deeply saddened and alarmed at these developments, and calls for government, religious leaders, and all principled people to stand up for human rights and unequivocally demand an end to scapegoating, fear-mongering and violence.

For more information:
New York Times Article

BBC Obituary: Uganda gay activist David Kato

Astraea Program Officer Jan 2010 interview with OutFM about U.S. Religious Fundamentalist influence in Uganda

Human Rights Watch Press Release

Sexual Minorities Uganda Press Release:


For Immediate Release: Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Kampala, Uganda—Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) and the entire Ugandan Lesbian, Gay,Bisexual, Transgender, and Intersex Community stands together to condemn the killing of David Kato and call for the Ugandan Government, Civil Society, and Local Communities to protect sexual minorities across Uganda.

David was brutally beaten to death in his home today, 26 January 2011, around 2pm.  Across the entire country, straight, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex Ugandans mourn the loss of David, a dear friend, colleague, teacher, family member, and human rights defender.

David has been receiving death threats since his face was put on the front page of Rolling Stone Magazine, which called for his death and the death of all homosexuals. David’s death comes directly after the Supreme Court of Uganda ruled that people must stop inciting violence against homosexuals and must respect the right to privacy and human dignity.

Sexual Minorities Uganda and the Ugandan Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Intersex Community call on the Police and the Government of Uganda to seriously investigate the circumstances surrounding David’s death. We also call on religious leaders, political leaders and media houses to stop demonizing sexual minorities in Uganda since doing so creates a climate of violence against gay persons.

Val Kalende, the Chair of the Board at Freedom and Roam Uganda stated that “David’s death is a result of the hatred planted in Uganda by U.S Evangelicals in 2009. The Ugandan Government and the so-called U.S Evangelicals must take responsibility for David’s blood!”

As United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon recently declared, “I understand that sexual orientation and gender identity raise sensitive cultural issues.  But cultural practices cannot justify any violation of human rights. . .  . When our fellow humans are persecuted because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, we must speak out . . . . States bear the primary responsibility to protect human rights advocates.  I call on all States to ensure the freedom of expression and the freedom of assembly that make their work possible.  When the lives of human rights advocates are endangered, we are all less secure.  When the voices of human rights advocates are silenced, justice itself is drowned out.”

David’s life was cut short in a brutal manner.  David will be deeply missed by his family and friends, his students, and Human Rights organizations throughout Uganda and around the world.

Speaking about what the death of David means in the struggle for equality, Frank Mugisha, the Executive Director of Sexual Minorities Uganda said, “No form of intimidation will stop our cause. The death of David will only be honored when the struggle for justice and equality is won.  David is gone and many of us will follow, but the struggle will be won. David wanted to see a Uganda where all people will be treated equally despite their sexual orientation.”

Burial arrangements are underway for Friday 28, 2011 at 2PM at his ancestral
 home in Namataba, Mukono District.

Press contacts:

Frank Mugisha: +1 646 436 1858 
Val Kalende:   +1 857-247-1184
Pepe Julian: +256 772 370 674

Astraea Featured on OutFM: Uganda’s Anti-Gay Bill and U.S. Religious Fundamentalists

Astraea Program Officer, Dulce Reyes, was featured on WBAI’’s Out FM radio hour.  Dulce discussed the anti-gay legislation in Uganda and highlighted the importance of exposing U.S. religious fundamentalist intrusion in Uganda and worldwide. Astraea and our grantee partners in over 40 countries including the U.S. are constantly working for human rights that are fully inclusive of all people and are based on equality and justice.

“U.S. Religious Fundamentalists have had a hand in an anti-gay bill in Uganda that scapegoats LGBTI people. The bill calls for the death penalty, extradition and criminalization of those who fail to report people suspected of homosexuality within 24 hours, as well as organizations that defend human rights for all people.”

Naomi Brussel of WBAI’’s Out FM interviews Astraea Program Officer Dulce Reyes


Audio Player

{/literal} Listen to the full Out FM interview

Visit WBAI’s Out FM

Tune in every Monday at 11am EST or subscribe to their podcast.

Uganda: Anti-Homosexuality or Anti-Human Rights Bill?

The Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights and Constitutional Law in Uganda speaks out against the draconian Anti-gay Bill in the Ugandan Parliament.  Astraea stands with our grantee and civil society partners in our deepest objection to the bill.  Astraea recognizes this bill as a crucial human rights issue and supports Ugandan-led solutions to defend civil society, honor democracy, and celebrate diversity.

Below is the text of the Ugandan Civil Society Coalition’s press release that details the impact such a bill would have.

More information about the U.S. religious fundementalists that are behind this bill and similar efforts in Uganda and beyond can be found at Political Research Associates’ groundbreaking report Globalizing the Culture Wars.

Anti-Homosexuality or Anti-Human Rights Bill?

Statement from the

Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights and Constitutional Law

Hon. Bahati’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill which was tabled in Parliament on October 14,
2009, and is currently before the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee of
Parliament covers much more than the title alone proclaims. A much better title for this
bill would have been the ‘Anti Civil Society Bill, the ‘Anti Public Health Bill,’ or the
‘Anti-Constitution Bill.’ Perhaps more simply it should be called the Anti Human
Rights Bill.
As a matter of fact, this bill represents one of the most serious attacks to date
on the 1995 Constitution and on the key human rights protections enshrined in the
Constitution including:

  • Article 20: Fundamental rights and freedoms are inherent and not granted by the State
  • Article 21: Right to Equality and Freedom from discrimination
  • Article 22: The Right to Life (the death penalty provisions)
  • Article 27: The Right to Privacy
  • Article 29: Right to freedom of conscience, expression, movement, religion, assembly and association (this includes freedom of speech, Academic freedom and media freedom)
  • Article 30: Right to Education
  • Article 32: Affirmative Action in favour of marginalised groups and
  • Article 36 on the Rights of Minorities

Let us think for a moment of who—quite apart from the homosexuals it claims as its
target—this bill puts at risk:

  • any parent who does not denounce their lesbian daughter or gay son to the authorities: Failure to do so s/he will be fined Ush 5,000,000/= or put away for three years;
  • any teacher who does not report a lesbian or gay pupil to the authorities within 24 hours: Failure to do so s/he will be fined Ush 5,000,000/= or put away for three years in prison;
  • any landlord who happens to give housing to a suspected homosexual risks seven years of imprisonment;
  • any Local Council I – V Chairperson or Executive member who does not denounce somebody accused of same-sex attraction or activity risks imprisonment or a heavy fine;
  • any medical doctor who seeks to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS through working with what are known as most at risk populations, risks his career;
  • all civil society leaders, whether in a Community Based Organisation, NGO, or academic institution; if their organisations seek to have a comprehensive position on sexual and reproductive health, they risk seeing their organisations closed down;
  • any human rights activist who seeks to promote an understanding of the indivisibility and inalienability of human rights would be judged to be promoting homosexuals and homosexuality, and be punished accordingly;
  • any religious leader who seeks to provide guidance and counselling to people who are unsure of their sexuality, would be regarded as promoting homosexuality and punished accordingly;
  • any Member of Parliament or other public figure who is sent a pornographic article, picture or video will become vulnerable to blackmail and witch-hunts;
  • any media house that publishes ‘pornographic’ materials risks losing its certificate of registration and the editor will be liable to seven years in jail;
  • any internet café operator who fails to prevent a customer from accessing a pornographic website, or a dating site, could be accused of ‘participating in the production, procuring, marketing, broadcasting, disseminating and publishing of pornographic materials for purposes of promoting homosexuality’; their business licence could be revoked and they themselves could land in prison.
  • any Person alleged to be a homosexual is at risk of LIFE IMPRISONMENT and, in some circumstances, the DEATH PENALTY

In short, this bill targets everybody, and involves everybody: it cannot be implemented
without making every citizen spy on his or her neighbours. The last time this was done
was in the Amin era, where everyone very quickly became an ‘enemy of the state’. It
amounts to a direct invasion of our homes, and will promote blackmail, false accusations
and outright intimidation of certain members of the population. Do Ugandans really want
to mimic the practices of the Khartoum regime? Have we already forgotten the sex
police of Apartheid South Africa, who smashed their way into people’s bedrooms in an
attempt to prevent inter-racial sex?

As Civil Society organisations we condemn all predatory sexual acts (hetero or
homosexual) that violate the rights of vulnerable sections of our society such as minors
and people with disabilities. However, by lumping “aggravated homosexuality” with
sexual acts between consenting adults, the Bill whips up sentiments of fear and hatred
aimed at isolating sexual minorities. By so doing, the state fails in its duty to protect all
its citizens without discrimination.

The bill also asserts Extra Territorial jurisdiction. In other words, all of the offences
covered by the bill can be applied to a Ugandan citizen or permanent resident who
allegedly commits them outside the country.
Thus homosexuality and/or its ‘promotion’
are added to the very short list of offences which fall in the ‘political offences’ category.
It joins treason, misprision of treason, and terrorism as offences subject to extra-territorial
jurisdiction. Clearly, this is out of all proportion in relation to the gravity of the act.
On top of these day-to-day considerations about everybody’s safety and security, let us
consider what this bill will do for civil society organisations in Uganda which seek to
have a critical voice and to engage in issues of global concern. One of the objectives of
the bill is to prohibit the licensing of organizations which allegedly ‘promote
homosexuality.’ Thus, for example, any organisation which talked about anal sex as part
of a campaign of HIV prevention can be affected. Had this bill been in place earlier this
year, no Ugandan could have participated in the World AIDS meeting held in Mexico to
discuss HIV prevention.

And what about our standing in the eyes of the world? The Bill calls for Uganda to
nullify any international treaties, protocols, declarations and conventions which are
believed to be ‘contradictory to the spirit and provisions’ of the bill. In reality, this would
involve Uganda withdrawing from:

• The Universal Declaration of Human Rights;
• The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and its protocols;
• The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights;
• The Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women;
• The Convention on the Rights of the Child, and
• The African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights

We note that Uganda is current Chair of the UN Security Council which operates with the
UN Charter and UDHR as guiding principles. It is also current Chair of the
Commonwealth and a signatory to the African Union’s Constitutive Act which has as its
premise the promotion and respect of human rights. In 2009 and 2010 it is hosting AU
Summits. What will happen to Uganda’s hard-won role on the global stage if it nullifies
its international and regional human rights commitments? Uganda cannot wish away core
human rights principles of dignity, equality and non-discrimination, and all Ugandans
will pay a heavy price if this bill is enacted. We will have bargained away our hardearned
rights and freedoms as well as our right to challenge the State and hold it
accountable for the protection of these rights.

In sum, the Bahati Bill is profoundly unconstitutional. It is a major stumbling block to
the development of a vibrant human rights movement in Uganda, and a serious threat to
Uganda’s developing democratic status. If passed, this law would not only prove
difficult to implement, it would also consume resources and attention which would be
better directed at more pressing issues of human rights abuse, corruption, electoral
reform, domestic relations and freedom of the press.

Regardless of our personal moral beliefs and values, we the undersigned are standing up in defense of Democracy, our Constitution and its enshrined principles of human dignity, equality, freedom and justice for all.

Kampala, 22 October 2009

Astraea Featured in Front Page New York Times Article for Role in Uganda

Astraea’s support for Uganda-led solutions for LGBTI human rights in Uganda was featured today in a front-page article in the New York Times titled “U.S. Evangelicals’ Role Seen in Uganda Anti-Gay Push.”

U.S. Evangelicals’ Role Seen in Uganda Anti-Gay Push

KAMPALA, Uganda — Last March, three American evangelical Christians, whose teachings about “curing” homosexuals have been widely discredited in the United States, arrived here in Uganda’’s capital to give a series of talks.

The theme of the event, according to Stephen Langa, its Ugandan organizer, was “the gay agenda — that whole hidden and dark agenda” — and the threat homosexuals posed to Bible-based values and the traditional African family.

For three days, according to participants and audio recordings, thousands of Ugandans, including police officers, teachers and national politicians, listened raptly to the Americans, who were presented as experts on homosexuality. The visitors discussed how to make gay people straight, how gay men often sodomized teenage boys and how “the gay movement is an evil institution” whose goal is “to defeat the marriage-based society and replace it with a culture of sexual promiscuity.”

Now the three Americans are finding themselves on the defensive, saying they had no intention of helping stoke the kind of anger that could lead to what came next: a bill to impose a death sentence for homosexual behavior.

One month after the conference, a previously unknown Ugandan politician, who boasts of having evangelical friends in the American government, introduced the Anti-Homosexuality Bill of 2009, which threatens to hang homosexuals, and, as a result, has put Uganda on a collision course with Western nations.

Donor countries, including the United States, are demanding that Uganda’s government drop the proposed law, saying it violates human rights, though Uganda’s minister of ethics and integrity (who previously tried to ban miniskirts) recently said, “Homosexuals can forget about human rights.”

The Ugandan government, facing the prospect of losing millions in foreign aid, is now indicating that it will back down, slightly, and change the death penalty provision to life in prison for some homosexuals. But the battle is far from over.

Instead, Uganda seems to have become a far-flung front line in the American culture wars, with American groups on both sides, the Christian right and gay activists, pouring in support and money as they get involved in the broader debate over homosexuality in Africa.

“It’s a fight for their lives,” said Mai Kiang, a director at the Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice, a New York-based group that has channeled nearly $75,000 to Ugandan gay rights activists and expects that amount to grow.

Read the whole article at NYTimes.com.