International Anti-Gay Violence on the Rise
Some Worry Hate Attacks Becoming an ‘Epidemic’
Blade, July 30, 2004
1408 U Street, NW, 2nd Floor, Washington, DC 20009
By Bryan Anderton
While gay activists in the United States fight for the
right to marry, one global gay rights group issued a reminder this week that
in many countries, gay people are fighting just to be treated humanely.
There has been a recent rash of international anti-gay
violence including incidents in Jamaica, India and Nepal, according to the
International Gay & Lesbian Human Rights Commission. Officials from the
group say the violence has increased as a result of more individuals and
organizations lobbying for gay rights.
“Increasingly, gay people are unwilling to be the
subject of abuse,” said IGLHRC Executive Director Paula Ettelbrick, adding
that the violence in recent months is most likely a “backlash” resulting
from gays becoming more vocal.
The organization cited a number of such incidents that
have occurred in just the last two months.
In June, a 21-year-old male-to-female transsexual in
India was arrested and reportedly tortured by police officers after reporting
to police that she had been raped by several men. That same month, protesters
broke windows and ripped down posters at several Indian movie theaters showing
a lesbian-themed film.
Also in June, one of Jamaica’s most prominent gay
rights activists, Brian Williamson, was found stabbed to death in his home.
While the police declared that robbery was the official motive, many gay
rights groups insist the killing was “hate-related” and are demanding that
Prime Minister P.J. Patterson immediately repeal the island’s anti-gay laws.
Earlier this month, a number of gay men and cross
dressers reported being harassed and beaten by police officers in the streets
of Nepal. When a local gay rights organization staged a peaceful demonstration
to protest the abuse, police officers reportedly began beating protesters to
disperse the crowd.
Worldwide violence against gays is the subject of a new
book, “Sex, Love & Homophobia,” released earlier this month by the
human rights group Amnesty International.
“Lesbian and gay people who form or join organizations,
be they political or social, are being violently persecuted in many parts of
the world where before they might have been unnoticed,” Vanessa Baird, the
book’s author, told Reuters earlier this month, calling the recent rise in
anti-gay violence an “epidemic.”
Repeated calls to Amnesty International, as well as to
Human Rights Watch, were not returned by press time.
Homosexuality punishable by death
More than 70 countries currently have laws that
criminalize sex between members of the same gender, including some who are
close allies of the United States, according to the IGLHRC.
In several countries—including Iran, Saudi Arabia,
Afghanistan, Mauritania, Sudan, Pakistan, the United Arab Emirates, Yemen and
parts of Nigeria—homosexuality is punishable by death. In many others,
sodomy can result in prison sentences.
But Ettelbrick said that an entire country cannot be
labeled “homophobic” because it has anti-sodomy laws, which were still on
the books in some U.S. states until the Supreme Court struck them down last
Ettelbrick also noted that some countries without
specific anti-sodomy laws still target gay sex. In Egypt, a group of gay men
who became known as the “Cairo 52” were arrested in 2001 during a police
raid on a party boat in Cairo. They were not charged with sodomy, but instead
were charged with “debauchery.”
“I think what drives the harassment isn’t just a
specific law,” Ettelbrick said. “It’s that the law in general can be
used and manipulated so easily to target gay and lesbian people.”
Despite the setbacks, the push for global gay rights is
an important endeavor that is seeing slow but significant progress, Ettelbrick
“Right now, I think it’s a mixed bag,” Ettelbrick
said. “The other side to all of this is that there’s actually a growing
movement and a growing reality of successful policy results.