International

UN vote “shameful”

Commenting on the UN vote to remove sexual orientation from the resolution against extra-judicial, summary and arbitrary executions:

The UN:
http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs//2010/gashc3997.doc.htm

IGLHRC:
http://www.iglhrc.org/cgi-bin/iowa/article/pressroom/pressrelease/1257.html

Gay rights and human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell said:

“This is a shameful day in United Nations history. It gives a de facto green light to the on-going murder of LGBT people by homophobic regimes, death squads and vigilantes. They will take comfort from the fact that the UN does not endorse the protection of LGBT people against hate-motivated violence and murder.

“The UN vote is in direct defiance of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which guarantees equal treatment, non-discrimination and the right to life. What is the point of the UN if it refuses to uphold its own humanitarian values and declarations?

“This vote is partly the result of a disturbing homophobic alliance between mostly African and Arab states. LGBT people in these countries often suffer severe persecution.

“Many of the nations that voted for this amendment want to ensure that their anti-gay policies are not scrutinised or condemned by the UN. Even if they don’t directly sanction the killing of LGBT people, they have lined up alongside nations that do.

“South Africa and Cuba claim to support LGBT human rights, yet they voted to remove sexual orientation. They can no longer be considered gay-friendly states. Both countries have allied themselves with tyrannical, violent, homophobic regimes. Presidents Raoul Castro and Jacob Zuma should hang their heads in shame. They’ve betrayed the liberation ideals that they profess to uphold,” said Mr Tatchell.

Moscow Gay Pride march success

First full march, police outwitted, no arrests

Thirty Russian lesbian, gay and bisexual activists foiled the police and FSB security services by holding a 10 minute flashmob Gay Pride march on one of Moscow’s major thoroughfares, Leningradsky Street, this afternoon, Saturday 29 May.

Carrying a 20 metre long rainbow flag and placards in Russian and English calling for “Rights for gays”, the protesters chanted “No homophobia” and “Russia without homophobes.”

Photos, videos and a message from the Moscow Gay Pride organizer,
Nikolai Alekseev, here:
http://www.gayrussia.ru/en/news/detail.php?ID=15821

“The guerrilla-style hit-and-run Moscow Gay Pride march was over before the police arrived. When they turned up, officers scurried around aimlessly, searching for protesters to arrest. All escaped the police dragnet,” said British gay human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, who joined today’s parade to support the Russian gay campaigners.

“All morning the Gay Pride organisers fed the police a steady stream of false information, via blogs and websites, concerning the location of the parade. They suggested that it would take place outside the EU Commission’s offices. As a result, the police put the whole area in total lockdown, closing nearby  streets and metro stations, in bid to prevent protesters assembling there.

“This was the fifth Moscow Gay Pride and the first one with no arrests and bashings. It was also the first time activists succeeded in staging an uninterrupted parade.

“The Russian gay activists have won a big political and morale victory. They staged their Gay Pride march, despite it being banned by the Mayor and the judges, and despite the draconian efforts by the police and FSB security services to prevent it from taking place. I pay tribute to the courage and ingenuity of the Russian gay and lesbian activists. They outwitted the Mayor and his police henchmen.

“Today’s events felt like steeping back into the Soviet era, when protests were routinely banned and suppressed. It is madness that Russian gay rights campaigners are being treated as criminals, just like dissidents in the period of communist dictatorship.

“The real criminals are not the peaceful Gay Pride protesters but the Moscow Mayor and judges who banned this protest. They are the law breakers. They should be put on trial for violating the Russian constitution.

“The EU, US and UK governments have shamefully failed to condemn the banning of Moscow Gay Pride. They support Gay Pride events in Poland and Latvia, but not in Moscow. Why the double standards?”

“Western ambassadors to Russia offered no support to the Moscow Gay Pride organizers. They ignored suggestions that they host Gay Pride events in their embassy grounds and that they fly the gay rainbow flag on Moscow Pride day, 29 May.

Commenting on Friday’s court decision to uphold the Mayor’s ban on Moscow Gay Pride, Mr Tatchell added:

“In a shameless display of feeble deference to the Mayor of Moscow, a court in the Russian capital upheld Mayor Luzhkov¬¬’s ban of the fifth attempted Moscow Gay Pride parade. The judge acted in defiance of the Russian constitution, which guarantees freedom of expression and the right to protest.

“This is a sad day for Russian democracy. It is the latest of many suppressions of civil liberties that happen in supposedly democratic Russia. Many other protests are also denied and repressed, not just gay ones. Autocracy rules under President Medvedev and Prime Minister Putin.

“This is much bigger than a gay rights issue. We are defending the right to protest of all Russians – gay and straight.

“The courage and resolve of the Russian LGBT activists is inspiring. They were ready to take  whatever brutality the police threw at them,” said Mr Tatchell.

Malawi couple pardoned by President Bingu wa Mutharika

President Bingu wa Mutharika of Malawi has pardoned the couple, Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga, who were recently senenced to 14 years hard labour on charges of homosexuality.

Peter Tatchell, the British human rights campaigner from OutRage!, who has championed Steven and Tiwonge’s case and supported them personally, arranging prison visitors, food parcels and medicine, said

“Our thanks to President Bingu wa Mutharika for ending this terrible injustice.

“Congratulations to the many Malawians – gay and straight – who opposed the prosecution of this couple and who campaigned for their release. Our gratitude to the Malawian human rights and ngo groups, especially CEDEP, which supported them throughout their ordeal.

“Steven and Tiwonge should never have been arrested, let alone jailed for five months, convicted and sentenced to 14 years hard labour. They love one another and have harmed no one.

“I hope the government of Malawi will now show true humanitarian leadership by repealing the criminalisation of homosexuality and enacting laws to protect gay people against discrimination and hate crimes, as South Africa has done.

“As someone who supported the people of Malawi in the 1970s and 80s, when they struggled against the dictatorship of Dr Hastings Banda, I urge the Malawian government to continue the transition to democracy and human rights by ensuring equality for its lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender citizens.

“We are now liaising with Steven and Tiwonge about whether they want to seek asylum abroad and will assist them, whatever they decide,” said Mr Tatchell.

Moscow Pride 2010

Exclusive 6 minutes video of Moscow Pride film director Vladimir Ivanov about the preparations and the action of fifth Moscow Pride on Saturday 29 May 2010.
 
Vladimir Ivanov is the film director of “Moskva. Pride ‘06″ documentary which was selected for Berlin Film Festival in 2007.

Moscow court upholds Gay Pride ban

EU, UK and US fail to condemn ban

Russian gays will defy courts and mayor

Activists gather in secret Moscow location

“In a shameless display of feeble deference to the Mayor of Moscow, a court in the Russian capital today upheld Mayor Luzhkov’s ban of the fifth attempted Moscow Gay Pride parade. The judge acted in defiance of the Russian constitution, which guarantees freedom of expression and the right to protest.

“This is a sad day for Russian democracy. It is the latest of many suppressions of civil liberties that happen in supposedly democratic Russia. Many other protests are also denied and repressed, not just gay ones. Autocracy rules under President Medvedev,” said human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, who is in Moscow for the fourth time to support Russian gay rights activists.

“The EU and western embassies are hypocrites. They support Gay Pride events in Poland and Latvia, but not in Russia. The UK and US governments have not protested to the Russian authorities. Their ambassadors to Russia have offered no support to the Moscow Pride organizers. They have ignored suggestions that they host Gay Pride events in their embassy grounds and that they fly the gay rainbow flag on Moscow Pride day, 29 May.

“On the eve of the banned march, activists are arriving in Moscow from all parts of Russia, to join the Saturday parade. We are being billeted in secret locations across the city. To outwit the FSB security services, who have previously tried to locate Gay Pride activists by tracing their mobile phones, we have surrendered our mobiles and been issued with brand new Russian sim cards.

“I am holed up with a group of activists in an apartment in Moscow. We’ve been asked to remove all badges and ribbons that might identify us as gay or as activists. All the beds and sofas, and much of the floor space, is taken up with activists form far and wide. Everyone is messing in to organize food and household chores.

“We are ready and determined to make a stand for gay rights and the right to protests. The courage and resolve of the Russian LGBT activists is really inspiring. We’ll take whatever the authorities, and neoNazis, throw at us. We are hoping for no arrests and no assaults, but we are ready for the worst,” said Mr Tatchell.

LONDON: Protest for Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga

Date: Saturday, 29 May 2010
Time: 13:00 – 14:30
Location: outside the Malawi High Commission London 70 Winnington Road, London N2 0TX

Description: We really want to show our support to Steven and Tiwonge with a public demonstration outside the Malawi High Commission. More info to follow but please spread the word and invite as many people as possible. Bring your friends and spread this around the social networks asap!

More information on Facebook.

Support Tiwonge and Steven in prison in Malawi

Big thanks for your concern about the outrageous 14-year jail term handed down to Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga in Malawi.

There are three things you can do:

FIRST

Send a letter or postcard of support to Steven and Tiwonge. In this difficult time, they need to know that people around the world love and support them. Get all your friends to do the same. Write to:

Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza,
Prisoners, Chichiri Prison,
P.O.Box 30117,
Blantyre 3,
Malawi

SECOND

Write a letter to your elected political representative. Urge him or her to write a letter of protest to Malawian President and to the Malawian Ambassador in your country.

If you live in the UK:

  • Email your MP and all your MEPs via this website: www.writetothem.com
  • Ask your MP and MEPs to protest to the Malawian President and to the Malawi High Commission in London.
  • Ask your MP to sign Early Day Motion 564, which protests against the prosecution of Tiwonge and Steven.

THIRD

Make a donation by post or BACS electronic transfer to the Malawi Defence Campaign, organised the UK-based LGBT organisation OutRage!

OutRage! will use all money donated to support Tiwonge and Steven with food parcels, medicine, clothes, blankets etc. and to help fund the campaign for their release.

By BACS electronic transfer:
Account name: OutRage
Bank: Alliance and Leicester Commercial Bank, Bootle, Merseyside, GIR 0AA, England, UK
Account number: 77809302
Sort code: 72-00-01

For electronic transfers from overseas (outside the UK), please ADDITIONALLY quote these codes:
BIC: ALEIGB22
IBAN: GB65ALE1720001778093 02

By cheque:
Write a cheque payable to “OutRage!” and send to OutRage!, PO Box 17816, London SW14 8WT. Enclose a note giving your name and address and stating that your donation is for the Malawi Defence campaign.

Thanks for your concern and commitment to justice for Tiwonge and Steven.

Solidarity!
Peter Tatchell, OutRage!

14 years for Malawi couple is “brutal”

Jailed men could die in squalid prison

Malawi reverts to the mentality of the Hastings Banda dictatorship

Only hope is for Steven and Tiwonge to appeal to the High Court

“This is an appalling, vindictive and brutal sentence, which tramples on Malawi’s constitution, violates personal privacy and reverses the country’s commitment to human rights.

“Steven and Tiwonge love each other and have harmed no one. Yet they get a sentence more severe than some rapists, armed robbers and killers.

“With so much hatred and violence in Malawi, it is sick that the court has jailed these two men for loving and caring for each other.

“The sentence echoes the era of dictatorship under President Hastings Banda, when personal prejudices determined law enforcement, and when individual rights were crushed and dissenters persecuted,” said London-based human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell of the gay rights group OutRage!.

He was commenting on the 14 year jail sentence for homosexuality, which was handed down today against Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga in Blantyre, Malawi.

Mr Tatchell has been supporting and advocating for the jailed men since their arrest and detention in December last year; helping arrange prison visits and the delivery of food parcels, medicine, letters of support and clothes to the detained men.

In the 1970s and 80s, Mr Tatchell supported the democracy movement in Malawi and campaigned for the release of the country’s political prisoners.

“Fourteen years with hard labour could kill Steven and Tiwonge. Prison conditions are appallingly unhealthy,” he said.

“Detainees die in custody. Infectious diseases like TB are rife. Medical treatment is sub-standard. Food rations are very poor nutritional value; mostly maize porridge, beans and water, causing malnutrition. After only five months behind bars, Steven has been seriously ill and has not received proper medical treatment.”

Commenting on the verdict, Mr Tatchell added:

“The judge has violated Article 20 of Malawi’s own constitution, which guarantees equal treatment and non-discrimination to all citizens. The law under which they were convicted is a discriminatory law that only applies to same-sex relations. It is unconstitutional. The law in Malawi is not supposed to discriminate.

“Malawi’s anti-gay laws were not devised by Malawians. They were devised in London in the nineteenth century and imposed on the people of Malawi by the British colonisers and their army of occupation. Before the British came and conquered Malawi, there were no laws against homosexuality. These laws are a foreign imposition. They are not African laws.

“I expect both men will appeal against the verdict and sentence. Steven and Tiwonge’s best hope is that a higher court will overturn this unjust, cruel verdict; although a more positive outcome on appeal is uncertain, given the high-level homophobia that exists in Malawian society, including among the judiciary.

“The magistrate was biased from outset. He refused the two men bail, which is very unusual in cases of non-violent offences. In Malawi, bail is normal. It is often granted to thieves and violent criminals. Denying Steven and Tiwonge bail was an act of vindictiveness.

“I appeal to governments worldwide, especially the South African government, to condemn this harsh, bigoted judgement and to urge its reversal,” said Mr Tatchell.

Prior to the verdict, Tiwonge and Steven issued a defiant message from their prison cell. It affirmed their love for each other and thanked their supporters in Malawi and worldwide.

Tiwonge said: “I love Steven so much. If people or the world cannot give me the chance

and freedom to continue living with him as my lover, then I am better off to die here in prison. Freedom without him is useless and meaningless.”

“We have come a long way and even if our family relatives are not happy, I will not and never stop loving Tiwonge,” said Steven.

The two men’s messages were relayed from inside Chichiri Prison in Blantyre, Malawi, to Peter Tatchell of the LGBT human rights group OutRage! in London, England.

Tiwonge and Steven stressed their gratitude for the support they have received from fellow Malawians and from people around the world:

“We are thankful for the people who have rallied behind us during this difficult time. We are grateful to the people who visit and support us, which really makes us feel to be members of a human family; otherwise we would feel condemned,” said Tiwonge.

Steven added: “All the support is well appreciated. We are grateful to everybody who is doing this for us. May people please continue the commendable job…Prison life is very difficult.”

Peter Tatchell expressed his admiration of the two men:

“Steven and Tiwonge are showing immense fortitude and courage. They declared their love in a society where many people – not all – are very intolerant and homophobic. This was a very brave thing to do. Although suffering in prison, they are unbowed. They continue to maintain their love and affirm their human right to be treated with dignity and respect,” said Mr Tatchell.

“They have taken a pioneering stand for the right to love. They love each other, have harmed no one and believe that love should not be a crime. It is nobody’s business what they do in the privacy of their own home. There is no evidence that they have committed any crime under Malawian law. They should never have been put on trial. Even prior to their conviction, they had already spent nearly five months behind bars.

“OutRage! is supporting Steven and Tiwonge. For the last four months, we have arranged extra food to supplement the men’s meagre, poor quality prison rations.

“We pay tribute to the other people and organisations who are giving legal and medical assistance to the detained men. This is a huge help. Steven and Tiwonge have asked me to communicate their appreciation,” said Mr Tatchell.

Save the Life of LGBT Activist Kiana Firouz

Iranian lesbian activist Kiana Firouz is currently seeking asylum in the United Kingdom after a controversy over the upcoming release of Cul de Sac. The film, which stars Firouz and includes explicit lesbian sex scenes, is based heavily on Firouz’s life and struggles as a lesbian in Iran. Directors Ramin Goudarzi-Nejad and Mahshad Torkan posted the trailer on YouTube in December 2009 (below, NSFW) and since then, the Iranian government has attempted to deport Firouz back to Iran to be tried and punished for her crime of homosexuality. Firouz applied for refugee status in the UK, but was rejected.

If she is not granted asylum in the UK, she will be sent back to Iran, where the minimum punishment for homosexuality is 100 lashes. The punishment for “unrepentant” homosexuality, which Firouz’s LGBTQ activism clearly demonstrates, is public execution by hanging.

Find out more on the dedicated Facebook group.

To sign a petition asking for asylum in the UK endorsed by Firouz herself, click here.

To see the trailer for Cul de Sac, click here.

Send a letter asking for amnesty for Firouz here:
Minister of State (Borders and Immigration) -
Home Office, 2 Marsham Street
London SW1P 4DF
Fax: +44 870 336 9034

Secretary of State for the Home Department -
Home Office, 2 Marsham Street
London SW1P 4DF
Fax: +44 20 7035 0900

A form letter can be found here.

Malawi gay trial verdict “unjust and cruel”

Steven Monjeza & Tiwonge Chimbalanga found guilty of homosexuality

Convicted men hope that an appeal will overturn magistrate’s decision

“This is an outrageous verdict. While Steven and Tiwonge freely confirmed their love for each other, there was was no credible evidence that they had committed any illegal homosexual acts,” said London-based human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell who has been supporting and advocating for the men since their arrest and detention in December last year.

He was commenting on the trial result today of two men who were prosecuted in Malawi on charges of homosexuality, Steven Monjeza (26) and Tiwonge Chimbalanga (20).

“The law under which they were convicted is a discriminatory law that only applies to same-sex relations. It is unconstitutional. Article 20 of Malawi’s constitution guarantees equality and non-discrimination. The law in Malawi is not supposed to discriminate,” added Mr Tatchell.

“Malawi’s anti-gay laws were not devised by Malawians. They were devised in London in the nineteenth century and imposed on the people of Malawi by the British colonisers and their army of occupation. Before the British came and conquered Malawi, there were no laws against homosexuality. These laws are a foreign imposition. They are not African laws.

“I expect both men will now appeal against the verdict and against any sentence that is handed down. Steven and Tiwonge’s best hope is that a higher court will overturn this unjust, cruel verdict.

“With so much hatred and violence in the world, it is bizarre that any court would criminalise two people for loving each other.

“The magistrate was biased from outset. He refused the two men bail, which is very unusual in cases of non-violent offences. In Malawi, bail is normal. It is often granted to robbers and violent criminals. Denying Steven and Tiwonge bail was an act of vindictiveness.

“I appeal to governments worldwide, especially the South African government, to condemn this harsh, bigoted judgement and to urge its reversal,” said Mr Tatchell.

Prior to the verdict, Tiwonge and Steven issued a defiant message from their prison cell. It affirmed their love for each other and thanked their supporters in Malawi and worldwide.

Tiwonge said: “I love Steven so much. If people or the world cannot give me the chance and freedom to continue living with him as my lover, then I am better off to die here in prison. Freedom without him is useless and meaningless.”

“We have come a long way and even if our family relatives are not happy, I will not and never stop loving Tiwonge,” said Steven.

The two men’s messages were relayed from inside Chichiri Prison in Blantyre, Malawi, to Peter Tatchell of the LGBT human rights group OutRage! in London, England.

Tiwonge and Steven stressed their gratitude for the support they have received from fellow Malawians and from people around the world:

“We are thankful for the people who have rallied behind us during this difficult time. We are grateful to the people who visit and support us, which really makes us feel to be members of a human family; otherwise we would feel condemned,” said Tiwonge.

Steven added: “All the support is well appreciated. We are grateful to everybody who is doing this for us. May people please continue the commendable job…Prison life is very difficult.”

Peter Tatchell expressed his admiration of the two men:

“Steven and Tiwonge are showing immense fortitude and courage. They declared their love in a society where many people – not all – are very intolerant and homophobic. This was a very brave thing to do. Although suffering in prison, they are unbowed. They continue to maintain their love and affirm their human right to be treated with dignity and respect,” said Mr Tatchell.

“They have taken a pioneering stand for the right to love. They love each other, have harmed no one and believe that love should not be a crime. It is nobody’s business what they do in the privacy of their own home. There is no evidence that they have committed any crime under Malawian law. They should never have been put on trial. Even prior to their conviction, they had already spent nearly five months behind bars.

“OutRage! is supporting Steven and Tiwonge. For the last four months, we have arranged extra food to supplement the men’s meagre, poor quality prison rations.

“We pay tribute to the other people and organisations who are giving legal and medical assistance to the detained men. This is a huge help. Steven and Tiwonge have asked me to communicate their appreciation,” said Mr Tatchell.

Sixty-seven British MPs have signed a House of Commons Early Day Motion (EDM 564), which condemns the arrest and trial of Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga.

Amnesty International has adopted Steven and Tiwonge as Prisoners of Conscience.

Until quite recently Steven and Tiwonge did not realise that they had been adopted as Prisoners of Conscience by Amnesty International. When this news was relayed to them in prison they were, to quote one source: “Very happy with the effort made by Amnesty International to accord them this status. They offer their thanks to Amnesty.”

Tiwonge and Steven have also expressed appreciation for the protest on their behalf in London on 22 March.

The two men thanked London-based African and British activists who have lobbied the Malawian Ambassador and the Commonwealth Secretary-General and Human Rights Unit to seek their release and to secure medical treatment for Steven.

Steven’s condition has stabilised but he remains very ill. He is thin and weak and has jaundiced eyes, according to an eye-witness who saw him last weekend.

Tiwonge and Steven are urging continued protests to “get our release and the dropping of charges by the Malawi government.”

Write a letter to Steven and Tiwonge

Help boost their spirits. Show them you care. Send a letter or postcard of support to Steven and Tiwonge:

Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza, Prisoners, Chichiri Prison, P.O.Box 30117, Blantyre 3, Malawi

Constitution of Malawi – Article 20:

Discrimination of persons in any form is prohibited and all persons are…guaranteed equal and effective protection against discrimination on grounds of race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, nationality, ethnic or social origin, disability, property, birth or other status.

“Or other status” means on other grounds, which includes sexual orientation.

African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights – Articles 2, 3 and 4:

Article 2
Every individual shall be entitled to the enjoyment of the rights and freedoms recognized and guaranteed in the present Charter without distinction of any kind such as race, ethnic group, color, sex, language, religion, political or any other opinion, national and social origin, fortune, birth or other status.

Article 3
1. Every individual shall be equal before the law. 2. Every individual shall be entitled to equal protection of the law.

Article 4
Human beings are inviolable. Every human being shall be entitled to respect for his life and the integrity of his person. No one may be arbitrarily deprived of this right.

Confirmation of Malawi’s signature, ratification and accession

See also: