Saturday, April 29, 2006

Nigerian Humanist stands up for gay rights

A leading Nigerian Humanist is courageously standing up for the country's gay community in the face of his government's vicious attack on gay rights.

With the blessing of the Nigerian Anglican Church and its leader, Archbishop Peter Akinola, the government of Nigeria has tabled in parliament one of the world's most comprehensive and repressive anti-gay laws.

The President of Nigeria, Olusegun Obasanjo, has declared that homosexual practice "is clearly unBiblical, unnatural and definitely unAfrican."

Leo Igwe , the Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Humanist Movement, has made an impassioned appeal to members of the Nigerian National Assembly not to pass a Bill that would not only criminalise gay marriage, but also impose a five-year jail sentence on anyone who has a gay relationship or anyone who aids or supports a gay marriage or relationship.

Mr Igwe said in his letter: "The Nigerian Humanist Movement calls for reason, common sense, thoughtfulness, knowledge, love, tolerance, human solidarity and empathy." He called on Nigeria to honour its commitments as a signatory of the UN's Declaration of Human Rights and other human rights documents.

George Broadhead, secretary of the Gay and Lesbian Humanist Association, said: "This is probably the most oppressive piece of anti-gay legislation to have been introduced in modern times. We fear for the safety of all gay people in Nigeria, because when this law is implemented it will unleash a deep-rooted and murderous religious-based homophobia. There will be witch hunts and persecution on a wide scale. We fully support Leo Igwe's appeal to the Government not to do this, and we call on the United Nations to intervene to protect the human rights of an extremely vulnerable minority."

Courageous Iranian dissident supports GALHA

The courageous Iranian dissident, feminist and human rights campaigner, Maryam Namazie, has declared her support for the Gay and Lesbian Humanist Association by joining its panel of vice-presidents.

Maryam Namazie was born in Tehran, but she left Iran with her family in 1980 after the establishment of the Islamic Republic under the leadership of Ayatollah Khomeini. She went to study in the United States and after graduating there moved to the Sudan to work with Ethiopian refugees. Halfway through her stay, an Islamic government took power. She was threatened by this government for establishing a clandestine human rights organisation and had to be evacuated by her employer for her own safety.

Back in the United States, Ms Namazie worked for various refugee and human rights organisations. Since 1998 she has been director of the Federation of Iranian Refugees, an international organisation with 60 branches in nearly 20 countries, which campaigns on behalf of thousands of Iranian asylum seekers and refugees. Some of her personal successes include preventing the deportation of over 1000 Iranian refugees from the Netherlands after having spoken at a parliamentary meeting on the issue, and spearheading a campaign to prevail on the Turkish government to extend the period in which asylum seekers can apply for asylum.

She has worked on numerous other campaigns: opposing stonings and other barbaric executions in Islamic theocracies, defending the banning of religious symbols from schools and public institutions, opposing the incitement to religious hatred bill in the UK and defending the secularisation of society in Britain and elsewhere. She supported the successful campaign against the introduction of a Sharia court in Canada, being a speaker at its first public meeting in Toronto.

She is an inveterate commentator and broadcaster on human rights, cultural relativism, secularism, religion, political Islam and many other related topics.

On 8 October 2005, she received the first 'Securalist of the Year' award from the UK National Secular Society. On 20 March 2006 she was guest lecturer at Peter Tatchell's fifth human rights fundraiser. On 25 March 2006, she was one of the speakers at the Rally for Free Expression held in London's Trafalgar Square.

Commenting on the new addition to the panel of vice-presidents, GALHA's chairperson Lee Stacy said: "We are delighted to have the support of such a courageous and dedicated humanitarian, staunch secularist, and defender of lgbt rights."

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

IDAHO UK 2006 Launched in London

The official launch of the UK's International Day Against Homophobia campaign kicked off in the auditorium of the Amnesty International Human Rights Centre last Friday evening, 7 April 2006, where over a hundred LGBT campaigners congregated to listen to speeches by MPs and activists.

Louis-Georges Tin, founder of IDAHO, explained how the campaign, which started last year, had spread to over 40 countries. He added that one of the campaign's political aims was for IDAHO to gain official recognition at the United Nations. In addition to the countries involved last year there were now IDAHO correspondents in Nigeria, the Cameroons, Guyana, Turkey, Uganda and Namibia. IDAHO had already established strong links with the Coalition of African Lesbians and the All African Rights Initiative.

The meeting was also addressed by a leading member of the Blue Diamond Society, the organisation for sexual minorities in Nepal, who explained the increasingly dangerous situation faced by the LGBT community in that country.

Several speakers also addressed problems faced by LGBT communities in Central and Eastern Europe: in a passionate speech, MEP Michael Cashman argued that the founding principles of the European Union must be maintained to ensure that the human rights of LGBT communities were observed.

Dr Evan Harris, Liberal Democrat MP, highlighted the threat of the growth of religious fundamentalism. Nigel Warner from the board of ILGA-Europe observed that where activists had intervened, Prides in several countries had been saved, and Jean Lambert Green MEP highlighted the centrality of basic human rights.

The meeting also heard from Matthew Davis who gave a graphic account of the appalling treatment of LGBT asylum seekers.

A message of support from the Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, was also read out to the meeting. London's Mayor noted that the second IDAHO "is a timely opportunity to acknowledge the lesbian and gaycommunity's ongoing struggle for human rights and legal equality". He concluded "I give my commitment to work with you to ensure that London remains a leading city for lesbian and gay equality".

The meeting also heard about IDAHO activities which had been arranged for May 17th in London, Brighton, Manchester, Canterbury, Oxford, Bolton and Leicester.

UK IDAHO Co-ordinator Derek Lennard of the Gay & Lesbian Humanist Association (GALHA)said: "It is astonishing that with a very small budget and no paid staff, we have managed to organise a meeting of this size, and enabled events to be organised in these places. IDAHO is a grass roots international network, and it is up to local organisations and individuals to decide if they want to put on events and participate in the campaign."

"Several people had expressed concerns about homophobic attacks on Clapham Common, and it is hoped that local campaigners will come together to address this issue and arrange an IDAHO event to highlight the problem on May 17th," he added.

The evening also included the first public reading of a play based on Rex Batten's book "Rid England of this Plague". It was enthusiastically received and narrated by the author himself, who described the long journey from the oppressive 1950s to the many rights and freedoms LGBT people enjoy today. Mr Batten, however, urged "lasting vigilance" to preserve the gains the gay rights movement had made.

Following this highly successful launch, the priority for IDAHO-UK is now to maximise the number and quality of events on May 17th and to arrange a minute's silence at 8pm on the evening of May 17 in unison with many other countries, such as Peru and the Ivory Coast.

Speaking after the event, Keith Angus, GALHA committee member, said: "GALHA is honoured and thrilled to be part of the International Day Against Homophobia and, building on the success of last year's campaign, we have committed a great deal of our resources in co-ordinating the UK's contribution to this international initiative."As co-ordinators, our role has been largely to publicise the event through brochures, leaflets, events, press releases, and the establishment of the IDAHO-UK website, and of course to back-up and support Derek Lennard, who is doing an outstanding job leading the IDAHO team and liaising with his opposite numbers all around the world to make May the 17th one of the most important days on the international LGBT calendar." Of course, all the co-ordination in the world would come to nothing without the participation of the community. The amount of support forIDAHO in its second year has been really encouraging, with events announced, and statements of support, from all around the country."As a growing network of campaigners and activists, IDAHO is transcending May the 17th. Last month a protest outside the Russian Embassy highlighted the troubles our Russian sisters and brothers are having over their Pride celebrations. Another protest is being planned for May 17th - IDAHO Day - outside the Home Office to draw attention to the plight of Lesbian and Gay Asylum Seekers, whose treatment by our own government is pretty shabby. Shameful and outrageous, quite frankly," he said. Reiterating the need for community participation, Mr Angus added: "Now, if your group is planning an event to mark IDAHO - and we hope you will - please do let Derek know, so it can be added to the IDAHO website and other IDAHO publicity. Commenting on the success of the evening's launch event, he said: "In addition to applauding the sterling work Derek has been doing, on behalf of GALHA, we'd like to especially thank CHE, the Campaign forHomosexual Equality, for chipping in towards the cost of publicity by funding the printing of the IDAHO brochure, OutRage! for logistical support, Rex Batten and his cast for producing tonight's thought-provoking entertainment, and of course Amnesty International for hosting the event in their wonderful venue. And finally, a huge thanks to all the guest speakers, in particular Louis-George, who travelled from Paris to be here, and everyone in the community who is getting behind this campaign to make IDAHO-UK 2006 such a huge success!"

For more information:

Pope's Latest Attack on Gays Verges on the Unhinged Say Gay Humanists

In his "Good Friday meditations" this year, the Pope is expected to condemn gay civil partnerships as "satanic", something the Gay and Lesbian Humanist Association (GALHA) brands as "verging on on the unhinged."

In his message, Pope Benedict will say that "aggression against the family" is a "diabolical project", and his words are bound to be seen as yet another attack on the legal recognition of gay partnerships around Europe, including Britain.

The outcome of this tolerance, he will say, is "an absurd cult of Satan, a mad desire for transgression, a false liberty without conscience, that exalts caprice, vice and selfishness."

GALHA's secretary George Broadhead said: "We are well aware that the Pope is totally opposed to the rights of gay people, but these latest pronouncements verge on the unhinged. His inhumane arguments against the recognition of gay partnerships have been widely disregarded, even in traditionally Catholic countries, like Spain, and his frustration is beginning to show in the increasingly extreme language he is employing. The Pope's apparent psychotic hatred of gays may not be quite on the same level as that of the Grand Ayatollah of Iraq, who recently issued a fatwa saying that homosexuals should be killed in the cruellest ways imaginable, but it springs from the same well of religious intolerance."

Mr Broadhead added: "Gay Catholics should think long and hard before continuing to support their church with money and other resources, until these vile outbursts stop and the Church moderates its stance on gay rights."

Monday, April 10, 2006

Learning Together, Not Growing Apart

The Government’s current Education and Inspections Bill will inevitably lead to a proliferation of ‘faith’ schools and city academies controlled by religious interest groups. Polls how from 64% to 96% of the UK is against this policy. Why then, do most MPs continue to ignore this issue? We need to convince them that opposition to the creeping gift of our education system to religious interests is genuinely and widely held in their constituencies.

The British Humanist Association has set up a special online service to allow supporters to email their MP directly with a standard letter on the Education Bill, sign an online petition against faith schools and religious academies, and vote in our online poll.

If you would prefer to send a more tailored message to your MP, or write to them by post, please do still take a look at our campaign site, but we have also provided some notes for letter writers.

Please take action today (emailing your MP from the BHA site only takes a minute), and forward this message to anyone else you think will be willing to join us in this campaign.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Sunday Sales

And when even was now come, his disciples went down unto the sea, and entered into a ship, and went over the sea toward Capernaum.  John 6:16

The Disciples were lucky Capernaum was not Presbyterian.

For, Jesus, so we are told, could walk on water. But those of us who prefer more conventional (not to mention sane) means of attempting such sea travel have fallen foul of yet another island of zealots. No, it’s not the Bishops in the House of Lords, it’s the occupants the island of Lewis and Harris.  

The BBC reports that two-thirds of the adult population is “staunchly Presbyterian”. They’ve signed a petition to prevent the ferry crossing from the mainland on “the Sabbath”.

After their petition (and probably a few less-publicised petitions to their god to sink the heretical ship) failed, they’re now doing what almost all the other religious lobbies do – they’re trying to invoke, manipulate or otherwise use the law:

Says the BBC:
Harris West councillor Morag Monro, whose ward contains the port of Leverburgh, said legal action was being considered.  "At the moment we are investigating whether there is a legal option open to us to protect us from this imposition," she said.

Of course, when they discover that there is no law (well, I hope there isn’t) to prevent the free movement of people in accordance with their fear of upsetting an imaginary god, I have no doubt they’ll try to have one made.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Political support for IDAHO grows as the big launch looms...

Statements of support from UK Political parties have provided a major boost to campaigners for an International Day Against Homophobia, in time for the big launch of IDAHO-UK on April 7th.

The launch meeting of IDAHO-UK takes place:

Friday April 7th
6-8.30pm at Amnesty International UK,
The Human Rights Action Centre,
17-25 New Inn Yard, London EC2A 3EA.
Nearest tube: Old Street (0.4 miles)

Map to venue

Cross-party support

For the government Meg Munn, Deputy Minister for Women and Equality, stated that she fully supported "the work of the International Day Against Homophobia campaign to increase awareness on the legal and human rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transsexual people across the globe". She added "the UK government recognises the discrimination that many lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual people face in their day to day lives and we are committed to tackling it, just as we want  to encourage and develop the conditions for a fair and just society for all.

Ms Munn concluded "We are working hard to improve the lives of lesbians, gay, bisexuals and transsexuals in the UK, and I hope the International Day Against Homophobia will encourage others to take similar steps. I look forward to marking this day on 17th May from this year onwards."

Eleanor Laing, Shadow Minister for Women and Equality, added "The fact that we can celebrate the International Day Against Homophobia is a clear indication of the way in which the whole attitude of society has changed. There is a long way to go but I am confident that right across the political divide we are working for a fair and equal society."

Evan Harris for the Liberal Democrats said "Homophobia is an increasing problem in Europe and remains prevalent in many parts of the world. Liberal Democrats want to see further steps to tackle prejudice, bullying and discrimination both in the UK and abroad, and we give our whole-hearted backing to the International Day Against Homophobia."

The principal speakers for the Green Party, Caroline Lucas MEP and Councillor Keith Taylor also spoke of their "enthusiastic support" of IDAHO , saying that it "will play an important part in celebrating our vision of a world of equality, tolerance, and diversity."

Meanwhile, Stephen Williams, Liberal Democrat MP for Bristol West, has tabled an early day motion in support of IDAHO in the House of Commons.

Derek Lennard, Co-ordinator of IDAHO in the UK welcomed "this broad political support for such a new campaign" and commented that the guest list of IDAHO speakers was looking like a Who's Who of LGBT Human Rights Supporters". Speakers include Louis-Georges Tin, founder of IDAHO who is expected to make a major statement concerning Moscow Pride, Michael Cashman, former actor, Labour MEP for the West Midlands and President of the Intergroup on gay and lesbian rights in the European Parliament, Jason Pollock Executive Director of Europride, Linda Wilkinson, Secretary of Amnesty International, Jean Lambert, Green MEP for London,  Dr Evan Harris, Liberal Democrat MP for Oxford West and Matthew Davis, Vice Chair of the UK Lesbian and Gay Immigration Group.

There will also be a dramatisation of Rex Batten's book, Rid England of this plague.

The launch meeting of IDAHO-UK takes place on Friday April 7, 6-8.30pm at Amnesty International UK, The Human Rights Action Centre, 17-25 New Inn Yard, London EC2A 3EA.    

The IDAHO UK Website
The petition for an International Day Against Homophobia
The International Website