While many countries around the world begin Pride celebrations, many LGBTQ+ activists and communities under autocracies are imprisoned, or even killed, for being who they are.
With pride coming up and being widely celebrated across North America, we are given an important opportunity to think of, raise awareness on, and act in solidarity with LGBTQ+ activists across the world, particularly in autocracies where human rights are consistently being violated.
In Canada, in the U.S., across Europe, Latin America, and in most parts of the world, Pride is a beautiful, festive celebration to commemorate the Stonewall Riots of 1969. Stonewall Inn had been a nightclub frequented by LGBT+ clientele, at a time where such gatherings were not easily-condoned. Stonewall was frequently raided by police, but on one night in 1969, Stonewall’s patrons resisted the police raid and begun a riot in defiance of discriminatory police behavior.
Stonewall indirectly led to the formation of various LGBT+ activism coalitions, including the Gay Liberation Front and The Gay Activists Alliance. Since, the fight for recognition, equality has been arduous and still ongoing. However, certain countries have fared far better than others.
While we celebrate the history and continued fight for LGBT+ rights, it is important to think of and raise awareness of those whose fight is still ongoing. 7 United Nations member-states consider consensual same-sex relations to be punishable by death. In 70 member-state countries, same-sex relations are still criminal acts. Not only are these numbers staggering, but on the other spectrum, the number of countries where civil union is recognized is very few, with the United States only joining in 2015.
We must remember that the fight for sexual diversity and equality is still ongoing and that is on us all to support, and be active allies of LGBT+ activists. LGBT+ oppression and discrimination is not limited to autocracies, it happens everywhere, and we must both be better aware of it and more active in fighting against it.
London Attacks – Fetishizing Queer Women
Just this past month, a lesbian couple aboard a bus in Camden Town in London were viciously attacked by a group of men for refusing to kiss in front of them. The couple was minding their own business, until the group of five teenage boys, all of whom have since been arrested, began accosting them and throwing things at them. The boys demanded that the couple kiss, and when they declined, they were punched repeatedly violently assaulted on the bus. Police soon came to the scene and the bloody image of the couple on the bus after the attacks has since made headlines across the world, as this happened on the eve of Pride night.
If such a violent attack in one of the most diverse and progressive cities in the world is indicative of the state of LGBT+ safety, we must be very wary of assuming the fight for LGBT+ rights was over with the right to marriage. We all have a responsibility in being more aware of what happens in our own countries, as well as the rest of the world.
Iran’s HIstory of LGBT+ Persecution
The Islamic Republic, the autocratic and extremist government that has forcibly ruled Iranians since the 1979 Iranian Revolution, is already infamous for its atrocious human rights crimes against its own people. The Islamic Republic has no regard for the rights of women, religious minorities, nor any other marginalized group. One group, in particular, is treated horrendously by the government and is discriminated against both politically and socially in Iran. This is the LGBTQ+ community in Iran, people who have had basic human rights stripped from them under the radical rule of the Islamic Republic. Same-sex relations are still considered punishable by the death penalty.
Previously, the Islamic Republic had limited its barbaric persecution to people who themselves identified within the LGBTQ+ community. However, a new charge persecutes activists, merely for defending the rights of people with different sexual orientations. Not only does this new charge set a dangerous precedent for persecution against all activists fighting for human rights in Iran, but it also sheds light on the very precarious reality facing LGBTQ+ identifying Iranians. The unjust arrest and persecution of gender equality and LGBTQ+ activist, Rezvaneh Mohammadi, has brought this issue to the frontline of Iranian human rights activism.
Mohamaddi was arrested for attending a conference hosted by the International Lesbian and Gay Association. She was held in solidarity and interrogated in the notorious Evin Prison of Iran, and her charge leaves many with concern that this sets a dangerous precedent for the Iranian government to arrest activists and allies of the LGBT+ community.
Brunei Internationally Pressured to Change its Gay Sex Death Penalty Laws
Brunei made international headlines earlier this year when it introduced a string of highly discriminatory and inhumane laws that would punish gay sex and adultery with being stoned to the death. Brunei is not a stranger to having severely outdated and oppressive laws and has adopted Sharia Law into its legislature and governance.
However, amidst mass global outcry from human rights activists, world leaders, and citizens alike, Brunei announced that it would be a ban on capital punishment for the time being. This resulted from global movements, spearheaded by many celebrities, to not only pressure the Sultan of Brunei to humanize these laws, but was complemented with an economic boycott of Brunei-owned hotels. The efforts proved effective and demonstrated that mass demonstrations and globalization are indeed effective means of activism.
The fight for equal human rights, as history has demonstrated, cannot be left to the marginalized populations alone. We can, and, should, all be allies – allies who educate themselves and leverage their privilege to support everyone’s fight for equality.