Friday, December 11, 2009

Gay Ugandan Protests in Beirut & Chicago

(Helem protests at the Ugandan consulate in Beirut, November 9. Photo credit: Farfahinne.)

(Gay Liberation Network vigil in Chicago, December 10. Photo credit: GLN.)

In November, demonstrations over Uganda's proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill took place in NYC at the country's mission to the United Nations, at the embassy in DC, the consulate in Johannesburg and the embassy in London. And as I reported yesterday, there was an action at San Francisco's United Nations Plaza pillar for Uganda, and a follow-up protest at the London embassy, organized by OutRage! More pics from that action posted here.

I'm proud to say those weren't the only recent actions for gay Ugandans. Members of the Gay Liberation Network took to the freezing streets in Chicago yesterday and staged a picket line and vigil:

The cold was absolutely miserable tonight and the action was initiated just a few days ago despite the nasty weather forecast, but about 20 people still came out on International Human Rights Day to express their solidarity with Ugandan Lesbian, Gay, Bi and Trans (LGBT) people facing that country's proposed "Anti-Homosexuality Bill." [...]

At 8 degrees Fahrenheit (-13 C) and -20 F wind chill (-29 C), people gathered despite the cancellation of many other public activities in the city this evening. Lacking an official Ugandan consulate in the city, protesters instead held their action outside of Chicago's LGBT community center. [...]

One of the central themes of speakers at the protest was the importation of Western anti-gay ideas into Africa. When African anti-gay leaders claim that homosexuality is a "Western" import into the continent, they turn reality on its head. Not only have many of the anti-gay actions on the continent been directly inspired by a U.S.-based group known as "The Family" -- which includes several high-ranking U.S. politicians from both major parties -- most of Africa's anti-gay laws are direct descendants of laws imposed by white colonial regimes during the early 20th Century.

These were not the only recent actions. I learned this morning that Lebanon's brave gay and HIV advocacy organization, Helem, organized a protest last month. Here's a report from the queer Arab news site about the action in the Middle East:

In response to a call to action made by Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), Helem organized a sit-in at the Ugandan consulate in Beirut on November 9th 2009. [...]

Helem’s media unit wrote a letter to the Ugandan consulate in Lebanon calling the bill an anti-rights bill, stressing the fact that it will target everyone from teachers to parents to political leaders. The letter also accuses the bill of acting as “a major stumbling block facing the development of a vibrant human rights movement in Uganda,” calling for its abolition.

At the consulate, located in front of the Iranian embassy, a few people chanting “Kill the Bill” got to say their word and deliver the letter to the honorary consul, showing that even in a small Arab country like Lebanon, people care about human rights in general and LGBT rights in particular.

Many thanks to everyone who organized and participated in the seven cities to stage protests so far: Beirut, Chicago, Johannesburg, London, San Francisco, New York, and Washington. For the gay Ugandans, please know that lots of people the world over care for you and will not rest until you all are able to live in peace and security.

Check out this vid on the Beirut action from the Helem leaders:

(Hat tip: Paul Canning in the UK.)

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