Tag Archives: LGBT

Day 15 of 16 Days of Activism: The Bahamas

#Day15 of #16Days focuses on another Caribbean country, the islands of The Bahamas. Shockingly 45% of all homicides in the 20 years leading up to 2012 could be attributed to domestic violence in the islands. The government, under the Ministry of Social Services, does operate the Bureau of Women’s Affairs which presumably handles the Assistance for Persons Experiencing Domestic Violence where assistance is free to those who are willing to comply with the eligibility requirements: willingness to attend and participate in counseling and “willingness to share information.”

The government also offers community development like support groups and classes for the disabled in Braille and sign language, counseling, rehab and welfare services including rent assistance and discounted daycare. A two-day Symposium on Gender Equality and the Law in The Bahamas was held in September of this year, yet a constitutional referendum has been ongoing since 2002 to try to make citizenship laws and gender equality in The Bahamas more in line with the 21st Century. You can find a document outlining laws in The Bahamas regarding sexual assault and domestic violence here.

Men too

Of note is the legal definition of spousal rape: “Any person who has sexual intercourse with his spouse without the consent of the spouse —
(a) where there is in existence in relation to them — (i) a decree nisi of divorce; (ii) a decree of judicial separation; (iii) a separation agreement; or (iv) an order of a court for the person not to molest or co-habit with his spouse, or any other order made under Part II; or
(b) where the person has notice that a petition for judicial separation, divorce or nullity of marriage has been presented to a court, is guilty of the offence of sexual assault by spouse and liable to imprisonment for a term of fifteen years.” Yet the sentence for “unnatural connection with any animal” is twenty years….

According to the US Department of State 2013 Country Report on Human Rights Practices in The Bahamas “The law does not provide women with the same right as men to transmit citizenship to their foreign-born spouses. The law also makes it easier for men with foreign spouses than for women with foreign spouses to transmit citizenship to their children but more difficult for unmarried men (even if able to prove paternity). The law does not include gender as a basis for protection from discrimination. Women were generally free of economic discrimination, and the law provides for equal pay for equal work.” Additionally, pregnant girls in state-run schools are removed and put into special programs until after they give birth, and “The legal minimum age for marriage is 18, although girls may marry at 16 and boys at 17 with parental permission.”

There is no specific law protecting persons with physical or mental disabilities from discrimination in employment, education, access to health care, or the provision of other state services. Provisions in other legislation address the rights of persons with disabilities, including a prohibition of discrimination on the basis of disability. Although the law mandates access for persons with physical disabilities in new public buildings, authorities rarely enforced this requirement, and very few buildings and public facilities were accessible to persons with disabilities. Advocates for persons with disabilities complained of widespread job discrimination and general apathy on the part of private employers and political leaders toward the need for training and equal opportunity. In one case authorities denied access to public educational facilities for a mentally sound child with only physical limitations confining him to a wheelchair.

Societal discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals occurred, with some persons reporting job and housing discrimination based upon sexual orientation. Although same-sex sexual activity between consenting adults is legal, the law defines the age of consent for same-sex couples as 18, compared with 16 for heterosexual couples. No domestic legislation addresses the human rights concerns of LGBT persons. LGBT NGOs can openly operate in the country. The 2006 Constitutional Review Commission found that sexual orientation did not deserve protection against discrimination. LGBT NGOs reported that LGBT persons faced some discrimination in employment, and victims were frustrated at the lack of legal recourse.

Stigma and employment discrimination against persons with HIV/AIDS were high, but there were no reports of violence against persons with HIV/AIDS. Children with HIV/AIDS also faced discrimination, and authorities often did not tell teachers that a child was HIV-positive for fear of verbal abuse from both educators and peers. The government maintained a home for orphaned children infected with HIV/AIDS.

All Saints Camp claims to be a refuge for those affected by HIV/AIDS in The Bahamas but the US Human Rights Report cited deplorable conditions and extremely substandard care. Their Facebook page argues that they do not have access to government funding but through the generosity of donors “the daily life at ASC has become worth living on a very very basic level – to maintain this goal is a constant and revolving challenge for all involved.”

Bahamas Crisis Centre

The Bahamas Crisis Centre is not easy to find online, and their Facebook page doesn’t offer a lot of insight either, but they do operate a 24/7 hotline at 242-328-0922. It’s difficult to gauge how active they are currently but it looks like they have participated in a number of community events from toy drives for children at Christmas, to their Silent Witness Campaign to Take Back the Night. They and others throughout the Caribbean are listed here under Caribbean Crisis Centres and Women’s NGOs. Similarly elusive is the Bahamas LGBT Equality Advocates, or BLEA, but it is unclear what their role is or how they go about advancing equality.

Silent Witness

Unfortunately for a country facing incredible amounts of gender-based violence and general inequality there are few organizations or resources there to help. Let’s hope the situation in Nigeria–for the last day of 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence–is less bleak.

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The Republican War on Women

The War on Women being waged in the United States is culminating in the likely closure of the only abortion clinic in the nation’s poorest state, Mississippi. Measures specifically introduced by the state’s legislature to shut down its last remaining abortion provider have been successful so far, with a new law passed requiring abortion providers to have privileges at local hospitals. While the office’s three doctors have all applied for hospital privileges, as of yet they do not have them. It is unknown what will happen to the clinic after the new law takes effect. In Virginia similar measures are being protested that would make it extremely difficult for abortion providers to remain open. This piece explores the painful reality these abortion restrictions inflict on women, an important voice in the conversation when women are not even “sources” for women’s rights issues. It’s high time women were not ashamed to say that they’ve had abortions, and while men’s opinions on everything from menstruation to menopause seem to hold more weight, we in the pro-choice movement would like to hear from more pro-choice men.

The legislative tactics used by Mississippi and Virginia to effectively make abortion illegal, or at least unobtainable, are nothing new. Across the country a terrifying 1,100 pieces of anti-women legislation have been proposed since 2011! You really should check that link out. Add to this the very real violence faced by clinic workers on a daily basis, like death threats, arson and bombings, and it’s no wonder abortion is becoming impossible to obtain safely and legally in the wealthiest country in the world. Republicans are even trying to sneak language about life beginning at conception into completely unrelated bills, like this one extending FEMA’s national flood insurance plan. But disaster-stricken Americans are not the only ones the GOP is alienating. Not only should women have no control over their own sexual and reproductive health, argue elected Republican officials, their work is worth less than men’s. Extending the war on women to their ability to feed themselves, Republican Senators refused to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act.

From the absurdity of women being excluded from a panel discussing birth control (and the attacks women who wanted to speak endured) to the extremely anti-choice Michigan legislature banning two female representatives for “inappropriate language” i.e.. vagina and vasectomy, during debates about anti-choice legislation, legislators and laws in the US are becoming more and more misogynistic. Beautifully, thousands of protesters took to the… steps with a performance of the timeless Vagina Monologues to demand that freedom of speech extend to female legislators discussing body politics. If you want to send your own message to Michigan legislators sign this petition asking Facebook to allow users to change their middle name to Vagina, then change yours. You might also mention that the double standard– Medicare covers Viagra and penile implants, yet Republicans think birth control should be an out-of-pocket expense– is unacceptable. Thankfully, while the majority of the anti-woman rhetoric in the US is coming from the Christian Rightwing, it’s good to see other religious figures supporting women’s bodily autonomy.

As you can see from the graphic at the top Michigan isn’t the only state waging war on women’s reproductive freedoms. In Ohio alone a staggering 16 pieces of anti-choice legislation were introduced since 2010. North Carolina Republicans are trying to defund Planned Parenthood, again. Texas Republicans are promoting proven-ineffective abstinence-only sexual education courses. Kansas Republicans have introduced a host of Christian-based anti-woman legislation and a doctor there may permanently lose her medical license for refusing to force a ten-year-old to give birth. South Dakota has proposed a 72 hour waiting period between ultrasound and abortion for women seeking to terminate their pregnancies. And in Arizona now it is perfectly legal for doctors to lie to their patients if they think the information they give will influence them to have an abortion. Also in Hell Arizona, “reasonably suspicious” women and men are being asked for Papers, please, despite a mixed Supreme Court ruling on the legality of SB 1070. This article takes on an excellent exploration of what this means for immigrant women, and what the situation of immigrant women means for equality for all people in the US. Check out the pictures supplied by Planned Parenthood at the end of the post for other evidence of the war on women.

And then there’s the Violence Against Women Act…. The Senate passed a beautiful, sparkling reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act that extended protections to undocumented women, Native American women and lesbians. The House promptly stripped those additions, leaving millions of women in traditionally under-served populations even more vulnerable, all the while claiming that women would use these new provisions to scam the system with false accusations. The President has vowed to veto the House version if it crosses his desk. LGBT lobbies and Native American women’s lobbies are still pushing for passage of the Senate version at Capitol Hill and even Christian websites think Congress should pass the Senate version! At least New York understands.

With a staggering 1 in 3 Native American women raped in her lifetime one would hope Republicans could at least show compassion in the wake of such terrible violence. But no. A sickening story of a Tampa rape victim who was arrested on charges of outstanding warrants after she reported her rape has outraged women across the country. The worst is yet to come. After being booked, a guard where she was being held confiscated the second pill of her emergency contraception because it went against her beliefs. A federal court has ruled that the victim will be allowed to sue the guard for violating her right to privacy. In other news of the State violating individuals human rights, this (potentially triggering) piece explores the unnecessary police practice of forced catheterization in Utah. Even liberal San Francisco is being accused of victim blaming people who come to the police as victims of rape and domestic violence.

Rape in the US military is a hot-button issue too, yet House Republicans showed little compassion when blocking abortion access for soldiers who have been raped. The award-winning documentary The Invisible War explores the issue of rape that is poisoning the US military. One service member interviewed explained victims’ options as “suicide, AWOL, or deal with it.” The film explores why many rape victims don’t report the incident: for 25% of women who didn’t report the rape to their commander, their commander was their rapist. The documentary’s website, in addition to the trailer and information on the movement, offers ways to take action and help demand accountability and justice for service members who have been raped.

Pillamina on the campaign trail!

Now that I’ve thoroughly depressed you, I want to give you the good news. In addition to the beauty of an estimated 3-5,000 people filling Michigan’s capital steps to respect the word vagina, across the blogosphere people are overcoming the shame of using the word vagina. Like the personal story of abortion linked in the beginning of this post, it is extremely important women are speaking out so that their voices are heard. Public performances, like The Vagina Monologues, have long been an effective tactic in the strategic nonviolent activists’ arsenal, and with Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney wanting to “get rid of” Planned Parenthood, a giant pack of birth control pills, Pillamina, is now following him along the campaign trail. If that doesn’t make you smile, how about this: since 1990 abortion rates have decreased 18% for women in their 20s due to increased contraception access. Also, many big city mayors (a lot of whom are men) have added their names in support of women’s reproductive rights. Rock on Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Hartford and New York!

And not all news from individual states is bad. The Governor of New Hampshire vetoed a “partial birth” abortion ban since a similar ban (for a procedure which doesn’t actually exist) is already in place at the federal level. Also in New England Connecticut has included abortion as an essential health benefit in the state’s insurance plan. And even quiet Midwesterners in North Dakota are fighting back against this war on women, deciding they don’t want to expand religious liberty to discriminate against anyone. At the federal level Congress actually did something right, by failing to pass a ban on “sex-selective abortions,” a problem which deserves national attention in India and China but is almost non-existent in the US.

Though the comments on this video are repulsive, the White House 1 is 2 Many campaign to encourage men to speak up if they witness violence against women is a good reminder that bystanders have power too. As we saw with the contentious issue of undocumented women being covered by VAWA, immigrant women are the often-forgotten victims of violence against women. Thankfully the newly opened Tahirih Justice Center in Baltimore is a haven for immigrant victims of domestic violence throughout New England. If you want to get involved and fight back against the misogynistic legislative attacks, including the VAWA embarrassment, check out A is For, a group seeking to reclaim the scarlet letter A. Or join the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health in their Week of Action for Reproductive Justice because you, like Mary Gonzalez, the openly lesbian Latina doctoral student recently elected to the Texas House, are poderosa.

Finally, the best news of all. In addition to this long, well-cited list of Obama’s accomplishments as President he can now definitively add “bringing American healthcare into the 21st Century: The Supreme Court has upheld Obamacare!!! This landmark decision ensures that women and men will be treated equally by insurance companies, and preventative services like birth control (with no co-pay), mammograms, and pap smear cancer screenings, will all be covered by insurance! If you’re so inclined you can write a letter of thanks to the five Supreme Court Justices who voted in favor of universal health care. Thank you for reading, be well, and as always, if you have ideas, suggestions or comments as to how we can fight back against the patriarchy, please share them below.

In Peace~

 


International Day Against Homophobia & Transphobia

Today is the International Day Against Homophobia/Biphobia & Transphobia – IDAHO. It is an annual event commemorated by millions of people from Ireland to Fiji and in dozens of other countries around the world to take action against homophobia. Started in 2004, the day incorporated transphobia into the title in 2009. Last year alone more than 80 countries held events to speak out against homophobia and transphobia.

May 17 was chosen to commemorate the 1990 decision of the World Health Organization to remove homosexuality from its list of mental disorders. Care2 has a number of stories related to IDAHO available today. You can “like” IDAHO on Facebook and follow anti-homophobia actions all year round. You can also follow Ampliphy’s IDAHO Blogathon and read about others’ take on the day too.

This informative piece by Sexuality and Disability answers some of the questions many people have about sexuality, including what it means to be transgender. Many issues faced by the LGBTQI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex) community have been all over the international news lately, from marriage equality and other human rights to issues of personal safety like bullying and rape. Let’s start with the good news.

Argentina has set a new world standard in human rights for transgender people by enacting a law that allows any citizen to change his/her gender identity just because they want to! No longer do Argentinians have to undergo mental health screenings, hormone therapy or permanent body altering surgery (read: sterilization) to change their legal or physical gender. “But, if trans Argentinians do want to change their bodies, thanks to the new law, insurance companies–both public and private–will now have to provide them with surgery or hormone therapy at no additional cost.” The first country to legalize marriage equality in Latin America is now an inspiration and symbol of hope for transgender people everywhere.

Other countries are working towards equality and inclusion for transgender people in other ways. India’s largest transgender festival has been going on for the past two weeks. Kenya’s Human Rights Commission has produced a 62 page PDF file The Outlawed Among Us available for download that explores the human rights violations of the LGBTQI community there. Activists in Nepal are joining researchers in asking “Can proper ID save the lives of transgender people in emergencies?” Any recommendations for resources or contacts in that regard can be sent here. Finally, Sweden is leading the way in gender neutral language by introducing a gender neutral pronoun for those who do not wish to use gender labels.

Even in the US there is good news on the sexuality rights front. Shocking I know! Barack Obama made history this month by becoming the first President in US history to voice his support for marriage equality. Many prominent black men, including Reverend Jesse Jackson, actor Will Smith, and rapper Jay-Z, have spoken out supporting the President’s “evolution” regarding marriage equality. Some polls show that more than 50% of Americans are in favor of marriage equality, while in Minnesota 52% of those polled agreed that “same-sex couples should be able to get married.”

President Obama has, in addition to repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and speaking in favor of marriage equality, clarified to Congress that DOMA is a “bad idea.” He has also threatened to veto the House of Representative’s Republican Violence Against Women Act because it gutted protections for lesbian, bisexual, transgender, Native American and undocumented women and would put victims of domestic violence in severe danger by informing abusers that they have been accused of violence.

Now for the bad news– bullying. Bullying takes many, many forms and is an issue faced by millions of people around the world but members of the LGBTQI community around the world (and those perceived to be) are especially likely to suffer. One example is the infamous Westboro Baptist Church that protests with sign saying “God hates fags.” One 9 year-old is protesting back with a sign of his own saying “God hates no one.” He joins the good company of other Americans who are fed up with WBC’s hatred.

The Pan American Health Organization has joined the outcry against dangerous and hateful homophobia and declared that “treatments” intended to “cure” people of homosexuality are not medically sound and should have sanctions levied against them by governments and academic institutions. So-called “conversion” therapy, or pray-away-the-gay only serves to further shame, isolate and belittle vulnerable individuals who are already facing discrimination in myriad other forms from society. In many places homosexual acts are punishable by law, and in some cases, like Iran, men are being hanged to death for sodomy.

This article explores how South Africa has become the rape capital of the world, including hundreds, if not thousands of incidences of “corrective rape” occurring every year. But the US is not immune to the idiotic idea that raping a lesbian will make her straight. Just last week a Cleveland DJ told a listener who was worried his daughter might be a lesbian to have her “screwed straight.” Such thinking underlines the War on Women being waged in the US and the hugely false Republican belief that women are not to be trusted to make their own decisions, especially regarding sex.

Bullying is a life-threatening issue today. Students who identify as LGBT are five times more likely to miss school out of fear for their safety. A new documentary, Bully, explores bullying in America while the film Teach Your Children Well looks specifically at anti-gay bullying. The Gay Lesbian & Straight Education Network, GLSEN, offers anti-bullying resources here. The government also offers tips on creating a safe environment for LGBT youth but acknowledges that federal laws (shamefully) do not protect against harassment based on sexual orientation. This look at how bullying affects children’s and teens’ mental health shows that LGB youth are two to three times more likely to attempt suicide than straight kids. But homophobic bullying in schools is not limited to the US; Ireland’s bullying is also “widespread.” The Day of Silence, which takes place every year on April 20, is a way for students to show their support for an end to bullying and to represent all the voices that have been silenced because of violence.

Yet transgender voices are still being silenced in schools, including universities in the US. And the real, day-to-day violence faced by transgender people is often dismissed by the mainstream media, or ignored all together. The New York Times recently ran an article chock-full of transphobic and victim-blaming rhetoric after a transgender woman died in a suspicious fire. The dehumanizing picture they paint is of a deceptive sex worker who deserved what came to her while including unnecessary and disrespectful sexualized comments about her appearance.

The state of North Carolina and its voters asserted themselves as bullies this week when Amendment One altered the state’s Constitution to define marriage as one man and one woman. Don’t worry though, dwellers of the Tar Heel State can still marry their cousins. And, lest we forget, the last time NC amended their Constitution was in 1875 to ban interracial marriage. And while the bigots who voted for Amendment One were clamoring about “traditional marriage” (see below), this badass woman employed strategic nonviolent action to demand her right to marry her female partner. It ultimately got her arrested and I heart her for that! And “to the queer kids of the United States: Amendment One is a form of bullying.”

Other US states are a mix of flat out shame like Colorado which didn’t vote on civil unions and confusion, like Rhode Island, where other state’s same-sex marriages will be recognized but it is still not legal for its own residents to do so.

This awesomely interactive and informative state-by-state guide shows just how difficult it is to keep track of the laws when the states are not at all united. It explores marriage, hospital visits, adoption, employment, housing, hate crimes and schools. Also check out this video of the 2012 Essential Bi Reading List for other resources.

My best friend (who is in law school at the moment) has reminded me time and again that one day marriage equality will be a reality in the US, because it’s not that long ago that interracial marriage was illegal. Seeing as how she and I are both in interracial relationships and I am bisexual, it’s a painful yet poignant reminder of America’s recent history. As Rachel Maddow explained, rights are not supposed to be voted on. Rights are inherent and should be respected as such.

To help fight for equal rights for all people regardless of gender, gender identity, sex, sexual orientation, or any other damn thing, get involved! Human Rights Watch is an awesome international organization working everyday on all kinds of human rights issues. The Human Rights Campaign is a more focused group, fighting specifically for the equal rights of the LGBT community. Amnesty International is another group working around the world to guarantee all people’s human rights. And the American Civil Liberties Union also speaks out for marriage equality and numerous other human rights issues in the US. Oh, and the five tips below are a great start too. Have an equal day!


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