May 16, 2007

Full profiles of world leaders named to the 'Hall of Shame' for actively promoting prejudice against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

For undermining families: Pope Benedict XVI. The Vatican, which holds special observer status in the United Nations, has not been shy in using its political weight to oppose extending basic human rights to same-sex couples. Pope Benedict XVI has actively intervened in politics to quash recognition for lesbian and gay families, and to threaten people who support it. The result has been to stigmatize lesbian and gay couples and make their families more vulnerable.

In January, the Pope told Italian politicians that any plans to recognize unions other than traditional marriage would "appear dangerous and counterproductive.'' When the Italian government proposed civil unions for same-sex couples, Catholic bishops warned lawmakers that they had “the moral duty to clearly and publicly voice their disagreement and vote against any proposed law that would recognize homosexual couples.” In Italy and other countries, church officials have suggested that supporters of gay rights as well as reproductive rights could be excommunicated.

When Spain passed a law guaranteeing civil marriage to all in 2005, a high Vatican official warned Spaniards to defy the measure. Cardinal Alfonso López Trujillo of Colombia, head of the Pontifical Council on the Family, said officials should refuse to marry same-sex couples or even process the paperwork if they tried to adopt a child. “A law as deeply inequitable as this one is not an obligation,” he said.

Church officials have supported legal discrimination and rejected lesbian and gay families in other ways. This year Catholic bishops in the UK pushed hard, but unsuccessfully, for exemption of Catholic agencies from antidiscrimination legislation. In 2006, Catholic Charities in Massachusetts announced that it would cease adoption services altogether rather than obey an antidiscrimination law requiring equal treatment for same-sex couples in placing children who need homes.

For jeopardizing health: George W. Bush, President of the United States. In 2003, the US Congress authorized President George W. Bush’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), a five-year, US$15 billion program to provide funding for HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria to 15 countries. Under a provision supported by the Bush administration, however, at least one-third of PEPFAR prevention funds must be spent on programs promoting abstinence until marriage.

These programs discriminate against lesbians and gays and put their health at risk. Since lesbians and gays cannot marry in most countries, including all 15 PEPFAR countries, abstinence programs convey a message that there is no safe way for them to have sex, and deny them information that could save their lives. Funds devoted to abstinence-only education are funds taken away from prevention programs that could address the health and sexualities of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. .

Moreover, abstinence-only programs convey a message about the intrinsic wrongfulness of homosexual conduct that reinforces social stigma and prejudice, to potentially devastating effect. In Uganda, for instance, PEPFAR-funded safer-sex education materials were revised to state that premarital sex and homosexuality “violate religious or cultural moral standards” and are “immoral.” PEPFAR funds have been given to groups that explicitly promote homophobia in Uganda.

PEPFAR’s authorizing legislation also requires that nongovernmental organizations adopt agency-wide policies pledging their opposition to sex work as a condition of receiving US funds for international anti-AIDS work. These restrictions have had a devastating effect on anti-AIDS work among sex workers. Organizations doing lifesaving anti-AIDS work have lost US funding due to these restrictions, or have curtailed effective programs out of fear that they would be seen as “promoting prostitution.” This requirement jeopardizes groups’ ability to combat HIV/AIDS in high-risk communities, such as transgender sex workers. The provision clashes with internationally-recognized best practices on public health and human rights standards.

For endangering children: Roman Giertych, Minister of Education and Deputy Prime Minister of Poland. The leader of Poland’s far-right party, the League of Polish Families (Liga Polskich Rodzin), Giertych said, “There is no room, nor will there ever be any room, for homosexual activism within the school system in Poland on my watch.” In March, his ministry announced it would propose a law to “punish anyone who promotes homosexuality or any other deviance of a sexual nature in education establishments.” Teachers, school principals, visiting educators and student human rights defenders who even mention homosexuality could face dismissal, fines and imprisonment. The ministry also announced that “teachers who reveal their homosexuality will be fired.” These proposals would also prohibit health educators advocating safer sex for lesbians and gays from entering the schools. Previously, the deputy minister of education had called safer-sex materials “negative propaganda.”

In 2005, under Giertych’s control, the ministry had vigorously condemned an international project training youth in issues of gender stereotypes and gender-based discrimination. A ministry official accused the project of “depraving young people.”

Giertych’s policies deprive Polish students of the chance to learn not just about human sexuality, but about tolerance, diversity, and equality. They deny them potentially life-saving information about HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases. And they promote an atmosphere of prejudice in schools which could lead to violence.

They are part of a consistent policy of homophobia promoted by President Lech Kaczynski. Last June, for instance, the State Prosecutor’s office ordered local prosecutors to launch investigations into the conduct of “homosexuals” on unsupported and defamatory allegations of “pedophilia.” In 2005 and 2006, authorities in Warsaw and other cities tried to ban marches in support of LGBT rights. Last year a member of Parliament, Wojciech Wierzejski of the League of Polish Families, called for “deviants” to be “bashed with a baton.”

For trying to force his sexual orientation on others: Representative Bienvenido Abante, Chair, House Committee on Civil, Political and Human Rights, Philippines. Claiming that homosexuals can be “cured” and turned into heterosexuals, Representative Abante has repeatedly blocked legislative consideration of a landmark bill that would ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in the Philippines.

Philippine LGBT activists, including the Lesbian and Gay Legislative Advocacy Network (LAGABLAB), have campaigned for the passage of antidiscrimination legislation for more than seven years.

Despite several religious organizations’ support for the bill, Representative Abante has cited both the Qur’an and the Bible in alleging that the legislation promotes a “culture of death.” In a speech in November, he called homosexuality “not normal” and urged “helping gays to learn to function heterosexually.” He claimed he had seen “hundreds of lesbians and gays” who had “changed their lifestyles.” He suggested that LGBT people are excluded from the “definition” of human rights, saying that “It is often the definition that decides whether someone has a human right or not; whether that someone has the right to protection, to a fair trial, to life.”

US-based religious groups working in the Philippines have campaigned heavily against the bill, promoting the idea that homosexuality is a “curable” behavior and a “perverse deathstyle.”

For creating public and private scandals: President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran. In a spreading campaign to “counter immoral behavior” in Iran, ordinary people who simply look or act differently are at risk. Since early May, thousands of women have been detained for not conforming to “correct” Islamic dress. In April, Iran’s Supreme Court overturned murder sentences against six religious police for killing people they considered “morally corrupt.” The sentence contributes to a growing climate of impunity for vigilante forces.

The Ahmadinejad government regularly violates the right to privacy. Its religious vigilantes carry out brutal raids on homes and other private places in search of “deviant” behavior—including homosexual conduct.

Islamic law and Qur’anic tradition set an extremely high standard of evidence for sexual offenses; proof of homosexual conduct requires a confession repeated four times, or four eyewitnesses to the act. Under these strict terms, convictions would be hard to achieve. However, Iran’s regime allows conviction based on circumstantial evidence, or “the knowledge of the judge.” Suspicion can thus become proof, further eroding any safeguards for privacy.

Under Iran’s criminal code, lavat (sexual intercourse between men) is “punishable by death,” while tafkhiz (non-penetrative “foreplay” between men) is punishable by 100 lashes for each partner, and by death on the fourth conviction. The punishment for sexual intercourse between women is 100 lashes, and death after the fourth offense.

The last person known with reasonable certainty to have been sentenced to execution in Iran for consensual homosexual conduct was in March 2005. There is no information as to whether the sentence has been carried out or not.

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