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House human rights chair: Anti-Discrimination Bill to invite wrath of God November 22, 2006

Posted by lagablab in Anti-Discrimination Bill, campaigns, Discrimination, gay discrimination, gay rights, in the news, lagablab alert!.
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A battle to pass a human rights measure penalizing discrimination against lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgenders is raging in the House of Representatives, where the incumbent Chairperson of the Committee on Human Rights, Rep. Bienvenido Abante (6th Distict, Manila City), is ironically blocking the bill’s passage. In a controversial speech delivered last Monday, Rep. Abante, who is also a Baptist pastor, charged that the enactment of the bill would invite the wrath of God and would mean “death to the most cherished Filipino values of Godliness and moral rectitude.” (more…)

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Rep. Abante did it again! November 17, 2006

Posted by lagablab in Anti-Discrimination Bill, Discrimination, gay discrimination, gay rights, gay rights Philippines, in the news, lagablab alert!, LGBT News.
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In the House of Representatives, Rep. Bienvenido Abante (6th District, Manila City), the Chairperson of the Committee on Civil, Political and Human Rights, blocked anew the passage of HB 634, or the Anti-Discrimination Bill, following the sponsorship speech made by AKBAYAN Rep. Etta Rosales. (more…)

Deny Aruba’s motion to dismiss, court appealed November 15, 2006

Posted by lagablab in campaigns, Discrimination, gay rights, lagablab alert!.
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alert.jpgInday Garutay’s lawyer and AKBAYAN counsel Atty. Jae dela Cruz asked the Pasig City Regional Trial Court to deny Ban Goza’s motion to dismiss because it is “bereft of merit.” (more…)

House Committee on Human Rights Chairperson calls homosexuality “morally reprehensible” October 21, 2006

Posted by lagablab in Anti-Discrimination Bill, Discrimination, gay rights.
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Last Friday, October 13, 2006, Rep. Bienvenido Abante, congressman of the 6th District of Manila and Chairperson of the Committee on Civil, Political, and Human Rights blocked the House of Representatives from tackling the Anti-Discrimination Bill (HB 634) for Second Reading. The Second Reading approval is considered to be one of the most important phases in the legislative mill. (Read here for more info on how laws are made in the Philippines).

A Baptist pastor prior to his election, Rep. Abante is a fire-and-brimstone conservative notoriously known for spearheading the campaign to ban the Da Vinci Code movie in Manila City. He also led the mass burning of copies of the Dan Brown novel. During last Friday’s session, he reportedly declared that the bill, which penalizes a broad range of human rights violations against lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgenders, promotes a sexuality that he considers “morally reprehensible.” Previously, in a TV show on ABS-CBN News Channel, he erroneously announced that the bill would result in the legalization of same-sex unions. In the same interview, he equated homosexuality with pedophilia, saying that protecting lesbians and gays from discrimination is like extending support for pedophiles.

Despite the support from the House Committee on Rules for the bill, Rep. Abante reportedly threatened to filibuster (a dilatory tactic to delay a legislative process) to obstruct its approval. The House Committee on Rules Chairperson, Rep. Nograles, had a prior agreement with AKBAYAN Representatives Mayong Aguja, Risa Hontiveros, and Etta Rosales, the main authors of the Anti-Discrimination Bill, to pass the bill before Congress went into a short recess beginning October 13, 2006.

Since the House of Representatives was in a middle of a marathon session to approve the 2007 budget, Abante’s filibustering would cause an unnecessary delay. Rep. Abante was reportedly jeered by colleagues who were equally surprised by his refusal to support a human rights bill. He even sat near the Majority Floor leader to make sure that he would be recognized to interpellate once the bill is read.

Ironically, it was the House Committee on Civil, Political and Human Rights that first approved the Anti-Discrimination Bill when it was chaired by AKBAYAN Rep. Loretta Ann Rosales. Rosales was later removed from the position when she supported the impeachment complaint against President GMA.

Despite Rep. Abante’s opposition, Rep. Nograles and Majority Floor Leader Del de Guzman assured the authors of the bill that it would be tackled for approval when session resumes on November 6, 2006.

Please send protest letters to Rep. Abante and demand from him equal recognition of the basic human rights and fundamental freedoms of lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders. Express your condemnation of his discriminatory actions and of his failure, as the Chairperson of the House Committee on Human Rights and as an elected public official, to respect and recognize the Bill of Rights as enshrined in the Philippine Constitution. Here’s his address:

Office of Rep. Bienvenido Abante, Jr.
Rm. 407, South-wing,
House of Representatives,
Batasan Hills, Quezon City
Phone: 931-5001 local 7248 or 9315691 (telefax)
Email: abante_maynila@yahoo.com

Also, send letters of complaint to House Speaker Jose de Venecia for Rep. Abante’s failure to fulfill his mandate as the Human Rights Chairperson. Tell Speaker de Venecia that as the Chairperson of the House Committee on Human Rights, Rep. Abante is committing a violation of human rights by excluding lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgenders. Below is Speaker de Venecia’s address:

Office of House Speaker Jose de Venecia
Rm. MB-2, House of Representatives, Quezon City
Phone: 931-5001 local 7446, 9315071 to 9315073
Email: devenecia@pldtdsl.net

In Uganda: Press Homophobia Raises Fears of A Crackdown September 8, 2006

Posted by lagablab in Discrimination, LGBT International Solidarity, LGBT News.
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In Uganda, where anti-sodomy laws still exist, a tabloid called Red Pepper recently published the names of alleged gay and bisexual men, including army officers, priests, university lecturers, entertainers, bankers, students and lawyers. Human rights organizations like the Human Rights Watch (HRW) fear that this would lead to a crackdown against the gay community. Red Pepper also announced that it would soon publish a similar list of alleged lesbians.

Below is HRW’s press release on the issue.

Uganda: Press Homophobia Raises Fears of Crackdown

Government Campaign against Gay and Lesbian Community Escalates

(New York, September 8, 2006) – In a country where a sodomy conviction carries a penalty of life imprisonment, a Ugandan tabloid’s decision to publish the names of alleged homosexuals is a chilling development that could presage a government crackdown, Human Rights Watch said today. The lesbian and gay community in Uganda has long been stigmatized and harassed by government officials.

“For years, President Yoweri Museveni’s government routinely threatens and vilifies lesbians and gays, and subjects sexual-rights activists to harassment,” said Jessica Stern, researcher in the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights Program of Human Rights Watch. “At a moment when sensational publicity has spread fear among a whole community, the authorities must exercise their responsibility to protect, not persecute.”

Human Rights Watch called on Ugandan authorities to:

  • End a long campaign of homophobic statements by top officials, including President Museveni;
  • Cease arrests under the sodomy laws and promptly repeal them; and
  • Offer protection against violence and harassment to human rights defenders working to protect lesbian and gay rights.

On August 8, the tabloid paper Red Pepper published a list of first names, workplaces and other identifying information of 45 alleged homosexuals, all men. The paper claimed it was publishing the list “to show the nation … how fast the terrible vice known as sodomy is eating up our society.” The paper has since told civil society activists that it plans to publish a similar list of alleged lesbians.

Homophobic allegations in the Red Pepper have previously led to police action. In 2002, the tabloid ran banner headlines and photographs about an alleged wedding between two women. Kampala police promptly arrested the women in question. Although they were freed when an attorney intervened, they were jailed again and held for several days, allegedly for their own safety, after a mob threatened them. A Ugandan pastor who had counseled them was later forced to leave the country.

Same-sex sexual relations are criminalized in Uganda under a sodomy law inherited from British colonial rule. Section 140 of the Penal Code criminalizes “carnal knowledge against the order of nature” with a maximum penalty of life imprisonment. Section 141 punishes “attempts” at carnal knowledge with a maximum of seven years’ imprisonment. Section 143 punishes acts of “gross indecency” with up to five years in prison. In both Britain and Uganda, these terms were long understood to describe consensual homosexual conduct between men.

Background

For close to two years, Human Rights Watch said, officials have regularly threatened and harassed lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Ugandans. In October 2004, the country’s information minister, James Nsaba Buturo, ordered police to investigate and “take appropriate action against” a gay association allegedly organized at Uganda’s Makerere University.

State-owned media have repeatedly called for stronger measures against homosexual conduct. On July 6, 2005, a writer in the government-owned New Vision newspaper urged authorities to crack down on homosexuality, saying, “The police should visit the holes mentioned in the press, spy on the perverts, arrest and prosecute them. Relevant government departments must outlaw or restrict websites, magazines, newspapers and television channels promoting immorality – including homosexuality, lesbianism, pornography, etc.” Later that month, local government officers raided the home of Victor Mukasa, a lesbian activist and Chairperson of Sexual Minorities Uganda. They seized documents and other materials, and arrested another lesbian activist and held her overnight.

On September 29, 2005, President Museveni signed into law a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. The amendment says that “marriage is lawful only if entered into between a man and a woman,” and specifies that “it is unlawful for same-sex couples to marry.” A parliamentary spokesperson said at the time that criminal penalties for engaging in such marriages would be imposed later.

The government has also silenced discussion of gay and lesbian rights and lives. The Broadcasting Council, a board of government censors, fined a radio station 1.8 million shillings (more than US$1000) for hosting a lesbian and two gay men on a talk show, where they protested against discrimination and called for repeal of the sodomy laws. In February 2005, the Media Council – a state censorship board – banned a staging of the play, “The Vagina Monologues,” by the U.S. author Eve Ensler, because it “promotes illegal acts of unnatural sexual acts, homosexuality and prostitution.”

Men named in the Red Pepper’s August 8 article have reportedly already been threatened and harassed. Ugandan activists point out that, in a deeply patriarchal society, accusations against alleged lesbians could subject them to violence in the family and community. U.N. statistics in 2000 showed that 41 percent of Ugandan women had suffered domestic violence.

A March 2005 Human Rights Watch report on “abstinence-until-marriage” HIV programs in Uganda found these programs were denying young people accurate information on HIV transmission and on sexual health. These programs also intrinsically discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation. With a legal ban in place against gay or lesbian relationships, the programs promote only permanent abstinence and are uniformly silent about safer sexual practices. Promoting abstinence until heterosexual marriage is the continuation of an outright denial by the Ugandan government that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people exist. In March 2002, while accepting an award for his country’s HIV/AIDS prevention programs, President Museveni said simply, “We don’t have homosexuals in Uganda.”

“Uganda’s once-successful HIV/AIDS prevention programs are already reeling from the impact of silence and bad science,” said Stern. “Driving vulnerable people underground can only hamper those programs further.”