On Dec 29, 2014 Advocate.com reported: After a triumphant 2013, the equality movement in the United States continued to make gains this year. Courts in several states struck down same-sex marriage bans and President Obama issued a nondiscrimination order covering LGBT employees of federal contractors.
Internationally, though, the picture is less bright. Despite — or in part because of — strides in the United States, a host of governments on different continents are further restricting the freedom of LGBT people.
That’s not to say our domestic victories weren’t important or hard-fought, but often our global victories came in the form of horrors averted rather than progress forged.
As 2014 began, international human rights activists especially focused on two countries: Uganda and Russia. Outcomes in these countries would affect the human rights climate not just in these nations, but in their respective regions.
At year’s outset, the world was watching to see what would happen during the Sochi Olympics. Russia’s “gay propaganda law,” passed in 2013, was a target of international advocacy efforts. Activists in Russia and around the world pressured President Vladimir Putin, who found himself in the unhappy position of having to address LGBT issues. But he was largely undeterred from his antigay stance: During the opening ceremonies, the police rounded up LGBT activists in Moscow and St. Petersburg, drawing charges of brutality. The antigay law remains on the books and has inspired legislation in Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, and Armenia.
However, a victory that emerged from the Olympics did not come in the form of medals, at least not where LGBT rights are concerned. Prior to the Olympics, activists blasted the International Olympic Committee for its meekness in challenging Russia’s human rights record. In response the IOC took the positive step of affirming that Principle 6, the Olympic Charter’s anti-discrimination clause, covers sexual orientation. But that wasn’t good enough: equality advocates pressed for explicit language to that effect. And just this month, the IOC added sexual orientation to the list of characteristics in Principle 6.
The remaining flaw is that IOC didn’t take the important step of including gender identity. And the real test will happen in the coming months, when we’ll see if the IOC respects Principle 6 as it decides the site of the 2022 Winter Olympics. Kazakhstan is in contention, but its record on equality, including new anti-LGBT legislation under consideration, makes it an unsuitable host.
In February, Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni signed a bill heightening the criminalization of homosexuality. The infamous death penalty provision had been replaced by one allowing for “only” life in prison. Paired with a similar new law in Nigeria, it made LGBT advocates fear a wave of such legislation across the continent. Indeed, there were attempts at passing such laws, including a successful one in the Gambia and an ongoing one in Chad. On the positive side, a similar bill in Kenya failed to gain momentum due in great part to a robust civil society that refused to move backward on fundamental rights.