Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commissions Courage Awards Not So Courageous
March 16 2010 8:30 PM EST
November 17 2015 5:28 AM EST
COMMENTARY: I recently attended IGLHRC's 20th anniversary celebration, an awards presentation and fund-raiser promisingly called "A Celebration of Courage." But I didn't see much courage in what IGLHRC ise doing.
The acronym stands for International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, and the group is tasked with the mission, as its website states, of "advancing human rights for everyone, everywhere to end discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression."
It was a nice event, a cocktail party at which my boyfriend and I made a donation; there were pretty views over New York from the penthouse at New York University's Kimmel Center, white wine, and a serious, professional crowd. And the awards they gave were certainly well deserved: Barney Frank is indeed a vocal spokesman for our causes, and Colombia Diversa, Colombia's LGBT advocacy group, did an amazing job of advancing LGBT rights in the country in record time.
However, what I heard about IGLHRC's work left me not just unimpressed. It left me deeply disappointed.
I salute IGLHRC for its involvement in Uganda, where international pressure seems to have put a stop to a proposed law that would allow for the execution of gay people in certain circumstances. But all the rest of the talk was about work in countries where it's actually pretty easy to advocate for LGBT rights and, while sometimes difficult, far from impossible to live as an out gay person: Mexico, Brazil, Jamaica, Belize.
Not one word about the places where the real atrocities against LGBT people take place today -- the countries oppressed by Islam: for example, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq (yes, even after the "liberation"), the Palestinian territories. Consider:
* These countries (and only these countries) have the death penalty for same-sex intercourse on their books: Saudi Arabia, Iran, Mauritania, Sudan, Yemen, and parts of Nigeria and Somalia. What do they have in common? They suffer from Islamic governments.
* Most, if not all, other countries governed by Islam forbid same-sex relations under penalty of lengthy jail times and public floggings.
* General estimates are that the Iranian government has executed over 4,000 gay people since the Islamic revolution in 1979. London-based group Iraqi LGBT reports that at least 720 LGBT men and women have been murdered by extremist militias in the last six years, while the government has largely overlooked the roaming death squads engaged in "moral cleansing." And of course none of these numbers count the honor killings, in which families who find out that one of their members is gay or lesbian are obligated to and "honored" by killing that person.
Nowhere else in the world, since the end of the Third Reich, has such systematic oppression and extermination been committed against gays and lesbians.
At the event, Amikaeyla Gaston, the Jamaican-born writer and poet, read movingly from her autobiography about being raped by two men in Jamaica. She spoke about asking her gay friend to help her.
At least she had hope for help. People in Islamic countries have no hope for help. They are persecuted by their families in league with their clerics in league with their governments. They have nowhere to turn. Not even, it seems, the international LGBT community, which prefers to hold a cloak of silence over that part of the world.
IGLHRC has staff assigned to this area, so the organization must know what goes on there, and for all I know, it has useful programs in the region. If it does, the group prefers to keep silent about it.
So why does the region which today is most cruel toward gay and lesbian people get a free pass? Is it politically incorrect to get involved where the need is most dire? Is it once again the word "Islam" that makes criticism and, indeed, humane intervention impossible? Or are we just simply too intimidated by the Islamists and their fatwas to help those of our gay brothers and sisters who are today in most danger?
I am infuriated that an organization that is actually familiar with this situation and that could at least make visible the abuse, if not stop it, chooses to keep silent. The betrayal of our brothers and sisters who are suffering under Islam is infuriating, dishonest, cowardly, and a sickness of the politically correct. IGLHRC grew out of a brave mission to the old Soviet Union in the early '90s to lobby against the Soviet sodomy law that punished consensual sex between men with five years imprisonment.
How about another mission, this time to Saudi Arabia, where consensual sex between men is punished by death?