International News - 5/17/19

International News - 5/17/19

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New wave of Chechnya gay abuse

Gay men are being detained and tortured in the Russian republic of Chechnya reported Human Rights Watch.

The group said it interviewed four gay men who had fled the conservative, predominantly Muslim region. The men said police harshly abused them, stringing them up by the legs and using electric shock as torture. It said their accounts were consistent with a complaint filed by an LGBT activist in January.

In 2017, activists said more than 100 gay men had been detained, tortured and some of them killed in Chechnya.

HRW said in its report released May 8 that the 2017 crackdown was not adequately investigated. Unless full investigation is conducted “we can expect further episodes of this depraved abuse,” HRW’s Rachel Denber said.

 

Cuba cancels Conga Against Homophobia parade

 

The Cuban government announced May 7 that it has cancelled this year’s edition of a parade widely seen as a sign of progress on gay rights on the island.

The state-run Center for Sex Education run by Mariela Castro, the daughter of Communist Party First Secretary Raul Castro, said in a Facebook post that the Conga Against Homophobia scheduled for an unspecified date this month had been cancelled on orders of the Ministry of Health.

The statement attributed the cancellation to “new tensions in the international and regional context that directly and indirectly affect our country and have tangible and intangible impacts in the normal development of our daily life and the implementation of the policies of the Cuban state.”

The statement did not explain what that meant. Officials with the sexual education center, known by its Spanish acronym CENESEX did not respond to requests for comment or said they didn’t know why the march was cancelled.

Tensions with the United States are high because of the situation in Venezuela, where the Trump administration wants to oust the Cuban-backed administration of President Nicolas Maduro, and Cuba’s economy is stricken by shortages in basic goods attributed in large part to a decline in subsidized oil from Venezuela.

It is unclear how either of those factors required the cancellation of a gay pride march, although Cuban officials tend to impose more controls of all types in moments when the country is perceived to be under threat. The issue of gay rights has become unusually controversial in Cuba in recent months due to resistance from the country’s growing ranks of evangelical Christians.

The Cuban government persecuted gays in the 1960s and 1970s but has since outlawed discrimination and come to be seen as relatively progressive on the rights of lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people. The government funds gender reassignment surgeries, discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is outlawed, and police receive training designed to avoid disrespectful treatment of homosexuals and transgender people.

The conga, a parade of hundreds of LGBTQ people waving rainbow flags and dancing down one of Havana’s main thoroughfares, became an internationally lauded symbol of Cuba’s acceptance of gay and transgender rights. A second parade was planned this year for the eastern city of Camaguey, as part of the 12th celebration of an event known as the Days Against Homophobia and Transphobia. The festival started Monday, lasts until May 18 and features workshops, seminars, film screenings and a cultural gala.

CENESEX said the cancellation of the march was only for this year, and could be revisited in 2020.

 

Pro-LGBT poster with revered icon stirs Poland

 

Rights groups and government critics in Poland protested May 7 after police temporarily detained a human rights activist for putting up posters of the country’s popular icon — Mother of God of Czestochowa — with LGBT colors added to the halos of May and Jesus reports the Washington Post.

Prosecutors in the central city of Plock said the woman has been questioned and has heard charges of insulting religious feelings and desecration of the icon, popularly known as the Black Madonna of Czestochowa.

The activist, 51-year-old Elzbieta Podlesna, last month placed posters with altered images of the icon on walls, garbage bins and mobile toilets near St. Dominik’s church in Plock. She did not physically damage the icon, which was venerated by pontiffs including Pope John Paul II.

About 300 people with a giant rainbow flag and holding posters of the altered icon heard speeches from human rights activists as they staged a peaceful protest in downtown Warsaw.

Earlier Tuesday, European Council president Donald Tusk, who was in his native Poland, said the Polish authorities’ harsh reaction was “inconceivable.” The Warsaw-based Helsinki Foundation of Human Rights found the raid on Podlesna’s home and her brief detention “hard to understand.”

But former Prime Minister and European Parliament member Jerzy Buzek said things like altering the revered icon’s image “should not take place because they can insult people who are deep believers.”

Dariusz Rosati, a former left-wing foreign minister who is now running for the European Parliament, suggested using less controversial campaigning that would avoid provoking some groups in society.

The case has highlighted the clash in predominantly Catholic Poland between the freedom of speech and laws banning hostility against religious beliefs. On social media, debate raged between critics of the government who said it was an abuse of power, and Catholics and backers of the conservative ruling party who argued their feelings were intentionally hurt.

The dispute came ahead of this month’s European Parliament elections. n


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