12/18/18

OUTSUMMIT 

           OutRightInternational.org and The CUNY Law School’s Sorensen Center for International Peace and Justice held its fourth annual “OutSummit: A Human Rights Day Conference” on December 8th. It was a time to applaud the international successes in the LGBT community while still looking at the challenges that this community still face.

            The mission of OutRightInternational.org is “We strive for a world in which LGBTIQ people experience freedom and justice, live in dignity and pursue their ambitions, regardless of where they live. They use the partnership method as opposed to the sweep in and we know what you need and want method.

            Frontline activists from around the world convened at the spacious CUNY LAW SCHOOL campus in Long Island City. Some of them include transgender female Phylesha Brown-Acton from New Zealand, Nigerian Xeenarh Mohammed, Tarek Zeidan of Lebanon and Remy Choo from Singapore. The last was the first to challenge the constitutionality of Article 377 the Indian Penal Code dating back to 1854 and composed of the colonial attitude about “gross indecency” which was overturned in September 2018. This was one of the international successes. More on that later.

            The spectrum of LGBT+ people was represented, and all had a voice in speaking about their successes and the challenges remaining. In the panel led by Grace Noor, “Invisibility and Resilience,” Noor Sultan. the Executive Director of Bedayaa Organization for LGBTQI in the Nile Valley Area, (Egypt and Sudan), stated “Visibility depends on where one lives. It can be a boon to projects but also a backlash to violence.” Janset Kalan a transgender female from Ankara stated, “90% of transgender women were doing sex work” which in and of itself is dangerous but add the transgender aspect and the danger explodes.

             Another interesting comment from Noor was Egyptians don’t arrest lesbians because it’s a masculine patriarchal society which of course means they think very little of women. Noor’s other profound statement was, “Penetrate organizations. Don’t assimilate.” Interesting she used the word penetrate. Caesar, Co-chairman of Guyana Rainbow Organization and a trans male spoke of his mother’s reaction, “Rather a dead child, than a gay child.” This last remark shows the biases that still reign especially within the family.

            One recurring theme was countries that would not let any organization register with LGBT was part of its title. OutRight found in a survey only 109 of the 194 countries (56%) allow organizations to register as LBGTIQ. Just by putting those letters in one’s name “sets up a barrier to legal representation” (OutRight). The lack of representation forces OutRight to believe two things: one discrimination and the other is violence. Here’s a list of some countries which do not allow registration: Singapore, Russia, Lebanon, and Nigeria, Tanzania according to OutRightInternational.org.

            In the first plenary session “Success Stories from the Frontlines, Brown-Acton commented, “We are the technical experts in our bodies.” Meaning we know who we are and no matter the genitals born with, they do not define us. She also spoke of being the “experts in telling our stories.” This implies if you are outside you cannot know who we are. Tarek Zeidan referenced the idea of understanding systems. This implies comprehension of how economic, political, and cultural systems work in order to change them. This was the case in the repeal of Article 377.

            It was attacked as a human rights violation. It became a case of constitutional morality. The five justices concurred and repealed a statute rooted in colonialism. If one has the right to live one’s life as one pleases without harm then the “gross indecency” law on the books violated this right. The preamble to the Indian Constitution states,

            WE, THE PEOPLE OF INDIA, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a SOVEREIGN SOCIALIST SECULAR DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC and to secure to all its citizens:

            JUSTICE, social, economic and political;

            LIBERTY of thought, expression, belief, faith, and worship;

            EQUALITY of status and of opportunity;

            and to promote among them all

            FRATERNITY assuring the dignity of the individual and the unity and integrity of the     Nation.

            If that was the case then any law prohibiting “the dignity of the individual, equality, liberty, and justice” was discriminatory and a human rights violation. Evidently the five-judge panel agreed and even issued an apology, “Justice Indu Malhotra said history owed an apology to LGBT people for the ostracisation and discrimination they've faced” and Justice DY Chandrachud expounded “the treatment of homosexuality as a disorder has a several [sic severe] impact on the mental health of gay people (India Today).” Another point to add from this historic decision came from Chief Justices Justice Misra and Justice Khanwilkar who said, “same-sex relations between two adults aren't harmful to children” (India Today).

Works cited

          Gay sex is not a crime, declares Supreme Court India Today September 16, 2018