25 Apr The Unjust Treatment of the LGBTQ Community
After the passing of Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill in 2013, I became interested in the rights of members of the LGBTQ community and how they are – or are not – upheld. The bill initially condemned LGBTQ individuals to death, but Parliament changed the sentence to life in prison after the international community expressed concerns and threatened to end financial aid to the country. In Uganda and other countries, being gay is against the law, and members of the LGBTQ community live in fear of harassment, losing their jobs, or even being killed. In 2010, the Ugandan newspaper Rolling Stone published names and addresses of many members of the LGBTQ community, and encouraged people to kill them. One year later, a main Ugandan LGBTQ rights activist mentioned in the paper, David Kato, was murdered.
Belonging to the LGBTQ community is also challenging in parts of the world where LGBTQ people are generally considered to be accepted. One example is Thailand, where ‘kathoeys’ (lady boys) are socially accepted, sex-reassignment surgery (SRS) is relatively inexpensive and accessible, and these individuals do not often experience violence. Sex tourism is common in Thailand, and transgender people easily find employment in this industry. However, when it comes to employment outside this industry, transgender people face discrimination and rejection.
In June 2015 the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that it was unconstitutional to deny rights to LGBTQ people, and same-sex marriage became legal. This was a huge victory for the LGBTQ community, but unfortunately its members still face discrimination in many parts of the US. In April 2016, North Carolina and Mississippi passed laws that give the right to religious institutions to deny their services to LGBTQ people. This brings the accomplishments reached in June two steps back.
The Catholic Church has always spoken against LGBTQ rights. Before Pope Francis’s election, Pope Benedict XVI, during his mandate, spoke against any form of same-sex union; but there seems to be a glimmer of hope and some tolerance from the Vatican. In a 2014 interview, Pope Francis suggested the Church should acknowledge civil unions as a way to respect human rights. He also declared “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge? We shouldn’t marginalise people for this. They must be integrated into society”. The fact that the Pope is open to talk about LGBTQ rights is a step forward in the acceptance of the LGBTQ community by the Church, and hopefully, by general society.