Azerbaijan Considered Worst Place To Be Gay In Europe

During the last two weeks of September, Azerbaijani police launched a violent campaign of “arresting and torturing men presumed to be gay or bisexual, as well as transgender women,” according to Human Rights Watch and local advocacy organizations. On Oct. 2, by all accounts, police released all the detainees, officially acknowledging that 83 had been detained. Local advocacy organizations claim that beatings, electroshock, coercion, blackmail and other abuses were carried out based entirely on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Azerbaijan is “the worst place to be gay in Europe,” the 2015 and 2016 Rainbow Europe reports by ILGA (International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, and Intersex Association) concluded. The LGBT community in Azerbaijan has no legal protection. But for the most part, the state leaves the community alone – except when police extort money from individuals, often sex workers. The state can ignore the community because families routinely and effectively stigmatize, discourage and punish deviations from societal rules. So when the state does intervene, as it did in September, there’s usually a motive.

Why the September crackdown?

Early in September, an investigative journalism coalition called the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) released a report on something called the Azerbaijani Laundromat, apparently a slush fund that for two years laundered $2.9 billion in cash that helped Azerbaijani elites and officials buy luxury goods and that paid European lobbyists and politicians to support Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan reacted to the report by attacking the OCCRP, linking it to American Hungarian financier George Soros. European politicians called for investigations.

Separately, on September 12, more than 20 international human rights organizations sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin calling for sanctions against the Baku chief of police for abusing political prisoners. The head of the Council of Europe called for legal action against Azerbaijan over its refusal to release one such prisoner, despite being ordered to do so by the European Court of Human Rights. On Sept.ember26, two U.S. congressmen introduced legislation charging Azerbaijan with human rights abuses and calling on the U.S. government to respond.

In response, Azerbaijan renewed its anti-Western campaign.

Why target the LGBT community?

Historically, Azerbaijan’s anti-Western campaigns targeted civil society and pro-democracy groups. This time, the regime targeted the LGBT community, more vulnerable in the Trump era. The LGBT community is also widely disliked in Azerbaijan; it’s a group no one is willing to defend.

Survey research in Azerbaijan is challenging because citizens self-censor and the government interferes. Nonetheless, when asked, Azerbaijanis express very negative attitudes toward LGBT people. In a 2012 nationally representative survey, 63 percent of adult Azerbaijanis said they would not like to have neighbors of a different sexual orientation, and 72 percent said they would not like to have neighbors who have AIDS. The World Values Survey, collected in Azerbaijan in 2011-2012, reports that 93 percent of Azerbaijani adults believe that homosexuality is “never justifiable,” with a mean of 1.19 on a scale of 1 to 10. Similarly, a 2011 Pew study finds, that, when asked, 92 percent of self-identifying Azerbaijani Muslims say that homosexual behavior is morally wrong.




That’s how the Azerbaijani government is portraying the recent attacks on gay people and trans women. Pro-government media explicitly describe the raids as measures to “prevent acts contrary to national and spiritual values,” associating these individuals with sex work. In an interview with Eurasianet, a Ministry of Internal Affairs spokesman said:

“The main reason for such raids was the numerous appeals from the residents of the capital. People complain that such people walk around us, walk in our streets, and sit in our cafés. ‘These are people who do not fit our nation, our state, our mentality, please take action against them.'”

Gay men and trans women are framed as a health risk. Edenborg explains that LGBT people are characterized as not only a moral threat, but also a health risk. In Azerbaijan, much of the early official response claimed that nearly all detained have several sexually transmitted infections, although the most recent statement said that fewer than 40 percent had at least one. The Ministry of Internal Affairs spokesman said, “This once again proves that both our citizens’ concerns and the actions we take about it are justified. It is important for the health of our people. Those who have diseases are being isolated from society.”

Attacking LGBT people may shore up the government’s relationship with the Muslim majority. Further, although Azerbaijan is an officially secular country, religiosity is growing – which the government considers one of the strongest threats to the regime. The LGBT raids let the regime display a commitment to protecting spiritual values and nod toward the country’s Islamic religious groups, a faction with whom it has had a challenging relationship.

This is a particularly sensitive time for that relationship. Political commentator and religious history scholar Altay Goyushov notes that the LGBT raids come during Muharram, one of the holiest times in the Islamic calendar, which may be an effort to appease religious groups.

Finally, the LGBT raids are a boon to the government in that they further marginalize and divide the opposition. No one, not even human rights and pro-democracy groups, can afford to defend the LGBT community, according to Azerbaijani LGBT advocates, and the raids prompted heated social media debates between LGBT advocates and opposition figures. Creating drama within the opposition is a favorite authoritarian tool for social control, particularly in Azerbaijan.

Azerbaijan, ironically, brands itself “the land of tolerance,” notoriously sponsoring op-eds making the same claim. By finding a hated and indefensible target, the regime wins. The domestic benefits of these raids profoundly outweigh any international costs.


Pearce is an assistant professor in the department of communication at the University of Washington. She studies technology and inequality in the South Caucasus. For other commentary from The Monkey Cage, an independent blog anchored by a group of political scientists from universities around the country, see www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/monkey-cage


Taken From HoustonChronicle.Com 





2 Gay Iraqi Soldiers Found Love Amid War. Then The Death Threats Started

SeattleEach night, when the guns fell silent in Iraq, Btoo Allami would invite his friend Nayyef Hrebid over for dinner.

The two first locked eyes on a dusty battlefield in Ramadi. After days of exchanging hasty glances amid gunfire, they snuck away one night to listen to Michael Jackson on shared earbuds.
The music stopped, but a love story was just beginning.
A decade ago, Allami was a sergeant in the Iraqi military when he met Hrebid, then a translator for the US Marines.
Militants had seized a hospital in Ramadi, and they were part of a mission to reclaim it.
When not defusing bombs, they’d talk late into the night at a pitch black lot surrounded by Humvees. Allami fell in love, unafraid of the war, yet terrified by what was happening with Hrebid.
Their love story would take them through two continents as they joined the 22 million refugees in the world, all fleeing war, grinding poverty and in their case, persecution from militants and relatives. Last year, only 14,700 Iraqi refugees were resettled worldwide, says Andrej Mahecic, a spokesman for the UN refugee agency. The UN does not have the number of applicants who claim asylum based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. Few countries, if any, collect such statistics, he says.

Taking chances

Neither Hrebid nor Allami knew the other was gay. Iraq is not a country where same-sex attraction is discussed in the open.
LGBT people in Iraq risk harassment, beatings, and brutal killings — sometimes by family members. ISIS, which held large swaths of Iraqi territory until recently, has also targeted gay men, tossing many to their deaths from tall buildings.
Despite the risks, Allami took a chance two weeks after they met. “I love you,” he told Hrebid.
Hrebid did not say a word, but drew him close and kissed him.
Allami was so excited, he didn’t eat for two days. At the time, he didn’t know that Hrebid loved his calm demeanor and the way his dark hair shone in the sunlight.
Their relationship grew, but in secret. They knew loving each other openly could be deadly. Even during the days of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, when the US did not officially allow gay people to serve in the military, Hrebid says a base officer allowed them to spend time together at the American base.

Their talks put them in a bubble. During those moments, war and bloodshed did not exist.


One last night

Hrebid loved his job as a translator.
At the base, his American buddies called him David to protect his identity. But word got out that he was gay, and that he was a US translator. His name was added to a militant hit list posted on the streets of Ramadi.
People started talking. It was time to leave.
In March 2009, Hrebid applied for asylum as part of a program that gives preference to Iraqis and Afghans who translated for the US government overseas. Hrebid’s application was approved eight months later.
The night he got his US visa, they sat up all night in a candlelit room, hugging each other and crying.
As much as it crushed him, Hrebid flew to Seattle in December 2009, leaving Allami behind.
But they kept their promise to stay in touch. One night, as they chatted on Skype, Allami’s relatives overheard them and realized he was gay.
Some of his relatives accused him of bringing shame to the family, and wanted him killed, he says. Terrified, Allami deserted the military and stuffed a backpack with pants and a few T-shirts. Hrebid paid for his ticket to flee to Lebanon in November 2010.
Seven thousand miles away, Hrebid started his new life in Seattle, the only place he knew someone in the US.
But while he was finally safe, he’d lie awake worrying. What if Allami was detained for overstaying his 30-day tourist visa and deported back to Iraq? A return home now included the risk of arrest by the military for desertion.
One day, while at a party, Hrebid met activist Michael Failla and told him about his relationship with Allami. His new friend would become their lifeline.

Living in the shadows

Allami’s new life in Beirut did not involve parties and new friendships. He lived in the shadows and worked illegally as a shoe salesman for $250 a month. Hrebid sent him money to help with upkeep as he desperately sought a way to get him to Seattle.
With every day spent away from Hrebid, Allami sank further into depression. He’d sit in bed at night and guzzle bottles of beer.
Hrebid blamed himself as Allami languished in a new country. Despite the time difference, they did their best to maintain a “normal” relationship. They would Skype and virtually eat together — breakfast for one and dinner for the other.
“We would cook together, and discuss things almost like we lived together,” Hrebid recalls.
They also showered each other with sentimental gifts, including locks of each other’s hair.
Hrebid would sit in bed, smell Allami’s hair and cry. Other days, he’d send Allami long letters describing his undying love.
“My heart melts at the sound of your voice,” one letter says. “When I look at you, I see clear skies.”
In December 2010, desperate to join Hrebid, Allami filed for asylum from the United Nations refugee agency, not knowing it would take years.
The United Nations refugee agency interviewed Allami eight times, but his application was bogged down by translation errors, according to Failla, who attended several interviews with him.
One error in particular complicated his case. During one asylum interview, he was asked whether as a soldier, he was familiar with the Abu Ghraib prison torture. He said he watched it on TV — but it was translated that he witnessed it first-hand, implying he was complicit, Failla says.
In the process of seeking asylum, applicants can have a preference for country of resettlement, but countries decide whether to accept an applicant.
Allami’s preference was the US. But the agonizing wait for a decision was so long, he applied for a separate visa to Canada at its embassy in Beirut.
In March 2013, nearly three years after he escaped from Iraq, Canada said yes.
Allami arrived in Vancouver in May of the same year. He was now 150 miles away from Hrebid, and their dream of living together suddenly seemed within reach.
Hrebid would drive to Vancouver every weekend to see him. On Valentine’s Day 2014, they got married at a courthouse in Vancouver, with Failla as a witness.
“We always say Michael was our angel — the world needs more angels like Michael,” Hrebid says.
Washington state recognized same-sex marriages at the time, and Hrebid quickly applied for a visa for his new husband at the US Consulate in Montreal.
When the consular official approved it, Allami sat down on the embassy floor and wept. Hrebid covered his mouth and screamed.

“I was shaking so hard,” Allami says. “I asked the embassy person to repeat again just to be sure.”


A new chapter

The date March 6, 2015, will forever be etched in Allami’s mind. He finally moved to Seattle to be with Hrebid.
A few months later, on August 8 of the same year, they had their dream wedding at Failla’s house, surrounded by friends.
Allami then applied for permanent residency — known as a greencard — as Hrebid’s husband. The couple relishes their life in Seattle, where they live with their Siberian Husky, Cesar, and cat, Lodus. A rainbow flag draped over the balcony of their new town home flutters in the wind.
Inside their home, black and white photos of their wedding day line the walls. In other photos, they are hiking through the mountains or simply gazing into each other’s eyes.
After six years of living on different continents, their new life is idyllic. Hrebid is a kitchen specialist at a home improvement store while Allami is a maintenance worker for a residential building.
Failla describes the couple as “major influencers” in the gay community in Seattle. They open their home to LGBT people who’ve fled the Middle East, help them get jobs and into schools, and teach them about their new culture in the US. They’ve helped 21 people find jobs and places to stay, and are working with several rights groups such as Canada’s Rainbow Refugee to assist more.
“First we were the ones who needed help now it’s our turn to help,” Hrebid says. “Anything we can do, even if it’s changing people’s minds just by sharing our story.”
Their story is already bringing about change.
Christine Matthews, a deputy director for the UN refugee agency, said last year they used the gaps in Allami’s case as a learning experience. They have since launched an effort to sensitize staff on the best ways to process such claims.
“We need to do better for refugees, all refugees including LGBT refugees,” she said.
And after years of separation, Hrebid still wakes up at night and asks: Am I dreaming or is this real? Are we really married? Will I wake up one day and find you gone?
“It’s almost like that fear never leaves you,” he says.
In Iraq, the two say they are considered an embarrassment to their communities, and family members don’t utter their names.
“Out of Iraq,” a documentary on their romance and fight for asylum, recently won an Emmy, but its two stars say they are hardly feted back home.
Even though they can’t go back to Iraq for fear of being killed, they’ve learned to define “home” in their own way.
“He’s my family, he’s my safe place, my love,” Allami says as Hrebid gently strokes his face.
“I may not have my country anymore, but he’s my country now.”

Taken from Edition.CNN.Com





Novel Rejected As ‘Too Gay’ Receives Flood Of Crowdfunding Support

The Madonna of Bolton by Matt Cain was turned down by mainstream publishers more than 30 times, but has won keen backing from readers


A novel that was rejected more than 30 times by publishers for being “too gay” has been inundated with backing from names including David Walliams, Mark Gatiss and SJ Watson after its author turned to crowdfunding.

Matt Cain’s The Madonna of Bolton tells the story of Charlie Matthews, who falls in love with Madonna on his ninth birthday. The obsession “sees him through some tough times in life: being persecuted at school; fitting in at a posh university; a glamorous career in London; finding boyfriends; getting rid of boyfriends; growing up and family heartbreak”. Launched on the crowdfunding site Unbound this week, it has already racked up 60% of what it needs to be published, with backers also including One Day author David Nicholls and the bestselling writer Lisa Jewell.

Cain, the editor of Attitude magazine, said the support for his book – which is on course to be the fastest-funded novel on Unbound – showed there was a market for a commercial novel about a gay man, even though publishers rejected it as “too working class, too 80s, too immersed in pop culture, and too gay”.

The Guardian has seen the rejection letters, including some from major UK publishers. One called Cain’s book “a little niche”, while another said that “it’s just such a tricky area of the market that I’m not sure this story has a strong enough hook to really appeal to a mass-market readership”. One also said that “it was difficult to envisage who the reader might be”.

One publisher told Cain that while “the subject of growing up in the 80s and embracing your sexuality is brilliant”, it would perform better with “a more serious slant”. “This type of book,” he was advised, “really needs to fall into the literary fiction arena, think of Edmund White or Alan Hollighurst [sic]”.

“I have more than 30 rejection letters and emails. Most of them say the novel ‘isn’t commercial enough’ or ‘too niche’ and then an editor tells my agent off the record that gay doesn’t sell,” said Cain. “Nobody comes out on email as saying it’s too gay, it’s kind of dressed up – the thing about homophobia is it’s often covert. When my agent has phone conversations, they don’t say ‘We don’t like it’, they say ‘It just won’t sell’. I just don’t believe that that’s the case.”

Cain was clear that the book was not aimed solely at gay men – “It’s a family drama more than anything else”. But “even if you just take the gay people, do not erase us as a market,” he said. “Attitude sells more copies every issue than it takes for a book to become a bestseller.”


Cain said he was always hesitant to “play the [homophobia] card, but the truth is phobia means fear, not hatred, [and] I was just reading these rejection letters and thinking ‘there’s a real fear of this not selling, they’re assuming it’s only the very intelligent in society who read literary fiction who understand and accept gay people’. They don’t realise that it’s not the case … Just because there have been literary successes does not mean there can’t be a commercial success.”

Cain first started work on the novel 12 years ago, but when it was initially rejected, he went on to write two more novels, Shot Through the Heart (2014) and Nothing But Trouble (July 2015), which have straight protagonists. “I started Shot Through the Heart as a reaction to all these editors telling me gay doesn’t sell. I went away and got a book deal,” he said. “For the second book, my editor pushed me towards bonkbuster style, and I had lots of sex scenes with straight characters but only one minor sex scene with gay characters and I was told to take it out or I wouldn’t get stocked in Asda or Tesco. And I did, and they didn’t get me stocked in Asda or Tesco anyway.”

Cain said he had spoken with many gay writers who had encountered resistance from publishers when writing about gay life.

“It’s really deep-rooted and I want to uproot it. In some ways it’s completely humiliating for me to go out there and say I’ve had more than 30 editors reject that book. I’m sure there are plenty of people out there who’ll say he’s just a crap writer. But I really passionately believe in it,” he said. “Don’t tell me there’s no one out there who wants to read about gay lives.”

Cain’s editor at Unbound, Katy Guest, said that the crowdfunding for The Madonna of Bolton showed that publishers were wrong in thinking there was no audience for commercial fiction with a gay protagonist.

“Other publishers rejected this for being too niche – by which they mean too gay – but the support we’re getting already belies this. EM Forster said about Maurice that he knew no publisher would let him publish a gay love story with a happy ending,” she said. “Well, isn’t it a bit crap that publishers are still saying that Matt can’t write this funny, flirty, lighthearted novel because gay characters are only a subject for ‘serious’ fiction … They still have to end up miserable or dead or riddled with Aids. They can’t just have mates and dance to Madonna and fall in love and live happily ever after?”






Taken From TheGuardian.com 


 

Little Richard Calls Same-Sex Relationships ”Unnatural Affections” Years After Coming Out As Gay

Little Richard has a new perspective on sexuality, and it widely differs from what he’s disclosed in the past.

The 84-year-old rock and roll pioneer recently gave a rare interview to Christian-oriented programming Three Angels Broadcasting Network, simultaneously touching on his faith and repudiating homosexuality as “unnatural.”

“When I first come in show business they wanted you to look like everybody but yourself,” Richard said. “And, anybody that comes in show business they gone say you gay or straight… God made men, men and women, women.”

The “Tutti Frutti” singer continued, “You’ve got to live the way God wants you to live… He can save you.”


In 1995, Little Richard (real name Richard Wayne Penniman) told Penthouse,” I’ve been gay all my life and I know God is a God of love, not of hate.” Years prior, he stirred controversy for calling same-sex relationships “unnatural” and “contagious.”

Decades later, it appears Little Richard is once again singing a different tune.”You know, all these things,” he continued, “So much unnatural affection. So much of people just doing everything and don’t think about God. Don’t want no parts of him.”

More recently in a 2012 GQ interview, Richard candidly discussed partaking in orgies with both men and women while also describing himself as “omnisexual.” In his words, “We are all both male and female. Sex to me is like a smorgasbord. Whatever I feel like, I go for.”

Little Richard concluded on the matter with Three Angels Broadcasting, “Regardless of whatever you are, He loves you. I don’t care what you are. He loves you and He can save you. All you’ve got to do is say, ‘Lord, take me as I am. I’m a sinner.’ But we all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.””I don’t want to sing rock and roll no more,” he said. “I want to be holy like Jesus.”






Taken from EOnline.Com


 

Romania ‘Turns Illiberal’ With Moves Against Gay Marriage

Conservative campaigners in the country are gearing up for a referendum that could put the country on a collision course with Brussels.


BUCHAREST — Romania is gearing up to hold a referendum to amend the constitution to prohibit gay marriage, a move that civil rights groups warn could put the country on an “illiberal” path alongside the likes of Hungary and Poland.

Romania’s civil code forbids same-sex marriage, and civil partnerships — whether between heterosexual or gay partners — are not legal. But the constitution’s gender-neutral formulation on marriage, which defines it as a union “between spouses,” has left the legislative door open to legalizing gay marriage.

“This is an issue of immense depth,” Liviu Dragnea, leader of the governing Social Democratic Party (PSD) and the most powerful politician in Romania, told reporters last month, pledging to quickly amend the constitution. “Even if some of my colleagues in Brussels are unhappy with what is happening in Romania, we will make it happen.”

The planned vote — which could be held as early as November — is the result of a campaign by “Coalition for Family,” which brings together more than 40 groups, many of them religious or describing themselves as “pro-life.” With the backing of the influential Orthodox Church, the organization collected 3 million signatures (Romania’s population is 20 million) in just a few months in 2015, enough to take the initiative to parliament.

“We have the constitutional right and moral obligation to defend the family from those tendencies of modern society which diminish its importance and accelerate its degradation,” says the Coalition for Family’s website.


All major political parties in Romania have expressed support for the constitutional change, with the exception of newcomer Union to Save Romania(USR), and the initiative is expected to be approved in parliament. The government has said it wants to call a popular referendum as soon as November, but the Constitutional Court’s announcement this week that it would analyze the law’s compatibility with the rest of constitution may push back the date of the vote.

As long as participation exceeds 30 percent of the electorate, a vote in favor will give the green light to constitutional change, undoing decades of campaigning by LGBTQ groups in Romania and possibly putting the country on a collision course with Brussels.

“This referendum is evidence of Romania’s moving in an illiberal direction,” said Vlad Viski, the president of MozaiQ, one of Romania’s largest LGBTQ rights groups.

Religious influence

Romania’s referendum against marriage equality is not the first of its kind in the region.

In Croatia, a group called “In the Name of the Family” collected 750,000 signaturesin 2013 to launch a referendum that successfully amended the country’s constitution to stipulate that marriage can only take place between a man and a woman.

In 2015, the “Alliance for Family” mobilized Slovakians to trigger a referendum to restrict the family rights of gay people, but the vote eventually failed because of low turnout. That same year, Slovenia’s “Children are at Stake” group used a referendum to block the government’s plan to legalize gay marriage. (The country passed the legislation this year.)

Efforts to prohibit gay marriage also tend to go hand-in-hand with campaigns to remove sexual education classes and restrict abortion rights.

Similar efforts to mobilize citizens to restrict gay rights have taken place in Georgia, Bulgaria, France and elsewhere across Europe. In many cases, U.S. religious groups have played an active role in their campaigns.

Romania’s Coalition received legal assistance from the international chapters of several U.S.-based conservative Christian groups, including the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) and Liberty Counsel. In the U.S., both have been designated as anti-LGBTQ hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center. The international chapters of both organizations submitted pro-referendum legal opinions to Romania’s Constitutional Court while the body assessed whether the civic initiative could be considered by parliament.

In response to repeated requests for comment for this article, the Coalition responded with three internet links — one to an article about alleged attacks on pro-lifers, another to a video of a kink festival, and another to an article about propaganda. It gave no further information.

Liberty Counsel’s vice president of legal affairs, Horatio Mihet, said his organization “provided legal support and shared lessons we have learned while advocating for natural marriage in the United States and elsewhere.” Andreas Thonhauser, a spokesman for ADF International, said that the group also gave legal expertise to other countries in the region that requested help.


Local churches — be it the Orthodox Church in Romania or the Catholic Church in Slovakia or Croatia — were also involved in recent anti-LGBTQ rights campaigns.

Efforts to prohibit gay marriage also tend to go hand-in-hand with campaigns to remove sexual education classes from school curricula and restrict abortion rights.

Academics from Central and Eastern Europe, including feminist historian Andrea Peto from the Central European University in Budapest, have argued that this type of initiative constitutes an “anti-gender movement” that targets not only LGBTQ people but also takes aim at women and people who don’t fit into their conception of a “natural, traditional” family pattern.

“They do politics, they are lobbyists,” Peto said of the movement’s campaigners across the region. “They rely on transnational know-how, borrow talking points and transfer symbols, concepts and ideas.”

“The American groups have been promoting these themes for a long time, also outside of Europe, but in the last five years or so they became very active in Eastern Europe where they seem to have found fertile ground,” said Viski, of MozaiQ.

‘Traditional values’

Despite Eastern European countries’ accession to the EU, most are still plagued with social inequality and have not attained the prosperity they expected as European citizens. The resulting frustration has made them a fertile breeding ground for conservative social and political movements.

Self-styled illiberal regimes such as Viktor Orbán’s in Hungary and Jarosław Kaczyński’s in Poland have honed a political formula that strategically builds support among lower-income classes with targeted economic measures and pushes a socially conservative agenda rooted in a nationalist narrative of defending the nation from outside threats: refugees, gay people, feminists.

The fight against “gender ideology” — or “sexo-Marxists,” as liberals defending gay rights in Romania have been labeled — fits into this narrative, with illiberal regimes claiming to be protectors of traditional family values.

Since Orbán became prime minister in 2010, Hungary has changed its basic law to protect a fetus’ life from conception and to restrict the definition of marriage to a union of a heterosexual couple.

Earlier this year, Orbán hosted the World Congress of Families, a U.S.-founded global coalition of religious groups that opposes gay rights, abortion and sex education. It was the first time a government hosted the annual congress, which has taken place since 1997 and is widely thought to be the influence behind stringent anti-gay laws in Russia.


In Poland, the governing Law and Justice (PiS) party has declared war on what it calls “gender ideology” — which it portrays as an imposition from Brussels — and has introduced an education reform bill that would eliminate anti-discrimination education in schools and promote “education for family life.” The government has also cut support for female victims of domestic violence.

Last year, conservative legal group Ordo Iuris collected close to half-a-million signatures to further restrict Poland’s abortion legislation. The proposal was rejected in parliament after tens of thousands of women took to the streets in protest, but Poland still has some of the most restrictive abortion laws on the Continent.

Unlike in Poland and Hungary — where a push for “traditional family values” is part of the ruling parties’ conservative agenda — the Romanian group’s effort to block same-sex marriage is a novelty in the country.

Romania is, overwhelmingly, a conservative country. Until 2001, it was illegal in Romania for same-sex couples to hold hands or express any other sign of affection, which was considered indecent exposure in public. The law changed as part of Romania’s EU accession process.


The Coalition for Family describes itself as a “pro-family group,” saying its main objective is for Romania to have “as many families as possible, as long-lasting and numerous as possible, and to ensure to their members a proper economic, social, psycho-emotional environment … and to ensure the continuity and demographic, economic, social and cultural development of the nation.”

The group has proposed measures that would increase economic support for traditional families, including subsidized housing for young couples and early retirement for full-time mothers, and would cut state funds that go toward elective abortions.

No matter the result of the upcoming referendum on the definition of marriage, the Coalition for Family and its Christian conservative backers have already changed the terms of the debate by portraying it as a fight between those who defend “the natural family” and “the Brussels-supported, [George] Soros-financed” NGOs, said historian Dan Cirjan.

“In Poland and Hungary, the political space has been defined in a similar way,” Cirjan said. “As an opposition between the ugly forces of globalization and the white cavaliers of tradition and ‘Christian Europe.’”

An illiberal turn

In Romania, the governing Social Democratic Party (PSD), by far the most popular party, has been cutting its teeth on the illiberal formula. The party ramped up the nationalist rhetoric in the run-up to the 2016 general election and since coming to power, it has tried to bring the judiciary under its control in order to safeguard the interests of corrupt party members.

“There’s a high risk that Romania will go the way of Hungary,” political scientist Cristian Pirvulescu, the founder of Respect, a campaign opposing efforts to outlaw gay marriage, said in an interview published on Respect’s Facebook page.

“We cannot separate the referendum from the Romanian government’s judiciary reforms, which would transform judges into terrified agents of the state,” he said, noting Romania has also become susceptible to rhetoric demonizing philanthropist George Soros and has started looking at tightening control over NGOs, much like in Hungary.

“These are all attacks on the liberal philosophy of democratic states and they come together. What happened in Russia is being reproduced here, in Hungary, Poland and Romania,” he warned.

Some effects of the referendum campaign in Romania are already visible. LGBTQ rights group MozaiQ reported an increase in violent attacks against gay people since the referendum campaign started in 2015.

Still, the group’s leader struck a note of optimism.

“The LGBTQ community and its allies have been forced to mobilize more,” said Viski. “We’ve had more protest actions and bigger participation in Pride marches, and there is more support expressed for the legalization of civil partnership.”

“This has — paradoxically — opened up opportunities.”



Taken from Politico.Eu