Postcard: LGBT Rights in Egypt, Gambia and Russia

Dear Friends,

Greetings for 2015! All of us at the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) are already in high gear and hope you are, too.

When LGBTI people find themselves in life-threatening situations or live in places where they face persecution from their own government, IGLHRC’s strategies often must go under-the-radar. In these cases, we collaborate with local community leaders to evaluate potential solutions—identifying emergency funding, encouraging journalists to break the story, and engaging authorities to intervene.

For example, there’s been a lot happening over the past month:

  •  RUSSIA:  IGLHRC’s connections to activists on the frontlines were tapped when journalists began reporting that Russia had issued a new law that would ban trans people from driving. Based on analysis by a trusted Russian lawyer, the story turned out to be an exaggeration, which allowed IGLHRC to set the record straight with three broadcast journalists.
  •  THE GAMBIA:   Shehnilla Mohamed, IGLHRC’s Africa program coordinator, has spent many hours communicating from her office in Johannesburg with people near and far in response to the crisis underway in The Gambia. Though homosexual acts were already criminalized, once President Yahya Jammeh signed a law that sentences “serial offenders” to life imprisonment in October, the arrests of men perceived to be gay spiked. The situation has forced at least 8 men to flee to Senegal, where some were left to survive out in the open, sleeping on a beach. Thankfully, all the men who we know to have been incarcerated under the new law now have lawyers!
  •  EGYPT:  When a Cairo bathhouse was raided in December, 26 men were charged with “debauchery.” Following an ongoing crackdown on human rights, this was another huge blow to a community already under siege. Fortunately, we were in a position to respond to Egyptians’ request to internationalize the story --- the morning after the raid, we hopped onto the subway with a gay Egyptian colleague headed to a breakfast with media. A few weeks later, The New York Times published a scathing editorial, “Egypt’s Appalling Crackdown on Gays”. Needless to say, we rejoiced when all 26 men were acquitted! The government is expected to appeal, but for now, the men are free, and Egyptian advocates have declared at least one victory for the rule of law.

IGLHRC’s partnerships with communities-on-the-ground ensures our work is nuanced and strategic. The answer isn’t always clear-cut when we ask: how can we have impact? But the way forward is always in collaboration.

With warmth and solidarity,

Jessica Stern
Executive Director

P.S. Join IGLHRC and partners on January 28 in New York for a screening of “Veil of Silence” and a conversation about human rights and HIV/AIDS in Nigeria in the year since the passage of the anti-LGBT law (6:30 p.m., GMHC, 446 West 33rd St).

P.P.S. If you’re able, please support our work and invest in human rights for everyone, everywhere by making a donation today.