Archive for the ‘Campaign’ Category
We are deeply disappointed by the decision of our country’s leaders to leave Penal Code Section 377A intact, despite the cogent and convincing arguments to support its repeal. However, we come away from this experience with great optimism, that this is but the start of a process of public education, understanding, acceptance and respect for the gay community. The beginning of the end of the discrimination of one group of Singaporeans has begun and there is no turning back. We say this, because, for the very first time, the voice of the gay community was heard and acknowledged by the leaders of our country. Where once, the only audience we could find for our voice was on websites and in theatres, we have made history by bringing that voice to parliament in a dignified, rational and positive way. As such, our leaders heard us when we said:
1. We want to be treated equally before the law, as that is guaranteed to us by our Constitution.
2. We want this discrimination to end, for we are no lesser beings and must be accorded the same rights as any other Singaporean.
3. We do not want our fathers, mothers, grandmothers, grandfathers, brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, nieces, nephews, cousins and friends to think of us as criminals. Much as it hurts us to know that the law considers us criminals, it hurts them even more.
4. We must not make criminals the hundreds of thousands of gay and bisexual men who have made invaluable contributions to the success of Singapore. They include, doctors, lawyers, engineers, accountants, media professionals, actors, teachers, civil servants – in all professions and in every industry.
5. We want to be able to pursue a more effective strategy for the prevention of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases among gay and bisexual men without fear of inadvertently promoting a criminal activity. Human lives are at stake here. We are also overwhelmed and deeply moved by the heartfelt support we received by many, from diverse backgrounds – gay, straight, male, female, across all religions and races, who showed courage and compassion when they spoke up for us and signed the Open Letter and the Parliamentary Petition. Though the numbers were impressive – 8,120 signatures for the Open Letter and 2,519 for the Parliamentary Petition, it was the heartfelt comments left behind on this website by many, that moved us the most and reinforced our belief that this was not just a gay issue, but one of deep concern for many individuals and families in Singapore. As a result of this seminal campaign, many who would otherwise have kept silent, spoke up. We know how difficult it must have been for you to put yourself and perhaps, even your careers, on the line. We would like to applaud your courage and conviction and ask that you continue to speak up, within the stipulated parameters of engagement. We’d also like to thank the artists who made the repeal377A rap video. You put it so simply and eloquently: It’s not just a gay thing. It’s about equality. Throughout this process, we have strived to work within the legal mechanisms; with a healthy respect for opposing viewpoints. We respectfully disagree with those who have tried to paint our efforts as being polarising to society. It is only through civilized debate and discussion that society can gain better knowledge and understanding of differing opinions. Our efforts were a reaction to what we saw as discriminatory the repeal of Section 377 of the Penal Code but not the repeal of Section 377A. Throughout history those who have fought discrimination have never stood idly by to wait for society to evolve and become more accepting, as silence achieves little and inaction breeds a lack of understanding. The intolerance and ill-will demonstrated by a few of our opponents clearly attest to the fact that we cannot be silent. Such fundamentally extreme views against homosexuality splits families apart and causes much harm to us as individuals, professionals and as a community. In fact, these are the very actions that cause divisiveness and polarise our society, for if we discount such views, most Singaporeans are indeed neutral on the issue, and consider consensual sex between adults a private matter. As such, we cannot ignore these radical views and we must respond (as we have) with rational rebuttals. Arguments that we know most of the modern civilised world shares. We honestly believe that history will judge this law to be unfair, and that the repeal of Section 377A needs to happen sooner than later. The ‘Wild Wild West’ of Europe and the United States are not the only countries that have non-discriminatory laws, for the conservative East – Indonesia, Hong Kong, Thailand, Taiwan and China, among others, too do not have laws that discriminate against homosexuals. We are citizens of Singapore and take pride in being so. As such, the law should not treat us as second class citizens. The criminalisation of gay sex cannot be the yardstick for a conservative society. The gay community in Singapore is here to stay. We are not going away, and long after Section 377A is repealed, we will still be here, loving and caring for each other and contributing to the success of Singapore – like we have always been
What Will Happen to Pegah and to Human Rights in the UK?
By Roberto Malini, Every One Group
Dear Friends, the Campaign of Flowers, as well as the entire Campaign for Pegah, is based on the recovery of the values of brotherhood and solidarity in actions for the defence of human rights. We live in a difficult age and unfortunately the governments, the magistracy and often the most well-known humanitarian organisations in the world have relegated the Universal Declaration of Human rights, the Convention on the Status of Refugees and other rules on which we base our level of civilisation and respect of minorities behind other priorities: security, immigration control, the defence of nations and families.
The EveryOne Group is committed to defending the dignity and lives of refugees, but also to reminding the European governments that laws concerning human rights exist, they are very clearly stated and they must not be deliberately misinterpreted. To deport the refugees towards unjust sentences is a crime against humanity and there are no alibis for governments who are stained with such crimes.
To sacrifice human rights for “security”, for the concept of “nation” is the same principle on which the National Socialist Party based its rise to power in the 1920s and 1930s. The EveryOne Group was created from an ideal and grows every day. We work day and night in contact with the activists, with the people who believe in human rights and with the better side of the political world in order to contribute towards changing things.
Many people are asking us what will happen to Pegah now. Friends, I have been studying persecutions and genocides for the last 30 years, I have published books, made documentaries and organized exhibitions, I am the curator of museums about the Holocaust and Genocides.
Unfortunately it is easy to read the minds of Gordon Brown and Jacqui Smith in this moment. They are angry because the problem of the arbitrary and unjust deportations has come to light. I hope I’m wrong, but the history of persecution generally repeats a pattern. I believe the UK Government is once again studying a way to refuse Pegah asylum, motivating the decision thus: “Pegah is unable to prove she is homosexual and therefore we believe her case has been inflated”.
I don’t believe they will deport her to Iran because they know she would be faced with torture and murder. According to the Convention (that they are well aware of) they will give her all the time she needs to find a third country willing to grant her asylum. And Italy will enter the game. With this formula, the UK Government is confident of savings its face, saving the political career of Jacqui Smith (which is otherwise at risk) and, after a period of caution for fear of an international scandal, continue the deportations of refugees towards their death.
This is the truth, and if those who read these lines, think it over and continue to accept this situation, they will become accomplices of indifference and the new genocide.
The members of the EveryOne group will not do that, they will continue to speak out for and write about the truth. And there’s only one truth: homosexuality cannot be proven, because it is a state of mind. To ask for video or photographic evidences would be the most serious violation of the intimacy and dignity of a human being. To ask for signed testimonies would mean exposing the witnesses in their native land to persecution and sentences. Moreover, it would be a violation of the privacy of the witnesses themselves, even in a democratic country, not only in a regime, to force them to ”come out”.
To ask for documents related to a sentence in the countries of origin goes against human rights conventions that state that the request for testimony must be related to local laws. If in Iran homosexuality is persecuted, those who declare their homosexuality in the country in which they request asylum have the right to be recognized as a refugee and to be granted asylum. Without any “ifs” or “buts”. The rest is just criminal and repressive politics.
To get back to Pegah, she is an extraordinary woman and is a symbol of the new fury against the weak and different. We must continue to watch over her, but we must also ask quite firmly for respect of the international laws that protect refugees in the future. We must also urge the media – TV and press – not to fill our heads with frivolity and false problems, but to help us when we bring cases of violation of human rights to their attention, because the British press has shown itself to be at the service of those in power, to be unable to understand and report the truth, at the cost of hiding serious cases like Pegah Emambakhsh’s.
If the individual citizens don’t represent the pride, the freedom and the civilization of the United Kingdom, the country will slip into a regime that the citizens themselves are creating.
We have the same problems here in Italy and we must commit ourselves in the same way. There is a campaign underway right now, one of discrimination and oppression against the Roma and Sinti (Gypsies). Like during the Nazi period, the authorities are pursuing pedlars and beggars and the press is supporting this persecution. And as if this weren’t enough, we too treat the problem of asylum for refugees in a superficial and unjust manner. More flowers are needed! A shower of flowers and common sense! We must stick by Pegah, my friends, and keep our eyes open wide, so that the horizon of human rights won’t become just a distant line.