Archive for the ‘Feminism’ Category

No Pope, No Vatican – London for a Secular Europe

Oppose Pope Benedict’s State Visit to the UK

Stop the Vatican’s crusade against women’s and gay rights

London – 10 February 2010

Protest the Pope

This Sunday 14 February 2010
Meet at 1pm outside Westminster Cathedral (not Westminster Abbey).

Victoria Street, London SW1 (near the corner with Ambrosden Avenue)

March to the Italian Embassy in Grosvenor Square for a rally at 3pm.

We support:
· Women’s equality and reproductive rights
· Equal rights for LGBT people
· A secular Europe – immune to the Vatican’s agenda
· One law for all, no religious exemptions from the law
· State neutrality in matters of religion and belief

We oppose:
· European Union collusion with religion (Lisbon Treaty Article 16c)
· The special status of the Vatican in the United Nations
· State-funded faith schools
· The economic privilege and political influence of the Vatican in Italy
· Taxpayers funding the Pope’s State Visit to the UK this September
· Misogyny, homophobia, fascism, racism and xenophobia

Protest against the Pope’s State Visit to the UK

“We want a secular Europe, where the Vatican and the Catholic church cease attempting to impose their harsh, intolerant morality on everyone else,” said Peter Tatchell of OutRage!, who is speaking at Sunday’s protest and assisting with its organisation.

“The Pope opposes women’s rights, gay equality, embryonic stem cell research, death with dignity and the use of condoms to prevent the spread of HIV.

“He wants the Catholic Church to be exempt from equality and anti-discrimination laws that apply to everyone else.

“Pope Benedict played a key role in the cover-up of child sex abuse by Catholic clergy.

“He has rehabilitated the Holocaust-denying bishop Richard Williamson, and even though Pope Pius XII failed to speak out against the Holocaust he plans to make him a saint.

“Given that he opposes universal equality and human rights, Pope Benedict should not be accorded the honour of a State Visit to Britain.

“The estimated £20 million cost of the visit will be funded by the taxpayer. The Pope has already denounced our equality laws. He is likely to abuse his presence in Britain to further attack our democratically-agreed legislation that gives equal rights to women and gay people.

“The Pope has discouraged the use of condoms in countries where HIV infections are decimating whole populations. Such teachings are irresponsible and immoral,” said Mr Tatchell.

Sunday’s demonstration is organised by the Central London Humanist Group in partnership with the British Humanist Association, the National Secular Society, One Law for All, the Gay And Lesbian Humanist Association, the Rationalist Association and OutRage!.

It is in solidarity with the demonstration happening the same weekend in Rome, also against the Vatican and its reactionary interference in Italian, European and world-wide politics.

http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=415005340443
http://www.meetup.com/Central-London-Humanists/calendar/12192702/

Program of the demonstration:

– Assemble: 1pm at Westminster Cathedral (not the Abbey)
– March: 2pm – 3pm from Westminster Cathedral to the Italian embassy
– Rally: 3pm – 5pm at the Italian embassy (Grosvenor square)

Speakers at the Italian embassy (3pm) :

* Bob Churchill (British Humanist Association),
* Derek Lennard (Gay and Lesbian Humanist Association)
* Maryam Namazie (One Law for All)
* Gerard Phillips (Protest The Pope)
* David Pollock (European Humanist Federation)
* Terry Sanderson (National Secular Society)
* Peter Tatchell (OutRage!)
* Josh Kutchinsky (Central London Humanist Group)

WHAT’S WRONG WITH THE VATICAN

Protest organiser, Marco Tranchino, writes:

The tiny Vatican State is inhabited mainly by priests. It is extremely powerful and its “moral” crusades adversely affect the lives of millions of people in Europe and across the world.

Officially part of the UN, its “observer-state” status means it can access, influence and pressure UN debates on issues such as birth control, abortion and homosexuality. No other religion has such privileged UN status.

The Vatican has diplomatic relationships with almost all the countries in the world (174 when John Paul II died) and in many EU countries it benefits from the support of Catholic politicians and, in many cases, of Christian political parties.

Of the 27 countries of the European Union, 14 are bound to the Vatican by at least one treaty. No other faith has such political power in Europe and the world; prompting the Economist to publish an investigation about the diplomatic service of the Vatican, questioning whether it deserves its special status in the UN (21 July 2007)

The Catholic Church is an extremely profitable business. It owns businesses such as hotels, restaurants, shops and private schools and the Vatican pays no tax! On top of this, the Vatican receives public money in many countries: in Italy about 1000 million Euros in taxes paid to the Vatican every year (991 millions € in 2007 ).

Through its very considerable political, diplomatic and economic power, the Vatican adversely impacts on the lives of European citizens, and the wider humanity.

THE POPE’S OPPOSITION TO WOMEN’S & LGBT RIGHTS

The issue of women’s rights and the Catholic Church goes way beyond the hierarchy of the church, where women are unable to ascend to priesthood as a result of their gender. Women who have had a divorce, women who want to have an abortion and women who are living as single parents in Catholic countries are often victims of moral intimidation and discrimination. The Pope encourages us to view women as unequal to men, by consistently and publicly stating that the two genders are different and that women are naturally inclined to be mothers and child-carers. In some Catholic countries, like Ireland and Poland, abortion is illegal. In others, like Italy, the right to an abortion is constantly under threat from the Vatican’s pressure on the government.

The Pope says that being gay is an “objective disorder” and a “moral evil”. In nearly half the countries in the world, homosexuality is totally illegal and punishable by long terms of imprisonment. A proposal for the universal decriminalisation of homosexuality was opposed by the Vatican in the UN in 2008. It has a long history of blocking attempted UN debates on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) human rights; often refusing to condemn homophobia and opposing laws to protect LGBT people against discrimination.

RELIGIOUS POWER IN THE UK

Although Britain is a fairly “secular” society, Christianity still has considerable influence in many British institutions and it continues to enjoy unfair privileges.

A limited right to abortion has been granted to women living in England, Scotland and Wales, but in Northern Ireland it remains illegal. This anomaly is significantly due to religious influence, including that of the Catholic Church. Christian lobbies are engaged in continual efforts to restrict a woman’s right to abortion and have succeeded in reducing the time limits for an abortion.

Religion retains undue influence and power in various ways. With increasing numbers of state funded faith schools (1 in 3 of all schools in the UK is either Catholic or Church of England), religious institutions continue to exercise an influence on many young people.

The churches (especially the Catholic church) made sure that the proposed EU Constitution – and the now approved Lisbon Treaty (article 16c) – dangerously commits the European Union to “an open, transparent and regular dialogue with Churches and religious organisations”. Why should religious bodies receive this special treaty guarantee, which is denied to humanists and human rights advocates?

WE DEMAND A SECULAR EUROPE

The state should be neutral in matters of religion or belief.
No faith should have privileged legal or social status, or special access to government
The beliefs of one group should not be used to limit the rights of others.
We affirm the common values of the people of Europe as expressed in the Brussels Declaration.

https://www.iheu.org/v4e/html/the_declaration.html

We want to protect democracy and to champion human rights against those who seek to retain undemocratic influence and deny equality and protection against discrimination to others.

Further information:

Peter Tatchell, OutRage!

Protest coordinator: Marco Tranchino – marco.tranchino@gmail.com

ENDS

Peter Tatchell

tatchell-homeoffice.jpg

Mehdi must stay demo

Iran’s homophobic persecution condemned

Call to reform the asylum system to protect LGBT refugees
London – 25 March 2008

Over 120 protesters braved hail and rain to demand that gay Iranian asylum seeker, Mehdi Kazemi, be granted refuge in the UK.

They also urged asylum for the Iranian lesbian refugee, Pegah Emambakhsh, and an estimated 12 other gay Iranians who are at risk of deportation back to Tehran.

There were calls for a “fundamental reform” of the way the Home Office treats LGBTI asylum applicants.

The demonstration took place opposite the Prime Minister’s residence, Downing Street, on Saturday 22 March.

See photos of the protest:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/outrage/sets/72157604215757814/
(credit: OutRage! – free use, no charge)

“The British government had ordered Mr Kazemi to be deported back to Iran,” said protest speaker Peter Tatchell, spokesperson for the LGBTI human rights group OutRage!.

“Following worldwide protests, the Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith MP, has agreed to review Mehdi’s case. While there is no guarantee that this review will result in him being allowed to stay, we are hopeful that he will be permitted to lodge a fresh asylum claim and that this will result in Mehdi being given refugee status in the UK.”

Saturday’s protest was sponsored by Middle East Workers’ Solidarity and the National Union of Students LGBT campaign, with the support of OutRage!

The protest’s three main demands were:

– Don’t send Mehdi Kazemi back to Iran
– Iran’s homophobic laws violate human rights
– Give the victims of homophobic persecution the right to settle in the UK

mehdidemo.jpg

Peter Tatchell told the rally:

“There needs to be a fundamental reform of the way the Home Office processes LGBTI asylum applications.

“The government is currently failing LGBTI refugees:

“Asylum staff and adjudicators receive race and gender awareness training but no training at all on sexual orientation issues. As a result, they often make stereotyped assumptions: that a feminine woman can’t be a lesbian or that a masculine man cannot be gay. They sometimes rule that someone who has been married must be faking their homosexuality.

“The government refuses to explicitly rule that homophobic and transphobic persecution are legitimate grounds for granting asylum. This signals to asylum staff and judges that claims by LGBTI people are not as worthy as those based on persecution because of a person’s ethnicity, gender, politics or faith.

“The Home Office country reports on homophobic and transphobic persecution are often partial, inaccurate and misleading. They consistently downplay the severity of victimisation suffered by LGBTI people in violently homophobic countries like Iran, Nigeria, Iraq, Uganda, Palestine, Algeria and Jamaica.

“Cuts in the funding of legal aid for asylum claims means that most asylum applicants – gay and straight – are unable to prepare an adequate submission at their asylum hearing. Most solicitors don’t get paid enough to procure the necessary witness statements, medical reports and other vital corroborative evidence.

“The Home Office has failed to take action to stamp out anti-gay abuse, threats and violence in UK asylum detention centres. Some LGBTI detainees report suffering homophobic or transphobic victimisation, and say they have failed to receive adequate protection or support from detention centre staff,” said Mr Tatchell.

Further information:

Peter Tatchell, OutRage!

Protest photos:

Photos of the protest can be viewed and used free of charge for publication from the OutRage! photo website:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/outrage/sets/72157604215757814/

Professional photos by photojournalist Marc Vallée can be viewed here:
http://www.marcvallee.co.uk/blog_mehdi_220308.html

Permission is required from Marc Vallee for publication:
Mark Valee:

http://www.marcvallee.co.uk

http://www.blog.marcvallee.co.uk

http://www.archive.marcvallee.co.uk

ENDS

Pink News, 14th March 2008 14:25
Lucy Durnin

Gay activists have told PinkNews.co.uk that the government need to reconsider the cases of other gay asylum seekers following the reprieve of Iranian teenager Mehdi Kazemi’s.

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith announced yesterday that in the light of “new circumstances” gay Iranian Mehdi Kazemi should have his case reconsidered upon his return from the Netherlands, where he fled when his first application was denied.

The 19-year old, who has lived in Britain since 2005, was facing deportation and possible execution in Iran, where homosexuality is illegal.

Although the decision has been met with support, gay activists have warned that there are many similar cases which are being overlooked by the government.

Omar Kuddus, a gay rights activist who campaigned for Kazemi’s case, told PinkNews.co.uk:

“The British government has for once done the right thing and given this young man a chance and hope for his future.

“There is no question of the fate awaiting Madhi if he is deported back to Iran – execution, just for being gay.

“Homosexuality is not accepted and the state kills and punishes those guilty of being gay.

“To say that homosexuals are safe as long as they are discreet and live their lives in private, is to say that Anne Frank was safe from the Nazis in World War Two as long as she hid in her attic, there is no difference.

“Homosexuality shall never be acceptable in Iran as long as the Ayatollahs and Sharia law is in place.

“I am grateful that Mehdi can now make his case and establish the true dangers awaiting him in Iran.”

The Home Office said last week that even though homosexuality is illegal in Iran and homosexuals do experience discrimination, it does not believe that homosexuals are routinely persecuted purely on the basis of their sexuality.

Peter Tatchell, a human rights campaigner and member of gay rights group OutRage! believes that there are dozens of other gay asylum seekers whose cases the government are refusing to review.

Mr Tatchell said:

“The review of this case is welcome, but there are still many more which need to be reconsidered, including Pegah Emambakhsh and many other individuals who are fleeing violently homophobic countries such as Uganda, Nigeria, Iraq, Zimbabwe and Palestine.

“The underlying problem is the government’s whole asylum system and the way it is rigged to fail as many applicants as possible, combined with the homophobic biases of the asylum process.

“Asylum staff and adjudicators are given no training on sexual orientation and there is no explicit official policy supporting the right of refugees to claim asylum on the grounds of sexual orientation.”

The growing public outcry over the issue prompted a response from the European Parliament and 60 MEPs signed a petition asking Gordon Brown to reverse the decision on Kazemi.

Liberal Democrat European justice spokeswoman Baroness Sarah Ludford MEP welcomed the change of heart by Jacqui Smith, but believes the decision should have been made sooner.

Baroness Ludford said: “This is a welcome move, even if it should have come voluntarily and without the need for so much pressure.

“We must not forget other gay Iranians fearing not only their liberty but their lives, such as Pegah Emambakhsh. They deserve justice too.”

Ms Ludford has written to the Home Secretary requesting a review of Pegah Emambakhsh, an Iranian lesbian who faces deportation after losing the latest round in her battle to be granted asylum.

Ms Emambakhsh, 40, who fled to Britain in 2005 after her girlfriend was sentenced to the death penalty, narrowly avoided deportation in August last year when her local MP Richard Caborn persuaded the government to allow her to stay while further avenues of appeal were explored.

Last month, however, the Court of Appeal turned down her application for permission for a full hearing and she now plans to apply for a judicial review at the High Court.

pegahgwb1.jpgWhat 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.