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Nigeria: Nigeria is the most homophobic country in the world, according to a 2013 poll, which found 97 percent of citizens think society should not accept homosexuality. The laws reflect that: Same-sex couples face up to 14 years in prison and even public displays of same-sex affection are illegal.
Uganda: The spotlight has been focused on Kampala recently for its anti-LGBT policies. A law passed this week makes homosexuality punishable by up to life in prison, gay rights activists have been murdered, and gay citizens are widely discriminated against.
Zimbabwe: President Robert Mugabe has made a crusade out of homophobia – with widespread public approval. Last year, Mugabe threatened to behead gay Zimbabweans and described them as “filth.”
Saudi Arabia: Basing its law, it says, on a strict interpretation of Islamic law, the current Saudi regime has made gay sex punishable by death by the lash. But according to some reports from inside the Kingdom, that doesn’t mean homosexuality isn’t common.
India: Thought of as a highly tolerant society, it came as a surprise earlier this year when the country’s highest court reinstated a colonial-era law criminalizing gay sex. But the decision has been met with protests and the court’s decision is being challenged.
Honduras: There have been a spate of anti-LGBT hate crimes here in recent years. More than 80 LGBT people have been killed in anti-LGBT hate crimes since 2009 and LGBT-rights activist say they are shunned by their families and communities.
Jamaica: Sex between men is illegal, hate crimes are alarmingly common and the government seems reluctant to protect gays from violence. Senegal One of the most anti-gay countries in the world, according to a 2013 Pew poll, which found 96 percent of Senegalese think society should not accept homosexuality, only surpassed by Nigeria at 97 percent. Gay sex is illegal and discrimination is commonplace.
Afghanistan: It may no longer be under the rule of the Taliban (at least in much of the country), but harsh views toward homosexuality still remain. It’s still news when an Afghan comes out as gay, even from Toronto. Yet its male homosexual culture is widespread but rarely commented on.
Iran: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran’s last president, famously told Americans: “We don’t have homosexuals in our country like you do.” His successor, Hassan Rouhani, elected last June, hasn’t made gay rights – or anti-gay legislation – a priority, but it’s already on the books. Homosexuality is illegal in Iran and can even be punishable by death in certain cases.
Lithuania: The Baltic state’s parliament is considering a law similar to Russia’s notorious anti-gay anti-propaganda law. And while homosexuality isn’t illegal, it has many opponents. Last year’s second-ever gay pride parade was interrupted by homophobic protesters.
Sudan: Homosexuality is punishable by death and even attempts at arranging a homosexual act can lead to a prison sentence. The good news is that there have been stirrings in recent years of a pro-LGBT rights movement.
The United States: We have undoubtedly made great strides in LGBT rights in recent years, from same-sex marriage to equality in the military. But Texas, Louisiana, South Carolina and several other states have laws on the books that resemble Russia’s anti-gay propaganda laws. And anti-LGBT hate crimes remain frighteningly common, especially against transgender people.
Photo: Gay rights activists hold placards during a protest against a verdict by the Supreme Court in New Delhi December 15, 2013. (Photo credit: Adnan Abid/Reuters)
A woman who was raped by her friend in India, and who is now dealing with a case in the High Court, is telling her story to the Women in the World audience. The lights are out. Her back is to the audience. And we don’t know her name. This is what the livestream looks like at the moment. She is doing this as a precautionary measure fearing backlash from her own people. Such a brave woman.
Anuradha Roy writes about the tragic fatal rape in India, where crimes against women are routinely ignored (if not encouraged) by the ruling class:
Is it any surprise that the men brutalizing a woman with a rusted rod thought they could get away with it? They may not have known there were 300 potential or actual rapists making the laws, nor the precise numbers that show the conviction rate for rape dropping from 46 percent to 26 percent over the last 40 years. But they would have known that it’s a pretty safe bet to rape a woman, scoot, and start the cycle afresh. Fifty percent of India’s population lives with this knowledge: its women.
In such a world, what woman can survive harm? There is not a single female friend of mine who hasn’t been molested. It’s called “eve-teasing” here, conjuring up images of dalliance under apple trees. Even 20 years ago, our journeys to and from college were daily nausea. We were used to having men brush against our breasts, grope, catcall, leer, and press their erections against us when there was no escape in the crush of a crowded bus. Sharp hairpins and elbows came in handy, but otherwise there wasn’t much help. We couldn’t have gone to the police, we’d have been laughed right out of the station. Yet we considered ourselves lucky. There were other women, those that were allowed to be born at all—India comes out tops in the female foeticide ratings—who were being beaten or burned or sold or raped.
India’s Pink Gang, the largest women’s vigilante group in the world, shames abusive husbands and corrupt politicians by going door-to-door clad in electric pink saris and wielding sticks called laathis—the same sticks used by local cops when patrolling their beat. Recently, they’ve gained political clout by winning seats in the panchayat elections—the equivalent of American municipality elections.
Great piece from Amana Fontanella-Khan on India’s pink gang—which happens to be the largest vigilante group in the world. (Photo by Fontanella-Khan)
Indian officials worry that the Obama team does not have the same fundamental orientation as the Bush administration regarding India’s role in the 21st century. Some Obama officials publicly criticized the nuclear deal championed by George W. Bush, a deal that the Indians regard as basic recognition of their status as a major power. They worry that a Democratic administration could succumb to protectionism. They worry that it is too cozy with China.
These concerns will pass as the two sides get to know each other better. The more lasting danger is that the Obama administration, now intensely focused on the war in Afghanistan, will look at South Asia largely through that prism. Since Washington desperately needs Pakistan’s cooperation in that conflict, it is tending to adopt Pakistan’s concerns as its own, which is producing a perverse view of the region.
In his leaked report, Gen. Stanley McChrystal warned that “increasing Indian influence in Afghanistan is likely to exacerbate regional tensions and encourage Pakistani countermeasures.” This is a bizarre criticism. India is the hegemon of South Asia, with enormous influence throughout the subcontinent. Its GDP is 100 times that of Afghanistan (that is not a typo). As Afghanistan opened itself up after the fall of the Taliban, the cuisine, movies, and money that flowed into the country were, naturally, Indian. This is like noting that the United States has had growing influence in Mexico over the last few decades.
Fareed, on Obama’s approach to India