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Saudi Women’s Activists launch “Black Ribbons Campaign” 11-6-09

On November 6. 1990, 40 brave Saudi women drove their cars publicly in the capitol of Saudi Arabia, Riyadh, to demand their right to drive.  They were subsequently detained, their passports were confiscated, and fired from their jobs.

On the 19th anniversary of this event, Saudi women’s activists, led by Wajeha al Huwaider, are launching the “Black Ribbons Campaign”, demanding that:

A) Saudi woman be treated as a citizen just like her male counterpart

B) Saudi woman enjoys her rights to marry, divorce, inherit, gain custody of children, travel, work, study, drive cars and live on an equal footing with man

C) Saudi woman gain the legal capacity to represent herself in official and government agencies without the need of a male guardian.

"We, Saudi women activists appeal to all those who support Saudi women’s rights, inside and outside the Kingdom, to participate in the campaign by wearing a black ribbon on their wrists as a symbolic and peaceful gesture of their advocacy to Saudi women’s rights."

This campaign is raising the motto: “we will not untie our ribbon until Saudi women enjoy their rights as adult citizens”.

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The Reverend Raped Me

By Ngala Killian Chimtom

YAOUNDE, Nov 4 (IPS) - A countrywide survey of the incidence of rape in Cameroon has returned disturbing statistics: 20 percent of the nearly 38,000 women surveyed reported having been raped; another 14 percent said they had escaped a rape attempt.

Echoing findings elsewhere in the world, the survey, carried out in all ten of Cameroon's regions by the German Technical Cooperation (GTZ) and Cameroon's National Association of Aunties - RENATA, as it's known, is an organisation of more than 10,000 teenaged mothers working against sexual violence - found most rapes were committed by people known to the victims.

"The rapists are family members, including fathers, or school teachers, pastors and priests, classmates, colleagues, friends and neighbours," Dr Flavien Tiokou Ndonko, one of the researchers, told IPS. Family members were reported to be the assailants in 18 percent of cases. Nearly a quarter of those raped became pregnant as a result.

"These statistics cannot in any way show the full extent of rape in the country, because most victims never tell anyone they have been raped," he added.

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"Campaign for Open Minds" Fights Homophobia in India

Launched October 11, 2009, the Campaign for Open Minds is one of the many efforts to end homophobia, biphobia and transphobia in India.  This online campaign is a response to the alarming surge in attempts at conversion therapy and other negative reactions to increased visibility of LGBT people, following Delhi High Court’s historic July 2, 2009 decision decriminalizing homosexuality.  There are three open letters.  Please sign the one most appropriate to you. 

A translations page to read the text in other Indian languages is located here.

If you are a healthcare professional (doctor/nurse/counselor/mental health professional/medical social worker/ hospital administrator/public health scientist/researcher) in India or of Indian origin, you are invited to sign the letter opposing conversion therapy and supporting non-discriminatory, appropriate, and ethical treatment and healthcare for LGBT people.

If you are a supportive parent, sibling, or friend of an LGBT person in India or of Indian origin, please sign the letter to express solidarity with your loved one(s) and register your opposition to homophobia, biphobia and transphobia.

If you are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, please join others and sign the letter promoting the visibility of our diverse communities, and appealing for non-discriminatory treatment from our family and friends, healthcare establishment, media, educational institutions and workplaces in India.

Here is a clip of some media reaction to the campaign.

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CSBR: “One Day One Struggle” November 9, 2009

International Campaign to Promote Human Rights across Muslim Societies

Human rights, including sexual and reproductive rights have been under attack in all Muslim societies.  Rising conservatism, fueled by militarism, increasing inequalities, the politicization of religion and Islamophobia have strengthened patriarchal and extremist religious ideologies.

For instance, last week a woman in Turkey was asked to get written consent from her rapist in order to have an abortion, while a recent bill passed in the Sudan annulled the prohibition of FGM/C and a new legislation in Indonesia’s Aceh now allows for stoning to death as punishment for adultery, while the bodily and sexual rights of Palestinian women continue to be violated in the shadow of the apartheid wall…  These examples remind us again that sexuality is not a private issue but a site of political struggle. 

On November 9, 2009, a very diverse group of NGOs will stage bold actions in 11 countries to promote human rights.  As part of the historic international campaign “One Day One Struggle” organized by the Coalition for Sexual and Bodily Rights in Muslim Societies (CSBR), over 20 organizations will hold simultaneous events and public demonstrations on topics like protesting customary practices such as honor killings and FGM/C, overturning discriminatory and life threatening laws like stoning or lashing of women, and calling for LGBT rights, the right to sexuality education and the right to bodily and sexual integrity of all people.

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Overcoming cultural and religious barriers to LGBT equality

ILGA-Europe: Overcoming cultural and religious barriers to LGBT equality

During this panel Friday afternoon (30 October 2009) ILGA-Europe had two speakers: Vladimir Luxuria, a former member of the Italian Parliament and a journalist, and Juris Calitis, pastor of Anglican Church in Latvia.  Below you will find detailed account of their speeches.  This is however, not an official transcript.

Vladimir Luxuria, former member of the Italian Parliament, journalist

I am a very popular person in Italy for many reasons, for my activity in the LGBT movement, for organizing the 1st Pride in Rome and for being the 1st Transgender person (I am not a transformist.  There are many transformists in the Italian parliament, those who move from one party to another.  I just moved from one gender to the other, thats all.) in the EU to become a Member of the Italian Parliament.  This was from 2006-2008, when Berlusconi came to power

(He also wears make-up and high heels.)  I have appeared in theaters and in public debates, and very often on TV.

I am very interested in the title of this conference overcoming cultural and religious barriers to LGBT equality.  What does it mean to overcome?  Does it mean to win cultural and religious barriers?  After you have dealt with these barriers?  Or just to ignore these barriers?  This is central to those countries where culture and religion are synonymous culture, politics, art, clothes as they are in countries such as Italy, Malta, Poland, Russia, Ukraine, Greece, and others.

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European institutions make commitments to fight discrimination against trans people

This conference was intended to bring together European and national stake holders in a direct dialogue with trans and LGBT activists from across Europe.  This was the first conference to exclusively driven towards good practices in policy and legal developments.


Strong commitments were made by Belinda Pyke from the European Commission, Israel Butler from the EU’s Fundamental Rights Agency, Mandana Zarrehparvar from EQUINET and Dennis van der Veur from the Council of Europe to advance the rights of trans people through their work.


The European Commission will be looking at the way EU member state implemented the 2004 gender equality directive vis-à-vis trans people in its 2010 report. It will also be publishing its first trans specific legal and policy mapping study.

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In Bolivia, Politics is a Risky Business for Women

By Franz Chávez

LA PAZ, Oct 27 (IPS) - Taking an active part in politics in Bolivia can be a hazardous undertaking. Hundreds of reports of violence against women participating in politics attest to the risk.  And while attacks go unpunished, a bill designed to protect the rights of women occupying public office has spent almost a decade in Congress waiting to be approved.

María Eugenia Rojas, leader of the Bolivian Association of Women Town Councillors (ACOBOL), which works for the right of women to hold public office, told IPS that the members of her organisation are in dire need of a law that will protect them and raise awareness on a critical but little known reality.

But she also admitted to weariness, brought on by Congress' lack of sensitivity to the problem.  Things hardly improved for women in politics even after President Evo Morales took office in 2006, representing the interests of the country's impoverished indigenous people and ushering in social changes.  Not even the new constitution in effect since February 2009, which strengthens women's rights, has had much of an effect in that area yet.

When asked to give an example of a particularly alarming case, Rojas said all cases of violence targeting women politicians are equally disturbing. "Which is worse?  The case of the councilwoman who was attacked and suffered a miscarriage?  Or the one that was beaten within an inch of her life?  Or the municipal official who was raped?" she asked.

But she had no doubt about a common denominator in the more than 200 complaints filed through the association alone: "They all involve gender-based discrimination and violence."

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Q&A: "Women Will Benefit From Secularism"

Cam McGrath interviews Egyptian feminist author NAWAL EL-SAADAWI

CAIRO, Oct 23 (IPS) - Controversy stalks dissident writer Nawal El-Saadawi, whose views on women and religion have put her at odds with Egyptian conservatives.

Recently she returned to Cairo after nearly three years in exile, and has already created a stir with the launch of a local chapter of her global campaign for the separation of religion and state.

"God has no place in politics," El-Saadawi told IPS. "Religion is a powerful weapon to divide people. You are Christian and I am Muslim, and so we kill each other."

Clerics have described her secularism campaign as blasphemous and opponents are now seeking to have her imprisoned. It's nothing new for the outspoken 77-year-old civil activist, who has paid a price for outspokenness. Over the years she’s been removed from her post as a public health official, put in jail for criticising the regime, hounded by lawsuits, and marked for death by Islamists.

Yet she persists.

From her home in Cairo, El-Saadawi spoke to IPS about her efforts to counter the rising tide of religious fundamentalism and free women from all forms of oppression. Excerpts from the interview.

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Lilla Network Launch and Exhibition

"If you have come to help me, you are wasting your time. If you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together."

Words used by Lilla Watson, Aboriginal elder, activist and educator from Queensland, Australia.

The Lilla Internatinoal Women's Network will be publicly launched with an exhibition of work by artists who came together for a workshop on  International Women’s Day this year.  It is an opportunity for anyone with a passion for social justice to hear women’s stories and bear witness to empowering ommunity action in Sydney and around the world.

Works will include photography, digital media, installation, performance, object, sculpture and spoken word. Aboriginal educator & wordsmith Lillian Holt and community artist & activist Paula Abood will be joining in the conversation.  The Stiff Gins will be performing in the evening.

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Uganda Civil Rights Coalition Denounces Anti-Homosexuality Bill

By Jim Burroway

A coalition of twenty-two Ugandan professional and civil rights advocacy groups have joined together to denounce (PDF: 52KB/4 pages) the barbaric Anti-Homosexuality Act of 2009 that was introduced before Parliament last week. The Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights and Constitutional Law describes the bill as not just an “anti-homosexuality” bill, but also as “the ‘Anti Civil Society Bill,’ the ‘Anti Public Health Bill,’ or the ‘Anti-Constitution Bill,’” or more specifically, “the Anti Human Rights Bill.” And they liken the bill’s measures with some of the more repressive practices of the Idi Amin era.

The coalition points out eight specific constitutional articles which the proposed bill violates, and a long list of people who would be put at risk of serious criminal penalties should the bill pass. This list includes not only LGBT people themselves, but also parents, teachers, landlords, doctors, human rights activists, religious counselors, publishers, and even Internet cafe operators.

The proposed bill would:

  • Reaffirm the lifetime sentence currently provided upon conviction of homosexuality, and extends the definition from sexual activity to merely “touch[ing] another person with the intention of committing the act of homosexuality.”
  • Create a new category of “aggravated homosexuality” which provides for the death penalty for “repeat offenders” and for cases where the individual is HIV-positive.
  • Criminalizes all speech and peaceful assembly for those who advocate on behalf of LGBT citizens in Uganda with fines and imprisonment of between five and seven years.
  • Criminalizes the act of obtaining a same-sex marriage abroad with lifetime imprisonment.
  • Adds a clause which forces friends or family members to report LGBT persons to police within 24-hours of learning about that individual’s homosexuality or face fines or imprisonment of up to three years.
  • Adds an extra-territorial and extradition provisions, allowing Uganda to prosecute LGBT Ugandans living abroad.
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