Global Briefs: Standing Up in Sweden, Escaping in Entebbe

Community under attack in Russia and Uganda, while activists push back for trans Swedes' rights

By Will O'Bryan
Published on February 16, 2012, 2:07am | Comments

Minister breaks up LGBT conference in Uganda

An LGBT activists' conference in Uganda was raided Tuesday by the nation's State Minister for Ethics and Integrity Simon Lokodo, according to Uganda's Daily Monitor newspaper.

The two-week conference in the costal city of Entebbe, organized by Freedom and Roam Uganda, was due to end the evening of Feb. 14 and was attended by about 30 activists. Among them was Jacquline Kasha, head of Freedom and Roam, who was to be arrested, according to the report, but managed to escape. A BBC report of the raid refers to her as Jacquline Nabagesera.

''I have closed this conference because it's illegal,'' Lokodo told participants. ''We do not accept homosexuality in Uganda. So go back home.''

The BBC report also quoted Salil Shetty, Amnesty International's secretary general: ''This is an outrageous attempt to prevent lawful and peaceful activities of human rights defenders in Uganda.''

While homosexuality is illegal in Uganda, gatherings of sexual-minority activists are not, the Monitor notes. Under a vehemently anti-gay bill currently under consideration in Uganda's Parliament, such gatherings would become illegal.

Activists challenge Swedish prime minister on transgender sterilization

Transgender activists in Sweden met with representatives of Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt Tuesday to protest the country's law that requires transgender people to undergo sterilization as a condition for legally transitioning, according to the international group AllOut.org.

''Right now a reform of the law is being debated in Sweden,'' said Ulrika Westerlund, president of the Swedish Federation for LGBT Rights, according to an AllOut.org press release. ''But despite a major push to repeal the law, including support from 90 percent of Swedish [members of Parliament], … Reinfeldt has stayed silent on the issue, allowing one small conservative party, Kristdemokraterna, to use its seat in the government to block the change.''

The release also quoted AllOut.org co-founder Andre Banks, who said the prime minister ''has publicly called sterilization law a 'dark chapter in Swedish history. Now he has a chance to close that chapter for good, reaffirm Sweden's international reputation on human rights and set a precedent in Europe where other countries have similar barbaric laws.''

At the Feb. 14 meeting, the activists also presented Reinfeldt's government with nearly 50,000 signatures of European residents calling for an end to the law.

St. Petersburg legislators embracing anti-LGBT bill

According to The Moscow Times, a bill to outlaw any public display or discussion of LGBT issues in St. Petersburg, Russia, is rapidly making its way through city's Legislative Assembly. A third and final reading was tentatively scheduled for Feb. 15, after Metro Weekly deadline. On the bill's second reading, Feb. 8, legislators passed it 31-6.

In November, when the bill was introduced, Nikolai Alekseev, a prominent Russian LGBT activist, penned a column for Britain's Guardian newspaper. He wrote of the bill, in part, ''St. Petersburg, which is deemed the cultural capital of Russia, the place where many famous gay people created our artistic heritage, entered into the 21st century's hall of shame by drifting into medieval barbarity.''