By Daniel Pitt.
Britain’s first ever same-sex weddings will be celebrated in a few weeks from now after decades of gradual progress, but the shadow of homophobia still hangs on nations across the world. 76 countries still criminalise homosexuality and in ten of those the death penalty is still exercised. LGBT people still face targeted sexual violence, assaults and even murder; it is rarely mentioned in the British press and many are ignorant of the prejudice and discrimination faced by millions every day. Much of it is fanned by religious groups, media outlets and the state.
Russia is currently hosting the Winter Olympics in Sochi and says it welcomes international visitors – unless they happen to be gay, of course. Bigoted president Vladimir Putin is using LGBT people as a distraction from his political corruption by introducing an onslaught of regressive legislation to demonise the gay community. An international uproar has predictably followed, particularly at his ‘gay propaganda’ law which literally makes it illegal to even mention homosexuality. LGBT activists are deeply concerned about the dramatic increase in homophobic attacks since the bill was introduced – but that hasn’t stopped Coca-Cola, McDonald’s and other big multinational corporations from sponsoring the event.
Nigeria’s president Goodluck Jonathan signed a law making equal marriage a criminal offence last month, punishable by fourteen years in prison. A barbaric witch-hunt has been whipped up since its implementation with mass arrests and 11 Muslim men put on trial in an Islamic court accused of homosexuality. Sharia Law usually prescribes death by stoning for anyone convicted of this ‘crime’. Nigeria is still deeply conservative and political leaders are capitalising on this to divert voters from political corruption and endemic economic inequality. The situation has been worsened by mega-rich US evangelists forging strong ties with homophobic religious and political leaders to encourage this disgraceful persecution.
Human rights violations are becoming a major international issue against the backdrop of scapegoating as a populist excuse for the social instability caused by capitalism. They hide behind the cowardly rhetoric of ‘traditional values’ being eroded to distract their people from rising living costs and political tyranny. The ruling-class purposely targets the LGBT community by propagating prejudices and misconceptions to divide the working-class, thus diverting all attention from the all-out class war which will stop at nothing to undermine our collective liberties. Demonstrating solidarity with the oppressed is naturally vital but we must work, alongside the LGBT community and other disadvantaged groups, towards fostering a socialist alternative which places at its heart a social vision of cooperation, peace and understanding.