UK: Labour MP Luke Pollard was sent despicable homophobic abuse on Valentine’s Day

Labour and Co-operative MP Luke Pollard was sent despicable homophobic abuse on Valentine’s Day simply for sharing a photograph of himself with his boyfriend, Sydney. Here, for PinkNews, the MP for Plymouth Sutton and Devonport reveals how all the homophobic haters managed to achieve was remind him that Valentine’s Day is, first and foremost, about love.


Pinknews (17.02.2021) – – Valentine’s Day this year would be different for my boyfriend and I. It wasn’t just a mix up at the florist with the flowers, or coping with love in lockdown: we were piled on by homophobic trolls for doing what couples across the country were doing and sending a short tweet celebrating our relationship.


“Happy Valentine’s Day to my lovely boyfriend” is a simple message. It shouldn’t be controversial. Not in 2021, but yet, it seems that not everyone has got the love is love message. And certainly some people mistook a day about love to be about hate instead. The attacks came steady and fast.


My boyfriend is beautiful and kind, and what we have together is very special. He has supported me as I’ve faced the rapids of public life, helping with elections , offering sage advice, always there with a hug and a glass of wine, a joke and a smile. He is my rock – and I don’t mind people knowing I love him.


I’m Plymouth’s first out MP; the first to wear my sexuality publicly, not as a source of shame to be hidden, but as a stamp of pride.


The trolls chose to attack me because I’m out and proud. They attacked me because I’m in the public eye and because me and Sydney don’t look like a traditional nuclear family. That’s a good thing. Family is everything to me, and every family looks different to the next: all you need are people who love each other no matter what, who share common bonds and who face their struggles together.


It’s a convenient fib we tell ourselves that in the 21st century homophobia has been defeated. It hasn’t. It’s all too real.


When my office in Plymouth was vandalised last year with homophobic graffiti, Sydney was there for me. The age-old slur that gay men are child abusers is a common one, one that my team and I washed off the front of my office not once but twice. And the few years between me and Sydney offered the trolls and haters a first line of attack yesterday. Sydney’s Chinese heritage added another.


It is easy to throw hate at hate. It is a natural reaction, but I prefer to calm the waters. I offered a cup of tea and a conversation to the person who vandalised my office. I wanted to speak to them to hear why they were so angry and so full of hate that slurs and vandalism was the only option for them. They are yet to take me up on my offer.


But to the haters on my Valentine’s Day tweet, the love and affection Sydney and I have is a threat to them. Our love is good and I hope it lasts many more years. You must be in a dark place when sending homophobic and racist abuse is your pastime. Social networks are too slow to act on abuse but I am encouraged by how many people who saw those tweets and took the time to report them. Now it’s over to Twitter to act.


Being an MP is a ridiculous job. The hours are all over the place and the pressures are intense. Having someone to stand alongside you on that journey, just as you stand alongside them through life, makes it a hundred times easier.


When I was growing up we didn’t have out politicians like we do today. The LGBT+ role models across society aren’t as present as they are today. The papers used to spit hate from their front pages. Laws had been drafted to marginalise and attack people like me. Progress isn’t inevitable. It happens when people make it a priority, when we decide that enough is enough, and things should be different. That political change took generations, and the battles of those pioneers makes the abuse on one tweet look rather insignificant.


There is a lot of attention on the haters – it’s how they thrive. But let’s spend time looking at the messages of hope, of love, of support. Those people who shared their personal stories of their partners. The weird and wonderful range of relationships that make Britain so diverse. I hope that amid the commercialism of Valentine’s Day – the bouquets (correctly delivered or not) the focus on my tweet expressing my love for my boyfriend can be a small and simple reminder of that eternal truth: love is love. And we’re all better for it.


I hope that those who tweeted hate will one day have as much love as I feel today with my partner. It’s a happier place than I fear many of the trolls find themselves in, and for that they have my sympathy. I haven’t lost a wink of sleep thinking about their hate. I would encourage others not to either when they’re attacked, because this happens to LGBT+ couples every single day of the year.


Homophobia and racism are on the rise, and we need to make a stand against it. The best way to do that is to not shy from the light, to be loud and proud of who we are and who we love because love always triumphs over hate.


Luke Pollard is the Labour and Co-operative member of parliament for Plymouth Sutton and Devonport. He serves in Keir Starmer’s shadow cabinet as shadow environment secretary.


Photo credits: Twitter/Luke Pollard

EUROPE: Covid spurring hate speech against LGBTI in Europe

AFP (16.02.2021) – – Hate speech against LGTBI people in Europe and Central Asia has spiked during the coronavirus pandemic, a group defending their rights said on Tuesday.


Verbal attacks on members of lesbian, gay, trans, bisexual and intersex communities by politicians have risen in Al- bania, Azerbaijan, Bosnia, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, Hungary, Italy, Kosovo, Latvia, Moldova, North Macedonia, Poland, Russia, Slovakia and Turkey, the ILGA-Europe federation said in its annual report sur- veying 54 countries.


Religious leaders in Belarus, Greece, Slovakia, Turkey and Ukraine are also accused in the report of hate speech, with some of them alleging LGBTI people are behind the spread of Covid-19.


The federation, representing 600 associations, also pointed the finger at increased hate speech in online media in Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Malta, Montenegro, Russia and Turkey — and in mainstream media in some cases, notably in Slovenia and Ukraine.


“There has been a resurgence of authorities and officials using LGBT people as scapegoats,” ILGA-Europe’s chief, Evelyne Paradis, said.


The targeting was part of an overall “crackdown on democracy and civil society” in many countries, the federation said, pointing to EU members Poland and Hungary among others.


It noted Poland’s “LGBT-ideology free zones” set up by several local councils, along with Hungary’s rewriting of its constitution to emphasise traditional binary sexual identification for parents and a law banning same-sex adoption.


Photo Credits : Ilga-Europe

UGANDA: Anti-gay rhetoric ramps up fear among LGBT+ ahead of polls

President Yoweri Museveni is among politicians who have made homophobic speeches.


By Nita Bhalla


Thomson Reuters Foundation (06.01.2021) – – Homophobic comments by Uganda’s president and other politicians are making some LGBT+ Ugandans too scared to vote in elections scheduled for Jan. 14, gay rights campaigners said on Tuesday.


LGBT+ people face widespread persecution in the east African nation, where gay sex is punishable by life imprisonment, and gay activists fear politicians exploiting homophobic sentiment to win votes could stoke fresh attacks on the community.


“We have seen increased harassment against LGBT persons and those who speak up for gay rights,” said Frank Mugisha, who has received dozens of threats over the years as head of the leading LGBT+ rights group Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG).


“The politicians are using the LGBT community as a scapegoat to gain support and win votes and it is fuelling homophobia,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.


President Yoweri Museveni, 76, is seeking to extend his 34-year rule, but is facing a challenge from 11 candidates, including Robert Kyagulanyi, a pop star turned lawmaker known as Bobi Wine who has won popular support.


The run-up to the polls has been marred by Uganda’s worst political violence in decades.


The United Nations spoke out last month after more than 50 people were killed in clashes between police and protesters demanding the release of Kyagulanyi after he was briefly detained over alleged violations of anti-coronavirus measures.


In an election rally, Museveni later blamed the protests on groups funded by foreign LGBT+ rights organisations, but did not provide any further details.


“Some of these groups are being used by outsiders … homosexuals … who don’t like the stability of Uganda and the independence of Uganda,” said Museveni.


A spokesman for Museveni did not immediately respond to a request for comment.


Real Raymond, head of LGBT+ charity Mbarara Rise Foundation in western Uganda, said politicians were also making “hate speeches” on the campaign trail, such as pledges to eradicate homosexuality in Uganda, if they were to be elected.


Campaigners also said last month’s arrest of Nicholas Opiyo – one of Uganda’s most prominent human rights lawyers, known for representing sexual minorities – was also contributing to an increasingly tense environment for LGBT+ Ugandans.


Opiyo has been charged with money laundering and released on bail. His organisation Chapter Four Uganda said the charges were “fabricated and malicious” and aimed at obstructing his work as a human rights attorney.


It is not unusual for harassment of LGBT+ Ugandans to spike following homophobic remarks by politicians.


Attacks on LGBT+ people rose in 2019 after a minister proposed bringing back the death penalty for gay sex. The government later denied the plan.


Mbarara Rise Foundation’s Raymond said local advocacy groups were trying to encourage gay, bisexual and trans Ugandans to exercise their democratic right to vote.


“It’s actually a really scary and rough time. LGBT people are fearful to even vote as there is a risk they will targeted at the polling stations due to all the hate speeches,” he said.


“We are trying to educate people about why it is important to vote. Due to safety concerns, we are advising them to go early to the polling stations when there are not many people and they less likely to draw attention.”

Union of Equality: The Commission presents its first-ever strategy on LGBTIQ equality in the EU

European Commission (12.11.2020) – – The European Commission presented today the first-ever EU Strategy for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, non-binary, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ) equality, as announced by President von der Leyen in her 2020 State of the Union Address.


While progress in the EU was made towards LGBTIQ equality over the past years, discrimination against LGBTIQ people persists with 43% feeling discriminated. The COVID-19 crisis has only exacerbated the situation. Today’s Strategy addresses the inequalities and challenges affecting LGBTIQ people, setting out a number of targeted actions, including legal and funding measures, for the next 5 years. The Strategy proposes to extend the list of EU crimes to cover hate crime, including homophobic hate speech and hate crime and to bring forward the legislation on the mutual recognition of parenthood in cross border situations, among others. It also ensures that LGBTIQ concerns are well reflected in EU policy-making, so that LGBTIQ people, in all their diversity, are safe and have equal opportunities to prosper and fully participate in society.


Vice-President for Values and Transparency Vera Jourová said: “Everyone should feel free to be who they are – without fear or persecution. This is what Europe is about and this is what we stand for. This first strategy at EU level will reinforce our joint efforts to ensure that everyone is treated equally.”


Commissioner for Equality, Helena Dalli said: “Today, the EU asserts itself, as the example to follow, in the fight for diversity and inclusion. Equality and non-discrimination are core values and fundamental rights in the European Union. This means that everybody in the European Union should feel safe and free without fear of discrimination or violence on the grounds of sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression or sex characteristics. We are still a long way away from the full inclusion and acceptance that LGBTIQ people deserve. Together with the Member States, I trust we can make Europe a better and safer place for all. In this regard, the strategy calls on those Member States that do not have national LGBTIQ equality strategies to adopt one, addressing the specific equality needs of LGBTIQ people within their country.”


Actions towards LGBTIQ equality in 2020-2025


The Strategy sets out a series of targeted actions around four main pillars, focused on: tackling discrimination; ensuring safety; building inclusive societies; and leading the call for LGBTIQ equality around the world. Some of the key actions outlined in the Strategy include:


  • Fighting discrimination: Legal protection against discrimination is key to advancing LGBTIQ equality. The Commission will undertake a stocktaking exercise, in particular in the area of employment. The report on the application of Employment Equality Directive will be published by 2022. Following up to the report the Commission will put forward any legislation, namely on strengthening the role of equality bodies. The Commission will also put forward a regulatory framework that will specifically address the risk of bias and discrimination inherent in artificial intelligence (AI) systems.
  • Ensuring safety: LGBTIQ people disproportionately suffer from hate crime, hate speech and violence while the under-reporting of hate crimes remains a serious problem. To harmonise protection against anti-LGBTIQ hate crime and hate speech, the Commission will present an initiative in 2021 to extend the list of ‘EU crimes’ to include hate crime and hate speech, including when targeted at LGBTIQ people. In addition, the Commission will provide funding opportunities for initiatives that aim to combat hate crime, hate speech and violence against LGBTIQ people.
  • Protecting rights of rainbow families: Due to differences in national legislations across Member States, family ties may not always be recognised when rainbow families cross the EU’s internal borders. The Commission will bring forward a legislative initiative on the mutual recognition of parenthood and explore possible measures to support the mutual recognition of same-gender partnership between Member States.
  • LGBTIQ equality around the world: In various parts of the world, LGBTIQ people experience serious rights violations and abuses. The Commission will support actions for LGBTIQ equality under the neighbourhood, development and international cooperation instrument (NDICI), the Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance (IPA) and the Asylum and Migration Fund.


Integrating LGBTIQ equality into EU policies


Under the lead of Commissioner for Equality, Helena Dalli, and with support of the Task-Force on Equality, the Commission will also integrate the fight against discrimination affecting LGBTIQ people into all EU policies and major initiatives.


Next steps


Member States are encouraged to build on existing best practices and develop their own action plans on LGBTIQ equality. The objective will be to protect better LGBTIQ people against discrimination, to complement action under this strategy with measures to advance LGBTIQ equality in areas of Member State competence.


The European Commission will regularly monitor the implementation of the actions outlined in the Strategy and present a mid-term review in 2023.




The Strategy presented today is the first Commission strategy in the area of LGBTIQ equality, delivering on President von der Leyen’s commitment to a Union of Equality.


The Strategy builds upon the List of Actions to Advance LGBTI Equality. It links to other European Commission strategic frameworks and strategies, including the recently adopted EU Action Plan against racism 2020-2025, the Victims’ Rights Strategy, and the Gender Equality Strategy.


Equality and non-discrimination are core values and fundamental rights in the EU, enshrined in its Treaties and in the Charter of Fundamental Rights. In recent decades, legislative developments, case law and policy initiatives have improved many people’s lives and helped us building more equal and welcoming societies, including for LGBTIQ people. While there is greater social acceptance and support for equal rights in the EU, it has not always translated into clear improvements in LGBTIQ people’s lives. According to the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) 43% of LGBT people declared that they felt discriminated against in 2019, as compared to 37% in 2012. The COVID-19 crisis has brought new pressures for the most vulnerable groups, and LGBTIQ people are no exception.


Many of the policy areas linked to improving LGBTIQ equality are primarily national responsibilities. However, the EU has an important role in providing policy guidance, coordinating actions by Member States, monitoring implementation and progress, providing support via EU funds, and promoting the exchange of good practices between Member States.

Photo: European Commission.

INDONESIA: Amnesty condemns TNI for anti-LBGT campaign following soldier’s dismissal, imprisonment

By Moch. Fiqih Prawira Adjie


The Jakarta Post (18.10.2020) – – Amnesty International Indonesia has condemned the Indonesian Military (TNI) for the recent imprisonment and dismissal of a soldier for having same-sex intercourse with another officer, calling the sentence unjust and dangerous to the community.


“This unjust sentence should be immediately overturned and the individual immediately released. No one should be persecuted based on their actual or perceived sexual orientation,” Amnesty International Indonesia’s executive director Usman Hamid said in a press statement on Saturday urging the military to end its campaign against the community.


He argued that the ruling would set a dangerous precedent for other service members thought to have engaged in consensual same-sex activities.


“It further enshrines discrimination and risks inciting violence against perceived LGBT people inside the military and in wider society,” Usman said.


The Semarang Military Court declared a chief private, identified only as P, guilty of violating Article 103 of the Military Criminal Code on disobedience to service orders, after being found having sex with a subordinate in the Armed Forces. The court sentenced him to one-year imprisonment and dishonorably dismissed him from the military.


Amnesty, he said, urged the government to send a clear message to the public that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity would not be tolerated, including in the military. He highlighted that state institutions should lead by example and not undermine commitments to human rights’ protections.


“Indonesia has to repeal this archaic and discriminatory provision in the criminal code and other regulations. The government must reform when it comes to the rights of LGBT people,” he added.


According to Amnesty records, this was not the first case of a soldier being prosecuted because of their perceived sexual orientation. A military officer in Denpasar, Bali, was convicted in March under the same article for having same-sex consensual relations with three men. The officer filed for an appeal but the Surabaya Military High Court backed the martial court in Denpasar.


Usman further said that criminalization of consensual same-sex conduct violated rights to privacy and to freedom from discrimination as stipulated in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).


The TNI, however, has defended the sentence against P, arguing that homosexuality in the force would be met with firm punishment.


Lini Zurlia, an advocacy officer of the cross-border organization for LGBT rights ASEAN SOGIE Caucus, also criticized the punishment. She argued that the officer’s sexuality was a private matter, adding that the ruling could have further impacts on members of the Indonesian LGBT community.


The National Police also announced that the force would hand down ethics punishments to personnel found to engage in LGBT activity following the reports of alleged LGBT members in the military, spokesman Brig. Gen Awi Setiyono said.


“The police will take firm action, a code of conduct sanctions awaits,” Awi said, referring to regulations such articles in the 2014 National Police code of ethics that stipulate that all personnel should follow moral, religious and legal norms as well as local wisdom.


While homosexuality is not illegal in Indonesia, there has been growing anti-LGBT rhetoric in the past years with members of the community facing discrimination and hate crimes.

Photo: Love wins: A passerby hugs an activist campaigning for the rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community during Car Free Day in Jakarta on June 16, 2019. (JP/Seto Wardhana).