Elliot’s Dispatches: International Roundup Week I

The Mayor of Rome now faces legal action for recognising same sex marriages performed abroad. Credits: See-ming Lee

The Mayor of Rome now faces legal action for recognising same sex marriages performed abroad. Credits: See-ming Lee

Mayor of Milan Giuliano Pisapia claims he is facing criminal charges for agreeing to register same-sex marriages that took place outside of Italy. Pisapia stated that marriages abroad must be recognised within Italy and so he believes voiding these marriages is in fact a breach of law.

This follows from the mayor of Rome, Ingazio Marino, recognising 16 same-sex marriages that occurred in Spain, Portugal and the US last October. In response to condemnation from Interior minister Angelino Alfano and Rome Prefect Giuseppe Pecoraro, Marino stood his ground, stating “We do not accept the prefect’s order to cancel the transcriptions that have already been logged.”

Rights of LGBT+ people in Italy are less progressive than the majority of Western Europe. It is a deeply catholic country, and although the current pope has been hailed as more progressive on LGBT+ rights – who am I to judge gay people? – he has also made his stance on same-sex marriage very clear; he believes it would ‘disfigure God’s plan for creation’ and ‘[threaten]’ the family. Aside from an act against LGBT+ discrimination in the workplace (2003), there are no other nationwide anti-discrimination laws based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Despite efforts by certain regions putting forward proposals for civil unions (union, not marriage), Italy recognises no same-sex unions. However, there is hope yet, as a Demos poll in 2014 found 55% of Italians supported gay marriage against 42% opposed.

Indian minister Ramesh Tawadkar caused much controversy by declaring a centre will be set up to cure LGBT+ people. Minister of Sports and Youth Affairs stated “We will make them normal. We will have a centre for them. Like Alcoholic Anonymous centres” and “We will train them and (give them) medicines too”. Activist Harish Iyer responded mockingly in a tweet “Dear goa minister, I called in sick to work, I have gay”. Tawadkar has since redacted his comment and stated he was actually referring to ‘drug addicted and sexually abused youths.’ His party, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), have also since labelled his comments ‘ insensitive and narrow-minded’ and have rejected his claims.

Homophobia continues to be widespread in India. Boris Dittrich, director in LGBT+ rights of Human Rights Watch points to the relationship between recent jurisdiction and societal action. Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code criminalises sexual activity ‘against the order of nature’, and was used to outlaw same-sex activity with up to lifetime imprisonment. It was declared unconstitutional by the High Court of Delhi on 2 July 2009, however this was overturned by the Supreme Court of India and upheld on 12 December 2013. Although it is clear that the jurisdiction continues to be homophobic, India still has an active NGO and civil society force that feels free to condemn queerphobic activity. India is also home to people of the third gender, Hijras. Although their acceptance varies across the country, The Tamil Nadu state in India introduced Hijra welfare policy, including access to free Sex Reassignment Surgery, a free housing programme, citizenship documents, and scholarships for higher education. 

In the self-proclaimed Islamic State last Thursday within 48 hours two men were thrown off the top of a roof for allegedly being gay, one woman was stoned to death for alleged adultery and a reported 17 young men were crucified. Pictures show a man falling blindfolded to his death to a crowd below. Apparently the public nature of these executions is the real drive behind the killings.

 The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights commented “Isis is sending a message to all people living under its control, to say: ‘This is what will happen to any opponent”. The NGO believes actions were taken in retaliation for Western military action against ISIS in Iraq and Syria.

These findings are a few among widespread murder by IS. The terrorist organization has expanded its territory rapidly over the last year, committing human rights abuses and war crimes and is currently directly or indirectly at war with 60 countries. It has entered areas and forced people to declare Islamic creed using death threats, torture and mutilation. Amnesty International believes more than 830,000 people have fled from their terror. Sexual violence has risen dramatically under their reign, and children as young as 12 in have been recruited and armed.

To end on a more hopeful note, The US Supreme Court will decide this year whether Americans should have the right to marry a member of the same sex across all states. In 2013 they struck down the Defense of Marriage Act, meaning that if a same-sex couple is wed their marriage must be recognised across all states. On the same day, it overturned Proposition 8, a state constitutional amendment that was voted in by ballot asking people whether the rights of same-sex people to marry should be eliminated.

LGBT+ people have seen a great victory in rights in recent US history. On 6 October last year the Supreme Court refused to review appeals from Indiana, Oklahoma, Utah, Virginia, and Wisconsin, which led to the legalisation of same-sex marriage in these states. Refusals for hearing cases from further states has given a grand total of 36 states where same-sex marriage is legal with 14 states to go. The Supreme Court will debate in April and a decision is expected to be released in June.

*PS – if anyone has not seen either ‘It could happen to you’, a YouTube video telling of a loss of a partner and the effect that a lack of marital status can cause, or the film made about it, you definitely should!

Elliot Fitzgerald 


Leave a Reply