Wednesday, 05 March 2014

Does Australia have the rights stuff?

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Now that we’re down to our last few copies of the Summer Magazine, we think it’s time to release this piece into the wild. Because Brocklesnitch is too good to only be on paper.


Where in the World is Carmen Sandiegay Rights?

The end of year always produces a slew of lists recapping certain aspects of the twelve months that have passed. Lists such as Best Album of 2013 (Beyoncé), Hottest Person of 2013 (Beyoncé), Person Most Effective At Making All Other People Look Like Garbage 2013 (Beyoncé), and so on. These lists are usually joyful; a reliving of the moments or art that made you feel something during the year.

Having reviewed the past year trying to identify the stories or events surrounding same-sex marriage or homosexuality that made it onto my radar, I can say the catalogue is a mix of great leaps forward and big steps back. I call this dance move the “Gay Panic at the Disco”, and you can only do it after four tequila shots.


Anglo-Ameri(yes we)can

If you isolate certain parts of the world, it may seem as though queer rights are in a golden (gaytime) age (especially when you focus on same-sex marriage). Midyear, the United States saw two landmark court decisions pave the way for marriage equality. The first was United States v Windsor, where lesbian widow (and recent runner-up in TIME’s Person of the Year) Edith Windsor filed a lawsuit that resulted in the Supreme Court ruling that Section 3 of the Defence of Marriage Act (DOMA) was unconstitutional. This essentially forced the federal government to recognize same-sex marriages from states that had legalised the practice, and to extend them the same rights as all other couples. A second, separate court decision quashed an effort to restore California’s Proposition 8 banning gay marriage; thereby restoring same-sex marriage in the United States’ most populous state. Six more American states also legalized same-sex marriage in 2013: Rhode Island, Delaware, Minnesota, New Jersey (Snooki and Jwoww can finally tie the knot I guess), Hawaii and Illinois.

Over half of the population supports same-sex marriage and, with it looking like the fastest-moving civil rights movement in US history, it seems that the momentum is propelling America towards blanket equality in the not-too distant future.

On the other hand, a lot of people still watch Two and a Half Men so who can be sure of anything.

If America does eventually legalise same-sex marriage federally, they could be accused of manufacturing yet another British remake. In July, the Queen signed a bill legalising same-sex marriage in Britain, clearing the way for weddings to begin mid-2014. If the superstition is true and rain on your wedding day does bring good luck, we can probably look forward to all-British same-sex marriages lasting until the end of time. Along with Britain, Uruguay (insert own obvious joke here), and France (time to baguette gay married everyone!) also voted to legalise same-sex marriage in 2013. But it didn’t stop there, bro. In April, the New Zealand Parliament passed a bill legalising same-sex marriage (accompanied by spectators in parliament breaking out into a beautiful Maori love song).


Carn ‘Straya! [Oceania]

For two countries so geographically and societally close, Australia and New Zealand had very disparate years. In December, the Australian High Court overturned the ACT’s Marriage Equality Bill after a challenge from the Commonwealth (with spectators outside breaking out into no song, just standing there looking sad). Australian politicians were also condemned by an Amnesty International report into offshore processing on Manus Island that stated that asylum-seekers were being told that the police would be informed if they engaged in homosexual relations while in detention. Homosexuality is illegal in Papua New Guinea and can draw a sentence of up to 14 years. Known tsar of empathy and love, Immigration and Border Protection Minister Scott Morrison, disputed the report by saying he was unaware of any claims, so I guess that’s that, nothing to see here all the asylum seekers are totally fine and probably have TOO MUCH water and shade and mental health support.


Russian to the Far Right [Russia]

If it is hot in the sun on Manus Island, it is not as hot as popular Russian sitcom actor Ivan Okhlobystin would like queer people to be. Okhlobystin was recently quoted in an interview saying, “I would put all gays alive into an oven”, amongst other equally as charming (and hilarious!) comments. If Okhlobystin isn’t careful and continues to make such offensively awful remarks, he may end up being punished by President Vladimir Putin with a cushy job (#winning). Putin also appointed controversial and homophobic news anchor Dmitry Kiselyov to head a restructured state news agency, where Kiselyov is removable only by Putin himself. The move signals Putin’s intention to wield more control over the media and use it to broadcast propaganda and conservative views.

It appears that Putin may be doubling-down on a law enacted in July, outlawing the spread of “homosexual propaganda” amongst minors (propagaynda). Opponents say the law gives little detail on what specifically is banned, causing widespread fear amongst the queer community. They believe it could be used to ban rights rallies, take children from their same-sex parents (causing many families to flee Russia already), and they claim it has already sparked an upsurge in homophobic vigilantism. Even with the Winter Olympics starting early next year in Sochi, President Putin seems to be ramping up the campaign, telling Parliament in December that Russia would be a barricade against “so-called tolerance – genderless and infertile”. Putin’s rhetoric will only serve to ramp up anti-queer sentiment – although, he does send mixed messages by simultaneously appearing shirtless with dolphins.


Back to the Future [India]

With Christmas in our sights, it looked as though we might make it to the end of the year without another crushing backwards blow to a country’s homosexual population, but unfortunately the Indian Supreme Court decided to spoil the party (what would Santa say?). The court overturned a 2009 ruling that decriminalised same-sex relationships, holding that it is constitutional to ban “carnal intercourse against the order of nature”.

In one moment, India revived an 1860 law that carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment for homosexual sex (and not fun prison like depicted in Orange is the New Black). The law has rarely been applied to that extent, but similarly to the Russian situation, its very presence has the ability to propagate abuse and the repression of homosexuality. In India, it also risks obstructing vital HIV prevention efforts. The court decision was unexpected amongst activists, as the gay rights movement and acceptance within India had seemingly only grown since the 2009 ruling. The frantic pace at which anti-queer laws and sentiment have taken hold in Russia, and the fact that seemingly established laws in places like India can ostensibly be rolled back at any time serves as a reminder to us all that we can never take progression for granted.

There are now 15 countries where equality has evolved to the point of recognising same-sex marriages. There are still more than 80 countries where homosexuality is illegal. It is punished with jail terms in most of these countries, and in five of them (and parts of two others) it is punishable by death. The rest of the world is somewhere in the middle.

2013 included many watershed moments for queer people, especially in relation to same-sex marriage. But like a parent who is only as happy as their saddest child, I find it hard to completely celebrate those events while knowing how many of my brothers and sisters are being oppressed. Hopefully with each end-of-year recap the news will get better, and I assume by the year 2020 all queer people will be happily living on the newly-discovered Planet Fierce under Queen Beyoncè (and I am one of her wives).


Rebecca Shaw

Rebecca is primary caregiver and confidant to Tippi, the best cat in the world. She also likes writing bad jokes on twitter @brocklesnitch