Browsing Category 'LGBTQ'

Re-criminalization of Homosexuality in India? Not without a fight

By: Ashley M.

In a landmark 2009 ruling, the Delhi High Court concluded that Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code and other legal prohibitions against private, adult, consensual and non-commercial same-sex conduct, were a violation of fundamental rights enshrined in the Indian Constitution. On December 11, 2013, however, the Indian Supreme Courts revoked this ruling and reinstated the colonial-era Section 377, thereby re-criminalizing consensual gay sex and making it punishable, even by life imprisonment.

In the days following the Supreme Court ruling, a global response for December 15, 2013 was called under the banner of a “Global Day of Rage.”  Around the world and in India, rallies, protests and petitions showed the tremendous support for India’s LGBTQ Community and for striking down Section 377.

Global Day of Rage in Toronto, December 15, 2013. Posted from Twitter by: @kolekili

Global Day of Rage in Toronto, December 15, 2013. Posted from Twitter by: @kolekili


“The Delhi High Court judgment was the result of at least three decades of mobilization with and beyond the law,” said Ponni Arasu, an activist and speaker at the Global Day of Rage event, held in the heart of Toronto on December 15, 2013. “A set of visionary judges decided not only to uphold the basic tenets of the constitution that they trust so deeply but also to fulfill what they saw as their duty as ethical, honest upholders of the law.

“We not only got decriminalized, but our constitutional rights as citizens to freedom of life, liberty, dignity and privacy were affirmed…. I hope all of you in Canada and elsewhere can derive strength from this movement in India while we all get through this sad moment together. And rest assured they will not get away with it.”

On December 20, 2013, India’s Central Government filed a review petition that rejects the Supreme Court’s ruling and proposes an open court hearing on gay rights. “The Govt has filed the review petition on #377 in the Supreme Court today. Let’s hope the right to personal choices is preserved,” Law Minister Kapil Sibal tweeted.

The Indian Government’s petition is certainly a response to the uproar and inspirational mobilization from people in India and around the world.  However a tug-of-war has developed between the government and the courts, with the judiciary questioning the parliament’s inaction prior to the High Court’s ruling. The Indian Constitution came into effect in 1950, and hence there was plenty of time for the government to amend the law.

The Supreme Court ruling says that the 2009 High Court ruling did not make Section 377 invalid, as the matter of removing Section 377 should be through the parliament and not judiciary. Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde was quoted by several news outlets as saying, “The legislation will take time since there is no consensus” among lawmakers.

Although the government’s apparent support for striking down Section 377 is good news, it is important to keep in mind where the government’s interests really lie. The Central Government should have started the process of changing the law after the High Court’s ruling in 2009. Their petition to the Supreme Court is merely a reaction to the large mobilization of people against the restrictive law.

As of January 28, 2013, the Supreme Court has denied the petition filed by eight parties including the Union of India, parents of LGBTQ persons, Voices Against 377, teachers, mental health professionals, Shyam Benegal and the Naz Foundation. NDTV news reports “The union government has two options: it can either file a curative petition in the Supreme Court, or it can try to amend the law in Parliament. A curative petition, the final appeal in the legal process, is heard by the Supreme Court’s senior-most judges including the Chief Justice of the country.”

Organizations, in fact, continue to organize forums and panels to strategize next steps. A protest was organized by the Queer community via facebook, January 28, to demonstrate that these refusals are temporary and the community will continue to fight. This, in fact, has given them more initiative and faith. NO GOING BACK. Stay tuned for updates facebook and Orinam.

A protester holds placard at Jantar Mantar in Delhi, January 28, 2014. Photo credit: Rohit Gautum of Demotix

A protester holds placard at Jantar Mantar in Delhi, January 28, 2014. Photo credit: Rohit Gautum of Demotix

Community-run database tracking violent deaths of Indigenous women

Grassroots Initiatives Honour and Remember Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women in Lead Up to February 14 Strawberry Ceremony

by Nicole Oliver

1602129_10153675039540596_855674983_o“We will come together again in Toronto this February 14th for the 9th year in a row. We stand together on this day to show our solidarity with the community of the downtown eastside in Vancouver where the Memorial March has been taking place for 23 years and because the violence is here too and inherent to settler colonialism”, Audrey Huntley of No More Silence shared with BASICS.

In January, 1991, a woman was murdered on Powell Street in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. Her family wanted to share their love for their daughter on Valentine’s Day and so the annual march began honouring women who have died violent and premature deaths. The family requests that her name not be spoken.

Indigenous women are five to seven times more likely than other women to die as the result of violence, cites Canadian government statistics. Still officers of the colonial state, including the police, have a track record of over-persecuting and under-protecting indigenous women. In Canada, Onkwehon:we (original) peoples make up four per cent of the population, yet First Nations, Inuit and Metis women account for 32.6 per cent of the inmates in the federal prison system.

To coincide with this year’s marches No More Silence, Families of Sisters in Spirit and their community partners including The Native Youth Sexual Health Network having been working on the creation of a community run database documenting violent deaths of indigenous women, two-spirited, and trans people.

”This year our hearts will be heavy with loss as we will grieve three beautiful lives cut far too short in 2013. Cheyenne, Terra and Bella were loved and leave behind family and friends whose lives have been shattered and forever shared,” Huntley told BASICS.

Since last year’s ceremony, Toronto has seen the unresolved violent deaths of three more indigenous women – Cheyenne Fox, Terra Gardner, and Bella Laboucan McLean.

Cheyenne Fox, 20; Terra Gardner, 26; and Bella, 25, were all killed in violent deaths within a few months of each other. Bella and Cheyenne plunged to their deaths from condo highrises, while Terra was struck dead by a train near Summerhill station at a time when she was been compelled to testify in a murder investigation.

Cheyenne Fox, 20; Terra Gardner, 26; and Bella, 25, were all killed in violent deaths within a few months of each other. Bella and Cheyenne plunged to their deaths from condo highrises, while Terra was struck by a train near Summerhill station at a time when she was been compelled to testify in a murder investigation.  Read this piece by Nicole Oliver for more info.

Between 2005-2010, the Native Women’s Association (NWAC) with the support of the federal government’s Status of Women Canada fund created the Sisters in Spirit project. This included a database with over 200 variables to record information related to missing and murdered indigenous women and girls in Canada.  In 2010 the federal government decided to terminate funding to NWAC’s database project.

When the Sisters in Spirit database project funding was cut and the project terminated, 582 cases of missing and murdered indigenous women had been documented. Comparatively, in what is being described as a one of the most comprehensive fully public databases to date, Maryanne Pearce an Ottawa researcher, documents that 824 Inuit, Métis, or First Nations women have been murdered or gone missing in Canada since 1980. Pearce began this database as part of her doctoral dissertation in Law at the University of Ottawa.

The information documented through the Sisters in Spirit project remains inaccessible to the families of missing and murdered women and the wider public, despite the 10-million dollars of public funds allotted to compile the data. Initiatives by the federal government announced remaining funds would be directed to the RCMP for another database on missing persons with no particular focus on women, let alone Indigenous women. As the documentation was never made public the information collected cannot be validated nor analyzed by an outside party.

1395145_590940100954020_310946208_nIn response to the violence that continues to affect indigenous women, their families and communities, No More Silence, Families of Sisters in Spirit and community partners including The Native Youth Sexual Health Network envision a database beyond the reach of Canada’s institutions. The work of No More Silence and the database are to be part of building a larger movement not only against gendered colonial violence, but also for decolonization. This database is intended for the families of the missing and murdered and for communities to access, unlike NWAC’s exclusive database. No More Silence is a network of volunteers. They have started gathering information from nothing – with no funding and no data.

Since the research is led by and for Native women working with allies, it is not constrained by legal or academic definitions: the categories and understandings of the deaths and disappearances have been broadened, derived by rich process work with the families involved. The database documents the lives of women who have died violent and premature deaths, such as suicides and deaths not necessarily committed by one perpetrator, but have more to do with colonial violence in the context of a woman’s life. The database includes deaths and disappearances of Trans and Two-Spirit women as well, where information is often misconstrued or miscategorized by police databases and legal reports due to gender misrecognition constrained by heteropatriarchal norms. The documentation is not only about lives lost, but honors the lived memories of women who have passed on.

A scene from last year's Strawberry Ceremony outside Toronto Police Headquarters.

A scene from last year’s Strawberry Ceremony outside Toronto Police Headquarters.

Despite awareness and efforts of grassroots work done by networks like No More Silence and from the Annual Memorial Marches of February 14, the violence continues. This is not so surprising as the Canadian imperialist government increasingly pushes for resource extraction and development aggression on stolen lands and on unceded and treaty territories of First Nations peoples.

The degradation of the land often plays out on women’s bodies, as women are the life-bearers of future generations. There exists a direct relationship between rape and gender-based violence, racism, and colonialism, in which, violence against women becomes a tool of domination.  Due to systemic violence inherent in Canadian state policies and practices –  such as the Indian Act and the Residential School System – themes of intergenerational trauma, loss of land, housing issues, loss of family members, family breakdown, loss of a sense of community are part of many of the stories collected by No More Silence.

T8474230635_b085861fc6_bhus, the February 14 Memorial Marches and the database work of Sisters in Spirit are about demonstrating that these lives matter. This year’s February 14 Strawberry Ceremony will be held in front of the Toronto Police Headquarters at 40 College St. West in Toronto. For information about February 14 marches occurring in different communities visit:


Forced to flee homophobia in their homelands, queer exiles face uncertain future in Canada.

Documentary screening of LAST CHANCE to feature the Director & Guest speakers

LastChancePosterWHERE: Bloor Hot Docs Cinema, 506 Bloor Street West
WHEN: Tuesday, June 4, 6:45 pm
COST: Suggested donation $2-5

This event features guest speakers Paul Émile d’Entremont (director), Trudi Stewart (film subject) and Michael Battista (The Rainbow Railroad) and is co-presented with the NFB and The Rainbow Railroad.

 SYNOPSIS: Their names are Trudi, Carlos, Jennifer, Zaki and Alvaro. They come from Jamaica, Colombia, Lebanon, Egypt and Nicaragua, and are seeking asylum in Canada because of their sexual orientation. The documentary Last Chance by Paul Émile d’Entremont retraces the turbulent journeys of five people who flee their native countries to escape homophobic violence. They face hurdles integrating into Canada, fear deportation and nervously await a decision that will change their lives forever. All five remain hopeful their adopted country will show them the compassion they deserve.

Title: NYC’s Movement for Justice in El Barrio
Location: downtown toronto
Start Date: 2011-03-24
End Date: 2011-03-26

NYC’s Movement for Justice in El Barrio: El Barrio is Not for Sale, It is to be Loved & Defended
24-26 March 2011, Toronto

Come hear Juan Haro and Maria Mercado from Movimiento por Justicia del Barrio, or the Movement for Justice in El Barrio, in Harlem, NYC, as they share stories of their struggle, build connections and raise funds. The Movement for Justice in El Barrio, is an organization of immigrants in El Barrio, New York City that fights for human dignity and against community displacement. They fight for the liberation of every marginalized group, including immigrants, people of color, women, gays, lesbians, transgender communities, and all the poor of the world.  Movement for Justice in the Barrio is part of the Other Campaign called for by the Zapatista Army of National Liberation.

Movimiento’s members, at 600 strong, have never taken on a battle they have not won, and do not stop at simply taking down their greedy landlords organizing community consultations called Encuentro.

“An Encuentro is a space for people to come together, it is a gathering. An Encuentro is not a meeting, a panel or a conference, it is a way of sharing developed by the Zapatistas as another form of doing politics: from below and to the left. It is a place where we can all speak, we will all listen, and we can all learn. It is a place where we can share the many different struggles that make us one” – Movement for Justice in El Barrio

Talks and Film Screening

Gentrification and Resistance
24 March 2011, 4pm – 6pm
Sidney Smith Hall Rm. 5017B, 100 St. George

El Barrio is Not for Sale, It is to be Loved & Defended with speakers from OCAP and NOII-TO
25 March 2011, 6pm – 8pm (incl. Community dinner)

St Lukes United Church, 353 Sherbourne Ave

El Barrio is Not for Sale & The Other Campaign
26 March 2011, 4pm – 6pm
Accents Bookstore, 1790 Eglinton West

Videos from their actions: &


by Norman (Otis) Richmond
BASICS # 15 (Sep / Oct 2009)

Twenty years ago in Oakland, California, during the month of August, Huey P. Newton was murdered.

It is August 22, 1989, at about 8:30 am in the morning. Gwen Johnston, the co-owner of Third World Books and Crafts (Toronto’s first African-Canadian-owned bookstore) phoned me —- the news is shocking, dreadful even. Mrs. Johnston is in tears, saying, “Otis, they have killed Huey”. Mrs. Johnston and her husband Lennie were huge supporters of Newton, the Black Panther Party and the struggle for African liberation and the liberation of humanity.

Whatever Huey’s shortcomings, Newton led many of us ideologically. For a brief moment in the history of Africans in America, Newton was “the tallest tree in the forest”.

Malcolm X was the first national leader in the African community in the United States to oppose the war in Vietnam. Dr. Martin Luther King later followed Malcolm’s lead on this issue. Newton took it to the next level: In 1970, when was released from prison in California, his first act was to offer troops to fight in Vietnam on the side of the Vietnamese people against American imperialism. On August 29, 1970, Newton wrote: “In the spirit of international revolutionary solidarity, the Black Panther Party hereby offers to the National Liberation Front and provisional revolutionary government of South Vietnam an undetermined number of troops to assist you in your fight against American imperialism. It is appropriate for the Black Panther Party to take this action at this time in recognition of the fact that your struggle is also our struggle, for we recognize that our common enemy is the American imperialist who is the leader of international bourgeois domination.” Read more…

Despite the “modern” and “inclusive” image the Conservatives tried to push during the elections, Harper’s cabinet is overall rich, white, rural and male. It is unlikely any of these people have ever had to worry about paying the rent or how they were going to pay off their student loans since they come from backgrounds of wealth and priviledge: lawyers, bureaucrats, CEOs, businessmen and corporate flunkies. Let’s take a closer look at a select few of the Conservative Party’s “best and brightest”:

Minister of International Trade
A former bureaucrat and CEO of a bank, airport, and logging company, Emerson revealed both his own lack of principles and the minimal differences between the Liberals and Conservatives when he jumped ship to Harper government immediately after the election, keeping the same cabinet position he had under Martin. This from the man who less than a year ago referred to the Tories as “blatantly opportunistic, partisan and misleading the Canadian people.” Read more…