Johann Hari celebrates the remarkable progress for gay rights, achieved through peaceful democratic pressure around the world in the 40 years since Stonewall. But then he highlights some of the places where being gay means being murdered:
Jamaica is Taliban Afghanistan for gay people. If caught, gays and lesbians face ten years’ hard labour – but they are more likely to be lynched. The cases documented by Dr Robert Carr of the University of the West Indies fill whole books. Here’s two from a single week. A father found a picture of a naked man in his 16 year old son’s rucksack, so he produced it in the playground and called on his classmates to encouraged them to beat him to death – which they promptly did. Nobody was ever charged. In Montego Bay, a man was caught checking out another man – so the crowd lynched him. When the police arrived, they joined in. Hospitals routinely refuse to treat the victims of gay bashings, leaving them to die.
There is a Matthew Sheppard there every day, but people who wouldn’t have dreamed of holidaying in Apartheid South Africa flock to Jamaica’s beaches. A heroic Jamaican called Brian Williamson set up an organization called J-FLAG to campaign for the rights of gay Jamaicans. His body was found stabbed and slashed over seventy times. The police did nothing. The most popular song in Jamaica in recent years – by Beenie Man – choruses: “I’m dreaming of a new Jamaica, come to execute all the gays… Take dem by surprise/ Get dem in the head.”Throughout Muslim countries, gay people are routinely jailed, tortured and hanged. Mahmoud Ahmadinejadh denies there are any gay people in Iran, but is happy to have them executed in public squares. In post-invasion Iraq, there has been a homo-cidal pogrom of gay people being led by private Islamist “morality squads”. In the past two months, over 25 corpses of gay men have been found in one slum, Sadr City, alone, mutilated, with notes saying “pervert” pinned to their chests. Ayatollah Ali-Al Sistani, the country’s leading religious cleric, says gays should be killed “in the worst way possible” – and they are obeying. Men are now being killed by having their anuses glued shut.
But too many people avert their gaze from the murderous homophobic persecution happening now – and, even more shockingly, some condemn the people who are trying to stop it. Peter Tatchell, one of the great figures of the fight for gay equality, has for years been organizing practical support for gay Jamaicans, Muslims, and Africans. They have been incredibly grateful – but he has been pilloried by people who pretend to be left-wingers here as “racist” and “imperialist”.