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Global LGBTI activism: Are we doing good or harm?

Panel debate at LGBTI Travel Show will ask the experts and audience the biggest question in global gay activism
A UK protest against the criminalization of LGBTI people in Uganda: But what's the best way to promote international gay rights?

Is the gay world really fighting LGBTI oppression or are we just following fashions in global activism and doing more harm than good?

That’s one of the questions that will face our expert panel at the Gay Star Beach Party and LGBTI Travel Show on Saturday (18 January).

We will be debating: ‘Global LGBTI activism: Are we doing good or harm?’

And ahead of the big conversation, some of the expert panelists have started to have their say – hoping to prompt you to come, join in and speak up.

Edwin Sesange, director of the African LGBTI Out & Proud Diamond Group, says: ‘There is growing criminalization of homosexuality and other activities that are viewed as promotion of homosexuality in countries including Uganda, Russia, Nigeria and others.

‘That means activism in such countries becomes very limited and dangerous.

‘Global LGBTI activism helps in overcoming that problem by getting media coverage, raising global public awareness and support. This puts anti-gay regimes under pressure to change.’

But Omar Kuddus, a leading global LGBTI advocate and GSN contributor, thinks we are doing both harm and good through international activism.

He warns: ‘By concentrating on multinational organizations and putting attention on specific issues and countries, other countries and situations are ignored.

‘LGBTI activism has become dominated by “fashions” and that is distracting from the wider struggle for rights and the plight of fellow LGBTIs in the rest of the world.

‘This has been illustrated again by events in Nigeria. While the world was concentrating on Russia and Uganda, the bill [Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act] was introduced. I fear Ghana will face a similar fate.

‘Focus is useful in tackling abuses but more attention needs to be given to grass root activists and those on the ground, and the money we donate online directed to them instead.

‘History has proved that boycotts are unproductive and we must take again the views of locals on the ground into account who know best if such an action will be productive. And we must not make LGBTI rights and activism a tool to get oneself media attention.

We will also be asking what we can do to help LGBTI people facing persecution, harassment or criminalization around the world, whether digital activism really works or just makes us feel better and if pushing for same-sex marriage is causing a backlash in other countries.

Joining the panel will be Marie Campbell, director of All Out, Alistair Stewart, director of Kaleidoscope – two international LGBTI organizations – and journalist, writer and campaigner Jane Fae, who is also expert in trans issues.

The debate, at 2.45pm on Saturday, is the serious side to the free party and travel show at Heaven, Charing Cross, central London.

You can find out more and download your free q-jump ticket here.

There will be another debate, about the ethics of LGBTI travel, at the show on Sunday (19 January).

Comment on a news story


It's 2014, I thought we'd all be onboard with using inclusive language by now, that we'd stop using "gay" as an umbrella term for the LGBTIQ community, and therefore stop excluding lesbians, bisexuals, trans* and intersex individuals.

Sure, if you want a large part of the community to feel that you don't represent them or don't have their interests in mind, go ahead and keep being exclusionary, but I'm sure that the lebians, bisexuals, trans* and intersex people in countries that are intent on persecuting their LGBITQ communities, would also like to know you have their back as much as you have anyone who identifies as gay.