By Christina Engela
“Never again“, the world says – and yet genocide has occurred numerous times since 1945. The most infamous recent example is in Rwanda, but Saddam Hussein also dabbled in genocide against the Kurds in Iraq back in the 1980s. And it still goes on today – with the state-sponsored murders of gay people in Iran, the religious fundamentalist militias in Iraq, the mob violence and murders of gay people in Jamaica and Uganda. The laws being passed in numerous countries which turn ordinary people into criminals and fugitives based solely on their sexuality or gender identity are a precursor to genocide. They put it in people’s minds that such people are a threat and are in fact criminals.
Discrimination against and murder of gay people around the world is recognized by genocide watch groups around the world as genocide, even though it was not specifically included in the technical definition of the Genocide Convention, which only specifically mentions national, ethnic, racial, and religious groups.
I refer to the Stanton Report – the “8 stages of genocide” presented to the US State Department by Genocide Watch in 1996. The Stanton paper was presented at the State Department, shortly after the Rwanda genocide and much of the analysis is based on why that genocide occurred and suggests steps that can be taken to prevent similar outcomes in time. The headings are from the Stanton Report, while I discuss the similarities between “conventional” genocide and the circumstances faced by the pink community in various hot-spots around the world.
Stage 1: Classification – People are divided into “us and them”. Gay and transgender people are purposefully separated from the mainstream society – including their own families – by elements wishing to criticize them for being “anti-social” elements. One only has to listen to the hateful rhetoric vented by religious groups claiming that gay people are a “threat” to “the family” to place this in perspective. Ironically, gay and transgender people are expelled from churches for their natures, and then criticized for not “repenting” or “renouncing” their “sinfulness” and for “opposing” religion. Likewise, they are ousted from social, political and government bodies – such as the armed services – and then criticized as being “unpatriotic” for not participating.
Stage 2: Symbolization – “When combined with hatred, symbols may be forced upon unwilling members of pariah groups…” Symbols are not always visible. Gay and transgender people are not forced to wear identifying symbols, but they are painted with abstract terms such as “evil“, “unnatural“, “deviants“, “pedophiles“, “threats” to various other abstracts such as “the family” and “civilization“, or “enemies” of particular religions. In addition, gay people are for example, persistently referred to a “homosexual” when they prefer to be called gay, and terms which they do prefer are perverted into insults, such as gay misused to mean “stupid“. Trans people are inappropriately referred to by the incorrect gender, or by their old names, or even “it” despite appeals to show them acceptance. As another example, gay men and women are equated with not being “real” men or women.
This stigmatization helps to serve as a separator which helps to polarize the gay and transgender community from mainstream society, as in point 5. This is very much the case in many countries around the world today, specifics include the USA, South Africa, Jamaica, Uganda, Indonesia, India, Russia among others. In many African states, most in fact – gay and transgender people are characterized as being “un-African“, thus painting them with the symbol of foreignness, and deliberately associating them with hated symbols such as “Western imperialism“, particularly in former European colonies.
Stage 3: Dehumanization – “One group denies the humanity of the other group. Members of it are equated with animals, vermin, insects or diseases.” This is already the case in Jamaica and especially in Uganda, where crowds have attended anti-gay rallies, demanding that gay people be marooned on a deserted island in the Great African Lakes and starved to death – and even religious leaders such as the bishops who were reported to demand the death penalty for the “crime” of being gay. Gay and trans people are regularly slated as “sinful“, “evil” “creatures” who “choose” their “lifestyle” and “can change if they want“. Even in South Africa, gay people are referred to by some as “terrorists” and “fascists“. At present, a Bill is being debated in Uganda which will extend the death penalty to GLBTIQ people, adding to the existing threat of lifetime imprisonment.
Stage 4: Organization – “Genocide is always organized… Special army units or militias are often trained and armed…” This is already the case in Jamaica and Iraq. A massive force of armed people gathered to meet a falsely reported gay pride March in Jamaica, which if it had been true, would have resulted in massive loss of life. In Iraq, roving militia have for some time been abducting gay men to torture them to reveal the identities of more victims before killing them and dumping the mutilated bodies as a warning that more will follow.
In Uganda, it is likely that the state security forces will be proactive in this, as gay rights activists have been reporting harassment, illegal detention and torture by police for some time.
Stage 5: Polarization – “Hate groups broadcast polarizing propaganda…” This is already the case in many places where anti-gay rhetoric permeates religious-based hate-groups, such as Focus on the Family and others who reduce the human-ness of gay and trans people down to “deviants“, “perverts” and “sinners“, outcasts and a social threat, and mocking the serious issue of human rights as “an issue of ’sin‘”.
In Jamaica, as in Uganda and other places, making homophobic speeches or promoting homophobia is seen by politicians as a quick way to boost political support among conservatives.
The negative points, exaggerated by the anti-gay groups are used as scare tactics and rallying points to build support for their cause against the equality and civil rights of the persecuted community. In South Africa in the run-up to the 2009 general elections, several “Christian” political parties did just that, by claiming that “true” Christians would vote to support them to defend against these “enemies” of their faith.
In fact, hate speech lies at the root of such situations, and nowhere can this be seen better than in Uganda, where public misinformation and propaganda was used to incite mass hatred for GLBTI people to great effect.
Stage 6: Preparation – “Victims are identified and separated out because of their ethnic or religious identity…” In Uganda, gay and trans people are already being exposed in media and newspapers, often with details of where they can be found. Most lose their work, homes and other benefits. A new Bill which is in the process of passing, will make keeping knowledge of the identity of gay and trans people from the authorities a punishable offence, as will be any form of aid or assistance to them.
In Jamaica, gay people are hounded and forced into closeted, secretive existence.
Stage 7: Extermination – “It is “extermination” to the killers because they do not believe their victims to be fully human.” I believe much of this point is covered in the rest of my discussion.
Stage 8: Denial – “The perpetrators… deny that they committed any crimes…” In the case of Uganda, it is almost as though the state is preparing the ground for “plausible deniability“. The state is already in the process of passing laws which will criminalize gay and transgender people AND absolve themselves of any deaths resulting from their actions – after all, gay and trans people are “criminals” breaking the nations laws and deserve to be punished, as laid down by the law. Religious figures who should exert a calming influence on society, instead fuel paranoia and hostility towards the victims and give them “legitimacy” by encouraging them.
In Jamaica, gay people are being brutally murdered in increasing numbers. Even foreigners have been recently murdered there for their sexuality.
In Iran, gay people have already been murdered by the state for some time. Pictures and reports of these murders regularly appear on the web. Also regularly reported in Iran, is the practice of gay people facing execution given the “option” of undergoing a forced gender reassignment instead.
In Iraq, organized and dedicated militia groups have been abducting, torturing and murdering gay people for about a year – unimpeded and unhindered.
In the USA alone, and increasingly the UK – first world countries, gay and trans people face a high mortality rate, often due to homophobia and transphobia and hate crime – which seems to be on the increase.
Recognizing different stages of the above scale in the treatment of the GLBTI community in various places around the world today, I wonder if any little warning flags have gone up in the UN or the USA about the possibility of a “pink genocide“? Perhaps now that the Matthew Shepard Act has been passed and the FBI can keep hate crime statistics, they will.
The situation in Iraq is dire, as in Jamaica, Uganda and various other African and Baltic states, where laws are being passed piecemeal in opposition to the human rights of the pink community in these states. In Iran gay people are murdered by the state, in Iraq they are not afforded protection against militias which roam the streets hunting them and abducting them from their homes, to be cruelly and brutally murdered. In Jamaica even friends and relatives of gay people face the ire of the mob and gay people fear for their lives and even the dead may not rest in peace.
As a human rights activist for the pink community in South Africa, I recognize the campaigns and attempts of fascist and religious fundamentalist anti-gay groups and linked their activities to different stages of the Stanton Report model, and I find it concerning that nobody else seems to consider the fanaticism and cruelty directed at the pink community dangerous or even connected to genocidal intent – this despite the cold hard fact that some of these people even brazenly call for the reinstatement of the death penalty – and then cavalierly list who they think should die.
By the definition of the Stanton Report on the stages and development of genocide, the armed militias flocking to attack gay people in Jamaica (and in Iraq) already define just that – genocide. The UN should be looking into this. Are they? And if not, why?
Surely genocide doesn’t become ‘common assault‘ or “isolated incidents” just because it is taking place one victim at a time and not in concentration camps?
Why are the world’s governments not outraged by this senseless and vicious slaughter? Why is the UN not making statements or taking visible diplomatic action against offending states? Is it not worth bothering to report on simply because it is “only” gay people who are the victims? Is the definition of genocide not deemed applicable to the pink community simply because we are made up of all religions, and all race groups?
Some time ago, some bigot who called himself a “Christian” and advocated murder as a suitable punishment for the pink community, denied genocide of gay people was murder because the bible “prescribes it” as a “punishment”. He also denied that such “punishment” of gay people was genocide because in his view gay people aren’t a distinct group of people. Funny that they seem distinct enough to be singled out, hated and murdered for who they are – and there we are – genocide.
Are we not already in the beginning stages of a global pink genocide? To me, it certainly looks that way. The warning signs are there. Is murder as a hate crime against a specific group not the same thing as genocide?
A while ago, I received the following satisfying response to my enquiry directed to the author of the Stanton Report – Dr. Gregory Stanton of the US group Genocide Watch.
I thoroughly agree with you that discrimination against and murder of gay people around the world is a form of genocide, even though it was not included in the technical definition of the Genocide Convention, which only protects national, ethnic, racial, and religious groups.
Genocide Watch has never limited our concern to those four groups. In our view mass killing of any groups — including political, social, economic, and gender groups is just as serious a crime against humanity as “genocide” as defined by the Genocide Convention. And you are right that the Eight Stages that lead up to genocide apply equally well to discrimination against and killing of gay people. The classic case in point was the mass murder of homosexual people by the Nazis.
So I encourage your work, and Genocide Watch stands strongly with you in opposing all forms of discrimination against and violence against gay people around the world.
As long as I continue to perceive this danger, I will continue to warn of the dangers of a genocide based on sexual orientation and gender identity, whether as an individual or through whatever organizations I am affiliated to.
In terms of the Holocaust though, it is shocking that people like Scott Lively can claim that such a tragedy never took place, despite all the hard evidence – and to even claim that some of the victims were instead perpetrators! It seems there are no depths too deep or dark for some people to sink to in order to promote their own hatred and intolerance – and this is outweighed only by the ignorance of masses of people only too keen to believe them – because they don’t know any better.
Is the post Holocaust plea “never again” not inclusive of us? Rather it seems “again and again” is more applicable today. Will there have to be a global pink holocaust first? Will it make a difference?
Knowledge and education is the key to this human tragedy which is a bonfire of hate fueled by ignorance.
And lastly, those who do not know history are doomed to repeat it.