International News: Russia; St. Kitts; Singapore

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Russia using conservative Twitter account in disinformation campaign

The conservative LibsofTikTok Twitter account has been “supercharging a Kremlin-backed anti-LGBTQ disinformation campaign,” according to a new investigation published August 30 by Vice News.

An August 10 LibsofTikTok video, pivoting off the latest GOP claims that the left is “grooming” children to be gay or trans, highlights a Pennsylvania-based therapist who works with sex offenders, implying she is pushing “social acceptance of pedophilia.” But as the investigation revealed, this was entirely false.

LibsofTikTok also pushed a leaflet purported to have been distributed in U.K. schools that also appears to embrace pedophilia and instruct children to invite pedophiles into their homes.

According to the Vice report, that edited video in tandem with the leaflet is now a propaganda tool on pro-Kremlin Telegram channels and a Russian TV station closely linked to the Kremlin, to assert that the U.S. is now fully engaged in pedophilia as a lifestyle. The propaganda campaign has gone viral, spreading internationally. The various Kremlin networks are using the LibsofTikTok video as “proof” of the details in the pamphlet. Yet neither is true.

Russian disinformation channels, including Russian state media, are picking up on anti-LGBTQ content produced by LibsOfTikTok and amplifying it to non-English-language audiences already prone to anti-LGBTQ animus — a dangerous trend. 

Ernie Piper, a researcher at misinformation tracking group Logically who uncovered the Russian campaign, told Vice, “The narrative itself looks much more solid if you can repeat the false claim in a dozen different ways with a dozen different pieces of propaganda.”

Vice noted, “The posts referencing the leaflets and the LibsofTiktok video were picked up by a Russian Telegram channel with 400,000 subscribers. Soon the claims spread to Tsargrad TV, a Russian TV channel whose founding editor was Alexander Dugin, one of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s closest allies, whose daughter was killed by a car bomb in Moscow earlier this month.”

Piper said, “We do know that Russia has invested a significant amount of resources in spreading disinformation in non-English language speaking countries, for instance, right at the start of the invasion of Ukraine.”

And as PGN has reported, Russian media has used WNBA star Brittney Griner’s lesbianism as a rationale for her arrest, detention and conviction. 

Judge strikes down Saint Kitts and Nevis anti-gay law

“Null and void.” That was the ruling as a judge struck down Saint Kitts anti-gay law on August 30 in the eastern Carribean nation. 

High Court Judge Trevor Ward declared that sections of the 1873 anti-sodomy law “infringe upon the right to determine the way they, as individuals, choose to express their sexuality in private with another consenting adult.”

Ward said in the ruling that such laws are “null and void and of no force.”

The colonial-era anti-sodomy laws were challenged in court by Saint Kitts and Nevis Alliance for Equality (SKNAFE) and Jamal Jeffers, a gay man, in January 2021, according to Loop, a Caribbean news outlet.

“This decision strongly establishes that a person’s sexuality should never be the basis for any discrimination. We welcome the recognition of this fact, one for which we have long advocated,” said Tynetta McKoy, the executive director of SKNAFE, according to Loop.

In their lawsuit, SKNAFE and Jeffers asserted that “the right to liberty” includes the right to “consensual sex and partnership with a person of their choosing,” much like the 1993 Lawrence v. Texas Supreme Court case in the U.S.

The St. Kitts government had claimed sexual orientation has no legal protections. The government also insisted that legalizing same-sex relationships and sexual expression would “open the floodgates to practices that could alter and compromise survival of the culture and personality of the Federation,” which they assert was founded on “belief in Almighty God and the inherent dignity in each individual.”

The Evangelical Association of Saint Kitts filed an amicus brief supporting the law and asserting that “the moral and religious fibre of the community should influence any interpretation of the Constitution.”

The judge’s ruling disputed that, stating unequivocally that “public morality is not synonymous with religious dogma or public opinion.”

Singapore decriminalizes sex between men

In a complex decision for gay rights in Singapore, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong says Singapore will repeal the law criminalizing sex between men, but will also maintain the traditional definition of marriage as between one man and one woman.

Lee said on August 22 that repealing Section 377A of the penal code, a colonial-era law that criminalizes sex between men, is the “right thing to do.” Lee cited his reasoning that there was growing tolerance of gay people in Singapore.

Lee said, “Private sexual behaviour between consenting adults does not raise any law and order issue. There is no justification to prosecute people for it nor to make it a crime.”

He added, “This will bring the law into line with current social mores and I hope provide some relief to gay Singaporeans.”

But Lee also was adamant that there would be no changes to other areas in which LGBTQ rights advocates had called for change: how marriage is defined, what children are taught in schools, what is shown on television, and general public conduct. 

Lee’s statements on same-sex marriage were especially hard for activists who note that in Singapore, couples in registered marriages have more access to greater housing subsidies and to adoption rights than single people.

Lee also asserted that the Singapore government would amend the constitution to disallow any constitutional challenge to marriage laws.

“We are heartened that the government has indicated they will be taking steps to protect the prevailing norms and values of the Singaporean society on the issue of marriage,” said Bishop Titus Chung in a statement issued on behalf of the Diocese of Singapore.

“Any move by the government to introduce further legislation or constitutional amendments that signal LGBTQ+ people as unequal citizens is disappointing,” more than 20 activist groups said in a joint statement

Lee said gay rights continues to be “a highly sensitive and contentious” issue. “What we seek is a political accommodation, one that balances legitimate views and aspirations among Singaporeans,” Lee said.

“But everyone has to accept that no (one) group can have things their way,” he added.

No timeline was given for the repeal of Section 377A.

United Nations expert says equality is lacking in U.S.

Victor Madrigal-Borloz, the United Nations independent expert on protection against gender- and sexual orientation-based violence and discrimination, warned August 30 that in the U.S. “Equality is not within sight, and said the U.S. must move to protect LGBTQ+ civil rights.”

Madrigal-Borloz just completed a 10-day trip across the U.S. He said, “Equality is not within reach, and often not even within sight” for members of [LGBTQ+] communities in the U.S.

“I am deeply alarmed by a widespread, profoundly negative riptide created by deliberate actions to roll back the human rights of [LGBTQ+] people at [the] state level,” Madrigal-Borloz said in a UN news release August 30. “The evidence shows that, without exception, these actions rely on prejudiced and stigmatizing views of [LGBTQ+] persons, in particular transgender children and youth, and seek to leverage their lives as props for political profit.” 

Madrigal-Borloz’s trip included Washington DC, Miami, San Diego and Birmingham, Alabama. He met with state officials and members of LGBTQ+ communities who detailed their “significant inequality in relation to health, education, employment and housing.”