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Large majority ratifies ‘family code’ legalising gay marriage; Cuba

Cubans approved the 100-page "family code" legalizes same-sex marriage and civil unions, allows same-sex couples to adopt children, and promotes equal sharing of domestic rights and responsibilities between men and women.

27 Sep 2022

CubaImage courtesy: Getty Images

In a Sunday referendum (September 25), Cubans approved gay marriage and adoption overwhelmingly backed by the government that also boosted rights for women, the national election commission said on Monday.More than 3.9 million voters voted to ratify the code (66.9%), while 1.95 million opposed ratification (33%), Alina Balseiro Gutierrez, president of the commission, said on state-run television on Monday. 

“Justice has been done,” Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel wrote in a tweet. “It is paying off a debt with several generations of Cuban men and women, whose family projects have been waiting for this law for years,” he said. 

Media reports including one on Reuters explained that the 100-page “family code” legalizes same-sex marriage and civil unions, allows same-sex couples to adopt children, and promotes equal sharing of domestic rights and responsibilities between men and women. An analysis of the preliminary findings of the results from the electoral commission showed 74% of 8.4 million Cubans eligible to vote participated in the Sunday referendum.

Official Twitter accounts showed the room erupting in applause and the president leaning back and smiling at the news. It was the Cuban president himself who led the campaign for the adoption of the code. Sunday’s turnout in the referendum by Cuban standards was relatively modest, and a 33% ‘no’ vote relatively large in the communist-run country, where previous referendums have seen the government position receiving near unanimous approval.

The dissent is an indication of both how Cuba is changing and the current dire economic circumstances, which have seen long power outages and lines for food, medicine and fuel.

Sunday’s vote was also the first of its kind since most residents have had access to the internet, which has let dissenting views spread more widely. 

India and same sex marriage 

As of 2022, same sex marriages are not legally recognised in India by the law though several couples do co-habit together. In the pathbreaking 2018 judgement, Navtej Singh Johar v/s Union of India, the Supreme Court that upheld an earlier landmark judgement of the Delhi High Court de-criminalises homosexuality, also ruled that same sex couples would be granted the basic right of companionship so long as it is consensual, without coercion and force. The issue of legal marriage lies pending in the courts. In 2020, Delhi HC issues notice to Union in a plea to recognise same sex marriage

The court is slated to hear the matter on marriage equality of same sex couples under Hindu Marriage, Special Marriage and Foreign Marriage Act The Delhi High Court has issued a notice to the Union of India in a plea seeking registration of marriage of same sex couples under the Hindu Marriage Act.  The petition was filed by members of the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender+ (LGBT+) community and activists Abhijit Iyer Mitra, Gopi Shankar M, Giti Thadani and G. Oorvasi, as reported by The Hindu. 

The plea submits that under The Hindu Marriage Act, Section 5 clearly lays down that marriage can be performed between ‘any two Hindus’ under the Act. Since the language in the legislation is gender neutral, it should apply to same sex marriages. While there is no statutory bar under the Hindu Marriage Act and Special Marriage Act against gay marriages, they were not being registered throughout the country. “As a result of the same, there are many benefits that would otherwise be available to heterosexual married couples that are not available to them,” the plea added.

Further, the prohibition of same sex marriage on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity was violative of the principle of equality guaranteed under the Constitution of India, stated the plea citing examples of Australia, Germany, Canada, Spain, South Africa, Brazil and England, where same-sex marriages are legal. Apart from this petition, the High Court noted that two other similar petitions are pending before the court. One petition was filed by two women seeking a direction to be issued to the Marriage Officer, South East Delhi to solemnise their marriage under the Special Marriage Act. The second petition has been moved by two men, who got married in the United States but their marriage registration was denied under the Foreign Marriage Act (FMA) as it excluded same-sex marriages.

Since, the petitions deal with the same issue under the Hindu Marriage Act, Special Marriage Act and Foreign Marriage Act, the court has clubbed the pleas.

Taiwan, became 1st Asian Country to Legalize Gay Marriage (2017) 

In a landmark judgement delivered on May 23, 2017 judges from Taiwan's Highest Court ruled in favour of Chi Chia-wei, legalizing gay marriage, making the small, island nation the first in Asia and setting a precedent for other Asian countries.

The court has given the country's parliament two years to amend existing laws or create new ones to ensure equal treatment of individuals with respect to marriage laws.

Back home in India, the Delhi High Court, in the case of Naz Foundation V. Government of NCT Of Delhi And Others, had ruled in favour of the LGBT community in 2009. The Court had asked the Indian parliament to amend laws according to the recommendations of the 172nd Law Commission of India Report. The report may be read here. Despite this and the 2018 SC judgement, progress has been slow. The LGBT community still suffers from exploitation, discrimination and denunciation.


Just like India, in Taiwan the fight for rights of the LGBT community, is not recent. The issue of same-sex marriage has been a source of contention for decades in Taiwan. The key plaintiff, Chi Chia-wei, a gay-rights activist, has been fighting for gay rights since the 1980s and first sought a gay marriage license 16 years ago according to Focus Taiwan Reports. Chi Chia-wei’s suit claims that the prohibition against same-sex marriage violates the rights guaranteed in the Constitution by Article 7 which declares that all citizens, irrespective of sex, religion, ethnic origin, class or party affiliation, to be equal before the law, and Article 22, which states that all other freedoms and rights of the public that are not detrimental to social order or public welfare are guaranteed under the Constitution.

The obiter dicta of the Grand Justices reflect their liberal, reformist outlook.The Justices called sexual orientation an "immutable characteristic that is resistant to change." This, in our opinion is the most logical definition of the sexuality of an individual, knowing that it is internal and natural and not an externally developed sentiment. The court further said that, “Allowing single people to have the autonomy to decide whether to marry and whom to marry, is vital to the sound development of personality and safeguarding of human dignity, and therefore is a fundamental right."

The alliance of Taiwan Religious Groups for the Protection of the Family and representatives from Buddhist, Taoist, Christian and Lamaist groups, rallied against this decision of the Court. However, it was the key campaign issue for President Tsai Ing-wen, who took office one year ago, and the legislature has been weighing a change to Taiwan's Civil Code.

Taiwan, in 2017, joined 20 other countries from across the world which have legalised same-sex marriage. Netherlands was the first to legalise same-sex marriage(2000), followed by Belgium (2003), Spain and Canada (2005), Finland, Ireland and United States (2015) and now Taiwan (2017). India, certainly has a lot learn from this international reform. The first step in the right direction was taken by the Delhi High Court in 2009 as discussed above, but the Supreme Court took a U-turn in 2013, when it overruled the order of the Delhi High Court. This was then set aside in 2018.


The Supreme Court Judgement may be read here.

Contradiction in Indian law 

While Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 criminalised homosexuality primarily on the basis of the form of sexual intercourse till 2009 and then 2018, the Constitution of India - the supreme law of the land, protects and promotes diversity, ensures an egalitarian society where freedom should no longer be a privilege. Although Part III of the Constitution provides certain rights to the citizens, it only covers those citizens who form part of the ‘popular morality’.  The LGBT community does not form part of this ‘popular morality’ and hence is neglected. It is the right of each member of the LGBT community to be treated equally like other citizens, to live with dignity as enshrined in A 15 (1), (2), Part III, Constitution of India. As given, “the State shall not discriminate against any citizen on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them.”
 


Related Articles: 

Punjab and Haryana HC comes to the rescue of lesbian couple
Protect same sex couple facing resistance: Allahabad HC
India-Pak same-sex couple attend Durga Puja, pics go viral
ADVANCE QUESTIONS TO INDIA (FIRST BATCH) UPR Process 2017
Mumbai Pride March: LGBT supporters share their hopes for the future
What the Women’s March on Washington can learn from Black Lives Matter
Concentration camps’ opened for Gay Men in Chechnya

Large majority ratifies ‘family code’ legalising gay marriage; Cuba

Cubans approved the 100-page "family code" legalizes same-sex marriage and civil unions, allows same-sex couples to adopt children, and promotes equal sharing of domestic rights and responsibilities between men and women.

CubaImage courtesy: Getty Images

In a Sunday referendum (September 25), Cubans approved gay marriage and adoption overwhelmingly backed by the government that also boosted rights for women, the national election commission said on Monday.More than 3.9 million voters voted to ratify the code (66.9%), while 1.95 million opposed ratification (33%), Alina Balseiro Gutierrez, president of the commission, said on state-run television on Monday. 

“Justice has been done,” Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel wrote in a tweet. “It is paying off a debt with several generations of Cuban men and women, whose family projects have been waiting for this law for years,” he said. 

Media reports including one on Reuters explained that the 100-page “family code” legalizes same-sex marriage and civil unions, allows same-sex couples to adopt children, and promotes equal sharing of domestic rights and responsibilities between men and women. An analysis of the preliminary findings of the results from the electoral commission showed 74% of 8.4 million Cubans eligible to vote participated in the Sunday referendum.

Official Twitter accounts showed the room erupting in applause and the president leaning back and smiling at the news. It was the Cuban president himself who led the campaign for the adoption of the code. Sunday’s turnout in the referendum by Cuban standards was relatively modest, and a 33% ‘no’ vote relatively large in the communist-run country, where previous referendums have seen the government position receiving near unanimous approval.

The dissent is an indication of both how Cuba is changing and the current dire economic circumstances, which have seen long power outages and lines for food, medicine and fuel.

Sunday’s vote was also the first of its kind since most residents have had access to the internet, which has let dissenting views spread more widely. 

India and same sex marriage 

As of 2022, same sex marriages are not legally recognised in India by the law though several couples do co-habit together. In the pathbreaking 2018 judgement, Navtej Singh Johar v/s Union of India, the Supreme Court that upheld an earlier landmark judgement of the Delhi High Court de-criminalises homosexuality, also ruled that same sex couples would be granted the basic right of companionship so long as it is consensual, without coercion and force. The issue of legal marriage lies pending in the courts. In 2020, Delhi HC issues notice to Union in a plea to recognise same sex marriage

The court is slated to hear the matter on marriage equality of same sex couples under Hindu Marriage, Special Marriage and Foreign Marriage Act The Delhi High Court has issued a notice to the Union of India in a plea seeking registration of marriage of same sex couples under the Hindu Marriage Act.  The petition was filed by members of the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender+ (LGBT+) community and activists Abhijit Iyer Mitra, Gopi Shankar M, Giti Thadani and G. Oorvasi, as reported by The Hindu. 

The plea submits that under The Hindu Marriage Act, Section 5 clearly lays down that marriage can be performed between ‘any two Hindus’ under the Act. Since the language in the legislation is gender neutral, it should apply to same sex marriages. While there is no statutory bar under the Hindu Marriage Act and Special Marriage Act against gay marriages, they were not being registered throughout the country. “As a result of the same, there are many benefits that would otherwise be available to heterosexual married couples that are not available to them,” the plea added.

Further, the prohibition of same sex marriage on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity was violative of the principle of equality guaranteed under the Constitution of India, stated the plea citing examples of Australia, Germany, Canada, Spain, South Africa, Brazil and England, where same-sex marriages are legal. Apart from this petition, the High Court noted that two other similar petitions are pending before the court. One petition was filed by two women seeking a direction to be issued to the Marriage Officer, South East Delhi to solemnise their marriage under the Special Marriage Act. The second petition has been moved by two men, who got married in the United States but their marriage registration was denied under the Foreign Marriage Act (FMA) as it excluded same-sex marriages.

Since, the petitions deal with the same issue under the Hindu Marriage Act, Special Marriage Act and Foreign Marriage Act, the court has clubbed the pleas.

Taiwan, became 1st Asian Country to Legalize Gay Marriage (2017) 

In a landmark judgement delivered on May 23, 2017 judges from Taiwan's Highest Court ruled in favour of Chi Chia-wei, legalizing gay marriage, making the small, island nation the first in Asia and setting a precedent for other Asian countries.

The court has given the country's parliament two years to amend existing laws or create new ones to ensure equal treatment of individuals with respect to marriage laws.

Back home in India, the Delhi High Court, in the case of Naz Foundation V. Government of NCT Of Delhi And Others, had ruled in favour of the LGBT community in 2009. The Court had asked the Indian parliament to amend laws according to the recommendations of the 172nd Law Commission of India Report. The report may be read here. Despite this and the 2018 SC judgement, progress has been slow. The LGBT community still suffers from exploitation, discrimination and denunciation.


Just like India, in Taiwan the fight for rights of the LGBT community, is not recent. The issue of same-sex marriage has been a source of contention for decades in Taiwan. The key plaintiff, Chi Chia-wei, a gay-rights activist, has been fighting for gay rights since the 1980s and first sought a gay marriage license 16 years ago according to Focus Taiwan Reports. Chi Chia-wei’s suit claims that the prohibition against same-sex marriage violates the rights guaranteed in the Constitution by Article 7 which declares that all citizens, irrespective of sex, religion, ethnic origin, class or party affiliation, to be equal before the law, and Article 22, which states that all other freedoms and rights of the public that are not detrimental to social order or public welfare are guaranteed under the Constitution.

The obiter dicta of the Grand Justices reflect their liberal, reformist outlook.The Justices called sexual orientation an "immutable characteristic that is resistant to change." This, in our opinion is the most logical definition of the sexuality of an individual, knowing that it is internal and natural and not an externally developed sentiment. The court further said that, “Allowing single people to have the autonomy to decide whether to marry and whom to marry, is vital to the sound development of personality and safeguarding of human dignity, and therefore is a fundamental right."

The alliance of Taiwan Religious Groups for the Protection of the Family and representatives from Buddhist, Taoist, Christian and Lamaist groups, rallied against this decision of the Court. However, it was the key campaign issue for President Tsai Ing-wen, who took office one year ago, and the legislature has been weighing a change to Taiwan's Civil Code.

Taiwan, in 2017, joined 20 other countries from across the world which have legalised same-sex marriage. Netherlands was the first to legalise same-sex marriage(2000), followed by Belgium (2003), Spain and Canada (2005), Finland, Ireland and United States (2015) and now Taiwan (2017). India, certainly has a lot learn from this international reform. The first step in the right direction was taken by the Delhi High Court in 2009 as discussed above, but the Supreme Court took a U-turn in 2013, when it overruled the order of the Delhi High Court. This was then set aside in 2018.


The Supreme Court Judgement may be read here.

Contradiction in Indian law 

While Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 criminalised homosexuality primarily on the basis of the form of sexual intercourse till 2009 and then 2018, the Constitution of India - the supreme law of the land, protects and promotes diversity, ensures an egalitarian society where freedom should no longer be a privilege. Although Part III of the Constitution provides certain rights to the citizens, it only covers those citizens who form part of the ‘popular morality’.  The LGBT community does not form part of this ‘popular morality’ and hence is neglected. It is the right of each member of the LGBT community to be treated equally like other citizens, to live with dignity as enshrined in A 15 (1), (2), Part III, Constitution of India. As given, “the State shall not discriminate against any citizen on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them.”
 


Related Articles: 

Punjab and Haryana HC comes to the rescue of lesbian couple
Protect same sex couple facing resistance: Allahabad HC
India-Pak same-sex couple attend Durga Puja, pics go viral
ADVANCE QUESTIONS TO INDIA (FIRST BATCH) UPR Process 2017
Mumbai Pride March: LGBT supporters share their hopes for the future
What the Women’s March on Washington can learn from Black Lives Matter
Concentration camps’ opened for Gay Men in Chechnya

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Hadis Najafi, young Iranian woman, symbol of protests after viral video, killed

Newsweek and several international news outlets have reported that the 20-year old, protesting against the death of Mahsa Amini in Iran, has been reportedly killed by Iranian security forces during demonstrations in the city of Karaj, near Tehran

27 Sep 2022

Iran protest

Even as democratic rights individuals and groups world over celebrated the protest art from Iran, with powerful images of women showing their long hair chained behind oppressive imagery, the blonde hair of Najafi appeared uncovered in a clip that went viral on social media. Did this courageous protest cost her life?

On Sunday, Iranian journalist Farzad Seifikaran reported that Najafi Hadis was killed on Wednesday in the city of Karaj after being shot multiple times by security personnel in the face and neck. Iranian activists stated that Najafi was the woman tying her hair in a viral video as she got ready to participate in anti-government protests. By untying her hair in the face of the state, a simple yet powerful gesture, she was making a huge statement against that same law that had led to the death of 22-year-old Amini, a Kurdish woman who died of fatal injuries reportedly inflicted while in custody. Amini had been previously been detained by the Islamic Republic's "morality police" for wearing the hijab "inappropriately."

The powerful image of this young protester had showed the feisty young woman facing Iranian police without wearing a veil, something which is forbidden by law in Iran. Since 1983, four years after the 1979 Islamic revolution wearing the hijab in public has been made compulsory for women in the country, never mind their faith or nationality. Najafi and dozens of other, like many other Iranian women had joined the street-wide protests, facing the Iranian police with her hair uncovered, and was captured on camera tying them up with a rubber band. Over past weeks powerful art protests have emerged out of Iran. 

Imag1

Image2

Image

Image

According to Amnesty International, at least 21 people–including three children—had been killed by security forces on the night of September 21. At least 41 people have now been killed in total, according to a death toll given by Iran's state television on Sunday, though official numbers have not yet been released.

Among those killed, there's Najafi.

Mahsa

 It was Amini's death that triggered the outrage of tens of thousands of people across Iran and has seen many take to the streets of several cities. For the past ten days or so, outrage and protests have swept the country, with demonstrators facing a violent response by police and authorities. A unique aspect of the protests has been women who have been the core and pivot of the demonstrations in Iran, with many burning their veils and cutting their hair in protest.

iran
20-year-old Hadis Najafi was killed by six gunshots during protests in Iran. In this photo, women and men chant slogans as they march in a pro-hijab rally in Iran's capital Tehran on September 23, 2022. STR/AFP via Getty Images

Even as protests swept the country, the present President, Ebrahim Raisi was quoted by state media on Saturday saying that the country must "deal decisively with those who oppose the country's security and tranquillity." Thereafter, in many cities, including the capital, security forces responded to the protests by opening fire against demonstrators.

habib Khan 

Iranian journalist Masih Alinejad reported that the 20-year-old woman was killed after being hit by six bullets in the city of Karaj, according to what Najafi's sister told her. The reporter, who did not specify the date of Najafi's death, described the news as "heartbreaking."

 

"Hadis Najafi 21 Yr old girl must become another symbol like #MahsaAmini, because she didn't keep silent in the face of tyranny. She got killed for the crime of protesting the brutal death of Mahsa. I call on world to be the voice of #HadisNajafi too. A true hero," Alinejad wrote on Twitter.

The journalist shared a clip from the Najafi's funeral and said she was "a kind hearted girl and loved dancing."

 

 

On Sunday, September 25, it was reported that Anonymous, the international hacktivist collective known for its several cyber attacks against governments and government institutions and agencies, hacked the database of Iran's Supreme Audit Court and released the data of all members of the Iranian Parliament, including their phone numbers. 

Majid Sadeghpour, a political director and member of The Organization of Iranian-American Communities, said, “People of Iran are in the process of another revolution, [as] the regime has been declining for years and now is literally falling. We call on the international community to cut ties with this regime and instead support the Iranian people and their [organized] resistance.”

Related

“IMSD strongly condemns the repressive Iranian regime, questions the hypocrisy of the Muslim clergy in India”

Hadis Najafi, young Iranian woman, symbol of protests after viral video, killed

Newsweek and several international news outlets have reported that the 20-year old, protesting against the death of Mahsa Amini in Iran, has been reportedly killed by Iranian security forces during demonstrations in the city of Karaj, near Tehran

Iran protest

Even as democratic rights individuals and groups world over celebrated the protest art from Iran, with powerful images of women showing their long hair chained behind oppressive imagery, the blonde hair of Najafi appeared uncovered in a clip that went viral on social media. Did this courageous protest cost her life?

On Sunday, Iranian journalist Farzad Seifikaran reported that Najafi Hadis was killed on Wednesday in the city of Karaj after being shot multiple times by security personnel in the face and neck. Iranian activists stated that Najafi was the woman tying her hair in a viral video as she got ready to participate in anti-government protests. By untying her hair in the face of the state, a simple yet powerful gesture, she was making a huge statement against that same law that had led to the death of 22-year-old Amini, a Kurdish woman who died of fatal injuries reportedly inflicted while in custody. Amini had been previously been detained by the Islamic Republic's "morality police" for wearing the hijab "inappropriately."

The powerful image of this young protester had showed the feisty young woman facing Iranian police without wearing a veil, something which is forbidden by law in Iran. Since 1983, four years after the 1979 Islamic revolution wearing the hijab in public has been made compulsory for women in the country, never mind their faith or nationality. Najafi and dozens of other, like many other Iranian women had joined the street-wide protests, facing the Iranian police with her hair uncovered, and was captured on camera tying them up with a rubber band. Over past weeks powerful art protests have emerged out of Iran. 

Imag1

Image2

Image

Image

According to Amnesty International, at least 21 people–including three children—had been killed by security forces on the night of September 21. At least 41 people have now been killed in total, according to a death toll given by Iran's state television on Sunday, though official numbers have not yet been released.

Among those killed, there's Najafi.

Mahsa

 It was Amini's death that triggered the outrage of tens of thousands of people across Iran and has seen many take to the streets of several cities. For the past ten days or so, outrage and protests have swept the country, with demonstrators facing a violent response by police and authorities. A unique aspect of the protests has been women who have been the core and pivot of the demonstrations in Iran, with many burning their veils and cutting their hair in protest.

iran
20-year-old Hadis Najafi was killed by six gunshots during protests in Iran. In this photo, women and men chant slogans as they march in a pro-hijab rally in Iran's capital Tehran on September 23, 2022. STR/AFP via Getty Images

Even as protests swept the country, the present President, Ebrahim Raisi was quoted by state media on Saturday saying that the country must "deal decisively with those who oppose the country's security and tranquillity." Thereafter, in many cities, including the capital, security forces responded to the protests by opening fire against demonstrators.

habib Khan 

Iranian journalist Masih Alinejad reported that the 20-year-old woman was killed after being hit by six bullets in the city of Karaj, according to what Najafi's sister told her. The reporter, who did not specify the date of Najafi's death, described the news as "heartbreaking."

 

"Hadis Najafi 21 Yr old girl must become another symbol like #MahsaAmini, because she didn't keep silent in the face of tyranny. She got killed for the crime of protesting the brutal death of Mahsa. I call on world to be the voice of #HadisNajafi too. A true hero," Alinejad wrote on Twitter.

The journalist shared a clip from the Najafi's funeral and said she was "a kind hearted girl and loved dancing."

 

 

On Sunday, September 25, it was reported that Anonymous, the international hacktivist collective known for its several cyber attacks against governments and government institutions and agencies, hacked the database of Iran's Supreme Audit Court and released the data of all members of the Iranian Parliament, including their phone numbers. 

Majid Sadeghpour, a political director and member of The Organization of Iranian-American Communities, said, “People of Iran are in the process of another revolution, [as] the regime has been declining for years and now is literally falling. We call on the international community to cut ties with this regime and instead support the Iranian people and their [organized] resistance.”

Related

“IMSD strongly condemns the repressive Iranian regime, questions the hypocrisy of the Muslim clergy in India”

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Social Media destruct: Leicester erupts due to hate online?

Social media fuels and amplifies onground violence in Leicester, UK, a thorough investigation by the BBC reveals

26 Sep 2022

Andrew Fox/The GuardianImage courtesy: Andrew Fox/The Guardian

A BBC Investigation, Did misinformation fan the flames in Leicester? reveals how much of the genesis of the recent violence in Leicester, United Kingdom was fueled by deliberate misinformation, posted online. Tracing the social media role in heightening ground level tensions even violence, the BBC team (Reha Kansara and Abdirrahim Saeed assisted by ground level reporting by Yasminara Khan, Ahmed Nour, Khush Sameja, Shruti Menon, Ned Davies, Joshua Cheetham and Daniele Palumbo) has pointed out how the spiral of violence that climaxed between September 17-18, 2022 had also been fed previously by heightened social media activity around August 28 and months before that, in May 2022.

BBC quotes the temporary chief constable Rob Nixon speaking to BBC’s Two's Newsnight stating that there had been a deliberate attempt by people to use social media in a destructive way.  Mayor Sir Peter Soulsby also blamed online disinformation and said otherwise there was "no obvious local cause for this at all". At least one of those sentenced over the disorder has admitted being influenced by social media. From a false story about the kidnapping of a young girl that never took place (September 12-14), to slurs over an India-Pak-cricket match (August 29), Leicester kept figuring in polarized, even venomous tweets, computed and monitored by the BBC. At the peak of the ‘disorder’ on September 19 (see BBC graphic of their monitoring research), there were 150,000 tweets recorded by the investigation, on August 5, as many as 1,00,000 and on September 17-19 when the kidnapping story went viral a staggering 150,000. BBC used the CrowdTangle Tool to monitor and analyse public posts

Conversations with community leaders from both sides of the religious divide in Leicester pointed out how, specific pieces of misinformation (read ‘fake news’) that had contributed to the outburst of violence on the week-end of September 17-18. The revealing investigation investigation by BBC Monitoring - using commercial Twitter analysis tool Brandwatch - identified about half a million tweets in English that mention Leicester in the context of recent tensions.

“Within a sample of 200,000 tweets, BBC Monitoring found that just over half of mentions were made by accounts that the tool geo-located to India. The top hashtags used by many of the Indian accounts in the past week included #Leicester, #HindusUnderAttack and #HindusUnderattackinUK. The BBC found lots of indications of manipulation by accounts using these hashtags.”

“The most prolific user of some of these hashtags, for example, was geo-located to India, had no profile picture and the account was only started earlier this month. These are classic signs that can suggest "inauthentic activity" ie a likelihood that individuals are deliberately using multiple accounts to push a narrative.”

Examining the top 30 URLs that were shared using these hashtags, of these 11 were links to articles written by news website OpIndia.com, which describes itself as "bringing the right side of India to you". Along with the potentially inauthentic accounts, these articles were also widely shared by genuine accounts including some with hundreds of thousands of followers.

One of the OpIndia articles cited British researcher Charlotte Littlewood, from the Henry Jackson Society, who told GB News that several Hindu families had left Leicester due to threats of violence from Muslims. The article was retweeted nearly 2,500 times. Leicester Police have since said that they were unaware of any reports of families having to leave.

It's important to stress that there was no significant volume of tweets before the outbreak of the major disturbances on on  September 17-18.

Screenshot of tweet
Image source: Twitter

The heightened social media activity in the UK prompted by the disturbances included widely circulated claims –again completely unverified -- that coach-loads of Hindu activists were being bussed into Leicester to stir up trouble. The coach provider has been quoted by BBC as saying that he did not hire out any coaches!

Let’s now go back to September 12-14 and how, as the BBC ground level reporting and monitoring investigation shows, one false story was shared (referenced) several times, going ‘viral’ as the popular term goes, based on an incident that just did not take place.

"Today my 15-year-old daughter… was nearly kidnapped," read a post uploaded on to Facebook, supposedly by a “concerned father”. "3 Indian boys got out and asked her if she was Muslim. She said yes and one guy tried to grab her," reports the BBC investigation. This post –unverified and non-factual-- was liked hundreds of times, not on Facebook but on Twitter after Majid Freeman, a community activist, shared the family's story on 13 September. He also shared a message from the police which he said was "confirming the incident which took place yesterday [September 12]".

But there had been no kidnap attempt. A day later the same community activist says this:

Three days after the first facebook post, a day later and the abovementioned tweet, Leicestershire Police issued a statement after investigating and stated that "the incident did not take place". Majid Freeman deleted his posts and said the attempted abduction had not happened and that his initial version had been based on conversation with the family making the allegation.

The retraction came too late, the damage had already been done and this false kidnap claim kept being regurgitated on other platforms.  On WhatsApp, messages forwarded many times over were initially taken by some as the truth. On Instagram, profiles - some with hundreds of thousands of followers - shared screenshots of the original post and allegedly accused a Hindu man of being behind the "failed abduction".

The BBC Monitoring Research Investigation states that it's not possible to gauge the scale of spread in private networks.

India Pak Foreign Policy Fans the Hatred

India and Pakistan were quick to jump into the happenings in Leicester.  On September 19, the Indian High Commission in the United  Kingdom issued this official statement, “We strongly condemn the violence perpetrated against the Indian Community in Leicester and
vandalisation of premises and symbols of Hindu religion. We have strongly taken up this matter with the UK authorities and have sought immediate action against those involved in these attacks. We call on the authorities to provide protection to the affected people.”
This came days after the Indian High Commission in Canada publicly criticised the defacing of a Hindu temple in Toronto. On Friday, the government of India even issued an advisory alleging a “sharp increase in hate crimes and anti-India activities” in Canada. The Indian response clearly reflects the hardening posture of the Indian state under the Bharatiya Janata Party. Pakistan, too painted the incidents at Leicester with a religious colour. This is thefirst paragraph of the Pakistani statement: “It is with great concern that the High Commission of Pakistan to the UK notes the recent developments in Leicester. We strongly condemn the systematic campaign of violence and intimidation that has been unleashed against the Muslims of the area. This is not the first time such Islamophobic incidents have been reported in Leicester.”
 

Leicester on August 28-29

India-Pakistan cricket matches have been known to foster hate and violence onground. India’s decisive victory over Pakistan in cricket's Asia Cup in Dubai on August 28. What followed was distortion, not entirely fabrication. A video from that night shows some men, several wearing India kits, marching down Melton Road in Leicester shouting "death to Pakistan" before scuffles broke out and the police arrived. Feeding into this hate frenzy, several social media users circulated another video supposedly showing a Muslim man being attacked after walking into the crowd. Ironically, it has been later suggested that the man was a Sikh.

May 22, 2022

When BBC met several community leaders, some referred to incident on Sunday May 22 when a video had been circulated on social media purportedly showing a 19-year-old Muslim man being pursued by a group of men described in social media posts as "Hindu extremists". Other posts referred to Hindutva, an ideology mostly associated with right-wing Hindu nationalists in India. It is a grainy video that has hazy images -- showing a group of men running down a street before an altercation happens. Who these men were and what their specific backgrounds are is not at all clear. Police are still in the process of arriving at a conclusion in their investigation, and the religious affiliation of the victim has not been revealed while social media posts continue to describe it as religiously motivated.

BBC Graphic on its Monitoring Research

Graph of tweets related to Leicester unrest
Courtesy: BBC

Those events in Leicester, with tensions and disorder suddenly prominent in national media, prompted a massive increase in social media posts.

Arrests:

The BBC report records that as of  September 23,  they had arrested 47 people, of whom eight had been charged. Of those arrested, 36 were from Leicester, one from Market Harborough, eight from Birmingham and just two from London. All of the eight who were charged were from Leicester.

Abuse against Coach Operator

A video that circulated on WhatsApp and Twitter from September 18 also showed a coach outside a Hindu temple in London, with a voice claiming the coach had just returned from Leicester. In a video posted the next day on Instagram the owner of the coach company said: "lots of people are calling me, threatening me, abusing me without any reason."

Screenshot of tweet

The coach operator clearly stated that none of his coaches had travelled to Leicester in the past two months and provided evidence from the GPS tracker of the bus in the video showing it had remained in south-east England on the weekend of 17-18 September. Other false claims on social media (September 19) blamed "Islamic extremists" for setting the fire, without evidence.  Ironically, BBC reports that the West Midlands Fire Service investigated the fire and concluded it started by accident when outdoor burning of rubbish spread to the building.

One of the most circulated videos showed a group of masked Hindu men marching through Green Lane Road, an area of Leicester with a large Muslim population, shouting the Hindu slogan "Jai Shri Ram".

Another video was circulated with posters saying it showed a Muslim man pulling down a Hindu saffron flag outside a temple. A flag was indeed pulled down at a temple on Belgrave Road in the city on the night of Saturday, September 17 and police were investigating. However, the identity of the culprit is unclear .The false claims and inflammatory posts that have exacerbated tensions between Hindus and Muslims have been condemned by many locals from these communities.

For decades, the city has been home to South Asians who came to the UK from parts of India and East Africa, and they have lived side-by-side and fought for equal rights together.

Related

 

Social media platforms finally compel extremist groups to shun hate speech, fake news

Hate content on social media: Corporate and individual responsibility

The interplay between social media and hate speech in India

 

Social Media destruct: Leicester erupts due to hate online?

Social media fuels and amplifies onground violence in Leicester, UK, a thorough investigation by the BBC reveals

Andrew Fox/The GuardianImage courtesy: Andrew Fox/The Guardian

A BBC Investigation, Did misinformation fan the flames in Leicester? reveals how much of the genesis of the recent violence in Leicester, United Kingdom was fueled by deliberate misinformation, posted online. Tracing the social media role in heightening ground level tensions even violence, the BBC team (Reha Kansara and Abdirrahim Saeed assisted by ground level reporting by Yasminara Khan, Ahmed Nour, Khush Sameja, Shruti Menon, Ned Davies, Joshua Cheetham and Daniele Palumbo) has pointed out how the spiral of violence that climaxed between September 17-18, 2022 had also been fed previously by heightened social media activity around August 28 and months before that, in May 2022.

BBC quotes the temporary chief constable Rob Nixon speaking to BBC’s Two's Newsnight stating that there had been a deliberate attempt by people to use social media in a destructive way.  Mayor Sir Peter Soulsby also blamed online disinformation and said otherwise there was "no obvious local cause for this at all". At least one of those sentenced over the disorder has admitted being influenced by social media. From a false story about the kidnapping of a young girl that never took place (September 12-14), to slurs over an India-Pak-cricket match (August 29), Leicester kept figuring in polarized, even venomous tweets, computed and monitored by the BBC. At the peak of the ‘disorder’ on September 19 (see BBC graphic of their monitoring research), there were 150,000 tweets recorded by the investigation, on August 5, as many as 1,00,000 and on September 17-19 when the kidnapping story went viral a staggering 150,000. BBC used the CrowdTangle Tool to monitor and analyse public posts

Conversations with community leaders from both sides of the religious divide in Leicester pointed out how, specific pieces of misinformation (read ‘fake news’) that had contributed to the outburst of violence on the week-end of September 17-18. The revealing investigation investigation by BBC Monitoring - using commercial Twitter analysis tool Brandwatch - identified about half a million tweets in English that mention Leicester in the context of recent tensions.

“Within a sample of 200,000 tweets, BBC Monitoring found that just over half of mentions were made by accounts that the tool geo-located to India. The top hashtags used by many of the Indian accounts in the past week included #Leicester, #HindusUnderAttack and #HindusUnderattackinUK. The BBC found lots of indications of manipulation by accounts using these hashtags.”

“The most prolific user of some of these hashtags, for example, was geo-located to India, had no profile picture and the account was only started earlier this month. These are classic signs that can suggest "inauthentic activity" ie a likelihood that individuals are deliberately using multiple accounts to push a narrative.”

Examining the top 30 URLs that were shared using these hashtags, of these 11 were links to articles written by news website OpIndia.com, which describes itself as "bringing the right side of India to you". Along with the potentially inauthentic accounts, these articles were also widely shared by genuine accounts including some with hundreds of thousands of followers.

One of the OpIndia articles cited British researcher Charlotte Littlewood, from the Henry Jackson Society, who told GB News that several Hindu families had left Leicester due to threats of violence from Muslims. The article was retweeted nearly 2,500 times. Leicester Police have since said that they were unaware of any reports of families having to leave.

It's important to stress that there was no significant volume of tweets before the outbreak of the major disturbances on on  September 17-18.