Monday, September 17, 2007

"Singapore May Allow Oral, Anal, But Not For Gays"

Singapore’s government’s getting sexual today as a new bill looks to strike down laws banning oral and anal sex. While it may sound like a great development for all people, the gays are getting left out in the cold:
Oral and anal sex in private between consenting heterosexual adults would be legalized under a bill introduced in Singapore’s parliament on Monday.
Under the city-state’s first major penal code amendments in 22 years, a section criminalizing “carnal intercourse against the order of nature” would be repealed.…But while the bill takes a softer line on heterosexual sex, a ban on acts of “gross indecency” between males will remain.
The proposed bill highlight’s Singapore’s strained perception of progress. Though willing to liberalize laws for straight people, the cultural zeitgeist still leans right. The government flexed its muscle earlier this year by cracking down on gay pride festivities.
Though gays are still held down politically, they may be getting a boost in the education system. About 110 teachers, administrators and students met last month to discuss the gays’ place in the school system. One out teacher commented:
Many life lessons are transmitted to students through this form of bonding… When parents require gay teachers not to talk about their personal lives, it curtails their ability to connect with their students, and to be themselves in the classroom.…The younger (these children) are exposed to these issues, the fewer hang-ups they may have when they grow up, and they may be more certain about who they really are.
Not all gay teachers agree, however. Another attendee says he’d rather not get into the logistics of his love life:
I’d prefer not to impose my personal values or beliefs on them, while they are still relatively immature… Being too open at this point will only cause unnecessary anxiety within the school, and among parents.
All the drama’s apparently too high a price to pay for real education.

"Swedish government funds gay rights group"

17th September 2007 10:41
Tony Grew

Sida, The Swedish Agency for International Development Cooperation, a government agency under the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, has granted 1.9 million Swedish crowns (approximately 200,000 euros) to RFSL, the Swedish federation for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender rights.1.1 million Swedish crowns (116,000 euros) will go towards supporting ILGA, the International Lesbian and Gay Association.The money will finance two ILGA board meetings with the world board, participation in regional ILGA conferences, support the ILGA transgender secretariat and the women's secretariat and the part-time employment of a fundraiser.The funds donated to ILGA through the RFSL will make it easier to ILGA to co-ordinate its international work and strengthen ILGA's ability to achieve its goals.Earlier this year The Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs granted money to RFSL for financing of the first Pan African ILGA meeting in Johannesburg.ILGA is a world-wide network of national and local groups dedicated to achieving equal rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered (LGBT) people everywhere. Founded in 1978, it now has more than 560 member organisations. Every continent and around 90 countries are represented. ILGA member groups range from small collectives to national groups and entire cities.

"Taipei gays protest Nicaragua homophobia"

Gay activists in Taipei protested outside the Nicaraguan embassy in their city Thursday as part of an international campaign against the Latin American country's sodomy law.
The campaign, helmed by Amnesty International Mexico, calls on 10 groups around the world to fight homophobia, encouraged by the Catholic Church's steady stronghold.
Emily Wu, an Amnesty International Taiwan member, told the Taipei Times that Nicaragua is the only Latin American country with a law that prohibits sex between people of the same sex.
"That is not only a violation of the Nicaraguan Constitution, but also of international human rights," Wu said.
Nicaragua enacted an anti-sodomy law in 1992, stating that "anyone who induces, promotes, propagandizes or practices sexual intercourse between persons of the same sex commits the crime of sodomy and shall incur one to three years' imprisonment." (The Advocate)

"Ugandan newspaper continues outing strategy"

14th September 2007 writerA tabloid newspaper in Uganda has responded to last month's first ever press conference by gay rights advocates in the country by printing lists of people it says are gay.Red Pepper's Sunday edition (click here to view) ran its "expose" of prominent gay and lesbians, under the headline "HOMO TERROR! We Name and Shame Top Gays in the City."They claimed to have "full names, workplaces, cars they drive and even where they stay."As well as describing 40 men it claims are gay, Red Pepper's expose explains "how to spot a gay man," "terminologies used by gays" and "how the gay men shaft," a lurid description of gay sex. It claims that lubricants are "sent to the gays here from abroad."The paper is notorious for its sensationalist reporting on gay and lesbian issues, and was widely condemned last year for previous "outings." However, sources in the capital Kampala report that gay rights activists have decided to ignore this latest provocation, despite the fact that the 40 men named in the article are in danger of being targeted. Maxim Anmeghichean, programme director for International Lesbian and Gay Association Europe, has just returned from Uganda. "No Ugandan to my knowledge has complained to the Ugandan government about the publication," he said in an email."Or to the Ministry of Ethics and Integrity or relevant bodies monitoring media like the Media Council. "And in absence of any national pressure letters to embassies and Ugandan authorities from abroad may be strategically awkward and support the idea promoted by the government that the fight for LGBT rights in the country does not belong to Ugandans and is promoted by the West."The idea that homosexuality is a "Western" disease is common currency in many African communities.There have been a series of government-backed attacks on the Ugandan lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community in the last year, including an illegal police raid on the home of the lesbian leader of Uganda's LGBT movement, Victor Juliet Mukasa, in July 2005."This article fingers those named for physical attack," Cary Alan Johnson, senior Africa specialist for the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC), told Gay City News. "There is a comprehensive campaign being waged against LGBT rights in Uganda. "It includes government and conservative religious leaders. Now the lower end of the media - rags like Red Pepper - are adding their hate-filled voices."The outing is the latest in a series lurid, sensationalist homophobic exposes by Red Pepper.Last month Ugandan gay rights advocates gave a press conference for the first time. Red Pepper's latest outing is a clear response to this event. "Since the gay community in Uganda has shown us that they really want to be recognised, we are saying enough is enough," the outing article reads. "Today we are helping them get the recognition they seem to so badly want by naming all of them one by one."Red Pepper is reportedly owned by Salim Saleh. According to Wikipedia, he is the half-brother of the President of Uganda, Yoweri Museveni. Formerly known as Caleb Akandwanaho, Saleh has faced allegations of corruption and the plundering of resources in the Congo. A former Uganda army chief, he is now Minister of State for Microfinance in the Ugandan government. Gay sex is punishable in Uganda by life imprisonment, under laws originally introduced by the British colonial administration in the nineteenth century.

"Lesbian torture case to be heard in Uganda"

13th September 2007 17:46 writer

The High Court of Uganda has over-ruled the objections of the country's Attorney General and allowed two lesbian activists who claim that police tortured them to have their case heard. In July 2005 the house of Victor Juliet Mukasa, of Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), was raided in the middle of the night by local government officials who seized documents and other material.Another lesbian activist, Yvonne Oyoo, a Kenyan student who was in Juliet's house on the night of the raid, was arrested and detained by local government officials and then taken to a police station. Ms Oyoo was subjected to humiliating and degrading treatment. She was arrested and taken to the police station where she was stripped, supposedly in order to confirm she was a woman, and fondled and sexually harassed by police officers."This was not only very humiliating and degrading, but also a gross violation of my human rights," Oyoo said in her affidavit. Their case will start on September 21st, ruled Justice Stella Arach-Amoko. They are claiming their rights have been violated and want compensation from the state.Advocates and opponents of LGBT rights were present in the High Court in Kampala yesterday. Last month gay rights activists in Uganda spoke out about the prejudice they face in the country.In a show of defiance and bravery, around 30 people gave a press conference, the first by LGBT activists, drawing attention to the state-sponsored homophobia and transphobia they face every day.Some of the activists wore masks for fear of being identified, while others shocked journalists by outlining the brutality they had faced at the hands of police.Ugandan law outlaws homosexuality as "against the order of nature."There has been rising tension in the country over gay and lesbian rights in Uganda.Last year thirteen alleged lesbians were outed by the Ugandan tabloid newspaper Red Pepper.There have been a series of government-backed attacks on the Ugandan lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community in the last few years.

"Lithuania’s TransWin Legal Victory: Nation Must Enact Medical Laws Or Pay Price"

Lithuania’s transitioning ladies and gentleman won a judicial victory over the weekend. The European Court of Human Rights ruled that a Lithuanian legislative gap hinders trans folk’s right to a private life.
Though the European nation prohibits anti-trans discrimination and allows citizens to change their official gender, lawmakers have yet to enact laws regulating sex change operations.
Without these rules and regulations, transitioning people are left in limbo.Equality Network explains:
The Court observed that Lithuanian law had recognised transsexuals’ right to change not only their gender but also their civil status. However, there was a gap in the relevant legislation: the law regulating full gender-reassignment surgery, although drafted, had yet to be adopted yet. In the meantime, no suitable medical facilities are reasonably accessible in Lithuania.
That legislative gap had left the applicant in a situation of distressing uncertainty as to his private life and the recognition of his true identity.
Lithuanian legislators have been given three months to rectify the wrong. If it takes more than three months, the court will award the complaintant, Mr. L, 45,000 euros in damages. That money, of course, can be used to buy the transitioning FTM loads of new suits.

"Lithuania considers ban on 'propagation of homosexuality'"

13th September 2007 12:18
Tony Grew

A new law currently before the Lithuanian parliament could be amended to ban the "promotion" of gay, lesbian or bisexual relationships to children. The Protection of Minors against the Detrimental Effects of Public Information Bill will be debated by MPs later this autumn and its supporters argue that the "propagation" amendment does not contradict anti-discrimination laws. Parliamentarians claim that the still unclear definition of "propagation" of relationships outside of heterosexual marriage has "negative consequences for the physical, mental and, first and foremost, moral development of minors."Ann von Below of the Lithuanian Gay League, an LGBT organisation active since 1994, told"The sad fact that supporters of the new bill claim that it doesn't contradict anti-discrimination laws, suggests that either the concept of discrimination has been grossly misunderstood by some Lithuanian politicians, or there is a fundamentally undemocratic current running in the Lithuanian parliament. "Either way, the recent development could result in a tragic step backwards for the development of Lithuanian democracy. "We at the Lithuanian Gay League have written to the Lithuanian parliament, and have asked our allies in the European parliament to do the same. "We are hoping that a joint European denunciation will help Lithuanian politicians realise just how unacceptable the proposed bill really is."Margarita Jankauskaite, project manager for the Centre of Equality Advancement and ambassador for the European Commission Campaign "For Diversity, Against Discrimination," claims that the proposed amendment is contradictory to the legislation and the values of the European Union. She also questioned what it means to distort family values; according to statistics, 56% of the families in Lithuania falls apart, and one third of children are being born into unmarried families.In February a poll of members of the Lithuanian parliament revealed that over half of them agree that homosexuality is a perversion.The survey reflected a deeply ingrained homophobia in Lithuanian society. Homosexual sex was legalised in Lithuania in 1993. Many of the MPs who agreed with the Church validated their beliefs by asserting that homosexuality is either an illness or a mental disability. The World Health Organisation removed homosexuality from its list of diseases in 1990. A poll last December found that only 17% of Lithuanians support gay marriage. Lithuania joined the EU in 2004. That year the age of consent for homosexual sex was lowered from 18 to 14 to bring it in line with the age of consent for heterosexual sex.

Monday, September 10, 2007

"‘I Have Not Been Accepted By My Family’ What it's like to grow up gay in Jamaica, where bigotry is widespread."

By Patrick Falby
Newsweek International
Updated: 12:49 p.m. ET Sept 8, 2007

Sept. 8, 2007 - Gay rights may be spreading in many countries, but not in Jamaica. Violence against gay men is high, and police often look the other way, say activists. When Brian Williamson, Jamaica’s leading gay rights activist, was murdered in June 2004, a crowd gathered outside the crime scene to celebrate. NEWSWEEK’s Patrick Falby spoke with Devon, a 30-year-old homosexual who was granted asylum in the United States three years ago, about growing up gay in Jamaica. Devon, who lives in New York and attends a Seventh-day Adventist church, didn’t want his last name used for fear of being thrown out of the congregation. Excerpts:

Falby: What’s it like being a homosexual in Jamaica?
Devon: Wow. Terrible. Ridiculous. I have not been accepted by my family. My sister kicked me out of her house, and I was dis-fellowshipped by my church. At church I was an usher, and I used to sing in the choir.

When did you realize you were a homosexual?
When I was born; ever since then I’ve felt that way. I used to wear my mother’s shoes on the road sometimes, and my family used to kick me with the shoes and tell me to not put them on. Because I had four sisters I played girls’ games like bandy shandy. I even used to play cricket with the girls. They used to say that I’m not a man, that I’m a woman because I play women’s games. They used to call me “battyman,” which means gay in Jamaica. I tried to keep a low profile, though, because people used to get beaten for being gay.

How did people find out?
A friend of mine came over to the house to give me guidance one day when I was 18, and one of my sisters saw him. From there on my sister said that she didn’t want me near her because I’m whatever and whatever. When my sister went to work, I used to make sure her kids were properly dressed, bathed, had something to eat, got them off to school and picked them up. I was her helper. When she said that about me it was surprising. My brother, when he found out, he told me he was going to kill me because he didn’t want somebody in the family like me. I couldn’t really believe my own family would do that, until it happened to me. I was surprised because back home I used to do anything they asked. If they called me and told me they needed anything and I had it, I’d give it to them.

You are no longer in contact with your family?
Once in a blue moon I’ll call them to say hi, and when there was a hurricane I called to find out if everyone was okay. I mostly talk to my niece and nephew, because they’re small kids and you cannot hold anything against a child. I also call my mom. She doesn’t approve of [being gay], but you know a mother will always be a mother no matter what. She will always show me a good face, but behind it she’s maybe not with me. Now that I’m in America, she might figure that I have money to send to Jamaica or something.

How were other homosexuals and lesbians treated?
Horrible. Terrible. I used to have a roommate, and when I left to come here she was killed at our place. Some men beat and cut up her and her lover.

Why is homophobia is so strong in Jamaica?
People are not tolerant with the lifestyle. Even married men, they go hide and they do their stuff, and at the end of the day they go back with their wives. If it was more accepted, people would be free and do things that they wanted. It’s also because people tend to lean on the church’s side, and say it’s not accepted by God and stuff like that. In church, when I hear them talk about it, I put up blind ears, like I don’t hear what they say. Even now, because I still go to a Seventh-day Adventist church here [in New York]. When they talk about it, I put up blind ears about it. [In Jamaica] and here [in New York], because of the church lifestyle, nobody’s going to come out.

How did you end up applying for asylum in the United States?
I just decided I really couldn’t take it anymore in Jamaica. So I went to the embassy and applied for a visiting visa and I decided I’m not going back, I’m going to apply for asylum. And here I am. I’m not going to work now, but I’m going to college at the present, and I’m in the process of looking for jobs. I’ve been in America for three years. I also volunteer for Gay Men’s Health Crisis, a nonprofit organization in New York.

Do you think you’ll ever return to Jamaica?
The only way I’ll ever want to go back is if something changes so that people can live their lives and be free. They need to put something in place to protect people who are living this lifestyle in Jamaica. They have nothing in place; the police beat them, the members of the community beat them. And I hope and pray that [the new prime minister] can put something in place so that people like me, who lived the lifestyle in Jamaica, can live their lives.

"Land of Reggae and Homophobia: Jamaica's intolerant attitude toward gays runs counter to its unofficial motto, 'No problem, mon.'"

By Joe Contreras
Newsweek International
Updated: 5:52 p.m. ET Sept 7, 2007

Sept. 8, 2007 - While governments in a number of Latin American countries and elsewhere begin to recognize the legal rights of same-sex partners, Jamaica is bolstering its image as one of the most virulently anti-gay societies in the Western Hemisphere. Between February and July of this year, 98 gay men and lesbians were targeted in 43 different mob attacks, according to the Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All-Sexuals and Gays. Four lesbians were raped, four gay men were murdered, and the houses of two gay men were burned down. On Valentine’s Day the police took two hours to reach a Kingston pharmacy where a crowd shouting anti-gay epithets had cornered three men; then the constables allegedly attacked an activist who had tried to help the men, striking him in the abdomen with a rifle butt and slapping him repeatedly in the face.
Those grim tales don’t square with popular notions of Jamaica as a laid-back Caribbean paradise whose unofficial national motto reads “No problem, mon.” ­Human-rights activists fault gay-baiting recording artists, fundamentalist Christian church groups and mainstream political leaders who dare not antagonize some of the island’s more prominent men of the cloth, like W. A. Blair, the head of Jamaica’s New Testament Church of God, who has called for the public flogging of so-called Sodomites. Jamaica also has the world’s third-highest per capita murder rate, behind South Africa and Colombia, and the blend of widespread violence and anti-homosexual prejudice creates a ripe climate for hate crimes targeting gays and lesbians. “We’ve become increasingly violent as a society generally and increasingly tolerant of violence as a solution to our problems,” says Carolyn Gomes, executive director of the human-rights organization Jamaicans for Justice. “It is quite a toxic brew.”
In 2004, Human Rights Watch published a devastating report that linked the rising incidence of HIV/AIDS cases in Jamaica to the rampant bigotry on the island. The report found that some gay men were reluctant to seek medical treatment because they feared disclosure of their sexual orientation in such a hostile environment, and in some cases health workers at public hospitals and clinics flatly refused to treat HIV/AIDS patients. Even today homophobia is tacitly condoned by some political parties and companies. The Jamaican-owned Sandals chain of resort hotels refused to lodge same-sex couples as recently as three years ago, and the country has retained a colonial-era law that criminalizes anal intercourse long after the former colonial power, Britain, struck down such statutes. During the country’s 2001 election the opposition Jamaican Labour Party adopted as its jingle the song “Chi Chi Man,” which celebrates the burning and killing of gay men.
Among the musicians spotlighted in the July-August issue of Air Jamaica’s in-flight magazine SkyWritings is Buju Banton, a dreadlocked singer who in 1992 recorded the hit song “Boom Bye Bye,” egging on listeners to use their Uzis on “faggots.” He was later charged with spearheading a 2004 attack on six gay men at a house near his recording studio. (A judge dismissed the case on grounds of insufficient evidence.)
Spokesmen for the country’s ministers of justice and national security declined repeated requests from NEWS­WEEK for interviews. The one official who did agree to talk was public defender Earl Witter, a London-trained barrister who in an interview stated that the three men who were trapped in the Kingston pharmacy in February had been seen “displaying their feminine disposition” and urged homosexuals “not to go out of their way to display their sexual orientation.” In fact, almost no Jamaican is prepared to proclaim his or her homosexuality in public, and the menacing conditions on the island have been recognized by officials in the United States and Britain, who have granted asylum to some gay and lesbian applicants.
The political climate isn’t likely to change as long as evangelical Christian churches, whose congregations already outnumber those of the mainstream Anglican and Roman Catholic churches, continue to grow in size. “They claim to see sex as solely for procreation, and they are bullying the politicians into toeing the line,” says University of the West Indies senior lecturer Horace Levy. “There would be bloodshed if there was going to be a gay-rights march in this country.” On this, the land of reggae and Rastafarians just can’t seem to relax, mon.

"18 detained in Turkish morals sweep"

Eighteen members of an LGBT rights group in Bursa, Turkey, remain in custody since their arrest Saturday on racketeering and prostitution charges, and their lawyer has not been given access to their files, the Turkish Daily News reported Wednesday.
The activists are members of the Rainbow Solidarity and Cultural Association, one of only four Turkish gay rights groups with government permission to operate. Homosexuality has been legal in Turkey since the 1850s, but activists are often harassed and gay people find it difficult to live openly in the secular Muslim state.
Saturday's arrest of association president Oyku Erven and 17 others was on charges of "forming a gang to commit crimes, being an associate with a gang and inciting prostitution," the Daily News reported. Bursa officials, who unsuccessfully fought to have the group banned last year, are continuing their investigation, the paper said.
An activist who has worked with the Rainbow Association on anti-war campaigns told the paper he had never heard of members staying in the homes rented by the association being pressured to prostitute themselves.
"But," he said, "as they are not given an opportunity in life, they are forced to do this kind of work."
The activists' attorney, Ayse Batumlu, told the paper she had not been granted access to the court files, which remained classified Tuesday.
In 2006, Bursa's deputy governor fought to have the group shut down as a menace to public morals. Prosecutors then refused to do so, pointing out that being gay is not illegal in Turkey, reports another LGBT group, Kaos GL of Ankara, which fought off similar challenges in 2005 and again this year. (Barbara Wilcox, The Advocate)

"Moscow Mayor Rejected a Compromise Plan for Gay Pride from Russian Government"

MOSCOW, September 6, 2007 – A series of letters, leaked to the Russian daily newspaper Moskovskiy Komsomolets and published today, show that the Moscow Mayor, Yuri Luzhkov dismissed a request from the Russian government to reach a compromise over Moscow Gay Pride, and how he requested – and got – from the GUVD department of the Moscow Police what amounts to a justification for the banning of this year’s Pride weeks before the application was made.
The letters [links to letters in Russian, and English translations, are at end of article] show that, on January 31, the secretary-general of the Council of Europe, Terry Davis, wrote to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov suggesting a “reasonable compromise” over the Moscow Gay Pride this year.
“I am very likely to be asked by the media to react to [the Moscow Gay Pride] situation because I am expected, as Secretary General of the Council of Europe, to take a position on issues which directly concern the rights protected by the European Convention on Human Rights,” Mr. Davis wrote.
“However, I am not keen to argue about such a sensitive issue in the media, and I would prefer to be in position to say that the Russian authorities have found a reasonable compromise, which respects the rights and human dignity of all individuals concerned.”
Then on March 2, the Russian Foreign Minister wrote to Mayor Luzhkov.
“From the point of view of [Mr.] Davis, the best solution to this quite sensitive issue in the eyes of Europeans would be looking for the just compromise decision which respects the rights and human dignity of all interested persons with regard to the interests of the Russian Federation,” the minister told the Mayor.
The reply to the Foreign Minister, from Iosif Ordzhonikidze, the then deputy mayor for international and external economic links at Moscow City Hall, who was recently moved from this position and appointed Mayor’s advisor, was not so conciliatorily.
“As is known, it is possible to look for a reasonable comprise with reasonable people. Here, in our point of view, we deal with well-thought and planned provocation,” Mr. Ordzhonikidze wrote in the letter dated April 19.
“Possibly, respected Mr. Davis, whom we, by the way, invited to the 860th Anniversary of Moscow, does not see this from his “Strasbourg far away” but we have concrete evidence that gay provocateurs intentionally warm up passions around sexual minorities, assisting the growth of homophobia in the society.”
“We are dealing with the explicit attempt by the West to pull us into a new dimension on the discussion on human rights using the topic of sexual minorities,” he tells the minister.
The letter concludes: “We would be thankful to you […] if the Ministry of Foreign Affairs could support us in the exposure of the intentions of gay provocateurs and the explanation of the real situation to the General Secretary of the Council of Europe …”
More than a week earlier, Mayor Luzhkov had asked the GUVD to work out measures to prevent Moscow Gay Pride. In a letter to the mayor dated April 30, the head of the Moscow Main Department of Internal Affairs (GUVD), Vladimir Pronin points out that the state-church holiday, Days of Slavic Writing and Culture, was scheduled between May 20 and June 1.
“Representatives of public, Russian Orthodox Church and other religious beliefs are against the conduct of the gay parade which is propagating relations contradictory to the norms of morality and unacceptable for the society,” he says in his letter to the mayor.
He then goes on to say: “Units of GUVD in Moscow are constantly controlling mass public actions in the city, monitoring media and Internet with the aim to take measures of preventive character and non-admission of illegal actions on the part of representatives of sexual minorities.”
Mr. Pronin then says that he estimates that 120 extra personnel from militia regiments and the OMON will be needed each day to prevent any illegal demonstrations during the Gay Pride.

"Northern Ireland minister calls gay people repulsive"

30th May 2007 14:00Tony GrewA minister in the government of Northern Ireland has caused outrage with homophobic comments made in a magazine interview.Ian Paisley Jnr, who is the son of the Democratic Unionist First Minister, told Hotpress magazine that lesbians and gay men harm society.Mr Paisley, who was once dubbed the "baby dinosaur of the 21st century," has been criticised by gay equality organisation Stonewall. He was appointed a junior minister in the Office of First Minister and Deputy First Minister by his father only three weeks ago. He represents North Antrim in the Northern Ireland Assembly. Mr Paisley, 41, told Hotpress: "I am, unsurprisingly, a straight person. "I am pretty repulsed by gay and lesbianism. I think it is wrong. I think that those people harm themselves and - without caring about it - harm society."That doesn't mean to say that I hate them. I mean, I hate what they do."Stonewall's head of parliamentary and public affairs, Alan Wardle, commented: "The idea that gays and lesbians harm society is deeply offensive. "He is a disgrace making these comments when he is an elected politician representing all people and as a minister he should know better."His language is deeply distressing not only to gay and lesbians but to right-thinking members of society."If he made these comments about black or Asian people he would be hounded out of office."Mr Paisley Snr is head of the Free Presbyterian church, which he founded in 1951. He led a campaign against the decriminalisation of homosexuality called "Save Ulster From Sodomy" The Belfast Telegraph revealed earlier this month that the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister will give £180,000 over a 12-month period to promote equality for the gay community, working with LGBT groups in the province.The distribution of government money to gay groups is bound to cause more unrest among die-hard DUP members and Free Presbyterians. A Free Presbyterian preacher previously demanded that the new DUP government minister for culture, Edwin Poots, block a grant to Belfast Pride, calling it a "celebration of sodomy." However, in an interview with last week the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Peter Hain, assured gay people in the province that the presence of homophobic DUP members in the government would not lead to the removal of gay rights."Because of cross-community voting you couldn't make a change to unravel or repeal the legislation I introduced on goods and services," he said. "I think there is a great respect for the law among members of the DUP, whether they approve of it or not, and I don't think you will find there is any attempt to unravel it."And if there were, in the way that the devolved government acted administratively or in terms of resources, it will be challengeable in the courts, and the courts would find against the government so that means its not going to happen."The gay community can feel quite comfortable in that."

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

"Brazil to offer free sex-reassignment surgery"

from Aug 17, 2007

Brazil's public health system will begin providing free gender-reassignment operations in compliance with a court order, the Health Ministry said Friday.
Ministry spokesman Edmilson Oliveira da Silva said the government would not appeal Wednesday's ruling by a panel of federal judges giving the government 30 days to offer the procedure or face fines of US$5,000 a day.
"The health minister was prompted by the judges' decision," Silva said. "But we already had a technical group studying the procedure with the idea of including it among the procedures that are covered."
Federal prosecutors from Rio Grande do Sul state had argued that sexual-reassignment surgery is covered under a constitutional clause guaranteeing medical care as a basic right.
On Wednesday, the 4th Regional Federal Court agreed, saying in its ruling that "from the biomedical perspective, transsexuality can be described as a sexual identity disturbance where individuals need to change their sexual designation or face serious consequences in their lives, including intense suffering, mutilation and suicide."
The Health Ministry said it would be up to local health officials to decide who qualifies for the surgery and what priority it will be given compared with other operations within the public health system.
Patients must be at least 21 years old and diagnosed as transsexuals with no other personality disorders and must undergo psychological evaluation for at least two years, the ministry said.
Gay activists applauded the decision.
"Transsexuals represent about 0.001 percent of the Brazilian population, but for this minority, sexual reassignment surgery is a question of life and death," said Luiz Mott, founder of the Bahia Gay Group. "It is unjust and cruel to argue that the health system should concern itself with other priorities."
So far, the measure has not prompted any opposition.
Brazil's public health system offers free care to all Brazilians, including a variety of surgeries and free AIDS medication. But long lines and poorly equipped facilities mean that those who can afford it usually choose to pay for private hospitals and clinics.
The health ministry said that since 2000, about 250 sexual reassignment surgeries considered experimental have been performed at three university hospitals.
Brazil is generally more tolerant of homosexuality than other Latin American countries, with transvestites featured prominently in celebrations like Carnaval, but discrimination still exists. (Michael Astor, AP)