Monday, October 15, 2007

Thousands march in Taipei for gay rights

TAIPEI (AFP) — Thousands from Taiwan's gay and lesbian community marched through the streets of Taipei Saturday demanding more rights for homosexuals, organisers said.
The parade took a carnival-like mood with marchers waving rainbow flags, colourful balloons and signs. Some were dressed in flamboyant period costumes while others only wore swim trunks despite the cool weather.
"We have to make our voices and demands heard so that the government will do more to promote gay rights," said Way Chao, a 22-year-old serviceman from southern Kaohsiung.
In a symbol of unity, participants will raise coloured placards to form a giant rainbow flag later Saturday in a bustling business district in Taipei, organisers said.
The parade reached its climax with a rally outside Taipei City Hall, where Taiwanese pop diva A-Mei was recognised as a goodwill ambassador by organisers for her support of the gay community.
The singer, who performed some of her hit songs to the cheering crowd, endeared herself to the gay audience when she released a music video depicting a gay wedding scene several years ago.
Despite the festive atmosphere, organisers hoped to get some serious messages across to the public.
"We urge the parliament to pass the anti-discrimination bill and the same-sex partner bill to promote gay rights," said co-organiser Wang Ping, secretary-general of Gender/Sexuality Rights Association Taiwan.
Taiwan's cabinet in 2003 drafted a controversial bill to legalise same-sex marriages and recognise the rights of homosexual couples to adopt children, the first country in Asia to do so.
However, the law has yet to be passed and some gay groups have criticised the bill as a ploy to woo voters.
"We also hope the government will protect the freedom of speech of the gay community," Wang added, referring to a 2005 guilty verdict against a gay book dealer for selling pornographic magazines.
In 2005, a district court in northern Taiwan sentenced J.J. Lai, owner of a gay bookstore in Taipei, to 50 days in jail on obscenity charges in a ruling which outraged the gay community.
Lai argued that similar materials are easily available for heterosexual readers. However, his appeal was rejected by the Taiwan High Court.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Ugandan “Ethics” Minister To Stop Gay “Spread”
Doesn't See Limits of Deportation

Oct 9, 2007
Uganda’s Ethics and Integrity Minister James Nsaba Buturo and his homophobia keep chugging right along. The politico, who claims gay activists want him dead, vows to stop the so-called “spread” of homosexuality:
The Government shall do whatever it takes to block the spread of homosexuality.
[Gays] are trying to impose a strange, ungodly, unhealthy, unnatural, and immoral way of life on the rest of our society. I will endeavor to block it. I can assure you on that. Let them go to another country, and not here.
Poor, foolish Buturo, don’t you realize that exporting gays won’t do any good. There’ll always be another one right behind.

China gets to grips with gay marriage debate

9th October 2007
Asavin Wattanajantra
Chinese academics are calling for the country's estimated 40 million homosexuals to be given the right to marry.Professor Li Yinhe, a sociologist and campaigner for LGBT rights, and Zhang Beichuan, a leading scholar of homosexuality, have been at the forefront of a campaign to allow same-sex marriage in China.Although the world's most populous country has a conservative culture, partly due to Communist repression, laws have been slowly relaxed, with homosexuality effectively being decriminalised in 1997.Li Yinhe previously attempted to submit same-sex marriage proposals to the National People's Congress, China's highest legislative body, but did not succeed due to lack of support from delegates.Campaigners say that it would also promote safe sex and prevent the spread of HIV/ AIDS.China Daily reports that Zhang Beichuan feels that "legal unions for homosexuals would lead to more stable same-sex relationships" and "help better protect the legitimate rights of same-sex lovers." The report in China Daily is significant as the press in China is controlled and censored and the newspaper is the widest-read state-run title published in English. Many scholars and members of China's burgeoning gay community feel that the country has retreated to its traditional ambiguity about homosexuality, with religions such as Buddhism and Taoism promoting diversity. Unlike other religions such as Christianity, homosexuality has never been viewed as a sin.This extends to literature and historical accounts as well as in practice, where it was often the case that young men could have sex with each other for friendship and married men take concubines of both sexes, as long as they were married and produced reported that last year when China approved its first gay and lesbian organisation, Happy Together, which counts professors, teachers and students among its members.

U.K. Offers New Hate Crime Protections

New legislation which will strengthen the protection to the public from sex offenders and hate crime has been set out in proposals by the UK's Government.
Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, Jack Straw signalled in the House of Commons the Government's intention to introduce amendments to the Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill.
The new legislation will allow police, probation and prison services to notify members of the public if a sex offender poses a risk to children.
A further proposal will create a new offence which would extend protection already provided for religious and racial groups to gay, lesbian and bisexual people.
Justice Secretary Jack Straw said:
"It is a measure of how far we have come as a society in the last 10 years that we are now appalled by hatred and invective directed at people on the basis of their sexuality. It is time for the law to recognise this."
Equalities Secretary Harriet Harman said,
"Fighting hatred, prejudice and discrimination will be at the heart of everything this government does."
The new law would not prohibit criticism of gay, lesbian and bisexual people, but it would protect them from incitement to hatred against them because of their sexual orientation.
The amendment on sex offenders will put a legal duty on the MAPPA (Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements) agencies, which include police, probation and prison services, to consider disclosing information about convicted child sex offenders to members of the public in all cases. The presumption will be that the authorities will disclose information if they consider that an offender presents a risk of serious harm to a child.
A further amendment will also allow the Government to make changes to the information those on the sex offenders register must provide to the police. This includes requiring offenders to provide information about email addresses, new relationships with any woman who has children, and if they are living in the same house as someone under 18.
Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said:
"We are committed to protecting children from sexual predators and the proposals being laid out today will strengthen that protection.
"Children are a unique and particularly vulnerable group, as they are unable to protect themselves and are more easily manipulated than adults. Sex offences against children cause lasting harm, both to victims and their families.
"The UK already has the strongest restrictions on child sex offenders and these proposals which follow on from the publication of the Child Sex Offenders Review earlier this year will help us to continue doing all we can to protect them."
The Justice Secretary has also indicated that the Government will listen to views on whether the incitement offence should be further extended to cover hatred against disabled and transgendered people. The Government is ready to bring hatred against disabled and transgendered people within the offence if a case for this can be made.
He also said he wanted to review the law on self defence. He said;
"There can be no justice in a system which makes the victim the criminal. So I want to look again at the law on self defence to ensure the focus is right and that those who act proportionately are not treated like criminals. My aim is to complete the review in time to allow for this issue to be addressed in this Bill."

Human Rights Watch Calls U.S. Out On Uganda’s Gay Ways

"Supporting prejudice with cash is an approach with deadly consequences for all.”

Oct 12, 2007
Human Rights Watch had some harsh words for the United States government yesterday. Our government’s accused of turning a blind eye to Uganda’s misuse of HIV/AIDS funds, a blissful ignorance HRW’s Scott Long calls “dangerous”:
When the US funds abstinence-only programs in Uganda, it tells people that LGBT people’s sexualities are dangerous and must be denied. Supporting prejudice with cash is an approach with deadly consequences for all.…US politicians and pocketbooks underwrite hatred in Uganda. The US has no business lending an aura of respectability to policies that undermine human rights and public health.
Long and his activist friends want the United States to take a stronger stand against the African nation’s homophobic politics. Or, rather, a stand - period.

South African Gays Got Proud

Brave Rain, Wind For Gay Celebration
Oct 8, 2007
Rain can’t hold South Africa’s gays down:
An estimated five thousand gays and lesbians – and their friends and families – turned out for the 18th annual Joburg Pride Parade in Rosebank, Johannesburg, today despite the inclement weather.
“We’re amazed and humbled at the support that our community has shown towards the new Pride organisers,” said Tracey Sandilands, Chairperson of the Joburg Gay Pride Festival Company. “The fact that thousands braved the rain and cold to assert the importance of Pride shows that the event remains entirely relevant.”
Simon Nkoli would be proud.

(Simon Nkoli was an anti-apartheid, gay rights and AIDS activist in South Africa who died in 1998. For more info, see

Cambodia’s MSM Face HIV Threat

Oct 9, 2007
The late 1990’s were a deadly time in Cambodia. 3.7% of the population were infected with HIV and the trend seemed poised to grow. In an effort to save their citizens, the government launched an “aggressive” safe-sex campaign. It worked. These days, only .9% of the population carries the deadly retrovirus. One specific group, however, hasn’t heard the warnings: men who have sex with men.These males, who don’t identify as gay or bisexual, are largely unaware of - or choose to ignore - safe-sex guidelines. And they’re paying the price.
“There is a very serious concentrated epidemic among MSM,” says Tony Lisle, Cambodia’s UNAIDS country coordinator.
Noting that MSM make up roughly four percent of all men in the country, he adds: “The hidden MSM population is significant and if we don’t avert new infections the MSM epidemic could contribute significantly to the overall (HIV) prevalence rate.”
Prevalence among men engaging in gay sex is 8.7 percent, nearly 10 times the norm, while incidences of other sexually-transmitted diseases are rapidly rising, indicating that fewer MSM are using condoms.
In addition to finding new informational angles, outreach workers have to blast through generations of discrimination and social stigma. If they fail, well, the entire nation may suffer.
Luckily, the government has unveiled MSM-specific working groups to spread awareness. One clinic, founded in 2003, started with only a couple of clients. They now serve 200 a month.

Queer Coppers Forced Out In Chile?
Activists Petitioning President
Oct 12, 2007

It’s a case of first degree discrimination down in Chile, where two coppers say they were forced to quit after colleagues found out they’re gay lovers.
The two policemen, Victor Rivas and Armando Salgado, say superior officers threatened to out them unless they signed resignation forms. Police authorities, in contrast, claim the two resigned voluntarily.
The Movement for Homosexual Integration and Freedom (MOVILH), Chile’s leading pro gay rights group, described the case as an example of “brutal discrimination.”
“Here you have two [coppers who were forced to quit their jobs just because they’re gay. It’s brutal discrimination,” said MOVILH President Rolando Jiménez. “We have proven evidence of similar cases in the past and we know that the Carabineros internal investigative branch has looked into presumed homosexuality among officers, treating such sexual orientation as a crime.”
Jiménez and his allies have already held talks with police officials and plan on discussing the matter with President Michelle Bachelet.
MOVILH also took on coppers in February, when two men said cops verbally abused them for cuddling in public. One officer allegedly said they weren’t born, but were shat: “You are the scum of society You two weren’t born, your mothers shit you out.” Charming.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Scotland: New commissioner pledges action on gay rights and equal pay for women"

By Adam Forrest
Scotland has lagged behind England on hate crime, says Morag Alexander

SCOTLAND'S GAY and lesbian communities are not being given the same protection from hate crimes as those in England.
In an interview with the Sunday Herald, the new Scottish head of the Commissioner for Equality and Human Rights (CEHR) said she would push for parity as one of her main priorities.
Morag Alexander will be responsible for the work of the new body from tomorrow, and says she intends to advance the cause of equality issues unique to Scotland.
As well as championing race and gender equality, the CEHR has new responsibilities for sexual orientation, age and religion. Alexander said: "I don't think there is sufficient protection in legislation for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Scotland."
"My collegues in the LGBT lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans-gender communities are keen that we have better protection against hate crime. They are not as well protected as they are under the law in England, and that's an area we'll look at."
The CEHR will look after reserved equality matters, while the impending Scottish Commission for Human Rights will examine rights issues arising from devolved areas. Alexander, who lobbied Scottish MPs in 1997 to have equality issues completely devolved to Scotland, acknowledged the possibility that extra powers could be transferred in future.
She said: "We know the SNP government want to see equal opportunities devolved, but we will be having our own national conversation about it, listening to the communities that make up Scotland. I want to hear what people have to say. If they think changes need to be made, I'm open-minded about it.
"It's really important we establish the CEHR as a credible, independent organsiation. The commission is fundamentally important to the delivery of equality in Scotland."
The new commissioner wants her committee to conduct more research on discrimination relevant to rapidly changing life in Scotland. "We need better statistics and data on a range of Scottish equality issues; that's where we are behind at the moment," she said.
In order to modernise discrimination lawandtomakeitmoreeffective, theWestminstergovernmenthas committedtointroducingasingle equality bill during this parliament. The discrimination law review has proposed a more streamlined legislation. The new commissioner for Scotland was critical, however,ofagreenpaperalready published on proposed legislation. "I found it very disappointing, and the response of the CEHR will be very robust," she said. "We don't think it goes far enough."
As well as wishing to see more anti-racism initiatives in Scottish schools and legislation, and more support for disabled people to allow independent living, Alexander was also firm that more needed to be done to close the gender pay gap.
She said: "The Equal Pay Act was passed in 1970, but we still have this significant pay gap. I'd like to see all employers carrying out pay audits so they can demonstrate either that they don't discriminate or if it throws up evidence, then to put it right."

"Peter Tatchell finds that Gibraltar is failing UK and EU human rights standards"

Peter Tatchell British human rights campaigner was today in attendance at a Press Conference hosted by Equality Rights Group GGR at which he outlined a number of issues which he states he has found during a visit to Gibraltar; these included claims that Gibraltar is failing UK and EU human rights standards, an apparent lack of redress mechanisms and absence of government accountability, and the existence of a number of victims silenced by a climate of intimidation and fear. Tatchell stated: “Many people I have met recalled instances of discrimination, harassment and other abuses. However, they all expressed their unwillingness to report officially or publicly discuss the human rights violations they had suffered, out of fear of retribution from state officials. Some said they feared losing their access to jobs, housing, welfare benefits, medical treatment, student places and educational awards and grants. “Human rights shortcomings are damaging Gibraltar’s reputation internationally, which may discourage some investors and tourists. It could also undermine European support for Gibraltar’s right to self-determination. People are less likely to sympathise with Gibraltar’s right to determine its own future if it has a poor human rights record,” said Mr Tatchell. “The people of Gibraltar are wonderful, but the government appears to be drifting towards autocracy,” he said. Mr Tatchell was invited by GGR to visit Gibraltar on a fact-finding mission to meet local people and give his assessment of the human rights situation. As well as meeting ordinary Gibraltarians and local human rights campaigners, Mr Tatchell met with the leaders of all the political parties, except Peter Caruana, the Chief Minister and head of the governing party, the Gibraltar Social Democrats. While every other party leader met with Mr Tatchell and his host, Felix Alvarez, Peter Caruana refused to meet Mr Tatchell if Mr Alvarez was present. “The Chief Minister’s attitude towards Mr Alvarez was petty and rude. I did not think it was right that Peter Caruana was prepared to meet me, a foreigner, but not one of his own Gibraltarian citizens. This did not strike me as polite or reasonable,” said Mr Tatchell. “Despite the Chief Minister’s snub, I want to thank the people of Gibraltar for their kindness, warmth and hospitality. I have enjoyed my stay and wish the people of Gibraltar well. “I reiterate my strong support for Gibraltar’s right to self-determination. “So far as the human rights situation here is concerned, the conclusions of my fact-finding visit are as follows:

Peter Tatchell – Gibraltar Human Rights Report – 2 October 2007

1. Sexual minorities
Equality and fairness requires that Gibraltar legislate legal recognition and rights for same-sex couples – perhaps modelled on the UK’s Civil Partnership Act 2003 but also – unlike the flawed UK law - making civil partnerships available to heterosexual couples to ensure parity.
• The unequal age of consent for gay men is illegal under the European Convention on Human Rights, to which Gibraltar is required to adhere. Why is the government defying the European Court and refusing to equalise the consent laws?
• Also unlawful under the European Convention are the discriminatory homophobic offences of ‘buggery’, ‘attempted buggery’ and ‘gross indecency.’ The government should scrap these anti-gay laws to ensure that the criminal law does not discriminate on the grounds of sexual orientation.
• Eligibility for affordable housing schemes has been extended to unmarried heterosexual partners but not to unmarried same-sex partners. How can this differential treatment be justified?
• In the absence of legal protection against discrimination in the provision of goods and services, restaurateurs, hoteliers and shop owners are entitled to refuse to serve a gay or lesbian person. When does the government propose prohibit anti-gay discrimination in the provision of goods and services? It has already eliminated such discrimination on the grounds of race and ethnicity. How about also protecting the gay and lesbian citizens of Gibraltar? •
• Why, seven years after its establishment, is GGR one of the very few community organisations that receives no government funding or premises? It is providing a valuable social and community service.

2. Equal Opportunities Commission
• The creation of the EOC is a welcome first step, but its terms of reference have never been made public. Why not? The remit of the EOC is narrowly defined to cover only race equality. It should be extended to cover all discrimination, including discrimination based on gender, age, sexual orientation, disability and religion or belief, possibly along the lines of the UK’s new Commission for Equality and Human Rights.

3. Disabled rights and mental health issues
Why is there is no walking stick or Braille training for the blind or visually impaired?
• The government has promised to build a new Psychiatric Hospital – when does it intend delivering on this promise?
• Disabled people have limited legal protection against discrimination. To remedy this failing, legislation similar to Britain’s Disability Discrimination Act is a priority. It would help safeguard the rights and welfare of disabled Gibraltarians. •
• There is an urgent need for a full independent public inquiry into allegations of abuse at the Dr Giraldi Home. In the meantime, the Police Commissioner should open a new investigation into allegations of criminal misconduct.

4. Media independence
It is highly desirable to establish an independent Press Complaints Commission to safeguard freedom of the press and ensure fair and ethical standards of reporting – with adequate statutory redress for people who have been unfairly maligned by the media. •
• The Gibraltar government announced it will undertake a review of GBC. Why has the government not announced the terms of reference, scope and timetable of this review?

5. Moroccan community
The Moroccan community has raised a number of concerns, including parent’s difficulties in obtaining visas for their children to visit Gibraltar during the summer holidays; the denial of permanent residence rights to people who have lived and worked in Gibraltar for 25 years or more, contrary to Gibraltar’s own laws; and the unfairness of the English-proficiency requirement for residence, given that the government has failed to provide English language training to enable applicants for residence to fulfil this requirement.

6. The drift to autocracy
There are concerns at the way the Chief Minister has taken for himself the very important Ministries of Finance and Justice. This is a very unhealthy concentration of power in the hands of one man, which goes against the British tradition of separation of powers and of checks and balances. The suspension of the Chief Justice, Derek Schofield, combined with the Chief Minister’s assumption of the Justice Minister post, raises questions concerning the independence of the judiciary and the proper separation of powers between the judiciary and the executive. The allied criticisms of the operation of industrial tribunals and their failure to provide swift, fair rulings to appellants – including the fact some claimants have great difficulty in funding their cases. Everyone should be entitled to equal access to justice.

7. Conclusion “There is a human rights deficit in Gibraltar. It is backward and outdated compared to most of Europe. The public mood seems to be in favour of equality and human rights, but legislative action is being thwarted by the government of Peter Caruana. “I do not understand why the Chief Minister is so reluctant to ensure equal and fair treatment for all Gibraltar’s citizens. It would cost him next to nothing and win him much goodwill. “Gibraltar is fantastic. But it is being bought down by the foolish prejudice of its government. “These are my findings and recommendations. It is up to the people and government of Gibraltar to decide which, if any, of these proposals they wish to implement.” For his part Felix Alvarez encouraged the public to vote only for those parties who have clearly committed to their individual needs, saying, “Peter Tatchell is an extraordinary man with an extraordinary track record in human rights. He has been closely interested in issues of human rights in Gibraltar for many years now. But when he recently wrote in The Guardian online he was criticised for speaking ‘from the outside’, a criticism which he accepted. “It was for this reason that I invited Peter to come to Gibraltar and independently meet people from across the community. Something which he has done with untiring vigour over the past 6 days, and which he will briefly be reporting on. “At the same time, as Chairman of Equality Rights Group GGR there are issues which must be addressed directly to fellow Gibraltarians; for Mr Caruana has been in power for 3 terms. 3 terms of office during which time the rights of ordinary Gibraltarians have been slowly but surely eroded. 3 terms of office during which time Mr Caruana has been slowly but surely increasing his own powers over you as a person and over us as a People. “There are many of us in Gibraltar affected by this situation. Do NOT lose hope! Do NOT fail to turn out with your vote on 11 October! If you are undecided, if you are wavering, if you are considering not even voting, or if you are gay, disabled, a pensioner, someone who can’t afford the affordable homes, or you have one of so many different reasons for being unhappy and disgruntled the solution is to make your voice heard. Together, we are NOT a minority. “Together our votes make a very big difference! Vote ONLY for those parties who have clearly committed to you and your needs. With your vote, punish those who have been in power for almost 12 years and who have continued to ignore you! Not only that, get your family and your friends to do the same or at least to give some of their votes to those parties who have clearly committed to helping you! Every vote will help! Again, don’t give up hope: as Gibraltarians who love our country we can make this country be a tolerant, caring and just society. But we have to do it together and in Unity,” said Alvarez.

Ireland: ‘Hypocrisy’ criticism on same sex laws
01 October 2007
‘Hypocrisy’ criticism on same sex laws
By Niall Murray, Education Correspondent

THE Equality Authority has accused the Government of hypocrisy over its commitment to same sex couples when it refuses to change laws that allow schools to fire gay teachers. A section of the 1998 Employment Equality Act gives schools and other religious-run institutions exemption from discrimination laws where it takes action to prevent an employee from undermining its religious ethos. The issue has been a matter of concern for teachers in recent years, particularly at primary level where more than nine out of 10 schools are run by the Catholic Church and other religious denominations.

Equality Authority chief executive Niall Crowley said it remains unclear how severe the interpretation of the act might be unless a case is taken to the Equality Tribunal or the courts, challenging its use. “We already know that it’s a strong dissuasive influence on gay and lesbian people from taking cases and, therefore, whether or not they’re raising the issue, it must be changed,” he said. “The Programme for Government makes a commitment to rights for same sex couples but that commitment means nothing for people who work in schools or other religious institutions,” said Mr Crowley. He said all that was needed was a simple amendment to clarify that the section of the act cannot be used to discriminate against someone on grounds of family status or sexual orientation. However, he said, the Government has already overlooked this recommendation when it amended part of the legislation in the 2004 Equality Act. A spokesperson for the Lesbian Gay and Bisexual Teachers group, set up in the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation, said: “The law copper-fastens discrimination but it could equally affect teachers who are divorced or who are not married but living with a partner because their lifestyle could be in conflict with the church’s teaching.” “It’s easier now for a student to talk about being gay but a teacher can’t do so. If the Government introduces civil partnerships I would marry my partner of more than 20 years, but if I seek leave from work to do so my job could be at risk,” said the woman, who teaches in a small rural school. The matter was raised at the Irish Vocational Education Association annual congress last week, where a delegate asked if it is realistic for teachers to expect adequate protection from equality legislation if they come out about their sexuality. “In more than 30 years of teaching, I’ve only ever heard three female students say they were lesbian and never yet heard a male student say they were gay. But I never expect to hear a teacher tell colleagues they are gay or lesbian,” he said.