Friday, November 30, 2007
30th November 2007 14:45
Ireland's Minister of State for Equality, Sean Power, said this morning that legislation allowing same-sex civil partnerships could be introduced by early next summer.He was speaking at the National Lesbian and Gay Federation's (NLGF) symposium on Full And Equal Rights: Lesbian And Gay Marriage And Partnership Rights In Ireland. The symposium is part of the European Year of Equal Opportunities for All 2007Mr Power added that the government was keen to pass the new laws as soon as possible and that they didn't anticipate any objection from the opposition.John Fisher, of ARC International rights organisation, told the Irish Examiner: "Same-sex couples are entitled to the same range of relationship options as opposite-sex couples, including marriage for those who choose it."Anything less is a denial of full equality. The struggle for equal marriage is about recognising love and commitment, strengthening families and affirming the core social values of dignity and respect."A bill outlining the new proposed legislation is expected to be published in March.Mr Powers comments reiterate those made in a speech by Prime Minister Bertie Ahern last July, shortly after he had formed a new administration with the Green party.Opening a gay community centre in Dublin, Mr Ahern told the crowd: "This Government is committed to providing a more supportive and secure legal environment for same-sex couples."Taking into account the Options Paper prepared by the Colley Group, and the pending Supreme Court case, we will legislate for Civil Partnerships at the earliest possible date in the lifetime of this Government."The year before, Mr Ahern has announced a desire to attract more gay candidates to his Fianna Fail party, adding."Our sexual orientation is not an incidental attribute. It is an essential part of who we are. All citizens, regardless of sexual orientation, stand equal in the eyes of our laws."Sexual orientation cannot, and must not, be the basis of a second-class citizenship. Our laws have changed, and will continue to change, to reflect this principle."
New South Wales, Australia
Reporter: Michael Edwards
ELEANOR HALL: Gay rights groups and medical ethicists have warned that proposed New South Wales laws on reproductive donors are discriminatory. The New South Wales Government is planning to give sperm and egg donors the right to choose who will receive their genetic material. It has the backing of religious groups and says the change is in the best interests of any resulting children. But opponents say it will give donors the ability to discriminate against single mothers, gay couples, and ethnic and religious groups.Michael Edwards has our report.
Michael Cashman MEP: “If we really wish to take public health seriously we should do everything we can to promote the normalisation of condom use.”
BRUSSELS, November 29, 2007 — Restrictions on condom advertising should be relaxed in order to combat rising levels of sexually transmitted disease, according to a senior Euro MP.
Labour’s Michael Cashman made the call for pre-watershed condom advertising as part of a campaign to mark World Aids day on Saturday.
The lifting of TV advertising restrictions of condoms across the EU has the support from the 219-strong Socialist Group in the European Parliament.
The current guidelines in the UK restrict condom adverts before 9.00pm on all channels except Channel 4, which can show adverts after 7.00pm. The organisations which oversee the guidelines are the Advertising Standards Authority and the Committee for Advertising Practices.
“In the late 1980s and early 1990s, fears about HIV led to young people exercising greater care and using condoms,” Mr. Cashman said this morning.
“But, unfortunately, as a nation we have appeared to have become complacent.”
“Amazingly there are people who still think that HIV is a disease that only affects groups such as homosexuals and drug users. Those who think this way are not just being ignorant; they are being reckless.
“HIV does not discriminate. Having unprotected sex is like playing Russian roulette but every chamber of the gun is loaded.”
“It is young people who are most at risk and they are the very people who need to be informed about using condoms. They need an environment where they can see, talk about and use condoms,” he added.
There has also been a worrying rise in reported cases of other sexual transmitted diseases. In 1997 there were just 301 reported cases of syphilis. That figure rose to an astonishing 3,702 last year. The number of reported cases last year for Chlamiydia was 113,000.
Mr. Cashman believes that allowing advertising before the watershed will help to remove some of the taboo that is still associated with condoms. The Family Planning Association (FPA) has also called for restrictions to be lifted and has described the current rules as having a “Victorian attitude”.
A review of condom advertising has also been recommended by the Independent Advisory Group on Sexual Health and HIV.
“If we really wish to take public health seriously we should do everything we can to promote the normalisation of condom use,” Mr. Cashaman continued.
“That is why I am using the occasion of World AIDS Day to call on the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) and the Committee for Advertising Practices (CAP) to review the guidelines on condom advertising.”
Mr. Cashman, who was a founding director of Stonewal, is the current president of the European Parliament’s Intergroup on Gay and Lesbian Rights
■ In an initiative to mark World AIDS Day, Socialist Euro MPs are calling for a cut in VAT on condoms and are urging condom manufacturers to reduce prices to levels closer to production costs. The United Kingdom government has already made the VAT reduction.
by Kilian Melloy
EDGE Boston Contributor
Wednesday Nov 28, 2007
A gay married couple say that they were forced by anti-gay locals to flee their home in a small Canadian village.Terry and Ryan Hamilton had only lived in Bothwell, an Ontario village, for six months when, they say, they were forced out by the antipathy of a group of villagers, The Chatham Daily News reported (link: www.chathamdailynews.ca/ArticleDisplay.aspx?e=794176&auth=ERICA+BAJER).The story was also run in the London Free Press (lfpress.ca/newsstand/CityandRegion/2007/11/28/4691059-sun.html).The couple say that their property suffered vandalism, including shrubs being uprooted in their yard and a decorative pond being destroyed, as well as the words, "Die fags" being spray-painted on their home.During a 9-hour loss of power, they say, locals ran around their house shouting anti-gay threats and rapping on their windows as the couple took refuge inside with a rake and a hoe in their hands.Said Ryan Hamilton, "There was no way we could stay, we were suffering such tremendous hate crimes."Added Ryan, "They were doing everything they could to make our lives a living hell." The Chatham Daily News reported that the couple, who were married in 2005 under Canada’s legislation allowing gay and lesbian families access to marriage equaity, called in more than 30 incidents of vandalism, threats, and mischief to local police.Police Chief Carl Herder said, "The phrase, ’Die fags’ was spray painted on their front door."Continued Herder, "That certainly would fall within the definition of a hate crime under the criminal code."The couple’s troubles began early last June and continued up until they finally abandoned their rented home this month, leaving Bothwell for Chantham. The men said that in addition to the spray painted hate message and the vandalism to their yard, their vehicles also suffered damage.The couple also said that they were subject to anti-gay slurs and threats; at one point, Ryan said, he was accosted while driving, being verbally abused by men occupying a pickup who then threatened him with a tire iron and pursued him down country byways until Ryan took refuge at a farm house and called for the police."He would have beaten me to death," said Ryan.Continued Ryan, "He was a homophobic redneck."The policeman who responded to Ryan’s call followed after him to see him home safely, but the police were not always courteous or concerned, the couple said, citing the night of the power outage, when the responding officer dismissed the men’s concerns, saying that he had the rest of the village to protect.The memory of that night, late last month, has stayed with the couple.Ryan characterized the experience as "the most horrible nightmare," saying, "It was like rabid dogs running around the house." Said Terry, "We figured they were coming through the window that night."Terry continued, "That was the scariest night of our lives." That was the night on which the hate speech was painted on the couple’s door. Terry said that the people attacking the house were also yelling threats and slurs, including the phrase, "Die, faggots!"The Chatham Daily News interviewed various people around the village about the Hamiltons’ claims, and heard unsympathetic reactions.One woman told the newspaper, "I think they made a lot of their own problems" because, she said, "They didn’t just stay there and live like a normal couple." Added the woman, "Sure something did happen to them, but was it as bad as they said?"Continued the woman, "I’ve lived here all my life and I don’t know anybody who was treated as bad as they say they were." The woman said that the men talked constantly about their woes, and cited a lesbian couple who have lived in Bothwell without any problems.John Dingman was quoted by the article as saying of the Hamiltons, "They were a nice set of guys," but Dingman echoed the opinion that the couple invited problems.Said Dingman, "They were all about their gay rights and that."Added Dingman, "They didn’t have to keep on harping on it."Dingman continued, "They were trying to force themselves too much." Another villager told the paper that he did not know the Hamiltons personally, and his opinion was that whatever their difficulties, the Hamiltons were not targeted for being gay.The man said he thought the couple was trying to create a stir, and speculated that they were looking to create a situation and then exploit it with a lawsuit.The couple said they were, in fact, thinking of pursuing a complaint against the local police. Said Terry, "We were being terrorized, and they did nothing."Terry added that "the terror of not having the police there for you" was as acute as that created by the attacks against them, and said that he now suffers from nightmares and paranoia, and has had to go into counseling.The couple had lodged a complaint with the mayor of the village in mid-October, which prompted the village police to action. Herder said that he had re-opened a number of the men’s complaints, assigning an officer to look into them. However, said Herder, the police had not ignored the Hamiltons’ calls; said the police chief, "We had done quite a bit prior to that complaint," such as watching over the Hamiltons’ house, meeting with the men, and dealing with the incidents as hate crimes.The force’s media relations officer, Sgt. Gary Conn, told the paper that police kept an eye on the Hamiltons’ home for two consecutive nights, and that every incident was reported, with suspects being interviewed. However, despite all these efforts, Conn said, a lack of evidence prevented any charges being brought. Said Conn, "All citizens have the right to live free of any form of harassment."Conn also told the paper that the investigations continue, and noted that the crimes have no statue of limitations.The Hamiltons said that while they did not keep their married status a secret, they did not flaunt their sexual orientation. Said Ryan, "People just thought we were disgusting and wanted us out."In the end, the couple did move out, with financial assistance both from government and from a private GLBT organization, the Chatham-Kent Gay Pride Association.The paper reported that the men had expressed relief to be away from Botham and were finding life in Chatham to be much more pleasant for them.Even with their experience behind them, the Hamiltons wanted their story known, the article said, so that the wider public would be aware, Terry said, "that this still goes on in this day and age."
Thursday, November 29, 2007
September 14, 2006 - 1:00 pm ET
Congress is expected to pass legislation creating a civil union registry for same and unmarried opposite-sex couples. The measure already has passed the Senate.
The measure was a campaign promise of the ruling leftist coalition and is expected to encounter little difficulty in House.
Same-sex marriage will remain illegal in Uruguay, something LGBT rights groups say they will continue to fight. But, they say the civil union bill is a major step in the right direction in a region where the Catholic Church dominates much of everyday life.
Because of the marriage ban judges have been unsure how to rule in a number of cases involving same-sex couples, particularly in areas of adoption, pensions and inheritance.
Sen. Margarita Percovich , the author of the legislation said the bill would give couples entering civil unions the same rights as marriage.
Under the legislation couples would have be together for at least five years and sign a registry.
In neighboring Brazil, Rio Grande do Sul state which lies along the border, passed civil union legislation in 2004, two years after Buenos Aires passed a similar law.
But the measure in Uruguay would make the country the first in South America to have a national civil union law. Chile could soon follow. Legislation will be introduced in the Chile Congress later this year to allow same-sex couples to enter into civil unions.
afrol News, 29 November -
Muraad Kareem, one of the Somalis behind www.somaligaycommunity.org, was astonished by the row of events that followed the publishing of an article about the website by afrol News. "Major Somali news websites have picked it up the article that you .. published. People were outraged to see such article on 'Hiiraanonline' which is a major news website. People could not believe that a major Somali news website would publish such article. They have asked it to be removed and their messages were horrific and hateful," Muraad tells afrol News."One of the messages was saying that they will hunt us down beyond enemy lines," he continues. "I was ignoring these messages but when I started to worry when my name, address, telephone number and that of Andrew Prince was posted on Somaliland.com." Andrew Prince, a UK-based gay activist and web developer, stood behind the technical aspects of the Somali website. Also he was surprised by the amount of "hate writers" attacking him and Muraad on Somali blogs. He recalls: "One individual calls for us to be 'hunted down in the street and stoned like dogs' while another said, 'Allah will punish them', another, 'It's a western illness', and yet another, 'motherfocker if I ever see you on the street, am gonna chop you to pieces then feed ur crap to dogs' – this last one from a Muslim woman." The two reveal that several individuals were going a step further than just threatening. Some investigated the whereabouts of the two and published this information on a Somali website. According to Mr Prince, "the site was threatened with being hacked so I had to take extra security steps to protect the site so that it stays online to serve the community that it was intended for." Muraad adds there were indeed attempts to hack the website. While both try to play down the threats, they still have had to react to them. "I have taken measures to secure my safety, and that each member of the group," Muraad told afrol News. "Also the crime is been reported to the police. We have laws that protect us from these ignorant people and nothing they will do will stop us." And some Somali news websites have understood they should not contribute more to these threats. Somaliland.com has removed the personal information about the two posted on the site by readers and Somalinet.com has removed the forum that they have dedicated to the Somali gay website. Muraad nevertheless is more encouraged than scared by the experience so far, he reveals. The enormous amount of reactions to his project has indeed been mostly positive, documenting the great need among Somalis for a gay forum. During its first week online, the site registered over 133,000 hits. "Somali Gay Community is growing and we are getting positive feedbacks from our members," he says. "We are focused on our aim to reach out to those who need us the most." "I do not think that the threat will stop there. People will continue to find who we are but we are not scared. We are aware that we have broken a big social code and people would want to take revenge but what we are trying to achieve is well worth the risk we have taken," concludes Muraad.
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
Posted: November 12, 2007 - 11:00 am ET
(Budapest) Hungary's left-of-center coalition government is reportedly considering legislation that would give limited rights to same-sex couples.
The move comes a week after a Parliamentary committee turned down a similar proposal. Last Wednesday the Human Rights Committee heard from LGBT activists and members of the small Free Democratic Party in the coalition who called for a free debate in Parliament.
FDP member Peter Gusztos said denying property and inheritance rights to same-sex couples was discriminatory. A member of a Budapest LGBT rights group compared laws limiting rights to opposite-sex married couples to the country's anti-Jewish laws of the latek 1930s.
The majority Socialist Party said that society is not yet ready for such a step and pointed to a recent court ruling that upheld the current law.
What prompted the change in attitude by the government is not known, but the country has been prodded by the European Union to recognize gay and lesbian relationships.
How much support there is within the cabinet also is not known. Right-of-center politicians in Parliament have said they would vote against any measure recognizing same-sex relationships.
Right groups have been calling for amendments in the marriage law to allow property, pension and inheritance rights. They also want the right for same-sex couples to adopt children.
Western European members of the EU all recognize same-sex relationships. Only the Netherlands, Belgium and Spain allow same-sex marriage. Britain has civil partnerships with all of the rights of marriage. The other states have varying forms of civil unions or domestic partner registries.
In July several hundred skinheads and right-wing activists threw rotten eggs and smoke bombs at people participating in a gay rights parade in Budapest.
A week earlier a member of the coalition government's cabinet came out. Gabor Szetey became the first Hungarian cabinet minister to announce he is gay.
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
Posted: November 7, 2007 - 5:00 pm ET
(Amsterdam, Netherlands) The Netherlands has told its ambassadors in countries receiving foreign aid they must lobby those nations to decriminalize homosexuality and provide LGBT civil rights.
The announcement was made in the Netherlands' Parliament by Development Minister Bert Koenders.
The Netherlands is a major donor to developing nations giving almost $6-billion annually - mostly in Africa, Latin America and Asia.
Koenders told Parliament that a study by the government found that homosexuality is illegal in 18 of the 36 countries to whom the country provides financial aid.
"The Netherlands will promote as much equal treatment of homosexuals as possible. We will not avoid awkward discussions about this," he said in a statement to lawmakers.
He also said, however, that ambassadors have been told to avoid the subject of gay rights in those countries where international rights groups believe such a discussion could result in a backlash against gays.
Koenders's statement does not tie foreign aid to gay rights, but the move is the strongest yet of any Western country.
The Netherlands is a world leader in LGBT civil rights. In 2001 it became the first country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage and allow gay and lesbian couples to adopt children.
Monday, November 19, 2007
Saturday, November 17, 2007
"About 90 percent of Chinese people believe that homosexuality will exercise no influence on job selections, which exceeds the number of 86 percent in America. This is a noticeable progress and it may mean more tolerance towards homosexuality in China,"said Professor Li Yinhe, a sociologist focusing on sexology with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
Many experts believe that the tolerance of homosexuals has indicated progress in social civilization in China. There are about 30 million homosexuals in China, based on academic estimates. The higher a person's position in the social hierarchy, the more likely he or she will be tolerant; to accept homosexuality is very common among white collar-workers with a good income in China, said Li.
Love between people of the same sex was regarded as a crime 20 years ago and a mental illness as little as 10 years ago in China. Often, the social pressure for same sex couples does not come from the public, but rather their families, as most parents aren't ready to accept their children as homosexuals.
Qiao Qiao is the owner of a lesbian bar in Beijing. "I knew that I liked girls when I was a teenager, but I always constrained my emotions. I could not talk about sex with my parents and it was impossible to tell them I was a homosexual," Qiao said.
Qiao's mother unexpectedly found out her daughter was lesbian after she had a romantic fling with a woman she met in a bar. Her parents were surprised and could not understand, and even opposed to Qiao's love affairs at the beginning, but later they understood their daughter and showed their acceptance.
"I can understand the feelings of parents. Many of them believe that raising children is essential to support them in their old age, which is a Chinese tradition," said Mr. Sun, who works for a media company.
However, as advances are made in science and technology, more and more homosexual couples are choosing to have children. Qiao and her girlfriend have tried artificial insemination, and although they were not successful they will continue to try.
As a researcher on homosexuality, Li Yinhe is leading the call for legalizing gay marriage with many proposals and she is the interest representative for the minority of homosexuals in China."There are no extreme moral opponents against homosexuality in China, so it is easier for the same sex lovers in China to claim their rights than in the Western countries, and China is always making progress,”"said professor Li.
16th November 2007 17:11
Consensual gay sex will no longer be a criminal offence in Nicaragua under a new civil code due to come into effect on March 2008.
The surprise news was announced earlier this week by the Nicaraguan National Assembly, reports La Prensa.
Under old legislation passed in 1992, "anyone who induces, promotes, propagandises or practices sexual intercourse between persons of the same sex commits the crime of sodomy and shall incur one to three years' imprisonment."
This article criminalises not only gay men, lesbians and bisexual people in same-sex relationships, but is vague enough to permit the prosecution of individuals for activities such as campaigning for LGBT rights or anyone providing sexual health information or services.
Nicaragua's new code removes all reference to this, reflecting changing social mores in a country which Amnesty International targeted this year for contradicting numerous provisions in international human rights law.
The vast majority of countries throughout the Americas have abolished their sodomy laws.
José Pallais, president of the Nicaraguan Parliament's Commission of Justice and Legal Issues, said the changes marked a modernisation, placing legal rights over the state's moral code.
He added: "We are not creating a code of the Catholic Church here, we are creating a democratic code under modern principles and principles of legality."
Abortion will remain illegal, however, after insufficient legislative support to change the law.
Thursday, November 15, 2007
By THANASSIS CAMBANIS
Published: November 1, 2007
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates, Oct. 31 — Alexandre Robert, a French 15-year-old, was having a fine summer in this tourist paradise on the Persian Gulf. It was Bastille Day and he and a classmate had escaped the July heat at the beach for an air-conditioned arcade.
Just after sunset, Alex says he was rushing to meet his father for dinner when he bumped into an acquaintance, a 17-year-old, who said he and his cousin could drop Alex off at home.
There were, in fact, three Emirati men in the car, including a pair of former convicts ages 35 and 18, according to Alex. He says they drove him past his house and into a dark patch of desert, between a row of new villas and a power plant, took away his cellphone, threatened him with a knife and a club, and told him they would kill his family if he ever reported them.
Then they stripped off his pants and one by one sodomized him in the back seat of the car. They dumped Alex across from one of Dubai’s luxury hotel towers.
Alex and his family were about to learn that despite Dubai’s status as the Arab world’s paragon of modernity and wealth, and its well-earned reputation for protecting foreign investors, its criminal legal system remains a perilous gantlet when it comes to homosexuality and protection of foreigners.
The authorities not only discouraged Alex from pressing charges, he, his family and French diplomats say; they raised the possibility of charging him with criminal homosexual activity, and neglected for weeks to inform him or his parents that one of his attackers had tested H.I.V. positive while in prison four years earlier.
“They tried to smother this story,” Alex said by phone from Switzerland, where he fled a month into his 10th-grade school year, fearing a jail term in Dubai if charged with homosexual activity. “Dubai, they say we build the highest towers, they have the best hotels. But all the news, they hide it. They don’t want the world to know that Dubai still lives in the Middle Ages.”
Alex and his parents say they chose to go public with his case in the hope that it would press the authorities to prosecute the men.
United Arab Emirates law does not recognize rape of males, only a crime called “forced homosexuality.” The two adult men charged with sexually assaulting Alex have pleaded not guilty, although sperm from all three were found in Alex. The two adults appeared in court on Wednesday and were appointed a lawyer. They face trial before a three-judge panel on Nov. 7. The third, a minor, will be tried in juvenile court. Legal experts here say that men convicted of sexually assaulting other men usually serve sentences ranging from a few months to two years.
Dubai is a bustling financial and tourist center, one of seven states that form the United Arab Emirates. At least 90 percent of the residents of Dubai are not Emirati citizens and many say that Alex’s Kafkaesque legal journey brings into sharp relief questions about unequal treatment of foreigners here that have long been quietly raised among the expatriate majority. The case is getting coverage in the local press.
It also highlights the taboos surrounding H.I.V. and homosexuality that Dubai residents say have allowed rampant harassment of gays and have encouraged the health system to treat H.I.V. virtually in secret. (Under Emirates law, foreigners with H.I.V., or those convicted of homosexual activity, are deported.)
Prosecutors here reject such accusations. “The legal and judicial system in the United Arab Emirates makes no distinction between nationals and non-nationals,” said Khalifa Rashid Bin Demas, head of the Dubai attorney general’s technical office, in an interview. “All residents are treated equally.”
Dubai’s economic miracle — decades of double-digit growth spurred by investors, foreign companies, and workers drawn to the tax-free Emirates — depends on millions of foreigners, working jobs from construction to senior positions in finance. Even many of the criminal court lawyers are foreigners.
Alex’s case has raised diplomatic tensions between the Emirates and France, which has lodged official complaints about the apparent cover-up of one assailant’s H.I.V. status and other irregularities. The tension and growing publicity over the case seem to have prompted the authorities to take action.
Mr. Demas, from the Dubai attorney general’s office, said he had no intention of prosecuting Alex and was seeking the death penalty for the two adult attackers. “This crime is an outrage against society,” he said.
However, the investigation file in Alex’s case and a pair of confidential French diplomatic cables obtained by The New York Times confirm the accounts of inexplicable and at times hostile official behavior described by Alex and his parents.
“The grave deficiencies or incoherence of the investigation appear to result, in part, from gross incompetence of the services involved in the United Arab Emirates, but also from the moral, pseudoscientific and political prejudices which undoubtedly influenced the inquiry,” the French ambassador to the United Arab Emirates wrote in a confidential cable dated Sept. 6.
Most infuriating to Alex and his mother, Véronique Robert, is that police inaccurately informed French diplomats on Aug. 15, a month after the assault, that the three attackers were disease-free, the diplomats say. Only at the end of August did the family learn that that the 36-year-old assailant was H.I.V. positive. The case file contains a positive H.I.V. test for the convict dated March 26, 2003.
“They lied to us,” Ms. Robert said. “Now the Damocles sword of AIDS hangs over Alex.”
So far the teenager has not tested positive for H.I.V., but he will not know for sure until January, when he gets another blood test six months after the exposure.
A doctor examined Alex the night of the rape, taking swabs of DNA for traces of the rapists’ sperm. He did not take blood tests or examine Alex with a speculum. Then he cleared the room and told Alex: “I know you’re a homosexual. You can admit it to me. I can tell.”
Alex told his father in tears: “I’ve just been raped by three men, and he’s saying I’m a homosexual,” according to interviews with both of them.
The doctor, an Egyptian, wrote in his legal report that he had found no evidence of forced penetration, which Alex’s family says is a false assessment that could hurt the case against the assailants.
In early September, after the family learned about the older attacker’s H.I.V. status and the French government lodged complaints with the United Arab Emirates authorities, the Dubai attorney general’s office assigned a new prosecutor to the case. Only then were forensic tests performed to confirm that sperm from all three attackers had been found in Alex.
Alex stayed in Dubai in order to testify against his attackers, and went back to school in September, despite suffering unsettling flashbacks.
In early October, however, the family said, their lawyer warned Alex that he was in danger of facing charges of homosexuality and a prison term of one year.
Veteran lawyers here say the justice system is evolving, like the country’s entire system of governance that has blossomed as the economy and population have exploded in just a few decades. Despite its shortfalls, the United Arab Emirates have combined Islamic values with the best practices from the West to create “the most modern legal system among the Arab countries,” said Salim Al Shaali, a former police officer and prosecutor who now practices criminal law.
In business and finance, the nation has worked hard to earn a reputation for impartial and speedy justice. But the criminal justice system has struggled, balancing a penal code rooted in conservative Arab and Islamic local culture, applied to an overwhelming non-Arab population of foreign residents.
A 42-year-old gay businessman who would speak only if identified by his nickname, Ko, described routine sexual harassment by officials during his 13 years living in Dubai. He cut his shoulder-length hair to avoid attention, he said, but after years of living in fear of jail or deportation, he is leaving the country.
Although rape victims here generally keep quiet, some who have been raped in Dubai have shared testimonials in recent days on boycottdubai.com, a Web site started by Alex’s mother.
Prosecutors moved forward with the case against her son’s attackers only as a result of public pressure and diplomatic complaints, Ms. Robert believes. Now, she hopes, the attention could prompt more humane and even-handed justice for future rape victims here.
On advice of his lawyer and French diplomats, Alex says he will not return to Dubai but wants very much for the men to be convicted.
“Sometimes you feel crazy, you know?” he said. “It’s hard, but we have to be strong. I’m doing this for all the other poor kids who got raped and couldn’t do anything about it.”
By Dennis McMillan
Published: November 8, 2007
The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) has learned that Makvan Mouloodzadeh, a 21-year old citizen of Iran of Kurdish origin from the city of Paveh in the Western province of Kermanshah, has been sentenced to death by the government. Makvan has been convicted of multiple counts of anal rape and sentenced to execution for crimes committed when he was 13 years old. On Nov. 5, IGLHRC called for an international response to stop this execution.
According to IGLHRC, imposing the death penalty for crimes committed by juveniles is prohibited under international law as well as by the Iranian legal system. In addition, IGLHRC calls on the international community to condemn the use of the death penalty as a punishment for any sex or morality-related crime, whether consensual or non-consensual, as unnecessarily extreme. In this case, since none of the alleged victims ever claimed to have been raped, and all of them admitted to the court that their initial accounts of sexual intercourse with Makvan were false and had been acquired under coercion, IGLHRC says the imposition of the death penalty is especially objectionable.
As an organization dedicated to defending the rights of sexual minorities worldwide, IGLHRC objects to any law, policy or ruling that penalizes consensual homosexual relationships among adults.
The District Attorney’s office issued an order for Makvan’s arrest on Oct. 1, 2006, after the local office of the Intelligence Service received a complaint from Makvan’s cousin claiming, in rather vague language, that Makvan had “victimized” him when both were minors. During subsequent investigations, the cousin also claimed that Makvan had engaged in homosexual sex with other people when he was 13 years old. When these individuals were brought in for questioning, each confessed to having had homosexual sex with Makvan. But according to media reports, none of these individuals claimed to be a victim of rape. During the interrogation process, Makvan was forced to confess to one case of sodomy while he was a middle school student. Makvan’s trial took place at the local branch of the Criminal Court in Kermanshah City. However, several key witnesses refused to appear in court, and the three witnesses who did appear before the judge each retracted their earlier testimony, claiming to have lied to the authorities under duress.
Makvan also told the court that his confession was made under coercion and pleaded not guilty. But the judge refused to accept the witnesses’ retractions. Although it is standard practice in the Iranian legal system to send alleged rape victims for a medical examination to check for evidence of sexual crimes, including sodomy, the judge did not require this procedure in this case, which could have potentially proved the innocence of the defendant.
In the absence of adequate evidence, the judge used an Iranian legal principle known as “Knowledge of the Judge,” to declare that he was certain Makvan had raped his victims. IGLHRC explains that according to the Iranian legal code, when there is not enough evidence to convict a defendant of sexual crimes, the judge may use his knowledge (in a deductive process based on the evidence that already exists) to determine whether the crime took place or not.
The judge found Makvan guilty of full penetrative homosexual sex (ighab) and sentenced him to death on June 7, 2007. The following month, Makvan’s lawyer lodged an appeal with the Iranian Supreme Court. In a ruling on Aug. 1, 2007, the Supreme Court upheld the lower court’s decision.
Makvan is currently in Kermanshah’s city jail. Since the execution order has already been issued by the Attorney General’s office, he is in danger of being the victim of a public hanging at any time.
IGLHRC states that since Makvan was born on March 31, 1986, this fact made him a minor at the time of the crime back in 1999. IGLHRC cites Article 6(5) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) stating, “[A] sentence of death shall not be imposed for crimes committed by persons below eighteen years of age.” The Iranian parliament ratified the ICCPR in 1975 and has not subsequently passed any legislation to nullify this treaty. While International Law prohibits the execution of minors, Iranian law is equally clear-cut on the subject.
According to Article 49 of the Islamic Penal Code, minors, if found guilty, are free from criminal responsibility. Note 1 of Article 49 stipulates that minors are those individuals who have not reached what Islam considers to be the age of discretion. The 1991 Amendment of Article 1210(1) of the Iranian Civil Code declares that the Islamic age of discretion is 15 full lunar years of age for boys and 9 full lunar years of age for girls.
Moreover, says IGLHRC, Article 111 of the Islamic Penal Code states, “Sodomy is only punishable by death if both parties are adults and of sound mind.” Article 113 of the Islamic Penal Code declares: “If a minor sodomizes another minor, both should be punished by up to 74 lashes, unless one of them is forced to do so.” Since the alleged sodomy happened when the defendant and his alleged partners were 13 years old, hence IGLHRC insists the death penalty should not be applicable in this case.
Ireland appears to be moving one step closer to marriage equality:
"Minister for Justice Brian Lenihan said he would publish an outline of his legislation by March 30th and vowed it would become law during the lifetime of the current Government. 'The Government has asked me to prepare a Bill which will provide for the registration of civil partnerships of same sex couples,' Mr Lenihan said. 'It will also provide protection for other relationships which lie outside marriage but which may be heterosexual or same sex.' Currently gay and lesbian couples cannot marry each other under Irish law and are therefore ineligible for the legal benefits that apply to heterosexual married couples. Legislation for civil partnerships during the lifetime of the Coalition was promised in the Programme for Government...Green Party justice spokesman Ciarán Cuffe said the Government proposal would give cohabiting gay and lesbian couples, who register their relationship with a new agency, the same rights under the law as heterosexual couples. 'This is a major step forward in Irish equality legislation,' he said."
Last July at the opening of a renovated LGBT community center in Dublin, Ireland's Taoiseach Bertie Ahern promised to push legislation that would allow same-sex couples the same rights as heterosexual married couples as soon as possible.