Friday, December 21, 2007

Nepal court rules on gay rights

Nepal's Supreme Court has ordered the government to scrap laws that discriminate against homosexuals.
The court ordered that sexual minorities should be guaranteed the same rights as other citizens.
Campaigners said the ruling was a "huge victory". Homosexuality is frowned upon in conservative South Asia.
Nepalese laws do not explicitly criminalise homosexuality, but an "unnatural sex act" currently carries a prison term of up to a year.
Human rights campaigners say the provision has been used to justify arrests of men who have sex with men and transgender people.
Gay men and women and members of other sexual minorities have long complained of discrimination in Nepal.
In their ruling, two Supreme Court judges said: "The government of Nepal should formulate new laws and amend existing laws in order to safeguard the rights of these people.
"Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual and intersex are natural persons irrespective of their masculine and feminine gender and they have the right to exercise their rights and live an independent life in society."
Activists said it was a landmark ruling.
"It's a very encouraging and progressive decision. We all feel we are liberated today," Sunil Babu Pant, the president of the Blue Diamond Society which campaigns for Nepal's sexual minorities, told the AFP news agency.
"There were no specific laws to protect the rights of sexual minorities but the Supreme Court's decision has opened the doors to enjoy our rights."
Mr Pant said education, citizenship papers and jobs could now be given to people without them having to identify themselves as male or female, or giving their gender as "third sex".
There was no immediate response from the government to Friday's ruling.

Gay marriage opponent is new ANC leader

20th December 2007 17:22

Tony Grew
Jacob Zuma, the new leader of the African National Congress, has previously spoken out against gay marriage. Mr Zuma, 65, won a considerable victory over incumbent South African President Thabo Mbeki and is the clear favourite to become the country's next leader, despite concerns he could face corruption charges. In 2006 he had apologise for offending the gay community and claimed that his views on same-sex marriage were misinterpreted. Mr Zuma, a former deputy President of South Africa, angered LGBT activists after comments he made at a Heritage Day celebration calling plans to legalise same-sex marriages a "disgrace to the nation and to God." He had commented in particular about the manner in which communities tended to neglect boys and over-emphasise the traditional upbringing of girls, as evidenced in ceremonies such as the reed dance. "I said the communal upbringing of children in the past was able to assist parents to notice children with a different social orientation," explained Mr Zuma, "I however did not intend to have this interpreted as a condemnation of gays."He later said that "one can be judgmental" with regards to gay marriage. "We have a constitution that guides us and we have to abide by it; no matter at times what other kinds of views people have."Concerns about Mr Zuma's fitness for office intensified after he was charged with rape in late 2005.He admitted at trial to having unprotected sex with his HIV-positive accuser even though he knew her status. He was head of the National AIDS Council at the time. In court he said he had taken a shower to try to minimise the risk of infection, which did little to engender the confidence of AIDS activists. He was acquitted on of rape in May 2006. The perception that Mr Zuma is closer to the attitudes and aspirations of the South African population was a key factor in his huge victory of 2,329 votes to 1,505 over President Mbeki at this week’s ANC conference. Writing on the LGBT rights website Behind The Mask, South African activist Mashilo Mnisi said: "It was clear from the outset when the ANC Women's League (ANC WL) nominated Jacob Zuma that the South African lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) community did not favour Zuma to take lead, hence it deplored the nomination."I am concerned and wondering that the LGBTI community denounced the nomination based on the fact that Zuma once taunted the gay community [but later apologised although many believed it wasn't genuine] or that Zuma once raped a lesbian woman and was acquitted of the rape, or both."It's quite obvious to contempt some LGBTI individuals as they believe that Zuma [if elected for presidency] might look at challenging the country's constitution based on his different principles and beliefs towards gay people. "And that could mean to challenge or even attempt to reverse the Civil Unions Act that was adopted last December and protecting the rights of gay people to marry – if he's still holding on to those beliefs."

Gay Iranian Teen Awaits Decision of Dutch Court Over Return to UK

LONDON, December 21, 2007 – A young gay Iranian, who fled the United Kingdom in fear after his asylum application with the Home Office’s Border and Immigration Agency failed earlier this year, will be spending the festive season hoping that a Dutch court will allow him to stay in the Netherlands.
UK Gay News highlighted the plight of 19 years-old Mehdi in April following the failure of his appeal against deportation from UK back to Iran.
Mehdi had arrived in the UK two years previously on a student visa and had completed his education in England.
Before leaving Iran, the teen had not only come to terms with the fact he was gay, but also had a serious boyfriend.
So scared of being forcibly removed to Iran, Mehdi managed to flee the UK and surfaced in the Netherlands before crossing the border into Germany.
The authorities eventually caught up with him and he returned again to the Netherlands.
Mehdi had his “day in court” after the Dutch authorities wanted to return him to the UK – there was no suggestion of him being returned to Iran as the Government in the Netherlands has a moratorium on returning gays to Iran.
“My main worry is that if they send me to the UK, the Home office would try to send me to Iran without any further review in my case,” he said today in an email.
The judge in the Netherlands is now considering the case. She is expected to hand down her decision early in the New Year on whether Mehdi can stay in the country or has to be returned to the UK.
During the court hearing, Mehdi’s lawyer said that the Netherlands had an obligation – and the legal responsibility – to let the teenager stay in the country, due to the UK’s “historical attitude” towards Iranian gay men and women seeking asylum.
His lawyer argued that Mehdi should be allowed to seek asylum in the Netherlands.
Last night, Mehdi gave an emotional “thank you” to his many supporters.
“I would like to thank the many people who have followed my case and have given me huge support over the past 15 months,” he said.
“I am sure I would have been dead by now if I you guys weren’t supporting me,” he added.
His supporters are led by his uncle, who lives in the UK. Mehdi also said that he had received fantastic world-wide support, including from the Toronto-based Iranian Queer Organisation, gay support groups in the Netherlands, MPs and other individuals in the UK

■ Don’t Leave Iranian Gays Abandoned. – read Mehdi’s story, including how his boyfriend in Iran was executed, HERE.

As in previous articles, Mehdi’s last name is not being used to protect his family in Iran.

New Poll Exposes Homophobia In Bulgaria

A new poll reveals attitudes about gay people in the Southeastern European nation of Bulgaria. The poll, conducted in September of this year by the Skala agency, showed that 80% of Bulgarians have a negative attitude towards gay people, the nation's news agency reported:

"53% of the inquired Bulgarians have extremely negative attitude towards gays. 17% declared that can freely communicate with person homosexually orientated. Most clearly are expressed the prejudices to transsexuals, most weakly to gay women, shows the research. Almost half of the inquired would not work with homosexuals in one room. 70% of the people won't enroll their kid in school where works a gay teacher. 50% won't acquiesce of their own child has homosexual orientation. According to the research the most frequent is the discrimination based on race differences. Strongest tensions are between Bulgarian and Gypsies on one hand and Turkish people and Gypsies on the other."

Bulgarian pop star Azis, who recently made headlines after racy headlines for an upcoming show were taken down by authorities, and who has also made very public his marriage to his partner and their adoption of a baby girl, is likely the most prominent out personality in the nation.

Uruguay OKs gay unions in Latin American first

MONTEVIDEO (Reuters) - Uruguay's Congress legalized civil unions for homosexual couples on Tuesday in the first nationwide law of its kind in Latin America.
Under the new law, gay and straight couples will be eligible to form civil unions after living together for five years. They will have rights similar to those granted to married couples on such matters as inheritance, pensions and child custody.
Uruguay's Senate passed the bill unanimously after the lower house approved it last month, a congressional spokesman said. The country's center-left president is expected to sign it into law.
Several cities, including Buenos Aires and Mexico City, already have gay civil union laws on the books. Uruguay's law would be the first nationwide measure in Latin America, which is home to about half the world's Roman Catholics.
In Uruguay, couples must register their relationship with authorities to gain the cohabitation rights, and they will also be able to formalize the end of a union.
Gay marriage remains illegal in Uruguay, a small South American country known for its secular streak.
The Catholic Church has said its opposition to gay marriage is non-negotiable and Catholic politicians have a moral duty to oppose it.
Earlier this year in Colombia, a group of senators shot down a landmark gay rights bill at the last minute, using a procedural vote to back away from the measure.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Scottish Green Party Introduces Hate Crime Bill Proposal

"We need to strengthen the law on hate crime"
by ROBIN HARPER, Lothians MSP for the Scottish Green Party.

LAST week was Equalities and Diversity Week at the Scottish Parliament with MSPs of all parties celebrating the progress we have made to become a fairer society. But there is still much we can do.
A recent study found more than half the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people surveyed in Edinburgh had been victims of physical assault at some time. Among disabled people, another study found that 47 per cent had experienced hate crime because of their disability, with 31 per cent experiencing verbal abuse, intimidation or physical attack at least once a month.
And research involving people with mental health problems revealed that 41 per cent of those questioned had been harassed in public, compared to 15 per cent in the general population.
Behind these figures are real people living in Edinburgh and elsewhere in Scotland who have experienced what has come to be known as "hate crime" - crime motivated by malice or ill-will towards a social group.
To quote one gay Edinburgh resident's experience: "My friends and I were physically assaulted. We were targets because we were gay men in a straight bar. My teeth were broken."
And a visually impaired person told the Disability Rights Commission: "A friend with a guide dog was attacked. They kicked and punched him, then took the harness of his dog and scared the dog away."
It seems a long time since 2002 when the Scottish Parliament backed my call to consider strengthening legislation on hate crimes. A working group was established but, despite its recommendation to the then Scottish Executive that Scotland needed new laws, no action was taken.
My Green Party colleague, Patrick Harvie MSP, has now lodged a Bill proposal to strengthen the law to tackle hate crimes against people on the grounds of their disability or sexual orientation. The move will introduce "statutory aggravation" powers to ensure that abuse and violence towards these groups is treated the same as religious bigotry and racism and to provide courts with clear and consistent sentencing powers.
In England and Wales, the law on sentencing for hate crimes already covers disability and sexual orientation, and it has been effective for handling this kind of crime.
If the Greens are successful in getting this legislation through Parliament, it will send hugely important messages: to victims that they should report the crime and it will be dealt with; to offenders, that crimes motivated by hate will be recognised as such and sentenced properly; and to society as a whole, that Scotland is a country which, in the 21st century, clearly says "no" to prejudice and intolerance, especially when these result in criminal offences.

Forms pose discrimination risk, U.K.civil partners warned,,2221352,00.html

Lucy Ward, social affairs correspondent
Tuesday December 4, 2007

Gay and lesbian people who enter into civil partnerships are at risk of "forced outing" through everyday activities such as taking out a bank loan, according to a report to be published tomorrow.
A study for the Citizens Advice charity, produced two years after civil partnerships became legal in Britain, reveals that form-filling is forcing gay people to disclose their sexual orientation to banks, insurance companies and employers, when they might have preferred not to.
Declaring a gay relationship, for example to a prospective employer, could increase the potential for discrimination or harassment, according to the report, Civil Partnerships - Another Year On.
The research also concludes that the terminology surrounding civil partnerships is making it harder for gay couples to discuss or refer to their status and "bringing into sharp focus social discomfort with homosexuality". People are being forced to choose between "clumsy" terms such as "civilly partnered" and the inaccurate and potentially controversial word "marriage", says the study.
The report from the CAB's advice body for the gay, lesbian and transgendered community, reflects the "unintended consequences" as civil partnership legislation beds in, said CAB spokesman Tom Togher. The new law has proved popular, with more than 18,000 partnerships registered in the first 12 months following the act, and several thousand more this year.
But "legal change is running ahead of social change", Togher said, with many gay and lesbian people still wary of declaring their sexual orientation.
Participants in the survey, which included 20 in-depth interviews with people in civil partnerships and long-term, non-legally recognised gay and lesbian relationships, were concerned that declaring civil partnership status could expose them to discrimination or harassment.
The report recommends forms should have a single category of "married/civil partner", leaving the sexual orientation of respondents unspecified. It also calls for a debate on civil partnership terminology.
Ben Summerskill, chief executive of the campaign group Stonewall, said form-filling could raise problems, but said many organisations - including Revenue & Customs - bracketed civil partnerships and marriage together. The term marriage was emerging as the most popular term used by gay and lesbian couples to describe their relationships, he added.