Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Canada Bars Gay Organ Donors


January 09, 2008

Canadian transplant programs will no longer harvest organs from the bodies of gay men who were sexually active, according to CBC News.The new regulation, passed by Health Canada, which technically went into effect in December, excludes men who had sex with men, injection drug users, and other groups they consider high-risk. Many health officials in transplant programs throughout the country were not aware of the new law."We have not been informed, first of all, that Health Canada is considering this," Gary Levy, head of Toronto University's transplant program, told CBC News. "Obviously, if Health Canada wishes to discuss that, we would hope they would engage all stakeholders."
The new law also requires that transplant officials must interview family members of the donor during the screening process.
"We'll be asking about things like travel, history of infectious disease, whether [the donors have] been in jail — that puts you at increased risk," Peter Nickerson, director of Transplant Manitoba, said to CBC News. "Have they been an IV drug abuser in the past? Have they had tattoos? There's a whole list of questions we go through," he added, one of them being sexual orientation and activity.
In the past, transplant programs have screened potential donors and in some cases used organs from high-risk individuals. The new regulation halts this practice and prohibits the use of organs from men who had sex with men within the last five years of of their lives.
Levy estimates that the new regulation will mean that seven out of every 100 potential donors will be excluded, while approximately 4,000 Canadians are on organ wait-lists.
Every state in the U.S. has separate organ donation eligibility requirements, and while sexually active gay men cannot donate blood, there are no specific prohibitions for organ donation -- medical suitability is determined at the time of death. (The Advocate)

Iraq Prisoner Amnesty Does Not Extend to Gays


2nd January 2008 12:30
PinkNews.co.uk staff writer

A draft bill before the Iraqi parliament would grant an amnesty for as many as 5,000 prisoners, yet excludes those convicted of homosexual "crimes."Ali al-Dabbagh, a spokesman for the country's government, said the bill had been sent to the parliament's Speaker yesterday.Iraqis being held by the Americans are also excluded, alongside those charged with terrorist offences, rape and adultery. While homosexuality is in itself not illegal in Iraq, several laws are used to persecute gay people.Laws against loitering, indecent exposure, spreading "dangerous diseases," committing and indecent act in public and making "indecent" advances are all used. However, of much more pressing threat to gay Iraqis is the actions of militia groups. The Mahdi Army, one of the many armed groups, is loyal to firebrand fundamentalist Shia cleric, Muqtada al-Sadr.It has been involved in the torture and execution of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Iraqis and many other Iraqis, especially women, who do not conform to its harsh interpretation of Islam.The Badr militias have also kidnapped and executed people for being gay or trans.The United Nations Assistance Mission to Iraq (UNAMI) reported last year that armed militias have been targeting gay people:"Armed Islamic groups and militias have been known to be particularly hostile towards homosexuals, frequently and openly engaging in violent campaigns against them," UNAMI reported."There have been a number of assassinations of homosexuals in Iraq."The targeting of gay people is just another example of the chaos of daily life in the country. In the absence of a strong police or army force, the militias rule the streets.There are summary execution people for "crimes" of homosexuality as well as listening to Western pop music, wearing shorts or jeans, and in the case of women, not being veiled or walking in the street unaccompanied by a male relative.

Kuwaitis Arrested for "Impersonating Opposite Sex"


18th January 2008 11:10
Tony Grew

A leading human rights charity has drawn attention to the plight of more than a dozen people arrested and jailed under new "dress code" laws in Kuwait. Human Rights Watch has called for them to be released. The law was approved by the National Assembly on December 10th 2007. It criminalises people who "imitate the appearance of the opposite sex.""The wave of arrests in the past month shows exactly why Kuwait should repeal this repressive law," said Joe Stork, deputy director of the Middle East division at HRW. "Kuwaiti authorities should immediately drop all charges against those arrested, and investigate charges of ill-treatment in detention."Security officials have arrested at least 14 people in Kuwait City since the National Assembly approved an addition (Article 199 bis) to Article 198 of the Criminal Code. The amendment states that "any person committing an indecent act in a public place, or imitating the appearance of a member ofthe opposite sex, shall be subject to imprisonment for a period notexceeding one year or a fine."The only known targets of the new Kuwaiti law have been transgender people.Kuwait allows transgender people neither to change their legal identity to match the gender in which they live, nor to adapt their physical appearance through gender reassignment surgery. The new law, coming after months of controversy, aims at further restricting their rights and completely eliminating their public presence. In September 2007, the newspaper Al Arabiya reported a new government campaign to "combat the growing phenomenon of gays and transsexuals" in Kuwait.

Gay Marriage is "Coming Closer" In Israel


By Nathan Jeffay
Tel Aviv

In what is being heralded as a “first step towards civil marriage” in Israel, same-sex and mixed-faith couples are being offered partnership cards.The cards are being issued by Tel Aviv-based pressure group New Family to allow couples who cannot wed through religious channels to sign legal documents confirming their partnership. A wallet-sized card is then issued, which either partner can later nullify. Four-hundred couples have signed up in the first fortnight. “There are couples who have been together for 30 years, and unable to get any recognition until now, who are delighted,” New Family chair Irit Rosenblum told the JC. “It gives them social recognition.”In practical terms, it is claimed the cards will make it easier for such couples to access their rights in areas including inheritance, tax and fiscal law. New Family has sent letters to every municipality asking for official recognition of the cards, and has so far received three responses — all positive — from Tel Aviv, Lod and Mevasseret Zion. Although it anticipates opposition in religious areas, “it is too soon to know”, Ms Rosenblum says.Although the scheme might appear a gimmick, “this is a real revolution, an alternative to religious marriage. This is the first step to show that society here in Israel accepts the new family, which is not using the existing institutions for recognising partnerships. It will be the first step towards civil marriage.”Among the first recipients of the partnership cards were Lior and Sharon Brand from Ramat Gan. Mr Brand refers to the process as their “marriage” and the couple followed the signing with a “wedding” in the Judean Desert.“I do not practise any religion and — even though we would have been accepted — getting married under the rabbinate was out of the question,” he explained. “This way we could do it as we wanted.” With only religious marriage available in Israel, thousands of couples unable to wed through a synagogue or mosque are deprived of legal recognition for their relationship. As well as same-sex couples, the system excludes mixed-faith couples and those whose union is forbidden by religious law, such as divorcees or converts who want to marry a Cohen. It also applies to many Russian and Ethiopian immigrants who are considered Jewish by the Law of Return but not by halachah. For heterosexual couples affected, the only answer until now has been to travel to Cyprus for a civil ceremony.

Gay Nursing Home Opening in Germany


21st January 2008 17.50
Gemma Pritchard
Europe's first gay nursing home has opened in Berlin.Berlin's gay mayor Klaus Wowereit is publicly supporting the ground-breaking project, which culminates years of planning and fund-raising.The newly built, four-storey nursing facility in the Pankow district of the German capital can accommodate 28 patients in state-of-the-art rooms with private bathrooms and enough space for some of their own furnishings."The idea was first proposed at the Gay and Grey Forum in Cologne in 1995 and we began drafting plans in 2001, and it is truly amazing that it has taken all these years to become a reality," Christian Hamm, a Berlin-based architect and nursing home board member told DPA."So we are even more pleased and proud that we have finally been able to open Europe's first full-service nursing facility for elderly gays and lesbians."Furnishings and decor are very important in a gay environment, says Hamm."When you are old, the last thing that you want to do is to have to hide. And you certainly don't want to give up your identity and live in some hostile environment, possibly sharing a room with someone who despises you."Hamm and his associates in Berlin have ambitious plans not only for the nursing home but also for an assisted-care retirement centre specifically for homosexuals, a place that will allow gays to grow old surrounded by other gays.The nursing-care facility is just part of a $10,000,000 (£5, 120, 590) old-age complex which will one day offer residents spacious apartments, a café and function room facilities. In addition, the post-modern design by Christian Hamm envisions a health-care centre with physicians, therapists and a wellness gym is also incorporated into the plan.Potential residents are already signing up and have expressed delight at the prospect of living out their twilight years in a gay- friendly environment. "I wouldn't like to be in a heterosexual environment all the time," one applicant told DPA. "Elderly people like to talk about their children and their grandchildren, for instance. A large number of homosexuals do not have children and find it hard to join in. For us, talking about the grandkids is awkward."In the mid 1990s it seemed homosexuality had been generally accepted in Germany. But surveys revealed that many social workers did have a problem with it, particularly in former East Germany, where homosexuality was discounted as a "symptom of decadent capitalist imperialism." Researchers were shocked to find that directors of senior homes said things like: "There is no homosexuality here."The turn came only after 2001, when the centre-left government of Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder enacted gay-union legislation which gave homosexual couples many of the same rights and privileges as married couples. The idea for a gay old-age home came from Hamm, 45. A long-time gay activist, Hamm says the greying generation of older gays in Germany have find themselves alone."They have no children or grandchildren," he says, "and as they grow older they find themselves with no close relatives to support them when they are no longer able to take care of themselves." Mayor Wowereit, 54, who was elected in June 2001 after telling Berlin voters, "I'm gay and that's good," has actively supported the project and says it dovetails into his vision of Berlin."Berlin is a gay-friendly city, a city of tolerance," the mayor says. "And I represent our city with this message. Berlin has the biggest gay and lesbian scene in Germany and we welcome gays of all ages."

Cameroon Men Get Six Months Jail for Being Gay


16th January 2008 18:35
PinkNews.co.uk staff writer

Three men have been sentenced to six month hard labour for being homosexual.The men were arrested in Bonapriso, Douala, on August 31st 2007 by police officers making random arrests in search of armed robbers. After being beaten at the police station, one of the men confessed to being homosexual and implicated his two colleagues. "As soon as the shadow of homosexuality enters into a case due process goes out of the window," commented International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Campaign Programme Associate Joel Nana, who has been monitoring the cases. The three men's lawyer said she would appeal the convictions and none of the men had been found guilty of homosexual acts. Article 347 of the country's penal code prohibits consensual same-sex relationships. The men have been held in jail since August. People currently detained on grounds of homosexuality all have cases riddled with irregularities and have been subject to procedures that are inconsistent with the new Cameroonian code of penal procedure. After arrest, alleged homosexuals are detained for investigation for longer time periods that the law prescribes. If they are lucky enough to find a lawyer, then they undergo an endless number of trials. "This is a tactic that the court frequently uses in the cases of gay men and lesbians," said Sebastien Mandeng, human rights researcher at Alternatives-Cameroon, the national LGBT organisation. "They needlessly prolong the process with no legal justification in order to unofficially punish and imprison the accused." More than 30 people have been arrested in Cameroon in the last two years on charges of homosexuality, despite an October 2006 ruling by the United Nations that such arrests to be arbitrary and unfair. Dozens of students, particularly girls and young women, have been expelled from schools as result of their real or perceived sexual orientation. Alternatives-Cameroun has documented the cases of more than 13 other men currently being detained in Cameroon under Article 347.The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has declared that detention on the basis of sexual orientation in Cameroon constitutes an arbitrary deprivation of liberty contrary to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). The UN human rights body called on the government of Cameroon to adopt necessary measures to remedy the situation, including the possible repeal of Article 347. The human rights groups Alternatives-Cameroun, Amnesty International, IGLHRC, Les Pantheres Rose, and OUT are calling for the repeal of Article 347, the release of all individuals detained under this law, and an end to official discrimination based on sexual orientation in Cameroon.

Morocco "Gay Party" Convictions Upheld


16th January 2008 10:55
PinkNews.co.uk staff writer

A leading human rights organisation has called on the authorities in Morocco to release six men jailed for "lewd and unnatural acts." They were arrested by police between November 23rd and 25th 2007, after a video circulated online, including on YouTube, purporting to show a private party, allegedly including the men, taking place in Ksar el-Kbir on November 18th.Press reports claimed the party was a "gay marriage."At an appeal yesterday the men's sentences were reduced but their convictions upheld. The six men range in age from 20 to 61 years old.Amnesty International has today issued a fresh call for their release."Rather than just reduce the length of the prison sentences, the Moroccan authorities should have released all of the defendants," said Amnesty International UK Campaigner Kim Manning-Cooper."The use of laws to imprison individuals for same-sex relations is a grave violation of their fundamental human rights."According to lawyers for the defendants, the prosecution failed to present any evidence that the men actually had engaged in the prohibited conduct in the first place.At the trial, all six men maintained their innocence of the charges. All denied that they had engaged in same-sex sexual relations during the party. The Youtube video was broadcast at the trial but did not present any evidence of "lewd or unnatural acts with an individual of the same sex."Despite the lack of evidence, the men were found guilty and sentenced to prison terms and fines. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which Morocco has ratified, bars interference with the right to privacy.The United Nations Human Rights Committee has condemned laws against consensual homosexual conduct as violations of the ICCPR.The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has held that arrests for consensual homosexual conduct are, by definition, human rights violations.

Swedish Opposition May Force Gay Marriage Vote


15th January 2008 16:45
PinkNews.co.uk staff writer

The three opposition parties in Sweden have said they may force a bill through parliament to extend marriage to gay and lesbian couples.Under current laws, dating back to 1987, marriage is defined as being between a man and a woman. Gay and lesbian couple can register their partnership through a civil ceremony, a process introduced in 1995 which gives same-sex couples the same rights as married couples.A new piece of proposed "gender-neutral" legislation however, may soon remove this distinction allowing anybody to marry in the Church of Sweden. Six of the seven parties represented in parliament are in support of gay marriage with only the Christian Democrats, a junior member of the four-party coalition, opposing it.The opposition Social Democrats, Greens and Left party claim the government has had ample time to bring forward legislation. However the coalition says it is committed to negotiating a common position.The Christian Democrats condemned any attempt by the opposition to "steamroller" the government."I think this is terribly immoral of the opposition," Christian Democrat member of the Civil Affairs Committee Yvonne Andersson told The Local. "The consultation period ends today and it is our duty to consider the responses to the consultation." Gay marriage is supported by LGBT activists in the country. "I think it would be great if the Swedish law passed," said Soeren Andersson of the Swedish Federation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights."In changing the law everybody could be equal." In January 2007 the Church of Sweden, which was disestablished in 2000, began offering religious blessings to gay unions and actively welcomed LGBT clergy. While the Church's initial reaction to be bill was to declare it would prefer "marriage" to be a term reserved from heterosexual union, last month it approved the "gender neutral" proposal."The Church of Sweden's central board says yes to the proposal to join the legislation for marriages and partnerships into a single law," the Church said in December.Some priests may opt out of performing same-sex ceremonies. They can currently decline to marry divorced people as long as another priest agress to perform the ceremony. Approximately 75% of the population are members of the Church of Sweden, a Lutheran denomination. However, only 2% regularly attend services.

Irish Authority Calls for Trans Equality Review


21st January 2008 17.20
Gemma Pritchard

Ireland's Equality Authority is seeking tenders for a report on extending equal status legislation to cover discrimination against trans people.The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform is reviewing the grounds covered by the Equal Status Acts, which outlaw discrimination on the grounds of gender, marital status, family status, age, disability, sexual orientation, race, religion and membership of the Traveller community.The Equality Authority wants the review to include a report on equality legislation in other countries, the Sunday Business Post has reported.It has sought tenders for a report which will identify anti-discrimination legislation covering areas other than those included in the acts, or which broaden existing grounds. The tender documents say that the new report should also explicitly identify trans people as covered under the gender ground and include new grounds under the Employment Equality Acts, such as socio-economic status, political opinion, trade union membership and criminal convictions. They also say that the report should not be a comprehensive examination, but should identify best practice in the coverage of similar anti-discrimination legislation.Where possible, the report should set out the definition of the new ground, identify specific exemptions and establish the scale of discrimination. It should also identify any studies carried out in that jurisdiction in relation to that ground.The report should build on and reflect work already carried out by the Equality Authority, including recommendations for a broader definition of 'family status' to include all carers, and of 'age' to remove the lower age limit.Tenders have to be returned to the Equality Authority by 5pm on Wednesday.

Ireland to Recognize UK Civil Partnerships


7th January 2008 14:20
Tony Grew

The Republic of Ireland will recognise same-sex marriages, civil unions and civil partnerships from other countries when it legalises same-sex unions later this year. The Irish Times reports that "civil unions or weddings will have the same legal recognition as new civil partnerships in Ireland, as long as they meet a number of conditions."The UK already recognises same-sex unions and marriages from nearly 20 countries, including Canada, the US and France. At present Irish citizens are entering into partnerships in the UK, Canada and other nations. Last month Ireland's Minister of Justice rejected the possibility of a referendum to allow gay marriage.Labour Minister Brian Lenihan said civil partnership was easier to achieve, because gay marriage would require a constitutional change that would split the country.Speaking at the annual meeting of the Gay and Lesbian Equality Network, he said he was keen to guarantee equality to gay people."This government, as our agreed programme reflects, is committed to full equality of opportunity for all in our society. "In particular, we are committed to providing a more supportive and secure legal environment for same-sex couples" he said."I believe equality for same-sex couples can be achieved through a diversity of legal arrangements."I am very keen that in the interests to your community we should proceed now to bring in a law that will give recognition and protection to same sex couples who are involved in loving stable relationships."The Minister said that the expected law should allow couples to formalise their relationships, undertake mutual rights and obligations, obtain legal protection and legal benefits for their relationships.In 2007 the Prime Minister of Ireland Bertie Ahern said that legislation would be approved during the lifetime of his government.According to Leninan, it is now expected to be introduced by March 2008.GLEN welcomed the Minister's words, but added that only through marriage it was possible to achieve real equality and that they would continue to ask for it.GLEN's Chair Kieran Rose said that his organisation expected "principled, equality-based and comprehensive" legislation.Homosexuality was decriminalised in the Republic of Ireland in 1993.Both discrimination and incitement to hatred on the grounds of sexual orientation are illegal.

Trans Mexican to be Granted Asylum in Canada


by Steve Weinstein
New York Editor-In-Chief
Friday Jan 18, 2008

A transgender Mexican national who claims he’d be killed in his homeland for crossdressing looks as though he’s getting another chance to become a Canadian refugee, cnews reports. Jose Arturo Contreras Hernandez, who now lives in Toronto, "fears danger to return to Mexico because he is a homosexual and likes to dress as a woman," Justice John O’Keefe wrote in a Federal Court of Canada ruling in Hernandez’s favor last month.Hernandez arrived in Canada in 2006 but was not able to appeal to Canada’s policy of granting asylum to those facing persecution in their homeland. Hernandez had filed an unsuccessful refugee claim that the Immigration and Refugee Board threw out. Cnews reports that IRB members didn’t believe he was in peril in MexicoHe was able to appeal the decision to a federal court, which granted another hearing. Immigration lawyers say that will most likely result in his remaining in Canada. "My client is very pleased with the decision," Hernandez’ lawyer Lani Gozlan said. "He is a very feminine man who likes to dress as a woman at times. This is the first case I know of involving a cross-dresser. Mexico is a very macho society and it is too dangerous for him."David Garcia, a Latino activist in Toronto, agreed. "He will be called a freak," Garcia told cnews. Hernandez said his father attacked him. He testified he was also attacked in a washroom of the Department of Agriculture, where he worked, kidnapped and forced to drive around with a gun in his mouth.The United States has a similar asylum clause, and some African gay men and lesbians have been trying to use it to remain here. The cases remain pending.

Spain's Leader Cites Gay Rights in Reelection Bid


Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero

The Spanish government called general elections for March 9, formally launching Monday what is shaping up as a close race between the ruling Socialists and opposition conservatives.
The Cabinet approved a decree at a special meeting, and Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero met later with King Juan Carlos to have the monarch formally sign it.
Zapatero is seeking a second term after being elected in March 2004 elections that ousted a conservative government devastated by the Madrid terror bombings by Muslim extremists. The attack killed 191 people and injured more than 1,800.
Speaking to reporters Monday, Zapatero gave his government a glowing review on the state of the economy, social legislation such as legalization of same-sex marriage and other achievements. He said he will ask voters for another term.
"We have a great country. We are a great country. We deserve the best of futures and we are prepared for it," Zapatero said.
Zapatero had already announced the new election date last month. The formal campaign runs for two weeks before the poll, but the two parties have been campaigning for months.
Polls show the Socialists with a lead of 2-3 points over the conservative Popular Party, but statistically the parties are virtually in a dead heat.
Another poll released Monday by the Instituto Opina also showed them statistically tied.
Despite the close race between the parties, Zapatero leads opposition leader Mariano Rajoy in terms of personal approval rating.
A survey published Jan. 4 in the newspaper El Mundo said Spaniards give him higher marks for leadership, foreign policy, social issues, and others, although they prefer Rajoy for dealing with the armed Basque separatist group ETA and handling the economy.
In its favor, Zapatero's camp points to what it calls a strong economy, trailblazing social reforms such as same-sex marriage and changes that gave more self-rule to semiautonomous regions like Catalonia.
The conservatives are hammering away at Zapatero's failed effort to negotiate peace with ETA, which declared a cease-fire in 2006 only to revert to violence last year after failing to win concessions in talks with the government.
Zapatero said Monday that after an ETA bombing that killed two people at Madrid airport in December 2006, shattering the cease-fire, he authorized further contacts with ETA to explore whether there was any chance of salvaging the truce.
He said international organizations approached ETA. He did not identify who was involved or when the contacts took place.
"The prospects were practically nil because the government had already closed the door on what might reasonably have been a process of dialogue that would lead to the end of [ETA] violence," he said.
Indeed, right after the airport bombing, ETA insisted that the two deaths were unintended and that the truce held but declared the cease-fire formally over in June 2007.
Spain's economy, for more than a decade one of the most vibrant in Europe, is cooling off and inflation is running at more than 4 percent, so the economy is also a big campaign issue.
The conservatives are promising tax cuts for businesses and low-income workers, while the government is pledging to create 1.6 million new jobs if reelected and has already launched a program to provide financial aid to young workers and low-earning families to help them pay their rent. (AP)

Cuban Law May Recognise Same-Sex Partners, Say Officials


Mariela Castro, daughter of acting President Raul Castro and niece of Fidel.

21st January 2008 12.21
Gemma Pritchard

The Cuban Communist Party is considering granting legal recognition to same-sex unions, as health officials prepare to authorise sex-change operations, the director of the Cenesex sex education centre in Cuba has said. The proposed change to Cuban family law would put members of same-sex unions on a par with heterosexual couples, psychologist Mariela Castro, who is the daughter of acting President Raul Castro and niece of Fidel, told EFE.Cenesex, which was founded in 1989 as a department of the Public Health Ministry, approached Cuba's parliament two years ago with a proposal to overhaul the 1975 Family Code to recognise the rights of gays, lesbians and transsexuals. But it is the Communist Party that will decide whether the proposal becomes law."We are receiving suggestions and debating adjusting the proposal so it is more flexible and has more chance of being approved," Mariela Castro told EFE.The principal needs of Cuban homosexuals "are related to the right to their recognition as consensual couples, as non-matrimonial couples, but that authorities recognise their property and inheritance rights in those non-legalized unions," she said."That is their principal interest. They are not interested in marriage, they are not interested in adoption, because in Cuba there are hardly any children to adopt."She added that besides legal recognition, gays, lesbians and transsexuals in Cuba want respect: "Let no one feel the right to humiliate them, nor harm them, nor exclude or reject them, that we strengthen within the family this ethic of accepting everyone and of not being discriminated against for sexual orientation."The Public Health Ministry in Cuba is currently in the process of approving regulations that would allow sex-change operations. Mariela Castro said that a team of Cuban physicians is already in training to perform such procedures. In an interview with EFE last August, the 45-year-old psychologist said her struggle for the equality of the sexes and gay rights would "enrich the Cuban Revolution."But she added that the task is not an easy one in a "patriarchal" society where many remember the UMAP labour camps where homosexuals and the ideologically suspect were interned in the late 1960s.

Conference Discusses Fidel's Attitude to Gay Cubans


Fidel Castro
11th January 2008 02:05

Yesterday in Madrid a two-day discussion on homosexuality in Cuba and the repression that sexual minorities had undergone because of the island's communist regime began.Sexual diversity was seen by Fidel Castro as a corrupt consequence of capitalism.Posters for the conference bore Che Guevara's well-known picture along with the rainbow colours of the gay Pride flag.Writer Zoe Valdes believes this "would have greatly irritated" Che."Che and his ideal of the new man was the ideal of the macho man, which rejects everything that has gathered us here," Valdes said. "In explaining Cuba's recent history it is important to remember that behind a political issue there's a sexual issue," said said, including the repressed homosexuality of regime leaders. She spoke about the 'love' that Alfredo Guevara, Cuban Film Institute founder, felt for Fidel Castro:"He waited like a girlfriend every December 31st for Fidel to call him and wish him a happy birthday." Raul Castro, Fidel's younger brother, who has been Cuba's acting president since Fidel fell ill in July 2006, has been accused of being a closeted homosexual.Poet Leon de la Hoz said that many people on the island refer to him as "the little Chinese man with the sad eyes," a reference to his supposed repressed homosexuality. The two-day discussion began with presentations about Cuban poet Jose Mario, an important 20th Century figure in the country, who suffered in Cuban labour camps as Castro's regime 're-educated' homosexuals.Gays were incarcerated in Military Units to Aid Production (UMAPs) between 1965 and 1968. Castro believed that hard work would rid the men of their counter-revolutionary tendancies.Writer Jacobo Machover said the at the entrance of the camp there was a sign which said "work shall make you men", similar to the motto of the Nazi concentration camps, "work shall set you free."Raul Castro's daughter, Mariela, told EFE last year she would "enrich the Cuban Revolution" with her fight for the equality of the sexes and gay rights.The 45-year-old psychologist is the National Sex Education Centre director since 2000.Recently, she has been campaigning in defence of LGBT rights in Cuba, a task she describes as difficult due to the patriarchal society she lives in."I'm deeply sorry about what occurred in my country, about what occurred in the revolution, when the revolution has had a very strong orientation towards humanism," she said.The Madrid event was organised by Colegas , the Spanish LGBT Federation, and took place in the city's Casa de la America.

New Zealand Commisson Suggests More Rights for Trans People


18th January 2008 17:30
PinkNews.co.uk staff writer

The Human Rights Commission in New Zealand has recommended that citizens should be able to alter their sex on documents such as passports and birth certificates.Following a two-year study the commission has said the country's Human Rights Act should be amended to make gender identity discrimination illegal."Forms of discrimination and harassment ranged from low-level (avoidance and insults) to very severe (violent physical and sexual assaults)," the commission said. It found that 80% of trans people in New Zealand had experienced discrimination. Former MP Georgina Beyer welcomed the report. The first trans person to be elected as an MP, she had previously tried to amend the Human Rights Act. She told NZPA that making the recommended changes to the law should be implemented. "What it would do is further assimilation into society of a marginalised group who tend to be forgotten, dismissed and given no particular importance."The majority of them end up becoming burdens on society because of the way we treat them and here is an opportunity to give them tools by which they can integrate and become positive contributors."The commission highlighted the plight of trans children at school, which angered the deputy leader of the conservative New Zealand First party. Peter Brown accused the commission of "wasting tens of thousands of dollars studying a non-issue that affects a tiny minority," and claimed trans children "do not need pressure or encouragement from fringe liberals to wear drag to school." "Just because technology physically allows a person's sex to be changed, it does not mean that society should be forced to accept the results, or pay for them."Ms Beyer was not overly optimistic that the proposals would be implemented. "Under a Labour Government you might have a chance, but I doubt it somehow," she told the New Zealand Herald. "But my God, if we get a right-wing government in, there will be no way."400 New Zealanders, 0.01% of the population, show their gender as `X' rather than male or female in their passports and 400 to 800 (0.01-0.02%) belong to transgender groups, according to the Herard.

Banks Woo Gay Recruits in Asia


Hong Kong
15th January 2008 16:00
PinkNews.co.uk staff writer

While multi-national corporations have been actively recruiting gay, lesbian and bisexual staff in the UK for some time, the policy has now been adopted in some Asian nations.The Financial Times reports that American investment bank Lehman Brothers held a recruietment event for LGB students at Hong Kong university and is considering similar events in Singapore.Homosexual relations are legal in Hong Kong. Despite recent debate about the issue in Singapore they remain against the law. Other major institutions such as Merrill Lynch, Credit Suisse, Goldman Sachs and UBS are also targeting gay graduates in Hong Kong, the FT reports. Christopher Jackson, a senior vice-president for Lehman Brothers in Tokyo, told the paper: "The way we're tackling this in Asia certainly emanates to some extent from the fact that we're a US firm based in New York."Last year British gay equality organisation Stonewall launched its third annual guide for LGB graduates, Starting Out, sponsored by Credit Suisse.Multi-nationals such as American Express, Abn Amro, Barclays, BP, Citi, GlaxoSmithKline, IBM, Time Warner and UBS advertised their gay-friendly credentials in an attempt to attract the best talent.

Baby Taken Away From Brazilian Gay Couple


11th January 2008 15:14
PinkNews.co.uk staff writer

A government official who successfully fought to take an adopted baby away from a gay couple in Brazil has said that "gay couples are abnormal."On Monday 70 people gathered in San Jose do Rio Preto, a small town outside of Sao Paulo, to protest against the baby being removed from the care of a 30-year-old transsexual hairdresser, Roberta Góes Luiz, and her partner."I've been through three psychological evaluations successfully. I have my own home, I've been with my partner for six years and I have a job," Roberta told O Globo ."But for others that isn't 'normal' and I'm not capable of taking care of a baby."That's prejudice, there is no other explanation. But I'm not going to give up. I want my son back."In an interview with the Diario de S.Paulo newspaper, the official, Cláudio Santos de Moraes, said he was not being homophobic when he fought for the couple to lose custody of the baby. According to him, if a situation is 'unusual', then it is 'abnormal'. "I'm not discriminating," he said."I simply understand that this child has the right to a conventional family, with a mother that is a woman and a father that is a man. I don't think it is correct to give custody to that transsexual man."The baby had been under Roberta's care for 8 months. However Moraes said he didn't want to feel "guilty" if the child didn't like his parents in the future."If it's an abnormal situation then I don't see why we would take the risk. The child cannot be a scientific experiment to see if things turn out well," he said."If that child has the chance to live with a normal family, why should we put it in a situation that might bring it future consequences?"

Argentine Gay Couple Defies Country's Civil Union Ban


By OSCAR J. SERRAT, Associated Press
updated 10:13 a.m. PT, Mon., Jan. 21, 2008

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina - Two leaders of Argentina's leading homosexual rights organization were married Monday in Madrid in defiance of their country's ban on gay marriage.
Cesar Cigliutti and Marcelo Suntheim said they would demand legal recognition of their marriage in Argentina.
"We came to Spain because there is a marriage law here that allows the union of homosexuals and in Argentina there isn't," Cigliutti, president of the Argentine Homosexual Community, told The Associated Press from Madrid. The newlyweds celebrated with friends Monday before a honeymoon in Egypt.
The Madrid wedding was made possible by Suntheim's dual citizenship in Argentina and Germany _ allowing him to marry within the European Union. They chose Spain for its cultural similarities to Argentina.
Although Argentina does not recognize gay marriage, the Buenos Aires legislature approved a law in 2002 permitting same-sex civil unions, granting gay couples in the Argentine capital economic and family rights similar to those of heterosexual couples.
Similar laws are also in place in the Patagonian province of Rio Negro and a small city in the province of Cordoba. Uruguay is the only country in Latin America that has legalized gay civil unions nationwide.
Buenos Aires has undergone a gay tourism boom in the past five years, rivaling Rio de Janeiro as the unofficial "gay capital" of South America. The continent's first luxury gay hotel opened in the city in late October.
But past attempts by homosexuals to marry in Argentina have been rejected by the judicial system in this predominantly Roman Catholic country.
Cigliutti said he and Suntheim, secretary of the Argentine Homosexual Community, will have to fight for recognition in court.
"It's not going to be easy. ... But we're already married, Spain recognizes us," said Cigliutti. "We want Argentina to recognize us as well."
Same-sex civil unions have recently been recognized by Mexico City, the Mexican state of Coahuila and Brazil's Rio Grande do Sul state.

Going Gay, the Bollywood Way


Bollywood Actor Irrfan
14 Jan 2008, HARSHA BHATNAGAR ,The Times of India

The character of a homosexual was often used in films either to provide the fun quotient or as an effort to deal with a sensitive subject. This was because homosexuals were treated as queers. Now the scene is all set to change. Increasingly, the society has begun accepting them. With actors like Samir Soni, Harsh Chhaya and Irrfan happily playing the gay character, it is being felt that Bollywood is willing to change its stance. Beginning of acceptability Madhur Bhandarkar, who first showed gays as normal people in his film Page 3 , strongly feels that people are now more receptive to such subjects. Even for his latest film Fashion, he waited for months before zeroing in on Samir and Harsh to play gay fashion designers. He says, "Views are changing. Today there is a willingness to accept gays as a part of the society. Earlier, films would portray gays as mere caricatures. Just as we weave a character of a businessman or doctor in films, today a gay too is shown normally." Fear of being rebuked Sanjay Suri, the first mainstream hero to go gay in My Brother Nikhil a few years ago, says that he was dissuaded by his friends in the industry, when he announced that he would be doing the role, for fear of being rebuked. But he went ahead with his decision. "Instead of being ridiculed," he says, "my work was appreciated." Irrfan too in Mira Nair's forthcoming film, The Migration, portrays the role of an unhappy married bisexual man. Ask Irrfan did the thought of being ridiculed not cross his mind and he says, "As an actor one shouldn't think of such things. Over the years, the audience has opened up. They are more aware about such people existing in the same world." Stepping out When Harsh learnt that Madhur was looking out for someone to play a gay character, he immediately got interested and approached Madhur. Is this an indication that it is time for the Indian homosexuals to step out of the closet? To this Harsh replies, "Off late, with gay activists voicing their rights, people are now more understanding. Being a gay is just about having different sexual preferences, which is perfectly fine." Samir Soni who is also going to play a gay says, "Gays are usually shown to be effeminate (also known as drag queens) and that may not be necessarily true always. Often they are not even obviously identifiable. With my portrayal of this role, I’ll try and break the stereotype.” A matter of time Though things are looking up for gays in the society, more needs to be done for their acceptance in the mainstream. While Bollywood has taken the lead, Satish Kumar, spokesperson of Men Community Development Society, says, “Total acceptability in the society will take a little time. People are now talking openly about their sexual preferences. With Bollywood showing gays as an integral part of our society, it will definitely inspire people to accord respectability to them.”

Coming Out Raises Plight of Gays in Korean Military


3rd January 2008 16:00

A South Korean riot policeman has declared his homosexuality on a police community website, raising questions about the treatment of gay people in the country's Armed Forces. All young men in the country are obliged to serve in the military or in the riot police for up to two years and have to take a test at the time of enlistment which includes various questions about their sexual orientation.Private Kim Hyun-jong (not his real name) vowed to fight social prejudice against sexual minorities. Gay sex is a serious offence under military codes, and gay men have been regularly viewed as mentally ill and sent to mental institutions. He posted an article about his homosexuality on December 30th and became the second man from his squad to identify himself as being gay.In the article, Kim said coming out was hard, but it was an important issue for gay men in the South Korean military.Kim told The Korea Times his announcement was not well received by his colleagues: "Some almost put a restraining order on me, and I heard many talking behind my back describing me as a 'dirty' gay man,'" he said. "But I am a Korean man living in Korea and I have no reason to flinch. I will struggle against prejudice for all homosexual people and me."Kim, who works at a police station in Seoul, said he was almost forced to come out after fellow policemen read private information on his computer. He initially tried to deny his sexual orientation, but later changed his mind.Gay rights activist Chang Byung-kwon told The Korean Times: "The current law on homosexual management is just another way of classifying or segregating gays instead of treating them equally. "There is hardly any education offered to soldiers to help them understand homosexuality."In 2005, eight soldiers were thrown out of South Korea's military for homosexuality, according to army statistics revealed at the time.A year later, a soldier attempted suicide several times after telling his superiors he was gay. He later claimed that he was forced to submit photographs of himself in bed with another man. He was then obliged to take an HIV test and was publicly humiliated. In a separate case, a mother filed a petition to the National Human Rights Commission last October claiming her son was sexually harassed for saying he was gay. She said her 20-year-old son was forced to touch his superiors or get into bed with them. The first phase of new military regulations went into effect on April 1st 2006. They restricted the use of personal information about gay soldiers on military documents, ended the forced medical examinations of gay troops and punished perpetrators of sexuality-based physical or verbal abuse. Previously those who have "abnormal" sexual identities such as gays, lesbians and bisexual people, were not allowed to serve in the Armed Forces.However, the Ministry of Defence rules on homosexuality also state that gay men who want to "turn" straight will be supported.In the South Korean Constitution or Civil Penal Code there is no mention of homosexuality. However, in practice, discrimination against gay people and censorship against gay websites is fairly common. Homosexuality has only in recent years gained some acceptance in South Korean society, with its strict Confucian traditions and strong Roman Catholic influence. However, it remains taboo and same-sex couples are rarely seen in public.

Onscreen Lesbian Kiss Upsets Egyptian Academics


7th January 2008 16:10

A lesbian sex scene in an Egyptian film has outraged religious scholars, who are telling people not to watch the 'sinful' movie.An Islamic Studies professor at Cairo University wants the Egyptian authorities to prosecute the director and both actresses involved in the scene, Ghada Abdel-Razeq and Sumaya Al-Khashab.Dr Abdel-Sabour Shahin believes the film, Hina Maysara (Until Further Notice), promotes homosexuality and debauchery and destroys morality in society.Muslim teachers at Al-Azhar University have also slammed the film and support Shahin's indignation.One professor at the University, Elwi Amin, claimed there was no lesbianism in Egypt.He also said that watching scenes of a sexual nature, whether homosexual or heterosexual, was a sin."Many people in Egypt do not even know what the word 'lesbianism' means. This is the influence of immoral Western culture which controls the media," he told the Al Arabiya News Channel.One of the actresses, Sumaya Al-Khashab, does not regret making the scene and highlighted it was important to the narrative of the movie:"Whoever watches the movie will realize that this scene was important to the storyline and is not included just to be sensational," she said.This was not the first homosexual scene in Egyptian cinema, although the previous scene involved men instead of women.Director Khaled Youssef asked people to watch the film before they made up their minds:"I will not respond to those who criticise without even watching the movie. "Lots of people accuse me of apostasy and immorality based on seeing the film poster."Although Egyptian law does not explicitly forbid homosexuality, the practice is considered taboo in what is a conservative and mostly Muslim country.Most Egyptians look down on homosexuality, which leads very few Egyptian LGBTs to come out of the closet.Furthermore, the Egyptian government has been known for arresting homosexuals on the grounds of "offences against public morals and sensitivities" or "violating the teachings of religion and propagating depraved ideas and moral depravity."Any group or meeting of LGBT people is entirely underground and secret.

Gibraltar Gays Take Age of Consent Fight to Europe


11th January 2008 14:11

Gibraltar's unequal age of consent and discriminatory sexual offences legislation have been taken to the Council of Ministers of the Council of Europe by gay rights group GGR.At present male homosexual sex is legal at 18, rather than 16 for heterosexual and lesbian sex. The Council of Ministers is the highest level of the European body which is responsible for overseeing human rights. Gibraltar is a self-governing overseas territory of the United Kingdom, and the British government has no control over social policy. Felix Alvarez, GGR (Gibraltar Gay Rights) chairman, said Gibraltar's failure to respect human rights standards is the United Kingdom's responsibility.Besides the unequal age of consent, Gibraltar also retains criminal offences such as buggery and gross indecency, which exclusively criminalise gay men.Mr Alvarez wrote on his blog:"The question has been tabled by Lib Dem MP Mike Hancock, and places British Prime Minister Gordon Brown under additional pressure to ensure the Gibraltar government complies with international law requirements."It is now seven and a half years since the European Court ruled that age of consent inequality is in violation of the Convention. "Compliance is normally required within a maximum 3 to 4 years."He added that the GGR will resist all political pressures and the group will continue to work to ensure that real and legally recognised human rights are truly respected and upheld, despite political and technical obstacles being placed by the Chief Minister Peter Caruana."We must all be wary of politicians who manipulate sentiment in this manner so as to bolster their failing electoral support," he wrote."Cheap populism has historically exploited the 'family values' argument to justify repressive policies on issues as diverse as interracial marriage, slavery and women's rights, and have been at the root of much incitement to hatred in the past."Mr Hancock told Portsmouth Today: "Gibraltar’s still part of our dominion and they should be covered by the same rules and regulations."The Prime Minister has a duty to put this point to Gibraltar's chief minister."In October the Prime Minister committed himself to ending the unequal age of consent in the self-governing territory. MEP Michael Cashman met with Gordon Brown and raised the issue with him. LGBT people in the territory have little legal protection from discrimination. Up until 1992, all male homosexual relationships were illegal.GGR was established in 2000 by Mr Alvarez, and in a community of 27,000 people where politics is dominated by the issue of sovereignty, they are openly campaigning for rights equal to those enjoyed by gay people in the UK. Mr Alvarez said there was "growing heterosexual support being received on Gibraltar-based internet pro-gay rights forums which have spontaneously established themselves."Spain claims that Gibraltar is their territory. It was seized by Britain in 1704, and its strategic position at the point where the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean meet meant that the UK has retained the territory.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Gay Muslims Pack a Dance Floor of Their Own


photo: Jan-Peter Boening for The New York Times The crowd at Gayhane, a monthly party for Arab and Turkish gay men, lesbians and bisexuals at SO36, a Berlin nightclub. The event’s name is fashioned from gay and “hane,” Turkish for home.

photo: Jan-Peter Boening for The New York Times
Fatma Souad, a transgender performer and Gayhane’s organizer, before dressing for a Gayhane party last week.

By NICHOLAS KULISH Published: January 1, 2008 BERLIN —

Six men whirled faster and faster in the center of the nightclub, arms slung over one another’s shoulders, performing a traditional circle dance popular in Turkey and the Middle East. Nothing unusual given the German capital’s large Muslim population.
But most of the people filling the dance floor on Saturday at the club SO36 in the Kreuzberg neighborhood were gay, lesbian or bisexual, and of Turkish or Arab background. They were there for the monthly club night known as Gayhane, an all-too-rare opportunity to merge their immigrant cultures and their sexual identities.
European Muslims, so often portrayed one-dimensionally as rioters, honor killers or terrorists, live diverse lives, most of them trying to get by and to have a good time. That is more difficult if one is both Muslim and gay.
“When you’re here, it’s as if you’re putting on a mask, leaving the everyday outside and just having fun,” said a 22-year-old Turkish man who spoke on the condition of anonymity out of fear that he would be ostracized or worse if his family found out about his sexual orientation.
Safety and secrecy come up regularly when talking to guests, who laugh and dance, but also frequently look over their shoulders. To be a gay man or lesbian with an immigrant background invites trouble here in two very different ways.
“Depending on which part of Berlin I go to, in one I get punched in the mouth because I’m a foreigner and in the other because I’m a queen,” said Fatma Souad, the event’s organizer and master of ceremonies. Ms. Souad, 43, a transgender performer born in Ankara as a boy named Ali, has put on the party for over a decade.
Ms. Souad came to Berlin in 1983 after leaving home as a teenager. She studied to be a dressmaker and played in a punk band, but discovered Middle Eastern music through a friend and began teaching herself belly dancing. Ms. Souad started Salon Oriental, her first belly dancing theater, in 1988, and threw the first Gayhane party — hane means home in Turkish — in January 1997.
The club was packed by midnight and still had a line out the front door. On stage, Ms. Souad mixed a white turban and white net gloves with a black tuxedo with tails and a silver cummerbund, her face made up with perfectly drawn eyeliner and mascara. Dancing, she was all fluid motion, light on her feet, expressively twisting her hands and swiveling her hips.
Under flashing colored lights, guests, some with dreadlocks and others with carefully gelled coifs, moved to songs by the likes of the Egyptian Amr Diab and the Algerian Cheb Mami. Beats from traditional drums crossed with electronic ones, as melodies from flutes and ouds intertwined. When several circle dances — halay in Turkish — broke out at once, the floor began to shake from the stomping.
One of the regular D.J.’s, Ipek Ipekcioglu, 35, said she got her start rather suddenly, when one of the founders of SO36 walked up to her and said: “You’re Turkish, right? You’re lesbian, right? Bring your cassettes and D.J.”
Ms. Ipekcioglu spins everything from Turkish and Arabic music, to Greek, Balkan and Indian, a style she calls Eklektik BerlinIstan. She has been a full-time professional D.J. for six years and performs all over the world.
The space is decorated with bright yellow wall hangings depicting elephants, camels and even a flying carpet, with an intentional degree of kitsch, Ms. Souad said, and an intentional distance from anything Islamic. “We take care that religion is not mixed in here, not in the music either.”
Outside the boom of loud firecrackers can be heard, the first test rounds for the annual cacophony here that leaves New Year’s revelers ears’ ringing. Kreuzberg has been home for decades to large populations of Turks and Kurds, many of whom have very conservative religious values. Yet they have had to share the neighborhood that formerly abutted the Berlin Wall with many counterculture types, artists and anarchists and also gays and lesbians.
According to the city’s Schwules Museum, partly devoted to the history of gay people in the city and the country, “a lively homosexual subculture had developed in Berlin by the second half of the 18th century or perhaps earlier.” It was known as an oasis for gay men and lesbians in the Weimar period immortalized by the writer Christopher Isherwood and in the period when West Berlin was surrounded by the wall. Today, the city has an openly gay and highly popular mayor, Klaus Wowereit.
But gay men and lesbians from Muslim families say they face extraordinary discrimination at home. A survey of roughly 1,000 young men and women in Berlin, released in September and widely cited in the German press, found much higher levels of homophobia among Turkish youth.
“These differences are there,” said Bernd Simon, who led the study and is a professor of social psychology at Christian-Albrechts-University in Kiel. “We can’t deny them. The question is how do we cope with them.”
“The answer is not to replace homophobia with Islamophobia,” he added, pointing out that homophobia is also higher among Russian immigrants and in other, less urban parts of Germany.
Kader Balcik, a 22-year-old Turk from Hamburg, said: “For us, for Muslims, it’s extremely difficult. When you’re gay, you’re immediately cut off from the family.”
He had recently moved to Berlin not long after being cut off from his mother because he is bisexual. “A mother who wishes death for her son, what kind of mother is that?” he asked, his eyes momentarily filling with tears.
Hasan, a 21-year-old Arab man, sitting at a table in the club’s quieter adjoining cafe, declined to give his last name, saying: “They would kill me. My brothers would kill me.” Asked if he meant this figuratively, he responded, “No, I mean they would kill me.”
“I’m living one life here and the other one the way they wish me to be,” Hasan said, referring to his parents. He said he still planned to marry, but when he turned 30 rather than right away, as his parents wished. “I have to have children, to do what Islam wants me to do,” he said. “I would stop with everything in the homosexual life. I would stop it.”
He stood up from the table and called to his two friends. “All right, boys, let’s go dance,” he said. “We’re here to have fun.” And they marched off to the dance floor, smiling.

Nigerian Gay Movie Out Soon - or is it an anti-gay movie?


Monday, December 31, 2007

From modernghana.com: Gay Movie Out Soon
All is set for the Nigerian film industry to release the first gay movie titled “Sinful Saints” early next year. Directed by Nigeria’s 2005 Best Film Director, Dickson Iruegbu, the movie seeks to answer such questions as whether homosexuality is an African or borrowed culture.“Sinful Saints is a very controversial movie. It deals with a very sensitive but neglected topic; homosexuality. The movie will explore homosexuality in Nigeria,” Iruegbu revealed.How did it creep into our society? How do we discuss issues relating to sex with our children? Do we frighten them with our experiences? The family is the ultimate unit of society but unfortunately most homes lack good ways of discussing sex-related issues.Sinful Saints is the story of a kid whose over-protective mum (Clarion Chukwura) sheltered him so much that at age 19 he had not had any contact with a woman.Meanwhile his hormones are raging but ignorance has set in and he clings onto his fellow man to satisfy his sexual needs. Soon he is enmeshed in homosexuality.According to Iruegbu, “This is a topic we all shy away from but it is there. People experience it everyday and we have to talk about it and enlighten people. Some of us are trying to summon the courage to discuss it. For me it is high time we discussed it.”The movie features steamy scenes of man-to-man love and is an intricate web of ignorance, jealousy, betrayal and ultimately murder.Kanayo O. Kanayo (KOK), Charles Waran, Maurice Nwabueze and Clarion Chukwura are starring in this movie that would stretch the limits of censorship in Nigeria. On the challenges of shooting such a movie, Iruegbu said: “It took a long time to convince the artistes to play the roles. I paid three times what is obtainable for Nigerian movies. I have sunk over N8,000,000 in the project. I know it will shock Nigerians but the story has to be told. It is happening everywhere and people want to talk about it. According to him, he is not out to witch-hunt the homosexual click, believed to be very influential in Nollywood. For Charles Waran, one of the lead actors, who plays a capricious role under the ‘Fag Lord’ (KOK) as a pimp, “the movie is important to me. It is a tragedy that young men could find themselves gay and be proud of it. I feel challenged playing this role. It’s a love story on the fag side of life.”

Gays Living in Shadows of New Iraq


photo by Joao Silva for The New York Times
Gay men and a woman in a Baghdad park. In a city where sexual freedom once flourished, gay men and lesbians face persecution.

Published: December 18, 2007

BAGHDAD — In a city and country where outsiders are viewed with deep suspicion and attracting attention can imperil one’s life, Mohammed could never blend in, even if he wanted to.
Mohammed, 37, has been openly gay for much of his adult life. For him, this has meant growing his hair long and taking estrogen. In the past, he said, that held little danger. As is true throughout the Middle East, men have always been publicly affectionate here.
But, at least until recently, Mohammed and many of his gay friends went one step further, slipping into lovers’ houses late at night. And, until the American invasion, they said, Iraqi society had quietly accepted them.
But being openly gay is not an option in the new Iraq, where the rise of religious extremism has left Mohammed and his gay friends feeling especially vilified.
In January, a United Nations report described the increased persecution, torture and extrajudicial killing of Iraqi lesbians and gay men. In 2005, Iraq’s most revered Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, issued a fatwa, or religious decree, calling for gay men and lesbians to be killed in the “worst, most severe way.”
He lifted it a year later, but neither that nor the recent ebb in violence has made Mohammed or his friends feel safe. They yearn to leave Iraq, but do not have the money or visas. They agreed to be interviewed on the condition that their last names not be used.
They described an underground existence, eked out behind drawn curtains in a dingy safe house in southwestern Baghdad. Five people share the apartment — four gay men and one woman, who says she is bisexual. They have moved six times in the last three years, just ahead, they say, of neighborhood raids by Shiite and Sunni death squads. Even seemingly benign neighborhood gossip can scare them enough to move.
“We seem suspicious because we look like a cell of terrorists,” said Mohammed, nervously fingering the lapel of his shirt. “But we can’t tell people what we really are. A cell, yes, but of gays.”
His hand drifted to his newly shorn hair. He had lopped it off days earlier. There had been reports of extremists stopping long-haired men, shearing their hair and forcing them to eat it.
It is impossible to say how many gay men and women face persecution in Iraq. According to an Iraqi gay rights group, run by a former disc jockey in Baghdad named Ali Hili who now lives in London, 400 people have been killed in Iraq since 2003 for being gay.
Set against the many thousands of civilians and soldiers killed in the war, the number is small. But for Mr. Hili, and Mohammed and his friends, it is a painful barometer of just how far Iraq has shifted from its secular past.
For a brief, exhilarating time, from the mid-1980s until the early 1990s, they say, gay night life flourished in Iraq. Whereas neighboring Iran turned inward after its Islamic revolution in 1979, Baghdad allowed a measure of liberation after the end of the Iran-Iraq war.
Abu Nawas Boulevard, which hugs the Tigris River opposite what is now the Green Zone, became a promenade known for cruising. Discos opened in the city’s best hotels, the Ishtar Sheraton, the Palestine and Saddam Hussein’s prized Al-Rasheed Hotel, becoming magnets for gay men. Young men with rouged cheeks and glossed lips paraded the streets of Mansour, an affluent neighborhood in Baghdad.
“There were so many guys, from Kuwait, from Saudi Arabia, guys in the street with makeup,” said Mr. Hili, who left Iraq in 2000. “Up until 1991, there was sexual freedom. It was a revolutionary time.”
Then came the Persian Gulf war, and afterward Saddam Hussein put an end to nightclubs. Iraq staggered under the yoke of economic sanctions. While antigay laws were increasingly enforced, Mohammed and Mr. Hili said they still felt safe. Homosexuality seemed accepted, as long as it was practiced in private. And even when it was not tolerated, prison time could be evaded with a well-placed bribe.
The American invasion was expected to usher in better times.
“We thought that with the presence of Americans, life would become paradise, that Iraq would be Westernized,” Mohammed said. “But unfortunately the way things were before was so much better than where we are now.”
One night shortly after Saddam Hussein fell, American soldiers burst into the apartment that Mohammed shared with his two brothers. They were looking for insurgents, but took one look at Mohammed, with his long hair and shapely body wrapped in a robe, and teased him, he said.
“What are you, a lady man?” he remembered them barking. “A boy? Or a girl?” They turned to one of Mohammed’s brothers, “Who is this?” they asked, “Your girlfriend?”
The news raced through Mohammed’s building. “All my neighbors came to know that I was gay,” he said. “My brother said, ‘Mohammed, leave the house; you can’t live here anymore.’”
He rented another apartment, and was soon joined by some gay friends. They moved nine months later, after suspicious neighbors began to talk. Nine months after that, they moved again. They came to rely on remittances sent by Mr. Hili, who raises money for them in London.
Mr. Hili taps a network of acquaintances in Baghdad to ferret out safe houses, and pays extra for landlords to alert him to possible trouble. He says he supports about 32 people.
Few work, though one of Mohammed’s roommates, Amjad, who is 33 and has manicured eyebrows and feathered hair, said he sometimes sleeps with an older man for money. “He loves me, but I hate him,” Amjad said. “He is jealous and ugly.”
One of Mohammed’s friends, a 25-year-old law student named Rafi, said he was especially desperate to get out of Iraq. It is a sentiment shared by millions of Iraqis, but Rafi believes his future here is especially bleak. The influence from Iran is growing, he said. And in Iran, homosexuality is often punishable by death.
“I want to get out, but not just out of Iraq, out of the Middle East,” Rafi said, “to a country that has respect for human rights. And for us.”
He paused, casting his eyes downward. “It will never be possible here.”

Hungary Legalizes Civil Partnerships


Dec 19, 2007

Hungary's parliament voted 185–154 (with nine abstentions) Monday to pass a law allowing same-sex couples to register their civil partnerships. Registered couples will have access to the same rights as married straight couples with respect to inheritance, taxes, and other financial matters, Reuters reported. They will not, however, be allowed to adopt children.
While none of the former Eastern bloc states allow same-sex marriage, the Czech Republic and Slovenia allow same-sex partnerships to be registered.
The law is slated to take effect in January 2009.

Gay health insurance launched in Netherlands


27th November 2007
Gemma Pritchard

A Dutch insurance firm plans to offer special healthcare policies for gay and lesbian clients.A spokesperson for the insurance company AGIS told Radio Netherlands Worldwide (RNW) that the policy had been worked out in co-operation with the COC Dutch LGBT rights group, and will be available from the beginning of 2008.Dawn Betteridge, Social Services Director at the Schorer Foundation, which offers advice and information to Dutch LGBT people told RNW:"Options are always a good idea, different people, different needs. And however we can highlight whatever specifically plays a role for gay and lesbian people the better."We also need to start thinking about health a little bit more broadly than just in terms of medical health. For gays and lesbians in particular that also stretches into mental health, and we may be able to say then that there's more of a need for certain groups of people than for others, based on the level of discrimination that they face."Betteridge added that one of the problems that gay and lesbian patients often face in the healthcare system is the assumption that they are heterosexual. In this respect, she says, the new policy will have an important educational effect. A simple question from a doctor, for example, to a lesbian woman about whether or not she is using the contraceptive pill will set a tone for future discussions that she is going to have with that healthcare professional."It can start on that kind of level, a very simple level of how do you start to develop a trusting relationship with a healthcare provider. You start building a trust relationship and that relationship can be the most important factor in your healthcare."In addition to alerting care providers to patient's sexuality, the policy may offer more specific benefits as well, with access to clinics and practitioners that are especially welcoming to gay clients, and recognition of same-sex partnerships.All Dutch residents are expected to choose a private insurance company to cover both the obligatory basic package of health insurance and any extra medical care an individual may want to have covered.In an effort to attract clients, insurance companies in The Netherlands frequently come up with targeted policies - and now Agis is leading the way as the first company to target the 'pink euro.'

Gay Pride Organizer Faces Slander Charge in Outing of Russian Politico


Former Russian Parliament member Alexander Chuev, who asked the General Prosecuter to investigate Pride organizer Nikolai Alekseev after he outed Chuev on national television
December 27, 2007

Moscow gay Pride organizer Nikolai Alekseev will soon face charges of slander and insult for allegedly outing former parliament member Alexander Chuev on live national television, reports the U.K. Gay News.
Speaking on the NTV channel's talk show K Baryeru! on June 21, Alekseev reportedly called the state Duma deputy a "gay, coward and hypocrite." It was the first outing of a gay politician in Russia.
Six days later, Chuev sent a complaint to the General Prosecution department questioning whether Alekseev breached articles 129 (slander), 130 (insult), and 282 (incitement of hatred) of the Russian Criminal Code. The case was transferred to Moscow prosecution, which began a criminal investigation on July 31.
The criminal case against the Moscow Pride organizer is expected to arrive in court shortly. The court will have to give the final verdict whether Alekseev committed any crime under Russian law.
According to U.K. Gay News, Alekseev recently said, "The criminal case against me was conducted with multiple breaches of legislation and the investigators failed to find any prove of my guilt. Until the court hearing, I have no right to disclose the details of the case and the proof that is [to be] used against me. But during the court process, many details will become known."
Alekseev added that he believes the court has no other choice but to find him innocent, "though in the current condition of pressure from authorities I can not exclude that the decision of the court will not be fair, which is not any more a surprise to us. In any case, we are ready to lead this case up to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg."
Regardless of the outcome, the Pride organizer feels the end justified the means: "We reached the main goal of defeating Mr. Chuev in Duma elections in December."
Chuev failed to get 7 percent of votes for his Fair Russia party in the Khabarovsk region. As of Christmas Eve, he is no longer a deputy of the Duma.

Dutch Court Denies Iranian Teen's Asylum Plea

December 27, 2007

A court in the Netherlands has ruled that a gay 19-year-old Iranian must return to the United Kingdom, where he faces deportation back to Iran, according to a report in the UK Gay News.
“I was refused the right to appeal of asylum in the Netherlands because of the Dublin Treaty,” Medhi told the UK Gay News by telephone Wednesday afternoon. “Obviously, I am very disappointed at judge’s decision." Medhi's lawyer is making a final appeal to the Netherlands High Court.
The ruling was based on the Dublin Treaty, a European Union law that prevents asylum seekers from applying in multiple E.U. states.
Mehdi says he's worried that the early decision from the court -- the decision wasn't expected until the new year -- meant he'd be deported to the U.K. over the holidays.
“My main fear at the moment is that the U.K. Home Office would disregard appeals and send me back to Iran before any offices reopened after the holiday,” he said.
While studying in England, Medhi learned that Parham, his former boyfriend in Iran, had been arrested by authorities. Before being executed, Parham had revealed Medhi’s name to interrogators. Medhi fled to the Netherlands from England last spring when a tribunal dismissed his appeal against deportation. According to Medhi's uncle, the appeal for asylum failed because the tribunal judge found that dates on Iranian paperwork did not match the young man's story. However, the uncle told UK Gay News the Iranian calendar is different from that observed in the West.

Rome’s Mayor Rips Political Peer Over Anti-Gay Politics

Dec 27, 2007

Rome's Mayor, Walter Veltroni

Italian Senator Paola Binetti

Roman mayor Walter Veltroni won’t be celebrating the new year with party peer Dr. Paola Binetti.
Though the politicians are both members of the new Democratic party, Binetti’s part of the teodem wing, which follows a far more rigid moral path. The aged lawmaker made headlines this week when she endorsed reparative therapy: just one of her anti-gay stands.
Now Binetti’s being ripped by Veltroni for her opposition to non-discrimination legislation:
In an open letter to the newspaper La Stampa Mayor Walter Veltroni chided Dr. Paola Binetti for her resistance against legislation that would bar discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.…“Homosexuality is a human condition,” Veltroni argued in his letter… “and the [DP] is working to recognize the rights of homosexual couples.”
Apparently not everyone.