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Rex Wockner
International News

by Rex Wockner - SGN Contributing Writer

Gambian president plans to decapitate Gays
The president of the West African nation of Gambia has promised to "cut off the head" of any homosexual the government catches, according to the local newspaper The Point and

Speaking May 15 in Talinding Kunjang, near the nation's capital of Banjul, Yahya Jammeh vowed to enact anti-Gay laws "stricter than those in Iran" (which punishes sodomy with the death penalty) and said homosexuals should leave Gambia now.

Jammeh called homosexuality sinful and immoral, and said any hotel or lodging tolerating the presence of a homosexual would be closed down and the landlord punished.

Current law punishes Gay sex with up to 14 years in prison.

Gambia is a tiny country that runs inland from the Atlantic Ocean solely along the flood plain of the Gambia River. It is surrounded on three sides by Senegal and has a total area of 11,300 square kilometers (4,300 square miles), making it Africa's smallest nation.

There are 1.7 million residents, of whom 90 percent are Muslim and 40 percent are able to read. Gambians live, on average, to be 55 years old.

Cuban Gays gather for IDAHO
Hundreds of Cuban Gays gathered May 17 at a Havana convention center to celebrate IDAHO, the International Day Against Homophobia.

The festival, entitled "Diversity is the norm," was organized by President Raúl Castro's daughter, Mariela Castro Espín, director of the National Center for Sexual Education (CENESEX).

It featured lectures, panels, shows and book events. A week of related activities, in Havana and several other provinces, included TV programs, plays, book fairs and debates. On May 16, Cuban TV aired Brokeback Mountain in primetime.

Castro Espín told Agence France-Presse that her work with Gays and Transgender people has her father's full support, "not only because I'm his daughter, but because I've earned his respect by working at my job carefully."

CENESEX is pushing legislation in the National Assembly to legalize same-sex unions and begin offering sex-change operations.

In an address to the Havana gathering, Cuban Parliament President Ricardo Alarcón called for a better understanding of sexual diversity and eradication of homophobia, which he said is "one of the forms of discrimination that is most rooted in current societies."

Transgender people stage global conference
More than 200 Transgender activists from 38 countries gathered in Berlin May 2-4 for the Second European Transgender Council.

In addition to nearly all European and Eurasian nations, attendees came from Israel, Japan, Kyrgyzstan, Namibia, Peru, Russia and the United States.

A study was presented that found Transgender people "continue to face massive violations of their human rights in most European states," organizers said in a statement.

ILGA: 86 countries criminalize gay sex
A new report from the International Lesbian and Gay Association says 86 countries have laws punishing Gay sex with jail time and seven of them allow for the death penalty for homosexuality.

The report, State-Sponsored Homophobia, was released May 17 in conjunction with the International Day Against Homophobia.

The research, conducted by Daniel Ottosson, deals only with legislation criminalizing consensual sex in private between adults.

The death penalty can be imposed for such acts in Iran, Mauritania, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, United Arab Emirates and Yemen, the report said.

"Although many of the [86] countries listed in the report do not systematically implement those laws, their mere existence reinforces a culture where a significant portion of the citizens needs to hide from the rest of the population out of fear - a culture where hatred and violence are justified by the state and force people into invisibility or into denying who they truly are," said ILGA Co-Secretary General Rosanna Flamer-Caldera.

Co-Secretary General Philipp Braun added: "In many cases, prejudice against homosexual people is the result of ignorance and fear. This [report's] long catalogue of horrors is but a tale of the intolerance against what is foreign and different."

Human Rights Watch announces GLBT Hall of Shame
The presidents of Poland and Uganda, and the United Kingdom's Home Office were "inducted" into Human Rights Watch's GLBT "Hall of Shame" May 17, which is the International Day Against Homophobia.

"Homophobia allows political leaders to smear loving relationships, smash the doors of houses, and slam the doors of a safe haven that should welcome refugees," said Scott Long, director of HRW's LGBT Rights Program. "Where prejudice trumps privacy and intolerance stifles intimacy, no one's rights are safe and no one's place is secure."

Polish President Lech Kaczynski was selected "for denying people respect for their family," HRW said.

"Kaczynski and his allies ... have campaigned for years to deny basic rights to Poland's LGBT people," the group said. "In March 2008, in a nationally televised speech, Kaczynski railed against ratifying the European Union Reform Treaty, which would adopt the European Charter of Fundamental Rights. He claimed that provisions in the charter prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation would force legal recognition of same-sex relationships. He used film clips of the Canadian marriage ceremony of the U.S. couple Brendan Fay and Thomas Moulton to warn of the 'dangers' of legalizing same-sex marriage."

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni was chosen "for denying people privacy and security."

"In August 2007, after a coalition of LGBT organizations in Uganda launched a campaign called 'Let Us Live in Peace,' the government showed it had no intention of doing so," HRW said. "Ethics and Integrity Minister James Nsaba Buturo publicly ... warned, 'We know them, we have details of who they are.' The deputy attorney general called for the arrest of Gays and Lesbians 'because homosexuality is an offense under the laws of Uganda.'"

The UK Home Office was selected "for denying people protection."

"The recent ordeal of the Iranian asylum-seeker Mehdi Kazemi, who in 2007 faced deportation from the United Kingdom to Iran - despite laws imposing torture and the death penalty for homosexual conduct in Iran - points to how the UK Home Office is failing to implement its human rights responsibilities," HRW said.

"An asylum system where only the dead are found deserving is an asylum system that does not work," said Long.

Three days after HRW announced its Hall of Shame, Kazemi finally won asylum in the UK. He had moved to London in 2005 to study and later learned officials in Iran arrested and hanged his boyfriend for sodomy. He had been granted a temporary reprieve from deportation in March following a media and political outcry.

Human Rights Watch also singled out some nations for commendation: Colombia, for recent landmark decisions protecting GLBT rights; Ireland, for finally granting a Transgender woman identity papers corresponding to her gender; and Nepal, where the Supreme Court recently mandated constitutional protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Italian equal-opportunities minister refuses to support pride
The Italian government's new equal-opportunities minister won't support Gay pride events because they are "pointless" now that Gays are part of mainstream society.

"Homosexuality is no longer a problem, at least not the way organizers of these demonstrations would have us believe," Mara Carfagna, a former showgirl, told the newspaper Corriere della Sera. "Today there is ... integration into society."

Carfagna said, however, that she does support educational events aimed at eradicating anti-Gay discrimination and violence.

With assistance from Bill Kelley

picture top: Scott Long;

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