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Rex Wockner
International News

by Rex Wockner - SGN Contributing Writer

Two Spanish men arrested for alleged Gay crimes in Gambia
Following on the heels of Gambian President Yahya Jammeh's threat to "cut off the head" of any homosexual the government catches, police in the West African nation arrested two Spanish men May 30 for allegedly propositioning two male taxi drivers.

Reports said the drivers feigned interest in the come-ons and lured the tourists to a rendezvous point while surreptitiously contacting police, who arrested the men when they arrived at the location.

The men were released after five days in jail and left Gambia, the Spanish Embassy said.

Speaking on television May 15, 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 immediately.

He 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. 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.

Norway to legalize same-sex marriage
A bill in the Norwegian Parliament to legalize same-sex marriage has enough votes lined up to pass next month.

The measure now has the support of the three-party government coalition and two opposition parties.

Norway has had a registered-partnership law that gives Gay couples nearly all rights of marriage since 1993.

New rights that will come along with the word "marriage" include access to church weddings, adoption and state-funded assistance in getting pregnant.

300 march in Latvia
After marching inside a fenced-in park last year, Gay pride celebrants took to the streets of downtown Riga, Latvia, May 31 for a real parade this year.

About 300 marchers and 400 anti-Gay demonstrators turned out for the festivities. Four counterprotesters and one marcher were arrested.

Police blocked the street at both ends of the march as well as streets that intersected the route. At the parade's end, the marchers left in buses.

A day earlier, Latvian President Valdis Zatlers had urged tolerance for LGBT people.

"I think that the main thing for people is not only to stop being intolerant, but also to understand others," he told local media. "We are talking only about tolerance, but we seldom talk about trying to form an understanding and comprehension vis-à-vis any minority group, no matter what kind."

Zatlers also expressed support for granting spousal rights to same-sex couples.

"If some people have a common household and ... the common life of a single gender, then we certainly need to resolve these aspects of social privileges - inheritance, the right of the spouse to enjoy certain privileges and so on," he said. "That is what needs to be done, and it would be a gesture of understanding, comprehension and good will."

Last year, armed with a court ruling that the ban on the 2006 parade was unconstitutional, more than 500 GLBT people marched inside Vermanes Park under heavy police protection.

In 2006, after the City Council banned the parade, organizers held a service at a church and meetings at a hotel. The attendees were attacked by Christian, ultranationalist and neo-Nazi protesters who pelted them with eggs, rotten food and feces.

In 2005, about 150 marchers attempted to march in the streets. They were outnumbered by around 1,000 anti-Gay protesters who hurled insults, bottles and eggs; blocked the street; and forced the parade to be rerouted. The protesters chanted "No sodomy" and "Gays fuck the nation."

Sentences of jailed Egyptians upheld
A Cairo appeals court on May 28 upheld the three-year prison sentences of five men arrested in a crackdown on people thought to be HIV-positive.

Four other HIV-positive men have been jailed for a year as a result of the campaign targeting the crime of "habitual practice of debauchery" and at least three other men were arrested, then released months later when they were found to be HIV-negative.

"To send these men to prison because of their HIV status is inhuman and unjust," said Joe Amon, director of the HIV/AIDS program at Human Rights Watch. "Police, prosecutors and doctors have already abused them and violated their most basic rights, and now fear has trumped justice in a court of law."

All 12 men were force-tested for HIV and subjected to anal probes to "prove" they had engaged in sodomy. Those who tested positive were later chained to hospital beds for months.

Turkish court orders shutdown of Gay group
A local Turkish court ordered the closure of the Lambda Istanbul Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transvestite, Transsexual Solidarity Association on May 29, citing unspecified "errors and deficiencies" in its bylaws.

The case against the group was brought by the Istanbul governor's office, which argued that the group's name and objectives are against the law and offend society's "moral values and family structure." The court did not rule on that claim.

In response to the decision, Lambda said it will not cease activity and announced an appeal to the Court of Cassation.

The group has been in existence since 1993 and has been officially registered for two years.

"LGBT organizations that currently exist either in practice or as registered entities in Turkey are [being] pushed out of the legal domain," the group said in a statement. "Instead of accepting their existence and protecting their basic rights, the state authorities choose to condemn LGBT people, by depriving them of their right to association.

"We invite you to organize campaigns and demonstrations in your own area, in order to support our cause." For more information, contact lambda@lambdaistanbul.org.

Greek mayor marries Gay couples
The mayor of Tilos, a Greek island in the Aegean Sea, married two same-sex couples June 3.

Anastasios Aliferis said Greece's marriage law doesn't prohibit marriages between people of the same sex.

While that's true, Aliferis was nonetheless quickly charged with breach of duty by a prosecutor on nearby Rhodes, a crime that can bring a five-year prison sentence.

The nation's top public prosecutor, Giorgos Sanidas, said that a constitutional article on family issues does imply that marriage is between a man and a woman.

Aliferis remains defiant, saying he "can't believe that someone would be prosecuted for defending human rights."

Dimitris Tsambrounis, one of the grooms, said in an e-mail: "This was really a huge, shocking, unexpected, well-planned event. I am so happy and proud to have been one of the main persons involved in that."

1,500 march in Seoul
An estimated 1,500 people took part in the ninth Gay pride parade in Seoul, South Korea, May 31.

The parade route, starting and ending at Berlin Square, was the longest ever.

The 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. festivities included entertainment at the square before and after the parade.

Later, a pride party ran into the night at Club reBall.

With assistance from Bill Kelley

picture top: South Korea pride

picture bottom: Riga Pride

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