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International News - Rex Wockner
Section One
ALL STORIES
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International News

Major Moscow Gay club shut down
Moscow's oldest Gay dance club has been indirectly shut down by the city, GayRussia.ru reported December 31.

Club Body & Soul had been targeted by Moscow Northern District Prefect Oleg Mitvol, who claimed it brought drug trafficking, prostitution, public sex and moral degradation to the neighborhood.

The club's lease was canceled by its landlord, the Society of Blind People, which said it acted after being threatened with a loss of city subsidies if it didn't evict the club.

The society's vice president, State Duma Deputy Oleg Smolin, is a political rival of Mitvol.

Club management has filed suit over the eviction and vowed to pursue the case as far as the European Court of Human Rights.

Leading Gay activist Nikolai Alekseev alleged that the shutdown was another example of government corruption that he said has burdened nongovernmental organizations and Gay businesses.

Body & Soul had been in operation since 2003 and attracted around 2,000 patrons on weekend nights. Its closure leaves Moscow, which has 10.5 million residents, with one large Gay dance bar.

HRW: Release Malawi lovers
Malawi's government should drop all charges against a Gay couple who are facing up to 14 years in prison, Human Rights Watch said January 12 in a letter to justice and home affairs officials.

On December 26, Steven Monjeza, 26, and Tiwonge Chimbalanga, 20, held a traditional engagement ceremony in the city of Blantyre. After newspapers reported on the event, police arrested the couple at their home December 28, charging them with "unnatural offenses" and "indecent practices between males" under sections 153 and 156 of Malawi's criminal code.

A judge denied the couple bail, and on January 6 they were taken to Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital, where Chimbalanga was examined for "evidence" he has had Gay sex. The following day, both men were subjected to psychiatric testing, also without their consent.

"Prosecuting two adults just because they affirm their love is a terrible injustice," said Dipika Nath of HRW's LGBT rights program. "To subject individuals to spurious medical examinations against their will shows grave disregard for their fundamental human rights as well as for the public welfare."

The couple headed to trial on January 15 but the proceedings were immediately adjourned after Chimbalanga vomited and collapsed in court. His lawyers said he is suffering from severe malaria. London's Times said that no one came to Chimbalanga's aid. He eventually managed to get back up on his own, after which he was made to get a mop and bucket and clean up his vomit, the Times said.

Monjeza and Chimbalanga remain jailed in Chichiri Prison in Blantyre. Their lawyers told HRW the couple is being verbally abused and possibly beaten, and that they are not receiving adequate food and other necessities.

If found guilty of all charges, the men face up to 14 years in prison with hard labor.

"These arrests create a climate of fear in Malawi and intimidate human rights advocates, negating the progress made in the National AIDS Strategy to stem the spread of HIV and AIDS [via] outreach efforts [aimed] at men who have sex with men," the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission said January 12.

Report criticizes PEPFAR program
The Council for Global Equality and the Center for American Progress issued a report January 13 criticizing numerous practices of the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), a U.S. government program that operates in Botswana, Cambodia, Côte d'Ivoire, Ethiopia, Guyana, Haiti, India, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Russia, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Vietnam, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

The report, "How Ideology Trumped Science: Why PEPFAR Has Failed to Meet Its Potential," outlines multiple ways in which conservative ideology allegedly has distorted PEPFAR's reach and impact.

"These include inadequate attention to the needs of men who have sex with men, failure to address laws that have impeded outreach to underserved LGBT communities, exclusion of programs targeting commercial sex workers and injecting drug users, and inadequate attention to sex education, particularly the correct usage of condoms," the organizations said.

"These and other shortfalls detailed in the report have undermined the science-based approach needed to win the fight against HIV and AIDS," they said.

The report, available at globalequality.org, was authored by Scott Evertz, who was director of the Office of National AIDS Policy during U.S. President George W. Bush's first term.

"Mr. Evertz' observations of what went wrong with PEPFAR are firsthand," said CGE senior advisor Michael Guest, the openly Gay former U.S. ambassador to Romania. "His specific recommendations to improve the program reflect both an expert's knowledge of HIV/AIDS problems facing LGBT communities abroad as well as the political shoals on which a science-based approach to HIV/AIDS prevention has foundered."

The Council for Global Equality is an alliance of 18 prominent U.S. LGBT and human rights organizations working to increase U.S. government efforts to secure fair treatment and equal rights for LGBT people at home and abroad.

Trans prison to open in Italy
About 30 inmates will be moved to a prison near Florence, Italy, that will house only Transgender prisoners, local media reported January 12. The facility in the town of Pozzale is nearly vacant at present, holding two female inmates.

Serbian Gay film festival deemed a "success"
Serbian LGBT activists say the nation's first International Queer Film Festival, "Merlinka," staged in December in Belgrade, was a "success."

Ten films were shown over four days, and a public discussion titled "Gay and Lesbian moments in domestic film" was attended by actresses Ana Franic and Lena Bogdanovic, actor Aleksandar Lazic and directors Mladen Dordevic and Zelimir Zilnik.

The audience award, called "Dorothy's Shoe," was given to Canadian Bruce LaBruce's Gay zombie film Otto; or, Up with Dead People.

The festival is named after the late Transgender actress Vjeran Miladinovic ("Merlinka") who starred in Zilnik's film Marble Ass.

Supporters of the festival included the French Cultural Center, the British Council, the Goethe Institute and the Center for Nonviolent Action.

Cross-dressers arrested in Bahrain
Gulf News reported January 4 that nine cross-dressers were arrested at a hotel discothèque in Manama, Bahrain, on New Year's Eve and charged with public debauchery. The report said the men were of differing Arab nationalities.

Gulf News also reported that two journalists in Cairo have been jailed for a year for outing three celebrities. Al-Balagh Al-Gadid Editor-in-Chief Abdou el-Maghrabi and reporter Ehab al-Agami reportedly filed a story claiming that three actors had been caught in a compromising homosexual situation at a hotel.

Iranian Transgenders reclassified
Iran's military will no longer classify Transgender people as "mentally disturbed," said Hasan Mousavi Chelk, who heads the Socially Vulnerable Groups section of the State Agency for National Well-Being.

Chelk said January 6 that putting such a determination on Transgender people's military discharge papers creates problems for them.

From now on, Transgender people being separated from the military will be labeled as "diabetics" or "people with a hormonal imbalance," he said.

In reality, Chelk said, Iran's 4,000 self-identified Transgender people have a "sexual identity disorder." They are citizens, he said, and the government views them "favorably."

With assistance from Bill Kelley

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picture: Nikolai Alekseev
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