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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, January 7, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 01
International News - Rex Wockner
Section One
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International News

by Rex Wockner - SGN Contributing Writer

Brazil creates national council to protect LGBTs
Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and Human Rights Secretary Paulo Vannuchi signed a decree Dec. 9 creating the National LGBT Council.

The document says the council's purpose is to "formulate and propose guidelines for government actions, at the national level, aimed at combating discrimination and promoting and defending the rights of Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, Transvestites and Transsexuals."

The body is composed of employees from 15 government ministries and representatives of 15 nongovernmental organizations.

"The creation of the council is something ABGLT has been pressuring for and is a victory for civil society and the Lula government," said Toni Reis, president of the Brazilian Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans Association. "It shows respect for the deliberations of the 1st National LGBT Conference, held in June 2008, and will be a means of ensuring social watch over the implementation of the 166 actions contained in the National Plan to Promote LGBT Citizenship and Human Rights."

Groundbreaking report looks at LGBT Cambodians
The Cambodian Center for Human Rights released a groundbreaking report Dec. 9 titled "Coming Out in the Kingdom: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender People in Cambodia."

It says that LGBT Cambodians face unique challenges, including ostracism from their families and communities that often leads to economic hardship as well as discrimination by employers and authorities.

The report argues that the concept of homosexuality as understood in "the West" may not directly transfer to Cambodia.

"The Cambodian understanding of sexuality is derived from concepts of gender, character and personality," it says. "The focus on these character traits and outwardly visible characteristics instead of sexual orientation means that many Cambodians who are homosexual do not identify themselves as such."

Buddhism, the report says, generally tolerates homosexuality.

"Homosexuality, whilst seen as an oddity, does not attract the kind of aggressive reaction as can be seen in Christian or Muslim cultures," it states. "Buddhism itself places no value on marriage or procreation. Marriage and procreation are considered positive if they bring about love and respect, but may be deemed negative if pain or strife is caused. However, in Cambodia, cultural, social and economic pressures override Buddhist teachings on marriage - family values are incredibly important and pressure is strong for sons and daughters to marry and have children."

"Sexual behavior amongst male youths may be seen as harmless experimentation, since women are expected to remain 'pure' until marriage," the report continues. "Youthful indiscretions may be forgotten or may continue unnoticed. However, eventually men are expected to marry and father children. Given traditional gender roles, women have less ability to pursue same-sex relationships than homosexual males, either privately or publicly."

"The risk of ostracism from a close family network and economic difficulties posed by living outside the family network may mean that LGBT persons do not live the lives they wish to or have to conduct homosexual relationships in secret," the researchers conclude.

Nonetheless, an LGBT community is emerging in the nation. A pride celebration, which includes workshops, movies, art exhibits and social gatherings, launched in 2003. Four hundred people attended the culmination of the events in 2009.

Pride organizers have formed an organization called RoCK to support LGBT people and raise awareness among non-Gay Cambodians.

A Gay "scene" has developed in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap.

And "the Internet has allowed Gay Cambodian people to connect to other Gay people, thus raising awareness of a wider, global LGBT community and the possibilities of participating in this," the report said.

The research, funded by the Swedish Association for Sexual Education, can be downloaded in English and Khmer at www.cchrcambodia.org.

UN secretary-general, US ambassador attend LGBT event
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the United States' U.N. ambassador, Susan Rice, joined a high-level U.N. panel Dec. 10 that condemned anti-Gay violence and the criminalization of same-sex relations.

The Human Rights Day event was hosted by several nations and organized by the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, Human Rights Watch and other organizations.

"Violence will end only when we confront prejudice," Ban said. "Stigma and discrimination will end only when we agree to speak out. That requires all of us to do our part -- to speak out at home, at work, in our schools and communities."

"Where there is tension between cultural attitudes and universal human rights, universal human rights must carry the day," he said. "Personal disapproval, even society's disapproval, is no excuse to arrest, detain, imprison, harass or torture anyone - ever. ... Human Rights Day commemorates the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is not called the Partial Declaration of Human Rights. It is not the Sometimes Declaration of Human Rights. It is the Universal Declaration, guaranteeing all human beings their basic human rights, without exception."

Rice told the gathering: "The story of my country is, in part, a story of the expanding boundaries of rights and dignity - of the way that discrimination and prejudice have been countered by acceptance and equality. I feel this deeply and I feel it very personally. Even at a time of profound challenges at home and abroad, we dare not give up on the great causes of equality and fundamental rights. And that includes the pursuit of full and equal rights for the millions of people in this country and around the world who are Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual or Transgender."

"Change," Rice said, "comes from people ... who refuse to move to the back of the bus. It comes from the leaders, the activists, and the ordinary men and women who believe that all human beings have equal worth, equal dignity, equal consequence -- and equal rights. This conviction underpins the significant steps that the United States has taken over the past two decades to advance the human rights of all of those who are Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender."

The event was sponsored by U.N. missions from Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Croatia, France, Gabon, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, and the United States and by the Delegation of the European Commission.

India to count Transgenders
India's 2011 census will count Transgender people. They will have the option of selecting a category that is distinct from "male" or "female."

With assistance from Bill Kelley.

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