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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, February 4, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 05
International News - Rex Wockner
Section One
ALL STORIES
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International News

Russia appeals Euro Court's Pride ban ruling
On the last possible day, the Russian government on January 22 appealed a European Court of Human Rights ruling from last October that struck down Moscow's yearly bans of public Gay pride events.

The government asked the court's Grand Chamber to reconsider the ruling that had been made by a smaller group of the court's judges.

Plaintiff Nikolai Alekseev, founder of Moscow Pride, predicted the Grand Chamber would deny the request for a rehearing within two to three months, 'which means the verdict will come into force before the sixth Moscow Pride on May 28,' he said.

In its decision, the court said that former Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov's routine bans of Gay pride violated guarantees of the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms in the areas of freedom of assembly and association, right to an effective remedy and prohibition of discrimination.

The court ordered payment to Alekseev of 12,000 euros ($16,313) in damages and 17,510 euros in costs and expenses.

The judges rejected Moscow's excuses for the bans, which included the alleged need to protect public order, health, morals, and the rights and freedoms of others - as well as the desire to prevent riots.

In reality, Luzhkov had vowed to never allow a Gay pride parade in Moscow no matter what. He called Gay parades 'satanic' and 'weapons of mass destruction,' and called Gay people 'faggots' ('gomiki').

'[T]he main reason for the bans on the Gay marches had been the authorities' disapproval of demonstrations which, they considered, promoted homosexuality,' the court's registrar said in a summary of the ruling. 'In particular, the court could not disregard the strong personal opinions publicly expressed by the Moscow mayor and the undeniable link between those statements and the bans. Consequently, the court found that, as the government had not justified their bans in a way compatible with the convention requirements, Mr. Alekseyev had suffered discrimination because of his sexual orientation.'

At the time, Alekseev said: 'This decision is a major victory for us because no judge, no lawyer and no politician will any longer be able to tell us that the bans of our events were lawful. This decision is the first to recognize that the Russian law on freedom of assembly contradicts with the European Convention. It is a gift to all democrats and human rights activists in Russia.'

Small groups of LGBT activists defied Luzhkov's bans each of the past five years, provoking him to send riot police to arrest and sometimes beat them. The gatherings also were routinely attacked by anti-Gay hooligans.

Philippines activists request international lobbying
Activists in the Philippines are seeking international pressure to encourage a committee vote in the House of Representatives on a bill to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

House Bill 1483, 'An Act Defining Discrimination on the Basis of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity and Providing Penalties Therefor,' would protect Gay and Trans people in employment, housing, public accommodations, education, health care, transportation, social services, civil service, the military and other areas.

'Discriminatory acts against LGBT citizens in the Philippines are rampant yet are largely unreported and not provided corrective measures,' said the activist group ProGay Philippines. 'Gay men are constantly harassed by police officers, Transgendered women are not allowed to use their preferred gender on identity papers, and Lesbians are paid lower wages. These are the result of the lack of protective laws that can punish discrimination and allow the courts and government agencies to receive complaints. ... We need your help in getting our honorable representatives in the House of Representatives to pass this bill through the Committee on Justice quickly so that the entire House can vote this bill and send it to the president for signing.'

To e-mail the Justice Committee, visit tinyurl.com/philcoj. Address comments to the committee chair, the Hon. Niel Tupas Jr., and the committee secretary, Narcisa Guevarra. For a sample letter, see tinyurl.com/progayfil. For more information on the bill, see tinyurl.com/filbill.

U.N. secretary-general speaks up for Gays
At a special session of the United Nations' Human Rights Council on January 25 in Geneva, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called for an end to human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

It was believed to be the first time that a secretary-general directly addressed an official U.N. body specifically on issues of sexual orientation and gender identity.

'We must reject persecution of people because of their sexual orientation or gender identity - who may be arrested, detained, or executed for being Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual or Transgender,' Ban said. 'They may not have popular or political support, but they deserve our support in safeguarding their fundamental human rights.'

'I understand that sexual orientation and gender identity raise sensitive cultural issues,' he added. 'But cultural practice cannot justify any violation of human rights. Women's treatment as second-class citizens has been justified, at times, as a 'cultural practice.' So has institutional racism and other forms of inhuman punishment. But that is merely an excuse. When our fellow humans are persecuted because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, we must speak out. That is what I am doing here, that is my consistent position. Human rights are human rights everywhere, for everyone.'

The council's representative from Nigeria, Ositadinma Anaedu, was surprised by Ban's statement.

'I must point out, Mr. Chair, that the [Africa] Group did not expect that the secretary-general would address these issues concerning Lesbians, Gays, bi-gender, or indeed the issue of gender identity, as these issues have not been universally accepted,' Anaedu said. 'While we strongly support that no individual or group should be discriminated against on the basis of their sexual orientation, [this] should not be used to impose on us or on the cultural ethos of everyone that have it, especially for us in Africa. It is also important to mention that we all equally accept the relationship inherent in that orientation and that it is unique and special, but it is not and will never be accepted as marriage, which is between a man and a woman.'

With assistance from Bill Kelley

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photo top: Ban Ki Moon
bottom: Philippines
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