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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, February 18, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 07
International News - Rex Wockner
Section One
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International News

by Rex Wockner - SGN Contributing Writer

Indian Supremes to hear appeal of ruling that legalized Gay sex
India's Supreme Court on April 19 will hear an appeal of the Delhi High Court ruling that struck down the nation's ban on Gay sex in July 2009.

At least two days of arguments are planned.

A number of parties have been allowed to intervene in the appeal to support or oppose the original ruling - including, among the supporters, famed Indian filmmaker Shyam Benegal, an ad hoc group of 19 parents with Gay/Lesbian children, an ad hoc group of 16 academics, and a group of 13 mental health professionals.

'All these have been admitted into the case, which goes a considerable way towards balancing the 15 petitions opposing us, most of them from extremist religious groups,' said leading activist Vikram Doctor.

In striking down the ban nationally, the High Court 'read down' Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code so that it no longer applies to the activities of consenting adults. The section bans 'carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman, or animal' under penalty of 10 years to life in prison.

The court said 377 violated a constitutional guarantee of equality under the law, a constitutional ban on discrimination based on sex, and constitutional promises of personal liberty and protection of life.

'The criminalisation of homosexuality condemns in perpetuity a sizable section of society and forces them to live their lives in the shadow of harassment, exploitation, humiliation [and] cruel and degrading treatment at the hands of the law enforcement machinery,' the court wrote. 'Section 377 IPC targets the homosexual community as a class and is motivated by an animus towards this vulnerable class of people. & It has no other purpose than to criminalise conduct which fails to conform with the moral or religious views of a section of society. & When everything associated with homosexuality is treated as bent, Queer, repugnant, the whole Gay and Lesbian community is marked with deviance and perversity. & The result is that a significant group of the population is, because of its sexual non-conformity, persecuted, marginalized, and turned in on itself.'

Given India's population of 1.2 billion people, the High Court's decision had the effect of decriminalizing 17 percent of all LGB people on the planet.

São Tomé and Príncipe to legalize Gay sex
São Tomé and Príncipe, an island nation located off the west coast of Africa, will decriminalize Gay sex in upcoming revisions to its Criminal Code, its representatives said January 31 at the country's United Nations Universal Periodic Review session.

'Obviously there is a concern about sexual relations between persons of the same sex in our country,' the delegation said. 'Currently the Criminal Code goes back a very long way when the situation was entirely different and so the courts actually don't apply the penalty anymore. So, despite what's there in the text of the law, it's not applicable because it runs counter to constitutional principles. The new Criminal Code which we're drawing up does not penalize sexual relations between persons of the same sex.'

The new code should be in place within four months, the delegation said.

The Micronesian nation of Nauru reportedly made a similar pledge days earlier at its UPR session.

The Universal Periodic Review, a project of the U.N. Human Rights Council, officially analyzes the human-rights record of each of the 192 U.N. member nations on a rotating basis once every four years, and urges reviewed nations to protect all human rights and fundamental freedoms.

HRW blasts Tokyo governor's anti-Gay remarks
Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara must retract recent statements that denigrated Gays and Lesbians, Human Rights Watch said February 1.

On December 3, while discussing a measure to regulate the manga and anime industries, Ishihara said: '[This bill] is not just about the kids. We have got homosexuals casually appearing even on television. Japan has become far too untamed.'

Then, on December 7, in response to a reporter's question about his earlier statement, Ishihara said: 'I think homosexuals have something missing from them somehow. It may be something genetic. I feel sorry for them being a minority. I saw a parade made up of Gays [in San Francisco] and I really felt sorry for them. There were pairs of men and women, but it certainly did feel like they were deficient somehow.'

HRW said that such comments 'increase the stigma against Lesbian and Gay people and can promote discrimination against an already marginalized group.'

'It is a matter of great concern that Gov. Ishihara, who is charged with upholding the rights and ensuring the well-being of all Tokyo residents, has characterized Lesbians and Gay men as somehow lower than other persons,' said HRW LGBT rights researcher Dipika Nath. 'When public officials make pejorative characterizations of particular groups of people, they can compromise people's ability to live their lives with dignity. It is the governor's responsibility to undo the damage he has caused.'

U.K. couples take marriage and partnership case to Euro court
Eight couples from the United Kingdom mailed a case to the European Court of Human Rights on Feb. 2. Four of the couples are Gay and want to get married. Four of the couples are straight and want to enter into a UK civil partnership, which is only available to same-sex couples.

Civil partnerships are identical to marriage in the rights and benefits bestowed. The eight couples all were turned down by officials when they tried to tie the knot.

'The bans on same-sex civil marriages and opposite-sex civil partnerships are a form of sexual apartheid,' said activist Peter Tatchell, who is involved in the challenge, dubbed Equal Love. 'Two wrongs don't make a right.' The activists' lawyer, Robert Wintemute, said that 'banning same-sex marriage and different-sex civil partnerships violates [three separate articles] of the European Convention on Human Rights.' 'It's discriminatory and obnoxious, like having separate drinking fountains or beaches for different racial groups, even though the water is the same,' he said. 'The only function of the twin bans is to mark Lesbian and Gay people as socially and legally inferior to heterosexual people.' With assistance from Bill Kelley

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