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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, December 9, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 49
International News - Scott Wittet
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International News

by Scott Wittet - SGN Contributing Writer

Nigeria to punish same-sex marriages with 14-year jail terms
According to the UK Guardian newspaper, a bill banning same-sex marriage was recently passed by the Nigerian senate. Nigeria is Africa's most populous nation. The bill, which makes same-sex marriage punishable by a 14-year jail term, still has to be ratified by the country's lower house before being signed by the president, Goodluck Jonathan. It also seeks to tighten existing legislation, which already outlaws Gay sex, by criminalizing anyone who witnesses or assists such marriages and making same-sex public displays of affection a jailable offense. Under the new law, groups that support Gay rights would also be banned, which could negatively affect HIV/AIDS efforts.

During the debate in the capital, Abuja, one senator described homosexuality as a 'mental illness' to cheers of approval. Another senator said that 'such elements in society should be killed,' prompting a fierce debate among Nigerian Twitter users. Many in Nigeria see the bill as a way for the government to score easy political points in a deeply religious society which is largely intolerant of homosexuality.

Only 1.4% of Nigerians felt 'tolerant' towards sexual minorities, according to a 2008 survey by Nigeria's Information for Sexual and Reproductive Rights. Few dare to stand up for Gay rights in the Muslim-majority north, where homosexual acts can incur sentences of death by stoning.

Much anti-Gay sentiment is rooted in perceived suspicion that it is a foreign import being foisted on the country by interfering outsiders. While threats from Western governments to cut off aid have forced other African countries to scrap proposed anti-Gay laws, it's had the opposite effect in Nigeria, whose treasury is awash with dollars from its oil industry.

But why the focus now on banning Gay marriage?

'I've never heard of a single Nigerian same-sex couple demanding to have marriage rights,' said Unoma Azuah, a writer and Gay rights activist. 'So I am truly baffled as to why our lawmakers feel this debate is more relevant than terrorism, corruption, lack of infrastructure, and education. The whole thing reminds me of the traditional Igbo proverb that says, 'He whose house is on fire does not go around chasing rats.'

Among rights activists, it has become a grim joke that homophobia is a rare issue that unites the country's bickering Muslim north and Christian south.

'Dead clich├ęs like 'God did not make Adam and Steve' continue to get excited choruses from sedated congregations and people still declare with ignorance that 'homosexuality is not a part of our culture,' conveniently skimming over historical evidence of the practice in the east and north of the country, and blissfully unaware that the origins of homophobia in our societies can only be traced to the influx of foreign religions,' said Chude Jideonwo, a journalist.

Croatia to protect Gay citizens before joining E.U., concern about Pride attacks
Croatia hopes to be accepted into the European Union, but it first has to prove it could offer 'genuine protection' to Gay people in order to become a member state in 2013. A resolution adopted by the European Parliament says in part that it is 'deeply concerned by the violence against participants in the LGBT pride march in Split on 11 June 2011 and the inability of the Croatian authorities to protect the participants.'

Croatian authorities are urged to 'investigate and prosecute the crimes committed and to develop strategies for preventing similar incidents in the future.'

The text also calls for them to 'quickly adopt and implement an action plan against homophobia.'

Australian Labor party lifts overseas same-sex wedding ban
The Australian Labor Party has ended the long-standing ban on allowing Australian same-sex partners to marry in countries where Gay marriage is legal. The government has traditionally blocked same-sex Australians from getting married overseas by refusing to issue 'certificates of non-impediment to marriage' that prove they are not already married in Australia. The certificates are issued routinely to opposite-sex applicants.

With the decision certificates will also be available to same-sex couples.

Australian Marriage Equality Campaign Director Rodney Croome noted that 'Many Gay and Lesbian Australians travel overseas to marry because they can't marry here, but when they discover the Australian government won't give them the required paperwork, wedding plans have to be cancelled and the partners concerned continue to experience the legal and social disadvantages of not being able to marry.'

The CNI decision comes a day after the Labor Party National Conference adopted a new party policy supporting marriage equality but allowed Labor MPs a conscience vote on the issue.

Recently, a touching, pro-Gay-marriage video from GetUp Australia went viral on YouTube, gaining 1.6 million views in four days (search for 'it's time Australia').

Filipino Gays march against discrimination
More than 1,000 LGBTs marched in the Philippine capital of Manila to demand equal rights, an end to discrimination, and more support for an AIDS program.

Progressive Organization of Gays in the Philippines spokesman Goya Candelario says they're pushing Congress to pass a law against discrimination that they say denies them jobs and social services.

Jessie Dimaisip of the Akbayan political party, which supports Gay rights, said they're also seeking more funds for HIV-AIDS testing and a support program.

Gay man assaulted at Toronto college fled persecution in Iran
An Iranian immigrant in Canada was attacked by a fellow student, resulting in his throat being slashed with a sharp pencil.

Mojtaba, who asked that his full name not be published, says he was taunted over his sexuality during the incident. 'I come to Canada, a country that carries the name of human rights, and you see something like this happen at a college & I came here to be free & where can I go now?'

Mojtaba said he was waiting for a friend at Seneca College in Toronto around 11:30 a.m. when someone he recognized from one of his classes looked at him suspiciously.

Moments later, the same man reappeared with others. He beat Mojtaba while a handful of students videotaped the assault.

'While he hit me, he was saying things like 'faggot,' 'bitch,' and 'Go back to your country,' said Mojtaba.

Mojtaba was able to break free when a stranger intervened. He ran to his program coordinator to report what had happened.

'That's when my teacher asked about my neck. I didn't even know I was cut because I was in so much shock,' he said.

Toronto police say Daniel Da Silva, 21, has been charged with assault with a weapon.

The assault has brought back haunting memories of life in Iran for Mojtaba. In 2007, he was arrested, detained, and tortured in custody for attending a Gay party.

'There were about 15 of us. To scare us, the police would pick a man from the group and bring him to the bathroom and he never came back. Some of those people from that party, I don't know what happened to them,' said Mojtaba.

When he was released several days later, Motjaba took a train from his home in Shiraz, Iran, to seek asylum in Turkey, where many persecuted Gays and Lesbians go to escape. After a year, he came to Canada where he is a permanent resident.

Scotland pushes for equal marriage
On December 7 a diverse group of organizations from across Scottish society united to back government plans to legalize same-sex marriage. Representatives from Scotland's Equality Network, the Scottish Youth Parliament, Amnesty International, UNISON, the Humanist Society of Scotland, LGBT Youth Scotland, and NUS Scotland joined together to submit more than 18,000 messages in support of plans to legalize same-sex marriage. Tom French, policy coordinator for the Equality Network, said, 'Today we have seen a rainbow coalition of organizations from across Scottish society voice their strong support for equal marriage. It is increasingly clear that the vast majority of Scots support same-sex marriage. For most people this is a simple issue of love, equality, and fairness. If a same-sex couple love each other and want to get married, then why should they be banned from doing so? There can be no excuse for continuing to deny same-sex couples equality under the law.'

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