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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, January 20, 2012 - Volume 40 Issue 03
International News - Scott Wittet
Section One
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International News

by Scott Wittet - SGN Contributing Writer

NEW HUNGARIAN CONSTITUTION BANS SAME-SEX MARRIAGE
Hungary's ruling right-wing Fidesz party, which came to power with a two-thirds majority in the parliament last year, has pushed through a new constitution that vastly increases the power of the party leader, Viktor Orban. Tens of thousands of Hungarians - including LGBT activists - have taken to the streets in protest.

Among other changes the new constitution bans Gay marriage and fails to explicitly protect LGBT people from unfair dismissal or hate crimes. It also appears to ban abortion by saying that fetuses must be protected from conception onwards.

Simultaneously, a Family Protection Bill was passed, which defines the family unit as heterosexual and says that preparing for family life should be part of the school curriculum. In addition, the bill stipulates that media services should broadcast programs that respect the institution of marriage and family.

The former constitution dated back to 1949, with major amendments following the fall of communism in 1989. Fidesz argued a new set of rules was vital to deliver the economic growth it had promised Hungary. But the new text has reportedly removed social safeguards the 1989 amendments put in place, causing widespread civil unrest.

Hungary decriminalized Gay sexual acts in 1961 and allows Gay couples to register their partnerships, but does not allow them to adopt. Since 2002, it has had an equal age of consent and Gay people may serve in the military.

Fidesz lawmakers said the new constitution is based on the E.U. Charter of Fundamental Rights, but activists have questioned why it does not mention discrimination protections for LGBT people, when gender and race are protected.

Tamás Dombos, of the Háttér Support Society for LGBT People, told Gay Star News that 'Despite such bad news, there is a ray of hope, LGBT rights is now a mainstream issue embraced by the opposition.'

SPAIN'S FIRST GAY RETIREMENT HOME FINDS A HOME
A group of elderly Spanish Gay men are rebelling against the homophobia of their generation by setting up what will be the country's first Gay and Lesbian retirement home.

'Homosexuals who go into homes often also have to go straight back into the closet,' said Federico Armenteros, the man behind the plan. 'This will be a place that is open to everyone and where no one will have to hide their sexuality.'

Armenteros, who heads a Gay and Lesbian NGO called December 26, recently found a site for the new retirement complex, in a Madrid suburb. According to the Guardian, now he needs to find 120 like-minded people to sign up as members. Around 20 have already joined.

The retirement home would cost ¬1,000 ($1,273) a month to live in, he said - much lower than the average Madrid monthly rent of ¬1,400.

Two-hundred and thirty residents will live in 120 apartments and studios in the complex, with some set aside for people who are HIV-positive. 'Most homes simply won't let them in,' he explained.

Among those who have already contacted the NGO is a 90-year-old Transgendered woman fed up with her current Madrid retirement home.

'I imagine she needs somewhere where she can feel safe to talk about her life and her experiences, or even explain why her body is like it is and how she was operated on,' he said. 'Old people need to be able to talk about their lives openly.'

'Older Gays and Lesbians have had a difficult life. We were downtrodden in the Franco years and many people were arrested. It took years for us to win our rights,' he said. 'We refuse to go back to that atmosphere when we retire.'

If all goes well, the residence will be up and running by 2014. Armenteros sees this as just a first step. He hopes to develop an additional home if this one succeeds, perhaps in the town of Sitges, a popular Gay resort outside of Barcelona.

TEHRAN FLIES RAINBOW FLAG BY MISTAKE
The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) reports that Tehran city authorities recently flew rainbow flags over a major highway - but had no idea what the flags mean.

Officials explained that as soon as they were alerted by Iranian conservative bloggers to the link between the rainbow flag and Gay people, 'appropriate measures were taken to remedy the situation.'

The bloggers later posted images of the rainbow flags covered with messages like 'Down with USA' and 'Death to America.' In their words, they did it 'to ensure the images are not exploited by the enemies.'

CANADIAN ARABS CONDEMN UAE PERSECUTION OF LGBT
On its Facebook page, Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transexual Rights UAE recently posted an open letter detailing persecution of LGBT people in the United Arab Emirates. It particularly targets the Emirates Psychological Association and says, 'belief in God cannot be an excuse for oppressing and terrorizing citizens.'

In part the letter states:

'This letter is being written on behalf of a particular contingent of the Diaspora of Arab citizens throughout Canada and the world.

'On February 11, 2006, six men were arrested in the United Arab Emirates for being at an alleged Gay wedding. These men were convicted under the United Arab Emirates' laws that ban obscenity and homosexual activity.

'Because they've put society at risk they will be given the necessary treatment, from male hormone injections to psychological therapies,' Interior Ministry spokesman Issam Azouri told the local media.

'This practice of imprisoning individuals and subjecting them to a medical procedure with no scientific basis, just for expressing their innate, human tendencies that are protected under the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, is an atrocity that demands the attention of all Arabs and other concerned citizens around the world.

'Following the arrests and the negative reaction of the international community, particularly the U.S. State Department, sentencing for this indigenous Transgendered community has been kept out of the international media; however, the arrests continue, as do the punishments.

'On September 8, 2008, two women were arrested for making out on a beach in Dubai. They were imprisoned for 30 days and then deported. In 2009, a homosexual couple from Toronto, Rocky Sharma and Stephen Macleod, were detained for their obvious homosexual tendencies and eventually arrested and held in separate prisons for 39 days for possession of Celebrex, an over-the-counter medication. The real reason for their detainment was their apparent sexuality.'

'LOVE IS EQUAL' VIDEO FROM BELARUS
Belarusian film director Max Anatskaya has posted a sweet three-minute video online with the theme that 'love applies to all, regardless of gender or sexual orientation, age, race, [or] nationality.'

The Gay couple in the film is played by cute boys Vova Maruk and Nick Antipov.

Belarus is not particularly Gay-friendly. Several weeks ago, reports emerged of the Belarus KGB harassing local Gay activists, and Gay Pride in Minsk has been consistently shut down.

According to care2.com, Belarus President Aleksandr Lukashenk? often mocks LGBTs, including reportedly the Gay foreign minister of Germany.

Watch the video at www.care2.com/causes/first-belarus-gay-movie-video.html

ANTI-GAY PROTESTERS IN SIERRA LEONE REACT TO U.S. AND U.K.
Africa Review reports that Freetown, Sierra Leone was the scene of a protest against Gay rights, held to 'ward off' the possibility of recognizing same sex marriages in the country.

Close to 1,000 protesters thronged the streets as pedestrians cheered them on.

The demonstration was held after Friday prayers by a group called the 'Inveterate International Islamic Revitalists,' who said they were worried that persistent pronouncements from major powers could influence the country's politicians to recognize 'alien' and 'immoral' practices in the country.

Shiekh Marra, one of the leaders of the protesters, said they staged the protest because 'we want government to understand well the repercussion of endorsing the practice of same-sex marriage.' He referred to a recent statement by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who said the U.S. would use foreign aid to encourage respect of the rights of Gays and Lesbians. That followed a similar statement by the U.K. prime minister, David Cameron.

Sierra Leone Deputy Minister of Information and Communications Sheka Tarawalie led the wave of condemnations that follow David Cameron's statement. The minister said in October that homosexuality was against the country's culture.

The head of the Sierra Leone Methodist Church, Bishop Arnold Temple, was more forthright. He said Africa should not be influenced by the 'demonic threat' of the British prime minister 'as our values are totally different.'

Members of the only active pro-Gay rights group in the country today, 'Why Can't We Get Married?' dismissed the assertion that homosexuality is a foreign import.

George Reginald Freeman, who is West Africa regional director for the group, said none of the religions (Islam and Christianity) that are being used to condemn homosexuality has any origin in Africa.

He said, 'The problem is people are not educated about the issues and then they tend to be homophobic.

'Homophobia here is really bad. I myself receive a lot of harassment and a lot of threatening remarks. Just after the protest, my car battery was stolen. They were trying to get to me but I was not in the car. We have to change where we sleep every night so they don't come and get us.'

Last month, U.S. embassy officials in Freetown condemned the Sierra Leone Human Rights Commission when it refused an invitation from a group launching a book on safe sex for Gay and Lesbian people.

BASHING GAYS AND ALLIES IN THE PHILIPPINES
While in many ways Filipino culture is accepting of Gay people, especially in non-Muslim communities, violence against LGBTs is not uncommon in the country.

LGBT activists recently submitted two scathing reports to the United Nations on violations of human rights in the country. The Philippine LGBT Hate Crime Watch reports that 37 LGBT people were murdered last year.

Last week, a Filipino father admitted to scalding one of his sons, Edmund Padilla, with boiling water after learning that three of his children are Gay.

Reighben Labilles, a spokesperson for the PLHCW, said: 'We plead to the government to initiate pro-active programs that provide parents and LGBT children the opportunities to promote freedom of expression of sexuality and gender. Since Edmund Padilla is already 19 years old, he may no longer be covered by the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child and our national child protection laws, yet we fear that so many violent acts perpetrated by parents and legal guardians against their LGBT children go unreported.

In a separate incident, the International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA) reports that Fernando Mendoza, Jr., 18 years old, was brutally mauled and shot with a homemade gun by three men after he defended two Gay passengers in a public microbus. LGBT groups called the New Year's Eve killing a hate crime.

Friends of Mendoza described him as a quiet guy, but one who would stick up for others. He was offended when some young men in the bus began taunting other passengers for being Gay. Mendoza came to their defense, a reaction that would end his life.

According to his cousin, one of the thugs punched Mendoza, who retaliated. Outnumbered, Mendoza jumped off the bus, and the gang chased him along a busy street. A TV news crew happened to be there and caught the attack on camera.

In the video, a man in a white sleeveless shirt is seen rushing towards Mendoza and shooting him with an improvised shotgun as bystanders stand by in shock. After firing his weapon, the man and four others continue to beat the teen.

The suspects fled before anyone could stop them. Mendoza was pronounced dead at 2 a.m. on New Year's Day, with six bullet fragments in his heart.

With the help of the video, police were able to identify and arrest three of the suspects at 11 a.m. Monday.

Ceejay Agbayani, an advocate for Gay rights and a pastor at the Metropolitan Community Church, declared it a hate crime because 'Mendoza was defending a Gay from bullying.'

'We consider him a hero. We salute him for what he did.'

CHOPSTICKS: HONG KONG'S FIRST LESBIAN MUSICAL
Inspired by the '70s Hong Kong girl band Chopsticks Sisters, an experimental theater in Hong Kong is producing Chopsticks, a Lesbian-themed musical. The theater's founder, Perry Chiu Woon, started preparing for the show in early 2011.

At that time she was in New York with her scriptwriter looking for ideas. During their research they came across an interview with the Chopsticks Sisters and realized they would be a good subject for a girl-girl story. Chiu set out to explore the relationship between the two girls and the difficulties they faced. The girls had loads of hit English numbers and combined them with sexy dance moves, so they were perfect for a musical story line.

In an interview with fridae.asia, Chiu explained, 'During the '60s and '70s, relationships between two girls were not accepted. Not to mention, of course, that it is still difficult now. So the story is about how the two overcame their adverse circumstances while being in the limelight as growing superstars. For instance, there is a scene where the Chopsticks are caught kissing in public by paparazzi. Afterwards they get reprimanded by their manager, who tells them how disgusting they are, how the public will despise them and how behaving like that will destroy their careers. So they have to control their feelings for each other and cannot truly express themselves.'

Chui feels that 'there isn't much difference between a Lesbian and a hetero couple, like when the Chopsticks break up in the musical, I can relate to their emotions as I can to any other relationships.'

'My main message is that we should treasure the people around us and never give cause for regret; people nowadays should do what they want to do and should never let anyone tell them they are not worthwhile.'

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