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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, February 10, 2012 - Volume 40 Issue 06
International News - Scott Wittet
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International News

by Scott Wittet - SGN Contributing Writer

UGANDAN GAY ACTIVIST RECEIVES DEATH THREATS
A generally balanced article in Uganda's Red Pepper tabloid last November - copied from an AP story - got a local slant when editors chose to label Frank Mugisha, recipient of the prestigious Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award, a 'Bum Drilling Activist' in their headline.

Mugisha is Gay and is executive director of sexual minorities Uganda.

The activist has long spoken out against homophobia in his country. But after receiving the Kennedy Award and writing an op-ed piece in the New York Times against homophobia in his country, Mugisha received threats and says he fears for his life, afraid to go shopping alone or eat in a restaurant for fear of being poisoned.

'Just two days ago there was a very big piece of news about me,' said Mugisha in an interview on Michelangelo Signorile's radio program on SiriusXM. The new article outrageously claimed that the Red Pepper story was a fraud, created by Gay rights groups to gain support in other countries. Mugisha continued, 'They put my picture in the newspaper with all these hate words and of course I got a lot of bad emails, bad phone [calls], a lot of harassment against me.'

In his December op-ed, Mugisha reminded readers that the Ugandan Parliament had been debating a 'Kill the Gays' bill that would have enacted severe penalties on people perceived to be Gay, and people who sheltered or supported them. The religiously conservative first lady of Uganda, Janet Museveni, is rumored to be a primary supporter of the draconian bill.

The bill was shelved in May 2011, but Mugisha fears that it could be introduced again at any time.

'Here [in Uganda], Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender people suffer brutal attacks, yet cannot report them to the police for fear of additional violence, humiliation, rape, or imprisonment at the hands of the authorities,' Mugisha wrote.

He fears that what happened to David Kato, the best-known Gay activist from Uganda, could happen to him. Kato was found dead in his home last year, bludgeoned to death with a hammer.

'That gives me more fear because he was murdered [in] his house,' Mugisha said. 'That is more scary. Not having the privacy. Not having the closure. It's very fearful for me.'

Mugisha says all he can do is continue to keep speaking out:

'Maybe if I keep talking, maybe they will stop, maybe the homophobia will stop.'

2,500 TURN OUT FOR MUMBAI QUEER PRIDE WALK
With 2,500 marchers, many sporting wild costumes, the fourth Mumbai (Bombay) Queer Pride Walk went 'fantastically well,' according to one of the organizers.

As reported by Gay Star News, the march was the highlight of a week of celebrations of LGBT life in Mumbai - the home of Bollywood - and featured dancing, films, and music.

The march, led by a giant pride flag, lasted for an hour and half as it wound its way through central Mumbai to an Indian Ocean beach.

'People really started dancing once the drums went off,' said Pallav Patankar, one of the organizers. Patankar was delighted that 'angels' emerged as the unplanned theme of the march this year, with lots of people wearing fluffy wings and halos.

'Last year we felt that we were pushed into a corner and the police made us walk really fast,' noted Patankar. 'This time the police said, 'Take your time, we're not going to bother you.'

There were other changes as well - for example, fewer people seemed to feel the need to hide their identities behind masks this year. 'I must have seen only about 10 or 20 people there in masks,' said Patankar. 'During the first march four years ago, the majority of people wore masks so they wouldn't be seen in photographs or TV footage.'

Most festival events went smoothly, though there was a disruption by an anti-Gay activist at a pre-festival fundraising event.

PFLAG AUSTRALIA AIRS MARRIAGE EQUALITY AD
A TV ad airing across Australia features parents of Gay people asking that their sons and daughters be given the right to marry, according to gaystarnews.

The new ad, produced by Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) Australia, asks Tony Abbott, the leader of the Parliamentary opposition, to allow the MPs he leads a conscience vote on Gay marriage, rather than forcing them to toe his anti-same-sex marriage line.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard has already agreed that Labor Party MPs will be allowed a conscience vote on a proposed marriage equality bill, but if all the opposition MPs voted against it, the bill would fail.

In the ad, Shelley Argent, president of PFLAG Brisbane and their national spokesperson, brings attention to a poll taken last year that showed that 76% of voters agree there should be a conscience vote.

'Personally, Mr. Abbott may not agree with equality for his own reasons,' she said. 'But he is falling out of step with the majority of Australians. As I ask in the advert, 'What is there to fear?' If we hope to live in a democratic society, then Mr. Abbott should allow it to should be run as such.'

'As parents, we want our same-sex-attracted sons and daughters to have the choice and right to celebrate their relationships exactly the same as their straight siblings and extended family members and to have these same relationships validated in the eyes of the law. Allowing same sex couples to marry cannot impact on any other person's marriage negatively and cannot bring our society into decline as the fear mongers claim.'

GAY AEROFLOT STEWARD FORCED TO MARRY A WOMAN
A Gay air steward for the Russian carrier Aeroflot was forced to marry a woman in order to keep his job, Russian activists allege.

After Maxim Kupreev, 25, tried to establish a Gay employees group at the airline last year, management ordered him to marry or be fired, according to sources within Aeroflot. The Gay steward tied the knot with his school friend Sofia Mikhailova to keep his job.

A protest is being planned in Moscow on February 9 to coincide with the airline's 89th birthday.

Protesters are asking that people boycott Aeroflot. They also want the airline drummed out of the global SkyTeam alliance, which includes KLM, Air France, Delta, and Korean Air, among others.

JEAN WYLLYS, BRAZIL'S FIRST OPENLY GAY M.P., TAKES FIGHT TO THE RELIGIOUS RIGHT
The UK Guardian reports that Jean Wyllys - Brazil's first openly Gay M.P. - is locked in conflict with the country's powerful religious right.

'It is a difficult battle to fight. Sometimes I feel like Don Quixote, you know?' said the 37-year-old former Big Brother Brazil contestant who has been called South America's answer to Harvey Milk.

'But this is my vocation. My calling. I feel that I need to be here.'

Wyllys is in the center of a confrontation that some have compared to the culture wars in the U.S., and one in which Brazil's reputation as an open and tolerant rainbow nation is undermined by firebrand Christian pastors who conduct exorcisms on Lesbians and Gay men.

Wyllis built a career as a journalist. After relocating to Rio de Janeiro, he auditioned for Brazil's version of the reality show Big Brother, and won with 50 million votes. 'This had great political relevance,' he said. 'I said I was homosexual and I still won the program in a country that is homophobic.'

Those expecting Wyllys to disappear after the show was over were mistaken. In 2010, he was elected federal M.P. for the Socialism and Liberty Party and since then his battle for human rights has earned him widespread accolades.

But Wyllys also has become a hate figure for extreme elements of the religious right, who have posted numerous derogatory videos online. One accuses Wyllys of waging a 'personal war' against religion and a 'campaign against Christianity.'

Wyllys has also come under attack from preachers such as Silas Malafaia, a notorious televangelist who has fought recent attempts to criminalize homophobia and describes himself as 'public enemy No. 1 of the Gay movement.'

'Silas Malafaia's hands and the hands of these other pastors are covered in blood - the blood of homosexuals who die in Brazil as victims of homophobia,' said Wyllys. He wants the Brazilian constitution changed to allow civil marriages between same-sex couples and hopes his presence in Congress will open the door to more Gay politicians.

ROCK HUDSON RADIO DRAMA WINS BBC AWARD
A radio production about Gay actor Rock Hudson was named Best Online Drama at the BBC's first Audio Drama Awards, according to PinkNews U.K.

Hudson died in 1985 from an AIDS-related illness after starring in nearly 70 films.

ROCK was written and directed by Tim Fountain and stars Michael Xavier as Rock Hudson and Bette Bourne as legendary agent Henry Willson.

Hudson, who was married to Willson's secretary for three years in the 1950s, reportedly once seduced James Dean to win a bet against Elizabeth Taylor.

Dean starred in the movie Giant with Taylor and Hudson. Noreen Nash claimed, 'Elizabeth and Rock took bets on who could get James Dean into bed first.'

'I had an idea Rock would win, but Elizabeth wasn't so sure.'

The ROCK podcast can be downloaded free from The Independent website.

SAO PAULO METRO LAUNCHES CAMPAIGN TO COMBAT HOMOPHOBIA
The Brazilian State of Sao Paulo, in partnership with the Sao Paulo City Metro, has launched a campaign to combat homophobia, called 'See beyond prejudice. Respect differences.'

Its objective is to increase respect toward, and decrease discrimination against, LGBT people living in South America's most populous city. The first stage of the project aims to combat discrimination and prejudice against Transgender people, and to promote a law that punishes homophobic behavior and discrimination.

PinkNews reports that all 58 Sao Paulo Metro stations are covered with bright posters featuring pictures of Transgender women with the title: 'Look, look again, and see beyond prejudice. I am Trans. I have the right to be who I am.'

In May 2011 a Trans woman won a landmark case against Sao Paulo Metro when the company was forced to pay about $50,000 in damages when a member of its staff was found guilty of homophobic verbal abuse against the victim.

REYKJAVIK READY FOR FEBRUARY GAY FESTIVAL
Iceland's capital city is inviting Gay people from around the world to attend its International LGBT Festival from February 16-19.

Eva María Thorarinsdottir Lange, managing director of Pink Iceland, said: 'The Rainbow Reykjavik program provides a colorful mixture of various events, including tours to see the northern lights, geysers, waterfalls, and the continental divide, great meals, cocktail receptions, and dance parties & as well as wellness and relaxation in the world famous geothermal spa of the Blue Lagoon.'

In addition to experiencing Iceland's unparalleled natural beauty, a 'Queer Concert' in Reykjavik's new Harpa Concert Hall will feature some of Iceland's most famous artists including Lay Low and Paul Oscar.

Rainbow Reykjavik says temperatures in the world's northernmost capital city are moderate year-round, with snow a rarity.

The organization urged, 'You must always bring a bathing suit, whatever time of the year you visit. A favorite pastime is year-round outdoor swimming in countless geothermally heated pools and lagoons, with a typical temperature of 25-28°C. And there is no better time to see the northern lights!'

Iceland Air flies nonstop from Seattle to Reykjavik.

100,000 Australian Grindr users exposed in hack attack
The popular Grindr app that enables Gay men to find other men using GPS experienced a serious security breach in Australia, where there are over 100,000 Australian users. A hacker discovered a way to log in as another user, impersonate that user, chat, and send photos on their behalf.

The International Gay and Lesbian Association (ILGA) reports that the hacker also set up a website (now taken offline) that listed Australian users' Grindr pseudonyms, passwords, and bookmarked friends, and allowed them to be impersonated, so that messages could sent and received without their knowledge.

The hacker also changed the profile pictures of many Sydney Grindr users to explicit images. One user confirmed he had been banned from Grindr due to a perceived terms-of-service violation.

The vulnerabilities are also present in Blendr, the straight version of the app, according to a security expert who said both apps had 'no real security' and were 'poorly designed.'

The founder of the apps, Joel Simkhai, said he was rushing to release a patch to address the issues.

Simkhai sought to reassure users by noting that conversations on the app cannot be monitored. 'Not only can chat not be monitored, but since we don't store chat history on our servers there is no way anyone can access all past chat history.'

If users are concerned about their security they can permanently delete their Grindr or Blendr profile following instructions on the company's website.

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