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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, March 30, 2012 - Volume 40 Issue 13
International News - Scott Wittet
Section One
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International News

by Scott Wittet - SGN Contributing Writer

WHAT'S NEXT, NEPAL? GAY GAMES, GENDER NEUTRAL TOILET, AND FACEBOOK CHALLENGE
Traditionally Nepal has not been known for progressive policies or forward culture, but in the past few years the home of Mt. Everest has been a pioneer in LGBT rights. Much of the credit for that goes to Sunil Babu Pant, Nepal's only out Gay Member of Parliament, and his Blue Diamond Society.

Mr. Pant's latest activism: Nepal's first ever Gay games, a toilet that won't cause embarrassment to Trans persons, and an open letter to Mark Zuckerberg, asking him to make Facebook more Trans-friendly.

This September, athletes from across the country will compete in the 'Blue Diamond National Sport Competition.' Funded by the Australian Sports Outreach Program, the event will help 'boost confidence of LGBTI members' and 'enhance their image in the society,' says Pant. Sports featured include volleyball, soccer, long jump, and martial arts.

Mr. Pant also recently unveiled Nepal's first gender-neutral public toilet in the western city of Nepalgunj.

He told PinkNews 'I decided to use part of my Parliamentary Development Fund to build a toilet that is 'for all', not just for men and women&For people who don't identify as male or female, accessing these places might mean that they have to reveal an intimately private aspect of their lives to strangers and authorities, and they still can be denied access&This new toilet in Nepalgunj allows everyone equal access, and they can use it without fear of exclusion.'

In a further burst of activity, Mr. Pant recently wrote to the founder of Facebook, complaining that 'people who do not identify as male or female continue to be sidelined by Facebook's options,' and that 'many in the LGBTI community feel as if they are hidden on the site, unable to identify as their true selves.'

'In Nepal,' he continued, 'we have been working with the government to improve this identity-based access to documentation and civic participation. The Government of Nepal is working to implement a third gender option, labeled 'other,' on all official forms and registers. I encourage you to do the same, for the sake of respect for gender-variant people around the world who want to socialize, organize, and be a part of your 21st century internet revolution.'

Compared to neighboring India, which shares close cultural ties to Nepal, the tiny Himalayan nation is relaxed when it comes to LGBTI-related issues. But there is work to be done.

Kyle Knight, a Fulbright Fellow researching Nepal's LGBTI rights movement, says that although Nepal has some of the most progressive LGBTI laws in the world, the government has been slow to implement changes.

'But the relentless activism -- including public awareness and inclusion campaigns such as the 2012 LGBTI sports competition -- keeps the issues fresh and encourages change to happen in a very real way,' Knight says.

In 2007 Nepal's Supreme Court ordered the government to abolish all laws that discriminate against LGBTI people. It also gave people the right to identify themselves as 'third-gender'.

Four years later the decision still has not been fully implemented. However, Nepal's forthcoming constitution is likely to include provisions for same-sex marriage and guarantees of full rights for LGBTI people.

For these reasons, the New York Times listed Nepal as the 'next Gay destination' in 2010. And in late 2011 U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton commended Nepal in a speech on LGBT rights.

AUSTRALIAN POLITICO TOURING 'HATE TRUCK'
A right-wing political candidate and anti-Gay marriage protest leader, Peter Madden, has taken his hate message on the road in Australia, and is linking same-sex marriage and pedophilia on billboard-sized banners.

The banners, which cover both sides and the back of the large truck, include messages like 'the dark side of same-sex marriage: homosexual sex-ed for your young children.' Next to that is a photo of a young, bearded man with his hand on a young boy's shoulder as they lean together - it could easily be a Hallmark photo of a father and son, but the text implies otherwise, proclaiming, 'not my children, not on my watch!'

Mr. Madden is taking his Gay marriage protest tour around the state of New South Wales, with campaign stops in major cities like Brisbane.

Recently, after spray-painting pro-Gay slogans across the banners, protesters in the town of Lismore chained themselves to the truck by their necks to stop Mr. Madden from moving on. Police used bolt cutters to release the truck, according to The Brisbane Times and Australian Marriage Equality.

Jenny Dowell, the mayor of Lismore, could not condone the 'malicious damage' caused to Mr Madden's truck, but she also said she did not support the messages the truck was carrying. 'I did express strongly to [Mr Madden] that those views and that truck were not welcome here,' She told the Northern Star newspaper. 'The signs were linking homosexuality to pedophilia and those views are not welcome in Lismore.'

The Danish photographer who took the image of the man and boy weighed in too-with threat of a lawsuit. Yuri Arcurs told the Sydney Star Observer that use of the image by Mr Madden breached its licensing agreement. Mr Arcurs's work is licensed through a stock photo website.

'The image is mine, and there are strict rules regarding the use of stock photography for campaigns like this,' said Mr Arcurs. 'It's a very strong political message to send and as the models on the image might not agree with the statements made in the campaign, this would not be considered a legal use of the image.'

UGANDAN ACTIVISTS FILE CASE AGAINST ANTI-GAY U.S. EVANGELICAL IN U.S. COURT
American non-profit legal organization the Center for Constitutional Rights has filed a lawsuit in a U.S. federal court against a homophobic, American preacher for damage done in Uganda. Sexual Minorities Uganda v. Lively was filed under the Alien Tort Statute (ATS), which allows foreign victims of human rights abuses to seek civil remedies in U.S. courts.

Abiding Truth Ministries President Scott Lively is the target of the suit, filed on behalf of Sexual Minorities Uganda, a non-profit umbrella organization for LGBT advocacy groups in that country.

The suit alleges that Lively's involvement in anti-Gay efforts in Uganda, including his active participation in the formulation of anti-Gay legislation and policies aimed at revoking the fundamental rights of LGBT persons constitutes persecution. This is the first known ATS case seeking accountability for persecution on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

As previously reported in SGN, Uganda's parliament has a pending bill, commonly known as the 'Kill the Gays Bill,' that provides the death penalty for homosexuality, with prison for failing to turn in someone suspected of being homosexual. It also criminalizes advocacy around LGBT rights.

'Lively has been the man with the plan in this enterprise,' said Pam Spees, senior staff attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights. 'He long ago set out a very specific and detailed methodology for stripping away the most basic human rights protections, to silence and ultimately disappear LGBT people. Unfortunately, he found willing accomplices and fertile ground in Uganda.'

Frank Mugisha, executive director of Sexual Minorities Uganda, added, 'U.S evangelical leaders like Scott Lively have actively and intensively worked to eradicate any trace of LGBT advocacy and identity. Particularly damaging has been his claim that children are at risk because of our existence. His influence has been incredibly harmful and destructive for LGBT Ugandans fighting for their rights. We have to stop people like Scott Lively from helping to codify and give legal cover to hatred.'

The complaint includes evidence of Lively's participation in laying the groundwork for broad-based attacks on the LGBT community including portions of the bill intended to deprive Gay activists of the right of freedom of assembly, the right of association and the right to be free from discrimination.

The bill's sponsor, David Bahati, is a Ugandan politician and member of The Family, a powerful and secretive U.S.-based evangelical and political organization known for organizing an annual National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, DC.

Scott Lively has been working with anti-Gay forces in Uganda since 2002. In March 2009, Lively, along with two other U.S. Evangelical leaders, headlined a three-day conference intended to expose the 'Gay movement' as an 'evil institution' and a danger to children.

Lively likened the effects of his advocacy to a 'nuclear bomb' in Uganda and stated that he hopes it is replicated elsewhere.

DUTCH CATHOLIC AUTHORITIES ALLEGED TO HAVE CASTRATED GAYS IN 1950s
Reports have emerged that in the 1950s, Dutch Roman Catholic authorities approved the surgical castration of young men to 'cure' them of homosexuality.

The Netherlands newspaper NRC Handelsblad has identified one victim, a youth named Henk Heithus, who in 1956 told police he had suffered sexual abuse at the hands of priests in a church-run group home. At just 20 years old, Heithus was castrated 'as a treatment for homosexuality and also as a punishment for those who accused clergy of sexual abuse,' according to an English-language report in London's Telegraph. He died two years later in an automobile accident.

Joep Dohmen, the journalist who wrote the NRC Handelsblad article, said he has identified at least nine other cases of castration ordered by the Catholic church. 'These cases are anonymous and can no longer be traced,' the Telegraph quoted him as saying. 'There will be many more. But the question is whether those boys, now old men, will want to tell their story.'

A church-appointed commission investigating sexual abuse by Catholic clergy since 1945 received information about Heithuis's castration from an acquaintance of his, prominent sculptor Cornelius Rogge, but did not look into the case further, citing a lack of leads, and did not include it in its official report, published three months ago. Members of the Dutch parliament now want that body to launch an inquiry.

GAY PRIDE GOERS SHOULD BE 'BEATEN' SAYS DEPUTY DEFENSE MINISTER OF ALBANIA
Gay Star News reports that Ekrem Spahiu, Deputy Defense Minister of Albania, has outraged Gay rights groups after saying that LGBT Albanians should be 'beaten' if they hold a Gay-pride parade in the Southeast European state.

Spahiu, who is also leader of the royalist party, said 'My only commentary on this Gay parade is that they should be beaten with truncheons' after activists announced that Albania's first Gay pride event would be held on May 17th.

The Gay rights organization Pink Embassy has said that it plans to take Spahiu to court for his comments, which breach the country's 2010 law banning discrimination on the basis of sexual preference.

Activist Kristi Pinderi says: 'This is a call to violence, and we will ask through our lawyers that Spahiu be convicted, in accordance with Albanian law, to a prison sentence of up to five years.'

In 2010, Albanian MP Tritan Shehu was criticized for saying that same-sex desire is a 'disease and should be treated with hormones'.

'IT GETS BETTER' GOES LATIN
It Gets Better, the anti-bullying video campaign, has launched a Spanish-language version in Latin America called Todo Mejora (www.todomejora.org). Chile is taking the lead on the project.

Regional coordinator Julio Cezar Dantas, quoted in Gay Star News, says, 'It looks to show LGBT teens that there is no reason to hurt themselves, because as a country we are here for them, to hear them, embrace them and help them see things in a better light'.

According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Chile has the second highest teen suicide rate in the world, behind South Korea.

In 2010, an estimated eight out of 100 teens between ages 10 and 19 committed suicide in Chile. The Ministry of Health estimates that by 2020, 12 out of 100 teens will commit suicide.

'LGBT teens who suffer from bullying and can't count on the support from their families should not lose hope because as a Gay adult it does get better,' said Dantas.

The website will also provide educational material for parents, friends and teachers of LGBT teens, as well as information on health centers where they can seek help.

According to statistics from It Gets Better, Gay teens are four times more likely to commit suicide than straight teens, and up to eight times more likely if there is rejection from families.

TodoMejora.org is the latest regional website to join the It Gets Better campaign, with Australia, Denmark and Sweden also joining recently.

MISS UNIVERSE CANADA REJECTS TRANSGENDER CONTESTANT
A beauty pageant owned by Donald Trump has booted a contestant out of the competition because she was born male, reports PinkNews.

Jenna Talackova, 23, was thrown out of the competition after it emerged that she had undergone a sex-change operation, despite having successfully reached the finals in the Miss Vancouver pageant. She began hormone therapy when she was 14, and underwent surgical reassignment five years later.

Denis Davila, the national director of the pageant, told the Toronto Star that the rules of the competition were very clear in that the contestants must be a 'naturally born female.' He had suspected that Ms Talackova was not born a woman, which she later confirmed.

'She feels like a real girl and she is a real girl. She didn't expect people to question it,' Mr Davila said in a statement. 'She was hoping we could put her back in the competition, but the rules are very clear and there's no way we can go back on it.'

'I'm disqualified, however I'm not giving up,' Ms Talackova tweeted, though she later locked her Twitter account. 'I'm not going to just let them disqualify me over discrimination,' she added.

INDIA'S ATTORNEY-GENERAL BLAMES VICTORIAN BRITAIN FOR ANTI-GAY LAWS
In an apparent change of heart from the position it adopted three years ago, the Indian government has said that homosexuality was tolerated in pre-colonial India, and it was only the British who imposed their Victorian values of morality on what was a largely liberal land.

Pink News reports that India's chief law officer GE Vahanvati told the Supreme Court that it was only in Britain that homosexuals 'were widely despised and buggery was a capital crime until 1961,' quoting from a book on the British Raj by Lawrence James.

The statement, made on behalf of the federal government, further added that 'for many British onlookers, Indian erotic act was a revelation of practices which were all but unheard of in their homeland, or condemned as deviant and depraved. There was group sex, oral sex, sex in every conceivable position, buggery and masturbation.'

Yet, only a month ago, the Additional Solicitor General PP Malhotra submitted to the Court that Gay sex was 'highly immoral and against social order and there is high chance of spreading of diseases through such acts.' India's Home Ministry quickly retracted the statement, however, calling it a 'miscommunication,' when there appeared to be an immediate and widespread backlash to the comments, and for which it received a rebuke from the Supreme Court.

The government had opposed decriminalization of Gay sex, on the grounds that public opinion was overwhelmingly against it. But the Delhi High Court in 2009 overturned the ban, saying it was a 'violation of fundamental rights' and an 'antithesis of the right to equality.' That verdict only applies in the capital New Delhi.

The current appeal in the Supreme Court was launched by an astrologer and a yoga guru, both of whom want the ban reinstated. They have the backing of the major religious groups in the country.

REGGAE ARTIST SIZZLA'S SWEDISH CONCERT CANCELLED OVER ANTI-GAY LYRICS
Reggae musician Sizzla has had the Swedish leg of his European tour cancelled on account of anti-Gay lyrics which feature in his music, according to Pink News.

Sizzla Kalonji was scheduled to perform later this month in Stockholm but public condemnation of the artist, whose lyrics have incited violence against Gay people, led organizers to call off the concert, The Local reports.

Concerts are still planned for Italy, France, Belgium, Norway, the Netherlands and Spain.

Concerts by Sizzla were cancelled in the UK in 2004 and in Toronto in 2007.

In July 2007, Sizzla and numerous other acts signed up to the Reggae Compassionate Act in a deal brokered with top reggae promoters and Stop Murder Music activists.

The Act reads: 'It must be clear there's no space in the music community for hatred and prejudice, including no place for racism, violence, sexism or homophobia.' and 'We agree to not make statements or perform songs that incite hatred or violence against anyone from any community.'

But Sizzla later went on to deny ever having signed the pact.

The Local now reports that the appearance at Stockholm was titled 'The Reggae Compassionate Act', though it is not clear this morning why the name had been chosen.

SPANISH PHOTO OF TWO MEN KISSING REMOVED FROM FACEBOOK
An advertisement for a cultural project against homophobia that featured two men kissing on the lips was temporarily removed from a Facebook page because it apparently breached the social media company's decency code, according to Gay Star News.

The Facebook code bars images of a 'political, sexual or other sensitive' nature.

But the Madrid-based Visible Culture group, which posted the image - by artist Juan Hidalgo - as part of an advertisement for its 'Gay Art Looks For A Home' program, objected publicly to the photo's removal and replaced it with the same photo with the word 'censored' super-imposed over it.

On 23 March Facebook returned the original photo.

The company explained to Towleroad.com: 'Upon investigation, we concluded the advertisement does not violate our guidelines and was removed in error. The ad is now running and we apologize for the inconvenience.'

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