by Scott Wittet -
SGN Contributing Writer
LIBERIA: PRESIDENT CLARIFIES REMARKS ON HOMOSEXUALITY AND THE LAW
The Liberian president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, has put out a statement clarifying her recent remarks on homosexuality. Sirleaf claims that a report last week in a British paper misrepresented her intentions, according to African Gay rights group Behind the Mask.
The statement released by the Nobel Peace Prize winner says: 'We express our deep concern with the article published by [British newspaper] The Guardian under the caption 'Nobel Peace Prize Winner defends law criminalizing homosexuality in Liberia.'
'The article and the associated caption failed to portray the stated position of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf with regards to the purported legislation on homosexuality. The content of the article was misleading and an exploitation of a matter of great consequence.
'There currently exists no law referencing homosexuality in Liberia, and as such the president could not be defending a law on homosexuality as was insinuated in your publication. What the president is on record as saying (including in the video that accompanied your article) is that any law brought before her regarding homosexuality will be vetoed.
This statement also applies to an attempt by two members of the Liberian legislature to introduce tougher laws targeting homosexuality. It is therefore shocking to see your report that President Sirleaf is defending laws criminalizing homosexuality.
'The president and her government believe that the current law regarding sexual practices sufficiently addresses the concerns of the majority of Liberians and guarantees respect for traditional values. The reality is that the status quo in Liberia has been one of tolerance and no one has ever been prosecuted under that law. The president also thinks that with the unprecedented freedom of speech and expression Liberia enjoys today, our budding democracy will be strong enough to accommodate new ideas and debate both their value and Liberia's laws with openness, respect, and independence.
'It is my hope that this clarification will correct the inaccurate portrayal in the article.'
GAY-THEMED MOVIE OVERCOMES BALKAN DIVIDE
The Parade, a black comedy by Serbian director Srdjan Dragojevic, tells the tale of a Serbian wartime fighter who recruits enemy veterans to protect a Gay pride event. The film has become an unlikely movie sensation, challenging both the region's ethnic divide and its deeply rooted homophobia.
According to the Associated Press, the movie has drawn more than half a million viewers since its release in October. It has been equally acclaimed in Serbia, Croatia, and Bosnia - something no local film has managed since the 1990s wars between the ex-Yugoslav republics. The film also won an award at the prestigious Berlin film festival this year.
Set in the Serbian capital of Belgrade, a Gay couple tries to organize a Gay pride event in the face of threats and violence from far-right groups. To make it possible, they enlist a Serbian war veteran to protect the parade; he brings in a group of ragtag former fighters from other Yugoslav republics - a Croatian, a Bosnian Muslim, and a Kosovo Albanian.
Using an outrageous plot spiced with dry humor, Dragojevic tackles Balkan prejudices and the highly sensitive topics of Gay rights and postwar relations. Film critic Milan Vlajcic says Dragojevic's success lies in the fact that he managed to send a universal message of tolerance without turning the film into a propaganda tool.
Wounds stemming from the Balkans war remain a source of division years after the fighting ended.
The frictions were apparent during a recent premiere of Hollywood star Angelina Jolie's directorial debut In the Land of Blood and Honey, a love story set in the Bosnian war, which received standing ovations in Bosnia, but was shunned by Serbs as propaganda.
But The Parade has become the most popular Serbian film since the war, seen more times than James Cameron's Avatar, according the film's Bosnian distributor. And in Croatia, some 150,000 people have seen The Parade.
Still, Croatia's influential Catholic Church banned a screening of the film in a church-owned theater in the coastal town of Dubrovnik. The church objected to the Gay theme and to Dragojevic's alleged attempt to put equal blame for the war on all sides.
Dragojevic said the success of his movie shows that common bonds of culture and history exist in the Balkans.
'That is bad news for nationalists,' he said.
SERBIA: FAR-RIGHT LEADER JAILED FOR HOMOPHOBIC DEATH THREATS
A far-right Serbian leader whose death threats against Gays led to the cancellation of a Gay pride march in Belgrade three years ago has been convicted and sentenced to 10 months in prison, as reported by Pink News.
Belgrade's district court has ruled that the leader of the extremist group Obraz ('Honour'), Mladen Obradovic, incited discrimination against Gay men and women with graffiti that read: 'Death to Gays' and 'Blood will flow, there will be no Gay parade.'
According to Lazar Pavlovic, leader of Serbian Gay-rights group GSA, the sentence is not long enough. He feels that it should be increased to three years. 'We expect that the prosecution will lodge an appeal and we will continue to follow this case,' he said.
The Associated Press reports that in a separate case Obradovic was sentenced to two years in prison for inciting violence during a Gay pride march in 2010, which left dozens of people injured. But, having appealed his conviction, he remains a free man.
Serbia seeks to join the European Union, and as a condition of membership, has pledged to protect Gay rights. The threat of the far right, however, looms large in the Balkan state. As Serbia's constitutional court deliberates on whether to ban Obraz, Obradavic said, on leaving the courtroom, that his right-wing group will continue to operate, even if it has to do so illegally.
CHILE PONDERS HATE CRIME LEGISLATION AS THOUSANDS ATTEND GAY MAN'S FUNERAL
AFP reports that following the tragic death of Daniel Zamudio, the openly Gay Chilean who was beaten to death by neo-Nazis, thousands of neighbors, friends, and members of the general public joined together and marched alongside his funeral procession.
As a mark of respect, men, women, and children waved white handkerchiefs, clapped, and threw flowers as they joined the three-hour journey from Zamudio's home in San Bernardo to the main cemetery in Santiago, the Chilean capital.
Daniel, who was just 24, died from his injuries 25 days after the March 2 attack. He suffered a six-hour ordeal at the hands of his captors, and pictures released by his family showed that the youth had been beaten in the head, burned with cigarettes, and had Nazi symbols and slogans carved into his body.
The four men who have been arrested, aged 19 to 25, deny the charges laid against them, and the accusation of being neo-Nazis.
Speaking of the decision to charge the men with aggravated murder, regional governor Cecilia Perez said: 'As a government, we did this in the name of millions of Chileans who, after the murder of Daniel Zamudio, feel that Chile has to change.'
Today, the U.N. stepped in to call for the passage of an anti-discrimination law in the country.
Rupert Colville, speaking for the U.N. high commissioner for human rights, said, 'We deplore the violent criminal act that took the life of this young man and urge the Chilean Congress to pass a law against discrimination, including on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity, in full compliance with relevant international human rights standards.'
The killing has resulted in national soul-searching in Chile. The president of the country, Sebastian Piñera, said earlier this week, 'We want to reiterate today that we have made a commitment. We are not going to tolerate any kind of discrimination against Chilean citizens based on their socioeconomic status, their religion or their sexual orientation.'
Gay rights activists have been angered by the fact that a hate crimes bill introduced seven years ago has been effectively blocked by religious and social conservatives. 'At every turn, this law has been cut. There was resistance to having discrimination based on sexual orientation included in the [proposed bill]. This is something Chile can no longer permit. And now, after the death of Daniel, which has brought this moment of sensibility, it is time to pass [the legislation],' said Carolina Toha, president of the liberal Party for Democracy, said.
Interior Minister Rodrigo Hinzpeter added that efforts would be stepped up to pass the legislation as soon as possible.
MALE NUDE PHOTOGRAPHY EXHIBITION SHUT DOWN IN DELHI
An exhibition in Delhi by Indian-born and London-based photographer Sunil Gupta was shut down by police this week after a complaint that it was obscene, Gay Star News reports.
Soon after opening the exhibition in the Indian capital's Alliance Francaise (French cultural center), staff took down some of the photographs in response to the complaint from an individual. A day later they told the artist that the whole exhibition was being removed.
One series in the exhibition, 'Sun City,' is partly set in a Paris bathhouse and is unmistakably homoerotic, but none of the photos featured full-frontal nudity. The series was originally commissioned in 2010 by the Centre Pompidou in Paris.
The Safdar Hashmi Memorial Trust, a collective of socially conscious artists in India, issued a statement condemning the Alliance Francaise's reaction to the complaint.
'If major institutions like [the Alliance Francaise] cannot stand up against complaints made by a single individual and support the work of an artist they have invited to exhibit, they do not deserve the respect or patronage of the art community,' the group said.
International cultural centers such as the Alliance Francaise, which promotes French language and culture in 135 countries throughout the world, are often able to challenge culture censorship in the country they are based. For example, the Alliance Francaise in Shanghai screened movies with Gay themes during the Shanghai Pride festival.
NEW ONLINE MAGAZINE FOR GAYS IN SUDAN
A new online LGBT magazine in Sudan is a first for the North African country, where homosexuality is still punished by death.
Rainbow Sudan (rainbowsudan.wordpress.com) publishes English-language articles on being Gay in Sudan, the history of homosexuality in the country, Islam and sexuality, being Lesbian and Muslim, homoerotic poetry, and more.
In Sudan, same-sex sexual activity is illegal and capital punishment may apply to a man or woman engaging in such acts.
Punishments also include flogging and imprisonment.
Being out can also have serious social and economic consequences. It typically means a loss of job prospects, rejection by family and community, or even murder in the name of so-called 'honor killings.'
The editor of Rainbow Sudan, Mohammad, lives in the capital Khartoum. He told Gay Star News that 'to understand the Gay community in Sudan you have to understand the religious factor here. & It is a big taboo and regarded as one of the biggest sins possible.'
Another Sudanese, Ibrahim, explained. 'If you are outed in Sudan, the consequences are very serious: social rejection and even punishment according to the Sudanese law,' he said. 'The internet is my only lifeline. I can talk with people, learn about LGBT issues, and occasionally arrange to meet people. I have to be so careful. If I was caught, exposed, or arrested, it would ruin me completely.'
Soso, a 35-year-old Lesbian hairdresser, said, 'Despite all the difficulties, a Sudanese LGBT community exists, but society at large is not open to this idea. They see homosexuality as the work of the devil. But I am OK with who I am and know I won't change.'
Editor Mohammad stresses that such voices show how 'we need to discuss what does it mean for us to be Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender in Sudan.'
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