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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, April 20, 2012 - Volume 40 Issue 16
International News - Scott Wittet
Section One
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International News

by Scott Wittet - SGN Contributing Writer

There are not many scientifically rigorous studies focused on LGBTQ and women who have sex with women in Africa or Asia. Social scientists often claim that Lesbians are hard to find in those countries, and that there is no funding for such projects. However, two new reports provide opportunities to learn more about these hidden worlds.

From April to August 2011, the Queer African Youth Networking Center (QAYN) conducted a five-month research project in Burkina Faso, Ghana, and Nigeria aimed at critically documenting the lived realities of women who have sex with other women.

Volunteers conducted interviews and focus group discussions as part of the first study ever to be designed and conducted by a Lesbian-led group in West Africa.

Entitled 'Struggling Alone: The Lived Realities of Women Who Have Sex With Women,' the study finds that women who have sex with women in West Africa remain some of the most marginalized, vulnerable, invisible members of the LGBTQ community.

The Queer African Youth Networking Center (QAYN) is a Lesbian-led organization formed in 2010 to establish a wide network of support to promote the safety and well-being of LGBT and questioning West African youth. The QAYN report is available on their website (

Another report - ' Women-Loving-Women in Africa and Asia' - summarizes the stories of more than 300 participants, interviewed in 14 different languages. Papers in the book include 'From the horse's mouth: Township perceptions on the black butch Lesbian identity' and 'Stories to tell: A Queer women's oral history in Sri Lanka.'

You can find that report at

From among 22 Gay men representing their respective countries in the fourth annual Mr. Gay World competition held in Johannesburg, South Africa, on April 8, Andreas (Andy) Derleth of New Zealand took the 2012 crown. He also aced Mr. Gay Swimwear and the 'Sports Challenge.'

A white South African man took second place in the competition, France took third place, the U.S. fourth place, and Netherlands came in fifth.

Carlito Floro Rosadino, Jr., from the Philippines, took home two awards: Mr. Gay People's Choice and Mr. Gay National Costume. Mr. Gay Photogenic went to Argentina and Mr. Gay Outreach to the Czech Republic.

The South African venue was symbolic because it included black Africans among the contestants for the first time since the competition began in 2009.

Gay Star News reports that an Australian Parliament request for public comment on legalizing Gay marriage in Australia has revealed 'unprecedented' support for changing the law.

Figures released on April 13 by the Australian Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee show that almost 60% of Australians are in favor of allowing same-sex couples to marry, with 44,000 out of 75,000 letters and emails in favor.

'The unprecedented level of support for this legislation reflects the fact that a majority of Australians support marriage equality and support is passionate,' said Alex Greenwich, national convener for campaign group Australian Marriage Equality.

'The take-home message for our federal politicians is that the Australian public wants this reform and wants it now.'

Greenwich claims the figures show the bill is the most popular legislation ever to come before the Australian Parliament.

However, the proposals face fierce opposition from right-wing politicians and Christian lobbyists.

Addressing the House of Representatives committee in Sydney on April 12, Dr. David Phillips, national president of Family Voice Australia, likened Gay marriage to incest. He went on to claim that Gays can be 'cured.'

Many of the comments were sent through websites. The Australian Christian Lobby claimed that submissions sent via online platforms were less 'well reasoned' and 'thoughtful.'

However, Greenwich dismissed this argument, saying, 'It's rather desperate for the ACL to claim that a submission is more reasoned and thoughtful simply based on the medium it was submitted through.

'As the Senate inquiry itself has acknowledged, many of those people who sent a submission through websites like AME's and Get Up's included their personal stories about why marriage equality is important to them and their families.

'These personal stories, some of which have already been published by the Senate inquiry, make a compelling case for reform.'

An anti-Gay group in Liberia has reportedly issued a hit list reminiscent of the one that preceded the death of a prominent LGBT activist in Uganda last year.

The Associated Press and The Advocate report that a group called the 'Movement Against Gays in Liberia' is distributing a list of people suspected of being Gay. Followers have pledged to 'get to them one by one.'

'Having conducted a comprehensive investigation, we are convinced that the below listed individuals are Gays or supporters of the club who don't mean well for our country,' the group wrote. 'Therefore, we have agreed to go after them using all means.' Liberian legislators currently are considering a bill that would criminalize same-sex marriage. The country already bans 'voluntary sodomy' with penalties of up to one year in jail. Ugandan Gay rights activist David Kato was beaten to death with a hammer in 2011 after he sued a newspaper for printing a list of Gay people. The newspaper's list of '100 Pictures of Uganda's Top Homos,' which was accompanied by the words 'Hang Them,' made Kato the target of repeated death threats. His killer, who admitted to the crime and was sentenced to 30 years in prison, claimed that he acted in self-defense against sexual advances. Human rights groups fear that something similar could happen in Liberia.

Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni has admitted that homosexuality is part of the heritage of black African societies, but added that sexual matters were traditionally private. As reported by the Gay African 'Behind the Mask' website, local media stated that Museveni told the head of the European Union delegation to Uganda, Dr. Roberto Ridolfi, that 'many years ago there were four prominent homosexuals, three of them chiefs, and one who did great work for the country.' It is not clear if he was referring to the historical Buganda King (Kabaka) Daniel Mwanga, who is widely believed to have been a Gay man. He is known for having killed 22 early converts to Christianity in Buganda in 1886, accusing them of usurping his power. The executed Christians have since come to be known as the Uganda Martyrs.

'Those people [the four historical homosexuals] were not killed, not discriminated against, and not persecuted,' Museveni told the E.U. officials. He added that black Africans have always kept their sexual matters confidential.

'I have been married to a beautiful lady called Janet for 38 years, but I have never kissed her in public or in front of my children. Sexual matters, heterosexual or homosexual, must be confidential,' Museveni said.

Museveni's stand on Gay history echoes similar findings in a new documentary by Gay activist group the Uganda Health and Science Press Association. The film profiles Gay communities in pre-colonial African societies and will premiere in June.

According to the documentary, the Buganda kingdom, one of the most powerful in the 'Great Lakes' region of Eastern Africa, never persecuted or killed Gays.

The Ugandan government has distanced itself from the recently re-submitted Anti-Homosexuality Bill, also known as the 'Kill the Gays' bill, promoted by a conservative Ugandan parliamentarian with backing from a few U.S. evangelical Christian leaders.

Anna Leach of Gay Star News reports that a Russian official has announced that his country disagrees with the other G8 countries about protecting LGBT rights. The official also said that Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov had complained about this at the recent G8 meeting in Washington, D.C.

According to the Moscow Times, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said Russia 'cannot agree with the attempts to artificially isolate this category of people as an independent group, allegedly claiming for special defense of their rights and interests in the international regime of human rights.'

'We consider it inappropriate when, in the name of defending members of so-called sexual minorities, in practice they undertake aggressive propaganda and impose a certain mode of behavior that may offend a significant subsection of society,' said Ryabkov.

Ryabkov also suggested that an anti-'Gay propaganda' law passed recently in St. Petersburg and other regions could become national.

The foreign ministers from the G8 countries - the U.S., the U.K., France, Russia, Canada, Japan, Germany, and Italy - were in Washington mainly to discuss issues including the civil war in Syria, North Korea's missile launch, Iran's nuclear program, and lifting sanctions on Burma.

A report from the meeting reiterated the G8's support for Gay rights and did not mention Russia's disagreement.

'Ministers reaffirmed that human rights and fundamental freedoms are the birthright of all individuals, male and female, including Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, or Transgender individuals. These individuals often face death, violence, harassment, and discrimination because of their sexual orientation in many countries around the world,' the report said.

'A Gay kiss? It's disgusting. I am normal and I like women. A Gay marriage? For God's sake, no!' That was the reaction of Italian Member of Parliament Massimo Calearo (a former Democrat and now an independent politician) to a question about Gay rights.

According to Gay Star News reporter Daniele Guido Gessa, LGBT Italians are experiencing hard times. Italian politicians - with a few exceptions - have never been openly LGBT-friendly, but recently a new wave of homophobia has hit the media.

'Sometimes I call them culattoni (Queer) and I'm proud to be normal,' said another Member of Parliament Gabriele Cimadoro, in March. As part of the Italia dei Valori Party (Italy of Values), Cimadoro is supposed to be left-wing.

But, as Franco Grillini, former president of the LGBT movement ARCIGAY explains, Cimadoro was previously a Christian Democrat - hence his anti-Gay stance.

Grillini told Gay Star News, 'The Vatican is the real Italian cancer at the moment, they influence left-wing and right-wing parties. And our politicians are the most homophobic in Europe.

'Italy now needs a law against discrimination. When I was in the national parliament, I worked for a bill like that. It was voted for in a commission, but never approved by the assembly.'

Enrico Oliari, president of the LGBT right-wing association GayLib, agreed that 'Catholicism is the real problem: and while right-wing politicians are openly homophobic, the left-wing ones simply wear a mask of kindness and politeness. But they are homophobic as well.'

Anna Paola Concia, a Lesbian member of parliament, reacted to Calearo's and Cimadoro's statements by asking the presidents of the two chambers to intervene. Nothing has been done.

But while officials stay silent, Gay and Trans Italians are taking the lead in fighting for a better future.

A conference on Gay marriage was held in Rome on April 12. And Bologna Pride 2012 organizer Emiliano Zaino recently affirmed, 'At Pride we'll shout against the homophobia of our politicians. While Europe is giving LGBT people rights and voice, Italy is still a medieval country, and we can only rely on the judges' decisions [in legal challenges on LGBT rights issues].'

The mayor of London, Boris Johnson, intervened to prevent a Christian advertising campaign from promoting the idea that Gay people can be converted to heterosexuality. The ad was to say: 'Not Gay! Post-Gay, ex-Gay, and proud. Get over it!'

Just days before the posters were due to appear on buses in the capital, Johnson ordered his transport chiefs to pull the ads booked by two conservative Anglican Christian groups. The campaign had sparked outrage among Gay activists and politicians, according to the U.K. newspaper The Guardian.

The ads were funded by the Core Issues Trust of the U.K. whose leader, Mike Davidson, believes 'homoerotic behaviour is sinful.'

His charity funds 'reparative therapy' for Gay Christians, which it claims can 'develop their heterosexual potential.'

Johnson, who contacted the Guardian to announce he was stopping the ads within two hours of their contents becoming public, said: 'London is one of the most tolerant cities in the world and intolerant of intolerance. It is clearly offensive to suggest that being Gay is an illness that someone recovers from and I am not prepared to have that suggestion driven around London on our buses.'

The campaign was an explicit attempt to hit back at the U.K. Gay rights group Stonewall, which as part of its lobbying for the extension of marriage to Gay couples is running its own bus ads saying, 'Some people are Gay. Get over it.' The Christian ads used the same black, red, and white color scheme as Stonewall's, and in a statement announcing the campaign accused Stonewall of promoting the 'false idea that there is indisputable scientific evidence that people are born Gay.'

Ben Summerskill, the chief executive of Stonewall, said the ex-Gay ads were 'clearly homophobic' and added, 'The only reason some Gay people might want to stop being Gay is because of the prejudice of the people who are publishing the ad.

'The promotion of this voodoo therapy is hugely irresponsible given the damage that it appears to do to some people.'

Both men said the ad should not be banned, however, because they believed in freedom of speech.

Attempts to 'treat' or alter sexual orientation have been strongly condemned by leading medical organizations. The UK Royal College of Psychiatrists has warned that 'so-called treatments of homosexuality create a setting in which prejudice and discrimination flourish' and concluded in 2010 that 'There is no sound evidence that sexual orientation can be changed.'

The Rev. Lynda Rose, a spokesperson for the U.K. branch of Anglican Mainstream, a group that funded the ex-Gay campaign, said her organization adheres to scripture and believes that all fornication outside marriage is prohibited and that homosexuals were 'not being fully the people God intended us to be.'

Anglican Mainstream and other groups behind the pulled ads are reportedly instructing lawyers to sue the Mayor of London and advertising agency CSBO.

A court in the Hungarian capital Budapest has overruled a police department decision not to grant a license for the city's Gay pride march this year, according to PinkNews.

The 2012 Pride March was scheduled to take place on July 7 along one of the city's main streets. But police refused the march application, arguing it would affect traffic. Last year they made a similar decision, and last year it also was overruled by a judge.

Now it seems that once again Budapest Pride will march on.

PinkNews reports that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has banned Gays boys and masculine-acting girls from its schools. A report on the website Emirates 24/7 says that the Saudi Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice has been called on to ensure implementation of new orders against homosexuality and girls who adopt masculine clothes or attitudes.

The newspaper quotes the Sharq Arabic-language paper on the announcement: 'Instructions have been issued to all public schools and universities to ban the entry of Gays and tomboys and to intensify their efforts to fight this phenomenon, which has been promoted by some websites.'

Neither paper states who issued the instruction, but Emirates 24/7 said the students would be able to attend school only if they 'stopped such practices.'

Saudi Arabia operates a system of Shari'ah law and punishes homosexuality with sentences of corporal and capital punishment.

In 2010, Saudi prince Saud Abdulaziz bin Nasser al Saud was sentenced to at least 20 years in prison for murdering his assistant, Bandar Abdulaziz, in a luxury London hotel. The court heard the attack had a 'sexual' element and that the prince had used male escorts in the past.

In early 2011, Stephen Comiskey, a 36-year-old British man, was arrested and beaten in Saudi Arabia by religious police when they discovered he was Gay.

Threatened with beheading, Comiskey spent six months under a media blackout uncertain whether he would face the death penalty. He says he was tricked by religious police who sent him a text message pretending to be a friend. It was later suggested that Comiskey had been targeted as revenge for the case of Prince al Saud, convicted in the U.K. the previous year.

London's annual Gay and Transgender arts festival GFEST is seeking submissions for the 2012 event, scheduled for November.

Niranjan Kamatkar, artistic director of GFEST, said, 'This year we want to address and question the issues and challenges that our community faces on a daily basis. We hope to encourage artists to work together on exciting, thought-provoking, and innovative work. We want to query what happens in the Queer arts world.'

GFEST is looking for submissions from artists or organizations, with a particular focus on collaboration across art form, age, and cultural backgrounds.

The festival accepts submissions in three categories: film, visual art, and performance.

Artists must apply through the Gaywise website ( by June 29.

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