by Scott Wittet -
SGN Contributing Writer
CAMBODIAN KING BACKS MARRIAGE EQUALITY
Cambodia's King Norodom Sihanouk has shown that advancing years are no barrier to an open mind. After watching televised images of Gay marriages in San Francisco, the 81-year-old monarch has decided that single-sex weddings should be allowed in Cambodia too.
BBC News reports that the king wrote on his popular website that as a liberal democracy, Cambodia should allow 'marriage between man and man ... or between woman and woman.'
He said he had respect for Gay men and Lesbians and said they were as they were because God loves a 'wide range of tastes.'
Sihanouk, who is currently in Beijing for medical treatment, also said that Trans people should be 'accepted and well-treated in our national community.'
Such views are not widespread in Cambodia. The king is highly revered, but he is a constitutional monarch and has no executive powers.
MILLIONS ATTEND SAO PAULO PRIDE
Organizers estimate that more than three million people joined Sao Paolo's Pride parade in the world's biggest celebration of Gay culture.
Sao Paolo, Brazil, has celebrated Pride every year since 1997 with steadily growing numbers. The police stopped releasing official estimates six years ago, when Pride-goers numbered two and a half million.
DOCUMENTARY EXPLORES GAY LOVE IN PRE-COLONIAL UGANDA
Activists in Uganda have produced a new documentary tracing Gay love in pre-colonial Ugandan society. The film - Gay Love in Pre-Colonial Africa: The Untold Story of Ugandan Martyrs - was shown in Kampala last week.
The 'Ugandan Martyrs' of the title are three men who were burned to death in the 1880s for refusing to submit sexually to King Daniel Mwanga after they converted to Christianity. They are honored with a national holiday on June 3 of each year.
In sharp contrast to the sentiment that homosexuality is a Western imposition on Africa, the film explains that years ago African men and women made covenants to formalize same-sex relationships. It was common for hunters to make love during long expeditions, for example, and they were not persecuted for it.
Director Kikonyogo Kivumbi said his film will add a new perspective to the demand for Gay rights in Uganda.
An unrelated study by researchers from Uganda's Makerere University's Department of Religious Studies confirms that there were Gay relationships in pre-colonial Ugandan society.
And in a recent interview with a Cameroonian journalist, anthropologist Patrick Awondo cited historical records of homosexual practices in other parts of Africa, including Cameroon, Zimbabwe, Burkina Faso, and Benin.
Awondo feels that 'it is helpful for Africans to know about ancient practices such as the Mossi kings' sexual relations with their pages and marriages between women in Dahomey.'
Responding to critics who believe Gay behavior is a recent Western import, Awondo acknowledges that two key elements in the current debate did come from the West - namely, colonial-era laws against homosexuality and, more recently, the establishment of pro-Gay political groups.
'Homosexuality has always existed [in Africa], but some of the current forms of Gay self-identification and Gay activism originated elsewhere,' he noted.
ZIMBABWE PRESIDENT SAYS GAYS VIOLATE WOMEN'S RIGHTS
Once again Robert Mugabe has spoken out against Gays, but this time he tried pitting women's issues against Gay issues. According to the Associated Press, during a recent meeting with United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, Zimbabwe's president proclaimed that homosexuality violates women's rights by denying the union of men and women needed to bear children.
Mugabe, 88, speaking at a women's HIV/AIDS and gender-rights conference in the capital Harare, said the 'Gay world' goes against nature.
Homosexuality is illegal in Zimbabwe.
Earlier, Pillay had criticizing the continued criminalization of homosexuality in some countries. In reaction, Mugabe said Zimbabwe and Africa won't recognize same-sex marriage because it leads to human 'extinction.'
He said male homosexuality takes away women's traditional right to be mothers and that 'Mothers were given the talent to bear children. That talent doesn't belong to men.'
On demands for women's equality, Mugabe said he doubted women will get equal representation as lawmakers in Zimbabwe.
'Our customs look down on women as inferior. Men pay cattle and money to get a wife and expect women to obey them. Women will surely lose. Men say that women are not as knowledgeable as us. The attitude of men still despises women,' Mugabe said.
Pillay arrived Sunday to assess human rights in Zimbabwe. It is the first visit by a UN human rights chief to the troubled Southern African nation.
TASMANIAN CITY APPROVES GAY MEMORIAL
The city council of Hobart, Australia, has overwhelmingly endorsed plans to create a public artwork commemorating the arrests of Gay rights supporters in 1988.
The arrests came after a stall set up by the Tasmanian Gay and Lesbian Rights Group was ordered shut down by the Hobart Council at the time.
Police arrested 130 people who were defending the stall in what became the largest act of Gay rights civil disobedience in Australian history.
Things have changed in Hobart. Last week, as reported by ILGA, only one council member voted against the $15,000 project. However, a Christian group complained, worrying that the art would be 'divisive.'
Tasmanian Gay and Lesbian Rights Group spokesperson Rodney Croome, who was arrested in the 1988 incident, said, 'The artwork is an important way to commemorate not just the arrests 24 years ago but also how far Tasmania has come since then.'
'Far from being 'divisive,' the artwork commemorates reconciliation, inclusion, and tolerance - values which the overwhelming majority of Tasmanians hold dear.'
Tasmania was the last Australian state to decriminalize homosexuality, in 1997.
SOUTH AFRICAN ACTIVISTS INVESTIGATE GAY MURDERS
Gay activists in South Africa, frustrated with lack of action by police, have begun compiling evidence related to a series of murders of Gay men over the past two years.
The killings began with the death of Manolis Veloudos in April 2010. Seven more Gay men were killed under similar circumstances, the most recent victim being Rulov Senekal in February 2012.
All eight murders share similarities, including the apparent ease of entry into the victims' homes, the fact that they were all strangled, and the fact that all of them were Gay men. The activists believe a serial killer may be responsible.
Frustrated with the South African Police Service's lack of progress with the case, OUT-LGBT Well-Being, a nonprofit organization that provides direct health services to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender communities, has begun to take an active role in the investigation.
Dawie Nel, director of OUT, told Gay Star News, 'We have set up teams consisting of members of our organization and families and friends of the victims to maintain pressure on the police to follow through this investigation and get results.
'One of the victims' cell phones was found in the possession of a spiritual healer who'd made calls on it the day after one of the murders. We believe this and other leads have not been followed up by the police.'
OUT has also engaged a private investigation team to look into phone records, dating and social networking sites, and other possible evidence.
PAKISTAN DEPLOYS TRANS MEN AGAINST TAX EVADERS
Wearing a bright pink outfit with matching headscarf, Nargis marches around one of Pakistan's richest neighborhoods on a mission to embarrass residents into paying their taxes, as reported in the UK Guardian newspaper.
Armed with a bundle of paperwork, the 32-year-old raps on the gate of a mansion while a pickup truck full of guards and tax officials remains at a distance.
The man who answers the door grins nervously at Nargis, who is a hijra - a member of Pakistan's increasingly assertive Transgender community. With a sheepish look to see whether anyone is watching from the street, the owner meekly accepts a bill for outstanding property taxes and municipal fees.
Given his effusive promises to pay as soon as possible, there is no need for what Qazi Aftab, a tax collection official in Karachi, calls 'the nuclear option' - asking the hijra to clap, shout, and generally make a scene. When that happens, 'because of the neighbors they get very embarrassed,' Aftab said. 'Usually just one minute of shouting is enough and then they pay up.'
The lone hijra approach seems to work pretty well. Aftab says recovery rates are up 15% from past years, when conventional tax collectors often clashed violently with householders. That never happens with the hijras, he said.
Not everyone in the Transgendered community is impressed by the debt-collecting initiative, which is soon to be emulated in Punjab province. 'It's just so demeaning,' says Natasha, another hijra. 'It's no different from begging.'
The 22-year-old wears tight jeans and a sleeveless shirt rather than more traditional women's clothes. She sees herself as the modern face of the hijra tradition.
Natasha works as an assistant supervisor at a branch of the national ID card agency. 'I live like a normal human being,' she said.
GAY EMIRATIS WELCOME MADONNA
Gays and Lesbians in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) welcomed Madonna's performance there, where she expressed a strong messages of support for LGBT rights.
The global pop star played stadium gigs in Abu Dhabi on June 3 and 4 as part of her MDNA world tour, reports Pink News.
Around 25,000 attended Madonna's first-ever performance in the Arab world, at Yas Island Stadium in Abu Dhabi, the federal capital. Gay sex is still criminalized in the UAE.
Madonna's performance, consisting of 22 songs and a laser show, included multiple 'strong and clear messages about LGBT rights,' reports Shamil, a member of the UAE LGBT group and the Gulf region editor of GayMiddleEast.com.
Shamil said excitedly, 'She didn't hold back at all!'
One of the strongest visuals for LGBT rights and against homophobic bullying was during 'Nobody Knows Me,' when the interlude video highlighted the plight of young people who are driven to commit suicide due to being constantly bullied.
Another message of support was projected during 'Express Yourself.' It included a tribute to Lady Gaga's 'Born This Way,' with images of men kissing men, women kissing women, and a straight embrace.
The Emirates audience was also treated to topless male dancers in high heels during 'Girls Gone Wild,' a striking contrast to the UAE's usual insistence on traditional gender roles.
One concertgoer said, 'Perhaps Madonna is so far the only artist who portrayed and supported LGBT rights in the UAE. Last year I attended a Scissor Sisters concert and they didn't or couldn't do anything.'
Homosexuality is punished with up to 14 years' jail time in Abu Dhabi, and Article 354 of the Federal Penal Code appears to prescribe the death penalty for 'consensual sodomy.'
Madonna's tour also will go to Russia, where new laws have been passed against pro-Gay speech. Some Russian officials have threatened to arrest Madonna if she breaks the law during her show.
SERIAL BLACKMAILER TARGETS KENYAN GAYS
Gay blackmail victims in Kenya are beginning to speak out about a man who has extorted money from several of them since 2009.
The victims posted a nude photograph of the man, who had used it to attract them through Facebook, Gaydar, ManJam, GayRomeo, and other social media sites. The blackmailer would arrange to meet his victim somewhere in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi.
After sex, several other men would loudly burst into the room and demand money.
One victim reported calling his family and asking for a money transfer, telling his parents it was an emergency and he had been stranded. Another man reported, 'I was blackmailed and kidnapped for a whole night and robbed & Though I reported the matter to the Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya (GALCK), the persons are yet to be caught.'
GALCK issued a statement about the escalation in cases of Gay blackmail. More than 10 incidents have been reported in recent months.
The group says that blackmailing and extortion are the two most common crimes afflicting the Gay community in Kenya today.
Sex between men is illegal in Kenya and can carry a penalty of up to 14 years.
POLISH NURSES BEING TAUGHT GAYS ARE 'SOCIALLY DANGEROUS'
According to the UK Telegraph newspaper, homosexuality is described as a 'sexual problem' in Polish nursing textbooks.
It is covered in sections on 'how to identify and provide assistance in situations of sexual assault and sexual disorders,' the paper reported recently.
In addition, an exam question on gynecology reportedly asks: 'Homosexuals are particularly dangerous socially and seduce individuals by &' with multiple-choice answers including 'abnormal sexual drive' and 'prostitution.'
Agata Chaber, president of the Polish Campaign Against Homophobia, said, 'This is a particularly dangerous incident of homophobia.'
Although the health ministry was petitioned by equalities minister Agnieszka Kozlowska-Rajewicz to stop using the material immediately, it may take some time to decide how to update the texts.
Zosia Jablonska, an equal-rights campaigner, told the Telegraph, 'For 10 years the ministry did not mind that nurses and midwives learnt content that was both discriminatory and hurtful for sexual minorities, and now it doesn't seem to mind that this content will still be taught until it ends a bureaucratic procedure for establishing new programs.'
An education ministry spokesman said, 'We tell our experts to pay particular attention to any racial, sexual, or religious discrimination before approving a textbook, and in this case they found no such issues.
'We can't withdraw a book simply because a group of people disagree with the theories expounded by the scholars who wrote it.'
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