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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, August 24 2012 - Volume 40 Issue 34
International News - Scott Wittet
Section One
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International News

International News by Scott Wittet

RUSSIAN HOMOPHOBES SUE MADONNA
When Madonna performed in St Petersburg last week she ignored a local law against pro-Gay statements, distributed pink wristbands to her fans, and urged them to 'show your love and appreciation to the Gay community.'

She added: 'We want to fight for the right to be free.'

'Do we live in fear?' she asked and was met with a resounding 'No!'

Now 10 anti-Gay Russian activists want to make her pay, filing a $10 million lawsuit in a St. Petersburg court against the singer. They claim that she insulted their feelings, and that her actions endanger Russia's youth and future security.

'She [Madonna] had been warned & and she ignored it. So we will speak in the language of money,' one of the activists, Darya Dedova, told Reuters.

Dedova said if her side wins the case, the money would be sent to orphanages.

Alexei Kolotkov, another activist, said, 'Maybe someone does not see the link but after Madonna's concert maybe some boy becomes Gay, some girl becomes Lesbian, fewer children are born as a result, and this big country cannot defend its borders - for me it causes moral suffering.'

The St. Petersburg 'Gay propaganda law' is the model for a bill that has been submitted to the national parliament but has not yet faced a vote. Critics say they fear it could be used to clamp down on the city's LGBT community by, for example, barring rights demonstrations.

During an earlier concert in Moscow, Madonna also made comments in support of the punk band Pussy Riot, whose members had been arrested for making a music video critical of Russian President Vladimir Putin and of Russian anti-Gay policies. The three members of Pussy Riot recently were each sentenced to two years in prison.

The pop star released a statement August 18 condemning the conviction and harsh sentences, saying: 'I protest the conviction and sentencing of Pussy Riot to a penal colony for two years for a 40-second performance extolling their political opinions.

'Even if one disagrees with the location or how they chose to express themselves, the sentence is too harsh and in fact is inhumane.

'I call on all those who love freedom to condemn this unjust punishment.

Human rights groups condemned the trial, with Amnesty International calling it politically motivated.

Others artists who have given their support to Pussy Riot include Paul McCartney, Sting, Jarvis Cocker, and Neil Tennant.

Search YouTube for 'pussy riot punk prayer' to see the video.

REYKJAVIK MAYOR 'DRAGS UP' TO SUPPORT PUSSY RIOT
A week before the verdict in the Russian Pussy Riot trial, the mayor of Reykjavik, Iceland, Jon Gnarr, put on a pink dress and danced to the band's music during the city's Gay Pride festival.

The mayor also sported a balaclava mask like those worn in the controversial video.

The float displayed a banner reading 'Free Pussy Riot' and blasted the band's song 'Clear the Cobblestones.'

Last week, Icelandic actress and musician Bjork posted on Facebook in support of Pussy Riot, urging authorities to 'let them go home to their families and children.'

AUSTRALIAN PARLIAMENT TO DEBATE MARRIAGE EQUALITY
The Australian Parliament is set to begin debating legislation to legalize same-sex marriage this week, reports Gay Star News.

The announcement follows declarations by two Australian states, Tasmania and South Australia, that they would pass their own same-sex marriage laws if the federal government failed to act.

'I think it's been great to see the states taking the leadership on this and really showing what most Australians want - we want to see marriage equality delivered in Australia,' said the bill's author, Sen. Sarah Hanson-Young of the Australian Green Party.

Marriage equality advocates welcomed the announcement.

'The strong recommendation from a recent senate inquiry, coupled with high support for reform in the Senate, will give the bill a fighting chance of passing,' Australian Marriage Equality (AME) national convenor Alex Greenwich said.

There are currently 30 Australian senators who have declared support for the reform, 26 undecided, and only 20 opposed.

Greenwich called on opponents to debate the issue in a respectful and mature way.

'We hope those opposed to reform do not waste the Senate's time to promote fear and misinformation,' Greenwich said.

AUTOPSY: TANZANIAN GAY ACTIVIST MAURICE MJOMBA WAS MURDERED
The autopsy report sent to Gay rights group Identity Kenya now confirms that Tanzanian LGBT activist Maurice Mjomba was murdered.

Mjomba's body was found July 30 when neighbors noticed a foul smell coming from his house. His arms had been tied behind his back and his mouth was taped. Mjomba suffered multiple bruises and injuries and his corpse was mutilated.

The autopsy states that the cause of death was 'asphyxia due to homicide.' Reports from witnesses when the body was discovered say that Mjomba appeared to have been strangled.

He was buried last week, with close family members, relatives, and work colleagues in attendance.

Police investigations are ongoing, and no suspect has been arrested. The motive of the murder is not known.

Mjomba was a trained HIV/AIDS coordinator in Tanzania and human rights advocate. His work focused on combating discrimination against people with HIV/AIDS and providing outreach to intravenous drug users.

He also worked with regional organizations to provide sexual health awareness for LGBT populations.

LADY GAGA SINGS ABOUT INDONESIA PROTESTS
Bisexual pop star Lady Gaga has revealed that her new song with rapper Kendrick Lamar is about problems she faced in Indonesia.

Gay Star News reports that Gaga will sing on Lamar's new song 'Partynauseous,' and that she has said the collaboration is about anti-Gay, violent protests in Jakarta.

Gaga tweeted: 'I wrote 'PARTYNAUSEOUS' about Jakarta, and my relationship with that country.

'Wishing I could 'get high with the enemy' and make peace.

'Once @kendricklamar + I started talking about life + his forward thinking views about love + hip hop the song became something more.'

Gaga was forced to cancel her 'Born This Way Ball' performance in Jakarta on June 3 over security fears.

Several groups, including the Indonesian Islamic Defenders Front, threatened violence, branding her as a 'devil's messenger' who wears only a bra and panties onstage.

The Jakarta police refused to publicly approve the show, and protesters flaunted posters with the words 'Lady Gaga - Queen of Demons' and 'Lady Gaga - Invite You to Hell.'

Fans were devastated when the pop star had to cancel, prompting dozens to stage a mock funeral for the death of freedom of expression.

Indonesian LGBT rights group OurVoice filed a complaint with the national human rights commission.

'[Canceling the concert] is not just about entertainment but something far more serious than that. This is an indication that we have lost our freedom,' OurVoice secretary general Hartoyo said.

When she canceled, Gaga tweeted: 'We had to cancel the concert in Indonesia. I'm so very sorry to the fans & just as devastated as you if not more. You are everything to me.

'I will try to put together something special for you. My love for Indonesia has only grown #GagaSendsLoveToJakarta and all its people.'

'Partynauseous' will be released on September 3. Gaga will release her third studio album, Artpop, next spring.

MAKING MARRIAGE EQUALITY HAPPEN IN VIETNAM
Five years ago, the media in Vietnam regularly reported on the 'social evil of homosexuality.' But earlier this month the news that Vietnam might become the first country in Asia to legalize same-sex marriage made headlines around the world. Gay Star News spoke with Le Quang Binh, the director of the first LGBT rights organization in Vietnam, and the man who made it happen.

His story starts in 2007 when the Vietnamese Institute for Studies of Society, Economy, and Environment (iSEE), where Le worked, began focusing on promoting ethnic and sexual minority rights in Vietnam.

Their first project was a study of images of Gay men and Lesbians in the media. They studied 500 articles about LGBT issues and found negative and ignorant descriptions of Gay people in almost all of them.

'The Gay and Lesbian community said mass media is our number-one enemy,' said Le on the phone from his office in Ho Chi Minh City, 'because the media were so negative. Articles said homosexuality is a disease; it's a social evil; Gay men are very, very feminine; and Lesbians are very, very butch. They were portraying wrong knowledge to society.'

After the study, iSEE arranged a workshop for the journalists who had written these stories, along with their editors, professors of journalism, and government officials. Most of the invitees came. At the workshop, iSEE taught them about sexual orientation, gender identity, and the international LGBT rights movement.

'And we brought Gays and Lesbians to the training, because the journalists had never met a Gay or Lesbian person who had told them that they were Gay or Lesbian!' Le said. 'That changed the perception of journalists about the LGBT community.'

By 2009, after more public education workshops, iSEE organized an exhibition of photos taken by Gay people. The media covered it extensively and positively.

'It was so crowded! There were something like 10,000 visitors, mostly students and young people,' said Le. 'Then we took the exhibition to a university campus in Hanoi and it was sold out for the whole month.'

Since then iSEE has staged contemporary plays and art exhibitions about LGBT issues and developed strong relationships with journalists. The media coverage is totally different from five years ago.

'We call it a U-turn,' said Le. 'It's completely changed, especially in the mainstream media. In fact in 2011 a talk show about Gay and Lesbian issues won the golden prize in the national television awards.'

Le says it was this increased visibility of LGBT people in the mass media - for example, the wedding reception of a Gay couple in May, which was covered widely and positively - that led the government to look into same-sex relationships.

'With the visibility of the LGBT community in Vietnam increasing, people think that wow - LGBT people exist!' said Le, adding that the government also is concerned about the legal issues facing Gay couples in Vietnam.

'There have been some cases, for example, of two men living together,' said Le. 'They own property together and then they break up and go to court about ownership of the house. The court doesn't know how to deal with it because legally they are just friends, not a couple.'

In June, the government started a consultation into the legal recognition of same-sex relationships, and in July, Ha Hung Cuong of the Ministry of Justice said, 'The state should have legal mechanisms to protect legitimate rights such as legal personality, property ownership, or children (if any) of same sex couples living together.'

Although some government officials, women's union officials, and university professors have said to Le informally that they are unsure if Vietnam is ready for same-sex marriage, citing the threat to 'traditional family values,' no one has spoken out publicly against it.

Vietnam is mainly Buddhist, so it is largely free of the fierce religious opposition to Gay rights typical of countries with Islamic and Christian majorities.

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