by Mike Andrew -
SGN Staff Writer
Fifty thousand people marched in Santiago, the capital of Chile, on May 11 to commemorate IDAHO, the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia. IDAHO is officially celebrated on May 17.
Led by the Movement of Homosexual Integration and Liberation (MOVILH), Chile's largest LGBT rights organization, marchers demanded approval of civil unions for same-sex couples, and a new gender identity law allowing Trans people to change their names and sex indicators without a court order.
A GROWING MOVEMENT
'When we begun this fight, in 1991, a handful of people supported us through our marches. Now they are thousands of families, coming with their children. The country has changed and the state must take these changes into consideration,' MOVILH said in a statement.
'The government and the National Congress should take note of these massive mobilizations that demonstrate time and time again that the majority of this country supports full equality of rights for sexual minorities,' said the movement's president, Rolando Jiménez.
'The political class always says that it has to listen to the people, but enough of this. It is time to act,' he added.
A national hate-crimes act and an anti-discrimination law were enacted in July 2012, in response to the murder of Daniel Zamudio, a Gay man, by neo-Nazis. Last month, however, a Santiago court rejected a suit by a Lesbian couple who wanted legal recognition as joint parents of their children.
The so-called Acuerdo de Vida en Pareja, the civil unions law, has been stalled in Chile's Congress since 2011. Last month it was approved by a Senate committee, but no vote has been scheduled. Meanwhile, Chile's Socialist Party has introduced a marriage equality bill, and a right-wing party has introduced a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.
In Cuba, Mariela Castro, daughter of Cuban President Raul Castro, led several hundred marchers through Havana, chanting 'Homophobia no, socialism yes!'
The march was sponsored by the Cuban government, which has made efforts to counter anti-Gay bias since 2010, when longtime President Fidel Castro apologized for his government's persecution of LGBT Cubans after the 1959 revolution.
Fidel's niece Mariela is director of the Cuban National Center for Sex Education (CENESEX) and an advocate for LGBT rights. In 2005, she pushed for a new health-care law that requires the Cuban government to pay for medical expenses associated with gender reassignment, just as it would for any other medical procedures. The measure was enacted in 2008.
On May 6, she spoke at the Equality Forum in Philadelphia, and received that group's LGBT Equality Award for her work.
'What is most complicated is the time it takes to overcome prejudices,' she said. 'We must change consciousness.'
In Albania, which recently passed an anti-discrimination law protecting sexual orientation and gender identity, LGBT rights groups organized a week-long festival to mark IDAHO. Pink Embassy and LGBT Pro Albania have organized IDAHO observances since 2009.
According to Gay Star News, Pink Embassy estimated that 400 to 500 people would attend this year's festival. Last year, some 200 people attended.
'Homophobia, prejudice and discrimination still prevail and many officials fail to refrain from discriminatory remarks or from taking positive measures in this regard,' Pink Embassy general manager Amarildo Fecanji said. 'Albanian society continues to remain largely homophobic and ill informed about LGBT issues. & What is a problem in the Albanian context, is a general lack of information on sex, sexuality, and the fact we have never gone through a sexual liberation phase as a nation or as a society. Most Albanian people will still have an issue talking about sex in general, let alone Gay sex.'
GAY RUSSIAN MAN MURDERED
In Russia, the Russian LGBT Network called on organizers of the IDAHO 'Rainbow Flashmobs' to stage actions on May 17 mourning Vlad Tornovy, who was brutally murdered in Volgograd on May 9.
According to investigators, Tornovy's drinking buddies stripped him, raped him with beer bottles, tried to set him on fire, and then crushed his skull with a large rock, after he revealed he was Gay. His body was found in the courtyard of the apartment complex where he lived.
Nikolai Alexeyev, head of Gay Russia, charged that Russian officials were fuelling anti-Gay sentiments.
'Homophobic hysteria is being increasingly promoted in Russia,' he told AFP.
In the Caucasian country of Georgia, the local Orthodox Church issued a statement on May 16 calling on the government to ban the IDAHO march scheduled for the following day.
Georgian Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili promised to protect the march, and reaffirmed his government's support for the rights of minorities. Their 'rights are human rights and the government of Georgia is committed to upholding the rights of all of its citizens,' he said in the statement.
VIOLENCE AT 2012 MARCH
Last year's IDAHO march, the first-ever LGBT rights demonstration in Georgia, was attacked by right-wing counter-demonstrators reportedly mobilized by religious authorities.
International human rights groups, including Amnesty International and the IDAHO Committee, have filed legal appeals stemming from the 2012 violence, including a case with the European Court of Human Rights.
The May 17 action in Georgia's capital, Tbilisi, is planned to be a silent action flash mob to dramatize the silencing of LGBT communities in the conservative country.
According to the IDAHO website, actions are planned in at least 20 countries.
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