Homosexuality Laws Around the World The countries of the world have a wide variety of laws relating to sexual relations between people of the same sex – everything from full legal recognition of same-sex marriage to the death penalty as punishment for homosexual conduct.
In addition to laws against same-sex relationships, many countries have laws geared towards a homosexual orientation, everything from passing anti-discrimination laws to barring those with a homosexual orientation from adoption.
February 11, 2003
EU moves to recognise gay marriage
Strasbourg – Registered partnerships, cohabitation contracts and gay marriages should be recognised across the European Union, a European Parliament (EP) majority voted on Tuesday. Dutch associated press ANP said the recommendation implies that a gay couple married in the Netherlands must obtain a residence permit if both of them move, for example, to Italy. ANP said even if one partner did not have a job, both partners should be given a permit.
The ANP report also said EU member states are now required to adapt to the stance of the EP. Italy, Spain, Greece, Ireland Luxemburg and Austria do not have a system that recognises cohabitation contracts between gay and heterosexual couples, meaning that one partner might not receive a residence permit if their partner moves abroad for work. Hospitals may also refuse partners visiting rights because they are not recognised family members. The EP hopes a EU-wide arrangement will prevent such problems occurring in the future. The EP also supported the recognition of gay marriages entered into in EU nations, which currently offer that possibility.
Only the Netherlands presently offers the possibility of gay marriage. Belgium has also introduced a similar law, but in principle, only Belgian homosexuals are allowed to marry. But the EP’s decision means that EU nationals might in future be able to marry in Belgium and have that union recognised in their home country. The most left wing factions and the liberals in the EP supported the EU-wide recognition of gay weddings. Dutch Labour Party (PvdA) EP member Joke Swiebel and green left GroenLinks colleague Kathalijne Buitenweg prompted the vote. The directly-elected European Parliament acts like a legislative parliament, exercising powers similar to those of national parliaments. It enacts EU legislation in co-operation with the Council of Ministers.
February 9, 2003
Gay, lesbian travelers outward-bound across the globe
More countries, companies put out welcome mat for same-sex tourists
by David Swanson, Special to the Chronicle
When the Cayman Islands yanked the welcome mat away from a group of gay cruise ship passengers five years ago, they didn’t realize they were bucking one of the biggest trends in the travel industry. Apparently they do now. Independent gay travelers and those who support them boycotted the Caymans, heading instead to the dozens of countries actively courting them.
Recently MacKeeva Bush, the Caribbean nation’s current tourism minister, offered an olive branch of sorts: "The incident . . . happened during a prior administration," he said. "As a country, the Cayman Islands does not discriminate against any social group and receives all visitors to our shores." It was a tacit acknowlegment of what most of the world has already discovered: Increasingly, gay and lesbian travelers are venturing far beyond the traditional "safe havens" of Provincetown, Key West and Palm Springs, the resort towns long known for their gay-owned lodging and gay-tolerant attitudes.
Travel agents, airlines, countries and cities are lining up to identify their products as "gay-friendly." American Airlines, Avis car rentals and W Hotels are just a few of the mainstream outfits spending money to advertise to the gay audience. The lure: a piece of the estimated $54.1 billion that American gays and lesbians spend annually on travel. A recent study by Community Marketing, a San Francisco market research firm specializing in the gay community, found that 91 percent of those questioned had taken a trip in the previous 12 months, compared with a national average of 64 percent. Those surveyed were 10 times as likely as heterosexuals to have taken a cruise, and 84 percent of gays and lesbians have a valid passport, compared to 29 percent of mainstream adult travelers. Traditionally, gay-specific tours and cruises have been the most visible type of gay tourism.
Atlantis Events (www.atlantisevents.com), which organized the gay cruise to the Caymans, puts together eight or more gay-specific vacations annually, ranging from a 40-person Kenyan safari tour to 2,000-passenger cruise trips through the Mediterranean and Caribbean. Atlantis president Rich Campbell reports that last year, which was bad for travel as a whole, his business was up 40 percent. Business was also up last year at Olivia Cruises and Resorts (www.olivia. com), which offers tours to Alaska, Tahiti and Scandinavia for lesbians. "People like to travel in like-minded groups," said Robert Wilson, executive director of the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association. "There are gay groups going into Tibet, to Turkey, everywhere."
Independent travel by gays and lesbians is also on the rise. "Every tour operator and travel agent I’ve interviewed in the past year has said that their gay clients are increasingly less interested in just seeking out gay-specific accommodations and experiences, and going more toward overall experiences in a comfortable environment," said Mark Chesnut, author of "The Gay Vacation Guide." "They are more interested in exploring new places, (such as) Asia, Africa and South America." Great Britain, one of the first countries to actively court the gay travel market, operates a gay Britain info line (877-857-2462) and a gay-specific Web site, www.gaybritain.org. Following suit, France (http://us. franceguide.com/publi_gay friendly.asp), Germany (www.visits-to-germany.com, www.berlin-tourism.de), Switzerland (www.myswitzerland.com/gay), and Austria (www.austria-tourism.com/gay) are touting their appeal to gay and lesbian travelers. Australia has been a top destination for gay travelers for about two decades, in part for its largely tolerant attitudes, according to Samantha Collins, spokeswoman for the Australian Tourism Commission. Sydney’s Gay Games were attended by 30,000 last November, and Sydney’s annual gay Mardi Gras celebration (www.mardi gras.org.au) in February draws upwards of 700,000 attendees (including local and non-gay revelers). In addition to gay-friendly accommodations, nightlife and festivals, there’s even a campy but educational motor coach tour of the city’s gay landmarks, led by a drag queen in full regalia (www.sydneybydiva.com). Tourist officials operate their own Web site for gay travelers, www.gay.australia.com. "You can do almost anything in Australia," said Collins, "from trekking through Tasmanian wilderness, to wine country tours, to diving the Great Barrier Reef, to camel safaris in the outback."
South Africa doesn’t maintain a separate Web site for gay visitors, but its main tourist Web site (www.southafrica.net) offers this statement: "We are proud to say that we have one of the most progressive constitutions in the world with regard to human rights. So, unlike some of our neighbors, gay rights are protected by our constitution and we are a very gay-friendly country." As destinations and suppliers identify the economic value of gay outreach, insiders say it’s important that they not lose sight of what makes a place desirable to the gay or lesbian traveler. "A destination is gay-friendly when it is able to make these visitors feel comfortable," says author Chesnut. "Gay and lesbian travelers don’t want to go somewhere that will make them feel threatened, or unwelcome. It’s not so much about just being in a 100 percent gay environment. Like any minority group, we would prefer to be somewhere we feel safe, comfortable and relatively welcome. Other groups, like African Americans, can be sensitive to this kind of need as well, and it’s no different for us." The destination needs to understand the special needs of this segment of the travel industry, says Wilson of the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association. "That people walking around holding hands or being affectionate will not feel embarrassed or uncomfortable; that a couple of same gender requesting a single bed will not feel awkward. And that applies to the straight person selling the room, as well."
Not every country welcomes, or even tolerates, gay and lesbian travelers. Perhaps the most famous incident was the one involving the Cayman Islands in 1998. The nation revoked docking privileges on Grand Cayman Island for a cruise ship chartered by gay tour operator Atlantis Events. "Careful research and prior experience has led us to conclude that we cannot count on this group to uphold the standards of appropriate behavior expected of visitors to the Cayman Islands," wrote then-tourism minister Thomas Jefferson at the time. And while his successor has repudiated the statement, the Cayman Islands has never officially retracted or clarified the earlier position. "If they changed their policy we would go to Grand Cayman tomorrow," said Rich Campbell of Atlantis Events. "It’s conveniently located (and) it has a lot to offer." But as a whole, the Caribbean is not the most gay-friendly region in the world. "Some of the islands are extremely homophobic," said Wilson of the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association.
The former British colonies, particularly Jamaica, are especially resistant to homosexuality. The tag-line "couples-only" at all-inclusive resort chains such as Sandals means heterosexual couples only, and same-sex couples are not allowed to check in. But attitudes vary greatly from one island to the next, and several – notably Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands – have ties to the gay community and actively market to it. Gay-friendly lodgings are found in Jamaica, the British Virgin Islands and the Dominican Republic, and an accepting atmosphere prevails throughout Dutch Caribbean islands such as Curacao, Saba and St. Maarten.
Although South Africa encourages gay and lesbian visitors, two neighboring African countries – Namibia and Zimbabwe – have leaders that actively dissuade them. In a speech at the University of Namibia, President Sam Nujoma said: "See to it there are no criminals, gays and lesbians in your villages. Namibia does not allow homosexuality and lesbianism – police are ordered to arrest you and deport you and imprison you."
Countries with a strict Muslim orthodoxy are not particularly welcoming, although several – particularly Morocco, Turkey and Egypt – have been popular gay destinations for years. However, Egypt came under fire from human rights organizations for the arrest, torture and trial last year of 52 suspected homosexuals for "contempt of religion." "In general, there are few places that I as a gay man would completely avoid," Chesnut said. "I’ve been to Europe, Africa, Asia and throughout the Americas, all with few problems related to being gay." Gay travel insiders say one shouldn’t define a place solely by reputation. "You can have a homophobic encounter in San Francisco and the most welcoming experience in a place like Syria," said Ed Salvato, editorial director of the gay travel newsletter Out & About, which is produced in San Francisco.
In some destinations, gay and lesbian visitors have become so common that they’re now part of the mainstream. Case in point: the Netherlands, which was one of the first countries to heavily promote itself to the gay market, no longer does so. "We have discovered that within that market segment, everyone has heard about Amsterdam being the gay capital of Europe," said Conrad Van Tiggelen, director for the Netherlands Board of Tourism. "Everyone knows Holland for its tulips, too. So I’m not going to spend money to promote our tulips."
Our World is a destination-oriented gay and lesbian travel magazine, published 10 times a year; subscriptions are $25 (or $12 as an on-line subscription); (386) 441- 5367; www.ourworldmagazine. com. .
Out & About is a newsletter that covers destinations and industry topics, published 10 times a year; subscriptions are $39 ($20 on-line); (800) 929-2268; www.outandabout.com. .
Passport is a newer magazine dealing with gay and lesbian travel, including tips for businesspeople, published eight times a year; subscriptions are $19.95; (800) 999- 9718; www.passportmagazine.net. .
Gay Travel News is a free gay destination Web site, updated quarterly. The site links visitors to 200 gay-friendly travel agents and hotels around the world; www.gaytravel news.com.
The Damron library of gay and lesbian guidebooks includes "The Women’s Traveler" (2003, Damron, $16.95), "Men’s Travel Guide" (2003, Damron, $18.95), "Damron Accommodations" (2003, Damron, $22.95), "Damron Road Atlas" (2003, Damron, $21.95); (800) 462-6654. .
"Fodor’s Gay Guide to the USA" covers travel and places to stay throughout the U.S. and Canada (2002, Fodor’s, $21.50); (800) 733-3000. . "Frommer’s Gay and Lesbian Europe" deals with transportation, lodging, sightseeing, nightlife options and cultural expectations (2003, Wiley, $24.99); (800) 434-3422 ext. 23987.
"The Gay Vacation Guide," by Mark Chesnut, concentrates on gay travel activities including tours and adventure vacations (2002, Kensington Books, $15); (888) 345-2665.
Spartacus Gay Guide to world wide gay places (http://www.amazon.fr/exec/obidos/ASIN/3861872315/402-9862431-6370568)
April 24, 2003
U.S. may abstain from historic U.N. vote
byAhmar Mustikhan, Gay.com / PlanetOut.com Network
The United States is set to abstain from a historic vote at the United Nations condemning discrimination based on sexual orientation, two human rights groups said on Wednesday. The draft resolution, introduced by Brazil, expresses "deep concern at the occurrence of violations of human rights all over the world against persons on grounds of their sexual orientation" and calls on relevant U.N. human rights bodies to "give due attention" to these violations. The resolution is being offered at the 59th session of the U.N. Human Rights Commission, underway in Geneva. Amnesty International said the U.S. government was leaning toward abstaining.
"Our representative in Washington, D.C., attended a State Department briefing Tuesday where we learned about the decision," Michael Hefling, director of the group’s OUTfront program on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender human rights, told the Gay.com/PlanetOut.com on Wednesday. The briefing said the United States would vote against an Egyptian resolution of "no action" on the Brazil resolution, "but would abstain from the Brazil resolution itself," Hefling noted. The resolution is to be put for vote before the commission either Thursday or Friday. The voting was originally set for Wednesday. Queries to the State Department went unanswered before press time.
The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF) confirmed on Wednesday that officials in the International Lesbian and Gay Association in Europe had relayed to them the U.S. decision to abstain from the groundbreaking resolution. "The word is the U.S. is abstaining," Sean Cahill, director of the NGLTF Policy Institute said from New York. "It’s a no-brainer, simple resolution, and we urge the State Department to instruct the United States to vote on it." Cahill said the U.S. government claims that its foreign policy was driven by concern for human rights and the resolution simply states discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is wrong. "We hope the U.S. government reconsiders its position," Cahill said.
"If we fail to support the resolution, once again the U.S. would be failing to show leadership on LGBT issues. Neutrality on it means supporting the axis of homophobia." Amnesty’s Hefling said, "We are disappointed the U.S. is going to abstain. We believe the U.S. government is undermining the principle of universality of human rights." The resolution, co-sponsored by at least 20 countries, calls on states to promote and defend the human rights of all people, including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. A dozen Muslim countries and some African nations are opposed to the resolution, while Cuba had earlier said it would back it but now seems to have second thoughts. This was true for some other Latin American nations as well, informed sources in Europe said.
30 April 2003
India, cagey on gay rights, re-elected to UNCHR
Nilova Roy Chaudhury in New Delhi India was re-elected today to the 53-member United Nations Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR) from the Asian group for a three-year term, getting maximum number of 47 votes in a secret ballot. Last week, however, India declined to stick its neck out on a resolution, put forward by Brazil and Finland, on human rights and sexual orientation, essentially opposing discrimination against homosexuals. Instead, India chose to go along with countries with ‘questionable’ records on human rights issues, like Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Libya and Egypt, and voted against the resolution.
The official reason was that homosexuality (or same sex relations) is a crime under the Indian Penal Code, so how does one vote in an international forum for a resolution which is at variance with Indian law. And, with a PIL pending on the issue in court, the matter, officials said, was ‘sub judice.’
Unofficially, the delegation decided that homosexuality was not an issue that India needed to get worked up about, given the fact that there was so much pressure on it on issues as critical as human rights violations in Jammu and Kashmir, custodial deaths, illegal detentions and so on. At institutions like the 53-member strong UNCHR, headquartered in Geneva, there is considerable behind-the-scenes activity and bartering for support on issues vital to each country, sources said. Something like "I’ll support you on this issue, if you promise not to vote against me on that resolution," sources explained.
April 30, 2003
Anger at UN delay on anti-gay proposa–sabotaged by Vatican and Muslims
by Jonathan Walker, Birmingham Post
An "unholy alliance" between Muslim countries and the Vatican has sabotaged a UN resolution on gay rights, a Labour MEP has claimed. Michael Cashman, Labour MEP for the West Midlands and founder of the pressure group Stonewall, accused the Catholic Church and Muslim states of undermining attempts to fight discrimination against gays. But Peter Jennings, press secretary for the Archdiocese of Birmingham, said the Church would continue to speak out against the practice of homosexuality.
Mr Cashman, a former actor who appeared on television soap EastEnders, made his outspoken comments after attending a meeting in Geneva of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights. This had been expected to pass a "groundbreaking" resolution expanding the UN’s definition of discrimination to include that based on sexual orientation. But after three days of heated debate it failed to vote and decided to shelve the issue until next year. Mr Cashman said the failure to reach agreement was the result of lobbying by the Vatican and time-wasting tactics by Muslim states taking part in the commission. "Millions of people across the globe face imprisonment, torture, violence, and discrimination because of their sexual orientation," he said.
"So I’m extremely disappointed that the UN has failed to condemn this discrimination and the continuing abuses of human rights on the basis of a person’s sexuality. "This was a great chance to send a clear signal to those countries that currently discriminate against homosexuals. It could have made a real difference to the lives of people who are still persecuted because of their sexuality.
"But it seems that the filibustering of certain Muslim countries, together with heavy lobbying by the Vatican against the resolution, and the failure of the USA to give its support, meant that there wasn’t even a chance of a vote." But Mr Jennings defended the Catholic Church’s policy, saying while it respected people’s sexual orientation, it could not condone homosexual practices.
He said: "The Catholic Church has respect for all human life. It has respect for everyone’s colour and race, and gender and creed. "It respects people of every religion and none, and it respects people with a homosexual orientation. "But what the Catholic Church totally abhors is the practice of homosexual activity. "This is condemned in the Bible and the Catholic Church has, from the beginning of its history, been against sexual perversion of all sort, and homosexual activity would come under that."
The UN proposal was put forward by Brazil and supported by Canada, South Africa and most of the European Union. It "Calls upon all states to promote and protect the human rights of all persons regardless of their sexual orientation" and for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights "to pay due attention to the phenomenon of violations of human rights on the grounds of sexual orientation".
Mr Cashman, who attended the Geneva meeting on behalf of the Party of European Socialists, vowed to continue campaigning for a positive vote on the resolution when the Commission next meets in twelve months time. Mr Cashman’s earlier campaigns to end discrimination against homosexuals in Muslim countries such as Egypt were supported by stars including Elton John, Sting, Graham Norton, Sir Ian McKellen and Eddie Izzard.
July 15, 2003
Analysis: Gay marriage around the globe
by Steve Sailer, UPI National Correspondent Los Angeles
The acceptance of the concept of gay marriage varies radically around the world ranging from the Netherlands, where same-sex marriages have been legal for more than two years, to China, where homosexuals are often the targets of "anti-vice" campaigns. When it comes to social policy in Europe, there is one hard-and-fast rule: where the Netherlands innovates, the rest of the continent imitates.
Having already decriminalized soft drugs and euthanasia, Holland became the first country in the world to legalize same-sex marriages on April 1, 2001. The Dutch government agency Statistics Netherlands reported in late 2002, "Same-sex couples do not seem to be very interested in marriage. Statistics Netherlands estimates that there are about 50,000 same-sex couples in the Netherlands, of whom less than 10 percent have married so far."
In the last nine months in 2001, 2,400 single-sex couples married. That number fell to 1,900 in 2002, compared to 85,500 male-female marriages in the Netherlands. In 2001, Dutch marriages between gay men outnumbered marriages between lesbians by a 5-4 ratio. Sexual orientation researchers, such as J. Michael Bailey, chairman of the Northwestern University psychology department, typically assume that there are about twice as many gay men as lesbians, suggesting that marriage is more popular among female homosexuals. In fact, under the "civil union" law in operation in the state of Vermont, two-thirds of registering couples have been lesbians, according to a survey by University of Vermont psychology professors Sondra Solomon and Esther Rothblum. Other countries have been quick to follow in the Netherlands’ footsteps.
In late March, the Belgian Parliament overwhelmingly adopted a law giving gay couples almost the same nuptial rights as heterosexuals. Under the new law, married homosexuals will automatically have inheritance rights over the goods and property of their deceased partner. In addition, they will receive the same fiscal breaks as heterosexual couples, will be allowed to fill in only one joint tax form, will benefit from unemployment payouts should one of the partners be out of work and will have the same financial obligations in the case of divorce.
However, unlike the Netherlands, homosexual couples will not be allowed to adopt children, nor will the lesbian partner of a mother be considered the parent of the child. "Mentalities have changed. There is no longer any reason not to open marriage to people of the same sex," Belgian Justice Minister Marc Verwilghen said during a heated debate in Parliament. It is a view that is rapidly gaining ground. In France, Germany and most Nordic countries, gays and lesbians have extensive civil union rights, and last month the British government sparked a storm of protest by granting gay couples the same legal rights as heterosexual ones. There are no such plans in the predominantly Catholic countries of Southern Europe.
However, the European Parliament took a potshot at established attitudes earlier this year, voting through a resolution calling on member states to recognize gay families.
In Canada, Prime Minister Jean Chretien has said he will introduce a bill legalizing gay marriage, although this may elicit a backbench revolt of members of Parliament from his own Liberal Party. Australia and New Zealand have laws that forbid discrimination based on sexual orientation in matters of employment, education, housing, etc., but both have stopped short of legally sanctioning gay marriages.
In Australia, some employers provide domestic partner benefits to gay couples, and some jurisdictions offer registration of domestic partners. In both countries, gay and lesbian activists are pushing for legal recognition of their unions, and are closely monitoring developments elsewhere, hoping to emulate successful strategies.
Buenos Aires recently became the first Latin American capital to legalize homosexual unions. Argentina allows a civil union that differs from marriage, although it recognizes the union of two people regardless of sex or sexual orientation. The union grants the partners rights such as collection of a pension for the surviving partner in the advent of the other’s death, and rights to healthcare benefits.
While gay marriage is not recognized in Brazil, the climate for acceptance of homosexuals appears to be improving, say some members of the gay community. However, hate crimes against homosexuals are still rampant, according to the nation’s largest gay rights group. There are proposals being put forth by gay activists for a legally recognized union between same-sex couples that would provide them with the same rights – such as taxes breaks and health benefits – as heterosexual couple.
In Sao Paulo, the country’s largest city and industrial capital, the climate of acceptance for gays has improved dramatically in the last three or four years, according to David Waller, a 37-year-old London native and English teacher who has been with his Brazilian partner for 10 years. "Gay Brazilians come from other cities that are much more conservative to live in Sao Paulo in order to be accepted," said Waller who cites the recent increase of TV shows and films that glamorize the gay lifestyle, many of which are set in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. Freelance translator Ali Rocha, 31, agrees with Waller regarding increased acceptance of homosexuals in cosmopolitan areas like Sao Paulo.
Rocha says she and her live-in girlfriend are commonly thought of as a married couple by friends and even had a "wedding reception" – though no ceremony – once they moved in together, receiving numerous household items commonly requested by two-sex couples as wedding gifts. "Certainly it (the gay community) is becoming more and more accepted," said Rocha. "Things are getting better all over the country … prejudices are decreasing." While that might be the case in some sectors of Brazilian society, there still looms the specter of hate crimes against homosexuals.
The Grupo Gay da Bahia – the largest gay rights association in Brazil – reported 132 homosexuals were killed in hate crimes in 2001 in the country. Despite the crimes, the gay community appears undaunted in its effort to achieve greater acceptance. The recent gay pride parade in Sao Paulo drew an estimated 800,000 people, making it the third largest in the world. The city’s mayor was on hand for the event and even waved a gay pride flag. Brazil’s gays are particularly optimistic about the current administration – the left-wing Workers’ Party President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva – as he is seen as sympathetic to gay causes and their quest for greater acceptance. "I don’t necessary believe in it (gay marriage) as an institution, but it will happen," said an optimistic Rocha. "I don’t know how soon, but in my lifetime."
In less Western countries, the concept of gay marriage is not at all popular, Boston University anthropologist Peter Wood, author of "Diversity: The Invention of a Concept," told United Press International. "Most of the world’s peoples would be inclined to see it as bizarre and disgusting. Think of the reaction among Anglicans in Africa to the recent attempt to promote a gay man to the position of bishop in England. Most people understand the existence of homosexuality and the existence of same-sex people who are good and lasting companions, but these two ideas are very seldom seen as overlapping except in myths and dreams," he said.
While gay and lesbian couples in the West battle for legal recognition of their unions, homosexuals in much of Asia are struggling for any kind of recognition at all. Although small gay communities are emerging in major cities, homosexuality is still socially stigmatized in most of Asia, where marriage and family are deemed social responsibilities. In China, Japan and Korea there are no laws prohibiting private homosexual behavior, but this is largely a tolerance of omission.
An Asian gay Web site (utopia-asia.com) warns: "Homosexuals in Korea have no established tradition of overtly discriminatory laws to struggle against … largely because these acts have traditionally been considered utterly unmentionable in any public forum or document." Since 2000, a few bold people have put together an annual "Korean Queer Festival." Last month, about 500 people took part in the festival’s kickoff parade, but most sported red ribbons around their wrists or necks as a signal to the media that they didn’t wish to be photographed.
In Korea and Japan, the spread of gay culture is curbed through measures restricting Internet content and underage access to gay bars and cafes. In China, homosexuals have frequently been the target of "anti-vice" campaigns. Until 2001, homosexuality was classified as a mental disorder, making it possible for gays to be consigned to mental institutions. Dr. Zhu Qi, vice president of the Beijing-based Sexology Association of China, told UPI, "Homosexuality is not common in China. Not a lot of people are interested in it." Zhu intimated that persecution of gays is diminishing as international concepts of human rights are slowly impacting Chinese attitudes. "We must honor (homosexuals’) human rights, but from the biological point of view, this is not a normal biological phenomenon."
Despite the official distaste for the lifestyle, dozens of gay-friendly cafes and bars have sprung up in Shanghai and Beijing and Internet sites inform foreign visitors of hot spots to meet "local boys," many of whom are from impoverished rural areas, looking to make some easy money. Poon Kwok Sum, Hong Kong author of two books on homosexuality, pointed out that Chinese society has traditionally been permissive, unencumbered by religious or ideological moral precepts.
In ancient China, it was common for noblemen to purchase boys, as well as girls, as servants and sex partners. Nowadays, Asian homosexuals are far from attaining the status of respectability and in many places, they are still struggling for decriminalization of their sexual practices.
Hong Kong, Singapore, India and Pakistan inherited British intolerance for "buggery," and all provide for punishments up to life imprisonment for this crime. In Hong Kong, homosexual behavior between consenting males over 21 was legalized in 1991. In Singapore, it remains punishable by up to two years in prison; in India and Pakistan, up to 10 years. Flaunting local legal, social and religious sensibilities, on July 2, 15 activists staged India’s first gay pride event in Calcutta, a "Friendship Walk" to the offices of non-governmental organizations.
Islamic laws provide for flogging and imprisonment of homosexuals in Malaysia, where in 1998 the popular Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim was arrested on sodomy charges and remains in prison. Surprisingly Indonesia, the largest Muslim country in the world, boasts Asia’s first gay organization (1981) and first gay pride parade (1999). The country has no legislation pertaining to homosexuality and tolerates alternative lifestyles, especially in tourist resort areas like Bali.
In Indonesia and other traditional Asian societies, same-sex relationships are often maintained alongside obligatory heterosexual marriages.
India is a far from allowing gay marriages. Although homosexuality is legally banned in India, small groups of gay men have cropped up in open in major metropolitan cities to assert their presence. While homosexuals remain an invisible community in rural areas, gay men in cities like Bombay, New Delhi and Bangalore have begun having well-publicized events, parties, and get-togethers. There are regular gay parties in bars, pubs and private homes. "Homosexuality is still unacceptable in India," Pradeep Thakur, a gay rights activist said. "Why should government tell us what we must do in our bedrooms?" Thakur asked, lambasting India’s 141-year-old law that calls homosexual sex an "unnatural act." "Sexual orientation is a very personal issue and it should be left to an individual as enshrined under the fundamental rights that laws one right to freedom of expression," Thakur told UPI. "Homosexuality or sodomy is considered a stigma in India and is legally banned and the offense carries a punishment of up to seven years in jail," lawyer Manoj Arora said. Last month more than 150 gay men marched through the streets of Calcutta waving banners, saying, "Let us love and be loved."
A gay rights activist in India has recently released a book that deals with love between an openly gay man and a young boy who is unable to pursue his homosexual instincts. Author of "The Boyfriend," R Raj Rao, said India’s gay community wants the age-old law to be repealed. Although there are no official estimates for India’s homosexual community, some gay organizations say it may be as large as 40 million people, out of the total population of 1 billion.
Humsafar.org, bombay-dost.com, and gaybombay.com are the Web sites that cater to the gay community of Bombay. These organizations claim they create safe spaces for gays and are not dating sites. It’s not clear whether homosexuality even exists in all cultures. Wood noted, "Taking the evidence at face value, there are a lot of cultures in which either kind of homosexuality is either absent or so effectively censored that it has no acknowledged outlet.
Homosexuality is a cultural rarity in sub-Saharan Africa, and there is little evidence for it in most of aboriginal Polynesia: the Tahitians, the Maori, the Marquesans and so forth, were licentious but straight."
On the other hand, some tribal cultures, according to Wood, have institutionalized something akin to gay marriage: "The place to find homosexual marriage is on the southern fringe of the New Guinea highlands and in other islands of southern Melanesia." For example, the hunter-gatherer Etoro tribe requires adolescent boys to perform oral sex on older males.
Wood noted that, unfashionable as it is to mention this, in most of the traditional cultures where male homosexual relationships were socially approved, the pairings consist of a man and a boy. The classical Greeks endorsed relationships between beardless youths and older mentors, although they didn’t call them marriages.
Of course, many of these would be considered statutory rape in modern America, and lead to the kind of lawsuits now facing the Catholic Church. In contrast, homosexual relations between adult men were subject to derision in Greek and Roman literature. .
With contributions from Gareth Harding in Brussels; Carmen Gentile in Sao Paulo; Kathleen Hwang in Hong Kong; and Harbaksh Singh Nanda in New Delhi.
August 4, 2003
UN looking at equal status for gay partners
As controversy rages over whether same-sex marriages should be legalised, the United Nations (UN) said today it was examining ways to give equal status to its heterosexual and gay workers. "The beacon for gay, lesbian and bisexual people should be the United Nations. It’s not," Stephen Lewis, the UN special envoy for Aids in Africa, said in a message to the world body’s first panel discussion on gay rights. Gay rights issues have been at the forefront in recent weeks as momentum builds to legalise same-sex marriages in North America and Europe.
The Vatican last week condemned gay marriage as deviant and a threat to society and urged Catholic lawmakers to vote against bills that would recognise gay marriage. In an effort to address the concerns of gay UN employees, Kofi Annan, the UN Secretary-General, has met with senior advisers about providing benefits to workers in same-sex partnerships, Fred Eckhard, the chief UN spokesperson, said. Currently, benefits like health insurance, pensions and reimbursement of moving expenses are given only to traditional spouses of workers.
But achieving equality for gay workers will not be easy in an organisation that includes representatives from member nations that do not tolerate homosexuality, officials warned. Eckhard said: "Our current policy is to factor in the national laws of the staff member involved, and every nation has different laws on this matter. "So we are weighing all of that information now as we contemplate a possible new policy on benefits to staff members who are in something other than a traditional marital relationship."
August 4, 2003
Panel discussion at UN to focus on gay rights
Gay rights will be the focus this evening of a panel discussion organized by the United Nations alliance of gay, lesbian or bisexual employees, with UN officials decrying discrimination based on sexual orientation and stressing the importance. "Persecution and discrimination based on sexual orientation is, unfortunately, still pervasive," Mark Malloch Brown, head of the UN Development Programme (UNDP), says in a message prepared for the event put together by the UN Gay, Lesbian or Bisexual Employees Organization (GLOBE).
"Discrimination based on sexual orientation not only violates basic human rights, but also hinders development by immobilizing human capital, stifling expression and limiting freedom of choice," Mr. Malloch Brown says in his written message, which was released ahead of the event because he could not attend. He adds that many governments are taking progressive action on these issues, while, within the UN system, the issue of domestic partnership is being reviewed. The UNDP chief also welcomes the panel discussion as an "excellent opportunity to highlight what has been done and challenge us all to do more, both within the UN system and throughout the world."
Echoing those sentiments, Peter Piot, Executive Director of the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), calls the subject of the panel "groundbreaking," in another written message issued today. "I applaud efforts to defeat all forms of discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity and to promote the issue of domestic partnership," he says. "Homophobia continues to have a devastating impact on individuals, communities and societies today," Dr. Piot says, stressing that equal rights for all, along with the fight against AIDS, were two of the "most pressing issues of our time."
He adds that persecution of sexual minorities, including imprisonment and torture, is all too common. Dr. Piot also notes that homophobia plays a crucial role in contributing to the spread of HIV infection among gay men by undermining and discouraging vital HIV/AIDS prevention efforts aimed at empowering vulnerable groups. Secretary-General Kofi Annan is expected to attend the discussion, which will be held at the Dag Hammarskjöld Library Auditorium.
2 December 2003
Full protection from discrimination at work still far from reality, says ILGA
New legislation aiming to protect workers across the EU from discrimination based on sexuality is not being implemented fast enough, according to the International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA). EU states were supposed to enforce legislation protecting their lesbian, gay and bisexual employees from discrimination from today, but some states are yet to draw up new laws.
In the UK, while the new legislation began yesterday, a clause exempting religious organisations has caused controversy, with some organisations claiming the overall effect of the laws are undermined. Of the 15 EU member states, the ILGA’s European division claims just 3 meet the minimum implementation standards, despite the deadline being today. These three are Belgium, Denmark and Sweden, while Ireland and the UK need to amend the legislation to cover the wide scope of the issue, the group says.
"This directive is a huge step forward. For the first time it promises to offer explicit protection from discrimination in employment to gays, lesbians and bisexuals all across the EU", ILGA-Europe co-chair Riccardo Gottardi said yesterday. "We must ensure that governments do not shy away from their initial commitment and water down the provisions agreed to in Council three years ago." The group claims that the remaining states have so far either avoided the issue completely, or failed to table the legislation in time for the deadline. Whether this will go unpunished by EU authorities remains to be seen, although authorities suggested last month that those states that have not complied in time may be liable for some sort of fine system.
January 29, 2004
UN takes step towards recognizing gay partners
by Evelyn Leopold, United Nations
The United Nations took a cautious step on Thursday in recognizing gay and unmarried heterosexual partnerships among their employees by deciding to grant couples health and other benefits if their home country allows it. Although a relatively small number of staff would be affected, the administrative order by Secretary-General Kofi Annan could lead to a muddle, with some wondering why standards differ according to nationalities and some General Assembly members questioning the entire action, diplomats said.
But Susan Allee, a founding member of GLOBE, the Gay and Lesbian or Bisexual Employees at the United Nations, said her group was "thrilled" at the announcement. "It is a step towards acknowledgment that there is great diversity in the staff of the United Nations," said Allee, an American and an expert on Lebanon in the U.N. peacekeeping department. According to a bulletin Annan issued on Jan. 20 but not released until Thursday, the United Nations would request permission from the country of origin of the staff member "to confirm the existence and validity of the domestic partnership contracted by the staff member under the law of that country."
While the Netherlands, Belgium and Canada permit same-sex marriage, throughout Scandinavia governments offer extensive nonmarital partnership rights for gay and straight citizens, and less comprehensive rights are offered in most Western European nations, Australia and New Zealand. In the United States, the federal government would be asked for a ruling, and U.N. officials assumed the answer would be "no."
February 12, 2004
Gay Marriage Debate Goes Global–Slowly
by Jefferson Morley, washingtonpost.com Staff Writer
As gay marriage emerges as an issue in the 2004 U.S. presidential election, Australia and Canada share America’s preoccupation with the issue, according to leading online news sites. In both countries, the issue divides public opinion and influences party politics. But in much of the rest of the world, the issue of gay marriage is only just beginning to surface. The debate in Australia most closely resembles the controversy in America. Like President Bush, Prime Minister John Howard, leader of a conservative coalition, strongly opposes gay marriage. Like the U.S. Democrats, the more liberal Labor party is divided. The party’s new leader Mark Latham has made a name for himself with a campaign message out of Bill Clinton’s political playbook that emphasizes values over rights.
In a visit to Tasmania earlier this month, a local daily newspaper, The Mercury, reported that Latham "ruled out Labor support for gay marriages, as the country’s political leaders adopt a conservative values framework to try to lock in voters in key marginal seats." Australian gay-rights activists are "unprepared to take on the issue," wrote columnist Rodney Croome in the Sydney Morning Herald. "Opinion is sharply divided between those who want the choice to marry, those who insist on the exclusive pursuit of bread-and-butter reforms in areas like . . . taxation, and those who label marriage a dangerous domestication of queer exuberance."
Croome says Prime Minister Howard may not use gay marriage as an electoral wedge issue out of "fear that voters are turned off by parties that obsess over moral issues." To avoid a polarizing debate, Croome argues that the Labor party and the gay community must "acknowledge the need for, and foster, a rational and reflective public debate on marriage reform."
"The alternative is that gays and lesbians will join Aborigines and refugees as people whose claims on justice inspire the kind of hatred and deep division that winds back Australia’s tolerance of diversity." In Canada, the public is divided, according to a poll cited earlier this month by CTV, the Canadian Television news site. The poll found 48 percent opposed gay marriage while 47 percent support it. Support for gay marriage was strongest among women, younger people, those with higher incomes and those with more education, according to the poll. But the tone of debate in mild-mannered Canada seems less polarized than in Australia.
The provinces of British Columbia and Ontario now grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples. And one aspiring leader of the country’s Conservative Party, Belinda Stronach, is running on a platform opposing gun registration and favoring gay marriage, according to a report this week on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.
In Africa, opponents of gay marriage, and homosexuality in general, dominate public discussion. The issue is more religious than political, with leaders of the Anglican church voicing strong opposition to the U.S. Episcopal Church’s support of same-sex unions. Those Anglicans who express toleration of homosexuality face ostracism from fellow Anglicans, according to African news sites, and there is little public discussion of extending legal recognition for same-sex couples.
In Nairobi, Kenya, the East African Standard reported that a bishop of the Anglican Church of Kenya blocked the ordination of a Kenyan deacon in the United States last month because the ceremony was going to be performed "by a bishop from the pro-homosexual church in the U.S."
In Uganda, the New Vision (registration required) news site reported earlier this week that a retired Anglican bishop, Christopher Ssenyonjo, says he is being ostracized by the Church for his support of homosexuals. Ssenyonjo said fellow clergymen had been told by local church leaders "never to mention him" and that "the Church wants to re-baptize all those he baptized." "The gays should be brought closer and counseled but the Church wants to destroy them," he said.
The issue seems settled in northern Europe where the Netherlands and Belgium extend legal protection to same-sex couples without much opposition.
Denmark, France, Germany, Norway, Sweden, Iceland and Finland all have variations on "Registered Partnerships" which provide same-sex and unmarried couples with most the legal rights accompanying marriage, adoption being the most notable exception. There are signs that the debate over gay marriage is spreading to other countries.
In Poland, columnist Bronislaw Wildstein warned in Rzeczpospolita (in Polish), a centrist daily in Warsaw, that the country’s entry into the European Union will require acceptance of the EU constitution, including its prohibition of discrimination based on sexual orientation. "This will necessarily lead to homosexual marriages being granted all the rights that heterosexual marriages are entitled to, including the right to adopt children," Wildstein wrote.
In India, the idea of gay marriage got a boost recently when a prominent fashion designer, Wendell Rodricks, held a very public "commitment ceremony" with his partner in the state of Goa. "Isn’t it too early to be talking about gay marriages in a country where the law still criminalizes the act of homosexuality?" a reporter from Indian Express asked a group of gay and lesbian activists. "I think whenever the question of marriage is raised, there will be a large section who will say that you are jumping the gun," replied a 23-year old man who asked that his real name not be used. "There is going to be no perfect timing for such a thing. We are already on the roll – there are more spaces for gay people now, more activism, more comfort and awareness. At some point we will run into marriage. So why not bring it up now?"
March 15, 2004
Islamic States Object to UN’s Gay Rights Policies
by Evelyn Leopold
United Nations – Islamic nations, led by Iran, objected on Monday to a new U.N. policy that would grant health and other benefits to gay partners and unmarried heterosexual couples if their home country allows it. In a bulletin issued in January, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan took the cautious step toward recognizing nontraditional families, which U.N. officials said would affect only a small number of staff.
Iran, representing the 56-nation Organization of Islamic Conference, told a General Assembly finance committee that such a decision needed to be approved by the 191-member assembly and requested Annan submit "in writing a clarification and explanation." While the issue has not been resolved, many diplomats believe a resolution on the subject opposing Annan would fail. "Whereas no decision has been taken by the General Assembly to change the long-established scope of the family definition for the purposes of entitlements, therefore there is no justifiable basis for the approval of expenses," Iranian envoy Alireza Tootoonchian told the committee.
Envoys from Indonesia, Pakistan, Kuwait, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, Bangladesh, Cameroon and the Vatican echoed Iran’s view. But Mehmet Sahin Onaner of Turkey cautioned prudence and noted Annan had respected the legislative authority of member states.
Margaret Stanley of Ireland, speaking on behalf of 25 European Union and associate members, called Annan’s decision a "welcome step" that reflected his determination to modernize human resource management. She said she saw no reason to challenge Annan’s prerogative as chief administrative officer.
Canada and New Zealand agreed, with Canadian Jerry Kramer calling the decision "principled" in defining family status. The Bush administration, which is seeking a constitutional amendment barring gay marriages, did not speak in Monday’s debate. U.S. officials have not yet decided whether to oppose the new U.N. measure for American staff. The Netherlands, Belgium and two Canadian provinces permit same-sex marriage. Scandinavia governments offer extensive nonmarital partnership rights for gay and straight citizens, and less comprehensive rights are offered in most Western European nations, Australia and New Zealand.
GLOBE, an advocacy group for U.N. gay, lesbian or bisexual employees, has welcomed Annan’s decision as a step toward recognizing diversity among U.N. staff and hoped eventually all staff would be covered.
30 March 2004
UN Drops Gay Civil Rights and Brazil Retreats on UN Gay Rights Plan
London – A move to add sexuality to the list of categories protected by the United Nations has been dropped in the midst of intense pressure from the Vatican and Muslim nations. It is the second year in a row that the motion has been withdrawn at the Geneva-based UN Commission on Human Rights. The proposal had been put forward by Brazil and supported by Canada and most of the European Union states.
Brazil dropped the motion when it became clear the Vatican and Arab countries led by Egypt would not let it pass. One member of the European Parliament called the opposition "The Unholy Axis". “Millions of people across the globe face imprisonment, torture, violence, and discrimination because of their sexual orientation,” said MEP Michael Cashman, who is gay. “For the second year running the UN has failed to condemn this discrimination and the continuing abuses of human rights on the basis of a person’s sexuality. “Both the Vatican and the Conference of Islamic States should hang their heads in shame for having reduced their beliefs to the gutter of bigotry and discrimination,” said Cashman, an actor before he turned to politics.
The same "axis" is attempting in New York to revoke an executive order by Secretary General Kofi Annan that would provide the same-sex partners of UN workers the same benefits as married couples if their home countries approve.
Brazil retreats on U.N. gay rights plan
by Ben Townley
Brazil has decided to withdraw its motion on integrating sexual orientation into the United Nations stance on human rights. The country first introduced the resolution at last year’s U.N. Commission on Human Rights, but it was delayed until this year’s meeting, currently taking place in Geneva.
Brazil’s proposal was championed as the first time lesbian and gay people would be protected by the United Nations. Since the resolution has been withdrawn, however, gay activists have blamed an alliance between anti-gay religious states and U.N. members who lobbied governments not to support it.
Muslim member states and the Vatican City, which retains observer status at the U.N., had apparently been moving to make sure the resolution was shot down. Labour MEP and gay activist Michael Cashman has now accused the religious countries of forming an "unholy axis" to defeat the motion for the second year running. "Millions of people across the globe face imprisonment, torture, violence and discrimination because of their sexual orientation," he said in a statement over the weekend. "For the second year running the U.N. has failed to condemn this discrimination and the continuing abuses of human rights on the basis of a person’s sexuality."
The motion was supported by the European Parliament, as well as the U.K. government, but Cashman believes it was the influence of the religious states that blocked the motion from moving forward. "It’s depressing when religions can succeed in denying ordinary men and women their universal human rights," he said.
"Both the Vatican and the Conference of Islamic States should hang their heads in shame for having reduced their beliefs to the gutter of bigotry and discrimination." Other gay rights groups have joined in condemning the delays. U.K.-based Gay and Lesbian Humanist Association (GALHA) also said Monday that the withdrawal reveals the religious states’ true colors.
"This continued barbaric contempt for gay people shows that the Vatican is prepared to go to any lengths to promote its nasty dogmas. It has now thrown in its lot with states that kill and imprison their gay citizens," George Broadhead, secretary of GALHA, said. As many as one-third of the U.N.’s 191 states currently outlaw homosexuality, with many punishing those found guilty with death.
July 5, 2004
Gay persecution seen rising around the world–New Book ‘Sex, Love and Homophobia’ from Amnesty International
by Kate Kelland
London – Gay Pride marches are mainstream in some countries and gay politicians, actors and pop stars are out and proud –but homophobia is growing across the world with increasing numbers of countries making it punishable by death. A new book published by human rights group Amnesty International says despite widespread acceptance of gays and lesbians in some countries, violent persecution of homosexuals is on the rise and has reached "epidemic" levels in others.
" Lesbian and gay people who form or join organisations, be they political or social, are being violently persecuted in many parts of the world where before they might have been unnoticed," writes the book’s British author Vanessa Baird. She singles out Uganda, Zimbabwe, Jamaica, El Salvador and Latin America in particular, where she says "the targeting and killing of transgender people has become an epidemic on streets."
The book, "Sex, Love and Homophobia," offers an overview of the experiences of gay, lesbian and transgender people around the world and gives a snapshot of their status in various societies today. One British gay man interviewed describes how he was subjected to "aversion therapy" as a teenager in the 1960s because his mother could not accept her son was gay. " I was locked up alone in a mental institution for 72 hours with supposedly gay pornography and given drugs to make me vomit and become incontinent," he said. "They said the next part of the treatment was to apply electrodes to my genitals. After three days I begged to be let out."
In the United States, Baird notes an increasing polarisation of attitudes. "While San Francisco boasts the largest openly gay community of any city in the world, anti-homosexual movements in Kansas, Ohio and Colorado advocate as a ‘Christian duty’ the rejection, and in some cases even killing, of gay people."
" And this is not all just a small group of nutters in the mid-West," she told Reuters. "This kind of evangelism is growing, and unfortunately a substantial part of it is homophobic and says homosexuality is a sin or a disease." Baird’s book also focuses on countries where homosexuality is punishable by death — Iran, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Mauritania, Sudan, Pakistan, United Arab Emirates, Yemen and northern provinces of Nigeria.
Baird quotes Iran’s 1991 Islamic penal law, which states "sodomy is a crime" and "punishment is death if the participants are adults, of sound mind and consenting." South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu uses a foreword to the book to condemn homophobia as "every bit as unjust as that crime against humanity, apartheid."
" I could not have fought against the discrimination of apartheid and not also fight against the discrimination homosexuals endure," he wrote. South Africa became the first country in the world in 1996 to include a clause in its constitution to guarantee freedom from discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation.
July 16, 2004
World AIDS Meet Ends With Dire Warnings on Humanity’s Worst Pandemic
by Emma Ross
Bangkok – Nelson Mandela said he “cannot rest” until the world turns the tide against the HIV pandemic, as delegates concluded the biggest-ever AIDS conference Friday, highlighting the soaring infections among women and warning of explosive epidemics in Asia.
Much of the six-day conference on humanity’s worst pandemic focused on the politics of getting more life-saving anti-retroviral medicine to the millions of HIV-infected people who need it in the developing world, especially in Africa.
The United States _ the most generous donor nation on AIDS _ came under intense criticism at the 15th International AIDS Conference for its drug-funding policy and for tying much of its money to programs that emphasize abstinence over the trusted HIV-blocking method of using condoms. Democracy icon Mandela joined UN Secretary General Kofi Annan in delivering vigorous calls for more donations to UN efforts to fight the disease. Software magnate Bill Gates’s foundation and the European Union announced new grants totalling $102 million US ($135 million Cdn).
Mandela, who turns 86 on Sunday, took the podium of the Friday’s closing ceremony to the ululation of women in the audience, and asked the world to: “allow me to enjoy my retirement by showing that you can rise to the challenge.”
“I cannot rest until I am certain that the global response is sufficient to turn the tide of the epidemic,” Mandela said.
“History will surely judge us harshly if we do not respond with all the energy and resources that we can bring to bear in the fight against HIV/AIDS,” the former South African president said.
This year’s conference, drawing nearly 20,000 scientists, policy-makers, HIV-infected people and their advocates, not only boosted awareness of HIV but raised the accountability of world leaders, said Mechai Viravaidya, the most prominent AIDS campaigner in host country Thailand.
“The message is clear: Leaders watch out. We are going to come after you. The media and the people who are involved are going to say, `What’s your commitment?”’ Mechai said. “How can you afford to let your people become sick and die in larger numbers than by so-called enemies in wars?”
The most-anticipated breakthrough on AIDS _ a vaccine _ remained elusive. Experts called for urgent work and more funding on alternatives for prevention in the interim, including HIV-killing gels to protect women who lack the power to insist their sex partners use condoms.
“Gender inequality is driving new infections among women and girls like never before,” Irene Khan, secretary general of Amnesty International, told the last plenary session of the conference. An estimated 38 million people are infected with HIV, 25 million of them in sub-Saharan Africa. Experts say nearly half of all people with HIV now are women, and their infection rates in many regions are climbing much faster than men’s. In the Caribbean, for example, 70 per cent of new infections are in women.
In Asia, 7.2 million people are infected, and epidemiologists at the conference warned that much of the region faces a critical watershed with infections spreading from injecting drug users to sex workers. Prostitution is considered the main engine of spread for Asia, many experts said, warning that epidemics could explode unless condom use is boosted.
"Now, hopefully, the painful lessons that we have learned will put us in better stead for the Asian experience,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of U.S. National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
Since the last AIDS conference in Barcelona, Spain, in 2002, the number of people being treated for the disease has doubled in the developing world to 440,000. In that same time span, six million people died from the virus and 10 million more became infected, WHO figures show.
The next conference is to be held in Toronto in 2006.
Only about seven per cent of the six million people in poor countries who urgently need anti-retroviral treatment are getting it, and there has been no overall improvement in the proportion of people getting treatment and prevention versus the total number infected, the United Nations says.
"We are all going to walk away from this meeting knowing that we have a long way to go with regard to access, because the countries that have the greatest need still have the least access,” Fauci said. U.S. President George W. Bush in 2002 launched a $15 billion US AIDS-fighting plan, mainly directed toward 14 countries in Africa and the Caribbean, plus Vietnam. Critics say the United States should instead give much of that money to the UN-sponsored Global Fund, which reaches out to 128 countries.
The U.S. money comes with strings attached _ one-third of the money earmarked for prevention goes to abstinence-first programs. Also, the money can currently only buy brand name drugs, made by companies in rich countries, shutting out cheaper generic medicines from countries such as India, Brazil and Thailand. Global Fund money can go toward generic drugs.
Activists launched daily protests against U.S. President George W. Bush’s stance on AIDS, shouting slogans such as "Bush lies. Condoms save lives.”
July 30, 2004
International anti-gay violence on the rise: reports: Some worry hate attacks becoming an ‘epidemic’
by Bryan Anderton
While gay activists in the United States fight for the right to marry, one global gay rights group issued a reminder this week that in many countries, gay people are fighting just to be treated humanely. There has been a recent rash of international anti-gay violence including incidents in Jamaica, India and Nepal, according to the International Gay & Lesbian Human Rights Commission. Officials from the group say the violence has increased as a result of more individuals and organizations lobbying for gay rights.
“Increasingly, gay people are unwilling to be the subject of abuse,” said IGLHRC Executive Director Paula Ettelbrick, adding that the violence in recent months is most likely a “backlash” resulting from gays becoming more vocal. The organization cited a number of such incidents that have occurred in just the last two months. In June, a 21-year-old male-to-female transsexual in India was arrested and reportedly tortured by police officers after reporting to police that she had been raped by several men. That same month, protesters broke windows and ripped down posters at several Indian movie theaters showing a lesbian-themed film.
Also in June, one of Jamaica’s most prominent gay rights activists, Brian Williamson, was found stabbed to death in his home. While the police declared that robbery was the official motive, many gay rights groups insist the killing was “hate-related” and are demanding that Prime Minister P.J. Patterson immediately repeal the island’s anti-gay laws. Earlier this month, a number of gay men and cross dressers reported being harassed and beaten by police officers in the streets of Nepal. When a local gay rights organization staged a peaceful demonstration to protest the abuse, police officers reportedly began beating protesters to disperse the crowd.
Worldwide violence against gays is the subject of a new book, “Sex, Love & Homophobia,” released earlier this month by the human rights group Amnesty International. “Lesbian and gay people who form or join organizations, be they political or social, are being violently persecuted in many parts of the world where before they might have been unnoticed,” Vanessa Baird, the book’s author, told Reuters earlier this month, calling the recent rise in anti-gay violence an “epidemic.”
Repeated calls to Amnesty International, as well as to Human Rights Watch, were not returned by press time.
Homosexuality punishable by death
More than 70 countries currently have laws that criminalize sex between members of the same gender, including some who are close allies of the United States, according to the IGLHRC. In several countries – including Iran, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Mauritania, Sudan, Pakistan, the United Arab Emirates, Yemen and parts of Nigeria – homosexuality is punishable by death. In many others, sodomy can result in prison sentences.
But Ettelbrick said that an entire country cannot be labeled “homophobic” because it has anti-sodomy laws, which were still on the books in some U.S. states until the Supreme Court struck them down last year. Ettelbrick also noted that some countries without specific anti-sodomy laws still target gay sex. In Egypt, a group of gay men who became known as the “Cairo 52” were arrested in 2001 during a police raid on a party boat in Cairo. They were not charged with sodomy, but instead were charged with “debauchery.”
“I think what drives the harassment isn’t just a specific law,” Ettelbrick said. “It’s that the law in general can be used and manipulated so easily to target gay and lesbian people.” Despite the setbacks, the push for global gay rights is an important endeavor that is seeing slow but significant progress, Ettelbrick said. “Right now, I think it’s a mixed bag,” Ettelbrick said. “The other side to all of this is that there’s actually a growing movement and a growing reality of successful policy results.
August 16, 2004
Insensitivity to GLBTs during Olympics angers athletes, fans
by Christopher Curtis
GLBT sports fans and athletes are complaining about insensitive treatment during the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Greece. Over the weekend, the Jamaican Olympic team and sportswear company Puma sponsored a concert by reggae star Buju Banton, a singer whose hit "Boom Bye Bye" encourages listeners to burn gay men alive after dousing them with acid and shooting them. While the concert was held outside the Olympic Village, the British group OutRage claims Olympic organizers had approved the concert and the venue.
Meanwhile, German cyclist Judith Arndt flipped "the bird" as her team came in second during Sunday’s women’s road race, claiming she was angry that her live-in lover was excluded from the Olympic team. "Petra is the best sprinter in the world," Arndt said of her lover. "I’m sad that she did not ride with me. I dedicate my medal to her." The International Cycling Union fined Arndt 200 Swiss francs. The visibility of gay issues and gay athletes has been sparse during the 2004 Olympics. There are only seven openly gay and lesbian athletes this year, the same number as in 2000. A total of 10,500 competitors are in the games.