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.
5 MSM and HIV/AIDS Risk in Asia: What Is Fueling the Epidemic Among MSM? 8/06 (repeat from 2006)
January 02, 2007
Gaininig The Roght To Speak In Our Name At The UN: NGO Committee votes not to grant status to Canadian CGLQ and to postpone Swedish RFSL to May
As a result of a vote, requested by the delegations of Egypt, Guinea, Pakistan, Qatar and the Sudan, on the application of Coalition gaie et lesbienne du Québec
— a national organization in Canada, aiming to promote, represent and defend the rights of the homosexual community -– the Committee decided not to recommend the NGO for consultative status.
Six delegations -– Colombia, Israel, Peru, Romania, United Kingdom and the United States -– voted in support of the NGO; eight -– Burundi, China, Egypt, Guinea, Pakistan, Qatar, Russian Federation and the Sudan –- voted against, while three — Angola, India and Turkey — abstained and Cuba and Dominica were not present.
The representative of the United Kingdom, explaining his delegation’s position, said that every NGO meeting the criteria from ECOSOC resolution 1996/31 deserved to be granted consultative status, regardless of its nature. The resolution explicitly confirmed the need to take into account the full diversity of NGOs. The Coalition obviously had fulfilled the criteria, as much of its work covered the fields of health, gender and human rights. The NGO would add an important voice to the activities of the United Nations.
The session had recommended over 100 NGOs for consultative status, some of them might espouse views that were not shared by all Governments. “We may disagree with them but that doesn’t mean we should exclude them,” he stated. The Coalition had provided frank and satisfactory responses to all questions. “No credible reason can therefore be presented for refusing them consultative status, except that of straightforward discrimination,” he said and announced that his delegation would continue to argue for the full inclusion and involvement of NGOs representing the gay and lesbian community.
After the vote, the Observer of Canada expressed her dismay at the result and her concern at the Committee’s “pattern of discrimination” in its treatment of applications from organizations dealing with issues related to sexual orientation. Her Government was familiar with the organization and supported its application.
A decision on the application of the Swedish Federation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights — a national organization aiming to improve the situation for gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people through working to end oppression and discrimination and by lobbying politicians and authorities to improve legislation –- was deferred until May’s session, as several delegates needed more time.
Addressing questions and concerns from the representatives from the United States, Pakistan, Egypt, Romania, Guinea, United Kingdom and Burundi, the NGO’s representatives stressed that they condemned all forms of sexual violence and violence against children and were against paedophilia. They explained instances where members of the organization had been voted down on such subjects. They stressed that the NGO complied with all Swedish laws and, in instances of cooperation with foreign NGOs, followed the laws of the countries where the organizations concerned were based. When addressing students in secondary education, the NGO representatives talked about the fact that two people of the same sex could love one another, not on how to have sex. The organization’s position was that adults might seek sexual pleasure, but were not allowed to harm other people involved. It had no position on seeking pleasure by harming oneself.
Expressing support for the NGO, the Observer of Sweden stressed that the organization had, since the early 1950s, advocated for the rights for all persons, regardless of sexual orientations. The Swedish Government held the organization in high regard and had regularly consulted it.
27 March 2007
"Yogyakarta Principles", A Milestone For LGBT Rights, Experts Set Out Global Standards for Sexual Rights and Gender Equality
Geneva – A groundbreaking set of principles on sexual orientation, gender identity, and international law is a landmark advance in the struggle for basic human rights as well as gender equality, Human Rights Watch and the Center for Women’s Global Leadership said today. The document, known as the Yogyakarta Principles after the city where it was adopted, was launched today in Geneva by a group of 29 international human rights experts.
“These principles establish basic standards for how governments should treat people whose rights are too often denied and whose dignity is too often reviled,” said Scott Long, director of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Rights Program at Human Rights Watch. “Firmly grounded in law and precedent, they enshrine a simple idea: human rights do not admit exceptions.” The “Yogyakarta Principles on the Application of International Law in Relation to Issues of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity” were adopted by a meeting of experts in international law in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, in November 2006. They confirm legal standards for how governments and other actors should end violence, abuse, and discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people, and ensure full equality.
The experts launching the principles include a former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, as well as UN independent experts, members of UN treaty bodies, judges, activists, and academics. Human Rights Watch was part of a secretariat supporting the work of the experts who developed the principles. The Center for Women’s Global Leadership was a member of the advisory committee to the secretariat. “For more than three decades, lesbians have been among the millions of women’s rights activists pressing the international community to put gender equality at the heart of the human rights agenda,” said Charlotte Bunch, executive director of the Center for Women’s Global Leadership. “These sweeping principles are a bold and important step forward. Addressing civil and political as well as economic, social and cultural rights, they show how sexual rights and gender equality are inextricably interwoven with the full scope of rights protections.”
The Yogyakarta Principles were developed in response to well-documented patterns of abuse around the globe. These abuses, perpetrated because of actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity, have affected millions.
The principles address:
* rape and other forms of gender-based violence;
* extrajudicial executions;
* torture and other forms of cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment;
* medical abuses;
* repression of free speech and assembly; and
* discrimination in work, health, education, housing, access to justice, and immigration.
The principles also map out a positive road to full equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people around the world. Each principle is accompanied by detailed recommendations to states on how to end discrimination and abuse. The principles also call for action from the UN’s human rights system, national human rights institutions, the media, nongovernmental organizations, and others. The principles were launched today at the UN Human Rights Council’s session in Geneva, where last year 54 states called for the council to act against egregious violations of the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people.
The full text of the Yogyakarta Principles, along with supporting materials, can be found online at www.yogyakartaprinciples.org .
The experts who adopted the Yogyakarta Principles are:
Philip Alston (Australia), UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary and arbitrary executions and Professor of Law, New York University School of Law, USA
Maxim Anmeghichean (Moldova), European Region of the International Lesbian and Gay Association
Mauro Cabral (Argentina), Universidad Nacional de Cordoba, International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission
Edwin Cameron (South Africa), Justice, Supreme Court of Appeal, Bloemfontein, South Africa
Sonia Onufer Corrêa (Brazil), Research Associate at the Brazilian Interdisciplinary AIDS Association (ABIA) and co-chair of the International Working Group on Sexuality and Social Policy (Co-chair of the experts’ meeting)
Yakin Ertürk (Turkey), UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women, Professor, Department of Sociology, Middle East Technical University, Ankara, Turkey
Elizabeth Evatt (Australia), Former member and chair of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, former member of the UN Human Rights Committee and Commissioner of the International Commission of Jurists
Paul Hunt (New Zealand), UN Special Rapporteur on the right to the highest attainable standard of health and professor, Department of Law, University of Essex, United Kingdom
Asma Jahangir (Pakistan), Chairperson, Human Rights Commission of Pakistan
Maina Kiai (Kenya), Chairperson, Kenya National Commission on Human Rights
Miloon Kothari (India), UN Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing
Judith Mesquita (United Kingdom), Senior Research Officer, Human Rights Centre, University of Essex, United Kingdom
Alice M. Miller (United States of America), Assistant Professor, School of Public Health, Co-director, Human Rights Program, Columbia University
Sanji Mmasenono Monageng (Botswana), Judge of the High Court (The Republic of the Gambia), Commissioner of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, Chairperson of the Follow Up Committee on the implementation of the Robben Island Guidelines on prohibition and prevention of Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment (African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights)
Vitit Muntarbhorn (Thailand), UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and professor of Law at Chulalongkorn University, Thailand (Co-chair of the experts’ meeting)
Lawrence Mute (Kenya), Commissioner, Kenya National Commission on Human Rights
Manfred Nowak (Austria), Professor and co-director of the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute of Human Rights, Austria and UN Human Rights Council Special Rapporteur on Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment
Ana Elena Obando Mendoza (Costa Rica), feminist attorney, women’s human rights activist, and international consultant
Michael O’Flaherty (Ireland), Member of the UN Human Rights Committee and Professor of Applied Human Rights and Co-director of the Human Rights Law Centre at the University of Nottingham (Rapporteur for the development of the Yogyakarta Principles)
Sunil Pant (Nepal), President of the Blue Diamond Society, Nepal
Dimitrina Petrova (Bulgaria), Executive Director, The Equal Rights Trust
Rudi Muhammad Rizki (Indonesia), UN Special Rapporteur on international solidarity and senior Lecturer and the Vice Dean for Academic Affairs of the Faculty of Law at the University of Padjadjaran, Indonesia
Mary Robinson (Ireland), Founder of Realizing Rights: The Ethical Globalization Initiative, former President of Ireland and former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
Nevena Vuckovic Sahovic (Serbia and Montenegro), Member of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child and President of the Child Rights Centre, Belgrade, Serbia Montenegro
Martin Scheinin (Finland), UN Special Rapporteur on counterterrorism and professor of Constitutional and International Law, Director of the Institute for Human Rights
Wan Yanhai (China), founder of the AIZHI Action Project and director of Beijing AIZHIXING Institute of Health Education
Stephen Whittle (United Kingdom), Professor in Equalities Law at Manchester Metropolitan University, United Kingdom
Roman Wieruszewski (Poland), Member of the UN Human Rights Committee and head of Poznan Centre for Human Rights, Poland
Robert Wintemute (United Kingdom), Professor of Human Rights Law, School of Law, King’s College London, United Kingdom
For more information, please contact:
In Geneva, Scott Long (Human Rights Watch): +1-646-641-5655 (mobile)
In New York, Jessica Stern (Human Rights Watch): +1-212-216-1867; or +1-646-549-0130 (mobile)
In New York, Charlotte Bunch (Center for Women’s Global Leadership): +1-732-642-5271 (mobile)
Discriminatory trend continues at UN as Committee on NGOs fails to recomend consultive status with ECOSOC to three national federations defending the rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender people.
(Please note most articles are also available in French, Portuguese and Spanish directly on www.ilga.org)
The United Nations Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) voted to recommend denial of ECOSOC status to Swedish LGBT federation RFSL and deferred consideration of two other LGBT national federations: FELGT from Spain and ABGLT from Brazil.
In 2005 and 2006, ILGA initiated a campaign to have an increasing number of LGBT groups apply for ECOSOC status, in other words the right to enter the United Nations and speak in our own name.
Read more about ILGA’s ECOSOC campaign
The Yogyakarta Principles, a milestone in the history of international law applied to sexual orientation and gender identity
What role has international law played in the LGBT movement?
Professor Douglas Sanders explains the history of sexual orientation and gender identity in his article Human Rights and Sexual Orientation in International Law.
In 2007, no less than 85 member states of the United Nations still criminalize consensual same sex acts among adults Download ILGA’s report
Patricia Curzi and Stephen Barris
The International Lesbian and Gay Association
Get involved! Make a donation to ILGA:
May 25, 2007
Sexual Orientation in International Law
What role has international law played in the LGBT movement?
Does the international legal system recognize the rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transgendered people? What is the history of the LGBT movement within the UN system?
Professor Douglas Sanders answers these questions and explains the history of sexual orientation and gender identity in his article “Human Rights and Sexual Orientation in International Law.”
Professor Sanders is a Canadian citizen and resides in Bangkok, Thailand. He is a professor of law at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver and Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok. When Professor Sanders addressed the United Nations on behalf of ILGA in 1992, he made history by becoming the first openly gay individual to address the UN and giving the first speech to address LGBT issues at the UN.
HUMAN RIGHTS AND SEXUAL ORIENTATION IN INTERNATIONAL LAW-an analysis
Professor Douglas Sanders
May 16, 2007
International human rights law and the lesbian and gay rights movement have grown up together in the years since World War II. Both are still developing. Both are evolving from western initiatives to a world-wide presence.
The founding documents of international human rights law are the United Nations Charter of 1945, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948, the European Convention on Human Rights of 1950, and the two basic United Nations human rights treaties of 1966, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The core United Nations human rights treaties include, as well, the conventions on racial discrimination, women, torture, children, migrant workers, forced disappearance and people with disabilities.
Does this international system recognize the rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transgendered people?…
For the complete article go to: http://www.ilga.org/news_results.asp?FileCategory=7&ZoneID=7&FileID=1078
MSM and HIV/AIDS: Risk in Asia: What Is Fueling the Epidemic Among MSM and How Can It Be Stopped?
High Risk Behaviors Leading to High HIV/AIDS Prevalence Ignorance about the extent of male-male sex results in a relative lack of MSM programming, which in turn leads to high levels of risk behaviors. In the past, HIV/AIDS prevention programming in Asia has often concentrated on heterosexual sex or injection drug users (IDUs).Therefore, many men see sex with women as being an HIV/AIDS risk and male-male sex as a safer option. MSM often show much higher condom use when having sex with women than with men.
The prevalence of consistent condom use among MSM is as low as 12%, and up to half of all MSM in some regions have never used a condom.Yet a majority of these men believe that they are at low risk. In several countries less than 20% have been tested for HIV. Finally, up to half or more of these MSM also have sex with women—the result of a combination of situational sex and the social pressure to marry—and can thus serve as a bridge population for HIV/AIDS infection. The unsurprising outcome of a situation characterized by lack of programming, lack of knowledge, and high prevalence of unsafe sex is rising rates of HIV infection. Even in countries with low overall HIV/AIDS prevalence, cases among MSM contribute disproportionately to the total.
Other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are both a marker of unsafe sex and a contributing factor to the transmission of HIV. In some areas more than half of all MSM have an STI. Few doctors in the region have the knowledge or cultural sensitivity needed to diagnose the many cases of rectal STIs.
To read the full 85-page report, go to:
May 25, 2007
Gaining the right to speak at the UN
Discriminatory trend continues at UN as Committee on NGOs fails to recomend consultive status with ECOSOC to three national federations defending the rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender people.
May 18, 2007 – New York, U.S.A. The United Nations Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) voted to recommend denial of ECOSOC status to Swedish LGBT federation RFSL and deferred consideration of two other LGBT national federations: FELGT from Spain and ABGLT from Brazil. The three organizations had applied for ECOSOC status at the UN, an observatory status which allows an NGO to participate in certain UN Sessions. Since 1992 when the first speech on sexual minorities was given in its name at the UN, ILGA has pressed to have human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity addressed by this international forum.
In 2005, ILGA began its “ECOSOC Campaign”, an initiative aimed at increasing the number of LGBT groups applying for ECOSOC status in order to allow LGBT human rights defenders to address the UN in their own name. ILGA has also been facilitating the presence of LGBT activists at the United Nations Human Rights Council since 2003. In December 2006, after a year-long and harsh consideration by the ECOSOC, consultive status was granted to three LGBT organizations: ILGA-Europe, the European Region of the International Lesbian and Gay Association, and the Danish and German national LGBT associations, LBL and LSVD. This allowed ILGA to invite a number of activists to the Human Rights Council (HRC) in the name of its European region and to address the floor of the HRC plenary on two occasions.
Egypt and Sudan led the opposition to granting status to RFSL, FELGT and ABGLT. Egypt first attempted to close RFSL’s application, an unprecedented procedural move usually reserved for NGOs which fail to respond to questions from the Committee. When that effort failed, the Committee decided to recommend denial of the ECOSOC status to RFSL by a vote of 8 to 6. A final decision will be made in July 2007 when the ECOSOC Committee meets in Geneva. The various national federations had sent representatives to the session in order to respond to questions raised by the committee members.
Beto de Jesus and Toni Reis from ABGLT, a federation which gathers some 200 groups in Brazil recall: “It soon became clear that the whole exercize was an attempt to prove our work was about promoting homosexuality. There was no doubt the questions, which seems to be as pointless as infinite, were part of a strategy not to say directly that they would deny in any possible way ECOSOC status to gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transvestites, and transexuals groups.”
Questions revolved around the age of consent, sexual education programs, the associations’position in regard to paedophilia and to voluntary and involuntary sexual violence. Egypt’s representative asked David Montero from FELGT about the Spanish Federation’ sex education programmes, its affiliation with the International Lesbian and Gay Association and its views on paedophilia.
The activist responded by saying FELGT had received financing from the Spanish Government for projects carried out in partnership with the International Lesbian and Gay Association. “FELGT does have programmes to end homophobia in public schools. Our federation upholds Spanish law, which prohibits sex with people younger than 18 years of age.” David Montero concluded that “Promoting sex education for students under 18 — which was part of the ethics, health, values and sex curricula taught in public schools – was not the same as condoning paedophilia.” Although the NGO Committee had processed applications from FELGT and ABGLT and questioned the organizations extensively, it decided to defer their applications until the next session in January 2008.
“We are not disheartened by the intolerance and hatred behind the decision but will continue to actively advocate for the issues towards the Ecosoc committee” comments Sören Andersson, president of RFSL. The decision today proves that issues regarding homosexuals, bisexuals and transgender people have a place at the UN and so do the organizations advocating for the issues.” Despite this setback, ILGA encourages these organizations in their efforts and will continue working on creating the conditions of an international dialogue on sexual orientation and gender identity to take place at the United Nations.
23rd July 2007
LGBT groups get UN recognition
by PinkNews.co.uk writer
The United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) has voted to accredit two gay rights organisations. Delegates came down in favour of allowing the Coalition gaie et lesbienne du Québec and the Swedish Federation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights (RFSL) consultative status. 22 countries voted in favour of both groups. Thirteen voted against the Quebec coalition and fourteen against the Swedish federation. ECOSOC accreditation governs whether NGOs can attend UN meetings, submit written statements, make oral interventions, host panels and get access to UN buildings. The NGO committee had advised against admitting the gay groups.
In 2006 the German lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender federation and the International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA) were refused observer status at the United Nations. Friday’s decision on the Quebecois and Swedish gay groups had been preceded by forceful lobbying campaigns from countries such as Egypt that do not consider LGBT persons to have legal rights. Canada and other countries argued that LGBT people should be heard at the UN.
Sören Juvas, the president of RFSL, called the decision extremely gratifying. "The work that was necessary to reach it has shown the need for a clear voice in favour of LGBT persons’ rights in the United Nations," he said.
ILGA and Amnesty International estimate that there are currently 90 countries in the world where homosexual contacts are illegal. In several countries, homosexuals risk the death penalty purely on the grounds of their sexual orientation.
"RFSL now has the possibility to, together with others, affect and improve the situation for the world’s LGBT persons," Mr Juvas added. "We will do everything we can to ensure that everyone has the same opportunities, rights and obligations, regardless of sexual orientation, gender affiliation or expression of gender.
September 17, 2007
Gay Rights Gain Ground Around Globe, Now mature in the west, gay power is growing worldwide, even in the land of machismo
by Joseph Contreras, Newsweek International
After eight years together, Gilberto Aranda and Mauricio List walked into a wedding chapel in the Mexico City neighborhood of Coyoacán last April and tied the knot in front of 30 friends and relatives. Aranda’s disapproving father was not invited to the springtime nuptials. For the newlyweds, the ceremony marked the fruit of the gay-rights movement’s long struggle to gain recognition in Mexico. The capital city had legalized gay civil unions only the month before. "After all the years of marches and protests," says Aranda, 50, a state-government official, "a sea change was coming."
The sea change spreads beyond Mexico City, a cosmopolitan capital that is home to a thriving community of artists and intellectuals.The growing maturity of the gay-rights movement in the West is having a marked effect on the developing world. In the United States, the Republican Party is in trouble in part because it has made a fetish of its opposition to gay marriage. At least some gays in big cities like New York question why they are still holding "pride" parades, as if they were still a closeted minority and not part of the Manhattan mainstream.
Since 2001, Western European countries like Belgium, the Netherlands and Spain have gone even farther than the United States, placing gay and lesbian partners on the same legal footing as their heterosexual counterparts. And now, the major developing powers of Asia, Latin America and Africa are following the liberal road—sometimes imitating Western models, sometimes not—but in all cases setting precedents that could spread to the remaining outposts of official homophobia.
In Mexico, the declining clout and prestige of the Roman Catholic Church have emboldened gay-rights activists and their allies in state legislatures and city councils to pass new laws legalizing same-sex civil unions, starting with Mexico City in November. The rising influence of tolerant Western pop culture has encouraged gay men and lesbians to proclaim their sexuality in gay-pride marches like the one in the Brazilian city of São Paulo in June, which drew 3 million participants, according the event’s organizers.
It was the largest ever in Brazil. Western models also helped inspire South Africa to legalize civil unions in November 2006, thus becoming the first country in the developing world to do so. In China, the trend goes back to the climate of economic reform that took hold in the 1980s, ending the persecution of the era of Mao Zedong, who considered homosexuals products of the "moldering lifestyle of capitalism."
Among left-wing movements in many developing countries, globalization is a favorite scapegoat for all of the planet’s assorted ills. But even those who resist the West’s basically conservative free-market economic orthodoxy are quick to acknowledge the social liberalism—including respect for the rights of women and minorities of all kinds—that is the West’s main cultural and legal export. "I think it helped that Spain and other parts of Europe had passed similar laws," says longtime Mexican gay-rights activist Alejandro Brito. "These types of laws are becoming more about human rights than gay issues."
Key people have hastened the trend in some countries. Some activists single out a few political celebrities for de-stigmatizing their cause, including Nelson Mandela, who readily embraced British actor Sir Ian McKellen’s suggestion that he support a ban on discrimination on the basis of sexual preference in South Africa’s first post-apartheid constitution, and former prime minister Tony Blair, whose government was the first to recognize civil partnerships between same-sex couples. They also point to activist judges in Brazil, South Africa and the European Court of Human Rights, who have handed down landmark rulings that unilaterally granted gay, lesbian and transgender communities new rights.
These include a judicial order that gays be admitted into the armed forces of European Union member states. The biggest and perhaps most surprising change is in Latin America, the original home of machismo. In 2002, the Buenos Aires City Council approved Latin America’s first-ever gay-civil-union ordinance, and same-gender unions are the law of the land in four Brazilian states today. Last year an openly homosexual fashion designer was elected to Brazil’s National Congress with nearly a half a million votes.
In August a federal-court judge in the Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul broke new legal ground when he ordered the national-health-care system to subsidize the cost of sex-change operations in public hospitals, thereby putting sexual "reassignment" on par with heart surgery, organ transplants and AIDS treatment as medical procedures worthy of taxpayer support.
By the year-end, Colombia could become the first country in Latin America to grant gay and lesbian couples full rights to health insurance, inheritance and social-security benefits. A bill containing those reforms is working its way through the National Congress at present. And even Cuba has turned a corner. In the 1960s and early 1970s homosexuals in Cuba were blacklisted or even banished to forced-labor camps along with Jehovah’s Witnesses, Catholic priests and other so-called social misfits.
HIV patients were locked away in sanitariums as recently as 1993. Several Cuban cities now host gay and lesbian film festivals. The hit TV program on the island’s state-run airwaves last year was "The Hidden Side of the Moon," a soap opera about a married man who falls in love with a man and later tests positive for HIV.
The push for "more modern ways of thinking" about minorities, feminists and homosexuals has roots that go back to the political ferment that shook the region in the late 1960s and 1970s, says Braulio Peralta, author of a 2006 book on gay rights in Mexico, "The Names of Rainbow." But it has gained in recent years, due in part to troubles in the Roman Catholic Church, which includes eight out of 10 Mexicans and long stood opposed to any attempt to redefine marriage laws. Last November, the Mexico City Legislature took up the civil-union law just as the country’s top cardinal, Norberto Rivera Carrera, was facing charges that he had sheltered a Mexican priest accused of sexually abusing children in California. The prelate chose to stay under the radar as the vote loomed.
"The Catholic Church was facing a credibility crisis," says longtime Mexico City-based gay-rights activist Brito. "So many of its leaders including Rivera knew that if they fiercely opposed the gay-union law, the news media would eat them alive." The change in attitudes is most vivid in the sparsely populated border state of Coahuila, an unlikely setting for blazing trails on gay rights. The left-wing political party that rules the national capital has made few inroads here. Yet soon after the state’s young governor, Humberto Moreira Valdés, was elected in 2006, he backed a civil-union bill modeled on France’s pacts of civil solidarity, and in the state capital of Saltillo the progressive Catholic bishop added his support.
The 62-year-old prelate, Raul Vera, says he was comfortable doing so in part because the bill stopped short of calling for same-sex marriage. "As the church I said we could not assume the position of homophobes," he says. "We cannot marginalize gays and lesbians. We cannot leave them unprotected."
That seems to be the prevailing consensus in South Africa’s ruling party. The constitution adopted by South Africa after the African National Congress (ANC) took power in 1994 was the world’s first political charter to outlaw discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. In November 2006, the national Parliament overwhelmingly approved a civil-union bill after the country’s constitutional court called for amendments to a 44-year-old marriage law that denied gay and lesbian couples the legal right to wed.
In pushing for approval of the Civil Union Act, the ruling ANC shrugged off both conservative opposition parties and religious leaders, some of whom accused the government of imposing the morality of a "radical homosexual minority" on South Africans. President Thabo Mbeki had been blasted by gay rights activists in the past for trying to downplay his country’s raging HIV/AIDS epidemic, but on the issue of same-sex civil unions his government stood firm. The sweeping terms of the 2006 Civil Union Act placed South Africa in a select club of nations that have enacted similar laws and that, until last year, included only Canada, Belgium, Spain and the Netherlands. But there are glimmers of change in other nations.
China decriminalized sodomy a decade ago and removed homosexuality from its list of mental disorders in 2001. Police broke up a gay and lesbian festival in Beijing in 2005 but took no action last February against an unauthorized rally in support of legalizing gay marriage. The Chinese Communist Party has established gay task forces in all provincial capitals to promote HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention. And in April a Web site launched a weekly hour-long online program called Connecting Homosexuals with an openly gay host. It is the first show in China to focus entirely on gay issues.
Tolerance, however, by no means spans the globe. Homosexuality remains taboo throughout the greater Middle East. In most of the Far East, laws permitting gay and lesbian civil unions are many years if not decades away. In Latin America, universal acceptance of homosexuality is a long way off. Jamaica is a hotbed of homophobia. Even in Mexico, the first couple to take advantage of Coahuila’s new civil-union statute were fired from their jobs as sales clerks after their boss realized they were lesbians.
The new Mexico City law grants same-gender civil unions property and inheritance rights, but not the right to adopt children. Even Mexican gays who still struggle against daily bias see signs of improvement, however. In 2003 José Luis Ramírez landed work as a buyer at the Mexico City headquarters of a leading department-store chain, and things were going swimmingly until he brought his boyfriend to a company-hosted dinner with clients. "My boss’s face just dropped," recalls Ramírez. Ramírez was subsequently denied promotions and left the company last year. But sexuality "isn’t an issue" with his current employer, a new household-furnishings retailer.
Tolerance is now the majority, at least among the young. A 2005 poll by the Mitofsky market-research firm found that 50 percent of all Mexicans between the ages of 18 and 29 supported proposals to allow gay marriage. Karla Lopez met Karina Almaguer on the assembly line of a Matamoros auto-stereo factory. The two became the first Mexican couple to marry under the civil-union bill; Lopez, now 30, is a mother of three.
She urges more gays and lesbians to follow her example and come out publicly. "I felt strange at first because people would judge us and look at us from head to toe," she says. "But I now feel more secure and at ease." If more political leaders, clergymen and judges act to legitimize folks like Karla Lopez, the new mood of tolerance will surely proliferate across the planet in her lifetime.
With Monica Campbell in Mexico City, Mac Margolis in Porto Alegre, Karen MacGregor in Durban, Quindlen Krovatin in Beijing and Anna Nemtsova in Moscow
7th October 2007
United Nations hosts LGBT rights panel
by Tony Grew
The United Nations is hosting a panel discussion today to explore discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The event, which will bring together non-governmental organisations, UN representatives and state delegates, is an initiative co-sponsored by Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay. It will be addressed by Mary Robinson, the former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, government ministers from Argentina and Brazil, and representatives from UNAIDS and the current Human Rights High Commissioner.
The event, held in parallel with the session of the third committee of the UN General Assembly, will discuss the the Yogyakarta Principles. Named after the Indonesian city where they were adopted, the principles were introduced by 29 international human rights experts at a UN Human Rights Council session in Geneva in March 2007. They refer to the application of international human rights law in relation to sexual orientation and gender identity and address issues such as rape and gender-based violence, extra-judicial executions, torture and medical abuses, repressions of free speech and discrimination in the public services.
The Yogyakarta Principles call for action from the UN human rights system, national human rights institutions, non-governmental organisations, and others. Last year 54 states called for the UN Human Rights Council to act against egregious violations of the rights of LGBT people. Scott Long, director of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Rights Programme at Human Rights Watch, one of the event’s organisers, welcomed the strategy: "These principles establish basic standards for how governments should treat people whose rights are too often denied and whose dignity is too often reviled," he said. "Firmly grounded in law and precedent, they enshrine a simple idea: human rights do not admit exceptions."
November 7, 2007
by Douglas Sanders
In the academic setting of an Asian studies conference, Malaysian Muslim women academics could talk about sex and homosex. But any references in mainstream media remain taboo. Doug Sanders recalls impressions of the recent conference held in Kuala Lumpur.
In the academic setting of an Asian studies conference, Malaysian Muslim women academics could talk about sex and homosex. But any references in mainstream media remain taboo. Doug Sanders recalls impressions of the recent conference held in Kuala Lumpur. Some of us queer academics have been flaunting our respectability at the International Convention of Asia Scholars’ biennial conferences – Singapore 2003, Shanghai 2005, Kuala Lumpur 2007. These big academic parties are co-hosted by the International Institute of Asian Studies in the Netherlands and a local university or research body.
Singapore was our first try at inclusion. Would we be banned in Singapore in 2003? No! Why not? Who cares what is said by boring academics to other boring academics in an event hosted by the very respectable National University of Singapore? The same proved true in Shanghai and Kuala Lumpur (where the support staff was 90 percent women in Muslim headscarves from the host Universiti Kebangsaan).
Headscarves and new fiction
The high point of the KL conference for me was a session on Aug 3 titled Mapping Malay Sexuality in Malay/Malaysian Texts. The four academics making presentations were all Muslim women, three in plain long dresses and white headscarves. The chair, also a Muslim woman, had no headscarf. (She’s of Arab descent, I was told.) One panelist commented that when she was an undergraduate she was told that the only graphic description of sex that was permissible was something like: “I embraced her and she became a mother.” But, we were told, there had been a boom in popular commercial fiction in the 1960s, depicting very graphic sex. The books are remembered as “dime novels.” The stories were heterosexual and usually had some return to religion at the end.
This literature was part of the “swinging sixties.” Authorities closed it down in the 1970s and 1980s. It restarted around 1999. Now there is a literature in English that is seen as quality writing, with significant sexual content. The first paper dealt with a novel by Shahnon Ahmad, a “Malay laureate”, a leading author. According to the author it is a “novel of ideas.” Or is it just a story of bedhopping? The heroine at 27, with bravado, goes about having sex with 19 men. In the end she asks herself whether she has done the right thing. Some remorse or at least some self-questioning restores a moral sense at the end. Another paper dealt with Malaysian Women bloggers. Two-thirds of bloggers in Malaysia are women, compared to 56 percent worldwide. Currently there is a “war on bloggers” and two individuals have been charged.
So far all the sexual references had been hetero. Then Washima Che Dan, Lecturer, Department of English Language, Universiti Putra Malaysia, presented a paper “Language, Gender and Sexuality in Dina Zaman and Karim Raslan’s Works.” She focused on the story “Neighbours” in Karim Raslan’s collection of short stories entitled Heroes. A middle-aged, middle class, overweight, bored housewife is charmed by the handsome husband who is moving into the house next door with his wife.
She spies on the neighbours from the upstairs balcony where she takes her morning coffee. Oooops. She discovers that the neighbour’s wife, under the Muslim dress, is a male. And the wife is the active partner in sex. The housewife is not so much shocked by what she has learned as filled with guilt over her intrusion. Her improper behaviour has led to her discovering what she did not want to know and had no right to know. The shock of it all is her fault, not that of the neighbours. She has disrupted the public façade of normality that the neighbours have carefully maintained.
One of the Muslim academics gave me her copy of Karim Raslan’s book. It has another story of gay sexual repression by a Malay Muslim playing a colonial role in Sabah in Eastern Malaysia. The stories are beautifully written. It seems you can get away with more in Malaysia if you write in English, not Malay. The conference panel was seen by the women academics as a bold venture. One, after reading a passage from a novel, said almost reflexively: “I actually read that out – and on a Friday!” (Mosques hold a congregational prayer weekly on Fridays and is considered to be obligatory for men.)
Malay, Chinese, Indian
At the conference, the Malaysian government stated and restated its basic national line: Malaysia is multi-ethnic, stable and peaceful. It is a successful example of “unity in diversity.” It can teach other countries about how to live together in peace and harmony. None of the Malaysian academics, off the record, took the governments line seriously. They all know of the race riots of 1969 and the long controversies over the affirmative action programs designed to boost the economic status of Malays (in relation to that of the Chinese).
For Malaysians at the conference, their sense was that the races were drifting further apart, each becoming more insular. Separate religious and educational systems had much to do with this. The legal system is part of the problem, with rigid rules against conversion and intermarriage enforced on Muslims. Shortly after the conference there was a national controversy over whether Malaysia was a Muslim state or not. Prime Minister Badawi had to intervene to kill the debate, declaring that the country was neither Muslim nor secular.
Sex in Malaysia
There are a few gay bars in Kuala Lumpur and a number of gay saunas. But there is no public discussion of sexual diversity, no discussion of the criminal law still in place (good old 377). The New Straits Times, Wed, Aug 8, 2007, had an expose on prostitution entitled “The dark side of sex in the city.” It told the tragic story of three female prostitutes, sick or diseased, working in the Chow Kit area of Kuala Lumpur.
There was no mention of the transsexual prostitutes working in the same area, much less of any male prostitution. On a “crisis” in the spread of HIV, the article quoted “Pink Triangle chairman Hisham Hussein,” without noting that the organisation is a gay focused group that works on HIV prevention with transgender prostitutes. Prostitution was depicted as sordid and apparently exclusively heterosexual.
There were a few sensual images on public view – on the posters outside a mainstream video store – and on the cover of the Malaysian edition of FHM, an internationally printed men’s magazine with mostly Caucasian models and stories. In August, 2007, the Thai gay film Me… Myself was playing in KL. It is a pleasant romantic comedy, which treats the causes of homosexuality as inborn (for the lesbian character) and the result of being raised by kathoeys (for the male hero). Neither find their fate a happy one, which presumably made the film suitable for Malaysian eyes.
In the trendy Life&Times section of the New Straits Times on Aug 10, 2007, we got images of “an interior designer’s home.” Thirty-nine-year-old Jason Mah’s home had an eclectic mix – Asian and western, antique and contemporary. “His home doubles up as an interior design office for him and his partner Bernie Lee.” Both are seen smiling and casually dressed in the lead photograph. A nice couple, I thought. Perhaps conscious of the lack of reference to female companions in the pictures or the story, the last paragraph has Jason Mah referring to his home as a “bachelor pad.”
As in the sex novels, some sense of propriety is inserted at the end of the article.
Doug Sanders is a retired Canadian law professor living in Bangkok. He can be contacted at email@example.com.
Yogyakarta Principles on the Application of International Human Rights Law in relation to Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
The Yogyakarta Principles address a broad range of human rights standards and their application to issues of sexual orientation and gender identity
12th November 2007
UN Commissioner backs LGBT rights
by PinkNews.co.uk staff writer
The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has spoken of her support for equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people. Louise Arbour made her comments after an historic meeting at the UN last week. The event, held in parallel with the session of the third committee of the UN General Assembly, discussed the Yogyakarta Principles. Named after the Indonesian city where they were adopted, the principles were introduced by 29 international human rights experts at a UN Human Rights Council session in Geneva in March 2007.
They refer to the application of international human rights law in relation to sexual orientation and gender identity and address issues such as rape and gender-based violence, extra-judicial executions, torture and medical abuses, repressions of free speech and discrimination in the public services.
Ms Arbour said in a statement: "Next year we will celebrate the 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – an occasion that provides an ideal opportunity to recall the core human rights principles of equality, universality and non-discrimination. Human rights principles, by definition, apply to all of us, simply by virtue of having been born human. Just as it would be unthinkable to exclude some from their protection on the basis of race, religion, or social status, so too must we reject any attempt to do so on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
The Yogyakarta Principles are a timely reminder of these basic tenets. Excluding lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons from equal protection violates international human rights law as well as the common standards of humanity that define us all "And, in my view, respect for cultural diversity is insufficient to justify the existence of laws that violate the fundamental right to life, security and privacy by criminalizing harmless private relations between consenting adults. As such, I wish to reiterate the firm commitment of my Office to promote and protect the human rights of all people regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity."
Last week’s event brought together non-governmental organisations, UN representatives and state delegates, and was an initiative co-sponsored by Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay. The Yogyakarta Principles call for action from the UN human rights system, national human rights institutions, non-governmental organisations, and others. Last year 54 states called for the UN Human Rights Council to act against egregious violations of the rights of LGBT people.
November 16, 2007
The Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice began in 1977, when a small group of women created a multi-racial, multi-class, feminist foundation in order to address the lack of funding for women-specifically lesbians and women of color. They believed that even the smallest of gestures, when combined, could create, nurture and strengthen significant social change. And they were right. Grants are available internationally and in the US. *The Astraea Lesbian Foundation For Justice* works for social, racial and economic justice in the U.S. and internationally. Their grantmaking and philanthropic advocacy programs help lesbians and allied communities challenge oppression and claim their human rights. The new deadlines for 2007-2008 are in this article.
Today, Astraea is the largest lesbian organization in the world. They raise funds and issue grants based on the belief that all women can participate in the philanthropic process-from giving to grantmaking. In the face of scant resources and at times, physical danger, Astraea grantees are fueling the movement for social change in villages, cities and towns around the world. A miniscule 0.3% of all foundation dollars is directed toward lesbian and gay issues. Astraea exists to fund these issues.
*Application Deadline:* *February 1, 2008*
*Notification of Decision**:* June 30, 2008
For LGBTI social change and movement-building organizations based in Latin America, the Caribbean, Asia, the Pacific Islands, Eastern Europe, the former Soviet Republics, the Middle East, or Africa.
Download Guidelines & Application
English <http://www.astraea. org/Pdf/2007/ 0809IFSMC2.
pdf> (pdf 264kb)
Español <http://www.astraea. org/Pdf/2007/ 0809IFSMC2sp. pdf> (pdf 260kb)
Download Microsoft Word versions of the Cover Sheet & Sample Budget Form
English <http://www.astraea. org/Pdf/2007/ 0809IFSMCBC2. doc> (word 128kb) Español <http://www.astraea. org/Pdf/2007/ 0809IFSMCBC2sp. doc> (word 120kb)