22nd January 2008 – PinkNews
Swedes supportive of gay marriage
by PinkNews.co.uk staff writer
Gay and lesbian couple can register their partnership through a civil ceremony, a process introduced in 1995 which gives same-sex couples the same rights as married couples. A poll for the Sifo Institute published in the Svenska Dagbladet newspaper yesterday found that 71% of Swedes think gay people should be allowed to marry. Six of the seven parties represented in Sweden’s parliament are in support of gay marriage with only the Christian Democrats, a junior member of the four-party coalition, opposing it.
The opposition Social Democrats, Greens and Left party claim the government has had ample time to bring forward legislation. However the coalition says it is committed to negotiating a common position. The Christian Democrats condemned any attempt by the opposition to "steamroller" the government. In January 2007 the Church of Sweden, which was disestablished in 2000, began offering religious blessings to gay unions and actively welcomed LGBT clergy.
While the Church’s initial reaction to be bill was to declare it would prefer "marriage" to be a term reserved from heterosexual union, last month it approved the "gender neutral" proposal. "The Church of Sweden’s central board says yes to the proposal to join the legislation for marriages and partnerships into a single law," the Church said in December.
Some priests may opt out of performing same-sex ceremonies. They can currently decline to marry divorced people as long as another priest agress to perform the ceremony. Approximately 75% of the population are members of the Church of Sweden, a Lutheran denomination. However, only 2% regularly attend services.
6th February 2008 – PinkNews
Infections up 20% in Sweden
by PinkNews.co.uk staff writer
500 people were newly diagnosed as HIV positive in Sweden in 2007 according to data published by the Swedish Institute for Infectious Disease Control (SMI). That number represents a rise of 20% on 2006. There has been a 70% rise in the number of people infected within Sweden, though the majority of new HIV patients still come into contact with the virus abroad. "We have especially seen an increase in the number of new infections among men who have sex with men and needle-users," SMI statistician Malin Arneborn told AFP.
MSM infections rose from 50 cases in 2006 to 80 in 2007. "Interest in HIV/AIDS has gradually declined as people have become more accustomed to the threat," Claes Herlitz, an expert in Swedish attitudes to HIV, told AFP. "They’ve seen that HIV hasn’t spread as quickly as we thought it would in the late 80s, and there are new medicines making it more difficult to get AIDS. Fewer people are dying."
In the UK the Health Protection Agency revealed in November that the number of gay and bisexual men diagnosed with HIV in the UK is at its highest rate since the start of the epidemic. 2,700 gay and bisexual men were newly diagnosed last year, the highest number ever. Across the UK 1 in 20 gay and bisexual men are now living with HIV and estimates suggest this figure is as high as 1 in 10 in London. Furthermore, nearly half (47 per cent) of HIV infected gay men who visit a sexual health clinic leave without being tested for HIV.
Overall diagnoses in the UK remain high. 7,800 people were diagnosed last year, and the numbers living with HIV in the UK were 73,000 by the end of 2006. One in three people do not know they are infected. If rates continue the National AIDS Trust says that by 2010 there will be 100,000 people living with HIV in the UK. The report also reveals worrying findings among young people with 1 in 10 (11 per cent) new diagnoses last year among 16 to 24 years old.
10 May 08 – The Local
High court to rule on gay marriage dispute
A homosexual couple has taken the Swedish tax authority (Skatteverket) to court for registering their marriage in Canada as a partnership. "The tax authorities can make an exception for a marriage where one party is under-age but not for homosexuals," said Lars Gårdfeldt to Svenska Dagbladet. Skatteverket confirms that it does make exceptions to Swedish law with regard to under-age couples legally married overseas. But only for marriages involving a man and woman. The Supreme Administrative Court decided on Friday to try the case and rule on whether the Gothenburg couple should be registered as married.
Lars Gårdfeldt called the court’s decision "historic" and hopes that the court’s decision to take up the case will lead to them becoming Sweden’s first officially married same-sex couple. The couple had previously been rejected by both the county administrative court and the court of appeal. According to current Swedish law same-sex couples can only register their relationship as a partnership. Due to differences of opinion among the parties within the Alliance government, a proposal to grant same-sex couples the right to register their marriage remains stalled in the Ministry of Justice, reports Svenska Dagbladet.
Peter Vinthagen Simpson (firstname.lastname@example.org/+46 8 656 6518)
May 28, 2008 – PinkNews
Swedes donate 5,000 euros to Warsaw Pride
by Tony Grew
The organisers of EuroPride 2008 have revealed that they are supporting this weekend’s Pride festival in Warsaw with a grant. Stockholm Pride will this year give Warsaw 5000 euros from the "Solidarity Fund." The festival in the Polish capital starts on Saturday. Representatives from Stockholm Pride will join in the closing parade on June 7th. Stockholm organisers said that their Polish counterparts had received very little funding from businesses and only hostility from the municipal authorities.
"Our Polish lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender friends face harsh resistance both in politics and as individuals," said Jonah Nylund, president of Stockholm Pride. It is therefore important that we support Equality Foundation, the arrangers of Warsaw Pride, both financially and by our own presence."
Polish courts and the European Court of Human Rights have found bans on pride events in Polish cities in 2004 and 2005 to be unlawful. The 2007 Warsaw parade drew a record 5,000 supporters and little protest, and a smaller march in Krakow went forward without major incident.
"International support gives us the strength and courage to carry on our work and makes the whole event possible," said Marcin Sroczynski, coordinator of Warsaw Pride. We hope this year’s festivities with the film festival will be successful and contribute to Poland’s progress on our way towards normalcy."
This summer Stockholm Pride is hosting EuroPride from July 25th to August 3rd.
June 6, 2008 – PinkNews
Sober gays will gather at EuroPride
by Tony Grew
Special events for the thousands of gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans men and women in Europe who are in recovery from alcoholism will be held alongside this year’s EuroPride. SoberPride is being held in Stockholm from July 31st to August 3rd, and is billed as "the fun way to celebrate our international fellowship in sobriety." There will be speakers, workshops, Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, and a range of social events, including "a sober dance featuring the groovy jams of Swedish disco pop, and a picnic at the gay beach on the Swedish archipelago." Among the workshops on offer will be Young & Sober, HIV+ in Recovery, Coming Out in Sobriety, Sober Over 40, Medications & Outside Issues, Higher Power and Now About Sex. There will also be a meeting just for women, and one just for men.
The International Gay/Lesbian (GLBT) AA Convention has been organised by Gay AA in Stockholm and is not affiliated with EuroPride. Recovering alcoholics from Canada, USA, France, Australia, Japan, Finland and Brazil are expected to attend.
"SoberPride is not only for everyone coming to EuroPride who wants to stay connected with AA, but also for everyone interested in living sober," organisers said on their website. "SoberPride is for everyone who absolutely insists on enjoying Pride (and everything in life) sober! Everyone is welcome: gay, lesbian, trans, straight, bisexual, queer. The meetings and workshops are lead by sober people who identify as gay, lesbian or bisexual. Alcoholics Anonymous does not discriminate on any level. Our common welfare comes first; personal recovery depends on AA unity. SoberPride brings together the international community in recovery, with fun and fellowship, enjoying EuroPride sober!"
July 23, 2008 – PinkNews
Stockholm gets ready for EuroPride
by T’Kisha George
Ten of thousands of spectators are expected to attend this year?s EuroPride in Stockholm, making the city Europe’?s gay capital. Having first held the festival ten years ago, the ‘Swedish Sin, Breaking Borders’ themed event is set to attract members of the LGBT community from across the world as it has now been extended to ten days. "This year is 40 per cent larger than last year," parade coordinator Paul Turner told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa, regarding the number of groups that have applied to take part in the colourful parade. There will be gay choirs, teacher’s unions, political parties, emergency services and even gay allotment gardeners. Turner said the Swedish fire brigade would be at the parade for the first time.
The 2006 EuroPride parade in London attracted 500,000 spectators. The festival’s "Swedish Sin, Breaking Borders" theme focuses on international LGBT issues with guest speeches by Sweden’s EU Affairs Minister Cecilia Malmstrom, Indian Prince Mavendra Singh Gohil and gender science professor Tiina Rosenberg. " The theme has two aims," said Jonah Nylund, president of Stockholm Pride. One is to show pride over the progress made in Sweden for homosexuals, bisexuals and transgenders. The other is to highlight the problems in the rest of the world, mainly in Eastern Europe where gay Pride events are banned and attacked time and time again.
Malmstrom participated in a Pride seminar and parade in Warsaw in 2007 and was active in the EU parliament?’s work group for LGBT-issues during her time in Brussels. "I am proud to represent a government who wants to be a strong voice for the rights of LGBT-people," she told Stockholm Pride. "I will speak about human rights and that they are universal and that it?s depressing that LGBT-people rights? are violated in Europe today.?"
Mavendra Singh Gohil revealed he was homosexual in 2006. He is the president of an Indian HIV organisation and one of very few openly gay people in India. "We have chosen Mavendra Singh Gohil because he can give EuroPride visitors an image of the situation for LGBT-people in other parts of the world,"? said Nylund.
Europride begins on Friday at the Skansen open-air museum with a popular sing-along event. Over the ten days, there will be special film screenings, museum exhibitions, seminars and parties, and the parade through the city on August 2nd.
July 28, 2008 – PinkNews
Stockholm police confirm stabbing of gay man was a hate crime
by Staff Writer, PinkNews.co.uk
Police in Stockholm have said that an attack on two gay men late last night is being investigated as a hate crime. "Two homosexual men were stopped by three men and asked directions," Stockholm police spokeswoman Towe Haegg told AFP. "The three asked them about their sexuality and then stole their mobile phones and money. One of them was then stabbed in the stomach."
The couple, who are 25 and 30, were targeted because they are gay, the police added. 17,000 people are in the Swedish capital for EuroPride 2008. The ‘Swedish Sin, Breaking Borders’ themed event has attracted members of the LGBT community from across the world. Europride began on Friday at the Skansen open-air museum with a popular sing-along event. Over ten days, there will be special film screenings, museum exhibitions, seminars and parties. There will be special appearances by Sweden’s EU Affairs Minister Cecilia Malmstrom, Indian Prince Mavendra Singh Gohil and gender science professor Tiina Rosenberg.
More than 100,000 are expected to take part in the parade on Saturday. There will be gay choirs, teacher’s unions, political parties, emergency services and even gay allotment gardeners. The Swedish fire brigade will be at the parade for the first time. The 2006 EuroPride parade in London attracted 500,000 spectators.
Gay ‘Indian prince’ charms Sweden!
Stockholm – He has become Sweden’s charming "Indian prince" in just a few days. And erstwhile royal Manvendra Singh Gohil, who is unabashedly gay, returns the compliment, thrilled as he is by the openness of Swedish society. Manvendra, the scion of the erstwhile royal family of Rajpipla in Gujarat, is here as a guest of honour of Sweden’s annual gay parade, StockholmPride, which this year hosted the annually rotating EuroPride. Believed to be the only erstwhile Indian royal who is openly homosexual, Manvendra has worked magic on gay as well as straight Swedish audiences, a la Hollywood celebrity. "I had been told fabulous legends of a prince-charming since my cradle days, but I never thought I would ever behold one in flesh. Manvendra is truly charming," said Elin Nordh, a 34-year-old bisexual mother of two sons, who is very devoted to gay causes. "Had he been a frog and I had caught him, I would have taken good care never to de-metamorphose him with a kiss!"
Princely charms aside, Manvendra is breaking fresh ground in promoting the interests of gays globally. In a conference chamber in Stockholm’s regal Grand Hotel, the mild-mannered Manvendra told IANS: "If the gay movement needs a paradise, Sweden is the place, the veritable Valhalla. "Here, I have seen the incredible: members of the parliament, cabinet and people from socio-religio-political spheres, replete with multi-gender proclivities, hobnob without the blinking of an eye."
The StockhomPride, a 10-day event ending Sunday, was a unique combination of politics and partying. This year’s theme was "Swedish Sin, Breaking Borders", with the focus going beyond the Swedish borders on the situation for LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) people. "In India, the hypocrisy and, worse, the cowardice is nauseating. In our parliament and state legislatures, homosexuality is, and has always been, rampant," said Manvendra. "But when we (the gay movement) strive to overturn a senseless law, will any single one of these stand up and support the proposal?"
"The draconian IPC section 377 (making homosexuality a crime) has no bearing on the reality of our times, leave alone the times when it was imposed upon an unsuspecting public. Unsuspecting because the illiterate masses were attuned to following official diktats without a word, and those who could understand were too cowardly to raise a voice," said Manvendra. When asked what could be done, Manvendra mischievously pointed to the many Swedes swooning over him and said: "Get our presence felt in the legislatures of India, starting with the Rajya Sabha, Lok Sabha, the state legislatures and down the line."
Asked how a homosexual candidate could possibly be fielded in a sexually prejudiced society, he said with a twinkle in his eye: "There are ways to go about it. Get yourself elected and then show the rainbow colours (the gay plumage)! But we would never wish to hide behind subterfuge." Manvedra himself has been approached several times to stand as a political candidate. "Caring people like K. Sujata Rao, (director-general of India’s AIDS body NACO) have urged me, but I have not yet felt ready to abandon the field work I an engaged in fulltime. "I am all for representation for our harassed community. Mind you, it is by no means a minority community. Our sheer volume and weight can, and will be, effectively harnessed as our community inexorably makes itself seen, heard and felt."
Incidentally, the Indian capital fielded its first gay pride event in June.
"Also I feel that others, like my most revered mentor and friend, the most heroically outspoken champion of gay rights in India, Ashok Row Kavi, merit the order of precedence," explains Manvendra. "With his social clout he could flush out many a crypto gay parliamentarian and assorted establishment icons into open."
November 19, 2008 – seattlepi.nwsource.com
Sweden says transvestism is not a disease
Stockholm, Sweden (AP) — Swedish health officials say they will remove transvestism, fetishism and sadomasochism from the country’s official list of diseases and mental disorders. The National Board of Welfare says labeling those aspects of sexual behavior and gender identity as disorders can add to prejudices in society. Gay and transgender rights activists welcomed this week’s decision.
The board’s director Lars-Erik Holm says he will raise the issue internationally when the World Health Organization starts the process of renewing its classifications.
December 16, 2008 – PinkNews
Sweden’s highest court rejects same-sex marriage case
by Staff Writer, PinkNews.co.uk
A gay couple who got married in Canada should not be regarded as a married couple under Swedish law, a court has ruled. Lars Gårdfeldt and Lars Arnell lost their case against the Swedish tax authority. The couple, who are both Church of Sweden priests, claimed the decision to classify their Canadian marriage as a civil partnership was discriminatory. Sweden highest court, the Supreme Administrative Court, said that a Swedish law from 1987 defines marriage as between a man and a woman and therefore the tax authority was correct to classify the overseas same-sex marriage as a civil partnership.
The gay couple had argued that "the tax authorities can make an exception for a marriage where one party is under-age but not for homosexuals," The Local reports. If they had won the case it could have led to a de facto legalisation of same-sex marriage. Sweden’s Prime Minister has pledged to introduce a ‘gender neutral’ marriage law next year.
In January 2007 the Church of Sweden, which was disestablished in 2000, began offering religious blessings to gay unions and actively welcomed LGBT clergy. Last year the Church agreed that marriage and partnership were equivalent forms of unions. It recommended however that the term "marriage" be referred only to heterosexual couples.
The Swedish Church, a Lutheran branch of Christianity with more than 7 million members out of a population of 9 million, had been asked to express its opinion on the matter directly by the government, which intends to modify the 1987 law defining marriage as an union between man and woman. While there is strong support for gay marriage, the measures to introduce it have still not come before Parliament.
Gay and lesbian couple can register their partnership through a civil ceremony, a process introduced in 1995 which gives same-sex couples the same rights as married couples. A poll for the Sifo Institute published in January found that 71% of Swedes think gay people should be allowed to marry. Six of the seven parties represented in Sweden’s parliament are in support of gay marriage with only the Christian Democrats, a junior member of the four-party coalition, opposing it. The opposition Social Democrats, Greens and Left party claim the government has had ample time to bring forward legislation.
Last month Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt said: "The coalition government has agreed that we will present a basic marriage bill to parliament. The three parties in favour of a gender neutral marriage law will then present an accompanying motion seeking to have such a law in place by May 1st 2009."
The new law would allow church weddings, though clergy can opt out of performing gay ceremonies.
January 9, 2009 – PinkNews
Sweden funds project promoting LGBT rights in Vietnam
by Tony Grew
The Swedish embassy in Vietnam has pledged financial support for a new campaign aimed at reducing violence against lesbian women and promoting human rights for sexual minorities. The Centre for Studies and Applied Sciences in Gender, Women and Adolescents will receive SEK 2.7 million (£223,000) for the project. Earlier this week an agreement was signed between the Centre and the Swedish embassy’s development cooperation section head, Marie Ottosson.
Homosexuality is legal in Vietnam but same-sex marriages are banned and there are no legal protections against discrimination. "In line with the Swedish Government’s policy, which was adopted recently, this is a project aimed at promoting the human rights in Vietnam with a special focus on the rights of the lesbian, gay, bi and trans persons (LGBT) and in particular the rights of the lesbians," the embassy said.
"The project will also focus on male behaviours in the combat against domestic violence. This support will also aim at strengthening the work and building capacity within the organisation, which will lead to a strong voice in the emerging civil society in Vietnam. The proposed activities foresee cooperation with Swedish experts and NGOs."
The project aims to create a safe environment and the acceptance of society for lesbians’ existence in Vietnam as well as improve men’s attention and participation in preventing domestic violence.
Ms Ottosson said: "By supporting the project, Sweden is contributing to the capacity building of the civil society and promoting the values of human rights in Vietnam. The support also ensures the translation of vulnerable people’s needs into rights and we are proud to take part in this pioneer work."
January 26, 2009 – OnTopMag.com
Majority Of Swedish Pastors Support Gay Marriage
by On Top Magazine Staff
A new poll reports that a large majority of pastors in the Church of Sweden are open to blessing gay marriages. The poll, conducted by Sveriges Television (SVT), found that 68 percent out of 1700 pastors responded that they would be willing to officiate at gay marriages performed in churches. A small minority (21%) disagreed with church sanctioned gay marriages, while 11 percent refused to answer.
Sweden is likely to become the seventh country to legalize gay marriage. A gay marriage bill was introduced in the Riskdag, Sweden’s parliament, last week and enjoys wide support. Lawmakers in Sweden approved civil unions for gay couples in 1995. The law offers gay and lesbians the same legal status as married heterosexual couples, including the right to adopt. But a large majority of Swedes (74%) belong to the Lutheran Church of Sweden, creating a separation between civil and church ceremonies. The church has been blessing gay unions since 2007, but has said it would like to reserve the word marriage for heterosexual unions. Church officials plan to consider the issued at a meeting scheduled for next autumn.
Under the timetable set out in the bill gay marriage would become available May 1. The new legislation calls for Sweden to become the first country in the world to allow gays to marry within a major church. “There’s a very clear majority that is open to this. And having so many pastors on board clearly makes it easier for the Church of Sweden to take such a decision,” said archbishop Anders Wejryd to SVT.
April 2, 2009 – The New York Times
Sweden: Same-Sex Marriage Now Legal
by The Associated Press
Sweden has become the fifth European country to allow same-sex marriage. Parliament on Wednesday adopted a new law, to take effect May 1, that gives same-sex couples the same marriage rights as heterosexuals. The Netherlands, Norway, Belgium and Spain also allow same-sex marriages.
May 1, 2009 – PinkNews
Gay marriage becomes legal in Sweden today
by Jessica Geen
A gender-neutral marriage law in Sweden has come into force today, meaning gay couples can now marry in the country in religious or civil ceremonies. However, they cannot yet get married in church ceremonies. AFP reports that the Lutheran Church, which was the state church until 2000, has said that while it supports the new law, it will not formally decide whether to perform gay marriage ceremonies until October.
Andreas Lindberg, church’s interim secretary general, told the news provider: "The marriage act reflects a certain view of marriage, and the liturgy needs to be altered to reflect that change. He added that only a small number of gay couples had applied to marry in the church, saying: "No, we’ve seen no indication of huge demand. We believe the message has gotten through to the public that same-sex couples can’t get married in the Lutheran Church yet."
In January 2007 the Church, which was disestablished in 2000, began offering religious blessings to gay unions and actively welcomed LGBT clergy. Six of the seven parties in Swedish parliament backed the proposal to introduce a gender-neutral marriage law. The proposal passed with a 261 to 22 vote and 16 abstentions. The only party to oppose the ruling were the Christian Democrats, stating that the party wanted to maintain "a several hundred-year-old concept" of marriage.
June 1, 2009 – PinkNews
Sweden appoints lesbian bishop
by Jessica Geen
The Church of Sweden has appointed a lesbian as the Lutheran bishop of Stockholm. Eva Brunne, who is in a registered partnership, is believed to be the world’s first lesbian bishop. She won the post by 413 votes against 365 votes and will succeed Bishop Caroline Krook, who is to retire in November. Brunne, 55, has a three-year-old son with her partner Gunilla Linden, who is a priest. She has been praised for her natural authority, enthusiasm and sense of humour, telling one reporter who asked about her hobbies: “I read crime fiction. And I carve. The things you do to conform to Jesus, huh?” Following her appointment, Brunne said: “I am happy and very proud to be part of a church that encourages people to make their own decisions.” She added: “Diversity is a big wealth.”
A gender-neutral marriage law in Sweden came into force on May 1st, meaning gay couples can now marry in the country in religious or civil ceremonies. However, they cannot yet get married in church ceremonies. The Lutheran Church, which was the state church until 2000, has said that while it supports the new law, it will not formally decide whether to perform gay marriage ceremonies until October.
July 10, 2009 – PinkNews
Swedish nursing home may cater specifically for gays
by Staff Writer, PinkNews.co.uk
Elderly gays and lesbians in Stockholm may soon be able to live in a special gay-friendly nursing home. English-language newspaper The Local reports that a recent city decision to privatise nursing home care may help the planned Regnbågen (‘Rainbow’) nursing home along. Project leader Christer Fällman told the newspaper: "What we want to avoid is the situation which sometimes occurs today where a guy doesn’t dare to tell nursing home staff that it’s his boyfriend of however many years who is coming for a visit.
He said the idea had support from the city but had so far been unable to progress due to the economic downturn. “The privatisation of nursing homes actually made it easier to move things forward because you have a profit-driven company involved which sees the market potential."
Fällman stressed that while the nursing home would be gay-friendly, it would be open to anyone. "We don’t want this to be seen as a move back into the closet," he said. “There are already nursing homes for Finnish speakers, and soon we will also have them for Turkish, Greek, and Spanish speakers. We’re looking to create a nursing home where LGBT people can ‘speak their own language’ and feel secure in who they are.”
Fällman is currently working with nursing home companies to determine the level of interest among elderly LGBT people and hopes the home will open within two years.
August 4, 2009 – Life Lube
Swedish Gay Pride Highlights the Stinkiness of Heteronormativity
Gay Pride in Stockholm, Sweden was held from July 27 through August 2. Tens of thousands of revelers hit the rainbow-flag-festooned streets of the Swedish capital, including active-duty soldiers in the Swedish military appearing in their uniforms (they can ‘tell’ if they want to, but nobody really cares). What made this year’s event so interesting was its theme: hetero. The organizers decided to highlight heteronormative culture and its implications for members of the LGBT community.
What is heteronormative culture? It is the automatic assumption, often unconscious, that everyone is heterosexual. As the Stockholm Pride website states, "Heteronormativity creates expectations about how a person should behave and be interpreted regarding gender and sexuality. Its limitations can cause the individual to enter a self conflict. More often than others, [LGBT] people must ask themselves whether they should adapt to the norm or break it. It is emotionally costly to always have to make such conciderations [sic]." How heteronormative are you? Well, Stockholm Pride even created a Twitter(http://www.stockholmpride.org/howhetero/) game to help you find out. The Swedes think heteronormativity stinks, which explains the "interesting" national ad campaign.
National ad campaign? Yes, Sweden, which grants gays the right to marry among many other legal protections, is so open about sexuality that Pride is advertised nationally, including on television. That’s a lot to celebrate. Also watch the festivities, too.
18 August 2009 – The Local
Sweden refuses asylum to gay Iraqis
by Peter Vinthagen Simpson (email@example.com/+46 8 656 6518)
A Swedish gay rights organisation has called on the government not to deport any homosexual Iraqi asylum seekers in the light of a shocking new report categorising an extermination campaign against gay men in the Middle Eastern country.
According to a new report from Human Rights Watch (HRW) gay men in Iraq run a high risk of being tortured or murdered by Iraqi militias. The Swedish Federation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights (RFSL) has now called on the Swedish government to halt all deportations to Iraq of people who have sought asylum on the basis of sexual orientation or gender.
"We urge Sweden to investigate the possibility of evacuating homosexuals, bisexuals and transgender people who are at risk of being subjected to ‘sexual cleansing’," RFSL’s chairperson Sören Juvas writes in a press release on Monday. The HRW report, entitled "’They Want Us Exterminated’: Murder, Torture, Sexual Orientation and Gender in Iraq,", details that Mahdi army militias are behind a campaign that began in the western Baghdad suburb of Sadr City and has now spread to cities across the country.
"A wide-reaching campaign of extrajudicial executions, kidnappings, and torture of gay men…began in early 2009," the human rights group writes in a 67-page report published on Monday. According to Amnesty International, cited by the Dagens Nyheter (DN) newspaper, 25 gay men have been murdered in Iraq so far this year. According to Swedish Migration Board (Migrationsverket) figures around 300 people apply for asylum in Sweden each year on the grounds of their homosexuality.
There are no official figures for how many are approved or denied but according to cases witnessed by RFSL’s refugee administrator in Stockholm as many as a third may be refused, DN writes. According to the 2005 Swedish Aliens Act a refugee is classified as an "alien" who "feels a well-founded fear of persecution on grounds of race, nationality, religious or political belief, or on grounds of gender, sexual orientation…or because of his or her fear is unwilling, to avail himself or herself of the protection of that country."
"It is unreasonable to blow your own trumpet with a law that should give protection but in practice is not used. Then it would be better if the government were honest and says that it does not consider it an important issue," Sören Juvas at RFSL says.
August 22, 2009- – Lezgetreal.com
Lesbians causing Swedish sperm bank crisis
by Paula Brooks
Reports coming from Sweden are saying that a shortage of healthy sperm and a spike in demand from lesbian couples has caused a backlog of artificial insemination requests at Swedish fertility clinics, that is forcing couples seeking the procedure to look outside the country.
According to Sweden’s English language newspaper, The Local, the problem stems in part from a 2005 change in laws governing fertility treatment at Swedish hospitals. That change granted lesbian couples the right to receive fertility treatments that previously were only offered only to married women or those who were in registered heterosexual partnerships.
Inger Bryman, head of gynecology and reproductive medicine at Gothenburg’s Sahlgrenska University Hospital said, “We had estimated an increase of around 25 couples per year after the law change. Now there are 90 couples in line.” However, Swedish lesbians are not the only cause of the sperm shortages. Swedish law allows children born from artificial insemination to learn their biological father’s identity once they turn 18. That fact has discouraged donors, thus adding to the crisis.
However, the major reason for the shortage say Swedish health officials is due to poor quality sperm, either related to deterioration while being frozen or to medical conditions. Because all this, Bryman explained, the wait can be up to 18 months and her hospital is unable to comply with Sweden’s healthcare guarantee law, which says that patients must receive treatment within a reasonable amount of time and last spring, the hospital started an ad campaign to actively recruit new donors in an effort to reduce wait times.
With the sperm shortage, and wait times, many Swedish couples have now chosen to seek treatment in other countries, chiefly in Denmark or Finland.
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21 August 2009 – The Local
Transgender belly dancer helps launch Arab gay initiative
by Rami Abdelrahman
As a human rights group publishes details of a bloody campaign of hate being waged against gays in Iraq, Rami Abdelrahman speaks to members of a recently founded initiative for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Arabs in Sweden. Dressed in a flashy black belly-dancing outfit, Nancy is a hobby transgender dancer from Iraq, ready to take to the stage with full make-up and skinny high heels. She is preparing to entertain more than 200 other Arab gays, lesbians and transgender people in Stockholm, Sweden.
The setting is the Stockholm headquarters of the Swedish Federation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights (RFSL). The occasion is the launch of Arab Initiative, the first Arab LGBT rights group in Europe. Nancy has been in Sweden six years now. She lives with her Iraqi family in a Stockholm suburb and hides her preferred gender identity and hobby from her family.
“I was a hobby trans even back in Iraq. I believe most of my friends back then were bisexuals, they just refused to admit it, even if I had a relationship with them,” Nancy says, as she keeps watch of the entrance to the RFSL party premises. She lets a fellow Iraqi in, and kisses him on both cheeks. Turning around, Nancy says her family would never accept her lifestyle and explains how she has to stay out with other Iraqi friends when she’s in town dressed up as the person she prefers to be. “However, people here are more open to accepting a transgender belly dancer than in the Middle East.”
Ali, who started the Arab Initiative, takes some time off from serving alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks to members and their friends to speak about the purpose of the organization. “Our aim is to create new bridges between European and Arab cultures, spread information about the Arab world in Sweden, support LGBT people with an Arabic background, and hopefully to bring more tolerance and understanding of their issues and defend their rights in Sweden and abroad,” he says.
“We as Arabs are discriminated against in general as an immigrant group, and then we are discriminated against again amongst our own minority for being gay,” he adds.
Ali and his peers have received funding from the European Union, which supports several LGBT organizations for immigrant minorities around Europe. Since its establishment last May, the Arab Initiative has held parties, partaken in two Pride festivals, arranged three film showings, and four seminars. “We have been making connections with LGBT groups in the Middle East, promoting ourselves locally through word of mouth, and standing up for LGBT rights against media producers who portray this particular group in a negative way.”
Ali adds that it is not a political organization, but mostly a place for Arab LGBT people to find support and meet their peers. Karin Båge, head of RFSL in Stockholm, says that her group was contacted by the Arab Initiative. RFSL quickly gave the group full access to its premises, skills, and contacts. The difficulties faced by gays in Iraq was brought into sharp relief this week as Human Rights Watched published details of a murderous militia-led campaign against homosexuals in the Middle Eastern country. In response, RFSL called on the Swedish government to halt all deportations to Iraq of people who have sought asylum on the basis of sexual orientation or gender.
"We urge Sweden to investigate the possibility of evacuating homosexuals, bisexuals and transgender people who are at risk of being subjected to ‘sexual cleansing’," RFSL chairperson Sören Juvas wrote in a press release on Monday. Sa’ad Ibrahim, 37, is an Iraqi citizen who was granted asylum last May after being threatened with death due to his sexual orientation.
“One day in 2006, I received a call between 8 and 9 in the evening when I had arrived home from work. A friend of mine told me that another friend of ours had disappeared. So we asked around and after ten days we found out that his dismembered body had been found. Three of my friends were killed this way. I am the only one alive in my previous circle of friends,” Sa’ad tells The Local. He had previously received written threats in his ladies’ shoe shop in a conservative Shiite district of Baghdad, where he was told he was a “fag” and that “God hates fags."
“Around 9.30 to 10 at night there were six people asking about me around the corner. I got the message to leave before they made it to my shop: I escaped through the back door and left everything behind me. I went far away to my uncle’s place where I stayed for the next five months. Every day I would imagine myself torn to pieces.” He made his way to Sweden through a smuggling network, using up all the money he had managed to gather. When he came to Sweden he was devastated and lonely, he says.
“Now I am very happy because here I am able to mingle and mix with all sorts of people. I met an Iranian man who became my boyfriend. I fell in love with him, as he took me to the Pride festival, which turned my life around 180 degrees. I was totally amazed by the energy of the festival.”
Meanwhile, it was time for Nancy to mount the stage and wow the crowd with her belly dancing shakes to Arabic music. Swedes, Arabs, Africans and people of other ethnicities, men and women, straight and gay, gathered around the stage and clapped to the rhythm – a sight unseen in any Arab country. Ali said the Arab Initiative will be organizing similar parties this autumn. The soonest will be in observation of Ramadan, the holy fasting month in the Islamic calendar, which starts this Saturday.
October 22, 2009 – PinkNews
Sweden allows gay couples to marry in church
by Jessica Geen
The Lutheran Church of Sweden has decided to allow gay couples to marry in church. Gay marriage became legal in the country on May 1st, allowing couples to wed in religious or civil ceremonies. Until now, the church had not decided whether to allow them to marry in church. In June, the church board submitted a petition to the Church of Sweden synod. The synod announced the decision this morning.
According to The Local, some small changes will be made to current church regulations, such as replacing “man and wife” with “lawfully wedded spouses” when gay couples marry. In January 2007 the church, which was disestablished in 2000, began offering religious blessings to gay unions and actively welcomed LGBT clergy. Six of the seven political parties in Swedish parliament backed the proposal to introduce a gender-neutral marriage law.
The proposal passed with a 261 to 22 vote and 16 abstentions. The only party to oppose the ruling were the Christian Democrats, who said they wanted to maintain "a several hundred-year-old concept" of marriage.
November 9, 2009 – PinkNews
Sweden ordains first openly lesbian bishop
by Staff Writer, PinkNews.co.uk
Eva Brunne, Sweden’s first openly lesbian bishop, has been sworn into her new role. Brunne, 55, who is in a registered partnership and has a three-year-old son, is also believed to be the world’s first lesbian bishop. She was ordained yesterday (Sunday) as bishop of Stockholm, two weeks after Sweden decided to allow gay and lesbian couples to marry in church.
She has been praised for her natural authority, enthusiasm and sense of humour, telling one reporter who asked about her hobbies: “I read crime fiction. And I carve. The things you do to conform to Jesus, huh?” Following her appointment in June, Brunne said: “I am happy and very proud to be part of a church that encourages people to make their own decisions.”
She added: “Diversity is a big wealth.”
December 1, 2009 – PinkNews
Sweden to lift lifetime blood donation ban for gay men
by Jessica Geen
Sweden will allow gay and bisexual men to donate blood so long as they have not had sex with a man in the last 12 months. In a statement released today, which is World AIDS Day, the National Board of Health and Welfare confirmed the change. The ban will be lifted on March 1st, 2010. The country will impose a one-year blood donation on all people having "risky" sex, which includes gay sex.
Monica Axelsson, a spokeswoman for the health board, told AFP that donors would have to fill in a questionnaire about their sex lives and all blood would be tested before being used. Men who have sex with another man are currently barred from donating blood for life in the UK. A number of groups such as National AIDS Trust, Stonewall and the Anthony Nolan Trust have all previously supported the lifetime ban but are now against it.
The government’s Advisory Committee on the Safety of Blood, Tissues and Organs (SaBTO) is currently undertaking a review of whether the comprehensive ban should remain. It is expected to report back next year.
3 December 2009 – Queeried
Sweden Threaten To Cut Aid To Uganda If The Government Criminalises Homosexuality
Sweden has become the latest country to voice their anger about Uganda’s plan to push forward with a bill that would act to criminalise homosexuality and make it punishment by death. Acting to not only condemn the action, the Swedish development assistance minister, Gunilla Carlosson has also been quoted as saying that the Swedish govenment would consider cutting their $50 million annual aids package to Uganda, if the Ugandan government does not reverse it’s decision on what they believe is an “appalling policy”.
Carlosson has also been reported to be angered, not only by the law, but also the disrespect that the Ugandan government has shown to Sweden, saying he had “hoped we had started to share common values and understanding,” and that it was “offensive to see how Ugandans choose to look at how we see things, and the kind of reception we get when we bring up these issues.” Ndorwa West MP David Bahati, who has lead the action for the bill still denies the bill is part of a hate campaign against the LGBT community, but that he is merely acting to defend the heterosexual family.
If the law is passed then offenders would face the death penalty if they have sex with a disabled person or a minor, or infected their partner with HIV. Imprisonment would also occur if people were deemed to be touching in a homosexual way, and third parties who failed to report homosexual relationships would also be subject to punishment.