Gay UK News & Reports 2011

1 Men charged with anti-gay hatred over execution leaflets 1/11

2 Bishop Derek Rawcliffe, 1921-2011 2/11

3 Gay church ‘marriages’ set to get the go-ahead 2/11

4 1-in-5 unaware that HIV can be passed though unprotected gay sex 2/11

5 British gay Muslims seek Islamic weddings 2/11

6 UK Appoints Openly Gay Ambassador 3/11

6a Why Did I Have To Be Born Gay In Africa? 3/11

7 Schoolboy jumped to his death after rumours he was gay 3/11

8 Isle of Man gay couples have right to civil partnership 4/11

9 Another Step Towards Equality 4/11

10 Former Latvian priest ‘Since coming to London I’ve forgotten I am gay’ 4/11

11 The Sodomy Offense: England’s Least Lovely Criminal Law Export? 5/11

12 First same-sex Jewish marriage takes place in Manchester 6/11

12a Church of England To Allow Gay Clergy To Become Bishops 6/11

13 Art critic complains ‘there’s too many gays on television’ 7/11

14 Jersey allows religious civil partnerships 7/11

14a Asian gay couples: adoption is still a challenge 7/11

15 Queen unveils monument at Bletchley Park 7/11

16 UK integrates LGBT rights in its foreign policy 7/11

17 Stonewall to lobby for gay rights abroad 9/11

18 Israeli Gay Art Visits UK 9/11

18a Unfairly judged: gay lawyers say… 10/11

19 Government to cut aid to anti-gay countries 10/11

20 Ghana gay rights leader urges UK government not to cut aid 10/11

21a Ending sexual apartheid 10/11

21b Aid conditionality and the limits of a politics of sexuality 10/11

22 Commonwealth nations react to “ex-colonial” British aid threat 11/11

23 African activists on human rights and aid 11/11

24 The reluctant Commonwealth 11/11

28 January 2011 – PinkNews

Men charged with anti-gay hatred over execution leaflets

by Staff Writer
Two men in Derby are the first to be charged under new laws against stirring up hatred on the grounds of sexual orientation. Razwan Javed, 30, and Kabir Ahmed, 27, were accused of handing out leaflets called ‘The Death Penalty?’ outside a Derby mosque. It reportedly said that gay people should be executed and the pair are also accused of pushing it through letterboxes. The pair were reportedly arrested after a tip-off from a member of the public.

If convicted at a crown court, they could face up to seven years in prison or an unlimited fine. They will appear before magistrates today. This is the first time anyone has been prosecuted for inciting hatred on the grounds of sexual orientation, the Crown Prosecution Service said. Sue Hemming, a lawyer for the Crown Prosecution Service, said: “The charges relate to the distribution of a leaflet, ‘The Death Penalty?’, outside the Jamia Mosque in Derby in July 2010 and through letterboxes during the same month. “This is the first-ever prosecution for this offence and it is the result of close working between the Crown Prosecution Service and Derbyshire Police.”

Stonewall chief executive Ben Summerskill said: “We welcome the Attorney General’s decision to allow this prosecution to go ahead. We lobbied for a number of years for a specific law to protect gay people, matching offences against inciting racial and religious hatred. “Materials like the leaflets posted to homes in Derby create fear and inflame hatred and violence towards gay people. We uncovered a range of similar materials during our campaign to secure much-needed legal protections in this area.”

11 February 2011 – The Peter Tatchell Human Rights Fund

Bishop Derek Rawcliffe, 1921-2011

An appreciation by Peter Tatchell and Keith Rogers

Funeral service in Leeds this Sunday

London, UK – The retired openly gay bishop, Derek Rawcliffe, died in Leeds, England, on 1 February 2011, aged 89.

Requiem Mass, Sunday 13 February 2011 7pm St Aidan’s Church, Elford Place / Roundhay Road, Leeds LS8 5QD Service conducted by Reverend Canon Alan Taylor

All welcome

Derek Rawcliffe was born on 8 July 1921, educated at Leeds University and ordained in 1944. After a curacy at Claines St George, Worcester, he was a teacher in the Solomon Islands from 1947 until 1953, when he became Archdeacon of Southern Melanesia and the New Hebrides in the south Pacific. He was the first Bishop of the New Hebrides from 1975 to 1980. He then transferred to become Bishop of Glasgow and Galloway. In the 1990s, he became Assistant Bishop of Ripon. For many years, he was a strong advocate and supporter of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement.

Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, who knew Derek Rawcliffe for two decades, recalls:
"Derek was a wonderful, warm-hearted man, whose faith was always kind, gentle and compassionate. I am very proud and honoured to have known him. He gave me great personal support and encouragement in the early 1990s when I was being denounced and vilified by politicians, press, police and priests. Others may have differing perspectives on Derek’s life. I can only talk about the Derek I knew and appreciated.

"Like Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Derek Rawcliffe’s Christian humanitarian instincts led him to become a champion for social justice, not only for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people but also against racism and global poverty. He came out as gay in 1995, while he was the Assistant Bishop of Ripon – making him at the time the most senior Anglican clergyman to be honest and open about his homosexuality. The following year, the then Bishop of Ripon sacked Derek for blessing gay couples.

"Derek read Christ’s gospel as a theology of liberation, and sought to put it into practice. Although he was a bishop, Derek was on the radical wing of LGBT politics. As well as endorsing mainstream lobbying for equality, he also saw a role for creative, cathartic protests, in order to overturn homophobia, biphobia and transphobia. In 1994, Derek defended the LGBT human rights group OutRage! when it named 10 Anglican Bishops and called on them to ‘Tell the Truth’ about their sexuality. He argued that bishops who are gay in private but anti-gay in public are hypocrites.

"Derek deplored the double standards of closeted homophobic gay clerics. He saw no reason to respect their privacy and dishonesty when they refused to respect gay people’s right to privacy and equality. According to Derek, priests and bishops who opposed gay human rights were acting in defiance of the Christian ethos of love and compassion. In 1996, he backed calls by OutRage! to lower the age of consent to 14 for gay and straight teenagers – not in order to encourage or endorse under-age sex but to reduce the criminalisation of the many young people who have sexual experiences before the age of 16. He also urged earlier, better quality sex and relationship education to help youngsters to make wise, responsible decisions and to ensure that they shared mutually respectful, caring relationships.

"Derek was very remarkable and brave in his open endorsement of OutRage! at a time when we were challenging the homophobia of the Anglican leadership and when we were often reviled as extremists. He encouraged us, prayed for us and blessed many of our campaigns. We treasure and revere his memory and salute his long, commendable witness for universal human rights," said Mr Tatchell.

Derek Rawcliffe’s closest friend, Keith Rogers, who found him dead from a heart attack on 2 February, remembers:
"He was an absolute rock to me: a friend and counsellor, always there in times of crisis. He, more than anyone, helped me to have a healthy, enlightened Christian faith. For Derek, Christianity wasn’t about rules and guilt but about love, as in the title of his book: The meaning of it all is Love. For Derek, being gay and Christian were easily reconciled because for him – and me – they are both about love.

"Endowed with a brilliant intellect, he was a robust advocate for gay people and gay equality, and a formidable debater with the fundamentalist lobby. Derek was the incarnation of Christian love and humanitarianism. He helped everyone he could, including asylum seekers, the poor and disabled. He opposed all oppression and injustice. He was a prophetic figure and a powerful voice for social justice. He was treated despicably by the then Bishop of Ripon, who dismissed him in 1996 for blessing gay couples," said Mr Rogers.

14 February 2011 – BBC

Gay church ‘marriages’ set to get the go-ahead

by Kathleen Steward, Leicester
Ministers are expected to publish plans to enable same-sex couples to "marry" in church, the BBC has learned. Equalities Minister Lynne Featherstone is to propose lifting the ban on civil partnerships taking place in religious settings in England and Wales. There are no plans to compel religious organisations to hold ceremonies and the Church of England has said it would not allow its churches to be used.
Gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell said the change was "long overdue". Civil partnership ceremonies are currently entirely secular.

It is not clear whether the proposals will suggest that civil ceremonies in religious surroundings could incorporate elements such as hymns or Bible readings or be formally described as marriages. It is thought this might be part of a consultation process.

Equality Act
Marriage between people of the same gender is not legal in the UK but civil partnerships were introduced in 2005 to give couples the same legal protection as if they were wed. The proposals were welcomed by gay rights campaigners but may raise the ire of many churchgoers.
Any change could therefore only be brought after proper and careful consideration of all the issues involved, to ensure that the intended freedom for all denominations over these matters is genuinely secured”

Mr Tatchell said: "Permitting faith organisations to make their own decision on whether to conduct same-sex civil partnerships is the democratic and decent thing to do. The current law prevents them from doing so, even if they want to. No religious institution will be forced to perform civil partnerships if they do not wish to do so."

The Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, gave the news a guarded welcome. He told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show he "believes in a liberal democracy, and actually wants equality with everybody" but did not want churches to be told what to do. "You mustn’t have rights that trump other rights," he added.

A Church of England spokesman said: "Given the Church’s view on the nature of marriage, the House of Bishops has consistently been clear that the Church of England should not provide services of blessing for those who register civil partnerships." He added the worry was that any changes could "lead to inconsistencies with civil marriage, have unexplored impacts, and lead to confusion, with a number of difficult and unintended consequences for churches and faiths".

"Any change could therefore only be brought after proper and careful consideration of all the issues involved, to ensure that the intended freedom for all denominations over these matters is genuinely secured," he said.

The Sunday Telegraph claims the decision to push ahead with the legislation is a victory for Mrs Featherstone and her fellow Liberal Democrats. The Roman Catholic Church has long held that homosexuality is a "deviation" and is not expected to agree to same-sex ceremonies. The legislation would also cover synagogues and mosques although homosexual relationships are forbidden under Islam and Orthodox Judaism. Rabbi Yitzhak Schochet, from Mill Hill Synagogue in north London and a columnist for the Jewish News, told the BBC: "Same sex marriages have no place in any house of religious worship.

Read article

18 February 2011 – PinkNews

One in five unaware that HIV can be passed though unprotected gay sex

by Jessica Geen
A survey suggests that one in five people do not know that HIV can be passed on through unprotected gay sex. The poll of 1,944 people, by the National AIDS Trust, also found that the same number did not realise that unsafe heterosexual sex could lead to transmission of the virus. African and Caribbean people were least likely to know that unprotected gay sex was a route of transmission – 49 per cent compared with 20 per cent overall.

This is the fourth year that the charity has published the annual survey ’HIV: Public Knowledge and Attitudes’. Researchers said it was particularly concerning that more people now wrongly believe that HIV can be caught through kissing (nine per cent) and spitting (ten per cent). These figures have doubled from 2007’s survey from four per cent and five per cent respectively. Less than half of the public (45 per cent ) believe HIV can be passed from person to person by sharing needles or syringes. Only 30 per cent were able to correctly identify all the ways HIV can and cannot be passed on.

Sixty-seven per cent of people said they had sympathy for those with HIV and 74 per cent believed they should have the same level of support and respect as people with cancer. Eleven per cent had no sympathy, rising to 30 per cent towards those infected with HIV through unprotected sex. Almost half of people (47 per cent) thought that there are no effective ways of preventing a pregnant mother with HIV from passing HIV on to her baby. Evidence shows that the right treatment gives an HIV-positive mother a 99 per cent chance of having a healthy baby.

Deborah Jack, the chief executive of National AIDS Trust, said: “It is certainly positive to see the majority of the public have supportive attitudes towards people with HIV, but there are still huge gaps in awareness of what it means to live with HIV in the UK today.

“It is extremely important that inroads are made in terms of educating the general public so we can eradicate the prejudice which still exists around HIV. In addition to improving knowledge of HIV, intensive work also needs to go into tackling the often deep-seated judgments and beliefs held about HIV and the people affected. The government made a concerted and effective effort to tackle this stigma in mental health, and now it is time for HIV to be addressed in the same way.”

20 February 2011 – BBC News

British gay Muslims seek Islamic weddings

by Adrian Goldberg
British gay Muslims are joining the global fight for equality and seeking gay Islamic marriage. The BBC’s 5 live Investigates speaks to one couple about their ‘nikah’ – a Muslim matrimonial contract – and asks how they balance their sexuality with the Islamic faith. We met about three years ago, at an iftar – a breaking of fast during Ramadan. I think a lot of Muslims find that time of year very spiritual and very enlightening, and so I think that’s why our relationship developed, because we spoke about our faith. Eventually we went on a date."

Asra recalls the first time she met her partner, Sarah, three years ago. The gay couple, who are also Muslim, are one of a growing number of gay, British Muslims who have cemented their relationship with marriage – Islamic marriage. Asra fondly remembers the moment Sarah proposed to her. "After the first date, which was about an hour, Sarah casually asked me to marry her."

Sarah interjects. "I think it was more like four hours, after dinner, coffee and walking. I didn’t really plan it, but it just really seemed like the way it was between us, I should try and keep it as pure as possible. That may sound strange being lesbians, but it felt like we should do it the most honourable way we could."

The Muslim way
Asra and Sarah decided upon a ‘nikah’ – a Muslim matrimonial contract. Whilst nikahs have traditionally been the reserve of heterosexual Muslims, Asra and Sarah were aware that other gay Muslims had followed this route and the couple decided to investigate further. "A few friends said you don’t really have to have an official Imam, but you need someone who is knowledgeable enough about the Qur’an to do it. Fortunately, one of our friends was, and she offered to do it. She’s a lesbian herself, and she said we could do it in her home."

Three months after the proposal, the big day came. Asra wore a white shalwar kameez – a traditional Pakistani outfit – and Sarah a pink dress. "I wanted to wear leather, but Asra wouldn’t let me," she sighs. "We got rings from Camden market, and we drew up contracts – we got a blueprint off the internet of a heterosexual contract and we both looked at it separately, to see if there were things we wanted to change. I remember I put about the dog – that if we broke up, Asra wouldn’t steal the dog." Asra rolls her eyes and adds "we also did a dowry, of £5. It was a symbolic thing and we’ve still got those £5 notes."

In attendance were six friends, who also acted as witnesses – "and a cat," says Sarah. The short ceremony was conducted in Arabic, and additional duas – prayers – were read and the marriage was essentially no different from the nikahs performed for straight Muslim couples all over the world. Activists at a London Pride event in 2005 There is growing visibility of gay Muslims in Britain, although not all are confident about coming out But the Islamic faith vehemently rejects homosexuality, and the fact this nikah was for a gay couple is highly offensive to the majority of Muslims – including Asra’s own parents.

"It’s still very difficult for me to tell my family about my life being a lesbian. They know I am a believer, they know I am religious, but going as far as saying I am a lesbian is quite hard," Asra says. "I remember thinking this is the only time I am going to get married, and my family weren’t there. That was constantly going through my mind – I am having an Islamic nikah, doing as much as I can through my faith, but my family weren’t there."

However, Sarah’s relationship with her family is quite different. "Because I wasn’t born a Muslim – I converted five years ago – I think my family is quite accepting of my sexuality. But sometimes it seems like they are waiting for me to grow out of being a Muslim." Gay Muslim voices Sarah and Asra know their marriage is unorthodox, and the idea of a gay nikah would be rejected by the majority of Muslim scholars, but Sarah says it is nobody’s business.

Read article

March 25, 2011 – UK Gay News

UK Appoints Openly Gay Ambassador to the Kingdom of Cambodia

London – Mark Gooding has been appointed Her Majesty’s Ambassador to the Kingdom of Cambodia, it was announced yesterday. Currently Mr. Gooding is Deputy High Commissioner to Sri Lanka and the Maldives in Colombo and is due to take up his new appointment in September. He is openly gay and has a civil partner, Dr Christopher McCormick.

“I am honoured and delighted to be appointed HM Ambassador to the Kingdom of Cambodia,” he said in a press statement. “The UK and Cambodia have strong shared interests in a variety of fields, including trade, development, tourism, climate change, security, and human rights. I look forward to developing further the strong ties that already exist between our two countries and to creating new partnerships in the years ahead.”

Generally speaking, Cambodia – a predominantly Buddhist country – accepts homosexuality. The highly-regarded King Sihanouk famously said in 2004 that he supported gay marriage. But Cambodia is not an ‘absolute monarchy’ and the King has no executive powers. And three years later Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen publicly announced at a graduation ceremony attended by almost 3,000 people, that his youngest, and adopted, daughter Malis was a lesbian – and that had disowned her. However, in the same speech he asked Cambodians to accept homosexuals.

A Gay Pride has been staged in the capital Phnom Penh every year since 2004, and is usually held to coincide with International Day Against Homophobia. This year, Phnom Penh Pride is between May 10 and 17.

27th March 2011 – Queerty

Why Did I Have To Be Born Gay In Africa?

by Elizabeth Day, for The Observer
As a child in Uganda, John Bosco remembers hearing an old wives’ tale that if a man fell asleep in the sun and it crossed over him, he would wake up as a woman. "I used to try that as a kid," says John now, some 30 years later. He sits at a table in a busy cafe across the road from the railway station in Southampton, his fingers playing with the handle of a glass of hot chocolate. "I’d spend all day lying under the sun. From childhood, I wanted to be a girl. I wanted dolls. At school, I played netball. I wanted to dress up like a girl … I rubbed herbs into my chest that were meant to make your breasts grow. I tried everything but it didn’t work."

He tells me that there was not one single moment when he realised he was gay; that the knowledge of it had always been there, unexpressed until he found the right words. As he grew older, John started being attracted to men. On the radio, he heard stories of gay couples being beaten and killed by police. He says that if he could have changed himself, he would because he so desperately wanted to be considered "normal", to fit in, to make his family proud.

When he went to university to study for a business administration degree, his relatives and neighbours in Kampala would ask why he never had a girlfriend. "I used lots of excuses – I’m not yet ready, or I have a girlfriend who doesn’t live in the same area," he says. "It was difficult because you cannot be open [about your sexuality]. You can’t socialise like any other person. A lot of the time, you have to keep your distance. You feel you’re not yourself. It makes things really hard."

This is the reality of being gay in modern Uganda, a place where homosexuality is criminalised under the penal code, punishable by life imprisonment. According to human rights organisations, about 500,000 homosexuals live in the country, unable to admit their sexuality for fear of violent retribution either from the police or their own communities. Anti-gay legislation is a relic of British colonialism, designed to punish what the imperial authorities thought of as "unnatural sex" – thinking that was subsequently reinforced by wave upon wave of Catholic missionaries.

Although much of that legacy has been dismantled as Uganda modernises, homophobia is as entrenched as ever. An anti-homosexuality bill, due to be discussed by parliament before June, advocates the death penalty for "aggravated homosexuality" –ie for gay people with HIV practising sex, or gay people who have sex with someone under 18. Known colloquially as the "kill the gays" bill, it would also make it a crime not to report someone you know to be a practising homosexual, thereby putting parents, siblings and friends at risk. "One of the things the Ugandans say is that being gay is European culture, that it is un-African," explains John, 31. "There is this idea that Europeans and Americans are recruiting people to be gay, giving them money to do it."

Last October, the now defunct anti-gay Ugandan tabloid Rolling Stone published a list of the country’s "top 100" homosexuals under the headline "Hang Them". In January, the prominent gay-rights activist David Kato was murdered – beaten to death in his home by a hammer-wielding thug. Gays, lesbians and transgendered people in Uganda face harassment, extortion, vandalism, death threats and violence on a daily basis. They can be sacked from employment if they are outed, forced to enter into heterosexual marriage and detained by the authorities without charge or access to legal defence. In some of the worst cases, they can be subjected to so-called "correctional rape".

It is not only Uganda – for years, the developed world has turned a blind eye to the state-sanctioned persecution of homosexuals that exists in 38 out of 53 African nations, according to Human Rights Watch. Now, a new feature-length documentary film seeks to redress the balance. Getting Out, directed by film-maker Alexandra Chapman in conjunction with Christian Aid, tells the story of the gay refugees who are forced to flee discrimination in their own countries.

"It is very important for people in the west to understand that legalised and state-sanctioned homophobia is a reality in many parts of Africa," says Dr Chris Dolan, director of the Refugee Law Project at Makerere University in Kampala, who was instrumental in the making of the film. Dolan, who campaigns extensively to protect the rights of beleaguered minorities in this corner of Africa, says that the political climate in Uganda "enables a wide range of abuses and violations that seriously diminish the quality of life of all lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons, most of whom seek to stay under the public radar. It also places many such persons in serious and extreme danger."

For John, the danger soon became too great to ignore. At his university freshers’ ball, he met and fell in love with a man called Aziz. The two of them were discreet, taking care not to be seen acting too intimately in public. In this way – never quite being honest, living in the half-shadows, always looking over their shoulders – their relationship continued after graduation when John took a well-paid job in a bank. When John first took Aziz home to visit his family, he was introduced as "my best friend. He became like another son to my mum. That was the way it was until 2001."

Then everything changed. A group of John’s gay friends were arrested in a police crackdown. They were beaten and forced to give the names of other gay people they knew. John realised he had to get out. "I had to disappear," he says. "I had some money saved up so I paid a private agency to get me a visa, a passport … I didn’t tell anybody I was leaving, not even my family. At first, I didn’t know where I was going. But then, luckily, the guy gave me a visa to the UK."

John Bosco did not know it then, but his problems were only just beginning.

Read article

30 March 2011 – PinkNews

Schoolboy, 15, jumped to his death after rumours he was gay

by Jessica Geen
A Gloucestershire teenager jumped to his death after rumours circulated that he was gay, an inquest has heard. Dominic Crouch, 15, a pupil at St Edwards School in Cheltenham, threw himself from a six-storey block of flats last May after returning from a school trip. An inquest in Cheltenham heard that pupils played spin the bottle on the four-day art trip and there were rumours that Dominic had kissed a boy.
His parents said he appeared happy when he returned from the trip but just days later, he left school at lunchtime to go to the block of flats where he got to the roof via a trapdoor.

Notes were found in his pockets apologising to his parents. According to Metro, Dominic’s father Roger said after the inquest: “Dominic was clearly upset about rumours that he believed were being spread about him. We need to realise that what may be a laugh to some young people are deeply upsetting to another.” Coroner Tom Osbourn said there was no evidence that the game of spin the bottle had affected Dominic to the extent that he would want to kill himself. A verdict of suicide was recorded. Dominic’s family are raising money in his name for the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund which supports children in South Africa.

6 April 2011 – BBC News

Isle of Man gay couples have right to civil partnership

Same-sex couples on the Isle of Man now have the right to a civil partnership. Gay couples will be allowed the same rights as married couples for inheritance, pensions and tax allowances. The Civil Partnership Bill 2011 comes into force on Wednesday, meaning couples can register for a ceremony to take place as early as next week. Gay rights campaigners have welcomed the bill claiming they have been discriminated against for years.

Homosexuality was illegal under Isle of Man law until 1992. The bill sparked fierce debate among some groups on the island before it was eventually passed last month. Assistant Chief Registrar Ian Gilmore said: "With effect from 6 April, prospective civil partners will be able to start the procedures that will ultimately lead to them signing a civil partnership schedule, and from that point onwards law will recognise their partnership."

April 8, 2011 – Uk Gay News

Another Step Towards Equality Says Gibraltar Gay Rights Following Court Ruling

Gibraltar – After almost eleven years of their campaign to bring equality to Gibraltar’s age of consent law, Equality Rights Group GGR is today celebrating what they consider to be “a first but very hard won step forward towards equality for all sexual minorities in Gibraltar”. The celebrations come following a Gibraltar High Court ruling this morning that said the age of consent should be the same for gay men and women as for heterosexuals.

“There is no doubt that much still remains to be done and we will be keeping an eye out for political parties’ promises in their coming manifestoes,” acting spokesman for the group, Charles Trico, said this afternoon. “This first major hurdle towards Gibraltar law recognising equality for this sector of our community is a litmus test not only for how the issues have moved on in modern societies generally, but especially in Gibraltar since GGR started to air the questions affecting LGBT people on the Rock in September 2000.’ Despite many difficulties over the years, it is good to see the law finally agreeing with our arguments,” Mr. Trico continued. “We hold no bad feeling or rancour towards any side, and extend a hand of friendship towards anyone who may represent an opposing view.

“We are also always willing to [enter into] dialogue with any government or Party whatever their colours. This is an opportunity for political attitudes to change to this question, and for people to wake up to the fact that Gibraltarians have ‘moved on’ from prejudice towards a more accepting attitude towards minorities. Let me take this opportunity to thank John Restano of Hassan’s for his committed and sterling work, as well as the UK Government and Unite the Union for having supported the arguments for equality on sexual orientation in Court.”

Mr. Trico also said the GGR expects to announce the result of the new chairperson in the coming weeks.

29th April, 2011 – West End Extra

Former Latvian priest Maris Sants: ‘Since coming to London I’ve forgotten I am gay’

by Josh Loeb
A Priest and psychotherapist living in self-imposed exile in London because of violent homophobia in his native Latvia has spoken about finding sanctuary in the West End. Maris Sants, who works in a coffee house in Winnett Street, Soho, was excommunicated from the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Latvia in 2002 because of his sexuality, and his case was highlighted by Amnesty International after he was attacked by anti-gay thugs. In the years after he came out as gay, the 45-year-old found himself the focus of much attention in the media.
People came from far and wide to congregate outside the church in Riga where he officiated but instead of listening to his sermons the skinhead visitors held placards condemning homosexuality.

Some even threw excrement or violently attacked him, abuse which caused Mr Sants to emigrate to London. The Metropolitan Police recently reported an increase in homophobic attacks in the West End. Appalling recent incidents include one in April when gay socialite Philip Sallon was beaten in the street near Piccadilly Circus in the early hours and Soho recently became the focus of a media frenzy after a gay couple claimed they were asked to leave a pub when someone objected to them kissing.

Nonetheless, compared with Latvia, the heart of Westminster is a paragon of tolerance, and for Mr Sants, living in a place where he does not stand out because of his sexuality is an exciting novelty. “One thing I have experi­enced since coming to London is that I have for­gotten I am gay,” he said. “By this I mean I have forgotten what it feels like to be different, which is something new and wonderful. Here people don’t recognise me in the street. They don’t point and say ‘He is gay. He is different.’ I would almost say that I am healed because of this.”

Growing up in the 1980s, Mr Sants attended church secretly in the hope that religion might help him overcome what he regarded at the time as his immoral impulses. He said: “I thought that perhaps I should kill myself because I was a man who wanted to commit crimes.” Gay relationships were illegal in Latvia until the early 1990s, and homophobia remains widespread.

“There was a time in around 2005 when, possibly for a year or two, I was one of only two publicly known gay guys in the whole country,” said Mr Sants. “Those who came out, most of them had to immediately emigrate. By the time I came out at the age of 36 I had been through different healing programmes. I had been to psychiatrists and psychotherapists and had gone to ‘ex-gay’ ministries with evangelical Christians who believe homosexuality can be cured. When I turned 33 a serious thing happened and I understood – and this was really like a revelation – that actually it was completely OK. I understood then that hiding my homosexuality was a sin.”

Following his excommunication from the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Latvia, Mr Sants founded a congregation that was open to all, regardless of sexual orientation. It hosted the inaugural LGBT Pride march in Riga, an event marred by violence from anti-gay protesters. Mr Sants’s experiences have made him a firm believer in education as a means of combating hate crime, and he supports Peter Tatchell’s campaign to urge Prince William and Kate Middleton to express support for same-sex marriages.

The Anglican church’s attitude to homosexuality is, he said, “not ideal”. But he added that he attends an Anglican church every Sunday. “There is still lots of pain because people don’t feel completely accepted,” he said. “Although there are lots of wonderful churches like St Martin-in-the-Fields.” Despite some room for improvement, Mr Sants believes London is one of the most enlightened places on Earth in terms of how gay people are treated.

“Homophobia exists all over the world,” he said. “But here in the West End most gays don’t keep quiet. So when we say ‘Oh, how can it be that in Piccadilly Circus someone was attacked just for being gay?’ well, in the East End, or Corby or Derby possibly, someone might be attacked if he would dare hold hands or do something else which we have completely gotten used to doing in Old Compton Street. In London there are, at least, not many places where you would be in danger if you were seen kissing a guy.”

May 21, 2011 – "MSM Sexual Health – Asia"

The Sodomy Offense: England’s Least Lovely Criminal Law Export?

by The Honorable Michael Kirby, A.C., C.M.G (former Australian High Court justice)
This article describes the influence of the British Empire on the intercontinental spread of the criminal offences involving adult, private, consensual same-sex activity. It describes the origins of the crimes in Judeo-Christian scriptures and early English common law and statutory offences.

The nineteenth century moves for criminal law codification in Europe succeeded in abolishing such offences. They were not a feature of other European empires. However, although codification of the criminal law failed in England, five template codes exported the sodomy and other like offences to every land ruled by Britain. In 41 of the 54 Commonwealth countries, the offences remain in force.

The article describes how they were (often reluctantly) repealed by legislation between 1967 and 1997 in the older dominions. Repeal in newer Commonwealth countries has been slow or non-existent. The author describes new developments that give hope for progress, including the Naz Foundation case in India (2009) and the recent moves in the United Nations and elsewhere to foster legislative and judicial removal of this unlovely legacy of Empire.

Download the article here

2 June 2011 – PinkNews

First same-sex Jewish marriage takes place in Manchester

by Christopher Brocklebank
The first same-sex Jewish partnership ceremony officially to be termed a marriage by Liberal Judaism – a major British progressive strand of the religion – took place in Manchester last weekend.
Liberal Jewish Community members Jeffrey Levine and Roman Hunter-Fox exchanged vows, a ketubah and rings under a chuppah at the city’s Lowry Hotel. As reported in the Jewish Chronicle, both men performed the traditional glass-breaking, while specially written shevah brachot (seven blessings) were made, including the phrase “Blessed is God that you cause loving companions to rejoice together”, to replace the traditional blessing for a bride and groom.

This was not the UK’s first same-sex ceremony under a chuppah, but it was the first time Liberal Judaism has sanctioned the use of the terms “ketubot” and “marriage” in this scenario. The ceremony was the first since Liberal Judaism’s rabbinic conference in April, which agreed to treat same-sex ceremonies as proper marriages following its introduction of a same-sex blessing ceremonies in 2005. The move pre-empts legal changes to the Equality Act currently under consultation by the government. Same-sex marriages are still not legal in the UK, but Liberal Judaism has joined other religious denominations to pressure the government to allow gay marriages in places of worship.

Mr Levine, 45, who is from Belfast and grew up in an Orthodox community said: “Outside Liberal Judaism, your spouse is not really welcomed as much as a straight Jewish wife.” He added: “We wanted to have a proper Jewish wedding with God as our witness. We were very serious about our vows and living a Jewish life.”

Rabbi Mark Solomon, who performed the ceremony, said: “Liberal Judaism has seen society move on in marriage equality and we have made the decision to function as if the law has changed. “Jeff and Roman have contributed much to our community and we are delighted that we have been able to provide them with a place where they can both celebrate their Judaism and (in Roman’s case) return to their Jewish heritage. We all wish them Mazal tov! and all the best for their future together – and hope the law will catch up with full marriage equality very soon.”

Couples will still require an additional civil partnership ceremony until the law is changed, but Liberal Judaism has already decided to begin keeping central marriage records.

June 19, 2011 – Free Republic

Church of England To Allow Gay Clergy To Become Bishops
[A Religious Abomination!]

by Donna Bowate – Telegraph(UK)
The Church of England is using the Equality Act as a “smokescreen” for allowing gay clergymen to become bishops, according to the leader of the National Secular Society.Guidance due to be published on Monday was expected to pave the way for homosexual clerics in civil partnerships to become bishops provided they remained celibate. The document, published in response to last year’s Equality Act, will be sent to the General Synod before it meets in York next month. The paper said: "Someone in a sexually active relationship outside marriage is not eligible for the episcopate or other ordained ministry." It added: "There is, by contrast, no corresponding statement of the position of the Church of England that declares that a celibate person in a civil partnership cannot be considered for appointment as a bishop."

But Keith Porteous Wood, executive director of the National Secular Society, said using the Equality Act as a guise for the changes was designed to deflect responsibility for the controversial issue. Religious organisations are already exempt from equality laws that ban discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation. Mr Porteous Wood said: “It is a very delicate question as to whether the Equality Act applies to bishops or not. If it doesn’t apply, it is a masterpiece of news management by Lambeth Palace to put off people who are criticising them for doing this at all.

6 July 2011 – PinkNews

Art critic Brian Sewell complains ‘there’s too many gays on television’

by Jessica Geen
Art critic Brian Sewell has complained that there are too many gay characters in British soaps and accused the BBC of spreading “sexual propaganda” to children.
Writing in today’s Daily Mail, Sewell, who has said he is bisexual, contended that the wide range of LGBT characters in soaps make “sane” viewers feel their noses are being “rubbed in it”. The 79-year-old critic wrote: “There’s too much, not only of gay men – who are estimated to make up just six per cent of the population, but who dominate the storylines in the soap – but also of lesbians, bisexuals, the trans-gender community, cross-dressers and everyone else with some sexual quirk or fetish.”

Referring to Coronation Street, he wrote: “Is it true that the lives of heterosexual Mancunians are haplessly intertwined with transvestites, transsexuals, teenage lesbians and a horde of homosexuals across the age range? Is Manchester now the Sodom of the North?” Sewell also accused the BBC of spreading “sexual propaganda” to “pre-pubescent children” and questioned whether gay relationships are “suitable” to be shown before the watershed.

He wrote: “The dear old egalitarian BBC protested that its policy is to portray gay and hetero- sexual relationships in exactly the same way, both equally suitable for pre-watershed viewing. But are they equally suitable?

“Are soaps, watched by pre-pubescent children — who may still have some tattered remnant of innocence that we should cherish — really a proper platform for sexual propaganda and special pleading?”

Twitter users, presumably distracted by the News of the World phone hacking scandal, have failed to display Jan Moir-esque levels of outrage. Gay rights charity Stonewall tweeted: “Oh dear…” and a spokesman for the charity argued that Coronation Street had a representative number of gay characters. The spokesman said: “Given that the government estimates that six per cent of the population are lesbian, gay or bisexual it isn’t inconceivable that a number of the 66 current Corrie characters are LGB.

“And with Wetherfield just a short tram ride away from Manchester it’s easy to argue the show is more reflective of modern Britain than ever before, which is why Corrie picked up Stonewall’s Broadcast of the year trophy last year and remains one of the most watched TV shows on British screens.” Sewell, who has a reputation for controversy, said in 2007 that his interest in men is a “disability” and an “affliction”. He has also said that “only men are capable of aesthetic greatness” and called for a “plague … to abolish the North”.

13 July 2011 – PinkNews

Jersey allows religious civil partnerships

by Jessica Geen
Jersey has passed a law to allow civil partnerships – including giving gay couples the right to tie the knot in church if they – and religious organisations – wish. As the island is a crown dependency, all government decisions must go through the formality of approval by the privy council. This may take around six months but it is hoped that ceremonies can begin at the end of the year.

An ‘opt-in’ amendment to allow ceremonies in religious buildings was added earlier this month and was passed by 30-6 votes. However, the Church of England has said it will not allow civil partnerships in its buildings. Jersey’s deputy chief minister Philip Ozouf, who is openly gay, said: “The island’s parliament has sent a strong message of Jersey being an open, accepting and tolerant society.”

Speaking to BBC News, he added that the legislation “is not the same as marriage but it is an absolute equivalent to marriage”.

13 July 2011 – BBC

Asian gay couples: adoption is still a challenge

by Kalpana Boodhoo BBC Asian Network
"I think we’ve come a long way and it was a difficult journey.. My mum resigned herself to the fact that she would never have [grand] kids, and now suddenly she has two." The words of Faisal*, an openly gay man from India, who now lives in the UK. Three years ago, he jointly adopted two children with his partner Jacques*, who is French. The children are blood siblings and from a mixed British-Indian cultural background.

Faisal and Jacques feel it is important their children grow up learning about their heritage. "We go to India once a year," said Faisal. "The boys do get a lot of exposure to Indian culture, and to French [culture] as well." This couple have been lucky. They only had to wait six months to be matched with their children, and as gay adoptive parents, they have been accepted by their families and their wider community in north London. However, the experience for some gay parents, and in particular some gay Asian parents, is not always so straightforward.

Religious sensitivity
In 2005, gay couples in England and Wales became legally entitled to adopt jointly for the first time, giving them the same rights as heterosexual couples. However, BBC Asian Network has been told it is sometimes harder for gay Asians because of sensitivity over religion and culture. Peter McGraith is a gay adoptive parent who also provides training and consultancy to adoption and fostering agencies, to ensure a level playing field for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) applicants. "There are assumptions made about (people) all the time. One of those assumptions is that it is more difficult to be a happy, out gay person within your community if you’re Asian," he said.

Peter McGraith LGBT Advisor to adoption and fostering agencies From things that social workers have told me, that is seen as a bit of a block to matching couples with children from ethnic minorities, particularly if there is a religious element too." One gay couple, who wanted to remain anonymous because they are still going through the adoption process, spoke about an initial match with a Sikh child, which fell through. They believe it was because one of them is Hindu.

They are now waiting to hear about further matches.

Read article

16 July 2011, – PinkNews

Queen unveils monument at Bletchley Park, home of gay genius codebreaker Alan Turing

by James Park
The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh yesterday unveiled a monument to commemorate the contribution made by code breakers at Bletchley Park to victory over Nazi Germany in the Second World War. In particular, The Queen paid tribute to the gay codebreaker Alan Turing, who was later forced to undergo chemical castration after being convicted of homosexuality.
The Royal Party toured the museum where restoration projects have taken place to rebuild the machines which assisted with the wartime decryption of enemy codes. These included the Turing Bombe, brainchild of mathematical genius Alan Turing, and Colossus, the world’s first electronic computer. The machines were used to decode German messages sent using their Engima machines.

The Queen said: “It is impossible to overstate the deep sense of admiration, gratitude, and national debt that we owe to all those men and, especially, women. They were called to this place in the greatest of secrecy – so much so that some of their families will never know the full extent of their contribution – as they set about on a seemingly impossible mission; a massive challenge in the field of cryptanalysis: for the first time pitting technology against technology.

“And so, these huts and buildings became the centre of a world-wide web of intelligence communications, spanning the Commonwealth and further afield. This was the place of geniuses such as Alan Turing. But these wonderfully clever mathematicians, language graduates and engineers were complemented by people with different sets of skills, harnessing that brilliance through methodical, unglamorous, hard slog. Thus the secret of Bletchley’s success was that it became a home to all the talents.”

Turing killed himself in 1954 aged 41 after being convicted of having a sexual relationship with another man. A British court gave him the choice of going either to prison or undergoing chemical castration. He opted for the latter which involved high dosage injections of female hormones. He committed suicide two years later. In 2009, after a campaign led by Richard Dawkins, Stephen Fry, Peter Tatchell and supported by, 30,805 people demanded that the then prime minister Gordon Brown issued an apology for Turing’s treatment on behalf of the British government. Mr Brown agreed to do so.

In his apology, Mr Brown wrote: “Thousands of people have come together to demand justice for Alan Turing and recognition of the appalling way he was treated. While Turing was dealt with under the law of the time and we can’t put the clock back, his treatment was of course utterly unfair and I am pleased to have the chance to say how deeply sorry I and we all are for what happened to him. Alan and the many thousands of other gay men who were convicted as he was convicted under homophobic laws were treated terribly. Over the years millions more lived in fear of conviction.

“I am proud that those days are gone and that in the last 12 years this government has done so much to make life fairer and more equal for our LGBT community. This recognition of Alan’s status as one of Britain’s most famous victims of homophobia is another step towards equality and long overdue.

“But even more than that, Alan deserves recognition for his contribution to humankind. For those of us born after 1945, into a Europe which is united, democratic and at peace, it is hard to imagine that our continent was once the theatre of mankind’s darkest hour. It is difficult to believe that in living memory, people could become so consumed by hate – by anti-Semitism, by homophobia, by xenophobia and other murderous prejudices – that the gas chambers and crematoria became a piece of the European landscape as surely as the galleries and universities and concert halls which had marked out the European civilisation for hundreds of years. It is thanks to men and women who were totally committed to fighting fascism, people like Alan Turing, that the horrors of the Holocaust and of total war are part of Europe’s history and not Europe’s present.

“So on behalf of the British government, and all those who live freely thanks to Alan’s work I am very proud to say: we’re sorry, you deserved so much better.”

2011 July 28 – For LGBT Equality

UK integrates LGBT rights in its foreign policy

A document has been elaborated by the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in order to encourage the promotion of LGBT Rights. This “LGBT Toolkit” has been sent to British embassies and diplomatic instances over the world so that they integrate it in their relations with the host countries. The FCO wants to express its dedication to “equality in the enjoyment of human rights and the inadmissibility of discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation". It points out that no international Human Rights Treaty, except in Europe, specifically mentions sexual orientation.

However it refers to the increasing number of UN reports on violence and discrimination against LGBT people and also the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). The main topics covered in the document are the decriminalization in countries where same sex relations are punished by the death penalty or live imprisonment, support to LGBT activists as to any other Human Rights advocate or encourage non-discriminating HIV/AIDS programs, especially in Europe.

By referencing some NGO’s or media’s websites and information on specific LGBT issues and British statements and views on them, the “LGBT Toolkit” constitutes also a useful source of information for all LGBT people and activists. And not only for English-speaking ones, as the document has been translated in some eastern European languages

1 September 2011 – PinkNews

Stonewall to lobby for gay rights abroad

by Jessica Geen
Gay rights charity Stonewall has announced it will begin lobbying for gay equality abroad. The charity says that until now, it has been barred from commenting on the situation for lesbian, gay and bisexual people around the world because this would breach its charitable objectives as an organisation focused on Britain. It announced today that the Charity Commission has approved its application to begin lobbying overseas.
Stonewall says it has no plans to send staff abroad. Instead, it will work with other gay rights organisations to advocate for equality.

Chief executive Ben Summerskill said that when Stonewall became a charity in 2003, it believed the legislative changes it sought would take ten to 15 years to achieve. He said: “Having achieved almost all of those legal changes, we’re now in a stronger position to commend Britain’s legislative framework to other countries around the world. “The dogged support of tens of thousands of individual donors means that we’re one of the few charities in the country whose income has continued to grow throughout the recession. That commitment means that involvement in overseas advocacy will not dilute any of our existing domestic activities; we retain our ambition to make Britain a worldwide beacon for equality.”

Stonewall chair David Issac said the charity had been driven to change its objectives after supporters asked it to do so. He said: “Having canvassed a wide sample of our supporters during the last 12 months and reviewed our obligations under charity law, we’re clear that our lobbying and research teams now have the opportunity to influence overseas without undermining the important work – such as our pioneering Education for All programme – to which we’re absolutely committed in Britain. We look forward to working with other groups seeking to deliver change internationally. As Stonewall will seek to influence from within the UK our focus will, we hope, complement the work of others.”

Gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, who has advocated for equal rights around the world, welcomed the announcement. He said: “It will add to the range of people and organisations who are advocating for LGBT rights around the world. That can only be a good thing.” But Mr Tatchell also criticised Stonewall, claiming that it fails to help individuals suffering harassment, discrimination and violence in Britain.

He said: “Every year, hundreds of people approach Stonewall [through its helpline] with requests for help. Many of them say they don’t get the support they need despite its multi-million pound resources. Those people come to me but I’m just one person with an assistant and we can’t cope with the volume.” A Stonewall spokesman knocked back the criticism, saying that the charity receives 8,800 calls to its helpline annually, with a review of the first six months of this year finding that 98 per cent of callers would use the service again and the same proportion would recommend the service to a friend.

September 2011 –

Israeli Gay Art Visits UK

London – An exhibition by gay Israeli artists in London and Manchester is the first of its kind in England. Following a brief showing at London’s Soho Gallery, the exhibition Freedom of Expression: The Colours opened in Manchester last week. Featuring paintings, photography and sculpture by 18 Israeli artists, the director of the Israeli Government’s UK and Ireland tourist office, Rafi Shalev said the exhibition reflects the vibrancy of modern Tel Aviv and said “the purpose of the exhibition is to celebrate Israel’s culture of tolerance.”

One of the featured artists is Raphael ‘Rafi’ Perez who lives and works in Tel Aviv promoting LGBT art and culture through his exhibitions and website in Israel and around the world. The organisers say Perez is the most prolific artist in the exhibition. An outspoken member of the Israeli gay art world Perez is inspired by the history and landscapes of Israel. His recent works concentrate on the urban scenes of Tel Aviv and describe the city as a place where cultural freedom prevails.

6 October 2011 – The Guardian

Unfairly judged: gay lawyers say judiciary still plagued by homophobia
– Recent research shows 70% believe there is prejudice within the selection process for judicial appointment

by Alex Aldridge –
Until 1991, unmarried men and women – including gay and lesbian lawyers – were excluded from entering the judiciary. Unsurprisingly, homophobia, or at least a strong perception of it, still lingers. According to recent research by the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender legal group Interlaw, 70% of LGBT lawyers believe there is prejudice within the selection process for judicial office.

The judicial appointments committee (JAC) – the body founded in 2006 to enhance judicial accountability – is keen to remedy this. Last month, it began monitoring the sexuality of wannabe judges (it already monitors gender, ethnicity, age, professional background and disability). The JAC is also increasing its engagement with the gay lawyer community through talks at LGBT legal events and the publishing of case studies of gay judges.

The most recent of these talks took place at Interlaw’s monthly September meeting, hosted by corporate law firm Field Fisher Waterhouse. Disappointingly, the JAC was unable to get any of the few openly gay judges – who include the court of appeal judge Sir Terence Etherton, the high court and international criminal court judge Sir Adrian Fulford and the circuit judge Jeremy Richardson – to come along and speak. Instead Tan Ikram, a heterosexual district judge, shared his experiences of what it’s like to hold a judicial post as a member of a minority group. Ikram’s frank talk was useful in the respect that it demystified the judicial appointments process, but the attempt to conflate the obstacles facing judicial candidates from Asian backgrounds with those who are gay was perhaps not entirely successful.

Not that the 30 or so attendees seemed overly bothered. There may be widespread suspicion about the judicial selection process, and eye-rolling about the JAC’s stuttering response, but the dominant mood among LGBT lawyers right now is optimism. Daniel Winterfeldt, a partner at CMS Cameron McKenna who founded Interlaw in 2008, said: "A new generation of junior lawyers who are out and open about their sexuality, and expect it not to be an issue, have fundamentally changed attitudes, and will keep changing them as they rise through the profession."

The mood is reflected in the dramatically improved recent performance of law firms in the top 100 employers rankings compiled by the gay rights charity Stonewall – formulated on the basis of a 25-question workplace equality index. In 2007 no law firms made the list; this year six were ranked.

Read complete article here

10 October 2011 – PinkNews

Government to cut aid to anti-gay countries

by Jessica Geen
The government will cut aid to poor countries which persecute gay people, international development secretary Andrew Mitchell has warned.
Aid ‘fines’ may be imposed on countries such as Uganda and Ghana for hardline anti-gay laws, the Mail on Sunday reported. Malawi, which sentenced a couple to 14 years’ hard labour for contravening anti-gay laws, has already had its aid cut by £19 million.

A spokesman for Mr Mitchell told the newspaper that the government now regularly reviews aid-receiving countries on their commitments to human rights. He said: “The government is committed to combating violence and discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in all circumstances, in this country and abroad. We take action where we have concerns. We now allocate funds every three months, rather than every year, so that we can review a country’s performance, for example on human rights, and take swift action when governments fall short. We only provide aid directly to governments when we are satisfied that they share our commitments to reduce poverty and respect human rights.”

Prime minister David Cameron has defended Britain’s spending on foreign aid, saying that increasing the budget from £7.5 billion last year to £11.4 billion in 2013 is a sign of “moral strength”. In Ghana, a government minister recently called for the arrest of all gay people in the country’s western region. This followed president John Evans Atta Mills’ pledge to curb the “menace” of homosexuality. Mr Mitchell’s deputy Stephen O’Brien told the president earlier this year that Ghana would lose its £36 million a year from Britain unless he stops persecuting gay people.

Uganda, which expects to receive £70 million this year from Britain, has been considering legislation to strengthen current laws against gay people. The harshest provisions call for the death penalty in “aggravated” cases of homosexuality, although parliament appears to have shelved the bill.

12 October 2011 – PinkNews

Ghana gay rights leader urges UK government not to cut aid

by Jessica Geen
The leader of Ghana’s only gay rights group has urged the government not to cut aid to homophobic countries. International development secretary Andrew Mitchell warned this week that countries with harsh anti-gay laws – such as Ghana and Uganda – could have their aid budgets cut if they continue to persecute LGBT people. Malawi, which sentenced a couple to 14 years’ hard labour for contravening anti-gay laws, has already had its aid cut by £19 million.
Mac-Darling Cobbinah, the executive and national director of the Centre for Popular Education and Human Rights Ghana, said the move would only bring “pain and anguish” to the struggling country. He added that the plans could backfire and lead to gay people being blamed for aid cuts.

Speaking to Paul Canning of LGBT Asylum News, Mr Cobbinah said: “We from Ghana LGBTi community think this is not enough. Cutting down aid will not bring anything other than pain and anguish to the already polarised society or country and LGBTi people will be used as scapegoats for under development in our countries. “There should be support for LGBTi groups to conduct more education to get people to know and understand sexuality and gender diversity instead of aid cuts. The UK should lead the way by supporting LGBTi groups in these countries to organise more awareness programmes and talk shows to get the majority of the people to understand the issues of LGBTi rights.”

He added: “We do not want to leave to Europe for asylum and so want to live here and improve the lives of our people here. We need more than just speeches.” Ghana receives £36 million a year in aid from the UK. According to the Mail on Sunday, Mr Mitchell’s deputy Stephen O’Brien told president John Evans Atta Mills earlier this year that the country would lose funding from Britain unless he stops persecuting gay people.

16 October 2011 – PinkNews

Andrew Mitchell: UK will withhold aid from African countries with poor gay rights

by James Park
Andrew Mitchell, the International development secretary has confirmed that the British government will withhold aid from countries with homophobic countries but denied that it will harm the most poor in those countries.
Speaking to Sky News, Mr Mitchell said: “We have been very clear on this – where we think Governments do not have respect for human rights, it will have a big effect on the way we carry out this funding. Taking money away from Governments does not mean you do not support that country. You find other mechanisms for trying to help the poorest with food, education and health care as well as building up business structures..

“It is not about taking money away from countries but finding other mechanisms to help them. We take a very clear line. In a number of countries in Africa that discrimination against homosexuality has concerned us. In Malawi when they kicked out the British High Commissioner we looked at the whole nature of that relationship. We were aware there had been some expenditure by the President. We were aware there had been some lack of human rights – the intention to criminalise lesbianism – all took a part in my decision to stop funding the government centrally. What we don’t want to do is take money away from very, very poor Malawians who England, and particularly Scotland have a strong relationship with.”

Last week, the Mail on Sunday revealed that aid ‘fines’ may be imposed on countries such as Uganda and Ghana for hard-line anti-gay laws. Malawi, which sentenced a couple to 14 years’ hard labour for contravening anti-gay laws, has already had its aid cut by £19 million. But Mac-Darling Cobbinah, the executive and national director of the Centre for Popular Education and Human Rights Ghana, said the move would only bring “pain and anguish” to the struggling country. He added that the plans could backfire and lead to gay people being blamed for aid cuts. “We from Ghana LGBTi community think this is not enough. Cutting down aid will not bring anything other than pain and anguish to the already polarised society or country and LGBTi people will be used as scapegoats for under development in our countries,” he said.

October 25, 2011 – The Syndey Morning Herald

Ending sexual apartheid

by Michael Kirby
The whole world knows that the Commonwealth of Nations has a problem securing action on the legal issues of sexual orientation and gender identity. It is a specific Commonwealth problem, let there be no mistake.
Of about 80 countries that still criminalise same-sex, adult, private, consensual conduct, more than half (41) are members of the Commonwealth. Given that there are 54 Commonwealth countries, that means three-quarters of them still impose criminal penalties on gay people. The fact that such laws exist leads to stigma, discrimination, violence and an awful lot of personal misery.

In the past year, there have been many reports of physical and verbal violence in several Commonwealth countries, including Cameroon, Ghana, Jamaica, Malawi and Uganda. Although all of the original Commonwealth countries have abolished such laws (the UK, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and South Africa) and India has witnessed a strong court decision holding them unconstitutional, most of the "New Commonwealth" has ignored or rejected reform. This includes even modern Singapore, where a Law Society committee recommended change but a bill was defeated in Parliament in 2008. So how do we move the logjam so that the river of reform will begin to flow again?
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It will not happen just because proponents of change feel angry, heap abuse on opponents and jump up and down. Nor will it happen because other countries of the Commonwealth have changed their laws. Changes we have seen in Australia in the area of racial discrimination bear witness to the pace of reform. It took many years to come about, but the process was definitely helped by the strong voice of leadership from the Commonwealth Heads of Government addressed directly to apartheid South Africa. And inferentially also to Australia and other ”settler” countries.

Until 1966, Australia observed the "White Australia" policy. This totally excluded non-Caucasian immigration. We were specially frightened of the Asian "yellow peril". We even imposed constitutional restrictions on our Aboriginal people, partly repaired by a referendum in 1967. Until 1992, Australians did not recognise the claim by indigenous peoples to legal recognition of their traditional lands. However, that logjam was dislodged. In my lifetime I have witnessed a major change for the better. It came about by quiet persuasion, good example and a bit of international pressure. So it will be with sexual orientation. It forces a kind of sexual apartheid. It divides people into strict categories. It ignores their basic natures (sexuality not racial). It imposes harsh legal restrictions. It makes them second-class citizens. It denies them full entitlement as human beings in fundamental matters such as love, sex and identity.

Read complete article here

31 October 2011 – IDS

Aid conditionality and the limits of a politics of sexuality

by akshay khanna
For activists and advocates of sexual rights, the very recognition of sexuality as a valid aspect of ‘development’ or of rights itself, has been a slow and thankless battle. As such, yesterday’s statement by David Cameron confirming that the British government will withhold aid from countries with homophobic policies might ostensibly be seen as a ‘victory’ of sorts. And yet there is something more fundamental at stake here – the idea of ‘sexuality’ as political object and the perpetration of a racialised discourse of difference that highlights the colonial continuities in ‘development’.

Cameron’s statement suggests that a progressive politics of sexuality can only be imagined in the form that it has taken in Europe and North America. This is the language of ‘LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) rights’, where the world is imagined as constituted of homosexual and heterosexual people (with the nominal inclusion of bisexual and transgender categories).

Limits of an LGBT politics
This idea, that ‘who you have sex with defines what you are’ is just about a century old, and arises in a very particular political-economic context where medical professionals claimed a monopoly over defining the ‘truth’ of desire. This peculiar idea is far from universally experienced. In several parts of the global south, South Asia, for instance, people experience and express same-sex desire without needing to think of themselves as in any way different from the next person. In other words, same sex desire is expressed without reference to the idea of personhood. Activism in these parts of the world has recognised this diversity and addressed the politics of sexuality in a far broader way.

In India, for instance, the Queer movement, which has succeeded in overturning a colonial anti-sodomy law, has been critical of an ‘LGBT politics’. This has been a movement that recognises the politics of sexuality as affecting everyone – not just those who fall into the politically constructed category of LGBT – and being central to the politics of caste, class, race, religious fundamentalism, nationalism and economic development.

In the UK we see the reduction of the queer agenda to simply demanding a space within the structures of hetero-normativity (the notion that a monogamous relationship with someone of the same class,-race, and religion is the only legitimate form of sexual relationshiop, and the structuring of the political economy on the basis of this norm) – without questioning these structures themselves. The demands are as minimal, for instance, as demanding recognition of same-sex marriage. Rather than asking the question of why rights are accessible to people only insofar as they fit somewhere on the heteronornative matrix, these activisms have reduced themselves to the demand for a place within it.

Read complete article here

1 November 2011 – PinkNews

Commonwealth nations react to “ex-colonial” British aid threat

by Stephen Gray
Britain has been accused of bullying the Commonwealth nations as it calls into question aid structures for countries with anti-gay laws.
A Ugandan presidential official, John Nagenda, told the BBC his country was “tired of these lectures” and that the Commonwealth nations should not be treated like “children”. Commonwealth nations are reacting to government plans to redirect aid away from central governments with poor human rights records.

International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell said: “Taking money away from Governments does not mean you do not support that country. You find other mechanisms for trying to help the poorest with food, education and health care as well as building up business structures” Mr Cameron told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show at the weekend: “Britain is now one of the premier aid givers in the world – saying that our aid, actually we want to see countries that receive our aid adhering to proper human rights, and that includes how people treat gay and lesbian people.” He was asked whether African countries would have their aid reduced if they did not reverse anti-gay legislation.

Mr Cameron replied: “We are saying it is one of the things that will determine our aid policy.” He added: “I think if you go back in our own country’s history, there was a time when we, you know till quite recently, discriminated in lots of ways. I think these countries are all on a journey and it’s up to us to try and help them along that journey, and that’s exactly what we do.”

Many pieces of anti-gay legislation around the Commonwealth date back to colonial times and British intervention, but are still in effect as homosexuality runs counter to countries’ cultural landscapes and prevailing religious beliefs.

Read complete article here

1 November 2011 – Fridae

African activists on human rights and aid

by Scott Long
Nearly 100 African NGOs and activists have appealed to the British government not to cut aid to African countries after British PM David Cameron threatened to seek to reduce foreign aid to Commonwealth countries which persecute gays.

This statement was issued on Oct 28, 2011 and co-signed by 53 organisations and 86 individual activists across Africa:
Statement Of African Social Justice Activists On The Threats Of The British Government To “Cut Aid” To African Countries That Violate The Rights Of LGBTI People In Africa

We, the undersigned African social justice activists, working to advance societies that affirm peoples’ differences, choice and agency throughout Africa, express the following concerns about the use of aid conditionality as an incentive for increasing the protection of the rights of LGBTI people on the continent.

It was widely reported, earlier this month, that the British Government has threatened to cut aid to governments of “countries that persecute homosexuals” unless they stop punishing people in same-sex relationships. These threats follow similar decisions that have been taken by a number of other donor countries against countries such as Uganda and Malawi. While the intention may well be to protect the rights of LGBTI people on the continent, the decision to cut aid disregards the role of the LGBTI and broader social justice movement on the continent and creates the real risk of a serious backlash against LGBTI people.

A vibrant social justice movement within African civil society is working to ensure the visibility of – and enjoyment of rights by – LGBTI people. This movement is made up of people from all walks of life, both identifying and non-identifying as part of the LGBTI community. It has been working through a number of strategies to entrench LGBTI issues into broader civil society issues, to shift the same-sex sexuality discourse from the morality debate to a human rights debate, and to build relationships with governments for greater protection of LGBTI people. These objectives cannot be met when donor countries threaten to withhold aid.

Read complete statement here

2 November 2011 – Fridae

The reluctant Commonwealth

by Douglas Sanders
British Commonwealth heads of government meeting in Perth in October did not adopt sweeping recommendations for change that included calling for the repeal of anti-homosexual criminal laws. We are not surprised. But the door has not been slammed shut. Doug Sanders reports. British Commonwealth heads of government meeting in Perth in October did not adopt sweeping recommendations for change that included calling for the repeal of anti-homosexual criminal laws. We are not surprised. But the door has not been slammed shut. Doug Sanders reports. At one point the British Empire ruled over one quarter of the world’s people and its Navy ruled the waves. It was the largest empire in world history. British ships transported three million African slaves to the Americas before 1850. In spite of that commercial success, Britain led the Western world in abolishing the slave trade and slavery.

A remarkable aspect of the Empire was its slow evolution to what we now know as the Commonwealth of Nations. The US, of course, revolted, leaving the family in 1776. No other colony left the family by way of revolution. Latin America is full of states that had wars of independence, and Asia has some too, notably Indonesia and Vietnam. None in Britain’s Asian colonies. By 1931 the Empire was reorganised to recognise the factual independence that had gradually developed in countries like Canada, Australia and South Africa. In 1949 the present name “Commonwealth of Nations” was adopted. The Queen became the “head” of the Commonwealth, but it was decided that India could be a member, though it was a republic. The “Colombo Plan” was adopted, adding a development program to the body. Students from developing member states gained scholarships to study in richer member countries.

Post-war decolonisation, beginning with India in 1949, basically changed the organisation. It now has 54 members. The revolting US is not in. Nineteen are in Africa. Eleven are in Oceana. Ten are in the Caribbean. Eight are in Asia. Member countries have a total population of 2.2 billion. Of course, 1.21 billion are in India alone.

The Empire evolved first into a friendly club of the ‘white Dominions’ in 1931. It adopted a development focus after 1949. With decolonisation it became a predominantly third-world organisation. Could it become an advocate of human rights? It was deeply divided over sanctions against racist governments in Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and South Africa. It has a history of censuring some countries for gross violations of human rights and democracy. It has suspended, at times, Fiji, Pakistan, Nigeria and Zimbabwe. It has broad policies on human rights and, in particular, against racism. But could it become a more active advocate of human rights?

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