Multi-national Gay News & Reports Jan-Jun 2008

Homosexuality Laws Around the World The countries of the world have a wide variety of laws relating to sexual relations between people of the same sex – everything from full legal recognition of same-sex marriage to the death penalty as punishment for homosexual conduct.

In addition to laws against same-sex relationships, many countries have laws geared towards a homosexual orientation, everything from passing anti-discrimination laws to barring those with a homosexual orientation from adoption.

1 Euro Court rules gay couples eligible to adopt 1/08

2 ILGA-Asia conference elects first regional board 2/08

3 ChiangMai, Thailand witnessed its first gay march 2/08

4 UN Committee refuses status to three LGBT groups 2/08

5 Tutu to accept award from LGBT rights group 2/08

6 Dutch stand up for gays at UN Human Rights council 3/08

7 Map of the world plots LGBT rights 4/08

8 New report claims 86 countries criminalise same-sex acts 5/08

9 France will argue for universal decriminalisation at UN 5/08

10 Outgoing U.N. rights chief slams treatment of women and gays 6/08

11 Homophobic governments block gays from UN AIDS conference 6/08

12 Organization of American States approves Resolution 6/08

13 COC–Netherlands Becomes First LGBT NGO to be Recommended 6/08

14 Going gay around the world 6/08

15 UNAIDS summit calls for end of travel restrictions for HIV sufferers 6/08

16 Report: Boy Victims of Commercial Sexual Exploiation 6/08

17 EU confirms sexual orientation will be included in discrimination directive 6/08

18 ILGA-ASIA regional conference: Jan 24-27, Chiang Mai 6/08

22nd January 2008

Euro Court rules gay couples eligible to adopt

by Gemma Pritchard
The European Court of Human Rights has ruled refusing gay couples the right to adopt a child because of their sexual orientation is discriminatory and in breach of the European Convention of Human Rights. Today the Grand Chamber delivered its judgement on gay adoption in the case of E.B. v France. The Court held by ten votes to seven that there had been a violation of Article 14 (prohibition of discrimination) in conjunction with Article 8 (right to respect for private and family life) of the European Convention on Human Rights. Under Article 41 (just satisfaction) of the Convention, the Court by eleven votes to six awarded the applicant 10,000 euros (£7,450) in respect of non-pecuniary damage and 14,528 euros for costs and expenses.

Ms. E.B. is a lesbian nursery school teacher who has been living with another woman since 1990. She applied for approval as a possible adoptive parent in February 1998, but her application was rejected. In June 2002, the highest administrative court in France upheld the rejection of her application. ILGA-Europe (the European Region of the International Lesbian and Gay Association), FIDH (Fédération Internationale des Ligues des Droits de l’Homme), APGL (Association des Parents et futurs Parents Gays et Lesbiens) and the BAAF (British Association for Adoption and Fostering) were granted permission to take part in the proceedings as third parties.

Patricia Prendiville, Executive Director of ILGA-Europe, told "We welcome today’s judgement of the European Court of Human Rights. This is a significant change in the Court’s approach towards and interpretation of the rights of LGBT people under the European Convention on Human Rights. Today the Court firmly established a principle that administrative officials cannot discriminate against an individual on the basis of her/his sexual orientation in the process of applying to adopt a child. This builds on the Court’s judgments in Smith & Grady v United Kingdom (1999), that LGBT people must be allowed to serve in the armed forces, and Mouta v Portugal (1999), that the sexual orientation of a parent is irrelevant when determining who should have custody of a child."

Until today France permitted administrative officials to exclude openly lesbian, gay and bisexual individuals from applying to adopt children. The European Court of Human Rights has decided that such a practice is discriminatory and violates the European Convention on Human Rights.

An ILGA-Europe spokesperson added: "No one has an automatic right to adopt a child. But what the European Court of Human Rights said today is that European countries can no longer justify exclusion of lesbian, gay and bisexual individuals from applying for a child adoption. The Court has established the principle that ILGA-Europe has long fought for– each individual should be treated equally on the basis of their individual merits as a potential parent when applying to adopt a child. The sexual orientation of the applicant is irrelevant and cannot be used to exclude them from the possibility of adopting a child. It is in the best interest of children in Europe and outside Europe that no potential adoptive parent be excluded from consideration for an irrelevant and discriminatory reason."

The press statement released by the registrar of the European Court of Human Rights states: "The Court held by ten votes to seven that there had been a violation of Article 14 (prohibition of discrimination) in conjunction with Article 8 (right to respect for private and family life) of the European Convention on Human Rights. Under Article 41 (just satisfaction) of the Convention, the Court by eleven votes to six awarded the applicant 10,000 euros (£7,553) in respect of non-pecuniary damage and EUR 14,528 (£10,973) for costs and expenses."

In the UK gay, lesbian and bisexual individuals and couples are legally entitled to be considered as adoptive parents under the Sexual Orientation Regulations which came into force last year. Roman Catholic-run adoption agencies have until the end of this year to comply with the new rules or shut down.

Full Judgement

Press release issued by the Registrar

Grand Chamber Judgement

The European Court of Human Rights has today delivered at a public hearing its Grand Chamber judgment1 in the case of E.B. v. France (application no. 43546/02).

The Court held by ten votes to seven that there had been a violation of Article 14 (prohibition of discrimination) in conjunction with Article 8 (right to respect for private and family life) of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Under Article 41 (just satisfaction) of the Convention, the Court by eleven votes to six awarded the applicant 10,000 euros (EUR) in respect of non-pecuniary damage and EUR 14,528 for costs and expenses. (The judgment is available in English and French.)

1. Principal facts

E.B. is a French national aged 45. She is a nursery school teacher and has been living with another woman, R., who is a psychologist, since 1990.

The application concerns the refusal by the French authorities to grant the applicant’s request to adopt a child, allegedly on account of her sexual orientation.

In February 1998 the applicant applied to the Jura Social Services Department for authorisation to adopt a child. During the adoption procedure she mentioned her homosexuality and her stable relationship with R.

On the basis of the reports drawn up by a social worker and a psychologist, the adoption board made a recommendation in November 1998 that the application be rejected.

Shortly afterwards the president of the council for the département of the Jura gave a decision refusing authorisation. Following an appeal by the applicant, the president of the council for the département confirmed his refusal in March 1999. The reasons given for both decisions were the lack of “identificational points of reference” due to the absence of a paternal image or reference and the ambiguous nature of the applicant’s partner’s commitment to the adoption plan.

The applicant lodged an application with Besançon Administrative Court, which set both decisions of the president of the council for the département aside on 24 February 2000.

The département of the Jura appealed against the judgment. Nancy Administrative Court of Appeal set aside the Administrative Court’s judgment on 21 December 2000. It held that the refusal to grant the applicant authorisation had not been based on her choice of lifestyle and had not therefore given rise to a breach of Articles 8 (right to respect for private and family life) and 14 (prohibition of discrimination) of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The applicant appealed on points of law, arguing in particular that her application to adopt had been rejected on account of her sexual orientation. In a judgment of 5 June 2002, the Conseil d’Etat dismissed E.B.’s appeal on the ground, among other things, that the Administrative Court of Appeal had not based its decision on a position of principle regarding the applicant’s sexual orientation, but had had regard to the needs and interests of an adopted child.

2. Procedure and composition of the Court

The application was lodged with the European Court of Human Rights on 2 December 2002.

The FIDH (Fédération Internationale des ligues des Droits de l’Homme), the ILGA-Europe (the European Region of the International Lesbian and Gay Association), the APGL (Association des Parents et futurs Parents Gays et Lesbiens) and the BAAF (British Agencies for Adoption and Fostering) were given leave to take part in the proceedings before the Chamber as third party interveners under Article 36 § 2 of the Convention (third party intervention) and Rule 44 § 2 of the Rules of Court.

On 19 September 2006, under Article 30 of the Convention2, the Chamber relinquished jurisdiction in favour of the Grand Chamber.

A public hearing took place in the Human Rights building, Strasbourg, on 14 March 2007.

Judgment was given by the Grand Chamber of 17 judges, composed as follows:

Christos Rozakis (Greek), President,
Jean-Paul Costa (French),
Nicolas Bratza (British),
Boštjan M. Zupancic (Slovenian),
Peer Lorenzen (Danish),
Françoise Tulkens (Belgian),
Loukis Loucaides (Cypriot)
Ireneu Cabral Barreto (Portuguese),
Riza Türmen (Turkish),
Mindia Ugrekhelidze (Georgian),
Antonella Mularoni (San Marinese),
Elisabeth Steiner (Austrian),
Elisabet Fura-Sandström (Swedish),
Egbert Myjer (Dutch),
Danute Jociene (Lithuanian),
Dragoljub Popovic (Serbian),
Sverre Erik Jebens (Norwegian) judges,

and also Michael O’Boyle, Deputy Registrar.

3. Summary of the judgment3


Relying on Article 14 of the Convention, taken in conjunction with Article 8, the applicant alleged that at every stage of her application for authorisation to adopt she had suffered discriminatory treatment that had been based on her sexual orientation and had interfered with her right to respect for her private life.

Decision of the Court


The Court reiterated at the outset that whilst French law and Article 8 did not guarantee either the right to found a family or the right to adopt (which neither party contested), the concept of "private life" within the meaning of Article 8 was a broad one which encompassed a certain number of rights.

With regard to an allegation of discrimination on grounds of the applicant’s homosexuality, the Court also reiterated that Article 14 (prohibition of discrimination) had no independent existence.

The application of Article 14 did not necessarily presuppose the violation of Article 8. It was sufficient for the facts of the case to fall "within the ambit" of that Article.

This was the case here since French legislation expressly granted single persons the right to apply for authorisation to adopt and established a procedure to that end.

Consequently, the Court considered that the State, which had gone beyond its obligations under Article 8 in creating such a right, could not then take discriminatory measures when it came to applying it.

The applicant alleged that, in the exercise of her right under the domestic law, she had been discriminated against on the ground of her sexual orientation, which was a concept covered by Article 14.

Article 14 of the Convention, taken in conjunction with Article 8, was therefore applicable in the present case.

Article 14 in conjunction with Article 8

After drawing a parallel with a previous case, the Court pointed out that the domestic administrative authorities, and then the courts that heard the applicant’s appeal, had based their decision to reject her application for authorisation to adopt on two main grounds: the lack of a paternal referent in the applicant’s household, and the attitude of the applicant’s declared partner.

The Court found that the attitude of the applicant’s partner was not without interest or relevance in assessing the application.

In the Court’s view, it was legitimate for the authorities to ensure that all safeguards were in place before a child was taken into a family, particularly where not one but two adults were found to be living in the household.

In the Court’s opinion, that ground had nothing to do with any consideration relating to the applicant’s sexual orientation.

With regard to the ground relied on by the domestic authorities relating to the lack of a paternal referent in the household, the Court considered that this did not necessarily raise a problem in itself. However, in the present case it was permissible to question the merits of such a ground as the application had been made by a single person and not a couple.

In the Court’s view, that ground might therefore have led to an arbitrary refusal and have served as a pretext for rejecting the applicant’s application on grounds of her homosexuality, and the Government had been unable to prove that use of that ground at domestic level had not been leading to discrimination.

Regarding the systematic reference to the lack of a "paternal referent," the Court disputed not the desirability of addressing the issue, but the importance attached to it by the domestic authorities in the context of adoption by a single person.

The fact that the applicant’s homosexuality had featured to such an extent in the reasoning of the domestic authorities was significant despite the fact that the courts had considered that the refusal to grant her authorisation had not been based on that.

Besides their considerations regarding the applicant’s "lifestyle," they had above all confirmed the decision of the president of the council for the département recommending that the application for authorisation be refused and giving as reasons the two impugned grounds: the wording of certain opinions revealed that the applicant’s homosexuality or, at other times, her status as a single person had been a determining factor in refusing her authorisation whereas the law made express provision for the right of single persons to apply for authorisation to adopt.

The Court considered that the reference to the applicant’s homosexuality had been, if not explicit, at least implicit; the influence of her homosexuality on the assessment of her application had not only been established but had also been a decisive factor leading to the decision to refuse her authorisation to adopt.

Accordingly, it considered that the applicant had suffered a difference in treatment.

If the reasons advanced for such a difference in treatment were based solely on considerations regarding the applicant’s sexual orientation this amounted to discrimination under the Convention.

In any event, particularly convincing and weighty reasons had to be made out in order to justify such a difference in treatment regarding rights falling within the ambit of Article 8.

There were no such reasons in the present case because French law allowed single persons to adopt a child, thereby opening up the possibility of adoption by a single homosexual.

Furthermore, the Civil Code remained silent as to the necessity of a referent of the other sex and, moreover, the applicant presented – in the terms of the judgment of the Conseil d’Etat – "undoubted personal qualities and an aptitude for bringing up children."

The Court noted that the applicant’s situation had been assessed overall by the domestic authorities, who had not based their decision on one ground alone but on "all" the factors, and considered that the two main grounds had to be examined concurrently.

Consequently, the illegitimacy of one of the grounds (lack of a paternal referent) had the effect of contaminating the entire decision.

The Court concluded that the decision refusing the applicant authorisation was incompatible with the Convention and that there had been a violation of Article 14 of the Convention, taken in conjunction with Article 8.

Judges Lorenzen and Jebens expressed a concurring opinion, and Judges Costa, Türmen, Ugrekhelidze, Jociene, as well as Judges Zupancic, Loucaides and Mularoni, expressed dissenting opinions. These are annexed to the judgment.

February 1, 2008

ILGA-Asia conference elects first regional board

by Sylvia Tan
Alongside 14 panel presentations and workshops held Jan 24 to 27 in Chiangmai, 26 Asia-based member organisations of the International Lesbian and Gay Association elects its first regional board. Fridae editor Sylvia Tan reports from Chiangmai.

A 10-member regional board has been elected for the first time by 26 Asia-based member organisations of the International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA) on Sunday, 27 Jan 2008, at the third ILGA-Asia conference held in Chiangmai. Members of ILGA met separately after each day’s conference proceedings to discuss the proposals related to self-organising within the organisation. About 160 lesbian, gay and human rights activists from 12 Asian and non-Asian countries attended the conference which was held in the northern Thai city from Jan 24 to 27. The conference was hosted by the Committee on Lesbigay Rights in Burma (CLRB) and M-Plus, a local gay group which runs a drop-in centre.

The ILGA-Asia board is the fourth regional board to be set up within the framework of the 29-year-old organisation after Europe (1996), Latin-America (2000) and Africa (2007). Founded in 1978, the Brussels-based network has links with some 600 member organisations in over 90 countries including 75 gay groups across Asia. Asia is currently represented on ILGA’s world board by Mira Alexis P. Ofreneo of Manila-based lesbian activist group CLIC (Can’t Live In the Closet) and Aung Myo Min of Committee for Lesbigay Rights in Burma which is based in Chiangmai.

They were elected at ILGA’s last regional conference held in 2005 in Cebu, the Philippines. Following the appointment of the new ILGA-Asia board on Sunday, Poedjiati Tan of Gaya Nusantara, Indonesia’s oldest gay rights advocacy group; and Sahran Abeysundara (Equal Ground, Sri Lanka) – best known to many as being a contestant on The Amazing Race Asia – will be the new female and male representatives to represent Asia on ILGA’s world board.

The other eight members of the Asia board are Eva Lee (Common Language, China) and Ashley Wu (Taiwan Tongzhi Hotline Association) representing East Asia; Toen-King Oey (Arus Pelangi, Indonesia) and Tan, South East Asia; Abeysundara and Hasna Hena (Bangladesh), South Asia; Anna Kirey (Labrys, Kyrgyzstan) and Suki (MSM Mongolia), Central Asia; Kamilia (Institut Pelangi Perempuan, Indonesia) and Frank Zhao (Trans China) were elected to fill the vacant seats in the West Asia region (Middle East) as it did not have any representation in the conference.

The 10 board members will serve a 2-year term until a new board gets elected at the next ILGA-Asia conference to be hosted by Nepal’s Blue Diamond Society in 2010. The other contender Bali, which was proposed by potential host organisation Gaya Nusantara, lost by a hair’s breath when a vote was taken on Sunday. Only member organisations have voting rights, while individual members are excluded from voting.

According to the ILGA website, the aim of a regional conference is to provide an "opportunity for Asian activists to reflect on ways to consolidate their movement and further progress in self-organising on a regional level."

Rosanna Flamer-Caldera, ILGA Female Co-Secretary-General, says that one of the main aims of establishing a regional board is to create opportunities for activists in Asia to network, pool their resources and benefit from the experiences of others who face the same challenges in their own countries. "One of the short term objectives is to have a working constitution and eventually establish a secretariat in Asia – a registered NGO working for LGBTIQ rights. My vision is for Asia to form a cohesive and strong network to fight for our rights in this region which has long been neglected," the Sri Lanka-based activist told Fridae.

"Many of the countries in Asia also criminalise homosexuality so I think a concerted effort to decriminalise in many of the countries would be a primary objective of quite a few regions." She added that the key to gaining LGBT rights is having a big voice, and making it "so much bigger so that people have to take notice" and recognise equal rights for gay, lesbian and transgendered people.

Prominent speakers at the 4-day conference include Dr Naiyana Supapueng from the National Human Rights Commission in Thailand and Vitit Muntarbhorn, Professor of Law at Bangkok’s Chulalongkorn University who also co-chaired the experts’ meeting which drafted The Yogyakarta Principles, a set of principles on the application of international human rights law in relation to sexual orientation and gender identity. Prof Vitit is also a UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Attendees of the conference also heard from Aya Kamikawa, a Setagaya Ward Assembly Member in Tokyo who is the first transsexual person to seek elected office in Japan; and Kanako Otsuji, Japan’s first openly lesbian politician who ran in a national election last year about mainstreaming LGBT issues at a national political level in Japan A street parade was held in the city for the first time as over 200 conference attendees, observers and members of the local LGBT community marched from the Buddhist Centre (Puttastan) to Pantip Plaza on Saturday night. More photos and reports to follow.

From: International Lesbian and Gay Association

February 1, 2008

For full text and photos

ChiangMai, Thailand witnessed its first gay march
on Saturday, Jan 27 as some 160 gay activists and NGO workers descended on the northern Thai city for the third ILGA-Asia conference. Conference attendees as well as members of the local LGBT community marched from the Buddhist Centre (Puttastan) through the busy Chang Klan Road’s Night Market to Pantip Plaza as thousands of tourists and locals looked on.

The march, which was organised in conjunction with the 4-day conference, was covered by the local media including The Nation newspaper, The Irrawaddy News Magazine and the BBC World Service. Among those present were Sunil Pant, the founder and director of Nepal’s Blue Diamond Society – an organisation that advocates the rights of sexual minorities. According to a press release issued by Pant in December last year, the Nepal Supreme Court had “issued directive orders to (the) Nepal government to ensure rights to life according to their own identities and introduce laws providing equal rights to LGBTIs and amend all the discriminatory laws against LGBTIs.” It also declared that persons of the third gender should be recognised as such. Locally termed metis, they could be pre op male to female transgenders, or persons with a gender expression that is not typical of his/her biological sex.

While some members of the LGBT community have expressed discomfort about massage parlours (and gogo bars especially in the case of Bangkok Pride) prominently advertising their services during pride parades, a veteran pride parade organiser argued that any promotion of commercial services should be viewed the same way as long as the participants are supportive of the gay cause. He highlighted that while many have no reservations about the presence of blue-chip brands, the same people may balk at the presence of massage parlours, gogo bars and other businesses that cater to the gay community as their participation casts gays in a bad light.

Related web sites

International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission

Blue Diamond Society

International Lesbian and Gay Association

Isis International-Manila

Equal Ground

Arus Pelangi

Institut Pelangi Perempuan

Gaya Nuantara

February 11, 2008

UN Committee refuses status to three LGBT groups

New York, U.S.A. – The United Nations Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations refused ECOSOC status to three lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender groups. In a tie vote, the committee recommended denial of ECOSOC consultative status to the Spanish LGBT federation, Federaci’n Estatal de Lesbianas, Gays, Transexuales y Bisexuales (FELGTB). It also deferred consideration of two other LGBT national federations: COC (Cultuur en Ontspanningscentrum) from the Netherlands and ABGLT (Associao Brasileira de Gays, Lesbicas, Bissexuais, Travestis e Transexuais) from Brazil which was deferred for the second time.

Both NGOs will be therefore reconsidered in the upcoming NGO Committee session of May. The three organizations had applied for ECOSOC consultative status at the UN, an observer status which allows Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) to participate in UN Sessions.In the January sessions of the ECOSOC NGO committee 19 countries review applications and issues recommendations that are then later approved or rejected by the full ECOSOC with 54 members.

Beto de Jesus (ABGLT – Brazil) says: "Being deferred for the second time is obviously frustrating. We are looking forward to have our association become the first one coming from the Southern hemisphere to officially and permanently represent the voice of Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals and Transgender people in an UN forum says Beto de Jesus who represented ABGLT, a federation gathering over 200 LGBT groups in Brazil. The fact we were presented a rather long list of questions on the eve of the review of our application shows again how determined is our opposition. Joyce Hamilton (COC The Netherlands) says: "It was a shocking first experience at the UN, an organisation that is supposed to safeguard the rights and dignity of each human being.

This blatant structural discrimination against LGBT organisations shows the need for a continued battle at this level. It is important to continue the dialogue with conservative member states for recognition of LGBT rights as human rights and the need for recognising diversity of the world population. Consultative status will enable COC to address the fact that the UN cannot accept a society where people are discriminated and marginalised based on their sexual orientation or identity. It most certainly has strengthened our motivation to continue the fight.

"The Spanish Federation (which was also deferred previously) received a negative recommendation in a tied vote. The NGO Committee only proceeded to voting on FELGTB’s application after defeating a motion by Egypt, Pakistan and Qatar to again defer their application. The motion to recommend status was defeated in a tied vote of 7 Yes, 7 No, 4 Abstain and 1 not present (voting a motion to grant which results in a tie counts as a vote not to grant).

This is a big improvement from the vote on ILGA and LBL two years ago which were voted down by a margin of 9 No and 5 Yes.Voting totals on granting consultative status: Yes: Columbia, Dominica, Israel, Peru, Romania, UK, USANo: Burundi, China, Egypt, Pakistan, Qatar, Russia, SudanAbstentions: Angola, Guinea, India, TurkeyNot present: CubaToni Poveda and Sylvia Jaun, President and Secretary general of FELGTB had to answer over 20 questions over the organizational aspects of the association, political positions and were asked to clarify the federation’s comitment to the the rights of the Child.

They of course regretted that the recommendation was negative but recognize how this vote allows FELGTB to get its application to the next stage: a vote on this recommendation by the full ECOSOC in its July session.Toni Poveda (FELGTB – Spain) says: "Even getting this negative recommendation was difficult in the NGO Committee today. Representatives of Egypt, Pakistan, and Qatar constantly came up with additional questions for us and claimed that proceeding to a vote on whether or not to grant consultative status to the group – before all questions are answered – would constitute preferential treatment to this NGO. UK, Romania, and others disagreed, considering that the NGO Committee received sufficient information in order to make a decision during this session This session showed clearly how rights of LGBT’s are the last frontier in the field of universal human rights". From her side, Sylvia Ja’n (FELGTB) wished to mention the major support we’ve had from the permanent mission of Spain in the UN.

They engaged in many diplomatic conversations and read a declaration of support from the Spanish government. There is clearly a group of countries in this committee, which insists in blocking the applications of LGBT groups from one session to another, preventing them to reach the full ECOSOC where their position does not have a majority. We were succesfull in overcoming this situation but unfortunately our Dutch and Brazilian friends were not.

The nature of the questions LGBT human rights defenders were asked, repeatedly trying to link homosexuality and pedophilia, simply shows how far our stubborn opposition is ready to go to put obstacles before LGBT groups on their way to recognition as members of civil society.In the concluding comments, the UK stressed that the NGO Committee discriminates against LGBT NGO applicants and that it is the right of this community to have their voice heard at the UN. Romania also regretted the outcome of the second motion and the fact that the NGO Committee "engaged in a blatant act of discrimination today," and pointed out the pattern established for LGBT NGOs to be rejected in the NGO Committee and then approved in the plenary of ECOSOC, wondering where the NGO Committee is heading with this practice.

Philipp Braun, Co-secretary general of ILGA, the International Lesbian and Gay Association says: "The LGBTI community is clearly gaining ground at the UN as shown by the increased support from countries that before were hostiles to LGBTI issues. Only 2 years ago we were in a much more difficult position in the NGO Committee and even a tied vote was but a dream. ILGA wants to thank the countries that supported these NGOs in the Committee. I want to congratulate the courageous activists from ABGLT, COC and FELGTB for standing their ground at the United Nations. ILGA also wishes to thank Adrian Coman from the International Lesbian and Gay Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) for giving support to their lobbying at the Committee". Background InformationIn 2005, ILGA began its "ECOSOC Campaign", an initiative aimed at allowing LGBTI human rights defenders to address the UN "in their own name", by getting LGBTI groups from diverse countries to apply for ECOSOC status.

In 2006 and 2007, after harsh and lengthy consideration by the ECOSOC, consultative status was granted to five LGBT organizations: ILGA-Europe, the European Region of the International Lesbian and Gay Association, the Danish, Swedish and German national LGBT federations (LBL, LSVD and RFSL) and the Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Quebec, CGLQ. This development has already allowed ILGA members to address the floor of the Human Rights Council (HRC) plenary, which prompted the High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour to state her support for LGBT rights in that international forum. ILGA has been facilitating the presence of LGBT activists at the United Nations Human Rights Council since 2004.

29th February 2008

Tutu to accept award from LGBT rights group

by Tony Grew
The former Archbishop of Cape Town and Nobel Prize Laureate Desmond Tutu is to be honoured by the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission. The Anglican leader has been outspoken in his rejection of homophobia, often clashing with his more conservative African colleagues. He will be appearing at IGLHRC’s A Celebration of Courage event in San Francisco on April 8th to accept the OUTSPOKEN Award "in honour of the unprecedented impact of his leadership as a human rights advocate."

In November 2007 Archbishop Tutu told the BBC that if he believed that God was homophobic, he wouldn’t be a Christian. The Nobel Peace Prize winner said he was ashamed of his church because of its treatment of gays. He said that Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury and spiritual head of the Anglican communion, has not demonstrated the attributes of a "welcoming God" to homosexuals.

"Our world is facing problems, poverty, HIV and AIDS, a devastating pandemic, and conflict," Tutu said. "God must be weeping looking at some of the atrocities that we commit against one another. In the face of all of that, our Church, especially the Anglican Church, at this time is almost obsessed with questions of human sexuality." He said that the Church acted in an "extraordinarily homophobic" way during the election of Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire.

Asked if he still felt ashamed, he replied: "If we are going to not welcome or invite people because of sexual orientation, yes. "If God as they say is homophobic I wouldn’t worship that God. It is a perversion if you say to me that a person chooses to be homosexual. You must be crazy to choose a way of life that exposes you to a kind of hatred. It’s like saying you choose to be black in a race infected society."

In December he apologised to gay people all around the world for the way they have been treated by the Church.

4th March 2008

Dutch stand up for gays at UN Human Rights council

by staff writer
The Foreign Minister of the Netherlands today told an international meeting that gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans people deserve equal rights. Maxime Verhagen made his remarks at the opening session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva. In a wide-ranging speech he highlighted the rights of "children in Uzbekistan picking cotton for long hours for little or no wages" and proposed the EU move to ban on the sale of goods that have been produced "using any form of slavery or practice similar to slavery, such as debt bondage, serfdom or forced or compulsory labour."

"This year marks the sixtieth anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights," he said. "This unique document sets down the ‘values of the world’: justice, equality, solidarity, humanity and liberty. Human rights reflect these values; they are what bind us together in this world. Human rights are not a Western invention. In 85 countries, homosexuality is still punishable by law and people can be prosecuted because of their sexual orientation. In five countries in the world, Afghanistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Yemen, consensual sexual acts by people of the same sex are even capital crimes. There is no excuse for the humiliation and exclusion of homosexual people, let alone for imposing the death penalty on them. Decriminalising homosexuality and countering discrimination based on sexual orientation are priorities within Dutch human rights policy.

"The Dutch government subscribes to the Yogyakarta Principles on the application of international human rights law in relation to sexual orientation and gender identity. I call upon other states to embrace these principles as well. Tradition, culture or religion must never be used to justify the violation of human rights."

The Yogyakarta Principles, named after the Indonesian city whey they were adopted, were launched in March 2007 by 29 international human rights experts at a UN Human Rights Council session. They address issues such as rape and gender-based violence, extrajudicial executions, torture and medical abuses, repressions of free speech and discrimination in the public services. Last year 54 member states of the UN Human Rights Council asked the council to act against violations of the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. The UN Human Rights Council was established in 2006, and is holding its seventh session in Geneva from 3rd to 28th March.

11th April 2008

Map of the world plots LGBT rights

by Tony Grew
A global gay rights federation is celebrating its 30th anniversary with an updated map of gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans rights across the globe. Founded in 1978, the International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA) is a federation of more than 600 groups in 90 countries campaigning for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex (LGBTI) rights.

"A print version of the map will be sent to all members of ILGA in the following weeks," a spokesperson said. "People or groups who are interested in distributing this map can order additional copies at before April 20th. We are now preparing the 2008 version of the state-sponsored Homophobia ILGA report which shall be ready for May 17th, International Day Against Homophobia."

To see the map click here.


ILGA has had some notable successes in its 30 years of campaigning, among them getting the World Health Organisation to drop homosexuality from its list of illnesses. However, it caused controversy in 1993 when it became the first lesbian and gay rights organisation to gain "consultative status" at the United Nations. A year later ILGA’s connections with paedophile groups such as the "North American Man Boy Love Association" (NAMBLA) were exploited by right-wing politicians and led to it losing its status.

ILGA applied to have its consultative status reinstated on several occasions, highlighting the expulsion of NAMBLA from the federation in 1994 and their stated commitments to child protection and against paedophilia. In December 2006 the European branch of ILGA did gain consultative status at the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) of the UN.

May 15, 2008

New report claims 86 countries criminalise same-sex acts

by Tony Grew
The International Lesbian and Gay Association’s 2008 report on state-sponsored homophobia says that to be lesbian or gay risks jail time in 86 countries and death penalty in seven. The figure normally quoted is 77 countries. The research deals only with legislation criminalising consensual sexual acts between persons of the same sex in private above the age of consent. Laws dealing with such acts in public, with under aged people, with force or by any other reason are not included. In addition to those 86 countries there are six provinces or territorial units which also punish homosexuality with imprisonment, said ILGA. A 30-year-old world federation, ILGA consists of 670 lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex groups from more than 100 countries.

"Although many of the countries listed in the report do not systematically implement those laws, their mere existence reinforces a culture where a significant portion of the citizens needs to hide from the rest of the population out of fear," said Rosanna Flamer-Caldera, co-secretary general of ILGA. "A culture where hatred and violence are justified by the state and force people into invisibility or into denying who they truly are. Whether exported by colonial empires or the result of legislations culturally shaped by religious beliefs, if not deriving directly from a conservative interpretation of religious texts, homophobic laws are the fruit of a certain time and context in history. Homophobia is cultural. Homophobia, lesbophobia and transphobia are not inborn. People learn them as they grow."

ILGA’s 2008 report on state homophobia around the world is available at This year, ILGA has also included a list of countries according to their legislations affecting LGBTI people. This allows readers to get a quick and comprehensive overview on the legal situation in the world, from countries penalising homosexual activity with death penalty to the few ones allowing adoption for same-sex couples. Along the same lines, ILGA has published a map on LGBTI rights that can be used to raise awareness of people on the many laws affecting LGBTI people in the world. It is available on

Philipp Braun, co-secretary general of ILGA, said: "In many cases prejudice against homosexual people is the result of ignorance and fear. This long catalogue of horrors is but a tale of the intolerance against what is foreign and different. Decriminalisation of same sex activity is as urgent as ever. The fight for the respect of every minority has to be everyone’s fight. We believe that the recognition of sexual minorities as components of our civil societies and the acknowledgement of the equality of their human rights can contribute to learning how to live together, that is, the learning of democracy. ILGA is committed to have sexual orientation and gender identity come out and be discussed at the United Nations Human Rights Council.

We believe the Yogyakarta Principles on the application of international human rights law in relation to sexual orientation and gender identity, recently developed by a group of international human rights experts, are a useful tool to frame such a discussion among UN member states. It is important to set this debate where it belongs: on the human rights agenda. Altogether 60 countries have publicly supported sexual orientation as an issue at the United Nations Commission on Human Rights/Human Rights Council since 2003. Criminalisation of consensual same-sex activity is being challenged by NGOs and states in the current Universal Periodic Review."

May 19, 2008

France will argue for universal decriminalisation at UN

by Tony Grew
The French minister of human rights and foreign affairs has announced that it will appeal at the United Nations for a universal decriminalisation of homosexuality. Rama Yade also confirmed on Saturday that the International Day Against Homophobia is now officially recognised in France. She announced plans to raise the issue of universal decriminalisation later this year when France takes over the rotating Presidency of the European Union. From July until the end of 2008 France will speak for all EU member states at the UN General Assembly. The French initiative envisages the EU advocate a solemn declaration from UN states to decriminalise homosexuality, rather than a vote in the UN on the matter. The British government already advocates universal decriminalisation.

Marking the International Day Against Homophobia on Saturday Meg Munn, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office said: "There are 75 countries around the world where same sex relationships are prohibited, and nine countries where they are punishable by death. Despite repeated condemnation by the UN Human Rights Committee, discrimination and denial of people’s basic human rights due to sexual orientation continues. Human rights are universal and should not be determined by sexual orientation or gender identity. We are committed to promoting equality and ending the discrimination of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people (LGBT) around the world and have developed a programme to help achieve this.

Working with human rights activists, international institutions and non-governmental organisations and like minded governments the Foreign Office is targeting states where same sex relations are illegal, to raise our concerns and encourage them to change their laws. Our work concentrates on those aspects of discrimination where UK intervention may have a positive effect such as non-discrimination in the application of human rights; decriminalisation of same sex relationships; support for LGBT activists and human rights defenders and raising LGBT issues at international and multilateral institutions."

In February Ms Munn conceded that there is not sufficient consensus globally to justify pursuing an international convention. "The government consider that it can pursue equality and non-discrimination through existing human rights mechanisms, through multilateral action with like-minded partners and bilaterally," she told MPs.;_ylt=AspX4cqyD25FvpUyturIzVpn.3QA

June 2, 2008

Outgoing U.N. rights chief slams treatment of women and gays

by Robert Evans
Outgoing United Nations human rights chief Louise Arbour hit out on Monday against mistreatment of women and gays in many countries and called for equal condemnation of rights violations wherever they happen. In a farewell speech to the U.N. Human Rights Council, she also urged it to condemn anti-Semitism as well as Islamophobia, and to speak out against abuse of minorities, immigrants and people from perceived lower castes. "A key aspect of women’s legal disenfranchisement in many countries is the limitation placed on their ability to own or manage property, including through unjust divorce or inheritance laws," she told the 47-nation body, where Islamic countries have a strong hold on the agenda.

The "perpetuation of prejudices continues to deny equal rights and dignity to millions worldwide on the basis of nothing more innocuous than their sexual identity or orientation, or their ancestry in the case of caste discrimination," she said. Some Islamic and African countries in the Council, which have a majority when backed by their frequent allies Russia, China and Cuba, have frequently been angered by Arbour’s views, although she has also often spoken out against Israeli policies. Many countries in the majority group have made little secret of their wish to bring the high commissioner’s office under the control of the Council. The post is currently responsible to the U.N. Secretary-General, who nominates its occupant.

Arbour, who on Monday also criticized prejudice and actions against illegal immigrants in Europe, especially in Italy, recognized that there was still skepticism about the Council, set up two years ago to replace a discredited predecessor. Independent human rights groups complain that major abuses — especially in developing nations — are ignored because groups of states in the Council block discussion or action on complaints that might embarrass their members. Arbour herself warned that "regional or communal positions" or "narrow parochial political agendas" in the body could prevent it from ever becoming effective.

Western diplomats say that countries that in the past benefited from U.N. pressure on their governments over rights — like South Africa — are now among the first to reject what they regard as interference in internal affairs. In her farewell address, Arbour suggested that the failure to bring the Yangon regime to book over long-term rights violations had encouraged it to refuse to allow in most outside help after last month’s devastating hurricane. Myanmar’s government has since responded to international outrage by saying it will admit all "legitimate" foreign aid workers, but several aid workers are still complaining that red tape is hampering their efforts.

(For more information on humanitarian crises and issues visit

(Editing by Jonathan Lynn and Mariam Karouny)

June 5, 2008

Homophobic governments block gays from UN AIDS conference

by Tony Grew
Lesbian and gay and sexual health groups from Jamaica, Zimbabwe and Egypt have been excluded from a major international conference on HIV/AIDS organised by the United Nations General Assembly. The UN meeting is intended to review progress in the fight against AIDS. Representatives of the governments of those three countries, all of which are openly homophobic, complained about the presence of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ), and the Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All-Sexuals and Gays (J-FLAG). They were all initially included on the President of the General Assembly’s list of human rights groups and international AIDS organisations taking part in next week’s high-level meeting. However, after complaints from Egypt, Zimbabwe, and Jamaica they were denied accreditation.

The General Assembly accepted their respective governments’ objection. "J-FLAG is extremely disappointed by this move," said Jason McFarlane, programme manager of J-FLAG. "The Jamaican government itself has acknowledged that homophobia is fuelling our HIV epidemic. Silencing J-FLAG Jamaica’s, only LGBT organisation, undermines Jamaica’s efforts to combat HIV/AIDS." General Assembly meetings in 2001 and 2006 resulted in commitments by all member states to halt and reverse the HIV epidemic by 2010 and to achieve "universal access" to HIV prevention, care, and treatment.

"This meeting is about expanding access to HIV prevention and treatment," said Joe Amon, HIV/AIDS programme director at Human Rights Watch. "It’s hypocritical and counterproductive for UN member states to block organisations from attending who are working to ensure that HIV information and services are truly available to all."

Organization of American States approves "Human Rights, Sexual Orientation, and Gender Identity" Resolution

Medellín , Colombia
The Organization of American States, at its 38th meeting carried out in Medellín , Colombia , approved, by consensus, Resolution "Human Rights, Sexual Orientation, and Gender Identity". The resolution was presented by the government of Brazil , and was approved after three days of negotiations and a mobilization campaign by civilians present there. The English-Speaking Caribbean countries (some countries still criminalize homosexuality) initially resisted and the initial text – although short, was further shortened.

* The decision includes gender identity (a subject considered difficult in many countries and forgotten by many activists in the world) besides sexual orientation, and recognizes the existence of the human rights violations to the ITBLG population.

* This is the result of a strategy of political incidence organized within the regional system of the OAS since 2006 and was designed by Global Rights, Mulabi – Espacio Latinoamericano de Sexualidades y Derechos e IGLHRC (International Gays and Lesbianas Human Rights Commision) Latin America section.

* We also had an informal session with Mr. Insulza, the Secretary General and afterwards we presented a declaration before the plenary session, finding clear and key support.

* At the end is the text of the resolution in English together with the declaration presented to the General Assembly by Camilo, a young 14-year-old Colombian transsexual (female to male).

* At the end you will find the list of the people that made up the working group ( 20 people – 16 countries)
* I consider that with this resolution we have "come out of the closet before the OAS and that now we exist in that political space".

Germán Humberto Rincón Perfetti
Bogotá – Colombia

Work Group:
Belissa Andia (Instituto Runa – Secretaría Trans ILGA, Perú)
Caleb Orozco (United Belice Advocacy Movement, Belice)*
Camila Zabala ( Aireana , Paraguay ) ***
Camilo Rojas, Sentimos Diverso , Colombia )
Cindy Loren (GATTA, Brasil
Claudia Spelman (Colectivo Travesti de San Pedro Sula,
Edmilson Medeiros (Red Afro LGBT y Articulação Politica das Juventudes
Negras, Brasil)
Germán Rincón Perfetti (Asociación. Lideres en acción, Colombia )
Javier Minnota Minnota ( Afro América XXI, Colombia )
July Betanzes (Colectiva Mujer y Salud, República Dominicana)
Marcelo Ferreyra (IGLHRC, Argentina )
Marina Bernal (Mulabi, México-Colombia)
Michel Riquelme (Organización de Transexuales por la Dignidad de laDiversidad, Chile )
Natasha Jiménez ( Mulabi , Costa Rica )
Sandra Montealegre (Mesa Joven por la Diversidad Sexual , Colombia )
Sara Hoyos (Activista independiente, Colombia )
Silvia Martínez (Red LAC/Trans, Nicaragua )
Stefano Fabeni (Global Rights, Italia/EEUU)
Tamara Adrian (DIVERLEX, Venezuela )
Tatiana Cordero (Taller Comunicación Mujer , Ecuador
Maurice Tomlinson ( Jamaica AIDS Support for Life , Jamaica )
Vidyaratha Kissoon (Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination
SASOD, Guyana )

Re. Human Rights, Sexual Orientation, And Gender Identity The General Assembly Reaffirming:

*That the Universal Declaration of Human Rights affirms that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights and that everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in that Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth, or other status;

*That the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man establishes that every human being has the right to life, liberty, and the security of the person;

Considering that the OAS Charter proclaims that the historic mission of America is to offer to man a land of liberty and a favorable environment for the development of his personality and the realization of his just aspirations;

Reaffirming the principles of universality, indivisibility, and interdependence of human rights;

Taking Note with concern acts of violence and related human rights violations perpetrated against individuals because of their sexual orientation and gender identity;


1. To express concern about acts of violence and related human rights violations committed against individuals because of their sexual orientation and gender identity.

2. To request that the Committee on Juridical and Political Affairs (CAJP) include on its agenda, before the thirty-ninth regular session of the General Assembly, the topic of "Human rights, sexual orientation, and gender identity.

3. To request the Permanent Council to report to the General Assembly at its thirty-ninth regular session on the implementation of this resolution, the execution of which shall be subject to the resources allocated in the program-budget of the Organization and other resources.

Medellin Declaration of the Coalition of Lesbian, Gays, Bisexuals, Travesti, Transsexuals, Transgenders and Intersex of The Americas

Mister Secretary General, Ministers, Members of the Official Delegations, Civil Society Representatives,

We, the lesbian, gay, bisexual, travesti, transsexual, transgender and intersex organizations, convened in Medellin , Colombia on May 29, 30 and 31, 2008, in accordance with directives established by the General Assembly of the OAS in its resolutions AG/RES.2092( XXXV-O/05) which determine a regulatory framework to enhance and strengthen civil society participation in OAS activities and in the Summit of the Americas process, are concerned** that in the draft declaration of Medellín "Youth and democratic values" there are no references to sexual orientation and gender identity and expression, even though they were part of the recommendations from the civil society meeting in Washington , from the 10th to the 14th of March, 2008.

Our reality as youth is characterized by the violation of the right to life; we are victims of torture, genital mutilations, forced medical surgery and sexual violence. Our rights to health, education, identity, work and participation are denied. We are constantly victims of stigmatization and exclusion in our families and in society as a whole. Our visibility and the right to our social and legal identities are also denied. All these rights violations are caused by social, cultural and religious prejudices that destroy our dignity as citizens.

All our rights are systematically violated in all countries of the hemisphere.

Since this reality contradicts the essence of the democratic values of the OAS, we recommend:

– That Member States recognize the existence of diversity in sexual orientation, gender identity and expression among young persons. This includes recognizing the rights to change name and sex in our legal documents without requiring genital mutilation.
– That Member States promote the respect for diversity in sexual orientation, gender identity and expression in education and media to build a just, equitable and inclusive society.
– That Member States ensure, especially to youth, full access to education, health, employment and occupation without discrimination; in case of rights violations within families and communities of origin to provide services sensitive to the needs of young persons.
– That Member States repeal all criminalizing and discriminatory legislation, and promote cultural, social and institutional changes which are aimed at preventing and punishing discrimination and violence, and thereby fully guaranteeing our rights.
– That the General Assembly approves the draft Resolution CP/CAJP-2626/ 08 "Human Rights, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity" presented by the Brazilian Delegation, whose initiative we fully endorse. At the same time we urge all Member States to support the above mentioned resolution.
– That the General Assembly approves the draft Resolution AG/doc4794/08 "Draft Inter-American Convention against Racism and all Forms of Discrimination and Intolerance" and that Member States commit themselves to finalizing the negotiation of the draft accepting the substantive progress achieved during the past year.

We believe that, as long as discrimination and intolerance against lesbians, gays, bisexuals, travesti, transsexuals, transgenders and intersex continue unpunished in our societies, there will neither be democratic values for youth, nor will there be democracy for all.

The link to see the video is:
http://www.oas. org/OASpage/ live/show. asp?LocationMMS= http://www. videosasf/ 2008/06/ROJAS_ sociedadcivil_ 1junio019. wmv&wCaption

Thank you
Palabras de Camilo Andrés Rojas, Representante de la Red de Organizaciones por los derechos de personas gays, lesbianas y transexua

COC– Netherlands

June 3, 2008

COC–Netherlands Becomes First LGBT NGO to be Recommended for Consultative Status by United Nations NGO Committee

With much excitement we are happy to report that COC Netherlands was recommended today for consultative status by the ECOSOC NGO Committee. The NGO Committee is a UN body of 19 member states from all UN regions who’s responsibility includes evaluating NGO applications for consultative status lodged with the UN. COC is the first LGBT NGO to receive a positive recommendation from the NGO Committee, in the last few years, setting therefore a positive precedent in the LGBT organizations’ struggle at the UN. Prior applications from LGBT NGOs were rejected by the NGO Committee, and later approved by the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), the NGO Committee’s parent body (see background at the end of this message).

The positive recommendation for COC Netherlands came as a result of a vote called for by the UK in the last hour of the NGO Committee session. States voted as follows: In favor of granting the consultative status: 7 ( Columbia , Dominica , Israel , Peru , Romania , UK , US) Against granting the status: 6 (China, Egypt, Pakistan, Qatar, Russia, Suda ) Abstentions: 5 Angola, Burundi, Guinea, Indi , Turke ) Not present: Cuba Burundi is the country that made the difference. They abstained this time instead of voting against (as they did for instance at the January 2008 session of the NGO Committee when the application of the Spanish LGBT Federation was rejected). The NGO Committee works by consensus, so the motions for a vote are rare. The next and final step for COC Netherlands and FELGT Spain is to be considered by ECOSOC at its meeting in July 2008 in New York .

During this second session in 2008 (May 29-June 6), the NGO Committee also considered a new application from Lestime, a lesbian women’s group from Geneva , Switzerland , and the deferred application from the Brazilian LGBT Federation (ABGLT). Both NGOs received more questions from NGO Committee members and were deferred without a vote to the NGO Committee session in January 2009. Like in the past, the questions posed by certain NGO Committee members to the applicant NGOs revolved around sexual crimes (particularly pedophilia/relation s with people under the age of consent), explaining their organzations’ relationship with ILGA, discussing their independence from government, as well as presenting their internal governance mechanism.

Two new questions appeared in this session’s comments from Egypt , Qatar , and Pakistan . One is whether the LGBT NGOs recognized genders beyond male/female. Qatar ‘s questions in particular showed confusion between gender and sexual orientation. The other (rhetorical) question was which international human rights treaties explicitly refer to sexual orientation/ LGBT people. The Yogyakarta Principles also made their way into the NGO Committee’s session. Egypt asked COC to express their position in regards to the Yogyakarta Principles, which they introduced as a "Universal Declaration of Human Rights, but only for homosexuals.

" Overall, their questions become more complex, and more numerous. Please see the list of typical questions at the end of this message. In the explanation of the vote, the UK reiterated a principle they have been stressing across all NGO Committee sessions, "we may disagree with an NGO, but it does not mean that we should exclude them." Romania added " this is a break through for this committee, especially as regards the values and principles we are defending in this distinguished forum."

Congratulations to COC and to Björn van Roozendaal in particular who represented COC here in NY. Björn actually joins me in signing this statement, although at this very moment he must be just taking off from NY for Amsterdam . Sincere thank you to the supportive delegations in the NGO Committee (and this includes those who abstained!) Let’s enjoy this news and then begin planning for the next steps at the ECOSOC session in July, as well as for the NGO Committee session in January 2009, when a larger number of LGBT applications are pending.

Thank you to ILGA-Europe for facilitating my pass to the UN, on the basis of their consultative status.

Adrian Coman / IGLHRC

The consultative status at the UN allows NGOs to work directly on human rights and other issues of importance to the LGBT community by ensuring access to UN meetings, delivery of oral and written reports, and organizing events to facilitate understanding of the abuse and discrimination that LGBT people face around the world.

ECOSOC consists of 54 member states of the United Nations, drawn from the five UN regions: Africa, Asia, Latin America, Eastern Europe and the West.

Three European LGBT NGOs were granted consultative status by ECOSOC in December 2006: The Danish National Association for Gay and Lesbians (LBL), The European Region of the International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA-Europe) , and the Lesbian and Gay Federation in Germany (LSVD). Two groups, Coalition gaie et lesbienne du Québec (CGLQ) and the Swedish Federation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights (RFSL), were granted consultative status by ECOSOC in July 2007.

The US-based International Wages Due Lesbians and Australian-based Coalition of Activist Lesbians have had consultative status at the UN for years. The International Lesbian and Gay Association, succeeded in its effort to gain entry to the UN in the early nineties only to be stripped of the status at the urging of former United States Senator Jesse Helms, a long-time opponent of the LGBT community.

The questions from the opponent states put LGBT NGOs in a defensive position, associating LGBT issues with sexual issues (especially sexual crimes such as pedophilia), purposely ignoring the human rights missions of these organizations.

Typical questions reflecting a lack of correct information about sexual orientation and gender identity:
* Whether homosexuals are also pedophiles/ or the organization promotes or condones pedophilia; how the organization screens their members to make sure they don’t promote or condone pedophilia
* Whether NGOs have activities that expose people under the age of consent
to sexual activities/sexual abuse; generally, details about the NGO’s work with young people and how the NGO ensures the activities do not harm young people
* Whether homosexuality is temporary or permanent in one’s life/whether one can be ‘taught’ to be a homosexual
*Whether the NGO has a charitable mission and whether the mission is compatible with the UN charter
*Whether the organization has responded to a questionnaire sent by the NGO Committee to ILGA in June 1995, which to be re-sent by ILGA to member organizations, on whether they promote or condone pedophilia. Whether the organization can state now that they do not promote or condone pedophilia.
*Whether the organization supports the right to sexual determination / to explore one’s sexuality relevance of international human rights instruments to LGBT

Questions directly related to requirements of resolution 1996/31:
* Whether the NGO is independent from government, in particular the extent to which the NGO budget comes from government funds
* Why the European applicant NGOs do not use the consultative status already granted by ECOSOC to ILGA-Europe in 2006, given that ILGA-Europe is an umbrella organization. What added value would the consultative status bring to the NGO’s work if granted, what plans the organization has for work at the UN (what the actual contribution of the NGO can be to the UN system)
* What is the decision-making process within the organization/ or the accountability/ governance mechanism.

June 15, 2008

Going gay around the world

Paris, France (Agence France-Presse ) – Although it is one of the most turbulent moral issues of the day, homosexual marriages and other forms of same-sex partnerships are gaining acceptance around the world. The most populous US state California will hold its first gay marriages starting on Monday, two weeks after the state Supreme Court quashed a ban on the partnerships in a historic ruling. It becomes the second US state after Massachusetts to allow gay marriages.

The Netherlands was the first nation to celebrate gay marriages in April 2001, followed by Belgium in June 2003, Canada and Spain in July 2005, and Britain in December 2005. South Africa became in November 2006 the first African country to legalize same-sex marriage. The Civil Union Act, 2006, allows for civil unions to be solemnized by way of either a marriage or a civil partnership. Norway followed earlier this year when parliament adopted a law allowing homosexuals to marry and adopt children and lesbians to be artificially inseminated.

Homosexual marriage in Spain, once one of the world’s most staunchly Roman Catholic nations, has called down fulminations from the Vatican, but appears to be supported by a majority of Spaniards, whether straight or gay. In Britain, the establishment Church of England has refused to celebrate same-sex unions. At a level lower than marriage, many countries recognize same-sex civil unions for tax and inheritance purposes. Denmark was the first country to allow "registered partnerships" or civil unions followed by the other main Nordic nations.

France recognizes a union between any two adults, whether man or woman, in a Pact of Civil Solidarity (PACS). Germany gives partners living together similar rights to those of marriage, except those pertaining to taxation and adoption. Portugal has had a similar measure on the books since 2001, but Prime Minister Jose Socrates has said his government will not consider gay marriage. In the United States also, Vermont and Connecticut recognize same-sex civil unions, while Hawaii, Maine, and New Jersey allow couples living together the same rights as married couples.

But many countries reject any kind of union between homosexuals, usually on religious grounds. Australia’s conservative government passed legislation in 2004 that defined marriage as "a union between a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others." In India, homosexuality is an offense punishable by up to life in prison, and there is no discussion of the issue. Same-sex marriages are prohibited in China and Russia. Japan also does not allow gay marriages and prohibits child adoption by homosexuals, although gays can obtain some inheritance and other family rights. Thailand has a liberal attitude toward homosexuality, but not to gay marriage. In other countries, such as Sri Lanka, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, it is simply out of the question.

June 17, 2008

UNAIDS summit calls for end of travel restrictions for HIV sufferers

by Jane Rochstad Lim
UN chief Ban Ki Moon has called for an end to discrimination against people with AIDS, including travel restrictions imposed on them by some countries. "I call for a change in laws that uphold stigma and discrimination, including restrictions on travel for people living with HIV," he said last week at the opening of a two-day, high-level meeting in the General Assembly on UN targets, set in 2001 to roll back the disease worldwide. "Halting and reversing the spread of AIDS is not only a goal in itself, it is a prerequisite for reaching almost all the others (poverty-reduction Millenium Development Goals by 2015)," he added.

He said that 60 years after the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted, "it is shocking that there should still be discrimination against those at high risk, such as men who have sex with men, or stigma attached to individuals living with HIV." "I am a person living with HIV, and by revealing my HIV status publicly, I am taking a risk of being banned from entering this country and over 70 other countries around the world," said AIDS activisit Ratri Suryadarma of Indonesia.

A letter signed by 345 non-governmental organizations (NGOs) was sent to leaders and ambassadors of concerned countries to urge them to lift the restrictions. According to UNAIDS, the global standard-bearer in the fight against HIV, 74 countries are subjecting HIV carriers to restrictive measures, including a mention of the disease on their passports. Twelve among them — Armenia, Colombia, Iraq, Oman, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Solomon Islands, South Korea, Sudan, the United States and Yemen — barred entry to HIV carriers, often citing public health concerns and the high cost of treatment. Innocent Laison, a member of the Senegalese NGO Africaso, denounced such restrictions, pointing that countries which impose them allow their own HIV-infected nationals to go abroad.

Salvadoran President Elias Antonio Saca, who lifted such restrictions in his country four years ago, backed the NGOs’ call. "I appeal to the international community and all governments for the scrapping of walls and barriers which restrict the free movement of people living with HIV," he said.

Meanwhile AIDS expert Anthony Fauci, the head of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, stressed the importance of prevention and continuing research. He recalled that AIDS was discovered 27 years ago and that considerable funding was still needed to combat the disease.

US Department of State

June 18, 2008

Report: Boy Victims of Commercial Sexual Exploitation

Though they often go unreported, boys around the world also face the trauma of trafficking for commercial sexual exploitation. According to ILO and UNICEF, two percent of those forced into commercial sexual exploitation are men or boys, but the practice might be far more widespread than reported due to social stigmas associated with sex with boys. The sexual exploitation of boys may take place in informal, unorganized settings, making them both vulnerable to abuse and less likely to be identified by authorities charged with assisting them.

Young street boys form relationships with older boys for protection, and are sometimes forced by these boys to have sex with older men for profit as part of the relationship. Public meeting places are often arranged, including parks, markets, bus terminals, rail stations, hotels, beaches, and movie theaters. When boys have pimps, they may endure injections with hormones to accelerate physical maturity and increase sexual performance, with painful results and long-term health consequences. Traffickers have also been known to lure boys into prostitution by making them dependent on drugs and alcohol.

Culture and stigma play a significant role in the victimization of boys in prostitution. Some researchers, for instance, believe that strict gender-segregation can foster the sexual exploitation of boys in situations when adult men do not have access to women for sex. In Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India, for example, boys are sometimes forced into prostitution behind the cultural practice of bachabazi or launda dancing—where boys dressed as girls dance at weddings and private parties for men.

A different concern was highlighted by a research study on commercial sex in Costa Rica, which concluded: "Local demand for young boys arises because homosexuality is heavily stigmatized in Costa Rica, so `respectable’ Costa Rican men prefer to pick up boys from the street and take them somewhere discreet to use them rather than to enter into open homosexual relationships with their social and/or age equals."

Sexual exploitation of boys is also found in tourist destinations. The beaches of Sri Lanka, Mexico, and Dominican Republic are host to men seeking sexual encounters with boys who are pimped by men or other boys. In Thailand, boys aged between 10 and 15 can earn $280 a night having sex with foreign men.

In some European cities, including in Great Britain and the Czech Republic, "rent boys," often very young, are exploited in train stations by incoming tourists. According to NGO sources, Ghana and the Gambia face a growing problem of boys in prostitution. The hidden nature of these boys’ trauma means they receive little or no help. Social stereotypes that presume boys cannot be exploited in prostitution often result in their exclusion from assistance, forcing many to remain silently in the sex trade.

June 18, 2008

EU confirms sexual orientation will be included in discrimination directive

by Jane Rochstad Lim
Commissioner Jacques Barrot has told the European Parliament in Strasbourg that the European Commission will propose a cross-cutting directive aimed at combating discrimination on grounds of age, disability, religion/belief and sexual orientation in areas outside the field of employment. A joint statement released by civil society organisations and trade unions working for equality, human rights and social justice warmly welcomed the news and congratulated President Barroso and the EC.

"We greatly appreciate their political leadership in making this important decision to extend the protection against discrimination to all non-discrimination grounds mentioned under the EU Treaty, and to ensure that all people in Europe are equally protected from discrimination and enjoy the same rights. We also thank the European Parliament for its strong support and we now hope that this initiative gets the full support of all EU Member States," they said.

The act was going to only cover discrimination against the disabled at one point. The commission announced in April that opposition from Germany and other member states meant that European Union citizens would not be protected from discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation. However earlier this month, the Commission had a change of heart and widened the scope, adding age, religion and sexual orientation to the list.

European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) Gerneal Secretary John Monks said: "This would give a strong message to the Member States of the EU and their citizens that we cannot build a modern and cohesive society on discrimination. With the ageing of our populations, the growing of our societies in terms of ethnic origin and religion, and the increasing intolerance against people because of their different sexual orientations, a strong and coherent body of law – protecting all our citizens from discrimination wherever they are in the EU – should be the priority target."

This would hopefully send a strong warning to countries who have so far ignored the law. Lithuania, for example, has recently tried to remove age, disability and sexual orientation protections from the new draft law on equal opportunities. The legislation was rescheduled when not enough MPs turned up to vote for it.

ILGA-ASIA regional conference: Jan 24-27, Chiang Mai

by Douglas Sanders
The third regional ILGA–Asia conference to be held in the northern Thai city of Chiang Mai is expected to bring together LGBT activists across Asia. Prof Douglas Sanders recalls his first ILGA conference held in Paris 15 years ago and provides an inside look at the challenges the organisation has had in organising in Asia. Should we book our tickets to Chiang Mai, Jan 24-27, for ILGA-ASIA3? What will we find??? – the lonely stepdaughter of ILGA-Europe living in exile in the tropics? – or an Asian Snow White, waiting for her princes, princesses, toms, dees, kathoeys, waria, bakla and hijra to awaken her from her sleep?

I have very fond memories of my first International Lesbian and Gay Association world conference – Paris in 1992. There was such a sense of pleasure and relief in being at a large conference where everyone was ‘family.’ Inside the conference, everything was homo-normative. Heteros were elsewhere, absent, irrelevant.

I was prepared to forgive the organisational glitches. The location of the conference had shifted and I traveled halfway across Paris the first day only to find an empty hall. The local host organisation fell apart right after the conference, so the minutes of the business sessions were never written up. A gap in ILGA records? Probably one of dozens. The few old ILGA hands at the Paris meeting complained that it was the worst organised world conference they could remember.

That was lesson # 1 for me. ILGA meetings have wonderful people and great camaraderie, but good organisation cannot be assumed. ILGA has over 600 members in all regions of the world. There are six ILGA regions – Europe, North America, Latin America, Africa, Australasia and Asia. When I first met ILGA leaders they had no experience with the United Nations. I spoke for ILGA at a UN meeting in Geneva in 1992. The next year a small group of us ILGA types got accredited to the UN World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna. A beginning had been made at the UN. But it is others, not ILGA, that have taken the lead at the UN.

One of the small 1993 group was John Fisher, who is now the first full-time resident LGBT lobbyist in Geneva under the name Arc-International. Other UN players are based in the International Service for Human Rights and the International Commission of Jurists. ILGA, along with Human Rights Watch, the US based International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission and Amnesty International play supporting roles in Geneva.

What of the ILGA regions? ILGA-Europe gets funding from various parts of the European human rights system. It has offices, a paid staff and publications. The 2007 ILGA-Europe annual conference in Vilnius, Lithuania, in November was its eleventh. ILGA-Europe is an effective player in European human rights developments. The American’s have largely ignored ILGA. The large US organisations are not active members. ILGA-World has met there a few times, most notably in New York on the 25th anniversary of the Stonewall riots in 2004. There has never been an ILGA-North America meeting.

I have never heard of an ILGA-Australasia meeting. ILGA met in Rio de Janiero in 1995. Now there seems an active ILGA-LAC, for Latin American and the Caribbean. The first ILGA-Africa conference was held in 2007. The ILGA-Asia region was, of course, completely different than the others. It was far far larger, in size and population. And much more complex in cultural and political terms. Asia has no regional human rights institutions – not even at the sub-regional levels of Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) or South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC).

In the 1990s Asia was famous for the challenge by some leaders to the universality of “so-called” international human rights standards. Lee Kwan Yew and Mohammad Mahathir promoted “Asian values.” Singapore openly mocked “international” standards at the 1993 Vienna conference, even dumping on “gay marriage.” The story of ILGA-Asia is largely unknown. In 1984, Minami Teishiro, the affable publisher of the gay magazine Adon, formed JILGA, the Japanese International Lesbian and Gay Association. I think he had been at the Stockholm ILGA-world conference, and apparently the head of ILGA had visited Japan.

Minami vowed to form an Asian regional grouping within ILGA. He held two meetings in Japan and a final one in Bangkok in 1990. He and I won the ‘condom putting on contest’ held at Once Upon a Time restaurant. But attendance at the meeting was perhaps fifteen, including non-Asians. There was no funding to cover travel. Letters did arrive from South Korea and Hong Kong. The next meeting was to be in Indonesia. It was never held.

The first real ILGA-Asia meeting was in Mumbai in the fall of 2002. The host was Ashok Row Kavi, the pioneering head of Humsafar Trust and publisher of Bombay Dost magazine. The planning hit the tectonic plates of the then very strong antagonism between the groups that linked to Ashok and the groups that linked to Naz Foundation and Shivanada Khan. I sat in my office at the University of British Columbia in Canada amazed at the daily flood of angry emails shooting back and forth on the Indian LGBT lists.

One activist later complained “ILGA never even consulted us.” “Don’t you understand,” I said. “ILGA-World has one paid staff person in Brussels, and there is no paid staff for ILGA-Asia.” Local activists did not know. Only a few people in India understood anything about ILGA. It seems that 50 percent of the LGBT organisations in India boycotted the Mumbai conference. About 80 delegates participated, and I remember the sessions as very positive. It was better organised than the Paris conference ten years earlier.

ILGA-World finally gained an Asian leader. Anna Leah Sarabia of CLIC in the Philippines. She had been the female Asian representative, and went on to become female secretary-general of ILGA-World. ILGA maintains both male and female slots at each level of its political structure. Anna Leah, without consulting any other Philippino organisations, invited ILGA-World to meet in Manila. The ILGA-World conference in Manila was the smallest world conference I had seen and badly organised. Anna Leah Sarabia had been a pioneering figure, but a very divisive one.

Most of the Philippine LGBT organisations boycotted the conference. If they had come, the conference would have been a success. Such a missed opportunity. Anna Leah organised ILGA-Asia2 in Cebu, the Philippines, in, I think, 2005. Apparently about 60 people attended. That meeting chose the current ILGA-Asia representatives on the ILGA-World board, Mira Ofreneo, a psychology professor representing CLIC in the Philippines, and Myo Min, a Burmese democracy activist, based in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

I met Mira and Myo for the first time at the ILGA-World conference in 2006 in Geneva, Switzerland. Both were charming and optimistic. The Geneva conference was very well organised. There were excellent panels on UN reform and on Islam and homosexuality. A lot of planning had gone into the event.

I assumed that planning for ILGA-Asia3 would begin soon, and tried to interest Bangkok based LGBT organisations in getting involved. Perhaps I went about it the wrong way. Like this column, I talked about the problems that had occurred earlier in trying to create a working Asian region of ILGA – including the ‘dirty laundry’ of the boycotts in Mumbai and Manila. And I don’t speak or write Thai. My hope was that local activists would see the Chiang Mai meeting as a chance to build something – recognising that nothing was yet built. It seemed to me that ILGA-World and ILGA-Asia had no capacity to deliver a successful event without local support. I wanted to encourage that support.

My efforts failed miserably. Some ILGA people were angry with me for telling stories of past problems. An initial planning meeting in Chiang Mai in November, 2006, was actually closed to local organisations. We could be “briefed” at the end if we wanted. Local activists, on the other hand, showed little or no interest. They had no background experience with ILGA and weren’t interested in my history lessons. I backed off. The white guy in Bangkok shut up. For a while, at least.

Rosanna Flamer-Caldera of Sri Lanka, the new female secretary-general of ILGA, put off the date of the ILGA-Asia meeting from 2007 to the beginning of 2008, saying this would allow more European funding to cover travel costs for delegates. A second planning meeting took place in Chiang Mai in August, 2007. M-Plus, the local gay-run AIDS organisation in Chiang Mai was now part of the planning. The Bangkok groups were still out of the loop, by choice and by default. Thailand is famous for tolerance, but has very few LGBT organisations. Most activists are not fluent in English.

No Thai organisations are members of ILGA. I, a non-Thai, living in Bangkok, am a member under an organisational name. Myo Min, a non-Thai, is a member under an organisational name. Anjaree is listed by ILGA as a member, but never made an organisational decision to join. How odd to hold ILGA-Asia in Thailand where there were no Thai member organisations. For a year there was apparently little planning. Both Mira and Myo have full time jobs. Any work for ILGA-Asia is as unpaid volunteers.

That is true of the two world-level secretaries general, as well as those at regional levels. Mira had to care for a dying relative. Myo, active on democracy issues in Burma, was responding to the demonstrations and repression back home in the fall of 2007. No real planning was getting done. The first generally circulating notices of the meeting came out probably in October.

In November the first outside speaker was invited. More publicity about the conference went out on web lists. New organisations in Japan have joined ILGA and are planning to come. There is some money for scholarships. Maybe the conference will fall into place, but without the kind of advance planning that went into the Mumbai and Geneva meetings. In November and December 2007 it was still difficult to get information, even on the hotel where the conference was to be held. Little help came from ILGA websites.

By December applications for scholarships were being processed, a bit over a month before the conference. Margaret Thatcher, the “iron lady” of British politics, was famous for killing debate by announcing TINA – “there is no alternative.” The only alternatives to ILGA-Asia are the AP-Rainbow email list, the LGBT satellite meetings at regional and international AIDS conferences, and irregular academic conferences like the big one in Bangkok in 2005. We can all live without ILGA-Asia, of course, but it would be nice to be in touch with each other in this vast area. And I have never been at an LGBT conference, whether badly organised or not, where I have not felt warmth and solidarity with others. And Chiang Mai is a lovely town.

Douglas Sanders is a retired Canadian law professor, living in Bangkok. He can be contacted at