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.
June 22, 2001
Amnesty International Report: Hundreds persecuted worldwide for their sexual orientation
A Ugandan woman who was stripped, beaten and starved for three days in a jail cell for being a lesbian is among hundreds of people persecuted worldwide for their sexual orientation, according to a scathing Amnesty International report released Friday.
”This report presents a stark overview of the treatment that countless men and women suffer because of their sexual orientation,” said Alex Neve, a spokesman for report author Amnesty International. The report, entitled Crimes of Hate, Conspiracy of Silence, documents the treatment of gay people in more than 30 countries and provides a 12-point program for the prevention of torture and mistreatment by police forces and governments around the world.”We all have a right to grow up to be the people who we are,” said Hilary Holmes, national youth program co-ordinator for the international human rights organization.
Central to the report are dozens of examples of human rights abuses at the hands of state-sponsored officials in countries like Jamaica and Romania where homosexuality remains illegal. In Malaysia, homosexuality is punishable by up to 20 years in prison and China only deleted homosexuality from a list of mental disorders in April 2001. In the Bahamas, two 17-year-olds were arrested in August 1999 on suspicion of having sex in a parked car. They were stripped and beaten with an iron bar.
The report encourages all countries to adopt laws that condemn torture and protect and support gay human rights activists. The report paints a stark contrast to the freedom experienced by Canadian homosexuals, said Neve on the eve of a weekend of parades and festivities to celebrate gay pride in Toronto. Neve said Canadians must take initiatives that support global efforts to halt discrimination against gay people. Vashti Campbell, a lesbian from London, Ont., who travelled to Toronto for pride week celebrations, applauded the group’s efforts to combat worldwide homophobia, but said more can be done to battle hate in Canada. ”I think there are cases of torture and abuse here at home too,” said Campbell.
As recently as June 18, Regina held its first-ever Heterosexual Family Pride Day, focusing on anti-gay and anti-abortion messages. Richard Elliott, co-chair of Amnesty’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered group, said education is a priority and the abuses must stop. ”As a community we are not going back into the closet,” said Elliott.
The report was also released in Montreal, Vancouver and other major cities around the world with Amnesty offices.
Text of the "Lesbian and Gay Rights" portion of World Report 2001
Lesbian And Gay Rights Protection from abuse remained elusive for lesbians, gay men, and bisexual and transgender people in 2000, despite the reaffirmation in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that "All people are born free and equal in dignity and rights."
In virtually every country in the world, people suffered from de jure and de facto discrimination based on their actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. Sexual minorities were persecuted in a significant number of countries and in many ways, including the application of the death penalty or long prison sentences for private sexual acts between consenting adults. In some countries, sexual minorities were targeted for extrajudicial execution. In many countries, police actively participated in the persecution. Pervasive bias within the criminal justice system in many countries effectively precluded members of sexual minorities from seeking redress.
These attacks on human rights and fundamental freedoms also occurred in international fora where states were supposedly working to promote human rights. For example, in New York in June at the five year review meeting for the Fourth World Conference on Women, many delegates refused to recognize women’s sexual rights and some states continued to defend violations of women’s human rights in the name of religious and cultural practices.
Activists stressed the connection between the need for states to recognize women’s right to control their sexuality and enjoy physical autonomy if states were serious about wanting to reduce violence against women. Many delegates refused to acknowledge that discrimination against lesbian and single women created a climate in which attacks on such women were deemed justified.
Other intergovernmental bodies played a significant role in upholding the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals. In July, for example, the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly approved Armenia and Azerbaijan’s applications for membership with the understanding that each country would repeal legislation that discriminated against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender persons. In a further debate the assembly voted to support recommendations that national governments recognize persecution on the grounds of sexual orientation for the purposes of asylum and grant bi-national same-sex couples the same residence rights as bi-national heterosexual couples. In September, the Parliamentary Assembly called upon its member states to include sexual orientation among the prohibited bases of discrimination, revoke sodomy laws and similar legislation criminalizing sexual relations between consenting adults of the same sex, and apply the same age of consent for all sexual relations.
Despite the council’s laudable efforts, the International Gay and Lesbian Association (IGLA) reported to the Parliamentary Assembly’s Legal Affairs and Human Rights Committee in March that "discrimination against lesbian, gay and bisexual persons remains endemic and extremely serious" in Europe and that "[h]omophobic violence is common, even in countries like Sweden which are world leaders in their support for lesbian and gay rights."
Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals were vilified by officials of several states. Their claims to equal enjoyment of rights and equal protection before the law were routinely denied in many states. State-sponsored hostility and entrenched bias toward lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people not only placed them at risk of violence and persecution by agents of the state, but virtually guaranteed that they would face serious obstacles if they turned to the state for protection or redress when attacked by private actors.
World Pride 2000, an international event calling attention to human rights violations of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people, held in July in Rome, came under heavy criticism from the Vatican. In the wake of the Vatican’s criticism, Italy’s prime minister Guiliano Amato ordered the country’s minister for equal rights to cancel her ministry’s official sponsorship of World Pride. The pope went on to condemn the event as "an offense to the Christian values of the city."
Leaders in Namibia, Uganda, and Zimbabwe continued to denounce lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals during the year. Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe continued his longstanding anti-gay campaign. At a New Year’s Day celebration, he characterized same-sex marriage as "an abomination, a rottenness of culture, real decadence of culture." In Namibia, President Sam Nujoma was regularly quoted as calling lesbians and gays "unnatural" and against the will of God. State television reported in October 2000 that Home Affairs Minister Jerry Ekandjo urged new police officers to "eliminate" lesbians and gays "from the face of Namibia." Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni appeared to back away from his September 1999 directive to Criminal Investigations Division officers to "look for homosexuals, lock them up and charge them." At a news conference in November 1999, he criticized lesbians and gays for "provoking and upsetting" society but suggested that they could live in Uganda as long they "did it quietly."
In the month after President Museveni ordered the arrest of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Ugandans, the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) received reports that several students had been expelled from schools for their involvement in same-sex relationships. The offices of Sister Namibia, a magazine known for its strong support of gay and lesbian rights, was set on fire on July 10 in what appeared to be a deliberate attack; the Namibian National Society for Human Rights noted, "While the motive for the attack is not yet known, the attack occurred barely a week after Namibian President Sam Nujoma launched a verbal attack on the homosexual community."
According to the Lebanese human rights organization Multi-Initiative on Rights: Search, Assist and Defend (MIRSAD), Beirut Morals Police (Police des Mours) officers entered the offices of Destination, a Lebanese internet service provider, in April to obtain information about the owners of a website for Lebanese gays and lesbians that was accessible to internet users in Lebanon but maintained in the United States. Later that month, officers questioned the general manager and another senior staff member at the Hobaich police station. When MIRSAD posted an urgent action message on several websites, the military prosecutor charged MIRSAD and Destination officials with "tarnishing the reputation of the Morals Police by distributing a printed flier," in violation of article 157 of the Military Penal Code; their trial was scheduled for September 25. If convicted, they would face three months to three years of imprisonment.
Gay men, lesbians, and transgender people have been subjected to a campaign of terror, violence, and murder in El Salvador over the last several years. Governmental indifference to these offenses was compounded by state agents’ active participation in violence. A person who identified himself as a member of the special Presidential Battalion used his weapon to threaten a transgender person who was participating in Lesbian and Gay Pride Day celebrations in the Constitution Plaza in San Salvador. Asociaci "Entre Amigos" Executive Director William Herndez repeatedly received death threats. The Salvadorean police acknowledged that Herndez and "Entre Amigos" qualified for protection due to the repeated attacks and threats to which they had been subjected. Nevertheless, the chief of the National Civil Police initially refused to appoint any officers to provide protection because officers who "do not share the sexual tastes" of those they should protect would feel uncomfortable doing their work. Herndez was placed under special police protection following an international campaign.
In August, a longstanding prohibition against the use of a public park in Aguascalientes, Mexico, by "dogs and homosexuals" became the focus of public attention after a sign announcing the ban was repaired and reposted at the park entrance. Asked for his thoughts on the gay community in interviews broadcast on the Mexican network Televisa and in the national newspaper La Jornada, Aguascalientes Director of Regulations Jorge Alvarez Medina stated that he was against "this type of people" and declared that he "will not allow access to homosexuals" while he remained in charge of municipal regulations. In a welcome development, however, National Action Party (Partido de Acci Nacional, PAN) National President Lu Felipe Bravo Mena denied that Alvarez Medina’s remarks reflected the policy of the PAN, the governing party in Aguascalientes. Declaring that "we reject and repudiate" Alvarez Medina’s remarks, Bravo Mena stated, "If any doubt remains, I can say that I feel that this is absolutely reprehensible. We do not believe in any type of discrimination and reject it."
At least four transgender persons in Valencia, in the Venezuelan state of Carabobo, were reportedly detained without judicial order by Carabobo police, according to Amnesty International. In July, police improperly detained two transgender persons for eight days; in August, officers forced two other members of Valencia’s transgender community to undress in the street, beat them, and then held them for several days in August without permitting them legal, medical, or family visits.
In September, the Brazilian GLBT Pride Parade Association of San Paulo (Associa?o da Parada do Orgulho GLBT de S Paulo) received a letter bomb, one day after several gay and lesbian rights organizations and other human rights NGOs received letters threatening to "exterminate" gays, Jews, blacks, and persons from Brazil’s northeast. There were an estimated 169 bias-motivated killings of sexual minorities in Brazil in 1999, according to a May report issued by the Grupo Gay de Bahia; the states of Pernambuco and S Paulo recorded the highest number of killings.
The Criminalization of Private Sexual Conduct
Over eighty countries continued to criminalize sexual activity between consenting adults of the same sex, according to the IGLHRC. Elsewhere, national or local legislation discriminated against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender persons by imposing different standards for the legal age of consent. In addition, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender persons were often targeted for arrest under provisions relating to "scandalous conduct," "public decency," loitering, and similar charges. In Saudi Arabia, where sodomy was punishable by the death penalty, six men were executed for that crime in July. In April, nine men were sentenced to up to 2,600 lashes each for transvestism and "deviant sexual behavior"; because the sentence could not be carried out in a single session without killing the men, it was to be carried out at fifteen-day-intervals over a period of two years.
Sri Lanka’s Press Council fined a gay rights activist in June for filing a complaint against a newspaper that had published a letter urging that lesbians be turned over to convicted rapists. The council declared that being a lesbian was an "act of sadism" and that the activist, rather than the newspaper, was guilty of promoting improper values.
At this writing, the Romanian Senate was considering the abolition of article 200, which criminalized all sexual relations between consenting adults of the same sex if "committed in public or if producing public scandal." The article was interpreted to include casual gestures of intimacy such as holding hands and kissing. The measure passed the Chamber of Deputies, the Romanian Parliament’s lower house, on June 28. The measures under consideration did not address article 201, which continued to penalize "acts of sexual perversion" if "committed in public or if producing public scandal" with one to five years of imprisonment. A 1998 report jointly published by Human Rights Watch and the IGLHRC documented the human rights abuses suffered by lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender persons in Romania as a result of both provisions.
In response to a 1993 decision of the European Court of Human Rights, Cyprus amended its criminal laws in June to equalize the male age of consent, setting it at eighteen. Before the amendment, the age of consent for men engaging in heterosexual sex had been sixteen, while the age of consent for men engaging in homosexual sex had been eighteen. The age of consent for all women continued to be sixteen. Other European countries continued to maintain unequal ages of consent.
A notable example was Austria, where the age of consent was fourteen for heterosexual males and eighteen for men who had sexual relations with other men. In the United States, fifteen states retained laws prohibiting consensual sexual relations between adults of the same sex, classifying these acts as "sodomy," "sexual misconduct," "unnatural intercourse," or "crimes against nature." A Texas court overturned the state’s sodomy law in June, while the highest court of the neighboring state of Louisiana upheld the state’s "crimes against nature" statute in July. A challenge to Massachusetts’ sodomy law was pending at this writing. Massachusetts was the only state in New England to retain legislation prohibiting sexual relations between consenting adults of the same sex.
In August, former Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim and his adopted brother Sukma Dermawan were both convicted of sodomy. Anwar was sentenced to nine years in prison; Sukma received six years and four lashes with a rattan cane. The prosecution of Anwar was widely viewed inside and outside Malaysia as a case of political revenge against Anwar and his supporters, who had grown increasingly critical of Prime Minister Mahathir in the months prior to Anwar’s ouster and arrest. Anwar’s prosecution was also seen as undermining the integrity of the Malaysian judiciary, which had already been criticized widely for its lack of independence (see Malaysia chapter).
In May, the Zimbabwe Supreme Court upheld former President Canaan Banana’s 1998 conviction for sodomy and indecent assault. Banana was quoted in 1999 as describing homosexuality as "deviant, abominable, and wrong according to the scriptures and according to Zimbabwean culture."
Even in countries where the laws criminalizing private consensual conduct between adults were not enforced, the existence of these laws provided the foundation for attacks on sexual minorities. Men and women who identified as gay, lesbian, or bisexual were attacked as immoral and putative criminals. Thus, discrimination on the basis of this characterization was deemed justified.
In September 1999, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the United Kingdom’s ban on lesbian and gay service members violated the Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. In July 2000, the court awarded four gay British service members compensation for their discharge.
Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals were not barred from military service throughout much of the rest of Europe. In remarks published in the French gay magazine T?u in May, Gen. Alain Raevel declared of France’s policy with regard to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender service members, "The army which we are building is an extension of society . . . . We need to recruit boys and girls for 400 different types of work. The fact that they may be homosexual does not concern us." Similarly, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals served in Canada and Israel without official retaliation.
With most of its allies either allowing homosexuals to serve openly or having no policy on the subject they considered unrelated to job performance, the United States found itself increasingly isolated in maintaining restrictions on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender service members. Turkey was the only other member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) that continued to ban gays and lesbians from its armed forces. Six years after the U.S. military codified and implemented its "don’t ask, don’t tell" policy, its own investigations found that training on implementation of the law was lagging and that anti-gay comments and harassment were pervasive. Although the "don’t ask, don’t tell" policy was ostensibly intended to allow a greater number of gay, lesbian, or bisexual service members to remain in the military, discharges increased significantly after the policy’s adoption.
From 1994 to 1999, a total of 5,412 service members were separated from the armed forces under the policy, with yearly discharge totals nearly doubling, from 617 in 1994 to 1,149 in 1998. In 1999, the number of separations dropped slightly, to 1,034; nevertheless, the discharge rate was still 73 percent higher than it was prior to the implementation of "don’t ask, don’t tell." Women were discharged at a disproportionately high rate. In addition, the policy enabled male harassers to threaten to "out" women — and end their careers — if the women rejected their advances or threatened to report them.
Even more disturbing than the increase in the number of service members separated from the military under this policy was the continued failure of the U.S. Department of Defense to hold anyone accountable for violations of the policy. This lack of accountability spilled over to the murder case of Barry Winchell, a gay army private at Fort Campbell in 1999. A U.S. Army review, issued in July, of the circumstances surrounding the beating death of Winchell on the base, concluded that no officers would be held responsible for the killing and that there was no "climate" of homophobia on the base. This conclusion contradicted a Defense Department inspector general report issued in March which found that harassment based on perceived homosexuality was widespread in the military. It also contradicted numerous reports that Winchell was relentlessly taunted with anti-gay slurs in the months before he was murdered.
Marriage and Discrimination Based on Family Configuration
Barriers to the legal recognition of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender families continued to crumble slowly in a number of countries throughout the world. In March, the European Parliament, the legislative body of the European Union, called on its member states to "guarantee one-parent families, unmarried couples, and same-sex couples rights equal to those enjoyed by traditional couples and families." On September 13, the Dutch Parliament passed legislation permitting marriage between same-sex couples. The legislation, which was limited to Dutch citizens and to those with residency permits, also provided for adoption rights and access to the courts in cases of divorce. The law was expected to go into effect in early 2001, making the Netherlands the first country to allow same-sex couples to marry.
Denmark, Greenland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden had provisions for registered partnerships, which did not provide all of the benefits of civil marriage — often according limited or no adoption rights, in particular — and were generally limited only to citizens or to residents who had lived in the country for several years. France’s civil pact of solidarity (pacte civile de solidarit? PACS) and Hungary’s cohabitation law had similar limitations. In June, Iceland expanded its registered partnership law to permit same-sex couples to adopt each other’s biological children. The law was also extended to cover Danes, Swedes, and Norwegians living in Iceland; other foreigners were permitted to enter into registered partnerships after they had resided in Iceland for two years.
A comprehensive same-sex partnership bill introduced in Germany on July 5 would grant same-sex couples spousal rights in taxation, inheritance, immigration, social security, child custody, health insurance, name changes, and other areas. The plan was expected to pass the Bundestag, the lower house of the German parliament; support in the Bundesrat, necessary to enact some aspects of the proposal, was not assured.
The U.S. state of Vermont enacted legislation in April providing for civil unions between same-sex couples. The law was passed in response to a December 1999 decision of the Vermont Supreme Court holding that the state’s constitution required Vermont "to extend to same-sex couples the common benefits and protections that flow from marriage under Vermont law." Although civil unions carried virtually all of the state rights and responsibilities of marriage, they were not recognized by the federal government or any other U.S. state.
Brazil granted same-sex partners the same rights as married couples with respect to pensions, social security benefits, and taxation in June. This step was achieved by decree: legislation to provide for civil unions between persons of the same sex remained pending in the federal Chamber of Deputies.
In November 1999, the Latvian Parliament’s Human Rights and Public Affairs Commission rejected proposed legislation that would provide for registered partnerships for same-sex couples. In August, Slovak Justice Minister Jan Carnogursky announced that same-sex partnerships would not be registered in Slovakia, reportedly stating that such partnerships would "degrade" heterosexual families.
Israel’s Interior Ministry announced in July that it allowed same-sex partners to receive immigration benefits on equal terms with heterosexual common-law spouses. Under the ministry’s policy, the noncitizen partner is granted a renewable one-year tourist permit with employment authorization and may request temporary resident status after four years; eventually, the partner may seek permanent residence and then citizenship.
With the addition of Israel, at least fourteen countries offered immigration benefits to same-sex couples. Unlike most countries’ immigration policies with regard to married heterosexual couples, these policies typically required same-sex couples to demonstrate that they had had a committed relationship for one to two years or more before they were eligible for any immigration benefits. Australia required same-sex couples to show "a mutual commitment to a shared life" for at least the twelve months preceding the date of application. In New Zealand, same-sex couples had to have been "living in a genuine and stable de facto relationship" for two years. The United Kingdom required applicants to show that they had had "a relationship akin to marriage" for two years or more. Belgium required a relationship of at least three and a half years’ duration. The other countries that offered same-sex immigration benefits were Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Namibia, the Netherlands, Norway, South Africa, and Sweden.
Harassment and Discrimination Against Students
Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students in the United States and elsewhere were frequently targeted for harassment by their peers. Lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth were nearly three times as likely as their peers to have been involved in at least one physical fight in school, three times as likely to have been threatened or injured with a weapon at school, and nearly four times as likely to skip school because they felt unsafe, according to the 1999 Massachusetts Youth Risk Behavior Survey.
Moreover, the survey found that those who identified as lesbian, gay, or bisexual were more than twice as likely to consider suicide and more than four times as likely to attempt suicide than their peers.
Efforts to provide a safe, supportive environment for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students in the United States were hampered by discriminatory legislation in several states. In addition, many students also faced hostile school administrations. In two particularly prolonged disputes, school districts in Utah and California attempted to deny students the right to form clubs known as gay-straight alliances, in violation of the federal Equal Access Act. Both school districts began to permit the student groups to meet in September 2000, doing so only after the students who sought to form the groups filed lawsuits against the districts.
The following comments have been taken directly—unedited—from a discussion topic posted on the Gay and Lesbian branch of the Thorn TreeSame-sex partnership. The topic is: how is it in your country? (22 replies)
[Mon 13 Aug, 07:37]
As one among many who desperately need equal civil rights in order to live in peace with the love of my life, I am curious about the current status of the equal rights movement in the country you live: is there anything in the legislation? Can you foresee any changes (for better or worse) in the nearby future?
In my case: in Brazil, they are about to vote (apparently this month!!) the same-sex partnership bill, although it’s unclear (at least to me) how the politicians will react to this — it sounds like a great start anyway, but the outcome could be still very disappointing.
And what about your country???
Congratulations to the Dutch and the Scandinavians but please don’t rub it out (LOL) – we all know what brave bunch you are and I hope Brazil will one day achieve at least a fraction of what you’ve managed to guarantee for yourselves!! 🙂
love and peace everyone!
[Mon 13 Aug, 08:11]
2. Here in Finland
Here in Finland the law is pending. The draft Bill was given to the Parliament some time late last year, and since then it’s been through some of the regular processes that a Bill has to go through before the final vote in the Parliament: first, a preliminary debate in the Parliament; then it proceeded on to two Special Committees, the Constitutional Law Committee and the Legal Affairs Committee, and only after that it’s now ready for the final readings in the Plenary Session. I don’t know what will happen in the vote. I hope it gets approved!
This law would be very similar to the equivalent law in Sweden: it would give gay&lesbian couples the possibility to register their partnerships and it would give them most of the same rights/obligations as straight married couples; leaving out adoption, though.jamie 🙂
[Mon 13 Aug, 09:16]
In the Netherlands, Europe : mariage is possible.
In Belgium : it’s voted and approved. it will be possible in a few weeks..
yeah ! yeah !
[Mon 13 Aug, 09:20]
As of 1.August same sex partnerships can be registered here in Germany. Adoption rights are not included but it gives the partneship equal rights in law as a hetero marraige. This is good and is a good step forward but FULL equality partnerships should be the next and only step, with adoption and tax rights. These were removed from the current bill to appease the very strong conservative opposition. In the states of Saxony and Bavaria, they are withholding the registration of partnerships as they applied to the high court to get a judgement on the new bill. The high court delayed the hearing in order to allow the bill to become law. Brining this into law was one of the conditions of the Green/Red coalition government, and the issues concerning human rights, equality etc all come from the green party.
[Mon 13 Aug, 09:25]
5. It’s going to take U.S.A. much longer…
… because of our political system (50 different states with 50 different legal systems). Congress passed a federal law to the effect that one state doesn’t have to recognize same-sex marriages in another state, but there are serious doubts this will pass consititutional muster when a case finally comes up.
As it is now only one small state (Vermont) recognizes same-gender unions. No one is sure what happen when a couple married in Vermont seeks a marriage benefit in another state — whatever the result, there will be years of lawsuits.
In Texas, there is an absurd situation where a judge ruled one’s chromosomes determine gender (the case involved a transgender widow suing for her husband’s pension). Five same-sex couples, where one of the partners was transgendered, were issued legal marriage licenses. God Bless Texas — we always manage to have the weirder legal cases here!
[Mon 13 Aug, 09:26]
6. Heiraten in Germany
Since the 1st of August Gays/Lesbians in Germany can marry each other, but we don’t have exactly the same rights (pensions, adopting children) and many say we only get the obligations.
[Mon 13 Aug, 10:41]
PST (Gumly Gumly -17)
7. from Barcelona7 Catalunya (Spain)
In the case of Catalunya, our Parliament approved a law thanks to which it is possible for a gay/lesbian couple to register as a "legal couple". This implies some rights, but it is still far from the situation in, for example, the Nederlands. Time to time, though…
[Mon 13 Aug, 12:37]
8. same sex partners
the way I see it, about equal rights and discrimination. The point being that, without a law allowing same sex marriages / official partnerships, you are forced to use solicitors to get your relationship to a somewhat similar level as to what straight couples get simply by marrying each other. Also, at least in this country, no matter what kind of legal agreements you sign with the assistance of a solicitor, you won’t be guaranteed with the same rights as what straight couples get through marriage: at least regarding inheritance, you’d still be subject to a MUCH higher inheritance tax even if you had a will in favour of your same sex partner; also, I believe that a will like that could quite easily be challenged by some relatives and appealed in a court of law; etc. Another thing (and pardon me for being a bit vague on the numbers: I’m not a legal expert…), at least here, the current legislation has dozens of references to married couples and, thus, those paragraphs excule gay couples no matter how one arranges one’s finances through a solicitor.
Also, it’s a matter of principle: why shouldn’t marriage be available for gays and lesbians? These new laws also give official recognition from the State’s side, basically saying that "yes, gays and lesbians enjoy they same rights as any other citizens".
[Mon 13 Aug, 14:34]
The world is a tiny bit bigger than Holland, and that there are dozens of countries where your partner doesn’t get any enforcable rights, no matter how many contracts you sign. You are simply not family and can be denied something as simple as access to your partner if he should wind up in hospital.
And I agree also that it is a matter of principle too. If there is a way for straight people to deal with all the legalities of a relationship at no cost then I don’t see why same gender couples should go through the trouble of winning legal advise and having to pay hundreds of guilders (as is the case with your contracts mr 8) to achieve something that still doesn’t cover all situations.
You seem to live under the impression that marriage of domestic partnership is about romantic notions. It is not, it is about legal contracts and enforcable rights.
[Tue 14 Aug, 02:02]
thanks a lot for so many nice replies; I still would like to hear more from other parts of the world too!
My partner is not Brazilian, and therefore not allowed to stay in the country unless we break the law, which *in principle* we don’t want to do. Things are fine for now: we still have some money and can afford spending 6 months in and out of the country, but none of us is currently working and what we’ve got certainly won’t last forever.
Besides, this is not the life we intend to live for much longer anyway. Travelling is great, but eventually, just like mom and dad, we will want to settle down. And the problem is that there is no legal means of doing so either in Brazil or in my partner’s country.
Now imagine how much simpler the same situation would be for a straight couple: they just have to get married and choose where they want to live. This kind of freedom straight couples take for granted is simply inexistent for gay people.
[Tue 14 Aug, 05:08]
In the middle of Europe, but far away from equality!
the topic has been discussed for quite a while but with our fabulous right wing government at the moment there is only a small chance that it will happen in the next years.
there is even a law discriminating against male homosexuals: the age of consent is 18, whereas for females and heterosexuals it is 14. the crime of love between a boy aged 20 and the other aged 17 is punished by up to five years of jail!!!!!
(and the law is actually executed in some cases!)
so please!, queer people from other countries, help us, make this a topic!
we are part of the e.u. – but in this particular point we do not meet the normal european standards in any way!
[Tue 14 Aug, 06:40]
Don’t give up #12 – at least you have an organisation (the EU) to set your standards. The problem in Brazil is no so much the existing legislation (there’s no explicit discrimination against homosexuals in law) but the lack of it.
You in Austria (like the British) have an ugly piece of legislation to fight against (in Britain it is the infamous section 28), but here in Brazil people still come to me asking what the f** I want because ‘there’s no official discrimination in the first place"…. it drives me insane!
peace and love to everyone!
[Tue 14 Aug, 07:03]
PST (Gumly Gumly -17)
13 The British position
Well yes, we do still have the cursed Section 28 on our legal statute books, which (spit) Thatcher’s oh so homo unfriendly government put there, keeping up the discrimination which her government was so famous for here in the local gay and lesbian communities. She has fortunately been out of power since 1990 and things are beginning to change for the better at last.
Since Tony Blair came to power in 1997 (following on from another but slightly less unfriendly Conservative govt by John Major, which at least allowed a free vote on an equal age of consent, reducing it to 18), gay and lesbian equality has sprung up the list of priorities and we finally have some good news to report. The age of consent for sex between two men has been reduced from 21 to 16, in line with sex between a man and a woman.
An attempt to repeal Section 28 last year (which forbids promotion of homosexuality and has been wide open to legal interpretation) was defeated by the right wingers who remain in loose control of the House of Lords. Following Blair’s re-election this year, repeal of this hateful law appears to have fallen off his agenda, however we now have some strong and effective lobbying groups (stand up Stonewall and be counted!) who are working on behalf of the community to try and secure equal rights for employment, recognition of same sex partnerships and repeal of Sect28.
We even had a few out gay Cabinet Ministers in the last government, but since re-election the rising lights of Chris Smith, the Culture Secretary and Peter Mandelson, once Northern Ireland minister, appear to be fading. With the trouncing of the Conservative Party, which campaigned in May on a ‘keep the pound, family values, no more immigrants’ ticket, it seems that public opinion is moving towards a more accepting attitude to gays and lesbians but homophobia is still widespread, particularly outside of major cities, often leading to violence. Police responses to such crimes have definitely improved in the last decade with several Forces now having separate units to deal sympathetically with victims of homophobic crime.XicadaSilva
[Tue 14 Aug, 18:06]
Here in the USA, I have a Brazilian lesbian friend whose male friend married her(no money involved, just good intentions) to help her and her girlfiend settle here. Things worked out pretty well for them, but as you can imagine it’s a big risk to take, and can produce plenty of stress, depending on the individuals and the situation. I wonder how this might work in reverse, if your lover wanted to stay in Brazil? Would it be possible for you to find a man(maybe a gay male?) who would marry your girlfriend? Would the Brazilian officials investigate the marriage so intensely?
This issue affects me, too, as I think I will be living in Brazil in the future, and may decide to stay there permanantly, given the opportunity. What a great cause for pride it will be, both for gays and all Brazilians, if this bill gets passed! 🙂
[Tue 14 Aug, 18:33]
15 Situation in Canada
I’m no expert on this but I did a search on the web and this is what I came up with:
Bill C-23 "The Modernizing Benefits and Obligations Act" was passed by the House of Commons and the Senate last year. It changed 68 federal laws and statutes. It extends to both same-sex and opposite-sex common-law couples all the rights and responsibilities of heterosexual married couples. This means that same sex couples can now collect all the same benefits (for example spousal pension benefits) as married heterosexual couples.
The Act did include an exclusionary definition of marriage as being between two people of the opposite sex. This exclusionary definition of marriage is currently being challenged in court by same sex couples in British Columbia. A recent poll by Leger indicated that 65% of Canadians support the right to marriage for same sex couples.
The provincial and federal governments deserve little credit for these changes. They have been forced to make these changes after a series of Supreme court rulings in favour of gay and lesbian rights.
[Wed 15 Aug, 02:09]
Thanks Canadian dude – yes, I forgot Canada is at the same level as north Europe — congratulations to you all!
First of all, I must apologise for my misleading username – I am a boy, actually. Having said that, your point is still valid (but in reverse…):
yes, surely you can arrange (and get away with) a marriage (in fact I even have a female friend who offered to marry my boyfriend if we want) and, apart from being a bit dodgy (because it’s illegal), a bit of a hassle (when either him or her needs to travel abroad, for example), and a bit of an embarassment (my friend would be changing her circumstances, getting involved in what is technically a crime, having to deal with a lot of paperwork and being unable to get married for a good while if she wanted to), I dont think anyone would bother checking whether you are married or living together in Brazil, at least as long as you keep a low profile.
Still, it does not seem to be the right thing to do, and what we really want (and I think we all deserve) is equal rights. We will travel for a while and next year, after 6 months in Brazil (on a tourist visa) we’ll decide how/when/where we’ll settle down.
Keep in touch and let me know how things are working out for you — and good luck!
[Wed 15 Aug, 06:01]
Very interesting stuff. Canadian dude or others, can you expand on what’s happening in British Columbia on that court challenge to the exclusionary definition of marriage? Has the hearing begun or dates established? And if successful, what scenarios would that likely precipitate either at the provincial or federal level? Fascinating.
I’d just like to take a moment here to thank all those people throughout the planet who have so courageously worked to bring about these changes. Gays and lesbians have benefitted so hugely from the dedicated ones who have worked on our behalf. Heartfelt eternal thanks, people.
[Wed 15 Aug, 06:51]
This is a cut & paste from http://www.steff.suite.dk/partner.htm — it’s pretty long but has information about the situation in various European countries (plus it’s up-to-date for most parts… I think the information on Belgium is outdated, though)
* * *
Recognition of gay & lesbian partnerships in Europe
See also the ILGA World Legal Survey
Existing partnership laws
A law on registered partnership could be defined as giving a same sex couple the same rights, benefits and obligations as a married couple with some specific exceptions.
These countries have passed partnership laws:
Denmark 1989 (Greenland 1996) – amended in 1999
Sweden 1994, in force as of 1995
The Netherlands 1997, in force as of 1998
France (PACS) 1999
The law enables two persons of the same sex of which at least one is living in Denmark to register their partnership and gives them apart from some exception the same rights and responsibilities as a heterosexual married couple. In a registered partnership one of the partners must be a Danish citizens or a citizens from a country with similar
legislation. Two foreigners, who have lived in Denmark for two years, can also be registered.. A partner in a registered partnership can adopt the children of her/his partner unless the child is adopted from a foreign
country. The differences from marriage are adoption of foreign children is not possible
artificial insemination is not possible for a lesbian registered couple, there is no possibility of church wedding, but church blessings are possible Apart from these exceptions the conditions are exactly the same as for heterosexual marriage. The wedding procedure is the same as for civil marriage and the divorce regulations are the same.
The law enables two homosexual persons of the same sex to register their partnership and gives them apart from some exception the same rights and responsibilities as a heterosexual married couple. The exceptions are a registered couple can not adopt children, artificial insemination is not possible for a lesbian registered couple,
there is no possibility of church wedding and one of the partners in a registered partnership must be a Norwegian citizen and live in Norway. Apart from these exceptions the conditions are exactly the same as for heterosexual marriage. The wedding is the same as for civil marriage and the divorce regulations are the same.
The Swedish law is also similar to the Norwegian one, but includes a clause that means that similar partnerships founded in other countries are automatically recognised in Sweden.
From July 2000 the law has been changed so that it is sufficient that also foreigners who have lived in Sweden for at least two years can be registered. (See http://www.riksdagen.se/bik/beslut.asp?ptnr=1233)
The Icelandic law is similar to the Norwegian law, but gives the possibility of joint custody of children for a registered couple. The Nordic ministries of justice have agreed that in practice partnerships from one of the countries will be recognised in the other, but as all four laws do have the citizen prerequisite some rather odd situations can occur. E.g. an actual case exists of two Swedish gay men, who have been living together in Norway for 25 years and can not register their partnership either in Norway (because both are non Norwegian citizens) nor in Sweden (because they do not live inSweden).
1) A law on registered partnership was passed in July 1997 and comes into force January 1998. It is build over the same model as the Scandinavian laws, but registered partnership is open also for two persons of the opposite sex.
2) Marraige and adoption law in the Netherlands
By Kees Waaldijk
The Dutch Bills to open up marriage and adoption to same-sex partners now have become law (although they will not enter into force before April 2001). On 21 December 2000 Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands signed Bills 26672 (marriage) and 26673 (adoption) into law. Both Laws of 21 December 2000 were officially published on 11 January
2001 (Staatsblad 2001, nr. 9 and 10).
I have adjusted my translations of these bills on my website: http://ruljis.leidenuniv.nl/user/cwaaldij/www/ (see also the
Latest news item there).
The Bill allowing partnership registration in situations where only one of the partners has Dutch citizenship or residency (bill 26862) was also signed into law on 21 December, and published on 11 January 2001 (Staatsblad 2001, nr. 11).
Whether these three Laws will indeed enter into force on 1 April 2001, depends on the speedy adoption of Bill 27256, which provides for various adjustments in other legislation that have become necessary as result of the opening up of marriage and adoption. This bills introduces gender-neutral formulations into those laws that still use gender-specific
words for parents and spouses (e.g. in definitions of polygamy, half-orphans, etc.). It specifies that an intercountry adoption will only be possible by a different-sex married couple or by one individual (opening up intercountry adoption to same-sex couples would not be useful, because the authorities in the original country of the child would not allow it to be adopted by Dutch same-sex partners). It also replaces the old rule, that child benefit will be paid to the mother in case of disagreement between father and mother, by a gender-neutral rule: now the benefit office will decide to whom to pay the benefit in such circumstances. Finally it arranges the price for the new possibility of converting an existing registered partnership into a marriage (or vice versa). All this is not very controversial, but it will need a full debate in the Lower House of Parliament, and possibly in the Senate, too. That will take a couple of months.
The only danger for the opening up of marriage and adoption in the Netherlands is the possibility of a breakup of the present governing coalition. If that happens, there would probably be a delay of several years. However, it now seems unlikely that the current coalition of labour and liberal will break up soon.
Legal provisions of the registered partnership law (first part), which has been passed by the parliament. The law will be enacted in summer 2001: The partners will be acknowledged as relatives. They are obliged to care for each other and to grant mutually maintenance and to live together. The most important legal provisions: Official registration: The registration will be performed by a state authority. Changing names: Registered partnerships are entitled to the same possibilities of changing names as married couples (for example: if Michael Meyer marries Thomas Schmid, Michael could chose one the following last names: Meyer, Schmid, Meyer-Schmid, Schmid-Meyer).
Inheritance law: The legal provisions for married couples will be applied to registered partnerships.
Custody rights: If one partner has children, the other partner will get custody rights for daily life decisions (education, medical care etc.)
Kinship: The relatives of the other partner will be considered as brothers-in-law or sisters-in-law or as a corresponding kinship.
Denial of testifying against each other and information rights: The registered partners are allowed to deny to testify against each other in a criminal trial (or in preliminary proceedings). In hospitals and similar institutions the other partner has information rights.
Rights of the tenant’s lease: If one partner dies, the other partner is allowed to stay in the apartment and to become the obligee of the tenant’s lease.
Social benefits for children: If one partner is unemployed, he/she will get higher unemployment payments if there are children in the registered partnership. This regulation applies to the general children benefits, too.
Health and care insurance: Registered partnerships get health insurance benefits and care insurance benefits.
Immigration rights: Foreign partners get a residence permit. The legal provisions for immigration and labor permits for married couples will be applied to registered partnerships, too.
The second registered partnership law has been passed by the parliament (Bundestag), but it requires the additional approval of the upper house (Bundesrat). This law, which is pending in the upper house (December 2000), includes the following legal provisions:
Registration at the registry office. (The federal government has proposed to chose this authority, which is also responsible for straight marriages).
Income taxes: the obligation for mutual maintenance (livelihood) should be considered. Annual tax redcution benefits up to DM 40.000 (about Euro 20.000) should be granted.
Inheritance taxes and similar taxes: same provisions as for married couples.
Law of the civil service: The legal provisions for married civil servants should be applied to registered partnerships.
Welfare benefits (for emergency cases, housing): The income of the other partner will be considered, too.
(See: http://www.france.qrd.org/actualites/991015/index.html with relevant links)
The law contains the following main provisions:
Benficiaries: any two adults, regardless of their sex, provided they are not close relatives and neither of them is married, nor already bound by a PACS.
Procedure: Joint submission of a written notification to the local Court.
Duties: The persons bound by a PACS owe each other "mutual and material help" and are "jointly responsible for debts incurred by either of them in the course of everyday life".
Termination: The PACS is terminated when either partner gets married or dies, or when either of them so decides. When the partners decide to terminate the PACS, they must inform the local Court, which is competent to rule on any aspect about which they disagree.
Immigration: The fact that a non-French partner is bound by a PACS to a French citizen is deemed to indicate the "personal link in France" taken into account in granting a residence permit. After one year, it must be taken into account as showing the "assimilation within the French community" required before naturalisation as a Frenchcitizen is granted.
Taxes: The partners bound by a PACS may submit a joint income tax declaration in the year following the third anniversary of registering it, and thereafter. A tax-free allowance of 375 thousand francs applies to the total value of the estate of either partner bound by a PACS, and tax is payable at 40% on the subsequent 100 thousand francs, and at 50% thereafter. No time limit is applicable to this provision, but the same rates apply to gifts only
after two years have elapsed from the date the PACS was registered.
Accommodation: If either partner dies, the other may continue living under the existing lease in the accommodation they both occupied.
Property: any heritable property acquired by the partners while bound by a PACS is deemed to be owned jointly.
Social Security: Either partner bound by a PACS is entitled to claim the benefits available to a dependent of the other, so long as (s)he is not entitled to claim such benefits on any other basis.
Civil servants: where both partners are employed in the public service (health, education or administration), they are entitled to the same protection against being required to work under conditions preventing them from living together, as married couples.
The French Senate has a list with comments on all existing and proposed partnership laws at this web site.
Relations to EU treaties and regulations
One of the basic elements in the foundation of The European Union is the free movement of people, and according to the Union treaties discrimination based on nationality is prohibited (where the treaty is applicable). The citizen clause in the partnership laws is in contradiction with these fundamental provisions in the European Union treaties. A gay or lesbian couple from another EU country living in e.g. Sweden cannot obtain the same rights as if one of
the partners was Swedish – and that is discrimination based on nationality.
The other way around, a Danish registered couple cannot move to another EC member state and obtain the same rights as a married couple – as they can in Denmark. Even though there is a provision of bringing a spouse with you if you as an EC citizen go to another EC country to have a job, your same sex spouse is not in general permitted to stay in the
Regional partnership benefits
In Catalonya (Spain) a law was passed 30 June 1998 dealing with both hetero- and homosexual couples. The text of the law can be found at this URL: http://biblioteca.udg.es/fd/jornades/PLRdC.htm and more information on this URL:
Also in Aragon (Spain) there are possiblities for domomestic partnership: http://www.redestb.es/triangulo/leyarin.htm
Partnership laws to come?
These countries are considering partnership laws or similar legislation at a parliamentary level:
The Finnish proposal is similar to the other Scandinavian laws, and so is the Spanish one.
Rules on ‘domestic partnership’ gives specified rights and benefits to two persons living together in some specific situations.
Sweden has a cohabitation law giving some rights and benefits to two persons (opposite or same sex couples) living together – but it grants fewer rights and benefits than marriage and registered partnership.
In May 1996, Hungary has amended a existing law on non-married (heterosexual) couples living together in an economic and sexual relationship (common-law marriage) to also cover same-sex couples. The reform became necessary by a 1995 decision of the Hungarian constitutional court which declared the limitation of the law to opposite-sex couples
unconstitutional. The law is giving some specified rights and benefits to two persons living together. But the rights and benefits are not automatically given – you must apply for them in each case. I
n many cities in Belgium, The Netherlands, France and Spain same sex couples can obtain certain rights concerning housing, health insurance, tax benefits etc.XicadaSilva
[Wed 15 Aug, 19:20]
Thanks for the info on Brazil, e concordo plenamente com voce- we shouldn’t need to dodge the law in order to live with the partners of our choice, mas este mundo louco e’assim! I hope you and your partner will find a way to make things work out(legally)- but please don’t beat yourself up over it if you decide to make an ‘arrangement’- just because something is against the law doesn’t mean it’s unethical, in some cases it may be that the law is unfair/discriminatory(as in this case, excluding gays from immigrating), and ‘deserves’ breaking! 😉 You shouldn’t feel guilty as long as no harm’s done, although I agree, it would definitely be a tricky situation, not recommended for everyone. Nevertheless, I am glad to hear that you have some time to figure things out, and I will be hoping for all the best for you and your partner.
By the way, your English is excellent! 🙂 If your journey ever brings you to South Florida, don’t hesitate to get in touch!
[Thu 16 Aug, 12:32]
as you all know, this otherwise wonderful country is the place where the roman catholic pope lives. catholics have ALWAYS succeded in controlling education and the main medias attitude towards us from the fascism on (since 1929 if my school history helps me), whatever and whoever was in power, up to the extent that:
1) a coalition headed by a roman catholic party ruled the country for 48 years continuously (1946-1994)
2) catholics spread in both right wing and left wing coalitions as a cancer from 1994 on, paralizing any form of activity or discussion on any issue concerning us.
at present: from may the 13th 2001, a right wing coalition is ruling the country. it is formed by a minor catholic nearly fundamentalist party, a post(?)fascist one, and of course by the "thatcherist" party of world-famous mr. berlusconi: it is the most similar thing to fascism italy has ever seen since mussolini was hanged in a central square of milan, see what the police made in genoa a couple of weeks ago if you don’t believe it. and for those who still can’t believe it… well, as soon as the day after mr. berlusconi won the elections, the vaticane was already claiming that rules on abortion should be reformed, that public money should be given to catholic schools and that family is based on marriage and no other thing than a man and a woman can ever form it.
[Sun 19 Aug, 16:58]
PST (Gumly Gumly -17)
Here, in Central-Eastern Europe the case is still open. There is no way of making your partnership legal as in marriage or say PAX in France. You could compose a set of agreements that would give your partner the right to inherit and common ownership. Gay and lesbian couples don’t have the right to pay taxes together like the heterosexual marriages. Discussing this case will remain out of the question for some time still, but things are changing more rapidly than one could imagine and Poland is looking mostly towards Scandinavia, Germany and the Netherlands as it’s models – which is promising.
I’m from Iceland and gay marriage is 100% sanctioned by law as equal to any other marriage.
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June 22, 2001
Muslim states object to gay groups at UN AIDS meeting
United Nations – Islamic nations sought to block a U.S.-based gay rights group on Friday from participating in this week’s major U.N. AIDS conference to the chagrin of Western nations, led by Canada. The U.N. General Assembly spent most of the day trying to approve a list of participants in round-table discussions it plans around the speeches from ministers at the first high-level U.N. AIDS conference, beginning on Monday. Envoys are meeting over the weekend on the latest controversy.
At issue was a list of groups that could take part in panels, along with government ministers, businessmen, scientists and health experts. Assembly President Harri Holkeri of Finland included Karen Kaplan of the San Francisco-based International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Group. The list was given to delegates for approval and 11 nations objected anonymously to the gay group, although it was clear from the debate they included Egypt, Syria, Iran, Libya, Pakistan and other Islamic countries as well as the Vatican, southern Africans and Latin Americans. Conservative Muslim countries find a public mention of homosexuality a religious and cultural insult.
As a result of the dispute, the entire list of participants on the daily panels has not been approved. Carina Martensson, whose country holds the rotating presidency of the European Union, said: "We cannot accept this type of procedure whereby organizations are not allowed to add their points of view. This is even more strengthened after hearing what we have heard today." Ross Hynes, a senior Canadian U.N. envoy, told the assembly that "the time when it might have been considered acceptable for groups or organizations to deny important rights or privileges on the basis of a system of anonymous, arbitrary blackballing is happily from a long-gone era."
He made a motion to reinstate the group, backed by the European Union, Australia, New Zealand, Chile, Iceland, Lichtenstein, Andorra and others. The United States did not co-sponsor the motion but U.S. spokeswoman Alyson Grunder said, "We do support the group and if it comes to a vote we support their their participation in the roundtable."
Friday’s meeting broke up after several Muslim nations denied the session a quorum, deciding not to be counted although they were in the room. Delegates to the conference are also deadlocked on language referring to homosexuals, prostitutes and intravenous drug users on the final plan to action of the conference. One section of the declaration refers to homosexuals, prostitutes and intravenous drug users as especially vulnerable groups in getting and spreading the AIDS virus. It calls for special attention, including "peer group" education.
The Bush administration also is uneasy about appearing to confer special rights on gays as with other parts of the text on pushing AIDS "treatment" rather than care. Some 3,000 people — government officials, activists and business leaders — are expected to back a global agenda for tackling the killer disease and galvanizing support for a new fund to pay for the effort.
About 36 million people are infected with AIDS or HIV worldwide, with the virus spreading rapidly in Asia and Eastern Europe. Of the affected population, an estimated 25 million live in Africa, U.N. figures show. Iran’s U.N. ambassador, Bagher Asadi, said the West was trying "to push the envelope in areas where there is cultural sensitivity, ideological sensitivity, ethical sensitivity." But the New York-based Human Rights Watch countered by saying: "Pretending these groups don’t exist, or reinforcing discrimination against them, will only accelerate the spread of the epidemic by pushing them further underground and out of reach of the services they desperately need to contain the disease."
June 26, 2001
Gay rights group urges tolerance to fight AIDS
by Lisa Richwine
United Nations – A gay rights group that Islamic countries tried to keep out of a U.N. discussion on AIDS appealed to world governments on Tuesday to make fighting discrimination a key part of anti-HIV strategies. Islamic states sought unsuccessfully on Monday to block the group, the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, from participating in a panel discussion on human rights aspects of AIDS.
Scott Long, the group’s program director, said he was "appalled" that many countries were willing to disrupt the meeting "because they did not want to hear the words ‘gay’ or ‘lesbian,’ much less gay or lesbian voices. Hatred is still alive and well at the U.N." Karyn Kaplan, HIV program officer for the San Francisco-based group, told the panel it would be "deadly and disastrous" if countries failed to make ensuring equal rights for all citizens a centerpiece of AIDS-fighting programs. "Whenever people are victimized by stigma or singled out for hate, they are made vulnerable to HIV," Kaplan said. The panel was part of a three-day U.N. General Assembly special session on AIDS. A crowd watching a live video broadcast of Kaplan’s remarks applauded after she spoke.
At a news conference later, Kaplan said winning the right to speak was a victory but she felt she was talking to an already sympathetic audience, which included U.N. officials, government ministers and health experts. None of the countries who opposed her participation made remarks. The U.N. meeting was the 189-nation General Assembly’s first high-level conference on AIDS, which has killed 22 million people since its discovery 20 years ago. Delegates were near approval on a declaration setting goals for fighting AIDS but were deadlocked on language referring to gay marriage, prostitution and intravenous drug use.
The fight over whether to let the gay rights group speak had delayed the session for hours on Monday, its opening day. Kaplan said she was "cynical" the meeting would produce a meaningful document that would make a difference for AIDS patients. "We need action plans. We don’t need empty statements describing the epidemic," she said.
June 18, 2001
UN starts to address abuse of gays
by Deb Price
Long ignored in the international human rights drive to avoid repeats of Nazi-style atrocities, gay men and lesbians recently advanced a tiny bit closer to being fully embraced as part of humanity’s family. In the first of two unrelated developments, the United Nations’ human-rights arm announced it will start collecting reports on torture and other anti-gay activity that can be used to try to persuade countries to improve the lives of their gay citizens.
Separately, because of a Clinton administration decision, more than a half million dollars from an international fund is being given to gay survivors of Nazi concentration camps and to fund efforts to inform the world about cruelties committed against homosexuals in Hitler’s Germany. Together, the two moves are heart-warming proof that decades of tireless work by international gay-rights advocates are paying off.
Slowly, the UN community is starting to understand why protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation need to be read into the human-rights declarations signed after World War II. Shame is the stick the UN most often wields to bring about change. The first big gay breakthrough at the UN happened in 1994, when a judicial panel declared that anti-sodomy laws violate human-rights principles and chastised Australia for allowing Tasmania to keep the anti-gay statute. Australia, embarrassed that a Tasmanian gay man had appealed to the UN for help, successfully pressured its backward state to abolish its anti-sodomy law in 1997.
Also in the 1990s, the largest international human-rights groups — Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch — expanded their missions to include protesting abuses against those of us who’re gay. That followed prodding by the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC), a group founded in 1990 that is the David facing Goliath in the effort to get the international community to treat abuses based on sexual orientation similarly to those based on gender, race or religion.
Human Rights Watch has just put out a powerful report documenting abuse of gay American students. Amnesty International will release a report on anti-gay torture June 22. IGLHRC’s Scott Long calls the UN’s decision to document anti-gay abuses "groundbreaking." Investigators with the UN Commission of Human Rights have broad powers to approach governments accused of human-rights violations. The investigators want to be informed of instances in which gay people are the victims of anti-gay torture, execution, false imprisonment, censorship or violence. IGLHRC’s Web site details how to report such horrors.
"This is a big opening," says IGLHRC’s Sydney Levy. "Imagine that for the first time you are being allowed to present your complaints. They are now saying, Come and tell us what is going on.’"
Meanwhile, Julie Dorf, a founder of the Pink Triangle Coalition, said the group has received more than $600,000 from the United States’ portion of the International Nazi Persecutee Relief Fund. The fund, created in 1997 to distribute money from gold Nazis stole from occupied nations, gave $72,000 last year to help gay camp survivors and $531,000 recently for films, museum exhibits, books and other educational materials about the Nazi persecution of homosexuals. Dorf said seven gay camp survivors, whom Nazis forced to wear pink triangles, have been located.
The search for more continues. A 78-year-old survivor with heart problems who now lives in Poland called the several thousand dollars he received "a gift from heaven." A 93-year-old survivor living in Australia said the money was a "generous testimony of sympathy" that gives him "fresh courage to know that there are friends and institutions who remember me." Atrocities continue against people targeted simply for being gay. But the civilized world is moving to acknowledge and end them.
Deb Price’s column is published on Monday. She be contacted at (202) 662-7370 or firstname.lastname@example.org
July 30, 2001
Gay group denied observer status at S.Africa meet (by accident?)
Geneva – An international gay and lesbian group was denied observer status on Monday at next month’s planned World Conference against Racism in South Africa after liberal Sweden failed to vote on the issue at a special session. The presence of the Brussels-based International Lesbian and Gay Association at the United Nations-organised conference in Durban was contested by Muslim states grouped in the Organisation of the Islamic Conference.
Current European Union President Belgium called for a vote on the issue at the start of a special drafting session in Geneva for the world gathering, billed as a turning point against racism and xenophobia. One after another, EU states voted in favour of admitting the group, but when Sweden’s name was called there was no representative present. The ballot ended in a 43-43 tie, which under U.N. rules meant that the motion to grant the group access was defeated. The vote of the socially liberal Sweden would have been decisive. There was no immediate comment from the Swedish mission in Geneva on why no delegation member had been present.
February 15, 2002
World Bank extends domestic partner benefits
Board decision culminates lobby efforts by gay employee group
by Kara Fox
The board of directors of the World Bank, an international institution comprised of 182 countries that loans money to developing countries, voted on Feb. 7 to extend domestic partner benefits to same-sex and opposite-sex couples.
Although the bank has offered limited domestic partner benefits to same-sex partners of employees for four years, only certain benefits were included, according to Hans Binswanger, director for the bank’s environmental and social development for Africa. Binswanger, who founded the bank’s gay employee group, said the new benefits "eliminate the distinction between same-sex and heterosexual couples."
The new benefits plan also applies to domestic partner of heterosexual couples. The group Binswanger founded in 1993, the World Bank’s Gay, Lesbian Or Bisexual Employees (GLOBE), pushed for equal benefits and was behind the effort for limited DP benefits four years ago. The group also serves a social function, and held a party Saturday, Feb. 9, to celebrate the new benefits. Staff at the World Bank’s press office refused to speak on the record about the benefits change, but did verify that the benefits were approved. Members of the World Bank board could not be reached for comment.
The new benefits include insurance coverage, mobility/expatriate benefits, reassignment and pre-assignment benefits on change of duty station, survivor benefits, and home-leave benefits. To be eligible, staff members must register a domestic partner by submitting a sworn affidavit. Binswanger, who registered his domestic partner two years ago, said the administration supported the proposal, but that the board was divided. He said that he and other members from GLOBE talked to personnel about the proposal.
"This has been a gradual process," Binswanger said. "It has been on our agenda for a couple of years." Binswanger noted that the board vote came just a couple of weeks after the International Monetary Fund approved a similar benefits package. The IMF is also an international organization, comprised of 183 member countries, that was founded to foster economic growth and high levels of employment. The World Bank and IMF are sister organizations that have the same goal of helping poverty-stricken countries. The benefits will go into effect March 1.
February 10, 2002
When Travel Is the Best Medicine: HIV and World Travel
by Michael McColly
When I was a boy, on rainy days at school when we couldn’t go outside for recess, we played a game in which we took turns twirling the globe. We would close our eyes and stab our fingers onto our miniature fifth grade earth, halting the revolutions to find where fate had landed us. We mostly found ourselves in the sea or behind enemy lines in the vastness of the Soviet Union or in the nowhere worlds our Midwestern mouths couldn’t pronounce. The winner was the one closest to some place we all knew — the paradises of our farm town America, California and Hawaii.
Secretly, however, some of us longed for the other worlds made magical in National Geographic, the smooth savannas of Africa, the solitary dots of the Indonesian Archipelago, the bumpy surfaces of Tibet and Peru. We wanted to be the ones at the end of the earth as far away from the cold February Indiana rain as our 12-year-old imaginations would allow. Now again I am looking at maps and mentally twirling the globe as I set out for distant lands. I live out of the proverbial suitcase. I have no furniture, no bed. Boxes of books clutter my parents’ garage, and stuff that only months ago had a purpose has been jettisoned to the Salvation Army. The journey that I have embarked on isn’t so much one of distance, though it will ultimately cover four continents. This journey also has to do with the body and what is in it, namely a virus that has crossed every border and floated onto every shore — the infamous and pernicious virus that causes AIDS.
Contracting H.I.V. in 1995 has not kept me at home. In fact it has inspired just the opposite: a desire for the remote, the otherworldly, and above all the meditative solitude of nature. Travel has become my antidote: the farther I go the more aware I become of what has kept me alive — my desire to be in and of the world. Since my infection, I’ve traveled to Mexico twice, Europe, India, Asia and Africa, not to mention countless trips around the United States to commune with friends, family and nature. Travel brings us back into the world, back into our bodies, and — quite literally for me — back to life.
Traveling with H.I.V. or other chronic conditions need not be more complicated than any other limitation traveling presents. You learn, as travelers do, to take calculated risks, prepare yourself and know your body and your limits. But most of all, you can never let fear have the final say in where and how you travel. I think more than anything else I travel to sharpen my wits against fear; like a martial artist I need to keep my form. With H.I.V. it is easy to find reasons you can’t do this or that. Besides this virus, we carry with us a built-in fear. In fact, if we aren’t vigilant we become the fear itself, embodying unconsciously the worst nightmares of those around us. If I had listened to the fears of people I know or read about, I’m certain I wouldn’t be alive today — maybe breathing, but not alive. There’s a difference.
As I prepare for the second leg of my yearlong series of trips to write about how others around the world are learning to survive this disease, I still have moments of panic. But in my experience no trip is worth taking if it doesn’t provoke some anxiety and a few bad dreams. Friends wondered why, after all I’d been through, I wanted to travel alone for three months in Asia last spring and then to parts of rural Africa. ”Your health is good, don’t jeopardize it.”
I recalled the same reactions when I’d decided to go to India the year after I learned of my diagnosis. Pumped up with the first generation of cocktail drugs, I felt a certain invincibility, and when friends I practiced yoga with mentioned they were going to India to study with the Ashtanga guru Pattabhi Jois in Mysore, I believed I was healthy enough to follow. Then came the doubts and the worry, the confused faces from doctors and friends, ”India? Are you serious?”
The day came when I had to buy my ticket, the moment when a trip moves out of the mind and onto the calendar. I recall pulling up outside the travel agency along Devon Avenue in Chicago’s Indian neighborhood; for half an hour I went through the mental debate one more time. That night I couldn’t sleep. I was haunted by images of crowded Indian hospitals, empty hotel rooms with creaking, mesmerizing ceiling fans churning the dead air over my supine body, airline attendants rolling me to the back of a plane in a wheelchair with an IV bag dangling over my head. But not going would have been worse — giving in to the fear that inevitably comes with confronting the limitations of this life. Yet I would have to experience those limits in order to know that freedom has nothing to do with the physical world.
That night I could feel the claustrophobia of fear, the collapsing of the body in on itself. My bedroom became smaller and smaller as I imagined what my life would be like if I took away the possibility of traveling. And so before I left, I kept away from the naysayers. And a few weeks later I found myself clutching my bag with my six bottles of pills, standing on a train platform in Bangalore completely exhausted and confused as to what track led where. A student saw the panic in my eyes and took me by the hand into the train and found us a seat. ”I’m going to Mysore. This train is going to Mysore, right?” He rolled his head from side to side as south Indians do, meaning yes, instead of what I was sure meant no. But then he smiled and offered his reassurance, ”Going to Mysore, I will take you.”
And so one by one, people led me along my travels as if all those I met, Indians and Westerners alike, had been sent by Vishnu himself to protect and guide me. Sure, I got sick. Who travels in India for over a month and doesn’t? I survived. I returned reanimated, not much better at my yoga practice but transformed. Strangely, I came out believing that this virus could liberate me. When you travel, you get sick, you get lost, depressed and ripped off, and your schedule is routinely upended. There are days when you awake and you have no idea where you are or where you might end up that day, and then after a cup of something that is said to be coffee, you remember that you are exactly where you want to be — traveling.
Michael McCollyis writing a memoir of his travels to six countries affected by HIV and AIDS.
April 29, 2002
Muslim states oppose reinstating gay group
by George Archibald
A European push to reinstate United Nations observer status for a Brussels-based homosexual lobbying organization suspended for pedophile links has brought strong opposition from Muslim states, causing the Bush administration to reassess earlier support for the group. Pakistan, a major U.S. ally in the war against terrorism, and other Arab countries will lead a fight today in the U.N. Economic and Social Council, or ECOSOC, to uphold a prior committee vote to continue blocking the International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA) from attending U.N. meetings and informal negotiating sessions closed to the public and press.
The ILGA was ousted as a credentialed U.N. nongovernmental organization (NGO) in 1994 – just a year after being accepted – because a founding 15-year member, the North American Man/Boy Love Association (NAMBLA), advocates and promotes man-boy sex. In January meetings of ECOSOC’s NGO committee, European and U.S. delegates said they believed ILGA claims that the association had repudiated NAMBLA and other groups that advocate pedophilia. But the position was rejected in a 8-6 committee vote on Jan. 23. In informal discussions on Friday, in preparation for the ECOSOC meeting today, French and German delegates announced they would try to overturn the earlier vote against ILGA’s reinstatement.
The U.S. delegation, which had voted to approve the ILGA, was silent on the move, participants said. Richard Grenell, spokesman for the U.S. Mission to the United Nations, said Friday he did not know whether the United States would continue to back the Europeans in support of the ILGA. "I’ll call you back," he said, but did not. At the January meeting, U.S. representative Richard Williams said the ILGA had satisfied U.N. demands to expel pedophiles. "The representative of the United States, who said his government had sought the earlier suspension of the organization because of the pedophilia issue, said he had not seen any proof that the organization now condoned pedophilia," a committee report said. "On the contrary, he saw evidence that the NGO was saving lives in the struggle against HIV/AIDS."
But the Pakistani delegate, Ishtiag H. Anrabi, said ILGA representative Claudine Ouellet of Quebec failed, in nine hours of discussions on Jan. 22 and 23 regarding the group’s application, to demonstrate that ILGA had no pedophilia connections. The group has refused to provide a list of its members for independent verification of claims that pro-pedophile members have been expelled, he said in an interview. Despite claims that pedophilia is repudiated, "there is no mention" of that in the ILGA constitution, membership application or the signed statement required from member groups, he said. "They have to demonstrate in a very categorical and substantial way that they no longer are affiliated with groups condoning or promoting pedophilia," Mr. Anrabi said. "It has to shun those people out of its ranks."
Kursad Kahramanoglu, ILGA’s co-secretary-general, said the opposition stemmed from prejudice against homosexuality. "We have not been able to beat homophobia around the world. The situation is particularly difficult amongst the Islamic states," Mr. Kahramanoglu said. The ILGA leader, a native of Turkey, said NAMBLA is "definitely not" part of the federation that claims more than 300 affiliates in 76 countries. "No NAMBLA official or affiliate is a member of ILGA." However, both groups lobby for repeal of age-of-consent laws preventing consensual sex between adults and minors.
ILGA’s Web site ranks countries as discriminatory if their age-of-consent laws for male-to-male and female-to-female sex are not as low as consent laws governing heterosexuals, which in some cases are as low as 15 years of age. ILGA is unwilling to make public its entire member list for review, Mr. Kahramanoglu said, because the information would be used by opponents to persecute homosexuals. "There are still countries in the world in which to be a person with a different sexuality is a criminal offense," he said. "One of ILGA’s aims is to help these people, not to jeopardize their security."
September 5, 2001
ILGA gays and lesbians protest at World Conference Against Racism in Durban
Gay and lesbian groups held a small but noisy protest at the World Conference Against Racism (WCAR) earlier today, demanding that sexual orientation be recognised as one of the factors that aggravates racism. Holding up posters calling for an end to discrimination — one read: "Help: 400 transvestites murdered in Argentina". After intervention by Deputy National Police Commissioner André Pruis, they moved under a heavy police escort to the street outside the International Conference Centre, where the WCAR plenary sessions are being held.
Spokesperson for the International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA) Phumi Mtetwa said that at present sexual orientation was in square brackets in the draft conference declaration, which means it is seen as controversial. She said the clause had been referred to an informal working group in a bid to resolve what was "one of the most contentious issues of the conference". ILGA would like to see consensus on the issue, because if it went to a vote, it was likely to be thrown out. Activists maintain that sexual orientation is a "related intolerance", saying that people who are stigmatised both racially and sexually experience heightened discrimination compared to those who occupy only one category. The conference’s full name is the World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Other Related Intolerances. They call on governments to adopt constitutional protection prohibiting all forms of discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. – Sapa
June 11, 2002
Living A Dual Life:
Hispanic gays who left their homelands to escape persecution have discovered an intoxicating freedom.
They just can’t tell their families.
by Andrea Elliott, email@example.com
Freedom–In the Closet
Since Leonel Teijon’s family immigrated to Miami three years ago from Cuba, he came out of the closet and into a free, new world. Freedom carries a cost, however: Teijon and his father no longer speak. ”He threw me out of the house,” said Teijon, after dancing on a recent Sunday night at Miami’s Concorde Supper Club.
For Teijon and other gay immigrants flocking to Florida to escape persecution, the newfound freedom is bittersweet: They can go to gay bars, gay rallies, even walk down the street holding hands. But with their own families – their fathers, mothers, siblings, tías and tíos, even co-workers – they struggle to reveal themselves. ”It’s a socially more conservative community, given its grounding in Latin American culture,” said Fred Fejes, a communications professor at Florida Atlantic University who teaches gay and lesbian studies.
"Typically, homosexuality is something that’s there, but you don’t talk about it.” As the Hispanic gay community emerges, gay activists are vowing to change that. In 2000, there were 6,191 Hispanics living with unmarried same-sex partners in Florida, according to census data released this year. It’s the first time the census has broken down same-sex partnerships by ethnicity. The census data quantifies a group that has long been invisible to both Hispanic and gay leaders, but can no longer afford to be, say those who hail from both groups.
For the Hispanic community, the main issue is medical: Miami has the highest HIV/AIDS rate per capita of any city in the nation – 60 cases per 100,000 people, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach rank third and fourth in the nation.)
Reaching Out For the gay community, reaching out to Hispanics is a political necessity: Miami-Dade’s 57 percent Hispanic population could play a key role in supporting or rejecting a September referendum that proposes deleting the sexual orientation clause from the county’s human rights law, which protects people from discrimination. ”There was a lot of fear from non-Hispanic gays that Hispanic voters would be against equal rights for gay people,” says Georg Ketelhohn, the Nicaraguan chair-elect of the gay rights group SAVE Dade, which has gone door-to-door to thousands of Hialeah and Little Havana homes seeking support. "I would not say that we’re there yet, but there’s been a lot more working together.”
The Hispanic cultural stance on homosexuality can be reduced to a popular saying: ‘ojos que no ven, corazón que no siente’ (What the eyes don’t see, the heart doesn’t feel), says Martin Ornelas-Quintero, executive director of LLEGO, a 10,000-member gay Hispanic advocacy group in Washington. ”All of our families knew that hairdresser who would do all the women’s hair for the big quinceañeras,” the 15th birthday celebration, Ornelas-Quintero says. ”Everyone has that tía or tio who’s no longer part of the family. That’s diferente. Es asi” – or that way. "No one ever deepens the conversation of what asi is.”
The stigma is infused by a Catholic doctrine that rejects homosexuality, say experts, and runs so deep that homosexuals risk imprisonment in many Latin American countries, as well as Puerto Rico. In Puerto Rico and Nicaragua, sodomy is a crime and in other places, police use morality laws to arrest gay, lesbian and transexual people.
Cristian Polo led a successful movement to repeal a law that punished homosexuality in Ecuador in 1997 but fled to Miami a year later after a gay colleague was stabbed to death. Here, he works in a Hialeah hospital cafe but does not tell his co-workers he is gay. ”They are Hispanic and less tolerant,” says Polo, 33, who lives with his partner in Miami Beach. "You can’t do what you do in South Beach, walk down the street holding your partner’s hand.” Perhaps the greatest factor fueling intolerance among Hispanics is the pressure to marry and have children, experts say. ‘People find it difficult to turn their backs on that and say, ‘I am going to be who I am as an individual,”’ says Miami anthropologist David Forrest, an independent researcher who has studied gay Hispanics.
Divided like Polo, Maria Pino lives in two worlds. She divides her time between her Cuban parents’ Hialeah-area home and her partner Grisel Rodriguez’s home in South Miami. ”To this day my parents believe that I’m gonna get married and have children,” says Pino, a 36-year-old bail bonds agent who told her friends she was gay 11 years ago, but not her parents. They figured it out, she says, but still believe she’s "going through a phase.” Rodriguez, a Miami-Dade county code enforcement administrator, has met Pino’s parents at holiday dinners and considers them civil and friendly, but "there’s no Miss Manners for dealing with lesbian coupledom.” A Miami-raised Cuban, Rodriguez, 49, tried living in Allentown, Pa., years ago but missed Miami’s Hispanic culture. ”They may be homophobic, but they’re my homophobes!” says Rodriguez, who never came out to her father before he died. But, when Rodriguez fell in love at 27, she decided to tell her mother. ”It felt lonely not to share that,” said Rodriguez. She recalls her mother gasping at the news. ‘I said, ‘Well, Mom, I just love this person like you love Dad.’ And she got it.” Hispanic lesbians may disappoint their parents by not marrying men, but gay Hispanic males have a harder time finding acceptance. Often, machismo attitudes stand in the way, experts say.
Taboo Causes Denial
The homosexuality taboo turns some to denial: Among Hispanics, the active male sexual partner often does not consider himself ”gay,” but ”MSM” – the Centers for Disease Control’s acronym for ”men who have sex with men,” said Luis Penelas, executive director of the Miami AIDS outreach organization Union Positiva. The Little Havana organization holds a weekly support group for MSMs and tries to reach out to them at bars, bookstores and parks. One such place is the Concorde Supper Club, which attracts hundreds of gay Hispanics to its ragingly popular Sunday night cabaret, "Marytrini and the Jacuzzi Divas.”
Outreach Of Gifts
On a recent Sunday, Union Positiva volunteers handed out condoms outside. Inside, performer Sergio Dominguez brushed powder across his face in a process his friends have dubbed la transformacion. ”When I came here, I could finally dress as a woman,” said Dominguez, who left Cuba for Miami five years ago. An hour later, he is ”Teresa,” a crowd favorite. Dominguez’s mother – backstage with him – has witnessed a more lasting transformation. Here he is free, said Dania Mesa, who chose to bring Sergio to Miami over her two other children when she became a U.S. citizen. ”Gays are so persecuted,” she said. "I needed to take him out to save him.” .
Herald database editor Tim Henderson contributed to this article.
The bombs in Mombasa and Bali threaten the best example of global community
by Michael Elliott
One evening last summer I was chatting in a bar in Crete with a doctor from Tel Aviv, who was on vacation with his family. We talked about the Palestinian friends he hadn’t seen since the start of the Aqsa intifadeh, his missions as a reservist in the Israeli army. I asked him how long he was staying in Crete. Just a few days, he said, then added wistfully, "Sometimes we just have to get away."
These days "getting away" is easier said than done. Ask the Israelis who arrived at the Paradise Hotel in Mombasa just as bombs exploded there, killing three of them, or the passengers on the charter flight from Mombasa to Tel Aviv who barely escaped death by surface-to-air missile. Following the horror of the Bali bombings in October, the attacks in Kenya confirm that tourists are now in the terrorists’ cross hairs. Soft targets, that euphemism of the month, seem to be softest when they’re wearing shorts or sinking a few brews.Terrorism doesn’t lend itself to easy gradations of tragedy.
But for me, the deliberate attempt to kill tourists — and those who work with them, like the local dancers murdered in the Mombasa bombing — is among the most distressing developments of the past year. Taking aim at resorts in the developing world hurts those who can least afford it. In many poor countries, tourism is the fastest-growing sector of the economy and the one that offers the easiest pathway from poverty to a better and happier life. In Kenya, tourism employs about 500,000 people and, with the collapse of prices for commodities like tea and coffee, has become one of the most important sources of foreign exchange. Those benefits are now at risk. As for Bali, the financial effects of the bombs are likely to be catastrophic. Employment on the island may fall more than 20% next year, according to a model developed by Thea Sinclair and Guntur Sugiyarto at the University of Nottingham in Britain. And since Bali was a flagship destination not just for Indonesia — more than half the visitors to the country in 2001 spent time on the island — but for all of Southeast Asia, the ripple effect from the bombings may be felt throughout the region.
But this isn’t just a matter of dollars and cents. The freedom to travel safely and cheaply is one of the great blessings of our time — something that immeasurably expands the range of human experience. If we ever manage to build a world based on mutual respect and understanding between peoples, tourism will deserve much of the credit. That’s particularly true for one class of traveler: backpackers — precisely the group targeted in the Bali attack. Few modern social developments are more significant and less appreciated than the rise of backpacker travel. The tens of thousands of young Australians, Germans, Britons, Americans and others who wander the globe, flitting from Goa to Costa Rica, from Thailand to Tasmania, are building what may be the only example of a truly global community. Nobody has an accurate way of guessing the size of the backpacker market, but the growth of the Lonely Planet brand offers somewhat of a proxy. The first Lonely Planet guidebook was stapled together on an Australian kitchen table in the early 1970s; 30 years later, the company publishes more than 600 titles.
Backpackers are not only more likely to respect local cultures than those tourists served by the mass market, but they are also, in their own way, valuable to host economies. Backpackers may spend less on vacation than their parents, but most of what they do spend stays local. Mark Hampton of the University of Surrey in Britain, who has studied tourism in Indonesia, estimates that 70% of backpackers’ vacation expenditures go to locally owned businesses — like small hotels and restaurants — compared with only about 30% of the cash spent by "mass" tourists, who often stay in big hotels owned by foreign firms.
The bombs in Bali have placed the phenomenon of young people tasting the world at threat. I find that unbearably sad. More than 30 years ago, I discovered Europe by hitchhiking around it each summer, sleeping on beaches and in cheap hostels, breezing into Barcelona on the back of a motorbike, watching French kids in Nimes cover a table with the ripe ingredients for a perfect ratatouille, selling my blood in a clinic off Omonia Square in Athens for $8–enough for a few more days on the islands. I learned more from those trips than from years in school, and I’d begun to look forward to the day when my daughters would light out on their own adventures — to go see their relatives in Australia or hike in Tibet or do things in Bali that they wouldn’t want to tell Dad about. But that was before our world was curdled. So add one more reason to hate what the terrorists have done: they’ve stolen our dreams.