by Rex Wockner -
SGN Contributing Writer
Eurovision attendees fear anti-Gay attacks
Far-right groups in Serbia reportedly have threatened to harm the throngs of Gay people who typically travel to attend the campy Eurovision Song Contest.
The 53rd extravaganza will be in Belgrade this year because Serbian singer Marija Serifovic won last year's contest, which was held in Helsinki. Forty-three countries have entered the contest, which culminates May 24.
The European Pride Organisers Association has been pressuring the European Broadcasting Union to guarantee the safety of Gay attendees, but is dissatisfied with the response it has received.
In a letter to EPOA Human Rights Coordinator Kurt Krickler, the EBU's executive supervisor for the contest, Svante Stockselius, said: "The EBU does not separate our fans into groups based on their religion, colour, sexual preferences or others. We have a guarantee for the safety of delegations, press and fans issued by the president of Serbia. This guarantee includes all."
Krickler wrote back: "We are not really convinced and reassured by the guarantees of the Serbian authorities, including the Serbian president, given to the EBU. & EPOA wants to stress that we will certainly also hold the EBU accountable and responsible if homophobic incidents of violence occur during and immediately after the ESC as we have explicitly warned you well in advance of the specific situation and the exceptional homophobic attitudes in Belgrade and Serbia. The EBU could hardly pretend they were not alerted and aware of the danger and likelihood of homophobic attacks during the ESC."
In an earlier letter to Stockselius, Krickler cited a "poor record of human rights in Serbia in general and regarding the human rights of Lesbians, Gay men, Bisexuals and Transgender (LGBT) people in particular."
"In June 2001, the first Gay pride march in Belgrade was brutally attacked by a huge violent crowd of nationalist extremists and hooligans; dozens of people were left massively hurt and injured in the streets while the police failed to provide adequate protection," Krickler said, providing a YouTube link to bolster his assertion.
Egypt jails more men for debauchery
Egypt sent five more men to prison April 9 for "habitual practice of debauchery."
The men, arrested in an ongoing crackdown mostly on HIV-positive people, will spend three years in jail followed by an additional three years when they will have to stay at the police station nightly from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m.
The men were abused, tortured, made to confess and force-tested for HIV after their arrests, according to human-rights groups.
Their lawyer has lodged an appeal with Egypt's highest court, the Court of Cassation.
In January, four other men were imprisoned for a year on the same charges.
Aussie TV anchor comes out
Veteran Melbourne, Australia, TV anchorman Peter Hitchener, 62, came out April 6 in an interview with the Sunday Herald Sun.
"Given that we are on private issues of private life, I am choosing to share with you today that part of my life that I have not spoken about before: that I am Gay," Hitchener said.
"That is part of who I am and with that disclosure, or acknowledgment, I just also need to say I am still the person I was yesterday. I am still the same person and I remain committed to my job and my family and my service and so on.
"I have never been asked about it before," Hitchener said. "There is never a right time, or an easy time, to talk about these personal issues, but this is the right time to say it and to move on."
Hitchener's boss, National Nine News news director Michael Venus, said the network fully supports Hitchener's move.
"I am acutely aware of how difficult a decision this has been for Peter," Venus said. "Indeed I know he has agonized over it for a very long time. But it is a decision which has our full support and in no way diminishes his standing as one of Australia's pre-eminent broadcasters."
Euro court trans decision on Lithuania is final
Lithuania must implement a process for allowing and funding sex-change operations or pay 40,000 euros ($63,600) to Transsexuals who seek the surgery so they can go to another country to get it, the European Court of Human Rights said April 9.
The determination came in the case of "Mr. L." from the city of Klaipeda. The 29-year-old was prescribed hormone therapy in 1998 but denied further therapy in 1999 because it was not clear she would have access to a sex-change operation. She continued the therapy on her own and, in 2000, had her breasts removed.
Then, in 2003, a law granted Transsexuals the right to gender-reassignment surgery when medically possible, but additional measures that were needed to implement the law were never adopted, and medical facilities to carry out a full female-to-male sex-change operation apparently do not exist in Lithuania.
"It took a few years of efforts for the ECHR to protect her right to change sex, as stipulated in the Civil Code," Mr. L.'s lawyer, Henrikas Mickevicius of Lithuania's Human Rights Monitoring Institute, told the Baltic Times. "The irresponsible conduct of politicians has already cost a lot and may still have a higher price to Lithuanian taxpayers."
Police raid Lambda Istanbul Cultural Center
A dozen plainclothes police officers raided the Lambda Istanbul Cultural Center April 7. They stayed for two hours, rummaged through everything, and took away documents containing financial and membership information.
The center later learned it had been under surveillance after someone accused it of procuring Transgender sex workers and sharing in their earnings.
Lambda denies any such activities and says it will take legal action against the city.
The organization is in the midst of another court case over its right to seek official status after the mayor said the group should be shut down because it threatens family values and public decency. The group has said it will take that case to the European Court of Human Rights if necessary.
Meanwhile, on April 8, the Labrys GLBT community center in Bishkek, capital of the former Soviet republic of Kyrgyzstan, was raided by police who reportedly claimed it was an illegal cruising location.
After an extended standoff and the arrival of reinforcements from both sides, the incident ended without any official action. A play-by-play of the incident is online. See tinyurl.com/46z9k7.
Hundreds protest Norway's same-sex marriage plans
Several hundred people marched through central Oslo April 12 in opposition to the Norwegian government's plan to legalize same-sex marriage.
Norway has had a registered-partnership law that gives Gay couples the same rights as marriage since 1993.
A report in the Aftenposten newspaper said many of the protesters were Christians and Muslims.
The government's minister of children and equality, Anniken Huitfeldt, has said letting Gay couples marry "won't weaken marriage as an institution; rather, it will strengthen it."
"Marriage won't be worth less because more can take part in it," she told Aftenposten.
The law would permit same-sex couples to marry in churches, adopt children and receive state-funded medical assistance in getting pregnant. It is expected to pass Parliament before summer.
Full marriage is open to same-sex couples in Belgium, Canada, the Netherlands, South Africa, Spain and Massachusetts. Numerous nations have civil-union or registered-partnership laws that grant same-sex couples some, most or all rights and obligations of marriage.
With assistance from Bill Kelley