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International News - Rex Wockner
International News

by Rex Wockner - SGN Contributing Writer

UN General Assembly to hear pro-Gay presentation
A historic statement was expected to be read into the record before the United Nations General Assembly on December 18, condemning anti-Gay discrimination and urging repeal of laws that ban Gay sex.

Sponsored by at least 61 nations, the statement, among other things, denounces "violence, harassment, discrimination, exclusion, stigmatization and prejudice ... directed against persons in all countries in the world because of sexual orientation or gender identity" and "urge[s] States to take all the necessary measures, in particular legislative or administrative, to ensure that sexual orientation or gender identity may under no circumstances be the basis for criminal penalties, in particular executions, arrests or detention."

The presentation is, according to some of the activists involved, the first step in a process aimed at getting the General Assembly to pass a resolution calling for decriminalization of homosexuality worldwide.

As of press time, according to various sources, countries that had signed the declaration included Albania, Andorra, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chile, Croatia, Cuba, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Ecuador, Estonia, Finland, France, Gabon, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Mauritius, Mexico, Montenegro, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, San Marino, São Tomé and Príncipe, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, United Kingdom, Uruguay and Venezuela.

Meanwhile, on December 6, several hundred people demonstrated near St. Peter's Square against Vatican City's opposition to the statement. Many of the protesters wore nooses around their necks to call attention to the fact that at least seven nations have laws imposing the death penalty for the crime of Gay sex.

Gay sex is banned in more than 80 countries.

"LGBT people have launched a global campaign in defense of life and dignity of thousands of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender citizens," said Aurelio Mancuso, president of the Italian national group Arcigay. "Wickedness of Vatican politicians must not prevail over the human rights."

The Vatican has said it opposes the statement for fear it will increase pressure to legalize same-sex marriage.

Luzhkov to keep banning Gay pride
Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov plans to keep banning Gay pride celebrations, as he's done for the past three years.

His latest reason: Being proud of being Gay can lead to increased HIV transmission.

"We have banned, and will ban, the propaganda of sexual minorities' opinions because they can be one of the factors in the spread of HIV infection," Luzhkov said December 4 at a scientific conference on HIV/AIDS in developed countries.

Luzhkov previously has called Gay pride parades "satanic" and city officials have said they would cause public disorder and security problems.

Luzhkov also told the conference that science has shown that using condoms is not a safe way to avoid catching HIV. "Today's statements of [the] Moscow mayor show which level of madness such politicians can take our society to," said lead Moscow pride organizer Nikolai Alekseev. "The statements of Mr. Luzhkov are based on his own prejudice and stereotypes and in no way reflect recent scientific information. [T]he views of [the] Moscow mayor [are] nothing else than a call for ... genocide against his own people."

Despite the bans, Moscow Gays have staged various pride events the past three years and will do so again on May 16, 2009, Alekseev said.

This past June, about 35 activists misled police into going to the wrong location and then pulled off three surprise actions - a rally at the Tchaikovsky statue at the Moscow Conservatory, a very brief pride march, and the unfurling of a big banner from an apartment balcony across from City Hall.

Britain to count Gay population
Britain's Office for National Statistics is going to count the Gay population.

Starting in January, a sexual-orientation question will be included in several of the office's routine surveys, leading to an eventual estimate of the size of the nation's Gay community.

Respondents will choose from heterosexual/straight, Gay/Lesbian, Bisexual or "other" - or can opt not to answer. Officials say the results will be useful for gauging levels of discrimination and unequal treatment and addressing those problems.

Boy George could face jail for "imprisoning" escort
Singer Boy George may land in jail after being convicted December 5 of falsely imprisoning male escort Audun Carlsen in London.

Last April, George handcuffed Carlsen to a hook on the wall of George's bedroom for about an hour, saying he suspected Carlsen had hacked into his computer following a previous photo session between the two men.

Carlsen claims George also attacked him with a metal chain after he broke free and began his escape from the apartment.

Carlsen told the court the computer story was made up and that George probably was upset because Carlsen refused to have sex with him the previous time they met.

African GLBTs demand HIV response
A group of GLBT people from 25 African countries has demanded an urgent response to the HIV pandemic affecting their communities.

The call came at a "pre-conference" held in Dakar, Senegal, December 5 before the start of the International Conference on AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Infections in Africa.

Men who have sex with men (MSM) in Africa are about nine times more likely to be HIV-positive than heterosexuals.

"The deliberate refusal to address the needs of men who have sex with men in Africa or anywhere in the world will never help us end the spread of AIDS," said Paula Ettelbrick, executive director of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, which organized the pre-conference, "The refusal to treat the health needs of this population blatantly defies the human rights obligations incumbent on states."

Only seven African countries have included MSM in their national plans for AIDS prevention, while more than two-thirds of African nations still criminalize Gay sex.

Organizations that signed the demand included IGLHRC, Behind the Mask (South Africa), the Coalition of African Lesbians (South Africa), Alternatives-Cameroun, the Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya, the AIDS Project Of The East Bay (Oakland, Calif.), the Center for the Right to Health (Nigeria), Sexual Minorities Uganda, Arc-en-Ciel Plus (Côte d'Ivoire), the African HIV Policy Network (United Kingdom), OUT-Well Being (South Africa), and Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals of Botswana.

With assistance from Bill Kelley

pictures top: Paula Ettelbrick
bottom: Vatican

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