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International News - Rex Wockner
Section One
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International News

by Rex Wockner - SGN Contributing Writer

Zimbabwean Gay leader dies
Key Zimbabwean Gay leader Keith Goddard, director of Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe, died October 9 from pneumonia. He was 49.

"Keith dedicated his life to the advancement of LGBT rights, human rights and his passion for music," the group said in a statement. "The struggle for LGBT rights is a difficult struggle and in many instances in the history of GALZ Keith stood gallantly in the frontline. He dared where most men would not go."

Scott Long, director of Human Rights Watch's LGBT Rights Division, said Goddard "oversaw [GALZ's] transition from a group representing the urban white elite to one rooted in the majority population and its urgent needs."

"He could on many occasions have left Zimbabwe and settled into the comparative comforts of armchair activism abroad," Long said. "He didn't. He stayed - even when he was framed on ludicrous charges of assault that hung over him for years. He faced, and overcame, oppression and opprobrium that the rest of us could not even imagine. Whenever I visited GALZ, Keith was always, amid swirling fears and social chaos, imperturbable - a rock."

Leading British Gay activist Peter Tatchell said Goddard "risked his liberty and life many times, speaking out against homophobia and Transphobia, even though this marked him as a potential target for state and vigilante violence. The danger of kidnapping, arrest, imprisonment, torture and murder never deterred him. Keith will be remembered as a pioneer and hero of the LGBT liberation struggle in Africa."

Leading Indian Gay activist Vikram Doctor said: "It could have been so easy for him to have left, emigrating to Europe like so many white Zimbabweans did, fleeing to refugee camps in South Africa like so many black Zimbabweans were forced to. But Keith stuck it out and kept going with GALZ until his untimely death. I know Keith would probably have laughed at the idea of being considered a hero, but more than most people I know, he was."

In 2001, GALZ ran out of money and its phone (and dialup internet) was cut off for three months. When he finally got back online, Goddard encountered 1,566 e-mails.

"Not all of them were junk mail trying to sell us Chinese chemicals or offering us free holidays to places we have never heard of," he wrote to fellow activists. "Luckily, we have been able to sell a fridge to pay for the water and the phone bill and our new funding cycle with HIVOS [Holland's Humanist Institute for Development Cooperation] is set to start in the first week of November. We are all very sorry indeed for the long silence."

Russian website and reality show contestant settle lawsuit
Russian reality-show contestant Vasily Pechen, who was on Big Brother, and the website Gay.ru have settled a legal case stemming from Gay.ru's having alleged that Pechen is Gay and accepted money for sex, according to a report on GayRussia.ru.

Gay.ru will pay Pechen $5,077 and retract its story, GayRussia.ru said.

Pechen claimed that the reporting and certain photos that accompanied it damaged his career and stressed his mother, contributing to her death. He had originally asked for about $68,000 in damages.

A separate lawsuit against the newspaper Express Gazeta, over its publication of similar information, is ongoing.

Boyzone's Stephen Gately dies
Openly Gay Irish singer Stephen Gately, who achieved fame as lead singer of the boy band Boyzone, died October 10 in Spain of acute pulmonary edema. He was 33.

Officials attributed the death to natural causes and said it "had nothing to do with consumption of alcohol or drugs."

Gately had been on vacation in Majorca with his partner, Andy Cowles.

Homophobic Moscow mayor unveils statue of Walt Whitman
Anti-gay Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton unveiled a statue of presumably Gay poet Walt Whitman at Moscow State University on October 14.

Luzhkov has banned Gay pride events for the past four years in Moscow, sent riot police to violently arrest people who violated the bans, and called Gay parades "satanic" and "weapons of mass destruction."

Moscow Pride organizer Nikolai Alekseev unsuccessfully had called on Clinton "to publicly express her position on Gay rights to one of the top homophobic politicians in Europe."

"I think that no one would understand her silence on the breach of fundamental rights of LGBT people in Russia [on] the day she inaugurates the monument to a Gay poet together with the homophobic mayor of Moscow," he said.

Last June, in her Gay pride month statement, Clinton vowed: "Gays and Lesbians in many parts of the world live under constant threat of arrest, violence, even torture. The persecution of Gays and Lesbians is a violation of human rights and an affront to human decency, and it must end. As secretary of state, I will advance a comprehensive human rights agenda that includes the elimination of violence and discrimination against people based on sexual orientation or gender identity."

Euro Commission tells EU applicant nations to respect GLBT rights
GLBT rights are a prominent topic in the European Commission's October 14 progress reports on the seven countries that are planning to join the European Union: Croatia, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Turkey, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, and Serbia and Kosovo.

The reports recommend that the nations adopt GLBT antidiscrimination laws and policies that meet EU requirements and, in the two nations that have passed such laws - Croatia and Serbia - that GLBT people be protected against discrimination "in practice." The commission was particularly critical of Serbia, where the Belgrade Gay pride parade was canceled September 19 after the prime minister told organizers that police could not protect marchers from violent anti-Gay hooligans who planned to attack the event.

The commission also criticized Turkey for violating Gay activists' rights to freedom of expression and association.

"The commission's progress reports are one of the most important tools at hand for the EU in influencing the human rights situation in candidate and potential candidate countries," said Lilit Poghosyan, programs and policy officer for the European Region of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (aka ILGA-Europe).

"The gradually wider and more self-evident inclusion of LGBT human rights in the commission's monitoring system and in the progress reports shows that LGBT rights are recognized within the European Union and that it is expected and demanded of the future members that they comply with the European values."

With assistance from Bill Kelley

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picture, top: Keith Goddard
below: Nikolai Alekseev
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