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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, December 23, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 51
International News - Scott Wittet
Section One
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International News

by Scott Wittet - SGN Contributing Writer

GAY KENYA SEEKS OPEN, SAFE SPACE
Gay Kenya (gaykenya.com) has launched an appeal on the Global Giving website to establish a safe place for Gay people. Their goal is to raise $53,000 to procure a permanent safehouse for individuals and for support activities.

If they successfully raise $4,000 from 50 donors before December 31, 2011, they will earn a permanent spot on the site. As of December 8, Gay Kenya had raised $425 from six donors.

Elphas Naivasha, the board chair of Gay Kenya, said, 'It is important to note there is a difference between already existing safehouses and our proposed safe place shelter. Current safe houses remain secret locations that house those who are under threat for being Gay.' But the physical existence of a Gay-owned initiative to reach out to the community without fear will help LGBT people live happily and responsibly to the benefit of the entire society.

In his appeal, Naivasha said, 'We need not to hide because being a different sexual orientation is not a shame. But one may ask themselves, what if my family rejects me and throws me out? What if I lose my education support? Or lose my job? This is why we needed to reassure our community and provide the safe place shelter.'

As African culture is structured in such a way that young people are expected to care for the elderly, part of Gay Kenya's longer-term ambition is to develop an old-age home for Gay people.

WORLD'S FIRST INTERSEX MAYOR?
Melbourne has Australia's, and maybe the world's, first openly Intersex mayor following the election of longtime Queer community supporter and advocate Councillor Tony Briffa to the top position at the end of November.

A packed public gallery booed after chief executive Bill Jaboor announced two apologies for non-attendance at the inaugural ceremony and Briffa received a standing ovation as he donned the mayoral robes, with a member of the public calling out, 'Perfect fit!'

During his campaign, Briffa promised that he would attend Victoria's Pride March in February 2012 in full mayoral robes.

FIRST EVER CHINA RAINBOW MEDIA AWARDS
The first annual China Rainbow Media Awards announced winners on December 9 in Beijing.

According to Yang Yang, executive chairwoman of the event, Chinese mass media for years have presented negative or distorted views of the Gay community. The misleading reporting strengthened social prejudices and discrimination towards Gay people and affected the living circumstances of millions of Chinese Gays and Lesbians. 'We want to use the momentum generated by these awards to build strong LGBT communities and to build a genuine platform of communication with the mass media. We hope to improve public opinion regarding sexual minority communities.'

Among the honorees, Dr. Li Yinhe, a well-known sociologist and activist for same-sex marriage, received a Special Contribution Award. A 72-year-old Gay man nicknamed 'Old Paris' presented the award. He had been jailed three times for being Gay, but today lives a quiet life with his boyfriend. 'Although I went to prison several times, I never felt that I was wrong. I never stole anything, I never robbed anyone, and I never did anything that was wrong.'

Expressing his sincere gratitude toward Yinhe, he said: 'At this moment I'm the happiest I've ever been. That's all because of the tireless work Li Yinhe and others have been doing for all these years.'

INDONESIAN TEENS TWEET SUPPORT
Nicky Nurman and Paramita Mohamad know that it can be tough being a Gay teenager in Indonesia, and they wanted to do something to help. After watching videos from the 'It Gets Better' project, they figured out how to use Twitter and Tumblr to help Gay Indonesians accept their sexuality and straight Indonesian youth to better understand Gays. Here are some excerpts from their Jakarta Globe interview:

Jakarta Globe: Is your Twitter account, @NickynMita, for a particular audience?

Mita: I think [Gay] people outside Jakarta or in smaller cities lack role models. They think [if you're Gay] you'll end up being the laughing stock of the village or that you'll have to come to Jakarta and become a shampoo boy or something. A lot of them are placed in hair salons by Myrna, also known as Bambang, who founded Jakarta Transgender Association in 1978 to help boys who fled their kampung [village] and had nowhere to go. He would place them in salons or teach them basic skills, or maybe they would become drag queens. [On Twitter] we get responses from all over the country, like people asking where to find a gay-friendly kost-kostan [residence] in Jakarta. And we help. We throw it out there and people respond.

JG: What's on your 'Kamu Nggak Sendirian' ['You Are Not Alone'] Tumblr account?

Nicky: It started from 'It Gets Better,' and we wanted to do something similar. Then Mita suggested a 'coming out' website where people can share their stories. So taking both ideas into consideration, we thought, why not have a website that reaches out to young LGBT Indonesians so they know they're not alone?

JG: You said that one of the first people to upload a photo and words of encouragement was a girl wearing the hijab (Islamic headscarf).

Mita: It was really touching. She said something like, 'Please show who you are. Please show your true colors so it's easier for people to love you just the way you are.' I think that's awesome.

JG: In what ways have you seen more support for LGBT people in Indonesia?

Nicky: I was in Yogyakarta during the 2010 Q! Film Festival. While we were there, fundamentalists with steel bars crashed the festival, trying to hurt and even kill us. But the most amazing part was that the people who came to support us weren't Gay - they were straight. The people who kept me hidden from the fundamentalists were also devout Muslims. For me, that was much more encouraging than if they had been Gay. My straight friends are more than happy to say, 'You come any closer to this guy and I'm gonna beat you to a pulp!'

NEPAL TO RECOGNIZE THIRD GENDER
The International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA) reports that following the signing of a major peace agreement, key political parties in Nepal are scheduled to conclude a constitutional reform process this month. The draft constitution stipulates 'citizenship rights for third gender individuals' and 'bans discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.'

It also calls for 'government affirmative action in support of LGBT people' and asks for all legislation to include 'gender-neutral language on the rights to work, health, education, and marriage.'

Openly Gay Nepali Member of Parliament Sunil Pant stresses that this popular support for equal rights for LGBTI people in Nepal came largely as a result of the active participation of Queer groups, women's organizations, disabled people, and sex workers in the people's movements that brought down the feudal monarchy there.

In December 2007, Nepal's Supreme Court declared that LGBTI people are 'natural people' who 'deserve equal rights and opportunities.' The decision directed the government to issue citizenship identification documents accurately stating gender identity, repeal or amend discriminatory laws, and form a committee to draft a same-sex marriage law.

The latest move toward inclusivity is a landmark step forward for third-gender persons not only in Nepal but worldwide. Aside from Nepal, only India officially recognizes at the national level third-gender persons, and includes an 'other' category in addition to 'male' and 'female' in its census. Third-gender persons, sometimes referred to as hijras, aravani, or jogappa, have long been accorded a space in social and cultural life in South Asia.

Contemporary exclusion and marginalization of third-gender persons in the subcontinent is largely the result of the imposition of British norms and penal codes during colonial rule that ended in 1947.

In spite of recent advances, third-gender and LGBTI persons in Nepal still face violence and extortion by the police and general public, social and sexual harassment, cultural stigma, dismissal from their jobs, and difficulties finding housing.

But, Pant observes, 'Nepal is going through tremendous transformation - politically, socially, economically, and legally - so a lot of communities who had no space or voice before have emerged.'

SYDNEY MARDI GRAS NAME CHANGE IRKS SOME
Australian LGBT website Samesame.com.au reports that the Board of Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras don't believe their decision to shorten the festival's name-change to Sydney Mardi Gras was a mistake, but they apologized for not adequately consulting their members before making the polarizing decision.

Attendees of a 'Community Information Session' responding to the change said that it had especially angered those with a long history with the festival and those who see the 'Gay and Lesbian' brand as vital for visibility.

Though the cover of Sydney Mardi Gras' official 2012 guide welcomed 'Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and Intersex pride,' the official name change meant that New South Wales Premier Barry O'Farrell's message in the brochure did not actually mention LGBT people.

A couple of Mardi Gras Board speakers said the name change was made to better welcome those of a younger generation less bound by traditional sexuality 'labels.' But one attendee reminded the meeting that local LGBTI youth support network Twenty10's Managing Director Rebecca Reynolds had spoken out strongly against the rebrand.

Not everyone reacted badly to the name change. Some at the meeting agreed with the move, while one attendee pointed out that the same situation happened back in 2003 but was reversed after similar community outrage.

MEXICO CITY RECORDS 1,000 GAY MARRIAGES
PinkNews reports that Mexico City's civil registry announced that 1,000 same-sex marriages have been registered since marriage equality came into law in 2010. The legislation changed the definition of marriage in the city's Civil Code from 'a free union between a man and a woman' to 'a free union between two people.'

The first 1,000 weddings involved 548 Gay couples and 452 Lesbian couples, with about 6% being foreigners. About 85% of the marriages were between partners age 31 and older. Overall the average age for marriages in the country is 28 for men and 25 for women.

REPUBLICANS BLOCK APPOINTMENT OF U.S. AMBASSADOR TO EL SALVADOR OVER PRO-GAY RIGHTS ARTICLE
PinkNews reports that Senate Republicans blocked president Barack Obama's nominee to be ambassador to El Salvador after expressing outrage at an article she wrote in support of Gay rights and unfounded rumors that an ex-boyfriend was a Cuban spy.

Conservative anger toward Mari Carmen Aponte is in part based on a column she wrote in June for the El Salvador newspaper La Prensa Grafica in response to a request by the U.S. State Department urging ambassadors to support Gay Pride Month.

Aponte wrote: 'No one should be subjected to aggression because of who he is or who he loves. Homophobia and brutal hostility are often based on lack of understanding about what it truly means to be Gay or Transgender. To avoid negative perceptions, we must work together with education and support for those facing those who promote hatred.'

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid left open the possibility that a further vote on Aponte's nomination may be brought before the Senate.

PUT RAILWAYS BEFORE GAYS, UGANDAN PRES TELLS U.S. AND U.K.
AFP reports that Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni on Friday urged international donors not to let concerns for Gay rights affect development aid, saying homosexuals also needed roads, power, and trains.

'Before anyone gives me a lecture about homosexuals and their rights, first talk about railways,' Museveni told delegates at the end of a regional meeting in Kampala attended by five other African presidents.

'Homosexuals also need electricity, homosexuals also need roads, homosexuals also need railways,' Museveni said to applause.

Earlier this month, Barack Obama ordered all government agencies, including those handing out aid, to put LGBT rights at the center of U.S. foreign policy.

In Uganda, being Gay is punishable by life in prison.

A controversial bill that calls for the death penalty for certain homosexual acts was recently re-introduced in the Ugandan parliament after lawmakers failed to debate it during the last session of the legislative body. It brings in the death penalty for anyone caught engaging in homosexual acts for the second time as well as for Gay sex where one partner is a minor or has HIV.

FILM CLAIMS IRAQI GAYS WORSE OFF NOW
A short documentary by the group Gay Middle East called Iraq's Unwanted People focuses on the lives of Gay Iraqi men seeking refuge in Damascus, Syria, due to their sexuality. The film has been released online and asserts that violence against LGBT Iraqis has claimed more than 750 lives since 2003 and caused a massive exodus, with the most favored destination being Syria. This in spite of the fact that homosexuality is illegal under Syrian law.

In the video a man identified as Nasser describes how the militia in Iraq discovered he was Gay and confiscated his house.

'They beat me. They hit me on head with their guns,' he said. 'Then I had to flee. They couldn't catch me so they went after my son instead. They captured my son. They killed him. After they killed him, they killed the other son too.'

Dan Littauer, executive editor of Gay Middle East, says the Western intervention in Iraq actually made things worse for LGBT people.

He said, 'Homosexuality is not illegal, technically, in Iraq. But there is a policy by the militias, with the complacency or even participation of government forces, to persecute Gays.

'If they are outed, they can be killed. They can suffer extortion for the rest of their lives and this also puts their families at risk.'

Littauer told Gay Star News that GME is now concerned about the 'Arab spring' governments and the power vacuum in the Middle East that is being filled with radical elements by the U.S.-backed power brokers in the region, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar.

The film can be seen at http://vimeo.com/33738482.

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