by Scott Wittet -
SGN Contributing Writer
CHINA: GAY-THEMED POSTERS STIR CONTROVERSY
Beijinger Zhang Lei was surprised to see posters in her neighborhood showing two bare-chested men smiling at each other as they opened a condom. According to the China Daily, when she posted photos on her blog, she got people talking.
Some residents can't believe the government approved the posters. Others think it shows progress in China's acceptance of Gay people.
It turns out that the posters were produced by the Chinese CDC for AIDS prevention programs targeting Gay men.
'The posters have been used for some time, but the public didn't know that until recently, because the posters are mostly displayed in Gay bars and bathhouses,' Xu Jie, of the CDC's National Center for AIDS/STD Control and Prevention, said.
'Conventional AIDS posters can't capture the attention of special groups. It's necessary to design different posters for them.'
There are about 780,000 people living with HIV/AIDS in China. About 48,000 people were diagnosed as HIV-positive in 2011. Among them, 29.4 percent are men who have sex with men (MSM).
'It's the first time we've used AIDS posters with themes relating to homosexuality,' Xu said.
The style is 'very bold,' says Lin Shu, who helped design the posters.
'The Gay bars like them because they want something that touches one's heart rather than something that shows how horrible AIDS is,' the 36-year-old says.
The images are intended to be attractive and sweet. They include portrayals of Gay lovers going hand-in-hand to take an HIV test, and lovers hugging to comfort someone living with HIV.
Lin sent samples to dozens of Gay bars and bathhouses as a trial run and found that the owners were willing to use them. One of the biggest Gay bars in Chengdu even put a poster in a lamp box advertisement in front of its gate.
But Lin is surprised to hear the places where the posters are popping up.
'They're supposed to be put up in places frequented by homosexuals. I never thought they would appear in residential districts.'
THAILAND AIRLINE CELEBRATES CROSS-DRESSING FLIGHT ATTENDANTS
Thai airline PC Air launched its newest route with a new hiring policy. PC Air president Peter Chan said the airline originally set out to hire only male and female flight attendants but they had a change of heart when they received more than 100 applications from Transgendered people, loosely called kathoey in Thai and thought of as a third sex.
The carrier ended up recruiting four kathoey, along with 19 women and seven men, as a cabin crew. PC Air said the qualifications were the same as for female flight attendants, and include femininity and attractiveness. Name tags will be designed in three different colors, one for each sex.
Kathoey are sometimes called 'ladyboys' in Thailand. While most Thai fathers would not want their sons to become kathoey, in general cross-dressing men are more accepted in Thailand than in the U.S. or Europe. For years some restaurants have featured kathoey waitresses and kathoey are accepted as teachers and other professionals, but this is a first for an airline.
MALE SEX SLAVES TRAFFICKED FROM KENYA TO MIDDLE EAST
Kenyan Gay magazine Identity interviewed local university students who claimed to have been lured from their schools to Gulf states with the promise of good jobs, but found that the reality was very different.
Many young people are desperate to leave Kenya due to high unemployment. The students said they had been offered clerical work, jobs with airlines, or the possibility of earning thousands of dollars as 'high-class escorts.'
But once they arrived in the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia, they said, they were forced into humiliating and sadistic abuse.
One young Kenyan said that he was promised a job with Qatar Airways, but fell into the hands of traffickers. 'I was beaten, urinated on, and even one time someone defecated on me. All this time I was being abused sexually and some even inserted hands and objects into my anus.'
He said that five other men traveled with him, but they were separated at the airport and he fears for their safety.
The magazine claims there is a complex network of traffickers working with Kenyan immigration officials to get these men into the Middle East.
Qatar is on the U.S. Department of State watch list for showing no evidence of progress in addressing human trafficking.
Kenya introduced trafficking legislation last year, but because homosexuality is illegal in the Arab states, Kenyan victims are afraid to report abuse.
JAMAICAN OPPOSITION CANDIDATE BACKS GAY RIGHTS
When asked on national TV whether she would accept Gays or Lesbians in her cabinet should she become the next prime minister, candidate Portia Simpson-Miller came out in favor of LGBT rights and supported review of Jamaican anti-sodomy laws.
Gay Star News reports that Simpson-Miller is leader of the opposition People's National Party (PNP) of Jamaica. Her party is trailing in the polls.
Her opponent, current Prime Minister Andrew Holness, took a different stance. 'In the modern world, there are minimum standards of human rights which we must meet and Jamaica has done so on all occasions. However, as a society we have to determine what our civil rights are which are slightly different.'
He went on to again imply that he would not support Gay rights.
Jamaicans go to the polls on 29 December to decide between the candidates.
Simpson-Miller said no one should be discriminated against because of their sexual orientation. 'I think we should have a look at the buggery law and members of parliament should be given the right to vote with their conscience, in consultation with their constituents.'
The PNP has selected a non-gender conforming candidate who has been the subject of a barely veiled homophobic campaign by the ruling Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) and has selected another candidate who is rumored to be Gay for the traditionally safe seat of the tourist resort city of Montego Bay.
Leading independent newspaper The Gleaner commended Simpson-Miller for her statement. 'By contrast, Prime Minister Andrew Holness waffled,' they wrote, 'arguing that his 'sentiment must be the sentiment of Jamaica.' That, essentially, is homophobic.'
'But the responsibility of leaders is to lead, not merely to reflect popular sentiment.'
Caribbean Christian groups attack Gay law repeal
Caribbean activists have condemned anti-Gay ads in newspapers in Trinidad and Jamaica, according to Gay Star News.
Trinidad's Sunday Express accepted an ad titled 'What you should know about homosexuality' while a Jamaican paper published a similar piece on World AIDS Day.
The Trinidad ad said 'homosexuality is a manifestation of sexual brokenness' and argued this was caused by childhood trauma.
The anti-Gay Jamaican ad was followed by a seven-hour symposium organized by the Lawyers' Christian Fellowship aimed at fighting activists' moves to decriminalize homosexuality in the region.
The event was attended by two judges from Jamaica's Supreme Court, the attorney general, many leading Jamaicans, and American and British Christian speakers.
Jamaican Gay activist Maurice Tomlinson stated, 'During the nearly seven-hour symposium, the presenters extolled the virtues of Dominionism - the belief that countries must be governed by a conservative Christian understanding of biblical law - and cautioned (actually, more like threatened) Jamaican Christians that if they don't organize a counter-offensive against the militant Gay agenda sweeping the world, their beloved country will be overrun by aberrant ideas 'hell bent' on destroying marriage, children, and, of course, Christianity.'
But Jamaica's anti-Gay movement has suffered a blow by the head of Jamaica's Anglican Church calling for the repeal of colonial-era anti-sodomy laws.
In Trinidad, veteran activist Colin Robinson noted: 'The region is in the cross-hairs of religious groups in the North who think their battles for Christian dominion ought to be waged on the bodies of Caribbean Gay and Lesbian men and women, just like they have done on the corpses of our Ugandan brothers and sisters.'
Human Rights Watch says anti-Gay law used to 'slander' Anwar Ibrahim
Pink News reports that the Malaysian government has been urged to revoke laws criminalizing homosexuality and abandon the criminal trial of its former deputy prime minister. The trial is believed to be nearing a verdict.
Human Rights Watch made the call during the trial of Anwar Ibrahim, who it claims the state is trying to 'slander' with the anti-Gay laws.
Ibrahim was first imprisoned on corruption and sodomy charges in 1999.
Though the second charge was later overturned and he was freed in 2004, Ibrahim was arrested for a second time in 2008 after a 23-year-old aide claimed he had been sexually assaulted by the politician.
Ibrahim was charged under the country's consensual sodomy laws as officials believed he could not have physically forced the aide into the alleged act due to his bad back. The trial began in February 2010.
Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch, stated: 'Whether or not Anwar Ibrahim engaged in consensual 'sodomy' is irrelevant. It's time to reject this law and end the farcical political theater that promotes discrimination based on sexual orientation and destroys people's lives.'
Malaysian media also are in uproar with news of a Malaysian medical student on a scholarship in Ireland, who had not contacted his family for three years. Recently photos of his Gay civil union ceremony - with the student in traditional Malaysian costume - caused headlines. A religious group in the broadly Islamic country has called on police to intervene in the case.
Norizan Ali, chairman of the Kepong Islamic Youth Organization, said: 'We are making the police report in the name of the Malays against a Malay youth who disgraced the name of our country, religion, and race.'
He added, 'Malaysian Muslims must adhere to the Islamic laws and our country's laws even when they are abroad.'
Push to equalize age-of-consent laws in Australia
The Star Observer reports that there is a new effort to convince Australia's state of Queensland to amend age-of-consent laws that discriminate against young Gay men.
A Change.org petition has been set up, appealing to the state to take action in early 2012 while the more liberal Labour government still commands a majority.
Currently Queensland's age of consent is 16 for oral and vaginal sex, but anal intercourse involving any person (male or female) aged under 18 is a criminal offence punishable by up to 14 years imprisonment.
Queensland remains the only state or territory in Australia which does not have an equal age of consent.
Queensland Association for Healthy Communities (QAHC) general manager Paul Martin said the laws contribute to the poor mental health and increased rates of suicide in young Gay men.
'Symbolically, the Government and the state of Queensland believe anal sex is so heinous that young people have to be thrown in jail for 14 years for doing it,' Martin said.
'That sends a destructive message to young Gay men, particularly at a time when they're coming to terms with their sexual orientation.'
'Young people are unclear about whether they can access sexual health services and be open about their sexual behavior for fear of being reported, and people who work with young people such as teachers and youth workers can be unclear about whether they're allowed to talk to young people about anal sex,' he said.
'They're also unclear as to whether they should report that a young person has admitted they have done something illegal.'
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