by Scott Wittet -
SGN Contributing Writer
INDIAN COURT REVIEWS CRIMINALIZATION OF 2.5 MILLION GAY MEN
The Supreme Court of Delhi, India, is reviewing arguments for and against re-criminalizing Gay sex. Anti-Gay laws were decriminalized in New Delhi in 2009 (though not in the rest of India).
Anti-Gay and religious groups demanded that the Supreme Court revisit the decision out of fear that decriminalization would lead to a 'horrendous situation.' They presented their arguments in February.
In response to a request from the court, the Indian National AIDS Council estimated that there are 2.5 million men who have sex with men (MSM) in India. This is only 0.2% of the population; such a figure would be considered a very low estimate in most countries.
Arguing against re-criminalization, a lawyer representing Naz Foundation told the court that re-criminalizing Gay sex will mean that Gay men will once again be afraid to access HIV prevention services. 'This population is hidden in the society and they are not available for getting proper health care. There is a greater chance of the transmission of disease among them,' he said. Naz Foundation is a well-known Indian HIV and AIDS awareness group.
According to the ILGA and DNA India, Supreme Court Justice GS Singhvi asked the Naz Foundation to support their argument with reports from experts.
On their website Naz Foundation state that they campaigned against the anti-gay statute (called Section 377) because 'This [law]& proved to be one of the most significant barriers in effective HIV/AIDS interventions with sexual minorities.' Naz Foundation also claim that Section 377 was used by the police and others to harass, extort, blackmail and rape MSMs.
UGANDAN PARLIAMENT CREATES NEW COMMITTEE ON HUMAN RIGHTS
The Ugandan Parliament has approved the creation of a new parliamentary standing committee on human rights that will be tasked with monitoring government compliance with human rights.
The move is seen as a breakthrough in Ugandan Parliament's efforts to stem stinging criticism from the West on its human rights record, including Gay rights.
At the same time Parliament is reconsidering a draconian anti-Gay bill. Recently the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee recommended that the death penalty for homosexuals be retained in the bill.
A Uganda Human Rights Commission already exists but victims of human rights violations have claimed that it is ineffective.
Last month a few legislators sought to block the creation of the new human rights standing committee.
Peter Ogwang, a Member of Parliament from eastern Uganda, told a parliamentary meeting that 'Minority groups, especially Gays, would use this committee to promote their agenda.'
The Parliament speaker, Rebecca Kadaga, countered that Uganda's human rights need scrutiny and that there was a real need for a committee.
TRANSGENDER TV HOST LAUNCHES POLITICAL PARTY IN INDIA
Rose Venkatesan, the first Transgender television host in India, announced yesterday she is launching a political party called the Sexual Liberation Party of India, as reported by IBN Live, a local CNN affiliate.
'India is a sexually repressed country,' Venkatesan said. 'Sexual freedom is necessary for everybody. There is a lot of hypocrisy. I want a sexual revolution to happen. There are many laws I want changed.'
Proposed new policies include mandating employment quotas for women (40%) and openly LGBT people (5%), repealing of all laws restricting sexual freedom among consenting individuals, licensing sex work, designating areas in offices and public spaces for sex, and lowering the age of consent to 14.
'I may not be taken seriously now but I know I will be a few years,' Venkatesan said.
Venkatesan also is organizing a 'Slut Walk' in the south-east Indian city of Chennai.
'Women are taught from birth to not enjoy sex and see it as a means to procreate. I have a long way to go before I change those perceptions,' she said.
In 2008 and 2009, Venkatesan starred in her own talk show called Yours Truly, Rose. Since then she's worked in radio.
Despite her fame, she's been a victim of discrimination at work. 'Everyone wants to employ a Transgender to host their show as media hype. But I have always faced bias while working. I have been in and out of jobs and the going has been really difficult,' she said.
MR. GAY WORLD ERECTS FIRST AFRICA BILLBOARD; MEANWHILE MR. ETHIOPIA CANNOT GO HOME
The Mr. Gay World pageant, scheduled to be held in Johannesburg, South Africa next month, claims to have erected Africa's first Gay billboard. It boldly towers over a busy Jo-burg highway, and is meant to help stimulate discussion of Gay issues in that sometimes intolerant society. 'The billboard says, by implication, 'Gay is OK,' reports Coenie Kukkuk, one of the South African organizers of Mr. Gay World.
It features two smiling former winners of the contest, both wearing white T-shirts.
This year for the first time Mr. Gay World will include black African contestants and that has proven controversial in their countries. Some have been attacked or received death threats since coming out publically.
Robel Gizaw Hailu, elected Mr. Ethiopia 2012, still plans to compete but anticipates that it may mean he cannot ever return to his country. He currently lives outside Ethiopia.
LGBT rights are not recognized in Ethiopia and all homosexual activity is a crime.
Other black African competitors include Wendelinus Hamutenya from Namibia and Lance Weyer from South Africa.
Hamutenya was the first-ever Mr. Gay Namibia. Last December he was attacked with a glass bottle after being followed home by two men.
The pageant was shaken a week ago when Zimbabwean contestant Taurai Zhanje pulled out due to 'very serious considerations,' which many have suggested are linked to the country's homophobic environment. Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe recently repeated his assertion that gays are 'worse than pigs and dogs' - but then corrected himself, saying his dog would be offended.
Kukkuk told Gay Star News that he is sad about recent developments, and that unfortunately the persecution of LGBT people in Africa is still the norm. 'I do not think LGBTI people in the West really have an idea what black LGBTI Africans have to deal with on a daily basis. That is why most of them still are, and will remain, closeted.' He added, 'Acceptance will happen only if positive role models and examples of successful Gay men are shown.'
Homosexuality is illegal in 38 African countries, with Mauritania, Sudan, and northern Nigeria allowing the death penalty, and Uganda is considering it.
EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT CALLS ON NIGERIA TO REVERSE ANTI-GAY LAWS
The European Parliament has adopted a resolution on Nigeria which condemns current legal threats to LGBT citizens, according to Pink News.
Nigeria's Same Gender Marriage Prohibition Bill was proposed in 2011, and has since been amended by the Nigerian Senate to punish those in a same-sex union with 14 years' imprisonment. Anyone 'aiding or abetting' such unions is subject to 10 years in prison.
The government threatened that in addition to locals, tourists, and aid workers being targeted for arrest and prosecution, embassy employees without diplomatic protection also will be targeted.
The European Parliament is calling on the Nigerian Parliament to reject the new 'Same Gender Marriage Prohibition Bill.' It also calls for the abolition of current legislation criminalizing homosexuality and punishing Gay acts with 14 years' imprisonment, or death by stoning in some regions.
Michael Cashman MEP, Co-president of the European Parliament's Intergroup on LGBT Rights, said: 'Nigeria is already among the world's top oppressors of LGBT people. Why such a law now? Nigeria needs to follow the example of countries like Rwanda, Kenya or South Africa, which prove African nations don't need to persecute the vulnerable in order to strive.'
MONTENEGRO CHAMPIONS GENDER REASSIGNMENT
Gay Star News reports that the tiny European nation of Montenegro has joined countries like Cuba in covering gender reassignment procedures through their universal healthcare system. Montenegro was part of the former Yugoslavia.
The new law ensures that healthcare covers 80% of the three-step gender assignment procedure: psychotherapy, hormone therapy, and the medical procedures in gender reassignment including changing genitalia.
Though the Montenegrin constitution continues to ban same-sex marriage, the country has recently made significant progress in the rights of its transgender population. In order to obtain membership into the European Parliament, Montenegro adopted an anti-discrimination law on 27 July 2010 that bans discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
GAY TEEN 'VIOLATED' BY TV KISS
A Gay teenager says he feels 'sick' and 'violated' after he was outed during an episode of a British TV series about 'travelers' called Big Fat Gypsy Weddings. Travelers what many Irish and British gypsies call themselves. In North America, the show airs on TLC as My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding.
The 16-year-old was filmed kissing traveler Mikey at Manchester (U.K.) Pride. He begged the program makers to not show the footage. The producers used the clip, but blurred his face. However, the teen's family, who did know he was Gay, instantly recognized his haircut and pink shirt.
'The last thing I wanted was to be outed on national TV,' he told the Daily Star newspaper.
He added: 'I am Gay but I wasn't ready to tell my family yet. It should have been my choice when to let them know. This is my worst nightmare come true. That silly attempt to blur my face wasn't going to stop people recognizing me.'
A network spokesman said, 'The individual asked not to be identified on screen and we were happy to accommodate the request and blurred him from the program.'
IN U.K., BEN & JERRY'S RENAME FLAVOR FOR GAY MARRIAGE
The world-famous ice cream makers have joined U.K. Gay rights group Stonewall's marriage equality campaign and changed the name of its Apple Pie flavor to 'Apple-y Ever After.' The company also added a drawing of a Gay couple on a wedding cake. They want to make sure their customers know about the upcoming British debate on Gay marriage.
The team also launched a new app on Facebook, asking users to 'marry' someone of the same sex to show their support for equality.
Apple-y Ever After will be available in selected Ben & Jerry's stores throughout the U.K.
ZIMBABWE SENATOR REQUESTS 'SEX GADGETS' TO STOP PRISONERS TURNING GAY
PinkNews and the Metro (U.K.) newspaper report that a Zimbabwean senator has suggested giving prisoners sex toys to curb Gay impulses while they are behind bars.
Sithembile Mlotshwa, worried that men incarcerated by Zimbabwe's justice system will turn Gay, has told a parliamentary committee that 'sex gadgets' and special rooms would help them stay straight.
'In other countries they provide sex gadgets and have constructed rooms where people go and service themselves when the desire arises.'
Another minister suggested it might be hard to secure funding for sex toys and special rooms when they were struggling to feed inmates.
Last July, Mlotshwa suggested the spread of HIV among married couples could be curbed by injecting husbands with chemicals to limit their sexual appetites.
DENMARK: EQUAL MARRIAGE LAW IN JUNE
Denmark's prime minister has announced that equal marriage laws will come into effect on June 15 this year.
At a press conference, Helle Thorning-Schmidt, who took office in October last year, announced that Gays would be allowed to marry in time for the summer, according to the Copenhagen Post and PinkNews.
She said: 'We have looked at two laws that will provide the Gay and Lesbian community the opportunity to get married in the church and at city hall.'
'The administration and I firmly believe that this is a natural step to take in a modern society like Denmark.'
Denmark was the first country in the world to legalize same-sex unions, in 1989, and acts of homosexuality were decriminalized in 1933.
Denmark will join European countries including Iceland, Norway, Sweden, the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, and Portugal in allowing Gays equal access to marriage.
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