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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, August 17 2012 - Volume 40 Issue 33
International News - Scott Wittet
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International News

by Scott Wittet - SGN Contributing Writer

AUSSIE PRIEST WANTS TO ELIMINATE 'GAY PANIC DEFENSE'
An Australian Catholic priest's online campaign to close a controversial legal loophole in the state of Queensland's criminal code has received a massive boost with nearly 160,000 people signing his petition - more than 100,000 in just the last week.

Father Paul Kelly began campaigning on the issue after a man was killed on the grounds of his church in 2008. The killers were acquitted of murder after one of the men claimed he had been reacting to a nonviolent sexual advance, reports Gay Star News.

Using the so-called 'Gay panic defense,' the offenders argued that they were so provoked by an unwanted same-sex advance that they were not in control of themselves, and should thus have murder charges downgraded to manslaughter.

'I'm utterly appalled that a law that so revoltingly and openly discriminates against Gay people is still tolerated in a modern society,' Father Kelly said when launching the campaign.

'While almost all other state governments have abolished similar laws, and refuse to admit evidence of nonviolent homosexual advances in murder trials, nothing has changed here.'

The campaign has attracted celebrity endorsements, including from actor and comedian Stephen Fry, author Neil Gaiman, and One Tree Hill actress Sophia Bush.

MALAYSIA: LGBTs ARE ENEMIES OF ISLAM
Malaysia's LGBT community, along with 'liberalism' and 'pluralism,' was branded as an 'enemy of Islam' by Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, speaking recently before a crowd of more than 11,000 imams and mosque committee members.

'We do support human rights, but we must do so within the boundaries set by Islam,' Razak told the Malaysian Insider newspaper.

Opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim agreed, noting that he did not support the rights of LGBTs and that he advocates the sanctity of marriage between a man and a woman.

Many conservative Muslims are opposed to religious pluralism because of fears it could lead to other religions being given the same standing as Islam.

CHINESE DICTIONARY IGNORES COMMON WORD FOR 'GAY'
The China Daily reports that the compilers of a newly revised, authoritative Chinese dictionary have come under fire for excluding a word commonly used to refer to the country's growing Gay community.

The Chinese term 'tongzhi,' which literally translates as 'comrade' in English, has been widely used by Chinese LGBT to refer to themselves since the 1970s. The term gained immense popularity in the 1990s after an influential Hong Kong film director vigorously promoted its use. Now it has entered the popular lexicon as well.

However, the word failed to find its way into the sixth edition of the Contemporary Chinese Dictionary.

'We know homosexuals call each other 'tongzhi.' But a normative dictionary won't include that meaning, no matter how the term has been informally used. That is to say, we don't want to advocate or bring attention to such things,' Jiang Lansheng, a linguist who leads the work to revise the dictionary, said when the book was published.

Jiang's remarks raised the eyebrows of the LGBT community and activists.

'Tongzhi' is the most common, non-offensive term used by our circle to refer to homosexuals,' said 'Nan Feng,' who has been working on an anti-AIDS campaign in the southwestern metropolis of Chongqing for 12 years. 'We hope the compilers can view the word from an impartial standpoint.

'It's unacceptable that the 'Gay' meaning of 'tongzhi' was excluded from the dictionary, a reference book written for all, simply because of the compilers' own preferences and values.'

'Lin Huai,' a 22-year-old Lesbian college student in Beijing, described Jiang's explanation as 'lame.'

Although homosexuality has been increasingly discussed by mass media in China, the voice of the official side is rarely heard, she added.

Yu Haitao, an associate professor of linguistics at Beijing Language and Culture University, said compilers cannot totally avoid subjectivity when deciding whether an entry or new definition deserves to be listed in accordance with linguistic standards. 'But for a linguist, it's wrong to cite personal feelings as the reason for their choices,' Yu said.

Guo Yan, a 24-year-old postgraduate student in Beijing, said the Gay meaning of 'tongzhi' has reached outside the sexual minority and is popular enough to be included in the dictionary.

'The term is a smart, indigenous expression to describe same-sex love in China and it is not used in a vulgar and offensive way,' Guo said.

OXFORD CHANGES DRESS CODE TO ACCOMMODATE TRANS STUDENTS
Oxford University has revised its strict academic dress code following concerns that it was unfair toward Transgender students, according to the U.K. Guardian newspaper.

Under the old rules, male students were required to wear a dark suit and socks, black shoes, a white bow tie, and a plain white shirt and collar under their black gowns.

Female students had to wear a dark skirt or trousers, a white blouse, black stockings and shoes, and a black ribbon tied in a bow at the neck.

Under the new rules, which take effect next week, male students will be able to attend exams in skirts and stockings, and women will have the option of wearing suits and ties.

The revision follows a motion put forward by the university's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, and Queer Society (LGBTQsoc) and subsequently passed by the student union.

NEW UGANDA LGBTI CLINIC FACES OPPOSITION
Gay rights activists have opened Uganda's first clinic for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Intersex (LGBTI) people.

The clinic, in the capital city of Kampala, will provide testing, counseling, and treatment for HIV and other sexually transmitted infections. But the government is threatening to shut it down.

'We need our own clinic because we have had health service providers, and in some cases other clients at the health centre, attack us either because they suspect us to be Gay or know that we are Gay,' said Pepe Julian Onziema, program director and acting advocacy officer at Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), a local rights group.

He continued, 'When I was about 16, I went to test for HIV and I was asked to bring my partner so we could be tested and counseled together. I brought someone of my sex but we were sent away. At this clinic, we want to protect our community from such humiliation and promote health and wellness.'

But Richard Nduhura, Uganda's Minister for Health (General Duties), doesn't agree that there is a problem. He told IRIN PlusNews that the clinic is unnecessary because despite the government's anti-Gay stance, 'We don't discriminate and marginalize when it comes to offering health services. When people come for treatment at our health facilities, we can't ask for their sexual orientation.'

Uganda's Minister for Ethics and Integrity, Samuel Lokodo, wants to take action against the clinic, saying that he intends to investigate the group for promoting homosexuality. 'If we find out that [the clinic is] related to promoting the culture which doesn't conform to our morals as a country, we shall instantly ban and close it,' he said.

'These people are doing their operations under cover - it's not easy to track them. However, we shall not allow any social gathering, association, infrastructure or any activities that exist to promote homosexuality.'

Onziema is concerned. 'Our community members know about the clinic and they access it. The media have written about it too. ... Of course we are afraid. We live in fear daily about the public because it acts ignorantly,' he said.

GAY MAN RAPED IN COPENHAGEN PARK
On August 2, a 22-year-old Gay man was raped while cruising in a park in Copenhagen, Denmark.

The victim reported that he flirted with one of the two alleged offenders and had agreed to have sex with him in ├śrstedsparken (Orsted Park) before the assault. The park is a popular cruising ground for Gay men in the Danish capital.

However, he said, the men became violent and tried to strangle him, ripping off his pants and raping him, Homotropolis reports.

After the assault the victim walked to a nearby store, where he contacted police and reported the rape.

Police have arrested two Iranian men, aged 23 and 25, whom they believe are the perpetrators.

'They were arrested after we received a tip from a witness,' Danny Rise, head of investigations, told Danish newspaper B.T.

'During the preliminary interrogation they admitted having been present in the park at the time of the offense and have as such also acknowledged that the event took place.'

THOUSANDS MARCH IN JERUSALEM PRIDE
Up 5,000 people marched in central Jerusalem on August 2 for the city's 10th annual LGBT Pride and Tolerance parade.

Participants marched through Jerusalem's city center without any major incidents, holding banners reading 'A Decade of Marching in Jerusalem' and 'Love Thy Neighbor.'

The route took marchers past the spot where an ultra-Orthodox Jew stabbed three Pride participants in 2005.

Speaking with Gay Star News, Elinor Sidi, director of the Jerusalem Open House NGO, said, 'We had quite a typical Jerusalem mix - to our delight some brave ultra-Orthodox Jews joined our march, as well as some of members of the Palestinian LGBT community of East Jerusalem.'

Sidi stressed that 'this was an opportunity for us to reflect on the changes that Jerusalem has undergone in the past decade. But there is still a lot of work to be done to make Jerusalem a more tolerant place for all.'

Despite the fact that the march was routed away from religious areas, ultra-Orthodox Jews protested against it, albeit peacefully.

Baruch Marzel, an extreme right-wing activist, planned to march live donkeys along the parade route to draw a 'connection' between LGBT people and bestiality.

Organizers, however, informed the Israeli Ministry of Agriculture about the planned animal abuse, and officials prevented the donkeys from being used in the protest.

The city's 'Welcome to Jerusalem' sign was painted in rainbow colors the night before the march by undercover activists. Police are investigating that incident.

RUSSIAN SOCIAL NETWORK BANS GAY PARTNER STATUS
Russian social network VKontakte has sparked fury after it banned a user from stating he was in a Gay relationship.

A male user known only as Oleg allegedly wrote to the network's administrators for help after being unable to select the 'boyfriend' option under his relationship status.

Oleg was outraged after the site refused to help him change his status.

'It's interesting to attract attention to this issue but I don't think it will influence in any way the decision of the owners of the social network,' Russian LGBT activist Nikolai Alekseev told Gay Star News.

'Russia is such a homophobic country in many ways that even the commercial companies don't really need to become Gay-friendly to attract new users.'

VKontakte press secretary Vladislav Tsypluhin has confirmed that the site is not planning to introduce same-sex relationship status.

Although it is not illegal to be Gay in Russia, the country has become increasingly hostile to homosexuality, passing anti-Gay laws in several districts.

Facebook launched a Gay marriage icon in July for users who have indicated that they have wed a person of the same sex.

PUTIN URGES LENIENCY IN PUSSY RIOT PROTEST
Russian president Vladimir Putin says Russian punk trio Pussy Riot should not face tough sentencing for their pro-Gay protest in Moscow.

According to Gay Star News, the three female musicians are on trial for 'hooliganism' after a video of their anti-Putin song appeared online. The women could face up to seven years in prison if they are found guilty.

Maria Alekhina, Ekaterina Samutsevich, and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova were accused of 'religious hatred' for singing a protest song in Moscow's main Orthodox church. Russian authorities arrested Alekhina and Tolokonnikova on March 4 and Samutsevich on March 15, alleging they were the masked singers in the video.

Putin told reporters in London on August 2, 'There is nothing good in what they did [but] I don't think they should be judged too severely.'

Alekhina, Samutsevich, and Tolokonnikova performed the song 'Virgin Mary Redeem Us From Putin,' which includes references to the country's persecuted LGBT community such as 'Gay pride sent to Siberia in chains.'

It was one of a number of performances intended as a protest against Putin in the run-up to Russia's presidential elections in March.

The song outraged the Russian Orthodox Church in Russia, which accused Pussy Riot of blasphemy and asked for severe judgment.

British musicians Jarvis Cocker, Pete Townshend, Martha Wainwright, and Neil Tennant have written a public letter demanding a fair hearing for the three women. Pussy Riot has also received support from Madonna, Danny DeVito, Sting, Patti Smith, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, among others.

To see the video, search YouTube for 'pussy riot punk prayer.'

NOVEL EXPLORES GROWING UP GAY IN INDIA
My Magical Palace, the debut novel by Indian-born author Kunal Mukherjee, recreates in sensuous detail the southern Indian world of 13-year-old Rahul Chatterjee, circa 1973.

Rahul grows up amongst the decrepit buildings and expansive grounds of a wealthy family's former home.

The novel chronicles the year when Rahul becomes aware of his forbidden sexuality, in a society where his classmate is zapped brain-dead by electroshock therapy for sending a love letter to another boy.

In a Gay Star News interview from his home in San Francisco, Mukherjee said that despite his and Rahul's similar backgrounds, the story is not autobiographical. The only similarity, he said, is that he did grow up in a 'palace' that ended up being demolished. 'I wanted to bring up the theme of the loss of habitat,' he says.

However, the loss of home is just one element of the book. The main theme is the loss of innocence as children grow up and start to understand the adult world and what is expected of them.

'I wanted to write about the process that all children go through when they start shutting down to conform so they don't get ostracized and bullied,' said Mukherjee. 'That whole loss of innocence that happens when everyone around the child is driven by fear of disgrace.'

Despite the deeply entrenched homophobia that the book describes in Indian society in the 1970s, the India of today has been very receptive to My Magical Palace.

'There have been reviews or mentions in some of the most widely read newspapers,' Mukherjee said. 'I had some really beautiful reviews in the Indian Express, Asian Age, and the Deccan Chronicle. They've been incredibly supportive for the most part and they actually got the story.

'That's the part that delighted me so much - that the mainstream media picked up this book and read it and they got it.'

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