Hungary's Budapest Metropolitan Court on Feb. 18 overturned city officials' refusal to grant permission for this year's gay pride parade. Hungary's Budapest Metropolitan Court on Feb. 18 overturned city officials' refusal to grant permission for this year's gay pride parade. Photo courtesy Andy Harley, UK Gay News
Sunday, June 26 2011 11:49

International News, March 4 - March 17, 2011

By  Rex Wockner

Court Overturns Budapest Pride Ban
Hungary's Budapest Metropolitan Court on Feb. 18 overturned city officials' refusal to grant permission for this year's gay pride parade.

 

The city's ban came after organizers sought to extend the route of the June 18 march to an endpoint in Parliament Square. Officials claimed the new route would disrupt traffic and disturb an ongoing photo exhibit outside the Parliament Building. A coalition of local organizations along with pan-European LGBT groups and Amnesty International had harshly criticized the ban, and pride organizers went to court to block it.

"Hungary currently holds the presidency of the European Union and surely is sending the wrong signal about the union's respect of human rights of all," said Evelyne Paradis, executive director of the European Region of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association. "Indeed, such a blatant denial of the right to free and peaceful assembly goes against the EU fundamental principles of democracy and respect of diversity."

Other problems have cropped up recently in Hungary, as well, Paradis said.

"The ban on the pride march adds to our concerns with the deteriorating situation for LGBTI in Hungary," she said. "Currently there is a proposal to amend the country's constitution to limit the scope of marriage to one man and one woman with the effect of banning the possibility of a future opening of marriage to same-sex couples. Additionally, the current Hungarian EU presidency program has no reference to the rights of LGBTI people even in events that deal with equality. Moreover, a draft media law is currently being revised after heavy criticism from the EU (that is) aimed to prevent among other things same-sex affections in the media. We believe that represents a dangerous signal not only to LGBTI people in Hungary, but also across the EU. We call upon EU institutions and member states to remind Hungary of its duties and about the EU fundamental principles of equality, nondiscrimination and respect for human rights for
all."

The vice president of the European Parliament's LGBT Intergroup, Sophie in 't Veld, agreed that the pride ban was "potentially indicative of what the new Hungarian constitution and media law may have in stock for LGBT people."

"Enshrining inequality in law and in the constitution would be an immense step backwards, putting Hungary at odds with the values it signed up to when joining the European Union," she said. "We cannot accept the EU being led by a presidency that disrespects equality and freedom of assembly."


UN Shuns ILGA Again
The Non-Governmental Organizations Committee of the United Nations' Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) on Feb. 4 again rejected a request for consultative status from the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association aka ILGA. The committee voted to take "no action" on the request and to reconsider it in May. Seven nations supported moving to an actual vote on granting ILGA the status to access U.N. meetings, deliver oral and written reports, contact country representatives and organize events at the U.N. They were Belgium, Bulgaria, India, Israel, Turkey, Peru and the United States. Opposed were Burundi, China, Morocco, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Russia, Senegal, Sudan and Venezuela. Kyrgyzstan abstained and Cuba and Mozambique were not present.

The NGO Committee only rarely has approved consultative status for LGBT organizations, though its refusals have several times been overridden by the full ECOSOC.

Groups that have finally achieved consultative status include International Wages Due Lesbians, Australia's Coalition of Activist Lesbians, ILGA-Europe (an autonomous division of ILGA), Landsforeningen for Bøsser og Lesbiske (Denmark's National Association for Gays and
Lesbians), Lesben- und Schwulenverband in Deutschland (Lesbian and Gay Federation in Germany), the Swedish national LGBT group RFSL (whose former initials now are its full name), Coalition Gaie et Lesbienne du Québec (Quebec Gay and Lesbian Coalition), COC Netherlands (a national LGBT group whose former initials are now its full name), Associação Brasileira de Gays, Lésbicas e Transgêneros (Brazilian Association of Gays, Lesbians and
Transgenders), and the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission.

ILGA had ECOSOC status from 1993 to 1994 but was stripped of it following a scandal, orchestrated by the U.S. right wing, in which a small number of ILGA's hundreds of member organizations were accused of not taking a strong enough position on age of consent.

Around 3,000 nongovernmental organizations have U.N. consultative status.


Spanish Cities Honor Gay Communities
Three Spanish cities are recognizing LGBT people via public works. In March, the Barcelona city government will place a large marble pink triangle in Ciudadela Park, where the Catalonian Parliament is located.

"This is a necessary monument to remember the discrimination, repression, humiliation, persecution, attacks and assassinations that the LGTB community suffered for centuries and very especially during the Franco dictatorship," said Antonio Guirado, secretary general of the Catalonian LGBT umbrella group Gay Lesbian Coordinator. "It is an act of justice and reparation but also will become a permanent symbol of the commitment of the city of Barcelona in the fight against homophobia."

The city of Gijón is creating a park called "June 28, Gay Pride Day" alongside the Montevil soccer field. And La Coruña is renaming a street after the late gay activist Tomás Fábregas, who emigrated to the U.S. at age 21 and was active in the fight against the U.S. ban on HIV-positive foreign visitors and immigrants, which was repealed in 2009.

At the 1992 International AIDS Conference in Amsterdam, which he attended as a board member of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, Fábregas publicly dared the Bush administration to block his re-entry into the U.S. It did not do so. Fábregas died in 1994.


Tijuana LGBTI Group Recognized by City, Plans Congress
The group Tijuana LGBTI Cultural Community, or COCUT, was formally inaugurated this month at a ceremony at the offices of the Tijuana Tourism and Conventions Committee. Committee head Alan Bautista Plascencia expressed strong support for COCUT's upcoming five-day Tijuana Cultural Congress Against Homophobia. Artistic, literary, cultural and educational events will take place from May 17 to 21 in the city's historic downtown, on Avenida Revolución and in Plaza Santa Cecilia.


Belarusian Gays Allowed to Stage Public Protest
Gays in Belarus staged the nation's first-ever authorized public gay event Feb. 14 in Minsk, reported GayRussia.ru. The LGBT group IDAHO Belarus held a rally against homophobia in a park near the Justice Ministry, with approval from the city's Executive Committee and police department. The small group carried banners reading, "Love who you want" and "Homophobia = fascism." About two dozen journalists covered the rally, outnumbering the protesters.

"For the first time the only thing that we feared was neither the police nor the homophobe hooligans but the cold," organizer Sergey Praded told GayRussia. "This is a very good first step."

Last year, the city's Executive Committee banned the gay pride march. When activists ignored the ban, several were aggressively arrested for taking part in an unsanctioned public action. Moscow Pride founder Nikolai Alekseev, who joined that march, said police were "brutal and violent."

"I've never run so fast in my life," he said. He and activist Ira Fet evaded arrest by running into a building and hiding in a trash room for 20 minutes.


New Zealand Prime Minister Attends Gay Event
New Zealand Prime Minister John Key attended the Big Gay Out festival in Auckland's Coyle Park for two hours Feb. 13. During an on-site radio interview, Key was asked if he now supports the gay civil-union law, which he had voted against as a member of Parliament.

Key refused to answer, saying, "I'm leaving it until my book."


Canadian Parliament Passes Trans Rights Bill
Canada's House of Commons passed a bill Feb. 9 adding protections for gender identity and expression to the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code.

"This kind of explicit reference within the CHRA would afford transgender, transsexual, cross-dresser, intersex, gender-queer, gender-nonconforming and gender-open individuals clearer protection against discrimination and help create a safer Canada for all," said national LGBT lobby group Egale. The vote was a close 143-135. All members of the Bloc Québécois and the New Democratic Party supported the measure, along with all but 12 Liberals. Six members of the ruling Conservative Party broke ranks and voted for the bill.

The measure is now before the unelected Senate, which normally rubber-stamps House of Commons actions -- though not always.

LGBT activists are concerned that senators could try to stop the bill -- or that the government could effectively kill it by calling a national election this spring before the measure completes its legislative journey.


 

200 Arrested at 'Gay' Party in Bahrain
At least 200 people were arrested Feb. 3 at the Hidd Sports Club in Al Muharraq, Bahrain, for engaging in what local media called "immoral behavior" at a "gay party," according to Amnesty International. Reports said the individuals were drinking alcohol and wearing women's clothes.


UK Couples Take Marriage and Partnership Case to Euro Court
Eight couples from the United Kingdom mailed a case to the European Court of Human Rights on Feb. 2. Four of the couples are gay and want to get married. Four of the couples are straight and want to enter into a UK civil partnership, which is only available to same-sex couples. Civil partnerships are identical to marriage in the rights and benefits bestowed. The eight couples all were turned down by officials when they tried to tie the knot.

"The bans on same-sex civil marriages and opposite-sex civil partnerships are a form of sexual apartheid," said activist Peter Tatchell, who is involved in the challenge, dubbed Equal Love. "Two wrongs don't make a right."

The activists' lawyer, Robert Wintemute, said that "banning same-sex marriage and different-sex civil partnerships violates (three separate articles) of the European Convention on Human Rights."

"It's discriminatory and obnoxious, like having separate drinking fountains or beaches for different racial groups, even though the water is the same," he said. "The only function of the twin bans is to mark lesbian and gay people as socially and legally inferior to heterosexual people."


 

Indian Supremes to Hear Appeal of Ruling that Legalized Gay Sex
India's Supreme Court on April 19 will hear an appeal of the Delhi High Court ruling that struck down the nation's ban on gay sex in July 2009. At least two days of arguments are planned.

A number of parties have been allowed to intervene in the appeal to support or oppose the original ruling -- including, among the supporters, famed Indian filmmaker Shyam Benegal, an ad hoc group of 19 parents with gay/lesbian children, an ad hoc group of 16 academics, and a group of 13 mental health professionals.

"All these have been admitted into the case, which goes a considerable way towards balancing the 15 petitions opposing us, most of them from extremist religious groups," said leading activist Vikram Doctor.

In striking down the ban nationally, the High Court "read down" Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code so that it no longer applies to the activities of consenting adults. The section bans "carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal" under penalty of 10 years to life in prison.

The court said 377 violated a constitutional guarantee of equality under the law, a constitutional ban on discrimination based on sex, and constitutional promises of personal liberty and protection of life.

"The criminalisation of homosexuality condemns in perpetuity a sizable section of society and forces them to live their lives in the shadow of harassment, exploitation, humiliation (and) cruel and degrading treatment at the hands of the law enforcement machinery," the court wrote. "Section 377 IPC targets the homosexual community as a class and is motivated by an animus towards this vulnerable class of people. ... It has no other purpose than to criminalise conduct which fails to conform with the moral or religious views of a section of society. ... When everything associated with homosexuality is treated as bent, queer, repugnant, the whole gay and
lesbian community is marked with deviance and perversity. ... The result is that a significant group of the population is, because of its sexual non-conformity, persecuted, marginalised and turned in on itself."

Given India's population of 1.2 billion people, the High Court's decision had the effect of decriminalizing 17 percent of all LGB people on the planet.


São Tomé and Príncipe to Legalize Gay Sex
São Tomé and Príncipe, an island nation located off the west coast of Africa, will decriminalize gay sex in upcoming revisions to its Criminal Code, its representatives said Jan. 31 at the country's United Nations Universal Periodic Review session.

"Obviously there is a concern about sexual relations between persons of the same sex in our country," the delegation said. "Currently the Criminal Code goes back a very long way when the situation was entirely different and so the courts actually don't apply the penalty anymore. So, despite what's there in the text of the law, it's not applicable because it runs counter to constitutional principles. The new Criminal Code which we're drawing up does not penalize sexual relations between persons of the same sex."

The new code should be in place within four months, the delegation said. The Micronesian nation of Nauru reportedly made a similar pledge days earlier at its UPR session. The Universal Periodic Review, a project of the U.N. Human Rights Council, officially analyzes the human-rights record of each of the 192 U.N. member nations on a rotating basis once every four years, and urges reviewed nations to protect all human rights and fundamental freedoms.


HRW Blasts Tokyo Governor's Anti-Gay Remarks
Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara must retract recent statements that denigrated gays and lesbians, Human Rights Watch said Feb. 1. On Dec. 3, while discussing a measure to regulate the manga and anime industries, Ishihara said: "[This bill] is not just about the kids. We have got homosexuals casually appearing even on television. Japan has become far too untamed."

Then, on Dec. 7, in response to a reporter's question about his earlier statement, Ishihara said: "I think homosexuals have something missing from them somehow. It may be something genetic. I feel sorry for them being a minority. I saw a parade made up of gays (in San Francisco) and I really felt sorry for them. There were pairs of men and women, but it certainly did feel like they were deficient somehow."

HRW said that such comments "increase the stigma against lesbian and gay people and can promote discrimination against an already marginalized group."

"It is a matter of great concern that Gov. Ishihara, who is charged with upholding the rights and ensuring the well-being of all Tokyo residents, has characterized lesbians and gay men as somehow lower than other persons," said HRW LGBT rights researcher Dipika Nath. "When public officials make pejorative characterizations of particular groups of people, they can compromise people's ability to live their lives with dignity. It is the governor's responsibility to undo the damage he has caused."


INTERNATIONAL NEWS PROVIDED BY REX WOCKNER WITH BILL KELLEY

 

 

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