International News

Ugandan LGBT activists win suit

Ugandan Justice Stella Arach issued a ruling on Dec. 22 in favor of LGBT activists in a suit against the attorney general of Uganda.

It was the first time a gay or lesbian person has brought the authorities to court.

The suit stemmed from a July 2005 incident where the house of Victor Juliet Mukasa, of Sexual Minorities Uganda, was raided in the middle of the night by local government officials who seized documents and other material.

Another lesbian activist, Yvonne Oyoo, a Kenyan student who was in Mukasa’s house the night of the raid, was arrested and detained by local government officials and then taken to a police station. There she was stripped, supposedly in order to confirm she was a woman, fondled and sexually harassed by police officers.

After the Ugandan government failed to investigate or take any action to remedy the wrongs that had occurred, Mukasa and Oyoo filed a private suit against the attorney general.

The Uganda High Court ruling cited constitutional violations of the rights to privacy, property and the fundamental rights of women. Arach acknowledged that the government was not directly responsible for the actions of the local official, an elected town councilor, but nevertheless held the attorney general’s office responsible for the actions of the police. She ordered that Mukasa and Oyoo be paid $6,855 in damages.

“This is a profound ruling that will limit police intrusiveness into the private lives of human-rights defenders,” said Paula Ettelbrick, executive director of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission.

“The most important role that police can play is to protect people,” Mukasa said. “This judgment is a serious reminder to the Ugandan police that all Ugandans, including LGBT people, should be handled with respect and dignity.”

In 2005, Uganda became the first country in the world to introduce laws banning same-sex marriage.

Ugandan president Kaguta Yoweri Museveni and other officials have spoken out against homosexuals on numerous occasions. During his time in office, LGBT Ugandans have been repeatedly threatened, harassed or attacked. Many have fled the country.

Judge suspended in adoption case

A Spanish court says a judge has been suspended for attempting to deny a woman’s effort to adopt her lesbian partner’s child.

The Superior Justice Court in the southeast Murcia region in Spain said it suspended Judge Fernando Ferrin Calamita for two years. The court also ordered the Catholic judge to pay the woman $8,400 in compensation.

The woman had been trying to adopt the child born to her partner after they were married in 2005. The court’s Dec. 23 ruling said Ferrin ignored Spanish laws allowing homosexual couples to adopt and showed contempt for the woman’s sexual orientation while processing her application.

Ferrin says he will appeal his suspension, and that he had only the child’s interests at heart.

Ahmadinejad message annoys

The British government has criticized TV Channel 4’s decision to broadcast an “Alternative Christmas Message” by homophobic, anti-Semitic Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office said, “The British media are rightly free to make their own editorial choices, but this invitation will cause offence and bemusement not just at home but amongst friendly countries abroad.”

Louise Ellman, Labor MP for Liverpool Riverside, said, “I condemn Channel 4’s decision to give an unchallenged platform to a dangerous fanatic who denies the Holocaust while preparing for another and claims homosexuality does not exist while his regime hangs gay young men from cranes in the street.”

Shadow foreign secretary William Hague said, “The invitation to President Ahmadinejad from Channel 4 is bizarre and ill-judged. He is known internationally for his defiance of the international community over Iran’s nuclear program, and his government at home presides over repeated human-rights abuses. To choose him for a Christmas Day message gives the false impression he has a ready audience for his views and is insulting to the people of Britain.”

Channel 4 broadcast the address by Ahmadinejad as an alternative to the address by the Queen that is broadcast by all of the other British broadcasters. The first Alternative Christmas Message was given by gay icon Quentin Crisp in 1993.

Facebook slams homophobic groups

Social networking site Facebook has responded to calls for two Serbian homophobic groups to be removed from the Web site.

U.K. Gay News recently revealed that two Facebook groups were actively promoting homophobic abuse. Users of the groups posted death threats to gay and lesbian Serbians and called for attacks on gay people and their property. The members of the group also sent hate mail to LGBT activist leaders and publicized their names, addresses and telephone numbers, raising serious concerns about security and proper use.

These two groups have since been removed from the site.

A U.K. spokesperson for Facebook said that eight more homophobic groups are currently under investigation for violation of the site’s terms of use.

“The Facebook team is monitoring this particular matter closely and will certainly take groups down that violate its terms of use,” the spokesperson said.

Minister backs Pope’s antigay claims

A preacher from a church that refers to the Pope as the Anti-Christ has backed his stance on homosexuality and claimed all people are born heterosexual.

The Rev. David McIlveen is the leader of Sandown Free Presbyterian Church in Belfast, Ireland. The Protestant sect was founded by former First Minister of Northern Ireland Rev. Ian Paisley, who has regularly denounced the Roman Catholic Church and the Papacy.

Last month, the Pope said that saving humanity from homosexuality and transgenderism was as important as saving the rain forest.

On Dec. 24, McIlveen told the Belfast News Letter, “I think that while we recognize the Pope’s position and the sustaining of his Church’s position, we would come from a different angle with regard to the emphasis we have on the Scripture. I think it is a natural concern about the continuation of the human race. Biologically, we are not created to be homosexual; we are created to be heterosexual. There is a great deal of sensitivity about whenever the word ‘homosexuality’ is raised and I think it underlines the insecurity that is found within that community.”

McIlveen’s church placed an advertisement in a Belfast newspaper earlier this year, just before the city’s Pride event, quoting from the Bible and branding homosexuality an abomination.

In November, the Advertising Standards Authority ruled that the advert, which called gay people “perverts” and called on “religious” people to publicly oppose gay rights and Pride events, broke their rules on decency.

Transgender Bangladeshis vote

The general elections Dec. 29 in Bangladesh were the first ever to allow transgender people to cast ballots.

A Bangladeshi court ruled that transgender people are fully fledged citizens and must have the right to vote. The ruling affects an estimated 100,000 transgender people among the country’s 81 million voters.

“We’ve always been overlooked in previous elections,” said transgender social worker Joya Shikder. “It’s exciting to be given this recognition but the authorities have stopped short of acknowledging us as a third gender.”

Security was tightened ahead of the election, following an outbreak of violence at a motorcade on Dec. 27 that injured nearly 200 people. An estimated 500,000 army troops and thousands of security personnel were deployed to keep the peace.

The election ended a two-year period of emergency rule by an army-backed administration.

Other minority groups have been granted the right to vote, including 40,000 Urdu-speaking Muslims, who originally migrated from Bihar after the partition of India in 1947 but were excluded from voting. Members of traveler communities and over 50,000 prisoners have also been enfranchised.

Group backs gay family exhibition

A leading gay-rights group said it “regrets” that two members of the European Parliament have objected to an exhibition highlighting the legal and social discrimination faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans-led families, while continuing to defend the exhibit itself.

Cyprus representative Marios Matsakis recently complained after he, along with all 785 MEPs, received an invitation to the launch of the exhibition of 12 posters entitled “Different Families, Same Love” at the Parliament in early December.

Lithuanian MEP Šarnas Birutis has also complained and accused gay-rights advocates of “aggressive” tactics.

“Sexual-minorities lobbyists are particularly actively working at the European Parliament with an aim of legalizing child adoption by same-sex couples,” he said. “Modern pluralistic society can respect individual choice, opportunity to live as one likes; however, it cannot be acceptable to equalize cohabitation of sexual minorities to normal families and, moreover, to legalize child adoption by such couples. As the posters were exhibited even at the European Parliament, one can conclude that an aggressive lobbying campaign has begun.”

ILGA-Europe, the group behind the poster exhibition, said both MEPs “could not see the love and humanity shared by the families displayed in the exhibition and the message contained that human rights are for all. We hope that these events will give another opportunity to reflect on the indivisibility of human rights.”

The group also condemned the way Matsakis’ office in the Parliament was targeted. The entrance to his office in Brussels was plastered with posters advertising the exhibition and others were pushed under his door.

ILGA-Europe said it “wishes to dissociate itself from the irresponsible actions taken around Mr. Matsakis’ office and to condemn such inappropriate behavior.”

The LGBT families exhibition was created to raise awareness and draw attention to the legal and social problems LGBT families and their children experience in Europe.

Larry Nichols can be reached at [email protected].

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