International News

HIV-positive judge appointed

An openly gay man living with HIV has been appointed to the Constitutional Court of South Africa by the country’s president.

Edwin Cameron, 55, was described by Nelson Mandela as a “hero” when he became the first prominent public official in the country to reveal his HIV-positive status.

Cameron was unanimously backed for promotion by the Judicial Service Commission.

The 11 Constitutional Court justices serve non-renewable 12-year terms.

HIV activist Zackie Achmat said he had spoken to the judge after Cameron’s appointment was announced on New Year’s Eve by President Kgalema Motlanthe.

“I think this is one of the most important events in his life,” Achmat said. “The Constitutional Court needs judges who will continue its legacy of independence and rigor.”

Cameron’s appointment to the Constitutional Court had been blocked by former President Thabo Mbeki.

“I was a gay man who came to terms with being a homosexual about 20 years ago,” Cameron told the BBC in 2005. “And not long after I came out, I was infected with HIV. I experienced the diagnosis not only as a terrible shock because it was without my consent or knowledge, but I also had this tremendous feeling of shame, a sense of contamination, of defilement. I thought the shame about my HIV diagnosis was because I’d got it as a gay man, and I was wrong. At that very time in Africa, we began to realize, it had been evident for the past few years, this was going to be a mass heterosexual epidemic.”

Cameron has campaigned against criminalization of HIV exposure and transmission and spoke at the XVII International AIDS Conference in Mexico City in August.

“HIV is a virus, not a crime,” he said.

Soccer battles homophobia

The Football Association of England has confirmed it is collaborating on a new DVD aimed at tackling homophobia in the game.

Human-rights activist Peter Tatchell announced last week that after meetings with the FA, the Professional Footballers Association and the Kick It Out group, which tackles racism in the game, a special DVD would be created.

“The plan is to feature big-name stars speaking out against homophobia in order to make antigay chants look as stupid, ignorant and uncool as racist ones,” Tatchell said. “Our wish list of participating football stars includes David Beckham, Cristiano Ronaldo, Rio Ferdinand, Peter Crouch, David James, Wayne Rooney, John Terry, Frank Lampard, Theo Walcott and Michael Owen. We’re pressing the FA to get this video broadcast on TV and at matches on the giant stadium screens. We also want the FA to put it on YouTube and distribute copies to every school in the country.”

An FA spokesperson said no players have been approached to appear in the DVD and there is still ongoing discussion about funding.

He reiterated the FA’s backing for the initiative and said it should go into production “in the next few months.”

“We expect the video to have a global impact and reach football fans all over the world, helping break down prejudice and thereby make the game a more welcoming and safe sport for gay players and spectators, not just in Britain but internationally,” Tatchell said. “Although it is only a minority of homophobic fans who are creating problems, they are quite sizable and vociferous. Many gay spectators currently feel threatened and excluded. It is also a turn-off for straight families to be surrounded by aggressive, homophobic hooligans.”

Homophobic abuse at football matches increased last fall.

Portsmouth football team’s Sol Campbell, a former England defender, was subject to abusive taunts from the crowd during a game against Tottenham Hotspur at Fratton Park on Sept. 28.

Several people have been questioned on suspicion of indecent or racial chanting at a designated football match.

Tottenham fans reportedly dislike Campbell due to his transfer from Tottenham to rival team Arsenal in 2001.

Homophobic abuse is against the rules in every Premier League and Football League club.

The Football Association amended the regulations in 2007.

Gay war widow gains pension

Sydney pensioner Edward Young has won a decade-long legal battle to receive his deceased partner’s pension.

Young’s partner of 38 years, Larry Cains, served with the Australian Army in Borneo during World War II.

When Cains died 10 years ago, Young applied for a pension.

Young’s application was denied because the Veteran’s Entitlement Act was only available for heterosexual couples.

He took his case to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

“I didn’t really need the pension,” Young said. “What I wanted was to take on the little man, [former prime minister John] Howard, and fight. I wanted a decision that wouldn’t just apply to my own circumstances. What I wanted was something that would apply right across the board. I wanted something that would say that, yes, there was discrimination and it didn’t just apply to me. It applied to all facets of our law.”

Although in September 2003 the U.N. ruled that Australia was in violation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and that Young was entitled to the pension, the government delayed reviewing the case until November 2007.

In November 2008, however, the Australian government passed laws allowing gay partners of soldiers to claim pensions, and Young’s claim was finally allowed.

“The laws have been changed,” Young said. “We’ve won now. I’ve been waiting 10 years.”

Two executed for male rape

Two Saudi men were reportedly publicly beheaded on Dec. 26 after they were found guilty of rape.

Nasser al-Harby and Majid al-Sibeiy were found guilty of entering a bedroom where the unnamed victim slept and then beating him, tying him up and raping him.

Homosexuality is illegal under sharia, or Islamic law. The maximum sentence it carries is the death penalty, most commonly performed by public beheading.

Gay rights are not recognized in the kingdom and the publication of any material promoting them is banned for “un-Islamic” themes.

With strict laws restricting unmarried opposite-sex couples, however, and public displays of affection accepted between men, some Westerners have suggested that Saudi culture encourages homosexuality.

In July, 55 people were arrested at a “gay party” in Qatif province where drugs and alcohol were reportedly found. In June, more than 20 men were arrested after a raid on another property in Qatif. Many were initially arrested on homosexuality charges but later released.

In October 2007, two men were publicly flogged in Saudi Arabia after being found guilty of sodomy and sentenced to 7,000 lashes.

HIV-charity head knighted

A leading U.K. HIV campaigner who has strived to transform attitudes toward HIV/AIDS and gay men and women in society has been knighted.

Nick Partridge, chief executive of the Terrence Higgins Trust, was recognized for his 20-year service to healthcare.

The trust was the first charity to be set up in response to the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s in England. Its roots were in the gay community and, for many years, the HIV epidemic in the U.K. affected mainly gay men. As the shape of the epidemic changed, so did the THT, under the guidance of Sir Nick.

Partridge joined the trust in 1985 as the office manager, one of only two full-time paid posts, and became its head in 1991. He was tasked with overcoming public antigay prejudice and convincing politicians about the urgency of the HIV situation.

In 2006, he was declared one of the 100 most influential gay and lesbian people in Britain by the Independent.

He is also chair of INVOLVE, an advisory group promoting public involvement in NHS, public-health and social-care research.

“I’m absolutely delighted,” Partridge said. “This is great recognition of the pioneering work of Terrence Higgins Trust, the importance of patient and public involvement in health research through INVOLVE and the impact of the health watchdog, the Healthcare Commission.”

Larry Nichols can be reached at [email protected].

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