International News


Gay couple granted asylum

A gay couple who fled Iran in 2005 to escape arrest and a possible death sentence for homosexuality have been given asylum in Canada.

The men, Ali, 32, and Mohammad, 25, arrived in Toronto Feb. 11. Their last names are being withheld to protect family members still in Iran.

The Islamic state routinely arrests gays and a number have been placed on trial and sentenced to death, according to international human-rights groups, although the government has officially said the executions were for other offenses.

In 2005, Ali and Mohammad fled Iran for India, where they sought and obtained help from the United Nations High Commission for Refugees to relocate to Canada.

The UNHCR made an “urgent and high-priority” plea for their resettlement at the Canadian embassy in New Delhi, said Arsham Parsi, a spokesperson for Iranian Queer Railroad.

The organization is modeled after the 19th-century Underground Railroad and claims it has helped more than 60 gay Iranian refugees resettle in Canada, the United States and Australia.

“There are many more Iranian queer refugees who are still being processed,” Parsi said.

Ali and Mohammad are currently staying with friends in Toronto.

Military OKs transsexuals

Spain’s Defense Ministry recently announced that trans people will be allowed to serve in the Spanish Armed Forces.

The announcement came after a 28-year-old FTM transsexual, identified as Aitor, was twice rejected by the Army because he did not have a penis. He had undergone hormone treatment and a mastectomy as part of his gender-reassignment treatment.

While women are allowed to serve, the Army had argued that Aitor was not eligible despite his legal status as a man.

Now Spain’s Minister of Defense, Carme Chacón, has promised to revise legislation concerning medical reasons for exclusion from service.

The U.S. military bars transgender individuals from entering the armed forces under medical regulations, prohibiting service by those who have undergone genital surgery or those who identify as transgender, considering it to be a disqualifying mental-health condition.

Cambodia may limit gay adoptions

Under proposed rules on adoption, Cambodia will ban a range of foreigners from the adoption process.

Gay people, single people, those with a “low income” and those who already have two children will not be able to adopt.

In meetings with Jean Paul Monchau, the French official responsible for overseeing international adoptions, Cambodian officials expressed concern about the “potential psychological effects” of adoptions by individuals in these groups.

If the National Assembly approves the proposed law on adoption, it will codify these exclusions. It will also make it legal for parents to put their children up for adoption. At present, only orphans are eligible for foreign adoption.

Homosexual acts are legal in Cambodia and, in 2004, the king expressed support for same-sex marriage.

The Western concept of sexuality has little meaning in Cambodia and, as a result, many people who have sex with people of the same gender do not identify as “gay” or “bisexual.”

However, a gay community has emerged in the past 10 years, and the first Pride event was held in Phnom Penh in 2003.

Homophobic slurs hurled at Beckham

A recent international soccer match between Spain and England was marred by homophobic chanting directed at star athlete David Beckham.

In the 78th minute of the Feb. 11 match in Seville, Spain, the crowd started chanting “Beckham maricón,” which means “Beckham faggot.”

During previous matches, Spanish fans have targeted England’s black players with racist chants.

In England, indecent or racist chanting is an offense under the Football Offences Act and carries a fine of up to $1,425 and a ban from attending games.

Chris Basiurski, campaigns officer for the Gay Football Supporters Network, condemned the abuse at the game.

“This week’s homophobic abuse of David Beckham at the Spain vs. England international highlights the need for action and, in the long term, we hope to show that such behavior is not acceptable.”

The GFSN recently took part in the first conference of the European Gay and Lesbian Sports Federation on tackling homophobia in soccer.

MP’s homophobia draws ire

Gay-rights activists in Jamaica have reacted with disgust at the latest homophobic outburst from one of the island’s politicians.

During a recent parliamentary debate on new sex-offenses legislation, an MP made a series of critical statements about gay people.

“I am very concerned at the extent to which homosexual activities seem to have overtaken this country,” said South West St. Ann MP Ernest Smith. “I am very concerned that homosexuals in Jamaica have become so brazen, they’ve formed themselves into organizations and are abusive, violent and, something that the Ministry of National Security must look into is, why is it that so many homosexuals are licensed firearm holders?”

Smith also voiced concerns that the Jamaican Constabulary Force has “been overrun by homosexuals.”

The Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All-Sexuals and Gays said it is outraged by Smith’s comments.

“First, he has made a sweeping statement about thousands of Jamaicans about whom he knows very little,” the group said in a statement. “This kind of stereotyping from a parliamentarian is inflammatory and highly irresponsible. We are concerned that in a climate characterized by extreme violence, Mr. Smith’s statement could provide another justification for mindless mobs to attack gays and lesbians on suspicion that they contribute to the country’s high level of crime and violence.”

Under the country’s colonial-era laws, homosexual acts are punishable with up to 10 years in jail, usually with hard labor.

Hatred of gays is widespread in Jamaican culture, with reports of gays and lesbians being attacked by gangs and murdered.

International human-rights organizations have described Jamaica as one of the most homophobic countries in the world.

Larry Nichols can be reached at [email protected].