International News

Cleric calls for eradication of homosexuality

A radical Shiite cleric has called for the “depravity” of homosexuality to be eradicated, but his spokesperson later said the remark should not be taken as a fatwa to kill gays.

Moqtada Sadr made the statement on May 28 during a seminar of clerics, police and tribal leaders.

There has been growing antigay violence in Iraq. In April, another Shiite cleric, Sattar al-Battat, repeatedly condemned homosexuality during Friday prayers, saying Islam prohibits homosexuality.

Homosexual acts are punishable by up to seven years in prison in Iraq.

The following week, the bodies of two gay men were found in Baghdad’s Shiite slum of Sadr City. Several days later, a third man, also believed to be gay, was found dead on the outskirts of Sadr City.

Amnesty International said that in addition to the violence in Sadr City, 25 suspected gays had been killed in recent months in Baghdad.

A group calling itself “Brigades of the Righteous” has posted signs around Sadr City listing the names of alleged homosexuals and threatening to kill them.

Moqtada Sadr’s spokesperson on May 29 said the cleric’s call for the eradication of homosexuality was not an endorsement of the violence.

“Al-Sadr rejects this type of violence,” said Sheikh Wadea al-Atabi. “And anyone who commits violence [against gays] will not be considered as being one of us. The only remedy to stop [homosexuality] is through preaching and guidance. There is no other way to put an end to it.”

Sweden appoints lesbian bishop

The Church of Sweden has appointed a lesbian as the Lutheran bishop of Stockholm.

Eva Brunne, who is in a registered partnership, is believed to be the world’s first lesbian bishop.

She won the post by 413 votes against 365 votes and will succeed Bishop Caroline Krook, who will retire in November.

Brunne, 55, has a 3-year-old son with her partner Gunilla Linden, who is a priest. She has been praised for her natural authority, enthusiasm and sense of humor.

“I am happy and very proud to be part of a church that encourages people to make their own decisions,” she said following her appointment. “Diversity is a big wealth.”

A gender-neutral marriage law in Sweden came into force on May 1, meaning gay couples can now marry in the country in religious or civil ceremonies.

However, they cannot yet get married in church ceremonies.

The Lutheran Church, which was the state church until 2000, has said that while it supports the new law, it will not formally decide whether to perform gay-marriage ceremonies until October.

Spain: Judges must marry gays

The Spanish Supreme Court has ruled that judges in lower courts or in local town halls must marry gay and lesbian couples.

A magistrate in Sagunto, Valencia, had presented an appeal to the Supreme Court saying he did not want to carry out a same-sex ceremony on religious grounds.

However, the General Council for Judicial Power, the body that oversees the judiciary in Spain, has already ruled that judges cannot refuse.

In addition, the Supreme Court ruled that members of the judiciary are subject to antidiscrimination laws in the same way as everyone else.

Spain legalized gay marriage in 2005.

Honduran trans abuse draws ire

Human Rights Watch released a report May 29 calling on Honduran police to stop abusing transgender citizens.

According to the group, transgender people are reporting repeated rapes, beatings, extortion and arbitrary arrests by officers. At least 17 transgender Hondurans have been murdered since 2004, yet none of the killings have led to prosecution.

Juliana Cano Nieto, LGBT researcher for Human Rights Watch, said the state is “failing miserably” at protecting even residents’ most basic rights.

“The police have an obligation to protect people and to investigate violence, no matter who the victims are,” she said.

Some reports show that police stand by while trans people are attacked in the streets.

When confronted on such abuses, officers refer to vague language in the Law on Police and Social Affairs to protect morality and guard against “public scandal” and those “who go against modesty” to justify their actions or inaction.

Similar policies in other Latin American countries like Colombia have been overturned after courts deemed them too broad.

Despite this, Honduras has signed on to an international document condemning human-rights abuses based on sexual orientation and gender identity, and the country is hosting the annual meeting of Organization of American States. The theme for this year’s meeting is “Toward a Culture of Non-Violence.”

Indian gay magazine returns

Bombay Dost, India’s first and only gay magazine, has returned to newsstands.

The English-language magazine was forced out of print in 2002 when it ran out of money. It has now secured funding from the United Nations Development Program for the next three years, although the first issue will be a limited run of just 1,500 copies.

According to editor-at-large Nitin Karani, social change has meant it can now be sold in major bookstores, rather than being wrapped in brown paper and only available from roadside sellers.

“India’s gay community is still illegal, but it is more confident and happier than ever before,” Karani said. “We’re not constantly beating our breasts over discrimination and marginalization.”

The semi-annual glossy contains just one shot of Mr. Gay India in swimming trunks, alongside book and art reviews and reporting on gay-rights issues.

The magazine’s official launch party was attended by Bollywood star Celina Jaitley, a former beauty queen who is one of India’s most famous gay-rights advocates.

Larry Nichols can be reached at [email protected].