International News

Activists protest at Ugandan embassy

Protesters gathered outside the Ugandan embassy in London Dec. 10 to call on the country’s government to repeal its anti-homosexuality bill.

According to the advocacy group OutRage!, almost 100 people attended the demonstration, including activists from Uganda, Zimbabwe and South Africa. Protesters held signs calling the law a “colonial hangover,” while others read: “Uganda! Hands off queers.”

Despite reports to the contrary, the proposed bill is designed to impose execution and life imprisonment on gays.

The keynote speakers were gay Ugandan John Bosco and straight Ugandan human-rights activist Michael Senyonjo.

Bosco was recently jailed in Uganda, after the British Home Office returned him to the country while he sought asylum in the U.K.

He condemned the antigay bill as “an attack on the civil liberties of all Ugandans,” denouncing it as “dividing Ugandans against each other and requiring people to report on their own family members who are gay.”

Senyonjo told the crowd: “In the last five years, we have seen Idi Amin return to Uganda and his name is [President] Yoweri Museveni. We cannot allow fascism to return to Uganda. He should leave power and go because he is not taking the country anywhere but to disaster.”

Peter Tatchell of OutRage! echoed this view.

“President Museveni is fast becoming the Robert Mugabe of Uganda, and that’s a threat to the civil rights of every Ugandan person — gay or straight, “ he said. “There’s a huge groundswell of public opinion that this bill goes way too far. Even people who say they’re against homosexuality say this bill is excessive and a threat to the human rights of all Ugandans. The Ugandan government should drop this law and abide by international human-rights legislation.”

Austria’s parliament OKs civil unions

Austria’s parliament has approved legalizing civil unions in the country.

Out of 174 lawmakers present, 110 voted in favor and 64 voted against.

The law will take effect on Jan. 1, providing gay couples with some of the rights and benefits enjoyed by heterosexual couples.

However, it reiterates the ban on gay couples adopting children or using IVF and artificial insemination.

Instead, benefits include rights to social-security claims, inheritance and court trials.

Gay couples will not be permitted to hold their ceremonies at civil registry offices, as heterosexual couples can. Instead, they will have to register at the municipal office or magistrate’s office.

Antigay reggae singer jailed

Controversial reggae star Buju Banton, whose antigay lyrics have drawn criticism worldwide, has been imprisoned in Miami on federal drug charges.

Banton, whose real name is Mark Anthony Myrie, has been charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute more than 5 kilos of cocaine. He has been in custody since Dec. 10 and will soon be transferred to Tampa.

Donor gets access to lesbian couple’s son

An Irish man who donated sperm to a lesbian couple has won the right to see the child.

The Irish Supreme Court heard the case of the gay man donating sperm to the couple three years ago when they were friends.

He was supposed to act as an “uncle” to the boy, but the friendship broke down and he initiated legal action two years ago when he heard the couple was planning to move to Australia.

A lower court had previously ruled that he was not entitled to access, as the lesbian couple was regarded as a de-facto family under the European Convention on Human Rights.

The Irish Supreme Court ruled that while the donor was not entitled to custody of the boy, he had natural rights to see him.

The Gay and Lesbian Equality Network expressed concern over the ruling, saying the lesbian couple had no legal protection.

“GLEN shares the court’s commitment that the paramount issue is the welfare of the child. The court made their judgment on that basis, granting access to the father,” director Brian Sheehan said. “The court also recognized that the lesbian parents in the case provide a settled and loving home for their child. However, this family is not recognized in law. There is no mechanism for a child in same-sex-headed families to establish a legal connection to their non-biological parent.”

A civil-partnership bill is currently going through Ireland’s parliament. It offers gay couples many of the rights afforded to heterosexual couples, but Sheehan urged the government to add a legal framework that recognizes and protects gay parents.

Cross-dressing Thai grads banned

A council of Thai university presidents denied a request from a transgender advocacy group to allow male students to wear dresses at graduation ceremonies.

The decision comes after the Transvestite Network of Thailand on Dec. 10 submitted a request to the nation’s education ministry to remove the dress code for transgender students at graduation ceremonies and in classrooms.

The group says the dress code causes mental stress.

Siroj Pholphanthin, head of the council of Rajabhat Universities’ presidents, said allowing cross-dressing would be inappropriate because members of the royal family hand out diplomas.

Jiradech Usawad, head of the University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce, said the regulations are already ignored in classrooms, but he reiterated that the dress code for graduation ceremonies would remain.

China to host gay pageant

A high-profile gay pageant is planned for the first time in China to select the country’s entrant in a worldwide competition.

The winner of the Mr. Gay China contest, to be held Jan. 15 at a club in Beijing, will represent China at the Mr. Gay World competition in February in Norway.

“There will be sportswear and swimsuit segments, a Q&A session, and a panel of judges will select the winner based on overall performance,” said spokesperson Ben Zhang.

Anyone who lives in China may apply online to enter the pageant.

Gay issues remain a sensitive topic in China, the world’s most populous country, where gay people were officially classified as mentally ill until 2001.

Larry Nichols can be reached at [email protected].