International News

    Killers of S. African lesbian get 18 years

    Four men convicted of murdering a lesbian near Cape Town have received 18-year prison sentences, days before the sixth anniversary of her death.

    Openly gay Zoliswa Nkonyana, 19, was stabbed and stoned in the homophobic attack in Khayelitsha on Feb. 4, 2006.

    A total of nine men had been arrested, but Lubabalo Ntlabathi, Sicelo Mase, Luyanda Londzi and Mbulelo Damba were found guilty of the murder in October.

    The case was reportedly postponed more than 50 times. Sentencing was initially expected before Christmas.

    The murdered woman’s stepfather, Mr. Mandini, said, “They did not accept responsibility for what they did and we are happy that when we asked for a lengthy jail term, the magistrate agreed to that.”

    The Social Justice Coalition issued a statement on the conviction, highlighting what it called “consistent failures” of the police and justice system in the six-year case.

    “Over the past six years, a number of Khayelitsha-based civil society organizations including the Social Justice Coalition, Treatment Action Campaign, Free Gender, Triangle Project and Sonke Gender Justice have attended Nkonyana’s court dates, monitored progress, spoken to prosecutors and tried to assist her family in finding justice. It is unlikely that this case would have concluded without the constant support and pressure from these organizations. We have held countless protests outside the Khayelitsha Magistrate’s Court and raised awareness in the media regarding this case.”

    The Coalition concluded: “Today we remember Zoliswa and thousands of other people who have been needlessly murdered — many of whom have then had justice denied. We wish Nkonyana’s family well and hope they will be able to move forward from this trauma. However, we cannot forget the larger context. Unless changes are made and the police and criminal justice system improve, families will continue to suffer as the cases of their loved ones drag painfully through the system.”

    Lost man ‘jumped’ from gay cruise

    A man is feared dead after reportedly jumping from a gay cruise near Mexico.

    The publicly unidentified man, 30, fell from his balcony on deck 11 of luxury liner Allure of the Seas, the world’s largest cruise liner.

    The man reportedly fell at 12:10 p.m. GMT, Feb. 3

    Royal Caribbean International said that the incident, witnessed by a fellow passenger and CCTV footage, showed the man intentionally going overboard.

    In a statement, the cruise line said the man had not responded to attempts to contact him in his room: “When the guest did not respond to the pages and was not found on board, the captain alerted the local authorities of the situation. A review of the ship’s closed-circuit camera footage observed the 30-year-old British male guest going over the balcony railing in his stateroom on deck 11. The location of the ship at the time the guest went overboard was marked on the ship’s GPS and the U.S. and Mexican Coast Guard were alerted. Our care team is providing support to the guest’s family and our thoughts and prayers are with them.”

    The ship had been chartered by Atlantis Events, the world’s largest producer of gay and lesbian cruise events.

    Gay Finnish presidential candidate defeated

    Pekka Haavisto, Finland’s first openly gay presidential candidate, lost a runoff election Feb. 5 to former finance minister Sauli Niinisto.

    Haavisto, a former environment minister, received 37 percent of the vote to Niinisto’s 63 percent. They were competing to succeed Tarja Halonen, the nation’s first woman president, who is finishing her second term and is not eligible to run again.

    In the first round of voting, on Jan. 28, Niinisto came in first with 37 percent of the vote and Haavisto second with 18.8 percent. Because no candidate received a majority, the runoff was necessary.

    Haavisto’s sexual orientation wasn’t a major issue in debates, but analysts said it was an obstacle in the race.

    “The older generation simply isn’t ready for it,” said Olavi Borg, a political analyst.

    Lesbians in rural train attacked after kiss

    A court has heard claims that a 16-year-old lesbian in Sussex, England, was attacked on a train after kissing her girlfriend.

    April James, 19, is accused of attacking the girl in October after people in her party hurled homophobic slurs at the young couple.

    The prosecution said they were unable to prove James made homophobic comments herself, but said she was in the group that did.

    Mark Kateley, prosecutor at Hastings Crown Court, said: “When the victim and her partner objected to the comments made, she was then assaulted by a group of females during which she was punched, had her hair pulled and at one point had her head banged against the door and ended up on the floor being kicked a number of times on the floor. The defendant admits making a kick to the head or shoulder.”

    The attack reportedly ensued after the girls, both 16, kissed and the victim drank from a bottle of alcohol, which was being shared on the train.

    Her victim statement said: “This incident made me feel ashamed of who I am and made me scared of going out and getting on a train. It made me scared of being with my girlfriend. It has taken me a long time to be confident with my sexuality and this has knocked me back down.”

    The defendant claimed the train was too busy for her to have assaulted the girl in the carriage, but admits kicking her on the platform at Bexhill.

    A further hearing is scheduled to take place in April at Hastings Magistrates Court due to disputed facts.

    Edinburgh plans Valentine marriage rally

    Gay-marriage advocates in the Scottish capital are asking equality-lovers to march in support of the cause on Feb. 14.

    Organizers have called for supporters to bring a positive attitude to the event to show the government their passion for equality.

    The Love Equally March is being promoted by the Scottish Youth Parliament, the Equality Network, LGBT Youth Scotland, Stonewall Scotland and National Union of Students Scotland.

    Scottish Youth Parliament chair Grant Costello said: “All the evidence shows the majority of Scots support marriage equality, and the historic response to the government’s consultation on same-sex marriage demonstrates they are prepared to speak out for equality. Scotland’s young people are determined that the consultation is not the end, but just the beginning of the journey to a better nation with equality at its heart. We need all those supporters of marriage equality to march with us, be our Valentines and love equally on Feb. 14!”

    Nathan Sparling, NUS Scotland LGBT officer, said: “This Valentine’s Day, students from across Scotland will be taking part in the Love Equally march to show our unwavering support for equal marriage in Scotland. We’ll be marching on the streets of Edinburgh celebrating love, and asking for the Scottish government to give us another reason to celebrate by making same-sex marriage legal in Scotland.”

    Marchers will assemble at Bristo Square and walk to the Scottish Parliament.

    A range of supporters for marriage equality will address the rally outside the Scottish Parliament.

    China: 16 million women ‘married to gays’

    A university professor in China has estimated that 16 million women in the world’s most populous country are married to gays.

    Professor Zhang Bei-chuan of Qingdao University says the huge number of women – equivalent to the population of the Netherlands – who have tied the knot with gay men are struggling to cope.

    The academic said as many as 90 percent of gay Chinese men marry to conform with social norms.

    As of 2010, China had a population of more than 1.3 billion.

    According to Bei-chuan’s estimate, roughly 3 percent of the country’s adult population is in a gay-straight marriage.

    The potentially damaging effect of such marriages was highlighted by 29-year-old Xiao Yao, who was married to a gay man and now runs a support website for wives in similar situations.

    She said: “Most gay men’s wives I’ve known are silently suffering at the hands of husbands who could never love them, and like me, some even got abused by husbands who were also under great pressure. The website makes them feel they’re not alone and empowers them to make the right choices.”

    One gay men questioned by the paper was skeptical of the estimate, but others said they would consider marrying a woman.

    Wang, 27, told the publication he would consider marrying a lesbian if he were forced to wed a woman.

    Xiao Dong, a gay man involved in HIV/AIDS prevention efforts, said it was an “unsubstantiated” and “pointless” investigation.

    Homosexuality was decriminalized in the People’s Republic in 1997 and its status as a mental disorder revoked in 2001, but legal protection for gays is minimal with no nondiscrimination or equal marriage rights and strong censorship rules.

    — compiled by Larry Nichols