International News: January 24, 2020

South Korea to decide fate of first transgender soldier

In the first such case in South Korea, military officials will determine whether to discharge a soldier who recently underwent gender-affirmation surgery, officials said Jan. 17.

South Korea bans transgender people from joining its military but has no specific regulations on what to do with those who have gender-affirming surgery during their time in the service.

The non-commissioned officer entered the military as a man and underwent gender-affirmation surgery last year and is currently at a military-run hospital, army spokesman Jeon Ha Gyu said.

 It’s the first time an active-duty soldier in South Korea has been referred to a military panel to decide whether to end his or her service due to gender-affirming operations, according to Jeon and Defense Ministry spokeswoman Choi Hyunsoo.

A rights organization that says it has given counseling to the soldier and the staff sergeant has undergone physiological treatment and hormone therapy for an extended period. A statement from the Seoul-based Center for Military Human Rights said it hopes a “forward-looking” decision will be made at the military meeting taking place Jan. 22.

Views on sexuality and gender issues in South Korea have been slowly changing, and several gay-themed movies and TV dramas have become hits and some transgender entertainers have risen to stardom in recent years. Nevertheless, a strong bias against sexual minorities persists.

Activists say transgender people remain likely to face harassment, abuse and insults, and many suffer from depression and have attempted suicide.

English second-tier soccer game stopped for homophobic chants

A game in English soccer’s second-tier between Millwall and Reading was briefly stopped due to apparent homophobic chants on Jan. 18.

The assistant referee pointed out the anti-gay chants from sections of Millwall’s supporters during the London club’s 2-0 home win over Reading.

With the score at 0-0, referee Keith Stroud delayed the game to explain the situation to both teams’ coaches and there was a warning over the public address system during halftime.

“A comprehensive investigation into the alleged incident is well underway,” Millwall said in a statement. “Millwall Football Club has a zero-tolerance policy against discrimination of any kind. Any individual found guilty of such abuse at The Den is issued with an immediate lifetime ban.”

Millwall manager Gary Rowett said he wasn’t sure if there was any homophobic incident and suggested it wasn’t on a large scale.

“I don’t necessarily think it was a chant, I think the linesmen heard a comment. There can be lots of comments in a game like that,” he said.

Millwall was previously handed a fine of $13,000 in August over racist chanting in an FA Cup game against Everton last season.

Millwall moved up to seventh in the Championship table with the win and is in contention for promotion to the Premier League via the playoff places.

Imam in Uganda is mocked for mistakenly marrying a man

A gay rights activist in Uganda said criticism of a local Imam who unknowingly married a man in a Muslim ceremony highlights intolerance in the East African country.

The Imam, who said he did not know his partner was male, has been suspended from clerical duty, and his partner charged with committing an “unnatural” offense.

On social media, many Ugandans have mocked the Imam as a suspected homosexual who is not being truthful.

Frank Mugisha, who runs the group Sexual Minorities Uganda, said Jan. 16 that the case proved “how homophobic the country is.”

“The Imam could be right when he says he didn’t know,” he said. “Ugandans should respect people’s privacy. They are not necessarily homosexuals.”

Mugisha said it was not clear whether the Imam’s partner is transgender, one reason his group had decided not to release a statement regarding the case.

It was not possible to talk to the Imam or his partner, who was arrested days after the ceremony for alleged theft of a TV in the central Ugandan district of Kayunga, where the marriage took place.

The local Daily Monitor newspaper reported that a woman police officer reported the suspect as male after conducting a body search. The newspaper report included the account of a cleric at the Imam’s mosque who said the Imam needed counseling after his bride “refused to undress while they slept.”

Gay sex is criminalized in Uganda, where there have been efforts in recent years to enact stiffer penalties targeting homosexuals, including death by hanging. A harsh anti-gay law enacted in 2014 was later overturned by a panel of judges amid international pressure and threats of aid cuts.

Reporting via Associated Press