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26 March 2015 edition

Dear friends and colleagues,

From the UN: At the 28th meeting of the UN Human Rights Council, Iran agreed to partially implement three recommendations that included the treatment of individuals based on their sexual orientation, however it is not clear that LGBT people will be protected by these partial changes as Iran fully rejected all recommendations that explicitly address LGBT issues.  

The UN Secretary General’s human resources reform extending benefits to safe-sex couples was upheld at a vote this past week in the Fifth Committee - which discusses administrative and budgetary issues for the UN.  Equality and fairness are the winners.  

The World of Politics: The European Parliament has released its "Annual Report on Human Rights and Democracy," and included strong recommendations that governments should support LGBTI organizations. In the US, six members of congress presented evidence of violence against LGBT in Central America and have requested USAID specifically scale up support of LGBT advocacy in the region.

In Switzerland, parliament has amended an existing anti-discrimination law to include protection for sexual and gender identity. Yet in the US, the state of Indiana has passed a 'Religious Freedom Bill' which advocates say will allow people to use religious beliefs to refuse to comply with existing nondiscrimination laws.

In Canada, the Province of Alberta has shown support for LGBT students with new legislation that makes gay-straight student alliances mandatory if requested, prevents parents from exempting children from classes that discuss sexual orientation, and adds gender identity to anti-discrimination laws.

In Italy, however, a program for primary students that teaches gender equality has been accused by politicians of 'confusing' children about their own sexual identity. And in Australia, a Member of Parliament is accusing an anti-bullying program as being 'little more than' promotion of LGBT lifestyle by the 'militant gay lesbian lobby.' Yet in the UK, Prime Minister David Cameron has said that trans rights and bullying based on sexual orientation in schools is "one of the most important things" to combat.

In Kenya, legislators have recognized 'intersex' people in the newly passed Persons Deprived of Liberty Act, a first step towards protecting intersex Kenyans.

Nigeria's presidential election will occur this Saturday, with voters choosing between incumbent Goodluck Jonathan and candidate Muhammadu Buhari. Both have campaigned with the promise of supporting and upholding Nigeria's anti-gay marriage law

In Peru, legislators defeated a bid to approve same-sex marriage, with leftist legislator Condori Cusi citing Hitler's Mein Kampf as inspiration for his vote. And in Thailand, the junta cabinet has passed a law that will ban gay people from monkhood, or risk prison. 
 
HIV, Health, and Wellbeing:  Jamaica's Ministry of Health has targeted churches and other faith-based organizations to reach 5,000 gay people and 7,000 sex workers for HIV prevention. In the UK, four high profile doctors are saying that denying boys the HPV vaccine is institutional homophobia

In Australia, public health data shows gonorrhoea rates among gay men at a 4-year high and in New Zealand, a new report shows gay men have been infected with a rare STI. Meanwhile, porn actor Blue Bailey has joined voices with New Zealand advocates for PrEP and condomless sex, though the New Zealand AIDS Foundation says the community should not abandon condoms.  

And in both the US and the UK, advocates have noted the special challenges elderly LGBT people face when dementia and alzheimers force them to seek social care. 

Fear and Loathing: In Iraq, ISIS continues to target individuals on charges of homosexuality, as an administrative official from Mosul confirmed four more young people were executed. A vigilante group in Mombasa, Kenya has warned they will behead all gay people in the village, including the founders of PEMA, the oldest local LGBTI organization. And from Jamaica, a video was posted to Facebook showing a boy being stoned to death while his attackers yelled anti-gay slurs. 

Meanwhile in Cameroon, lawyer Alice Nkom continues to fight against criminalization of homosexuality and for the Universal Declaration of Human Rights despite death threats.

In France, 60,000 people have signed a petition to dismiss the train guard who humiliated a lesbian couple for kissing goodbye in Paris. And in the UK, a new poll finds Londoners are significantly less likely to be accepting of their gay or transgender children compared to other Britons.  
 
In Russia, international giant IKEA has shut down their retail magazine 'Family Live' over concerns that it violates the anti-gay propaganda ban by showing families with same-sex couples.

In the Name of Religion: Indonesia's most prominent Islamic clerical body, the Indonesian Ulema Council, has stirred confusion with conflicting statements regarding the recommendation of the death penalty for punishment of 'homosexual crimes.' Local activists are condemning the statements though council member Choli Ridwan assures the recommendations will not apply in Indonesia

In Ireland, Catholic bishop Kevin Doran compares being gay to having down syndrome, even as the Irish Parliament discusses same-sex marriage and adoption bills. The documentary Owning Our Faith captures stories of Catholic LGBT and urges other Catholics to contribute their stories online. And in Italy, Pope Francis has met with prison inmates to have lunch. The selected group includes gay, trans, and HIV+ prisoners.

In the US, the largest Jewish movement has made history by selecting a lesbian rabbi as president. With a focus on social justice and activism, Rabbi Denis Eger has been called the Jewish Lesbian Pope Francis.

The Presbyterian Church has become the latest Christian denomination to formally recognize same-sex marriages. With this change nearly all US Protestant groups extend rights and blessings to LGBT and same-sex couples
Winds of Change: Activists from China and Egypt discussed how the internet has facilitated changes for the LGBT community, especially in their regions. And in Turkey, activists from 11 countries from the Balkans to the Middle East joined the 6th Meeting of the Regional Network Against Homophobia and Transphobia to discuss tactics to end discrimination and promote freedom of speech and assembly.

LGBT activists in Central and Eastern Europe have been encouraged by a failed anti-LGBT referendum in Slovakia, despite ongoing fear and violence from conservative and, in some states, actively hostile governments. 

From Uganda, Sexual Minorities Uganda director Frank Mugisha breaks down the 14 ways the country can break free of homophobia. And out of Kenya, the Kuria Foundation for Social Enterprise discusses the role of the private sector in bringing equality to LGBT Kenyans.  

As people continue to publish video and photographs of killings through social media, Facebook and Twitter have both released new updates to their platforms to combat hate and exploitation online. However, some are calling these steps a 'responsibility dodging, spineless fix.'

On the Move: In Peru, protesters took to the streets after congress rejected the Civil Union Bill to give marriage rights to same-sex couples. And in the US, President Obama concluded a reenactment of the historic march in Selma, Alabama with a speech comparing the struggle for racial civil rights to the fight for LGBT equality today. 

LGBTI Ugandan refugees in Kenya have launched a protest at the UN High Commission of Refugees for better protection and services. LGBT Central American immigrants fear they have been left out of US immigration reform. And in Europe, LGBT refugees and immigrants continue to face discrimination and abuse in detention centers.

Let the Courts Decide: In Taiwan, a court has refused a woman's request to adopt her partner's children, saying the adoption would "negatively impact" the kids. The lesbian couple has vowed to appeal the decision. In Germany, a court has ruled against the father and two uncles of a gay teen whom they abducted with intentions to force him to marry a girl to hide his sexuality.

In Turkey, the Council of State has ruled a teacher should not have been fired for being gay in his 'private life.' Meanwhile the European Court has ruled the Turkish government cannot force trans people to undergo sterilization when seeking gender reassignment.  

Sports and Culture: Kings College of London rugby players have gone nude to raise money for LGBT victims of domestic violence. While in Japan, lawmakers hope to learn from Sochi boycotts by ending local LGBT discrimination before the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

And at the Cricket World Cup games in Australia, a Sri Lankan fan has been condemned for waving a sign calling cricketer Glen Maxwell a ‘fag.' Sri Lankan politician Malsha Kumaranatunge stated, "Using homophobic terms to insult opposing players or anyone is un-acceptable. Cricket is for everyone. Whether you are Sinhalese, Tamil or Muslim, Buddhist or Hindu, rich or poor, gay or straight. Respect."
The campaign to boycott Dolce & Gabbana continues after the designers spoke out against gay families and called children born from IVF 'synthetic.' Meanwhile, the social media campaign #WeJustNeedtoPee has spread from Canada to the US as trans people protest against transphobic legislation by taking pictures of themselves in bathrooms. And trans teen Jazz Jennings becomes the first trans spokesmodel of a major brand as the face of the Clean & Clear Campaign.

In China, a documentary on parents of gay children was deemed inappropriate by the state censor and removed from the Internet. From the US, the LGBTQ web series First Person has taken on the often overlooked issue of 'bisexual erasure.'  And co-creator of runaway TV drama hit Empire admitted that 'attacking homophobia,' especially among the African American community, is part of his 'agenda.' 

Japan Times looks at how sexual identity is changing in Japan culture and the Advocate reviews how international song contest, Eurovision has promoted LGBT performers throughout its 60 year history.  

Finally, check out this clever viral video that uses a giant x-ray screen to hide the identity of couples to show that 'Love Has No Labels.'
"This is a fight for human rights. Its does not pit African traditions against western traditions or the colonised against colonisers. Africa has the same universal values and belongs to humanity. It is not separate, and neither is Cameroon."
~ Alice Nkom, Cameroonian lawyer and longtime advocate for decriminalization of homosexuality
@AliceNKom
Iran indicates a move toward ending anti-LGBT torture
The Islamic Republic of Iran has decided to accept 139 of the 291 recommendations and to partially support 59 recommendations put forward by the 28th session of the Human Rights Council.  Despite the limitations, this is the first time the Islamic Republic has acknowledged ill-treatment and torture of the LGBT community. Iran states sterilization, sex change operations and reparative therapies that are either forced or coerced due to absence of a free and informed decision-making process, will be made illegal. 

However, Iran’s refusal to accept recommendations to fully decriminalise ‘same-sex sexual relations, remove the death penalty and flogging for offences relating to consensual same-sex relations between adults’ on the one hand, and making illegal torture due to sexual orientation with some reservations on the other, raise serious concerns regarding Iran’s will to implement the recommendations Read More

The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) expressed deep dismay over the Iranian government’s rejection in whole or in part of 13 recommendations on sexual orientation and gender identity put forward during the UPR of Iran. Read More
EU: Parliament human rights report addresses LGBTI criminalisation, trans rights and same-sex unions
The European Parliament has voted its "Annual Report on Human Rights and Democracy." The report takes account of the situation of human rights, including of LGBTI people, and makes recommendations accordingly.

The newest report recommends that legislatures throughout Europe "raise the issue of LGBTI [lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender, and intersex] rights in political and human rights dialogues with third countries and multilateral forums." The parliament also presses for national governments to "support organisations [sic] defending LGBTI rights by empowering them to challenge homophobic and transphobic laws and discrimination against LGBTI people." Read More
Switzerland: Parliament votes for law to protect LGBTIs from prejudice
In an amendment to a law that protects people of different races or faiths, the Swiss parliament has voted with 103 in favor, 73 against and nine abstentions to ensure nobody is targeted with hate speech and discrimination on the basis of their sexual or gender identity.

'It's nice to live in a country that recognizes diversity & supports the same equal protection for everyone.' Bastian Baumann, Sec-General of Pink Cross. Read more
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Russia fails in bid to stop U.N. staff benefits for all gay couples
Russia failed on Tuesday in a bid to stop the United Nations extending staff benefits to all same-sex couples after a U.N. General Assembly budget committee voted 80 to 43 against the proposal. 

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in July that the United Nations would recognize all same-sex marriages of its staff, allowing them to receive U.N. benefits. The U.N. now recognizes all same-sex couples married in a country where it is legal, regardless of their nationality. Russia wanted the General Assembly Fifth Committee to overturn Ban's decision and had been threatening to put the measure to a vote since December.

"We must speak plainly about what Russia tried to do today: diminish the authority of the U.N. Secretary-General and export to the U.N. its domestic hostility to LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) rights," the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, said in a statement after the vote. Read More
US: USAID urged to fund LGBT advocacy efforts in Central America 
Six members of Congress urged the U.S. Agency for International Development to fund LGBT advocacy efforts in Central America specifically to support advocacy groups in Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras. In their request, the congress members list specific examples of violence against LGBT people in the three countries. They make note of both large scale injustices, including the nearly 200 LGBT Hondurans killed between 2009 - 2014, to the individual stories of men and women who have been brutally attacked. Read More
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Canada: Alberta’s new stand on gay-straight alliances makes for ‘historic’ day
Alberta has vaulted to the forefront of Canada’s debates on sexuality and gender expression, Premier Jim Prentice said after MLAs quickly passed legislation that ended a debate on gay support clubs that roiled the province.

When Alberta’s legislature convened for the first time in 2015, Mr. Prentice’s Education Minister announced that the Tory government was reversing its position on gay-straight alliances and would make the clubs mandatory in every school where a student requested one. Parents in Alberta will also no longer be able to remove their children from classes where sexual orientation is being discussed. A separate amendment will add gender expression and identity to the grounds for which Albertans will be protected from discrimination. Read More
Italy: School plan to change gender stereotypes causes storm
A plan to to challenge young children’s ideas about gender through play at schools in northern Italy – including with a memory game that contains images of male homemakers and female plumbers – has created a storm of protest, with some politicians saying the effort will confuse children about their sexual identity.

The programme – titled Game of Respect – is aimed at children aged three to six in 45 schools in the Trieste region and involves educating teachers about how to use games and role-playing to teach gender equality. Read More
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Australia: MP sees gay plot in anti-bully scheme
In a presentation to Liberal MPs at Parliament House, Peter Abetz has warned colleagues that an anti-bullying program, Safe Schools Coalition Australia, is actually a "gay lifestyle promotion program" and should be stopped from coming to Western Australia. 

The SSCA program, he said, crossed the line into advocacy and was "really not an anti-bullying program". "In fact, when you look at it closer, it really is little more than a gay, lesbian, transgender lifestyle promotion program," Mr Abetz said. "The militant gay lesbian lobby is trying to get this into our schools to 'normalise' what they consider the LGBTI agenda."

Shadow minister for disability services, mental health and child protection, Stephen Dawson, a supporter of the program, said the comments were "misguided and homophobic". Read More
UK: David Cameron Supports Trans Rights – And Says We Need To Tackle “Homophobic Bullying”
David Cameron has pledged to tackle prejudice against transgender people and said “one of the most important things” is to combat bullying in schools related to sexual orientation.

“I think we need to take a look at what the issues are and what the specific issues of discrimination that trans people have,” said the prime minister. “I think one of the most important things is what happens in our schools, particularly homophobic and biphobic bullying.” Read More
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Nigeria: Presidential elections "Vote for me; I too oppose gay marriage"
Anti-gay politics continue in Nigeria, as the presidential campaign of Muhammadu Buhari denied the accusation that Buhari struck a deal with Western nations to repeal Nigeria’s new anti-gay law in exchange for supporting his campaign to unseat President Goodluck Jonathan.

“There is no relationship between General Buhari and any western nation concerning gay marriage and such pervasive orientations that are not in conformity with our cultures and values,” said Olayemi Success, national coordinator of the campaign’s Buhari Volunteer Network.

Buhari will not seek to repeal the Same-Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act, that provides up to 14 years in prison for anyone who enters into a same-sex marriage and up to a 10-year sentence for anyone who attends a same-sex wedding in Nigeria, makes a  “public show of same-sex amorous relationship,” or belongs to a “gay organization.” Read More
Peru: Leftist Legislator claims Mein Kampf 'Is Right' about gay people 
Leftist legislator Rubén Condori Cusi cited Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf as an inspiration for his vote against legalizing same-sex civil unions in the South American nation. Following the vote, Condori Cusi called homosexuality “a misconduct” and added, “Matters regarding cleaning, ironing, cooking, those are gender-exclusive.”

While some leftist leaders in Latin America–including Cristina Fernández de Kirchner of Argentina, Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela, and Rafael Correa of Ecuador–have paid lip service to the LGBT cause, all three have close ties to the Islamic Republic of Iran, a nation that openly executes its own citizens on charges of “sodomy.” Argentina and Venezuela have also been implicated in aiding not just the Iranian government, but the Shiite Islamist terrorists of Hezbollah. Read More
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Thailand: Junta to pass law banning homosexuals from monkhood
The junta cabinet has approved a bill on religion which can be used to prosecute, with jail terms, people who propagate ‘incorrect’ versions of Buddhist doctrines or cause harm to Buddhism. The bill also posts jail terms specifically for homosexual monks.

For Sulak Sivaraksa, one of the founding members of International Network of Engaged Buddhists and a historian who is renowned for his criticisms of the SSC, the bill clearly shows the SSC’s desire to gain more prominence in Thai society.

“This bill shows blind stupidity and lust for power,” said Sulak. “The Sangha Supreme Council is a very weak council. It doesn’t have its own identity. That’s why it wants to show that it has power, which is regrettable,” he added. Read More
Jamaica: Health Ministry to reach gays, sex workers through church
The Church and other faith-based organisations have been targeted by the Ministry of Health (MoH) as part of a campaign to improve attitudes and behaviours among vulnerable high-risk groups such as homosexuals and prostitutes, and to reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS.

Approximately $298 million is to be spent next year on the programme, which is funded by grants from the United States Agency for International Development. At least 4,535 homosexuals are to be targeted for small-group level HIV preventable interventions. Additionally, 6,537 prostitutes will be targeted for similar interventions during the course of the fiscal year. Read More
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US: Indiana Passes Religious Freedom Bill
In a landslide 63-31 vote, the Indiana House of Representatives alarmed LGBT advocates Monday by passing a sweeping religious freedom bill that allows private parties — including businesses open to the public — to invoke a religious defense in legal cases.

Gov. Mike Pence resisted calls to veto the bill, issuing a statement that said the measure “is about respecting and reassuring Hoosiers that their religious freedoms are intact. I strongly support the legislation and applaud the members of the General Assembly for their work on this important issue. I look forward to signing the bill when it reaches my desk.”

Critics had ramped up their campaign to defeat the measure in recent weeks, including delivering 10,000 letters of protest to the capitol Monday morning. Freedom Indiana and several national organizations argued the bill would create a loophole in civil rights laws & allow discrimination, particularly against LGBT people. Read More
Kenya: Intersex Get Recognition Under Kenyan Law
The Persons Deprived of Liberty Act 2014 is a first in Kenya to define who an intersex person is. Section 2 of the Act defines an intersex as a person certified by a competent medical practitioner to have both male and female reproductive organs. Although this is an extremely shallow definition, we must commend the legislators for this bold step towards embracing this unique member of the family.

In the spirit of equality and non discrimination as guaranteed by Article 27 of the Constitution, the Act makes no distinction between a child, the disabled, young, Muslim and an adult intersex person. They are to be looked at from a human beings perspective. Read More
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UK: Government letting gay men die by not giving boys HPV vaccine
Every year in Britain, 2,000 men are diagnosed with cancers caused by the HPV virus. The sexually transmitted infection lies dormant, showing no signs or symptoms for years, often decades, until cancer cells start multiplying. At that point, tumours can be found in throats, penises, mouths, anuses, tonsils, and tongues.

A simple, highly effective vaccine exists. It’s just not given to boys. Instead, since 2008, girls aged 11–14 are given the jab, to prevent the virus triggering cervical cancer. These girls are protected for life, and so too are the boys who have sex with them. But gay and bisexual men – or indeed any man who has sex with another just once – can become infected. Read More
Australia: Gonorrhoea rates among Sydney gay men at 4-year high 
Recent NSW public health surveillance data finds gonorrhoea rates among men who have sex with men are at a 4-year high.

Karen Price, the chair of STIGMA and ACON’s HIV and sexual health director, has expressed concern at the “continuing high rates” of STIs among gay and MSM residents in inner-Sydney.

“Gonorrhoea is a bacterial infection passed from penis to mouth or anus that can be easily treated. Condoms provide the most effective protection against gonorrhoea during anal sex. It’s also important for gay men to understand that the presence of STIs like gonorrhoea can increase the risk of HIV transmission. Read More
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New Zealand: Gay men infected with rare STI
The New Zealand Medical Journal reports five gay men have been infected with Lymphogranuloma venereum (LGV), a rare STI. LGVis endemic in developing countries but is uncommon here.

It is sometimes caused by chlamydia, and symptoms include rectal pain, bloody discharge, cramping abdominal pain, constipation, lesion and ulcers, fever and headaches. All of the men reported high-risk sexual behaviour and all had also contracted either HIV or gonorrhoea, or both. Read More
New Zealand: Condoms optional: Promoting the PrEP philosophy
Visiting American porn actor Blue Bailey is amongst those who advocate for more opportunities for at-risk gay and bi men to have anal sex without condoms, based on reducing the infectiveness of those with HIV and pre-priming HIV-negative people with medications to ward off infection. 

“Blue Bailey seems to be a voice for the strand of American thinking that is militantly anti-condom, as if condoms are some kind of oppression of gay men,” says the NZAF's Executive Director Shaun Robinson. As for Bailey's claim in an interview with GayNZ.com that promoting condom use shames and stigmatises gay men, Robinson says HIV and gay men's sexual health “is not a product of oppression it's about simple biological risks - anal sex is 18x riskier than vaginal sex for HIV & has similar risks for syphilis, gonorrhea. Gay men need to protect themselves just as women need to protect from cervical cancer, it's a fact of life.” Read More
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UK: LGBT older people with dementia should not be forced back into the closet
The government’s Dementia Strategy for England must include a “specific reference to LGBT issues”, the National Care Forum has warned. Dementia is at the top of the national agenda (by 2025, says the Alzheimer’s Society, there will be an estimated 1 million people with dementia in the UK), but there is no specific reference to LGBT issues in the National Dementia Strategy. Given LGBT older people may be estranged from their relatives and lack family support, formal care is likely to be even more important than it is for their heterosexual peers.. Read More

US: Alzheimer's a growing concern among LGBTs
A major concern for health care providers is the large number of LGBT seniors who are already socially isolated and may be reluctant to seek out services due to past experiences with discrimination in a health care setting. If they are living with dementia, they may not be accessing the care they need. Read More
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Iraq: Islamic State executes four in Iraq for homosexuality
Members of the Islamic State terrorist group publicly beheaded four young people on charges of homosexuality in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul on Monday.

A local administration official, Mohamed al-Faris, said that the jihadis summoned the inhabitants of al-Rashidia district, located in northern Mosul, to watch the execution of 4 young people, all aged between 20 and 30 years. Read More
Kenya: Vigilante group threatens to behead homosexuals
An increase in threats against Kenya LGBTI activists from various quarters has culminated in a vigilante group issuing a warning to behead all homosexuals in a village in Mombasa. 

The founders of PEMA Kenya, the oldest LGBTI organisation in Mombasa allegedly received a leaflet that warned him to vacate the area lest he is beheaded. While a police report has been filed in Mombasa, no investigations or further action has been taken. Read More
Jamaica: Alleged Gay Youth Stoned to Death
A recent video of an alleged homosexual youth was stoned to death in Jamaica was posted and subsequently removed from a Jamaican online news Facebook page. The video depicts the lifeless body of a young man clothed in tight pants with long hair laying in a pool of blood and continuously being stoned by his executioners.

In the video, one can hear clearly anti-gay slurs being used by one of the executioners with a Jamaican accent while carrying out the barbaric act lamented, "Batty-man yuh fi dead", in translation it means "gay, you should die", repeatedly. The identity of the deceased and location where the execution took place in Jamaica are being investigated.  Read More
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Cameroon: Lawyer urges world to join her in fight against anti-gay legislation
Despite death threats, Alice Nkom is taking on Cameroon’s repressive law in the supreme court and says her campaign is part of a wider struggle for human rights. Alice Nkom knows she might not be alive today were it not for international support for her battle to defend homosexuals in Cameroon. But now she wants the world to do more to breathe life into the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and make it tangible for all, including gay people in Africa. Read More
Russia: IKEA shuts down magazine to avoid violating Gay Propaganda Ban
IKEA will shutter the website for its magazine, IKEA Family Live, in Russia to avoid running afoul of the country’s ban on “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations” among minors. 

“When we do business, we observe the legislation of the countries where we work, therefore to avoid violations, we have taken the decision to stop publishing the magazine in Russia,” IKEA said in a statement carried by AFP.

The Swedish furniture chain has featured same-sex couples and their families in the magazine, which is published in 25 countries. It came under fire internationally in 2013 for excluding a story on Clara and Kirsty, a British lesbian couple, from its Russian edition after the propaganda ban was passed. Activists held a kiss-in at the Brooklyn, New York, IKEA store to protest the move. Read More
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France: Lesbians’ goodbye kiss leads to ‘humiliation’ in Paris
Paris is where people – lovestruck locals and tourists alike – kiss. You can hardly take two steps down a rue or grand boulevard without seeing a couple smooching, often in the middle of the pavement.  However, it seems that not all kissers are equal in the land of liberté, égalité, fraternité. A train guard from a major railway company has been suspended after allegedly shouting at a lesbian couple that their farewell embrace “cannot be tolerated”. 60,000 people have signed a petition for the train guard's dismissal. Read More
UK: Londoners are least likely to accept a gay or transgender child
The data showed that Londoners are over five times more likely to reject support for a gay child – with 13% of Londoners indicating they would not support a gay child, and 20% indicating they would not support a trans child.
Geographically, voters from the north of Britain were more likely to be accepting, with 1% in the North of England and 2% in Scotland indicating they would not support a gay child.

PinkNews Chief Executive Benjamin Cohen said: “This polling is eye-opening as it goes against the widely accepted notion that London is the most tolerant part of the country when it comes to LGBT issues. Read More
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Indonesia: Confusion over Highest Islamic clerical body fatwa statements 
Reports have come that Indonesia's most prominent Islamic clerical body, the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI), has issued a fatwa proposing a host of punishments for "homosexual crimes" - including the death penalty. While Indonesia does not have a reputation for being particularly welcoming of the LGBT community – and same-sex marriage is not permitted - homosexual relations are not prohibited. Most individuals can go about their lives without prejudice. Read More

However, head of Art and Culture Department of the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI), Cholil Ridwan, has not been informed about the notion of enforcing fatwa on flogging and death penalty for homosexual. He only said that the law indeed applies in Saudi Arabia. Cholil said that Hasanuddin might have only been explaining about punishment on homosexuals. "I believe that the reporter might have quoted the wrong thing. MUI will not apply that in Indonesia," he said. Read More

Indonesia: Rights Activists Lash Out at MUI’s Anti-LGBT Fatwa
By inveighing against the LGBT community with its latest fatwa, the council is helping to propagate hatred of an already beleaguered community, says LGBT activist Hartoyo. “Issuing such a fatwa is as same as promoting hatred and motivating people to carry out violence against others,” he said. “If the MUI dislikes homosexuals, it should express its disapproval through other means, in educated and peaceful ways. It shouldn’t shroud its message with hate and violence.”

Haris Azhar, the coordinator of the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence, or Kontras, calls the MUI’s statement regrettable and says the council has long tried to exceed its actual authority.

“Homosexuality isn’t a crime, nor it is a deviant thing. It is merely one’s preference and it’s private,” he said. “Besides, it isn’t the duty of MUI to determine national law. The MUI is supposed to educate Indonesia’s Muslims. Proposing severe punishment [such as death] shows the MUI’s less-than-mature mind-set.” Read More
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Ireland: Catholic bishop compares homosexuality to Down's Syndrome
Speaking in the run-up to the spring meeting of Ireland's Catholic bishops, the Bishop of Elphin Kevin Doran has compared homosexuality to Down's Syndrome and has also said rape victims should not have abortions as a way of getting back at the rapist.

Bishop Doran implied that being gay was a disability, when asked whether he believed being born gay could be what God intended: "That would be to suggest that if some people are born with Down's syndrome or Spina Bifida, that that was what God intended either," he said.

Currently the same-sex adoption bill is being discussed by the Irish Parliament. The country is holding an equal marriage referendum in May. Read More

WATCH: Film Makes Case for Full LGBT Acceptance in Catholic Church
Several LGBT Catholics have come together to release a short film called Owning Our Faith, in which they share their stories and call for full acceptance of LGBT people in the church. Executive producer Michael Tomae says he was inspired to make the film by volunteering at a shelter for homeless youth and finding that many of them had been disowned by their Christian families for being LGBT. He then reached out to LGBT Catholics and allies to film their stories.

The makers of the film are also calling on other LGBT Catholics to make videos of their stories and post them to YouTube. They are hoping their message of acceptance will reach the Catholic hierarchy, right to the top — Pope Francis — as the church prepares for a bishops’ meeting on family issues in October.  Read More

Italy: Pope Francis Dines with Gay and Transgender Inmates in Naples Prison
He made a special request to have lunch with inmates. Some 90 inmates which chosen via a raffle, including some that reportedly come from a ward housing gay, transgender and HIV-infected inmates. Read More
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Most American Mainline Protestants Embrace Gay Marriage
With the largest Presbyterian denomination’s official endorsement, American mainline Protestants have solidified their support for gay marriage, leaving the largest mainline denomination — the United Methodist Church — outside the same-sex marriage fold.

Methodists, with more than 7 million members, rejected same-sex marriage at their last nat'l conference. They are likely to revisit the question in 2016, but a growing membership in Africa, where there is little acceptance of homosexuality, makes it unlikely the denomination will accept gay marriage.

Another denomination generally considered mainline, the American Baptist Churches USA, does not allow same-sex marriage, nor do a handful of smaller mainline denominations. But the Episcopal Church, the United Church of Christ and now the Presbyterian Church (USA) sanctify the marriage of two men or two women. The 3.8 million-member Evangelical Lutheran Church in America gives congregations the autonomy to decide for themselves. Read More
US: Rabbis of Largest Jewish Movement Pick First Lesbian Leader 
Rabbi Denise Eger became the first out lesbian rabbi to serve as president of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, the rabbinical arm of the Reform movement, the largest Jewish movement in America with 1.5 million adherents. With 2,000 members, CCAR is the largest rabbinic organization in North America. Founded in 1889, it’s also the oldest, and serves most liberal of the mainstream denominations. 

But Eger’s sexual orientation is only part of the story. In fact, the new CCAR president may bring a new focus on progressive social justice activism to the Reform movement. In a way, she might be the Jewish Lesbian Pope Francis. Read More
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Online activists spur change in Middle East, China, world
Online LGBT activism and community-building are the focus of Quorum's eighth discussion of international LGBTI issues. Moderated by Andre Banks (All Out), media activists Xiaogang Wei of China and Suzan of Egypt reflect on their experiences in working to connect LGBTQ folks through each of their online platforms.  

Xiaogang Wei explained the progress of the Chinese LGBT movement: “Things are changing,” he said. “We are building this language. We are building this identify. People know how to use the right language to fight back.”

Suzan focused on how LGBT Westerners can support and understand their Middle Eastern counterparts, instead of acting as though they have the wisdom and the right to tell queer activists in the Middle East how to think and act. Read More or watch the discussion here
Turkey: LGBTI activists from Balkans to Middle East met in Turkish capital
LGBTI activists from Albania, Armenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Greece, Israel, Lebanon, Macedonia, Serbia, Tunisia and Turkey met in Ankara on March 12-13 for the 6th Meeting of the Regional Network against Homophobia and Transphobia held by Kaos GL Association.
 
The meeting started with People to People (P2P) Conference by TACSO titled “Anti-Discrimination and Equality on the Way to the EU.” The Conference focused on different ways to tackle discrimination and common problems around freedoms of speech, expression and assembly.  Read More 
Europe: Mixed Prospects for LGBT Rights in Central and Eastern Europe
Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) groups in Central and Eastern Europe, which still faced mixed prospects as they fight for rights and acceptance, are now taking some heart from the “failure” of a referendum in Slovakia, a member of the European Union. The reasons behind the relative societal intolerance towards LGBT groups in Central and Eastern Europe vary from entrenched conservative attitudes rooted in countries’ isolation under communism, to local political aims and the influence of the Catholic Church. Read More
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Op-ed: The role of private sector in getting legal and social equity to LGBT Kenyans
Kuria Foundation For Social Enterprise: Now the human rights community and sexual minority groups in particular have done a great job “claiming” rights through numerous ways. These include, writing policy briefs, holding community engagement and education forums, and many other policy advocacy engagements. Others have gone to court seeking legal redress and constitutional interpretations on equality and non-discrimination. These initiatives are great and should continue.

But we may have forgotten the role of private sector in getting legal and social equity. In seeking to address the state, we may have failed to interrogate enough, whether the private sector can provide the ‘goods’ we seek. Can the profit motive ensure that we get to equality and non-discrimination? Read More
Op-ed: The 14 ways Uganda can break free from homophobia forever
LGBTI people in Uganda live with the threat of even more draconian legislation hanging over them. But there is hope.

Under a proposed new law, which is yet to be debated in parliament, even someone sending a text message mentioning homosexuality could be criminalized. Landlords would be punished for renting homes or offices to gay people – effectively making all gay people homeless. But it is not only the haters who can strategize.

Frank Mugisha, director of Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), shares his ideas for changing a nation almost synonymous with homophobia. Read More
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Facebook moves to curb terror, hate speech with update to its ‘community standards’
Nudity, hate speech, self-harm, dangerous organisations, bullying and harassment, sexual violence and exploitation, criminal activity, violence and graphic content are among the areas covered by the updated guidelines.

The move comes with Facebook and other social media struggling with defining acceptable content and freedom of expression, and with these networks increasingly linked to radical extremism and violence, including the posting and sharing of video and photographs of violent hate crimes. Read More

Twitter's New Threat Reporting Tool Is a Useless Punt 
Twitter, a service that admits it sucks at dealing with trolls, just announced a new tool for reporting harassment to the police. It looks like a good step at first glance—if you ignore the fact that it's a responsibility dodging, spineless fix that's highly unlikely to help anyone being harassed or threatened Twitter. This is a PR stunt, not a solution.

There is middle ground to be explored between castrating Twitter's capabilities as a free speech machine and introducing measures that actually counter abuse. Twitter could, for instance, employ proactive abuse moderators. These moderators could cooperate with appropriate law enforcement agencies and help people getting threatened make contact with police, not by giving them a copy of their complaint but by actually setting up contact. These abuse moderators could keep tabs on IP addresses known to spawn more than one abusive account. Read More
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US: Obama invokes Stonewall and LGBT equality in #Selma50 speech
Speaking before a crowd of thousands on Selma's Edmund Pettus Bridge marking the 50th anniversary of "Bloody Sunday" and the historic civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery today, President Obama noted the progress made in the fight for racial and LGBT equality and the similarities between those two civil rights movements. Read More 
Kenya: Ugandan LGBT refugees launch UNHCR protest
There are many problems currently brewing in Kenya for Ugandan refugees who, after fleeing homophobia and persecution in Uganda, have been caught in a quagmire of funding and fraud issues. What follows is a desperate plea written by Ugandan refugees in Kenya, whose plight has been exacerbated by recent ‘people trafficking’ fraudsters who have descended on UNHCR pretending to be LGBTI seeking refuge and resettlement. LGBTI do not qualify for asylum in Kenya as their perceived ‘lifestyle-option’ is in breach of existing Kenyan laws which prohibit ‘unnatural’ sexual acts. Read More
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Europe: Immigration and LGBTs - Denied Safe Haven
Any hope that the same legal protections offered to EU citizens would be extended to LGBT immigrants when they arrive in Europe is often egregiously misplaced. In place of greater freedom, many are greeted with prolonged periods of incarceration. Instead of social acceptance, they are treated with contempt and face discrimination, violence, and sexual abuse in detention centers. Rather than understanding, they’re subjected to drawn-out, sometimes humiliating, decision-making processes designed to establish the “credibility” of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Read More

US: Immigration and LGBTs - Central Americans in Limbo
Last year Obama extended protection from deportation to roughly 3.7 million immigrants. But most of the guarantees were reserved for people whose legally recognized spouses, children, or parents were already American citizens. This was small comfort for LGBT folk whose partners are often not legally recognized, are estranged from family members, and for whom giving birth to a child in the traditional manner is often out of reach. Read More
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Peru: Outraged by the Civil Union rejection
Peruvians took to the streets shouting that all people should have equal rights after lawmakers killed the Civil Union bill which would supported same-sex unions. Heterosexual friends, gay, bisexual, transgender, lesbian, mothers, fathers, children and families called for equality while marching.

The march was led by congressman Carlos Bruce who introduced the bill and the president of the Harvey Milk Foundation, Stuart Milk, saying: “A mi no me callarán y pueden llamarme maricón porque no me ofenderé” -- They will not silence me and they can call me a queer, it will not offend me. Read More
Taiwan: Lesbian fights court over baby rights
A lesbian in Taiwan who was told that she could not adopt the children she parents with her partner because it would have a “negative impact” on them will appeal the landmark case. It is the first time that a lesbian has tried to adopt children her partner had through artificial insemination and comes as public support grows for gay rights and same-sex marriage in Taiwan, one of Asia’s more liberal societies.

Under Taiwanese law, the unmarried partner of a birth mother is not allowed to adopt their child — but the couple had applied as a “de facto” married couple, saying that they want to wed but are barred as same-sex marriages are illegal. Read More
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Germany: Court fines father who ‘tried to marry gay son off to Lebanese girl’
A court in Germany has handed out fines to the father and two uncles of a gay teenager after they abducted him and tried to marry him off to a Lebanese girl against his will. After a five-minute hearing in Berlin, the father and uncles were each fined 1,350 euros in absentia for depriving a minor his personal freedom by abducting him and taking him abroad.

Nasser El-Ahmad was 15 when he revealed to his family he was homosexual. The 18-year-old also alleges that he was subject to verbal threats and physical violence. The Berlin court did not handle these separate allegations of torture, but the abduction occurred after Nasser was put into care having run away from home.

Nasser, unlike the accused, was present at the hearing and wore a badge marked “STOP HOMOPHOBIA”. He told reporters afterwards: “At least this came to court and I am happy for that. I’m not someone who hides. I don’t want to suppress my homosexuality.”Read More
Turkey: Council of State rules firings of gay teacher against the law
The Council of State has ruled that the dismissal of a teacher who has homosexual relations in their private life to be against the law. The Council of State has pointed to the lack of evidence, indication or witnesses to show that the plaintiff reflected homosexual tendencies in the school or engaged in such relations with students outside of the school. Read More
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European Court Rules Turkey Cannot Make Sterilization A Requirement For Gender Reassignment
Europe’s top human rights court ruled Tuesday against the government of Turkey in a case brought by a trans man who was denied the right to gender reassignment surgery unless he agreed to be sterilized.

Twenty countries of the 47 states that signed the human rights charter that created the Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights impose sterilization as a requirement for people seeking legal gender change, according to the org. Transgender Europe. Tuesday’s ruling, which is technically binding on the courts of member states, comes as several European countries are overhauling their gender identity laws to give more control over gender identity to individuals.

“It’s absolutely thrilling and important to have this judgement now,” said Richard Köhler, Transgender Europe’s senior policy officer. Read More
Australia: Sri Lankan cricket fan displays homophobic banner at World Cup
A Sri Lankan cricket fan has been roundly condemned by his countrymen for waving a placard labeling Glenn Maxwell a ‘fag’ at a world cup match in Sydney after a photo made rounds on Sri Lankan social media.

Politician Malsha Kumaranatunge, and the daughter of a former sports minister, said cricket was a game you played with respect, most importantly for your opponents.

'Holding placards like this, insulting players of the host country, in their own soil, is not only disrespectful to the people of Australia but reflects us Sri Lankans in a poor light,' she wrote on Facebook. 'Using homophobic terms to insult opposing players or anyone is unacceptable. Cricket is for everyone. Whether you are Sinhalese,Tamil or Muslim, Buddhist or Hindu, rich or poor, gay or straight. Respect.' Read More
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UK: Rugby players get naked to support LGBT domestic violence hotline
Rugby players at Kings College London have gotten naked for a great cause -- to support an organization that helps victims of LGBT domestic violence, an issue that gets little attention.

The players and the student newspaper Roar News have teamed up on a calendar, with proceeds going to help Broken Rainbow UK. At least one in four lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people experience domestic violence, the newspaper reported, and Broken Rainbow is facing funding cuts. Read More
Japan: Lawmakers form nonpartisan group to support LGBTs ahead of 2020 Olympics
To avoid a repeat of the Russian anti-gay law controversy at last year's Sochi Games, lawmakers established a group to rid Japan of discrimination against sexual minorities ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

The nonpartisan body includes Liberal Democratic Party member Hiroshi Hase, a former vice education minister; Komeito member Masaaki Taniai, vice chairman of the party's Policy Research Council; and Democratic Party of Japan member Goshi Hosono, chairman of the party's Policy Research Committee.

"As it hosts the Olympic Games, there is no doubt that Japanese society will be questioned on how it treats its sexual minorities," Hase said. "We must substantiate the principles described in the basic plan of the Games." Read More
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Dolce & Gabbana comments trigger public outrage--and uncomfortable silence
In an interview with the Italian magazine Panorama, designers Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana of Dolce & Gabbana had some contentious things to say about same-sex families and children born of IVF: “You are born to a mother and a father, or at least that’s how it should be,” Mr. Dolce said. “I call children of chemistry, synthetic children. Rented uterus, semen chosen from a catalog.” 

Outrage was swift. Read More
WNET, PBS Digital Studio Debut Web Series To Explore LGBTQ Issues
A new web series aims to take a thoughtful, no-holds-barred look at gender identity, "to tell their own stories about being queer and trans" as opposed to "just people talking about queer and trans communities." Newly released episode two: Host Kristin Russo sits down with writer, musician, filmmaker and performer, Vivek Shraya, about bisexual erasure and his experience identifying as bisexual. Shraya also discusses his new book “She of the Mountains,” a bisexual love story based on his life experiences. Read More
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By the Numbers: Eurovision
Drag performer Conchita Wurst’s performance and win in 2014 caused quite a stir for the annual song contest popular among LGBT people.

But Wurst is hardly the first from the community to have Eurovision spur them to the public eye. See More
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Japan: Sexual identity isn’t as simple as it once was Read More
This Powerful Video Uses Dancing X-Rays To Prove That We Are All The Same On The Inside Read More
China: Watch the film about parents of gay children that was censored Read More
Trans Folks Respond to 'Bathroom Bills' #WeJustNeedtoPee Selfies Read More
Trans Teen Jazz Jennings Is The New Clean & Clear Campaign Girl Read More
‘Empire’ Co-Creator: ‘Attacking Homophobia’ Was My Agenda Read More
Equal Eyes is edited by Christina Dideriksen and Richard Burzynski. The views presented here do not necessarily represent the view of UNAIDS or its Cosponsors.
All stories and photographs linked within are the property of the original publishers.
Equal Eyes Copyright © 2015 Richard Burzynski, All rights reserved.

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