UN General Assembly
Sixty-six nations at the UN General Assembly supported a groundbreaking statement Dec. 18 confirming that international human rights protections include sexual orientation and gender identity.
It was the first time a statement condemning rights abuses against GLBT people was presented in the General Assembly. It was read into the record by Argentine Ambassador Jorge Argüello.
The 66 countries affirmed "the principle of non-discrimination, which requires that human rights apply equally to every human being regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity," and denounced "violence, harassment, discrimination, exclusion, stigmatization and prejudice ... because of sexual orientation or gender identity."
The statement also called for the decriminalization of gay sex, which is banned in at least 77 nations and punishable by death in at least seven of them -- Iran, Mauritania, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, United Arab Emirates and Yemen.
"To love is not a crime," said Louis-Georges Tin, president of the International Day Against Homophobia Committee, which initiated the process that led to the statement. "To decriminalize homosexuality worldwide is a battle for human rights. ... This ( statement ) is a great achievement ( but ) I also want to remind everyone that ending the criminalization of same-sex love will be a long, hard battle."
Leading British activist Peter Tatchell called the statement "history in the making."
"The UN statement goes much further than seeking the decriminalization of same-sex acts," Tatchell said. "It condemns all human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity, urges countries to protect the human rights of LGBT people and to bring to justice those who violate these rights, and calls for human rights defenders who oppose homophobic and transphobic victimization to be allowed to carry out their advocacy and humanitarian work unimpeded."
The signatories overcame strong opposition from a group of governments that routinely try to block UN attention to issues of sexual orientation and gender identity. Fifty-seven nations signed an alternative statement, promoted by the Organization of the Islamic Conference, that affirmed the "principles of non-discrimination and equality," but said universal human rights do not include "the attempt to focus on the rights of certain persons" because "the notion of orientation spans a wide range of personal choices that expand way beyond the individual's sexual interest in copulatory behavior with normal consenting adult human beings, thereby ushering in the social normalization, and possibly legitimization of many deplorable acts."
The countries that signed the pro-gay statement are Albania, Andorra, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chile, Colombia, Croatia, Cuba, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Ecuador, Estonia, Finland, France, Gabon, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Guinea-Bissau, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Mauritius, Mexico, Montenegro, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Norway, Paraguay, Poland, Portugal, Romania, San Marino, São Tomé and Príncipe, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Timor-Leste, United Kingdom, Uruguay and Venezuela.
The United States refused to sign the statement, saying its broad language could reach into areas that fall outside of federal jurisdiction, such as the right of each U.S. state to define marriage.
"It is altogether shameful that on this 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Bush administration should take one final swipe at the universal application of human rights for all," said Julie Dorf of the Council for Global Equality. "The shoe incident in Iraq last week painfully shows us how low this country has sunk in the world's view."
Moscow Pride seeks
Moscow Pride will ask the European Court of Human Rights for an emergency hearing on two pending cases challenging Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov's bans on gay pride activities for the past three years.
Pride organizer Nikolai Alekseev said he had received word that the court would not be ready to hear the cases until around 2012.
He said that seems unreasonable given that a ban on the 2005 gay pride parade in Warsaw was struck down by the court in May 2007, less than 18 months after the case was filed.
Moscow Pride first appealed to the Euro Court on Jan. 29, 2007.
On Dec. 4, Luzhkov said he will continue to ban gay pride activities because "propaganda of sexual minorities' opinions ... can be one of the factors in the spread of HIV infection."
Luzhkov previously has called gay pride parades "satanic" and city officials have said the parades would create unacceptable levels of public disorder and security problems.
Despite the bans, gays have staged various small pride events over the past three years. Participants in the events were violently attacked by anti-gay mobs and police officers.
African LGBTs demand
A group of GLBT people from 25 African countries has demanded an urgent response to the HIV pandemic affecting their communities.
The call came at a "pre-conference" held in Dakar, Senegal, Dec. 5 before the start of the International Conference on AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Infections in Africa.
Men who have sex with men ( MSM ) in Africa are about nine times more likely to be HIV-positive than heterosexuals.
"The deliberate refusal to address the needs of men who have sex with men in Africa or anywhere in the world will never help us end the spread of AIDS," said Paula Ettelbrick, executive director of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, which organized the pre-conference, "The refusal to treat the health needs of this population blatantly defies the human rights obligations incumbent on states."
Only seven African countries have included MSM in their national plans for AIDS prevention, while more than two-thirds of African nations still criminalize gay sex.
Organizations that signed the demand included IGLHRC, Behind the Mask ( South Africa ) , the Coalition of African Lesbians ( South Africa ) , Alternatives-Cameroun, the Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya, the AIDS Project Of The East Bay ( Oakland, Calif. ) , the Center for the Right to Health ( Nigeria ) , Sexual Minorities Uganda, Arc-en-Ciel Plus ( Côte d'Ivoire ) , the African HIV Policy Network ( United Kingdom ) , OUT-Well Being ( South Africa ) , and Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals of Botswana.
Chinese gay HIV
The percentage of gay men in China who are HIV-positive increased from 0.4 percent in 2005 to 4.9 percent this year, the Ministry of Health said Nov. 28.
But straight sex remains the predominant way HIV is transmitted in China, accounting for 40 percent of new infections, compared with 28 percent from IV drug use and 5 percent from gay sex.
The gay statistics were based on data collected from 18,000 gay men in more than 60 cities.
China has recorded a total of 260,000 HIV cases, 77,000 AIDS cases and 34,000 AIDS-related deaths.
Moscow gays lose
Gay pride organizers in Moscow lost yet another court case Dec. 2 against city officials who continue to ban pride parades each year.
In frustration, pride organizers applied 155 times this past May to stage a gay pride parade, and were rebuffed each time.
The Moscow City Court rejected claims that the bans violated Russian and European law.
In banning the parades, Mayor Yuri Luzhkov and city officials have cited security and public-disorder concerns.
"The bans of all 155 gay human rights marches in Moscow will be appealed to the European Court of Human Rights," said lead pride organizer Nikolai Alekseev.
Similar appeals from previous years' bans already are awaiting Euro Court action.
Despite this year's ban, on June 1 about 35 activists misled police into going to the wrong location and successfully staged three surprise actions.
As city and riot police blockaded City Hall, activists pulled off a demonstration nearby at the Tchaikovsky statue outside the Moscow Conservatory. They unfurled a banner and flags, spoke with journalists who had accompanied them to the location, and chanted, "Tchaikovsky was also gay," "No to homophobes" and "Equal rights for LGBT."
The action lasted about 15 minutes, after which the group staged a very brief march down the street, then dispersed before police could arrive.
A bit later, a second action took place across the street from City Hall. Activists blockaded themselves inside a third-floor apartment and draped a large banner above the street that read, "Rights for gays and lesbians—homophobia of Moscow mayor should be prosecuted." They also released 250 balloons from the apartment's windows.
Anti-gay protesters threw garbage and eggs at the apartment balcony and at least 36 of them were arrested, police said.
Police eventually broke down the apartment's door and arrested the people inside, charging them with taking part in an unsanctioned demonstration and disobeying a police order.
The protesters who were removed from the apartment spent the night in jail. The charges against them were eventually dropped.
—Assistance: Bill Kelley