Σάββατο, 29 Σεπτεμβρίου 2012

Christian Institute: There aren’t enough gays in UK to justify giving them equal rights.

Just 2.6 per cent of people questioned by the Office of National Statistics have said that they are either lesbian, gay or bisexual, leading the Christian Institute to question whether such a small populous should be given the right to marry.
Although charities such as Stonewall have long estimated the LGB population to be between six and ten per cent of the population, the findings of the Office of National Statistics survey were that 1.5 per cent of men say they are gay, 0.7 per cent of women say they are lesbian, and 0.4 per cent of people say they are bisexual.
The Christian Institute believe that the figures showed that the gay population is ‘tiny’, and therefore not worthy of being given equal rights to marry. Mike Judge of the organisation told the Daily Mail: “It is staggering that such a monumental change is being carried out on behalf of a tiny proportion of society.”
But Benjamin Cohen of Out4Marriage said: “Quite aside from the fact that many have questioned the accuracy and usefulness of the ONS’s surveys, even if the lesbian, gay and bisexual population was as low as is claimed, why should that therefore mean that LGBT people are entitled to less rights than heterosexual people?
He continued: “Jewish people make up less than half a per cent of the UK population. Yet as a Jew, I have the legal right to get married, for that marriage to be conducted by a Rabbi and recognised by the state, although obviously only currently to someone of the opposite sex. By the Christian Institute’s interpretation of population data, the Jewish population is presumably even more ‘tiny’, so presumably the Christian Institute believe that Jews should, like gay people, be denied the right to marry.”
Ben Summerskill of Stonewall criticised the Office of National Statistic’s research methods telling the Daily Mail: “People are not answering truthfully.
“There are genuinely good reasons for having accurate figures. For example, you do not need to have so many primary schools in Brighton as in Shrewsbury, because there are a lot of gay people in Brighton and, although some have children, they are likely to have fewer children. This is about public money.
“We reckon 6 per cent, the figure the Treasury has used for some time, is a sensible estimate.”
Despite protests, the official census does not include a question on sexuality.

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Malawi backs down on legalizing gay acts.

Malawi’s president will not move to decriminalize homosexuality, despite pledging to do so on taking office, citing a lack of support for such moves by the general public.
President Joyce Banda
Malawian President Joyce Banda has said that her country is not ready to decriminalize homosexualitydespite pledging to do so on taking office.
Banda told the Associated Press that the people of Malawi were not yet ready to take such a step.
‘Anyone who has listened to the debate in Malawi realizes that Malawians are not ready to deal with that right now,’ Banda told the Associated Press’ David Stringer in New York on Wednesday after addressing the United Nations general assembly.
‘I as a leader have no right to influence how people feel.’
‘Where Malawi is and most African countries are, is maybe where America or the UK were about 100 years ago … The best thing the world can do is to allow each country to take its course, to allow each country to have that debate freely without the pressure of being pushed.’
Banda warned that pushing too hard for change could create a backlash.
‘We have seen countries where homosexuals have been killed,’ Banda said.
‘Why? Because, in my view, the country … wasn't ready.’
Since pledging to decriminalize homosexuality in her first State of the Nation speech in May Banda has been attacked by Opposition MPs on the issue who have accused her of being out of step with the Malawian people.
Malawi currently punishes sex between men with up to 14 years imprisonment.

Παρασκευή, 28 Σεπτεμβρίου 2012

Is South Africa failing gay asylum seekers?

With South Africa facing a flood of LGBT refugees from all over the African continent, a creaking asylum system is exposing them to corruption, homophobia and the risk of attack.  In this feature article we investigate the gravity of the situation, its sources and possible solution.
A little over a week ago, Rachel, a 28 year-old asylum seeker from Uganda had her room in a home in a township by Cape Town, broken into and vandalized.
The burglary on 21 May, saw her lose almost all her belongings.
The police filed a report and sent Rachel (whose real name we are withholding for safety reasons) her crime number by text, but so far she’s heard nothing further from them.
‘People have been pointing a finger at my neighbour, who works night shifts and stays in the home all day long’, she tells me.
‘He avoided me for three days and then made up some story. I know he dislikes me as I overheard him once saying to friends in derogatory manner that I like women.’
She stated: ‘There is a lot of violence against gays and lesbians here, especially asylum seekers. Even my lesbian South African friends do not feel safe here. So I don’t tell anyone about my sexuality because I am scared.
‘They also call us names for being foreigners, I get called “makwerekwere,” meaning alien, all the time.’
I asked her if the South African authorities treat her well to which she replied: ‘They don’t care and make it very hard to get refugee status.
‘They tell me I have to work but don’t allow me to work as a soccer player, which is my profession, saying you don’t have the right papers.’
Rachel fled from Uganda three years ago after her father was murdered by state security forces and the rest of the family faced death threats.
Despite the poverty and hardship she faces she puts on a brave face. Laughing, she said: ‘I know everything will be alright, I am strong. I lose my father, and if I find my place broken into, I say “ah, I don’t have a father, no work, so what?”’
Stabbed and beaten
On Friday (25 May), at approximately 9.40pm, Miteo Kalonji Junior, a 29-year-old gay man from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, who is also seeking asylum in South Africa, was returning home from a party and was approached by ‘four guys walking a dog’.
Trembling he told me: ‘They shouted “you are gay, give us money!” They only found 100 Rand ($12 €9.50) on me and said: “You’re gay and we’re going to kill you! You are a foreigner”.’
They stabbed him severely with a knife, hit his legs and threw him from the train platform to the rails. He was hospitalized and after receiving treatment he’s still unable to walk.
‘Homophobia and xenophobia is a big problem in South Africa,’ he said. ‘I was already attacked on 3 January by the same gang, and was so badly hurt I had to undergo surgery and as a result I lost my job because I was hospitalized, having been made homeless.’
I ask him if he received any help.
‘Well, I went to a shelter in Cape Town and they gave me accommodation for a month and then asked me for money, but as I didn’t have any they threw me out to the streets,’ he told me.
‘White South African LGBT organizations don’t really care about us black people.
‘I am only receiving help now from friends, a bit of food, and I stay with a friend of mine, I am sick, traumatized, have no money even for my medicine, I don’t know what to do.’
Junior, who is also a gay activist, has been in South Africa for three years after his family chased him and threatened to kill him if he didn’t leave Congo because of his sexuality.
Upon his arrival he went to register as an asylum seeker at Department of Home Affairs, and was asked to pay a bribe of 2,600 Rand ($307 €247), even though registration is supposed to be free.
A growing crisis
Homophobia is on the rise in Africa, with more states passing anti LGBT legislation and both state and social persecution on the increase, according to a recent report by Amnesty International.
‘There are countless people who leave their homes around the African continent where their lives are at risk simply because they are gay. The easiest place to flee is to South Africa,’ David Von Burgsdorff, program coordinator for People Against Suffering, Oppression and Poverty (PASSOP), he told me.
He fully expects numbers fleeing to South Africa to increase steadily as the waves of homophobia continue.
‘But, when xenophobia is compounded with homophobia, it leaves many LGBT people in conditions not unlike those in the countries they fled from in the first place,’ he said.
Burgsdorff also told us that until now there has been little help offered to gay refugees in South Africa.
He said: ‘The problem we found is that these people come here and are not helped by anyone.
‘On the one hand you have organizations that support refugees, but they don’t know how to deal with cases of homophobia. And on the other hand, we have the LGBTI support groups, but many don’t understand the rights of refugees or know how to assist victims of xenophobia.’
Burgsdorff clarified it is not a case of the LGBT groups being xenophobic, but rather a lack of capability: ‘They don’t know about refugee rights, so they don’t know how to help them.’
Activist Junior Mayema, himself an asylum seeker from the Democratic Republic of the Congo and a volunteer with PASSOP complains that the ‘LGBT community live in their own corner, they don’t care about the abuse that black South Africans face, far less we refugees.’
Like Miteo Junior, he recounts: ‘There is a gay shelter in Cape Town where they only allow white LGBT people to stay longer, I stayed there only one month and was kicked out.
‘The priority of South African LGBT organizations and community is to help South African LGBTI individuals, but LGBTI refugees like myself have less access to support groups and assistance.’
Humiliation, barriers and corruption
The other major obstacle gay and trans refugees face, according to Burgsdorff, is humiliating treatment and discrimination by officials at the Department of Home Affairs (DHA).
‘We have reports of officers who have laughed at transsexuals and transvestites,’ he said, adding that this points to a lack of training by the department.
Burgsdorff would also like the department to keep track of the number of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender refugees in South Africa, and be open about how many cases are accepted and denied.
Department of Home Affairs spokesman, Ronnie Mamoepa, said it is unconstitutional to deny an asylum seeker their rights due to their sexual orientation and that the department investigates any reported cases of discrimination and homophobia by its officials.
Mayema, however, doesn’t place much confidence in these assurances and wants stronger action against xenophobia and homophobia in South Africa, pointing to other barriers put up by the DHA.
He told me: ‘Firstly, asylum seekers are only allowed to work at low income menial jobs, and these are anyway hard to come by. That’s why Rachel is not allowed to work as a soccer player.
‘This pushes many LGBT people into sex work, thus putting them at risk of contracting HIV, or even worse, out of desperation they turn to crime. When they are caught they face jail sentences. Once in prison there are many cases of rape and homophobic violence is not uncommon.
‘Secondly, the whole DHA asylum-refugee system doesn’t work adequately here.’
DHA states that upon arrival an asylum seeker must immediately ask for an interview with a refugee reception center officer. If they pass that hurdle they are issued with an asylum seeker’s permit – often referred to as a ‘section 22 permit’ which allows them to stay in South Africa.
This doesn’t recognize the person as a legitimate asylum seeker, it merely gives them the right to stay for three months, and must be renewed after that.
This continues until the person is invited for a ‘status determination hearing’. If they are then found to be genuine, they are officially recognized as a refugee and can apply for official identification papers and a travel document. Five years after being recognized as refugee the person can be naturalized as a South African citizen.
In reality neither Rachel, Junior (both living in South Africa for over three years) and Mayema (for over two years) have even got to the stage of a ‘status determination hearing’.
Mayema said: ‘You must renew this permit 22 every time and the DHA can decide at any point that you are not a refugee and immediately deport you back home, there is no refugee status for most of the asylum seekers here.’
Meanwhile applicants face corruption along the way, often, like Junior, being forced to pay large sums of money for receiving or renewing their section 22 permit. A report by UN humanitarian news agency IRIN earlier this year backed these claims of corruption and red tape ensnaring asylum seekers.
New hope
LGBTI rights group, the Triangle Project, identified these problems and set up its first support group for LGBT refugees late last year, according to director Jayne Arnott.
She says the support group focused on accessing employment opportunities and housing, and on finding safe places where gay refugees do not need to hide their sexual orientation.
To this end PASSOP, with the help and expertise of Junior Mayema, are setting up a Gay Refugee Program which will provide support to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex refugees, advocate for their rights and strengthen the network of gay and trans asylum seekers living in South Africa.
‘Through this program, PASSOP wishes to join in the efforts of many other organizations dedicated to LGBTI rights in South Africa,’ Burgsdorff said.
The refugees are hopeful this will make a difference but with so many gay asylum seekers coming to South Africa there is still the possibility that this new initiative will soon be swamped.

Canada: University website tracks anti-gay Twitter comments.

A new Canadian social experiment has found that millions of anti-gay slurs have been used on Twitter in the past two months.
The University of Alberta’s Institute for Sexual Minority Studies and Services is behind a new web-based project designed to act as a “social mirror” that reflects the use of homophobic language online.
The Advocate reports that the department’s newly-created website NoHomophobes.com has a daily counter on its home page that tracks the number of slurs tweeted.
Figures show that the word “faggot” was used more than 2.5 million times since July. Last week alone, it was in 219,000 tweets.
Meanwhile, the phrase “So Gay,” was in 900,000 tweets, while another 800,000 had “No Homo.”
The word “dyke” came across in 350,000 comments.
The institute’s Associate Director Kristopher Wells said his team “never imagined the scale of casual homophobia that actually exists on social media,” adding that it continues to be “one of the few …acceptable forms of discrimination in our society.”

New California law good news for same-sex couples wanting to have children.

Governor Jerry Brown signs bill that ensures equal access to fertility services.
Same-sex couples and single people in California will now have the same access to fertilty services that were previously only available to heterosexual couples.
Governor Jerry Brown signed into law Friday (28 September) Assembly Bill 2356 which means that women seeking fertility services with a known donor who is not their partner are no longer subject to time-consuming and costly repeat testing with each insemination effort.
'This law allows doctors and providers to provide services that are currently only available to different-sex couples to people using known donors,' said Cathy Sakimura, Family Protection Project Director at the National Center for Lesbian Rights which co-sponsored the bill with Equality California.
'Many intended parents who would not otherwise be able to afford any fertility services will be able to access safer and more effective procedures under this new law,' Sakimura added.
The bill authored by Assemblymember Nancy Skinner, will go into effect on January 1, 2013.

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Memoirs of a Gaysian.

Gay Star News interviews Australian author Benjamin Laws about his book, Adventures in Gaysia, that explores different aspects of queer life in Indonesia, Thailand, China, Japan, India, Malaysia and Burma.
Benjamin Law, author of Adventures in Gaysia
With vivid depictions of a transexual beauty pageant in Thailand, a gay nudist hotel in Bali, the ugly forefront of the fight against the HIV epidemic in Burma and a happy-clappy Sunday service at a ‘gay cure’ church in Malaysia, Adventures in Gaysia has more color than a Pride march in Mumbai. It’s also hilarious and serious.
Gay Star News talks to Australian magazine journalist and author Benjamin Law about the inspiration, the ups and downs and why there’s no need to take notes on penises.
Why did you decide to write this book?
First of all, I've been gay and Asian for as long as I can remember. My parents are both Chinese, my dad was born in the south of China and my mum was born in Malaysia and they moved to Hong Kong at a young age and spent a lot of their youth there before moving to Australia. 
I think most of us with an imagination wonder what it would've been like if we had been born during our parents' time. When you're a child of migrants that question is magnified to another level where you often ask, what would my life be like if I'd been born in another country?
A lot of the news stories I'm interested in are queer stories set in Asia: queer events in China being shut down mysteriously, the decriminalization of homosexuality in India. And whenever I read news stories, my instinct is always to wonder about the human side.  I want to know, if there is a transexual beauty pageant going on in Thailand, what are the lives for those transexual women actually like?
How much traveling did you do? How long did you spend in each place? How long were you travelling for in total?
Overall I spent 18 months going in and out of Asia. I didn't do it all in one block. I found I needed to come back to Australia to get some perspective. 
When it came to the countries I set myself a minimum of a month in each country. But a month's quite short as well so in some countries I found I had to spend longer. For China, I spent two months in Beijing. But I was glad for that because China proved more difficult to access their queer stories. In a place like India, everyone wants to talk but in a place like China, you really do need to earn people's trust. 
What were the most challenging countries to travel in and to write about?
Every country posed different challenges. Japan was super easy because the infrastructure's so great as it's a developed nation. But so few people spoke English fluently and Japanese society is very much quiet and reserved. They're not necessarily willing to confess their entire life story and secrets.
So Japan was an easy country to move around in but really difficult for the interviews. Whereas a place like India is so challenging as a traveler sometimes, but, great for interviews, because everyone's so animated and they've got such great stories. 
One of the most challenging countries was Burma or Myanmar as I call it in the book. I've traveled in Asia quite a bit before writing this book but Myanmar was the first country where I felt quite a bit of culture shock. When I was there Aung San Suu Kyi had just been released from house arrest, but no one was allowed to be the country as a foreign journalist. It was in that transition stage. The country's so poor as well, I don't think I'd experienced that level of poverty before.
When I started speaking to people, the chapter on Myanmar focuses on HIV infection, just trying to digest the extent of the horror there when it came to people's health was difficult for me. At the end of that chapter one of my interviewees who was an HIV positive transgender sex worker, turned the tables on me and asked me what I could do to help.
When you go to write a book like this about important issues you think ‘well I'm doing a very noble act by writing a book’. But you realise when people turn the tables on you and start asking questions like ‘what are you doing here and how can you help us?’ that writing can only get you so far. The enormity and the sheer scale of the HIV situation in Myanmar still plays on my mind. 
Has the situation in Burma/Myanmar improved with the political opening up of the country? 
I think it can only get better in some ways. I think it would be very hard to get worse. When I was there it really felt like things had hit rock bottom. A couple of years before I arrived a lot of the non-government organizations like Medicin sans Frontier (MSF), who are the biggest distributors of life-saving antiretrovirals in the country, had to literally turn people away.
I can't imagine what that's like to be a foreign aid worker. You’re in a country to save people's lives and then to get there and say to people 'we can't help you’. That must've been devasting for everyone involved.
With opening dialogue between Myanmar and other countries, more transparency and willingness to discuss different kinds of democratic reform, it can only get better. In some ways I'm concerned that opening up tourism at such speed will only increase sexually transmitted infections. But on the other hand, opening it up, must also open up channels for aid as well, hopefully. 
There’s a particularly shocking moment in the Myanmar chapter when you realise that an HIV prevention NGO worker you are interviewing regularly solicits the sex workers. What was your reaction when you realised what was happening?
Umm, a whole new world! You’re very aware that you're an outsider parachuting in so you want to take everything on face level to give people the benefit of the doubt. It’s not until you actually step away from the situation that you realise this is fundamentally strange and wrong. But you're in a completely different culture, a completely different world. In that situation I was thinking: ‘Is this ok? It must be ok it's happening right in front of me? It’s not ok at all!' 
You’re a very funny writer, I laughed out loud many times reading Adventures in Gaysia, did you find it hard to write some of the more serious parts? 
My way of accessing readers is through humor. My main bread-and-butter work is magazine work and I think I'm known for giving a slightly comedic touch to serious issues. I think it's a really important way of accessing a broad readership. If you can make them laugh, then you can tell the truth. 
The book Gaysia is a hard sell. It's about queer issues, in Asia. It’s looking at minorities within a minority and at some points looking at pretty grim issues as well. I was really really conscious of making sure that the book was readable so that it wouldn't just be limited to a gay, lesbian, transexual audience. The way that I wanted to do that was to find the inherent humour in some of these situations. 
I mean, you can't go to the world's biggest transexual beauty pageant in Thailand and not laugh. There is just something inherently hilarious going on. You can't talk to gay men who are going through sham marriages with lesbians and not laugh. When they tell you the details of how they did it, it’s hilarious, tragic and hilarious.   
And those are the stories that always appeal to me. Stuff that's funny but completely tragic as well. And I think that those two things are usually quite intertwined. At least the way I see it. 
I have a question about your writing process. You bring quite a few scenes to life in the book with novelistic detail, but as it’s all taken from real experiences I wondered how you remembered all the details, of for example your night out in Bali? Do you make notes on the night or just hope you remember and write it up the next day? 
It depends on the situation. For instance at the gay nudist resort in Bali where there were naked men all around me with their penises just flopping about, those images just get burnt into your memory. I can never unsee this. My brain is writing notes for me. 
Other places I'm very upfront and I say ‘look I'm a writer, can I talk to you? can I record this conversation?’ and people often respond well to that because, maybe their stories haven't been heard before and they want other people to listen to them. 
I'm old school in a way because I always carry a pen in my pocket. I always lose pieces of paper, but one thing you can't lose is a limb so during the writing of this book my entire arm and hand was always stained with ink.
Which was the hardest chapter to write?
The easiest chapter was probably Thailand because it was my first stop. It was a journey with these women and it was so fun. A beauty pageant gives you a narrative arc as well. 
The hardest chapter to write was probably Japan, because I got really sick with whooping cough there. When you're trying to interview one of the country's most famous TV personalities and they've only given you an hour of your time and you're using translators and everyone's being very polite in their questions and answers and you're coughing so violently that you think you're going to be sick during the interview - that's really hard.
I found Myanmar difficult just because of the subject matter. Just knowing that statistically four out of the five men or transgender people that were HIV positive would not receive antiretroviral treatment, and would die. It wasn't the writing that was difficult. It was trying to comprehend that fact. 
But they all came with challenges. And that's the thing with Asia. These countries that are geographically close to each other are so vastly different in so many ways. Getting my brain around each country, as an outsider, was a really great challenge. I'm really grateful for that opportunity to just dive in and for people to share stories with me. 
In the chapter on Malaysia you visit a church run by an ‘ex-gay’ minister who says he can ‘cure people of the homosexual lifestyle’, just like he says he has been ‘cured’. You stop short of condemning the church out-right, because you say the people you talked to who were there to be ‘cured’ seemed happy. Do you think going there is the the best option for young gay and lesbians in Malaysia?
I don't think it's as simple as that. I’m an openly gay person myself. I come into this story and I already feel that any sort of ex-gay therapy is one, false and two, damaging. It's people trying to change themselves out of something they won't really be able to change themselves out of. 
I spoke to these people, a lot of them younger people in their twenties or early thirties who have been through such traumatic experiences. They've been through being restrained in psych wards, being heavily medicated, being verbally or physically abused by family members and having run-ins with the police. These are damaged people and they said to me 'we are happier here, getting healed out of a gay lifestyle through the church'.
At those moments, and of course this isn't professional at all, I wanted to reach over and grab their arm and say: 'I'm your age, I look like you and I have a great relationship with my same-sex partner and we live happily and our families like each other. In some ways the coming out process was hard for each of us in different ways, but we got through it and it gets better’.
The difficult thing for me talking to these people was, maybe it wouldn't get better. Maybe this was it. Through circumstances, through geography, through culture, through religion, they didn't have many other options. I didn't think that it was a good option at all for them to go through ex-gay therapy. But I had to take it on face value that it was.
That for me was heart-breaking, the idea that this might be the best of several hideous options. It doesn't make it any less hideous, but it might be the only one for them. 
Are there any other parts of ‘Gaysia’ you want to explore?
This is book that is conducive to so many sequels because I only visited seven countries and I had to pick and choose what topics I wanted to focus on and in what countries. I could have easily written about HIV in China or India. I could have written about the queer rights movement in Japan. I could have written about transexuality in India and in Burma rather than Thailand. So I really had to curate this book quite tightly. 
I think Asia could still be done. I think that this book could go on forever. I could be writing it into late age really.
But at the moment I'm interested in Africa because when it comes to homophobia, when it comes to people fighting for the right to live the way they want to live, in countries like Uganda they're discussing the options to legislate state killing of people who are gay or lesbian. Or in South Africa where there are widespread corrective rapes of lesbians - just really fundamentally hideous stuff happening. 
There’s just so much going on around the world. No country has gotten it quite right yet. So I think the concept of the book is something that could be extended to every country of the world really. I'm a little be exhausted now after all my travels so I hope other people pick up the mantle. 
I really wanted to go to Iran for this book. But the more research I did into Iran, the more I talked to my friends who had lived in Tehran, the more I realised that at this stage that was going to be a pretty impossible chapter for someone like me to write.  
Where in ‘Gaysia’ do you think gay people have it best?
It's good in different ways and different countries and bad in different ways. In China and Japan you won't be physically abused, harassed and yelled at for being gay, but instead you're invisible. In some parts of the country you could argue that they don't even have a vocabulary for talking about queer identity. That's incomprehensible to me, the idea that you might not even know yourself who you are and how you express your identity. 
But in Burma queer identities are probably more visible, especially in the cities, but you have a rampant HIV rate. So there are different scales of horror, different dimensions of them. 
How has Adventures in Gaysia been received so far?
The main readership, because it's published in Australia, are Australians and what I found really heartening and really surprising is that a lot of the readership is not just queer people. I mean a lot of the readership is queer people, but there have been a lot of people who have been coming to this book just interested in this subject matter, which I'm really grateful for.
The response has been really really warm and generous to the point where a lot of people have come up to me. A Burmese woman was at one of my book events in my hometown of Brisbane and her brother had died of HIV and she'd never heard anyone speak about HIV in Burma. So that was quite an emotional encounter for both of us I think. 
What are you writing about next?
I always tell myself that I really don't want to write a book for a while after I've written one. And yet I already find myself putting notes together for the next book. I'm not sure what it'll be yet. I have a rough idea. It's embryonic but soon it will be fetal, ha. 
What did you think about the recent gay marriage debate and vote in the Australian parliament?
Even Australians who don't particular support same-sex marriage concede that it's inevitable. The majority of Australians support it and they have for quite a long time now in every survey. And the numbers only go up, not down. We're also at the point where the majority of Australian Christians also support same-sex marriage.
So it's a matter of time. And I think as is the case with most countries with democratic parliaments, politicians are always a little bit older than the rest of the population. Not to be completely harsh but, old people die. And they get replaced by younger politicians who will really champion this reform. There are people even on the conservative side of politics who vocally support it but have been blocked by their party leaders from voting for something they believe in. 
So once those party mechanisms are out of the way I think you're going to see quite vast change in Australia. I wouldn't be surprised if it happens in the next five years. It's definitely on it's way. 
Find out more about Adventures in Gaysia by Benjamin Law here.  

Painting in the face of adversity: Gay art in the UK.

The gay art scene in the UK is suffering from a serious lack of funding but as GSN finds out, there are artists and projects keeping the community alive.
Gay artists are struggling to get funding but Paul Harfleet is the creator of the award winning Pansy Project which highlighted homophobic attacks.
The arts industry in the UK is being squeezed, funding for most projects has been cut in the face of harsh economic conditions.
The gay arts scene has suffered hugely, most notably with the cancellation of two cultural festivals in recent years.
These include Queer Up North, the Manchester-based festival founded in 1992 and London's Gaywise Festival (GFest).
Both festivals provided a platform for gay artists to showcase their work, with Queer Up North (QUN) becoming the largest LBGT arts festival in Europe.
It had its full funding of £97,250 ($157,700 €121,000) cut by the Arts Council in 2008, and with no other money to keep it going was cancelled indefinitely.
At the time the Arts Council said although QUN’S attendance figures had risen year on year since its launch, they were not considered large enough to justify continued funding.
London-based lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex event GFest has also been canceled this year (2012) due to lack of cash.
Niranjan Kamatkar, artistic director of Wise Thoughts, the charity behind the event, said although money for art projects is scarce, Thought Wise is sent work by gay artists all the time.
He said: ‘We get round the year requests from artists all around the world and locally to participate in GFest.’
Kamatkar is concerned about shortfall, especially for emerging gay artists, saying: 'A number of younger artists face huge barriers to get access to mainstream art funding.
‘Some do not know how to approach [sponsors] and others are not sure whether they should engage with the funding system.’
An artist who has found success is Jan Morley, who sells gay giftware through her website Liberty Bodies.
Morley, who has exhibited at GFest in the past, has been an artist for more than 30 years.
She said: ‘I did put some art into GFest two years running. I think it is very important to promote gay art.
‘The gay art scene will carry on whatever but it is a shame that they have been canceled. An opportunity wasted.’
Arts Council England has not abandoned funding for lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender projects altogether.
It will give £70,000 ($114,000 €87,000) a year from 2012 to 2015 to help pay for Homotopia, a Liverpool based queer festival.
Its founder Gary Everett told Gay Star News: ‘Homotopia is something that adds true diversity to the country's cultural landscape and also through our social justice programme.
‘We have made a significant impact in schools, colleges and youth centres with initiatives such as Project Triangle, an award winning anti-hate project.’
Homotopia’s retrospective exhibition of homoerotic drawings by the artist Tom of Finland, attracted over 130,000 visitors when it toured the UK, Sweden and Finland. Proving there is an audience for gay art.
The Liverpool festival was only awarded funding after appealing Arts Council England’s original decision not to support it.
Everett is optimistic about getting enough cash in the future too, saying: ‘Attracting funding in the current climate is tough but there are opportunities for LGBT artists through grants for the arts at Arts Council.
‘Homotopia is also developing a national network of LGBT commissioners, curators and producers to enable more opportunities and platform.’
He also thinks Arts Council England is making ‘significant steps’ in improving access, greater diversity and more opportunities for LGBT arts and artists.
‘When we started out it felt like a wasteland in terms of the organizations making art led by LGBT artists. It is getting better but still a long way to go’, he said.
There are other funding bodies funneling money into gay arts projects.
Creative England, an organization set up to fund projects outside London, has agreed to support a gay cinema season put together by Shout- a Birmingham based gay arts festival.
Some artists are more cautious of ‘queer’ festivals however. Gay artist Paul Harfleet believes they can ‘lose their way’, saying: 'They need to have critical engagement with artists and audiences.’
Harfleet believes they play an important role in showing the gay population ‘as three dimensional beings.’
He says: ‘There are amazing artists who happen to be gay. It is this that should in my opinion be explored. When "gay art" is Googled you tend to get pornography.’
Harfleet, the creator of the award winning Pansy project, where he planted self-seeding pansies in places of homophobic attacks, has never been successful in an application for funding but says he has been commissioned through Arts Council England funded organizations.
He thinks it is hard for any artist to be commercially successful because ‘it appears to be about who you know and making good commercial work.’
The award winning artist also takes issue with the term ‘gay art’ saying: ‘I love good art, if it touches me then it has been successful - a person’s sexuality doesn’t really impact my reading of the art.’
His opinion is reflected in funding - the recession has hit all arts and doesn't seem to have discriminated against gay art. The only good news is that, despite the shortage of cash, the 'scene' is still vibrant with a number of projects finding ways to showcase established and emerging talent and lots of artists are still finding ways to share their work with the public.

Russia snubs Council of Europe over gay rights.

The Council of Europe conference of ministers ended for the first time in its history without a declaration being adopted due to Russia's opposition to a mention of gay rights.
During a conference of the Council of Europe at St. Petersburg, Russia rejected an agreement supporting LGBT rights
Russia refused to sign a declaration issued at the 9th Council of Europe Conference of Ministers responsible for youth, which included an article against discrimination of LGBT youth. 
The conference was concluded today in St. Petersburg, Russia, and for the first time since 1985 a declaration was not adopted.
The theme of the conference this year was 'young people’s access to rights: development of innovative youth policies.'
On the eve of the conference, Russia’s minister of education and science, Dmitry Livanov, noted that ‘we need to find new forms to enhance tolerance and socialization [of young people].’
However, on Tuesday (September 25), the Russian deputy minister of education and science refused to sign the declaration, as it contained ‘an item referring to the requirement to combat discrimination and violation of rights of LGBT youth.’
The deputy minister declared that ‘they [LGBT] are not discriminated against and have all the rights as other citizens, and inclusion of such a special item in the resolution would in effect constitute propaganda of homosexuality, bisexuality and transgenderness.’
By taking such a radical step, Russia, in effect, has openly declared support for discrimination against LGBT citizens.
The comments and refusal to sign the declaration outraged the education ministers of Belgium and Sweden.
Belguim's minister for youth, education and equal opportunities Pascal Smet pointed out that it is necessary to include the principle of non-discrimination against LGBT people in any anti-discrimination provisions, especially when it comes to youth: ‘It's about human dignity and human rights. Giving information [about homosexuality] does not make you gay. It is not propaganda.’.
Sweden's minister for gender equality and deputy minister of education, Nyamko Sabuni, said that although she was disappointed with this outcome of the conference, the adoption of a declaration that did not include the protection of LGBT people against discrimination would be a far more serious disappointment. She emphasized the willingness of Sweden to work further on the resolution of this issue.
Deputy secretary general of the Council of Europe Gabriella Battaini-Dragoni expressed her concern that the declaration was not adopted.
She pointed out that Russia’s position threatens conclusion of the next agreement between Russia and the Council of Europe in the field of youth policy (due for next year). It also affects the implementation of a number of international youth projects and programs with participation of Russian youth and youth organizations.
Speaking with Gay Star news, Polina Savchenko, director of St. Petersburg's Coming Out LGBT organization, said: ‘Russia refused to sign the agreement, due to its internal and external politics about “traditional values”.
‘Anti-homosexual propaganda laws are becoming widespread with nine regions have already adopted them and it is also being discussed on a federal level.
‘Since the declaration item is related to LGBT youth anti-discrimination measures, while the conference was taking place in St. Petersburg which adopted an anti-homosexual propaganda law, Russia’s refusal was consistent with its politics.
‘Russia’s politics is oriented towards less and less freedom, especially for LGBT people, restricting self-expression, access to information and freedom of assembly.
‘While there are no sanctions attached this declaration it is highly symbolic that Russia refused to join other signatory countries in rejecting this agreement over the issue of sexual orientation.
‘It shows that Russia cares less and less about what Europe thinks or international treaties regarding LGBT rights.’
Russia’s minister of education and science, Dmitry Livanov, remained defiant stating on twitter that an article entitled ‘Our track record in Europe is unspoilt’ [regarding LGBT rights] is ‘a calm and objective account of what happened in St. Petersburg’.
Russian LGBT rights advocate Nikolai Alexeyev told Gay Star News: ‘Of course officials are under the obligation to demonstrate they are supporting the anti-homosexual propaganda law and not supporting LGBT rights in anyway.
'Hence this symbolic protest, a kind of sabotage of the declaration just to show they are against gay rights.
'It just shows the intention of Russia, its complete dismissive attitude towards the council of Europe was is deliberating the refusal of Russian authorities to allow Moscow Pride as demanded by the European Court of Human Rights.
'It is all shows that Russia has no intention of respecting international conventions and obligations that deal with LGBT rights.
'I think Russia is becoming more aggressive because there is increasing pressures from all sides, from the European Union, the United Nations, international diplomacy and so of for more protection of LGBT rights.
'Russia is simply isolating itself from the modern world, while advocating its perspective of traditional values.' 

Russia milk carton accused of gay propaganda.

Anti-gay activists reported to Russia’s prosecutor general a milk carton they allege is promoting homosexual propaganda.
Cover of the Russian milk carton accused of promoting gay propaganda
An anti-gay activist group has demanded Russia’s prosecutor general to take action against a milk brand that they allege promotes homosexuality.
Activists also stated that they will picked shops selling milk produced by PepsiCo Inc's Russian subsidiary because they believe that a rainbow on the packaging violates St. Petersburg’s law banning 'homosexual propaganda'.
Reuters reported that the milk product branded, Vesyoly Molochnik, translated as Gay Milkman (although in Russian the word vesyoly does not suggest homosexuality) was deemed to violate the law as it features a rainbow, which the group says is the international symbol for the LGBT movement.
The group stated that it demanded the Russia’s prosecutor general to take action as the packaging violated the law passed in St. Petersburg in February this year, which makes it illegal to spread ‘homosexual propaganda’ that could ‘damage the health, moral and spiritual development of the underaged’. The offence carries a fine of up to 500,000 roubles ($16,100).
‘In the near future we are planning to picket the shops and hand out leaflets informing people that the money they spent on this milk will be used to finance gay propaganda,’ activist Anatoly Artyukh told the Fontanka.ru website.
Reuters reported that the brand is produced by Russian dairy firm Wimm-Bill-Dann, which was acquired by PepsiCo last year. Wimm-Bill-Dann and prosecutors were not immediately available for comment.
Recently Madonna faced prosecution by Russian authorities for ‘homosexual propaganda’ over her MDNA tour concert which was held at St. Petersburg.
In July GSN reported that over 73 people prosecuted in St Petersburg in first four months under 'homosexual propaganda' law.
St Petersbourg's authorities also recently banned gay pride and fined the event's organizers.
The law was promoted by the ruling United Russia party and adopted by St Petersburg's city assembly in February following the introduction of similar laws in the Russian administrative regions of Ryazan and Arkhangelsk in 2006 and 2011.
Currently 9 regions in Russia have a law against so called ‘homosexual propaganda’, which is now being discussed for nationwide federal level legislation.
The US State Department issued a statement condemning the bill after its first reading in November last year.
‘We are deeply concerned by proposed local legislation in Russia that would severely restrict freedoms of expression and assembly for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals, and indeed all Russians,’ the statement read.
However the Russian Foreign Ministry dismissed US criticism on the issue as ‘inappropriate.’ 

Gay Muslim film banned by Kyrgyzstan court.

A Kyrgyzstan court has banned a film about gay Muslims being shown at a human rights festival in the capital Bishkek.
The film 'I am Gay and Muslim' has been banned from being shown at a film festival in Kyrgyzstan.
A documentary about a gay Muslim will no longer be shown at a film festival after a Kyrgyzstan court decision.
The film, ‘I am Gay and Muslim’, was due to be shown at the Bir Duino (One World) Human Rights film festival in the country’s capital Bishkek, today (28 September).
Mufti Rakhmatilla Egemberdiev., Kyrgyzstan chief cleric, said the film presented Islam ‘in a bad form, by using examples of people who have nothing to do with the religion.’
The State Committee on Religious Affairs decided the film contained signs of incitement of religious hatred and humiliation of Muslims.
I Am Gay And Muslim, shot last year in Morocco where being gay is illegal, was directed by 32-year-old Chris Belloni from the Netherlands.
On the his website Belloni says the film follows the stories of young gay men in Morocco exploring their sexual and religious identity.
He says: ‘I am gay and Muslim aims to raise awareness and break the taboo surrounding homosexuality while exposing a broad spectrum of dilemmas that the men struggle with or have overcome in the past.’
Kyrgyzstan authorities also banned controversial film ‘Innocence of Muslims’ earlier in September after it caused uproar throughout the Muslin world for being allegedly anti-Muslim.
Although Kyrgyzstan is seen as one of the more progressive gay equality countries in Central Asia because it legalized same sex relations in 1998, mixing sexuality and religion is a controversial topic.
This week’s HomoLAB included a report from the Kyrgyzstan about gay rights in the country.
The report heard from LBGT charity Labyrs, a Bishkek organization dedicated to promoting gay equality in the country.
A Labrys spokesperson said one of the biggest problems facing the gay community was their ‘sense of self worth’ and it was hard to convince a gay or lesbian person to look after their health.

Les contours du projet de loi sur le mariage gay dévoilés.

Dans le livret de famille, des parents homosexuels devraient être désignés comme "parent 1" et "parent 2".

Le magazine La Vie a publié vendredi 21 septembre les principales dispositions de l'avant-projet de loi sur le mariage "pour tous", qui devrait être présenté en conseil des ministres le 31 octobre. Selon le journal, ce texte ne prévoit pas d'ouverture de la procréation médicalement assistée aux couples homosexuels.

D'un point de vue purement juridique, l'avant-projet entend "laïciser le mariage", après que les auteurs eurent constaté que le mariage était la "prérogative exclusive de l'église durant l'Ancien régime [et que] le mariage civil [...] transpose les règles du droit canon, [mais] n'a toutefois pas été défini par le code civil".


Le document prévoit d'asexualiser les termes employés dans le Code civil concernant le mariage et de remplacer les termes "père" et "mère" par celui de "parent". Dans le livret de famille, des parents homosexuels devraient être désignés comme "parent 1" et "parent 2".
Le projet fait par ailleurs la part belle à la question du nom de famille des enfants issus d'union homosexuelle. "Le texte précise que les parents doivent se mettred'accord sur l'ordre dans lequel leurs noms sont donnés à l'enfant", indique le journal. "A défaut, c'est l'ordre alphabétique qui tranchera." 
Citant des juristes, La Vie pose la question du devenir de la notion de "présomption de paternité", qui repose sur l'obligation de fidélité des époux et qui n'est pas évoquée dans le texte.

Mariage et adoption par les homosexuels : qui est pour, qui est contre ?

Positions des partis et des personnalités politiques sur l'ouverture du mariage et de l'adoption aux homosexuels.


Mom supports six-year-old son in love with another boy.

An American blogger has described the moment her six-year-old son told her he was in love with another boy.
A blogging mum has written about the support she is given her six-year-old son who told her he was in love with another boy.
A supportive mom has written about her six-year-old son who told her he was in love with another boy.
Kelly Byrom, posted the story on the blog, Design is Good on Monday (24 September). 
In her posts Byrom calls her three children different names to protect their identities.
She said: ‘A few days ago Twirl revealed he was in love with another boy. He said mommy do you know who I am in love with?...CJ!
‘And I say “ohh are you?” and he says “yes, I have been in love with him since the day I first saw him in the playground." Twirl had a huge grin on his face and was almost squeezing his knees in excitement.’
The blogger, whose husband Cory is also a blogger, refers to her young daughter as Firecracker and baby son Tornado.
Byrom said: ‘So I already know what tons of people will say, “how does he know he likes boys, he’s only six."
‘I do know my kids are brutally honest, they are not shy about saying what is on their minds. Twirl is telling us how he feels, and is comfortable doing so because he knows we love him, all of him.’
The supportive parents, who describe their son as a ‘gender bender’ who likes everything 'girly and pink' were clear to state that ‘being gay does not equal sex.’
Byrom said she was not going to box her son into a category so early in his life.
‘Right now he has a crush on a boy. Actually two, today he revealed he also has a crush on Carter. Good to see he is keeping his options open,’ she said.