International News: December 2013






Barilla Announces “Diversity and Inclusion” Initiative

Barilla Pasta has announced a major “diversity and inclusion” initiative in response to controversy surrounding homophobic remarks from the company’s CEO.

Last month, Living Out reported that Guido Barilla sparked outrage among activists, consumers and some politicians when he said he would not consider using a gay family to advertise Barilla pasta because gay families don’t represent traditional families. In a press release touting the company’s new initiatives, Chief Executive Officer Claudio Colzani said, “diversity, inclusion and equality have long been grounded in Barilla’s culture, values and code of conduct.”

According to the press release, the new Diversity & Inclusion Board, a Global Diversity Officer, and participation in the HRC Corporate Equality Index, are the result of meetings with civil and human rights leaders in Italy and the United States. Colzani emphasized that while the company has a long history of non-discriminatory practices, he also said [Barilla is] committed to promoting diversity further because “we firmly believe that it’s the right thing to do.”

Russian Officials Spy on Meeting of GLBT Activists

The Russian government allegedly bugged an October meeting of GLBT and human rights activists in an apparent effort to monitor the group’s actions ahead of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. BuzzFeed reported that audio from the private strategy meeting was broadcast on state television as “evidence of threats posed by homosexualists who attempt to infiltrate our country.”

The meeting was presented to the public as a “for-reasons-unclear, closed-to-the-public conference funded by the Soros Foundation [organized because] foreigners were afraid the GLBT-ization of Russia is going too slowly.” The GLBT activists were instead discussing strategies for advancing GLBT rights during the Olympic Games. According to BuzzFeed, one unidentified voice talked about campaigns that could be organized by Pride House International, which has been banned from sponsoring its own space in the Olympic Village in Sochi under Russia’s “homosexual propaganda” ban.

The Russian government has actively suppressed public speech in support of GLBT rights under its ban on the “promotion of non-traditional sexual relations to minors,” but this is the first confirmed incident of government officials spying on GLBT activists in private meetings.

EU Court Says Persecuted Gay and Lesbian Africans Can Seek Asylum

The Court of Justice of the European Union has ruled that three openly gay men seeking to immigrate to the Netherlands to escape persecution in Uganda, Sierra Leone and Senegal qualify for asylum.

The ruling could potentially enable other GLBT Africans to seek asylum in the EU, if they meet certain criteria.

According to The Advocate, the court made it clear that the criminalization of homosexuality alone doesn’t justify asylum. “The acts of persecution must be sufficiently serious by their nature of repetition as to constitute a severe violation of human rights,” the court said.

Vatican Asks for Parish-Level Input on Gay Marriage

Pope Francis has made his beliefs regarding same-sex marriage and GLBT Catholics known. Now, the Vatican is conducting a wide-ranging poll of Catholics asking for their opinions on church teachings on contraception, same-sex marriage and divorce.

The poll, which comes in a questionnaire, will be sent to national bishops’ conferences globally in preparation for a Vatican synod on the family next October. Archbishop Lorenzo Baldisseri, secretary general of the Vatican’s Synod of Bishops, asked the conferences to distribute the poll “immediately as widely as possible to deaneries and parishes so that input from local sources can be received.”

According to The National Catholic Reporter, this is the first time the church’s central hierarchy has asked for such input from grass-roots Catholics since at least the establishment of the synod system following the Second Vatican Council.

German Babies Can Be ‘Indeterminate’

Germany will become the first European nation to introduce a third gender option on birth certificates. In addition to “male” and “female,” parents will have the option of selecting “blank.”

According to Der Spiegel, a new legislative change will enable parents to opt out of determining their baby’s gender, thereby allowing those born with characteristics of both sexes to choose whether to become male or female later in life.

Under the new law, individuals can also opt to remain outside the gender binary altogether. It remains unclear how the change will affect gender assignment in other personal documents, like passports, which still require people to choose between male and female.

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