International News: May 2014
Lesbian–Only Cemetery Opens in Berlin
A new burial area for exclusively for lesbians was created in a two-century-old cemetery in the German capital last month. A 4,300-square-foot area of the Lutheran Georgen Parochial cemetery, established in 1814 in central Berlin, will be reserved as a graveyard for up to 80 lesbians.
A spokeswoman for the Safia Association – a national group primarily for elderly lesbians – says the patch of land is a space where “the lesbian community can live together in the afterlife.” The group was given use of the cemetery area in exchange for cleaning up and landscaping it.
Ugandan HIV Center Raided in Undercover Sting
A Ugandan HIV center, run by the U.S. Military HIV Program in partnership with Makerere University in Kampala, was raided in what appears to be a weeks-long undercover operation. According to Buzzfeed, surveillance of the facility began following a March 15 report the NGO was “carrying out recruitment and training of young males in unnatural sexual acts.”
Crime intelligence officers posed as men seeking safe-sex education and said they found that the “training” targeted youth between the ages of 18 and 25 who “were shown videos of men engaging in homosexual activity.”
Gay Men Can’t Donate Blood in No. Ireland
A ban on gay men donating blood in Northern Ireland is under fire, forcing Northern Ireland Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, to defend his decision. Gay Star News reported that, in October, a judge in Belfast determined the ban to be ‘irrational.’ The ban was enforced from the 1980s until 2011, when it was lifted in England, Scotland and Wales. New guidelines now allow gay and bisexual men to donate so long as they haven’t had any sexual contact with another man for a year.
Shadow Health Secretary Ed Burnham stated that “gay men in Northern Ireland should have the same rights to help others by donating as gay men in England, Scotland and Wales.” Hunt has begun to appeal the ruling saying, “banning ‘gay blood’ is needed to ensure public safety.”
England, Wales Begin Same Sex Marriages
Gay and lesbian couples can now say ‘I Do’ in England and Wales due to the passage of a marriage equality law. The British Parliament passed the law in July 2013 and went into effect during late March 2014. England and Whales are two out of ten European nations – of 28 – to enact marriage equality laws. Britain was already allowing gay couples to adopt children and serve openly in the military.
The bill saw very little resistance from opponents and supporters thought that same-sex marriage was long overdue. The lack of opposition shows how the attitudes have changed in a country where, a decade ago, same-sex couples were described as “a pretended family relationship,” and schools couldn’t do anything that might promote homosexuality.
Scotland also passed a marriage equality bill in February 2014 and is expected to go into effect this fall.
Ethiopia Expected to Toughen Anti-GLBT Laws
Legislators in Ethiopia are expected to pass a bill that would prohibit the pardoning of people who have been convicted of crimes related to their homosexuality. Presently, same-sex acts are punishable by up to 15 years in prison and a 25-year jail term is given to anyone convicted of infecting another person with HIV during same-sex acts. The bill was sponsored by the Ministry of Justice and is to be put to a vote at the end of April.
Public opinion is on the side of the legislation and an anti-gay rally – spearheaded by the government-affiliated Addis Ababa Youth Forum and a religious group associated with the Ethiopian Orthodox Church – is scheduled for April 26 to protest the “rising incidents” of homosexuality in the conservative Horn of Africa nation. Information Minister Redwan Hussein (pictured above) said they “just see it as the right to have a demonstration.”
Teen Takes on Chinese Government in Lawsuit
Nineteen-year-old gay rights activist, Xiang Xiaohan from Hunan Province, is suing the Chinese government, making him the first gay man to do so. According to the BBC, Xiang filed his lawsuit after the government declined to register his gay-rights organization, Same-Sex Love Assistance Network.
In a written reply to Xiang’s request, the Hunan government said, “homosexuality has no place in Chinese traditional culture and the building of spiritual civilization.” Homosexuality was illegal in the country from 1997 until 2001, when it was then defined as a mental disorder.
by Rachel Roth