|Front, left to right: Transgender Italian MP Vladimir Luxuria, Dutch European Parliament Member Sophie in ‚Äėt Veld and Russian MP Aleksei Mitrofanov talk to reporters near Moscow City Hall in 2007 after police arrested organizers of a gay pride rally whi
Twenty-two members of the European Parliament have sent a letter to the Council of Europe‚Äôs Committee of Ministers complaining about Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov‚Äôs permanent ban on public gay events and similar bans elsewhere in Russia.
‚ÄúSince May 2006, the Russian Federation officials have banned 167 public events planned by the local LGBT community in Moscow and other cities across the country,‚ÄĚ the letter states. ‚ÄúSeveral Members of the European Parliament were present during attempts to stage marches in support of freedom and rights for sexual minorities in May 2006 and May 2007, marches which led to the beating of LGBT activists in the streets of Moscow.‚ÄĚ
The letter noted that seven legal cases over the bans are pending at the European Court of Human Rights, with the oldest of the cases dating to February 2007. It pointed out that Moscow‚Äôs fourth annual gay pride is scheduled for May 16, the same day the campy Eurovision Song Contest takes place in Moscow, and suggested that the CoE‚Äôs Committee of Ministers should take some sort of action to end the Russian Federation‚Äôs systematic breach of the GLBT community‚Äôs right to freedom of assembly, which is guaranteed by the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, to which Russia is a signatory.
Mayor Luzhkov has said he will never allow a gay pride parade in Moscow. He has called the parades ‚Äúsatanic‚ÄĚ and ‚Äúweapons of mass destruction.‚ÄĚ
The letter to the Committee of Ministers was signed by MEPs Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert (Netherlands), Sophie in ‚Äėt Veld (Netherlands), Graham Watson (United Kingdom), Marco Cappato (Italy), Alexander Alvaro (Germany), Chris Davies (United Kingdom), Johannes Lebech (Denmark), Maria Robsahm (Sweden), Ignasi Guardans (Spain), Jules Maaten (Netherlands), Daniel Cohn-Bendit (France), Kathalijne Buitenweg (Netherlands), Satu Hassi (Finland), Milan Hor√°cek (Germany), Ra√ľl Romeva (Spain), Anne van Lancker (Belgium), Lissy Gr√∂ner (Germany), Marie-Arlette Carlotti (France), Glenys Kinnock (United Kingdom), Martine Roure (France), Britta Thomsen (Denmark) and Sirpa Pietik√§inen (Finland).
Meanwhile, the third Russian Week Against Homophobia took place March 23-31 in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Petrozavodsk, Arkhangelsk, Tyumen, Omsk, Chelyabinsk, Kemerovo, Krasnoyarsk, Kazan, Novosibirsk, Khabarovsk and Naberezhnye Chelny.
The various cities saw workshops, discussions, debates, film screenings and press conferences.
The Russian LGBT Network and the Moscow Helsinki Group unveiled a report looking at sexual-orientation and gender-identity legal issues and discrimination.
Conflicting Reports on Venezuelan Civil-Union Bill
Venezuela‚Äôs National Assembly is set to legalize same-sex unions with a new ‚Äúassociations of coexistence‚ÄĚ law, MP Romelia Matute told reporters March 20.
She said the law will extend ‚Äújuridical and patrimonial effects,‚ÄĚ likely meaning the legal rights and obligations of marriage, including inheritance rights.
The law also will guarantee that people who change their gender will have the ‚Äúright to recognition of their identity and the expedition or modification of the documents associated with identification.‚ÄĚ
Matute said heterosexuals historically ‚Äúhave been cruel‚ÄĚ to gay people and ‚Äúthe revolution is about taking care of those who have been excluded.‚ÄĚ
However, on March 25, Marelis P√©rez, chairwoman of the Assembly‚Äôs Family, Women and Youth Committee, on which Matute sits, contradicted Matute‚Äôs statements, reported Latino-issues blogger Andr√©s Duque.
‚ÄúThe Gender Equity and Equality Bill establishes respect for those who have a sexual option, safeguards their human rights, calls for no discrimination, but it is something different from granting legal (recognition) to homosexual unions,‚ÄĚ P√©rez told El Tiempo newspaper. ‚ÄúThat is not the objective of this law.‚ÄĚ
She said civil unions will be the subject of a different bill to be considered later.
Vilnius Mayor: Gay March Cannot Be Downtown
The mayor of Vilnius, Lithuania, Vilius Navickas, said March 19 that gays can have a pride parade, but only far from downtown. ‚ÄúI respect everyone under the sun, and their personal lives, but I don‚Äôt think that this personal life needs to be put on display on Gediminas Avenue,‚ÄĚ Navickas said, according to the Baltic Times. ‚ÄúShould there be a request to do this on Gediminas Avenue, we wouldn‚Äôt allow it, but it would be welcomed on, say, Savanoriu Avenue.‚ÄĚ
Savanoriu Avenue is in a less-desirable part of town, distant from the city center, and has heavy traffic. Vilnius‚Äô previous mayor, Juozas Imbrasas, banned pride events on public property altogether, prohibited pride ads from appearing on public-transportation vehicles, and blocked the European Union‚Äôs touring anti-discrimination truck from parking on public property, forcing it into a supermarket parking lot.
Int‚Äôl AIDS Society Blasts Pope
Pope Benedict XVI‚Äôs first-ever remarks on condom use were irresponsible, dangerous, ignorant, outrageous and insulting, officials of the International AIDS Society said March 20. Speaking to reporters March 17, Benedict said AIDS is ‚Äúa tragedy that cannot be overcome ... through the distribution of condoms, which can even increase the problem.‚ÄĚ
IAS President Dr. Julio Montaner responded: ‚ÄúThere is not a shred of evidence to suggest that condoms can increase HIV transmission ‚ÄĒ absolutely the contrary. ... Instead of spreading ignorance, the pope should use his global position of leadership to encourage young people, who are our future, to protect themselves and others from HIV infection using all the tools we have at our disposal, including condoms. His remarks are insulting to the tireless efforts of committed scientific, public health and human rights leaders around the world.‚ÄĚ
According to IAS Executive Director Craig McClure, ‚ÄúMale and female condoms, used correctly and consistently, can reduce the risk of sexual transmission of HIV by 80 to 90 percent.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúTo suggest that condom use contributes to the HIV problem is not merely contrary to scientific evidence and global consensus, it contributes to fueling HIV infection and its consequences - sickness and death,‚ÄĚ McClure said. ‚ÄúSuch outrageous comments are not appropriate coming from the highest office in the hierarchy of the Catholic Church.‚ÄĚ
The IAS is the world‚Äôs leading association of HIV professionals, with more than 13,000 members from 188 countries working at all levels of the global response to HIV/AIDS. The society is the lead organizer of the biennial International AIDS Conference and the IAS Conference on HIV Pathogenesis, Treatment and Prevention.
Serbia Bans GLB Discrimination
Serbia‚Äôs National Assembly banned all forms of discrimination based on sexual orientation March 26. The vote was 127-59, one more vote than was needed for passage. Sixty-four deputies did not show up to vote. ‚ÄúThe law says that sexual orientation is a private matter and no one should be asked to express their sexual orientation in public,‚ÄĚ the local lesbian rights group Labris said in a statement. ‚ÄúOn the other hand, (it says) everybody has the right to express their sexual orientation in public and not be discriminated against because of that.‚ÄĚ
The bill recently had been removed from active consideration in Parliament following objections from the Serbian Orthodox Church. It was then slightly reworded by the government and reactivated, following what Labris called ‚Äústrong pressure from the public and relevant international organizations.‚ÄĚ
Enactment of a national law covering discrimination based on sexual orientation is a requirement for nations that seek visa-free travel to the European Union for their citizens.
-assistance: Bill Kelley