Amnesty International demanded Sept. 18 that authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina protect participants in the first Sarajevo Queer Festival, which was scheduled for Sept. 24 to 28. “The authorities of Bosnia and Herzegovina must guarantee a climate free of intimidation for lesbian, gay, bisexual nd transgender people,” the group said. “Gay rights activists will use this festival to take to the public their message for equality before the law and an end to discrimination.”
The arts and culture festival was scheduled to offer exhibitions, performances, movies and public discussions. Amnesty said that “in the run-up to the festival, certain parts of the media are unleashing a homophobic campaign which further cultivates deeply entrenched prejudices and may incite violence around the event.”
“Many publications, including the popular SAFF and Dnevni Avaz, have used derogatory language in relation to lesbian and gay people,” said Nicola Duckworth, the group’s program director for Europe and Central Asia. “They have called for the organizers of the festival to be lynched, stoned, doused with petrol or expelled from the country. Death threats have been issued on the Internet against individual gay rights activists. Appeals have also been made to the public to disrupt the festival.”
In addition, posters advocating “Death to Gays” appeared around Sarajevo in early September, and the festival has been denounced by some imams, who object, among other things, to its coinciding with the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. “We do not feel safe for ourselves or for our families,” one of the event’s organizers told Amnesty. “Some of us had to find new accommodation because our names and addresses were made publicly known. We are afraid to use public transport or go out alone.”
Amnesty International USA also weighed in on the matter Sept. 18. The director of the U.S. organization’s LGBT Human Rights Program, Ariel Herrera, said, “We are outraged that LGBT activists in Sarajevo now fear for their lives in a campaign to prevent them from standing up for their rights and organizing to end discrimination.”
The rights to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression are protected by a number of international treaties to which Bosnia and Herzegovina is a party, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.
Irish Hotel Fined For Canceling Gay Event
Ireland’s Equality Tribunal ordered Galway’s Eyre Square Hotel to pay 3,000 euros ($4,276) to two gay men whose social event was cancelled in 2005 because the owner allegedly didn’t want to host gay events, the Irish Times reported Sept. 16.
The money compensates Peter McGuffin and Enda Harte for being discriminated against in access to public accommodations based on their sexual orientation. Although the hotel’s manager eventually allowed the impending event to go ahead, the men’s weekly event at another hotel under the same ownership, the Victoria Hotel, was cancelled permanently two weeks later.
The hotels’ owner claimed the cancellations resulted from the events’ unprofitability, but the tribunal determined the hotels’ managers had said the problem was the events’ gay nature. The tribunal also suggested that posters advertising the Eyre Square event had been torn down by hotel employees.
Germany Reports 68,000 Same-Sex Couples
There are 68,000 same-sex couples in Germany, according to the latest annual microcensus. Some 15,000 same-sex couples have entered an official registered partnership. The new census number may be an undercount because respondents were allowed to leave that section of the form blank if they chose to, officials told the Deutsche Presse-Agentur news service.
Brazilian Court: Gay Couples Can Be Recognized Under Current Law, President Lula Comes Out In Favor Of Civil Unions
Same-sex couples can be officially recognized as families under existing law, Brazil’s Superior Court of Justice has ruled 3-2, according to a Sept. 17 report by GayNewsWatch.com. The ruling seemingly clears the way for other courts to recognize gay couples without legislators’ passing any new laws. The decision came in a case brought by longtime gay couple Antônio Carlos Silva and Brent James Townsend. Townsend is Canadian, the couple married in Canada, and he is seeking permanent residence in Brazil.
The case now returns to Rio de Janeiro’s highest court for a determination consistent with the Superior Court ruling. Meanwhile, Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva said Sept. 17 that he supports passing a national civil-union law for same-sex couples.
One such measure has been stalled in Congress for several years. “There are men living with men, women living with women, and they often live well, even extraordinarily,” Lula told TV Brasil. “They are building lives together, working together, and that’s why I am in favor (of civil unions).”
“We must stop with hypocrisy,” he added. “One thing that deeply bothers me is these politicians are not rejecting gay votes and the Brazilian government is not refusing the taxes they pay.”
Nepal Recognizes ‘Third’ Gender; Gov’t Funds Gay Programs
A 21-year-old lesbian has become the first person to receive an official Nepalese national identity card listing the gender as “third” rather than “male” or “female.”
Bishnu Adhikari received the designation Sept. 17 after refusing to accept a “male” identity card from the Kaski district administration office in central Nepal, where officials claimed Adhikari appeared to be a man. “This is a landmark victory for sexual and gender minorities in Nepal,” said the Blue Diamond Society, the nation’s most prominent GLBT organization.
Meanwhile, the national government unveiled a budget Sept. 19 that provides funds to “accord special priority to solve the core problems of Nepali people relating to sexual and gender minorities” and to pay for “a common house for 50 people ... to live together for their socialization.”
“This is such a great news that for the first time in Nepal’s history the national budget have provision for sexual and gender minorities,” openly gay lawmaker Sunil Babu Pant said in an e-mail. “This (is a) very symbolic but very positive change of not just attitudes but also (of) helping marginalized and oppressed sexual and gender minorities towards ministering to the development and social/political change. We (would) like to congratulate ... Finance Minister Dr. Babu Ram Bhhatari for making the budget inclusive and historic!”
Pant, a well-known gay activist, was elected to Nepal’s 601-member Constituent Assembly in May. The assembly is drafting a new constitution and also functioning as parliament during the process. He was not elected directly, but was chosen by the Communist Party of Nepal (United) as one of its representatives when the party received enough votes to secure five proportional-representation seats in the assembly.
-Assistance: Bill Kelley