A member of Japanâ€™s Osaka Prefectural Assembly came out as a lesbian Aug. 13 at Tokyoâ€™s gay pride parade. â€śHomosexual people have often kept silent for fear of discrimination and prejudice,â€ť Kanako Otsuji, 30, told reporters the day before the march. â€śBy declaring Iâ€™m homosexual, I would like to highlight the problems and put an end to a vicious circle of discrimination and prejudice.â€ť Otsuji also said she has written an autobiography called Coming Out: A Journey for Finding Your True Self. Osaka prefecture has a population of 8.84 million and is second in size only to Tokyo prefecture. Otsuji was elected to the assembly in April 2003.
Syphilis Epidemic Hits Sydney Gays
The syphilis rate among gay men in Sydney, Australia, has increased tenfold since 2000, according to a report in the Medical Journal of Australia. Most of the approximately 200 annual cases are occurring among HIV-positive men. Syphilis had almost disappeared from Sydneyâ€™s gay community in the 1990s but now, experts say, many HIV-positive men have returned to riskier sex practices. Similar increases have been reported in some U.S. and European gay communities.
Chinese University Launches Gay-Studies Course
Fudan University in Shanghai is launching Chinaâ€™s first undergraduate gay-studies course in September, China Daily reported Aug. 16. It will examine gay social, legal and health issues, said sociology professor Sun Zhongxin, who will oversee the class. The initial 100 slots for the course filled quickly and more will be added to accommodate several hundred interested students, Sun said.
The course is being funded by Hong Kongâ€™s Chi Heng Foundation, which sponsors AIDS and antidiscrimination projects.
Marriage Protest In Australia
More than 1,000 gays and lesbians protested in Australia Aug. 13 on the first anniversary of the nationâ€™s ban on same-sex marriage, the Brisbane Courier-Mail reported. In Sydney, about 600 people marched from the gay neighborhood to Hyde Park for a rally there. In Melbourne, 400 people marched from the Town Hall to Federation Square. â€śOur families contribute to the nation like every other family, yet they are still being denied the right to marry or the ability to form federal de facto relationships,â€ť activist Luke Gahan of Australian Marriage Equality told the Courier-Mail.
Australia Gets New National Gay Lobby Group
Australia got a new national gay lobby group Aug. 13. The launch of the Australian Coalition for Equality coincided with the first anniversary of passage of the nationâ€™s ban on same-sex marriage. â€śFor decades, the Australian government has consistently forgotten same-sex couples and their families,â€ť said spokesman Rod Swift. â€śThis means emotional trauma and financial disadvantage in areas as diverse as the Medicare safety net, tax and social-security benefits, and benefits provided to Defense personnel in same-sex relationships.
â€śLGBTI people are treated more unfairly in Australian law than in the laws of almost any other Western country,â€ť he added. â€śMany Eastern European and South American countries rank above Australia in protecting LGBTI human rights.â€ť
Government Suppression for Singapore Gays
Inspired partly by the governmentâ€™s refusal to permit the annual Nation party, as well as by other antigay slights, activists in Singapore are in the midst of a monthlong series of events under the umbrella title IndigNation. â€śIndigNation is a gay community response to the unreasonable ban on parties for gays and lesbians and heavy censorship of publications serving this community,â€ť said the organization People Like Us. â€śIt is a demonstration of the initiative and spirit of grass-roots civil society that the authorities say they want to encourage, but then go out of their way to suppress.â€ť The events include art exhibits, lectures, a poetry night, theater, educational forums and an AlieNation dance party at the Coccolatte club.
Police banned this yearâ€™s Nation circuit party after allowing it the previous four years. They said it is â€ścontrary to public interest in general.â€ť The party, which is organized by Fridae.com, has been moved to Phuket, Thailand, where it is scheduled to take place Nov. 4-6, sponsored by Motorola and Subaru.
Eight thousand people attended last yearâ€™s party, 40 percent of them from overseas. They pumped an estimated $6 million into the Singaporean economy.
Russian City Prohibits Pride Parade
The government of Tyumen, Russia, refused a permit for the cityâ€™s first gay-pride parade Aug. 15, saying organizers had violated procedure by requesting the permit more than 15 days prior to the event, Interfax reported. The parade had been scheduled for Sept. 5 on the cityâ€™s main thoroughfare, Republic Street. Organizers said they were expecting up to 700 marchers.
Tyumen, population 600,000, is located in south-central Russia just above Kazakhstan, about 2,000 miles southeast of Moscow.
Indian Gays Protest Sex Ban
About 100 people took to the streets of Mumbai, India, Aug. 16 to protest the nationâ€™s ban on gay sex, New Delhi Television reported. â€śA large number of countries have repealed this law,â€ť said lawyer Anand Grover, one of the marchers. â€śIn fact itâ€™s a condition for entry into the European Union.â€ť Punishment for violation of Section 377 ranges from a fine to life in prison.
Irish Pop Star Comes Out
Irish pop singer Mark Feehily of the â€śboy bandâ€ť Westlife came out as gay in an interview with Londonâ€™s Sun newspaper Aug. 19. â€śI am gay and Iâ€™m very proud of who I am,â€ť he said. â€śIâ€™m not asking for any sympathy or to be a role model to anyone else.â€ť
Feehily, 25, said he is in a relationship with another singer, Kevin McDaid, 21, who was in a boy band called V. Westlife has sold 34 million albums worldwide including five that went multiplatinum. The band has had 12 No. 1 singles in the United Kingdom and has won two Brit awards and an MTV Europe award, according to the Manchester Evening News.