A Snapshot into the International AIDS Conference

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Thinking of Getting Married, why not steal away to Argentina?

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La Casa Rosada (The Pink House) Argentina

President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner on Wednesday convened a ceremony at the Casa Rosada government house in downtown Buenos Aires to formally sign into law a bill making Argentina the first country in Latin America to legalise marriage for same-sex couples.

“Today we are a society that is a little more egalitarian than last week,” the Buenos Aires Herald quoted President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner as saying at the signing ceremony.

“Life is continually changing us… these issues have to do with the condition of human beings, with aspiring for equality; they’re things that cannot divide us, but should rather unite us… We didn’t take anything away from anyone; we gave rights to those who didn’t have them.”

President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchne

The president added that her country had not just “enacted a law, but rather a social, transversal, diverse, plural, all-encompassing construction, which doesn’t belong to anyone but society.”

The law, which was approved by the Senate last week following a debate that lasted nearly 15 hours (33 votes in favor, 27 against and 3 abstentions), grants same-sex couples the full legal protections and responsibilities that marriage gives to heterosexual couples, including the ability to inherit property and to jointly adopt children.

The South American country is the tenth in the world – and the first in Latin America – to codify gay marriage.

Time reports that the move has already “sent shockwaves through the Americas” while other media outlets have positioned the legalisation of gay marriage as a “defeat of the Roman Catholic church“.

In a report titled “Gay law in Argentina signals waning Catholic power,” Reuters quoted Ana Maria Bidegain, a religious studies professor at Florida International University, as saying: “Evidently the Church has been losing presence and influence regarding political decisions, which is part of a secularization process… People are still Catholic and they still believe in the fundamentals … but they no longer agree with what (the Church) says regarding morality.”

Civil registries across the country will now begin processing long lists of marriage applications from gay couples. The first such ceremony in Buenos Aires is set for Aug 13.

Nations that have legalised gay marriage (via Time)

• The Netherlands (2000)
• Spain (2005)
• Canada (2005)
• Belgium (2006)
• South Africa (2006)
• Norway (2008)
• Sweden (2009)
• Portugal (2010)
• Iceland (2010)
• Argentina (2010)

Surprise Birthday Party Surprise

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Birthday Cake courtesy of my loving partner

Dear Readers:

It has always been the policy of this publication to not comment on the happenings at private lymes/events. This is because whilst here at PINK we value information sharing, we have no intention of becoming The Star, Chat Magazine or 876 Grapevine blog  for that matter. Rather it is our desire to become a socially responsible publication serving the needs of the Jamaican and by extension wider Caribbean Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual and Transgendered (LGBT) community.

Yet notwithstanding the above, given the nature of the attack and unwarranted assault on my guests, my partner and myself who were gathered to celebrate my birthday, one must comment.

The issues

At approximately 12:30 a.m. on the morning of Sunday, July 11 my guests and I were thrown out of, the Experience Lounge on 9 Merrick Ave. Given the fact that we were not given the opportunity to gracefully leave the venue with even a modicum or shred of dignity, kicked out would seem a more appropriate description of the occurrence. Our food was relocated to the ground and I only managed to escape with my cake and a deflated and emotionally wounded partner.

The truth is that I literally felt like the Nigger in the Liquor Store and I have no doubt that many of my guests felt that way as well. What is worse; is the feeling of feeling less than human without power and without rights or even recourse to justice. In such a situation, to stand up would be to encourage a physical confrontation, which would be a loose lose scenario and so retreat like a hapless dog was the only recourse for all in attendance.

Analysis

Since that evening, both my partner and I have reviewed the process that we used to select the location and we are still at a loss for what we could have done differently. On pure aesthetics not only was the location central, but literally a tucked away garden paradise. Further we were always open and honest about the issue of our homosexuality. That the location is actually owned by the Neita family under management by his son (a man with the nickname Chu Chu) only serves to illustrate how out of left field the whole situation is.

Yet in spite of everything, it would be easy to describe the situation as a homophobic assault, BUT IT WAS NOT. It was your typical run of the mill extortion racquet NEITA STYLE. Prior to being KICKED OUT, Mr. Neita had requested we pay him J$15,000 or encourage my guests to purchase more drinks for him to continue playing music and keep his bar open. I agreed and complied with encouraging the guests to purchase more liquor but refused to pay the Extortion amount of J$15,000 on the grounds that this was at variance with the terms of the agreement worked out between his entity and my partner.

Subsequently the request for J$15,000 became a demand and a condition of further use of the venue. In spite of the willingness of my partner to pay the demanded amount, I indicated that I would proceed to end the night’s festivities. Please note that we in no way had requested that the venue become exclusively ours and that it did become that was in no way related to our function.

The Conclusion

As a consequence, the incident was a direct result of my refusal to be extorted and not because it was a gay function. In fact I am of the opinion that if it was a big gay party and I had invited everyone he would have been a very JOLLY FELLOW.

This whole incident holds valuable lessons for me, the most important of which is that one must at all times ensure not to cry wolf and label everything a HATE CRIME. This is a clear consumer rights situation and it is my partner’s call as to what he plans to do regarding the incident. However, I must apologize again to my guests for the behaviour of Mr. Neita and thank all who were in attendance. It was indeed a memorable event in more ways than one.

Regards

Life Behind Bars: Discrimination, Homophobia and HIV

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In just over a week’s time leaders in the field of health and HIV/AIDS policy will be gathered in the Austrian capital of Vienna for the 18th International AIDS Conference. Coming on the heels of the FIFA World Cup in South Africa, this conference comes as a somber reminder of the challenges facing that country and the world. The official conference communiqué describes the event as: the premier gathering for those working in the field of HIV, as well as policy makers, persons living with HIV and other individuals committed to ending the pandemic. It is a chance to assess where we are, evaluate recent scientific developments and lessons learnt, and collectively chart a course forward.

It is true that here in the Caribbean, in spite of reasonably high per capita incomes, smaller land masses and populations (when compared to countries in Central America and Africa) significant challenges remain as it regards access to health care services in general and HIV treatment and prevention services in particular.  However, beyond the issue of access to personnel and physical hospital infrastructure there is the issue of access to pertinent information especially for the Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual and Transgendered (LGBT) community.  Indeed, it must be assessed that the time has come for serious questions to be asked at the regional, local/national and community level about the design of HIV prevention strategies and existing policy support programmes.

The Issue of Homophobia

One of the major questions that must be asked is whether both at the level of policy and implementation if too much time and other resources are being expended on avoiding stigmatizing the disease as a GAY DISEASE. In fact the stigmatization concern at the design level may very well be occurring at the expense of developing meaningful LGBT centered intervention strategies in the region.

An astute observer would note that regional policy makers are constrained in their ability to target the LGBT community because of the presence of restrictive local laws (In the case of Jamaica these restrictions are noted in Sections 76-79 of the Offences Against the Person Act). Further, the global statistics show that even in countries that do not have restrictive laws on homosexual activity, the prevalence rates in their LGBT communities approach epidemic proportions.  However, it is that same astute observation that allows us to calculate the cost of maintaining homophobic legislation on the books.

In Table I below: Jamaica, Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago maintain anti-buggery legislation on their books and have the highest MSM HIV prevalence rates in the Caribbean.  The other four sample countries, namely: the Dominican Republic, the Bahamas, Suriname and Cuba have significantly lower prevalence rates. Notably even if one were to control the sample for cultural differences and thus eliminate Cuba, Suriname, and the Dominican Republic- the cost of maintaining homophobic legislation in the English Speaking Caribbean ranges from 8% to 24% in the case of Jamaica.

Table I

Therefore the programmatic cost of maintaining homophobic legislation is “Tenement Yard” HIV/AIDS strategies that provide less than adequate support to anyone. This, however, does not equate to the human and social cost of broken families and loss of economic productivity.

Yet whilst boardroom level discussions are important, good and instructive, these cannot negate the importance of conversations in the bedroom, back alley, Back Road or where-ever because ultimately that is where the overwhelming majority of new and repeat HIV infections occur.  Whilst it is recognized that hardcore questions must be asked of programmers and policy makers, persons in the LGBT community must begin to speak openly, empower themselves, use condoms properly and use water based lubricants.

On the matter of anti-buggery legislation, maybe J-FLAG and aligned groups should get a heterosexual married couple to launch a constitutional challenge to Sections 76-79. In fact wouldn’t it be ironic if the Pro-buggery campaign became linked to the defense of Marriage. Remember Hebrews 13 vs 4: Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled

Selah

British Supreme Court Ruling forces amendment of UK Asylum rules

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LONDON – Britain’s Supreme Court Wednesday overturned rules which allowed authorities to deport homosexual and lesbian asylum seekers to their home countries with the recommendation that they would not suffer persecution if they “concealed” their sexual orientation.

The Supreme Court ruled that the practice of advising the individuals concerned to keep their sexuality secret was contrary to the Convention on the Status of Refugees.

The case was brought by two homosexual men, one from Cameroon and one from Iran, who challenged the Appeal Court decision on the grounds that they would not be safe ifthey were returned home.

Conservative Home Secretary Theresa May welcomed Wednesday’s unanimous ruling, which she said “vindicates the position of the coalition government”.

“I do not believe it is acceptable to send people home and expect them to hide their sexuality to avoid persecution,” she said, adding that the new government had already promised to review the controversial policy.

With immediate effect, asylum decisions would be considered under the new rules. The judgement provided a legal basis for reframing the guidance for assessing claims based on sexuality, while taking into the merits of each individual case, said May.

One of the men involved, known only as T, appealed against a decision that he should return to his native Cameroon, despite having been attacked by a mob after he was seen kissing a male partner.

The other, an Iranian known as J, was told he could be expected to tolerate conditions arising from his homosexual relationship in his home country, and should behave discreetly to avoid reprisals.

The Convention stipulates that members of a particular social group, which can include groups with a common sexual orientation, are entitled to asylum in states that are parties to the Convention.

Earlier this week, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees expressed concern about the so-called “discretion test” in Britain, saying the procedure turned the International Convention on Refugees “on its head”.

J-FLAG Calls for CARICOM to end Gay Discrimination

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Montego Bay — July 4, 2010
The Jamaica Forum for Lesbians All-sexuals and Gays (J-FLAG) mounted a Stand Up to CARICOM across from the entrance to the Hilton Rose Hall Resort, Montego Bay, Jamaica, the site of the 31st CARICOM Heads of Government meeting.
Expressing satisfaction at the outcome of the morning’s proceedings, Jason McFarlane, Programme Manager of J-FLAG said that “the decision was made to mount this Stand because of the continued presence of anti-buggery laws in 11 of the 14 member states in CARICOM which contribute to discrimination, marginalization and other serious human rights violations of CARICOM citizens. J-FLAG therefore calls for the immediate repeal of such laws and the full integration of LGBTI citizens into the CARICOM family”. The group bore placards calling for the repeal of the anti-buggery laws, as well as an end to gay discrimination and improved human rights for all citizens in CARICOM.
Maurice Tomlinson of AIDS Free World and who was one of the participants expressed his organization’s support stating that such actions are necessary to raise awareness within CARICOM about the rights of LGBTI, including the right to an adequate standard of health. He further stated that anti-buggery laws and discriminatory practices undermine the regional fight against HIV by driving gays underground, away from effective HIV prevention, treatment and care.
The group was able to stand peacefully for 17 minutes before they were asked by police to relocate due to the sensitive nature of the site. The group complied and thanked the police for their professionalism in handling the situation.

Sections 76-79 of the Offences Against the Person Act

Unnatural Offences

76. Whosoever shall be convicted of the abominable crime of buggery, committed either with mankind or with any animal, shall be liable to be imprisoned and kept to hard labour for a term not exceeding ten years.

77. Whosoever shall attempt to commit the said abominable crime, or shall be guilty of any assault with intent to commit the same, or of any indecent assault upon any male person, shall be guilty of a misdemeanour, and being convicted thereof, shall be liable to be imprisoned for a term not exceeding seven years, with or without hard labour.

Proof of Carnal Knowledge

78. Whenever upon the trial of any offence punishable under this Act, it may be necessary to prove carnal knowledge, it shall not be necessary to prove the actual emission of seed in order to constitute a carnal knowledge, but the carnal knowledge shall be deemed complete upon proof of penetration only.

Outrages on Decency

79. Any male person who, in public or private, commits, or is a party to the commission of, or procures or attempts to procure the commission by any male person of, any act of gross indecency with another male person, shall be guilty of a misdemeanour, and being convicted thereof shall be liable at the discretion of the court to be imprisoned for a term not exceeding two years, with or without hard labour.