by Rex Wockner
Gay weddings decline in UK
The number of same-sex civil partnerships taking place in the United Kingdom dropped 55 percent in 2007 over 2006 — likely reflecting a decline in pent-up demand since the law took effect in December 2005.
The figures were gathered by the Local Government Association from officials in 40 localities.
The Office of National Statistics has recorded a similar drop-off.
More than 16,000 couples formed a civil partnership in 2006 but only 4,060 did so in the first half of 2007, agency records show.
However, the total number of civil partnerships to date exceeds government estimates issued when the law took effect. Officials had expected to see a maximum of 22,000 partnerships by 2010.
Another anti-gay attack in Jamaica
Another in a string of violent attacks on Jamaican gays occurred Jan. 29 in the town of Mandeville, Human Rights Watch reported Feb. 1.
A mob of 15-20 men approached a house where four males lived and demanded they leave the community because they are gay, HRW said. The attackers later broke down the door and beat and slashed the inhabitants.
Police arrived 90 minutes after being called and rescued three of the men. The fourth man fled, with the attackers in pursuit, and is feared to be dead. Blood was found at the mouth of a nearby pit, suggesting, HRW said, that the man fell into it or was killed nearby.
Two of the other three men were taken to a hospital. One had a severed left ear, spine damage and his arm broken in two places.
“This incident is the latest in a string of homophobic mob violence over the last year,” HRW said.
“Roving mobs attacking innocent people and staining the streets with blood should shame the nation’s leaders,” said Scott Long, director of the group’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights Program. “Official silence encourages the spread of hate.”
Gay men arrested for homosexuality in Senegal
Up to 20 men have been arrested on suspicion of homosexuality in Dakar, Senegal, the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission said Feb. 4.
A British Broadcasting Corporation report three days later said at least some of the men had been released from custody. The BBC had no further details.
The arrests occurred after the magazine Icone published photographs of a local gay wedding that took place more than 18 months ago.
IGLHRC said the sensationalistic magazine paid $3,000 to acquire the photos.
“We are afraid for our lives, especially those of us shown in the photographs,” said local activist Jean R. “Some of us have gone into hiding and others are fleeing the country.”
Penal Code Article 319 punishes homosexual acts with up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $3,000.
Palestinian gay group sets out on its own
Al-Qaws, the Palestinian LGBT project of Jerusalem’s Open House gay center, has spun off as an independent organization.
“With this decision, our community begins a new journey with a committed leadership group and widespread local activists, friends and supporters,” the group said in a press release.
Al-Qaws achieved official status as a nonprofit organization in November, and renamed itself “Al-Qaws – for Sexual & Gender Diversity in the Palestinian Society.”
“This new phase presents new opportunities with promises of growth through self-definition for Palestinian LGBTQs,” said Director Haneen Maikey.
Euro Commission warns Netherlands on discrimination
The European Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities has told the Netherlands to fix laws that permit anti-gay churches and religious schools to discriminate against gay people in hiring, local media reported Feb. 4.
Vladimir Spidla said the European Commission could haul the country before the European Court of Justice if it doesn’t beef up gay protections within two months’ time.
European Union law bans employers from discriminating based on sexual orientation, disability, age, race and religion.
The European Commission is the executive branch of the 27-nation European Union.
Several other nations also received warnings about their implementation of various aspects of the EU’s Employment Equality Directive, which was supposed to be fully implemented by the end of 2003.
Dutch would be OK with gay prime minister
Seventy-eight percent of Dutch people would be OK with having a gay prime minister, according to a poll of 21,000 members of TV program EenVandaag’s permanent opinion panel, NIS News Bulletin reported Feb. 6.
The panel also would be fine with a prime minister who is female (93 percent approval), unmarried (90 percent approval), atheist (87 percent), black (75 percent) or Jewish (53 percent).
But only 27 percent of the panel would support an Islamic prime minister and only 33 percent would be OK with a fundamentalist Christian prime minister.
Eight men jailed in Egypt on homosexuality charges
Human Rights Watch on Feb. 5 highlighted the cases of eight men incarcerated in Cairo, Egypt, following homosexuality-related arrests or convictions.
Two men were arrested last October while having an argument on the street, after one of them told police officers he was HIV-positive. They were handcuffed to a desk for four days in the office of the Morality Police, were later subjected to anal probes and forced HIV testing, reportedly tested positive, and remain in custody in a hospital handcuffed to beds 23 hours a day.
Two other men were arrested because their phone numbers or photographs were in the possession of the first two men. They also were force-tested for HIV and remain in custody pending possible filing of charges.
Four additional men were arrested in November after they secured a lease and moved into the apartment of one of the first four men. They were tortured in custody; deprived of food, drink and blankets; and force-tested for HIV. In January, the four were convicted of “habitual practice of debauchery” and sentenced to one year in prison. On Feb. 2, the convictions were upheld on appeal.
One of the men was told he is HIV-positive and is incarcerated in a hospital chained to a bed 23 hours a day.
“These cases show Egyptian police acting on the dangerous belief that HIV is not a condition to be treated but a crime to be punished,” said Scott Long, director of Human Rights Watch’s LGBT Rights Program. “HIV tests forcibly taken without consent, ill treatment in detention, trials driven by prejudice, and convictions without evidence all violate international law.”
HRW has urged authorities to drop all charges, stop chaining detainees to hospital beds, and make sure the eight men receive good medical care for any serious health conditions.
Olivia Newton-John to perform at Sydney Mardi Gras
Seventies pop star and gay favorite Olivia Newton-John will perform at the party that follows the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras parade March 1.
Newton-John, 59, said the appearance is payback for four decades of support from gay people.
“The gay community has always been a major supporter of mine and I am hopelessly devoted to each and every one of them,” she said. “I can’t wait.”