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LGBTI news briefs 1: Belize, Russia, Sweden

News briefs about countries with anti-gay laws, excerpted with slight modifications from the Equal Eyes recap of the world’s LGBTI-related news. (This is the first of two posts. The second one reports on news from India, Gambia, Kenya and Lebanon.)

IDAHOT celebrations in Moscow were disrupted as participants were forced to the police station. (Photo courtesy of Queer Russia)
IDAHOT celebrations in Moscow were disrupted as participants were forced to the police station. (Photo courtesy of Queer Russia)

IDAHOT celebrations

May 17th marked the 11th annual International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (IDAHOT), celebrating the World Health Organization’s decision to remove homosexuality from the International Classification of Diseases. IDAHOT is now celebrated in more than 130 countries by over 1200 organizations.

Kim Simplis Barrow, First Lady of Belize and Special Envoy for Women and Children, speaks out against violence and harassment against LGBT people. (Click image to see her video via Vimeo)
Kim Simplis Barrow, First Lady of Belize and the country’s Special Envoy for Women and Children, speaks out against violence and harassment against LGBT people. (Click image to see her video via Vimeo)

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Zeid Al-Hussein, called for special attention to young LGBT and intersex people and warned that laws that criminalize people based on gender or sexual identity exacerbate violence and discrimination against young people.

In celebration of IDAHOT, leaders worldwide spoke in support of the LGBTI community. Among them was Commonwealth Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma who said the ongoing discrimination many LGBTI Commonwealth citizens face is “unacceptable” and “robs millions” of the right to live lives of dignity. And in her video, First Lady of Belize warned of the “harsh reality” of bullying and loss of basic human rights.

Russia and its neighbors — good news and bad

Russia held its “largest LGBT rally” in St. Petersburg with representatives from several LGBT and human rights groups, as Erasing 76 Crimes reported. Participant leaders praised local police for supporting the peace and being “true allies” during the event. Meanwhile celebrations in Moscow were less successful. Moscow police disrupted the Rainbow Flashmob dedicated to IDAHO, as reported by participants of the rally in their blogs on social networks. The event of launching colored balloons to the sky was to be held in the Yekaterininskiy Park, but police stopped the rally.

Activist Nikolai Kavkazskiy said “The police brought me to the bus and said that they were not detaining me, but forwarding me somewhere.” According to him, a total of 14 police officers detained LGBT activists, who planned to take part in the celebration. The detainees were taken to the police station, then policemen seized their documents and demanded that they undergo fingerprinting.

Alyona Fursova and Irina Shumilova at their wedding in St. Petersburg. (Photo by Roman Melnyk courtesy of BuzzFeed)
Alyona Fursova and Irina Shumilova at their wedding in St. Petersburg, Russia. (Photo by Roman Melnyk courtesy of BuzzFeed)

In Russia, lawmakers drafted legislation to ban trans people from marrying. The legislation is in response to a trans woman who was able to marry her female partner despite anti-gay laws because of a technicality: the woman’s passport identifies her as a male.

A Russian politician wants Apple to be sued for allegedly violating the country’s anti-gay propaganda law when it automatically sent iPhone users the new U2 album because the album cover features two shirtless men: drummer Larry Mullen Jr. shielding his 18-year-old son in a protective embrace.

U2 album cover
U2 album cover

The newspaper Izvestia says that the cover of the album, in the politician’s view, “depicts the expression of a non-traditional sexual relationship to each other,” and thus breaks the ‘gay propaganda’ law installed in the country.

After a Russian sub was spotted in the Baltic Sea near the Swedish border, the Swedish Peace and Arbitration Society placed a glowing, animated sign in the water that sends out Morse code via sonar. Any Russian submarines nearby would get these messages: “This way if you are gay” and “Welcome to Sweden – Gay since 1944.”   That refers to the year when Sweden officially legalized homosexuality.

For more information, read the full edition of Equal Eyes.

Written by Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart is a 45-year journalism veteran living in Southern California. After his retirement from paid newspaper work in 2011, he launched Erasing 76 Crimes and helped with the Spirit of 76 campaign that assembled a multi-national team of 26 LGBTI rights activists to advocate for change during the International AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C., in July 2012. He is the president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which supports LGBTQ+ rights advocacy journalism, including the Erasing 76 Crimes news site and the African Human Rights Media Network. Contact him via Twitter @76crimes or by email at info@76crimes.com. Mailing address: 21 Marseille, Laguna Niguel CA 92677 USA.

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