September 12, 2007

Newsweek International Features GLBT Stories

Newsweek has given GLBT issues a lot of attention this year, and this week that is the featured topic in their international edition. Featuring a cover titled "Winning the War," this week's issue includes the following stories of interest:

"Gay Rights Gain Around the Globe"

The growing maturity of the gay-rights movement in the West is having a marked effect on the developing world. In the United States, the Republican Party is in trouble in part because it has made a fetish of its opposition to gay marriage. At least some gays in big cities like New York question why they are still holding "pride" parades, as if they were still a closeted minority and not part of the Manhattan mainstream. Since 2001, Western European countries like Belgium, the Netherlands and Spain have gone even farther than the United States, placing gay and lesbian partners on the same legal footing as their heterosexual counterparts. And now, the major developing powers of Asia, Latin America and Africa are following the liberal road—sometimes imitating Western models, sometimes not—but in all cases setting precedents that could spread to the remaining outposts of official homophobia.

In Mexico, the declining clout and prestige of the Roman Catholic Church have emboldened gay-rights activists and their allies in state legislatures and city councils to pass new laws legalizing same-sex civil unions, starting with Mexico City in November. The rising influence of tolerant Western pop culture has encouraged gay men and lesbians to proclaim their sexuality in gay-pride marches like the one in the Brazilian city of São Paulo in June, which drew 3 million participants, according the event's organizers. It was the largest ever in Brazil.

Western models also helped inspire South Africa to legalize civil unions in November 2006, thus becoming the first country in the developing world to do so. In China, the trend goes back to the climate of economic reform that took hold in the 1980s, ending the persecution of the era of Mao Zedong, who considered homosexuals products of the "moldering lifestyle of capitalism."

"Jamaica: Still Bigoted Towards Gays"

While governments in a number of Latin American countries and elsewhere begin to recognize the legal rights of same-sex partners, Jamaica is bolstering its image as one of the most virulently anti-gay societies in the Western Hemisphere. Between February and July of this year, 98 gay men and lesbians were targeted in 43 different mob attacks, according to the Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All-Sexuals and Gays. Four lesbians were raped, four gay men were murdered, and the houses of two gay men were burned down. On Valentine’s Day the police took two hours to reach a Kingston pharmacy where a crowd shouting anti-gay epithets had cornered three men; then the constables allegedly attacked an activist who had tried to help the men, striking him in the abdomen with a rifle butt and slapping him repeatedly in the face.

"Growing Up Gay in Jamaica"

Gay rights may be spreading in many countries, but not in Jamaica. Violence against gay men is high, and police often look the other way, say activists. When Brian Williamson, Jamaica’s leading gay rights activist, was murdered in June 2004, a crowd gathered outside the crime scene to celebrate. NEWSWEEK’s Patrick Falby spoke with Devon, a 30-year-old homosexual who was granted asylum in the United States three years ago, about growing up gay in Jamaica. Devon, who lives in New York and attends a Seventh-day Adventist church, didn’t want his last name used for fear of being thrown out of the congregation.

"Q&A: Sir Ian McKellen on Fighting Bigotry"

Sir Ian McKellen has been a vocal gay-rights advocate since making his own homosexuality public in 1988. The following year he cofounded the gay-rights lobbying group Stonewall UK.

Q: Some argue that some societies, like Singapore's, are too conservative for such changes.

A: There is nothing special about their situation. We heard it all before: "Gays should respect the views of those who condemn them." "Government is powerless to move until society is ready for change." "The law here that outlaws love between two grown men was left behind by the British." I would have thought any self-respecting ex-colony would want to get rid of the colonizer's laws. When I went to lobby Nelson Mandela while the postapartheid constitution was being drafted, I asked him to endorse making it illegal to discriminate on grounds of sexuality. I'd been warned that he might giggle if I mentioned homosexuality. But he got the point immediately and just said, "Yes, of course." Perhaps a winning slogan might be: "What's good enough for Mandela is good enough for us all."

These articles show that views about homosexuality continue to vary wildly around the world, with the gap actually increasing between the left and the right as the left becomes more accepting and promotes GLBT equality. The momentum, at least in the more developed parts of the world, is clearly moving in favor of the GLBT community.

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