International News - 5/31/19

International News - 5/31/19

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Kenyan author, LGBT activist Binyavanga Wainaina dies at 48

A colleague and friend of Kenyan author Binyavanga Wainaina says he has died at age 48.

Tom Maliti, the chairman of the Kwani Trust which Wainaina founded, says the author died May 21 at night in Nairobi after an illness.

Wainaina was one of Africa’s best-known authors and will be remembered as a key figure in the artistic community. He won the 2002 Caine Prize for African Writing. His trust has helped produce literary works and promote local writers.

Wainaina also helped to create tolerance for the LGBT community by coming out publicly as gay in a country where laws still criminalize homosexual behavior. He also revealed he was HIV-positive.

Brazil’s supreme court votes to make homophobia a crime

A majority in Brazil’s supreme court has voted to make homophobia and transphobia crimes like racism, a decision coming amid fears the country’s far-right president will roll back LGBT social and legislative gains.

Six of the Supreme Federal Tribunal’s 11 judges have voted in favor of the measure. The five other judges will vote in a court session on June 5, but the result will not be modified. The measure will take effect after all the justices have voted.

Racism was made a crime in Brazil in 1989 with prison sentences of up to five years. The court’s judges ruled that homophobia should be framed within the racism law until the country’s congress approves legislation specifically dealing with LGBT discrimination.

Brazil’s senate is dealing with a bill to criminalize discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender with sentences of up to five years.

“Racism is a crime against flesh and blood, whether it is a member of the LGBT community, a Jew or an Afro-descendant,” justice Luiz Fux said May 23.

The court’s judges said the ruling was to address an omission that had left the LGBT community legally unprotected.

While same-sex marriage is legal in Brazil, it is still a dangerous country for members of the LGBT community and has a large evangelical movement often critical of gay rights. According to the rights group the Grupo Gay da Bahia, 420 LGBT people were killed in Brazil in 2018, while at least 141 have been killed so far this year.

President Jair Bolsonaro, a former army captain who assumed office on Jan. 1, has a history of making offensive comments about LGBTQ folks, the black population, and other minorities, openly acknowledging he is a homophobe. He has said he would rather have a dead son than a gay son.

The ruling “comes at a very good moment, when we have a head of state who is LGBT-phobic,” said Bruna Benevides, president of the Niteroi Diversity group. “The Supreme Court assumed the responsibility to protect us.”

Same-sex couples start registering marriages in Taiwan

Hundreds of same-sex couples in Taiwan rushed to get married on the first day a landmark decision to legalize same-sex marriage took effect.

One household registration office in Taipei was packed May 24 as couples seized the earliest opportunity to tie the knot.

Taiwan became the first place in Asia to allow same-sex marriage recently in a legislative vote, a cause that LGBT rights activists on the island have championed for two decades.

A Taipei resident who identified himself only by a nickname said he and his partner feel lucky that they are able to tell everyone that they have gotten married.

Taiwan’s Ministry of the Interior said about 300 same-sex couples are expected to register May 24.

Kenyan court upholds laws criminalizing same sex relations

A three-judge panel of Kenya’s High Court has upheld sections of the country’s penal code that criminalize same-sex relations.

The judges’ unanimous ruling on May 24 disappointed Kenya’s vibrant gay community, as many had hoped the court would make history by scrapping the colonial-era laws.

Activists argue that the laws criminalizing consensual same-sex relations between adults are in breach of the constitution because they deny basic rights.

The laws prescribe up to 14 years in prison for people convicted of homosexual acts. 


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