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Gays and straights strip in Sydney

More than 5,200 people gathered at the Sydney Opera House in Australia on Feb. 28 and stripped down to take part in a photographic installation by renowned artist Spencer Tunick.

The installation, titled “Mardi Gras: The Base,” was a part of the annual Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras and was intended to be a demonstration of diversity.

“Gay men and women lay naked next to their straight neighbors and this delivered a very strong message to the world that Australians embrace a free and equal society,” Tunick said.

He asked subjects to pose with their hands by their sides, up above their heads and even asked all couples in the crowd to embrace before moving everyone to pose inside the theater.

Half-million petition antigay bill

Opponents of a proposed law that would impose the death penalty on gay people in Uganda delivered a petition with 500,000 signatures to parliament on March 1 calling for the bill’s rejection.

The petition was organized by campaign group Avaaz, which hopes to eventually garner 1 million signatures.

A letter accompanied the petition asking parliament to reject the controversial bill and instead pass legislation to protect gay people.

Speaker of Parliament Edward Sekandi promised the delegation he would refer the petition to a committee for scrutiny.

If passed, the legislation will impose the death penalty on those who have homosexual sex with a minor or a disabled person or while infected with AIDS. The death penalty would also be imposed on repeat offenders, while others convicted of having gay sex would be jailed for life, instead of the current 14-year term.

Those who fail to report homosexual activity, such as relatives, teachers, landlords or health workers, would also face prison sentences.

The bill is now before parliament and awaiting debate.

Lesbian relationships close school

A girls’ dormitory at a South African boarding school has reportedly been closed over allegations of lesbian relationships.

The unnamed high school, in the KwaZulu-Natal province, is said to have discovered two female boarders kissing this week. Local reports claim the pair then identified 27 other “lesbians” in the dormitory and all have now been expelled.

South Africa bans discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation but the country still suffers from homophobia.

South African education officials are investigating why the school was closed.

Education Department spokesperson Sihle Mlotshwa said schools were not permitted to expel pupils for being gay.

“The school has been visited by district officials on a fact-finding mission,” he said. “There’s going to be a meeting with all relevant stakeholders to look at this issue.”

Local gay-rights activist Nonhlanhla Mkhize, of the Durban gay and lesbian community health centre, said the incident was “shocking.”

“Such incidents make you wonder whether schools are there to promote only certain aspects of society,” she said. “Sexual orientation aside, this is a serious injustice to the pupils.”

Some of the 300 girls who lived in the dormitory are being accommodated in nearby centers, while others have returned home.

Slovakia to hold first Pride festival

Slovakia is set to become the last country in the European Union to hold a Pride festival with the announcement of Dúhový (Rainbow) Pride taking place in Bratislava on May 22, the first event of its kind in the country.

Few details have been announced but Romana Schlesinger, a spokesperson for the event, said Rainbow Pride Bratislava 2010 is “an important step toward the visibility of lesbian and gay people in the public space.”

“This really is fantastic news. There are still so many countries around the world where it is illegal to be lesbian or gay, let alone hold a Pride event,” said Paul Birrell, chair of Pride London and regional director for InterPride. “There continues to be opposition and violence at some events, such as Sofia [Bulgaria], and Belgrade [Serbia], but Slovakia is sending a strong message that no country in Europe is a Pride-free zone.”

Malawi targets gay-rights group

Police in Malawi said Feb. 28 they had discovered “pornographic films” at the office of a human-rights group and that police officers were, as a result, hunting down a number of prominent citizens to charge them with “having carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature” and “indecent practices between males.”

“We are targeting some prominent personalities and our suspects include legislators, priests, academics and other professionals,” said police spokesperson David Chingwalu.

He would not identify the organization that had been raided.

Homosexuality is illegal in Malawi, where the country’s one known gay group, the Centre for the Development of People, operates underground. The organization has been providing financial support to gay couple Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza, who have been charged with “indecent practices” after getting married in the country’s first same-sex wedding in December.

The couple could face up to 14 years in prison if convicted.

Larry Nichols can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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