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S. African lesbians protest corrective rape

Lesbian activists in the South African capital of Cape Town held a demonstration outside parliament March 14 to call for more action on the problem of “corrective rape.”

The 25 activists from lesbian group Luleki Sizwe want Justice Minister Jeff Radebe to recognize the issue as a hate crime.

Corrective rape, as it is known, is the rape of lesbians to try and “turn” them straight. Activists say it is becoming more common.

The most high-profile case was in 2008, when lesbian footballer Eudy Simelane was raped, beaten and murdered. Two men were jailed for her killing.

As well as demonstrating outside parliament, Luleki Sizwe has organized a 170,000-signature petition from around the world asking the government to look at the issue.

“We have shown that we can mobilize tens of thousands of people in South Africa and around the world, and the ministry now knows that they can no longer ignore our long fight against corrective rape,” said Sizwe, founder of Ndumie Funda. “The question now is what they will actually do about it. The ball is in their court.”

The group wants research into corrective rape and a national plan to tackle sexual violence and hate crimes.

There are an estimated 500,000 rapes in South Africa every year and, for every 25 men accused of rape, 24 go free.

St. Lucia apologizes to gay tourists

The tourism minister of St. Lucia apologized March 14 to the three American tourists brutalized this month in an antigay attack, and said the southern Caribbean island is safe for gay visitors.

Tourism Minister Allen Chastanet issued an apology to three Atlanta men after masked bandits broke into their mountain rental home in Soufriere. One said the gunmen made slurs against gays, white people and Americans during the March 2 assault.

According to the victims’ account, Michael Baker and his boyfriend Nick Smith were in the shower in the evening when they heard their friend Todd Wiggins scream in another part of the house. Baker emerged to find masked men beating Wiggins, and he and Smith eventually were tied up and beaten too. The men hiked down a mountain barefoot to escape after their attackers left.

St. Lucia police said March 14 that two suspects had been arrested and three more are sought. However, the same day, Baker said he was not notified of any arrests.

Wiggins said he was frustrated with the portrayal of the attack.

“I feel that the gay media rushed to declare this a hate crime and the St. Lucian police and government officials rushed to dismiss the possibility that any part of the incident was a hate crime,” he said.

Can. citizenship guide mentions gay rights

The latest version of a Canadian citizenship study guide includes a single sentence about gay rights in what appears to have been an official effort to keep it short.

The revised version of Discover Canada released March 14 follows the first version of the booklet released in 2009. That version contained a passing reference to gay people, namely with a photo and caption of Olympic gold medalist Mark Tewksbury. A draft indicated that more extensive information, including milestones in gay rights, had been planned, but the Office of Immigration minister Jason Kenney ordered the deletion of the material.

On March 14, Kenney, who opposes marriage equality, unveiled the next version, which acknowledges gay rights in Canada, but still doesn’t outline how those relatively recent rights came about.

“Canada’s diversity includes gay and lesbian Canadians, who enjoy the full protection of and equal treatment under the law, including access to civil marriage,” the new version reads.

Kenney said the guide should be praised for having any mention of gay rights, given that the guide published under the Liberal government did not include anything on the subject.

Egale Canada, a national LGBT advocacy group, welcomed the addition to the guide, but called for transgender rights to be included.

Ireland may see first gay head of state

Gay Sen. David Norris has formally announced his bid to become the next president of Ireland. If successful, he will become the first openly gay head of state.

Norris is the current frontrunner for the mainly ceremonial position.

When asked by reporters if Ireland is ready for an openly gay president, Norris said: “I don’t see myself as a gay president, I see myself as a president who happens to be gay.”

A January poll put Norris ahead in the race for president. He was favored by 27 percent of the 1,001 people surveyed.

— compiled by Larry Nichols

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