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Lawyers discuss LGBT rights

Gay-rights activists and lawyers from 11 countries recently met in South Africa for a four-day workshop on legal strategies for promoting LGBT rights in Africa.

The 45 participants came from Botswana, Cameroon, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Morocco, Namibia, Nigeria, South Africa, Uganda and Zimbabwe.

It was the first meeting between lawyers who have worked on LGBT-rights litigation and African LGBT leaders. Participants reviewed key pieces of litigation to discuss and document lessons learned.

These cases included an unsuccessful challenge to Botswana’s sodomy laws in 2003, the prosecutions of 11 gay men in Cameroon in 2006, the arrests of two women in Rwanda on charges related to sexual orientation in 2008 and the ongoing trial of 18 young men in Northern Nigerian on charges of cross-dressing and homosexuality.

Lawyers, activist leaders and donors attending the meeting acknowledged the importance of impact litigation for repealing sodomy laws and challenging other discriminatory statutes and policies.

Participants also discussed the need for security for lawyers defending LGBT clients and causes. Many of the lawyers at the meeting had faced attacks on their reputations, attempts at disbarment and even physical violence.

Olympian lands sponsorship deal

After winning an Olympic gold medal in the Beijing Games last August, some were surprised that Matthew Mitcham, 20, wasn’t signed to numerous endorsement deals upon his return to Australia.

Until recently, the openly gay diver’s Olympic glory has only won him a deal as the national face of AussieBum, a swimwear brand.

Some argued that Mitcham’s sexual orientation may have been the reason he was not offered the lucrative ad contracts that so many Olympians were rewarded before him.

It has now been confirmed that Mitcham will represent telecom company Telstra at events and product launches.

The company said he is a “positive role model for all Australians.”

Mitcham declined to reveal how much the Telstra deal is worth.

“I was a little bit worried [about the lack of sponsors], so hopefully this will be a snowball effect, but I don’t want to count my chickens,” he said. “If I can get the opportunity where I would be able to train without having to worry about paying the bills, that would be the ultimate goal.”

Mitcham currently trains 11 times a week in preparation for the 2012 London Olympics.

He was the only out male athlete to compete in the games.

Despite intensive coverage of other gold medalists’ personal lives during the Games, NBC failed to mention Mitcham was gay, or show footage of the diver’s partner cheering him on and congratulating him after the win.

German athlete to get biopic

The story of a former East German professional soccer player who left the game after deciding to come out of the closet will be made into a film.

Marcus Urban, 38, was sent to a sports boarding school at 13 and played for the national youth teams in the 1990s before settling at second-division club Rot-Weiss Erfurt.

“As I was incredibly aggressive, I played central midfield [and] was a playmaker like Rafael van der Vaart at Hamburg,” he said in an interview last year. “When I left the place, I was again the shy grey mouse. I was full of complexes.”

Urban said he realized that life as an openly gay professional player would be impossible and gave up his career. Today he works with disabled artists.

Berlin-based GrandHotel Pictures has confirmed a biopic of Urban is in development. The film is based on Ronny Blaschke’s “Versteckspieler,” a biography of Urban published in Germany last year.

Activists speak out for trans victims

Amnesty International has issued an urgent appeal on behalf of a Honduran transgender woman who was arrested, beaten and threatened with death if she reported what happened to her.

The woman, who is an HIV/AIDS activist and sex worker in Palmira, alleged that police officers tried to rob her on Dec. 20 and then assaulted her when she resisted.

The officers then arrested the woman, took her to a police station and then to a hospital. Because she was bleeding, the woman informed the officers that she is HIV-positive, to which they responded by calling her an “AIDS bitch,”she said. She was released without charge.

The officers allegedly threatened to leave her “dead in the countryside” if she spoke of the incident. Despite this, the woman filed a formal complaint with the Human Rights section of the Public Prosecutor’s Office.

The attack on the woman follows the murders of three transgender women in Honduras since October.

The women were all working as sex workers near Palmira when they were attacked.

Transgender women who work as sex workers are frequently attacked by clients or police officers. No one has been brought to justice for the killings.

“Transgender women in Honduras must be terrified right now,” said Kim Manning-Cooper, an Amnesty International spokesperson. “Their community is experiencing serious violence and the authorities are not doing enough to protect them.”

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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