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Israeli granted maternity leave

Israel’s National Insurance Institute authorized the country’s first-ever maternity leave for a male couple on March 12.

Yonatan Gher, director of the Open House Pride and Tolerance organization in Jerusalem, received approval for a 64-day leave from work after the birth of his biological son.

Gher and his partner of seven years, who will attempt to adopt the child, sought a surrogate mother in India two years ago, when they realized that formal adoption by a single man or two gay men was not an option in Israel.

“What we have here is the establishment taking responsibility for a process that had been forced upon us,” Gher said. “We have no legal possibility of having a child with a surrogate mother in Israel. Because it won’t allow that, the state is obliged to share with us the costs of the alternative, by the very fact of recognizing the maternity leave.”

Now approved for leave, Gher awaits an answer from NII to his request for reimbursement of hospitalization costs.

Recently a family court in Tel Aviv recognized the right of a gay-male couple to adopt their foster son, a first for a country that previously only acknowledged adoption by female same-sex couples.

Gay candidate vies for mayor

Mexico received its first openly gay mayoral candidate on March 13, when the minority Social Democratic Party (PSD) selected Miguel Antonio Galán to run for office in Guadalajara, the second most populous city in the country.

Galán, 31, will contend on July 5 to lead the city, which is the capital of Jalisco state, an economic hub in the Western-Pacific area of Mexico famous for tequila and mariachi bands.

Galán has downplayed his sexuality as a factor in the election.

“Proposals have to be made, beyond what the candidate’s [bedroom activities] are,” he said.

The progressive positions of the PSD are just as likely as his sexual orientation to be a challenge for Galán in Guadalajara, a conservative city led by the National Action Party of President Felipe Calderón and strongly influenced by the Catholic Church. The PSD supports the legalization of drugs and the decriminalization of abortion.

Although Galán is the first openly gay mayoral candidate in Mexico, there have been at least three openly gay state and federal lawmakers in the country.

Lesbians face high risk of rape

According to a recent ActionAid report, lesbians in South Africa are at high risk of being raped in towns where homosexuality is considered taboo and gangs of men view rape as a “cure” for lesbianism.

According to the report, “Hate Crimes: The Rise of Corrective Rape in South Africa,” the country logs approximately half a million rapes per year, and nearly all of the accused rapists go unpunished.

“So-called ‘corrective’ rape is yet another grotesque manifestation of violence against women, the most widespread human-rights violation in the world today,” ActionAid’s Zanele Twala said in a statement. “These crimes continue unabated and with impunity, while governments simply turn a blind eye.”

“Here in South Africa you have judges sending women to jail for stealing a loaf of bread to feed her baby, but men who gang-rape women, who murder lesbians ... they walk the streets as free men,” Tsidi, a hate-crime survivor in Cape Town, said in a statement.

At least 31 known lesbians have been murdered in homophobic attacks over the last decade. However, since South Africa does not recognize sexual orientation when classifying hate crimes, the actual number is likely much higher. Among these cases, only two of the men went to trial, and just one was convicted.

U.S. helps Guyana lower AIDS rate

Guyana has claimed a U.S.-funded AIDS-prevention program has helped slash the HIV-infection rate in the South American country from nearly 3 percent to about 1 percent.

Health Minister Leslie Ramsammy said the program, led by the U.S. Agency for International Development, “is a huge success story.”

The $20-million public-awareness and prevention program was launched five years ago. Some of the grant aid went to non-governmental organizations that staged skits to warn of the dangers of promiscuous behavior and the effects of the virus.

Ramsammy said the government has tracked the decline of the virus by testing nearly half the population over the past three years.

Police accused of failing to protect murdered trans

Human-rights groups are claiming the recent murder of a Turkish transwoman could have been prevented by police, who didn’t take her pleas for help seriously.

Ebru Soykan, a prominent transgender human-rights activist, was found stabbed to death in her Istanbul home on March 10.

Soykan was a member of the gay-rights organization Lambda Istanbul. The group said the police had refused several times to issue an order of protection from a man who had beaten Soykan and threatened to kill her on several occasions.

Police questioned the man after Soykan insisted to authorities her life was in danger. He was released after questioning several days before the murder. Police arrested the man following the murder, but charges have yet to be filed.

Lambda Istanbul and Human Rights Watch accused police of not taking threats against Turkey’s LGBT citizens seriously.

“The Turkish police have a duty to respond to all credible threats of violence, whoever the victim,” said Juliana Cano Nieto, researcher in the LGBT-rights program at Human Rights Watch.

This was the second killing of a member of Lambda Istanbul in the past year.

In July 2008, an unknown person shot and killed 26-year-old Ahmet Yildiz as he was leaving a café near the Bosporus. No one has been charged in his murder.

“Until an antidiscrimination law is in place to protect the LGBT community and the police take seriously their duty to protect everyone, these murders will continue,” Nieto said. “Turkey cannot continue to ignore its obligations when lives are at stake.”

French radio head apologizes for photo

The 62-year-old, openly gay president of Radio France has apologized for appearing shirtless and wearing a wrestler’s mask with his boyfriend in a photo for a charity calendar for AIDS activism.

Jean-Paul Cluzel showed his tattooed chest in a photo, to benefit the AIDS activist group ACT UP, in a 2009 calendar.

But now Cluzel has apologized for the photo, as a number of high-ranking officials have reportedly taken issue with the image, including French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

“I made an error of judgment and apologize to any colleagues at Radio France that were offended by it,” Cluzel said. “Friends of mine suggested I pose for a calendar about the diverse range of people with tattoos, the profits of which would go to the fight against AIDS. I didn’t want to appear in my capacity as head of Radio France, so I posed in a colored cloth mask.”

He said ACT UP is responsible for revealing his name and job title to the press.

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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