LESBIAN ELECTED TO ITALIAN PARLIAMENT
by Rex Wockner
An open lesbian was elected to the Italian Senate May 13. Titti De Simone, 31, is a member of the left-wing Communist Refoundation party and the leader of the gay-rights organization ArciLesbica.
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"This is an important result for the movement, a signal of innovation in politics and a response to the advance of the right," she told the Rome daily newspaper La Repubblica.
De Simone plans to push for measures that would extend spousal rights to same-sex couples, including access to reproductive technology and adoption.
According to RainbowNetwork.com, two gay men, Nichi Vendola and Franco Grillini, also were elected to parliament. The Web site did not provide details.
Overall, Italy took a swing to the far right with the election of Silvio Berlusconi's coalition government. Some of the parties in the coalition ( including the Northern League and the Alleanza Nazionale ) are overtly anti-gay.
POLICE TO RECRUIT TRANNIES
The Central Scotland Police force plans to recruit transsexuals, gays and "ethnic minorities" to increase diversity, The Scotsman newspaper reported.
"I would extend an open invitation to all lesbian, gay and transsexual groups to seriously consider the police force as a profession," said Chief Constable Andrew Cameron. "We have an unequivocal openness in Central Scotland towards everyone in our community and I would urge them to come along and see what we are about."
55 GAYS ARRESTED
At least 55 men were arrested May 10 during a police raid on a Cairo, Egypt, discotheque that is frequented by gays.
They remain in custody, charged with "Satanism," "belittling revealed religions" and "exploiting religion to promote extreme ideas to create strife."
The 2 a.m. raid took place at the Queen Boat club which is on a ship anchored in the Nile River.
According to the Cairo Times, police were abusive during the raid. A professor at Cairo University's Faculty of Medicine said he was slapped repeatedly and disparaged with anti-gay slurs.
The International Gay & Lesbian Human Rights Commission says it has reason to believe the men "are being tortured while in detention," and it has confirmed they were examined with anal probes purportedly to determined if they had engaged in anal sex.
"They have been the subject of intense vilification in the Egyptian press, promoting fears of both religious dissent and foreign influences," the group added.
"IGLHRC is gravely concerned that these men are victims of trumped-up charges, and of a government determined to improve its own political position by taking sexual nonconformity as the sign of a subversive cult."
The crimes the men are charged with carry a maximum sentence of five years in prison. For more information, and details on protest actions, visit www.iglhrc.org .
Muslim clerics in The Netherlands may face criminal prosecution for saying hateful things about gays.
Dutch Prime Minister Wim Kok has called the comments "very serious and extraordinarily hurtful," and prosecutors are looking into charging the clerics with discrimination or defamation, which carries a one-year prison sentence.
"They must be conscious of the norms and values that are fixed in Dutch law. With their words, the imams could intentionally or unintentionally incite violence against homosexuals," Kok said.
The clerics have called homosexuality a sickness that could destroy society. One labeled it "shameless, improper, scandalous and intolerable." Another said gays must be treated medically.
On April 1, The Netherlands became the first nation in the world to let gay couples marry under the exact same laws as straight couples.
SOUTH AFRICAN MEN BREAK CONDOMS
The Asian condoms that the South African government distributes are too small for African penises, a national study of 350 prostitutes has found.
"Most [ prostitutes ] complained that these things break because they come from the Far East and they're too small for local men," University of Natal researcher Ted Leggett told the Sunday Times.
One in nine South Africans is HIV-positive, officials believe.
MAURESMO CLIMBS IN RANKINGS
Openly lesbian French tennis pro Amelie Mauresmo has won her fourth tournament this year—the German Open—and is now ranked sixth in the world, Reuters reported May 15.
She has recorded 27 wins in 29 matches this year.
Mauresmo is no longer partnered with Sylvie Bourdon, the lover with whom she made international headlines when she came out in 1999.
"I am playing well now because I'm not stressed and I have a good life," she told reporters in Berlin.
NAMIBIAN MEN REPORTEDLY DETAINED
Namibia's paramilitary Special Field Force reportedly detained numerous men recently in Katutura, a suburb of the capital city of Windhoek, for wearing earrings.
SFF members reportedly said they were acting on orders from vociferously anti-gay president Sam Nujoma, but the Ministry of Information told the BBC: "The president had at no time issued orders in any shape or form for SFF members to act against anyone wearing earrings or any other piercing. ... The government does not condone human rights violations or harassment of individual citizens."
SFF Commander Sacharia Asheela reportedly arrived on the scene while the detained men were being questioned and ordered officers to return the men's earrings and let them go.
A reporter at the scene said Asheela told SFF members: "I told you not to assault or touch anybody. Who told you to take these men's earrings? It should not be repeated again."
On April 28, hundreds of gays and others staged a protest march in Windhoek to denounce Nujoma's attacks on gays. Some 20 organizations joined the demonstration, which was organized by the Southern African Human Rights NGO [ non-governmental organization ] Network.
In recent outbursts, Nujoma has said: "See to it that there are no criminals, gays and lesbians in your villages and regions. ... Definitely it's against God's will. It is the devil at work. How can a man marry a man or a woman marry a woman?"
He also has said: "In Namibia we don't allow lesbianism or homosexuality. ... We will combat this with vigor — we will make sure that Namibia will get rid of lesbianism and homosexuality. ... Police are ordered to arrest you and deport you and imprison you. ... Those who are practicing homosexuality in Namibia are destroying the nation. Homosexuals must be condemned and rejected in our society."
MENINGITIS HITS TORONTO GAY
Health officials are blanketing Toronto's gay scene with meningitis alerts after two men who frequented gay bathhouses and bars died of the disease last week.
Meningococcal meningitis is spread via saliva and nose and throat secretions. It can be transmitted by kissing and by sharing silverware, drinking glasses or anything else that comes in contact with the mouth, such as a cigarette.
Symptoms of infection include fever, headache, vomiting, stiff neck, rash, drowsiness, confusion, convulsions and seizures.
"Both of these two men were very active in gay bars and bathhouses," Toronto Public Health spokesman Elizabeth Rea told the Toronto Sun. "If you were at a Toronto bathhouse or nightclub and you had saliva contact, you need to see a physician."
The men's identities were not released but one was known to be a regular customer at the gay bar Woody's.
BERLIN PUBLISHES GAY GUIDE
Berlin, Germany's Tourism and Marketing Board has published a map for gay visitors.
"We are simply responding to demand, especially from the U.S. market," said the board's manager, Hanns Peter Nerger.