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WORLD Trans activist killed, Israeli center, Brazilian priest, Netflix film
by Andrew Davis, Windy City Times

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In South Africa, Limpopo police are investigating the death of transgender activist Nare Mphela, 28, whose decomposing body was found in a rented room, News24 reported. "The deceased was found with multiple stab wounds and was already in a state of decomposition," police spokesperson Brigadier Motlafela Mojapelo said. Police took the deceased's boyfriend in for questioning—but no arrests had been made. Mphela made headlines in 2017 when the Seshego Magistrate's Court ordered the Limpopo Department of Education to pay her for gender identity-based discrimination.

The LGBTQ Center of the Tel Aviv-Yafo Municipality launched its new "Family Center," which offers guidance to families in the city's LGBTQ community and addresses a variety of aspects of LGBTQ family life, a press release noted. The release also stated that "the family center is an important part of the community's struggle for equality, and its establishment stems from the municipality's pluralistic worldview, which promotes the values of tolerance, acceptance and diversity from an early age throughout the city's educational institutions."

A priest in Brazil has been suspended from the ministry because he blessed a same-sex couple in late 2019, according to a New Ways Ministry blog. Fr. Vicente Paula Gomes blessed a same-gender couple's union in early December, leading the Archdiocese of Assis to issue an injunction against Gomes being in ministry five days later. The injunction, signed by Archbishop Argemiro de Azevedo, is in place only until an investigation into Gomes' actions takes place. Supporters of the priest have taken to social media with messages like #WeAreAllFatherVicente.

Criminal and political drama intensified surrounding The First Temptation of Christ ( A Primeira Tentacao de Cristo ), a comedic Netflix Christmas film in Brazil featuring a depiction of a gay Jesus, LGBTQ Nation noted. Among other developments, on Christmas Eve, several men firebombed the headquarters of the comedy group that created the film. Recently, Rio de Janeiro-based Judge Benedicto Abicair issued a temporary ruling telling Netflix to remove the film from Brazilian distribution; however, the judgment was later reversed.

In another Brazil-related item, that country's independent medical regulator announced new rules for treating transgender patients—including lowering the age when trans people can have gender reassignment surgery to 18 from 21 years old, Openly News reported. The Brazilian Federal Council of Medicine also set out guidelines for the use of puberty blockers for the first time to delay bodily changes in trans children and dropped the age requirement for hormone therapy to 16 from 18 years old.

A well-known LGBTQ activist in Nicaragua who was arrested last September claimed he was tortured while in custody, South Florida Gay News reported. Ulises Rivas said members of Nicaragua's National Police, on Sept. 1, 2019, arrived at his niece's volleyball game in Comalapa and cuffed him because "they had an arrest warrant." A source with whom the Washington Blade spoke after Rivas' arrest said he had been accused of robbing a woman. Rivas told the Blade he suffered physical, "cultural and psychological torture." His next court appearance was scheduled to take place Jan. 15.

In England, a leading Muslim LGBT+ charity spoke out against the rising level of hate crimes in Birmingham after the protests against LGBT-inclusive education outside schools last year, PinkNews reported. The LGBT+ education row centred on two Birmingham primary schools and was led mainly by Muslim parents. The disruptive protests began in March 2019 and continued for months until they were finally banned by a High Court order. Figures released by police show a major spike in LGBT+ hate crimes during the time of the protests, with a total of 453 hate incidents reported from February to July—nearly double the rate of the previous six months.

Poland's left-wing parties approved Robert Biedron, an openly gay politician, as their candidate in the May presidential election, Yahoo! News noted, citing Agence France-Presse. The move in the conservative, predominantly Catholic country ( where same-sex unions are not recognized ) was aimed at preserving democracy, they said. Leaders in the Lewica ( Left ) alliance said they chose Biedron because of his clear backing for women's rights, the rule of law and the separation of church and state. Biedron, 44, will face incumbent right-wing President Andrzej Duda, who's considered the favorite in the race and backed by the governing PiS, which is known for anti-gay rhetoric.

Amnesty International said Bhutan must seize an historic opportunity to secure equal rights for LGBTI people in the country, asking the upper house of parliament in a statement to pass a bill decriminalizing same-sex relationships. "If the amendment bill is passed by the upper house, this will be an important step in recognizing that Bhutan supports the equality of all citizens regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. For a country that prides itself on the happiness of its people, Bhutan must without any delay rid itself of laws criminalizing consensual same-sex relationships," said Babu Ram Pant, a South Asia campaigner.

A new ad from the Chinese ecommerce website Tmall that includes two same-sex couples has won widespread praise and been hailed as a small but significant win by China's LGBT community, Abacus News noted. The 20-second clip—promoting the site's annual pre-Lunar New Year shopping event—features gay and lesbian people introducing their partners to their families. The clip had racked up thousands of views and hundreds of supportive comments on Weibo, China's equivalent of Twitter.

Art curator Luis Vargas Santiago is dealing with homophobic slurs and death threats from protesters who recently stormed the Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico City, ARTnews noted. They wanted to remove a nude portrait of Emiliano Zapata from an ongoing exhibition focused on the revolutionary's imprint on Mexican culture. Although the exhibition contains more than 140 artworks, protesters have singled out La Revolucion ( The Revolution ), by Fabian Chairez, because it depicts the war hero and symbol of machismo as a queer pinup model wearing a pink sombrero and heels while riding a horse with an erect penis.

Among the events announced in Doha to mark the Qatar-France 2020 Year of Culture, one is already sparking outrage in the French art world, The Art Newspaper reported. On Feb. 21, Paris' Palais de Tokyo will inaugurate "Notre monde brule" ( "our world is burning" )—a guest show from Mathaf, Qatar's state-run Arab Museum of Modern Art ( running until May 17 ). Critics say the partnership between a French contemporary art center that positions itself as LGBTQ-friendly and a state-run museum in a country that criminalizes LGBTQ relations raises ethical concerns.

After urging fans to practice "love and acceptance" toward themselves this past holiday season, British singer-songwriter Sam Smith shared a photo of themselves on vacation embracing their body and opening up about their confidence struggles, Gay Times Magazine noted. "Feels so good to have my top off on holiday. Spent all my life hiding my body from the sun. The last year my skin has been soaking in that LIGHT," they wrote. Among those praising Smith's photo were Chilling Adventures of Sabrina star Kiernan Shipka, trans activist Munroe Bergdorf, TV presenter Fearne Cotton and Rocketman actor Taron Egerton.

A local council report identified nine ways in which Britain's Glastonbury Festival 2020 needs to improve on previous years' events, including late night noise levels and public health and safety, noted. Mendip District Council—responsible for the licensing of the festival to ensure the health and safety of attendees—said there were still several areas of potential improvement, such as alcohol, bars and taxi provision; camping capacity; crowd safety; food safety and hygiene; general health and safety; noise and nuisance; toilets and sanitation; security checks; and water supply. Glastonbury 2020 will take place from June 24-28, with Taylor Swift, Paul McCartney and Diana Ross among the scheduled performers.

U.S. pastor Steven Anderson said that the destructive Australian bushfires currently ravaging the country are the "judgment of God" for "banning and deporting preachers of the Gospel," LGBTQ Nation noted. Australia officially banned Anderson from entering its borders last July. Anderson has been banned from 33 countries, including all 26 of Europe's Schengen states, Botswana, Jamaica, Ireland, South Africa, the United Kingdom and Canada for his anti-LGBTQ rhetoric.

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