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World Roundup

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Rights groups criticize Nigeria

Sixteen human-rights groups wrote to Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo on March 23 demanding he withdraw legislation that will criminalize gay relationships and same-sex marriage as well as ban gay organizations and activism.

They said the bill violates both the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

'The bill criminalizes public expressions of love and any defense of lesbian and gay rights, denying fundamental freedoms,' said Scott Long, director of Human Rights Watch's gay-rights program.

The measure has been approved by the Federal Executive Council and awaits action by the National Assembly.

It calls for five years' imprisonment for anyone who 'goes through the ceremony of marriage with a person of the same sex,' 'performs, witnesses, aids or abets the ceremony of same sex marriage' or 'is involved in the registration of gay clubs, societies and organizations.' It also criminalizes public displays of a 'same-sex amorous relationship' and bans gay adoption.

The U.S. State Department also has denounced the bill, saying it 'would restrict or prohibit citizens from assembling, organizing, holding events or rallies, and participating in ceremonies of religious union, based upon sexual orientation and gender identity.'

'The freedoms of speech, association, expression, assembly and religion are long-standing international commitments and are universally recognized,' the U.S. government said. 'Nigeria, as a State Party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, has assumed important obligations on these matters. We expect the Government of Nigeria to act in a manner consistent with those obligations.'

Gay sex is already illegal nationwide in Nigeria—and in several northern states ruled by Islamic Sharia law, it is punishable with stoning.

Nigeria is Africa's most populous nation, with 130 million residents.

The letter to Obasanjo was signed by Africa Action ( U.S. ) , the African Human Rights Organization ( Cameroon ) , Alliance Rights ( Nigeria ) , Amnesty International, the Center for Democracy & Development ( Nigeria ) , the Centre for Human Rights, Democracy and Transitional Justice Studies ( Congo ) , the Civil Liberties Organisation ( Nigeria ) , Global Rights ( U.S. ) , Human Rights Watch, the International Commission of Jurists ( Switzerland ) , the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission ( U.S. ) , International Service for Human Rights ( Switzerland ) , the Legal Defence and Assistance Project ( Nigeria ) , the National Black Justice Coalition ( U.S. ) , Support Project in Nigeria and the University of Pretoria Centre for Human Rights ( South Africa ) .

South Korea to OK gays in the military

South Korea's Ministry of Defense will lift its ban on gays in the military in April, the Chosun Ilbo newspaper reported.

The decision follows a recommendation by the National Human Rights Commission that the forces eliminate antigay discrimination and prejudice.

Under the new policy, the military will not out gay members of the armed forces—and anyone who comes out voluntarily will receive special supervision to protect his or her human rights, personal life and living situation, the report said.

Taiwan extends domestic-violence law to cover gays

Taiwan's interior minister, Lee Yi-Yang, announced March 22 that the Domestic Violence Prevention Law is applicable to same-sex couples, the Taipei Times reported.

The determination was made public as legislators reviewed the law in a Judiciary Committee meeting.

Speaking in support of the move, Legislator Kuo Lin-Yung said gays 'have been derided, persecuted and constrained in the past, but now they have begun to speak out [ and ] must now be equally protected by the law.'

Swazi prince rejects same-sex marriage

Swaziland's minister of justice and constitutional affairs, Prince David Dlamini, said March 25 that there will be no same-sex marriages in Swaziland.

'The constitution reflects the custom, culture as well as the religious tendencies of our people,' he said. 'Swaziland is not about to endorse human sexuality at a time when a number of African countries are making specific legal provisions banning such a practice.'

Activists meet with Mexican media

Representatives of the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation and Mexico's Media Movement for Objectivity in Topics of Sexual Orientation and Identity ( MOVEMOS ) met with Spanish-language media giants Televisa, TV Azteca and TV y Novelas México in Mexico City this month.

They discussed the quantity and quality of GLBT images in the novela genre, entertainment print media, and comedy and variety television programs.

'Historically and culturally LGBT people have been sensationalized and stereotyped in comedy and entertainment-related shows,' said Mónica Taher, GLAAD's people of color media director. 'These meetings are an important opportunity to work with these influential media outlets in order to ensure that LGBT programming and content are fair, accurate and inclusive in the United States and in all of Latin America.'

Televisa and TV Azteca produce about 80 percent of the programs that air on the U.S. networks Univision, Galavisión and Azteca América.

Televisa is the world's largest Spanish-language content producer.

Similarly, many articles from the magazine TV y Novelas México are published in the United States by TV y Novelas USA. The publications have a circulation of 2 million across 18 countries.

'These meetings with the main TV commercial networks in Mexico are a great step towards equality and respect for LGBT people,' said MOVEMOS coordinator Sergio Alan Villarreal. 'Their content exercises a great influence on society in our country as well as in the Hispanic community in the U.S.'

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