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World news: HIV and the Philippines, Malta's ban, UN news
Special to the online edition of Windy City Times
by Andrew Davis, Windy City Times

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A human-rights watchdog says the Philippines is facing one of the fastest growing epidemics of HIV in the Asia Pacific, fueled by government policies that restrict intervention, including access to condoms by men who have sex with men, The Independent reported. Human Rights Watch said in a report that HIV prevalence among men who have sex with men has increased tenfold in the last five years, but the government has failed to adequately target prevention measures on that population. It said HIV prevention education in Philippine schools is very inadequate, commercial marketing of condoms is nonexistent and barriers to condom access and HIV testing have contributed to the worsening epidemic.

Malta has become the first country in Europe to ban gay conversion therapy, The Independent noted. A new bill, which passed unanimously, stipulates that any medical professional found guilty of prescribing the so-called "gay cure" therapy will be fined or sent to prison. According to the new law, trying to "change, repress or eliminate a person's sexual orientation, gender identity and/or gender expression" is now a criminal offense.

Wonder Woman is being fired as honorary ambassador of the United Nations, LGBTQ Nation reported. The appointment reportedly angered employees, particularly women at the U.N., resulting in an online petition signed by nearly 45,000 people, asking U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to dump the character. On Oct. 21, the superhero was named as part of the U.N.'s global mission to achieve gender equality and empower women and girls by 2030.

The UN Security Council dropped advancing gay rights from a tribute to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon after Russia raised objections, Business Insider noted. A draft statement that mentioned Ban's support for the LGBT community was changed to note instead that "the most vulnerable or marginalised have been increasingly heard and assisted" under his leadership. Ban, the 72-year-old former South Korean foreign minister, steps down Dec. 31 after serving two terms as secretary-general of the United Nations.

And in more UN-related news, in the United Nations General Assembly, a cross-regional group of states blocked a hostile attempt to prevent the work established by the UN Human Rights Council of the Independent Expert on Discrimination and Violence based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity. On Dec. 19, a small group of states attempted to stop the United Nation's first ever Independent Expert on the "protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity." The Independent Expert role was created through United Nations Human Rights Council resolution A/HRC/RES/32/2 in June of this year and is held by Vitit Muntarbhorn, a Thai human rights expert.

New Zealand Prime Minister Bill English has revealed he would vote in favor of same-sex marriage if another vote was held, saying he has witnessed the positive impact it has had on gay couples, according to English, in his first press conference after being selected as National Party leader, also said he would not use his prime ministerial position to push through or lobby for socially conservative changes in New Zealand. The self-descirbed "active Catholic" added, however, that his opposition to euthanasia and abortion remained the same.

Chad has passed a law to make gay sex illegal, Gay Star News noted. The parliament in the north-central African country has adopted a new penal code to make homosexuality, both male and female, a crime. So unless it is blocked by the President Idriss Deby—which is reportedly very unlikely—that will increase the number of countries outlawing homosexuality a criminal act to 77.

Three gay soccer players are reportedly in talks with The Football Association in England about coming out, LGBTQ Nation noted. Former journalist John Nicolson, a member of the Culture Media & Sport select committee, made the claim during a parliamentary inquiry into homophobia in sports, The Telegraph reported. In 1990, Justin Fashanu became the first player in England to come out as gay; he committed suicide eight years later, at the age of 37.

Young children at schools up and down the country are to be told to stop using the terms "boys" and "girls," The Evening Standard reported. Guidance being sent out for use by teachers, parents and pupils as young as 7 advises against the language because of fears it discriminates against transgender people, the Mail on Sunday reported. The book instead encourages the use of terms such as cisgender, for children who identify with the gender in which they were born. It also uses the terms "genderqueer" and "panromantic," meaning someone who is attracted to people of all gender identities. It is entitled Can I Tell You About Gender Diversity?, and features a fictional story about a 12-year-old boy transitioning from female to male.

A commercial for the Scandinavian electronics store Elgiganten aims to portray the spirit of the season, noted. The ad shows a family bustling around a living room that is full of the joy of Christmas, except for a transgender teen who is clearly struggling to feel comfortable among the rest of the family. The dad gets up to give his child a gift—and a look of appreciation crosses the teen's face. Elgiganten also had a Valentine's Day ad promoting equal love.

Sweden's far-right party leader Jimmie Akesson had to be escorted out from a gay club after guests became upset that he was there, PinkNews reported. Akesson, head of Swedish Democrats ( SD ), was at the Secret Garden club in Stockholm. Swedish paper Aftonbladet reported that some people left in protest and others attempted to get to the leader to talk to or physically harm him. The SD party is a right-wing populist group with a nationalist foundation that are currently gaining popularity in the country.

French Independent video-game developer Accidental Queens has announced that "A Normal Lost Phone" will be available Jan. 26 for PC, iOS and Android devices, a press release noted. A Normal Lost Phone is a narrative mystery game where players find a phone and find out about what happened to its owner, navigating through the familiar menu of a regular smartphone. A Normal Lost Phone separates itself from the usual gaming industry standards in the sense that it's a socially conscious game and exposes themes such as coming of age, homophobia, depression and peer pressure. A teaser trailer is at

The travel site GayCities announced the winners of its 2016 Best of Gay Cities guide, naming Berlin as the top place to be LGBT and single, noted. GayCities received tens of thousands of votes to select the winner, with Berlin and London tying for Best Singles City, as each won 22 percent of the vote. A close second was Fort Lauderdale, Florida ( 21 percent ), followed by New Orleans ( 16 percent ), Seattle ( 12 percent ) and Vienna ( 7 percent ).

Last year, Miss World Canada Anastasia Lin was blocked from boarding a plane to China to attend the Miss World finals due to her outspoken advocacy for human rights in the country. This year, she is being allowed to compete, but she is being barred from speaking to any press, People noted, citing The New York Times. The Times explains that the competition is largely sponsored by Chinese companies, and Lin—who was born in China but has been living in Canada since she was 13—has been an outspoken critic of Chinese human-rights abuses.

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