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World news of 2016
Extended for the online edition of Windy City Times
2017-01-02

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—ISIS act: Over the New Year's holiday weekend, ARA News, an independent Syrian media outlet, reported that ISIS had executed a 15-year-old boy on charges of homosexuality by throwing him from the top of a building in central Deir ez-Zor. The organization reportedly has performed the same punishment on several people for the same reason.

—Protest: Italians staged a mass rally in Rome's Circus Maximus Jan. 30, urging the government to reject legislation that offers same-sex couples legal recognition and some adoption rights.

—Ban banned: The Mexican Supreme Court unanimously struck down the state of Jalisco's same-sex marriage ban.

—Fashionable choice: Italian designer Stefano Gabbana ( of Dolce & Gabbana ) recently posted photos of handbags and T-shirts adorned with childlike drawings of family groups of two men or two women with children of various ages. In 2015, the duo got in hot water for railing against same-sex parents and surrogacy.

—Wrongful conviction: After 11 months, Monique Coverson and partner Larissa returned to Georgia. Back in January, after sitting in prison without charges, the two were sentenced 20 to 25 years after a legal, tobacco-like substance was found in their Kuwaiti home; however, a judge found them not guilty.

—Goodbye, Guido: Guido Westerwelle, the openly gay former chair of the Free Democratic Party in Germany, died on March 18 at age 54 of leukemia.

—Wed reckoning: Same-sex couples have the right to marry in Colombia, the South American country's highest court ruled. The six-to-three ruling by Colombia's Constitutional Court came nine months after hearings on the issue and more than five months after the same court extended adoption rights to same-sex couples.

—Take me to church: The Church of Norway voted at its annual conference April 11 to allow same-sex marriage, with the Christian body joining the French Protestant Church, the U.S. Episcopal and Presbyterian Church ( U.S.A. ) denominations, among others, in now supporting same-sex unions.

—Murder in Bangladesh: On April 25, two men were hacked to death, including U.S. Embassy worker Xulhaz Mannan. Mannan was the editor of Roopbaan, Bangladesh's first LGBT magazine, and a leading gay-rights activist. The other victim, Tanay Mojumdar, also worked at Roopbaan.

—Conviction: An Israeli court convicted an ultra-Orthodox Jewish extremist who fatally stabbed 16-year-old Shira Banki marching at a gay-pride parade in Jerusalem last year of murder. Yishai Shlissel, 40, was also convicted of six counts of attempted murder by the Jerusalem District Court for his attacks on others during the stabbing rampage.

—Fight of their lives: A same-sex American-Spanish couple won a high-profile custody battle against a surrogate mother in Thailand who gave birth to their child but then decided she wanted to keep the baby when she found out they were gay.

—That's Italian: After a protracted legislative battle, Italy's parliament approved same-sex civil unions and gave some rights to unmarried opposite-sex couples on May 11. With the development, Italy is the last major Western country to legally recognize same-sex couples.

—Transplant: Organs from patients with HIV were used in life-saving transplant operations in the United Kingdom for the first time. The four transplants—two livers from separate donors and a pair of kidneys from the same person—all happened within the last five years but have only now been made public; all three donors were deceased.

—Justin time: Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced groundbreaking new federal legislation that will guarantee full protection to the human rights of transgender people across Canada. The new legislation was tabled in the Canadian House of Commons to mark the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia.

—A change is gonna come: Germany announced it was set to annul the convictions of gay men under a law criminalizing homosexuality that was applied zealously in post-war Germany. Justice Minister Heiko Maas planned to overturn the convictions and create a "right to compensation." About 50,000 men were convicted between 1946 and 1969 under a 19th-century law that the Nazis had sharpened.

—Tutu much: Desmond Tutu's daughter was forced to give up her duties as a priest in South Africa's Anglican church after she married a woman, according to Times Live. Reverend Canon Mpho Tutu-van Furth can no longer preside at Holy Communion, weddings, baptisms or funerals after handing in her license because the church does not recognize same-sex marriage.

—Negligent: Health officials in Pakistan were found guilty of committing criminal negligence after a transgender activist died. Alesha, a transgender activist in Pakistan was shot multiple times by a gang member. When admitted to The Lady Reading Hospital, doctors failed to treat her injuries immediately.

—French connection: After a 33-year ban, gay men in France will officially be able to donate blood after a law change came into effect. LGBT activists applauded the removal of the ban in France but remain critical of the law, which requires gay and bisexual men to abstain from sex for a year if they wish to give blood, and for four months to donate plasma, the pale yellow liquid component that holds the blood cells.

—Class is in session: The first boarding school for transgender students in India has opened in Kochi in the southeast part of the subcontinent. The inaugural class at Sahaj International School will have just 10 students, who will study under six trans instructors from the TransIndia Foundation.

—Common sense: U.S. rapper/actor Common, in South Africa for an HIV/AIDS-awareness concert with Queen Latifah, encouraged people to speak out about HIV. Among other things, he visited the Ithembalabantu Clinic in Umlazi—the first health center in South Africa to provide free antiretrovirals, 15 years ago.

—Game on: The Olympics, per usual, was marked by many achievements—and a few scandals ( such as Ryan Lochte's lie ). However, Twitter exploded when an article written by a journalist from The Daily Beast included details that could possibly out closeted gay athletes. Nico Hines, who was sent by The Daily Beast to the Games, went on gay dating apps such as Grindr to convince athletes to hit on him in the Olympic village.

—Anger in Istanbul: Outrage in Istanbul, Turkey, took place over the murder of transgender woman Hande Kader. Turkey remains conservative on LGBTI issues; however, a protest was staged Aug. 21 over Kader's death. Hundreds of demonstrators attended. Kader, a 22-year-old sex worker and activist, was last seen entering a client's car one night. She was reportedly raped and burned.

—Baby love: For possibly the first time in the history of South Africa, a same-sex couple fathered triplets, their children having DNA from both men South Africans Theo and Christo Menelaou provided sperm to fertilize two eggs from their surrogate, who gave birth to three babies, including a set of identical twins.

—Barred: South African Minister of Home Affairs Malusi Gigaba announced that anti-gay U.S. pastor Steven Anderson would be denied entry into South Africa. The decision resulted from a campaign launched by global LGBT organization All Out, in partnership with Gay SA Radio.

—Farewell to Cleo: Youree Dell Harris—globally known as the Jamaican-accented psychic Miss Cleo—passed away in Palm Beach, Florida at age 53. In 2006, she came out as a lesbian in an interview with The Advocate, and she conducted interviews with both Windy City Times and Windy City Queercast.

—Treatment: South Africa said it will now provide free treatment to all people infected with HIV, regardless of the condition of their immune system. Before the announcement by the country's health department, people were eligible for free treatment based on a certain measure of their white blood cells, which fight infection.

—The Dane event: Netflix released I Am the Ambassador—the documentary series that follows the career of the openly gay U.S. ambassador to Denmark, Rufus Gifford—for online streaming. The six-episode series first aired on Danish television in 2014. While Gifford said he enjoyed making the show, he actually expressed some anxiety about the show premiering globally.

—And justice for some: Sweden's justice watchdog has sharply criticized the the way in which a gay Ugandan man was sent home to face possible life imprisonment and even death, even though his case was under review. The man, who first sought asylum in 2012, was expelled from Sweden three days after a court had ordered his rejected asylum claim to be reconsidered.

—Pardon me: The British government announced it will pardon gay and bisexual men who were convicted of gross indecency before the decriminalization of homosexuality in England and Wales in 1967. Using an amendment to the Policing and Crime Bill, thousands whose crime was simply being in a consensual same-sex relationship will be posthumously pardoned.

—Horrible legacy: In the United Kingdom, Stephen Port, 41, was convicted of murdering at least four men and for committing multiple rapes. Port received a life sentence with a whole life order on Nov. 25, meaning essentially the same as life in prison without parole. The families of three of Port's victims are suing the Metropolitan Police over its failure to investigate their murders.

—I fought the law: Thousands of people took to the streets of New Delhi, India, at the annual Delhi Queer Pride Parade, shouting slogans and holding placards amid growing calls to decriminalize gay sex in the country. Section 377 of the Indian penal code—a colonial-era law that was reinstated by India's top court in 2013—bans "carnal intercourse against the order of nature." In February 2016, the country's Supreme Court moved to reconsider the anti-sodomy law, referring the matter to a five-member bench.

—Taking leave: Openly gay U.S. Ambassador to the Dominican Republic James "Wally" Brewster, on Nov. 23, announced that he would be resigning from his post, effective Jan. 20, 2017 ( Donald Trumps' inauguration date ). Brewster and husband Bob Satawake, who both had resided in Chicago, faced heated opposition from religious elements throughout the duration of Brewster's diplomatic post, regularly fielding crude insults from local church officials.

—A matter of race: A pioneering study of Canadian media, focusing on the newspaper coverage of HIV nondisclosure and transmission cases, identified a clear pattern of racism toward Black men in Canadian mainstream newspaper articles from 1989 though 2015. These startling findings dovetailed with the theme of World AIDS Day 2016 ( Dec. 1 ): "HIV Stigma: Not Retro, Just Wrong."

—Vatican's stance: On Dec. 7, the Vatican declared that "persons with homosexual tendencies" cannot become Catholic priests. This development reaffirmed a 2005 policy. The document, entitled "The Gift of the Priestly Vocation," was drafted by the Vatican's Congregation for Clergy; it is meant to offer guidelines for priestly formation; Pope Francis approved the document.

—Jail time: The British government revised its prison guidelines to to require prisons to recognize inmates who identify as gender-fluid or non-binary. The new policy—which includes requirements that prison staff receive training on how to protect the rights and safety of "all transgender and non-binary people, and not just those undergoing gender reassignment"—is significant, given that the UK still officially recognizes only two genders.

—Block party: In the United Nations General Assembly, a cross-regional group of states blocked two attempts 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. A small group of states twice 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 expert role was created through United Nations Human Rights Council resolution A/HRC/RES/32/2 in June 2016 and is held by Vitit Muntarbhorn, a Thai human-rights expert.


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