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Travel: Tried & Tested

Tue 9 Feb, 2010
By Darren Waite

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Going Global

Nick Carvell takes a look at attitudes, rights and regulations affecting LGBT communities around the world.

‘Up Up and A Gay – We’re Boeing to Mardi Gras’

Australian budget airline Virgin Blue has decided to cash in on the pink pound ahead of Sydney’s annual gay and lesbian Mardi Gras celebrations. Virgin Blue will be running a special flight catering for those attending Mardi Gras in Sydney. The flight from, Melbourne to Sydney, which takes roughly one hour will set the party goers back A$199 (Roughly £100)

Sydney voted best gay-friendly destination!

A survey of the worlds best gay-friendly cities has placed Sydney at the top of the list. The survey conducted by online travel agency, named Sydney for its plentiful gay bars and nightclubs in the Darlinghurst and Newtown areas, reports the Daily Telegraph.

Gay London App launched

A new iPhone app has been created in order to entice LGBT visitors to London by providing all relevant information to enjoy the experience to the max at the touch of a button, whilst on the move.

Going Global

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United States
As a society that bore the Summer of Love in San Francisco and the Stonewall riots in New York in the late 1960s, the USA is often pointed to as the crucible for the modern gay rights movement. Therefore, it is hard to believe that homosexual acts between consenting adults has only been legal nationwide in the US since 2003 following the landmark court case Lawrence vs. Texas. However, since then charitable LGBT organisations have been making strides in turning around the US’s strictly conservative views on gay issues.

Owing to the country’s political make-up, national legislation on LGBT issues is scarce and it is up to the individual states to decide which rights to grant its gay citizens.
Currently 20 out of 50 states have laws explicitly banning discrimination based on sexual/gender orientation and same-sex marriage or civil unions are legal in 15 states. President Obama has expressed his support of gay rights, especially in respect of civil unions, opposition to the recent Proposition 8 in California and desire to allow gays to openly serve in the military, hopefully we will see an increase in anti-discrimination legislation in the US over the coming four years.

Technically, homosexuality in Mexico was decriminalised in 1867 with the adoption of the French Penal Code during the French occupation of the country in the late 1800s.
Despite being one of the first countries in the world to do this (around 100 years before us here in the UK) unfortunately this did not make Mexico a liberal haven for gays and social discrimination could still occur through the use of other laws. However, in recent years great strides have been made for LGBT rights. In 2001 the Mexican Constitution was amended to protect members of the LGBT community from discrimination based on sexual orientation. Two years later a nationwide anti-discrimination law protecting sexual minorities was also passed.
In 2006, civil unions were legalised in Mexico City, the Mexican capital, for both same-sex and different-sex couples, offering almost the same legal rights as marriage, but only within its city limits. The following year the state of Coahuila enacted a similar piece of legislation allowing same-sex couples to enter into civil unions. However, in contrast to Mexico City’s law, civil unions performed in Coahuila are recognised throughout Mexico. While these are positive steps, these are only one province and one city in the entire country and domestic partnerships between foreign same-sex couples are not recognised. Moreover, in this, a passionately Catholic country, it is a telling sign as to Mexico’s social acceptance of gay relationships that both these pieces of legislation explicitly rule out adoption rights for gay couples.

While homosexuality was decriminalised in Canada in 1969 (two years after us here in England), our transatlantic cousins now grant most rights to their LGBT citizens that its straight ones traditionally enjoy.
One of the most socially liberal countries on Earth in regards to gay rights, Canada has been years ahead of other, more well-established, countries around the world in granting nation-wide equality laws.
The approval of the Canadian Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms in 1982 granted protection to people from the LGBT community from anti-gay discrimination in many areas of everyday life, although not explicitly worded as such. A mere 10 years later, Canada became the first country in the world to allow gays to serve openly in their military and in 2005 same-sex marriage, granting equal marriage rights to gay couples as to their straight counterparts, was legalised nationally.
As of this year each province or territory in Canada includes a clause banning discrimination on the grounds of “sexual orientation” and in the Northwest Territories, a clause including “gender identity” has also been added. However, even in this most liberal of countries there is still room for improvement as same-sex adoption laws only functional in eight provinces and one territory, out of 13.

Technically, homosexuality in Mexico was decriminalised in 1867 with the adoption of the French Penal Code during the French occupation of the country in the late 1800s.
“Whosoever shall be convicted of the abominable crime of buggery, committed either with mankind or with any animal, shall be liable to be imprisoned and kept to hard labour for a term not exceeding 10 years.”
This sentence, found in Article 76 of the Offences Against the Person Act, sums up the severity with which the current Jamaican government views homosexual acts between men.
Jamaica is well-known around the world for its hatred of gays, often most visible in dance hall music from the country’s artists, such as Beenie Man. As such no positive legislation for gay men, women or transgender people exists in the country and the heavy, physical punishment is intended to discourage such behaviour.
Interestingly, legislation against lesbian relationships does not exist in Jamaica and the overtly male-dominated government is hypocritically more open-minded to the idea of two women being together romantically. Female-female civil ceremonies have taken place in the country before, but there is no legal recognition of these.
As of 2009 only one gay rights organsation exists on the island, the Jamaican Forum for Lesbians, All-Sexuals and Gays (J-FLAG), which was established in 1998. However, it operates underground since their openly gay founder, Brian Williamson, was stabbed to death in his home in 2004.

Still seen as largely taboo until the last century, homosexuality has technically been legal in France since 1791. With such a long history of liberalism in regards to sexual minorities, it makes logical sense that France is now one of the most progressive countries in the world on LGBT issues.
The age of consent was equalised to 15 for gay and straight couples alike in 1982. All forms of anti-gay discrimination in employment or service, public or private, has been banned since 1985 and gays of both sexes are allowed to serve openly in the military. Transgendered people can legally change their sex and can marry with full heterosexual rights following gender reassignment.
The current battles gay rights charities are fighting in France are generally with regards to family law, much the same as in the USA. Since 1999 gay couple have been able to register their partnerships as Civil Solidarity Pacts (PACS), which grant most of the same rights and privileges as heterosexual marriage. However, full marriage rights for same-sex couples as supported by 62% of French according to a 2006 poll. Moreover, while single gay persons can adopt children, no legislation exists currently for gay couples.

South Africa
At the southernmost tip of a continent dominated by overwhelmingly conservative social attitudes towards sexual minorities, South Africa’s government is a bastion of liberalism for the LGBT community. Following the dismantling of Apartheid in the early 90s, homosexuality was legalised by the new government in 1994. A mere two years later in 1996 South Africa became the first country in the world to include a clause prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation in their national constitution. In 2006, same-sex civil marriage was legalised by the South African parliament, as well as civil unions for unmarried opposite-sex and same-sex couples, but civil servants and clergy can still refuse to solemnize same-sex unions. Gays can serve openly in the military and same-sex adoption has been legal since 2002.
However, despite the liberalism shown by lawmakers, there is still homophobia is the more rural areas of the country and some human rights organisations have criticised the government for not enacting specific hate crime legislation to protect its gay citizens from violence. Nonetheless, with a thriving gay scene in metropolitan areas and Gay Pride celebrations held in many major urban centres around the country, South Africa has a far more accepting attitude to gays and lesbians than many other countries on Earth, let alone on the African continent.

The Middle East, dominated by an overwhelmingly Islamic culture, is well-known for its intolerance of sexual minorities. Punishment for engaging in homosexual acts range from one years’ imprisonment (Lebanon), to flogging, deportation or execution (UAE, Saudi Arabia, Yemen).
While homosexuality is legal in Palestine, Bahrain and, most recently, Iraq, Israel is seen as the most tolerant country in the Middle East on the issue. Since the legalisation of homosexuality there in 1988, significant gay rights legislation has been passed that puts many of the country’s Eastern European neighbours to shame. Although Israel doesn’t perform civil unions or marriages for gay couples itself, it is the only country in all the Middle East and Asia to recognise domestic partnerships for foreign couples. Following Supreme Court cases in 2005 and 2007, one male-male and one female-female couple have adopted children, but there is no official legislation cementing a national law for this.
Gays have been allowed to serve openly in the Israeli armed forces since 1993 and every year a number of cities around the country host Gay Pride celebrations.

With such a turbulent political past, it is hardly surprising that Russia has had a historically volatile relationship with gay rights.
Homosexuality was, in fact, first decriminalised in 1917 after the Communist Revolution, in a period of political liberalism surrounding sexuality and feminism. However, with Stalin’s rise to power, sexual relations between two men was re-criminalised in 1933. Sixty years later this was reversed by Boris Yeltsin’s government and homosexuality again legalised, but largely due to outside pressure from the Council of Europe.
Unfortunately, this rare glimmer of pro-gay legislation is today in jeopardy as in a recent country-wide survey almost 44% of respondents supported outlawing homosexual relations. When it comes to gay rights, news on LGBT issue from Russia is often dominated by violent anti-gay protests. When Pride parades were attempted by a small group of activists in Moscow in 2006 and 2007, not only did the City’s mayor openly criticise the participants, but the police force failed to protect those taking part from protesters’ verbal and physical threats.
Although gay marriage and anti-gay discrimination legislation is blatantly opposed by Russia’s government, it is interesting to note that it is one of the few countries on Earth to allow gay men to donate blood.

Unlike many other countries around the world, the only instance in Japanese history when homosexuality was banned outright was during a brief seven-year period in the 1870s. Historically same-sex relations were not seen as a sin in society and were, in fact, actively encouraged among monks. Considering this, it is perhaps shocking that Japan has only very recently begun to grant explicit legal rights to its LGBT citizens.
As of this year there are no gay marriages or civil partnerships performed in the country by the Japanese government and there is no recognition of foreign gay couples’ unions. Moreover, although there is no law condemning homosexuality or same-sex relations, there is also no law to prevent discrimination towards a citizen on the basis of sexual orientation or gender expression. The same goes for the armed forces; there is no law explicitly banning a member of the LGBT community from enlisting, but in 1992 an army representative declared there were no gays in the military and suggested that openly gay or lesbian recruits could be punished for their sexuality. However, with gay scenes beginning to thrive in major metropolitan areas, political stances to homosexuality are changing.
A transgender woman and lesbian attained political positions in the early 2000s and, while there is not yet talk of legalising same-sex unions, as of this year the government has proposed to enable Japanese nationals to marry same-sex partners who are citizens from countries where gay marriage or domestic partnerships are legally approved.


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