Carol Lay
by Rex Wockner

Yes, several states and the Bush administration declared war on gays and lesbians in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court's pro-sodomy decision and Massachusetts' legalization of same-sex marriage. No argument there. But while this sucks, life was massively suckier over the past 12 months for gays in many other parts of the world. Here are a selection of international horror stories that will hopefully help gays and lesbians in the United States keep their oppression in perspective.

July 7, 2003:

Police in Bishkek, capital of the former Soviet republic of Kyrgyzstan, are routinely demanding hush money from gay men who place personal ads on the Internet or in the newspaper. Victims say they have been lured to apartments, interrogated, beaten, tortured, and forced to turn over around $50 to prevent being outed to their families and employers.

September 5, 2003:

Imprisoned Uzbek gay journalist Ruslan Sharipov sent a letter begging for help to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. Activists say Sharipov was coerced into pleading guilty to sodomy, sex with minors, and running a brothel after authorities tortured him and threatened to harm his mother. The government targeted him to silence his journalistic criticism of human-rights abuses and police corruption, activists claim. Sharipov wrote: "They put a gas mask on my head and sprayed an unknown substance into my throat, after which I could hardly breathe. They also injected an unknown substance into my veins and warned me that if I did not follow their instructions they would give me an injection of the AIDS virus."

October 6, 2003

: Egypt continues to arrest gay men by the hundreds. In the latest incident, Cairo police blocked both ends of a cruisy bridge and grabbed 62 men. They face up to three years in prison for "habitual practice of debauchery." "These arrests are only the latest in a two-year official campaign against homosexual conduct," said Human Rights Watch.

October 20, 2003:

The Chapel of the Vladimir Icon of the Mother of God, the Russian Orthodox chapel in which Russia's first same-sex wedding was conducted on September 1, was demolished after local church leaders determined it had been desecrated.

Nov. 17, 2003:

Greece's Mega Channel was fined $117,000 by the National Radio and Television Council for showing a male-male kiss on the weekly drama Close Your Eyes.

December 6, 2003:

Police officers viciously beat two gay men in Kathmandu, Nepal. Jag Bahadur Lama, 28, and Mani Lama, 20, were attacked near Ratna Park, first by hoodlums, then by officers from a passing police van. The police put the couple inside the van and kicked them and bashed them with rifle butts for an hour, then drove them to a barracks, beat them further, and forced them to fellate numerous officers. The Nepalese gay group Blue Diamond Society said such attacks are common.

January 17, 2004:

Taipei, Taiwan, police raided a "gay orgy" at a private apartment and detained 92 men for alleged illegal drug use. The detainees were subsequently force-tested for sexually transmitted diseases. Twenty-eight tested HIV-positive and 46 had syphilis, local media reported. Only 14 of the HIV carriers were listed on the government's official tally of people with HIV.

March 5, 2004:

Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe erupted again. He said: "Let us never entertain the theory that man and man can form a family. It's Adam and Eve, not Adam and Adam, Eve and Eve." In previous eruptions, Mugabe has stated: "What an abomination.... Animals in the jungle are better than these people.... I don't believe they have any rights at all."

March 12, 2004:

Ecuadorian gay activist Patricio Ordóñez Maico was knifed in the chest and back in the Quito office of the gay group Friends for Life Foundation by an attacker who shouted, "I'm going to kill you, you son of a bitch." The attack happened a week after Ordóñez spoke at a human-rights meeting about a complaint he filed against National Police officers who allegedly assaulted him, sexually abused him, and threatened to kill him.

March 29, 2004:

A groundbreaking resolution on gay rights was scuttled again this year at the 60th session of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in Geneva. Sponsored by Brazil, the resolution "calls upon all States to promote and protect the human rights of all persons regardless of their sexual orientation." Brazil withdrew the measure before it came up for a vote, saying that Muslim nations and the Vatican had enough clout to defeat it.

March 31, 2004:

Singapore's Registrar of Societies refused to register the gay organization People Like Us and ordered its members to cease activity. The agency said registering the group would violate the Societies Act's ban on organizations that are "likely to be used for unlawful purposes or for purposes prejudicial to public peace, welfare, or good order in Singapore."

April 14, 2004:

The legislature of the Indian Ocean island of Zanzibar, which is part of Tanzania, voted unanimously to ban homosexuality. Gay male relationships will be punished with 25 years in prison and lesbian relationships with 7 years in prison.

May 7, 2004:

Two hundred skinheads pelted 1,500 gay-pride marchers with firecrackers, eggs, bottles, and rocks, then fought with police for several hours in the Old Town Square of Krakow, Poland.

May 18, 2004:

A court in Yemen convicted three journalists of violating the nation's morals and customs for writing a story about gays. The article in the newspaper This Week quoted men jailed for engaging in gay sex.

June 1, 2004:

Amnesty International launched an urgent campaign asking people to write Jamaican prime minister P. J. Patterson insisting he protect gays from violence and legalize gay sex. "Amnesty International has received many reports of vigilante action against gay people... and of ill-treatment or torture by the police," the group said. "Gay men and women have been beaten, cut, burned, raped, and shot on account of their sexuality."

June 9, 2004:

Jamaica's best-known gay activist was murdered in Kingston. Brian Williamson, 59, was found lying in a pool of blood in his bedroom with multiple knife wounds. "The condition of his body... and his visibility as a gay man lead us to suspect this is a hate-related crime," said the Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All-Sexuals and Gays.

June 17, 2004:

Prime Minister John Howard's proposed bans on same-sex marriage and adoption of foreign babies by gay couples passed Australia's lower house and moved to the senate. "People can have their relationships, it's just that they can't have their relationships ascribed the characteristic of marriage when marriage is a relationship between a man and a woman," said Attorney General Philip Ruddock.

June 18, 2004:

The group Queer Somali said the biggest problem for Somali gays is fear they will be murdered. "My people don't understand what a homosexual is," said activist Faro. "They only know that through their religious law, the solution is to kill."

June 18, 2004:

Zealots from India's Shiv Sena party trashed movie theaters in several cities to halt screenings of the new lesbian-themed Indian film Girlfriends. They broke windows, destroyed posters, and burned effigies. Gay activists denounced the movie as homophobic.

Although there are several nations that are friendlier to gays than the U.S. --Canada, the Netherlands, Denmark, and others--the fact remains, we live in one of the 10 most gay-advanced countries on the planet. Gays and lesbians in 182 other nations can't say that. Happy Pride.

Rex Wockner has covered international news since 1988. His work has appeared in 350 gay newspapers around the world.