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LGBT Members Of Congress Object To Trade Agreement With Anti-Gay Brunei And Malaysia

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Five out gay members of Congress have written to President Obama to ask why Malaysia and Brunei - two countries with severe anti-gay laws - have been included in a free trade pact which the administration is currently negotiating and seeking to fast-track, reports Buzzfeed News.

Ddcda4647e4d3900da0f2b57c8fd68bd_400x400Sent yesterday, the letter was signed by Democratic Reps. Mark Pocan, David Cicilline (above left), Sean Patrick Maloney (above middle), Kyrsten Sinema (above right) and Mark Takano, five of the six co-chairs of the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which also includes several other nations in Asia and Latin America, became a serious concern for gay rights groups last year after the sultan of Brunei imposed a version of sharia law that included a punishment of death by stoning for homosexuality. Some states in Malaysia also have criminal sharia codes, and the government is appealing a court ruling striking down a law that criminalizes transgender people.

The five representatives argue in the letter that although Obama’s administration announced in December that it would remove the Gambia from a trade pact for African nations because of a crackdown on gay rights, negotiations continue with Brunei and Malaysia.

The letter reads in part:

“In light of the decision to end trade preferences for Gambia, we write today to ask for clarification on the inclusion of Brunei and Malaysia in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations.

“These two countries are responsible for severe human rights abuses, including adopting penal codes permitting the imprisonment and physical harm of LGBT people. It seems inconsistent for the United States to expand trade privileges to these two countries while taking action against Gambia.”

Jared Polis, the sixth Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus co-chair, is the only out member of Congress who did not sign the letter.


Malaysian Opposition Leader Loses Final Appeal Against Sodomy Conviction: VIDEO

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Despite some uplifting advances within the trans rights space, Malaysia still remains pretty solidly on the "Countries Hostile to LGBT Citizens" list. This is highlighted by the legal trials and tribulations former Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim, an outspoken opposition leader in Malaysia, has endured over allegations that he is gay and had sex with a male aide.

This story goes way back. In 1998 Ibrahim was jailed on corruption and sodomy charges and served six years in jail, at which point the conviction was overturned. A defamation case was launched in 2006 when former premier Mahathir Mohamad said that Ibrahim could not have been allowed to become prime minister because he was gay. The case was eventually thrown out on a technicality. In 2008 authorities accused Ibrahim of having sex with an aide in his opposition party, an accusation he was acquitted of in 2012 but was subsequently charged again two weeks after the acquittal. Last March the acquittal was overturned and Ibrahim was sentenced to five years in prison.

All of which brings us to today, when Malaysia's highest court has decided to uphold the overturn of the acquittal. Ibrahim maintains his innocence, claiming,

This to me is a fabrication coming from a political conspiracy to stop my political career.

Given the vast amount of attention the courts have paid to an individual's private sex life, it's a plausible assertion. Bernadette Meehan, a spokesperson for the National Security Council, also lodged criticism at the Malaysian courts:

The decision to prosecute Mr. Anwar and the conduct of his trial have raised a number of serious concerns about rule of law and the fairness of the judicial system in Malaysia.

Concerns about rule of law and fairness of the judicial system really should have been brought to light when the Malaysian government decided to officially state that muscular boys in sleeveless shirts and girls having sleepovers were signs of "the gay".

Watch a news report from Reuters on Ibrahim's conviction, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Malaysian Opposition Leader Loses Final Appeal Against Sodomy Conviction: VIDEO" »


Malaysian Appeals Court Issues Landmark Trans Rights Ruling

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A Malaysian state provision criminalizing Muslim men from wearing women’s clothing was determined to be unconstitutional by a panel of three appeals court judges. The decision is being hailed a major progressive step in the fight for trans-rights in Malaysia.

"[This law] has the effect of denying the appellants and other sufferers of GID (gender identity disorder) to move freely in public places,” explained judge Hishamudin Yunus “This is degrading, oppressive and inhuman.”

The decision will free three male born but female identified transpeople who were arrested in 2012. Lawyers representing challengers of the law say that moving forward, there could be many people throughout the country exonerated from previous convictions that put them into prison.

“The fight will still be there but  at least now the trans community know that they have their rights to challenge the law," said Malaysia trans-rights activist  Nisha Ayub. "It will encourage them to come out rather than being oppressed."


Malaysian Police Arrest Two Women On Charges of Lesbianism

MalaysiaTwo women have reportedly been arrested in the outskirts of the southern Malaysian city of Johor Bahru on charges of violating Shariah codes on same-sex sexual activity, Buzzfeed reports:

Reports by the Malaysian newspaper Sinar Harian suggest the two women were swept up in a broad morality raid launched around the Southeast Asian country’s annual celebration of its independence from Great Britain. The police had gone to what news reports identified as a “budget hotel” and arrested seven apparently heterosexual couples in other rooms for violating laws against adultery and “close proximity.” The police arrested the two women — both identified as university students — under a code criminalizing sex between women after finding a dildo in their room.

Malaysian women's rights group Sisters in Islam issued a statement defending the two women: 

Citing section 26 of the Johor Syariah enactment, SIS legal officer Rashidi Abd Rahim argued that prosecutors must prove that the act had actually taken place.

Rashidi said that based on the report by Sinar Harian, one of the suspects, who was fully clothed, had opened the door, while another was naked in the bathroom.

The news report, Rashidi pointed out, failed to show any criminal element.

It is believed this may be the first time a female couple has been arrested under the country's prohibition on sodomy. The women face three months in jail, six lashes, and a fine equal to around $1,500. 

Back in 2012, the Malaysian government began holding seminars aimed at helping teachers and parents "spot signs of homosexuality' so that "preventive action" could be taken. 


amfAR Releases Statement on Death of Dr. Joep Lange and Others Killed in Malaysia Crash

amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research, released a statement to Towleroad reacting to the loss of Dr. Joep Lange, and other victims of the horrific shooting down of the Malaysian Airlines jet over Ukraine:

amfAR is saddened by the tragic and untimely loss of Dr. Joep Lange and many others who were en route to attend the 20th International AIDS Conference in Melbourne, Australia, and were on board the Malaysian Airlines MH17 flight that crashed in Ukraine on Thursday, July 17.

LangeDr. Lange was a dear friend to amfAR and a skilled and dedicated AIDS researcher. He worked tirelessly to improve access to life-saving drugs in resource-limited countries, and pioneered the development of affordable combination therapies to treat HIV and simple antiretroviral drug treatments to prevent mother-to-child transmission. He was the head of the Department of Global Health at the Academic Medical Center at the University of Amsterdam and co-director of HIV-NAT (HIV Netherlands Australia Thailand Research Collaboration).

Dr. Lange served as president of the International AIDS Society from 2002 to 2004 and was the founder of PharmAccess International, an organization dedicated to providing affordable access to quality healthcare in Africa.

Dr. Lange’s passing is a profound loss to the HIV/AIDS and global health community. All of us at amfAR extend our heartfelt condolences to the families, friends and colleagues of Dr. Lange and the other researchers and AIDS activists who lost their lives in the crash of flight MH17.

“Joep Lange was a towering presence in the fight against AIDS since the beginning of the epidemic and a wonderful friend, colleague, and teacher,” said amfAR CEO Kevin Robert Frost. “He inspired legions of AIDS researchers, healthcare workers and activists and was an inspiration to me personally. He will be sorely missed.”

Media outlets have been reporting that possibly 100 participants in the 20th International AIDS Conference were killed in the incident.


Jon Stewart Ruthlessly Mocks CNN for Sucking the Missing Plane Story Dry: VIDEO

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How can CNN continue for day after day of coverage of the missing Malaysia flight MH 370 with absolutely no real news to report? The Daily Show rounded up all the ridiculousness into two bite-sized, hilarious segments.

"CNN actually seems to be bored with the idea of reporting real things that have happened. They've decided they no longer want to be pigeonholed in the non-fiction section. CNN's not the future of news. CNN is news...of the future."

Watch, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Jon Stewart Ruthlessly Mocks CNN for Sucking the Missing Plane Story Dry: VIDEO" »


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