by Rex Wockner -
SGN Contributing Writer
Gays march in 3 Indian cities
Some 2,000 GLBT people staged pride marches in the Indian cities of Calcutta, Bangalore and Delhi June 29 - the first such parades in the latter two cities.
About 500 people marched in Calcutta, 700 in the high-tech city of Bangalore and about 800 in Delhi.
"When the pride started [in Delhi], there were about 100 people and it looked like we were outnumbered by the media and the police," said correspondent Vikram Doctor. "By the time we started [marching], though ... more and more people were coming along and getting attached to the end. I was walking back and forth, trying to help with media requests, and I got a sense of how large it was growing when I realized in addition to the main group carrying the flag upfront, there was a second large group behind with placards and doing dances - and then a really large group of stragglers behind."
Calcutta's seventh parade focused heavily on Section 377, the Indian law that bans Gay sex under penalty of up to 10 years in prison. A court case, now at a crucial phase, could see the law "read down" so it no longer applies to consensual adult Gay sex.
"India continues to stigmatize its Transgender, kothi, hijra, Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and other communities of marginalized sexualities and genders," organizers said. "Section 377 ... encroaches upon a person's democratic rights, goes against the spirit of the Indian Constitution and impedes life-saving sexual health work among sexual minorities."
The parade was part of Rainbow Pride Week, which also featured movies, a photo exhibit, a panel discussion and a candlelight memorial for people lost to anti-Gay abuse or HIV.
"Clearly, Indian sexual minorities are not going to settle for status quo and are garnering support from different stakeholders, media included, in their struggle to be free from discrimination, receive respect from all sections of society, and function as equal participants in a progressive and democratic India," organizers said at the parade's conclusion.
The Queer Media Collective issued a statement saying that GLBT people in India today find themselves at about the same point U.S. Gays were when the first pride parades began in 1970.
"LGBT people face a lot of harassment from the police," the group said. "Lesbians are subject to violence and even forced to commit suicide by their families. Gay men are blackmailed by organized rackets that involve members of the police. Bisexuals are denied the chance to express same-sex love and forced into opposite-sex marriages. Transgenders are routinely arrested and raped by the police. Same-sex couples who have lived together for years cannot buy a house together, have a joint bank account or will their property to each other without being challenged by their families. ... Today in 2008, Queer Pride goes national as a sign that the time for national change has come."
Extremists attack Sofia pride, 60 arrested
More than 60 skinheads and other extremists were arrested for attacking the 150 marchers in the first Gay pride parade in Sofia, Bulgaria, June 28.
They threw bottles, rocks, eggs, firecrackers, smoke bombs and Molotov cocktails at the marchers. No one was injured, thanks to the presence of as many police officers as there were marchers.
Among those arrested was Bulgarian National Alliance leader Boyan Rassate. The alliance had plastered Sofia with anti-pride posters saying, "Be Intolerant, Be Normal."
The parade, organized by the Gay group Gemini, began at the Lovers' Bridge behind the National Palace of Culture, proceeded down busy Evlogi Georgiev Boulevard, and ended at the Red House Center for Culture and Debate on Lyuben Karavelov Street.
In Paris, meanwhile, half a million people turned out for the pride parade June 28, including openly Gay Mayor Bertrand Delanoë. A big dance party followed at the Place de la Bastille.
It rained on Berlin's parade June 28, but tens of thousands of people showed up anyhow. The parade began, for the first time, in the former East Berlin, then traversed the boulevard Unter den Linden to its destination - the Victory Column in the former West Berlin.
Czech pride attacked, 20 injured
The Czech Republic's first Gay pride parade, held in the city of Brno, came under attack from extremist and neo-Nazi protesters June 28 and at least 20 of the 500 marchers were injured.
The 150 counterdemonstrators threw tear gas, fireworks and eggs at the marchers.
Police and neo-Nazis clashed for about 45 minutes at the parade's endpoint. About 15 of the troublemakers were arrested.
Budapest Gay bar torched
Someone firebombed the Budapest Gay bar Action on June 27 after first phoning to be sure there were patrons present and to announce his plan.
The curtains in the bar's front room quickly went up in flames but were doused by a patron with a fire extinguisher. No one was injured.
Several Gay and Gay-friendly organizations have denounced the police for investigating the incident as one of "vandalism" rather than "attempted murder."
"Vandalism is when you spray paint on a wall," said Gábor Kuszing of the Association of People Challenging Patriarchy. "Throwing a petrol bomb into a bar with people in it is attempted murder. We are afraid that the police [are sending] a message that serious crimes against LGBT people will be tolerated."
A few hours before the attack, an anti-Gay website published the addresses of Gay businesses in the city and suggested attacking them.
A second attack occurred July 2 at the Gay bathhouse Magnum. Four gas bombs were tossed into the building. The fires were doused with fire extinguishers.
"We are doubtful if the police are really protecting the Gay establishments as they promised," Kuszing said.
Sweden makes it easier for Gay Iranians to stay
Sweden's Migration Board ruled June 28 that Iranian Gays who seek asylum in Sweden will get it if they were ever out of the closet while living in Iran.
Such individuals are at risk of persecution if returned to Iran, the board said.
Iran has the death penalty on the books for sodomy and is believed to have used it somewhere between a few and thousands of times since the Islamic revolution.
Western Gay activists with an interest in Iran have debated at length for years on how often Iran executes adults for consensual Gay sex, if it does at all. Accurate information on the question seems to be impossible to obtain.
At minimum, "We have documented brutal floggings imposed by courts as punishment, and torture and ill-treatment, including sexual abuse, in police custody," Human Rights Watch has said.
"The legal machinery of persecution is oiled, ready and operating in Iran," said Scott Long, head of the group's LGBT Rights Program.
With assistance from Bill Kelley