Madonna Vows to Oppose Discriminatory Russian Law
Madonna has pledged to visit St. Petersburg, Russia to speak out against the city's anti-gay legislation. In an email to Bloomberg reporter Anastasia Ustinova, the pop icon said she will travel to St. Petersburg and "speak up for the gay community" and to "give strength and inspiration to anyone who is or feels oppressed."
On March 7, St. Petersburg Governor Georgy Poltavchenko signed a law that bans LGBT "propaganda" that could give minors "the false perception that traditional and nontraditional relationships are socially equal."
The self-titled "freedom fighter" is set to perform in Moscow on Aug. 7 and in St. Petersburg two nights later. Madonna told Bloomberg that she plans on using the shows as a chance to support the LGBT community in Russia.
"I don't run away from adversity," Madonna said in the email. "I will speak during my show about this ridiculous atrocity."
Nobel Peace Prize Winner Defends Anti-Gay Legislation in Liberia
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, president of Liberia and Nobel Peace Prize winner has publicly defended a law that criminalizes homosexual acts. In an exclusive interview with the Guardian, Sirleaf said, "We've got certain traditional values in our society that we would like to preserve."
Presently, "voluntary sodomy" is classified as a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in prison. Two new bills have been proposed that would impose much tougher penalties for homosexual acts. According to the article, one bill would make gay marriage a crime punishable by up to 10 years in jail, and the second would amend the penal code to make a person guilty of a second-degree felony if he or she "seduces, encourages, or promotes another person of the same gender to engage in sexual activities," carrying a prison sentence of up to five years.
International Human Rights Orgs Pressure Iraq to Investigate 'Emo' Attacks
Human rights organizations are calling on the Iraq government to investigate a targeted campaign of intimidation and violence against Iraqi youth seen as belonging to the non-conformist "emo" subculture.
In a joint statement, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission argue that the government needs to take action against the increased violence and intimidation of those whose behavior is perceived "deviant." They also argue that the LGBT population is particularly vulnerable to this type of policing. According to the statement, victims appear to represent a cross-section of "non-conformists," including people suspected of homosexual conduct, but also people with distinctive hairstyles, clothes, or musical taste.
"The government has contributed to an atmosphere of fear and panic fostered by acts of violence against emos," said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.
In America, "emo" is short for "emotional," referring to self-identified teens and young adults who listen to alternative rock music, often dress in black, close-fitting clothes, and cut their hair in unconventional ways.
Some local Iraqi media reports have put the death toll as high as several dozen, but the international rights groups have not been able to confirm that people have been killed as part of an organized campaign.