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Rex Wockner
International News
Nicaragua's sodomy ban is history. A rewrite of the nation's Penal Code, which takes effect in March, simply left the ban out.

"We are not wanting to moralize," explained José Pallaís, president of the National Assembly's Justice and Legal Issues Committee. "The state should not be regulating conduct or giving moral indicators of how citizens should behave.

"We are not making a code of the Catholic Church here," he said. "We are making a democratic code under modern principles and principles of legality."

Old Penal Code Article 204 stated: "Anyone who induces, promotes, propagandizes or practices in scandalous forms of sexual intercourse between persons of the same sex commits the crime of sodomy [and] will incur a penalty of one to three years in prison."

At least three nations in Central or South America continue to ban Gay sex - Belize, Guyana and Panama - along with several Caribbean islands, including Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, Jamaica, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Trinidad and Tobago. Ten of the countries are former British colonies.

The International Lesbian and Gay Association says Gay sex also remains illegal in Antigua and Barbuda, but Amnesty International USA and other sources report it is legal. At the time of this column's deadline, the actual situation could not be determined.

(A September item in this column failed to note the sodomy bans in Belize, Dominica, Panama, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines as well as the conflicting information regarding Antigua and Barbuda.)

After the Hungarian Parliament's human-rights committee refused to open debate on a bill to allow same-sex marriage, the government has submitted a proposal to create registered partnerships for Gay and straight couples.

The measure would extend spousal rights in the areas of inheritance, social benefits and use of common property.

Gay activists, who predict the bill will almost certainly pass, plan to continue the push for access to full marriage in order to gain all the rights of matrimony and because they say separate schemes do not create true equality.

Some 25,000 people marched in Buenos Aires' 16th Gay pride parade Nov. 17, from the Plaza de Mayo (site of Eva Perón's famous speech from the balcony of the Casa Rosada) up Avenida de Mayo to the Plaza de los Dos Congresos.

This year's theme was "Our Celebration Is a Demand: Freedom, Equality, Diversity."

Organizers and marchers called for legalization of same-sex marriage, not just civil unions, which are available in the capital city, and for new laws against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Incoming President Cristina Kirchner reportedly has indicated support for a proposed national civil-union law.

Following an international outcry by activists, a 21-year-old Iranian man sentenced to hang for allegedly committing sodomy and rape when he was 13 years old saw his sentence commuted Nov. 14.

Ayatollah Syed Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi, the nation's chief justice, nullified the death sentence of Makvan Mouloodzadeh, apparently agreeing with Mouloodzadeh's lawyer that evidence of the alleged crimes was lacking and that numerous elements of the case violated proper procedure.

Mouloodzadeh remains jailed in the city of Kermanshah and the case will be returned to a local court for a retrial.

"The only reason this young man managed to escape is that he had a relative in Germany that knew someone in Iran and that someone was a reporter and she was brave enough to make a fuss about it," said Hossein Alizadeh, communications director of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission and a Gay Iranian who won asylum in the U.S. based on Iran's treatment of Gay people.

"I'm sure there are many people like him who die because there was no one to hear their story," Alizadeh told MSNBC.

Singapore in mid-November banned and then unbanned Microsoft's new Xbox 360 video game Mass Effect because it offers a sex scene between a woman and a female alien.

The Board of Film Censors at first prohibited the game citing "Lesbian intimacy," but then decided to implement a rating system, gave the game an adult rating and unbanned it.

The nation also recently has banned God of War II for nudity and The Darkness for violence and religious profanity.

In October, Parliament decriminalized oral and anal sex for heterosexuals but declined to also legalize Gay sex. Penal Code Section 377A punishes sex between men - "gross indecency" -with two years in prison. The law is rarely, if ever, enforced.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong supported keeping the sex ban, saying: "We do not approve of them setting the tone of mainstream society. They live their lives, that's their personal space. But the tone of the overall society, I think, it remains conventional, it remains straight and we want it to remain so."

The governing synod of the state Church of Norway voted 50-34 on Nov. 16 to overturn a ban on Gay clergy who are partnered.

But it still will be up to local bishops whether to hire such individuals. Six of the nation's 11 bishops are known to support the change.

All Norwegian citizens automatically are members of the Evangelical Lutheran state church unless they officially join another denomination. About 86 percent of the nation's 4.7 million residents belong to the church at present, though most don't attend services.

Some 300 people joined the 4th GLBT Equality March in Poznan, Poland, November 17. Poznan is the nation's fifth-largest city.

The marchers were protected by 400 police officers. Anti-Gay protesters were limited to what one organizer called "a few ... football hooligans."

Politicians from leftist parties took part in the celebration.

In 2005, the city's pride march was banned by Mayor Ryszard Grobelny. When activists took to the street anyway, they were pursued by members of All Polish Youth chanting, "Let's gas the fags," and blocked by riot and mounted police.

When police ordered the marchers to halt, they sat down in the street and 70 of them were aggressively arrested.

In 2006, the parade was allowed following harsh criticism from the European Union and rulings by Polish courts that the 2005 ban was illegal.

This year's pride events also included parties, movies, art exhibits, lectures, a concert and an auction.
picture: Hossein Alizadeh

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