Thai Red Cross ends blood ban
BANGKOK, Thailand — Activists have succeeded in their bid to amend the screening form required for blood donation. To date, questions on the form have asked about high-risk sexual behavior, but only related to same-sex behavior, and all gay men have been prohibited from donating. The questions will be rephrased to address risky behavior without regard to participants’ gender or sexuality.

Giving blood is particularly important in this Buddhist nation, where it is believed that donating is a means of building good karma and a penance for sin — thus beneficial to a person in his or her next life. In this way, cutting LGBT people out of the donor pool has spiritual consequences as well as social implications.

In 2005, the CDC estimated that 28 percent of gay men in Bangkok were infected with HIV. Over 500 blood donors in 2007 were found to be HIV positive, only half of whom were gay men. All HIV-positive donors were informed of their status, but only one-third responded to calls in order to obtain further counseling.

The final push for inclusion
EDMONTON, Alberta — Federal LGBT protections have been in place in Canada for over a decade. Even so, every province in the nation has taken the symbolic step of adding similar policies to its regional code as well — with the exception of Alberta.

Although Alberta has issued over 600 same-sex marriage certificates since the option became available in 2005 and even though the municipal governments regularly consult with the LGBT community, the province has never taken the step of adding LGBT people to the list of those who are categorically protected from hate crimes and other forms of discrimination.

LGBT rights advocate Murray Billett (pictured) said it is time for Alberta to step up to the plate — particularly given the relative ease of opening marriage. “The sun came up, life chugged on and royalties continued to chug in. The evolution of human rights is incremental. Look at attitudes towards persons of color 20 years ago, towards aboriginal people 25 years ago. We have to embrace the reality of the diversity that exists in our society and that’s what I need this government to do.”

Cardiff Pride is on again
CARDIFF, Wales — When it was announced that the local Mardi Gras celebration had been cancelled, the bad news was a double punch for the gay community because the usually included LGBT events were nixed as well.

Things have turned around, however, now that a separate group from the organizers of Mardi Gras have announced plans for an independent Cardiff Pride. The venue, events, performances and speakers are being arranged with six-months lead time. Organizers said they are not planning a march. “Anyone who wants to organize a march should go ahead, they will get 100 percent support from us,” said a Pride representative.

Singapore bans LGBT films
SINGAPORE — National censors have banned several documentaries from appearing at the nation’s film festival because they portray themes prohibited by law. “A Jihad for Love,” a film about gay Muslims, was banned “in view of the sensitive nature of the subject that features Muslim homosexuals in various countries and their struggle to reconcile religion and their lifestyle.” “Bakushi,” a film examining female bondage play, was cut because it “normalizes unnatural fetishes and behavior which is disallowed.”

Other films, including “Arabs and Terrorism” and “David the Tolhildan,” were blocked by the Board of Film Censors because of their “sympathetic portrayal of organizations deemed terrorist organizations by many countries,” Singapore’s The Straits Times newspaper reported.

“David The Tolhildan” recounts how a Swiss man left his country to join the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, a Kurdish rebel group. The U.S., European Union and Turkey consider the PKK a terrorist organization. “Films which portray terrorist organizations in a positive light by lending support and voice to justify their cause through violence are disallowed under the film classification guidelines,” censorship board chairman Amy Chua told the newspaper.

World rights group honors Tutu
SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. — A moving speech by Archbishop Desmond Tutu (pictured) was the highlight of A Celebration of Courage, the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission’s (IGLHRC) annual gala awards ceremony held here April 8. Tutu was presented with an Outspoken Award, recognizing his leadership as a global ally of the LGBT community who has contributed substantially to advancing the rights and understanding of LGBT people everywhere.

Speaking to a crowd of 500 members of the LGBT community at Grace Cathedral, Tutu compared the importance of speaking up for human rights to the basic act of breathing. The Nobel Peace Prize recipient condemned the persecution of LGBT people, apologized on behalf of his Church for ostracizing gay people, and challenged China to improve its human rights record as it prepares to host the next Olympic Games.

“When IGLHRC invited Archbishop Tutu to come to San Francisco to accept its Outspoken Award, we had no idea that our event would coincide with such a momentous time in the history of human rights activism,” said Paula Ettelbrick, IGLHRC’s executive director. “The Archbishop’s speech at this unique historical moment affirms that human rights apply to each and every human being — in South Africa, in the United States, in China, and around the world. Activists and governments alike should heed the Archbishop’s words. He is a moral luminary whose inclusive approach to human rights advocacy paves the way for a better world.”