Thursday 2 July 2009

Gay sex not a crime in India

An Indian court on Thursday (July 2) ruled gay sex was not a crime, a verdict that will bolster demands by gay and health groups that the government scrap a British colonial law which bans homosexual sex.
In a country where public hugging and kissing even among heterosexuals invites lewd remarks and sometimes beatings, gay sex has been a taboo, leaving the government unsure how conservative Indians would react if the law was repealed.

The Delhi High Court's ruling that homosexual sex among consenting adults is not a crime is expected to boost an increasingly vocal pro-gay lobby in India that says the British-era law was a violation of human rights.

The current law bans "sex against the order of nature", and is widely interpreted to mean homosexual sex in India.

Gay rights activists hailed the court verdict as historic and many supporters of homosexuality were seen celebrating with sweets and smearing each other with vermilion.

"I am very happy. It was a long struggle. And the judgement that has come out today after so many years is a big thing; it's a big achievement. I am thankful to all the lawyers, all the activists, all NGO's and I am very thankful. Now there are lot of other challenges which we need to fight for and we will fight it out lot of other things," one activist said.

The ruling applies to all of India, but can be appealed at the Supreme Court.

Gay rights activists also argue the law, framed in 1861, was an impediment in fighting against HIV/AIDS because many homosexuals refuse to come out in the open fearing harassment by authorities.

"Consensual sex amongst adults is legal which includes even gay sex and sex among the same sexes," said a two-judge bench of the court. The verdict said the current law will apply in the event of sex without consent.

Petitions to change the 1861 law have so far been firmly rejected by the government but there has been some softening up on the stand in recent years, with officials saying the possibility of revoking the ban was being discussed.

Thursday's court verdict came after nine years of legal proceedings initiated by India's gay groups.

Under the current law, homosexual sex is punishable by up to 10 years in jail.


Tuesday 30 June 2009

Ban ranks among most trusted world leaders

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is one of the world’s most confidence-inspiring political leaders, according to a new survey made public today.
Mr. Ban ranked second to United States President Barack Obama in the poll by the non-governmental organization, in which nearly 20,000 people in 20 countries were surveyed.

On average, his evaluations across all countries polled were positive, particularly in Africa, Africa and Western Europe.

Some 90 per cent of respondents in the Republic of Korea gave the Secretary-General positive confidence scores, while in Kenya and Nigeria he polled at 70 and 69 per cent, respectively., which conducted the poll between 4 April and 12 June of this year, is a collaborative research project bringing together research centres from around the world, and is managed by the Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) at the University of Maryland.

China awaits Internet filter

China's Internet control software, called "Green Dam", has sparked international and domestic concerns, but the real challenge may be the nation's own PC market.

From Wednesday the government is ordering all PCs sold in China to have the filter, intended to block obscene images, but which critics say is aimed at deterring political dissent.

The move is the latest Communist Party initiative to control the Internet, which has about 300 million users in China.

Last week a Chinese official accused Google of spreading obscene content over the Internet, and the comments came a day after Google on-line services abruptly became temporarily inaccessible to many mainland users.

But some see China's own PC and software market as the main difficulty ahead for the government.

The freewheeling Chinese IT and retail market, known for years as a source of pirated software and black market DVDs, may end up frustrating censors, as the software is stripped out and efforts to circumvent the order emerge.

Beyond the streets of Beijing, foreign critics say the software is technically flawed and could be used to spy on Internet users, as well as to block sites.

Corporations and international trade officials have urged Beijing to reconsider or delay the controversial filter that will be pre-installed in all PCs, with some expecting the lodging of a formal complaint with the World Trade Organization.

Kitty Bu reporting for Reuters in Beijing.

Monday 29 June 2009

Creative Environmental Advertising

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Amnesty International Says Forced Exile of Honduran President Zelaya Cannot be Allowed to Stand

Organization Expresses Concern that His Supporters May be Detained

NEW YORK, June 29 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Amnesty International said today that Honduran President Manuel Zelaya must be able to return to Honduras immediately, safely and without conditions.

"The forced removal of President Zelaya places human rights and the rule of law in serious danger," said Kerrie Howard, deputy director for the Americas program at Amnesty International.

The organization expressed concerns for the safety of human rights and political activists who support -- or are seen to support -- President Zelaya, saying they may be arbitrarily detained in the political turmoil.

"We would consider those detained because of their criticism of the forced removal and forced exile of President Zelaya as prisoners of conscience," said Howard.

Amnesty International is also concerned at reports suggesting that television channels have been closed and restrictions placed on mass media, preventing people from learning about developments in their country.

Amnesty International urged the Honduran authorities to fully respect human rights and fundamental freedoms; to immediately release any government officials and political activists who may be currently detained; to refrain from further arbitrary detentions; and to guarantee that political opponents and human rights defenders are able to carry out their legitimate activities without fear of reprisal.


Honduran President Manuel Zelaya was detained by Honduran military personnel and forced into exile. Several government ministers are also reported to have been detained. Roberto Micheletti, Congress speaker, has been sworn in as "Interim President." Micheletti has imposed a curfew.

Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 2.2 million supporters, activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.

Please visit for more information.

Amnesty International

Controversy in France over possible legislation against the burkha

A public debate is raging in France after French President Nicolas Sarkozy said last week that burkhas are not welcome in France.
Addressing parliamentary deputies and senators at the Versailles Palace on Monday (June 22), Sarkozy argued that the garments, worn by some Muslim women to cover themselves from head to toe and hide their faces, were an affront to their dignity.

"We should make no mistake: in France the Muslim faith should receive the same respect as other religions. The burkha question is not a religious one; it is a question of freedom and of women's dignity. The burkha is not welcome in France. We cannot accept that in our country, some women be imprisoned behind a screen, cut from all social life and deprived of all identity. That is not the French Republic's idea of women's dignity," said Sarkozy.

Sarkozy backed a cross-party initiative by some 60 legislators for a parliamentary commission to find ways to stop the burkha's spread.

France, home to Europe's largest Muslim minority, is divided over how to reconcile secular values with religious freedom.

Many see the burkha as an infringement of women's rights and say it is being imposed on many Muslim women by fundamentalists.

French cabinet members are divided on whether a ban on burkhas would be appropriate.

A government-approved body representing French Muslims spoke out any such a ban,

saying it would stigmatise Muslims.

"The word 'burkha' is what shocks me. Because the burkha does not exist in France. What some women here wear is called a niqab. The burkha is a one-piece garment that comes from Afghanistan, with a screen. It does not exist in France. Another thing that shocks me is the grouping of all these garments under the word "burkha," which can have an Afghanistan connotation. They use the word to scare people," said Abdallah Zekri, a member of the French Council of the Muslim Faith.

He warned that indivdual freedoms had to be protected.

"Everyone is free to do what they want. One hides her face, another exposes her breasts. That's freedom. That's France. That's the France I learned about in books. The country of human rights, individual liberty, freedom of conscience. That's what we need to work on, rather than stigmatising Islam and Muslims, because even moderate people get fed up with that after a while," said Abdallah Zekri.

The burkha issue is the latest in a series of debates that have divided France, home to Europe's largest Muslim minority, over how to reconcile secular values with religious freedom.

"I am Muslim and I am proud of it. But I have had enough of all the people who use my religion to oppress. And we are a lot of youth, young people across Europe that say 'no' today. Stop using our religion. We want to say that Islam and democracy is OK, that Islam and secularism is OK also. So we want to be a part of this society," said Sihem Habchi, who heads Ni Putes ni Soumises, an organisation that defends women's rights in France.

Hanchi also called for legislation to protect basic freedoms. "Unfortunately if we need a law to stop this movement of fundamentalists here in our country, we have to do that," she said.

The debate is reminiscent of a controversy that raged for a decade in France about Muslim girls wearing headscarves in school. Eventually, a law was passed in 2004 banning students from wearing conspicuous religious symbols at state schools.


Sunday 28 June 2009

Hungarian and foreign dignatories gather to mark 20 years since the dismantling of the Iron Curtain

HEGYESHALOM, HUNGARY - The state commemoration of the dismantling of the Iron Curtain and the opening of the Hungarian-Austrian border 20 years ago began in Budapest on Saturday (June 27) with a ceremonial raising of the Hungarian flag in front of the Hungarian Parliament.
Delegates from all over Europe then gathered for a family photo followed by a reception around the ancient Hungarian crown.

Taking an enormous risk, Hungary was the first country of the former Soviet bloc to dismantle the barbed wire that became notorious as the Iron Curtain. The dismantling of the fences officially began on May 2, 1989, and progressed at such a rapid rate that by the time Austria's then foreign minister, Alois Mock, and his Hungarian counterpart, Gyula Horn, were to cut through the border fence near Sopron during a symbolic ceremony on June 27, the fence had temporarily to be restored for the occasion.

"The Iron Curtain cut through the whole of Europe. It was not only an ill-omened division line but a closely guarded real dividing wall," Hungarian president Laszlo Solyom said in his speech to the gathering.

"Orders to shoot, people shot dead while escaping, series of tragedies are linked to it. The barbed wire cut through immediately became a symbol that made the whole world understand what was going on in the middle of Europe. The other former Socialist countries had their own opening of the borders but the border opening between Austria and Hungary had such consequences that directly contributed to the reunification of Germany and a re-settling of Europe," he said.

Hungary earned praise not only by daring to tear down the Iron Curtain but also for taking in tens of thousands of East German refugees during 1989.

"This [dismantling the fence] encouraged people all over Europe also in the GDR [East Germany] where people were still fighting for their freedom. This was a peaceful revolution and climax of that process was the reunification of the two parts of Germany. We Germans consider our reunification as the reunification of Europe itself so for us it was absolutely natural that we link the reunification of Germany with the integration of Europe," the Federal President of Germany, Horst Kohler, said in his speech.

Commemorations in Budapest will continue with a street photo exhibition, and a celebrational concert in the evening.


Hundreds demonstrate in Calais against border controls between France and England

Some 1,500 migrants and activists held a mass demonstration in the French port city of Calais on Saturday (June 27) to protest tight border controls between France and England.
Security forces outnumbered the demonstrators, as violence in recent days provoked fears of further violence at Saturday's demonstration. Calais police have arrested 17 people in the area in the past week, including 4 on Wednesday (June 24) who were armed with machetes and orange-size metal balls used in a French game called "petanque".

The No Border Network, a UK-based group that defends the rights of migrants in several countries, organised the demonstration.

" "Yesterday I went to the 'jungle' and I met a 14-year-old boy from Afghanistan. who is here because his whole family had been killed by a British soldier in Afghanistan and he has travelled, he has travelled across, for one year he has travelled across to come here, and my government won't let him into our country, where he can be safe, secure, where he can go to school, where he can have health and security. And my government has caused the problem for him so I am here today on solidarity with people like that," said Sarah, a British No Borders activist.

The "jungle" is an encampment of makeshift tents in the woods near Calais where hundreds of migrants gather to await their chance to board a truck or ferry and cross the English Channel.

"There is a real problem here in Calais. The politicians really need to do something. These are human beings. I don't know what the solution is, but they need to do something," said Sebastien, a Calais resident.

France is struggling to control the growing encampment, which sprang up after French authorities closed a Red Cross shelter in the area in 2002.

French police arrested close to 150 migrants here on April 21. Immigration Minister Eric Besson said the raid was aimed at destroying a network of people traffickers, and not at detaining illegal immigrants.

"We don't have guns or water cannons. We are from No Borders, and we are here to demonstrate, debate, and try to sensitize people on the immigration issue. We don't have any guns. The violence does not come from us, it comes from the government," said No Border activist Sebastian.

No Borders activists accounted for roughly one-third of the 1,500 demonstrators.


Inmates dance for Jackson

Laws banning homosexuality need a review, says India's federal law minister

Veerappa Moily, India's federal Minister of Law and Justice says that the controversial Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), drafted in Victorian India, which criminalises homosexuality, requires a thorough review.

Veerappa Moily, India's federal Minister of Law and Justice contended that the controversial Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), drafted during the British colonial era and which criminalises homosexuality, needs a thorough review.
He said this while addressing a press conference at Thiruvantapuram, the capital city of India's southern state of Kerala on Sunday (June 28).

At a 'Meet the Press' interaction hosted by the Kerala Union of Working Journalists, Moily clarified that he would soon be meeting federal Home Minister P. Chidambaram and federal Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, to decide the fate of Section 377.

Moily is believed to be in favour of repealing Section 377 from the IPC.

He pointed out that many sections of the IPC are outdated and government is exploring possibilities of amending such laws and updating legal provisions so that they were in tune with the times.

He revealed that the federal government would hold discussions with all sections of society before taking the final decision on repealing Section 377 of the IPC.

"I think whenever you make a law, it's to facilitate but not to punish people. So taking that view into account, I think even Section 377 requires a re look, a re-visit," noted Veerappa Moily, India's federal Minister of Law and Justice.

However, he was quick to react when asked whether homosexuality would be made legal in India.

He said that repeal doesn't necessarily means legalising the act.

"When you say repeal that does not mean it's to legalise that activity," added Moily.

Many organisations have raised protests against the government's move to repeal the controversial section of the IPC.

The Home Ministry had earlier argued before the High Court that homosexuality is not accepted by Indian society and repealing Section 377 from the IPC would encourage more anti-social activities.

Section 377 of the IPC criminalizes 'carnal intercourse' against the order of nature.

Homosexuality is generally considered a taboo subject both by the Indian civil society and the government.

Sexuality in any form is rarely discussed openly, but in recent years, attitudes towards homosexuality have undergone a shift.

The government no longer seeks to prosecute adults engaging in private consensual homosexual acts.

The campaign to decriminalise homosexuality has strengthened thanks to the efforts of organisations such as NAZ foundation, the National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO), the Law Commission of India, the Union Health Ministry, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and the Planning Commission of India.

The United Nations too has urged India to decriminalise homosexuality, saying it would help to fight the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS.

Nano, the next dimension

Nanosciences and nanotechnologies represent a formidable challenge for the research community and industry. World-class infrastructure, new fundamental knowledge, novel equipment for characterisation and manufacturing, multi-disciplinary education and training for innovative and creative engineering, and a responsible attitude to societal demands are required. This documentary film, made available by the European Commission, provides a glimpse of some of the many activities that are being carried out in Europe in these fast-grozing fields of research and technological development.

This video was made available by the European Commission. January 2002.