April 11, 2017
Premium stories from Worldcrunch's own network of multi-lingual journalists in over 30 countries.
Driving around Romania during one of the hottest summers I can remember, I got to see the many faces of daily life — in both sadness and joy. These traditionally dressed locals were bringing cake to a wedding. No sign of ice cream.
See more slides from My Grand-Père's World here.
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Cuba approved a new Family Code that legalizes marriage and adoptions "between two people", thus allowing same-sex marriages and LGBTQ+ families adoptions. The referendum passed with over 66% in favor.
This was the first time that a law other than the Constitution was submitted to a referendum in Cuba. Presentes LGBTQ+ media called the moment “a recognition of rights and a reparation towards the LGBT+ collective that was persecuted during the '60s and '70s.” Same-sex relationships were’nt decriminalized until 1979 in the country and “gay people were persecuted and sent to work camps”.
The new family Code also legally recognizes several fathers and mothers (in addition to biological ones) and non-profit surrogacy, among other rights. According to the BBC, some anti-government activists interpreted the referendum as “an effort by the state to improve its human rights image following a brutal crackdown on all forms of dissent in recent years.”
Despite constant shelling, the annual Pride Parade was held in Kharkiv. Participants rode through all three subway lines, visiting ten stations. The news website Kharkiv Today reports that many participants wore Ukrainian national clothing and carried posters condemning Russian aggression against Ukraine.
"In general, the Kharkov Pride march went safely. However, we learned about the attack on one participant of the march in the city center. He was wearing a vyshyvanka [embroidered traditional shirt] and was photographing a large flag of Ukraine, so the attack could have been based on homophobia and Ukrainophobia," the rally organizers reported.
Kharkiv Pride has been held since 2019. This year's Pride events included a renewed call for marriage equality — which has become all the more important for the LGBTQ+ community since the start of the war, CBC explains. Without it, LGBTQ+ people are not allowed to visit their significant other in hospital or to take care of their partner’s personal affairs for their partners while they are away fighting the war.
Prominent trans activist Susana Villareal has been found dead. There are signs she was violently murdered. Villareal, 54, was an entrepreneur from Durango in northwestern Mexico, and gained icon status with her role as “Madam” in the Netflix series Somos, which aired last year.
According to Presentes, Susana was a pioneer in LGBTQ+ visibility. Being openly trans in the state of Durango is very difficult with police raids still common. "That is why her transfeminicide has shocked us," said Alejandra Roldán, a trans activist and president of the association Diverse Warriors for Durango.
Roldán and other LGBTQ+ activists in Durango demand that the State Prosecutor's Office classify the murder of Susana Villarreal as transfeminicide.
Protestors taking to the streets have gathered around a simple phrase composed of three powerful words. “Woman, Life, Freedom.”
After the murder of Mahsa Amini, the 22-year-old Iranian woman killed at the hands of Iranian morality police who claimed she was wearing her hijab incorrectly, protestors taking to the streets in the country have gathered around a simple phrase composed of three powerful words. “Woman, Life, Freedom.”
The slogan used by protestors tired of living under strict rule from political and religious leaders was previously a Communist motto (“Work, Bread, Freedom”). In the past days, it has been repurposed and used across the country to protest the harsh regime of the Islamic Republic, as LGBTQ+ people, women, Afghans, Jews and Sunni Muslims, ethnic minorities such as Kurds, and all people who have been persecuted by the theocratic regime have found solidarity under the slogan.
Even before the Iranian Revolution of 1979, women in the country have been fighting for their rights. More recently — in 2019, 2021 and more earlier this year — protests were primarily the result of economic grievances, says Esfandyar Batmanghelidj, founder and CEO of the Bourse & Bazaar Foundation in London.
Today’s protestors face threats from Iranian authorities who have used extreme tactics to quell what is now being seen as the new Iranian Revolution. “This is different, because what people are really asking for is a more significant kind of political change,” said Batmanghelidj, adding that this movement has made it easier to “generate solidarity among different social groups.”
As Sept. 23 marked Bi Visibility Day, DNA Magazine issued a reminder that bisexual people still face a lot of discrimination — even sometimes within the LGBTQ+ community. Their sexual orientation tends to be dismissed as “just a phase” and bi individuals regularly suffer from negative stereotypes such as being indecisive or more sexually promiscuous. They can also be unfairly accused of being “straight-passing” by some gay and lesbian people, which makes the LGBTQ+ community less of a safe place for them.
This tendency towards bi-erasure means there’s a lack of bi role models for young bisexual people. Many male celebrities depicted as gay also had loving relationships with women at some point in their life, including Irish writer Oscar Wild, British actor Alan Cumming and perhaps Queen’s frontman Freddie Mercury.
Several personalities and organizations stepped up on social media on this special day, like Mayor of London Sadiq Khan. Veteran bisexual activist Jen Yockney, who coined the term “Bisexual Visibility Day” for its first edition in 1999, released a statement encouraging people to keep making progress. “We are more talked about and more heard as bi people than ever before; yet also the challenges and particular needs of bisexuals have been thrown into sharper relief over that time,” he wrote.
'Tis (almost) the season! U.S. greeting cards company Hallmark announced it will release its first LGBTQ+-centric Christmas movie. The Holiday Sitter, out on Dec. 11, will star Jonathan Benett in the role of Sam, a workaholic bachelor coming to babysit his niece and nephew, while his love interest Jason, the charming helpful neighbor, will be played by George Krissa. A gay old Christmas time, indeed!
Giorgia Meloni challenged by an LGBTQ+ activist in Cagliari
Even as the country’s first female prime minister is set to take office, many are nervous that Italy’s Giorgia Meloni’s ascension to power as the most far-right-leaning leader since WWII could mean detrimental legislative changes for the country’s LGBTQ+ community.
In the past few weeks, Meloni has repeatedly denied suggestions she might roll back legislation on abortion or LGBTQ+ rights, but still reaffirms her opposition to adoptions and surrogacy for same-sex couples. In the past, Meloni has been relatively open about her opposition to LGBTQ+ rights in general. "Yes to natural families, no to the LGBT lobby, yes to sexual identity, no to gender ideology, yes to the culture of life, no to the abyss of death," she said in Spain in June.
Within the 27-member European Union, when it comes to legal protections for LGBTQ+ people, Italy ranks close to the bottom at 23, according to advocacy group ILGA-Europe, and it is the only major country in Western Europe that has not legalised same-sex marriage.
"Even if she doesn't introduce any anti-LGBT laws, she will not speed up what we're trying to do to improve the current situation," says Roberto Muzzetta, a board member at Italy's biggest LGBTQ+ group, Arcigay.
Until last year, deaf gay and lesbian Koreans wanting to express their sexual identity had to sign a very connoted sexual intercourse.The degrading and prejudice-rooted expressions that have represented an extra obstacle for people wanting to come out. As for other gender identities and sexual orientations, some did not even exist in the official Korean Sign Language (KSL) vocabulary.
Woo Ji-yang, 33, Kim Bo-seok, 34, and members of the advocacy group Korean Deaf LGBT came up with 37 new sign expressions associated with gender identity, sexual orientation and Korean queer culture. They introduced them during the Seoul Human Rights Film Festival in April 2021 and got a good response from the community.
However, as the two activists and friends explain to The Korea Times, a double challenge remains, maybe the biggest: making theses expressions available for the entire signing population in the country, and having them officially validated — or not — by the Korea Association of the Deaf and the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, which oversees the national language institute. "For that, we believe we all need to come together ― the deaf and hearing people, as well as the sign translators," Kim said.
Zambia’s government is calling for a modern witch hunt against the LGBTQ+ community. Chief Government Spokesperson Chushi Kasanda released a controversial statement on her Facebook page on Sept. 21, dismissing allegations that the government supports homosexuality and stressing that this is its duty to “promote, protect and defend” the citizens’ interest.
Kasanda even reaffirmed Zambia’s commitment to criminalize homosexuality and LGBTQ+ practices and threatened that “anyone found practising or promoting any of the said acts is liable to prosecution in the Courts of Law”. She added that the values of the country should never be sacrificed “at any cost”.According to Zambia's penal code, same-sex sexual activities are prohibited and those convicted face sentences up to the maximum penalty of life imprisonment.
Kenya Film Classification Board (KFCB)’s CEO Christopher Wambua said in an interview with Spice FM that any movie containing LGBTQ+ content is illegal in Kenya, in accordance with Article 165 of the Penal Code that punishes homosexual relationships by five years in jail. A number of movies produced in Kenya have been banned for that reason in recent years.
"As we rate and classify content, we also consider other applicable laws. If there is any content that normalizes, glorifies same-sex relationships, our position in Kenya has always been to restrict and not to broadcast, exhibit or distribute that kind of content within the borders of the country," Wambua said.
In 2021, a movie about a Kenyan man’s coming out, I Am Samuel, was banned by KFCB as part of this crackdown on LGBTQ+ movies. In addition, signed partnerships outside the country have restricted the viewership of the queer content within Kenya. "Restricted in this case means that the film is prohibited from exhibition, distribution, possession or broadcasting within the Republic of Kenya," KFCB specified.
Activists from South Africa and Uganda have created a website to collect and preserve the history of the trans and intersex movement in Africa.
As the movement is still very young on the continent, there is little reliable information. Many of its members are still perceived as fake women, objects of ridicule and condemnation.
"LGBTIQ history has remained largely silent about African trans and intersex people, except for scandalized depictions of trans women who are, according to the media in many African countries, only viewed as 'female imposters' committing fraud or reduced to a spectacle to be humored," organizers said in a press release.
While delivering a speech at a campaign rally in the state of North Carolina, former U.S. President Donald Trump attempted to make a reference to his 2020 slogan “Make America Great Again” but said “gay” instead of “great”, telling the crowd “We have to keep our country gay.” The audience didn’t seem to react but the video went viral on the Internet.
The "Habibi, love's revolutions" exhibition puts LGBTQ+ artists and creations in the spotlight at the Arab World Institute in Paris. The exhibition displays 23 artists from North and Eastearn Africa, Iran, Afghanistan and the global diaspora. The aim was to "make visible something obvious that stayed invisible for too long," said Institute's president Jack Lang.
Through photographs, narratives, paintings, videos or performances, the exhibition explores queer identities and their place in countries where the LGBT community often faces discriminations or legal sanctions. "We are aware that it is something rather unique on the international as well as the regional scale," said co-curator Khalid Abdel Hadi.
Iran has long had a simple and prolific response to political opposition and the worst criminal offenses, namely death by shooting or hanging. Whether opening fire on the streets or leading the world in carrying out the death penalty, the regime insists that morality is on its side.
From Kazakhstan to Kyrgyzstan, Armenia and Tajikistan, countries in Russia's orbit have refused to help him turn the tide in the Ukraine war. All (maybe even Belarus?) is coming to understand that his next step would be a complete restoration of the Soviet empire.
In West and North Africa, survivors of migrants who've vanished have come together to support each other and pay tribute to their family members. But above all, they're trying any means possible to find out the truth and get justice after years of silence.
Central to the tragic absurdity of this war is the question of language. Vladimir Putin has repeated that protecting ethnic Russians and the Russian-speaking populations of Ukraine was a driving motivation for his invasion.
Yet one month on, a quick look at the map shows that many of the worst-hit cities are those where Russian is the predominant language: Kharkiv, Odesa, Kherson.
Then there is Mariupol, under siege and symbol of Putin’s cruelty. In the largest city on the Azov Sea, with a population of half a million people, Ukrainians make up slightly less than half of the city's population, and Mariupol's second-largest national ethnicity is Russians. As of 2001, when the last census was conducted, 89.5% of the city's population identified Russian as their mother tongue.
Between 2018 and 2019, I spent several months in Mariupol. It is a rugged but beautiful city dotted with Soviet-era architecture, featuring wide avenues and hillside parks, and an extensive industrial zone stretching along the shoreline. There was a vibrant youth culture and art scene, with students developing projects to turn their city into a regional cultural center with an international photography festival.
There were also many offices of international NGOs and human rights organizations, a consequence of the fact that Mariupol was the last major city before entering the occupied zone of Donbas. Many natives of the contested regions of Luhansk and Donetsk had moved there, taking jobs in restaurants and hospitals. I had fond memories of the welcoming from locals who were quicker to smile than in some other parts of Ukraine. All of this is gone.
Putin is bombing the very people he has claimed to want to rescue.
According to the latest data from the local authorities, 80% of the port city has been destroyed by Russian bombs, artillery fire and missile attacks, with particularly egregious targeting of civilians, including a maternity hospital, a theater where more than 1,000 people had taken shelter and a school where some 400 others were hiding.
The official civilian death toll of Mariupol is estimated at more than 3,000. There are no language or ethnic-based statistics of the victims, but it’s likely the majority were Russian speakers.
So let’s be clear, Putin is bombing the very people he has claimed to want to rescue.
Putin’s Public Enemy No. 1, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, is a mother-tongue Russian speaker who’d made a successful acting and comedy career in Russian-language broadcasting, having extensively toured Russian cities for years.
Rescuers carry a person injured during a shelling by Russian troops of Kharkiv, northeastern Ukraine.
Yes, the official language of Ukraine is Ukrainian, and a 2019 law aimed to ensure that it is used in public discourse, but no one has ever sought to abolish the Russian language in everyday life. In none of the cities that are now being bombed by the Russian army to supposedly liberate them has the Russian language been suppressed or have the Russian-speaking population been discriminated against.
Sociologist Mikhail Mishchenko explains that studies have found that the vast majority of Ukrainians don’t consider language a political issue. For reasons of history, culture and the similarities of the two languages, Ukraine is effectively a bilingual nation.
"The overwhelming majority of the population speaks both languages, Russian and Ukrainian,” Mishchenko explains. “Those who say they understand Russian poorly and have difficulty communicating in it are just over 4% percent. Approximately the same number of people say the same about Ukrainian.”
In general, there is no problem of communication and understanding. Often there will be conversations where one person speaks Ukrainian, and the other responds in Russian. Geographically, the Russian language is more dominant in the eastern and central parts of Ukraine, and Ukrainian in the west.
Like most central Ukrainians I am perfectly bilingual: for me, Ukrainian and Russian are both native languages that I have used since childhood in Kyiv. My generation grew up on Russian rock, post-Soviet cinema, and translations of foreign literature into Russian. I communicate in Russian with my sister, and with my mother and daughter in Ukrainian. I write professionally in three languages: Ukrainian, Russian and English, and can also speak Polish, French, and a bit Japanese. My mother taught me that the more languages I know the more human I am.
At the same time, I am not Russian — nor British or Polish. I am Ukrainian. Ours is a nation with a long history and culture of its own, which has always included a multi-ethnic population: Russians, Belarusians, Moldovans, Crimean Tatars, Bulgarians, Romanians, Hungarians, Poles, Jews, Greeks. We all, they all, have found our place on Ukrainian soil. We speak different languages, pray in different churches, we have different traditions, clothes, and cuisine.
My mother taught me that the more languages I know the more human I am.
Like in other countries, these differences have been the source of conflict in our past. But it is who we are and will always be, and real progress has been made over the past three decades to embrace our multitudes. Our Jewish, Russian-speaking president is the most visible proof of that — and is in fact part of what our soldiers are fighting for.
Many in Moscow were convinced that Russian troops would be welcomed in Ukraine as liberating heroes by Russian speakers. Instead, young soldiers are forced to shoot at people who scream in their native language.
Starving people ina street of Kharkiv in 1933, during the famine
Putin has tried to rally the troops by warning that in Ukraine a “genocide” of ethnic Russians is being carried out by a government that must be “de-nazified.”
These are, of course, words with specific definitions that carry the full weight of history. The Ukrainian people know what genocide is not from books. In my hometown of Kyiv, German soldiers massacred Jews en masse. My grandfather survived the Buchenwald concentration camp, liberated by the U.S. army. My great-grandmother, who died at the age of 95, survived the 1932-33 famine when the Red Army carried out the genocide of the Ukrainian middle class, and her sister disappeared in the camps of Siberia, convicted for defying rationing to try to feed her children during the famine.
On Tuesday, came a notable report of one of the latest civilian deaths in the besieged Russian-speaking city of Kharkiv: a 96-year-old had been killed when shelling hit his apartment building. The victim’s name was Boris Romanchenko; he had survived Buchenwald and two other Nazi concentration camps during World War II. As President Zelensky noted: Hitler didn’t manage to kill him, but Putin did.
Genocide has returned to Ukraine, from Kharkiv to Kherson to Mariupol, as Vladimir Putin had warned. But it is his own genocide against the Russian-speaking population of Ukraine.