Saturday, February 21, 2009

Around the Globe

LONDON (Observer Update) - The British government has agreed to give asylum to an Iranian lesbian who fears for her safety if sent back to her homeland, an activist says.

Friends of Pegah member Lesley Boulton said her group, one of several that have been backing Pegah Emambakhsh's asylum efforts, has learned the Iranian national will be allowed to stay in the United Kingdom, The Daily Telegraph reported.

"We have just heard that Pegah has finally been granted refugee status in the U.K. This is fantastic, wonderful news," Boulton said. Emambakhsh fled to Britain in 2005 after her girlfriend was sentenced to death in Tehran, but her request for asylum was rejected last year by British officials. ...

BUDAPEST, Hungary Another formerly communist country is poised to grant a freedom that does not exist nationally in the world’s most powerful democracy: nationwide partnership provisions for gay and lesbian families. Now Hungary is set to join other former Soviet nations in extending a measure of recognition to its gay and lesbian families in the form of a registered partnerships law, reported Pink News. The measure will also provide domestic partnerships for same-sex couples and unmarried heterosexual couples alike.

An earlier law had passed the Hungarian Parliament, but the country’s Constitutional Court invalidated it last December on the grounds that the earlier measure, which provided partnership registration for heterosexuals, presented a challenge to the special right of marriage for heterosexuals that is provided for in the Hungarian constitution. However, the court also found that same-sex couples should be provided with family recognition and legal protections, the Pink News article said.

The new bill has yet to clear the Parliament, but a significant percentage of families in the country are headed by unmarried couples, according to data collected by the government: just over 12% of all Hungarian families, Pink News reported. ...

Martina Navra-who? Gay lady's tennis is now all about Amelie Mauresmo, the French force who just won the Open GDF Suez tournament. It's her 25th title, reported. Though it took an injury that took Serena Williams out of the game. After struggling through a pair of injury-plagued seasons, two-time Grand Slam champion Amelie Mauresmo looks like she is getting back to her best.

The former top-ranked Frenchwoman, who has beaten four top 10 players already this year, won the Open GDF Suez for her first WTA Tour title since February 2007. "There were times when I doubted myself. I had moments when I asked myself if it was worth it," the 29-year-old Mauresmo said after her win. "But each time I told myself 'maybe you should quit,' I didn't feel it at all."

Mauresmo won the Australian Open and Wimbledon titles in 2006, but she was hit by a string of injuries over the last two years. After an emergency appendectomy in March 2007, she strained her right adductor and then injured her left thigh and her right rib muscle in 2008. ...

DUBAI, UAE (Observer Update) - A book festival in the Middle East that claims to celebrate the “world of books in all its infinite variety” has banned a British author because her novel contains references to homosexuality.

The first International Festival of Literature in Dubai has attracted dozens of world-class authors, including Margaret Atwood and Louis de Bernières, with promises that it will be relaxed, vibrant and diverse. One author has found otherwise.

Geraldine Bedell's book The Gulf Between Us was greeted with enthusiasm by organisers because of its setting in the Middle East, but the mood changed swiftly when they discovered a gay character. Bedell, who has lived in the Gulf, told The Times that the book has since been banned from sale in Dubai and the rest of the United Arab Emirates. “It is incredibly affectionate towards the Gulf. I feel very warmly towards it, except when things like this happen. It calls into question the whole notion of whether the Emirates and other Gulf states really want to be part of the contemporary cultural world ... You can't ban books and expect your literary festival to be taken seriously.”

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