Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Canadian Technology Sector Needs to Engage Women Better: Report

by Knowlton Thomas
Originally Published: July 31st, 2013

According to the Information Technology Association of Canada, our nation's information and communications technology companies are performing "about as well" as other sectors in terms of the engagement of women on their boards of directors. But the ITAC says this isn't necessarily a good thing.
A new report from the organization suggests that there are "compelling strategic reasons to do better," cautioning against complacency. The report notes that "studies have repeatedly found that, on average, companies with the highest representation of women on their boards financially outperform those with the lowest."
The boards of the 10 largest Canadian ICT companies are 16.5% female compared with Spencer Stuart's 2012 Board index of larger Canadian companies which average about 17%. But Karen Wensley, the author of the study Gender Diversity of Boards of Directors of Canadian ICT Companies, points out that the ICT sector lags significantly behind Canada's five largest banks whose boards are nearly 30% female. And she adds that Canada overall is falling behind other countries, slipping to 9th place among industrialized nations.
According to the report, the ICT industry chronically faces a shortage of skilled workers to fund its growth: "The ICT sector has struggled to attract young women. And many young women in high school believe ICT companies would not be places at which they would want to work. Women board members can be role models who can help change this picture."
"The engagement of women in our workforce has hovered around 25% for over a decade," says Lloyd Bryant, vice-president of Hewlett-Packard Canada, who chairs ITAC's Diversity Advisory Group. "ITAC has made improving the gender ratio a priority for the association. Women on ICT boards is an important focus for our work. Diverse boards of directors are a very important public expression of a company's commitment to a more inclusive work environment. If enough companies step up to improve their board diversity, then the industry itself starts to look much more welcoming to the major contribution women make."

Read the original article from TechVibes here: 

Situation for LGBT Human Beings in Russia: Grim, Grimmer, Grimmest

by William D. Lindsey
Originally Published: July 31st, 2013

Nancy Goldstein

I agree with John Aravosis at AmericaBlog: Nancy Goldstein's response in The Guardian this week to the decision of the International Olympics Committee to accept the "assurances" of the Russian government that gay athletes and gay folks attending the Olympics in Russia will have "safe passage" is excellent. As Goldstein reports, the eyes of the world are on what Russia is now doing to its LGBT citizens, and many folks are horrified--and this makes the cavalier attitude of the IOC and various world governments to the situation in Russia appear all the more shameful.

Putin has criminalized all behavior in Russia viewed as pro-gay. The Russian government has banned adoption of Russian children by same-sex couples, but also by any single parent living in a nation that accepts marriage equality. Police have been given a green light to arrest tourists and foreign nationals suspected of being gay or even pro-gay. 

BuzzFeed recently published photos that tell the world the story of what's going on inside Russia--the steep price being paid by LGBT citizens for Putin's cynical ploy to scapegoat gays in order to consolidate his power as the Russian economy goes south. A video made by Russian skinheads and available at YouTube shows those who made the video luring a gay teenthey've met online to a housing compound, where they proceed to torture him. 

The BBC has reported that Vladislav Tornovoi was murdered in Volgograd early in May, when he mentioned to several men that he was gay. When his body was discovered dumped in a courtyard, he had been raped with beer bottles and his skull smashed in. According to a Reuters report in early Juneby Steve Gutterman, another man was murdered in May in eastern Russia in what is also thought to be a homophobic hate crime. Four Dutch tourists have now also been arrested and jailed under the new laws, under charges that they have engaged in pro-gay propaganda.

As Harvey Fierstein says in the New York Times last week, what Putin and the Russian government are now doing to gay citizens of their nation is eerily reminiscent of the playbook used by the Nazi government as it targeted Jews in the period leading up to the Holocaust. And so, as Goldstein notes, 

Had Putin reignited Russia's abuse of its Jewish citizens, it would have been unthinkable for the IOC to issue a statement suggesting that non-Russian Jewish athletes, pundits, and spectators could go have a blast in Sochi because we'd be spared the anti-Semitic violence sweeping the rest of the country. There's just no way. The American Jewish community and the Obama administration would have (rightly) enacted trade sanctions instantly. There would have been no statement from the State Department like the one issued the same day as the IOC announcement saying that it does not support a boycott of the games. 
So how does a pogrom against LGBT people and our allies pass muster in 2013?

And the IOC appears willing to ignore all of this solely because the Russian government has given the committee "assurances" that foreign gays attending the Olympics or competing in Olympic events will have "safe passage"?!  As Goldstein concludes,

This much I can promise. No international bureaucracy, corporate entity, or modern-day führer is going to shrug us off with the assurance that we don't need to worry about our brothers and sisters because the haters will never come for us. Our hearts and our history tell us otherwise.

I see no other choice except for gay people around the world to be vocal and active in their solidarity with their LGBT brothers and sisters in Russia, when the movers and shakers of the world seem intent on ignoring what's going on in Russia every bit as much as they ignored what was happening in Germany at the time of the 1936 summer Olympics in Berlin.

Some days, it appears we have learned very little from our painful history as a human community.

P.S. For information about a petition you can sign to ask NBC to make Rachel Maddow their human rights correspondent for the Olympics, see this subsequent posting.

Read the original article from Bilgrimage here: 

LGBT Support Goes Global Thanks to the United Nations

by Jasmin Frankel
Originally Published: July 31st, 2013

Image via
Image via
The United Nations’ human-rights office launched a first-ever global outreach program as part of The Free and Equal campaign that will promote tolerance and equality internationally. The UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights is using this program, which will include videos and public-service announcements via social media and a new website using well-known figures, to transform public attitudes toward the LGBT community around the world. “Changing attitudes is never easy… It begins with often difficult conversations,” said Navi Pillay, the high commissioner for human rights. “And that is what we want to do with this campaign. Free & Equal will inspire millions of conversations among people around the world and across the ideological spectrum.” Pillay introduced this new campaign in her hometown of South Africa saying “The Universal Declaration of Human Rights promises a world in which everyone is born free and equal in dignity and rights – no exceptions, no-one left behind…Yet it’s still a hollow promise for many millions of LGBT people forced to confront hatred, intolerance, violence and discrimination on a daily basis.”[HuffPo]

Read the original article and watch the video from Passport Blogs here: 

Ministry of Defence LGBT Network: Biphobia and transphobia are ‘new frontiers’ for workplace equality

by Aaron Day
Originally Published: July 31st, 2013

A Human Resources professional for the Ministry of Defence LGBT Network has said that although workplace equality has come a long way since the ban of gay people in the military, ‘B’ and ‘T’ still represent significant hurdles for full LGBT acceptance.
Robert Malpass, vice chair of the LGBT Employee Network Committee, spoke in an interview to say that the Ministry of Defence (MoD) has come a long way since he joined in 2003, but also added that the next step must be to focus on including bisexual and transgender people in the workplace.
He said: “A lot has happened for LGBT equality in the UK generally between 2003 and today. Has the MoD had further to travel because of the ban on gays in the military? It’s difficult to tell.
“I can say our whole purpose now is about ensuring that LGBT people can be out and authentic in the workplace.
“The kind of hidden agenda, if you like, is ‘B’ and ‘T’. I think biphobia and bi issues are certainly the new frontier for us in the LGBT group and society generally”.
He added that we need more “visible role models” for bisexual and transgender people, and that once these role models are found, many more will follow.
MoD came 73rd in the Stonewall Workplace Equality index for gay-friendly employers in 2010. But this year, having not taken part in the listings for two years, it moved down to the 194th spot.
Mr Malpass said that this is a position he is hoping to set right.
He said: “Because we didn’t participate for a couple of years, other employers have stayed in the index and kept improving and pushing on.
“The Home Office is always lauded as the most gay-friendly government department. The Security Service [MI5] came 26th, the Department of Health was 24th — that kind of positive internal competition kicks us on to do more and try harder next time.”
As well as regular LGBT network meetings, between 70 and 100 staff at the MoD actively subscribe to a newsletter and information feed, and role models are promoted via the intranet and internal magazine.
Hayley Barnden, who is an engineering apprentice at the MoD said: “Being part of a network makes a big difference. If somewhere didn’t have a network, I think people would struggle to know where to go and get help.
“It’s very hard to meet other people in a minority group – you can’t just go up to other people and say ‘Hi, are you gay as well?’ The network makes things a lot easier and a lot more friendly.”
Head of the civil service, permanent secretary Sir Bob Kerslake, has also lent his support to the network.
He delivered the annual Rainbow Lecture at the House of Commons, on diversity and the civil service, and he also blogged ahead of the London Pride event in June, where the MoD marched alongside the civil service cross-departmental network group, the Rainbow Alliance.
Mr Malpass also said: “We’re sponsoring some LGBT community groups, for instance a workplace LGBT networking group in Glasgow.
“We’ve got a plan to help an LGBT youth group deliver a CV writing course. Simon Cholerton spoke at Bristol University Student Union’s LGBT Society a few months ago, and we’ve also had a senior LGBT person speak at Deloitte’s ‘Out in the City’ event.”
But he concluded that there remains one area that the MoD network, like all employers, continues to struggle with.
He said: “What we need to do is to try and find people who are visible role models to demonstrate to B and T people that it is acceptable and you can succeed in the civil service and be LGBT”.
She said: “Our mentoring throws tradition on its head by having a less experienced staff member, often with a very different background, mentor a more senior member of staff.
“The more senior member of staff learns a huge amount from being shown the world through another person’s eyes.”

Read the original article from Pink News here: 

UCLA's Iranian cinema festival highlights depth and diversity

by Arash Saedinia
Originally Published: July 31st, 2013

Los Angeles hosts annual showcase featuring extensive array of work from contemporary and veteran film-makers

Film still from Facing Mirrors
Screenshot from Facing Mirrors, which is directed by Negar Azarbayjani, tells the story of a transgendered person on the run from an overbearing father.
The annual celebration of Iranian cinema run by the University of California, Los Angeles, is a vital occasion for two dynamic and overlapping constituencies: cinephiles and Iranians in Los Angeles. The festival's screenings routinely draw large audiences, eager to see films from a nation distinguished by its rich and sustained contribution to world cinema. This year's programme underscored the depth and diversity of cinematic voices in Iranian life.
In recent years, the archive has expanded the scope to include older films, working with Iran's national film archive and exiled filmmakers such as Parviz Sayyad to present seminal works such as The Lor Girl (Dokhtar-e Lor; 1933), directed by Ardeshir Irani; Masoud Kimiai's Caesar (Qaisar; 1969); and Sayyad's own Dead End (Bon Bast; 1977). This year, the festival began with a screening of Bahram Beyzaie's first feature film, Downpour (Ragbar).
A landmark of the Iranian New Wave, originally released in 1972, Downpour concerns a newly arrived teacher, Agha Hekmati (Parviz Fanizadeh), hounded by gossip about his interest in Atefeh (Parvaneh Massoumi), the older sister of a student at his school in a working-class neighbourhood. Beyzaie eschews certain clichs rife in Iranian films of its era: the jaaheli (gangster), the raghaas (dancer), the feeble intellectual. Downpour is a deeply humanist film. Its depiction of the school and the surrounding community is a marvel of neorealist cinema, punctuated by a poetic, theatrical sensibility.
The picture screened in a version recently restored by the World Cinema Foundation from a positive print owned by Beyzaie, the only print known to exist. Because English subtitles were burned into the source element, those titles remain; they are less than ideal in terms of accuracy. Still, one is grateful for what survived. During the conversation following the screening, Beyzaie recounted harrowing details of prints destroyed in the aftermath of the Iranian Revolution, including an incident in which reels were trucked out of storage and burned wholesale.
The status of many Iranian films made prior to the revolution is a serious and delicate question. Rumours abound concerning the fate of the Islamic republic's radio, music, television and film archives. The circumstances surrounding the Downpour source print demonstrate the need for a concerted and co-ordinated effort on the part of experts, enthusiasts and the global Iranian community to reclaim Iran's 20th century heritage.
As it stands, much of Iran's cultural patrimony circulates in badly reproduced digital files: tinny, compressed videos several generations removed from the masters. A palpable sense of (re)discovery attends UCLA's screenings of older Iranian films, testament to the potency of the traditional theatrical space, a place of collective engagement.
In general, the program screenings provide ample opportunity for Irangelenos to see and be seen. And heard. It is not uncommon to hear audience members in conversation with a film and each other about the particulars of narrative, setting, production design, costume and so forth: "It's such-and-such boulevard! It's so-and-so! Look at what she's wearing! Where is he going?" Shows are often charged with projections of nostalgia. The sense of longing is palpable. For many of the exiled, Iran is out of reach. Some cannot safely return. And many in the diaspora long for an Iran that no longer exists or perhaps never existed. An idealised space, a construction.
Several new films deserve mention. Mani Haghighi's Modest Reception (Paziraie Sadeh) is a morality play involving a couple who attempt to dispose of a large sum of cash among residents of a mountain region, rushing through a series of haphazard transactions predicated on lies and manipulations. Like many of the films in this year's program, Modest Reception pays close attention to class. It's a cynical, polarising production, concerned with the tension between humanism and capital, between people with money to burn and those with little to none.
Like the couple in Modest Reception, the principal characters in Felicity Land (Saadat Abad) are profoundly unhappy. They bear the trappings of affluence and its burdens. As director Maziar Miri explained in the post-screening question and answer session, these are people who are living for money, and in so doing, aren't living. Accustomed to lies, the characters heap one deception upon another.
As a taut chamber piece, Felicity Land speaks volumes about the society it depicts. It's one of two films in the program starring the estimable Leila Hatami.
The other, The Last Step (Peleh Akhar), directed by Hatami's husband, Ali Mosaffa (who plays her husband in the film), is an engaging work centred on a triangle: a wife, a husband, and a man who has loved the woman since childhood. Mosaffa's nonlinear narrative attempts a kind of lyricism, but there's too much exposition. The husband, a ghost, gives up too much of the game. It's a story that might have benefitted from greater ambiguity.
Facing Mirrors (Aynehaye Rooberoo) is marred by tedious expository passages, but it features fine performances, particularly Shayesteh Irani's depiction of a transgendered person on the run from an overbearing father. The heterosexual lead, Rana (Ghazal Shakeri), manifests commonplace fears and prejudices; her moral awakening is designed to bring audiences along. The film has been well-received in Iran (where gender reassignment surgery is officially sanctioned) and abroad. Director Negar Azarbayjani treats the subject matter with sensitivity. But the film hews too closely to formal convention, leading its viewers by the hand.
A very heavy hand is at work in Rhino Season (Fasle Kargadan). Director Bahman Ghobadi is a gifted filmmaker, but he has an axe to grind and does so at the expense of nuance and verity.
There is, again, a triangle: a poet, his wife, and the wife's chauffeur, employed by her father, a military official during the Shah's reign. The driver is obsessed with the woman. He secures enough power in the revolutionary regime to persecute the poet and his wife, both of whom are jailed. He asks the woman to leave her husband, offering her release from prison, but she refuses.
In a pivotal scene, the former chauffeur arranges for a liaison between the poet and his wife in a giant building. The couple reunite in robes, sacks covering their faces. They are instructed to keep the sacks on. The two embrace, having sex while their tormentor watches from above. Agents burst in and separate the pair. The poet is replaced by his tormentor, who approaches the woman wearing a robe and sack. At first, he is welcomed but when the woman realises the deception she tries to repulse him. He rapes her.
The director and his collaborators aestheticise the incident: the staging is grandiose, the tone sententious. The very fabric used to robe and cloak the characters is sumptuous. Ghobadi makes a fetish of the violence, distancing the audience from the brutality of the act. The scene is forced, the contrivance of a filmmaker mired in style at the expense of what might, however tentatively, be called truth.
Two films in the program, both intensely personal, ring especially true. The Reluctant Bachelor (Pir Pesar) is a documentary essay drawn from the materials of a life lived on and off camera. Estranged from his father and the society at large, director Mehdi Bagheri is sullen, prickly, ambitious, depressed. Preoccupied by setbacks and slights, he interviews family and friends (save for his father, who is filmed by an associate). Bagheri is a griping, self-absorbed presence. A narcissist, yes, but not vain. He acknowledges his intimates' criticisms, which are pointed and plenty.
Though he's sequestered himself in a bedroom in his parent's home, Bagheri's a gutsy filmmaker, venturing the landscape of domestic life as an adult of a generation born in the wake of the Revolution, who like many of his peers feels stifled, choking on dreams deferred.
Breath, laboured and tenuous, figures critically in Mohammad Shirvani's Fat Shaker (Larzanandeye Charbi). The fat man of the picture, played by Levon Haftvan, struggles to breathe, to move, to see. He shadows and is shadowed by a deaf young man he claims is his son, a boy whose angelic face attracts women, whom he seems to pimp. A woman comes into play, a photographer, whose relationship to the man and boy is ambiguous.
Allegorical, the film sustains a sense of asphyxiation, of struggle manifest in the body. In post-screening remarks, Shirvani declared: "My lungs are heavy." He cautioned against an authoritative reading of potential symbols in the narrative, indicating that he sought to express a feeling. Shot with a digital single-lens reflex camera, the cinematography embodies the tone of the picture: anxious, agitated, jittery. The work reflects a pervading sense of disquiet in contemporary Iranian society. Shirvani referred to himself as a stranger in his own country. "In my sleep," he said, "I am freer." Iran's film's, ranging from past glories to modern-day gems.

Read the original article from The Guardian here: 

Canadian ICT boards still dominated by men: Report

by Howard Solomon
Originally Published: July 30th, 2013

Progress is slow, says ITAC report. Still, it only says governments should "consider" rules requiring companies to publicly explain why diversity goals aren't being reached

 The boards of the country’s largest information and communications technology companies are still dominated by men despite the efforts of one of the industry’s major trade groups.
In a report issued Tuesday, the Information Technology Association of Canada (ITAC) said 16.5 per cent of the boards of the 10 largest public ICT companies in Canada are made up of women.
Click here: Number of women on Cdn boards
On the one hand, that puts them on par with the average corporate board in the country. On the other hand, it doesn’t match the lead of the financial services sector. There, about 30 per cent of the boards of the nation’s five largest banks are women.
Overall Canada is now ninth among industrialized economies in terms of the percentage of women on corporate boards.“Other countries are making more progress than Canada,” says the report.
Still, when ITAC began in 2008 to ensure that women had a greater number of seats on its board it made significant progress: Today 32 per cent of its board is composed of women.
“There has been progress (in the industry), but it has been slow,” says report author Karen Wensley, a former ITAC board member who is now a consultant.
But in a conference call with reporters Wednesday to discuss the report she also said that “it is not a supply problem. It is true that there are more men than women in the eligible pool of (board) candidates, but there are plenty of strong, talented board-ready women. It is a matter of setting goals, making gender diversity a priority and using a systematic approach” to recruitment.

“Smaller ICT companies in Canada tend to be new, rapidly growing, and have significant challenges finding good candidates for their boards, whatever the gender” the report admits. Their priority, Wensley added in the conference call, is survival. Mid-sized companies are preoccupied with finding specialized board members -- say, with knowledge on how to get business in Europe. That's why she believes larger companies have to lead.
“It is important that the large companies set an example, for a number of reasons,” says the report. “First, accumulating research shows that more diverse boards are correlated with better corporate performance. Second, the ICT sector has struggled to attract women into engineering and computer science programs, and women board members can act as role models for younger women as well as women executives in the sector.”
The report calls on CEOs and directors of large ICT to use search firms to identify potential directors rather than rely solely on their informal personal networks, to engage with leaders of other companies on the issue of gender diversity, including ways of mentoring and championing women.
They should also consider signing on to the Catalyst Accord, which urges the top 500 Canadian corporations to have 25 per cent of their board seats held by women by 2017.
Meanwhile, leaders of small ICT companies should keep an eye open for “great women candidates for their boards.”

What the industry doesn’t want are federal or provincial requirements for a minimum percentage of women on boards. However, it is open to the idea of regulators instituting “comply or explain” policies, where companies that fail to meet goals have to explain why to the public.
In Australia, the report notes, this approach has resulted in board membership for women jumping: Women now account for 25 per cent of new board appointments.
“The Canadian government should study the approaches taken around the world and implement the most effective,” says the report – as long as “onerous” regulations not be imposed on smaller companies.
By coincidence, on Tuesday the Ontario Securities Commission, which regulates companies that trade on the Toronto Stock Exchange, released a discussion paper proposing that TSX-listed companies and other non-venture issuers have to annually disclose their policies on increasing women on boards and senior management.
One problem – a continuing problem – is that the ICT sector struggles with attracting young women: Only about a quarter of the ICT workforce are women. That reduces the number of women who could be recruited by boards. Women in high school believe ICT companies “would not be places at which they would want to work,” says the report.
As to why it’s important for more women to be on boards, the report argues diversity pays in two ways: By sending a signal to groups that the organization is open, which brings in new ideas that end up helping the bottom line.
The report does cite two companies here that went out of their way to find women for their boards: software and services firm Softchoice (which before going private last month added two on its nine-member board), and document management company OpenText, which has three women on its nine-person board. CEO Mark Barrenechea told the report’s author that he told a search firm retained for board recruiting  that it needed to actively look for women leaders.

Read the original article from IT World Canada here: 

Should Canada boycott Sochi 2014?

Originally Published: July 30th, 2013

Gay rights activists carry rainbow flags as they march during a May Day rally in St. Petersburg, Russia on Wednesday, May 1, 2013. (AP / Dmitry Lovetsky)
Gay rights activists carry rainbow flags as they march during a May Day rally in St. Petersburg, Russia on Wednesday, May 1, 2013. (AP / Dmitry Lovetsky)

Russia has enacted a new law against homosexuality, which could land someone in trouble for holding hands with someone of the same sex ... let alone stealing a kiss from them. In response, voices are rising across the West to condemn the law as discriminatory and urge a boycott of the Sochi Winter Olympics.

Not supporting a boycott doesn't mean that you don't support gay rights. I think we have to stand up. We have to protest, but there's different ways to do it.
Mark Tewksbury, former Olympic athlete

Calls for a boycott of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics have sparked a debate within the gay sports world and beyond. An athlete standing on a podium and waving a rainbow flag could send a strong message in Sochi. But for some that doesn't go far enough.

Should Canada boycott the Sochi Olympics to condemn discrimination against the gay community? Or would such a move just punish the nation's athletes? We heard from:

  • Olympian Blake Skjellerup: The professional speed skater has put a lot of thought into this issue. As a gay athlete, he feels the need to do something. Just not a boycott. 
  • Activist Alan Klein: He's the co-founder of "Queer Nation," an LGBTQ activist organization and believes that snubbing Sochi might be the best way to make a point.
  • Activist Nikolai Alekseev: He may have been the first person to be arrested under a municipal anti-gay propaganda law that was passed last year in St. Petersburg. But Nicolai Alekseev doesn't think an Olympic boycott will help his cause. 

Statement from the Canadian Olympic Committee 

The IOC continues to work to ensure that the Games can take place without discrimination against athletes, officials, spectators and the media and it has received assurances from the highest level of government in Russia that the legislation will not affect those attending or taking part in the Games.

This segment was produced by The Current's Pacinthe Mattar, Megan Griffith-Greene and Leif Zapf-Gilje.

Want to weigh in? Tweet us @thecurrentcbc. Find us on Facebook or email us. Or call us toll-free at 1 877 287 7366. And if you missed anything on The Current, grab a podcast.

Read the original article from CBC News here: 

Gay rights around the world: the best and worst countries for equality

by Emine Saner
Originally Published: July 31st, 2013

Equal marriage laws are being passed in several countries, but in Russia, life grows harsher each month for LGBT people. Which places are best and worst for gay rights?

Two women kiss in front of people taking part in a demonstration against gay marriage
An act of defiance in front of a demonstration against gay marriage in Marseille, France, in 2012. Photograph: Gerard Julien/AFP/Getty Images
We have a US president who supports gay marriage, and now a pope who, if not exactly signing up to equality for all, is at least starting to talk in language less inflammatory than his predecessor. "If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has goodwill, who am I to judge?" he told an assembled group of journalists on the papal plane back from his tour of Brazil. Then he went on to criticise the gay "lobby" and said he wasn't going to break with the catechism that said "homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered". Still, for a brief moment it looked like a minor breakthrough.
Then you weigh it against a raft of anti-homosexuality legislation that is coming into force in countries across the world. In Russia, gay teenagers are being tortured and forcibly outed on the internet against a backdrop of laws that look completely out of step with the rest of Europe. In what is being described as rolling the "status of LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] people back to the Stalin era", President Putin has passed a number of anti-gay laws, including legislation that punishes people and groups that distribute information considered "propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations". The country also now has powers to arrest and detain foreign citizens believe to be gay, or "pro-gay". It has led to the boycott of Russian vodka brands by gay bars and clubs in solidarity, started by writer and activist Dan Savage and taken up by bars in London.
In many African countries where homosexuality is already illegal, more draconian anti-gay laws are being passed and violence against LGBT people is increasing.
Is there a link between growing rights in some countries and worsening or removal of rights in others? "There are really complicated links between the two. If you look at the history of the advancement of LGBT rights in the UK, every advance is accompanied by a backlash," says Alistair Stewart, assistant director of the Kaleidoscope Trust, a UK-based organisation that supports international LGBT rights. "To a certain extent that's happening on a global scale now – the advances that are being made in some parts of the world encourage a backlash in other parts of the world. The struggle for even basic human rights for LGBT people – freedom of association, freedom from violence – becomes harder to achieve when the opponents can point to something like gay marriage, which isn't even on the books for most of the countries we're talking about and make the argument that 'if we give these people even the most basic of human rights, next they'll be asking to get married in our churches'." Jonathan Cooper, chief executive of the Human Dignity Trust, is less sure they are related: "The further persecution is already happening."
The Human Dignity Trust challenges laws to end the persecution of LGBT people around the world. "Most countries sign up to international human rights treaties. If you take Belize as an example, it has ratified all the key UN human rights treaties and in their constitution they have a right to a private life, to equality, to dignity. And so basically to criminalise homosexuality is a violation. To bring a legal challenge against that takes a very brave individual." It has been supporting Caleb Orozco, the gay rights campaigner who launched a legal challenge to overturn Belize's criminalisation laws. "We're still waiting for the judgment. They said it would be out by the end of July but obviously it's not coming now."
Orozco's case has prompted a backlash in Belize against him, and Unibam (the United Belize Advocacy Movement). A report last week from the Southern Poverty Law Center, the US civil rights organisation, highlighted the influence US hardline religious groups had in Belize and other countries. "Many of these American religious-right groups know they have lost the battle against LGBT rights in the US, and they're now aiding and abetting anti-LGBT forces in countries where anti-gay violence is prevalent," said Heidi Beirich, author of the report. "These groups are pouring fuel on an exceedingly volatile fire."
It's the classic missionary model, says Stewart, "where money and resources and organisation are set up in the countries that they are targeting". It's also worth remembering which country is responsible for the legacy of persecution faced by millions of LGBT people today. There are more than 75 countries where homosexuality is still criminalised: "Forty-two of them are former British colonies so we can see where the legacy comes from," says Cooper. To see which countries are getting worse in terms of gay rights makes grim reading, but Stewart is cheered by the support he sees. "One of the reassuring things that has come out of the response to the Russian laws in particular is there is a growing international apprehension. One of the last great undone pieces of the civil rights movement is to address the rights of LGBT people, and there does seem to be a growing international support for change."

Where are LGBT rights improving? 

Parts of Latin America remain the standard for equality for LGBT rights.Argentina's Gender Identity Law 2012 allowed the change of gender on birth certificates for transgender people. It also legalised same-sex marriage in 2010, giving same-sex couples the same rights as opposite-sex couples, including the right to adopt children. Uruguay and Mexico City also allow equal marriage and adoption, and last week Colombiarecognised its first legal same-sex civil union (not "marriage").
In Asia, LGBT groups are making progess, if slowly. Last year, Vietnamsaw its first gay pride rally and this year's event will launch a campaign for equality in employment. On Tuesday, it was reported that the country's ministry of justice has backed plans to legalise gay marriage, after the ministry of health came out for marriage equality in April.
In Singapore the Pink Dot pride rally attracted 21,000 people at the end of June – its biggest number since it started four years ago. "It's a strong signal that Singapore is not as conservative as some think," Paerin Choa, a rally spokesman, told Reuters. Just hours before attending the rally, Vincent Wijeysingha became Singapore's first openly gay politicianwhen he officially came out. The country bans gay sex, though this is rarely enforced, but in April a gay couple, Gary Lim and Kenneth Chee, attempted to get the law removed. Their case was dismissed, but they are appealing with the help of Lord Goldsmith, the former attorney general.
The Human Dignity Trust filed a suit at the European court of human rights against Turkish-occupied northern Cyprus, the only place in Europe where homosexuality is still illegal, and looks likely to win.
In a letter sent to the Kaleidoscope Trust, the prime minister of Trinidad and Tobago expressed her wish to repeal the laws that ban homosexuality. The prime minister of JamaicaPortia Simpson Miller, has voiced similar wishes. In June, Javed Jaghai was the lastest activist to launch legal proceedings to challenge the anti-sodomy laws (however, violence against gay people is increasing, and 17-year-old Dwayne Jones was stabbed to death last week at a party according to local media reports).
In Malawi, the president Joyce Banda announced in 2012 that laws criminalising homosexuality would be repealed – she has since distanced herself from that, although there has been a moratorium and there have been no prosecutions. "So it's not just the global north where things are moving forward. In some parts of the world where you'd least expect them, things are getting better," says Stewart.
The number of countries legalising same-sex marriage continues to grow, with DenmarkBrazilFrance and New Zealand just some that joined more progressive countries that had legalised it earlier. Last month in the US, where Barack Obama publicly supports equal marriage and it is legal in several states, the supreme court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (which prevented the federal government from recognising marriages between gay couples) as unconstitutional. And of course England and Wales now has the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013.

Where are LGBT rights worsening?

In Iran, a place where homosexuality is punishable by death and you thought LGBT rights couldn't really get worse, this year the country's official who works on human rights described homosexuality as "an illness that should be cured". Of course, gay rights are no better in many other Middle Eastern countries. The ILGA (International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association) provides a comprehensive look at state-sponsored homophobia in a 2013 report.
Gay-rights activist Yury Gavrikov is detained by Russian riot policeGay-rights activist Yury Gavrikov is detained by riot police at a rally in Moscow in May. Photograph: Kirill Kudryavtsev/AFP/Getty Images
Two weeks ago, Eric Ohena Lembembe, was found at home in Yaoundé, the capital of Cameroon. He had been tortured – his neck and feet broken, his body burned with an iron – and murdered. As the executive director of Camfaids, Lembembe was one of Cameroon's most prominent and outspoken LGBT rights activists and openly gay – an astonishing act of bravery in a country where homosexuality is punishable with prison and violence against LGBT people is common and almost never investigated. Amnesty International's 2013 report on global human rights stated even people who supported LGBT rights were being harrassed, particularly equality lawyers Alice Nkom and Michel Togue who had both received calls and text messages threatening to kill them and their children if they did not stop defending gay people who had been arrested. In June this year, Togue's office was broken into and files and computers stolen. In March 2012, a workshop held to educate young people about LGBT issues was shut down.
Last week, two men were given prison sentences under the country's anti-gay laws; in 2011, another man, Jean-Claude Roger Mbédé, was sentenced to three years in prison for sending a text message to another man. Men who are perceived to be gay are arrested, somtimes only on the basis of someone's suspicions, and some are forced to undergo rectal examinations and tortured into confessing. "They have such an active prosecution system," says Cooper. "Although prosecutions do occur in other jurisdictions, you don't have that kind of active prosecution policy that you have in Cameroon."
After the death of Lembembe, gay-rights groups said they couldn't continue their work unless they are given protection by international donors who fund the fight against HIV/Aids. "We have all decided to stop our work in the field because our security is at risk," said Yves Yomb, executive director of Alternatives-Cameroun. "We have no protection from the police and we feel that our lives are at risk."
Sharing a border with Cameroon, Nigeria's anti-gay laws are becoming ever more draconian. It recently passed a bill outlawing same-sex marriage, punishable with a 14-year prison term. "Nobody in the country is seriously asking for gay marriage," says Stewart from the Kaleidoscope Trust. "There is no reason to legislate against it, when homosexual sex is already illegal. It also has more concerning provisions that ban the formation of groups that support LGBT rights and a series of provisions that if you know a homosexual but don't turn them in, you are aiding and abetting. That isn't on the statute books yet but it seems likely that it will pass in some form."
Politicians in Uganda are attempting to pass a similar bill, at one point seeking to punish homosexual relationships with the death penalty; people found guilty of being gay will now face life imprisonment, and anybody – parents, teachers, doctors – who suspects someone in their care is gay will be punished if they do not report them.
Last week, President Mugabe told a rally of Zanu PF supporters thatZimbabwe would never accept homosexuality, and that gay people were "worse than pigs, goats and birds". There are 38 African countries where homosexuality is illegal.
In Russia, gay rights are moving further away from other European countries. In an extreme version of Britain's section 28, a new law will punish anybody disseminating "propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations among minors expressed in distribution of information … aimed at the formation … of … misperceptions of the social equivalence of traditional and non-traditional sexual relations". It has also failed to comply with the 2010 judgment at the European court of human rights that requires it to allow gay pride events. Violence against LGBT people is rising. In May, there was a brutal murder of a man who had revealed to "friends" he was gay. Official numbers of homophobic attacks are low, but LGBT activists say this is because attacks are not often reported, and when they are police rarely label them as such, but one poll last year of nearly 900 people by the Russian LGBT Network found more than 15% had experienced physical violence between November 2011 and August 2012.
Last week, the Pink News reported neo-Nazi groups in Russia has been luring gay teenagers to meetings, where they are forced to come out in videos that are then posted on social media sites. It reported that one victim, 19-year-old Alex Bulygin, killed himself after his sexuality was revealed.
Russia's renewed attacks on homosexuality may be spreading beyond its borders – there are moves in Ukraine to adopt its own ban on "gay propaganda" and in May the parliament dropped a bill that would have outlawed discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation after a protest by anti-gay activists.
• This article was amended on 31 July 2013. A reference to the timing of a Belize judgment was removed.

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Women lead in entrepreneurship in seven countries

by Kent Hoover
Originally Published: July 31st, 2013

Are you a woman who is starting or running a new business? Well, you have company -- there are 126 million women entrepreneurs around the world.
That's according to a new report from the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, which tracks entrepreneurial activity in 67 countries.
Overall, women are less likely to start businesses than men, the study found.
“In most economies around the world, there are fewer women than men starting and running new businesses, but there are even fewer running mature ones,” said Babson College Professor Donna J. Kelley, the report's lead author. “This raises a red flag about the ability of women to easily transition from starting to sustaining their businesses.”
Even in developed countries, where women often are more highly educated than men, women are less likely than men to think they've got what it takes to start a business.
"Even though women may have more years of education, it may not relate to self-perceived confidence in their entrepreneurial capabilities," said Candida Brush, a report co-author and an entrepreneurship professor at Babson College. "In developed economies, entrepreneurship is opportunity-driven, and women, who are well-schooled in other disciplines than entrepreneurship, may question their ability to identify, assess and act on an opportunity."
Women entrepreneurs need more resources and better programs to build new collaborations and leverage ideas, develop their entrepreneurial abilities and attitudes, and access the resources needed to expand their businesses, the report concluded.
Women entrepreneurship varies widely around the world, however. In Zambia, for example, 40 percent of women are engaged in entrepreneurial activity. In Pakistan, only 1 percent of women dare to start their own businesses.
Women had higher levels of entrepreneurship than men in only seven countries: Panama, Thailand, Ghana, Ecuador, Nigeria and Uganda.
In developed countries, at least three out of four women entrepreneurs start businesses because they see an opportunity. In sub-Saharan Africa, by contrast, 37 percent of women entrepreneurs start businesses out of necessity -- it's the only way they can earn a living.
Women entrepreneurs tend to be drawn to consumer industries, while men entrepreneurs dominate the capital and knowledge-based manufacturing and service sectors, according to the report.

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