"Gay and lesbian issues are human rights issues."
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Imma Battaglia, right, World Pride 2000 organizer, and Katia Belillo, Italy's Minister of Equal Opportunities.
Rome, Open City
By Toby Eglund
JULY 9, 2000. Standing in the middle of Rome's Circus Maximus last Sunday night, William Hernandez said that 28 gay people had been killed in El Salvador since 1998, but only two of the killings had been investigated: one because the victim was killed in front of a cop; the other, because the victim was a U.S. citizen.
"They use death squad methods against us, and the government is not giving us any protection at all," Hernandez told the crowd gathered at an Amnesty International rally in the open field once occupied by a grandiose chariot race track. "The Catholic Church cannot remain blameless for this situation, because it continues to appoint right-wing bishops to churches throughout Latin America," added Hernandez, head of Entre Amigos, his country's only lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (lgbt) group, whose own life has been frequently threatened.
Activists from Romania, Zimbabwe, Colombia, and Brazil told horror stories about queers murdered, imprisoned, threatened. "The gravity of the situation in many countries shows that lesbian and gay rights must be taken more seriously worldwide," said Amnesty International's Marco De Ponte. "Gay and lesbian issues are human rights issues. That is the heart of the problem."
Amnesty International wants gay rights to be seen as basic human rights, and violations of those rights to be considered as seriously as any other human rights violations, and not to be dismissed as unimportant, as often happens today.
The Amnesty rally, the 20th World Conference of the International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA), and a conference on religion and gay rights organized by the International Lesbian and Gay Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) were three key events in the week-long World Pride 2000 that ended last night in Rome.
There were also dozens of events every day, ranging from film screenings and art exhibits to a mega-fashion show, huge dance parties, and lesbian separatist confabs. A march by more than 100,000 people yesterday afternoon through Rome's sweltering historic center in support of human rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people capped the celebrations.
The success of World Pride 2000 has catapulted the handful of Italian gay rights leaders into national, and international, notoriety. Chiefly among them is Imma Battaglia, head of the Rome-based Mario Mieli gay cultural association, one of the organizers of the event.
"We're going to work on a law to protect [lesbian and gay] couples and on an information campaign in schools to educate young people about sexual and affective diversity," an elated Battaglia told the Internet portal Gay.it a few days ago, when asked about the direction of the nascent Italian lgbt movement in the next few months. "Then we'll tackle the issues of adoption and artificial insemination," she added.
For the complete text (Italian) of the Gay Italia interview with Imma Battaglia.
For Italy's Gay Web Portal Gay.it. (Italian)
For the official page of World Pride Roma 2000. (Italian and English)
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