Argentina Legalizes Same-sex Marriage

Argentina Legalizes Same-sex Marriage

(Photo courtesy of
(Photo courtesy of

By Patrick Vanderpool
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina – On July 15, Argentina became just the tenth nation in the entire world, and the first in Latin America, to legalize gay marriage.  Legislators, backed by Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, passed the same-sex marriage bill by a vote of 33-27 in the Senate after a 14 hour debate.  The Senate’s vote comes about a month after the marriage equality bill was passed by Argentina’s lower legislative house, the Chamber of Deputies.

The bill will allow gay and lesbian couples the same marriage responsibilities and protections that heterosexuals are afforded.  In addition to marriage equality, the bill will also offer homosexual couples the same adoption and social security rights as heterosexual couples.

While on a visit to China, President Fernandez de Kirchner said, “It’s a positive step which defends the rights of minorities in Argentina.”

The Catholic Church was among the most outspoken leaders of the public campaign against the bill, going as far as to sanction clerics who supported the bill.  Buenos Aires’ archbishop described the bill as “a plan to destroy God’s plan” and a move to “deceive the children of God.”  Although 90 percent of people living in Argentina describe themselves as Catholic, the bill was met with public support.

Norma Morandini, a member of President Fernandez de Kirchner’s party, compared Argentina’s discrimination of gays to the cruelty of past dictators, saying “what defines us is our humanity, and what runs against humanity is intolerance.”

News of the bill’s passing has spurred public outcry for other Latin American countries to follow suit and legalize gay marriage.  Ratified in 1999, Venezuela has what many people consider as one of the most progressive constitutions in the world.  Currently, the Venezuelan Government is embroiled in a public war of words with the Catholic Church in an effort to limit the conservative institution’s role in politics.  Many believe that pushing forward with a same-sex marriage bill similar to Argentina’s would challenge the conservative establishment.

Argentina’s first legal gay marriage is set to be held on August 13 between Ernesto Rodriguez Larrese and Alejandro Vanelli.  Maria Rachid, who leads the Argentine Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transexual Federation, said she expected around 100 same-sex couples to wed around the same date.

For more information, please see:

Toward Freedom – Venezuela Should Follow Argentina’s Example on Gay Rights – 20 July 2010

People’s World – In Landmark Vote Argentina Legalizes Same-sex Marriage – 19 July 2010

AFP – First Gay Marriage in Argentina Set for August 13 – 16 July 2010

CNN – Argentina Legalizes Same-sex Marriage – 15 July 2010

ICRC July News and Notes

Courtesy of the International Committee of the Red Cross

This month the ICRC announced three awardees of the prestigious Florence Nightingale Medal, given in honor of their exceptional courage and devotion in caring for the victims of the January 12 earthquake in HaitiClick to learn more and meet these individuals.

Also, the Regional Delegation for the United States and Canada welcomes the ICRC’s new executive management team, led by Director-General Yves Daccord. Read on to learn more about the people who will guide the ICRC for at least the next four years. We also share some insight into Mr. Daccord’s thinking about the future in a short interview.

Next, in response to a reader’s inquiry, they look at the question of diversity at the ICRC. Did you know that while the ICRC was once an organization staffed exclusively by Swiss nationals, today their staff members represent more than 128 nationalities?

And lastly, they share the latest ICRC video that encourages you to “become part of the action.” Watch it and find out more. It is available on the website as well as on YouTube.

For more information, please see:

International Committee of the Red Cross, Regional Delegation for the United States and Canada

Dozens of Awakening Movement Members Killed: Claims of Government Neglect

By Warren Popp
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

Iraqi Soldiers inspecting the scene of the suicide attack in western Baghdad, where at least forty-three people, mainly Awakening Movement members, were killed. (Photo by Khalid Mohammed, Courtesy of AP)
Iraqi Soldiers inspecting the scene of a suicide attack in western Baghdad, where at least forty-three people, mainly Awakening Movement members, were killed. (Photo by Khalid Mohammed, Courtesy of the AP)

BAGHDAD, Iraq – On Sunday, at least forty-seven people were killed in two coordinated suicide attacks. The first occurred as the victims were waiting in line to get paid by the Iraqi government at an army office in western Baghdad, and the second occurred in al Qaim, a city in the Anbar Province in western Iraq. Most of those killed in the attacks were Sahwa militiamen, members of what is often called the Awakening movement. The Awakening movement is made up of former Sunni insurgents who joined with the United States and Iraqi forces to fight against al-Qaeda in Iraq—a shift in allegiance that many see as a key turning point in the direction of the war.

The recent attacks are part of an increase in what appear to be revenge attacks against members of the Awakening movement and their families, largely carried out by elements of al-Qaeda in Iraq. The attacks are generally viewed as payback for what has been viewed by many as a significant role played by the Awakening movement in fighting al-Qaeda throughout central Iraq.

The Awakening movement complains that the Shiite-led Iraqi government, which they allege has always viewed them with suspicion, neglects them and also fails to protect them and their families from revenge attacks. They claim that the government has failed to fulfill its promises to integrate twenty percent of the roughly ninety-two thousand Awakening members in the regular security forces, to find jobs for others, and to keep paying their salaries on time—the victims of the most recent attacks reportedly had not been paid in five months, and it is reported that the monthly salaries of Awakening members have been cut from the three hundred dollars when they were under United States leadership, to one hundred dollars under Iraqi government control.

According to the Awakening commander of Baghdad’s Radwaniya district, “The [Iraqi] army has good relations with us and is cooperative, but there is no support from the government.” He further claimed, “I used to command 1,240 men, each one an important part of a security net, and now I command 400 only. The rest have become either porters or cleaners or are simply paid a monthly salary and stay at home.” The poor treatment by the government is cited as the reason many people leave both the Awakening and their new low-level jobs in civil ministries. Moreover, the Los Angeles Times reports that many Awakening leaders have recently been arrested for crimes they allegedly committed when they were insurgents, and that other Awakening members have been assassinated.

The Christian Science Monitor cites numerous examples of such assassinations: In December, two roadside bombs in December killed two Awakening commanders; in March, men broke into the house of a Awakening militiaman, shooting him and his wife; in June, an Awakening member’s house was blown up on the outskirts of Fallujah; last month, gunmen raided the home of a man who belonged to a tribe that has been vocal in its anti-Al Qaeda views, killing five of his family members; and just last week, an Awakening leader was brutally slain along with his wife and children in his South Baghdad home. There have also been frequent attacks of police officers, which have had their houses blown up and have witnessed family members being killed by gunmen.

Many Awakening members describe themselves as caught between radicals seeking revenge against them, and a government that appears just as likely to arrest them as give them their paychecks. Senior tribal leader, Sheik Ali Hatem Sulaiman, who is associated with the Awakening movement, said on Al Arabiya television, “The sons of the Awakening are paying with their blood . . . We haven’t seen the government, politicians or the Americans finding a solution to this problem.”

For more information, please see:

Al Arabiya News Channel – Iraq Suicide Bomber Kills 43 at Army Office – 19 July 2010

Al Jazeera – Suicide Bombers Target Iraq Militia – 19 June 2010

Christian Science Monitor – Iraq Suicide Attacks Target Sunni Awakening Militias; Dozens Killed – 19 July 2010

Christian Science Monitor – Sunni Awakening Resolute in Face of Iraq Bombing – 19 July 2010

Los Angeles Times – 50 Killed in Iraq Attacks Aimed at Anti-Al Qaeda Fighters – 19 July 2010

New York Times – Dozens Killed in Iraq Suicide Attacks – 19 July 2010

Whipping Punishment Overturned for Teens

By R. Renee Yaworsky
Impunity Watch Reporter, Oceania

NUKU’ALOFA, Tonga—Two teenagers in Tonga have been spared a whipping sentence that would have given each six lashes with a rod.  The Court of Appeal overturned the sentence this week on the grounds that it would be considered “cruel and unusual.”

Timote Fangupo and Penisimani Fa’aoa, both now 17, were first imprisoned for crimes they committed when they were 15.  They served time for housebreaking and theft, and escaped from prison three times.

The whipping sentences, accompanied by a 13-year prison term, were set late last year by Justice Shuster, a British Commonwealth High Court Judge who had been appointed to Tonga in 2008.

The whipping punishment had not been used in Tonga in 30 years.  The Appeal Court took modern global trends into account when deciding which course to take in this case.  Their judgment stated that, “interpreted in the light of international conventions and decisions of this Court it might be argued that the whipping provision is now unconstitutional.”

The Appeal Court acknowledged that international attitudes toward corporal punishment had changed over the past 20 years, saying, “A number of countries have adopted or amended constitutions to prohibit cruel and unusual punishment.  Tonga has not amended its constitution.”

The Court cited the UN’s Human Rights Committee, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, and the European Court of Human Rights, all of which have spoken out against whipping or flogging.

Also noted by the Justices was the controversy concerning whether it is ethical for a physician to certify offenders as being fit for whipping.  The judgment mentioned that medical ethics may “prevent a doctor from participating in the infliction” of such a punishment.

The Court concluded that the whipping punishment would be excessive, and that the sentencing judge had committed error by taking certain prejudicial factors into account: “There had been assaults on prison staff in ‘Eua and the burning of the prison in Tongatapu.  There is no suggestion that either of the appellants had anything at all to do with either of these incidents; indeed, their offending and their imprisonment is on the island of Vava’u.”

Instead of enduring the whipping, the teenage appellants will now serve prison sentences totaling six years.

Tonga’s Human Rights and Democracy Movement congratulated the Appeal Court for overturning the sentence.  The Movement’s  director, Po’oi Pohiva, said, “Such punishment should no longer be seen given the international laws that uphold and promote the dignity of the human person.”

For more information, please see:

Matangi Tonga-Appeal Court overturns “cruel” flogging sentence for 17-year-old prisoners-14 July 2010

Radio New Zealand International-Tonga NGO congratulates Appeal Court on whipping decision-14 July 2010

New Zealand Herald-Tonga stops whipping-14 July 2010

Conference in Brazil Addresses Women’s Rights

By R. Renee Yaworsky
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

BRASILIA, Brazil—A conference on issues affecting women in Latin America and the Caribbean was held this week in Brazil with hopes of achieving equality between men and women.  Members called on regional governments to ensure women’s autonomy and economic empowerment.

The eleventh session of the Regional Conference on Women in Latin America and the Caribbean was organized by the UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC).  Over 800 delegates were present, representing more than 30 nations.  The theme chosen for the conference was “What kind of State?  What kind of equality?”

ECLAC presented a position paper, the Brasilia Consensus, detailing past accomplishments and future challenges in the realm of gender equality.  The document announced that women in Latin America and the Caribbean are burdened by a heavier overall workload than men, much of which is unpaid domestic labor.  Women in the workplace are still discriminated against and receive lower wages than their male counterparts.  The paper proposed a social covenant that would balance workloads more evenly between men and women and facilitate women’s access to paid jobs.

“It will not be possible to achieve equality for women in the workplace until the burden of unpaid and care work, which they have historically shouldered, has been resolved,” said ECLAC’s executive secretary, Alicia Barcena.  “This calls for the establishment of a new virtuous equation that encompasses the State, the market and the family.”

ECLAC’s data from 2008 reports that 31.6% of women over age 15 —but only 10.4% of men– had no income of their own.  8.3% of women were unemployed, while only  5.7% of men were in similar circumstances.

Other goals mentioned in the Brasilia Consensus included women’s increased participation in political processes, access to new technologies, and the elimination of all violence against women.  For women suffering as victims of violence, the Consensus demanded justice and free legal assistance.

Members of the conference promised solidarity with earthquake-ravaged Haiti and Chile, agreeing to aid in reconstruction and work for gender equality in those countries.

A delegation from the conference was received Wednesday by President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and handed the Brazilian leader a copy of the Brasilia Consensus.  The same day, the new UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women was introduced.

For more information, please see:

CRI English-“Brasilia Consensus” Calls for Women’s Rights-17 July 2010

Jamaica Observer-Caribbean women still getting raw deal in labour market-16 July 2010

Unifem-Regional Conference on Women in Latin America and the Caribbean Calls for New Social Covenant to Achieve Equality in the Workplace-16 July 2010