NEWS & LETTERS, May 2004

Queer Notes

by Suzanne Rose

Venezuela--It is suspected that uniformed police are behind the shootings of two transgender women. Dayana Nieves was murdered in 2000; Michelle Paz's body was found in January. Another woman, Paola Sanchez, was shot at but not injured. Police officers later broke into her house without a warrant and arrested her. No charges were filed and she has since been released. However, two transgender activists who were arrested on Jan. 16 are still being held at a local prison in incommunicado detention.

Zanzibar--Despite international condemnation, Zanzibar's parliament has passed a bill making homosexuality illegal. The bill was passed partly to keep the island out of the same-sex marriage debate. Gay men found guilty of "homosexual relations" can get up to 25 years in jail. Lesbians get seven years. The move follows the growth of conservative Islam on the island.

Detroit--The constitutionality of undercover sting operations in Rouge Park has been challenged in the U.S  District Court. Stings are conducted by the Police Department's Sixth Precinct. Gay men, or those perceived to be gay, have been targeted for arrest under Detroit's "Annoying Persons" and "Solicitation and Accosting" ordinances. To entrap men in the park, undercover officers would follow or approach men they perceived to be gay, make eye contact and encourage the men to respond in a sexual manner. If a man merely responded with a look, gesture or conversation perceived by officers to have sexual connotations, he was arrested and his vehicle impounded. He was then required to pay $900 plus storage and towing costs for the return of his vehicle.

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