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Academy Award winning actress Charlize Theron has revealed for the first time her oldest child is trans.

Theron revealed seven-year-old Jackson, proclaimed her gender to the actress at the age of three.

‘Yes, I thought she was a boy, too,’ Charlize told the Daily Mail.

‘Until she looked at me when she was three years old and said: “I am not a boy!”.

‘So there you go! I have two beautiful daughters who, just like any parent, I want to protect and I want to see thrive.’

Jackson is an older sibling to three-year-old August.

‘They were born who they are and exactly where in the world both of them get to find themselves as they grow up, and who they want to be, is not for me to decide,’ Theron said.

‘My job as a parent is to celebrate them and to love them and to make sure that they have everything they need in order to be what they want to be.

‘And I will do everything in my power for my kids to have that right and to be protected within that.’

Theron has long been an LGBTI ally. In 2012, she vowed to not get married until same-sex marriage was legalized. Then in 2017 she criticised the lack of bisexual representation in Hollywood.

Positive representation

Many celebrated Theron’s support of her daughter including Sense8 actress, Jamie Clayton.

‘Sending you so much love and light. Thank you beyond,’ Clayton wrote on Twitter.

.@CharlizeAfrica Sending you so much Thank you beyond.

— Jamie Clayton (@MsJamieClayton) April 19, 2019

UK based charity, Mermaids, who work with young gender diverse people not only celebrated Theron’s news, but the way the mainstream media handled it. UK media has come under fire recently for anti-trans articles and editorials.

Mermaids CEO, Susie Green, told Gay Star News the respectful coverage of the story by mainstream media was a welcome change.

‘Parents are constantly criticized for believing their gender variant children and supporting them to live authentically,’ she said.

‘We applaud Charline Theron for listening to her daughter. Too often children are dismissed, their feelings regarded as irrelevant.

‘Recognition that a child or young person knows who they are is hugely important, whatever age they trust their parents with this truth.’

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A star player for the beloved New Zealand rugby team – the All Blacks – has shown his support for the LGBTI community on Friday (19 April).

Angus Ta’avao donned rainbow laces on his boots during his Super Rugby team’s game on Friday. Ta’avao for the Chiefs who took on the Lions at the Waikato Stadium in Hamilton on New Zealand’s north island.

His statement comes after Australian player Israel Folau once again took to social media to tell LGBTI people they are going to hell. Last week, Rugby Australia and Rugby New South Wales terminated Folau’s multi-million dollar contract for defying warnings over his social media posts. Folau said he would appeal the decision.

Following, Folau’s posts a number of other sports players came out in support of the national player. Rugby fans booed English player Billy Vunipola after he ‘like’ Folau’s post. He also took to social media to say ‘Man was made for woman to pro create that was the goal no?’

But Ta’avo reaffirmed his support for the community and wore the rainbow laces again. The Chiefs collectively wore the laces after Folau’s first homophobic post last year.

Ta’avo was one of many players to affirm their love for the LGBTI community following Folau’s comments.

Another All Black player, TJ Perenara, used Twitter to pledge his support.

‘You are loved. You are valued. You are enough. You are worthy. You are deserving. I got you,’ Perenara wrote on Twitter.

I don’t even know what to say.

You are loved
You are valued
You are enough
You are worthy
You are deserving
I got you

— Tj Perenara (@Tj_Perenara) April 12, 2019

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Two lesbians engaged to be married have said they are the victims of ongoing abuse and discrimination.

Known only as GB, 27, and LS, 21, the pair said they have no respite from ongoing taunts about their sexuality. They even face from some of their friends in group chats they belong to.

The pair study psychology and cultural mediation (the study using data to analyse the cultural difference between people) respectively. They are students at the University of Padua in the northern Italian region of Veneto. Both women live on campus in the Copernicus Residence.

‘When they came to tell us that our displays of affection were too noice, we laughed, then it degenerated and we realized that this was an attack on us, because we are lesbians,’ the pair told media.

Padua Pride

The women spoke at a press conference marking the launch of Padua Pride on 1 June. The pair were chosen because this year’s Pride theme will focus on women and feminism.

Padua is also the birthplace of Mariasilvia Spolato, the first woman to publicly come out as lesbian in Italy.

Organisers plan to link ‘traditional’ LGBTI issues to feminist issues such as overcoming discrimination and the fight against gender stereotypes. They also acknowledged the need to ‘ join forces because the continuous attacks on civil rights affects
both women and the LGBTI community’.

‘Certainly this year’s Pride has a strong feminine and feminist declination,’ said Padua Pride spokesperson, Mattia Galdiolo.

‘We cannot fail to realize that the attacks we receive as LGBTI communities are of the same matrix, if not of the same origin,
as those received by women.

‘Therefore, it will certainly be a LGBTI Pride but also a feminist one, who will know how to respond clearly to those who want to limit their rights but also to those who promote intolerance, hatred and fear of differences.’

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Pansexual singer Christine and the Queens has rushed home to France after her mother’s death on Tuesday.

Christine and the Queens – whose real name is Héloïse Letissier – was due to perform at the second weekend of the Coachella musical festival in California on Saturday. She had performed at Coachella the previous Saturday.

Instead she took to Twitter to announce the passing of her mother.

‘I can only write very simple sentences,’ Letissier wrote on Twitter.

‘I lost my mother on Tuesday night.

‘I came home to go through this ordeal with my loved ones- I won’t be able to sing this Saturday. I kiss you.’

Je n’arrive qu’à écrire des phrases très simples. J’ai perdu ma mère dans la nuit de mardi. Je suis rentrée pour traverser cette épreuve avec mes proches – je ne pourrai pas chanter ce samedi. Je vous embrasse.

— Chris (@QueensChristine) April 18, 2019

The cause of death is not known or if her mother’s death was unexpected.

Letissier also cancelled a performance alongside Blood Orange in Santa Barbara, California.

Christine and the Queens

Christine and the Queens shot to fame in 2014 with her debut album Chaleur humaine. Multiple media outlets including, The Guardian, The Independent and Mojo, naming it the album of the year. She released her second album, Chris, last year to critical acclaim. The Guardian named it album of the year, while Time Magazine called the first single, Girlfriend, song of the year.

The singer has often explored gender in her music, often subverting gender expectations in her videos and performances.

‘I initially set out to smash against macho culture and macho men,’ Letissier said about Girlfriend last year.

‘I became obsessed with this idea of the macho man, and still being a woman. What does it mean if I’m this figure, and I’m a woman? Does it make me an aberration? Is it joyful?’

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A 29-year-old LGBTI journalist has been murdered while reporting on ‘dissident republican activity’ in Londonderry, Northern Ireland.

A masked gunman allegedly shot Lyra McKee to death while she covered riots in Londonderry – also known as Derry – on Thursday (18 April).

Police said a group known as the New IRA ‘are likely to be the ones behind this’.

Cell phone footage shows a masked gunman crouching down and opening fire with a handgun at about 11pm. McKee was wounded as she stood by a police SUV according to police.

‘A single gunman fired shots in a residential area of the city and as a result wounded Ms McKee. Officers quickly administered first aid before transporting her in the back of a landrover to hospital,’ said Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton.

‘Tragically she died from her injuries. At this stage we believe her murder was carried out by a violent dissident republican.’

Hamilton appealed for witnesses to share information with police.

Assistant Chief Constable for District Policing Mark Hamilton | Photo: PSNI

Not long before her murder, McKee tweeted a photo of the riots with the caption ‘Derry tonight. Absolute madness’.

A journalist has been killed covering riots in Derry. Her name was Lyra McKee. She was 29. She recently signed a two-book deal with Faber, who called her a “rising star of investigative journalism”. This is her last tweet, sent from the scene of the unrest. pic.twitter.com/0gk1Fa7Du0

— Naomi O’Leary (@NaomiOhReally) April 19, 2019

A star on the rise, shot down

McKee lived in Belfast where she edited media trade publication, Mediagazer. Forbes named her on its 30 under 30 in media list in 2016.

She had published a non-fiction novella about The Troubles in Northern Ireland called Angels with Blue Faces. Publishing house Faber & Faber had also given her a two-book deal, of which the first book The Lost Boys was due for release next year.

The National Union of Journalists (NUJ) described McKee as ‘one of the most promising journalists’ in Northern Ireland.

Hundreds of people have paid tribute to Mckee, including British Prime Minister Theresa May who said she ‘died doing her job with great courage’.

In Memory Of | Lyra McKee | TEDxStormontWomen - YouTube

New IRA

Police reported an increased in ‘dissident republican activity’. Officer carried out a raid at Londonderry’s Creggan estate on Thursday night looking for weapons.

Law enforcement thought the estate to be a hotspot for the New IRA and police worried about violence breaking out to mark the anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising.

Police blamed the New IRA for McKee’s murder and a for bomb attack at the Derry City Courthouse last year.

Violence against journalists on the increase

McKee’s has become the 7th journalist murdered while doing their job in 2019 and the first in the UK. This comes off the back that 2018 was one of the deadliest ever for journalists according to Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

Before her death McKee was actually due to speak at a World Press Freedom Day event for Amnesty International.

‘Lyra was a great young journalist, whose commitment to truth was absolute and whose laughter could light up a room,’ said Patrick Corrigan, Northern Ireland programme director of Amnesty International.

‘The bitter irony was that Lyra was due to speak at an Amnesty International event at the Queen’s Film Theatre in Belfast on 4 May about the dangers of reporting violent conflicts.’

Corrigan went on to say ‘journalists put themselves on the frontline in the battle for truth every single day’.

‘Every day, it becomes more dangerous for reporters to do their job on behalf of us all,’ he said.

‘Lyra McKee was one of those courageous seekers after truth, with a life ahead of her and so much to give.’

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The Vatican has released footage of Pope Francis discussing sexuality with a gay TV star, to be screened on British television tonight.

The interaction between the religious icon and comic Stephen K Amos will air on BBC2’s Pilgrimage: The Road to Rome on Friday 19 April at 9pm.

During the conversation, a recently-bereaved Stephen tells the head of the Catholic Church he’s ‘looking for answers and faith, but as a gay man, I don’t feel accepted.’

The Pope replies: ‘Giving more importance to the adjective than the noun – this is not good.’

He furthermore adds: ‘There are people that prefer to select or discard people, because of the adjective. These people don’t have a human heart.’

.@stephenkamos confronts the Pope about feeling rejected from Christianity because of his sexuality. ⁣#Pilgrimage | 9pm | @BBCTwo | https://t.co/yb43mVSdm3#CrossingDivides pic.twitter.com/K1o68WPVDu

— BBC Two (@BBCTwo) April 19, 2019

‘I felt like I was asking on behalf of a lot of people’

Describing the interaction to GSN, Stephen said: ‘It brings back goosebumps. There was no dry eye in the room at that moment.’

He furthermore added: ‘I felt like I was asking on behalf of a lot of people. To hear him say those words in his position, and those words being heard by a lot of his followers and devotees – that stuff’s huge.’

He continued: ‘The half of me was on the back foot because, I guarantee you, if they’d towed a certain line – I would have been respectful; after all you’re in his house, the Vatican – but I wouldn’t have sat there and taken it. I’d have walked out. Said “It’s not for me.”‘

Stephen is one of eight celebrities appearing in the series, alongside public figures such as Birds of a Feather’s Lesley Joseph and gameshow host Les Dennis.

The stars have been shown following in the footsteps of religious pilgrims as they walk part of the ancient Via Francigena route, a 2,000km pathway from Canterbury, England to Rome, reflecting on spirituality along the way.

Asked if his perception of the Pope’s comments have changed at all over the intervening months, Stephen answered: ‘No. Because the more I see of this current Pope, the more progressive in certain areas he does appear to be. I didn’t expect him to say what he said. I thought he was going to tow a line I’d heard other people say along the pilgrimage. “Who am I to judge?” “Only god can judge.” Blah blah blah. He was a lot more candid.’

He furthermore added: ‘To be honest, I didn’t think they’d release the footage – it was all under the control of the Vatican. They filmed everything. The BBC wasn’t allowed to have their cameras in or anything. They could’ve edited or said “We won’t give it to you.”’

The conversation in full

Stephen is heard saying to Pope Francis: ‘I lost my mother and three months ago, I buried my twin sister, who were both very religious. Me coming on this pilgrimage, being nonreligious, I was looking for answers and faith. But as a gay man, I don’t feel accepted.’

Pope Francis replies: ‘Giving more importance to the adjective than the noun – this is not good. We are all human beings and have dignity. It does not matter who you are, or how you live your life, you do not lose your dignity. There are people that prefer to select or discard people, because of the adjective. These people don’t have a human heart.’

‘I feel myself among brothers and sisters, and I have not asked any of you what your faith or belief is, because you have a basic faith in humanity. For those of you who are believers, please pray for me. For those of you who do not believe, could you wish me a good journey so I do not let anyone down.’

The Pope then embraces Stephen, who looks visibly moved and whispers ‘thank you.’

Stephen, who is currently touring Australia with his stand up show, first spoke publicly about being gay on stage at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2007.

See also

Benedict XVI ‘trying to derail Pope Francis’ statement on homosexuality’

Pope Francis will issue the biggest pro-LGBTI statement in Vatican history

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Why do so many of us who live in cities feel lonely?

It’s a clichéd concept, really: being surrounded by people and yet feeling distant. Huge tower blocks filled with other human beings and no one makes eye-contact, no one says hello. The only touch you feel is the angry weight of another person on the tube.

Because it’s not just the big, complex feelings of emotional fulfillment or finding your soul mate that’s lacking. It’s the very fundamentals of existing as a human being. Touching another person. Looking into another’s eyes. Hugging each other.

In London, one of the biggest and loneliest cities on Earth, there’s one small club tackling this problem for gay and bisexual men.

(I visited as part of Digital Pride, the theme of this year’s being. The event, run by Gay Star News, is dedicated to making sure everyone across the globe can be a part of a Pride, whoever they are and wherever they live in the world. For this year’s event, running from 29 April to 5 May 2019, we are focusing on tackling loneliness and isolation. Find out more.)

Discovering someone’s touch

Miguel Chavez, 43, started the Gay Cuddle Club to reconnect the city’s disaffected men to the concept of intimacy.

It’s a two-hour long session of meditation and controlled touching, including cuddling and massages. For many who attend the sessions, it’s the first time they’ve felt a friendly touch in years.

Meeting Miguel, originally from Mexico, for the first time in an attic space five minutes from Tottenham Court Road, he told me: ‘Being a gay man, I noticed the lack of connections I had. We gay men are the worst enemies to one another. We are sometimes not so nice to each other and we don’t connect to each other.

Miguel Chaves, the founder of the Gay Cuddle Club | Photo: Miguel Chaves

‘Then add in applications like Grindr where what is important is how big your cock is, or whether you’re a top or bottom, rather than the connections.

‘I started this as a space where we can connect differently – where it doesn’t matter if you’re a top, or bottom, or masc or skinny.’

It’s tempting to raise your eyebrows and dismiss the Gay Cuddle Club as a pretense for an orgy. In fact, in the beginning some people did – but this is not the environment Miguel wanted to create.

‘When I first started, people genuinely thought it would be an orgy. I had one person take his penis out and start wanking.

‘In the beginning [of the club], I turned the lights off to make it more intimate, but then things started to happen. With intimacy, people think it has to come with sex. Because all the time you have intimacy, you have sex.’

Like many single gay men in London, loneliness is not a foreign concept to me. Friends start to fall into relationships and your friendship is no longer as all encompassing to them as it is to you.

I can meet any man within throwing distance of my flat interested in sex with just a few taps on my phone. But that kind of touch only makes me feel further apart from the world. I can get as much out of playing a video game as a Grindr fuck.

So the idea intrigued me. I needed to see for myself if what Miguel promised is possible – to separate the intimate from the sexual, to have genuine connections with other people without the phallic sword of Damocles hanging over us.

Inside the Gay Cuddle Club

Walking into a room where people expect to touch you and be touched by you is a weird thing. I arrived after the beginning meditation session and felt the weight of two dozen eyes fall on me at once. I walked into the dimly lit attic room and began the exercises.

Not just cuddling at the Gay Cuddle Club – you also become familiar with the feel of someone’s body |  Photo: Tom Capon

The session began with us walking – in any direction – through the room, a soothing playlist singing unobtrusively in the background. Bodies weaved through each other. No one touched at this point. People only looked. I could feel the embarrassment crawling up my spine as one thought pounded through my head with every footstep: ‘Why am I here?’

Then Miguel asked us to stop and close our eyes. He told us to find the center of the room, and stop when we touch bodies.

A pause, followed by a few apprehensive steps. Miguel’s calm voice guided us through each step, deep and ethereal. It was hypnotizing. A mass of humans formed in the center, bodies leaning on each other, arms squeezed in. The heat from all these men radiated out as the sound of mismatched breathing brushed across my ears. He asked us to start touching each other.

With my eyes closed and the room dark, my skin lit up with the touch of another human being. The bodies were so tightly packed it was impossible to tell which fingers slid across my biceps, squeezed my shoulders or grazed against my hip.

My mind became hyper-focused on the sensation. I reacted in the way you’d expect in that situation. But the calming voice of Miguel lorded over all. Eventually we separated, then told to come together again – sometimes just two of us, sometimes four at a time.

The meaning of the touch began to change after so much of it. The electricity faded, replaced by something soothing. It washed over my fears and caressed something in the back of my mind.

I ended up in a pair. I followed the instructions, feeling the smooth crevasses and hard hills of his hands. His hands ran through the forest on my arms. Chavez’ voice told us to move closer and so we did – until our bodies, front-to-front, pressed against each other.

We embraced. He rested on me then I rested on he and I gave the best cuddle my body and soul could manage. When we untangled we stared deep in each other’s eyes, saying our thanks. I cried.

Full body sensations |  Photo: Tom Capon

To embrace another 

Why did I cry? I hug my mum. I hug my friends every time we meet. Why did this one embrace have such a profound effect on me?

For some of it, it’s a cultural aspect. The world is becoming less intimate by the day. Our phones contain the power to bring us together but instead they separate us, to the point where people flinch away from one-to-one conversations, let alone physical contact.

London is the epitome of this attitude. Just think about the atmosphere on the tube.

‘I think because it’s a big city with a lack of communication. The city of London is very big and very fast,’ Miguel said.

‘You go to buy a coffee, you can’t even talk to the person serving you the coffee.’

Many people felt the same. When we gathered outside, I spoke to the other cuddlers. Many of them were here for the same reason. People in the LGBTI community felt trapped in a world that rejected their touch.

‘They’ll suck your dick and bum you, but they won’t talk to you,’ Sean, one of the cuddlers, said about the gay scene in the city.

One person from India – who I have chosen not to name for privacy reasons – believed the seeming repulsion against contact was racism. He told me: ‘I thought it was to do with my skin color – but it was just a cultural thing.’

The Gay Cuddle Club breaks through this sensibility. It’s not that intimacy and sexuality are separate; they are eternally entwined, existing on a spectrum. We need both, just not always in their extremes.

As we begin to raise these screens up as barriers between us; as extended working hours mean we’re trapped for most of the day in an environment that forbids intimacy; as we turn sex into a game and friendship as a side hustle; the Gay Cuddle Club offers an opportunity to embrace something our bodies and souls crave.

Only by entering this oasis of sensual touching do I now realize how thirsty I am – how thirsty we all are. It shows the most obvious and difficult thing to enact: we are the solution to our loneliness problem.

What is Digital Pride?

Digital Pride is the online movement, by Gay Star News, so you can take part in Pride whoever and wherever you are. Even if you are from a country where being LGBTI is criminalized or leaves you in danger – it’s a Pride festival you can be a part of.

In 2019, Digital Pride is tackling loneliness and isolation with articles and videos connecting LGBTI people. Join us by reaching out to someone who needs it. The festival takes place on Gay Star News from 29 April to 5 May 2019. Find out more.

See also

Bisexual role models are needed to fight isolation and loneliness

Clubbing in London can be incredibly isolating when you’re not a man

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China’s largest e-commerce site, Taobao, began removing LGBTI-themed items from online stores this week.

Taobao, owned by Chinese billionaire Jack Ma, told Vendors selling products such as rainbow clothing and accessories that ‘erotic, violent and vulgar content’ was not allowed.

It told Hu Nao, a 27-year-old from ShanDong who sells handmade rainbow accessories, the company prohibited items described as ‘LGBT’ ‘Les’ and ‘Gay’.

They claimed her products contained ‘obscenity, pornography, violence or political sensitivity’.

‘I am only selling some accessories to give us [LGBT] some identity’ she told Gay Star News. ‘Why can’t I do that?’ she asked.

This week, China’s largest social media, Sina Weibo, also removed LGBTI content.

A page dedicated named ‘les’ and dedicated to lesbian users disappeared on Sunday (14 April).

It had 143,000 members and 540 million engagements. A lesbian group, meanwhile, is no longer accepting new members.

It comes almost exactly a year since Weibo first cracked down on LGBTI content.

The Cyberspace Administration of China on 10 April announced an 8-month crackdown on pornography.

It said any ‘content that violates correct marriage and family ethics’ should be removed.

Hitting back

Fan Fan of LGBT Rights Advocacy China told Gay Star News many people suspected the Weibo and Taobao crackdowns were linked.

He said he was ‘disappointed’ by the crackdown from two of China’s internet giants.

‘Taobao once was an LGBT-friendly company in its early years’ he told Gay Star News.

‘Maybe it also succumbed to the government’s policies before it remove these products’ he suggested.

China legalized gay sex in 1997 and removed it from the list of mental illnesses in 2001.

But, in a conservative and family-orientated society, many LGBTI Chinese live in the closet. Same-sex marriage is also illegal.

China’s Netcasting Service Association (CNSA) officially banned LGBT content from China’s internet in June 2017.

CNSA labeled homosexuality ‘abnormal sexual behavior’.

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A go fund me campaign launched for Muhlaysia Booker, who was brutally beaten by several men last week, has nearly reached its US$7,500 target.

Footage that went viral over the weekend allegedly shows a mob violently attacking 23-year-old Booker following a traffic incident on Friday (12 April).

The attack left Booker seeking medical treatment at a local hospital.

The fund was launched on Monday (15 April) to assist with medical bills and mental health services.

As the incident took place near her home, the fund also hopes to help Booker relocated so she ‘can continue her life with a better sense of safety and security.’

What happened?

A man who brutally left a trans woman bruised and bleeding in broad daylight Dallas was paid $200 to do so, police said this week.

Booker allegedly accidentally backed into another vehicle with two men inside while driving her car.

One of the drivers – who remains a suspect in the investigation – told police her ran Booker off the road to keep her from leaving the scene.

But Booker said the unidentified driver then pointed a gun at her and demanded money for damage to his car. Also in the car was Edward Dominic Thomas, 29.

A crowd gathered, and someone in the crowd reportedly offered Thomas $200 to assault Booker.

Thomas, dressed in all-white, descended upon her, delivering a deluge of punches. As the footage suggests, two other men joined in. One kicking her as she lay helpless in the street.

As many threw homophobic insults at her, Booker suffered a concussion, facial fractures, and a broken wrist as a result.

‘This case is certainly disturbing,’ Police Lieutenant Vincent Weddington told reporters during a press conference Monday.

‘The video, I’m sure, shocks the conscience of anyone who looks at this video.’

Police arrested Thomas two days after the incident for aggravated assault. They are currently assessing whether the incident can be considered a hate crime.

The FBI recorded 7,175 hate crimes in the US in 2017.

Among them, 1,130 were based on sexual orientation bias and 119 on gender identity bias.

And more than 100 of those victims were people of color, according to the report.

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The European Parliament on Thursday (18 April) condemned Brunei’s ‘retrograde’ Islamic laws which punish gay sex with death by stoning.
It adopted a resolution that ‘strongly condemns the entry into force of the retrograde Sharia Penal Code; [and] urged the Bruneian authorities to immediately repeal it’.

Brunei’s brutal sharia laws, ushered in earlier this week, which punish gay sex with death by stoning.

‘No crime justifies an amputation or torture, let alone the death penalty’ the parliament’s vice president, Federica Mogherini, said.

‘And no person should be punished for loving someone. That can never be interpreted as a crime.’

But, the parliament stopped short of issuing sanctions on Brunei and its ruling royal family.

Lawmakers had called for asset freezes and visa bans on the Southeast Asian nation and to blacklist nine hotels owned by the Brunei Investment Agency.

What’s more, EU lawmakers said Brunei was doing ‘abusive lobbying’ ahead of Thursday’s vote.

Representatives handed out a letter claiming Brunei did not criminalize people based on sexual orientation.

It said ‘stoning gay people will be rare’.

‘The criminalization of adultery and sodomy is to safeguard the sanctity of family lineage and marriage of individual Muslims particularly women’, it also reportedly said.

What is happening in Brunei?

Brunei is a tiny, but wealthy, Muslim-majority nation in Southeast Asia which now punishes gay sex with death by stoning.

Earlier this month, the country’s all-powerful Sultan introduced new sharia–or Islamic–laws.

They include: Death by stoning for people convicted of sodomy. Public flogging for those convicted of abortions, adultery or rape. The amputation of hands and feet for convicted thieves.

The United Nations condemned them as ‘cruel and inhuman’. The sultan has defended his ’sovereign right’.

Some argue that dwindling oil and gas reserves have forced the sultan to shore up support as a protector of Islam.

A coalition of rights groups in Southeast Asia last week protested the new laws.

Celebrities have also led a boycott of the Sultan’s business portfolio. And, in the UK, a Labour MP said the UK should chuck Brunei out of the commonwealth.

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