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Cameroonian President Paul Biya: ‘Cameroonians are changing their minds about gay people’

On Wednesday January 30, while in Paris, Cameroon’s President Paul Biya said that ‘minds in the country are evolving’ on the subject of gay people. This statement followed a massive outcry on behalf of a student in Cameroon, Roger Jean-Claude Mbédé, who had been sentenced to 3 years in prison under Cameroon’s anti-gay law for sending a love text message to another man. More than 122,000 members of the global movement for equality All Out, have signed a petition to Biya asking him to free Roger and end the laws that make it illegal to be gay in Cameroon.

‘President Biya said there may be movement away from the criminalised and negative treatment of lesbian, gay, bi and trans people in Cameroon, but the truth is that Roger just had his jail sentence affirmed for sending a text message expressing love to another man, and others remain in jail after being accused of being gay,’ said Andre Banks, Co-founder and Executive Director of All Out. ‘Things are getting worse, not better, for gay people in Cameroon. It is time for more action and less talk. Biya must free Roger and others accused of being gay through an immediate end of the anti-gay law.’

President Biya pointed to a recent ground-breaking case where two individuals, known as Francky and Jonas, were acquitted after being sentenced to 5 years in prison. Francky and Jonas were convicted in 2011 when a judge said the way they dressed, the way they spoke and that they liked Bailey’s Irish Cream proved they were gay.

Biya arrived in France this week to meet with French President Françoise Hollande. During the meetings, Roger, joined by All Out, launched a plea for Hollande to speak to President Biya on Roger’s behalf.  In 2011, Roger was arrested and sentenced to 3 years in prison after sending an SMS to another man. He spent more than a year in prison while facing abuse and ill health, until he was released pending his appeal. His conviction was affirmed by the Court of Appeals in Yaounde on 17 December 2012, so Roger could face more jail time if he is not freed from his sentence.

‘Mr. Hollande, here in Cameroon I am a criminal because I am gay. I need your help to convince the President of Cameroon to reverse my 3-year prison sentence, to release all innocent people in prison in Cameroon simply because they ‘seem gay’ and put an end to laws that make being gay a crime!’ said Roger Mbédé. ‘I am calling all people to join All Out to help me raise my voice and fight this injustice.’

Roger’s lawyer, Alice N’Kom, who traveled to Paris as well to make Roger’s plight known to Hollande, said, ‘President Biya has the power to free Roger, and put an end to laws that make it illegal to be gay in Cameroon and disgrace our country.’

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Gaydar launches newly-styled site in time for Valentine’s Day

Gaydar, the UK’s largest gay dating website, has unveiled a sleek new appearance for its three million UK members. Just as a change in season deserves a wardrobe revamp, Gaydar has taken its visual cues from discerning style and fashion brands to deliver a newly-designed site for the New Year.

A toned-down palette of colours has replaced the bright, flamboyant look of the previous Gaydar to coincide with the design savvy vibe of its community. The original gold and yellow logo has been replaced with a sharp, defined look which is still unmistakably ‘Gaydar’. The leading gay and bisexual dating site is delivering the following message to its members: ‘If Mr. Right exists, he’s probably on Gaydar…’.

Trevor Martin, Managing Director of Gaydar, commented, ’We are delighted with the new site; we felt we needed to progress the branding to match the mood and style of our members. 2013 is going to be a really exciting year for Gaydar and this rebrand is the first step of many to come.’

Following the site revamp, Gaydar is set to launch an ‘on your mobile service’ which will provide gay guys with a better targeted and relevant dating service than ever before.

In other Valentine’s related news, a poll by Desire and Pleasure, the online sex toy website from charity FPA, shows that 68% of couples would rather stay in on February 14. The main reason cited for staying in is a lack of money, with 43% preferring to save their cash and make their own fun.

However, the chance to save money wasn’t the only reason – just under a third (31%) of those surveyed believe that by staying in they had a higher chance of having sex. It also seems people will be getting prepared to make their own fun, with 1 in 5 (20%) planning a saucy purchase for Valentine’s night.  The most common sexy gifts are underwear and costumes.  Other popular items are saucy board games and ‘fun’ bondage items like furry handcuffs.

Last year, Brits spent £88m on gifts for each other, with men spending twice as much as women. The average cost of a meal out for two people with a bottle of wine is around £50. Add to this a bunch of flowers at £10, a bottle of perfume or aftershave at £30 a piece, and a box of chocolates, and you can easily spend over £100 per couple.

Terry Hawkins, Business Development Manager at FPA, says, ‘The Fifty Shades… effect has changed the way people see sex toys, and the increase in sales of products backs this up, as more people want to experiment sexually. This, coupled with the pinch on people’s wallets, has resulted in couples looking for new ways to have fun at Valentine’s and save money.’

The website Desire and Pleasure was launched by FPA in September as a social enterprise to help fund the sexual health charity which runs telephone helplines and campaigns on major issues.

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LGBT people urged to consider fostering and adoption

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people are being urged to consider adoption and fostering, ahead of the second annual LGBT Adoption and Fostering Week, which runs from 4 to 10 March 2013.

Leading adoption and fostering charities believe LGBT people could help make up the shortfall of foster carers and adoptive parents across the UK. It’s estimated that 4,000 children need adopting every year, and an additional 9,000 foster carers must be found.

It’s estimated that if just two percent of LGBT people came forward to foster or adopt, they could meet the shortfall of homes needed for children currently in care.

LGBT Adoption and Fostering Week is a series of events around the country aimed to educate prospective parents and carers about the processes involved, and to let them hear from others in their area who have adopted or fostered children themselves. It is organised by New Family Social, the charity run by LGBT adopters and foster carers for families and families-to-be.

Action for Children is the week’s main sponsor. The charity’s Director of Public Policy, Helen Donohoe, says, ‘From 140 years of working with the UK’s most vulnerable children, we know how important it is to find the best possible placement for each and every child in care – and we know that LGBT people often come to adoption or fostering as the first choice for expanding their family, bringing love, real enthusiasm and resourcefulness.’

‘Throughout LGBT Adoption and Fostering Week, our friendly approachable staff will be on hand at events across the UK to answer questions and help potential parents take the first steps towards providing one of the thousands of children desperately in need with a stable, loving home.’

Andy Leary-May, Director of New Family Social, added, ‘Some people are still put off by fears that they won’t be welcomed by agencies, but things are changing. In our group we have huge and diverse range of families, including plenty of parents who are single, or in their fifties. It’s clear to see how well our children are doing, and what a positive and rewarding choice fostering and adoption can be.’

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‘So you think your child is gay?’: New Stonewall parenting guide

Stonewall have published a guide for parents who think their child might be lesbian, gay or bisexual. So You Think Your Child Is Gay? answers parents’ common questions about sexual orientation, including ‘Is it just a phase?’, ‘Did I do something wrong?’ and ‘Will I still be welcome at church?’ Stonewall is distributing the pocket-size guide to thousands of GPs’ surgeries, libraries and schools across Britain.

The guide is designed to give answers to some of those common questions that parents might have when they think their child is gay, or when the child has just come out. Written in plain English, it dispels the common myths about what being gay means for young people, as well as helping parents to create a supportive environment for their children.

YouGov polling for Stonewall’s Living Together report shows 81 per cent of people in Britain would now be comfortable if their child grew up to be lesbian, gay or bisexual. However, coming out remains a stressful experience for many gay young people and their parents. Although gay people today have plenty of sources of support when they choose to come out, few resources exist for parents of gay young people. Stonewall’s new guide will help parents support their children, without worrying needlessly about the ‘impact’ of their sexual orientation.

Stonewall Head of Education Wes Streeting said, ‘Many parents worry about what being gay means for their relationship with their children and have all sorts of questions that they’re sometimes afraid to ask for fear of saying the wrong thing. So You Think Your Child Is Gay? provides upbeat and straightforward advice to parents, which focuses on the most important thing of all – giving children love and support, whatever their sexual orientation.’

Stonewall is distributing copies of So You Think Your Child Is Gay? across Britain. The guide is also available online, or can be ordered from Stonewall’s Information Service by calling 08000 50 20 20.