Columns and Letters

Column: Gay Rights and the Global Culture

-by Gwynne Dyer

    Is there really such a thing as a global culture? Consider gay rights.
    Last Thursday the Indian Supreme Court decriminalized homosexuality. Last April a court in Trinidad and Tobago found colonial-era laws banning gay sex to be unconstitutional. And late last year, Australia became the umpteenth state to legalize same-sex marriage. There is a slow-motion avalanche going on.
    Yes, 35 of the 63 Commonwealth countries, mostly in Africa or the West Indies, still make homosexual acts a criminal offence. Yes, some countries, including Nigeria and Uganda, have even tightened their anti-gay laws. And in the ultra-conservative Malaysian state of Terengganu last week, two women were lashed six times with a cane and fined $800 for ‘trying to have sex’ (whatever that means) in a car.
    Change was never achieved easily, and it still isn’t. Section 377, the 19th-century law that made a same-sex relationship in India an “unnatural offence” punishable by a 10-year jail term, was struck down by the Delhi High Court in 2009. The Indian gay community, as big as anywhere else but more oppressed than most, celebrated, and many people came out of the closet, especially in the big cities.
    Some of them paid a high price when the Indian Supreme Court then reinstated Section 377 in 2013, saying that only parliament could change the law. This year the very same court reviewed that decision and reversed it. Why did it do that? After all, the Indian Constitution hadn’t changed in the meantime.
    Nobody on the Indian Supreme Court will admit this in public, but the real reason for the about-face was that the consensus global definition of human rights has expanded far enough to make its previous ruling untenable. No grown-up country that is fully engaged with the rest of the world wants to be embarrassed by laws that make it look medieval.

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Nova Scotia Health Authority Sexual Assault Services

Dear Editor,

    A sexual assault is a traumatic and devastating experience that can result in physical, mental, and emotional injuries. Sadly sexual violence continues to occur every day in communities across Nova Scotia.  It is important that anyone who has been sexually assaulted knows that there is a caring network of support and services available across the province, and that help is always available.
    While there has been much discussion about the availability of specialized sexual assault nurse examiners (SANE) in communities, any person who has been sexually assaulted can and should receive care at any emergency department in the province. Care may be provided by a physician or sexual assault nurse examiner (SANE) on site or through referral to another location where SANE is available.
    A SANE is a registered nurse who has completed specialized education and clinical preparation to provide care, gather forensic evidence, and provide expert testimony in court, and offer supportive follow up after a sexual assault occurs. Services are offered through contracted relationships with community based organizations.
    SANE programs are currently located in Halifax, Dartmouth, Lower Sackville, Antigonish, New Glasgow, Port Hawkesbury-area, and Yarmouth, with additional sites to be added in Cape Breton beginning in Sydney this month. Plans are also underway to expand SANE to the Annapolis Valley and South Shore – where it will replace a volunteer-based sexual assault response nursing service currently in place. Expansion of SANE has been supported by Nova Scotia’s Sexual Violence Strategy. We are now looking at how services could be expanded to other areas of the province, including Truro.  
    Access to SANE services can be coordinated through any emergency department in Nova Scotia, by calling the police or RCMP, or directly through a 24/7 response line. Please visit for more information.
    There are also many community-based supports and services available.
    If you or a loved one experiences sexual violence, please do not hesitate to seek help.


Tanya Penney
Senior Director – Emergency Program of Care
Nova Scotia Health Authority

Susan Wilson
Provincial Coordinator, Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner Program
Nova Scotia Health Authority































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