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International approach to gays in the military

There are radically different attitudes toward the issue of gays in the military around the world. Below are the approaches of a few countries:

SOUTH KOREA
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Even though homosexuality is not illegal in South Korea, the military penal code makes being gay a crime that is punishable with a prison sentence and a dishonourable discharge. Over the years, the ban has come up for review by the constitutional court, but has been upheld each time. Military service is mandatory in South Korea. Each enlistee has to undergo a psychological test which includes questions about sexual preferences.

RUSSIA
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Richard Galpin reports on a typically pragmatic, Russian answer to the delicate issue of homosexuality in the military.

GREECE
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The stance taken by Greece on homosexuals serving in the military, has put the country out of step with other major EU nations. Despite national conscription, the Greek army bars openly gay personnel from its ranks under a 2002 presidential decree which excludes all persons "suffering from psycho-sexual or sexual identity disorders" from military service. Gay groups have branded the Greek law as 'fascist'. But any attempt to point to the European Court of Human Rights ruling that drove the UK to change its law, is futile. That outcome was the result of a specific case brought by four British ex-service personnel. Unless similar cases are brought, Greece is under no obligation to change its rules.

PHILIPPINES
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The Philippines' decision to end the ban on homosexuals serving in the military came amidst the backdrop of considerable activism by gay and lesbian groups. The ban was officially lifted in March 2009. The Armed Forces said the announcement showed the military had zero tolerance for discrimination among its ranks. But despite being able to be open about their sexuality, gays in the Philippines military could still face dismissal for 'overt' homosexual behaviour. For this reason, campaigning groups see the development as only a small triumph.

ISRAEL
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Paul Wood on why Israel could serve as a model for the US military's stance on gay soldiers.

URUGUAY
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In Uruguay, gay candidates were prevented from joining the armed forces by a ban imposed by the 1973-85 military dictatorship. Homosexuality was categorised as a mental illness and disorder, so gay people were considered to be unsuitable. However, the ban was overturned last May, by outgoing president, Tabare Vazquez. He scrapped the law, stating that the government would not discriminate against citizens based on their political, ethnic or sexual identity. The move has furthered Uruguay's reputation as one of the most progressive countries in Latin America.



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