Return to Transcripts main page
CONNECT THE WORLD
Floods in Pakistan; Russia Cancels All Grain Exports
Aired August 12, 2010 - 16:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BECKY ANDERSON, HOST: Better late than never -- Pakistan's president finally sees firsthand how millions of Pakistanis are coping with floods and severe food shortages. Well, it comes as Russia faces drought losses on a quarter of its grain area and cancels all exports. Tonight, why the U.N. has slashed its global forecast for wheat production and whether that puts the world at risk of a food crisis.
On CNN, this is the hour we connect the world.
Well, record droughts, floods and fires are now impacting the global production of our food.
I'm Becky Anderson in London with the story and its connections.
And tonight, we're counting down to a multi-platform CONNECT THE WORLD special in 30 minutes time. Gay rights and same-sex marriage -- right now, activists are celebrating a landmark court decision in San Francisco. A judge has ruled in the last few minutes that gay marriages in the state of California can go ahead once again, starting next week. He conditionally lifted a stay on his ruling about Proposition 8, the state measure that banned same-sex marriage.
This is part of a larger global debate. While some countries consider same-sex unions, others view the very mention of the topic as taboo. And that is what we are going to explore. We'll view the spectrum with our correspondents around the world and with our panel of experts in three countries. That is less than 30 minutes from now. We'll be joined by our global online audience at CNN.com for a live debate. We're streaming our special on the Web site. Get involved, CNN.com, wherever you are. This is a story that truly connects the world.
I'm going to start, though, this evening in Pakistan, where the main concern right now is getting food and supplies to the millions displaced by the flooding. Reza Sayah has seen the devastation close up and I spoke to him from Islamabad a little earlier today, asking him about President Zardari's return home for what was a much criticized trip to Europe.
REZA SAYAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I think even for the best, most wealthiest governments, this is a type -- tough crisis, let alone for a government here in Pakistan that's not very wealthy and some will say in types of emergencies like this, they're not very effective.
They're doing what they can. I think the institution that's really stepped up is the Pakistan military. But when you talk about non-military civilian government agencies, you really can't find many. International aid is coming. They are helping. But based on what we've seen on the ground here, it's really not enough. You had, earlier this week, the U.N. calling for more than $400 million in aid. And based on our calculations, that's about $600 million in relief aid that's going to come into Pakistan. The U.N. itself is saying 15 million people need help. And if you do a little math, that's about $40 per person. That's not a lot considering these people need relief goods, shelter, food and clean water -- bankruptcy.
ANDERSON: And much as you say of what is needed is food aid, adding, of course, to this crisis, the wreckage of the Pakistani wheat crop. Tell us more. Just how -- I mean how badly affected is that by the floods?
SAYAH: Well, Pakistan's agriculture sector is badly damaged, and that includes its cash crops. And one of them is its wheat crop. And these are crops that you find in Pakistan's heartland, Southern Punjab and Northern Sindh. We visited these areas over the past several days. And much of these areas are underwater. Obviously, many families in Pakistan depend on these wheat crops to make a living. They're going to have to start their lives over again. Obviously, this impacts Pakistan's economy. It's impacting food prices here and certainly in the region, as well -- Becky.
ANDERSON: Reza Sayah in Islamabad for you with the picture there.
Crop failures caused by floods and droughts sent wheat production then surging to a two year high today. We're going to head to India, where prices already were rising after last year's monsoon.
First, though, Russia's fires and how they are impacting the world market.
MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm Matthew Chance in Moscow.
And global wheat production have been rocketing amid growing concerns about Russia's disastrous grain heaviest -- the worst drought here for nearly 40 years has sparked wildfires, of course. But it's also devastated a huge proportion of Russia's crops. There's no final figure yet, but the estimates are that between 20 and 40 percent of the country's wheat production may have been lost. That's led to the Kremlin, worried about domestic food shortages, to impose a ban on grain exports, sending global prices surging.
Other major grain producers in the region, like Ukraine and Kazakhstan, have also been affected by the dry weather and are themselves reporting reduced harvests. And farmers say the situation could get much worse. If there's no rain in the region soon, it may mean that the usually fertile soil here will be too dry to even plant the next crop, possibly leading to grain shortages well beyond this year.
MALLIKA KAPUR, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm Mallika Kapur in Mumbai, a city famous for its street food and its fast food. Most popular, fadhajee (ph), a spicy potato-based vegetable curry that tastes the best when it's eaten with bread.
(voice-over): Ingredients include tomatoes, potatoes, green peppers, onions and green chilies.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The leads have been increased like 100 percent. Last year, it was 8 and now it is 16 for tomatoes only.
KAPUR (on camera): So just tomatoes have doubled in a year?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, doubled. Doubled. Yes, doubled.
KAPUR: What about the rest?
What at potatoes?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Potatoes was like 4 and now it is 10.
KAPUR: And capsicum?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Capsicum about the same.
KAPUR: It's doubled?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, doubled.
KAPUR: Onions (INAUDIBLE)?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everything have -- everything doubled.
KAPUR: The reason vegetable prices have more than doubled since last year is because India had a really poor monsoon in 2009, which left many parts of the country facing drought and customers facing food inflation. It's been above 10 percent for most of this year.
ANDERSON: Things looking pretty grim out there, aren't they?
I want to talk about this with Abdolreza Abbassian.
He's with the United Nations Food and Agriculture organization and joins me from Rome, where that organization is based.
You've heard the reports out of -- out of Pakistan, out of India and out of Russia.
I know you've slashed your forecast for wheat production.
Why and where?
ABDOLREZA ABBASSIAN, FOOD & AGRICULTURE ORGANIZATION OF THE UN: Well, it's primarily Russia, in fact. Pakistan had already harvested in June, so now the Pakistan losses are basically inventories that, unfortunately, because of the floods, have been destroyed in that part of the country.
But it is really Russia, and that has to do entirely with the drought. There are also declines in Ukraine and that had to do with earlier floodings. And it has to do with, also, Kazakhstan. There again, unfortunately, drought affected the...
ANDERSON: All right...
ABBASSIAN: -- the crops. In Canada, we also have a problem. So it's basically global, but the bulk of it is Russia.
ANDERSON: How does that affected you and me?
ABBASSIAN: Well, it eventually reaches us, because the prices worldwide have gone up, you know, by some 60 percent. And we all eat bread. Now, of course, if you are in the Western world, you know, about 10, 15 percent of the cost of the kind of bread we consume is wheat. But if you are living in developing countries, a bigger portion of that...
ABBASSIAN: -- goes to produce bread and also we consume more bread. So everyone will be affected one way or another.
ANDERSON: I hear what you're saying and I think back to the 2000 -- the 2007 and 2008 food crisis, where we saw sort of riots on the streets in various towns in Egypt, for example.
Do we need to be careful, at this stage, in talking about a food crisis going forward?
ABBASSIAN: Yes. I'm very glad you said be careful. We really have to be very cautious in using that term, because in 2007 and 2008, it wasn't just wheat, it was rice, it was many other food crops. And all together, we had a problem. You remember, oil prices were just so high. Everything was just on the up side. And economies around the world, they're also moving much faster, so demand was much stronger.
This time around, we do have, certainly, a wheat problem, not a crisis yet. Certainly in Russia, there is a crisis, but not globally. But it is -- you know, it's a very precarious situation. It is a very tight wheat market. And the spillover from the wheat market to other commodities, especially cereals, is -- can happen quite fast.
So we are -- we are monitoring the situation and we are -- we are quite concerned.
ANDERSON: All right, we're going to leave it there.
We thank you very much indeed for joining us this evening there out of Rome.
ABBASSIAN: Thank you.
ANDERSON: Voice of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization.
Well, Mumita the Destroyer, Sami the Listener, Noora the Light certainly not your average superheroes. They, though, are part of a team endowed with the 99 attributes of Allah. We'll see how their fight to save the world from evil is also fighting off stereotypes, up next.
ANDERSON: Have a look at this. This is a time lapse image here of the largest mosque in the United Arab Emirates and the eighth largest in the world. All this week, we are taking a special look at Islam. Muslims around the world now observing Ramadan, their holiest month. And all day long, they take no food or water, of course. But at dusk, it's time to break the fast and join together in reflection.
Well, today's focus on Islam takes us to the unexpected -- the pages of comic books. 99 superheroes are inspiring millions of kids with their message. They teach tolerance, teamwork and impeccable morals. And all that as they take on the world, as they should.
Schams Elwazer shows us the 99.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The story begins in 13th century Baghdad at the Dar Al-Higma (ph), the library of wisdom, a collection of knowledge second to none.
SCHAMS ELWAZER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A new team of superheroes is fighting to save the world from evil -- the 99.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Teamwork -- 99 style.
NAIF AL-MUTAWA, CREATOR & PUBLISHER, "THE 99": The 99, the way I define them, they're superheroes inspired by Islam. And they're based on values that Islam shares with the rest of humanity.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a race, but it's no game.
ELWAZER: These heroes and their creator, a Kuwaiti clinical psychologist turned entrepreneur, are getting noticed.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Perhaps the most innovative response was from Dr. Naif Al-Mutawa of Kuwait, who joins us here tonight.
Where is Dr. Mutawa?
OBAMA: His -- his comic books have captured the imagination of so many young people with super work -- superheroes who embody the teachings and tolerance of Islam.
ELWAZER: 99 heroes inspired by the 99 characteristics that Islam attributes to God, including strength, light and love.
(on camera): To give you a sense of the diversity of the characters in the 99, this right here is Mumita the Destroyer. She's from Portugal and she's the femme fatale of the team.
Over here is Rullah (ph). She's one of the three veiled characters, the only one wearing the burka. She's from Yemen. And her power is to make people invisible, to protect the team from danger.
This character over here is from Hungary. His name is Jami the Assembler He's autistic. He's the tech whiz of the group.
(voice-over): The heroes derive their powers from gemstones imbued with ancient knowledge and can only succeed if they work in teams.
AL-MUTAWA: He wants to solve the problem with his muscles, she solves it with love. He gets upset. But the idea there is that there are many ways to solve problems and using your muscles is just 1 99th of 1 percent of the way.
ELWAZER: Al-Mutawa says he wants to reclaim the message of Islam from extremists.
AL-MUTAWA: We've become kind of the voice of modern Islam. We've become a voice for the alternative to juxtapose against, you know, the kind of the extremist and thinking in Islam.
ELWAZER: The storylines avoid religion and politics, instead, tackling problems line land mines in Cambodia, elephant poaching in Africa and global warming.
A father of five boys, Al-Mutawa feels there's a lack of positive role models for Muslim children. Like their dad, the kids are growing up in Kuwait and spending time in New York City, the legendary home of superheroes like Spider Man, Superman and Batman.
AL-MUTAWA: It would make sense to myself, as a Muslim, I would pull from my own educational background to create, just like Batman and Superman were created by Jewish teenagers and young adults during -- you know, during the height of anti-Semitism. I don't think it's a coincidence that the 99 was born out of, you know, the height of Islamophobia in 2003.
ELWAZER: Filmmaker Isaac Solotaroff has been documenting Lamphowa's (ph) global odyssey for four years, including the early days, when some ultra-conservative Muslim clerics ere calling the concept blasphemous.
ISAAC SOLOTAROFF, FILMMAKER, "WHAM! BAM! ISLAM!": I do think that Islam is at the crossroads right now, that there's a whole question of whether it's going to move into the 21st century or whether it's going to be pulled back into the 12th century. And I think that this is a story from the front lines of that battle.
ELWAZER (on camera): And it's just sort of typical. And so there's a lot of misunderstandings in the world?
(voice-over): In New York, Lamphoa (ph) brainstorms with his creative team -- 20 year veterans of the comic book industry.
AL-MUTAWA: This situation, for me, is it's only when Jewish kids watch this animation and think these characters are Jewish and Christians think they're Christian and Hindus think they're Hindus and Muslims think they're Muslim that I've achieved what I'm trying to achieve.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One by one, all over the world, the stones are being found. But will their new owners use them for good or for evil?
Schams Elwazer, CNN, Kuwait.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
ANDERSON: And tomorrow, as our week long special continues on Islam, we'll visit a soup kitchen that caters to the needy in the old city of Jerusalem.
For now, though, I'll get you a quick check of the world headlines, up after this.
ANDERSON: All right, as promised, let's get you a check of the headlines this hour here on CNN.
Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari visited flood victims today for the first time since the disaster started. The president received stinging criticism for not postponing a trip last week to Britain and France. Mr. Zardari greeted victims and helped hand out aid.
Well, drought has sloshed Russia's crop this year by a quarter, according to the country's president. But Dmitry Medvedev says the cost of food will not be affected. Russia has already announced a ban on grain exports.
But on Sunday, the U.S., meantime, says the problems in Russia will not lead to a global crisis.
Iraq insists it doesn't want to renegotiate the deadline for the withdrawal of all U.S. troops from the country. U.S. forces are scheduled to leave by the end of next year. And Iraqi government spokesman says that the Americans should not stay longer, even if the Iraqi Army is not fully ready to handle security. An ex-top general said earlier the army would not be ready until 2020.
Well, Iranian state TV calls it a confession, but human rights groups, including Amnesty International, say it's clear she was coerced. A woman sentenced to death by stoning made incriminating statements about her case in a broadcast interview. Her attorney says she did it, quote, "to save her life."
Ivan Watson has more.
IVAN WATSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Iranian state TV broadcast portions of an interview with Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani. She's the 43-year-old mother of two sentenced to death by stoning after being convinced guilty of committing adultery. And in the interview, she says she was also an unwitting accomplice to the murder of her husband several years ago. She also denounces one of her defense attorneys, Mohammed Mostafaei, saying that he attracted unwanted international attention to her case; also saying that they had never met before one-on-one.
We spoke with Mohammad Mostafaei here in Norway, where he was recently granted asylum after he fled Iran. And he says that Iranian authorities forced Mrs. Ashtiani to make this televised statement.
MOHAMMAD MOSTAFAEI, ATTORNEY (through translator): The channel that we have in Iran is completely under the control of the intelligence ministry. The goal of this channel is character assassination. And the other goal it has, through the production of documentaries full of lies and people's confessions is to justify the government's illegal actions.
This is the case for Sakineh Mohammadi, as well, because, right now, Sakineh Mohammadi's life is in the hands of powerful people inside Iran.
WATSON: Mohammad Mostafaei carved out a career in Iran defending juveniles who were sentenced to death for a variety of crimes, ranging from murder to sodomy. He says he fled the country after his wife was detained by police and put into solitary confinement for at least 13 days. He says in recent days, Iranian security forces raided his Tehran office, seized his computer, his hard drive and his files. He says he's worried now about who will be able to provide legal protection to remaining clients -- six people who were sentenced to death when they were still juveniles.
Now, Iran ranks second in the world after China for the total number of executions carried out every year. Recently, the government of Brazil offered asylum to Mrs. Ashtiani to help her escape the death sentence by stoning. That's an offer that the Iranian government has rejected.
Ivan Watson, CNN, Oslo.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
ANDERSON: I'm Becky Anderson in London.
You're watching CONNECT THE WORLD.
And we are just a few minutes away from a multi-platform CONNECT THE WORLD special on gay rights and same-sex marriage.
Now, while some countries debate whether to allow same-sex unions, others won't even consider talking about it. We're going to explore the spectrum with our correspondents around the world and with a special panel of experts from three countries here on the show. That is in another five minutes.
Let's get, though, the news this hour from California. A federal judge has lifted a stay that was preventing same-sex couples from getting married there.
CNN's Dan Simon is standing by with the very latest from San Francisco. -- Dan.
DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, hi, Becky.
This issue of same-sex marriage has been a highly contentious issue in the United States, and especially here in California lately.
Today, a judge ruled that same-sex couples will soon be able to get married in California. In other words, same-sex couples will resume -- be able to -- they'll be able to get married again. They used to be able to get married until what was called Proposition 8 went into effect in November of 2008.
Now, Proposition 8 was a voter-led initiative which defined marriage between a man and a woman. In other words, it eliminated same-sex marriage. It passed by a -- by a narrow majority, 52-48, back in November of 2008.
Well, then, all of a sudden you had this trial in federal court here in San Francisco. It took place in January, with same-sex couples rushing to the federal courthouse to try to get Proposition 8 overturned. Last week, Judge Vaughn Walker overturned Proposition 8. But, he put an immediate stay on his own ruling. So you had sort of a -- a situation where things were in limbo here in California. So everybody was waiting to see what the judge was ultimately going to do.
Well, just about an hour or so ago, the judge released this ruling, which says that same-sex couples can start getting married in California starting next week, on August 18th, next Wednesday, at 5:00 p.m.. Obviously, a significant victory for same-sex couples here in California.
Those in favor of Proposition 8 hugely disappointed. They are vowing to appeal. The next step is -- is for this to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and an emergency appeal will be filed on their behalf very, very soon -- Becky.
ANDERSON: And a -- a trail of legal wranglings, to a certain extent, continue out of California.
Dan, thank you for that.
Throughout tonight's show, then, we are hosting a live Web chat so you, too, can get involved on what is a global issue here. Digital producer Phil Han will be monitoring the feedback. And it is already coming in from around the world -- Phil, what are you getting?
PHIL HAN, CNN DIGITAL PRODUCER: Hi, Becky.
Well, we've only started this chat for about the past 30 minutes. And let me tell you, it has been a very heated and active discussion. We're getting comments from all over the world and I'm talking in the hundreds.
I just want to read you two quick questions now, two quick comments, actually. This is from Dudah (ph). He's written in: "This is an embarrassment for the U.S. We are the flagship for personal and natural freedom, yet we are arguing whether we should give these natural rights to free citizens."
Lojax (ph), on the other hand, he's written in: "The debate on gay marriage assumes homosexuality is normal behavior. It is not. Therefore, gay marriage would institutionalize a pattern of relating that goes -- everything that goes against human nature itself."
So a very heated discussion on both sides of the issue. And this is actually the first time ever that we're going to be broadcasting the show live online in addition to our own -- very own Web chat.
Now, you can have your voice heard still just by visiting CNN.com/connect and join our live chat, which will be going on for about 30 more minutes -- Becky.
ANDERSON: All right, good stuff, Phil.
Thank you for that.
It's one of the most polarizing social issues in the world -- gay rights. You're going to want to see this live on CNN and streaming for the first time on CNN.com. If you're in the States, you can get it on your iPhone ap. Our half hour special begins in about 30 seconds.
ANDERSON: Well, gay rights and same-sex marriage -- there are few issues anywhere in the world that divide people as much as these.
Welcome to a CNN special CONNECT THE WORLD half hour.
I'm Becky Anderson in London.
And for the first time ever, we're streaming this show live on CNN.com. So a very special welcome to you, the global audience, however you're watching us tonight.
Well, you're going to hear from our correspondents across the world over the next 30 minutes on where their country fits on the spectrum of gay rights. Some allow same-sex marriage. Some consider the very topic taboo. And we'll discuss the merits of that with our special panel.
With me here in London is Robert Wintemute. He's a professor of human rights law from Johannesburg in South Africa.
Phumi Mtetwa is the director -- executive director of the Lesbian and Gay Equality Project.
And Maggie Gallagher joins me from Washington. She's the chairwoman of the National Organization for Marriage.
Welcome, everybody, to the show.
And to add to the debate on the tele, digital producer Phil Han is moderating your conversation on cnn.com, so get involved now and tell us what you think, and we'll catch up with Phil a little later in the show.
We are going to start with the news of the day. From California, same-sex marriages will be legal there starting next week. This comes after a federal judge lifted a stay that was preventing same-sex couples from getting married. Last week, that same judge struck down California's ban on same-sex marriage, then immediately placed his ruling on hold.
Less than an hour ago, he lifted that stay and says same-sex couples can get married starting August the 18th. But as Max Foster now reports, this is an incredibly contentious issue, and today's ruling will certainly not be the last.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE SPEAKER: Use the courts! You lost!
MAX FOSTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): November 2008, Californians voted to ban same-sex marriage. They supported what was called Proposition 8, which defined marriage as valid only if it's between a man and a woman.
Advocates of same-sex marriage filed a suit to block it, and this month, they head a victory.
Chief US district judge Vaughn Walker ruled that Proposition 8 was unconstitutional because it unfairly targeted gays and lesbians. That he'd overturned Prop 8 sparked celebrations in a number of cities, including San Francisco, where Lisa Bartoli and Anita Zubere were married two years ago during a brief period when gay marriage was legal in California.
ANIT ZUBERE, SUPPORTER OF GAY MARRIAGE: We're in it to the end. If it's going to go to the Supreme Court, and I think Americans are going to understand that we are people. We lead exciting lives, boring lives, we love our family, our friends, our children. And so it is a great day.
FOSTER (voice-over): And it could well end up at the Supreme Court. Supporters of the ban want it reinstated. They cite the 52 percent of Californian voters who approved it.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE SPEAKER: The voters say no, then that's who should decided. Not a federal judge.
FOSTER (voice-over): That contradicts, though, Judge Walker, who wrote, "Moral disapproval alone is an improper basis on which to deny rights to gay men and lesbians. Proposition 8 fails to advance any rational basis in singling out gay men and lesbians for denial of a marriage license. Indeed, the evidence shows Proposition 8 does nothing more than enshrine in the California constitution the notion that opposite- sex couples are superior to same-sex couples."
Judge Walker is unlikely to have the final say, though. Campaigners on both sides of the argument say they're looking forward to the appeals process which, if it does go to the Supreme Court, will have a national impact. Max Foster, CNN, London.
ANDERSON: The battle rages on in California, but that's just one of the 50 United States, each with its own laws regarding same-sex marriage. Here's how things stack up at the moment. Five states plus Washington District of Columbia allow same-sex weddings. One state, New Jersey, allows civil unions for same-sex couples. Six others, including California, allow domestic partnerships. The 38 remaining states all ban same-sex marriage.
To stay or not to stay, that was the question in California today. Maggie, are you disappointed with that result?
MAGGIE GALLAGHER, NATIONAL ORGANIZATION FOR MARRIAGE: Yes. Also, I would like to say that 45 out of the 50 states define marriage as one man and one woman. Or I guess California makes it 44. I think that there's a widespread reaction among Americans who believe that Judge Walker's ruling is really extreme.
He ruled that there's no -- no reasonable person could conclude that to make a marriage you need a husband and wife. He ruled there's no reason to think children need a mother and father. And he took away something very precious, the right to vote to protect marriage. And it's against all the precedents in -- the federal court precedents. The majority of courts as well as the majority of people in the United States of America --
ANDERSON: All right --
GALLAGHER: Believe to make a marriage you need a husband and wife, even though gay and lesbian people do have rights, not that one.
ANDERSON: Right. OK, 18th of August though, they can get married again if you are a gay -- same-sex couple. Phumi, you're not surprised that the debate on same-sex marriage or civil partnerships still rages in the US, are you? Why?
PHUMI MTETWA, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, LESBIAN AND GAY EQUALITY PROJECT: No, I'm not surprised, because also in the US, like in most of the countries, but the US in particular, that is the land of the free is exactly exposing the very fact of its hypocrisy, and the religious right, particularly in the US, are the ones also perpetuating this type of intolerance and discrimination against people who want their relationships to enjoy the rights to equality. A fundamental principle.
And I think in that regard, Judge Walker must be applauded for really putting forward the most important principles that separate the religious from the legal right. And that, I think, is the most important thing that relates to exactly the calls of the millions of gay and lesbian people across the world who are calling for the recognition of the right to equality basically.
ANDERSON: And we were get around the world tonight. Robert, I know that you believe that Maggie here is fighting a loser -- losing battle legally, at least.
ROBERT WINTEMUTE, PROFESSOR OF HUMAN RIGHTS LAW: Absolutely. The Supreme Court of California struck down California's ban on black-white marriages in 1948. 2008 did the same for the ban on same-sex marriages. That decision should have stood, but the California constitution is much too easy to amend.
Fortunately, it's also easy to amend back to reinstate a principle. So I would suspect by 2012 there will be another referendum. The long-term trend in opposition to equality for same-sex couples is down. It was 61 percent in opposition in 2000, 52 percent in 2008. By 2012, this Proposition 8 will be repealed. I would say before the case even gets to the US Supreme Court.
ANDERSON: All right, let's get ourselves out of the States, although it is the news of the hour. And an important story out of San Francisco today. But while the US continues to wrestle, of course, with the -- this issue, several other countries around the world have already decided. Same-sex marriage is allowed in Argentina, in Belgium, Canada, Iceland, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, and Sweden. And, of course, in South Africa.
But as Diana Magnay reports, just because same-sex marriage is legal there doesn't mean it's always accepted. Take a look at this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DIANA MAGNAY: I'm Diana Magnay in Johannesburg. Now, same-sex marriage was legalized in this country on the first of December, 2006. And it is, in fact, one of the few countries in the world that makes it unconstitutional as per the country's bill of rights, to discriminate against a person according to their sexual orientation. It is one of -- it is the only African country to have legal same-sex marriage, and also one of the few to really have a progressive gay rights policy.
That said, many gay activists say that there is a prevalent belief in this country that homosexuality is wrong and that there are therefore only very few churches that are prepared to officiate over same-sex ceremonies.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANDERSON: Phumi, same-sex marriage, then, now legal in South Africa. How big a fight was it to get to where you are?
MTETWA: It was a huge fight, but I think the most important thing was exactly to separate the church and -- the church or radical Christianity from taking a stance or a counter position in relation to the constitution. Our constitution's bill of rights promises the right to equality regardless of one's sexual orientation amongst other things. And therefore, I think what the constitutional court upheld, and which parliament had to promulgate was founded on the principle of equality.
But, of course, you found like massive organization against the constitutional court judgment, immense lobbying in parliament against the passing of the civil unions act, and therefore, this continues -- these things continue even today in -- even today when traditional leaders are debating a traditional leaders bill or an act that would give them powers. They are still calling and using the rights of -- the rights to equality regardless of sexual orientation as an important part to repeal the civil unions act. Or, rather, to cancel the civil unions act.
So it continues to be an ongoing struggle regardless of the fact that we have the constitution and we have the civil unions act.
ANDERSON: And you expect, Maggie, an ongoing struggle in the States. You must've been just hearing what Phumi said. You don't expect for a moment that gay marriage will be allowed -- same-sex marriage will be allowed across the United States anytime soon, do you?
GALLAGHER: I think it will be up to the Supreme Court, and I do not think they have five votes for it. I think it's interesting that in South Africa, too, it took a court intervention. Now, I'm not familiar with the South African constitution, so maybe it's actually in that constitution. I can guarantee you that the people who drafted the US Constitution did not believe they had created a right to same-sex marriage.
And the clash between -- the other thing I'd react to. The increasing way in which gay rights are pitted against religious rights and religious views, not necessarily in the US, but we see in places like Canada and in Europe, and I don't know enough about South Africa, is really disturbing. I don't think you can do democracy or claim you stand for equality if you say religious people and their views are unwelcome in the public square and have no place in the democratic process.
ANDERSON: Robert, briefly before we take a break.
WINTEMUTE: Well first, I don't think anyone's saying that religious people are most welcome to express their views. What the lesbian and gay minority around the world are simply asking not to have anyone's religion forced on them. And they want -- they're asking for secular laws that allow all couples to marry equally with regard to sexual orientation.
And as for what was intended in the US Constitution. Well, the drafters of the 14th Amendment in the Civil War didn't even intend racially integrated schools or black-white marriages. Fortunately, courts are able to update constitutions.
ANDERSON: And with that, we will leave it there. Hold your thoughts, all of you. We're going to take a very short break. We're going to take a look at some of the places in the world, after this, where just being gay is against the law and even punishable by death. Not so in Germany, which gives same-sex couples almost, not entirely equal rights. Take a look at this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Fred Pleitgen in Berlin, and Germany is probably one the most liberal countries in Europe when it comes to gay rights. Gay civil unions were legalized here in this country in the year 2001, and they give homosexual couples most but not all benefits that heterosexual couples enjoy.
For instance, gay rights group criticize that gays are not eligible for all tax benefits, and also that they still have a hard time adopting children.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANDERSON: Jailed on suspicion of carrying out a gay marriage in Pakistan, Malik Muhammad Iqbal is accused of tying the knot with Rani, who was born a man, but lives as a woman. In their country, it is a crime for two men to wed. And while the pair deny any vows were exchanged, they are now locked up and, if found guilty as charged, each face up to ten years behind bars.
Welcome back to a CNN special exploring the issue of gay rights around the world. I'm Becky Anderson in London with a special panel of experts from Washington and Johannesburg, South Africa, and with me in London for the first time ever on this show, we are streaming live on cnn.com. And you can get involved, get to the website, cnn.com, we'd love your comments and your questions, and we'll get as many of those on towards the end of this half hour as we can.
Well, Pakistan is one of 76 countries in the world where people are prosecuted for being gay. Penalties in most of those countries include fines or jail time. In a handful of them, homosexuality is actually punishable by death. Those countries are Iran, Mauritania, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Yemen as well as parts of Nigeria and Somalia, which are governed by Sharia Law.
In many of these countries, even those who are fighting to have the laws softened face arrest. David McKenzie up next, explaining the situation in one part of Africa.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm David McKenzie in Nairobi, Kenya. Homosexuality is illegal in most of the continent, but there are activists here trying to work to increase gay rights. But they have to work mostly undercover.
Do the police ever try and arrest people for being gay?
DAVID KURIA, GAY AND LESBIAN COLATION OF KENYA: Arrests happen every single day in this country. Successful prosecutions, on the other hand, are a bit rare because the evidence that has to be presented in court is a bit strict, and that becomes difficult for them to meet that criteria. But arrests do happen every single day.
MCKENZIE: So people are frightened?
KURIA: Absolutely. Absolutely. I think people have gained a little bit of more courage that they are able to form a community, but otherwise, outside the community like this, pretty much they've stayed very hostile.
MCKENZIE: What would you ideally want to happen in Kenya?
KURIA: The law is really a big problem because it's the reason for which a lot of people get arrested, harassed by the police, beaten up, even. And it's difficult for us as an organization to work in an environment of criminalization.
MCKENZIE: While gays can have civil unions in many parts of the world, here in Kenya, activists say it would be inconceivable. What they're hoping for is just equal protection under the law.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANDERSON: Phumi, a lot of conservatism in Africa. No surprise, surely, given the very traditional values and deeply faithful communities. And many would say, rightly so.
MTETWA: I think that the biggest problem in Africa, especially countries that were British colonies, is that there was the penal code that actually criminalized sodomy and any form of same-sex affection in relationships. And in most of our countries, these laws still exist. And therefore, you find the church and anyone who's against same-sex expression using these laws to legitimize their hatred and the intolerance and the discrimination against LGBTI people.
So that's -- these laws come from mostly colonial times, they are not laws that were present on the continent or even practices that were present on the continent. And therefore, we have a long historic way of dealing with the injustices that we are seeing, the brutalness of them in today's Africa.
ANDERSON: And it is brutal, Robert, in many parts of the world. We're going to move on to see where gay rights are actually supported but same-sex marriage isn't. And that's in -- various parts of the world. But there are 76 countries around the world where I think they're pretty brutal. Will it change anytime soon?
WINTEMUTE: Oh, definitely. It's already starting to change. In July last year, the Delhi high court reinterpreted India's British colonial criminal law as not permitting criminalization of same-sex sexual activity, and that case is now before the Supreme Court of India. It is quite possible the -- I would say, quite likely the Supreme Court will agree. And that law will eventually -- will be struck down.
And that will be -- well, there's 1.1 billion people in India. That's the most significant law in the world. That trend will gradually spread across Asia and Africa.
ANDERSON: We're going to take a look at India shortly. Maggie, your thoughts just as we move through?
GALLAGHER: I just hope -- I mean, I'm an American. I believe people have a right to live as they choose, including gay and lesbian people. I just hope that in places like India it would be a lot easier if they didn't have the example we're serving where you go from 2003 decriminalizing homosexuality, and seven years later being told that you have no right to your views and visions of marriage. That gay marriage is also constitutionally required. I do think that's going to complicate the problem --
ANDERSON: Do think there are times, Maggie --
GALLAGHER: In other places around the globe.
ANDERSON: When your opposition -- and I'm just putting this out there -- that your opposition to gay marriage is just stigmatizing the gay and lesbian world? What -- I don't quite get where you're going.
GALLAGHER: You know, California has full civil unions. Connecting the American debate in California with what's happening in Kenya is just very odd. I really don't accept it. I think that America is a free society and that people do have the right to live as they choose.
I don't believe that -- the reality is, is that same-sex unions and -- are not the same as a union of husband and wife. Husbands and wives have been recognized as special and in need of special attention and protection because we all depend on these unions. They make new life and they connect those children in love to their mother and father. These are not ideas that are based on bigotry or hatred --
ANDERSON: Phumi, I think --
GALLAGHER: And I think there ought to be ways to accommodate gay and lesbian people that don't require us to redefine marriage.
ANDERSON: All right, OK. Phumi, I can see you smiling there. Very briefly, because I want to move on.
MTETWA: No, I just -- I -- actually, when Maggie says heterosexuals are special and therefore that means that LGBTI people or lesbian and gay people don't have the right to equality, that's exactly the thing that shows the campaigns around the world, it's exactly this notion that of perpetuating inequality.
And that type of comment by Maggie is exactly also one of the reasons why you see many people, especially the religious right, coming from wherever they come from to Africa to actually send those messages that create hostility and tensions amongst communities that live peacefully.
ANDERSON: Robert --
MTETWA: And all -- the important thing --
GALLAGHER: What is very sad to me --
MTETWA: Is the right to equality.
WINTEMUTE: If I could just link California --
GALLAGHER: What is very sad to me --
WINTEMUTE: Can I talk?
GALLAGHER: Is that it's very hard to make --
ANDERSON: Hold on Maggie, hold on for one sec --
GALLAGHER: That distinction in your mind.
ANDERSON: Hold on, hold on for one sec.
WINTEMUTE: Yes, if I could link California to Pakistan for Kenya, historically there's been an evolution from the death penalty in relation to same-sex couples to the final question being access to civil union or marriage. We saw that in England. The death penalty here was repealed in 1861. 2005, you have Al Controne (ph) and his partner entering a civil partnership.
What's interesting is that in the world today we have both ends of the evolution in existence. We have the countries with the death penalties we've seen, and we have ten countries with full legal equality with access to marriage.
ANDERSON: We're going to move on, guys. Have a listen to the next piece that we have here. It's a report out of India. History has shown that attitudes and laws about homosexuality can and do change. Let's hear it firstly from one of our reporters in Cuba, and then from India.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SHASTA DARLINGTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Shasta Darlington in Havana's Malecon, this stunning seawall where hundreds of Cubans gather every night for cheap drinks and a bit of music. This particular stretch here is a hotspot among the gay community.
You'll usually find some extra police present, but reports of harassment have actually dropped off in the last couple of years.
Now remember, this is Cuba. In 1979, homosexual acts were decriminalized. Being a homosexual meant ending up in a labor camp. And now, people walk freely hand-in-hand.
But efforts to legalize those same-sex unions have so far failed. The daughter of President Raul Castro herself has put some legislation before parliament. But so far, she hasn't been able to convince hard-liners in the Communist party or the Catholic Church.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Sara Sidner in New Delhi, India. Up until last year, gay sex was a crime in this country. But in July 2009, the federal courts struck down penal code section 377 and decriminalized consensual gay sex.
A group called the Naz Foundation brought the lawsuit. They were concerned with the health of homosexuals. And once the decision was made after a seven-year legal battle, there were certainly celebrations from the gay community, and there was praise from groups like the UN Program on AIDS and Human Rights Watch. But there was also condemnation from leaders of several religious groups, including the Christians, Hindus, Muslims, and Sikh religions concerned that it went against their beliefs.
Now, the law may have changed, but the social stigma on gays and lesbians and transsexuals is certainly still here in this country, which is a mostly conservative country. And when it comes to the possibility of gay marriage or civil unions, this country is a long way away from considering that as something that it will accept.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANDERSON: We're talking same-sex marriage and gay rights around the world. Joining me here in London is Robert Wintemute, he's a professor of human rights law. From Johannesburg, South Africa, Phumi Mtetwa, who's the executive director of Lesbian and Gay Equality Project, and Maggie Gallagher is with us from Washington, the chairwoman of the National Organization for Marriage.
We are pushing towards the back end of this show at this point. Maggie, we've just seen reports out of Cuba and of India. Your final thoughts?
GALLAGHER: As I said, I think that the idea that to tie gay rights to gay marriage, as trendy and popular as it is in certain places, is going to be a problem for the rest of the world, especially places like India, where people -- and my husband's family is from India -- where people still strongly connect marriage to generativity, to making the next generation. And the family remains a critical sort of social welfare organization.
I do think that it's going to complicate the task of providing for the basic human rights of gay and lesbian people to link gay marriage and to denounce as -- those of us who think that marriage means a man and a woman as if we're somehow responsible for all these troubles around the world.
MTETWA: I think heterosexism must be challenged completely and the rights to equality for all people, regardless of their gender identity or sexual orientation, entrenched in all countries. And it is our hope that we can separate the legal frameworks of our country and the right to equality in that respect with the right of religion. And I think people who are Christians, Muslims, et cetera, have the right to practice that even if they are gay or lesbian, but that no imposition on anyone should be tolerated. In that way we can hopefully foster peaceful coexistence.
ANDERSON: Robert, we're going to take a very short break, and we're going to get to our digital producer who has been taking a look at what is coming in online. There's an awful lot of comment and question coming in this evening. Before we do that, your final thoughts?
WINTEMUTE: Different countries around the world are moving towards equal rights for lesbian and gay people at different speeds. So the issue in India is most certainly not same-sex marriage. It's decriminalization. And after that it will be discrimination in employment. Education, the right to be open.
But in countries that have already gone through those preliminary stages where the issue is access to marriage, there are no arguments against it. Once you reject tradition, religion, and --
ANDERSON: That's a lot to reject. Once you reject tradition and religion.
WINTEMUTE: Well, they're not when you stop and think about it, because when I said reject tradition, it's the mere fact that it's always been this way is not an argument. Women were not allowed to vote. That was a tradition.
When we're talking about legal marriage, not religious marriage, marriage conducted by the state, no religious group is being asked to perform a marriage they do not believe in. And we cannot force the beliefs of one religious group on a minority.
So once you put that aside, the only rational argument is that marriage is about procreation, that every couple that marries has to have capacity to procreate without assistance. And that's simply not the case. No one ever has their marriage license taken away because they fail to produce children, and a man and a woman in their 80s can get married, no one asks any questions about it.
ANDERSON: I can see you shaking your head, Maggie. I will try to come back to you. I've got to take a very short break, and we want to get some of these viewers' comments and questions in tonight. So if I have got time, I promise I'll come back to you.
We've heard from our panel. Next on tonight's special coverage, over to you. Your thoughts, tweets, and e-mails. That coming up next.
ANDERSON: Throughout tonight's discussion on same-sex marriage and gay rights, we've been hosting a live web chat so that you can get your voice heard on what is a -- an emotive global debate. We've received a great deal of comment from around the world. And I want to get Phil Han, our digital producer, who's been sifting through much of what you've been sending us, to give us some sense of what's being said. Phil?
PHIL HAN, CNN DIGITAL PRODUCER: That's right. We've been streaming this entire special edition of CONNECT THE WORLD live on our website, cnn.com. And we've also been holding a live chat on the issue. And Becky, I've got to be honest with you, I have never seen a response quite like this. In less than an hour, we've literally had hundreds and hundreds of comments on both sides of this issue from all over the world.
I want to read you some of those comments right now. Geiri from Iceland, she's written, "I'm so glad I live in Iceland. We have an openly lesbian Prime Minister. Why the need to force your morals over other people?"
Rakesh from India wrote, "I am blessed to see gay rights legalized in my country. I have been ridiculed for being gay, but the humiliation I have suffered has made me stronger."
Wale has written in, "To allow two men or two women to live together is to desecrate the sanctity of matrimony, while children become the collateral damage."
And finally, one from someone named Sacredkady 89. She has written in, "Marriage is a religious institution ordained by God for one man and one woman."
So Becky, hundreds and hundreds of comments on this issue. A very, very lively debate. Very passionate viewpoints from both sides.
ANDERSON: All right, good stuff. And I think it's going to continue for a short while, so get involved. I'm Becky Anderson, and that was Phil Han. A big thank you to your guests as well tonight. From Washington, Maggie. Phumi in Johannesburg, and here in London, Robert. We thank you very much indeed for joining us.
And, of course, to you our viewers around the world, thank you for joining us live as we streamed this on cnn.com. That was your half hour special CONNECT THE WORLD looking at gay rights around the world. "BackStory" with Mr. Michael Holmes starts right now.