Ben Cooper has gone without food since Friday in a four-day hunger strike to highlight the plight of gay and lesbian refugees around the world.
Ben Cooper has gone without food since Friday in a four-day hunger strike to highlight the plight of gay and lesbian refugees around the world. The Northern Star

Strike at homophobia

BEN Cooper has existed on water and barley sugar since Friday.

Mr Cooper will starve until 9pm today to highlight the plight of gay and lesbian asylum seekers around the world.

"As far as I know I am the only person in Australia to go on a hunger strike for this cause," said Mr Cooper, 20, of Lismore.

"But in capital cities around Australia people will be holding demonstrations."

Mr Cooper decided to embark on the hunger strike to support the International Day Against Homophobia.

The day, supported by the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, was officially held on Saturday. The day marked the anniversary of the 1990 announcement by the World Health Organisation of its intention to remove homosexuality from its official list of mental illnesses. The WHO made this ruling official in 1992.

But, according to Mr Cooper, there remain 85 member states of the United Nations that still outlaw homosexuality, with some imposing the death penalty.

"I want to raise awareness of the plight of gay and lesbian people in these countries and to pressure the Federal Government to reform laws that grant automatic asylum to people fleeing persecution on the grounds of sexuality or gender identity," he said.

"I also want to stand in solidarity with refugees from around the world."

Mr Cooper said that he wanted to get the word out into the community and thought this was the best way to do it.

"There is a large gay and lesbian community in Lismore, and my friends support me in my decision to do this," he said.

"Six years ago I embarked on a 10-day hunger strike in support of refugees in general, and the memory of that gave me the idea for this one."

In order to help maintain his protest Mr Cooper secluded himself over the weekend so he would not see other people eating and be tempted to eat.

Mr Cooper was planning to demonstrate in Magellan Street today but had to cancel because he had not lodged the correct paperwork with police.

"Many people think that gay rights only cover same-sex marriages and don't think about gay and lesbian refugees," he said.

"I believe through awareness we can place pressure on governments to reform laws to protect people from persecution because of their sexuality"


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