Tag Archives: LGBTI Africa

Ethiopia planning to extend homosexuality law

EthiopiaIn June 2012 a national conference “Homosexuality and its associated social disastrous consequences” took place in the Africa Union headquarters, Addis Ababa.  The conference was organizers described themselves as “Christian,  pro-life, pro [heterosexual] marriage.  The conference was attended by some 2000 people including religious leaders and government officials one who stated..

‘Recently, the US President Barak Obama, British Prime Minster David Cameron and other western leaders are trying to establish ties between aid and the rights of homosexuals, but this will never happen in Ethiopia.

‘We don’t want their aid as long as it is related to homosexuality, I assure you that Ethiopia has no room for homosexuality and our country will be the graveyard of homosexuality.’

Nearly two years later, lawmakers in Ethiopia are now set  to pass a Bill that effectively makes homosexuality, which is illegal in the country, “nonpardonable” under its amnesty law.

Ethiopia’s Council of Ministers last week endorsed a measure by lawmakers to put homosexuality on a list of offences considered “non-pardonable” under the country’s amnesty law, and is widely expected to pass the Bill when it is put to the vote next week.

In Ethiopia, same-sex acts are illegal and punishable by up to 15 years in prison. A 25-year jail term is prescribed for anyone convicted of infecting another person with HIV during same-sex acts.

Ethiopia’s president often pardons thousands of prisoners during the Ethiopian New Year. When the Bill becomes law, the president will lose his power to pardon prisoners facing charges ranging from homosexuality to terrorism.

 

When Militarism Wins – Uganda and Aid Farce

From Paper Bird, an  excellent report  by Scott Long on who are the winners and losers in the AID game – the dice are loaded!

Victory! .. isn’t it? On February 27, the World Bank announced it was “indefinitely” delaying a scheduled $90 million loan to Uganda to improve health care, in response to the passing of the comprehensively repressive “Anti-Homosexuality Bill.” “We have postponed the project for further review to ensure that the development objectives would not be adversely affected by the enactment of this new law,” a Bank spokesman said.

In the circles where I move  – international (that is, North-based) activists working on LGBT rights — rejoicing burgeoned: finally the big funders are getting serious about queer people’s oppression! Politicians joined in. Nancy Pelosi, ex-speaker of the US House, tweeted joyfully:

pelosi wb copy

Jim Yong Kim, President Obama’s appointee to the lead the World Bank (an organization Washington still disproportionately funds and dominates) brought home the message with an op-ed the next day:

Institutionalized discrimination is bad for people and for societies. Widespread discrimination is also bad for economies … Legislation restricting sexual rights, for instance, can hurt a country’s competitiveness by discouraging multinational companies from investing or locating their activities in those nations.

Let’s pause to bask in the exhilarating effect of having a powerful institution intervene for LGBT people, with a leader in global development saying the “s” word — sex, as in “sexual rights.” Yes: it feels good.

Still, this is Africa. And this is the World Bank. For international activists to laud its actions so unreservedly involves a wretched show of amnesia.

We think that debt has to be seen from the standpoint of its origins. Debt’s origins come from colonialism’s origins. Those who lend us money are those who had colonized us before … Debt is a cleverly managed re-conquest of Africa, aiming at subjugating its growth and development through foreign rules. Thus, each one of us becomes the financial slave, which is to say a true slave.

Probably few of my international colleagues will recognize those words– another leftist rant, right? But many Africans know them. It’s Thomas Sankara, then president of Burkina Faso, speaking to the African Union in 1987. Sankara had rejected the mandates of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund and launched on a development path that promoted economic equality, gender justice, education, and health care as basic rights. Three months after saying that, he was dead: murdered in a coup. France and other creditor nations tacitly endorsed his killing. He’s remembered and mourned across Africa today. His successor brought the country back under World Bank and IMF tutelage; as a result, as a South African analyst remarks, “Today Burkina Faso remains one of the least developed countries in the world.”

 

For twenty-five years, the World Bank has pushed essentially unvarying policies across the developing world: privatization, cutting the public sector, fostering an export-based economy (so that poor countries become suppliers of raw materials to the industrial North, and don’t grow their own industries and markets). It imposed these restrictions as conditions for loans; that debt, in addition to crippling Southern economies, then became a weapon to enforce more conditions. Poverty spread, not development. The Bank has been friendlier to civil society than its IMF sibling; but their ideologies and impacts have been the same. Praising a World Bank intervention for LGBT rights in Africa while forgetting this history is like praising Putin’s tender concern for Crimean Russians, while forgetting the Ukrainians next door.

You can use the power of international lenders for certain instrumental ends. That doesn’t mean you have to love them. We shouldn’t just hail what they do, we should scrutinize it. And please. You cannot condemn (as indeed you should) the neocolonialism of foreign evangelists exporting homophobia to Africa, and ignore the neocolonialism of foreign financial institutions that enforce neoliberal economics on an abject continent. Why is it wrong to import one devastating ideology, and OK to import another? Sorry. You need to be consistent.

So in the spirit of scrutiny, some questions arise about what the World Bank did.

First of all: why postpone this loan? Mainly, the $90 million was earmarked to combat maternal mortality: aimed at ”maternal health, newborn care and family … through improving human resources for health, physical health infrastructure, and management, leadership and accountability for health service delivery.” It entailed funding to expand and train medical staff, to “professionalize and strengthen” management, for obstetric equipment and medicines including contraceptives, and for renovating hospitals. These goals are unlikely to be “adversely affected” by the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. The real reason for the selection is that this loan was up for board approval on February 28. The Bank seized on the first loan that came along to postpone. It was a matter of convenience, not strategic targeting.

Progress, but not enough: Uganda maternal mortality rate, 1990-2013

Uganda maternal mortality rate, 1990-2013 (from http://www.countdown2015mnch.org/reports-and-articles/2013-report)

Second point: Maternal mortality is serious in Uganda — and a political issue.

The country’s rate of maternal mortality is extremely high. In the Millenium Development Goals — endorsed by nations at a UN summit back in 2000 — countries committed to reduce the level of maternal mortality by 75% by 2015. For Uganda, this would mean cutting a rate that hovered appallingly around 600 per 100,000 live births in the 1990s, to 150. A 2013 report found the rate had fallen to 310 per 100,000 live births — around a 3.2% reduction every year, the UN said, but still well above the goal. Fewer than half of mothers had adequate antenatal care, and only a third had sufficient postnatal care. Less than 60% had a skilled attendant at delivery. Despite the government’s loud promise of a National Minimum Health Care Package (UNMHCP) for all Ugandans, health services still fail to reach many poor and rural women.

Statistics on maternal health care in Uganda (from http://www.countdown2015mnch.org/reports-and-articles/2013-report)

Statistics on maternal health care in Uganda (from http://www.countdown2015mnch.org/reports-and-articles/2013-report)

By some estimates, between 6,500 and 13,500 women and girls in Uganda die each year due to “pregnancy-related complications.” That means at least sixteen women die every day.

In 2011, a coalition of NGOs petitioned Uganda’s courts to intervene. They argued 

that by not providing essential health services and commodities for pregnant women and their new-borns, Government was violating fundamental human rights guaranteed in the Constitution, including the right to health, the right to life, and the rights of women.

The case has stayed stalled in the legal system. At a September 2013 hearing, the government simply failed to show up, forcing an indefinite postponement. In May 2012, an emotional procession of women and health-care providers marched through Kampala’s streets to support the lawsuit. They got an apology from the judiciary for delays — too few judges, too little time — but the delays continued. They also met with Finance Ministry officials to demand increases in the health sector budget; those didn’t happen. Leonard Okello of the International HIV/AIDS Alliance Uganda told the press, “Dying mothers are not a priority in Uganda.”

Marchers in Kampala, May 22, 2012

Marchers in Kampala, May 22, 2012

Corruption and cronyism are undoubtedly at issue (top government officials waste a small fortune traveling for health care abroad), but the basic question is budgeting. Museveni has successfully battled back the political pressure to reorder his priorities. In 2001, African Union countries signed the Abuja Declaration, committing them to raise health spending to at least 15% of budget. (The development field seems particularly prone to these lofty professions of faith, which multiply like theological credos in the early Church.) Despite all its challenges, including one of the world’s best-known AIDS crises, Uganda has rarely made it much more than halfway to this target. The figures for recent years show a large decrease in the health sector’s budget share — from just over 10% in 2010 to under 8%:

On the right: health care as a percent of overall budget (from "Citizen’s Budget: The Civl Society Alternative Budget Proposals FY 2013/14 - 2017/18), at http://www.csbag.org/docs/Citizens_Budget_FY2013_14.pdf

On the right: health care as a percent of overall budget (from “Citizen’s Budget: The Civil Society Alternative Budget Proposals FY 2013/14 – 2017/18?, at http://www.csbag.org/docs/Citizens_Budget_FY2013_14.pdf)

Who gets the money instead?

Interesting question. Here are the allocations by sector from Uganda’s budgets for the last two fiscal years.

Uganda budget by sector, FY 2013/14 (from "National Budget Framework Paper," Ministry of Finance, at http://www.psfuganda.org/new/images/downloads/Trade/budget%20%20framework%20paper%202013-14.pdf)

Uganda budget by sector (from “The Background to the Budget, Fiscal Year 2013/14,” Ministry of Finance, p. 104, at http://www.budget.go.ug/budget/content/background-budget)

(Note the percentage figures on the right, and ignore the numbers in shillings, which are made irrelevant by inflation.) Health’s share goes down again, to less than half the Abuja Declaration goal. Other losers are education, agriculture, water and the environment. Huge shares of the budget are taken up by “Energy and Mineral Development” and “Works and Transport.” These partly reflect the growing exploitation of Uganda’s oil reserves. They also reflect the priorities neoliberal lenders like the World Bank have always urged on developing countries: go produce raw materials for export to the industrialized North! and go build the infrastructure to get them there! One commentator says the country is “focusing on physical capital at the expense of human capital.” That’s an understatement.

But the other big factor is the security sector.

Security doesn’t look so massive: only 8.2% of the latest budget. That’s only the tip of the AK-47, though. Many defense expenditures remain hidden. Uganda’s Independent newspaper noted that the “the budget for Defence in the BFP [Budget Framework Paper] has always been smaller” than the reality:

[I]n real terms that figure excludes monies accrued to Defence from external sources. The figure also does not include classified expenditure that is usually Defence’s biggest component. Because of national security, the army does not reveal certain expenditures.

The 2013/14 budget featured “about ten new taxes… introduced partly to finance the Ministry of Defence.” These included a value-added tax (VAT) on water and on wheat and flour, regressive imposts designed to squeeze money from the poor. Security is Museveni’s “topmost priority,” the Independent says, and it’s the great enemy of health. In 2012, rebel parliamentarians proposed cutting the military’s largesse by 15 billion shillings (about US$6 million) and boosting health spending by 39 billion (US$15.5 million). Museveni quashed the move in fury. He snarled that he “couldn’t sacrifice the defense budget for anything.”

The President prizes his troops: “a large military war-chest increases Museveni’s regional and international leverage, and helps cow opposition to him at home.” But the US loves the Ugandan military as well. America wants to see plenty of money spent on it.

David Hogg, Commander of US Army Africa, inspects Ugandan troops in April 2011. Photo: U.S. Army. .

David Hogg, Commander of US Army Africa, inspects Ugandan troops in April 2011. Photo: U.S. Army. .

I wrote two years ago about the US’s aims for strategic hegemony in Africa, driven by the promise of buried resources and the threat of China. Uganda, as ally and partner, is key to this design. Obama actually sent US troops to Uganda in 2011, to join its army in chasing the warlord Joseph Kony, loathed by well-meaning white people everywhere. This was a small reward for Museveni’s larger services in bringing a desolate stability to Somalia. In 2012, the Pentagon “poured more than $82 million into counterterrorism assistance for six African countries, with more than half of that going to Uganda.” Money and equipment keep flowing to Museveni’s forces. Obama showers Uganda with “lethal military assistance,” writes the pundit Andrew Mwenda, because “America’s geostrategic interests in our region, and Museveni’s pivotal role in them, demand that the American president pampers his Ugandan counterpart.” 

And here is where we can start to understand some ambiguities in the World Bank’s actions.

The $90 million loan for “Uganda Health Systems Strengthening” that the Bank was on the verge of giving drew on two earlier Bank analyses of Uganda’s health crises. There’s a 2009 paper, Uganda: A Public Expenditure Review 2008, With a Focus on Affordability of Pay Reform and Health Sector. A longer 2010 working paper, Fiscal Space for Health in Uganda, elaborated on this. (Peter Okwero, task team leader for the loan, helped compose both.) They’re fascinating documents that reveal much about Uganda and much more about the Bank. It’s an honest institution in many ways, frank with figures and often good at diagnosing what’s wrong. But its prescriptions seem to come from a different place from its diagnoses — one permeated with politics and ideology. Its medicines rarely match the disease.

The findings are unsurprising. Aside from considerable waste (caused by theft of drugs but also poor procurement and storage practices) the main problems in health care stem from lack of funds. Capital spending in hospitals has shrunk; many hospitals are old and decaying. Medical costs are rising: “Growing resistance to the existing treatment for malaria (and more recently for TB), is forcing Uganda to adopt more expensive treatments.” Meanwhile, ”Uganda faces a serious shortage of health personnel in the workforce,” with only 8 doctors per 100,000 population. Staff are underpaid (even drug stealing, a major component of waste, is surely related to salaries, though the reports don’t draw the connection). And many sick people need resources just to use the system: 

65 percent of women reported lack of money to pay for treatment as a constraint to seeking treatment. Other problems included travel distance (55 percent), the necessity of taking public transportation (49 percent), concern over unavailability of medications (46 percent) …

“Preliminary health sector modeling work carried out under this study suggests that Uganda clearly needs to increase public health spending for non-salary cost at clinics and hospitals.”

Student nurses in the caesarean section ward of Rukungiri hospital, 2007: ©  Patricia Hopkins, ABC news (Australia)

Student nurses in the caesarean section ward of Rukungiri
hospital, 2007: © Patricia Hopkins, ABC news (Australia)

Except the conclusion is, weirdly, Uganda can’t. Here’s where the medicine stops fitting the diagnosis. “[Only] limited opportunities for additional public funding seem to exist,” the 2009 report says. The reports adduce this from looking at the national budget, and finding there’s just no flexibility there.

Can Uganda increase the share of its Government budget devoted to health? Reprioritizing health spending at the expense of other sectors seems unlikely. It is not clear which other sector budgets can feasibly be cut in order to increase allocations to health. Government policy has emphasized fiscal consolidation, whilst agriculture, energy, roads and USE [universal secondary education] are each identified as priorities in the coming years. … The best option for generating more health outputs in Uganda would seem to be through improved efficiency of Government spending rather than increasing Government spending. [Emphasis added]

So much for those lawsuits based on human rights! Instead … blah, blah. “Uganda’s health policymakers must identify a combination of efficiency savings and re-prioritization to sustain progress towards health targets … Efficiency gains will be needed and can be found …  The most pressing priority is to utilize the existing funding for health more efficiently.” (Italics added.) The reports show that Uganda needs increased health spending. But they end with “Recommendations to reduce the growing pressure to increase health spending.” They remind you mothers are dying, and then offer Museveni advice: how to tell those irritating women who march about dying mothers to get lost.

In Mbarara Regional Referral Hospital, 2012, from http://journey-to-uganda.blogspot.com/2012/07/no-irb-approval-no-research.html

In Mbarara Regional Referral Hospital, 2012, from http://journey-to-uganda.blogspot.com/2012/07/no-irb-approval-no-research.html

And it’s very interesting what budget sectors the World Bank looked at. They examine “agriculture, energy, roads” and education and find there’s nothing there to give to health care (even though Uganda’s most recent budgets managed to cut the first and last items). What the Bank doesn’t mention — not once – are defense and security, the military and police. Shifting money out of those sectors isn’t even under consideration. For the Bank, Museveni’s guns are sacrosanct. It’s the butter that needs trimming.

It’s tempting to say the Bank is showing a delicate sensitivity to Museveni’s feelings here. Why antagonize the old dictator by menacing his pet Praetorians?  But the World Bank has never hesitated to tell governments to cut their favorite projects. Instead, we need to recall the Bank’s political situation. The US is its largest shareholder; the American President appoints its head; the Yankee-led Bank put the Washington in the Washington Consensus, balancing off the European-dominated IMF. The Bank’s approach to Ugandan budgeting reflects the US’s priorities. The US gives its share of support to health care in Uganda, through PEPFAR and other programs; but its main interest is Museveni’s military, and it has no desire to see money for soldiers shifted to obstetricians. The Bank, likewise, is not going to threaten the defense sector. If that’s the choice — and they don’t even dare to suggest it — health care has to fend for itself.

The Washington Consensus: Street art from Argentina

The Washington Consensus: Street art from Argentina

The $90 million loan was meant as a way out of this dilemma, giving the Ugandan health system a bit more breathing room. It’s interesting, then, how the Bank moved so quickly to suspend it. According to BuzzFeed, the Democratic leader of the House herself called the Bank:

“Yesterday, Leader Pelosi [a curiously North Korean locution] spoke with President Kim to express the concerns of Members of Congress about the legislation enacted in Uganda,” Pelosi’s spokesman, Drew Hammill, told BuzzFeed in an email. “While we appreciate the difficult decisions President Kim has to make and their impact on the lives of many in the developing world, many Members believe that such a blatant act of discrimination should not go unnoticed.”

How odd that Pelosi phoned the Bank about its aid package before dialing her own government’s agencies. Yet it makes a certain sense; for Obama was under pressure to do something about Uganda, and some were pointing to that sacred military aid as a tempting target. Just one day earlier, Stars and Stripes — the US Army’s own newspaper – suggested as much.

[D]owngrading cooperation with Uganda’s military would be a way to send a signal to the leadership in the country, said J. Peter Pham, director of the Atlantic Council’s Africa Center. … 

“Military assistance is the one area where the U.S. has options,” Pham said. “[T]he Ugandan People’s Defence Force remains one of the few bastions of professionalism in the country, and its leadership is about the only check on Museveni and his ambitions to impose his son as a successor; hence, a shot across the UPDF’s bow might get some attention from those best positioned to get the president’s attention.”

The paper quickly backtracked: “Some experts, however, say that military ties are unlikely to be cut. Given the role the Ugandan military plays in promoting regional stability, dramatic cuts in aid should be avoided.” Lovely stability! You can see how the World Bank’s loan postponement was a happy distraction. It ended any pressure on the US government to trim its military commitments to Kampala. Uganda was already suffering, and Obama no longer needed to pile on. Pelosi’s call served its purpose.

This is stability: Ugandan soldier in Mogadishu, 2007

This is stability: Ugandan soldier in Mogadishu, 2007

The gesture is more a symbolic than a real one. The World Bank is unlikely actually to cut the loan, with four years of planning behind it. Sheila Gashishiri, the Bank’s spokesperson in Kampala, told the AP on February 28 that “the project run by Uganda’s Health Ministry will continue despite the postponement.” That probably means the funds will come through after a suitable interval.

In fact, Museveni’s regime will benefit. The whole brouhaha gives him wonderful room for rhetorical posturing. “The West can keep their ‘aid’ to Uganda over homos,” the ruling party’s press man Ofwono Opondo said, adding both that “Africa must stand up to Western domination” and that “Western ‘aid’ to Africa is lucrative and profitable trade they cannot cut off completely.” The politicos can have their cake of indignation — and ultimately eat their cake of $90 million credits too. Their rage, their language, pits LGBT people against pregnant women — a terrible side-effect of the Bank’s action. Surely that can only help brutal violence against the former spread.

Moreover, even a brief interruption in the health care loan gives Museveni ammunition. He can stand up to NGOs, Parliament, and even the courts if they demand more funding for the health sector to fight maternal mortality. “What money? The World Bank money? Where is it? There is no cash.” Those marching women can just go away. His security budget is even safer now from niggling jealousies.

And yet all this aid-cutting and health-care gutting is, we’re told, a blow for equality, against discrimination. We talk so much about “equality,” in the Western LGBT movement! The word is our fetish; we raise up those rosy equal signs as if they were the Black Madonna of Cz?stochowa.  But maybe we need to think more deeply about equality’s meaning.

Here is the logo for the State Department’s Global Equality Fund, which supports LGBT organizing around the world.

GlobalEqualityFund_blog

You have to love that rainbow circle: it’s seductive as the One Ring. So, too, is the call for dialogue. But what if that sphere dialogued with this one – a chart of global inequality, prepared by no less impeccable a capitalist center than a famous Swiss bank:

oct18_global_wealth

It’s a bit more … detailed. As are these circles:

Top: Wealth shares by country, 2000 (from Wikipedia; data from  http://www.wider.unu.edu/research/2006-2007/2006-2007-1/wider-wdhw-launch-5-12-2006/wider-wdhw-press-release-5-12-2006.pdf; Bottom: Wealth shares by region, 2010

Top: Wealth shares by country, 2000 (from Wikipedia; data from http://www.wider.unu.edu/research/2006-2007/2006-2007-1/wider-wdhw-launch-5-12-2006/wider-wdhw-press-release-5-12-2006.pdf; Bottom: Wealth shares by region, 2010

You’ll notice that Africa, with one-sixth of the world’s population, has one percent of its wealth. Uganda is a tiny, tiny sliver within that. I want the rainbow ring, but there’s something missing. How do these visions of equality connect?

The US-based Human Rights Campaign, which gave those iconic equality symbols to the world, also weighed in on the World Bank’s statement, inveighing at recalcitrant countries that

you will pay a high price for discriminatory practices. Whether viewed through a moral or economic lense [sic], discrimination does not pay. … HRC applauds Secretary Kerry and World Bank President Kim for taking a stand on LGBT equality. But the work is far from done.

HRC’s international work, of course, is mainly supported by the profits of vulture funds, exploiters who traffic in Third World debt and immiseration. Equality can mean so many things.

VULTURE 9So who won, and who lost? The World Bank won. They’ve sent the US a message that they are pliable to its political requirements. They’ve sent Uganda a message that there will be Consequences, but the Consequences won’t affect the programs Museveni most loves — the ones with guns. Then, messages mailed, the World Bank can finally produce the loan, which will take it off the hook (except to collect the interest). Uganda’s government is also a winner. They get to stand up theatrically to the blackmail of perversion; in the end, they probably get the cash. They also get an excellent argument against shifting money from the security establishment, or ending the deaths of pregnant women.

To these you can add the US government, which can rest confident that its military aid to Museveni has again evaded question. And you can add Western gay movements — especially those in the United States, allied not-quite-knowingly but easily with the administration’s interests. They’ve flexed their macho muscles and proven that they have some power, power to make the poor pay for what other people have done. I mean, it’s true that LGBT communities in Uganda are still laboring under oppression, and we haven’t done so much about that; but at least we get to oppress someone too. Isn’t that a consolation?

The losers are all in Uganda. They’re folks whose voices, though sometimes ventriloquized, are too faint or peripheral to be heard: mothers, children, LGBT people. Here’s to the victors! Great job.

The Resurrection

Anthony Adero granted me the privilege and the honor of discussing with him his redemptive experience following the trauma of being gang raped. We delved into his “afterlife,” his journey through fear, denial and social resistance, and the overwhelming difficulty of finding the expressive language to capture an awful occurrence that grew into a blessing as he reclaimed his body before the world.

Nick Mwaluko: Following the rape, you were in recovery, physically, emotionally, psychologically and spiritually. During that entire stretch of time, you were not sexually active.

Anthony Adero: Absolutely not.

Mwaluko: How did you find out that you had HIV?

Adero: I felt my body was not my body.

Mwaluko: Yours was a nonconforming body, wouldn’t you say?

Adero: Yes and no. I left Nairobi’s city center for my home village because I did not want to come near or close to another stranger. I needed solitude, peace, space, familiarity, which I falsely associated with safety. I was deeply depressed, very sickly. I could not get out of bed. My youngest aunt suggested, with the utmost compassion, that I get medical attention. My first test was negative, but I knew my body was not my body. My second test was positive.

Mwaluko: An African man who is raped is not an African man by traditional African standards. How did you find language to express your experience and the courage to voice it?

Adero: I had no language. Nothing to call forth, not in a village with strict gender stereotypes. Blame is available: “You’re stupid. You’re naïve. Nobody will accept you. You deserve nothing.” My first tongue was shame. It came from deep. It was all I could summon from within.

Mwaluko: In rural Kenya in 2007, I doubt networking through social media — Twitter, Facebook, Internet access — was there to help you stretch beyond your village to talk about your sexuality, to say, “I am a gay African man who lost his virginity through gang rape,” to gain access to an organization for support, for a language.

Adero: I spoke to my first medical counselor. I used that experience to break the ice. I was disoriented. I had no idea who Anthony Adero was, but I had that tiny spark that ignites a forest, a small, imperceptible hint of who I could be, that something in you that is beyond who you are then and now.

Mwaluko: Looking beyond yourself for yourself, knowing identity is not shaped by circumstance. This is so similar to a trans experience.

Adero: There is no Disneyland in HIV. You have to say it as it is. That is how you arrive at a language. I became fluent through practice, because every day is an AIDS day. Silence, denial, blame, hypocrisy kept me in bondage, blocked access to healing. My “new” language was developed from a vocabulary based on truth, my personal truth told by my voice. This brought freedom. It opened spaces I created because I had to create that space for myself. If no African man can be raped because it’s not masculine, I found a language to express what results from undoing that belief system: exquisite pain, wonder, defeat, celebration, etc. Then other people came forward. We are a tribe. When I first told my story to my community, they laughed at me. It hurt. I did not want to tell it. This made me wonder if anyone wants to know me, if anyone could love me. Men in my village did not understand my sexuality; women did not understand my sexuality; no one believed me when I said I was raped. No one understood HIV. I did not fit. I had no space from within: I was not man enough; I was not woman enough; I was not sick enough; I was not healthy enough; I was not masculine enough; I was not feminine enough; I was not African enough. The binary, the dichotomy, made me invisible in plain sight inside my own community. My transition went from being invisible in my own community while in plain sight to freeing myself from some negative thoughts.

Mwaluko: Blame came first, you said. Have you forgiven yourself?

Adero: I don’t have to forgive myself. It’s part of my struggle.

Mwaluko: Critics might say, “He wants to become a gay celebrity.” Critics might say, “There’s Anthony grandstanding by telling his story. He is making his misery ours by transferring the burden onto us.” Critics might say, “He’s ruining the already fragile image of gay Kenyans by suggesting we’re violent, that we gang rape because African men, black men, are depicted as rapists. Gay Kenyans, Africans, black men don’t need the kind of visibility Anthony’s story brings to light, given what white people say about black male sexuality.” Critics might question the intention behind two queer Africans putting this story forward. Why are you telling this story?

Adero: It brings me power to tell this story, to have a voice. I hope to bring voice and power to others who feel powerless, voiceless.

Mwaluko: Truly.

Adero: Nick, why do you connect to it?

Mwaluko: I’m African, queer, have a nonconforming body, experienced sexual assault and have a complicated relationship to masculinity. I hope our collaboration between two queer Africans is empowering to our community, especially because Africans are often depicted as powerless, voiceless. Also, I hope this exposure defeats the death threat looming over LGBTQIA (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex, asexual and allied) Africans by offering something beyond fear and death, which is truth, honesty. Creating this powerful covenant says once again to African governments who deny us or execute us, “We exist!” What would you like Africa to learn from your experience?

Adero: I am complex. Accept me. Embrace me. Appreciate what I have to offer. I am different. Why fear me? Change the homophobic laws so I can think about a future, marry if I want, have job security. In Africa, patriarchy and heterosexism are huge diseases. They impact my intimacy, my education, my religion, my politics, my personal health and the way I relate with my culture. How can we strip them away, Africa?

Mwaluko: What would you like LGBTQIA Kenyans to learn from your experience?

Adero: Diversity.

Mwaluko: Diversity within diversity?

Adero: Yes. HIV-positive LGBT Kenya belongs to the movement. African women activists who believe feminism is for women only? No. African lesbians in Africa can impose sexism onto gay African men just as much as gay African men can impose sexism onto African lesbians without knowing that we share similar struggles. We need to cut across boundaries for a strong allied LGBT movement so our struggle for freedom is more honest.

Mwaluko: What would you like the men who raped you to say to you?

Adero: I wish they could acknowledge my pain, tell me why they made me live in hell.

Mwaluko: What would you like to say to the men who raped you?

Adero: They have influenced me, forced me to look closely at my life, to look to life for meaning. My whole experience has given me a new sense of how I see issues. I hear the sound of truth, truth birthed by agony. They forced me to create that sound. They have truly influenced my destiny in a very positive way.

Mwaluko: What is it like living day to day with HIV in Kenya, in Africa? Give me a quick breakdown of your daily life.

Adero: Complicated. I have to fight through my condition. I face so much stigma, misunderstanding because of my sexuality. Few facilities take sensitivity seriously because of Kenyan culture. This threatens my security. Clinics rumored to serve my population — gay Kenyan men — face serious threats. Health care resources are not prepared for treating latency, which is to say they treat aspects of my illness at a late stage. To get the medication I have to meander, register myself into an overburdened system where the waiting list is long. Medication always depends on donor-funded projects, limiting my access. My job security is iffy because of my sexuality, so I can’t really afford proper standards of nutrition.

Mwaluko: Are you afraid of dying?

Adero: I have died. I was in hell. Then I rose from the dead. I’ve died many, many times and risen from the dead more times. No, I am not afraid of death nor what life brings.

“The truth is, ‘Ngiyesaba’ – I’m shit scared” – Rape and Traumatic Recall

TRIGGER WARNING……

Homophobic Injustice and Corrective Rape in Post-Apartheid South Africaby Kylie Thomas – a joint report by the University of Western Cape and the Center for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation.

The report offers a critique of the terms ‘corrective rape’ and ‘curative rape’ and examines the concept of ‘hate crimes’ which is increasingly being used to describe a specific form of violence directed at LGBTI people in South Africa.

This form of violation is perpetrated with the explicit intention of ‘curing’ the lesbian of her
love for other women. Although many heterosexual survivors of rape attest to the stated intentions of their assailants as punitive (they have done something wrong, and thus ‘deserve’ rape), survivors of ‘curative rape’ make it clear that their attackers were interested in humiliating and punishing them for their choice of sexual identity and lifestyle and in ‘transforming’ them — by coercion — into heterosexual women. (2010:26)

Section one “Rape: Corrective, curative, hate crime” provides background into rape as a form of punishment and the naming of a specific kind of rape of lesbians as ‘curative rape and corrective rape’ and the push towards adopting the concept of ‘hate crimes’. Section two “Traumatic Recall” Rape and recovery” is drawn from an interview with ‘Sibongile‘, a woman who was raped by a man who lived close to her home. Her story is complicated because not only did she know the rapist but he was someone she considered a friend. Sibongile’s experience of rape and the social setting in which the rape took place, his constant presence and continued threat of violence from him as well as the failure of the justice system, are evidence of the ever present violence through which she and many other lesbians are forced to live.

The crimes committed against Sibongile, like that of Thapelo Makhutle, murdered in Kuraman in June 2012, and other survivors and victims of homophobic and transphobic crimes, are ‘communal crimes’. Arbitrary notions on citizenship and who is fully human or deserves to be seen as human, are demonstrated through the repeated failures in the criminal justice system as well as failures of community which speak to a dangerous judicial and communal complicity in crimes of hate.

It seems to me that these murders have their own particular meaning in relation to other crimes in that they are communal crimes — in most cases the murderers and rapists are known to the victims and survivors and possibly others in the neighbourhood. This is an important point when thinking about how to speak of these things. In order to kill so intimately surely one must find a way to disconnect. One possible way to do this is to disassociate yourself with the victim, to render them as other — we know enough about killing to know it ‘s always easier to kill ‘them’ rather than kill ‘ourselves’. If this is the case, then there are neighbourhoods of people who are disconnected from each other. Places where people look at others but do not see themselves…….

The full report can be read here.

Rape: Corrective, curative, hate crime

There are no precise figures for the number of women who have been raped because they identify themselves as lesbians. Rape, like other forms of sexual violence, is perhaps the most under‐reported form of crime. There are clearer figures for the number of women who have been raped and murdered because their attackers sought to punish them for being openly lesbian.3 What is clear, however, is that lesbians in South Africa, and black lesbians in particular, experience public space as a space of violence.

Since the release of Harris’ report, the term ‘hate crime’ has been increasingly used to describe forms of violence directed against gay, lesbian, bi‐sexual and trans‐gendered South Africans. The terms ‘curative rape’ and ‘corrective rape’ have also been used to describe sexual violence directed against lesbians and to mark the distinction between rape experienced by homosexual women and the rape of heterosexual women or men or the rape of children. In their study, The country we want to live in: Hate crimes and homophobia in the lives of black lesbian South Africans, Nonhlanhla Mkhize, Jane Bennett, Vasu Reddy and Relebohile Moletsane draw attention to how these terms began to circulate as a result of the activism of “radical feminist and
black lesbian‐led organisations”. These activists “attested to a very specific form of sexual attack “curative rape’” (2010:26). Drawing on the work of scholars and activists Zanele Muholi, Helen Moffett and Vasu Reddy, the authors write,

This form of violation is perpetrated with the explicit intention of ‘curing’ the lesbian of her love for other women. Although many heterosexual survivors of rape attest to the stated intentions of their assailants as punitive (they have done something wrong, and thus ‘deserve’ rape), survivors of ‘curative rape’ make it clear that their attackers were interested in humiliating and punishing them for their choice of sexual identity and lifestyle and in ‘transforming’ them — by coercion — into heterosexual women. (2010:26)

South Africa has extremely high rates of sexual violence, and rape has been used in the country as a way to “punish” women who do not conform to normative ideals of femininity in different ways over time.5 In her study on what she terms ‘group rape’ in South Africa, Katherine Wood cites Steve Mokwena’s Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation (CSVR) paper on ‘jackrolling’, a practice defined as “a form of group abduction and rape of young women in Soweto in the eighties originally associated with a gang called The Jackrollers”, which “was designed to put out‐of‐reach or snobbish women in their place” (2005:306). In the post‐apartheid present, lesbian women have been made subject to what has been termed ‘corrective rape’ or ‘curative rape’, which, like jackrolling, can be understood as a violent form of policing of the social order. In an article about hate crimes, activist Wendy Isaack defines ‘curative rape’ as “a term used to describe the sexual violence perpetrated for the purpose of supposedly ‘curing’ a person of their real or perceived sexual orientation and/or gender identity” (2007:2).

Such forms of naming provide useful short‐hand terms for forms of violence, and sexual violence in particular, directed against lesbians in South Africa. But the terms also carry with them a series of assumptions that may not hold in all cases. The use of the terms by feminist scholars can work inadvertently to reinforce essentialist conceptions of gender and sexuality. Perhaps the clearest way to understand what is at stake in the ways in which we name forms of violence would be to defamiliarise the terms used to describe violence directed towards lesbians through applying the descriptor ‘corrective’ or ‘curative’ to a different category of hate crime — racism. A racist ‘curative beating’ or ‘corrective racially motivated shooting’ makes no sense precisely because of the widely held view that a person’s race cannot be altered — it is taken as a given. A similar, and similarly mistaken, biologism is at work in the notion of ‘corrective rape’, which ‘makes sense’ because of widely held ideas about essential womanhood and femininity. By this logic, a black or white person cannot be ‘cured’ of being black or white because blackness or whiteness is taken to be a biological given and a lesbian can be ‘cured’ of being lesbian because her underlying essential femininity is taken to be a biological given. ‘Curative’ racially motivated violence would be genocide or the Nazi ‘final solution’, just as the inner logic of ‘curative rape’ of lesbian women contains the desire not for some form of social restoration but for elimination. In other words, if the ‘corrective rape of lesbians is intended to ‘turn’ them into heterosexual women, it is intended to negate, symbolically and often physically, what constitutes their identities and their being.

The term ‘corrective rape’ also implies that if lesbians performed their sexuality ‘correctly’, within the appropriate bounds defined by patriarchy, they would not be subject to sexual violence. This, as the argument made by Mkhize et al. about the way in which black lesbians are ‘doubly vulnerable to gender‐based violence’ makes clear, is not the case:

As women, they [black lesbians] inhabit a South African reality in which all women are vulnerable to diverse forms of sexual attack, and black women who are poor are surrounded by more opportunities for men to attack them than women who are better resourced (and thus, often, white). As lesbians in homophobic contexts and cultures in which sexual violence is a popular weapon, they are at the knife‐edge of community rejection and vulnerable to local ‘policing’ through physical and sexual assault. (2010:26)

Hate crimes against lesbians have also been read as ‘message crimes’ and as corrective not of the individual but of the social order. While men who rape lesbians in South Africa may intend to convey a message through the act of rape, this is not necessarily directed as a ‘warning’ to other lesbian women. The message may be to other men, asserting patriarchal power over women and affirming aggressive masculinity. Interpreting hate crimes against lesbians as ‘message crimes’ requires a careful interrogation of motive, intent and effect without which we may think we understand more than we do about histories and forms of violence post‐apartheid. Reading the ‘messages’ conveyed by violence too literally may mean that we fail to analyse what appears self evident and unchanging but is in fact complex and contingent. Focusing on the ‘message’ may also divert attention from an analysis of the conditions under which the transmission of violent messages is made possible.

In a section of her report on hate crimes in South Africa headed “Hate crimes are ‘message crimes’”, Harris draws on the definition of hate crimes provided by the American Psychological Association to argue that

hate crimes impact not only on the individual victim, but on the whole ‘hated group’. … They are different from other crimes in that the offender is sending a message to members of a certain group that they are unwelcome in a particular neighbourhood, community, school or workplace. (2004:22).

Reading hate crimes as messages works on Reading hate crimes as messages works on the assumption that the person/people to whom the message is directed does not already know and understand the message. Hate crimes, in this frame, work to remind those who have transgressed social norms of their place. The effect of this is to render hate crimes into exceptional events. In the context of South Africa, these forms of sexual violence operate less as message and more as normative practice. These acts do not take place in a wider social and political context of safety, tolerance and freedom, in which rape occasionally occurs as a form of punishment. These conditions necessitate a more careful reading of the ‘message’ of what has been termed ‘curative rape’. Why would such violent messages be necessary in a context where the unequal relations of power between men and women are perfectly and painfully clear?

I do not dispute the need to describe and define the ways in which South African lesbians are subject to particular, and sometimes intensified, forms of violence. However, given the prevalence of extremely conservative ideas about gender and sexuality in the country, I would argue that the terms ‘corrective’ and ‘curative’ rape should always be carefully qualified, if they are to be used at all.6 .. Continue reading

Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill – 2012

The Uganda Anti-Homosexuality Bill is back in Parliament.  It’s return was announced  by Speaker Rebecca Kadaga who according to this report is committed to passing the Bill by the end of the year though Ugandan activists believe it could be passed as early as this week.

Speaker Rebecca Kadaga told The Associated Press that the bill, which originally mandated death for some gay acts, will become law this year.

Ugandans “are demanding it,” she said, reiterating a promise she made before a meeting on Friday of anti-gay activists who spoke of “the serious threat” posed by homosexuals to Uganda’s children. Some Christian clerics at the meeting in the Ugandan capital, Kampala, asked the speaker to pass the law as “a Christmas gift.”

The latest news is that the death penalty has been removed but the threat of death remains as every other  vile aspect of this detailed and expansive Bill remains.  The  second objective states the Bill will

“prohibit and penalize homosexual behaviour and related practices in Uganda as they constitute a threat to the traditional family”.

Although listed,  the phrase “related practices” could mean anything and leaves the door open to highly subjective interpretations. This objective is later spelt out in more detail to the extent that simply “touching - with the intent to commit a homosexual act” is a crime.   Any form of advocacy and failure to report an offense will be subject to a monetary fine and up to three years in prison.  This will include medical staff, counseling professionals, priests and pastors, employers and family members.  One of the worst aspects of the Bill are  in clause 5 which effectively allows ‘victims’ to kill anyone they claim has committed a homosexual offense against them.   The violence has already begun as LGBTI and those perceived as being LGBTI have been arrested and harassed. Once the law is in place the potential for acts of physical violence against LGBTI people is very real.  We should not forget the murder of David Kato in January 2011.  Under the AHB his murderer would be free today.    This clause is an open invitation to lynch LGBTI people so in reality  the death penalty remains.

[1] A victim of homosexuality shall not be penalized for any crime committed as a direct result of his or her involvement in homosexuality.

The jurisdiction of the Bill extends beyond the borders of Uganda and includes the “nullification of inconsistent international treaties, protocols declarations and conventions.”

[a] a person who, while being a citizen of or permanently residing in Uganda, commits an act outside Uganda, which act would constitute an offence under this Act had it been committed in Uganda; or

[b]  the offence was committed partly outside and or partly in Uganda.

Although we are told the Bill is supported by the majority of Parliament and the country, there are  desenting voices  as blogger Sebaspace shows amongst politicians including the President, those who don’t like the Bill.   He also quotes the former Mayor of Kampala as stating he thought the Bill unnecessary but too risky to oppose it which begs the question of how many other parliamentarians support the Bill for similar reasons including Madam Kadaga herself.

 We already know that Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni doesn’t like the Bahati anti-gay bill because he has said so publicly. Yes, it was wrung out of him by a persistent foreign press but Museveni is on record about his views which are that homosexuality is not new in Africa and, more pertinently, that he doesn’t want anything to do with this bill. His motivation for rejecting the bill is debatable of course — but that’s not our concern right now.

One of Yoweri Museveni’s long term advisers, John Nnagenda, is also on record condemning the bill because he, rightly, realizes that it is a bill against love.

We also know that the outgoing leader of the opposition, Forum for Democratic Changes’s (FDC) Kiiza Besigye would have decriminalized homosexuality if he had had the chance because he is on record saying so a month before the last elections which he lost to Yoweri Museveni.

The complete Bill in PDF format can be read here.   For updates and questions on how to support the campaign to stop the Bill follow @frankmugisha and @Seba_Space

 

 

QAR Weekly News

  • Another South African Lesbian MurderThis morning (10/11/2012) I received a call from Ndumie Funda the founder and Director of Lulekisizwe a project that nurses, supports and feeds the lesbian bisexual and trans woman (LBT) in townships who are victims and survivors of “corrective rape”, whom I had just seen the day before and we were just talking about the current situation facing the LGBTI community in Cape Town especially in the townships. Funda sounded stressed and in shock over the phone when she asked me to get the word out about the murder of Sihle Skotshi (19) who was an active member of Lulekisizwe. Later I met up with Funda and  had an opportunity to interview the two survivors of the attack who were with Sihle when she died.tags: Queer Politics, LGBTI Africa, South Africa, Sexual Violence

 

  • Malawian Anti-Gay Laws under review, suspendedGoing against a trend in Africa, Malawi’s government is moving to suspend laws against homosexuality and has ordered police not to arrest people for same-sex acts until the anti-gay laws are reviewed by parliament.Human Rights Watch called the decision “courageous” and said it should inspire other countries that criminalize homosexuality.Justice Minister Ralph Kasambara last week told a public debate on minority rights that the police have been ordered not to arrest anyone suspected of engaging in homosexuality. Anyone convicted under Malawi’s anti-gay laws, some of the toughest in the world, can get up to 14 years in jail with hard labor. Kasambara said parliament will soon discuss the laws. 

Fighting Oppression 1

Dear Nfifi,

Although I was deeply grateful to be part of the Height’s Collective albeit for such a short time during which I became aware of the good work the organisation does in terms of general activism: immigration, prostitution and other areas where the oppression of women persists. One question I really needed to ask you was, “given how you feel now, if I as a transwoman of African origin approached you for your advice, would you fling me to the dogs? It wouldn’t have been a first, according to Leslie Feinberg who likened transphobia to colonialism and illustrated the murders of “two spirited” people while Balboa & co (European colonialists) watched as depicted in a 1594 engraving by Theodor de Bry1.

 

To think most African’s in the Diaspora, some literate others illiterate, who think we no longer suffer the consequences of colonialism? Racism, transphobia (or what some call gender-phobia2) and sexism (both hetero and homo) to be sure. Decolonialism, which one would be sensible to view as your line of work still leaves a lot of unanswered questions around gender identity and sexual orientation which needs specific attention —the transgender perspective, to be precise which on the whole seem relegated to oblivion post-the-Stonewall- march against a heavy handed police force. Perhaps you are not aware of these pitfalls in your activism but I can’t escape their impacts. Black neo-colonialists pepper the entire black community where gender and sexual intolerance with the consequent gender colonialism is rife. I face them daily through acknowledging their subtle presences but this is not enough.

I was interested to see how the Height’s Collective at Tishken Town might be an outlet for transwomen of African origin which is important from where I stood. Little did I know that the ravings of a transphobe’s held such sway in and around the above mentioned collective until it hit me in the face in the person of Eulij? So traumatic was my experience of this open infraction that I felt a need for the first time to face up to the continuing gender colonialism that certain lesbian activists faced with transsexual women that choose atypical gender expressions harbour. The question that comes to mind is, “can one be assured that no more such eventualities will arise in the future of this ongoing hub of joint activism against the oppression of women?” I cannot confidently say no given your own unquestioning response to Eulij’s transphobic stance. Should it matter that after transition I choose to adopt a sexuality of choice? Why do ‘gender terrorists’3 think that they are well suited to the decolonisation of gender and sexuality by the same token while to all intent and purpose they purported to be fighting the good fight for ALL WOMEN?

As we approach the end of the first decade of the 21st century, I cannot pretend that I am confident about the seduction of the old guard’s allies by proxy of activists so rooted in their ways that they miss the part they play in the perpetuation of oppressive ideologies around race, gender identity and sexualities perhaps unknowingly or deliberately. The example of a militant at work can be glimpsed in “Better Than Chocolate,”4 which depicted an angry butch who took it upon herself to gender terrorise a femme pre-op transwoman after a set in which she sang a song about being transgendered and insisted that she would not let the world forget her status as a “transgender person”. After her set, she was in the Ladies with Frances, her “genetic girl” girlfriend who left to pay the bills hot under the collar.

The Butch militant entered shortly afterwards, insults Judith Squires (the transgender woman) by calling her attention as if she were addressing a disgusting pet pig, and then goes on to address her in the following terms: “Sir… Shouldn’t you be in the men’s?” Although Judith tried to defend herself to no avail, at least she tried. The Militant, however, was insufferable. She attacks Judith passive victim with a bag of rubbish which she wielded like a baseball bat deliberately and accurately. As luck would have it, Judith is saved by Margie and her partner, Kim, who forced the Militant to see the error of her ways under Kim’s expert and effectively applied arm lock forcing the militant to retract her insults. In reality this response might only solve a fraction of the problem if it managed to scratch the surface at all since Judith Squires only represents the white, talented, and supported and “passing” side of transsexuality. What about the many transsexual women that did not have all those networks to secure their place in the world? Where do they go?

As a black or African transwoman, I was once asked to carry the mantle for other transwomen or those less willing to be seen to ‘rock the boat’ due to a lack of confidence by a member of my then local Victim Support. I was cautious with good reason. Even there and then before leaving my local housing office with which I was in dispute I saw it all over again. Although my complaint was about a clerical officer I wasn’t expecting both housing manager and an LGBT liaison officer to become just as hostile as the person I’d reported for less. On their way to the toilet they engaged in the usual transphobic banter outside the view of their co-participants with impunity. It didn’t even bother them that the victim support representative was still there in the building. Was I then expected to be overjoyed at such abusive treatment? I wondered when ‘equal opportunities’ became ‘only equal on transphobic terms’ as some public officials tend to deploy the policy depending on each other’s complicity to keep inequality for certain individuals alive!

Seeing similar attitudes on full display with non judgemental activists at the Height’s Collective was not entirely unexpected since human beings of all races, gender identities and sexualities have a common humanness with smidgens of prejudice which seemed to persist but that does not mean it should be allowed to do so unchallenged, does it? In other words, I’m saying that you Nfifi are only human but I do not think a person in your shoes should allow ‘dangerous activism’ as in a transphobe’s view to contaminate the good work you do? I thought I had better tell you this the way I’m doing because it is important that you know my opinion this way if no other avenue of getting it to you is available at present, I feel this will have to do.

A dependence on certain neurotic habits such as hatred oriented gossip, rumour mongering and outright abuse that certain African/black people still use to police themselves are dangerous tools for an activist to employ in the course of their duties. They may even hold extreme views concerning gender and sexuality as credible ways of socialising and freely sharing these with activists in subtle transphobic tittle-tattle which activist’s then reproduce in their work while unknowingly undermining their own effectiveness as social actors. This can be dangerous for ongoing or yet to be acknowledged types of engagement. Perhaps that’s the idea? The question is, how does such intolerance help us in our attempts to at stamping out oppression altogether? It will be sad if we turn out to be saying, if it does not concern us personally, it is alright to flaunt laws put in place to protect every one of us without exclusion.

Personally I am taken by Audre Lorde’s position on most of the questions I have raised here. ‘… Outside of rhetoric and proclamations of solidarity, there is no help, except ourselves’ 5 Asking someone else to do our activism for us is often problematic. These words leave me in no doubt that it is time the African LGB and especially “T” fought its own battle as of old? I’m grateful that the collective upholds the course of women but transgenderism (by which I mean transsexuals, intersexuals and genderqueer women) cannot be effectively supported without a genuine understanding of who we are. Being an activist by itself is not a prerequisite for understanding the transgender community and this more than anything else is the unique expertise I hoped I might have been able to share with other sisters with respect rather than firing off shots about who said what and when. It is a shame that this is all the Collective’s rigidity thinks activism amounts to in their adversarial mindset but it doesn’t have to be. What’s wrong with us working together?

Mia Nikasimo © February 2009

Nobody Knows My Gender

The anger is still in me. Pure rage at certain people for failing to understand diversity beyond their narrow subjective paradises at the expense of those they claim to support through their activism. I ought to have written these words after Oxford 2011. At the time I was still too raw to review myself never mind the conference. I was already certain that was a last based on the long looks post conference and that fleeting abused, “man!” an audial rape of progress. It felt as if I had inadvertently stumbled into a den of hostility. Collectively, they voiced their imposition, corrective angst without an inkling of who I was or am. Even then when I stepped forward racked with stage fright heavy with their unkind looks, questioning thoughts and horror, did he just kiss my neck, just to tell me that time was up? If those on that panel didn’t understand transgenderism what were they transmitting to the audience -tantalising transphobia? What chance would that august audience have of understanding the “ISM” let alone a notion of agency?
Continue reading

Statement of African social justice activists on the decision of the British government to cut aid to African countries that violate the rights of LGBTI people in Africa

British Prime Minister, David Cameron has warned his country would cut aid to countries in the global south that persecute LGBTI persons. Many of us believe this is an inappropriate response as stated in the statement below. ……

We, the undersigned African social justice activists, working to advance societies that affirm peoples’ differences, choice and agency throughout Africa, express the following concerns about the use of aid conditionality as an incentive for increasing the protection of the rights of LGBTI people on the continent.

It was widely reported, earlier this month, that the British Government has threatened to cut aid to governments of “countries that persecute homosexuals” unless they stop punishing people in same-sex relationships. These threats follow similar decisions that have been taken by a number of other donor countries against countries such as Uganda and Malawi. While the intention may well be to protect the rights of LGBTI people on the continent, the decision to cut aid disregards the role of the LGBTI and broader social justice movement on the continent and creates the real risk of a serious backlash against LGBTI people.

A vibrant social justice movement within African civil society is working to ensure the visibility of – and enjoyment of rights by – LGBTI people. This movement is made up of people from all walks of life, both identifying and non-identifying as part of the LGBTI community. It has been working through a number of strategies to entrench LGBTI issues into broader civil society issues, to shift the same-sex sexuality discourse from the morality debate to a human rights debate, and to build relationships with governments for greater protection of LGBTI people. These objectives cannot be met when donor countries threaten to withhold aid.

The imposition of donor sanctions may be one way of seeking to improve the human rights situation in a country but does not, in and of itself, result in the improved protection of the rights of LGBTI people. Donor sanctions are by their nature coercive and reinforce the disproportionate power dynamics between donor countries and recipients. They are often based on assumptions about African sexualities and the needs of African LGBTI people. They disregard the agency of African civil society movements and political leadership. They also tend, as has been evidenced in Malawi, to exacerbate the environment of intolerance in which political leadership scapegoat LGBTI people for donor sanctions in an attempt to retain and reinforce national state sovereignty.

Further, the sanctions sustain the divide between the LGBTI and the broader civil society movement. In a context of general human rights violations, where women are almost are vulnerable, or where health and food security are not guaranteed for anyone, singling out LGBTI issues emphasizes the idea that LGBTI rights are special rights and hierarchically more important than other rights. It also supports the commonly held notion that homosexuality is ‘unAfrican’ and a western-sponsored ‘idea’ and that countries like the UK will only act when ‘their interests’ have been threatened.

An effective response to the violations of the rights of LBGTI people has to be more nuanced than the mere imposition of donor sanctions. The history of colonialism and sexuality cannot be overlooked when seeking solutions to this issue. The colonial legacy of the British Empire in the form of laws that criminalize same-sex sex continues to serve as the legal foundation for the persecution of LGBTI people throughout the Commonwealth. In seeking solutions to the multi-faceted violations facing LGBTI people across Africa, old approaches and ways of engaging our continent have to be stopped. New ways of engaging that have the protection of human rights at their core have to recognize the importance of consulting the affected.

Furthermore, aid cuts also affect LGBTI people. Aid received from donor countries is often used to fund education, health and broader development. LGBTI people are part of the social fabric, and thus part of the population that benefit from the funding. A cut in aid will have an impact on everyone, and more so on the populations that are already vulnerable and whose access to health and other services are already limited, such as LGBTI people.,

To adequately address the human rights of LGBTI people in Africa, the undersigned social justice activists call on the British government to:

- Review its decision to cut aid to countries that do not protect LGBTI rights
- Expand its aid to community based and lead LGBTI programmes aimed at fostering dialogue and tolerance.
- Support national and regional human rights mechanisms to ensure the inclusiveness of LGBTI issues in their protective and promotional mandates
- Support the entrenchment of LGBTI issues into broader social justice issues through the financing of community lead and nationally owned projects

Contact Persons

Joel Gustave Nana, (French and English)
Executive Director
African Men for Sexual Health and Rights
Tel: +27735045420,
Email: joel@amsher.net

Hakima Abbas
Executive Director
Fahamu
Email: Hakima@fahamu.org

Wanja Muguongo
UHAI- the East African Sexual Health and Rights Initiative
Tel: +254(020)2330050/ 8127535
wanja@uhai-eashri.org

Phumi Mtetwa
phumi10@hotmail.com

Sibongile Ndashe
sibongilendashe@gmail.com

SIGNATORIES

1. Organizations

ActionAid (Liberia)

African Men for Sexual Health and Rights — AMSHeR (Regional)

AIDS Legal Network (South Africa)

AIDS Rights Alliance for Southern Africa (Sub-regional)

ARC EN CIEL + (Cote d’Ivoire)

Arc en Ciel d’Afrique (Canada)

Centre for Popular Education and human Rights – CEPEHRG (Ghana)

Coalition Against Homophobia in Ghana (Ghana)

Coalition of African Lesbians- CAL (Regional)

Engender (South Africa)

Evolve (Cameroon)

Face AIDS Ghana (Ghana)

Fahamu (Regional)

Freedom and Roam Uganda (Uganda)

Gay and Lesbian of Zimbabwe — GALZ (Zimbabwe)

Horizons Community Association (Rwanda)

House of Rainbow Fellowship — (Nigeria)

ICHANGE CI (Cote d’Ivoire)

Identity Magazine (Kenya)

IGLHRC Africa (Regional)

Ishtar MSM (Kenya)

Justice for Gay Africans (Diaspora)

LEGABIBO (Botswana)

Let Good Be Told In us (LGBTI) Nyanza and Western coalition of Kenya (Kenya)

Most at Risk Populations’ Society In Uganda (UGANDA)

Mouvement pour les Libertes Individuelles – MOLI (Burundi)

My Rights (Rwanda)

Network against violence, abuse, discrimination and stigma-Africa (Regional)

Nyanza and Western LGBTI Coalition of Kenya (Kenya)

Other Sheep Afrika (Kenya)

Outright Namibia

Pan Africa ILGA (Regional)

PEMA Kenya

Queer African Youth Center Network QAYN — (Sub-regional — West Africa)

Rainbow Candle Light (Burundi)

Reseau Camerounais des Personnes Vivant avec le VIH — Recap+ (Cameroon)

Riruta United Women Empowerment Programme (Kenya)

Si Jeunesse Savait (Democratic Republic of Congo)

South African National AIDS Council — LGBT sector

Spectrum Uganda Initiatives — (Uganda)

Stay Alive Self Help Group (Kenya)

Stop Aids In Liberia

The Initiative for Equal Rights (TIER) – Nigeria

The International Center for Advocacy on the Rights to Health -ICARH (Nigeria)

The Lesbian and Gay Equality Project (South Africa)

Together for Women’s Rights ASBL (Burundi)

Treatment Action Campaign (South Africa)

Triangle Project (South Africa)

UHAI-the East African Sexual Health and Rights Initiative (Sub-regional -East Africa)

Vision Spring Initiatives

West African Treatment Action Group (Sub-regional — West Africa)

Women Working with Women (Kenya)

Youth Focus (Uganda)

2. Individuals

Angus Parkinson (British Citizen, Kenyan Resident)

Anne Baraza (Kenya

Anthony Adero (Kenya)

Ayesha Imam (Nigeria)

Barbra Muruga (Kenya)

Bernedette Muthien (South Africa)

Blessed B Rwomushana(Uganda)

Blessol gathoni (Kenya)

Brian Kanyemba (Zimbabwe)

Carine Geoffrion (Ghana)

Carlos Idibouo (Cote d’Ivoire)

Charles Gueboguo (Cameroon)

Chesterfield Samba (Zimbabwe)

Christian Rumu — (Burundi)

Cynthia Ndikumana (Burundi)

Cyriaque Ako (Cote d’Ivoire)

Daniel Peter Onyango (Kenya)

Daniel Peter Onyango (Kenya)

Danilo da Silva (Mozambique)

Denis Nzioka (Kenya)

Desire Kavutse (Rwanda)

Douglas Masinde (Kenya)

Esther Adhiambo(Kenya)

Francoise Mukuku (DRC)

Friedel Dausab (Namibia)

Gabrielle Le Roux (South Africa)

Gathoni Blessol (Kenya)

Geogina Adhiambi (Kenya)

Hakima Abbas (UK/Egypt)

Hameeda Deedat (South Africa)

Happy Kinyili (Kenya)

Ifeany Orazulike (Nigeria)

Jacqueline N Mulucha (Uganda)

Jane Bennett (Cape Town)

Jayne Annot (South Africa)

Jessica Horn (Uganda/UK)

Joel Gustave Nana — (Cameroon)

Johanna Kehler (South Africa)

Joseph Sewedo Akoro (Nigeria)

Julius Kaggwa (Uganda)

Julius Kyaruzi (Tanzania)

Kamariza Sandrine (Burundi)

Kasha Jacqueline (Uganda)

Keguro Macharia (Kenya)

Kene Esom (Nigeria)

Kenne Mwikya

Korto Williams — Liberia

Lillian Kwagala (Uganda)

Linda Baumann (Namibia)

Lourence Misedah (Kenya)

Mariam Armisen (Burkina Faso)

Marieme Helie-Lucas (Algeria)

Mia Nikasimo (African Diaspora)

Mmapaseka Steve Letsike (South Africa)

Mombo Ngua (Kenya)

Mwangi Forsyth-Githahu (Kenya)

Ndifuna Ukwazi (South Africa)

Ndikumana Pierre Celestin (Rwanda)

Ngozi Nwosu — Juba (Nigeria)

Nguru Karugu (Kenya)

Nicholas Mutisya Muema (Kenya)

Nicole Khanali (Kenya)

Olivier Irogo (Cameroon)

Paden Edmund (Tanzania)

Peter Wanyama (Kenya)

Phumi Mtetwa (South Africa)

Pouline kimani,Udada kenya

Prof J Oloka-Onyango (Uganda)

Prof Sylvia Tamale (Uganda)

Rena Otieno (Kenya)

Rowland Jide Macaulay (Nigeria)

Samuel Ganafa (Uganda)

Samuel Matsikure (Zimbabwe)

Sandrine Kamariza (Burundi)

Sibongile Ndashe (South Africa)

Sokari Ekine (Nigeria)

Solomon Wambua

Sserwanga James (Uganda)

Stanley Muiga Wangari (Kenya)

Steave Nemande (Cameroon)

Stephen McGill (Liberia)

Thomas Mukasa (Uganda)

Tony Gatore (Burundi)

Wanja Muguongo (Kenya)

Wendy Isaack (South Africa)

Zawadi Nyong’o (Kenya)

Zeitun Mohamed Haret

Botswana makes positive moves towards LGBTI and Sexworkers

Amidst the awful news from Malawi a small light of positiveness from Botswana as the government makes an unprecedented move to meet with activists from the LGBTI movement and sexworkers which might lead to the “offical acceptance of the existence of these groups”

In a coup for NACA and the advocacy group that has been campaigning for these groups to come out from the cold, the Botswana Network Of Ethics, Law and HIV/AIDS (BONELA) will lead the Lesbians, Gay and Bisexuals of Botswana (LEGABIBO) and the Research Triangle Institute (TRI) to a meeting of the National Aids Council on June 4 to discuss research findings on these groups.

TRI represents the interests of sex workers.

The aim is to chart a way forward for addressing issues of HIV/AIDS and related illnesses as well as intervention measures for these marginalised groups. The National Coordinator of NACA, Richard Matlhare, has confirmed this meeting, saying these groups cannot be ignored because the HIV/AIDS pandemic affects everyone.

“We will take the research findings to the council to discuss intervention measures that will benefit these specific people,” Matlhare said. However, he could not provide any further details on the meeting.

The meeting is anticipated as a break with the past, when the government steadfastly refused to even acknowledge the existence of homosexuals. Last year, a lesbian working for BONELA, Prisca Mogapi, and a gay member of LEGABIBO, Caine Youngman, threatened to sue the government over Section 164 of the penal code which criminalises same sex relationships.

The two wanted the ‘offending’ section to be declared unconstitutional.

Unlocking the stalemate on homophobia

With so much negativity and homophobic voices, we forget there are positive voices in the midst of all the hate talk. This one day workshop on LGBTI held in Kenya calls for the celebration of “human diversity” and addressing homosexuality in an affirmative manner.

Rebecca Masibayi PFLAG coordinator for RUWEPO said that women in Africa should know that they have an ethical and moral obligation to address the issues of homosexuality in an affirmative manner. The parents and especially the mothers should not join the masses in condemning LGBTI but instead show acceptance, tolerance, mercy, love and empathize with them. The parents should be eager to learn why the different sexual orientation?

“We have to embrace and celebrate human diversity and mothers have the key to unlocking the stalemate on homophobia”.

African women must confront their personal prejudices, myths, fears, and stereotypes regarding homosexuality. “Educating women on human sexuality is educating the whole nation and as mothers let us take it our burden to educate the society what homosexuality really is and what it isn’t”.Continue reading

Via Dan

President Museveni distances himself from Anti-Homosexuality Bill

Nonetheless it is not clear how much of the Bill he is distancing himself from so the pressure needs to be kept up as clearly it working.

Uganda: To live without fear and in peace

Victor Mukasa of SMUG Uganda shares his experience as human rights defender and gives an overview of the criminalisation of LGBTI people across Africa. Finally he calls on everyone where ever they are to publicly denounce the anti-homosexuality bill which is before the Ugandan parliament. There are reports that President Museveni will intervene to stop the passing of the law. This cannot be relied on as for one thing he has yet to make public statement on the Bill. He has been vehemently homophobic in the past and there is no reason to imagine this has changed. Even the Archbishop of York has only managed a mild criticism of the bill though he claims to be working “behind the scenes” together with the Archbishop of Canterbury. Nonetheless his opposition seems to be based on the fact that laws are already in place and not an outright condemnation of the criminalisation of LGBTI people. This is pathetic and unacceptable from someone who is the second highest Anglican Bishop in the UK and a Ugandan by birth.

As a background to my presentation, I would like to bring to your attention that 38 countries in Africa criminalize sexual acts between persons of the same sex under sodomy laws. These laws are in some states inherited by their colonial masters and for some Islamic states, these laws fall under Sharia law. The penalties for breaking these laws range between imprisonment for one year to life and in some countries, for example, Sudan and Northern Nigeria the penalty is death.

Recently, some African states, such as Burundi and Rwanda that did not have sodomy laws in their penal code acts have made efforts to include these laws. Burundi has managed to achieve this, while in Rwanda, a revision of the penal code act in which homosexuality is criminalized has been tabled in Parliament and could be passed as law soon. Uganda and Nigeria too have recently proposed legislation that further exacerbates already alarmingly harsh penalties for homosexuality.

In states that do not criminalize homosexuality and even in South Africa, the only country in Africa whose constitution recognizes sexual orientation and gender identity, LGBT people are increasingly facing violence and hate crimes. In most of these countries, religion is the instrument of oppression……….

I appeal to you all, to extend your human rights promotion work to all the corners of the earth. We cannot claim that we have been successful in our human rights work when people are still killed because they are gay, transgender, intersex, albino, indigenous, black, or poor. More urgently, as a Ugandan homosexual and transgender person, on behalf of all Ugandan LGBTI people, I appeal to you all to publicly denounce the anti homosexuality bill that is before Parliament.
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Lawyers from across Africa gather to discuss LGBT rights

LGBTI activists and lawyers who have been working on LGBT rights met in South Africa to discuss a number of high profile cases on the continent such as the arrest of 11 Cameroonians in 2005, the continued arrest of 18 men on sodomy charges in Northern Nigeria and the Ooyo and Mukasa v. Attorney General of Uganda in their successful challenge on the violations of their rights.

Lawyers, activist leaders and donors attending the meeting acknowledged the importance of impact litigation for repealing sodomy laws and challenging other discriminatory statutes and policies.

Such litigation however needs to be situated within the context of local, national and regional LGBT groups.

Participants discussed the need for security for lawyers defending LGBT clients and causes. Many of the lawyers at the meeting had faced attacks on their reputations, attempts at disbarment, and even physical violence…… Continue reading

‘Is African identity a house of ideas that imprisons and silences?’*

The criminalization of homosexuality in Nigeria is one of the laws left over from the colonial period and is based on the then-British law against sodomy. In 1967 homosexuality was decriminalized in Britain. However, many of the former British colonies which were by then independent did not follow suit. The colonial laws remain in place today in countries such as Nigeria and Uganda, as well as in India.

In January 2006 the Nigerian Government under President Obasanjo announced theintroduction of a Bill which would eradicate the rights of LGBTI people in Nigeria as well as anyone or group who supported them. The Bill was a huge shift away from the present law (which carries a maximum of 14 years imprisonment); it also criminalized same sex Marriage and the adoption of children by same-sex couples. Even more worrying was the addition of criminalizing anyone who associated with gays, lesbians or transgender/transsexual people  and the outlawing of any club, association or gathering of LGBTI people.

The Anglican Church in Nigeria, led by Bishop Peter Akinola,  has played a huge part in fuelling religious and state  sanctioned homophobia in the country. In early 2005 some 300 Nigerian bishops met to discuss future ties with the global Anglican church and used the meeting to declare homosexuality as ‘unAfrican’, ‘unbiblical’ and ‘unnatural‘. The Bill was so draconian that even Nigerians were reluctant to agree to it when it was presented to the Senate. The Bishops, along with the Nigerian Government, clearly failed to see the irony of declaring homosexuality ‘unAfrican’ and ‘unbiblical’ when Christianity was to a large extent imposed on the people of Nigeria by the British colonial government and missionaries.

It is very possible that the Senate’s response was also based on the international outcry and the objections raised by local Human Rights Defenders. Human Rights Watchpublished a report condemning the Bill, which contravened international law on Human Rights.  Although the Bill was eventually shelved, a brief glance at the comments left in the blogosphere and on Facebook shows the hostility and uncompromising position of the majority of Nigerians towards LGBTI people.

Some two years later, LGBTI people continue to face harrassment and violence and a number of activists have had to seek asylum in the West. Now, the Bill has resurfaced – or rather metamorphosed – into the Same Gender Prohibition Bill. The latest Bill has already been passed by the Lower House of Representatives and it is doubtful there will be any dissent this time in the Senate. The new Bill is, however, considerably different from the 2006 version: it is limited to prohibiting same-sex marriage and does not include criminalizing by association or criminalizing any form of protest, be it through the media (such as blogs or Facebook) or organizations, clubs and gatherings. The point of the new Bill is not clear: since homosexuality is already illegal then by inference any marriage between two men or two women would be as well. It seems the legislators are pandering to religious bigotry and going through a process of ‘saving face’. But I believe the Bill also needs to be seen in the context of continuing human rights abuses in Nigeria as well asmedia censorship and attacks on freedom of speech.

The quote ‘Is African identity a house of ideas that imprisons and silences?’ is from Nigerian writer Amos Tutola