Tag Archives: Uganda Anti Homosexuality Bill

It is legalized homophobia, not same-sex relations, that is alien to Africa

From Al Jazeera America, Ugandan academic,  professor of law at Makerere University in Uganda, Sylvia Tamale on legalized homophobia in Africa.  Professor Tamale is the editor of African Sexualities published by Fahamu Press.

 

During a prime time interview with BBC’s “Hard Talk” show in March 2012, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni noted, “Homosexuals in small numbers have always existed in our part of black Africa …They were never prosecuted. They were never discriminated.”

Earlier this year, confronted by internal and external pressure, Museveni reversed himself and signed the Anti-Homosexuality Bill in the full glare of the media — declaring that homosexuality was Western-imposed. Before signing the law, Museveni asked a team of top-notch Ugandan scientists to help him make an educated decision. The panel’s report did not mince words: “In every society, there is a small number of people with homosexual tendencies.”

Museveni’s bizarre actions can only be interpreted as a political ploy ahead of presidential elections scheduled for early 2016. Having been at the helm since 1986, Museveni faces serious competition both within and outside his party, not to mention a restless population afflicted by a high cost of living, unemployment and a general disgust with rampant corruption. By the stroke of a pen, Museveni succumbed to populist pressures and condemned an otherwise law-abiding sexual minority to maximum sentences of life imprisonment.

Uganda is not alone in its anti-gay crusade. Nigeria recently passed a law criminalizing homosexuality. Several other African countries — including Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Cameroon and Sierra Leone — have all expressed the desire to emulate Uganda and Nigeria. At least 38 African countries already proscribe consensual same-sex behavior.

The sad, tired but widely accepted myth that homosexuality is un-African has been valorized and erected on the altar of falsehood time after time. It is a myth that has been played out in numerous contexts, most recently over the debate on Uganda’s anti-homosexuality bill. However, historical facts demand that this fable be debunked once and for all.

African sexualities

The ‘homosexuality is un-African’ myth is anchored on an old practice of selectively invoking African culture by those in power. African women are familiar with the mantra. “It is un-African” whenever they assert their rights, particularly those rights that involve reproductive autonomy and sexual sovereignty.

The mistaken claim that anything is un-African is based on the essentialist assumption that Africa is a homogeneous entity. In reality, however, Africa is made up of thousands of ethnic groups with rich and diverse cultures and sexualities. As appealing as the notion of African culture may be to some people, no such thing exists. Moreover, even if we wanted to imagine an authentic African culture, like all others, it would not be static.

African history is replete with examples of both erotic and nonerotic same-sex relationships. For example, the ancient cave paintings of the San people near Guruve in Zimbabwe depict two men engaged in some form of ritual sex. During precolonial times, the “mudoko dako,” or effeminate males among the Langi of northern Uganda were treated as women and could marry men. In Buganda, one of the largest traditional kingdoms in Uganda, it was an open secret that Kabaka (king) Mwanga II, who ruled in the latter half of the 19th century, was gay.

The vocabulary used to describe same-sex relations in traditional languages, predating colonialism, is further proof of the existence of such relations in precolonial Africa. To name but a few, the Shangaan of southern Africa referred to same-sex relations as “inkotshane” (male-wife); Basotho women in present-day Lesotho engage in socially sanctioned erotic relationships called “motsoalle” (special friend) and in the Wolof language, spoken in Senegal, homosexual men are known as “gor-digen” (men-women). But to be sure, the context and experiences of such relationships did not necessarily mirror homosexual relations as understood in the West, nor were they necessarily consistent with what we now describe as a gay or queer identity.

Same-sex relationships in Africa were far more complex than what the champions of the “un-African” myth would have us believe. Apart from erotic same-sex desire, in precolonial Africa, several other activities were involved in same-sex (or what the colonialists branded “unnatural”) sexuality. For example, the Ndebele and Shona in Zimbabwe, the Azande in Sudan and Congo, the Nupe in Nigeria and the Tutsi in Rwanda and Burundi all engaged in same-sex acts for spiritual rearmament — i.e., as a source of fresh power for their territories. It was also used for ritual purposes. Among various communities in South Africa, sex education among adolescent peers allowed them to experiment through acts such as “thigh sex” (“hlobonga” among the Zulu, “ukumetsha” among the Xhosa and “gangisa” among the Shangaan)…. Continued on Al Jazeera America

Behind the Christian Right in Africa

From Foreign Policy in Focus,”It’s Not Just Uganda: Behind the Christian Right’s Onslaught in Africa” by Nathalie Baptiste

In Uganda, being gay can now earn you a lifetime in prison.

Last month, the East African country was again thrust into the international spotlight after President Yoweri Museveni signed into law a draconian bill that criminalized homosexuality. The high profile, on-and-off battle over the so-called “kill the gays” bill has drawn headlines for years as the most extreme example in a wave of antigay legislation on the continent. But homophobia in Africa is not merely an African problem.

As the gay rights movement has gained traction in the United States, the more virulently homophobic ideologies of the religious right have been pushed further out of the mainstream and into fringe territory. But as their influence has waned at home, right-wing evangelists from the United States have been flexing their sanctimonious muscles influencing policymakers in Africa.

For years now, evangelical activists from the United States have been injecting themselves into African politics, speaking out against homosexuality and cheering on antigay legislation on the continent. The influence of these groups has been well documented in Uganda. The now-defunct Exodus International, for example, sent Don Schmierer, a board member, to Uganda in 2009 to speak at a conference alongside Scott Lively, a pastor who was later sued by a Ugandan gay rights group for his role in promoting human rights violations against LGBTQ people. The two participated in a disturbing anti-gay conference, where speakers blamed homosexuals for the rise of Nazism and the Rwandan genocide, among other abhorrent acts. Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, a hard-right Christian group that is active in U.S. politics as well, similarly supported anti-gay laws in Uganda. At the peak of controversy over the “kill the gays” bill, Perkins praised the Ugandan president for “leading his nation to repentance.”

But such groups aren’t just active in Uganda. They have promoted antigay legislation in Kenya, Nigeria, and Zimbabwe, just to name a few other places. The support ranges from popular agitation and sideline cheerleading to outright intervention.

In 2010, for example, when Zimbabwe began the process of drafting a new constitution, the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ)—a Christian law firm founded by evangelist Pat Robertson—launched a Zimbabwean counterpart called the African Centre for Law and Justice. The outpost trained lawyers for the express purpose of putting a Christian stamp on the draft of the new constitution.

The African Centre joined forces with the Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe (EFZ), an indigenous organization, to promote constitutional language affirming that Zimbabwe is a Christian nation and ensuring that homosexuality remained illegal. These and other hardline views are outlined in a pamphlet distributed by the EFZ and ACLJ. Jordan Sekulow, the executive director of ACLJ, announced that his organization would lobby for Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe in political and religious circles in the event of any controversy over the provisions, despite the fact that the Zimbabwean president has been sanctioned by the United States and the European Union for violating human rights. Last year, Zimbabwe’s new constitution, which includes a ban on gay marriage, was approved by an overwhelming popular vote.

ACLJ’s Kenyan-based offshoot, the East African Center for Law and Justice (EACLJ), made an effort to lobby against Kenya’s progressive new constitution as well. In April 2010, a report on the group’s website called homosexuality “unacceptable” and “foreign” and called for the Kenyan constitution to clearly define marriage as between a man and a woman, thus closing the door on future laws that could attempt to legalize same-sex marriage. In this case the ECLJ was unsuccessful, and the new constitution was approved without any language regarding same-sex marriage.

Pat Robertson’s entanglements in Africa go well beyond Zimbabwe and Kenya.

In 1960, Robertson created The Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN), which broadcasts through cable and satellite to over 200 countries. Robertson is a co-host on the 700 Club, arguably CBN’s most popular show. From his perch on the show, Roberts has made a seemingly endless variety of inflammatory remarks about LGBTQ people and just about everyone else that does not fall in line with his own religious thinking.

In the United States, Robertson’s vitriol can be brushed aside as the antiquated ravings of a fringe figure. Not so in much of Africa. A survey conducted in 2010 found that 74 million people in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, had watched at least one CBN show in the previous year. That’s a remarkable reach considering Nigeria is home to over 80 million Christians…….

Robertson’s influence plays into an increasingly hostile political climate for gays in the country. Last January, Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan signed into law the Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition Act, which provides punishments of up to 14 years imprisonment for a gay marriage and up to 10 years for membership in or encouragement of gay clubs and organizations. The enactment of the law was followed by a wave of arrests of gay men—and widespread denouncement from the international community. Continue Reading

 

Museveni and reconstruction of homophobic colonial legacy in Africa

From Pambazuka News,  “Museveni and reconstruction of homophobic colonial legacy in Africa: Which way progressives?”  Horace Campbell on the passing of ‘legizlations of hate” in Uganda and Nigeria exposes the historical roots of right wing American Christian fundamentalists which goes back to lynching of Black Americans, a Eurgenic agenda  support of Apartheid and demonisation of Haitians and the 1804 independence.

As the legalization of hate towards same-gender loving persons gains traction in parts of Africa, it is the task of Pan African progressives and decent humans everywhere to expose this orchestrated destructive cultural war. This assault, fomented by some of the most conservative and racist Christian fundamentalists in America, is an attempt to reconstruct the divisive homophobic colonial legacy in Africa. This wave of extremism is in the same category as the activities of some of the most conservative Muslim fundamentalists who attempt to sponsor the imposition of archaic religious laws on Africans. In the midst of the confusion and moral façade under which these religious fanatics operate, the progressive Pan Africanist must speak up decisively. Two weeks ago Pambazuka News carried a splendid issue opposing this wave of hate and I want to join in opposing this legislation of hatred and intolerance. More than thirteen years ago when the Black Radical Congress was still a vibrant political force in the USA it had issued the statement, ‘African Leaders Hide Political Woes Behind Homophobia.’ [1]

On February 20, Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni signed into law the Anti-Homosexuality Bill also dubbed as ‘Jail the Gays Bill,’ criminalizing same-sex relationships with up to life imprisonment. This Anti-Homosexuality Act 2014 (previously called the ‘Kill the Gays Bill’ in the media due to the originally proposed death penalty clauses), was originally passed by the Parliament of Uganda on 20 December 2013. Because of the international outcry over the death penalty proposal in the bill, this death penalty clause was dropped in favour of life in prison. One day after Museveni signed this bill into law, a Ugandan newspaper published a list of what it called the country’s 200 top homosexuals, outing some people who previously had not identified themselves as gay. This came only weeks after Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan signed into law a similar bill that would punish same-gender loving persons with up to 14 years in prison.

After signing the bill, Museveni referred to gays as ‘disgusting’ human beings, while suggesting that his action was intended ‘to demonstrate Uganda’s independence in the face of Western pressure and provocation.’ Museveni echoed an irony when he categorically stated that ‘we do not want anybody to impose their views on us.’ Janet and Yoweri Museveni have been supporters of the most conservative Christian fundamentalists in the USA and they have not been shy about their loyalty to these social elements in North America. [2] That Museveni was ready and willing to sign the original version of the bill was a reflection of the politics of retrogression in Uganda. That he equivocated with a statement about seeking scientific evidence on the sources of homosexuality was a demonstration of his insecurity and opportunism. This opportunism has been the trademark of Museveni since the days in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, when he posed as the most radical anti-imperialist of the elements of the Dar es Salaam School. Ultimately, Museveni calculated that his alliance and loyalty to conservative Christian fundamentalists was more important than any kind of reasoning that he may have had with former Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa. The Anti-Homosexuality Bill was crafted with the help and influence of some white supremacist, right wing Christian fundamentalists from the USA. [3] Prominent among these extremists was Scott Lively. Lively has since been charged for crimes against humanity in US court for his role in engineering the Uganda Anti-Gay Bill. [4]

The activities of American fundamentalists and individuals who influenced Ugandan leaders and helped craft the country’s anti-gay bills have been chronicled by researcher Kapya John Kaoma in the publications titled, ‘Colonizing African Values’. [5] (See also, by the same author, ‘Globalizing the Culture Wars: US Conservatives, African Churches, and Homophobia’.) [6] As noted by Kaoma, pioneers of the present wave of homophobia in Africa are ‘U.S. Christian Right figures including the internationally prominent Baptist pastor and bestselling author, Rick Warren; Scott Lively, the anti-gay, Holocaust revisionist; and Lou Engle, head of the revivalist group, The Call, and a leader in the right-wing New Apostolic Reformation movement…. [T]hey are contributing to the atmosphere of intolerance that is resulting in ‘instances of harassment, discrimination, persecution, violence and murders committed against individuals because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.’”

This atmosphere of hate, discrimination, harassment, persecution and lynching was perfected by the white supremacist bred in a country – USA – that for nearly a century enshrined in its constitution and justified the notion that the black personhood is only 3/5th of a normal human being. It is against the backdrop of this inherent dehumanization associated with the legalization of hate that African progressives must stand up and speak out against the wave of anti-gay laws blowing across the continent from Zimbabwe to Cameroon, Uganda, Nigeria and elsewhere.

Rights of same gender loving persons are human rights that are inextricably linked with the rights of every person in society. Yoweri Museveni’s claim on the anti-imperialist mantle comes from the silence of the progressive Pan-Africanist Left in Africa. Inside Uganda, Kizza Besigye, (a leader of the opposition) attacked the new laws signed by Museveni. He disputed the claim that homosexuality was ‘foreign’ and said the issue was being used to divert attention from domestic problems. Three years ago the Ugandan scholar, Sylvia Tamala, published the book ‘African Sexualities: A Reader’. [7] This ground breaking reader is still not widely known, and it will be important for many to read such works to engage this debate. What is significant is the stunning silence of well-known radicals in Uganda and East Africa on this criminalization of Africa’s LGBT community. Where are the scholars of the Dar es Salaam school on this issue?

South Africa has a progressive constitution that guarantees all people’s rights. But anywhere leaders are insecure they turn to bigotry, hate and the politics of exclusion to gain popularity. The most outrageous was Robert Mugabe who called homosexuals ‘pigs and dogs.’ And yet, many progressives still see Mugabe as a great revolutionary. More than ten years ago when I wrote on ‘Homophobia in Zimbabwe and the Politics of Intolerance,’ [8] some sections of the global Pan African movement objected and continued to praise Mugabe as anti-imperialist. In Nairobi, at a public meeting in 2011, young radicals from Bunge la Mwananchi (people’s parliament) were vociferous in their proclamation of intolerance to same-gender loving persons even while they were loudly opposing all other forms of oppression in Kenya.

Progressives in Africa must resist the ostensible moral appeal of the religious extremists and be humble enough to admit that there are some complex phenomena about human sexuality that require the critical questioning of popularly biased sentiments. There has to be an in-depth anthropological interrogation of generalizations and assumptions in present day Africa, as well as the probing of pre-colonial African societies and practices that were overshadowed by colonial laws and ordinances. Precolonial African societies were not homogenous but rather complex, diverse, and multidimensional. In the book, ‘Male Daughters, Female Husbands: Gender and Sex in an African Society’, [9] anthropologist Ifi Amadiume sheds light on the fluidity of sexuality in a precolonial Ibo society. This conceptualization of flexible gender relations was a real breakthrough and more work needs to be done to expose the myths that there were no same-gender relationships in Africa before colonialism. Other works of anthropology have responded to Amadiume and have investigated the reality of sexuality in some precolonial African societies (see for example, ‘Boy-Wives and Female Husbands: Studies of African Homosexualities’). [10]

Across Africa, the Western hegemons imposed their religion, languages, cultures and laws while demonizing or outlawing pre-existing practices. Most ‘educated’ Africans eventually internalized the Western ways, including the laws and religions that were bequeathed by colonialism. Societies such as Nigeria and Uganda were not an exception, and that is why same sex relationship was already not recognized by these countries’ constitutions which themselves are a colonial legacy. Thus, the promulgation of the anti-gay laws amounts to a reconstruction or reinforcement of a Western colonial legacy.

Many of the right wing American Christian fundamentalists that are financing and lobbying for the anti-gay laws in Africa are known for their eugenic agenda and were heavily in support of apartheid and destabilization in Africa during the Cold War. Some of them, including televangelist Pat Robertson, have not only opposed civil rights for Blacks in America but are also advocates of American exceptionalism and imperialism. It was the same Pat Robertson who at the time of the devastating earthquake in Haiti in 2010 said that there was the earthquake in Haiti because the people had signed a ‘pact to the devil.’ This was his understanding of the Haitian revolution which overthrew slavery and colonialism in 1804.

These conservative forces and their corporate backers are still working hard in America to reduce voting rights for blacks and browns, assault women’s and minorities’ rights, increase military budgets at the expense of funding for healthcare and education, as well as oppose programs and policies that benefit low wage workers and the exploited in the USA. They tend to be losing the culture war against the rising multi-racial tide in America, hence their intensification of the struggle in Africa. As one analyst puts it: ‘The U.S. culture wars are still not understood in African circles.’

While some tendencies within African Christianity share charismatic beliefs with U.S. Christian Right campaigners, the African Church in general is more social-justice-oriented and concerned about the exploited and the disenfranchised. Social justice and human rights advocates must expose the U.S. Christian Right’s opposition to social justice initiatives in the United States—and their historic alignment with White supremacist and repressive regimes in Africa.

Pan-Africanists and progressives cannot sit on the fence at this decisive moment. They must choose to be either in alliance with conservative forces opposed to social justice and equality or join forces with those who want equal rights and social justice for all Wole Soyinka has spoken out against these laws – which he referred to as ‘legislative zealotry.’ [11] In continuation of the tradition of their late father, the sons of Fela Kuti the Afrobeat maestro – Femi Kuti and Seun Kuti – have both made decisive statements against the anti-gay laws. [12] Author Chimamanda Adichie has done same. [13] It’s time for many more progressive Africans to take a stand.

Also see the Pambazuka Special issue : The Struggle for Homosexual Rights in Africa

 

The year of the homophobes

The Anti-Gay Law in Uganda and the Miracle of Denial from MarkFiore on Vimeo.

Phumzile Mtetwa & Val Kalende on Anti-LGBTI Legislation

On Africa Today with Walter Turner, Phumzile Mtetwa  and Val Kalende discuss resistance strategies around the recent legislation from Uganda and Nigeria criminalising LGBTIQ people in those countries.

 

 

 

 

 

“Walking With Shadows” by Jude Dibia [A Review]

From the Nation, Kenya a review of Nigerian novelist, Jude Dibia’s novel “Walking With Shadows

If I were to write a novel to respond to the anti-gay politics seeping through the Ugandan border into Kenya, it would probably be like the Nigerian author Jude Dibia’s Walking with Shadows. But I’d write mine in my mother tongue.

Dibia’s novel is a fearless book that is reputed to be the first work by a Nigerian literary artiste to explore in detail the theme of male homosexuality.

Dibia is a bold writer. One of the many admirers of Kenya’s Binyavanga Wainaina, the Nigerian writer does not shy away from taboo topics, including writing graphically about incest. His other favourite authors include Toni Morrison, James Baldwin, and Virginia Woolf.

Besides Binyavanga, among Dibia’s contemporaries the Nigerian novelist is most closely drawn to the Zimbabwean Petina Gappah (author of An Elegy for Easterly) and NoViolet Bulawayo (pen name of Elizabeth Tshele, author of We Need New Names).

Born in 1975, Dibia belongs to the “third generation” of Nigerian writers, a loose group of artistes that comprises such household names as Chris Abani, Helon Habila, Sefi Atta, and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Adichie is the best known in Kenya among these writers.

Dibia’s Walking with Shadows was first published in Nigeria by Blacksands Books in 2005.

Noting the pervasive presence of subversive queer desire, one of the leading queer theorists in the world today, Tavia Nyong’o (cousin to our golden Lupita), urges us to take seriously that “figure of absolute abjection that is, paradoxically, part of our everyday experience.”

Dibia uses language exquisitely to examine an issue that many writers would give a wide berth: homosexuality among married men in Africa.

Sympathy for gay people in Wole Soyinka’s The Interpreters (1965) is very oblique. It took Gaurav Desai’s essay, ‘Out in Africa’ (1997), to clarify to most critics that Soyinka’s novel is not homophobic in its portrayal of one of its characters, Joe Golder, as both African American and gay.

Like the South African K. Sello Duiker — author of The Quiet Violence of Dreams (2001) and Thirteen Cents (2000) — Dibia is more open in his sympathies towards gay men than Soyinka in The Interpreters. However, Dibia avoids the confrontational tone we encounter in Duiker, some of whose passages read like angry pornography for the queer oppressed.

Dibia’s novel is a deftly told story about Adrian, a Nigerian head of a risk business unit. His job description connotes the “risks” he has to negotiate around, as he is also a gay man in the closet, married to a beautiful woman, the father of gorgeous daughter, and a respected mentor to many young men.

It becomes public that Adrian is gay, thanks to Tayo Onasanya, a former employee whom Adrian had sacked for corruption. Tayo learnt about Adrian’s sexual orientation from a lesbian mutual friend.

The narrator depicts in detail and with great sympathy the crisis that hits Adrian when his wife, Ada, is told about his sexual past.

His relatives’ responses are varied. Younger people sympathetically reach out to Adrian, but his elder brother, Chiedu, engages a priest to exorcise the ghost of gayness from Adrian.

The novel broaches several issues about sexuality. It demonstrates that even the most liberal people might become suddenly conservative when it comes to homosexuality.

Adrian’s wife, an innovative interior designer, is not one to believe in such a thing as an immutable African culture. But it is impossible for Ada to even begin to wrap her mind around her husband’s non-normative sexual desire.

Although he insists he had not slept with a man since he met his wife, Ada cannot believe what she has heard about her husband’s sexuality even without waiting for him to put everything in context.

She asks: “You knew this and still deceived me and still married me and still had the guts to make love to me and put your thing in me!”

The infelicitous repetition of “still” signals her shock, anger and bewilderment. The narrator rubs in her disbelief to also underscore her coldness towards a man she had claimed to love.

“She could not bring herself to look at him,” the narrator says. “She kept trying to wipe out the mental image in her head about him and another man.”

Queer theorists mostly see sexual identity as socially constructed. But Dibia’s novel seems to present Adrian’s gayness as congenital. He has always liked boys and enjoys playing girls’ games as a kid.

In presenting Adrian’s homosexuality as somewhat in-born, the author is trying to enhance our sympathy towards the character. There is nothing Adrian can do about his gayness. He would even want to leave it behind him, to no avail.

MANY VIRTUES

The novel has many virtues in its characterisation. While men are usually presented negatively in novels critical of patriarchy, African feminist novels usually depict at least one good man who is sympathetic to women’s issues in order to avoid demonising all men as gender-insensitive.

Following this trajectory, Dibia added an episode in a revised edition of the novel published in South Africa in 2007, in which a straight young man, Rotimi, stands by Adrian in his troubles at work.

We learn from Rotimi, one of the novel’s voices of reason, that right-thinking straight people should always stand with the oppressed minorities.

From its inception in the 1950s, African writing has always painted the folly of a society that mistreats its minorities. For example, in Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, the society disintegrates partly because it pushes its minorities to defect to new religions.

Male gay novels tend to represent women negatively, including lesbians. Although we don’t see many positive traits among female characters in Dibia’s Walking with Shadows, Dibia is deferential to the few women who feature in the novel.

His next novel, Unbridled (2007) is, to the best of my knowledge, the only African novel by a male writer that convincingly uses an autobiographical female voice. It is hard to tell from the story itself that the author is male.

Reminiscent of Nuruddin Farah’s Ebla in From a Crooked Rib (1970), Ngozi in Dibia’s Unbridled narrates with great candour her experiences in abusive relationships. But unlike Farah’s novel, Dibia’s work uses the first person narrative voice.

Besides Walking with Shadows and Unbridled, Dibia is the author of Blackbird (2011), an equally provocative novel about the moral and political corruption in Africa.

Dibia’s Walking with Shadows demonstrates that queer is the new colonised. But it does not explore in detail the factors behind homophobia among African elites, except suggesting that homophobes are either stuck in the past or are negatively influenced by American Pentecostalism.

According to Richard Ryan, a professor of psychology at the University of Rochester, homophobes are usually closeted gay people.

The all-male anti-gay caucus in Kenya’s Parliament and the equally comical all-male Maendeleo ya Wanaume should be read in a similar light when they make statements dismissing “gayism” (sic) and “resbianism” (sic): they are acting out their repressed homosexuality.

African groups call for the African Union to urgently respond to gender and sexuality rights violations in Africa, and particularly to anti-gay laws recently passed in Uganda and Nigeria

African groups call for the African Union to urgently respond to gender and sexuality rights violations in Africa, and
particularly to anti-gay laws recently passed in Uganda and Nigeria

As African civil society organisations whose members live and work to improve the lives of all Africans, we condemn in the strongest terms, the disturbing increase in sexuality and gender-related rights violations and abuses, especially those aimed at women and gender non-conforming people, and people in same sex relations including lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans-identifying African people.

Specifically, we condemn the signing of the Nigerian Same-Sex Marriage [Prohibition] Act and the Ugandan Anti-Homosexuality Act, both of which were passed into law this year by Presidents Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria and Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, respectively. We also strongly condemn the Anti-Pornography Law, which was passed in Uganda last year.

In defence of African people whom these laws target, we seek recourse through the African Union (AU) and its organs.

We also call on the AU Chairperson, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, to make a public statement condemning both the Nigerian and Ugandan laws, and providing African citizens with a roadmap for how the AU Commission plans to address laws that violate gender and sexuality-related rights amongst member states.

EXTREME VIOLATIONS
Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act criminalises homosexuality—defining it as “same sex or gender sexual acts”—with punishment ranging from seven years to life imprisonment. Those who are found guilty of “aiding and abetting homosexuality” also face up to seven years in prison. Uganda’s Anti-Pornography Act places limitations on ‘appropriate’ dress code for women, specifically banning miniskirts and any other clothing deemed to “cause sexual excitement”.

The Nigerian Same-Sex Marriage [Prohibition] Act goes further than its stated purpose by criminalizing the registration of ‘gay clubs, societies and organisations and banning the public show of a same sex ‘amorous’ relationship either directly or indirectly, carrying a ten year prison sentence for such acts.

These laws have already forced people from their schools, work and homes out of fear and due to their safety being threatened. The levels of violence, threats, and abusive and hate speech have escalated dramatically as homophobic laws have been put in place. We note with alarm that in both Uganda and Nigeria,  the passage of these laws have been accompanied by acts of murder, rape, assault, arbitrary arrest and detention and other forms of persecution of persons on the basis of their imputed or real sexual orientation and gender identity. The climate of fear and hate was further escalated in Uganda by the publication of a list of “200 Top Homosexuals” in Red Pepper Newspaper, with the headline “Exposed”, immediately following President Museveni’s signing of the Anti-Homosexuality Act. This constitutes a gross violation of media ethics and of human rights, both of which, we argue, are punishable under Ugandan law.

States have an obligation to protect the rights of all citizens, regardless of gender or sexuality. States have a responsibility to protect the rights of all who live in their borders. States should not be creating the conditions in which violence by non-state actors are justified or encouraged. Nor should the state set itself up as a threat to its own citizens and block them from living with basic levels of freedom as both Uganda and Nigeria have done.

We reject arguments made by the heads of state of both Uganda and Nigeria, that consensual same-sex relations are “unAfrican”, and we condemn in the strongest terms the comments of political, religious and cultural leaders who have used similar rhetoric to incite hatred against persons perceived to be homosexual.

We celebrate and echo the strong voices of African leaders who have rejected these claims and who continue to condemn discrimination, violence and human rights violations based on real or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity. We align ourselves with all Africans who have spoken out in the face of these unjust laws and who have continued to call for respect for diversity and for all Africans to embrace the African idea of Ubuntu –our shared humanity.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, stated in respect of the Nigerian law, “Rarely have I seen a piece of legislation that in so few paragraphs directly violates so many basic, universal human rights.” Former President of Mozambique, Joaqium Chissano, in an open letter to African leaders said, “I encourage leaders to take a strong stand for fundamental human rights, and advance the trajectory for basic freedoms…This simply means granting every one the freedom and the means to make informed decisions about very basic aspects of one’s life – one’s sexuality, health, and if, when and with whom to have relationships, marry or have children – without any form of discrimination, coercion or violence.”

Given its mandate as the human rights organ of the African Union, we call upon the African Union Commission, as well as the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, to condemn all homophobic and anti-gay laws that have either been passed, or are being proposed, throughout Africa, and further respond urgently to the increasingly violent acts that precede and follow these laws.
– Statement by African civil society organisations listed below.

Contact:
Lucinda van den Heever, Sonke Gender Justice : (+27) 72 994 3138
Kene Esom, African Men for Sexual Health and Rights : (+27) 11 242 6801
Sheena Magenya, Coalition of African Lesbians : (+27) 11 403 0004/7

List of signing organisations:
African Men for Sexual Health and Rights (AMSHER)
Africa Regional Civil Society Platform on Health
AIDS Accountability International
Coalition of African Lesbians (CAL)
Gay and Lesbian Memory in Action (GALA)
Gay and Lesbian Network (Pietermaritzburg)
Gender DynamiX
HOPEM (Men For Change) Mozambique
Signing organisations (continued):
International HIV/AIDS Alliance
MenEngage Namibia
MenEngage Zimbabwe
MenEngage Zambia
MenEngage Kenya
Out in Africa
SANAC Women’s Sector
Sonke Gender Justice
South African Council of Churches Youth Forum
Triangle Project
World AIDS Campaign
Women’s Global Network for Reproductive Rights
Background for Editors
Provision of the laws
While there are close to 40 African countries that criminalise consensual sexual conducts between persons of the same sex, the new laws enacted by Nigeria and Uganda goes further by criminalising peoples’ sexual orientation and identities regardless of sexual conduct. They also include such egregious provisions.

The Nigerian Same-Sex Marriage [Prohibition] Act [A1] includes:
•             a provision for a 14-year prison term for anyone who enters into a same sex union,
•             a ten-year prison term for anyone who ‘administers, witnesses, abets or aids’ a same sex marriage or civil union ceremony.
•             The law states that ‘a person or group of persons who … supports the registration, operation and sustenance of gay clubs, societies, organizations, processions or meetings in Nigeria commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a term of 10 years imprisonment.’

The Uganda Anti-Homosexuality Act: [A2]
•             introduces a series of crimes listed as “aggravated homosexuality” – including sex with a minor or while HIV positive;
•             criminalises lesbianism for the first time;
•             makes it a crime to help individuals engage in homosexual acts;
•             makes homosexual acts punishable with life in prison.

A Word to 9Jas {Poems of Resistance}

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Africa LGBTIQ – aid conditionality & LGBT Rights

From Paper Bird by Scott Long   -  “Resources for the unbelievers on aid conditionality and Africa LGBT Rights

I’ve been working desultorily (a beautiful word: say it slowly: it seems to capture being lazy but just alive enough to claim you’re still doing something) on an article on aid conditionality and LGBT rights.

This all comes, of course, from the controversy launched last fall by David Cameron’s declaring his government would cut development assistance to governments that committed violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity. This statement was idiotic in the pure, Greek sense: Cameron was, in essence, talking to himself. It came without any prior consulting with activists in the countries in question, and was an ill-planned effort to get domestic voices in the UK to shut up and stop pressuring the PM.(They did, obediently.) The ensuing backlash, across Africa and elsewhere, proved exceedingly discouraging about the idea. However, Hillary Clinton’s announcement that LGBT rights were a new US global priority gave new life to the project, and US advocates have urged the Obama administration to enlist American foreign aid money in the cause.

Northern governments have ben conditioning development aid on other issues for a while, especially in the last 30 years– usually affixing economic strings (hire our consultants! buy our goods! privatize your hospitals, if you want our aid!), less often political or rights-related ones.  I’ll raise specific questions in my article about whether something around sexuality- and gender-related abuses makes them peculiarly resistant to being stopped by such linkages. There are also legitimate concerns, though, about whether such linkages ever work the way they’re meant to, or are ever justified. I’m skeptical they do, or are. I’d like to get some discussion going as I finish the article, and so I’ll share some resources here for others who are skeptical, or in favor, or undecided, in hopes you’ll argue or respond. Respond! Use the comments section, or write me directly.

1) First off: here’s an interview with Radhika Balakrishnan, of the Center for Women’s Global Leadership, that lays out some of the concerns with conditionality clearly.

2) The October 2011 statement by dozens of African activists opposing aid conditionality in the LGBT rights sphere is here. Hakima Abbas’s “Aid, Resistance, and Queer Power” expands on its points; her essay can be found in this booklet from Sexuality Policy Watch (pp. 16-19) along with “Aid conditionality and respect for LGBT people’s rights” by Luis Abolafia Anguita (pp. 9-15).

3) An especially important paper you should examine is this report by AWID (the Association of Women in Development), succinctly called Conditionalities Undermine the Right to Development. It sets out a wide range of facts and arguments on the issue. Because it’s 128 pages long, I’ll try in the following points to summarize some of the background with which it deals.

4) A lot of people (including many of those pushing for aid conditionality) don’t know about the political negotiations in the last 10 years over the issue of how aid works, or doesn’t. By “political” I mean: Northern and Southern governments have actually discussed the subject, sometimes with each other! In 2005, a major ministerial-level meeting produced the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness, responding to a wide perception that aid wasn’t being … well, effective. Over 100 countries joined to affirm five pillars of meaningful assistance: Ownership, Harmonisation, Alignment, Results and Mutual Accountability. (OHARMA?)  OK, enough buzzwords. The key commitment under “Ownership” was that conditions on aid, if any, should be jointly owned. Donors should

draw conditions, whenever possible, from a partner’s national development strategy … Other conditions would be included only when a sound justification exists and would be undertaken transparently and in close consultation with other donors and stake holders.

Pragmatically, this recognized that conditions imposed from outside simply weren’t being met. Three years later, another high-level forum in Ghana produced the Accra Agenda for Action (AAA, a way better acronym). This proclaimed, “We will continue to change the nature of conditionality to support ownership” by developing countries. It mandated donors to “work with developing countries to agree on a limited set of mutually agreed conditions based on national development strategies,” and to “document and disseminate good practices on conditionality.”

Both these documents can be found here, and straightforward summaries are here and here. It’s important to see that the emphasis on joint commitments, as opposed to taking aid hostage, severely limits how far donor governments should use aid to enforce rights goals that aren’t fully shared (or aren’t integrated into development strategies). Do we want LGBT rights to be the basis for backtracking on these principles?

Anti-Debt Coalition activists protest an Asian Development Bank (ADB) meeting, Jakarta, 2009 (Reuters)

5) Civil societies and social movements engaged intensely in the lead-up to the Paris and Accra meetings, as well as a further gathering in Busan, Korea, in 2011. And while you might suppose that women’s movements, for example, would want aid more conditioned on rights policies — since they were urging women’s rights and gender equality as core components of development planning – almost exclusively they called for less conditionality. Part of their reasoning involved the possible devastating effect of slashes in aid. They also saw that conditions foreign governments imposed actually prevented civil society in developing countries from being part of the rights discussion: everything turned into an argument between the donor and recipient governments, with domestic voices ignored. A broad coalition of feminist and gender-equality groups in 2011, for instance, called on donors to

[m]ove away from policy conditionalities towards consistent application of concepts of multiple responsibility, accountability and transparency among both donor and developing countries. This could be advanced, for example, by supporting democratic scrutiny of development goals, policies and results. Policy conditionalities can have negative impacts on people, particularly on women and girls. They undermine the principle of ownership and contradict the right to development and self-determination.

Similar criticisms can be found here.

6) The Paris and Accra documents have come under considerable fire for not going far enough. This (briefer) briefing paper from AWID summarizes some of the critiques. And this analysis by the UK-based Overseas Development Institute looks at the debate over aid effectiveness “through the recipient lens,” by talking to officials in governments that get aid. One criticism is that the Paris-based language doesn’t put sufficient stress on “predictability” of aid — states and societies need to know that money isn’t going to go away when the givers shift their whims. Conditionality is a prime generator of unpredictability in aid. The fact that many Northern donor governments don’t have a cross-party consensus on LGBT rights worsens the prospects in this particular sphere. What happens if Obama imposes conditions on development aid based on getting rid of sodomy laws; then Romney defeats him, and suddenly sodomy laws are OK; then Hillary Clinton gets elected in four years, and abruptly the conditions are back on again? Manic roller-coaster swoops and swerves in the terms of assistance don’t just leave governments confused; they mean that anti-poverty, health or infrastructural programs in country after country can’t plan on future funding, or their own existence. That’s a heavy responsibility for LGBT rights to bear.

7) When advocates talk about “conditionality,” often they mean the set of economic — or combined economic and political — strings that donor governments started attaching to aid in the 1980s and 1990s. International lenders, the World Bank and IMF, were even more radical and reviled movers in this. But surely human rights conditions are a different, friendlier thing altogether?

never in history have so many owed so much to so little money from so few

No. What’s happened for 30 years is that donors tie human rights into a bundle with something called “economic freedom,” or maybe “good governance,” conceived as governing the economy with a particular set of virtues that will make particular classes rich. After all, they’re all “freedoms,” right? Rights thus get bound up with the infamous “Washington Consensus”: Privatize everything!  Shrink the state! Down with protection, up with free trade! Deregulate!  This neoliberal “reform” brings wealth to people who are plugged into global flows of capital. It impoverishes pretty much everyone else — women, minorities, unpopular groups even more than others. When human rights get wrapped up with its strictures, they lose their popularity as well. LGBT rights are already seen, in many places, as imports from the insidious Outside. If wedded to imposed neoliberal policies, their street cred likely shrinks to zero.

A fine example is a United States concoction called the “Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC)” This strange being, set up by the Bush presidency in 2004, reveals how fake-friendly you can make aid conditionality appear, with the right rhetoric. It’s a foreign aid agency with a ton of US money, and a mandate to give it out only based on supposedly clear standards and criteria. If LGBT rights are going to be integrated into US giving, the MCC is one place it will start — and advocates are already targeting it to establish LGBT benchmarks for giving.

The MCC grades developing countries on 17 indicators; they must exceed a median score on a number of them to be eligible to apply for money. One set of indicators is called “Ruling Justly,” and includes “civil liberties” and “political liberties.”  This is the human-rightsy side. Another is called “Economic Freedom,” and includes “trade policy,” “inflation rate,” and “fiscal policy.”  This is the telling part. The “trade policy” benchmarks, for instance, come directly, explicitly, from the Heritage Foundation: a right-wing Washington think tank whose mission – self-described – “is to formulate and promote conservative public policies based on the principles of free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values, and a strong national defense.”

MCC is all about eliminating trade barriers and denuding countries of defenses against foreign purchase and foreign sales. This means ending protective, import-substitution policies for building strong domestic industries: policies that have been the main means, in the last hundred years, for poor countries to develop. It means prying markets open to invasions of US goods, while eviscerating local producers. (The US government’s cabinet-level Trade Representative, statutorily responsible for doing the prying, sits on the MCC’s board.)  It’s striking, too, that one of the absolute rather than relative indicators the MCC demands is “inflation rate,” where it insists on a strict maximum of 15%. This restricts countries’ power to devalue their currencies and stimulate their economies. It locks the receipients of MCC aid into the same austerity trap that Eurozone nations are writhing against today.

A: Because of all the gay cruise ships that will visit

Even the most humane of the MCC’s indicators — the “Investing in People” silo, evaluating public spending on things like health and education — tends toward the lowest standards (and doesn’t pay even lip service to the concept of economic and social rights). The MCC is mainly a brass-knuckle enforcer of neoliberalism, with some salving concessions to human rights in the form of “Ruling Justly” (a bizarre phrase in itself).   Despite its cheerful visage, it’s a sinister strategy. Some serious caution is called for before letting LGBT rights be part of its package. To tie them to a project likely to inflict penury on subject populations could well be disastrous.

I’m not the only one who says this. For some detailed critiques of the Millennium Challenge Corporation, check out the three articles — by Maurizio Carbone, Emma Mawdsley, and Susanne Soederberg – here. (Because these texts are Rapunzelled in behind academic firewalls, I’ve uploaded them and let down their hair so you can read them. If the authors object, fine, but then they’re bad leftists.) And if you want to find out about your own country’s relations with the MCC, that information (the agency is at least transparent!) is here. My advice: Watch out.

But the difficulty transcends the MCC.  The donors most likely to give a friendly hearing to LGBT-rights conditionality are donors already practicing conditionality based on “economic liberalization or “open markets”: conditions that, steeped in neoliberalism, are abhorrent to most peoples of the global South. 

“Symptoms of Neoliberalism”: Cartoon from Mexico, by El Fisgón

8) My real problem with the arguments for aid conditionality goes deeper. It’s that the advocates stay confined within a tightly limited and lopped version of human rights, very different from the one most people in the world believe in.

Proponents speak as if, on one side, there were human rights lined up neatly: free expression, freedom from torture, freedom from sodomy laws, and so on. Then on the other, there’s development money. The only relation between the two sides is that, if a country respects the rights, it should get its development money. If it doesn’t, it shouldn’t get any. Or not as much.

You would never imagine, hearing these folks promote this vision, that development is itself a human right. The UN General Assembly adopted its “Declaration on the Right to Development” in 1986, stating:

The right to development is an inalienable human right by virtue of which every human person and all peoples are entitled to participate in, contribute to, and enjoy economic, social, cultural and political development, in which all human rights and fundamental freedoms can be fully realized.

The Declaration and Programme of Action of the 1993 Vienna World Conference on Human Rights also dealt with the issue extensively: “Democracy, development and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms are interdependent and mutually reinforcing,” it affirmed. And:

States should cooperate with each other in ensuring development and eliminating obstacles to development. The international community should promote an effective international cooperation for the realization of the right to development and the elimination of obstacles to development.

Imagining that human rights are largely unconnected to development, except to legitimate restricting it, fits with a certain Anglo-American perspective in which economic and social rights don’t exist. But if you do believe development is a right, then to endorse conditionality as part of the standard human rights toolkit is, needlessly and destructively, to pit human rights against each other.

The “Quezon City Declaration on AID” — a 2007 manifesto by a coalition of Asian movements and NGOs — states that

The kind of aid we want must be premised primarily on a recognition of the history of colonization of countries across Asia, a history that persists in the continued exploitation by the North of the South, particularly the peoples of Asia and the region’s biodiversity. From this lens, aid becomes a matter of global redistributive justice, a just righting of historical wrongs.

In this light — and from the perspective of development as a human right —  it’s notable that, in 1970, donor countries pledged to devote 0.7% of their GDP to overseas development assistance. Almost none of them do so. In 2010 only five OECD countries met that mark; the US stood mired at less than a third. Surely the first priority of US and European advocates, including LGBT rights advocates, should be to increase their countries’ overall giving to meet their human rights commitments. They shouldn’t use LGBT rights as an excuse for governments to fail their pledges and give less.

It’s only by understanding development as a right that you can see how the Quezon City statement can both call on states to reject conditionalities, and

enjoin both donors and national governments to adopt a rights-based approach to aid giving, which means ensuring that human rights standards and social development principles guide all development cooperation and programming in all sectors and in all phases of the programming process. Right-holders and their supporters such as human right NGOs should be included in decision-making processes relating to aid money and allocation. Attention must especially be given to those whose voices are at risk of being silenced or marginalized vis-à-vis aid: women, children, and adolescents, or non-citizens such as in/formal migrant workers, indigenous peoples, small farmers and fishers, etc.

A “rights-based approach to aid giving” means not using rights to justify cutbacks, but using aid actively and creatively to promote rights, including funding decision-making and participation by the most marginalized communities. The mounting calls for aid conditionality in the LGBT sphere suggest a failure of imagination, an unwillingness to think through creative ways that aid can further rights, not curtail development. We can do better than that.

The Day the African Commission Disavowed Humanity

The following article by Fikile Vilakazi and Sibongile Ndashe, was originally published in Pambazuka News, November 2010. 

The article is a response to the decision by the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights to deny observer status to the Coalition of African Lesbians [CAL] – a decision which the authors claimed would  ..” if not challenged and reconsidered, will legitimise ongoing state and non-state violence against LGBTI people in Africa.’.  And of course this has come to pass with the passage of the Nigerian and Ugandan extended criminalization of LGBTI people and the subsequent violence against gays and those perceived to be gay.

The decision of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights to deny observer status to the Coalition of African Lesbians (CAL) comes at a time when the struggle for visibility, tolerance and acceptance of the fact that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people exist is beginning to gain momentum.

Exactly four years after LGBTI rights activists and groups started organising and advocating for rights at the Commission, the 48th session underscored the point that African civil society that works with the regional human rights mechanism will not countenance a decision by the Commission when such decision is inconsistent with the value espoused in the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.
The unfounded allegation that sexual orientation was a fringe issue meant for eccentric individuals was resoundingly dispelled. If this was not on the Commission’s agenda, this session helped to decisively make it a human rights issue.

At the session, no less than 18 organisations who have observer status used the public session of the Commission to remind the Commission that the protection and promotion of human and peoples’ rights was their twin mandate and that their obligation was simply to protect and promote rights.

The two national human rights institutions who made statements, Burkina Faso and Kenya, mentioned the obligation of the Commission with regards protecting human rights. Burkina Faso urged the Commission to produce guidelines that assist member states in the protection of people whose rights have been violated because of their real or perceived sexual orientation.

At last, the South African government representative articulated South Africa’s position and commitment to the protection of all people, regardless of their sexual orientation. South Africa is the only government that could legitimately object to CAL’s application and they had been lamentably remiss in past sessions when other governments, notably Uganda, objected to CAL’s observer status. The only government to applaud the Commission for its stance was Zimbabwe, which thanked the Commission for the bold step of refusing to grant observer status to CAL.

The decision of the Commission is troubling at a number of levels. Many questions remain unanswered. It is patently homophobic. It dehumanises lesbians in reasoning that CAL does not seek to protect or promote rights in the charter. What if that divests members of CAL of their rights, all of them, that are guaranteed under the charter? If there was ever a legally unsound decision this has to be it. You are a lesbian = all your rights under the charter do not exist?

The Commission has worked hard to build solid jurisprudence on the importance of the right to equality before the law, equal protection of the law, inhuman and degrading treatment and dignity and this jurisprudence was either ignored, or worse, discarded by the Commission. What does the Commission stand to gain for undermining its own jurisprudence and working methods?

The decision of the Commission reverberated throughout the continent and all over the world. In this special edition there is a collection of statements from a variety of civil society formations, selected statements made by NGO’s at the Commission and other reactions from individuals all decrying the unfairness and gross injury inflicted by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

There was a time when the chair of the Commission decided to let NGO’s know that when something has already been said it does not have to be repeated. It depends: if the person you are talking to did not hear you, did not listen or did not understand then you may need to keep on saying it again and again. Human rights belong to all human beings by virtue of being human!

CAL remains outraged by the decision of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights not to grant observer status to the Coalition. CAL is extremely angered by the fact that this decision, if not challenged and reconsidered, will legitimise ongoing state and non-state violence against LGBTI people in Africa.

There is already an ongoing trend from various African states to tighten laws that criminalise homosexuality on the continent. Instead of condemning such acts, the African Commission appears to be condoning them through such an arbitrary decision. We commend civil society organisations in Africa and internationally that have taken a bold step to condemn such an arbitrary decision and call on the African Commission to reconsider and grant CAL observer status before the 49th Ordinary Session.

Human rights activists and organisations are requested to continue writing to the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights asking them to reconsider their decision. Send your letter to Dr Mary Maboreke of the African Commission secretariat by email to colley@achpr.org cc sthydara@achpr.org

Statement from the Wits University on Anti-Homosexuality Legislation in Africa

MESSAGE FROM THE OFFICE OF THE VICE-CHANCELLOR AND PRINCIPAL

DATE: MONDAY, 3 MARCH 2014

STATEMENT FROM THE UNIVERSITY OF THE WITWATERSRAND PERTAINING TO ANTI-HOMOSEXUALITY LEGISLATION IN AFRICA

The University of the Witwatersrand notes with dismay and concern recent legislation in Nigeria and Uganda that criminalises women and men who express themselves through relationships other than those defined as heterosexual. It also decries the targeted violence that has accompanied this legislation in these and other countries.

While academic debates may focus on the extent to which human sexuality is a result of nature or nurture, or whether it is inherent to Western or African culture, the reality is that diversity in terms of sexual orientation is part of the recorded history of virtually all societies.

Tolerance and acceptance of such diversity has not been easily secured, but those nations that have afforded equal rights to sexual minorities alongside a multitude of other diverse identities can justifiably claim the benefits of an equitable and just environment for their citizens who live in, and actively contribute to an inclusive and productive state.

The University of the Witwatersrand values diversity and believes that its student and staff body should reflect a multiplicity of race, gender, socio-economic background, urban and rural geographic origin, culture, ethnicity, disability, religion, national origin and sexual orientation. Indeed it believes that everyone has a role to play in furthering human development and that diversity can only enhance learning and the generation human knowledge. Such principles are the foundation of university policies and are underpinned by values enshrined within the constitution of South Africa.

It is the University’s view that recent legislation in Africa and elsewhere that seeks to criminalise sexual minorities, runs counter to these values and in addition contravenes key articles contained within the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is apparent that these legislations are driven, not by a desire to address true criminality but rather are projected by an incomplete understanding of human sexuality compounded by an orchestrated campaign of hate towards vulnerable groups. South Africans understand only too well the damaging legacy that hate founded on institutionalised prejudice can deliver and that while the seeds of hate are easy to sow, they can take generations to uproot once they have spread and taken hold.

Leadership carries with it a huge responsibility, not least of which is protection of minority rights from the ebb and flow of opinion amongst the “moral majority”. The University (that counts amongst its staff and students, thinkers from across the continent of Africa), stands with other academic institutions in urging leaders to reflect carefully on what they have allowed to pass and points out that history will judge harshly those who are responsible for imprisoning others as a result of whom they love. We strongly urge that these laws be rescinded and encourage others who value the sanctity of Universal Human Rights to call for the same.

What is this protest about?

Via @muparutsazim
Via @muparutsazim – from Free Gender
02 Mar 14

President Yoweri Museveni has done it. Against widespread expectation raised by his earlier pledge, the Ugandan leader turned around this week and signed into law the contentious Anti-Homosexuality Bill passed last December by a parliament his ruling party, the National Resistance Movement (NRM), controls. The bill had been opposed locally and internationally for a record four years, since its introduction to the legislature in 2009. It is a remarkable coincidence that Museveni’s executive action came in the week Pambazuka News has devoted to a special issue on the lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender and intersex (LBGTI) struggles in Africa. Our decision to dedicate a special issue to this subject was informed by the alarming reality that throughout Africa, colonial era laws that criminalised ‘unnatural acts’ are now being reinforced by independent governments, pushed by powerful lobbies, under the pretext that homosexuality is ‘un-African’ and harmful: this despite the fact that the existence of LGBTI persons in Africa since time immemorial is well documented. Colonial legislators would have had no reason to criminalise homosexuality if it is the Europeans who introduced it to the continent. Beyond repression through harsh laws, there is fierce LGBTI intolerance throughout Africa. Even in countries where the constitution proclaims non-discrimination on whatever grounds, politicians, the priestly class and other self-styled moral police are undeterred in inciting their followers against gays. Homosexual persons have been attacked and killed or injured. Many have been forced into hiding, ostracised by their families, denied employment, have been unable to rent a house, etc. In South Africa the horrific phenomenon of ‘corrective rape’ before killing has been perpetrated by men against lesbians as an alleged ‘cure’ of their sexual orientation. It is impossible to remain silent in the face of this epidemic of hate and violence against innocent people.

01 Mar 14

A dangerous new imperialism is on the rise in Africa and the Caribbean. It comes wearing a rainbow flag and dressed in pink. The recent wave of anti-gay laws on the African Continent and a two month visit to Jamaica where LGBT activists and homosexuals are in a battle for self-definition have helped to crystalize this suspicion. To be clear I am a Black, gay Jamaican male who has loved and lived for over 30 years in America. I identify myself thusly so you can understand that this is not a conclusion I come to easily. It comes from observing keenly the struggle for Gay Rights in America, Africa and the Caribbean for the past 30 years.

24 Feb 14

Coming out will not be easy or even an option for everyone, but if you do decide to come out, I wish you luck! Visibility definitely matters. The truth is, I never wanted to have a conversation about who I have sex with, but because the government and the population is having that conversation, I too am forced to. The simple fact at the end of the day is: I am human. I am Nigerian. I am gay. Now my social experiment may or may not work. What I do know is that I must try. I will attempt to change minds, tackle homophobia and let Nigerians see a real life gay person: one introduction at a time.

Bisi Alimi - http://www.ynaija.com/watch-gay-rights-activist-bisi-alimi-speaks-to-amanpour-on-cnn/
Bisi Alimi – http://www.ynaija.com/watch-gay-rights-activist-bisi-alimi-speaks-to-amanpour-on-cnn/

Nigerian gay rights activist, Bisi Alimi, who had to leave the country in 2007 out of fear for his life, spoke to CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on his feelings about the law and the fate of the Nigerian LGBT community.

18 Jan 14

24 Feb 14

Kill them. This sentiment has been expressed about homosexuals in Nigeria, both in the streets and in the media, especially since the Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act came into operation on January 7, 2014 – again, and again. And again.

24 Feb 14

Yet Smith fails to articulate the self-determination demonstrated on the part of LGBTQI Africans as proof against an imagined Africa where all people think negatively about queer and trans people. Even in Uganda, on the very day of the passing of the anti-homosexuality bill, queer and trans Ugandans, and their allies, are asserting their disapproval through a global media campaign aptly titled, #IAmGoingNowhere, according to Hakima Abbas, co-editor (along with Sokari Ekine) of the Queer African Reader.  That there are those placing their lives on the line, today, should be ample enough proof that not all Africans are homophobic. It should also remind us to resist the urge to cast our critical gaze upon other geographical spaces before we cast it upon ourselves.

Via @HOLAAFrica
Via @HOLAAFrica
01 Mar 14

If Kenya is not Uganda or Nigeria, why are we at the brink of legislating laws that further criminalise same sex sexualities?  Kenya will soon follow Uganda and Nigeria in enacting new anti-gay laws, my crystal ball predicts. And it might be sooner than you expect. According to several media reports on radio and TV, several lobby groups, politicians and religious associations, have come out publicly to call for stricter – read, extreme – laws against homosexuality in the country. Unfortunately, 90% of Kenyans support their decision if a Pew Research on attitudes towards homosexuality in Kenya is anything to go by. In December 2013, I highlighted 10 African countries that were going the Nigeria and Uganda way in proposing, debating, enacting and assenting new laws that targeted same sex sexualities among men and women.

Via @ShailjaPatel
Via @ShailjaPatel

Follow @holaafrica @bisialimi @denisnkioka @keguro_macharia @blacklooks

Sexual Liquidation & Responsibility to Protect

The Rise of Sexual Liquidation by Joseph Sewedo

url

Today, laws are being promulgated to heighten sexual liquidation in several parts of the world. The last few months have been very challenging for human rights activists/ advocates globally, especially activists committed to addressing homophobia in the world. Over the years, homophobia has been identified to be perpetration of hate crimes against persons who do not conform to certain sexual and gender norms: thereby challenging what is claimed to be traditional values including cultural and religious practices.

In the last decade, the promotion and protection of persons who have so far being identified as sexual minorities have face several ups and downs- from legalization of same-sex unions in several countries to now what is understood to be State-Sponsored homophobia, where persons engaged in any form of same-sex relationship might suffer imprisonment from 5years to life imprisonment and worst still death. Activists and advocates for rights on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity are facing great challenges globally, where they have to deal with institutionalized homophobia from Nigeria to Russia to Uganda, whose President (Museveni) recently signed into law an Act that will send all homosexual into imprisonment for life.

Human rights diplomacy, which involve discussing protection and promotion of sexual minority rights globally, policy advocacy and lobbying seem to have met a defiance in States that proudly discuss tradition as an excuse not to discuss the rights of homosexuals or even attempt protecting their homosexual citizens. States like Gambia and Zimbabwe have perpetually sponsored violation of the rights of their homosexual citizens and render this minority group to stable fear in their own homeland. Given my very active involvement in the promotion and protection of human rights of sexual minority groups (precisely homosexuals) in Nigeria, “back door” or “quiet” diplomacy is a strategy I have supported and implemented but unfortunately remained inutile given the “vested interest” associated to this advocacy. This “vested interest” not only includes politicians but also countries in the international community whose economic national interest is prioritized over the promotion of human rights. Often, this “back door” or “quiet” diplomacy has left the SOGI (Sexual orientation and Gender Identity) movement in Nigeria invisible and even considered non-existing. No wonder Ojo Maduekwe (former Foreign Affairs Minister) mentioned in 2009 at the United Human Rights Council that there was no group advocating for the rights of homosexuals in his country. Furthermore, this strategy has created a friction amongst local activists who feel going radical in advocacy is best to claim the rights of homosexual citizens.

From the experience of countries like China and India, human rights diplomacy usually depends on two factors: the national interest at stake and the benefits to or interest of the community-at-large. In addition, Japan who have always maintained and refrained from incorporating human rights consideration into its foreign policy but nonetheless engaged “off the scene”. Apparently, human rights diplomacy is an inevitable dilemma to which many States are exposed and that which manipulates the strategic planning of human rights advocates/activists.

From an African perspective, it is very challenging to objectively discuss human rights protection and promotion without having to sound culturally non-conforming or worse still, intellectually colonized by the West. Human rights situation in many countries in Africa is often regarded as an internal issue and one that challenges the sovereignty of a State when being discussed at international fora. Given the international law policy of non-interference and State sovereignty to which States quickly refer to when being challenged for the deteriorating human rights situation, it is difficult to communicate to States that regardless of these policies, there is the “Responsibility to Protect” norm that is expected to be implemented by each State. RtoP- although not a law but a norm invested in international law- is a relatively new mechanism to ensure that States protects the rights of their citizens and prevent them from non-state human rights abuses as well as state-sponsored violations. Although RtoP precipitated into international discussion of human rights to prevent “Genocide, Crime against humanity, War Crimes and Ethnic cleansing”, it is apparently becoming necessary to add a new term, given the trending issue of human rights abuses and violations on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity and expression. This term could be referred to as “Sexual liquidation”.

One of the three foundation “pillars” of RtoP provides that, if the state manifestly fails to protect its citizens from Genocide, Crime against humanity, War Crimes and Ethnic cleansing and peaceful measures have failed, the international community has the responsibility to intervene through coercive measures such as economic sanctions. Military intervention is considered the last resort. While this is very delicate measure to consider, it is important to begin to think along this direction before the situation of sexual liquidation gets worse.

The similarity in the new laws in Nigeria and Uganda as well as the propaganda law in Russia is to liquidate sexual acts that are considered homosexual and/or un-natural, what can be likened to ethnic cleansing. This also brings the melancholy of the Rwanda genocide- a genocidal mass slaughter of Tutsi and Hutu majority as well as the South African apartheid- the worst situation of racism in world history.

While it is important that States protect their sovereignty and maintain their political autonomy, it is pertinent that they adhere to RtoP norm that ensure that their citizens are protected from all forms human rights violation, especially those affecting human dignity and life. Homosexual citizens are becoming victims just as citizens became marginalized and discriminated against because of their color, ethnic and tribe. The international community should not wait for another round of genocide in the world before considering that sexual citizenship is an important discourse in promoting world peace. It is time to promote the implementation of the responsibility to protect and prevent “sexual liquidation”.

Article was originally published on Joseph Sewedo Akoro

Uganda: Global Day of Action Against the AHB

UGANDA.
URGENT CALL TO SUPPORT AFTER THE RECENT PASSAGE OF THE ANTI HOMOSEXUALITY BILL IN UGANDAN PARLIAMENT.

31st  JANUARY 2014

Background

On 20th December 2013, Lesbian and Gay Bisexual Transgender Community in Uganda woke up to the grim news that the Anti Homosexuality bill, which had been shelved at the end of 2012 had been passed by Parliament. The bill was passed without Quorum and without Prior mandatory inclusion on the Parliament Order Paper. The bill, if passed into law will be a disaster to the Human Rights of LGBT people, a disaster to public health and the fight against HIV/AIDS.
Recent reports in the Uganda and International Media have indicated that the President will not sign the bill and hence it is generally believed that the bill is no longer a threat.
We would like to reiterate that this bill is still a huge threat and a treasure to the majority of Ugandans and since our leaders are populists’ they will likely bend to the pressure of the ‘Voters’ and with the 2016 elections looming in the horizon, politicians will no doubt do anything to capitalize on opportunities that protect their political interests. The President of Uganda is no exception.
It is also worth to note that the power of ascension process of a bill that is passed by parliament doesn’t lay primarily with the President of Uganda; it is constitutionally provided that within 30days of the bill being sent to the President for ascension, the president Must either sign the bill to become law.
The president may reject to give assent,
Constitution provides that the president shall within 30 days after a bill is presented to him/her either:-

Assent to the bill
Return the bill to parliament with a request that the bill or a particular provision of it be reconsidered by parliament; or
Notify the speaker in writing about the decision
The bill may be reconsidered and then presented for the president’s approval. However it may become law without the president’s assent if he/she returns it to parliament two times. It should have the support of at least two-thirds of all MPs.

Now that you know why, Here is what you can do on the day of action to support the Lesbian, Gay Bisexual, Transgender Persons as Risk:

1.       Worldwide demonstrations. We call upon all partners, friends and allies to organize a worldwide demonstration in different cities around the world on the (10th February  2014) to show solidarity with Ugandan LGBT community and to bring attention this cause to Uganda.

2.       Issue statements condemning the passage of the Bill and call on the President NOT to sign it into law, It is also important to continue to continue to remind Ugandans and our leaders to uphold Human Rights for all people

3.       Wear a t-shirt, a bracelet, Carry a poster with a message of solidarity for the LGBT community in Uganda

4.       Deliver Petitions to your embassies condemning this bill and urging the president to

5.       Hold prayer vigils to show what a ‘dark day’ it is for Human Rights and to call upon ‘Devine Intervention’

6.       Write to your political leader, your religious, your opinion leader to speak

7.       Make sure you have called that media house you work with; we need Uganda, Africa and the whole world to know that we are visible, and to know that Human Rights are Universal.

8.       Use social media

9.       5th February : Twitter blast- The idea is to send as many tweets on that day to the prime minister, the president’s office, parliament. With one simple message: ‘Don’t Kill, Protect LGBT people’: The world is watching

The Week on Sunday – The Reward for Love is Death!

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The December issue of Chimurenga, The Chronic is out and the $7 digital edition price is worth it if only to read two pieces.   First Nick Mwaluko’s  “XXYX AFRICA” a review of  “three new excellent works: Queer African Reader, African Sexualities: A Reader, and Queer Africa: New and Collected Fiction.”  The best book review I have read, possibly ever!

LGBT Africa held two truths: you fuck, you die” How’s that for the spectacular!   African Queers woke up on Friday morning to learn that this statement was in fact too near the truth.   In Uganda the Anti-homosexuality Bill was finally passed and is  awaiting President Musoveni’s signature before becoming law.  This places it in the same status as the Nigerian Same Sex Marriage Bill which is also waiting presidential approval.  These two Bills have played havoc with the lives of  Ugandans and Nigerian Queers for some 5 years.  Just when you think they are forgotten, their ugly heads rear up and slap you back to homophobic reality.  Ugandan queers responded by sticking to their party plans a  bit like the last supper. Celebrate, share stories, eat, drink for tomorrow they might be,  as Kasha Jacqueline wrote  on Twitter,  starring in a Ugandan version of ‘Orange is the new Black’.

The death Nick speaks of comes in many forms.  Death as criminal punishment, death from loneliness, death from invisibility, death from the pain of the closet and ‘keeping safe’, ‘being normal’! But there’s another possibility,

“Maybe just maybe, a tribe is in my future if I survive this moment.  If I claim the body that holds the story to voice my song, if I taste the death-wish during illegal fucking , if I re-imagine the world behind my eyelids, recreating reality to make it mine.  Is this why some of us refuse to hide? When I live in integrity, don’t I like myself more ? Aren’t  I more alive?

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Guy Regis Jr, is a Haitian playwright, poet, filmmaker, translator who has translated  Albert Camus, and Maurice Maeterlinck into Haitian Kreyol.   Presently he is translating Marcel Proust’s ‘Remembrance of Things Past’.  Haitians speak Kreyol but even though it’s  been the official language since 1987, children are still forced to learn in French.   Regis explains the development of Kreyol from a fluid language to one ‘rendered uniform’, codified and recognised and importantly some educators are now teaching in Kreyol.     Regis makes two interesting points.  First contrary to popular opinion, Kreyol and French differ significantly. The syntax is different and Kreyol is  drawn from other languages including Taino, various African languages and Spanish.   The second point is on the art of translation.    To translate you have to ‘reach the heart’ of the text so for example  the opening sentence of Camus’, The Stranger  is ‘Today maman died’ .   The obvious Kreyol would be  “Jodi a Manman m mouri”.  However a more simple and unemotional interpretation and closer to the French original is  “Manman, m mouri Jodi a”.

Over the past 10 months I’ve been teaching  ‘African Literature’ to a small group of  students.  The biggest frustration voiced by the students is the unavailability of any African writers either in original French or translated  into French let alone into Kreyol.  It would be wonderful if Guy Regis would one  day take on the task of translating some African texts into Kreyol!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#16Days: AWID Condemns Uganda Anti-Homosexuality Bill

The Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID) strongly condemns the repeated efforts, now for the third time, to introduce the Anti-Homosexuality Bill in Uganda’s Parliament. We stand in solidarity with Ugandans who are calling for their government to withdraw this bill, once and for all, and respect the human rights of everyone.

The latest introduction of the bill, on November 21, 2012 could see the bill discussed and passed before the middle of December 2012. If passed, the bill would represent a grave assault on the human rights of all Ugandans, and in particular, would further sanction discrimination against those who are, or who are believed to be lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or intersex (LGBTI). Furthermore, repeated efforts to pass this bill contribute to an environment that heightens stigma, discrimination, and violence targeted towards the LGBTI community, their family, friends, and supporters.

We stand in solidarity with the Ugandan LGBTI community and the tremendous pan-African response against the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, including from African LGBTI organizations, feminist, women’s rights and human rights organizations, the HIV and AIDS sector, and religious leaders. As an international women’s rights organization led by and engaging a majority constituency in the global South, we also note that the struggle for human rights for all including LGBTI people is universal. Countries in the global South such as Brazil, India, and South Africa have all taken leadership in the past two decades in legal and policy reform to support and respect LGBTI people’s rights. We urge the government of Uganda to do the same and take positive action in rejecting this bill and in protecting human rights for all.

The Anti-Homosexuality Bill seeks to introduce draconian provisions reinforcing Uganda’s existing prohibitions on consensual same-sex relations. According to some reports, the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee appears to have removed the death penalty from the original draft of the bill. Not withstanding these or any other changes, we condemn the bill in its entirety, as well as existing measures which seek to criminalise, stigmatise, persecute, and punish people based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.

AWID’s research on religious fundamentalisms clearly demonstrates that across regions and religions, sexual orientation and gender identity are lightning rods for fundamentalist forces. As in the case of Uganda, those who do not fit rigid norms as defined by fundamentalists are seen as threatening the social fabric, notions of ‘morality’ and the ‘family’- discourses that are often deployed by such actors to harness power. Although couched in the discourse of protecting family, children, and traditional values, this bill in fact spreads hatred and violence. Far from being about authentic cultural values, the bill has been strongly influenced by resources and hate-speech by Christian Right groups from the United States.

The Anti-Homosexuality Bill not only violates multiple protections guaranteed by the Constitution of Uganda, but also contravenes the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights, theInternational Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and other international human rights treaties to which Uganda is a party. The bill also seriously contradicts the strong call made in theJoint Statement to the UN Human Rights Council in March 2011, signed by 84 member states (including Nigeria, the Central African Republic, South Africa, and Rwanda), which called for states to take steps to end acts of violence, criminal sanctions, and related human rights violations against individuals because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

AWID stands in solidarity with the people of Uganda who are fighting for human rights and justice. We believe that full respect for sexual rights is part of guaranteeing human rights for all, and we therefore call upon the government of Uganda to immediately withdraw the Anti-Homosexuality Bill and uphold the universality of human rights.

For more information and to take action:

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

* Second hate crime in a week. Modise Hamiliton Mosweu was stabbed to death in Westonaria, South Africa

Modise Hamilton Mosweu

A gay West Rand man has been brutally murdered, and possibly raped, in Westonaria in an apparent hate crime.

The body of 34-year-old Modise Hamilton Mosweu was found in a pool of blood in a neighbour’s yard, three houses away from his home, on Sunday 11 November.

According to a witness, who wishes to remain anonymous, he had been stabbed. It is possible Mosweu was also stoned as there were rocks around his body.

His underwear was found nearby, leading to speculation that he may have also been raped, although this has not been confirmed by the authorities.

Cameroon: UN Concerned Over Reports of Arrests of Suspected Gay and Lesbian People

The United Nations human rights office today expressed its concern over reports of people in Cameroon being harassed, intimidated, arrested and imprisoned because they were suspected of being lesbian or gay – and called for an end to such practices.

Article 347 of the current penal code in the country criminalizes ‘sexual relations with a person of the same sex’ and provides for a penalty of up to five years imprisonment and a fine, according to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

Addressing a news conference in Geneva today, an OHCHR spokesperson, Rupert Colville, said that the law breaches Cameroon’s international human rights commitments and violates rights to privacy and to freedom from discrimination.

Nigeria moves to pass Anti-Homosexuality Bill

Lawmakers moved a step closer Tuesday to approving a bill that would harshly crack down on gay rights, including banning same-sex marriage and public displays of affection between homosexual couples.

The bill which has already been approved by the Senate passed a second reading in the House of Representatives with an unanimous vote and will now see a clause-by-clause review in the chamber at an undetermined date.

“It is alien to our society and culture and it must not be imported,” House majority leader Mulikat Adeola-Akande said during debate, referring to same-sex marriage. “Religion abhors it and our culture has no place for it,” she added. [Sign Petition]

Uganda’s anti-gay bill will be passed before the end of 2012 despite international criticism of the draft legislation, the speaker of the country’s parliament said Monday, insisting it is what most Ugandans want.

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.”

“Speaker, we cannot sit back while such a destructive phenomenon is taking place in our nation,” the activists said in a petition. “We therefore, as responsible citizens, feel duty-bound to bring this matter to your attention as the leader of Parliament … so that lawmakers can do something to quickly address the deteriorating situation in our nation.”

Documents:  Nigerian Same Sex Marriage Bill,  Uganda Anti-Homosexuality Bill

Anti-gay rights crusade in Africa a distraction

2 1/2 years since it’s first reading in October 2009, the Ugandan Anti-Homosexuality Bill full texthas once again been tabled in parliament. The bill was shelved in 2010 at which time President Yoweri Museveni warned those advocating for the Bill that it was sensitive and would compromise Uganda’s international standing. Again the Bill was tabled in 2011 and was followed in April of that year by apetition signed by 2 million Ugandans in support of the Bill. Two international petitions opposing the Bill were circulated in May 2011 - Avaaz [1.6 million signatures] and All Out [500,000]. On May 13th the Bill was shelved but Ugandan activists were convinced it would return at some point. So it wasn’t exactly a surprise when on the 7th February 2012, the Anti-Homosexuality Bill was re-introduced to parliament amidst ominous cheering and clapping from MPs .

The day before the Bill was tabled, Melanie Nathan [O-blog-dee-o-blog-da] spoke by phone to the Bill’s author, David Bahati who sounded enthusiastic that the contents would be “more moderate”

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Statements by Ugandan & African organisations against the Anti-Homosexuality Bill

The following Ugandan and African human rights organisations have condemned the Uganda Anti-Homosexuality Bill 20009:

Ugandan Law Society.

The Anti-Homosexuality Bill proposed to Parliament in 2009 would, if enacted into law, in its current state violate international human rights law and lead to further human rights violations.

The bill has been received with mixed feelings of both praise and strong criticism with praise coming from the local populace and criticism from the international media, western governments, international and local gay rights, human rights, civil rights, and scientific organizations, world leaders, some Christian organizations including the Roman Catholic Church, the Anglican Church of Canada.

The Uganda Law Society (ULS) is an institution that defends and promotes constitutionalism, the rule of law and the human rights of every Ugandan citizen. The ULS therefore in the same spirit acknowledges and defends 100% the rights of all citizens including the small percentage of the population living as homosexuals.

A coalition of African Human Rights organisations : East and Horn of Africa Human Rights, Defenders Project (EHAHRDP), Foundation for Human Rights Initiative (FHRI), The Human Rights Centre Uganda (HRCU), and Human Rights Network-Uganda (HURINET):

As well as threatening the safety of LGBTI people generally, the Anti-Homosexuality Bill also jeopardizes the security of human rights defenders working on these issues. The re-tabling of the bill just days after the first anniversary of the murder of LGBTI activist and EHAHRDP founding member, David Kato, is a stark reminder of the insecurity this bill has already caused in Uganda. More generally, the bill would have a wide-reaching and disturbing effect on the freedoms of the majority of Ugandans. If health professionals, spiritual leaders, teachers, business people, landlords, and many others in positions built upon trust and confidentiality fail to disclose to the authorities persons they suspect of being homosexual, under the provisions of this bill would also be targeted for prosecution themselves.
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