Africa is Dying from AIDS (1998 BBC)
2007 Book: Gay Travels in the Muslim World, Edited by Michael Luongo (ch. 10 by GlobalGayz owner Richard Ammon)
See books review: Gay City News
January 2010 – Times Colonist
Stigma driving AIDS crisis among African gays
Paris – Rates of HIV infection among gays in some African countries are 10 times that of the general male population, and stigma, poor access to treatment or testing are to blame, doctors said in The Lancet. A wall of silence, repression and discrimination are amplifying dangers for men who have sex with men in sub-Saharan Africa, they said in a paper published online on Monday.
Researchers from the University of Oxford looked at published studies for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) prevalence from 2003 to 2009. Prevalence among gays in some parts of West Africa is 10 times that for the general male population, they found. The difference varies a lot across Africa, but in most of the countries studied, the rates among homosexuals were substantially higher than among heterosexuals.
Political, religious and social hostility towards homosexuality is entrenched in many countries, and this breeds isolation, harassment and prejudice, enabling risky sex practices to multiply, the paper said.
"Unprotected anal sex is commonplace, knowledge and access to inappropriate risk prevention measure are inadequate and… in some contexts, many MSM (men who have sex with men) engage in transactional sex," it said. The paper said secrecy was so entrenched that data about gay sex behaviour in Africa was often sketchy or absent.
"There’s surprisingly little known," said lead investigator Adrian Smith. "(…) (W)hat little evidence we do have suggests that MSM are a vulnerable group that exists across sub-Saharan Africa."
The review stressed that the risks were not limited to gays, as many MSM also have sex with women. "In the early 1980s, silence equals death became a rallying cry" for gays in the United States, it said. "Nearly three decades later in sub-Saharan African the silence remains, driven by cultural, religious, and political unwillingness to accept MSM as equal members of society."
Around 33 million people have HIV, according to figures issued in 2008 by the UN agency UNAIDS. Two-thirds of them live south of the Sahara.
January 10, 2010 – The Los Angeles Times
Black, gay and indisputably African: The draconian anti-gay legislation being considered in Uganda brings to mind a South African gay nightclub, an answer to the homophobes’ claim that it is un-African to be black and gay.
by Douglas Foster
When word began to whip around the world that the Ugandan parliament would take up a bill making lesbian or gay sex a capital crime, my thoughts went first to a nightclub I frequented when I lived in Johannesburg, South Africa, a few years ago.
It was always a revelation to spend an evening at Simply Blue. The club was a collecting spot for Africa’s gay diaspora, and its patrons came from every part of the continent. The age range was wide, class lines were smudged, and there was a symphony of languages. The very existence of the place posed an answer of sorts to the claim of homophobes that there was something un-African about being black and gay.
To get to Simply Blue’s curved bar and large dance floor, patrons had to climb a long flight of stairs and go through a security pat-down. You could always spot newcomers because they usually sat off to the side in the shadows, on broken-down couches, their eyes wide and jaws slack. Many of them literally had had the idea beaten into them that they were part of a cursed, despicable, tiny minority.
There was the middle-aged man from Zimbabwe, formerly married, whose brother had plotted to have him killed because of the shame he’d brought to his family when he’d switched to dating men. There was a young Nigerian who lingered on the sidelines for weeks before inching out onto the dance floor, but then moved in an explosion of long-suppressed joy at finding himself dancing in public across from another man. I met an older fellow, a soft-spoken farmer from Uganda who’d raised his children before leaving his home, his wife and his country. He’d finally decided he couldn’t live to the end of his life without having the chance to express his truest self.
One night at Simply Blue, I found myself in a long, confusing and infuriating conversation with an evangelical preacher from Soweto, who was the guide for a group of conservative, anti-gay white American evangelicals traveling around the country. He belonged to a sect that inveighed against homosexuality.
Read Article HERE
11 January 2010 – The Independent
The love that still dare not speak its name
by Miranda Bryant
In the week that two Malawians go on trial for violating anti-gay laws, Daniel Howden finds that their experience is all too common in a continent of legalised homophobia
A whispering campaign is under way in Uganda’s capital, Kampala, accusing Paul Semugoma, a doctor, of being a predatory homosexual, actively recruiting younger men into his "vice" with the help of foreign conspirators. His home and business addresses have been published online and he has received a string of death threats. "They are saying that I’m the ‘gay tycoon’, spreading the infectious disease of homosexuality in Uganda," he says with a bitter laugh. "It’s such nonsense."
In reality, he is a respected doctor who has volunteered his time to help with HIV and safe sex education programmes and writes a weekly medical advice column for a popular newspaper. But in the last month he has been publicly outed as a homosexual four times with government officials offering money to anyone willing to inform on his private life.
The doctor is living a lonely preview of the nightmare that life is about to become for the gay community in Uganda if new legislation is passed this month making homosexuality punishable with life imprisonment or even the death penalty. Uganda’s minister for ethics and integrity has said it will be every citizen’s duty under the new laws to denounce friends, family or acquaintances they suspect of being gay.
Church meetings this week in the capital and elsewhere in Uganda have been whipping up support for a public demonstration in favour of the anti-homosexuality bill on 19 January ahead of its second reading in parliament. Before that goes ahead, Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga will have had to face a trial in Malawi on charges of consenting adult homosexuality.
The pair are being held without bail in Chichiri prison after they held a symbolic marriage ceremony which was reported in the local press. The same-sex couple were arrested and three Malawian human rights activists who spoke up in their defence have been jailed also. Authorities have since tried to force the young couple who had been living together for five months to undergo anal examinations to medically establish whether they had had sexual relations.
The apparent tide of anti-homosexuality may have peaked in Uganda and Malawi but the two countries are far from alone in Africa.
Read Article HERE
19 January 2010 – IRIN Mobile
Africa: Crackdowns on gays make the closet safer
Nairobi, (PLUSNEWS) – More than two-thirds of African countries have laws criminalizing homosexual acts, and despite accounting for a significant percentage of new infections in many countries, men who have sex with men tend to be left out of the HIV response. "[They] are going underground; they are hiding themselves and continuing to fuel the epidemic," UNAIDS executive director Michél Sidibé told IRIN/PlusNews recently. "We need to make sure these vulnerable groups have the same rights everyone enjoys: access to information, care and prevention for them and their families."
IRIN/PlusNews has compiled a short list of human rights violations against gay Africans:
Malawi – On 28 December 2009, soon after a traditional engagement ceremony, Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga were arrested and charged with "unnatural offenses", which carries a maximum prison term of 14 years, and "indecent practices between males", which carries five years.
The men deny that they have had sexual relations, but the state prosecutor has applied for them to be sent to hospital to prove they have had sex, which rights activists and their lawyers say would violate their constitutional right to dignity. The trial has been postponed until 25 January 2010.
Uganda – In October 2009, David Bahati, parliamentary representative of the ruling party, tabled the Anti-homosexuality Bill (2009), a private member’s Bill. It proposes, among other things, the death sentence for the crime of "aggravated homosexuality" when an HIV-positive person engages in homosexual sex with someone disabled or below the age of 18. Homosexuality is illegal in Uganda and punishable by a maximum sentence of life in prison.
AIDS advocates and human rights groups have strongly criticized the Bill as violating the privacy of gay people, and after pressure from several international leaders, President Yoweri Museveni has distanced himself from it, reducing the likelihood that it will be passed in its current form. Nevertheless, a local tabloid, The Red Pepper, routinely releases lists of alleged Ugandan homosexuals.
Tanzania – In May 2009, a local newspaper, Ijumaa, featured a photograph of two men in bed together with the headline, "Caught Live!" A report by several gay rights groups noted that the accompanying article included derogatory and discriminatory language about men who have sex with men. An Ijumaa reporter, accompanied by three policemen, had followed the men from the street into a private hotel, where they had invaded their room and taken the photographs that later appeared in the newspaper.
According to the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, more than 40 gay and lesbian activists in Tanzania were arrested on charges of debauchery in 2009.
Burundi – In April 2009, President Pierre Nkurunziza signed into law a bill criminalizing homosexuality for the first time in Burundi’s history. Anyone found guilty of engaging in homosexual activity faces imprisonment for two to three years and a fine of up to US$80. Paradoxically, other articles in the same legislation take steps to protect human rights, including abolition of the death penalty and the outlawing of torture, genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Senegal – In December 2008, the Senegalese government arrested nine men involved in providing HIV prevention, care and treatment services to the country’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. The men were later sentenced to eight years in prison on charges of "membership of a criminal organization and engaging in acts against the order of nature", but in April 2009 an appeals court overturned this verdict.
Arrests for homosexual activity are not uncommon in Senegal; in August 2008 two men were arrested at their home in Dakar and charged with "homosexual marriage" and acts against the order of nature. According to rights groups, a total of 30 men were arrested on charges of homosexuality in 2009.
Egypt – In May 2008, a court in the Egyptian capital, Cairo, convicted five HIV-positive men of "habitual practice of debauchery", a phrase that encompasses consensual sexual acts between men. The convictions were part of a crackdown on people living with HIV/AIDS, during which 12 men suspected of being HIV-positive were arrested; while in custody, they were subjected to HIV tests and anal examinations to determine whether they had had sex with other men. Earlier in the crackdown, in January 2008, four HIV-positive men sentenced to one-year prison terms for debauchery.
Gambia – In May 2008, Gambian President Yahya Jammeh gave gay people 24 hours’ notice to leave the country. He promised stricter laws on homosexuality than in Iran, and threatened to behead any gay people discovered in the country. Jammeh’s statements were thought to have been in response to a number of Senegalese gay men fleeing across the border into Gambia to escape persecution in their own country.
South Africa – In April 2008, Eudy Simelane, the openly gay star of South Africa’s Banyana Banyana national female football squad, was found murdered in a park on the outskirts of Johannesburg. She had been gang-raped and brutally beaten before being stabbed to death. Rights groups said the attack was likely to have been an incident of "corrective rape", in which men rape lesbian women on the pretext of trying to "cure" them of their sexual orientation.
Since then there has been a spate of similar attacks on lesbian women in the country, but few ever reach the courts. According to a 2009 report by the NGO, ActionAid, there have been 31 recorded murders of lesbian women since 1998, with just three cases reaching the courts, and only one conviction.
Cameroon – In January 2008, a Cameroonian court sentenced three men accused of homosexuality to six months’ hard labour. Homosexual acts are punishable by up to five years in prison, and gay men are routinely imprisoned. Although the penal code does not give the state the power to arraign someone unless the person was caught in flagrante delicto, rights groups say people suspected of being gay are often arrested in public restaurants and bars.
February 2010 – Consultancy Africa Intelligence
The Influence of Gender identity on Risk Behaviour: A Closer Look at Men who have Sex with Men in Africa
by Zanie le Grange
Men who have sex with men (MSM) are seen as a minority group and regularly experience discrimination and stigmatisation in Africa. Due to the stigmatised nature of MSM in Africa, many struggle with defining their own gender identity and the subsequent disclosure thereof. Identifying the gender identity of males who engage in homosexual activity may assist in better understanding how these males perceive risk behaviour and their vulnerability in society. This is of utmost importance for the fight against HIV & AIDS since HIV infection is mediated by human behaviour.
This CAI brief examines gender identity roles perceived by MSM and how this might influence their risk-taking behaviour. The brief provides insight into recent developments related to MSM HIV-risk perception by society and what can be done for this minority group in the African setting.
MSM and Gender Identity
MSM are not necessarily only homosexual practicing men; the term describes behaviours rather than a group of men (2). This includes men who are bisexual, identify themselves as gay, heterosexual (some of whom are married) or men who have practised MSM but do not necessarily consider themselves homosexual or bisexual (3). This group, or behavioural pattern, is gaining a great deal of attention regarding their vulnerability towards HIV infection and the associated high HIV infection rate. The primary problem that arises from the broad spectrum of gender identities held by MSM is the fact that many of these men do not consider themselves homosexual or bisexual (4), which therefore influences their gender identity and often leads to more risk taking behaviour regarding their sexual interactions with other men and also women.
Gender identity is our psychological and social sense of who we are, regardless of sexual organs. Therefore, a male can see himself as more feminine and may partake in a homosexual relationship to express this urge. Gender identity includes sexual preferences, however there seems to be a discontinuity between how some men see themselves (as heterosexual males, for example) and how they act (by partaking in homosexual behaviour, for example). This discontinuity, which also influences the gender identity of these males, may also be spurred by the cultural “grounds that homosexuality is an evil that (is) contrary to traditional cultures and values” (5).
Gender Identity and Sexual Risk Taking Behaviour
A recent study in Nairobi, examining MSM and risk-taking behaviour, identified three common themes regarding the men’s experiences: emerging group identity; context of sexual risk-taking; and low health care utilisation. This study indicated that MSM men who engage in high risk sexual behaviour perceive themselves to be marginalised, perceive power differentials with a sexual partner based on age and wealth and fear identity disclosure.
These results were obtained from a variety of men who self-identified as MSM. However, where some of them were openly practicing MSM behaviour, others did not disclose this information to others and some, in fact, were even married to females. The study shows that the individual gender identities of MSM are influenced by politics, culture and even economics. The men that see themselves as the masculine partner (due to age, money etc.) negotiate condom usage, are usually more promiscuous and have more sexual partners than their more passive partners. The passive or ‘feminine’ males are more likely to submit to the masculine partner and therefore also engage in risky sexual behaviour.
MSM in Africa
MSM are now being classed as one of the most at-risk populations for contracting the HI-virus (6), due to the high transmission-risk associated with anal intercourse (7), especially when unprotected (8). Even though they are categorised as a high-risk group, there are very few programmes that target MSM and help with decreasing their sexual risk-taking behaviours in Africa. This lack of research and support programmes for MSM can be attributed to the focus of most research and funding in Africa centring on women, especially pregnant women (9).
Furthermore, MSM are considered immoral in most African countries and some even suggest criminalising this sexual behaviour, especially evident in the new Ugandan HIV & AIDS Bill that is currently being discussed. Should the Bill be passed, homosexuality would be criminalised and severe sentences instituted to those that practice MSM (10). UNAIDS, however, states that MSM behaviour and especially its associated HIV vulnerability will increase if the practice is criminalised. Men will be excluded or will exclude themselves from programmes concerning HIV & AIDS, (11) further maintaining these men’s perception that they are at low risk of HIV infection (12).
To truly determine the extent of risk-taking behaviours of MSM, and therefore develop educational, prevention and treatment programmes for this group, “understanding the diversity of identities, roles and situations in this subpopulation” (13) is of utmost importance. This may, however, not be possible or as easy as it looks as studies have shown that discrepancies exist between self reported sexual identity and sexual behaviour (14).
The extreme and hugely discriminatory policies of various African countries will only further alienate a historically marginalised group, who are already sensitive and fearful about their sexual identity. The MSM community will become more vulnerable and be pushed further underground if their countries laws continue to attempt to dictate their sexual behaviour. This will ultimately have a negative influence on the men’s gender identities, and will increase the discrimination against an already marginalised group with regard to the fight against HIV & AIDS.
A grass roots approach is needed in which the common misconception of the popular male gender identity is adjusted. Programmes and research needs to emphasise the human and sexual rights of MSM, and empower them to experience a sexual relationship with significantly lower risk (15).
4 February 2010 – Fridae
Is homophobia on the rise in the Commonwealth’s African member states?
by The Commonwealth Conversation
Is homophobia a real problem in the African Commonwealth, thus contradicting the high human-rights standards the association is supposed to uphold?
Recent months have seen the issue of homosexuality being widely debated in various African member states of the Commonwealth. Uganda’s proposed ‘Anti-Homosexuality Bill 2009’, calling for the execution of ‘repeat homosexual offenders’, has been internationally condemned. Late last year, Rwanda came close to criminalising homosexuality for the first time when its penal code was being revised. Meanwhile, an engaged gay couple in Malawi were recently arrested and charged with ‘unnatural offences’. Is homophobia a real problem in the African Commonwealth, thus contradicting the high human-rights standards the association is supposed to uphold?
Below is a moving testimony from John, a Ugandan gay man:
Uganda is one of the African countries which treats its gay people worse than it treats even animals. Your family can disown you and they call you all sorts of names and sometimes the family can see you as curse. The police cannot protect you; even when you try to explain no- one listens. The only thing that can help here is money, which can make the police listen, but for how long? That’s the question. The public is also against gay people and this makes it hard as you have no-one to talk to and this makes the situation worse as you feel the whole world is against you. The government does not take any notice if you are alive or not, and they think you are worse than a pig, as they phrase it. When you are in prison you are beaten up by the prison officers and inmates. They can do all sorts of things and if you are a lesbian, they can let men rape you and if you are a gay man they push things inside you saying that this is what you want.
Gay people in Uganda are not allowed medical treatment and no one wants to help you as they think you can pass it on. Young gay people find it hard as they may not be allowed to go to school, their families disown them and there is no one to help; even if there is someone to help, they are scared because they will put their own life in danger. It’s hard to get a job in Uganda when you are gay, because no- one wants to employ you and, even if you have the money to start your own business, still no- one will come to get anything from you. To sum up, gay life in Uganda is so hard and as time goes on it becomes harder. I wish the Ugandan people could really understand that this is not something you copy from someone. I have never had any problems with anyone, and I have helped many people in need, but no- one can see that side of me because, when they know I’m gay, no one wants to know me any more. I wish I could change but I cannot, so I have to live in fear, with no family, just an isolated life. Hopefully one day the Ugandan people will open their eyes if they find a gay person in their families.
The Royal Commonwealth Society, the largest and oldest civil society organisation dedicated to the Commonwealth of Nations, is currently conducting the ‘Commonwealth Conversation’, the most extensive global public consultation ever held on the Commonwealth. Through a series of online discussions, opinion polls, expert meetings and public events, the aim is to stimulate debate on the role of the Commonwealth, its strengths and weaknesses, and its future direction. Two billion people, 54 countries, one conversation- join in!
23 February 2010 – BBC
Religion, politics and Africa’s homophobia
by Pumza Fihlani – BBC News, Johannesburg
Since a Ugandan MP proposed the death penalty for some gay people, homophobia has been on the rise in other parts of Africa. Earlier this month, US President Barack Obama’s criticism of the Ugandan proposals led to huge anti-gay rallies in neighbouring Kenya. Soon after, rumours of a gay wedding near the Kenyan coastal city of Mombasa resulted in several arrests – although no evidence was produced and no-one was charged.
Rights groups criticise Pastor Martin Ssempa’s fiery rhetoric
For the past few weeks, police in Malawi have been openly pursuing gay activists and anyone suspected of being homosexual. The Malawian authorities say gay activists should be more open – but say if they do come out into the open they will be arrested because homosexuality is illegal.
Monica Mbaru, from the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, describes these crackdowns as a ripple effect from the Uganda situation. She says many African leaders and communities remain hostile to gay people because of pressure from religious leaders.
"Our politicians have great respect for religious leaders and are careful not to disagree with them, especially not on homosexuality," she says. "So they pretend that homosexuals do not exist or that they can be ‘cured’ and communicate this message to the community."
‘Flush out gays’
Both Christian and Muslim clerics have publicly condemned homosexuality for many years – describing it as a sin, abnormal or immoral. One of the most extreme examples of religious leaders advocating repression of gay people is Ugandan Pastor Martin Ssempa.
Read Entire Article
March 11th 2010 – The Economist
Anti-imperialism as a hand-washing strategy
My Colleague Lexington notes that people have been arguing over the role of Western evangelicals in promoting homophobia in Africa, notably in Uganda’s proposed law that prescribes the death penalty for "aggravated homosexuality". Lexington cites Philip Jenkins, the expert on global Christianity, as arguing that the claim that African homophobia is imported from Western evangelicals is "bunk".
Gay-bashing in Uganda was common long before any American preachers showed up and gave unpleasant speeches. Rivalry between Islam and Christianity for adherents ensures that preachers of both faiths compete to offer the most anti-gay vision, because that is what a lot of Ugandans want. As in many parts of Africa, openly gay people risk being lynched. The idea that Africans are passive puppets waiting to be told what to do by Americans is both wrong and insulting, says Mr Jenkins.
Lexington attended a talk Mr Jenkins gave in Miami on Tuesday, and spoke with him before and afterwards. It sounds as though Mr Jenkins’s focus has evolved a bit over the past few years; when he wrote this article in the New Republic, he wasn’t exactly saying that Western evangelicals were irrelevant to Ugandan homophobia. It was more that such influence had been over-emphasised. He situated African homophobia in the rising tide of evangelical Christianity in Africa, and noted that first- and second-generation converts to any faith tend to be more literal in their interpretations of its holy texts. He did argue that competition between Christianity and Islam helps drive homophobia, but he did so in a way that highlights how values are shaped dynamically by the discourse generated in religious competition, including missionary discourse. He also placed African antipathy to homosexuality in historical context, recalling a fascinating angle to the history of Uganda’s 19th-century Catholic martyrs. (Apparently some of them were Christian pages who refused to take part in the pederasty adopted by the Arab-influenced Muslim king of Buganda.) "For many Africans," Mr Jenkins wrote, "sexual unorthodoxy has implications that are at once un-Christian, anti-national, and oppressive."
Mr Jenkins is certainly right about that. In the first meeting on HIV policy in Africa I ever sat in on, at the UNAIDS office in Togo in 2000, a local-country counterpart opined that there was no need to discuss outreach to men who have sex with men, because Africans don’t do that; only the local Europeans had imported such perversions. (A behaviour-change communications specialist from Ivory Coast then rattled off a series of anecdotes about gay communities in Africa, which put the meeting back on course.) But obviously these attitudes are not immutable, uniform or original; different African societies and cultures have had a wide range of sexual attitudes and practices, and in many cases homophobia has developed as part of the homogenising discourses of modernisation, including Christianity, Islam, nationalism and pan-Africanism. Mr Jenkins thinks African attitudes towards homosexuality will evolve, but in the meantime,
gays in Africa face very real barriers to acceptance. And we do them no favors by viewing Africa’s culture war over homosexuality as a mere extension of the battle we are witnessing here in the United States, rather than as a fight which raises questions unique to African history and politics.
This is different from arguing that American evangelicals have not played a role in promoting homophobia in Uganda. The report Lexington cites by Kapya Kaoma, a Zambian Anglican priest, provides a detailed history of efforts by American evangelical churches to promote anti-homosexual doctrines in Africa. Such evangelical churches have backed up their missions with direct salary support to African clergy, and have rewritten the texts of speeches by African clergy to emphasise their own priorities. To say that this has no effect would be akin to claiming that missionaries have no effect, which, given the explosive rise of African Christianity, is obviously not true. Of course American Christianity influences African Christianity; for that matter, the influence runs in the other direction too. (There’s a great deal of African religious culture imbricated in the Southern evangelical tradition, which is one reason American evangelical preachers feel so comfortable working in Africa.) The rise of African and American evangelical Christianity is a global, cross-cultural, trans-national system. While it would be a mistake to ignore local factors, it’s also a mistake to ignore international ones—such as the way that the drive for converts in the global South alters American religious culture by empowering those churches, often the more miracle-oriented ones, that do a better job of appealing abroad.
It’s one thing to recognise that Africans are responsible for what happens in African societies. But it would be silly to claim that therefore, no one besides Africans bears any responsibility for anything that happens in African societies. That’s using a faulty anti-imperialism argument to wash your hands of all responsibility. There’s nothing infantilising about the observation that Africans are influenced by American evangelical missionary efforts to influence them, and people who object to American missionary campaigns promoting African discrimination against gays are quite right to feel a moral duty to oppose them.
March 12, 2010 – The Washington Post
In Africa, a step backward on human rights
by Desmond Tutu
Hate has no place in the house of God. No one should be excluded from our love, our compassion or our concern because of race or gender, faith or ethnicity — or because of their sexual orientation. Nor should anyone be excluded from health care on any of these grounds. In my country of South Africa, we struggled for years against the evil system of apartheid that divided human beings, children of the same God, by racial classification and then denied many of them fundamental human rights. We knew this was wrong. Thankfully, the world supported us in our struggle for freedom and dignity.
It is time to stand up against another wrong.
Gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people are part of so many families. They are part of the human family. They are part of God’s family. And of course they are part of the African family. But a wave of hate is spreading across my beloved continent. People are again being denied their fundamental rights and freedoms. Men have been falsely charged and imprisoned in Senegal, and health services for these men and their community have suffered. In Malawi, men have been jailed and humiliated for expressing their partnerships with other men. Just this month, mobs in Mtwapa Township, Kenya, attacked men they suspected of being gay. Kenyan religious leaders, I am ashamed to say, threatened an HIV clinic there for providing counseling services to all members of that community, because the clerics wanted gay men excluded.
Uganda’s parliament is debating legislation that would make homosexuality punishable by life imprisonment, and more discriminatory legislation has been debated in Rwanda and Burundi.
These are terrible backward steps for human rights in Africa.
Our lesbian and gay brothers and sisters across Africa are living in fear. And they are living in hiding — away from care, away from the protection the state should offer to every citizen and away from health care in the AIDS era, when all of us, especially Africans, need access to essential HIV services. That this pandering to intolerance is being done by politicians looking for scapegoats for their failures is not surprising. But it is a great wrong. An even larger offense is that it is being done in the name of God. Show me where Christ said "Love thy fellow man, except for the gay ones." Gay people, too, are made in my God’s image. I would never worship a homophobic God.
"But they are sinners," I can hear the preachers and politicians say. "They are choosing a life of sin for which they must be punished." My scientist and medical friends have shared with me a reality that so many gay people have confirmed, I now know it in my heart to be true. No one chooses to be gay. Sexual orientation, like skin color, is another feature of our diversity as a human family. Isn’t it amazing that we are all made in God’s image, and yet there is so much diversity among his people? Does God love his dark- or his light-skinned children less? The brave more than the timid? And does any of us know the mind of God so well that we can decide for him who is included, and who is excluded, from the circle of his love?
The wave of hate must stop. Politicians who profit from exploiting this hate, from fanning it, must not be tempted by this easy way to profit from fear and misunderstanding. And my fellow clerics, of all faiths, must stand up for the principles of universal dignity and fellowship. Exclusion is never the way forward on our shared paths to freedom and justice.
The writer is archbishop emeritus of Cape Town, South Africa. He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984.
23 March 2010 – Afrol News
Homophobia divides Africa
Homophobic laws in Uganda and an anti-gay court case in Malawi are only two current examples demonstrating a conservative wave regarding sexual minorities in Africa. But in other countries, in particular South Africa, gays and lesbians are enjoying increased freedom. There is a belt of current conservative reactions to homosexuality spanning from Zimbabwe to Ethiopia, including most of Southern and East Africa. One after another, countries in the region hit international headlines over homophobic actions.
International human rights groups are busy condemning what seems to be a wave of gay bashing in the region. Some northern donor nations, including the UK, Sweden and Norway, have included discrimination against homosexuals in their lists of unacceptable human rights violations, threatening to cut aid if the bashing goes on. Church communities are split in a north-south division over accepting homosexuals. It all looks like a war of values between Africa and Western nations.
But that is only at a superficial level. Indeed, the issue of gay rights in Africa is greatly advancing. Even repressive headlines, such as the Malawi court case against a gay couple accused of "unnatural offences", can be read the other way, as an advance for gay rights.
Malawi is an example of deeply conservative societies, where traditional religion is mixed with Anglican church values formed during the colonial era. In Malawi, a vast majority had not even heard about homosexuality before the young gay couple was arrested in late December. Homosexuality was a non-matter, it did not exist in Malawi, even the more educated people thought. But now, homosexuality is the big issue of talks in Malawi. While the great majority of Malawians have found they do not approve of this "foreign" thing as it goes against their conservative values, some few indeed defend that homosexuals should not be discriminated. It is the first time this point of view has been heard in Malawi. With time, it may grow stronger.
In Namibia and Botswana, also conservative countries but with a longer tradition of being open to outside impulses and with greater middle classes, many organisations now openly defend gay rights against discrimination and the occasional homophobic statements by political and church leaders. Here, the taboo is about to be broken. The great taboo breaking in Africa has already happened in South Africa, the first country world-wide to protect sexual minorities explicitly in its constitution. Here, same-sex marriages by now are allowed and increasingly accepted. Here, forceful organisations are based, fighting for gay rights across the African continent.
But interestingly, even South Africans remain conservative regarding homosexuality. A 2006 survey found that more than three-quarters – 78 percent – of South Africans felt that sexual relations between two adults of the same gender were "always wrong". Less than one in fifteen at a national level thought that homosexual relationships were "not wrong at all".
14 April 2010 – The Guardian
Desmond Tutu leads fight to halt anti-gay terror sweeping Africa
Threat of death punishment in Uganda and arrest of Malawi’s first gay couple to marry sparks decriminalisation campaign
by David Smith, Johannesburg
The following correction was printed in the Observer’s For the record column, Sunday 12 April 2010 In this article we repeated reports in other media that Kenyan police had raided a gay wedding and arrested guests. However, Human Rights Watch points out that a mob of vigilantes had descended on a house in Mtwapa in response to unsubstantiated claims of a gay wedding and that police took two men into custody in an attempt to protect them from violence. They were later released without charge.
Battle has been joined against the criminalisation of homosexuality in Africa. Last week, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and more than 60 civil society and human rights groups called on Uganda to reject proposed punishments for gay sex that range from life imprisonment to the death penalty. Activists in Malawi were steeled by pressure from Human Rights Watch for the dropping of a case against the first gay couple to seek marriage in the conservative country. Steve Monjeza, 26, and 20-year-old Tiwonge Chimbalanga will stand trial this week after holding a traditional ceremony last December.
Human Rights Watch said: "The case is an affront to essential principles of non-discrimination and equality. It singles out two people as criminals simply because they love each other." The case has focused attention on a homophobic backlash sweeping Africa, partly because gay men and lesbians are becoming more assertive about their rights, partly because of intolerance fanned by interventions from evangelical churches in America.
Last month the challenge was put in context when the Zimbabwean prime minister, Morgan Tsvangirai, often lionised by western liberals, backed President Robert Mugabe’s position that gay rights could have no place in the national constitution. Tsvangirai was widely quoted as saying: "The president has spoken about gay rights, about some men who want to breathe into other men’s ears. I don’t agree with that. Why would you look for men when our women make up 52% of our population? Men are much fewer than women."
His party, the Movement for Democratic Change, has made commitments that the state should not interfere in the private lives of its citizens, but Tsvangirai’s remark probably owed something to realpolitik: support for gay rights could be a huge vote-loser in a heavily Christian society where homosexual activity is outlawed.
Gay sex is illegal in 36 countries in Africa. In Kenya recently, police raided a gay wedding and arrested guests. South Africa is often regarded as a beacon of hope because it was the first country on the continent to legalise same-sex marriage. Yet campaigners say the fight against bigotry is far from over, pointing to incidents of murder and so-called "corrective rape" against lesbians. Last year, Lulu Xingwana, the arts and culture minister, walked out of an exhibition because it featured photographs of nude lesbian couples that she found "immoral" and "against nation-building".
A favourite claim among critics of homosexuality is that it is an import from the decadent west and alien to African culture. But this has been challenged by historical evidence of homosexual people and practices being accepted in traditional societies before the arrival of European settlers. In a recent column in the Guardian, Blessing-Miles Tendi cited the Azande people in the north-east of what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where it was acceptable for kings, princes and soldiers to take young male lovers.
In fact, argue campaigners such as Peter Tatchell, is it not homosexuality but rather the laws against it that were imposed Africa by the west. Many African states are using the very laws introduced by European colonialists more than a century ago to persecute gay men and lesbians today.
April 12, 2010 – The MSM Initiative
A Matter of Life and Death – Homophobia Threatens HIV/AIDS Work in Africa
by Carolyn Hanson
In February, peer educators at an HIV clinic in Kenya that serves men who have sex with men (MSM) were savagely beaten by an anti-gay mob that doused some of the men with kerosene and tried to set them on fire. In Malawi, a leader of a grassroots group working to stop HIV/AIDS among MSM went to his local police station to file a report after a break-in at his office—and was arrested for distributing HIV prevention materials the police deemed “pornographic.” And in Uganda, the country’s legislature is seriously considering anti-gay laws that would make consensual sex among HIV-positive adults punishable by death.
Homophobia, of course, is present in every country. But a wave of homophobic rhetoric and violence in some African countries is undermining efforts to combat high rates of HIV/AIDS among MSM. Human rights activists, AIDS advocates, and grassroots MSM organizations—including a number of groups funded by amfAR’s MSM Initiative—say that the progress that had been made over the past several years in reaching African MSM is being threatened by a new climate of fear and repression that is sweeping parts of the continent.
Uganda: “We’ll be forced underground”
Same-sex sexual behavior has long been outlawed in Uganda, but the country’s war on homosexuality began to escalate in the spring of 2009, when several evangelical clergymen from the U.S. visited to give a series of talks opposing the “gay agenda.” Amidst the ensuing anti-gay fervor, in October MP David Bahati introduced new anti-homosexuality legislation in Parliament. The proposed law would impose the death penalty for “aggravated homosexuality,” which includes any same-sex sexual activity by HIV-positive people. It mandates up to life in prison for anyone convicted of homosexuality or attempted homosexuality. It would also imprison anyone who knows of homosexual conduct and fails to report it—effectively criminalizing the efforts of anyone providing HIV/AIDS services to members of the LGBT community.
Pepe Julian Onziema is the HIV/AIDS program coordinator at Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), which received a community award from amfAR’s MSM Initiative for advocacy and outreach aimed at curbing the spread of HIV among MSM. Over the past several months, Onziema explained, SMUG’s vocal opposition to the bill has made it the target of sensational media coverage and has raised fears that anyone associated with the organization will be subject to violence or arrest.
Providing HIV services has become nearly impossible. “We were referring our clients to doctors who had agreed to help us, but they’re finding it difficult to continue because they are afraid something will happen to their jobs,” Onziema explained. “One doctor still manages to get us condoms, which we are able to distribute to MSM through our men’s organization. But we are limited in the number of people we are able to reach.” If the bill passes, Onziema acknowledges, SMUG will be unable to continue working openly with members of the LGBT community. “We’ll be forced underground, and that will only increase cases of abuse and HIV infection.”
Malawi: “You can run but you cannot hide”
“Police Hunt For Prominent Gays.” The headline in the February 28 edition of a Malawian newspaper appeared in inch-high block letters above a photo of two men whose arrest in late December for holding a traditional engagement ceremony set off a wave of anti-gay hostility in Malawi. The first line of the story conveys a chilling message from police to the “high-profile homosexuals” they claim are providing encouragement to the engaged men and distributing pornography: “You can run but you cannot hide.”
The “prominent people” described in the article are, in fact, members of an amfAR- supported grassroots group, the Center for the Development of People (CEDEP), which provides HIV testing, counseling, and outreach to MSM and other vulnerable groups. The “gay pornography” in question? Informational DVDs and pamphlets on HIV prevention. By the time this inflammatory article appeared, CEDEP’s staff had already been forced to close their office in Blantyre and relocate to the capital, Lilongwe, after two health workers from the organization were arrested.
In Lilongwe, CEDEP has found it impossible to continue its HIV/AIDS activities. “We were supposed to conduct a big study to determine the size of the MSM population in Malawi. But we can’t do that now because people will not agree to be interviewed,” explained CEDEP’s director, Gift Trapence. “The MSM community can’t access testing because they’ve been driven underground. They are afraid of the police—and the media reports are increasing the threat. They have been publishing statements by the police saying that they have a list of gay people, and that they will arrest all of them.”
In short, he said, “HIV/AIDS-related programs have stopped. We are only doing advocacy, to see if this situation can be improved.” As for the two men who were arrested in December, they face up to 14 years in prison if convicted.
Kenya: “There are no prevention activities going on now”
In Kenya, a February 12 attack on an HIV/AIDS clinic in the coastal town of Mtwapa, near Mombasa, followed a rumor that two local men were planning a wedding ceremony there. Incited by local radio reports about the alleged wedding and by religious leaders who discussed the issue during Friday prayers, a mob of several hundred attacked the clinic at the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI), which runs an HIV program for MSM. The violence spread as angry mobs attacked the homes of men known or suspected to be MSM.
Police were able to quell the violence—by arresting six of the men who had been attacked by the mob. Peter Njane, director of the amfAR-funded group Ishtar MSM, was involved in efforts to free the men from custody and is now working with other advocates to keep them safe. HIV/AIDS services in the area of the attacks have since ground to a halt. “People used to get their antiretrovirals at KEMRI,” Njane said. “While it’s been closed, there is no provision of condoms and lubricant, no medical services for this community. Some of these things, like lubricant, aren’t available anywhere else. There are no prevention activities going on now.”
Even when the clinic is able to resume HIV/AIDS services, the lingering fear will not be easily dissipated, making it even harder to reach an already vulnerable population. “Some of the men who were attacked are not sure they will be able to go back to work as peer educators,” Njane said. “And we are hearing from other AIDS organizations in the area that people are afraid to come to their office for meetings.”
A Shifting Tide?
Despite the fear and discrimination—even the violence and the threat of prosecution—those working on the front lines in the fight for HIV services for MSM remain determined to continue their struggle. Some can even see the tide shifting—slowly, but surely—in their favor. “Five years ago, people did not talk about homosexuality, but now I have dialogues about it,” said Kenya’s Njane. Increased media attention, he explained, has given Ishtar MSM an unexpected platform for reaching MSM with prevention messages. “More people know about our initiative. After we were mentioned in the media, our website kept jamming. People who need information are coming to us.”
In Malawi, Trapence and his colleagues remain outspoken advocates for MSM and other minorities, speaking to leaders and activists at home and abroad, and risking their own safety by talking to the media. He has reason to hope that at least some in Malawi’s government will be receptive to their message. Thanks to CEDEP’s advocacy efforts, in 2009 MSM were included for the first time in Malawi’s national strategic plan on HIV/AIDS. In Uganda, SMUG is at the forefront of efforts to defeat the anti-homosexuality bill. In early March, SMUG leaders were part of a delegation, including AIDS service providers, human rights activists, and clergy members, who presented a petition signed by more than 450,000 people to the speaker of Uganda’s Parliament.
Faced with intense pressure from around the world, Uganda may remove some of the bill’s harshest provisions, including the death penalty. But opponents point out that passing the legislation in any form will cripple efforts to combat HIV/AIDS among Uganda’s MSM. By driving them underground and denying them access to lifesaving prevention and treatment, Uganda will—no matter what the law says—be handing these men a death sentence.
May 2008 – aidsportal.org
The Overlooked Epidemic: Addressing HIV Prevention and Treatment among Men Who Have Sex with Men in Sub-Saharan Africa
The Overlooked Epidemic regional consultation was conceptualized and planned by Scott Geibel of the Population Council in collaboration with Prof. Alloys Orago and Harriet Kongin of the National AIDS Control Council of Kenya. The organizers of this consultation express our appreciation to the presenters and other participants for sharing their fi ndings and experiences to advance the response to HIV among MSM in Africa. We thank Deborah Weiss of the Population Council for her role in raising funds for this consultation, documenting its proceedings, and writing this report. Thanks are also extended to Population Council colleagues Naomi Rutenberg, Scott Kellerman, and Ayo Ajayi for their input at various stages; Norah Omenda for her administrative and logistics support; Hena Khan for editing this report; and Sherry Hutchinson for layout.
At the National AIDS Control Council, we also thank Peter Mutie for his advice and support. During the planning stages for this meeting, a number of people expressed support and facilitated communication to ensure key people attended; we especially thank Cary A. Johnson of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission and Keith Sabin of the Centers for Disease Control for sharing their extensive networks. We are grateful to the M·A·C AIDS Fund and the Institute for International Education through the Ford Foundation Office of East Africa for their generous support of this meeting.
17 May 2010 – ILGA
Lesbian and Gay rights in the world – Material on state sponsored homophobia
Founded in 1978, ILGA, the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association is now a association of over 700 groups in over 110 countries campaigning for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex (LGBTI) rights.
To raise awareness on the extent of State Sponsored Homophobia in the world, we’ve created a few items (in English, French, Portuguese and Spanish) you may want to use around you:
26 May 2010 – The Guardian
Homophobia in Africa is not a single story – We must question the idea that homophobia in Africa is unique and understand it within a broader global context
by Keguro Macharia
African homophobia does not exist, nor does European homophobia, Asian homophobia or South American homophobia. Acts of homophobia occur in each of these spaces. We must question the idea that homophobia in Africa is unique. And we must understand homophobic acts within their specific local histories as these intersect with broader global histories.
In her recent article on Comment is free, Madeleine Bunting suggests that African homophobia emerges from capitalist-driven religious fundamentalisms, rapid and "chaotic" urbanisation that strains kinship ties, and the emasculation of men due to colonialism and globalisation. These claims are not wrong. They simply lack specificity and can be applied to any space. How, then, do we account for what appears to be an intensification of homophobia across Africa? Let me offer a tentative answer based on two locations, Kenya and Malawi.
On Friday 12 February 2010, Kenya experienced its first mass attack directed against gay men. While attacks on individuals have been reported, this attack was unique as it was organised by a range of religious organisations and targeted a medical institution deemed to be gay-friendly. It is also significant because it took place at the Kenyan Coast, a location that anthropologists Mary Porter and Deborah Amory have previously described as tolerant, if not accepting.
So what has changed? Activist organisations such as Minority Women in Action (MWA), Transgender Education and Advocacy (TEA) and Gay Kenya have been established and run educational workshops across the country. As with other human rights groups in Kenya, their efforts have been met with mixed reactions, ranging from acceptance to indifference to hatred. Their increased visibility has led to increased vulnerability, a trajectory shared by progressive organisations across the world. Global debates about gay activism also shape Kenyan responses. Kenyans at home and abroad participate in contentious discussions about gay legislation, be it discussions of marriage, adoption or military service. To revise Bunting, Africans engage in and with the world. We do not simply have ideas imposed on us.
To grasp the Malawi case, we need to understand the meaning of the engagement ceremony chinkhoswe. Chinkhoswe certifies marriages in the eyes of the law and also creates stable ideas about gender. It is worth noting that Tiwonge Chimbalanga identifies as a woman, so this case is also about transgender politics. Notably, despite some gains in gay marriage in the west, transgender politics remain contested. Without a locally based understanding, rooted in a history of Malawi and a grasp of its cultural politics, we cannot comprehend what is at stake in the case. Discussions that frame the case as Malawians opposing westernisation tell only a very partial story.
Marc Epprecht and Neville Hoad have shown that homosexuality and homophobia have rich and varied lives across Africa. Some Africans had same-sex practices before colonialism and others did not. Some colonial-era laws codified homophobia but some ethnic groups had anti-homosexual laws prior to colonialism. It is impossible to make any kind of general statement about the effect of colonialism on African ideas of sexuality. African conceptions of homosexuality are shaped by factors including nationalism, globalisation, migration, ethnicity, and religion. They are shaped by labour practices and national politics, by participation in sports and watching movies. Any accurate report on Africa must avoid what Chimamanda Adichie terms "a single story".
Homophobia in Africa is a problem, but not as African homophobia, a special class that requires special interventions. And certainly not the kinds of special interventions that reconsolidate old, ongoing and boring oppositions between a progressive west and an atavistic Africa.
May 30, 2010 – Times Live
Secret gay sex fuels HIV spread in Africa
by Claire Keeton
The hidden HIV epidemic among men in Africa who have sex with other men – many of whom have wives – is fuelling the Aids crisis on the continent. "In Africa, HIV prevalence is high in young women and that’s the picture we have of what’s driving the epidemic," Professor Salim Abdool Karim, director of HIV/Aids research institution Caprisa, told the M2010 Microbicides conference this week. What’s been forgotten is the hidden side of the epidemic, since same-sex relationships are criminalised in 37 out of 54 countries in sub-Saharan Africa. In reality, HIV is really common among gay men throughout Africa. We simply don’t talk about it."
The scientists at the conference, in Pittsburgh in the US, said a rectal microbicide could help reduce infections. Studies show that men who have sex with men are at high risk of HIV infection – particularly in Africa, where safe access to prevention tools and services is restricted. Up to 3% of men in South Africa are thought to have had homosexual intercourse. In Tanzania the estimate is 2% to 3%, and in Kenya up to 0.9%.
About a third of these men report they are married or in stable heterosexual relationships. The overlapping of sexual networks allows the virus to thrive. Viral fingerprinting (genotype data) has found that the strains of HIV circulating across gay and heterosexual networks match one another. South Africa has one of the worst HIV prevalence rates in the world, and prevalence among men who have sex with men is similar to that of the general population, estimated at about 13%.
HIV prevention efforts aimed at men who sleep with men are needed – about 20% of new infections are among this group – yet health activists are hamstrung by widespread political and cultural hostility to same-sex relationships. Michel Kazatchkine, executive director of the Global Fund to fight Aids, TB and Malaria, said in response to the recent imprisonment in Malawi of two men for being gay: "The criminalisation of individuals based on their sexual orientation is not just a human rights issue – it also … drives sexual behaviour underground and creates an environment where HIV can more easily spread.
"This ultimately affects the broader population, in addition to the devastating impact it has on men who have sex with men."
15 June 2010 – VOA
Africa’s Gay Activists Use Internet to Advance Homosexual Rights
African gay activists in Africa and in the diaspora are increasingly using the Internet to have their voices heard, while still trying to figure out how to advance homosexual rights on the continent. One of the most popular blogs advocating gay rights in Africa is called Gay Uganda. Its author chooses to remain anonymous. "I am somebody in the heart of Africa who has been lonely without the rest of the Internet, without the rest of the global sphere, talking about what I would like to talk about, with that kind of freedom," he said from Kampala."I cannot do it elsewhere."
While harsher laws are being proposed against homosexuality across the continent, including in Uganda, the author of Gay Uganda says what he is doing helps Africa’s homosexual community. "It started off as a way of venting, but then later I realized that it was a way of putting across to the rest of the world what our lives were more or less," he said. "The things that have been happening around Kampala, in Uganda, and all over the continent – it is strengthening to me personally, that is why I do it."
He says that in Kampala, very few people know he is gay. But online, he has a community of followers who support him. He adds that the types of articles he writes would never be allowed in traditional media. "Society is more or less homophobic and the reporters come from the society. But also you have to consider that in a place like Uganda, you cannot write a positive story about gay people. That is a matter of fact," he added.
Uganda’s Ethics and Integrity Minister James Nsaba Buturo said recently that the government is concerned about what he called the "mushrooming" number of gays and lesbians in the country. He said he wants a law enacted that would criminalize confessing to being a homosexual. Even in African countries like Ghana, which are seen as being relatively tolerant, anti-homosexual activities, such as marches denouncing gays, are becoming more frequent.
Media and influential politicians and religious leaders often denounce homosexuality as Western contamination. And they say homosexuality is contrary to traditional family values. More than three dozen countries in Africa, including Senegal, have laws criminalizing homosexuality. Selly Thiam, who lives in the United States, is a native of Senegal. She is the founder of the None on Record website, which records testimonies of gays, lesbians and transgender people from Africa, most of them anonymously.
Thiam says she hopes the website will be used to help change policies toward homosexuals. "None on the Record is just at the beginning of understanding or even becoming conscious of how we fit into the larger movement," said Thiam. "I think we will have more opportunities in the future to see how we can really impact and support the organizing that is going on in the continent and around the world in other LGBT communities as well."
LGBT refers to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender. Thiam says that although it is important for her to build contacts through the Internet, face-to-face interaction is also important, even if most pro-gay groups in Africa work underground.
"That is why I have to keep going back to work in concert with people who are organizing. It is an issue of safety, and something that I have to think about all the time. But I have to also continue to do my work," Thiam added. A columnist from the United States, Reverend Irene Monroe, says her own work and Internet outreach have put her in contact with many gays and lesbians in Africa like a woman from Kenya who recently wrote her an email. "She says here, ‘I need encouragement. Here homosexuality is punishable by 14 years imprisonment and 28 strokes of the cane. "The church is also extremely hostile. Some suspected lesbians from my church were once beaten and burnt,’" Monroe said.
Gay activists in Africa say it is a very difficult process to advance homosexual rights, especially in difficult economic times, when scapegoats are used by politicians and religious leaders to divert attention. Irene Monroe links discrimination to a lack of democracy and government policies toward HIV and AIDS.
"Countries that tend to be more open around addressing the issue of HIV/AIDS and have a lot more financial solvency and really do run more in terms of employing a democratic model, you will find in those small pockets throughout Africa and other parts of the world people are more tolerant in the different ways in which people express love," she said. "And we see it here when we see rabid forms of conservatism here we find in most groups of people who are less tolerant of LGBT folks, it operates similarly believe it or not in Africa too. Culturally, it looks different. But the seed around what gives rise to the kind of homophobia that blossoms in the way it does, it is planted in the same soil." Gay activists say they hope those advocating homosexual rights eventually will succeed – one blog entry and appeal for understanding at a time.
10 October 2010 – The Guardian
Gay rights in Africa: now for the good news – Although times are still hard for gays and lesbians in many African countries, hard-won gains are being made
by Paul Canning
If all you ever read about gay people in Africa is in the western media (including gay media), you would be forgiven for thinking it’s one endless horror story. This year, we’ve had the anti-gay riot in the Kenyan town of Mtwapa, the arrest and subsequent pardoning of Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga in Malawi and, of course, the "gay executions" bill in Uganda.
Largely unnoticed amid all that has been the quickening development of gay communities and movements in many parts of Africa. In Kenya, for instance, David Kuria – a gay man – is standing for the senate. If elected, he’ll be the second openly gay politician in Africa (the first is South Africa’s Ian Ollis). Kuria, who is director of the Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya (GALCK), is already well known to Kenyans from frequent TV appearances. His prominence has also resulted in him being targeted by American evangelicals.
Kuria’s candidacy for the senate is the latest development in GALCK’s "gradualist" strategy, which involves building alliances with civil society groups and talking with religious leaders. This showed its worth in the successful deflation of an anti-gay backlash following the February riot. The strategy seems to be paying off. "We have to accept [gay] people the way they are and embrace them in the society," the Kenyan special programmes minister Esther Murugi told an HIV/Aids conference last month. Her words ignited a storm but, despite various Christian and Muslim leaders calling for her head, she has refused to resign. Defending her, justice minister Mutula Kilonzo called discrimination in HIV/Aids services a "gross violation of human rights".
Elsewhere – in Zambia and Malawi, for instance – governments are increasingly recognising that tackling HIV/Aids means recognising that gay people exist. The new visibility in Kenya was seen last month when gay people openly joined a march in Nairobi demanding improvements to the Kenyan health system. They were well received, says Kuria.
"Increasingly the movement is becoming mainstreamed as legitimate stakeholders in the civil society," he added. "It is not uncommon to hear people now talk on the issues of sexual minorities in the same sentence with other minorities – this coming from people who only a couple of years, even months ago would not have even listened to such issues."
Here in Britain, it is only relatively recently that we have moved from repression to acceptance, and it took 38 years from the decriminalisation of homosexuality in 1967, through the Thatcher government’s Section 28, to arrive at civil partnerships 38 years later. Africa, now, is going through the same process we went through. Increased visibility = increased awareness = increased repression = eventual acceptance?
In Uganda, civil society groups and prominent figures including Bishop Christopher Senyonjo have rallied to defend LGBT rights in the face of a barely disguised genocidal push. In July, the former president of Botswana, Festus Mogae, called for the repeal of sodomy laws. In Cameroon, gay leader Steave Nemande says media coverage of homosexuality is fast improving.
In South Africa two weeks ago a massive march in Soweto said no to the epidemic of "corrective rape" of lesbians. "Anti-gay mob violence remains a problem, but the post-apartheid ANC government has trailblazed," Peter Tatchell says of South Africa. He describes the country’s legislative gains (which include gay marriage) as "a beacon for LGBT rights all across Africa".
Pan-African movements like the Coalition of African Lesbians and African Men for Sexual Health and Rights are growing, and now an East African network is under formation. Kuria says: "We have numerous listserves and increasingly we are meeting at the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights." Tatchell points out: "The African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights – with its guarantees of universal equal treatment and non-discrimination – offers a legal framework for the securing of LGBT equality legislation."
Cary Alan Johnson of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission describes the progress of African LGBT movements as astounding:
"Movements are more professionally run, politically smarter, more accountable and transparent, and more diverse. In almost every country, there are emerging organisations and political spaces for queer women, transpeople, those who want to be political, those whose interests are more social. Community centres and safe spaces are emerging continent-wide. In the face of much adversity and homophobia, it’s actually quite a heady moment."
November 2010 – To GlobalGayz.com
African church waivers on homosexuality
By Wayne M. Anderson
The largest Protestant church in Africa grabbed the world’s attention when it publically denounced homosexuality and said people who support gay rights were not welcome in the church—and neither was their money. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania (ELCT) posted a notice on its Web site entitled: Church rejects homosexuality. "Those in same sex marriages, and those who support the legitimacy of such marriage, shall not be invited to work in the ELCT,” a press release states. “We further reject their influence in any form, as well as their money and their support."
In addition the fastest-growing church in Africa with 5.3 million members said it “supports all those around the world who oppose churches that have taken the decision to legalize same-sex marriage.” This loud warning was seen as a prelude to split from its main financial partner, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), which now supports gay rights. But those strong statements have toned down considerably since the head of the ELCT recently conferred with ELCA officials here.
“I hope there will be time to discuss it and see what we can do,” said Presiding Bishop Alex Malasusa in an exclusive interview from Tanzania. “We have been with ELCA for a long time, so we hope there will be room for discussion.”
In April there was no apparent room for discussion. The declarations from Tanzania were loud and clear. Now, asked directly if he will lead the ELCT out of ELCA he is not certain. “Well I can’t say that,” Malasusa said. “As I say, I can’t really commit to anything.” Last summer at their national convention in Minneapolis, the ELCA committed to supporting gay rights, when it narrowly voted to ordain practicing gay and lesbian ministers who are in a “committed relationship.”
The unexpected decision on August 21 threw traditional Lutherans into a state of shock and started an exodus from the largest American Lutheran body with 4.6 million members. Many traditional-minded Lutherans in the US have left the ELCA and support others around the world who follow a traditional reading of the Bible. “I fully applaud their decision (ELCT) to follow what God’s word says,” said Lois Carlson, of Grantsburg, Wis., who was born to medical missionaries in Tanzania, is the wife of a retired Lutheran pastor and has left the ELCA over the controversial issue. “Their stand is certainly based on Scripture.”
The head of the ELCT once expressed support of this US exodus in his last Easter sermon. He said gay-rights advocates had gone astray from the Bible, and it was up to Africa to get them back on the straight and narrow. “It’s time Africa preached to the rest of the world, and remind them of God’s word,” Malasusa is quoted saying in The Citizen newspaper in Tanzania.
And the bishop warned this scriptural mission will have a cost. “We should be independent so that they don’t use their money and wealth to threaten us…we should leave them with their money and stick to the word of God,” he said. But Malasusa is now walking back his unequivocal stance since his trip to America, where he openly visited ELCA synods and then met with church officials in Chicago behind closed doors.
Church officials characterized the meetings as “confidential” and declined to shed any light on them. "We believe that concerns are best worked out through church-to-church relationships rather than through public statements," ELCA Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson is quoted by the ELCA News Service. The two bishops, and other church heads, will again meet at the Lutheran World Federation meeting in Stuttgart, Germany in July. But for now, Malasusa is no longer saying Africa will lead the fight against those who “do all they can to destroy one Biblical passage after another in order to legalize homosexuality.”
He now says, “It’s not our duty to do that.” Adding, “we are not forcing anybody to follow us.” After the May 28 exclusive interview, the bishop and his secretary general further declined to answer any subsequent phone calls or emails. His last statement was, “I think you can contact Bishop Mark Hanson and he will tell you what we have discussed.”
An interview was requested with the head of the ELCA. “As for your request, I wish I had better news,” said John Brooks, director of ELCA News Service. “Bishop Hanson declined to be interviewed.” The Tanzanian bishop also said his Easter sermon containing unwavering statements was reported out of context. However, the newspaper reporter stands by his story. “It’s true,” said Mkinga Mkinga, in an email. “That was his statement, and it was a news headline in Tanzania!”
The journalist also offered an explanation for Malasusa’s now softer stance: money and politics. “The problem I can see here is, that the matter has involved financial assistance from countries that supports homosexuality,” he said. The ELCA is a major contributor to the ELCT. For the fiscal year of 2009 the ELCA gave $1,073,966 to their African global partner.
“This figure does not include any direct support…from ELCA synods, congregations, individuals, or other Lutheran organizations,” Brooks said in an email.
The ELCT greatly depends on the financial contributions, missionaries, doctors and other personnel from the ELCA. This sizeable support admittedly can be an influence. “Yes. And that is always the struggle when we work with developing countries,” said Rev. Thomas Skrenes, bishop of the Northern Great Lakes Synod and a long-time friend of Malasusa.
Skrenes, who voted against ordaining practicing homosexuals at the convention because “the case had not been made biblically or theologically,” said Tanzanians have the “right to come to their own conclusions…and we respect that. They won’t see money as a manipulator. We can’t do that. That would be wrong.” But Bishop Skrenes said the practice of ordaining homosexual ministers will not likely split the two churches.
“No, we are hopeful…even confident that we can work together with our brothers and sisters in Tanzania and other places who hold a different position.”
But not all Lutheran pastors see it that way. “There’s no basis in the word (Scripture) for compromising or changing or softening one’s position,” said Rev. Jaynan Clark, president of Word Alone Ministries, an organization assisting congregations to leave the ELCA.
And she is suspect on the influence and motivation. “I can’t see how anything but the money could be influencing their position,” said Clark. As a former ELCA missionary to Tanzania, she warns against taking “any blood money and not to compromise their position.” Of the 70 million Lutherans worldwide, many traditionalists expressed optimism when Malasusa posted his clarion call to return to “God’s word.” Some said it was like when founder Martin Luther nailed his 95 Thesis to the church door. But for whatever reason, Malasusa’s once Luther-like unwavering stance is now on the way to a table of compromise, where it all began in Germany.
(Wayne Anderson is a freelance journalist based in Wisconsin. His Web site.)
25 November 2010 – allAfrica.com
South Africa: African Human Rights Commission Gives Gay Rights the Cold Shoulder
by Yugendree Naidoo
In light of widespread attacks against homosexuals in African states, and the criminalisation of sexual orientation in some countries, gay and lesbian rights activists are outraged by the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights’ (ACHPR) recent refusal to award observer status to the Coalition of African Lesbians (CAL). CAL, an umbrella body affiliated to the University of Pretoria’s law faculty, submitted their application to the African Union’s commission in May 2008.
After receiving no word from ACHPR for two years, CAL made enquiries at the end of October, said CAL programmes administrator Eunice Namugwe. Shortly thereafter they received an official letter from the ACHPR declining their application for observer status, but were given no reasons for the decision. Namugwe said the rejection was "frustrating" given the increased homophobia practices on the continent, which affected lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people.
She said CAL was the only network in Africa advocating for the protection of lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people’s rights and would be appealing the decision and wanted to know the "exact reasons" for the ACHPR’s rejection. "It implies we’re not part of the African charter as there are spaces, especially such as East and West Africa where we are not accepted or tolerated at all." She said the hostility in some countries was so fierce that activists had to flee in fear for their lives.
The Forum for the Empowerment of Women (FEW) felt "let down" by the commission’s decision, said director Busi Kheswa, as CAL represented all organisations fighting for LGBTI rights on the continent. Granting CAL observer status would contribute to the fight against homophobia and help them hold states accountable for discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, she said. This included South Africa where lesbians were raped and murdered because of their sexual choices. An example of this was the ongoing case of Zoliswa Nkonyana who was murdered in Khayelitsha in 2006 because she was a lesbian.
The criminalisation of homosexuals in Uganda and Malawi has also hit international headlines this year. The Kampala-based The Rolling Stone newspaper in October published a list, with photographs, of 100 homosexuals. This was done to "help them live responsible lives" the managing editor Giles Muhame was quoted as saying. Lesbians raped in Malawi are arrested if they report the crime, said Kheswa, and in South Africa the ‘corrective’ rape of lesbians is not seen as a hate crime.
A further blow to LGBTI rights on the continent was South Africa joining 79 countries in voting in favour of an amendment to remove sexual orientation from an anti-execution resolution at the United Nations General Assembly. The vast majority of countries who supported the amendment were African and also included Angola, Botswana, Kenya, Namibia and Rwanda. The amendment called for the words "sexual orientation" to be replaced by "discriminatory reasons on any basis", said Kheswa. For the last ten years the term "sexual orientation" was explicitly referred to in the resolution condemning extrajudicial, summary and arbitrary executions and other killings.
South Africa adding their vote implied it endorsed the human rights violations experienced by the LGBTI community at home and abroad, said Triangle Project programme co-ordinator Jill Henderson. "Political leaders are making decisions that contradict our constitution as LGBTI’s suffer arrest, assault, rape and even murder as homosexuality is criminalised by most African states," said Henderson. "The struggle is to make states aware that they need to start taking the human rights violation of LGBTI’s seriously," she said.
Repeated attempts to get comment from the African Union and the ACHPR were unsuccessful.
December 12, 2010 – The Washington Post
Gays in Africa face growing persecution, activists say
by Sudarsan Raghavan – Washington Post Foreign Service
Kmapala, Uganda – Persecution of gays is intensifying across Africa, fueled by fundamentalist preachers, intolerant governments and homophobic politicians. Gay people have been denied access to health care, detained, tortured and even killed, human rights activists and witnesses say. The growing tide of homophobia comes at a time when gays in Africa are expressing themselves more openly, prompting greater media attention and debates about homosexuality. The rapid growth of Islam and evangelical forms of Christianity, both espousing conservative views on family values and marriage, have persuaded many Africans that homosexuality should not be tolerated in their societies.
"It has never been harder for gays and lesbians on the continent," said Monica Mbaru, Africa coordinator for the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, based in Cape Town. "Homophobia is on the rise." Fearing for their lives, many activists are in hiding or have fled their countries. In Uganda, a bill introduced in parliament last year would impose the death penalty for repeated same-sex relations and life imprisonment for other homosexual acts. Local newspapers are outing gays, potentially inciting the public to attack them, activists say.
A day after a newspaper article said that gays should be hanged, Sheila Hope Mugisha became a target. As the prominent gay rights activist neared her home, she said, boys from the neighborhood threw stones at the gate and chanted, "You are a homo." Mugisha ran inside and locked the door. She didn’t leave for several days. "Here, homosexuality is like you have killed someone," she said. American gay activists have sent money to help the community here. Western governments – including aid donors – have vocally criticized the bill and denounced the treatment of gays.
That has angered conservative pastors here, many of whom are influenced by American anti-gay Christian groups and politicians who say that African values are under attack by Western attitudes. They say their goal is to change the sexual behavior of gays, not to physically harm them. "In Uganda, we look at homosexuality as an abomination. It is not normal," said Nsaba Butoro, Uganda’s minister on ethics and integrity and a vocal supporter of the bill. "You are talking about a clash of cultures. The question is: Which culture is superior, the African one or the Western one?"
More than two-thirds of African countries have laws criminalizing homosexuality. In May, a judge in Malawi imposed a maximum prison sentence of 14 years with hard labor on a gay couple convicted of "unnatural acts" for holding an engagement ceremony. Malawi’s president pardoned the couple after international condemnation, particularly from Britain, Malawi’s largest donor. Gays have also been attacked this year in Zimbabwe, and in Senegal their graves have been desecrated. Gays in Cameroon have been attacked by police and targeted in the media. In Gambia, President Yahya Jammeh has vowed to expel gays from the country and urged citizens not to rent homes to them.
Late last month, Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga declared that gay people discovered having sex should be arrested. He later backtracked after his comments drew widespread anger from human rights groups. A survey by the Forum on Religion and Public Life released in April found that 79 percent of Ugandans consider "homosexual behavior morally wrong," with even higher percentages in several other African countries. One exception is South Africa, whose constitution was the first in the world to outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation and is among a few countries in the world that have legalized same-sex marriages. Still, even there, negative attitudes toward gays persist in many rural areas and townships.
Mbaru’s organization has seen a 10 percent increase in reported attacks against gays in Africa in the past year, she said. According to Sexual Minorities Uganda, a gay rights group, more than 20 gay people have been attacked over the past year here. An additional 17 have been arrested and are in prison.
In recent years, conservative American evangelical churches have had a profound influence on society in Uganda and other African nations. They send missions and help fund local churches that share their brand of Christianity. Sermons and seminars by American evangelist preachers are staples on local television and radio networks across the continent.
December 09, 2010 – Global Health Magazine
Don’t Forget MSM–stemming the tide for a population vulnerable to HIV
by Margaret Dadian
Few populations are more threatened by the global HIV epidemic than men who have sex with men (MSM). In many regions, they are up to nine times more vulnerable to HIV than the general population. This vulnerability is due, in part, to unsafe sexual behaviors, but also to the social stigmatization, marginalization, and violence that drive MSM underground.
Homophobia is too often embedded in a country’s laws as well as its culture. In some 80 countries around the world, consensual homosexual sex is a crime that carries the penalty of imprisonment – and worse. Just last year, legislation was introduced to the Ugandan Parliament that would increase punishment for same-sex acts to life in prison and even the death penalty. Unfortunately, Uganda is not alone among African nations in considering such regressive legal persecution of sexual minorities.
On the streets, other trends are equally troubling. This month, the Asia Pacific Coalition on Male Health (APCOM) released its documentation of evidence that violence by police and other authorities against MSM and transgender people is on the rise throughout the region, a "campaign of hate and discrimination directed at the most vulnerable of citizens," according to APCOM Chairperson Sivananda Khan. Both discriminatory cultural norms and punitive laws prevent MSM from accessing HIV and other health services because they fear exposure of their sexuality could lead to mistreatment, incarceration, and violence. This creates a vicious cycle: Where the demand for the few existing services for MSM is stifled, even fewer MSM-targeted services are created. This is confirmed by data showing that only one in 10 MSM around the world has access to HIV prevention services.
Where human rights suffer, so does public health. In 2008, a UNAIDS report found higher levels of HIV prevalence among MSM in countries that criminalize homosexuality. For example, Guyana, where homosexuality is illegal, has HIV prevalence of more than 20 percent among MSM. In neighboring Suriname, where homosexual sex is not a crime, HIV prevalence among MSM is below 8 percent. Similar patterns are found worldwide.
But even in very difficult settings, prevention, testing and counseling, and care services are helping MSM deal with HIV. In Ghana, as in most of Africa, homosexuality is illegal and highly stigmatized. Yet a handful of small programs quietly and courageously provide hidden MSM populations with critical HIV services. The Center for Popular Education and Human Rights (CEPEHRG) in Accra and the Maritime Life Precious Foundation in Takoradi, both supported by PEPFAR, offer peer education, drop-in clinics, and an innovative, cell phone-based information, referral and counseling service. While both programs must operate with great sensitivity to prevailing public attitudes, their successes are noticed by Ghanaian officials, and collaborative efforts – such as MSM-friendly training for nurses and counselors in the public health sector – are increasing. Over time, Ghana may develop into a regional pioneer in programming for MSM and a model to other African nations.
In India, which repealed its legal ban on homosexual sex in India in 2009, the Humsafar Trust of Mumbai has spent years advocating for the rights of MSM and for an end to stigma and discrimination against sexual minorities. As the threat of HIV grew, Humsafar’s leaders realized they needed to create the kind of HIV programs for MSM that government health agencies were simply not providing. Humsafar has since built a wide array of prevention, treatment, care and support services, a true continuum of care for Mumbai’s complex and diverse MSM populations, despite discrimination against MSM in the larger society. Now, Humsafar and similar MSM organizations advise the Indian government on policy matters and help the Ministry of Health design national HIV programs that respond to the needs of MSM.
These pioneering programs represent promising approaches that address the needs of MSM in challenging settings. With increased emphasis on reducing overall HIV prevalence by focusing on this most-at-risk population, program planners and implementers on the ground need ready access to research, tools and successful interventions targeting MSM. The AIDSTAR-One Knowledge Base topic on hard-to-reach MSM gathers and synthesizes these resources to help support the design and implementation of evidence-informed programs. As the evidence increasingly confirms that HIV prevention programming targeting MSM is effective at slowing HIV transmission, governments, public health practitioners, and the general population must engage in honest dialogue about how best to meet the needs of this vulnerable population.