Useful websites for LGBT Africa:
(1) Behind the Mask
(2) More All Africa News
Africa is Dying from AIDS (1998 BBC)
New book 2007: Gay Travels in the Muslim World, Edited by Michael Luongo (ch. 10 by GlobalGayz owner Richard Ammon)
See books review: Gay City News
2 Transgender Rights Not Simply Gay Rights 2/10
3 LGBT Africans Face Blackmail and Extortion on a Regular Basis 2/11
4 1-in-5 unaware that HIV can be passed though unprotected gay sex 2/11
5 African Same-Sex Sexualities and Gender Diversity Conference 2/11
6 MEP…African aid should be received on condition of improving gay rights 2/11
7 Sexuality and HIV & AIDS IN Africa 2/11
8 BBC Debate on "Is homosexuality un-African?" Deeply Emotional 2/11
9 The Fourth Africa Conference on Sexual Health and Rights 3/11
10 Taking Freedom Home: it feels good to be Queer & African 3/11
11 Laws criminalizing homosexuality conflict with international HR standards 3/11
12 If Sexuality were a human being … 5/11
13 EU officials tell Africa to shape up on gay rights 5/11
14 Putting MSM On the Radar 5/11
16 Africa: New Light shed on Male Sex Work 6/11
17 Muslim States Must Support LGBT Rights 6/11
18 Human Rights and Traditional Values 6/11
19 Bringing LGBTI issues into the forced migration debate 7/11
20 "It is not always popular to do justice, but it is always right." 10/11
21 African activists on human rights and aid 11/11
January 1, 2011 – Sexuality Policy Watch
Winds of Change
by Sexuality Policy Watch Staff
Intro: As the world watches the tidal wave of revolution sweeping across northern Africa and the Middle East, the big question for the LGBT community is, how will this affect our people living there?
A democratic movement is sweeping across north Africa and the Middle East, but it’s still unclear exactly what it will bring for gays in the region
In 2009 Shiite militias rounded up, tortured and killed many “suspected gay men” in Iraq, an incident that was far from isolated; in 2010 a Saudi man was sentenced to 500 lashes and a five-year prison term for having sex with another man; in February this year police in Bahrain raided a “gay party” and arrested close to 200 people, 52 of whom are still in custody; in Turkey over the past two years more than a dozen transgender people have been murdered, with no charges laid in the majority of cases.
This is the Arab world, one of the worst places on the planet to be gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. As the international community watches the tidal wave of revolution and revolt that is sweeping across the region, toppling dictators and bringing democratic reforms, the big question for our community is, how will this affect LGBT people living there? Their lives have not been particularly good under the autocratic regimes they’ve endured for decades, but is democracy going to bring any improvement?
iceQueer (obviously not his real name) is a gay blogger and medical intern who was in Egypt’s Tahrir square during the protests earlier this year that saw president Hosni Mubarak driven from power. “It felt amazingly peaceful and cheerful,” he enthuses. “I love how diverse yet finally united Egypt is! I was holding a sign saying ‘secular’ in Arabic, English and French. We were all chanting that this protest is for the people and not for any party or religion.”
The chant of the protesters was “freedom, social justice and democracy” but it’s unclear yet how much of those will be given to the gay community. iceQueer is realistic about the chances of that happening in the short term. “You can’t ask for lots of changes that have different effects on people,” he says. “already asking for freedom and the fall of the regime bedazzled the whole country and its people, so imagine what would happen if we asked for LGBT rights? i believe Egypt’s LGBT community can only have its rights when Egypt becomes a real secular country.”
There’s still a long way to go to achieving that. iceQueer is out to his family and closest friends, but he has to be careful who else knows. there is no direct law prohibiting same-sex acts or relationships but the authorities still charge people under the Debauchery, Public Morals and Order statutes. “Most policemen play around a lot with words and the bugs in Egyptian law. They usually trap suspects by using words like debauchery when they ask them whether they practice same-sex sex or not, so they make suspects admit they practice ‘debauchery’.”
Of course, the situation could be a whole lot worse. Being gay in Egypt isn’t nearly as difficult – or life-threatening – as it is in devoutly Islamist countries like Iran and Saudi Arabia where the death sentence remains in place. During Egypt’s revolution a lot of commentators spoke about the threat of the Muslim Brotherhood, an avowedly homophobic islamist group, gaining greater influence. however, iceQueer plays down that possibility. “i don’t think the Muslim Brotherhood would have such an influence that would affect the majority of Egyptians.”
10 February 2011 – AllAfrica.com
Transgender Rights Not Simply Gay Rights
by Audrey Mbugua
In the aim of strengthening their cause, gay rights activism often compromises the identity and struggle of transgender people by lumping the two communities’ issues together, writes Audrey Mbugua.
There is a systematic ploy to erase the transgender community, experiences and lives. The ubiquitous actions that are slowly expunging transgender people from our civilisation and their pernicious nature are weighing heavily on the transgender community. It’s worth dissecting the issue for human rights activists to get a better perspective of how their activism is of benefit to transgender people. Luckily, there is a growing momentum in the transgender community to ensure the restoration of the dignity and autonomy of the community. There is a plethora of pitfalls – and mostly among the people who are targeted for re-education about the transgender concept.
Richard Feynman, an American physicist, once said that if you think you understand quantum mechanics then you don’t understand quantum mechanics. Without the fear of sounding cocky, I will say this: if you think you really think you understand the transgender concept, then there is a chance you don’t have the slightest clue what its all about, and might never be able to get it. The field of human rights activism targeting the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community is overflowing with fundamental flaws on the subject and issues of transgender people.
The problem is further compounded by a similar lack of awareness among a large section of the donor community. The result of course is that you end up having a huge chunk of funds being utilised to marginalise and spread misinformation about transgender people. While I appreciate and recognise people’s freedom of speech – the right to say anything under the sun or moon (but away from the police) – and that there are communities out there who have been vilified and their rights violated, I will not don kid’s gloves in addressing the matter at hand due to the people involved. This is an educational approach and it would be immature for anyone to blow a gasket because they have been told they are wrong.
Be a Real Woman, Don’t Confuse People
There are a number of stereotypes about women: they are soft, don’t fight back, are timid, cry for no reason, walk swinging their hips and, the most ubiquitous one, they all have broken wrists. There is a whole array of laws transsexuals have to abide by, some extending to who they should date. This phenomenon is referred to as gender-normative garbage (GNG). Some activists refer to it as hetero-normative (they are wrong) but that’s a topic for another day. Pamela Hayes reveals that transgender women get entrapped by this to the point of being defenceless in the face of oppression.
‘Some transsexuals are so concerned with how they appear to people, that they come across like robots. I have been in the company of trans women who seem like they have no personality. They are so preoccupied with being sweet and ladylike that they come off acting like a machine.
‘So many times, trans women have been out in public and have been insulted by a store clerk or have had people to get in their face and utter pejoratives… "Why didn’t you say something to the person who insulted you?" … "But I don’t want to be unladylike."
‘I don’t think saying something derogatory to someone who has insulted you is being unladylike. And maybe trans women need to knock it off with this perpetual ladylike garbage. Sometimes you can’t be ladylike. Circumstances preclude that.’
February 15, 2011 – Human Rights Watch
LGBT Africans Face Blackmail and Extortion on a Regular Basis – Homophobic Laws and Social Stigma to Blame
(Johannesburg) Antiquated laws against same-sex sexual activity as well as deeply ingrained social stigma result in the all-too-frequent targeting of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in Africa for blackmail and extortion, said the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) in a report launched today.
The report, Nowhere to Turn: Blackmail and Extortion of LGBT People in Sub-Saharan Africa, illustrates how LGBT Africans are made doubly vulnerable by the criminalization of homosexuality and the often-violent stigmatization they face if their sexuality is revealed. Based on research from 2007 to the present, the volume features articles and research by leading African activists and academics on the prevalence, severity and impact of these human rights violations on LGBT people in Cameroon, Ghana, Malawi, Nigeria, and Zimbabwe.
"The tragic reality is that blackmail and extortion are part of the daily lives of many LGBT Africans who are isolated and made vulnerable by homophobic laws and social stigma," says IGLHRC’s Executive Director, Cary Alan Johnson. "The responsibility clearly lies with governments to address these crimes and the underlying social and legal vulnerability of LGBT people."
The report’s authors vividly depict the isolation, humiliation and manipulation to which LGBT people are subjected by blackmailers and extortionists and describe the threats of exposure, theft, assault, and rape, that can damage and even destroy the lives of victims. Vulnerability to these crimes is faced on a regular basis and families and communities are not safe havens. For example, according to research conducted in Cameroon and featured in the report, "the bulk of blackmail and extortion attempts were committed by other members of the community – 33.9% by neighbors, 11.8% by family members, 11.5% by classmates, and 14.1% by homosexual friends. Police were often complicit in this – either by ignoring or dismissing it or, in 11.5% of cases, directly perpetrating it."
Nowhere to Turn explores the role the State plays in these crimes by ignoring blackmail and extortion carried out by police and other officials by failing to prosecute blackmailers, and by charging LGBT victims under sodomy laws when they do find the courage to report blackmail to the authorities. IGLHRC urges States to take concrete steps to reduce the incidence of these crimes by decriminalizing same-sex sexual activity, educating officials and communities about blackmail laws, and ensuring that all people are able to access judicial mechanisms without prejudice.
A PDF version of Nowhere to Turn is available here. To obtain a hard copy of the volume, email
For more information, please contact:
Chivuli Ukwimi (IGLHRC, in Cape Town)
(27) 79-443-3938 – email
Jessica Stern (IGLHRC, in New York)
(+1) 212-430-6014 – email
Sam Cook (IGLHRC, in Johannesburg)
18 February 2011 – PinkNews
One in five unaware that HIV can be passed though unprotected gay sex
by Jessica Geen
A survey suggests that one in five people do not know that HIV can be passed on through unprotected gay sex. The poll of 1,944 people, by the National AIDS Trust, also found that the same number did not realise that unsafe heterosexual sex could lead to transmission of the virus. African and Caribbean people were least likely to know that unprotected gay sex was a route of transmission – 49 per cent compared with 20 per cent overall.
This is the fourth year that the charity has published the annual survey ’HIV: Public Knowledge and Attitudes’. Researchers said it was particularly concerning that more people now wrongly believe that HIV can be caught through kissing (nine per cent) and spitting (ten per cent). These figures have doubled from 2007’s survey from four per cent and five per cent respectively. Less than half of the public (45 per cent ) believe HIV can be passed from person to person by sharing needles or syringes. Only 30 per cent were able to correctly identify all the ways HIV can and cannot be passed on.
Sixty-seven per cent of people said they had sympathy for those with HIV and 74 per cent believed they should have the same level of support and respect as people with cancer. Eleven per cent had no sympathy, rising to 30 per cent towards those infected with HIV through unprotected sex. Almost half of people (47 per cent) thought that there are no effective ways of preventing a pregnant mother with HIV from passing HIV on to her baby. Evidence shows that the right treatment gives an HIV-positive mother a 99 per cent chance of having a healthy baby.
Deborah Jack, the chief executive of National AIDS Trust, said: “It is certainly positive to see the majority of the public have supportive attitudes towards people with HIV, but there are still huge gaps in awareness of what it means to live with HIV in the UK today.
“It is extremely important that inroads are made in terms of educating the general public so we can eradicate the prejudice which still exists around HIV. In addition to improving knowledge of HIV, intensive work also needs to go into tackling the often deep-seated judgments and beliefs held about HIV and the people affected. The government made a concerted and effective effort to tackle this stigma in mental health, and now it is time for HIV to be addressed in the same way.”
February 22, 2011 – African Activist
African Same-Sex Sexualities and Gender Diversity Conference
Over 85 persons from all over Africa participated in the African Same-Sex Sexualities and Gender Diversity conference last week in Pretoria, South Africa. The central role of religion and spirituality among African lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) persons was one of the key topics at the conference. Another key topic was the importance of placing LGBTI activism in a context that resonates with African life. The central role of religion and spirituality in the lives of African LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered and intersexed) was one of the first observations.
There is a strong religious and spiritual experience among African LGBTI persons. While in practice integration is not always smooth, same-sex sexuality and religion/spirituality are not mutually exclusive. The importance of collaborating with religious- and faith-based leaders, and traditional healers to improve the lives of LGBTI persons was emphasized. Over 85 people participated in Pretoria, South Africa, coming from all over the African continent, including countries such as Burundi, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Gabon, Ghana, Guinea Bissau, Kenya, Liberia, Malawi, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Togo, Uganda and Zimbabwe. The late David Kato, brutally murdered in Uganda, was scheduled to speak and was deeply missed during the conference.
A need was expressed for African persons with same-sex sexual desire and gender variant experiences to not automatically adopt Western labels, models and strategies. Historical, cultural, economical, and political conditions require a liberation paradigm that is contextualized and resonates with African life. There is a strong need for the acknowledgement for the diversity of same-sex sexual desires and practices as well as gender variance, and the interaction between both. While unity and solidarity are crucial to promoting change, too much would be lost if it results in singular prescribed ways of being LGBTI.
For the first time a series of portraits of 10 African transgender activists was exhibited on African soil. The exhibition, “Proudly African and Transgender,” is a collaboration of the artist Gabrielle Le Roux and several transgendered persons. Intended to create more understanding and awareness, the portraits tell moving stories of pain but also show strength and pride in the face of adversity and oppression.
Outspoken Radio broadcast several important interviews with conference organisers (starts at 31:00). Conference presentations will be available in a few months…here Religion plays a central role in the progress of LGBTI rights in Africa. Last week, the Malawi Council of Churches officially supported the criminalisation of sex between women by the government. The people most impacted by religious-based homophobia are often LGBTI persons of faith themselves. You may view the exhibit Proudly African and Transgender at Black Looks.
23 February 2011 – PinkPaper.com
MEP says African aid should be received on condition of improving gay rights
by Peter Lloyd
Following the death of David Kato, Conservative MEP Charles Tannock has said that African aid should only be given if the continent is willing to develop gay rights. In the European Parliament in Strasbourg last Thursday, the Foreign Affairs and Human Rights Spokesman raised the issue of the campaigner’s death, saying that he believes it was a direct result of the hatred and hostility towards Uganda’s LGBT community, whipped up by certain hard-line parliamentarians in that country.
Twice in the past year the European Parliament has lambasted the attempts by some MPs in Uganda to mandate the death penalty for the so-called crime of same-sex activity.
Tannock said: “It is inevitable that in a climate of such bigotry the lives of gay rights activists would be endangered, and so it has sadly proved to be the case with David Kato. He knew the risks of publicly defending gays. He and other alleged homosexuals were outed last year by a newspaper which printed their photos next to a headline which said, disgracefully, ‘hang them’. I am sure that many of my London constituents are deeply concerned about the European Union giving financial aid to a country where such disgusting sentiments are not only tolerated but sometimes apparently officially condoned.
“I hope that Parliament’s Delegation for relations with the Pan-African Parliament will consider carefully what action it can take to register our anger and disgust at Mr Kato’s murder and, more generally, to underline that the EU’s continuing engagement and financial aid to African countries must be reciprocated with progress on fundamental human rights on that continent.”
25 February, 2011 – MSM Global Forum
Sexuality and HIV & AIDS IN Africa Report of the 4th Africa Conference on Sexual Health and Rights
by Rose Lukalo-Owino, et al Article
Table Of Contents
List of Abbreviations and Acronym__4
Executive Summary_____________ 5
Objectives and Expected Outcomes_7
Objective I____________________ 7
Objective II ___________________ 7
Objective III ___________________7
View original article here
February 28, 2011 – African Activist
BBC Debate on "Is homosexuality un-African?" Deeply Emotional
by Ben Cashdan on Vimeo.
Protester Outside Studio
The BBC World News debate in Johannesburg, South Africa on the question "Is homosexuality un-African?" almost came to blows on Sunday. The debate included Ugandan MP David Bahati, the lead sponsor of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill of 2009. Bahati said that the debate made him more determined than ever to pass his bill in Uganda’s Parliament. BBC World News will televise the debate on March 12 and 13. The five-member studio discussion panel included David Bahati, the MP behind the Ugandan bill which seeks to impose the death penalty in certain cases of homosexuality, the former president of Botswana, Festus Mogae, as well as South African writer Eusebius Mckaiser.
Studio audience members were seemingly evenly split, representing various LGBT activist groups as well as anti-gay organisations including the Congress of Traditional Leaders of South Africa (Contralesa) and the African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP)…
Kukkuk said: "The shouting from both sides in the audience was so loud that you couldn’t hear the people speak. It nearly came to blows." A key issue in the debate was the question of whether homosexuality is “un-African”, a position vigorously defended by Bahati, who is a born-again Christian. He also claimed in the debate that children were being "recruited" by gays in Uganda and that gays and lesbians were placing the family under threat. During the discussion, Mogae said that he supported the legalisation of homosexually and revealed that during his ten year tenure as president he ordered police not prosecute gays and lesbians under his country’s anti-gay laws.
When asked why he had not worked to decriminalise homosexuality while president, Mogae reportedly replied that "I did not want to lose an election just for gays". He advocated gentle persuasion, debate and discussion to bring people around. According to Kukkuk, Bahati was shocked to be faced with a lesbian couple from the audience proudly kissing. "He said that he was offended [by the kiss] and later said that the debate had only made him more determined to push through his Anti-Homosexuality Bill in parliament," said Kukkuk…
Mazibuko Jara, the Chairperson of The Lesbian and Gay Equality Project, told Mambaonline that the protest aimed to send a message to Bahati that he "must take responsibility for the death of David Kato," the recently slain Ugandan LGBT activist. "Next time we will not be so kind to [Bahati] and allow him to speak. He should be handed over to the criminal justice system," added Jara. Other activists slammed the South African government for allowing Bahati to enter the country. The BBC World debate on homosexuality in Africa will be broadcast on BBC World on 12 and 13 March. Check local schedules for more details.
March 2011 – Sexuality HIV & AIDS in Africa
The Fourth Africa Conference on Sexual Health and Rights
The Fourth Africa Conference on Sexual Health and Rights shall be held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (8th – 12th February 2010). This conference is part of a long-term process of building and fostering regional dialogue on sexual rights and health that leads to concrete action to influence policy particularly that of the African Union and its bodies. This conference follows three previous conferences: February 4 – 7, 2008 in Abuja (Nigeria); June 19 – 21, 2006 in Nairobi (Kenya); February 25 – 29, 2004 in Johannesburg (South Africa). It will focus on critical documents that have been developed to promote comprehensive sexual health and rights in Africa, including the Maputo Plan of Action and the ICPD.
The Fourth Africa Conference on Sexual Health and Rights is being convened under the auspices of the Africa Federation for Sexual Health and Rights, the regional representative body of the World Association for Sexual Health, and hosted by the International Planned Parenthood Federation – Africa Regional Office in collaboration with Action Health Incorporated (AHI), Nigeria.
The purpose of the 4th Africa Conference on Sexual Health and Rights is to examine the interrelationship between sexuality and HIV & AIDS. In particular, to open up discourse on sexuality in Africa and how this might lead to new insights in reducing the spread of HIV & AIDS in Africa. The focus will be on identifying new and emerging vulnerabilities and vulnerable people using the concept of sexual rights and sexuality in the fight against HIV & AIDS; explore how the application of human rights framework to sexuality might provide new insights in developing interventions to reduce the spread of HIV & AIDS and map out new and innovative strategies, programming and funding best suited to deal with those most vulnerable to HIV & AIDS infection.
The Conference will focus on critical issues like gender based violence including female genital mutilation, rape as a weapon of war etc, child marriages, masculinity, sexual orientation, gender equality and sexuality, sexuality of people living with HIV & AIDS – all factors that are critical to any interventions focusing on sexual health, rights and HIV & AIDS. It will provide a framework of how sexuality and the application of sexual rights would lead to lead to openness, responsibility and choices for all people, and in particular for young people, on sex, sexuality and sexual behaviour.
The discourse on sexuality as a way of dealing with HIV & AIDS has become critical as a result of many factors. HIV & AIDS is primarily transmitted through sexual relations in Africa, and much of those sexual relations in Africa are experienced through unequal, forced or coerced sex with inherent sexual/human rights abuses. These are manifested in different ways, including the incestuous defilement and rape of young girls, trafficking of women and girls for sex slavery, child marriages, female genital mutilation (FGM) with the underlying assumption that women do not deserve or should not enjoy sex, wife inheritance and other forms of sexual based violence like mass rape of women and girls in conflict, and violence within stable relationships to coerce sex. Within all these is the assumption of unequal sexual relationships and partnerships.
March 9, 2011 – Black Looks
Taking Freedom Home: it feels good to be Queer & African
Kenyan filmmaker and activist, Kagendo Murungi talks with Nigeria Queer performance poet and dancer, Yvonne Fly Onakeme Etaghene and filmmaker Selly Thiam project director of None on Record. They talk about their art, coming out and what it means to be Queer and African. Kagendo is the co-director of Liberation for Africans, a New York based committee of African gender non-conforming African people.
10 March 2011 – UN Human Rights
Laws criminalizing homosexuality are incompatible with international human rights standards and fuel homophobia
Laws criminalizing same-sex relations between consenting adults remain on the statute books in more than 70 countries. They are an affront to principles of equality and non-discrimination and fuel hatred and violence—in effect giving homophobia a State-sanctioned seal of approval. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, and UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon have both called for the worldwide decriminalization of homosexuality and for further measures to counter discrimination and prejudice directed at those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT). In recent months, a series of incidents and developments have underscored the extent and the urgency of the challenge.
Homophobia, like racism and misogyny is a prejudice born of ignorance © OHCHRIn February 2011, Malawi enacted a law criminalizing homosexuality among women. Homosexuality is already illegal for men in that county. If convicted, a defendant could receive up to five years’ imprisonment. Responding to the Malawian decision, the High Commissioner said “I have repeatedly argued that laws criminalizing homosexuality are inherently discriminatory and incompatible with existing international human right standards, including those enshrined in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Malawi has acceded, and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, which Malawi has ratified.”
In Uganda, on 26 January 2011, leading gay human rights activist David Kato was beaten to death in his home outside Kampala. In the months leading up to his murder, he had been a target of a hate-campaign mounted by a local newspaper, The Rolling Stone, which printed his name, photograph and address alongside those of dozens of others the paper claimed were gay or lesbian, and called for them to be hanged. “We must await the outcome of judicial proceedings to know who killed him and why. But whoever is responsible and whatever their motive, we know the fear felt by many lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals in Uganda and elsewhere who continue to face widespread prejudice and the constant threat of homophobic violence. Kato’s death robs them of a brave and eloquent advocate. The Ugandan authorities must act to counter this climate of hate and ensure the safety of all Ugandans,” the High Commissioner said.
Homosexuality is illegal in Uganda and a pending Anti-Homosexual Bill would broaden the criminalization of homosexuality, imposing life imprisonment or even the death penalty for anyone who is found to be lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender or HIV positive. The Bill also includes a provision that could lead to a prison sentence of up to three years for anyone who fails to report within 24 hours the identities of any LGBT individual, including members of their own family. Even where homosexuality is not subject to criminal sanctions, LGBT individuals continue to suffer discrimination and violence, fuelled by homophobia. In the United States, for example, the recent suicide of seven teenage boys in the space of a single month was attributed to homophobic bullying in schools. Homophobia also lay behind the shocking case of three young men, kidnapped, beaten and tortured in New York City in October 2010. According to the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs in the United States, 2,181 hate crimes targeting LGBT persons were recorded in 2009, including 22 murders.
In Honduras, seven transgender persons were reported murdered during a two month period between November 2010 and January 2011, bringing a total of 34 LGBT persons killed in that country since June 2009, according to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Organization of American States. In Brazil, Grupo Gay da Bahia, a long established NGO working on LGBT human rights issues, recently reported that in 2010, 250 LGBT individuals were killed because of their sexual orientation or gender identity—equivalent to one person killed every day and a half. The same source reports that more than 3,100 homosexuals have been killed in Brazil since 1980.
“Decriminalizing homosexuality is an essential first step towards establishing genuine equality before the law. But real, lasting progress cannot be achieved by changing laws alone. We must change minds as well. Like racism and misogyny, homophobia is a prejudice born of ignorance. And like other forms of prejudice, the most effective long-term response is information and education,” the High Commissioner said.
2011 May 11 – Pambazuka News
If Sexuality were a human being …
Introduction to ‘African Sexualities: A Reader’
by Sylvia Tamale
If Sexuality were a human being and she made a grand entrance (l’entrée grande) into the African Union conference centre, the honourable delegates would stand up and bow in honour. But the acknowledgement of and respect for Sexuality would no doubt be tinged with overtones of parody and irony, even sadness, because although Sexuality might represent notions of pleasure and the continuity of humanity itself, the term conjures up discussions about sources of oppression and violence. In fact, once Sexuality got to the podium and opened her mouth, the multiple complexities associated with her presence would echo around the conference room.
The Reader on African Sexualities (hereafter referred to as the Reader) intends to translate these echoes into comprehensible notions and concepts, carefully examining their different wavelengths and the terms of their power and laying bare the theoretical, political and historical aspects of African sexualities. The term ‘African sexualities’ immediately provokes the questions: who/what is African? What is sexuality? Who determines what qualifies as African sexualities? Among other things, the Reader attempts to address these deeply complex questions through the lenses of history, feminism, law, sociology, anthropology, spirituality, poetry, fiction, life stories, rhetoric, song, art and public health. In this way the Reader offers a rare opportunity to theorise sexuality through various modes. The idea is to deconstruct, debunk, expose, contextualise and problematise concepts associated with African sexualities in order to avoid essentialism, stereotyping and othering.
The material in this Reader has been carefully selected to surface the complexities associated with what has been pandered as African and the issues surrounding sexuality that have been taken for granted. One of the main challenges for contributors to the Reader was to refuse to perpetuate colonial reification of ‘African’ as a homogenous entity. Hence, the title’s reference to African sexualities is not because we are unaware of the richness and diversity of African peoples’ heritage and experiences. Jane Bennett’s essay in Chapter 6 addresses this issue at great length.
Any reference to the term ‘African’ in this volume is used advisedly to highlight those aspects of cultural ideology – the ethos of community, solidarity and ubuntu – that are widely shared among the vast majority of people within the geographical entity baptised ‘Africa’ by the colonial map-makers. More importantly, the term is used politically to call attention to some of the commonalities and shared historical legacies inscribed in cultures and sexualities within the region by forces such as colonialism, capitalism, imperialism, globalisation and fundamentalism. Even as these commonalities are proposed, however, readers will find them challenged.
23 May 2011 – LGBT Asylum News
EU officials tell Africa to shape up on gay rights
Source: EU Observer
By Andrew Reitman
EU development commissioner Andris Piebalgs and his predecessor, Louis Michel, have spoken out against homophobia at a meeting of EU, African and Caribbean politicians.
Michel, currently a Liberal Belgian MEP, who built a big name for himself in Africa during his five years in charge of disbursing EU aid to developing countries, said: "I have saved for last a consideration that is dear to my heart. The right to be different is at the heart of human rights. I would fail in my duties if I made no reference to a sensitive subject in this assembly." "I wish to say with the greatest determination that we will never accept that governments or politicians may use, or even exploit, any ‘cultural’ argument in an attempt to justify the hunt and demonization of homosexuality."
Piebalgs said the EU is rooted under the EU treaty and the Charter of Fundamental Rights to combating anti-gay hatred. The two EU personalities made the comments in Budapest 17 May to mark international anti-homophobia day. African and Caribbean societies display some of the highest levels of intolerance toward gay people. Uganda last week postponed a vote in parliament on a bill threatening same-sex lovers with the death penalty. Human Rights Watch on Wednesday published a letter to the government of Cameroon saying its detention of Jean-Claude Mbede for three years for arranging a date with his lover is unconstitutional.
The NGO said jail sentences for gay men in some African countries can amount to death sentences because of violent assaults including sexual violence, by other inmates.
Almost all the EU institutions on Tuesday issued high-level statements to mark the international event. The bloc’s top diplomat, Catherine Ashton, said: "The EU calls on all States to end acts of violence, criminal sanctions and human rights violations against individuals because of their sexual orientation or gender identity." She noted that 80 countries worldwide criminalise homosexual acts and seven use the death penalty against gay people.
EU Council President Herman Van Rompuy said: "We in the European Union can take some pride in being at the vanguard of combating homophobia … It is something that distinguishes Europe from many other parts of the world."
North and west-lying EU member states are world leaders in terms of anti-discrimination laws. But cultural and rights gaps exist in south and east-lying countries. The Polish centre-left SLD paty on Tuesday introduced a bill in the Sejm proposing that same-sex couples should be able to legally register ‘civil unions’ and to claim almost the same level of rights as married couples. But the ruling centre-right Civic Platform (PO) party and the right-wing opposition PiS parties immediately came out against it.
PO chief Tomasz Tomyczkiewicz said the law is against the Polish constitution. PiS chief Jaroslaw Kaczynski said "You can now say that the SLD is the party of homosexuals." Hungary, which recently voted through a new constitution that also contains an implicit ban on gay unions, was, in its role as the rotating EU presidency, the only major EU institution to stay silent on homophobia on Tuesday. For their parts, US secretary of state Hilary Clinton and UN human rights envoy Navi Pillay voiced similar views to EU leaders.
Mentioning Serbia and Uganda as targets for US pro-tolerance diplomacy, Clinton said: "These are not Western concepts: these are universal human rights." Pillay, a native South African, said: "Under international law, states have an obligation to decriminalise homosexuality and to protect individuals from discrimination on the basis of their sexual orientation."
23 May 2011 – AllAfrica.com
Putting MSM On the Radar
by Khopotso Bodibe
A three-day conference to be held in Cape Town from today will focus on men who have sex with men (MSM) as a key target group to consider in developing policy and interventions for HIV prevention and treatment. Called Top to Bottom, the timing of the conference couldn’t be more appropriate. It’s just three weeks away from the 30th anniversary of the first-ever diagnosis of AIDS. In 1982, GRID or Gay Related Immune Deficiency was the first name proposed to describe what is known as AIDS today, as the condition was first seen among gay men in America. But soon after, the face of the epidemic changed from that of a gay man. It began to manifest in large numbers in general populations, with women becoming increasingly at risk. The condition was then renamed AIDS, Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. The re-definition inadvertently led to the shift of focus away from gay men but with drastic consequences.
"There has been no government-focused MSM prevention campaign. You don’t see bill-boards that talk about this. You don’t see programmes that talk about this. It is very much a neglected population. I think that some of it is understandable. I think that we moved so rapidly into a generalised epidemic where women were particularly at risk that that’s been the major focus. But I think MSM as a group have been neglected and have been left at very high risk and I think it’s time to stop that" says Dr James McIntyr, Chief Executive Officer of Anova Health Institute, organizers of the conference.
But McIntyre believes that the government’s attitude on men who have sex with men or the MSM community will soon change. He draws the inspiration from the fact that Health Minister, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, has agreed to give the keynote address at the conference. "That’s indicative of the Department of Health and the Minister’s personal response to MSM and recognising the need for programming. That’s very, very positive", he says.
The winds of change are blowing. Perhaps even more encouraging is the response by the head of the South African National AIDS Council, Dr Nono Simelela, in a recent interview when asked what key issues the next National Strategic Plan on HIV and AIDS, which is currently being formulated, should address. "Men who have sex with men, women who are in relationships with other women but also have sex with men" Simelela says.
"Those groups exist. Let’s not pretend that those practices are not there. Let’s talk about them. We’ve got a liberal Constitution. The Constitution says people are free to express. And if those groups need care and support, let’s provide it. Let’s get our health providers trained on dealing with those things and provide care in a rights-based manner: respect the dignity of people, respect the rights of people and provide them with care in the best possible way", she continues.
Anova’s Dr James McIntyre says HIV infection levels among men who have sex with men are growing. A few studies suggest that more than 30% of men who have sex with men in some of the country’s metropolitan areas are HIV-infected. "Rates are a little higher than we see in heterosexual men. There have been rates of 33%, 40% in one study. In the Soweto men study in young gay men under the age of 25, the rates were very high. We were approaching 40%. They looked almost like the rate that you see in young women, whereas, in general, young men in South Africa have a much lower rate of HIV".
June 2011 – IGLHRC
Nowhere to Turn
New York – In January 2011, IGLHRC released the report, Nowhere to Turn: Blackmail and Extortion of LGBT People in Sub-Saharan Africa. The report, already well-received by organizations across Africa, illustrates how LGBT Africans are made doubly vulnerable by the criminalization of homosexuality and the often-violent stigmatization they face if their sexuality is revealed. Based on research from 2007 to the present, the volume features articles and research by leading African activists and academics on the prevalence, severity and impact of these human rights violations on LGBT people in Cameroon, Ghana, Malawi, Nigeria, and Zimbabwe.
Read the complete 140-page report: Nowhere to Turn: Blackmail and Extortion of LGBT People in Sub-Saharan Africa.
20 June 2011 – Plus News
Africa: New Light shed on Male Sex Work
Commercial sex work, dominated by a focus on women, could be redefined as new research launched today in Nairobi, Kenya, sheds light on the complicated HIV prevention needs of what may be Africa’s most deeply underground group at high risk of HIV – male sex workers. The report co-authored by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and South Africa’s Sex Workers Education and Advocacy Taskforce (SWEAT) seeks to better understand the social contexts, sexual practices and risks, including that of HIV, among these men. The professional debut of many of the 70 male sex workers surveyed in Kenya, Namibia, South Africa, Uganda and Zimbabwe was often prompted by the family rejecting the men’s sexual orientation; for others, it was a way to survive in a foreign country.
Men reported being at risk of HIV in many ways, including the unavailability of specialty health services, the premium clients placed on unprotected sex, violence and the lure of substance abuse. Although the work often placed them at risk of substance and physical abuse as well as HIV infection, the researchers found that it also provided the men with a sense of freedom and empowerment. The report cautions that mitigating these risks may require specialised HIV prevention services unlike those targeted at female commercial sex workers or men who have sex with men (MSM).
A series of interviews with male sex workers at a five-country workshop in Johannesburg, South Africa, and country visits to Kenya and Namibia has produced a significant addition to the paucity of data on male sex workers, according to Paul Boyce, a UNDP researcher. While data on MSM from Malawi, Namibia and Botswana indicated that about 17 percent were HIV positive – almost twice the national prevalence rates of their respective countries – not much has been written on the specific HIV risks of male sex workers, which may be higher than those of MSM. While male sex workers reported working at a range of venues, including Namibian truck stops and Zimbabwean mines, most of the available information on male sex work has come from those operating in the sex tourism hot spot of Mombasa, Kenya, with limited data from a 2009 study in South Africa that showed male sex workers were twice as likely to engage in anal sex than MSM who were not selling sex.
Not necessarily the same old risks
Unprotected receptive anal sex carries almost 20 times the HIV risk associated with unprotected vaginal sex. Interviewees told researchers that the unavailability of water-based lubricant, which reduces the risk of condoms breaking during anal sex, and the higher financial reward of unprotected anal sex, made consistent condom use difficult. Some clients forced unprotected intercourse on sex workers, while others admitted to practicing unsafe sex due to the disinhibition often brought about by the drug and alcohol abuse that is reportedly part of the social scene in sex work. Drugs and alcohol also helped the men mentally cope with the omnipresent risks of this lifestyle, including police harassment. South African male sex workers said substance abuse – not HIV infection – was the greatest threat to their health.
Those who tried to access health services for HIV testing and treatment, or the diagnosis of sexually transmitted infections (STIs), reported being ridiculed and stigmatized by health workers, even in countries like Kenya, where the Ministry of Health has introduced new guidelines on MSM and sex work, and health and HIV. "[At the] government hospital, the nurses just [stand] in front of everyone and shout out loud to the people waiting for assistance: ‘If you have HIV, go to room nine, TB room 12, STD [sexually transmitted disease] room 8,’" said one man quoted in the report. "Nurses often call each other when they find out about someone being a male sex worker, saying: ‘We have never had such a case’ or ‘come look at what his type of STI, we have never had it at this hospital before.’"
June 23, 2011 – Huffpost World
Muslim States Must Support LGBT Rights
by Melody Moezzi
Last week, in an historic and long-overdue move, the United Nations passed a resolution recognizing the rights of gay, lesbian and transgender people around the world. With South Africa leading the charge, the U.N. Human Rights Council voted in favor of the resolution by a narrow margin of 23 to 19, with three abstentions. The new declaration holds that no one should be subject to discrimination or violence based on her or his sexual orientation or gender identity. Sounds like common sense to me, something that ought to go without saying, but unfortunately, it cannot go without saying. According to Amnesty International, 76 countries around the world continue to criminalize consensual same-sex relations, and whether as a result of discriminatory legal systems or hate crimes or suicide, one thing is certain: gays, lesbians and transgender individuals are being killed, tortured and victimized all over the world, simply for being who they are.
If that isn’t the very definition of a human rights violation, I’m not sure what is. The LGBT community represents the most vulnerable and marginalized sector of nearly every society worldwide, and as such, it’s vital that international bodies like the U.N. speak up in support of LGBT rights. Likewise, because it is so often religion that is abused and misused to justify the assault, murder and harassment of gays, lesbians and transgender people, it is equally important for religious individuals, groups and organizations to stand up in defense of the LGBT community. As a Muslim, it is my moral obligation to speak out and stand up whenever I see an injustice being carried out, and if I see any particular group that is especially vulnerable or marginalized, it is my moral duty to rush to that community’s aid. So, it’s especially painful for me to see Muslim majority countries and members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) voting against this historic U.N. resolution. If it was, as I suspect, some alleged affinity for Islam that led Pakistan, Malaysia, Jordan, Senegal or other OIC countries to oppose this resolution, I have some words of caution and advice for the OIC.
First, as Muslims, I’m sure you know that it is your religious duty to pursue peace and justice and that there is no sin worse than oppressing another human being. So, no matter your personal theological opinion or your interpretation of the Biblical story of Lot, it is incumbent upon you to resist oppression, and in doing so, to protect those who happen to be most vulnerable to it in any given time or place. Second, if we, as Muslims, expect our rights to be respected around the world, then we too must respect the rights of other minority groups. This includes the LGBT community. As Muslims, we know what it’s like to live in a world that can be hostile and discriminatory. Therefore, we have an even greater obligation to create the least hostile and discriminatory planet we can.
Let’s face it, my dear OIC member states, there are alarmingly large numbers of people out there who are convinced that Islam is the devil incarnate, that we Muslims are out to conquer and destroy the world, and that Islam is both "wrong" and "immoral." I know that these people exist because they love sending me emails. That said, I vehemently disagree with all of them, and I thank God that their hatred and bigotry hold no weight in any American court of law. So too, your intolerance and homophobia should hold no more legal weight than any of my pen pals’ vicious Islamophobia.
Finally, the LGBT Muslim community, along with their many heterosexual allies such as myself, will not let bigots and homophobes define our religion for us or for the rest of the world. We have scholars and imams in our ranks, and we refuse to be considered "less Muslim" because of our sexual orientation, gender identity or our choice to acknowledge that such distinctions are in fact God-given. Thus, the OIC member states that chose to oppose the recent U.N. LGBT rights resolution have not spoken for Muslims worldwide, and this is one Muslim who isn’t about to let them try.
23 June, 2011 – MSM Global Forum
Human Rights and Traditional Values: exploring the intersections, challenges, and opportunities
by Monica Mbaru
Same-sex sexuality and gender diversity have existed in African cultures for centuries. Many books and articles have documented this reality, only a few of which are referenced in this paper. Much proof also exists in many African languages that sexual and gender diversity has been known in many African cultures, even if that language strongly suggests social disapproval or stigma. “Despite this, some gay rights activists in recent years have adopted them to describe themselves with a touch of pride. They say the mere fact that such words exist in African languages is proof that people like themselves have always been known in traditional culture.”
In addition, many legal scholars and authors have traced the legacy of the current criminal sanctions in many African countries to their British, Dutch and Roman colonial roots. Despite the fact that England and Wales decriminalized most consensual homosexual conduct in 1967, this came too late for most of Britain’s colonies, many of which won independence in the 1950s and 1960s. Therefore, they won these victories with colonial sodomy laws still in place.
Despite this colonial history, and the desires of many African nations to shed these legacies, many leaders invoke the values contained in these outdated and discriminatory laws as traditionally “African”. “Yet the wealth of data that is available clearly demonstrates that the homophobia of such African presidents as Moi (Kenya), Mugabe (Zimbabwe) and Nujoma (Namibia) who maintain that ‘homosexuality is a western perversion, alien to Africans’, is not based on African culture and history. In fact, homophobia is an idea introduced by missionaries and colonial administrators (Kendall 1999, Wieringa 2002) and copied by
The picture is not all bad, however. This year, 2011, will mark the 15th anniversary of the world’s first constitution to include specific wording to protect from discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation (South Africa). And even before that, as early as 1991, Lesotho and Ethiopia became the first two African nations to uphold the idea of gay rights as promoting democracy for all citizens. But even in South Africa, the reality on the streets for LGBT people paints a different picture than the legal framework would suggest. Human rights abuses on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity occur daily including reported cases of lesbian, bisexual and transgendered women being murdered, raped and subjected to violence. And in the regional and international arena, South Africa has failed to demonstrate leadership in the area of human rights for LGBT persons.
View original article here
2011 July 26 – Pambazuka News
Bringing LGBTI issues into the forced migration debate
by Jeff Ogwaro
The International Association for the Study of Forced Migration (IASFM) international conference – which took place in Kampala, Uganda, over the period 3–6 July 2011 on the theme of ‘Governing migration’ – hosted two roundtable discussions on issues of forced migration and the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and inter-sex (LGBTI) factor. Hassan Shire, executive director of East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders’ Project (EHAHRDP) and the chair of EHAHRDP-Net, the network body hosted by the same organisation, outlined some of the factors leading to persons seeking to migrate to other countries such as laws that criminalise homosexuality – as is the case in Uganda – and the resultant prosecution, police harassment and public ridicule of LGBTI persons. Not long ago, a bill outlawing the act of homosexuality as well as ‘promoting’ homosexuality, which puts the work of many organisations and individuals that work with LGBTIs at risk, was proposed. LGBTI persons in Uganda have faced a lot of trouble because of their sexuality. They have been arrested, sacked from jobs, thrown out of houses by landlords, ostracised by their families, friends and immediate community, threatened with violence and undergone tremendous psychological stress. As a result organisations such as EHAHRDP have had to help with relocating particularly homosexual LGBTI human rights defenders, either within the country or abroad for safety and psychological respite.
Adrian Jjuuko, the coordinator of the Uganda Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights Constitutional Law, a body that was formed to counter the proponents of the anti-homosexuality bill in Uganda, explained the legacy of the anti-homosexuality laws in Uganda as being from the so-called common law that was from the colonial era and also elaborated on other proposed laws that are meant to discriminate against LGBTI persons. A case he gave is the Equal Opportunities Bill, which excludes sexual minorities from accessing the Equal Opportunities Commission as a mechanism when discriminated against, say, in social services provision. According to Jjuuko, the implications of criminalising homosexuality include criminalising just the identity, relegating LGBTIs to second-class citizenship, police harassment, possibilities of blackmail and being accused of recruiting children. The options that remain for LGBTI persons when faced with the prospects of being prosecuted are to get out of the country, stay in the country and get harassed, arrested or prosecuted, and become internally displaced – which usually means relocation to a part of the country where one is not known and staying discrete while there. The question ‘Do LGBTIs fall in the definition for forced migration?’ is pertinent. Is it an accepted reason for migration? These questions have been asked amidst a backdrop of deportation of LGBTI asylum seekers from countries such as the UK.
Some of the other issues discussed and which are related to LGBTI asylum included asylum-seeking processes for LGBTI asylum seekers that are very controversial, such as having to prove one is LGBTI by association and by relationships they have or have had. Some LGBTI fear to state that as a reason for their seeking asylum and instead give other reasons. Bisexual asylum seekers even find it more challenging because their sexuality is then called to question. Generally the mix between xenophobia, homophobia and transphobia make it difficult for LGBTI forced migrants to seek help or even to be helped with resettlement.
Liesl Theron, the executive director of Gender Dynamix, a South African transgender organisation, expressed concern that in some of the countries, all-inclusive laws were drafted but the process was top-heavy with little or no consultations with the grassroots populace. This has more often than not led to backlash on the LGBTI community in those countries. ‘There was no community consultation on the South African Constitution about non-discrimination of LGBTIs,’ she said – a case of a good law on paper. That is why there is a backlash on the community – corrective rape of lesbians and transgender men, and violence and killings.
October 13, 2011 – The African Activist
Tutu to Christians in Africa: "It is not always popular to do justice, but it is always right."
In September the Presbyterian Church of Ghana (PCG) voted to sever ties with the Presbyterian Church (USA) which now ordains openly lesbian and gay candidates to the ministry. Archbishop Desmond Tutu has written the Presbyterian Church (USA) to encourage them and to help them remember that, "It is not always popular to do justice, but it is always right."
Read Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s Letter here
1 November 2011 – Fridae
African activists on human rights and aid
by Scott Long
Nearly 100 African NGOs and activists have appealed to the British government not to cut aid to African countries after British PM David Cameron threatened to seek to reduce foreign aid to Commonwealth countries which persecute gays.
This statement was issued on Oct 28, 2011 and co-signed by 53 organisations and 86 individual activists across Africa:
Statement Of African Social Justice Activists On The Threats Of The British Government To “Cut Aid” To African Countries That Violate The Rights Of LGBTI People In Africa
We, the undersigned African social justice activists, working to advance societies that affirm peoples’ differences, choice and agency throughout Africa, express the following concerns about the use of aid conditionality as an incentive for increasing the protection of the rights of LGBTI people on the continent.
It was widely reported, earlier this month, that the British Government has threatened to cut aid to governments of “countries that persecute homosexuals” unless they stop punishing people in same-sex relationships. These threats follow similar decisions that have been taken by a number of other donor countries against countries such as Uganda and Malawi. While the intention may well be to protect the rights of LGBTI people on the continent, the decision to cut aid disregards the role of the LGBTI and broader social justice movement on the continent and creates the real risk of a serious backlash against LGBTI people.
A vibrant social justice movement within African civil society is working to ensure the visibility of – and enjoyment of rights by – LGBTI people. This movement is made up of people from all walks of life, both identifying and non-identifying as part of the LGBTI community. It has been working through a number of strategies to entrench LGBTI issues into broader civil society issues, to shift the same-sex sexuality discourse from the morality debate to a human rights debate, and to build relationships with governments for greater protection of LGBTI people. These objectives cannot be met when donor countries threaten to withhold aid.
Read complete statement here