Gay Ivory Coast News & Reports

Useful Website for LGBT Africa

1 Shadows and Eye-Shadow 9/98

2 Ivorian gay community fights for right to life and love 9/06

3 United Nations Human Right Council 13th Session 3/10

4 Jimmy Leon Interviews Carlos 12/10

5 Ivory Coast president refuses to ‘abdicate’ 12/10 (non gay background story)

Website for LGBT organization ‘Arc en Ciel’ in Ivory Coast.

September 1998 – By Martin Foreman: View From the Edge

Shadows and Eye-Shadow

Abidjan – It is the rainy season, but despite the band of cloud stretching across the CNN weather map from Cameroon to the middle of the Atlantic, it hasn’t rained once since I arrived. Hubert and I wander through the Intercontinental Hotel d’Ivoire, its air-conditioned comfort almost successful in its imitation of its Northern brothers. Certainly it is more luxurious than the Novotel where I am staying, where the humidity in my room crinkles the papers of the report that Hubert and I are writing and threatens to short-circuit my laptop.

We step out of the Intercontinental, back into the heat and dusk of Africa. As we pass the upturned bowl of the Conference Hall, where rust or lichen stains stretch down the dirty white walls, I stare up at the slender 100 foot column surmounted by an offering of concrete tusks. Crows swirl round it like energetic vultures. Back on earth, two boys approach, one on crutches and missing a leg. "Taxi?" they ask hopefully. "Merci," I shake my head. He is not begging – there are no beggars in this city, only boys and young men eager to clean your shoes, to sell you chewing gum or to stop a taxi and open its door.

Hubert, a short, overweight, cheerful Ivoirien dedicated to his work for people living with HIV, and I walk down the avenue that leads from the Hotel d’Ivoire to the Corniche, the few hundred metres of road that skirts the stagnant lagoon on the way to the centre of town. The pavement is broad, the width of several cars, but the concrete soon gives way to sand and rubble and we pick our way carefully. Orange taxis, a cheap Peugeot or Renault that I don’t recognise, honk as they pass, their drivers leaning forward and turning their heads in the hope that one of us will give the signal to stop. But we walk on, discussing violence, national politics and the inevitable topic of AIDS.

I am disappointed. There are few people around. This boulevard lined by embassies, a high school and a new town hall is supposed to be the premier cruising ground in Abidjan, where transvestites, gay men and Real Girls come to make or spend money, but all I see is the occasional young man on his way home, glancing at incongruous couple that Hubert and I make. After half a mile, we turn and retrace our steps. I am about to give up, when I notice two figures in skirts sitting on a concrete block a few yards away. I am not certain they are what I am looking for, but one of them has made an encouraging noise and I reckon that no respectable Ivoirienne would sit in semi-darkness and call to strangers.

I walk over. "Bon soir, les filles," I say, respecting the wigs and stuffed bosoms and ignoring the masculine arms and faces. "Bon soir," one replies. They are surrounded by bags and newspapers and as we talk, they continue their toilet, pulling mascara and creams and powder and jewellery from one place or another. "a marche?" I ask. Life is fine they say. "a marche chez vous?" I misunderstand the question and tell them I am from London. Hubert corrects me and, when I am back on the correct linguistic path, we introduce ourselves. Olivia is thin but handsome, with lighter skin than his companion. He is wearing a blouse so dark and the light from the nearest streetlamp is so feeble that I cannot make out its style or the length of its sleeves. Tina has prominent features, a blond wig and a top cut so low that I can see the shadow between his chest and his padded bra. From where I am standing it looks as if he has some breasts, or perhaps it is muscle. Is Hubert my friend? Olivia asks. A friend, not my friend, I tell her. My friend is in New York. Bring him here, they say. A sore point; my friend, later to become my ex, sometimes resents the journeys I take without him. "I can’t afford to," I say.

Credentials established, we move on to more personal topics. As we talk, my ear becomes attuned, for the most part, to their accent. I ask about business – it’s not bad – and whether there are problems with the police – "toujours," says Tina, in the same bored tones as colleagues in London complain about the Northern Line. With ten thousand francs CFA – 10 – they can be satisfied and you can be on your way.

Ever mindful that local etiquette and definitions of masculinity can differ widely, I ask a few questions. This side of the road, it appears is for travestis, while the other side has homosexuals. I am asked if I am a man, and I answer in the affirmative, without enquiring what local manhood demands. Hubert, who has spent the last four years counselling husbands and wives with HIV, but whose knowledge of sex between men is limited, has said little. Finally he asks, "C’est quoi, la diffrence entre travesti et homosexuel?" Tina looks surprised at his ignorance, shrugs her shoulders, makes a half-hearted and mumbled attempt to inform him. Hubert nods as if he understands but half an hour later I help him by reviewing this gap in his sexual education.

As we talk, they are pulling on and adjusting clothes, wigs, make-up. A transformation is taking place in these shadows that I can barely see. What clients do they get, I ask. Both Ivoiriens and foreigners, some white, mostly African. And do the girls protect themselves? Of course, they always use a capote. The worst customers are Nigerians, although whether this is because they are most demanding, refuse to use condoms or are poor payers is not clear. As everywhere else in the world, the price of the service depends on how much the customer is willing to pay. Tina always asks for at least 10,000; sometimes she asks that amount and is rewarded with 20,000 or 30,000.

While Tina and Hubert talk, Olivia tugs at my arm. I turn to see a very different person from the one who first talked to me. Her hair is pulled back, her face is pale, her eyes are slender, long and oriental. She admires my muscles. I assume she admires every potential client’s muscles, but I accept the flattery. She whispers something I do not understand. I crouch beside her and she repeats the question in more coarsely "Est-ce que tu baises bien?" Of course, I do, I tell her; no man would admit to being a poor lover. I do not need to hear the next question in order to understand it, but I confess that she is not my type. She does not seem disappointed; the night is young and the question, I am sure, was routine. But since Hubert and I are not customers, and Olivia and Tina are now ready for those who are, it is time for us to leave. We exchange smiles and good luck wishes and Hubert and I step into the street for a cab to take me back to my hotel. As it drives down the Avenue I see on both sides of the road figures hovering by the kerbside, waiting, waiting. Five years and a civil war later, I wonder if they are still there.

September 3, 2006 – Monsters and Critics

Ivorian gay community fights for right to life and love

by Joe Bavier, Abidjan
The tiny bar in Abidjan’s Marcory neighbourhood is just one among thousands in Ivory Coast’s commercial capital. And, at first, there seems little to set it apart from the others. The music blares on the tiny dance floor as customers try out the latest moves in front of the wall-length mirrors so important for the perfection of the city’s daily-changing dance crazes.

But for one young man, who prefers to be known only as Yann, this place serves as a kind of lifeline. ‘I can feel completely at ease here,’ he says. ‘It is one of the only places.’ In a corner, a man strokes another’s hand, whispering in his ear, then breaks into a smile. On the dance floor, as couples begin to pair up, the difference becomes even more apparent.

This is one of a handful of nightclubs catering to Abidjan’s increasingly openly gay community. Yann came to Abidjan from one of Ivory Coast’s smaller cities 14 years ago to study at the university and live his sexuality more freely. ‘In the village, there are pressures from family. Society is small. They say being homosexual is against religion, against nature,’ he says. ‘People are more educated here. In Abidjan, you can be anonymous.’

That anonymity has helped the city of around five million become one of the principle destinations for gays, lesbians, and transvestites from all over French-speaking West Africa. Ivory Coast, unlike some of its more conservative neighbours, has no laws banning homosexuality. The country even boasts a gay and lesbian association, Arc-en-Ciel Plus, that has gained official recognition from the interior ministry. ‘In the last year we’ve really been able to move things on the national stage,’ says the association’s former president, Carlos Idibouo Toh, who has appeared on national television to gain acceptance for the gay and lesbian community. ‘I thought about keeping my head down, to take care. And finally I said to myself I didn’t care what these people thought. I did it to make the community more visible.’

From just under 500 members two years ago, Arc-en-Ciel Plus’ membership now numbers over a thousand. But if homosexuals in Ivory Coast have been able to attain a relatively advanced level of state recognition, social acceptance has been slower in coming. Two years ago, a gay high-school teacher was found cut to pieces in his home. Earlier this year, a dozen transvestite prostitutes were beaten up by police patrols. At least one was raped. And gays and lesbians are routinely the victims of violence at the hands of family members.

‘One of our friends had rat poison put in his food by an older brother,’ says Yann, who was disowned by his family when they learned he was gay, driving him on one occasion to attempt suicide. ‘He was poisoned by his own family. Can you even imagine?’

The gay community has also been largely left out of Ivory Coast’s campaign against HIV/AIDS
, one of Africa’s best financed programmes in which the US government has shown a special interest. A dozen members of Arc-en-Ciel Plus have died from the disease so far this year, five in the month of August alone, due to a lack of access to treatment.

Yet, even Ivory Coast’s slow change has been too fast for some. Recently, on top of the regular intimidation to which he’d grown accustomed, Carlos Toh began receiving threats from within the gay community. So, last week, following an international conference on HIV and Aids in Toronto, he took the decision taken by many other West African gays and lesbians before him. He decided not to come back. And though, Toh’s choice means Ivory Coast will lose one of its main public activists, Yann says he understands.

‘I can stay and succeed here,’ says Yann, who has already been turned down for a visa by the French embassy in Abidjan. ‘But success in Africa means having a job, a wife, and kids. I couldn’t be happy. If I had the chance to leave tonight, I would go without looking back.’

March 2010 – Reverand Rowland Ministries

United Nations Human Right Council 13th Session – Geneva, 15th to 19th March 2010.

UPR Cote d’lvoire – Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network

Delivered by Revd Rowland Jide Macaulay

Mr President, distinguished members of the delegation,

I have the honour to present a statement on behalf of the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network and Pan Africa ILGA. We wish to address recommendation 99(28) formulated during the interactive dialogue, which enjoyed the support of Côte d’Ivoire, namely: “To take measures to ensure non-discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity”. We acknowledge and commend the government of Cote D’ivoire for agreeing to take action on the recommended measures to ensure that no-one faces discrimination, including on the grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity.

The government’s acceptance of this recommendation is in keeping with a resolution unanimously adopted at the NGO Forum to the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights in November 2009, and will have a positive impact on societal and government official responses to the issues of the LGBT community. It is also an important tool for fostering a sense of inclusion and enhancing access to HIV prevention and education programmes.

We note that Côte d’Ivoire did not take the further step of accepting an additional recommendation to implement awareness-raising programmes on these grounds, although we appreciate the government’s affirmation that it does not consider same-sex relations between consenting adults to be criminal and does not penalise or discriminate on this basis. The government has indicated that awareness-raising programmes on these grounds is therefore not a “current priority”, although we encourage the government to consider such programmes in the future, to better foster social understanding, tolerance and inclusion.

Finally, in implementation of the government’s agreement to take measures to ensure non-discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity, we express our willingness to work with the government to develop and implement initiatives to achieve these goals.

Thank you very much Mr President.

December 2010 – Cote D’Ivoire – Ivory Coast

Jimmy Leon Interviews Carlos

Carlos Idibouo. works as the association chairman of "Arc-en-Ciel" (Rainbow in English). Arc-en-Ciel is Ivory Coast’s first association dealing with sexually transmisble diseases (STD) such as HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis. They also fight against homophobia in the country.

1. Tell me which your experiences are in your home country and how do you live your homosexuality in every day life?

My name is Carlos Idibouo. I work as the association chairman of "Arc-en-Ciel" (Rainbow in English). Arc-en- Ciel is Ivory Coast’s first association dealing with sexually transmisble diseases (STD) such as HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis. We also fight against homophobia in Ivorian gay and lesbian milieus. I engaged myself as activist like many others as we had to observe that homosexuals’ population was decreasing more and more and that no national programmes were set up by the government to stop that situation. We also stated that travesties were steadily been object to unjustified violences. The time had also come for us to impose our assocation to the authorities and consequently to establish our caritative programmes. Of course, our project was not so easy to start, but after every very little step, the government has been progressively showing more and more comprehension to our associative aims. Personally, I’ve been living openly my homosexuality because I’ve been able to get myself through in Abidjan society. I do not have serious problems with my parents because we clearly discussed once thereabout and they were very comprehensive to me – but my situation is not so usual for most homosexuals who are persecuted by parents, friends and workmates. I’ve to say, I’m mostly very satisfied with my life, excepting my professionnal career that’s not so solid. My wish is that African homosexuals could once appreciate real civil rights. That’s the reason why I’m persistently fighting as a great activist.

2. Can you report us how homosexuals are discriminated in Ivory Coast?

Homosexuals discrimination happens in every part of social life. But these are the police forces who are the first and hardest discriminators in assaulting homosexuals. They also excercise sexual abuses on travesties. For homosexuals living in such circumstances, this discriminations have demolishing consequences on psychological life. Many homosexuals are keeping themselves hidden from society in getthoising together and having unprotected sex with each other. Our bureau secretary, for example, has been actually suffering of violent homophobia by his parents and must escape for avoiding the worst brutality. I also have many other examples that I but can not tell hereabout till we won’t have published our new reports works.

3. Can you give more details about homophobic violences experienced by homosexuals?

These violences are moral, verbal, physic and sexual. The worst is that most violences do not happen openly in front of everyone’s eyes so that they can not be witnessed. They have also mortal consequences. Our brothers and sisters are killed in miserable conditions. Our participation at the national first journey against homophobia could make us possible to denounce these inhuman atrocities.

4. Because of poverty, homosexuals prostitute themselves, don’t they?

Yes, homosexuals escaping from home, who are delivered to themselves alone, mostly turn to prostitution. They do not find a way out because of breaking off school education. Here I but want to make clear that prostitution is an overall social problem that’s not only caused by homosexuals. It is regrettable that conversations about homosexuality within families are taboo. There also are some parents who force their homosexual children to prostitution and as long as they bring some profits home, their homosexuality is tolerated. But, if they do not earn money, they will immediatly be persecuted by their parents because of being homosexual.

5. Do you mean, human civil rights are respected in Ivory Coast?

It relatively depends of the situation. Homosexuals are not allowed to express themselves because the public does not give them any importance. In Africa, we still have very rural and familial milieus that determine the whole life curriculum and so decisions are made without the concerned person is asked for. There is a very unqualized social balance between the individium and his environment.

6. VIH infections and AIDS outbreaks are one of Ivory Coast’s biggest problems. What can ill homosexuals who don’t have any money to pay antiretrovirals, do to subsist?

This is a pertinent questtion. Because of living in clandestinity, homosexuals do not have a direct access to prevention help middles. The ones who can not afford medical treatments, are continuously mass dying every day. Our association can only report about that situation without concretly reacting because we don’t have any financement.

7. Do you know if there are some gays’ meeting points in your home country? We won’t publish places’ names.

Here in Abidjan, we have four gay pubs. In other cities, there is also gay pubs. In these bars, we can meet and express freely.

26 December 2010 – The Telegraph

Ivory Coast president refuses to ‘abdicate’
– The president of Ivory Coast has refused to "abdicate" in the wake of post election violence and said that any attempt to remove him will be met by force, his American representative has told The Daily Telegraph.

by Philip Sherwell in New York and Aislinn Laing in Johannesburg
Michael Espy, US agriculture secretary under President Bill Clinton, predicted that "renewed civil war is inevitable" if the crisis is not defused. He is one of two Clinton-era Democratic veterans who are lobbying on behalf of the isolated regime, as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton leads US demands that Laurent Gbagbo accept defeat by Alassane Ouattara in last month’s presidential run-off. "President Gbagbo is very clear that he’s not backing down," Mr Espy said after meeting the Ivorian leader and his senior advisers in Abidjan. "He is absolutely certain that this election was stolen by the rebel forces in the north. He is not going to abdicate."

Mr Gbagbo’s defiance comes in the face of universal condemnation by his West African neighbours, the United Nations, US and Europe. On Friday, the 15-member Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) held an emergency summit in Nigeria and declared that if he does not go "the community will be left with no alternative but to take other measures, including the use of legitimate force, to achieve the goals of the Ivorian people". On Tuesday, the presidents of Benin, Sierra Leone and Cape Verde will visit Ivory Coast as a last-ditch attempt to avoid bloodshed.

Mr Gbagbo’s camp rejected the "unacceptable" threat of military intervention. Ahoua Don Mello, the regime’s spokesman, branded it a "Western plot directed by France. The people of Ivory Coast will mobilise. This strengthens our faith in Ivorian nationalism," he said. Mr Espy, who appeared on Ivorian television to argue Mr Gbagbo’s case, said: "If any move is made by the UN or other forces to jeopardise the safety or position of the president, his supporters would come out.

There would be resistance, you can be sure. "The president and his advisers believe the result of the vote was not accurately reported. They produced a stack of documents and witnesses detailing how in the north, ballot boxes were stolen and his polling monitors were harassed, threatened and in some cases were killed. The [show] evidence of election fraud, repression and violence." But Government sources told The Daily Telegraph they believe support for Mr Gbagbo is wavering among some senior Army officers who have hitherto backed him against Mr Ouattara and any military action would be met with little serious opposition.

"Mr Gbagbo has support in the Army, from people from his tribe, but we know that it is not the majority and if the African Union were to send troops, we are confident that the Ivory Coast military will not fight," a source said. Mr Gbagbo’s camp approached Mr Espy to represent him in talks with the Obama administration and the UN. Figures released by the United States suggest that 200 people have already been killed in violence surrounding protests by pro-Ouattara supporters and death squads targeting people in their homes.

United Nation estimates of almost 500 people officially confirmed as missing mean the numbers of dead could be far higher. An estimated 14,000 refugees have already fled their homeland for Liberia, according to the UN’s refugee agency. "With their numbers growing, the humanitarian needs are increasing for the mostly women and children refugees as well as for the villagers hosting them," the agency said in a statement