Behind the Mask LGBT African website
February 15th, 2011 – Behind the Mask
OutRight Nambia To Amplify Voices Of Nambian LGBTI People
As the movement for gay rights intensifies in Africa, accelerated by among others, hate crimes that are spiraling out of control in the continent, a gay rights organisation has been established in Namibia aiming to amplify voices of the country’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people who often face human rights violations such as social homophobia, lack of access to public health and loss of employment due to their sexual orientation. OutRight Namibia (ORN) was formed in March 2010 by Namibian LGBTI, MSM and WSW activists. It prioritizes leadership development, human rights, emancipation of movement building as well as health and legal reform as its main strategic areas of focus.
Legally registered in November 2010, ORN seeks to respond to challenges facing the LGBTI community in Namibia such as exclusion in the National system and the general non recognition of LGBTI people in the Namibian social communities. “Since we are a new organisation, it is still a challenge to garner trust and momentum in our communities. But we have a high rate of human rights violations and the LGBTI community here is still not comfortable to report cases due to secondary victimization and lack of tracking to ensure that justice is served. Access to public health services is also an area of concern”, Linda Bauman of ORN said.
She added, “As a diverse community, identified within minority groups, it is evident that we can not be left out of the national interventions and strategies. Our existence and persistence on issues of equality and equity are inevitable as our community’s representatives form part of the larger society.” Bauman also highlighted that the Namibian government has not firmly places its position on protecting all LGBTI people but said that their constitution has been a tool used to demand protection. “Our strategy is to work broadly within regions, set up structures and ensure skills, also conducting continuous sensitization and building knowledge”, Bauman said.
ORN has been active within the region and internationally. The organisation is a member of the Coalition of African Lesbians (CAL), PAN African ILGA, and ILGA International, AMSHER, ARC International, ARASA, Gender DynamiX and others. It is currently running projects such as, among others, the Global Fund Project on MSM and other LGBTI communities, a research on the health of lesbians, bisexuals, and WSW in Southern Africa.
ORN’s mission is “to work diligently towards the attainment of the full constitutional equality and equity of sexual diverse people in Namibia; through strategic advocacy, lobbying, evidence based interventions and movement building.” The vision, to be a leading agency in creating a united movement of sexual diversities that enjoys improved quality of life and access to legal and social justice.”
20 June 2011 – IRIN PlusNews
Africa: New light shed on male sex work
Johannesburg,(PlusNews) – 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 speciality 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.