Useful website for LGBT Africa: http://www.mask.org.za/
14 Africa, Offline: Waiting for the Web 7/07 non-gay background story
January 2, 2007
Pride and prejudice
2006 has been a monumental year for South African gay rights. David Beresford looks back to where the fight began
The year 2006 can now be seen as the year of liberation for South Africa’s gay population, the year in which single-sex marriages were given the go-ahead (there may still be some squabbles over the legislative small print). With it came the principle, at least, of sexual equality. Considering that the gay liberation struggle has only been going on for 16 years, that is quite an achievement.
To the extent that any social movement could be said to have had a beginning, South Africa’s gay people started their bid for freedom in Johannesburg on October 13 1990. This was the date when South Africa’s first gay pride march, with all the accompanying razzmatazz, passed through the streets of the country’s commercial capital.
If there was any doubt about the moment’s significance, there was a counterpart to Nelson Mandela on hand to point it out: Simon Nkoli, the charismatic gay leader and Delmas treason prisoner. "This is what I say to my comrades in the struggle when they ask why I waste time fighting for moffies," [a mildly contemptuous term for gays] Nkoli told the assembled marchers. "This is what I say to gay men and lesbians who ask me why I spend so much time struggling against apartheid when I should be fighting for gay rights. I am black and I am gay. I cannot separate the two parts of me into secondary or primary struggles."
"In South Africa I am oppressed because I am a black man and I am oppressed because I am gay," he continued. "So when I fight for my freedom I must fight against both oppressions. All those who believe in a democratic South Africa must fight against all oppression, all intolerance, all injustice. With this march, gays and lesbians are entering the struggle for a democratic South Africa where everybody has equal rights and everyone is protected by the law: black and white; men and women, gay and straight." Tragically Nkoli himself was not to see his dream realised, dying of Aids-related illnesses before it became a reality.
A recently-published book of reminiscences on South Africa’s pride parades (Pride: Protest and Celebration, edited by Shaun de Waal and Anthony Manion) brings home the impact the annual event has had, not only on the lives of participants, but the lives of gay people across the African continent. As one of the contributors to the book remarks perspicuously: "The continent of Africa is probably the most repressive in terms of homosexuals. The importance of having 10,000 gay people marching through an African city is just immense and sometimes we don’t appreciate that enough."
"We assembled in the rain once we had done our preparations and painted our placards," recalled one participant in the first march. "And then we were off, this small group of history-making people. There was a sense of being pioneers, a feeling of courage." For some, the sense of courage was a little while coming, with many initially wearing brown paper bags over their heads to hide their identity, before stripping them off as the protest got into full swing. "That Saturday in October was a turning point in my life," said another marcher. "Taking part in pride marches helped me to answer the lingering questions: Who am I? Am I African, or am I gay? In the culture I was raised in, to be a ‘stabane’ [homosexual] meant you were not a real man. Homosexuality was seen as a white thing."
A striking aspect of the struggle for gay rights was the way it mirrored the struggle against racism. As with the broader liberation struggle, the fight for gay rights has its horror stories to tell. Like those of "corrective rape", or the mob murder of a 19-year-old lesbian, Zoliswa Nkonyana. Even the silliness of apartheid seems to have had its counterpart in the state’s victimisation of gay people. Like banning orders, which prohibited a "banned" person from attending a "gathering", defined as two or more people. In the same way, a 1969 law made it punishable for a sexual act to be committed "at a party", defined as "any occcassion where more than two men are present".
But the silliness was wiped from the statute books as, one by one, the barriers fell. Gay dependents were recognised by medical aid schemes and the inland revenue service acknowledged their entitlement to tax breaks of matrimony. Their rights to adopt children were also recognised and 1998 saw the abolition of sodomy as a common law offence "inconsistent with the constitution".
The reforms were shocking to many. But in the words of constitutional lawyer Wim Trengrove: "What we’re talking about is not whether one is gay or not. After all, gay marriage is not going to be compulsory. It is merely allowing other people to do what they choose to do, rather than prescribing to them what they must do. The issue is tolerance and respect."
"Repent, sodomites," an evangelist, Neil Winwood, screamed at the 1998 pride march. Asked by a newspaper reporter what he felt about the parade, Mr Winwood said he attended it every year. "I wouldn’t miss it for the world," he added.
January 7, 2007
Fatal attraction: young, gay and at risk By Maxine Frith Adam started having sex with boys when he was 17. Two years ago, at the age of 20, he found out he was HIV positive. He started having unprotected sex when he moved to London as a student, and freely admits that, despite knowing about Aids and the importance of condoms, he took risks. "I used the Internet a lot to get sex and got drawn into trying drugs during sex," he says. "A quick chat and a disclaimer online would ease my mind – are you positive or negative? "The guy would come round and we’d have fun but then I’d regret it in the morning – I knew in the back of my mind that anybody who is having unsafe sex is either positive or soon will be."
Adam is not alone. More than 2 300 gay men were diagnosed with HIV in the UK last year – the highest number since records began in 1981. They bring the total number with the virus in the gay community up to 28 000, of whom an estimated 9 000 do not know they are infected. While rates of HIV among other groups, such as heterosexuals and injecting drug users, are stabilising and even declining, an ever-growing number of gay men are contracting the virus. Figures from the Health Protection Agency (HPA) show that homosexually-acquired HIV rates have increased by 55 percent in the past five years.
This particular type of infection now accounts for one third of all new diagnoses in Britain. Overall, less than half of 1 percent of people aged 15 to 44 in the UK is HIV positive. But among gay men, 5.2 percent are estimated to be positive (both those aware and unaware of their status) – rising to an alarming 8.4 percent in London. So, 25 years after the first cases, what is going on in the community that is still considered to be the behavioural group most at risk of this deadly virus? The HPA report on the spread of HIV in the UK was entitled A Complex Picture – and the profile of gay men with the virus in particular differs from other groups.
While the majority of new heterosexual HIV cases are among Africans who have been infected abroad, more than 80 percent of homosexual diagnoses were acquired in the UK and three-quarters of those affected were born there. Of most concern is that increasing numbers of gay men are taking massive risks, indulging in unsafe sex with multiple partners. The HPA calls it UAI (unprotected anal intercourse) but within the gay community it is called barebacking – and it is becoming increasingly common among gay men. Some HIV negative men place adverts in gay contact magazines requesting partners who have the virus, claiming the risk adds to the sexual experience. Clubs also cater for "raw" nights – where condoms are banned.
An aggravating factor is the high use of the drug crystal meth in gay clubs. Up to 20 percent of men in such clubs have used the drug, which can produce a high similar to crack but lasting for several hours, increasing the chance that users will indulge in risky behaviour. Research from the US has shown that users of the drug are three times more likely to be infected with HIV than those who don’t. Adam agrees. He says: "Why did I have unsafe sex? It felt good, I was high, I wanted guys to sleep with me. I understood the safe sex message more than most and sometimes I did use condoms, but it wasn’t every time."
The Terrence Higgins Trust is the oldest HIV and Aids group in Britain and was named after one of the first people in the UK to die of the disease. Oliver Wright, who works at the charity, said: "There are a number of issues connected with this rise in cases. Some gay men are well aware about the risks they are taking, yet still do it. "What we are coming up against are very deep-seated problems at a psychological and cultural level. A lot of gay men have a degree of self-hatred, fuelled by homophobia and bullying that still occurs in schools and the workplace.
"For the older generation, they may have been made to feel guilty about their sexuality by their family, particularly if they have a Catholic or other religious background – and that can feed in to hating themselves and taking risks because they believe they don’t deserve any different. "Gay men are much more prone to mental health problems, suicidal thoughts, than the community at large, and that in itself can mean people will indulge in risky behaviour." Wright added: "Risky behaviour for some gay men is also part of the cultural identity of the gay community – seeing sex as just being sex rather than about love and relationships. "It is different from the way women perhaps think about sex. Men may identify being gay with having casual sex with multiple partners, and even if they are in a relationship, they will still seek ‘exciting’ sex elsewhere. That is the problem – giving someone a poster about HIV is not enough; we have got to address very complex issues that go to the heart of how gay men feel about themselves and how society treats them." It is not just older men who are taking risks.
A new generation of young gay men is emerging that does not remember the falling gravestones and voice-of-doom advertising campaigns of the early 1980s and has not seen partners or friends die of Aids because antiretroviral (ARV) treatments now mean that an infected person can live – and look healthy – for years. Deaths from Aids reached a peak in 1996, when there were 1 469 victims – now there are fewer than 500 a year. Due to increased acceptance of homosexuality, teenagers and men are coming out and becoming sexually active at an earlier age – but are still ignoring the dangers of unsafe sex. The website Puffta was set up seven years ago and is aimed at young gay men. It conducts an annual survey of more than 800 gay men aged 13 to 21 – and the results show a worrying trend. Last year’s survey found that 35% of respondents had had bareback sex in the past three months and a similar proportion do not know whether they are HIV positive or not.
Figures out next week from the 2006 survey are expected to show an increase in both the proportion having unprotected sex and those who do not know their HIV status.__Simon Johnson, the 25-year-old editor of the site, said: "There is a really big problem around young men who may be walking around with HIV, having unprotected, casual sex and not knowing they are infectious or could be infecting other people. "The virus is now spreading to a very young age group who don’t have information about HIV and safe sex. "They don’t talk about it and they don’t get tested because it isn’t a big issue for them."
Younger men are not just a risk to themselves, Johnson warned. "An older man who is having regular testing and knows he is negative may go with an 18-year-old guy, thinking he is young and, therefore clean, but it may be that younger guy who poses the biggest threat." Another concern is that men who are infected and are on treatment know their "viral load" – their infectivity – is reduced by the drugs they are taking and may be taking risks, believing that a partner has a diminished chance of contracting HIV. But they may still pass on the virus. And, in addition, by having unsafe sex they could contract an additional sexually transmitted infection such as gonorrhoea that could compromise the effectiveness of their treatment. Treatment has transformed HIV from a death sentence to a chronic disease but ARV drugs have only been available for the past decade or so and the virus is constantly developing resistance to them.
A vaccine is still a long way off, and condoms remain the most effective form of prevention. Both Johnson and Wright agree that education is the key – and that schools are failing to provide enough support and information about Aids for young gay men. The latest government information campaign about sexually transmitted infections, aimed at teenagers, focuses solely on heterosexual couples and does not even mention HIV or Aids. Johnson said: "I don’t remember the scary adverts and maybe something like that is needed as a wake-up call to young gay men so they get the message."
Sadly, the message is too late for Adam. – The Independent. This article was originally published on page 11 of The Cape Argus on January 07, 2007
19 January 2007
Archbishop Tutu of South Africa Tutu stands up for gays
by Tony Grew
Legendary anti-apartheid campaigner Archbishop Desmond Tutu has urged his fellow Anglicans to focus on the problems facing Africa and stop obsessing over gay issues. Dr Tutu told a conference in Nairobi that the God he worships does not consider the position of homosexual clergy to be more important that AIDS.
The former Archbishop of Cape Town is attending the World Social Forum in Kenya. After decades of eloquent resistance to the apartheid system in South Africa, Tutu led the newly democratic nation’s Peace and Reconciliation Commission. "I am deeply disturbed that in the face of some of the most horrendous problems facing Africa, we concentrate on ‘what do I do in bed with whom,’" he told a news conference in Nairobi.
The Anglican church in South Africa is the only one on the continent that has a liberal attitude towards women priests. Most African churches are implacably opposed to gay or lesbian clergy and regard homosexuality as biblically forbidden. Dr Tutu, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984, told journalists that gay hate was the same as racism. "For one to penalise someone for their sexual orientation is the same as penalising someone for something they can do nothing about, like ethnicity or race.
"I cannot imagine persecuting a minority group which is already being persecuted." His comments come in the week that is has been reported that Nigeria, the continents most populous state, is set to pass new laws prohibiting almost any public demonstration of homosexuality.
26 February 2007
One step forward, two steps back for Africa’s gay people
by Stephanie Nieuwoudt
Nairobi, Kenya – The issue of lesbian and gay Africans’ human rights again came to the fore recently as Anglican Church leaders met in Tanzania amid the continuing row over the consecration of a gay United States bishop in 2003. An ultimatum was sent from the conference in Dar es Salaam to US bishops to make a commitment that same-sex unions would not be blessed. African Anglicans have opposed the American Gene Robinson’s consecration as bishop on the basis of his sexual orientation. The meeting followed the World Social Forum held in Nairobi, Kenya, in January this year where hundreds of people flocked to the so-called Q-Tent in a country where homosexuality has been criminalised.
In the tent, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people from all over the continent and the globe shared their experiences of discrimination. They also spoke about the progress being made towards realising human rights for LGBT minorities. The Anglican Church’s discussions in Tanzania this week took place in a country that criminalises homosexuality. Zanzibar has recently passed a law punishing people who engage in homosexual acts with prison sentences of up to 15 years. Lesbians found guilty of "improper conduct" can be sent to prison for seven years. Tanzania is one of several African countries where lesbians and gays are being denied their human rights. These measures seem to be in reaction to advances in lesbian and gay rights made in Southern Africa.
In Nigeria, the Parliament is considering a Bill to prohibit gay and lesbian people from marrying or even politically organising themselves. Rwanda and Zimbabwe are another two countries that have strengthened their anti-homosexual legislation. In Uganda and Kenya, a "homosexual act" can land someone in jail for 15 years. After police harassment of lesbian and gay activists in Uganda, a campaign was run to "out" lesbian and gay individuals by publicising their names. Numerous activists, including the leader of Sexual Minorities of Uganda, Juliet Victor Mukasa, have fled Uganda, fearing for their lives.
In Southern Africa, the lesbian and gay movement has made great strides. In South Africa, the rights of lesbians and gays to marry were recently entrenched in a new law. A pilot project to sensitise children in secondary school about homosexuality is being considered in South Africa’s Gauteng province. Administrators in KwaZulu-Natal have indicated that they, too, are looking at the possible introduction of this programme. In neighbouring Namibia, an active gay and lesbian community has through persistent campaigns managed to start a conversation with the religious sector.
The NGO The Rainbow Project, which fights for lesbian and gay human rights in Namibia, has organised meetings between religious leaders and the LGBT community. While many lesbian and gays become alienated from organised religion because of homophobic statements made by clergy, there are religious leaders who promote the rights of sexual minorities, said Ian Swartz, chairperson of The Rainbow Project. As example, he stressed that the Anglican Church is divided on the issue of Robinson. He said many lesbian and gay Africans remain religious, making it necessary to talk to religious leaders about the acceptance of sexual diversity.
"They want to go to church because they still identify with the religious values that they grew up with. For many the church is the place where they find answers to life’s questions," said Swartz.
Liz Frank, a former chairperson of the Coalition for African Lesbians (CAL) and editor of the magazine Sister Namibia, said the advances in South Africa and Namibia had a lot to do with the spirit of democratisation that swept through these countries from the late 1980s onwards.
"South Africa, where the rights of all people are protected in the Constitution, undoubtedly sparked change which is influencing the rest of Africa," Frank said. This is especially visible in the proliferation of civil society groups that are organising around lesbian and gay issues. One example is the Coalition for African Lesbians (CAL), led by South African Fikile Vilakazi. It represents 13 organisations in 11 African countries. The CAL does feminist research, analysis and documentation. It also lobbies for women’s rights at local and national level. According to Frank, "South Africa is more than an example to the rest of the continent. The many activists and organisations who have struggled so hard for sexual minority rights have been a resource to us. People have been assisting us in Namibia with strategic planning, organisational development, lobbying and advocacy.
"They have helped us to break the silence and respond to hate speech. Through this we have begun to build the African LGBT movement." While civil society is organising to claim human rights for LGBT people, politicians still enjoy playing the homophobic card when it suits them. "It usually happens when the government faces some kind of crisis that they want to cover up," Swartz said.
"After homophobic statements have been made in public by church or political leaders, one can feel that a few steps backwards are being taken. We then usually see an increase in verbal and physical attacks against the LGBT population," he continued. "Some political and church leaders are fond of denouncing gays and lesbians as ‘causing’ moral decay. But the fact is that some of these leaders are the very people who promote aggression and discrimination." — IPS
27 February 2007
Mixed Response As Gays Come Out
by Stephanie Nieuwoudt
Nairobi – The issue of lesbian and gay Africans’ human rights again came to the fore this week as Anglican Church leaders met in Tanzania amid the continuing row over the consecration of a gay US bishop in 2003. An ultimatum was sent from the conference in Dar es Salaam to US bishops to make a commitment that same-sex unions would not be blessed. African Anglicans have opposed the American Gene Robinson’s consecration as bishop on the basis of his sexuality. The meeting follows the World Social Forum held in Nairobi, Kenya, in January 2007 where hundreds of people flocked to the so-called Q-Tent in a country where homosexuality has been criminalised.
In the tent, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people from all over the continent and the globe shared their experiences of discrimination. They also spoke about the progress being made towards realising human rights for LGBT minorities. The Anglican Church’s discussions in Tanzania this week took place in a country which criminalises homosexuality. Zanzibar has recently passed a law punishing people who engage in homosexual acts with prison sentences of up to 15 years. Lesbians found guilty of "improper conduct" can be sent to prison for seven years. Tanzania is one of several African countries where lesbians and gays are being denied their human rights. These measures seem to be in reaction to advances in lesbian and gay rights made in southern Africa.
In Nigeria the parliament is considering a bill to prohibit gay and lesbian people from marrying or even politically organising themselves. Rwanda and Zimbabwe are another two countries which have strengthened their anti-homosexual legislation. In Uganda and Kenya a "homosexual act" can land someone in jail for 15 years. After police harassment of lesbian and gay activists in Uganda, a campaign was run to "out" lesbian and gay individuals by publicising their names. Numerous activists, including the leader of Sexual Minorities of Uganda Juliet Victor Mukasa, have fled Uganda fearing for their lives. In southern Africa the lesbian and gay movement has made great strides. In South Africa, the rights of lesbians and gays to marry were recently entrenched in a new law.
A pilot project to sensitize children in secondary school about homosexuality is being considered in South Africa’s Gauteng province. Administrators in the province of KwaZulu Natal have indicated that they too are looking at the possible introduction of this programme. In neighbouring Namibia an active gay and lesbian community has through persistent campaigns managed to start a conversation with the religious sector. The nongovernmental organisation The Rainbow Project, which fights for lesbian and gay human rights in Namibia, has organised meetings between religious leaders and the LGBT community.
While many lesbian and gays become alienated from organised religion because of homophobic statements made by clergy, there are religious leaders who promote the rights of sexual minorities, said Ian Swartz, chairperson of The Rainbow Project. As example, he stressed that the Anglican church is divided on the issue of Robinson. He told IPS that many lesbian and gay Africans remain religious, making it necessary to talk to religious leaders about the acceptance of sexual diversity. "They want to go to church because they still identify with the religious values that they grew up with. For many the church is the place where they find answers to life’s questions," said Swartz.
Liz Frank, a former chairperson of the Coalition for African Lesbians (CAL) and editor of the magazine "Sister Namibia", told IPS that the advances in South Africa and Namibia had a lot to do with the spirit of democratization that swept through these countries from the late 1980s onwards. "South Africa, where the rights of all people are protected in the constitution, undoubtedly sparked change which is influencing the rest of Africa," Frank said. This is especially visible in the proliferation of civil society groups which are organising around lesbian and gay issues. One example is the Coalition for African Lesbians (CAL) led by the South African Fikile Vilakazi. It represents 13 organisations in 11 African countries. CAL does feminist research, analysis and documentation. It also lobbies for women’s rights at local and national level.
According to Frank, "South Africa is more than an example to the rest of the continent. The many activists and organisations who have struggled so hard for sexual minority rights have been a resource to us. People have been assisting us in Namibia with strategic planning, organisational development, lobbying and advocacy. "They have helped us to break the silence and respond to hate speech. Through this we have begun to build the African LGBT movement," Frank pointed out. While civil society is organising to claim human rights for LGBT people, politicians still enjoy playing the homophobic card when it suits them. "It usually happens when the government faces some kind of crisis that they want to cover up," Swartz told IPS.
"After homophobic statements have been made in public by church or political leaders, one can feel that a few steps backwards are being taken. We then usually see an increase in verbal and physical attacks against the LGBT population," Swartz continued. "Some political and church leaders are fond of denouncing gays and lesbians as ‘causing’ moral decay. But the fact is that some of these leaders are the very people who promote aggression and discrimination."
March 1, 2007
Anti-gay discrimination fuels HIV/AIDS in Africa
African governments are denying access to HIV prevention, counseling, testing and treatment to gay, bisexuals and transgender people, according to a new report. The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission in a report entitled ‘Off the Map’ said same-sex practicing couples are being denied basic human rights. Africa is the continent hardest hit by HIV/AIDS. With slightly more than 10 percent of the world’s population, it is home to 60 percent, or more than 25 million people, living with
"But nearly a quarter of a century into the epidemic, there is a wall of silence that surrounds AIDS and same-sex practices that may prove to be a significant obstacle to conquering the disease," according to the 124-page report by New York based- non-governmental organization. "Same-sex transmission of HIV in Africa has been under-counted, under-researched and under-funded," it added.
The report lists numerous cases where African gays and lesbians have been denied treatment, ridiculed and embarrassed and described the double discrimination of being homosexual and HIV positive. Cary Alan Johnson, the author of the report, said the denial of homosexuality in Africa contributes to the human rights violations against gay people and increases their vulnerability.
"Homophobic stigma, the denial of homosexuality, and legislation that criminalizes same-sex behavior, all serve to push the issue of same-sex HIV transmission further underground, and drastically limit HIV services," Johnson said. "All of the social inequalities and prejudices increase the vulnerability of gay and lesbian people. If that vulnerability is not addressed…the entire AIDS prevention programs that African governments are committing to are threatened," he added in an interview.
The report urges governments in Africa to repeal all laws that criminalize same sex consensual behavior. In countries which have no anti-homosexuality laws, it calls on leaders to end the arrest, harassment and persecution of people because of their sexual orientation. Other recommendations include training healthcare professionals to ensure they respect the right of patients and the appointment of specialists in same-sex HIV issues.
"We want African governments to use their resources from their own coffers and from international donors to fund programs that address the issue of HIV prevention among gay and lesbian Africans," Johnson added.
March 01, 2007
Tasmanians warned of “cashed-up gays”
Tasmanian politicians have roundly condemned a gay hate letter targeting two developers based in the town of Penguin. The anonymous public notice appeared in letterboxes in the northwest town at the weekend, with developers Stephen Roche and Keith Westerby referring it to police. It suggested a planned apartment development by the pair would see an "influx" of "cashed up" Sydney gays. Speaking to Luke Sayer in the Mercury newspaper, Deputy Premier Steve Kons said there was no place for anti-gay propaganda being distributed.
"I am appalled that some people appear to believe attacking another person’s sexuality is a legitimate way to lobby public opinion," Mr Kons said. "It is cowardly and undermines the tolerant values that Tasmanian society holds dear."
Tasmanian Greens deputy leader Nick McKim condemned the hate mail campaign, saying it was a cowardly and harmful attack which had no place in the 21st Century. "This cowardly attack has the potential to cause significant social harm, particularly for young gay and lesbian people on the northwest coast, and I condemn it in the strongest terms," Mr McKim.
Liberals deputy leader Jeremy Rockliff said he was disgusted by the homophobic letter. "This form of material has far wider implications than just the individuals that the letter sets out to target," Mr Rockliff said. "Public statements of such prejudice can drive young gay people to substance abuse or suicidal behaviour leaving devastated families to pick up the pieces."
Northwest counsellor and educator Jenny Archer, from support group Working It Out, said the organisation was disgusted someone’s sexuality would be brought into a development debate. "Our wider concern is this type of homophobic propaganda has a major impact on gay and lesbian community as a whole," Ms Archer said. "Their family and friends are also impacted by this type of ignorance and they themselves are further alienated. It shows we still need more community education and development in the North West."
11 March 2007
Pair head for SA’s first gay divorce
by Khadija Bradlow
Marriage comes adrift as quickly as it came about. Richard Thornton and Andries Jacobs’s marriage is the very definition of a whirlwind romance. Barely a month after a chance encounter in a West Rand shopping mall, they exchanged rings and vows of fidelity on January 5, one of the first same-sex couples to be married in South Africa under the then newly enacted Civil Unions Act. Ironically, they could become the first divorced under the legislation. Just two months later, the marriage has crumbled and 52- year-old Thornton has filed for divorce on the grounds of irreconcilable differences and desertion.
Jacobs, 20, packed his bags in the dead of night just weeks into the marriage as arguments over coming home late and overpossessiveness escalated. Still, Thornton this week attempted an emotional reconciliation with his partner as the rain sobbed over them in the street outside the younger man’s new home. He says he has nothing but his love for the man he desperately wants back. “I know that Andries is mine; but he’s very young … very young.”
He had thought perhaps the 20-year-old couldn’t take “the pressure” and needed to be alone, but later discovered he had moved in with another man — just a few blocks from their home. Despite this, says Thornton, “the blood’s not that bad”. “We are married. We are still legally married, until — if — the divorce comes through.” He is uncertain whether he wants to go through with it.
Earlier this week he met his estranged partner at a game reserve where, he says, they renewed their vows and Jacobs again promised to come home. The garden flat they shared briefly is decorated with theatre posters, language manuals and other bric-a-brac which are reminders of Thornton’s once- flourishing career as a producer and director. His polished accent and flamboyant gestures also tell of years spent on stage. He and Jacobs had known tongues would wag in their home town. The 50something some-time theatre director and producer and the 20-year-old who was then working as a security guard at a local mall cut an unusual sight on the streets of the mining town, dotted with grocery stores, farming equipment proprietors and steeples of the NG Kerk.
Krugersdorp is still “conservative”, Thornton explains, his tone suggesting this is a euphemism for deep-seated prejudice against homosexuals. Yet it was for God, and for the community, that he says he proposed to Jacobs. “I wanted everything to be right in the eyes of God, I didn’t do it because it was the in thing to do.” Thornton says Jacobs found it difficult being in a gay marriage in the town. His friends had warned him against the union, saying Jacobs was too young for him.
Jacobs’ family, Thornton says, were in denial that their son was gay. One of the only things he wanted to do after they married, and still wants to do, is to visit his in-laws and be accepted. He tells of how they would whisper endearments to one another in private, but when they were in public, Jacobs seemed ashamed. In the week before leaving their home, Jacobs told him: “Ek is lief vir jou, maar ek is nie gewoond daaraan nie (I love you, but I’m not accustomed to this).” “It hurts, it really hurts,” Thornton says.
Thornton says he and his estranged partner agreed when they married that they would share the expenses of the home, but as it ended up, “he let me do all the hard work”. Earning marginally more than Jacobs, it was he who bought “the little essentials” they needed to survive.
“He would say, Ag liefie, mag ons dit koop!’ ( He would beg me to buy things). It was all on my neck.”
April 15, 2007
Africa’s lethal web net of AIDS, The quiet acceptance of informal polygamy is spreading the risk
by Helen Epstein
Helen Epstein is the author of "The Invisible Cure: Africa, the West, and the Fight Against AIDS," which will be published in May.
I’ve been reporting on AIDS in Africa for nearly 15 years, but on a 2005 visit to KwaZulu-Natal, the province with South Africa’s highest HIV infection rate, the hush surrounding the epidemic was so spooky that it surprised even me. The Catholic Church had been running an AIDS treatment program for more than a year at a local hospital there. Outreach teams set out each day to care for sick people and encourage them to be tested for HIV and, if necessary, join the treatment program. I spent a week following these caregivers on their rounds and, as we went from one homestead to another and sat with dying patients and their families, no one, not once, said the word "AIDS." Patients told us they were suffering from "ulcers" or "tuberculosis" or "pneumonia." Orphans said their parents had been "bewitched" by a jealous neighbor. Many AIDS patients died in their houses, cared for with compassion but in silence, their condition shrouded in euphemisms.
Occasionally, I was told, those known to be HIV-positive have been thrown out of their houses, scorned by their relatives or quietly fired from their jobs when their status became known or even suspected. The stigma surrounding AIDS is profound, as it has been since the early days of the epidemic. But, for several years, I have been wondering whether perhaps a misunderstanding of the epidemiology of HIV in Africa has not exacerbated it. The AIDS epidemic in southern Africa is uniquely severe. About 50% of new infections occur in this region, home to less than 3% of the world’s population. Unlike other regions of the world where the epidemic is largely confined to what epidemiologists call "high-risk groups" — prostitutes, migrants, gay men with many sexual partners and injecting drug users — in such countries as South Africa, Botswana and Lesotho, everyone is at risk: teachers, doctors, market traders, Cabinet ministers, everyone.
Why is that? Sexual cultures around the world vary, but the differences are not always obvious. For example, southern Africans do not seem to have more sexual partners over a lifetime than people in the U.S. However, what epidemiologists do know is that southern Africans are more likely than people elsewhere to have more than one — perhaps two or three — long-term sexual partnerships at a time, and they may overlap for months or years. This pattern differs from the "serial monogamy" more common in the West, or the casual and commercial sexual encounters that occur everywhere.
Studies conducted by the World Health Organization in the 1980s and by Martina Morris at the University of Washington have found that, depending on the country, between 10% and 50% of men and between 5% and 20% of women in southern Africa engage in long-term, concurrent relationships. This practice of formal or informal polygamy links sexually active people not only to one another but also to the partners of their partners — and to the partners of those partners, and so on, creating a giant web that can extend across huge regions. If one member contracts HIV, then everyone else in the web may too. This pattern of behavior has a powerful historical, social and economic basis, but it also serves as a kind of "superhighway" for the spread of HIV.
The network puts everyone at risk — not just those who engage in concurrent relationships themselves but anyone who is roped into the network, including monogamous men and women whose partners engage in concurrent relationships or did so in the past. By contrast, "serial monogamy" traps the virus in a relationship for months or years at a time, and this considerably slows its progress through a population. But if everyone is at risk (rather than just those who engage in high-risk lifestyles), many southern Africans seem not to be aware of that fact. In 2002, Deborah Posel, a sociologist at Witwatersrand University in Johannesburg, set out to study attitudes to AIDS in South Africa’s Limpopo province, where about 20% of adults were then estimated to be HIV-positive.
"AIDS is a disease of shame," one respondent in a focus group said.
"It means you were practicing prostitution," another said.
"It is something morally unacceptable to the people," a third said.
Some of the people Posel interviewed were almost certainly HIV-positive themselves — including some who held the deepest prejudices against people with AIDS. Most likely none of the women were prostitutes, and few of the men would ever have had sex with a prostitute. Few would have had more than five or 10 sexual partners in a lifetime — hardly outrageous behavior in this day and age. But some would have been men supporting a wife and one or two mistresses; some might have been monogamous young women whose boyfriend or husband had another girlfriend. Perhaps a small number of these women had more than one boyfriend.
Because of this network of concurrent partnerships, they would all have been at high risk and would not have known it. One source of their confusion may have been the region’s AIDS campaigns. Even though evidence of the dangers of long-term concurrency has been available for at least a decade, the topic of concurrency is absent from school-based AIDS education curriculums and, until recently, from all national government AIDS strategic plans and media and billboard AIDS campaigns. Until last month, when a discussion of it appeared in a report on HIV prevention by the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS, it also has been all but absent from the policy documents of international public health organization working on the epidemic in the region.
Instead, the main sources of AIDS information in southern Africa have been abstinence-based programs for schoolchildren and condom social marketing campaigns for the general population, many of which have had a ribald tone. Anthropologist James Pfeiffer has described billboards along major roads in Mozambique displaying a cartoon "condom-man" winking at passersby. Radio ads broadcast at midday when families were sitting down to lunch advised, "When you have sex next time with your lover, do not forget to use Jeito condoms!" Some campaigns bordered on the misogynistic. (One, for instance, shows an Angolan condom pack shaped like a machine gun; another, in Botswana, depicts a red boxing glove and a condom, and reads: "It can take the fiercest punches!")
The condoms ads were intended to encourage frank discussion about sex among normally reticent African populations and to promote the idea that casual sex was nothing to worry about as long as condoms were used. But it is possible to imagine how these lusty ads might have had the opposite effect, clashing disastrously with local sensibilities concerning decency and self-respect. By associating AIDS with beer-drinking, casual sex, prostitution, and arguably — in the case of the boxing glove and machine gun ads — womanizing and rape, the campaigns may well have reinforced the idea that victims of the disease are those who are promiscuous rather than ordinary people in relatively ordinary relationships. The ads also may have further inflamed the prejudice, denial and rumor-mongering that have featured so strongly in the epidemic and in virtually all epidemics since biblical times.
The theory that informed the design of the condom campaigns was based on a model of the epidemic proposed by epidemiologists in the late 1980s, according to which, HIV was spreading not because of concurrency but because of high-risk groups — meaning prostitutes, truck drivers and rogues who had frequent casual sex. The implication was that targeting campaigns at these high-risk people could staunch the epidemic at what these experts thought was its source. Because preaching to prostitutes and truckers about abstinence wasn’t likely to get you very far, you had to reach out to them in their own language, hence the raunchy ads.
Obviously, it hasn’t worked. Public health agencies must do more to inform southern Africans about the dangers of concurrency. Condoms are important, but they alone won’t stem the epidemic because they are seldom used in long-term relationships. What kind of program might work? In Uganda, the first African nation to see a dramatic, nationwide decline in the HIV infection rate, a massive government campaign was launched in 1986 that promoted partner reduction and fidelity using the vernacular slogan "zero grazing." There were posters and radio ads, and field workers fanned out across the country and held meetings about AIDS in churches, schools and under trees in village clearings. One key message of the program was that everyone was at risk, not just prostitutes and truck drivers.
Outsiders are often baffled by the apparent complacency of some African populations in the face of such a devastating epidemic. One thing that tends to rouse people into action is a common enemy. In southern Africa, campaigns for high-risk groups and "abstinence-only" programs may have unintentionally sent the message that the common enemy was people with AIDS. Ugandans understood early that the enemy was HIV itself.
April 17, 2007
African experience for gay tourists
South Africa’s national parks are poised for a surge in "pink" tourism, now that a tourist operator has launched a series of tours designed to initiate gay visitors to the delights of the savannah. While Cape Town is consistently voted one of the top five gay holiday destinations worldwide, Strider Expeditions says it aims to lure gay tourists out of the Mother City for a fuller African experience.
The company also employs gay and lesbian tour guides.
May 11, 2007
African gay issues finally taken to the world–ILGA Africa Conference May 2007
by Mashilo Mnisi (BTM Editor)
In a daunting brainstorming four-day conference of Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA) of the African region lasted Tuesday this week, an eleven member-representative of interim board was eventually nominated. Out of five regions of Africa – which are the Northern, West, East, Central and the Southern Africa, two members from each region were elected, and there was a consensus that an additional member is needed to represent those identifying themselves as intersexual and transsexual. The eleventh-member representative in the interim board has not yet been nominated, and it’s GenderDynamix’s (a South African lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex [LGBTI] organisation representing transgender people) responsibility.
“The timeframe that we’re looking at is between now and May 2008. We’re giving ourselves a year to fill the space, especially, looking at the Africa transgender conference coming next year”, asserted Director of GenderDynamix, Liesl Theron. Theron is flexible coming to language. “We don’t limit in terms of language. When choosing the ‘I’ or the ‘T’, it doesn’t matter whether they’re Anglophone or Francophone”, she contended. This utterance veritably reflects that ILGA of the African region encompasses diversity in terms of language use, however, the languages being used are English, Portuguese and French.
The second day gained momentum as the conference split into seminars where emphasis was on research for lobbying and advocating for human rights and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) issues. “We have to find ways to be understood first before we ask for equality”, Joel Nana of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) added.
A critical working relationship with religious institutions was highlighted in the discussions where common ground between churches and LGBTI organisations should be sought. Rev Rowland Jide Macaulay added that; “The book of Ecclesiastes verse 14:7 states that ‘when two people lie together they keep warmth. The verse doesn’t specify the sex of the two people, but emphasizes the warmth the people keep.” In addition, Muhsin Hendricks of The Inner Circle – an organisation representing Muslim homosexuals says; “We need to analyse the situation in consideration to different time periods and effects on modernisation.”
Education and health was also some of the milestone debates in the seminars. The focus was on educating and training LGBTI activists about the local laws and rights, the media and creating awareness to healthcare providers especially with regard to LGBTI issues. Again, one of the scathing discussions was around gender-based violence and hate crimes on the continent, and that invoked plans on how to symbiotically work with the media in general so there’s adequate coverage on these, and strategies to address these nuisances. On the same day, the large proportion of the delegates took on an excursion by bus to Soweto by the Gays and Lesbian Archives of South Africa (GALA). As part of inspiration, they were taken to a home of Beverly Ditsie – one of the LGBTI human rights defenders where they heard Ditsie’s mother elucidating how she raised her lesbian daughter in a homophobic Soweto environment.
They also visited a lesbian Sangoma, Nkunzi Nkabinde in Soweto passing the Hector Petersen Museum up the way to Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu’s houses. It was agreed upon that the interim board should consist of two representatives from the different regions with gender balance as the criterion. The ten interim board representatives are Charles Gueboguo of Cameroon and Naomi Ruzindana of Rwanda representing the Central Africa, Sammuel Ganafa of Uganda and Judith Ngunjiri Wangu of Kenya representing the East Africa, Linda Baumann of Namibia and Danilo da Silva of Mozambique representing the Southern Africa, Younes Yatine of Morrocco representing North Africa, Rev Rowland Jide Macaulay of Nigeria representing West Africa and George Kanuma of Burundi representing the Central Africa.
Most representatives concur with Mangera that the conference was a success, and that it was inevitable. “It’s creating understanding between organisations as IGLHRC and the African Commission. It brings us together”, conceded Ruzindana. Ganafa says; “Here we’re representing all regions and it [the work] will infiltrate into the grass roots level.” He added that the ILGA Africa Region is more representative than the other working organisations in the continent. The representatives’ main duty is to manage ILGA Africa Region’s activities and participate in the global ILGA strategies during the two-year tenure.
According to Director of The Lesbian and Gay Equality Project Faroog Mangera, the conference didn’t entirely obtain its intentions. “The main aim was achieved – that is to elect a board of African activists and engage in African issues. But the secondary objective of the conference – that is networking, was just mainly achieved”, Mangera complained saying that there’s a lot of work around networking that needs to be done, also glimpsing at capacity building – which was one of the discussions.
Mangera will be satisfied as long as an African voice dilates, and he hoped for 53 countries ideally. “We need to participate in meetings at international level and do some organising as it is important. We shouldn’t shy away from our issues”, he explained. The end of the conference was marked by the drafting of the ILGA Africa Region constitution. The fundamental objective of the constitution is “to promote universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the elimination of all forms of discrimination.” David Kato Kisule, secretary of a faith-based organisation – Integrity in Uganda, said; “It [ILGA Africa Region] will show that homosexual people do exist in African countries and not just something happening in countries with white people.”
Note: Behind The Mask will be accountable as secretariat for the ILGA Africa Region on the interim. The ILGA Africa Region office will be located during the June meeting of representatives.
29 May 2007
Tutu tells Church to stop obsessing about gays
by Amy Bourke
Desmond Tutu has called for the Anglican Church in Africa to stop "obsessing" with gay priests and same-sex marriages. The Nobel Peace Prize winner and former Archbishop of Cape Town said that church leaders in Africa were not paying enough attention to problems in Zimbabwe, HIV/AIDs, or the crisis in Darfur. He told ABC News: "There are so many issues crying out for concern and application by the church of its resources, and here we are, I mean, with this kind of extraordinary obsession."
"Certainly there’s not been anything like the same standing up to the evil and exercising the prophetic ministry that one would have expected from the church – and that has been very … distressing."
Anglican communities across the world have been divided by the issue over sexuality. The Anglican church in South Africa is the only one on the continent that has a liberal attitude towards women priests. Most African churches are implacably opposed to gay or lesbian clergy and regard homosexuality as biblically forbidden. Earlier this year, PinkNews.co.uk reported how the legendary anti-apartheid campaigner told a conference in Nairobi that gay hate was the same as racism.
Dr Tutu, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984, told journalists: "For one to penalise someone for their sexual orientation is the same as penalising someone for something they can do nothing about, like ethnicity or race. I cannot imagine persecuting a minority group which is already being persecuted."
Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, has ruled out a discussion on sexuality at the next Lambeth Conference in 2008, but stressed that Anglican bishops should focus on "the listening process."
July 09 2007
Prisons to ‘allow gay marriages’
by Leila Samodien
Gay prisoners will not be prevented from getting married in prison, says the department of correctional services. While there have not been gay marriages in the country’s prisons yet, some gay prisoners have already expressed their wish to get married. A weekend newspaper reported that, nationally, about 600 prisoners had requested permission to tie the knot in prison. When contacted by the Cape Argus on Sunday, department of correctional services spokesperson, Manelisi Wolela, said the department respected the laws of the country and they would, therefore, be allowing gay marriages at prisons.
The Civil Union Act, which legalised gay marriages, was implemented in December last year. Since then, close to 600 people have married under it. But Wolela added that there would be a strict application process and that applications would be accepted on the individual merit of each case.
"This is to ensure that the marriage is not just a marriage of convenience that could allow them to be in one cell," he said. He said once the department started to accept applications, it would not go against their "core mandate" to rehabilitate prisoners. Western Cape Correctional Services spokesperson Mark Solomons could not be reached on Sunday to comment on how many gay inmates in local prisons have asked to be married. Triangle Project spokesperson Vista Kalipa said their organisation, which supports gay rights, had not yet heard of gay prisoners wanting to be married but supported the idea.
July 14, 2007
Murdered gay and lesbian activists to be buried
Murdered gay and lesbian rights activist Sizakele Sigasa and her friend Salome Masooa are to be buried at Soweto’s Avalon cemetery this afternoon. The funeral service will be held at the Bapedi Hall in Zone One, Meadowlands. The two women were found murdered in an open veld in Meadowlands last weekend, a day after they were last seen alive together at a liquor outlet in Orlando. They’d been shot several times. Women’s rights organisations say the two were killed because they were lesbian. Police say they’re following leads in the case, and hope to make arrests soon. – Sapa
12 July 2007
Lesbian Killing In South Africa
The South African lesbian and gay communities through the Joint Working Group* and partner organisations Strongly condemn the killing of Sizakele Sigasa (34) and Salome Masooa (23) from a township in Johannesburg. They were found (Sunday 8th July) murdered, execution style, in a nearby field in Meadowlands; a shocking image that is not so new in South Africa in the light of the recent increase in violence and rape against women either identified as, suspected of or supporting lesbian and gay rights.
Gays and lesbians are men and women, human beings who deserve equal rights and treatment – not to be ridiculed or called names, beaten, tortured, raped or killed. These gross human rights violations are not just inhuman and barbaric – they must not be tolerated! Sizakele and Salome’s killers, like everyone else, HAD NO RIGHT TO THREATEN OR KILL THEM!!
Violence against lesbians and gays is unSouth African. Here, oppression and discrimination have no place, still there are parents who reject or kick children out to the streets; siblings, friends and communities who hurt, beat, rape, torture and even kill lesbians and gays. If they survive all this, they face further victimisation at in the hands of the police and even the courts – THIS IS NOT JUSTICE AT ALL. People who inflict harm upon and even kill lesbians and gays (or anyoneelse) do not belong in South Africa. Leaders and communities that do not oppose violence against gays, lesbians, women, children, rape survivors and HIV+ people do not belong here.
1) We call on the Meadowlands Police Services to investigate this matter – efficiently and rigorously;
2) We call on other state bodies and communities to support the families by working with the Police and the Prosecuting Authorities towards ensuring that the killers are brought to book.
We express our deepest condolences to the bereaved families and friends. We offer our support to the colleagues and comrades as they mourn the death of these two precious women.
Memorial Service: Thursday 12 July 2007, 12h00-15h00 (Epelegeng Centre)
Funeral: Saturday, 14 July 2007, 12h00 (Meadowlands Community Centre)
Busi Kheswa, Gay and Lesbian Memory
In Action, 011-717/4239/1963
Prudence Mabele, Positive Women’s Network,
078 383 9529
For assistance in dealing with trauma and loss or for a debrief please contact the:
UNISA Centre for Applied Psychology: 012 429 8089/8544 or Out-Well Being: 012-344-6500
Issued by Nonhlanhla Mkhize (031 301 2145) for the Joint Working Group (JWG).
The JWG is a network of LGBTI organisations and partners in South Africa. Our Vision is to strengthen the organised LGBTI sector to maximise our response to LGBTI needs through partnerships, collective use of resources, and drawing on the strengths of participating organizations in contributing towards social justice and the reconstruction and development of South African society
The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) is a leading human rights organization solely devoted to improving the
rights of people around the world who are targeted for imprisonment, abuse or death because of their sexuality, gender identity or HIV/AIDS status. IGLHRC addresses human rights violations by partnering with and supporting activists in countries around the world, monitoring and documenting human rights abuses, engaging offending governments, and educating international human rights officials. A non-profit, non-governmental organization, IGLHRC is based in New York, with offices in San Francisco, Johannesburg, and Buenos Aires.
Visit http://www.iglhrc.org for more information.
"The Mission of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission is to secure the full enjoyment of human rights of all people and communities subject to discrimination or abuse on the basis of sexual orientation or expression, gender identity or expression and/or HIV status."
Forward this email…http://ui.constantcontact.com/sa/fwtf.jsp?m=1101378359458&ea=micamm%40yahoo.com&a=1101733242166
SA chases All Africa Games glory
by Brad Morgan
The ninth All Africa Games got under way in Algiers, Algeria on Wednesday, with the best athletes from 52 countries set use the continent’s biggest sporting event as a platform for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. South Africa – or Afrique du Sud, as it is known in the French-speaking north African city – was given the honour of leading Tuesday night’s opening ceremony parade into the Olympic Stadium. South Africa came third in the overall medal race at the 2003 All Africa Games in Abuja, with hosts Nigeria topping the standings, closely followed by Egypt. Algeria ended in fourth place overall.
Moss Mashishi, president of the SA Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee, said Team South Africa aimed to regain the top spot it enjoyed at the previous two All Africa Games – in Harare, Zimbabwe in 1995 and on home soil in Johannesburg in 1999. At the same time, he said, the country’s athletes were looking ahead. "Our endeavour is not just to perform well in these continental games, but also to be the best African team at the Beijing Olympics next year."
South Africa’s team of 386 sportsmen and women will contest 26 different sporting codes in Algiers, including athletics, basketball, boxing, cycling, fencing, football, gymnastics, judo, karate, rowing, sailing, swimming, table tennis, tennis, volleyball, water polo, weightlifting, wheelchair athletics and wrestling. South Africa has traditionally fared well in cycling, gymnastics, hockey, netball, swimming and tennis. With a team boasting the likes of Roland Schoeman, Ryk Neethling, Gerhard Zandberg, Cameron van der Burgh, Lyndon Ferns, Troyden Prinsloo, Natalie du Toit and Suzaan van Biljon, swimming is again likely to provide South Africa with a big haul of medals.
Three sports that featured in Abuja four years ago – baseball, softball and field hockey – are not on the programme this time round. Since the All Africa Games doubled in the past as an Olympic qualifier for hockey, an Olympic qualifying tournament is being held in Nairobi, Kenya at the same time as the All Africa Games to decide which country will represent Africa in Beijing. The Games run until 23 July.
23 July 2007
Organisers re-evaluate cost, structure of All Africa Games
The Ninth All Africa Games in Algiers are scheduled to end Monday (July 23rd). Though generally viewed as successful, the Games have raised questions about costs and the level of integration with the Olympic Games process.
by Lyes Aflou for Magharebia in Algiers
As the All Africa Games in Algeria draw to a close, the cost and organisation of the event have been a frequent topic of discussion. Speaking at a press conference Sunday (July 22nd), Djaffer Yefsah, Director-General of the Organising Committee for the Ninth All Africa Games, said more than five billion Dinars had been spent to offer the "best possible Games," adding that their "success… does not depend on the organiser alone, but also on the involvement of all those participating." Yefsah declared the event a record-breaking success, with a high level of skill and competition exhibited by athletes, particularly in swimming, taekwondo, boxing and judo, and thanked the more than 6000 athletes, 2500 judges, 900 officials, 900 doctors and medical personnel, 1500 journalists and more than 500 VIPs taking part. One significant benefit of the event, he said, was in giving Algeria’s guests an opportunity "to see with their own eyes what Algeria is really like, now that it has come out of crisis and is building its future." Nevertheless, Yefsah called for an overhaul of the rules governing the continental games, which he deemed "obsolete".
"The African Games do not have the status they really deserve. They have become too heavy a burden for the organiser, unlike the Asiatic and Pan-American games, which have the means to finance themselves," he declared. "The African games should be held as qualifiers for the Olympic Games in order to be of interest to more athletes and sponsors," he said, adding that these Games, governed until now by the SCSA (Supreme Council for Sport in Africa), should be handed over to the ANOCA (Association of National Olympic Committees of Africa). The Director-General also noted several activities taking place alongside the competitions; for the first time in Africa, an international camp for youth talent similar to that for the Olympic Games was held at the Draria Sports High School, as well as an International Science Congress where presentations were given on a number of current topics such as identifying young talent, the demands of world-class sports, sports medicine and more.
Outside the press conference, competition continued unabated in some events. On the football pitch, Nigeria’s women’s team routed South Africa in the finals, four goals to zero. After an early draw against South Africa in the qualifying round, Nigeria enjoyed decisive victories against Ethiopia and Algeria in the semi-finals. Sunday’s result earned Nigeria the gold medal for women’s football. African Football Confederation (CAF) President Issa Hayatou presented the medals to the top two teams, in the presence of Algerian Football Federation President Hamid Haddadj. Algeria won gold in women’s volleyball, beating tournament favourites Cameroon three sets to one on Sunday in the Tchaker Hall in Blida on Sunday.
Sunday also saw the creation of a new African School Sport Confederation (CASSCO) in Algiers. Twenty-seven countries worked together in the constitutive assembly to establish the new organisation. Algerian Mohamed Belhadj was elected President of the new outfit, which will serve to promote sport in schools and provide a forum for member countries to discuss common policies governing international sports and stimulate co-operation among African nations.
July 22, 2007
Africa, Offline: Waiting for the Web
by Ron Nixon
On a muggy day in Kigali in 2003, some of the highest-ranking officials in the Rwandan government, including President Paul Kagame, flanked an American businessman, Greg Wyler, as he boldly described how he could help turn their small country into a hub of Internet activity. Mr. Wyler, an executive based in Boston who made his fortune during the tech boom, said he would lace Rwanda with fiber optic cables, connecting schools, government institutions and homes with low-cost, high-speed Internet service. Until that point, Mr. Wyler, 37, had never set foot in Africa — he was invited by a Rwandan government official he had met at a wedding. Mr. Wyler never expected to start a business there; he simply wanted to try to help the war-torn country.
Even so, Mr. Wyler’s company, Terracom, was granted a contract to connect 300 schools to the Internet. Later, the company would buy 99 percent of the shares in Rwandatel, the country’s national telecommunications company, for $20 million. But after nearly four years, most of the benefits hailed by him and his company have failed to materialize, Rwandan officials say. “The bottom line is that he promised many things and didn’t deliver,” said Albert Butare, the country’s telecommunications minister. Mr. Wyler says he sees things quite differently, and he and Rwandan officials will probably never agree on why their joint venture has been so slow to get off the ground. But Terracom’s tale is more than a story about a business dispute in Rwanda. It is also emblematic of what can happen when good intentions run into the technical, political and business realities of Africa.
Attempts to bring affordable high-speed Internet service to the masses have made little headway on the continent. Less than 4 percent of Africa’s population is connected to the Web; most subscribers are in North African countries and the republic of South Africa. A lack of infrastructure is the biggest problem. In many countries, communications networks were destroyed during years of civil conflict, and continuing political instability deters governments or companies from investing in new systems. E-mail messages and phone calls sent from some African countries have to be routed through Britain, or even the United States, increasing expenses and delivery times. About 75 percent of African Internet traffic is routed this way and costs African countries billions of extra dollars each year that they would not incur if their infrastructure was up to speed. “Most African governments haven’t paid much attention to their infrastructure,” said Vincent Oria, an associate professor of computer science at the New Jersey Institute of Technology and a native of the Ivory Coast. “In places where hunger, AIDS and poverty are rampant, they didn’t see it as critical until now.”
Africa’s only connection to the network of computers and fiber optic cables that are the Internet’s backbone is a $600 million undersea cable running from Portugal down the west coast of Africa. Built in 2002, the cable was supposed to provide cheaper and faster Web access, but so far that has not happened. Prices remain high because the national telecommunications linked to the cable maintain a monopoly over access, squeezing out potential competitors. And plans for a fiber optic cable along the East African coast have stalled over similar access issues. Most countries in Eastern Africa, like Rwanda, depend on slower satellite technology for Internet service. The result is that Africa remains the least connected region in the world, and the digital gap between it and the developed world is widening rapidly. “Unless you can offer Internet access that is the same as the rest of the world, Africa can’t be part of the global economy or academic environment,” said Lawrence H. Landweber, professor emeritus of computer science at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, who was also part of an early effort to bring the Web to Africa in the mid-1990s. “The benefits of the Internet age will bypass the continent.”
Rwandan officials were especially interested in wiring primary and secondary schools, seeing information technology as crucial to modernizing the country’s rural economy. Some 90 percent of the country’s eight million people work in agriculture. But as of mid-July, only one-third of the 300 schools covered in Terracom’s contract had high-speed Internet service. All 300 were supposed to have been connected by 2006. Over all, less than 1 percent of the population is connected to the Internet. Rwandan officials say the company seems more interested in tapping the more lucrative cellphone market than in being an Internet service provider. (In November, Mr. Wyler stepped down as chief executive of Terracom, saying he wanted to spend more time with his family; he still serves on the board.) In a telephone interview from his home in Boston, Mr. Wyler said he would not address the government’s criticism, saying he did not want to be quoted as saying anything negative. But he said there were some things he had not anticipated, particularly the technical challenges of linking Rwanda’s Internet network to the rest of the world. The only way to do it is to buy bandwidth capacity on satellites, but there are not enough satellites to meet demand. Mr. Wyler also says he believes that Terracom suffers from unrealistic expectations. “Terracom has done everything it can, “ he said. “Because of the technical challenges, the Internet service is as good as it’s going to get. But given what we started from, I still think we have accomplished a lot. In the beginning there were a few people with Internet service; now there are thousands.”
The Rwandan government had hoped that the number of Web surfers would be much higher by now. Rwanda, which is about the size of Maryland, has little industry, and its infrastructure is still being rebuilt after being left in shambles by a 1994 genocide in which 800,000 to a million people were killed. “We have almost no natural resources and no seaports in Rwanda, which leaves us only with trying to become a knowledge-based society,” said Romain Murenzi, the minister of science, technology and scientific research. Officials saw Terracom’s investment as crucial to its transformation. Unlike many African governments, Rwanda’s was eager to privatize the national telecommunications company, which had outdated equipment, high prices and few subscribers. But from the start, government officials say, there were problems with Terracom. Mr. Butare, the telecommunications minister, said the government had trouble getting basic information from the company. Complicating the situation, Mr. Butare said, was that Mr. Wyler tried to run Terracom from the United States, visiting Rwanda just a few weeks at a time. He left day-to-day management to a poorly trained staff, Mr. Butare said.
“There were spots where they did some things here and there,” Mr. Butare said. “But over all they have failed to do what they promised.”
Internet rates have been lowered, from about $1,000 a month when Terracom arrived in 2003, but most people still can’t afford it. The average Rwandan makes about $220 a year, and a fixed-line Internet hookup costs about $90 a month. Basic wireless Internet is about $63 a month. Those rich enough to pay the fees complain about poor service. Government officials say the company has spent more time marketing and signing up cellphone customers than on expanding Internet service. According to government figures, Terracom has 30,000 to 40,000 mobile phone subscribers and about 20,000 Internet customers. The situation came to a head late last year, when government officials contended that Terracom secretly tried to trade its shares in the Rwandan telecom to GV Telecom, a regional African telecommunications company incorporated in the British Virgin Islands. Rwandan officials were furious, saying this was a violation of the contract signed by the two parties. The plan was scrapped and Mr. Wyler was widely criticized. In June, the government fined Terracom nearly $400,000 for failing to comply with its licensing obligations, failing to provide information about its operations and failing to pay several fees.
“We decided to penalize Terracom after they failed to fulfill their obligations for a long time,” said Beatha Mukangabo, legal officer for the Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Agency. Terracom said it has paid the fines and is working with the government to meet all of its obligations.
Mr. Wyler said he has not been involved in Terracom for nearly 10 months and could not comment on its current operations. Christopher Lundh, Terracom’s new chief executive and a former executive of Gateway Communications in London, has worked in several African countries. He now lives and works full time in Rwanda, and many government officials say Terracom’s performance has improved under his leadership. Mr. Lundh acknowledged that there were problems with the company’s operations in the past. “The former management did make some promises that they were not able to keep,” he said. “That’s why I was brought in to professionalize things.” He also said that the company could have better handled the matter with GV Telecom but that he thinks the government overreacted. He said the Rwandan government is to blame for some of the delays. “We would get to schools that don’t even have electricity or computers,” he said. “That is not our fault.” In addition, he said that many of the complaints about the company concerned things beyond its ability to control. Getting adequate bandwidth remains a constant challenge.
Like most telecommunications companies in eastern Africa, Terracom depends on satellites for Internet service. Satellite service is much slower than cable because of delays in the signals. Satellites also provide less bandwidth than cable. Adding to the problem is that most of the satellites serving Africa were launched nearly 20 years ago and are aging or going out of commission. A satellite set to go into service last year blew up on the launching pad. Power is also an issue, as intermittent power failures in Rwanda hamper efforts to provide a steady electricity source.
Despite these limitations and earlier setbacks, Mr. Lundh says Terracom is moving ahead with plans to give Rwanda the most advanced Internet infrastructure in Africa. A nationwide wireless connection should begin operating near year-end, he said, about the time a nonprofit group, One Laptop Per Child, based in Boston, is to introduce a $100 laptop in the country. And Terracom is continuing to lay fiber optic cables to connect Rwanda to several other African countries, eliminating a need for phone calls and Internet traffic to be routed via European or American networks. The government, meanwhile, is moving forward with its own plans to build a fiber optic network. It also has granted Internet service licenses to South African companies and plans to issue several more. “We think we are going to have a healthier market pretty soon,” said Nkubito Bakuramutsa, director general of the Rwanda Information Technology Authority. “We have learned from past experience.” Mr. Bakuramutsa said he hopes to bring the price of Internet service down to about $10 a month.
Mr. Lundh said his company welcomes the competition. But, he added, getting necessary bandwidth remains an issue and no matter what company supplies Internet service, speed will be a problem. “Eventually you reach a point of diminishing returns,” he said.“Unless there is a new undersea fiber optic cable built or a new satellite launched, it’s going to be difficult.”
Magnus K. Mazimpaka contributed reporting from Rwanda.
August 14 2007
‘Gay rights still just a promise’
by Candice Bailey
South Africa may have an advanced constitution but it has a long way to go before the constitutional promises relate into meaningful realities for its gay and lesbian citizens. Supreme Court of Appeal Judge Edwin Cameron said there was a substantial disjunct between constitutional promises of equality for all and the realities on the ground.
"We have come very far. We have much to rejoice about and we did embrace a democratic constitution. But we have failed to relate those into meaningful realities. There is rampant racism, rampant inequality and prejudice against gays and lesbians. We have a long way to go before the constitutional promises are translated."
‘We have a long way to go before the constitutional promises are translated’
Cameron was addressing Rainbow UCT, the university’s gay and lesbian rights organisation on gay rights. His lecture comes after several murders of lesbians in July. A 23-year-old lesbian was murdered in Ezakheni, Ladysmith on July 22. Two weeks earlier, Sizakele Sigasa and Salome Masooa were raped, tortured and murdered in Meadowlands in Soweto. "We need to reach a point where everyone can feel protected in their lifestyles." Cameron, who said he was enormously proud to be gay, said the issue of sexual orientation was one that tested the commitment of putting the past in the past. He said that while people talk openly about sex, sexual orientation still made people uncomfortable.
While sexual orientation was often characterised as a sin, a crime, a pathological deviation or a perverse lifestyle choice it was actually a variant of human existence.
This article was originally published on page 10 of The Cape Argus on August 14, 2007
17th September 2007
Johannesburg Pride a symbol of freedom
Johannesburg will celebrate its 18th annual Joburg Pride Parade on October 6th. It will be preceded by a series of events designed to commemorate the country’s landmark constitutional freedoms that make South Africa the first and only country in the world to have a constitution that expressly guarantees protection from discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation. The first ever African gay and lesbian Pride parade took place in Johannesburg in 1990 with fewer than a thousand participants, some of whom even wore paper bags over their heads so as not be identified.
In subsequent years Joburg Pride has grown in size and visibility – in 2003 boasting almost 20 000 participants. However, while the event has become less political and more celebratory in nature, Joburg Pride remains, at its core, a call for gay and lesbian equality and a recognition of South Africa’s diversity. In recent years some Joburg Pride events have been dogged by claims of mismanagement and lack of diversity. In response, in early 2007 a new not-for-profit company was formed, composed of new organisers with the aim being to rehabilitate the institution and create a world-class pride celebration.
The 2007 Joburg Pride celebrations officially kick off on Thursday, September 27th with a charity screening of the comedy Another Gay Movie at Cinema Nouveau in Rosebank, followed by the invitation-only launch of Ster Kinekor’s Pride Film Festival, a stand-alone gay and lesbian film festival held during the Pride festivities. A number of events will also take place across Gauteng in the week preceding the parade. Additionally, clubs and entertainment venues in Johannesburg and Pretoria will be hosting numerous parties, expected to draw significant crowds, while community organisations will be presenting seminars on more serious topics.
Joburg Pride Festival Week will conclude on Saturday October 6th with the Parade and ‘Party in the Park’ at Zoo Lake Sports Club. The customary colourful parade is scheduled to start at 11am from Zoo Lake Sports Club. Chart-topping electronica band Flash Republic will perform live on stage from 10am, officially kicking off the parade at the end of their set. A minute’s silence will be observed to mark the recent brutal murder of two lesbians in Meadowlands, as well as acknowledging all victims of hate-crimes. Then the parade, with over 16 floats, will make its way through the streets of Rosebank. The parade will take a circular route, returning to Zoo Lake Sports Club at around 1pm, when the celebration is set to continue.
To see a complete festival guide or for more information on Joburg Pride 2007, visit the official website at: www.joburgpride.org.
28 September 2007
Joburg and Soweto march for gay pride
by Staff Reporter
The Joburg Gay Pride Festival comes of age with its 18th parade next Saturday – and even the taxman will be there to celebrate. On Saturday, the third Soweto Pride march gets under way. The Soweto march starts at 11am at the corner of Roodepoort and Mphuthi roads and proceeds to Credo Mutwa Park. Forum for the Empowerment of Women spokesperson Phumla Masuku said a few hundred people were expected to attend.
The Joburg Gay Pride Parade takes place from 10am at Zoo Lake. Both marches will commemorate victims of hate crimes, including lesbians Sizakele Sigasa ,34, and Salome Masooa ,23, who were shot dead in Soweto in July. The 777 Campaign and the Forum for the Empowerment of Women said there had been arrests in connection with the two murders, but no one was in custody. Even the SA Revenue Service will have a stall at the festival. It said those with queries should bring along their tax returns. – Staff Reporter
September 28, 07
Unholy Communion–The African war over homosexuality
by Philip Jenkins
In the past few years, conservative Episcopalians from a number of U.S. congregations have voted to bolt from their church and place themselves under various African leaders, including Nigeria’s Anglican primate Peter Jasper Akinola. The source of the conservatives’
discontent with the U.S. Episcopal Church was its liberal position on homosexuality. It had, after all, named an openly gay man bishop of New Hampshire. That was also the reason Akinola and other African clergy appealed to these largely white congregations. Akinola’s church views any gay manifestation as an "acquired aberration" and has compared the U.S. Episcopal Church to a "cancerous lump." He has also backed legislation that prescribes severe prison sentences for gay sex.
But, while Akinola is the best-known anti-gay voice in Africa, he is hardly alone. If, tomorrow, he walked in front of a Lagos bus, other clerics–including Uganda’s Henry Orombi and Rwanda’s Emmanuel Kolini–would soon assume his role. Even the heroic Archbishop David Gitari–a leading opponent of dictatorship in his native Kenya for 30 years–has felt compelled to denounce same-sex unions in Canada as "immoral and contrary to the Bible." The current prestige of African religious authorities like these in the United States makes for an interesting new chapter in the history of global Christianity, not to mention American culture. And the politics are even more complicated than that: By joining forces with their African Anglican peers, disgruntled U.S. congregations have un- wittingly become players in a culture war over gay issues that is unfolding across the Atlantic. That war is political and religious and historical–and has almost nothing to do with our own.
Many African societies have well-established traditions of same-sex interactions and gay subcultures. In different parts of the continent, we can find everything from warrior cultures in which mature men sexually initiate youths, to examples of gender crossing. A decade ago, the varieties of African homosexuality were documented in the book Boy-Wives and Female-Husbands, edited by Will Roscoe and Stephen O. Murray. Why, then, did opposition to gay rights become so critical for many African Christians? The answer has a lot to do with the rapid spread of Christianity on the continent in a relatively short time. In 1900, Africa had 10 million Christians, representing around 10 percent of the population. By 2000, that figure had grown to 360 million, or 46 percent. As a result, most African Christians today are first- or second- generation members of the faith, and many are adult converts. Sociologists generally agree that newer religious groups tend to have more literal approaches to scripture. In practice, of course, literalism still leaves plenty of room for debate and interpretation; but, when the Bible specifically condemns a particular sin–and same-sex interaction is repeatedly denounced in both the Old and New Testaments–that makes it difficult for literalists to find wiggle room.
In other ways, too, the rapid expansion of Christianity has conditioned African views on homosexuality. African churches exist in a ferociously competitive environment, one where traditional groups–like Anglicans and Catholics–must fight to maintain their market share against newer Pentecostal denominations, with their enticing promises of miracles and healings. The last thing the older churches need is a suggestion that their commitment to scriptural truth is anything less than absolute or that they are any less rigorous than their rivals in condemning sin. The other key rival–and another factor shaping moral attitudes–is Islam. Over the past century, African Christianity has grown much more rapidly than Islam, a fact that puzzles and infuriates Muslims who regard the continent as naturally theirs. In 1900, for instance, Christians accounted for just 1 percent of the people of what would become the state of Nigeria; Muslims made up 26 percent. By 1970, however, the religions had achieved parity, each having around 45 percent of the population. And some recent polls suggest that, today, the nation has a Christian plurality. Against this background of rivalry and potential violence, Christians cannot be seen to concede anything to Muslims in terms of their commitment to strict morality. Even the harsh anti-gay measures that Akinola backs in Nigeria are still milder than the provisions enforced under the sha- ria code that prevails in one-third of the country’s states, which includes the death penalty for homosexuality. Moreover, by condemning sexual liberalism, African churches are making clear to their own members and their Muslim neighbors that they are not puppets of the West. Moral conservatism thus serves to assert cultural independence–a link that requires sexual immorality to be portrayed as a Euro-American import.
The Muslim context helps explain the sensitivity of gay issues in one other key respect. In the region later known as Uganda, Christianity first arrived in the 1870s, when the area was already under Muslim influence and a hunting ground for Arab slave-raiders.
The king of Buganda had adopted Arab customs of pederasty, and he expected the young men of his court to submit to his demands. But a growing number of Christian courtiers and pages refused to participate, despite his threats, and an enraged king launched a persecution that resulted in hundreds of martyrdoms: On a single day, some 30 Bugandans were burned alive. Yet the area’s churches flourished, and, eventually, the British expelled the Arab slavers. That foundation story remains well-known in the region, and it intertwines Christianity with resistance to tyranny and Muslim imperialism–both symbolized by sexual deviance. Reinforcing such memories are more recent experiences with Muslim tyrants, such as Idi Amin, whose victims included the head of his country’s Anglican Church. For many Africans, then, sexual unorthodoxy has implications that are at once un-Christian, anti-national, and oppressive.
o be sure, Africa is a diverse continent, and some voices are more liberal on gay issues than others. Many of the most progressive can be found in South Africa, arguably one of the most gay-friendly countries in the world. Its constitution outlaws discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation, and, in 2006, the country legalized same-sex marriage. Many churches certainly opposed this latter measure, but the depth of feeling is nothing like what we find in a country like Nigeria. Anglican leader Desmond Tutu has spoken out for gay rights, declaring, "To penalize somebody for their sexual orientation is the same as what used to happen to black South Africans for something about which we could do nothing." Generally, bishops who do criticize homosexual behavior rank it low on their hierarchy of sins. The country’s current Anglican primate, Njongonkulu Ndungane, calls homosexuality a "pastoral, secondary problem," and has rebuked Akinola for failing to address more pressing issues in his backyard.
One explanation for this phenomenon is that South Africa’s unique history has given its leaders more room to promote tolerance on gay rights. After all, given the African National Congress’s recent credentials in resisting white domination, the government can hardly be accused of passively succumbing to Western influence. But South Africa is not the only place where gay-rights movements have gained a foothold. An Anglican group called Changing Attitude claims supporters in both Nigeria and Uganda, and the director of its Nigerian chapter, Davis Mac-Iyalla, has earned some notoriety as a liberal foil to Akinola. Some years ago, when Namibia’s then- president declared homosexuality a "behavioral disorder which is alien to African culture," activists responded by creating a fairly overt gay-rights movement, the Rainbow Project. At present, such voices constitute a distinct minority. That will not be the case forever, of course. As Christianity in Africa develops, churches will likely acquire a greater range of theological attitudes, including more moderate ones. Indeed, history suggests that fundamentalists often have good reason to worry about their more liberal grandchildren.
For now, though, 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. Trying to explain this can be a risky enterprise, as I learned first hand when I gave an interview explaining why Akinola felt as he did, only to find myself denounced for sharing his views. But, if an ever-larger share of the world’s Christian population is going to be located in Africa–and it is–then we at least ought to understand the views of that population for what they are.
Philip Jenkins is the author of God’s Continent:
Christianity, Islam and Europe’s Religious Crisis
October 01, 2007
‘Lesbian rights are human rights’
by Paola Verouden
Gays and lesbians in Soweto have had enough of the homophobia in the huge township. On Saturday, they took to the streets in a march aimed at stressing the need for more protection for homosexuals in the township. Several of the 150 participants – mainly women – who joined the third annual Soweto Pride March wore T-shirts with the words "Pissed off woman" and held up placards with slogans such as "Lesbian rights are human rights" and "Dying for justice". The "Dying for justice" slogan was a direct reference to the brutal murder of two lesbians in July, The two women – Sizakele Sigasa ,34, and Salome Masooa ,23, – were raped, tortured and killed in Meadowlands, Soweto.
Sigasa – whose hands were tied with her underwear and her ankles tied with her shoelaces – was shot several times. The police are still investigating the murders and no arrests have been made. During the march, which started at the corner of Mphuthi Street and Roodepoort Road in Central Western Jabavu and proceeded to Meadowlands police station, participants handed over a petition calling upon the police to protect Soweto’s gays and lesbians. Said 22-year-old Lesego, who didn’t want to give her surname: "I’m here to tell the public that we aren’t different. And being gay is certainly not un-African. We have a very liberal constitution but it isn’t implemented in civil society. And things are getting worse. Most of my sisters have been violated."
Olive, a 35-year-old lesbian who joined the march, said she was afraid to walk alone at night. "Sizakele Sigasa was a close friend of mine. After what happened to her, I’ve become extremely cautious," she said. As the march proceeded, some curious residents came out of their houses to check what was happening. "They are fighting for their rights. I have no problem with that," said one resident. According to Dawn Cavanagh, director of the Forum for the Empowerment of Women, homophobia and intolerance are still big problems – even in the police force.
"The police are a reflection of our society. We want to be taken seriously when we ask for security," she said. March organiser Phumla Masuku said it was important that gays and lesbians were visible in the townships. "This (Soweto) is my home and I also have the right to be here. We fear being raped and even murdered, but I’m tired of running. I want to bring awareness to the community, in memory of my beloved friends." The march ended at Credo Mutwa Park in Central Western Jabavu
October 06, 2007
‘We are forced to live in fear’
by Janet Smith
As Gay Pride comes of age on Saturday, Gauteng gays and lesbians toast civil unions, adoptions, gender-neutral definitions and a protective constitution.But with hate speech and hate crimes on the increase, these liberties are under threat. A research project by the Joint Working Group – a collaboration of influential South African lesbian and gay organisations – with the Unisa Centre for Applied Psychology shows rape and sexual abuse of gay men is increasing, while HIV prevalence among black lesbians is shockingly high.
The study was done around the country, but the figures used here relate specifically to Gauteng. Dawie Nel, director of gay and lesbian organisation OUT, says violence towards gay people in South Africa is "way out of line" in terms of international findings. "Yes, we live in a violent society," he says, "but the levels of violence on lesbians and gays seem to be uniquely South African, as are the levels of HIV among black lesbians, which is almost unheard of anywhere else in the world."
Black gay men experience high levels of rape and sexual abuse. Some 10 percent of black gays say they have been assaulted or hurt in this way, with 64 percent saying they fear attack. About five percent of white gay men claim actual sexual assault, but their rate of concern is at 34 percent. Physical assault is about the same on black and white gay men, at around 15 percent. Black gay men experience high levels of verbal abuse, at about 40 percent, with 32 percent of white gay men saying they are jeered at.
Dawn Cavanagh, of the Forum for the Empowerment of Women, says: "There are very real threats to the wellbeing and security of gay and lesbian people, and we often feel we are forced to live in fear – more so than the average South African. Ours is just another layer of stress." Gay Pride starts at 10am at Zoo Lake on Saturday. The march will wind its way through Rosebank to end at 1pm back at the lake, where an open-air party will be held.
8th October 2007
Revellers defy rain to party at Joburg Pride
by PinkNews.co.uk writer
An estimated five thousand gays and lesbians – and their friends and families – turned out for the 18th Annual Joburg Pride Parade in Rosebank, Johannesburg, on Saturday, despite some inclement weather. "We’re amazed and humbled at the support that our community has shown towards the new Pride organisers," said Tracey Sandilands, Chairperson of the Joburg Gay Pride Festival Company. "The fact that thousands braved the rain and cold to assert the importance of Pride shows that the event remains entirely relevant."
Following a performance by Flash Republic on the main stage, the Parade set out through the streets of Rosebank. The rain paused for the one and half hour duration of the Parade, which consisted of over 30 floats and vehicles, and led by the Joburg Metro Police Department. Vibrant displays of the gay rainbow colours were evident on numerous floats as participants walked the circular seven kilometre route. To the sound of thumping dance music and cheers from passers-by the Parade wound its way back to Zoo Lake. Placards and signs demanding equal rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people were visible among the participants. While the overall mood of the event was celebratory, the reality of gay and lesbian safety in their communities was also highlighted by the organisers.
A minute’s silence was held to mark the brutal murders of two lesbian women, Sizakele Sigasa and Salome Masooa, in Soweto in July, as well as all LGBT victims of hate crime. Speaking on the main stage, Sandilands made an impassioned demand for tolerance: "Here today, in the midst of the partying and fun, we remember Sizakele and Salome and together we say ‘Enough.’ No longer will we tolerate double standards and discrimination against our community, and we challenge everyone here to speak out against prejudice wherever they find it. It’s time to take our stand against the pockets of homo-prejudice that still exist in our society. It’s time to make our voices heard against hate crimes."
There were a number of calls at the event for the organisers to host a future Joburg Pride Parade in Soweto, something which the Pride Board says could always be placed on the table. "Rosebank is logistically practical as a venue for an event of this size," said Sandilands, "but we are an organisation run by and for the community and we urge all stakeholders to come forward and engage with us on their suggestions and needs for next year."
Following the Parade, the determined crowd of revellers – along with the event’s MCs Elana Afrika, Nicole Fox and Poppy Ntshongwana from national youth radio station 5FM – continued to celebrate their Pride on the muddy fields of Zoo Lake Sports Club. The celebrations continued well into the late afternoon.
"Today was a tremendous success, regardless of the weather," said an enthusiastic Sandilands. "Pride will be back next year – bigger and better!"
October 21, 2007
Lesbian pair persecuted: Anonymous rape, murder threats directed at couple
by Victor Khupiso
A lesbian couple fear for their lives after receiving anonymous hate calls. The Soweto women have been pelted with rotten eggs and tomatoes by neighbours, who say they have provoked God’s wrath. The couple, who have been partners for three years, said they were too frightened to be identified. Meadowlands lesbians, Aids activist Sizakele Sigasa and her partner, Salome Mafooa, were brutally murdered in July. The murder has not been solved. This couple have been told they are “next”.
This week the couple, part-time Joburg council workers aged 29 and 33 , told Metro that different male and female callers had contacted them on their home phone and cellphones to say that their “every step” was being watched and they should leave the area as they are “cursed”, and are “corrupting the community”. The harassment has become so bad that their landlord, who fears she may also become a target, this week told the couple to leave their home.
The 69-year-old woman, who also asked not to be identified, said, “I feel that my life is at stake. People say I am promoting homosexuality. Last week my 12-year-old grandson came home sobbing because other boys were teasing him, saying when he grows up he will marry a boy because our home is full of homosexuals.”
Her 33-year-old tenant said one of the callers said “he would kidnap and rape us and dump our bodies at the Orlando Power Station”. The bodies of three young girls — unrelated to any lesbian killings — have been discovered at the Orlando Power Station this year. “He said they would warn people like us that death is the only punishment and the only way to stop us corrupting and destroying society.”
The women say the hate calls started last year after neighbours established they were living as a couple and were not just “sisters”. The 33-year-old woman said she arrived home from work one day to find a poster pasted on her home, saying: “Lesbians and gays should be stripped naked and then dragged in the street. We are even hated by children, who are told not to greet us or talk to us. Recently, a seven-year-old neighbour told friends that her mother had lost her job because of us. Children are being told that we are behind all bad things.”
The couple said they were afraid to lay a complaint with police, but Soweto police spokesman Superintendent Thembi Mkhwashu urged them to come forward with a formal complaint — or something bad may happen to them. “This is a serious case. The sooner they lay a charge the better,” she said.
Phumla Masuku, gay activist programme officer for the Forum for the Empowerment of Women — which held a march in Soweto recently in memory of Sigasa and Mafooa — said township residents were far from accepting of gay people. “Rapists and murderers are treated as heroes in the community, but we are fiercely hated. They would rather accept criminals than us.”
An aunt of the slain Salome Mafooa said her niece had also been harassed by neighbours before her murder — but not to the same extent as the couple to which Metro spoke. “We believe they were murdered by people who hated gays and lesbians. We are still grieving because their killers have not been found ,” said Thoko Mafooa . “People are full of hatred towards lesbians and gays. I see no reason for that because they are just people like us”. Human Rights Commission head Jody Kollapen said his organisation “condemns the kinds of utterances and threats made against these women. Even though we have a progressive Constitution, it is clear that attitudes and stereotypes built up over years are still in place.”
13th December 2007
ANC challenged over equality for LGBT South Africans
by Antonio Fabrizio
As South Africa’s main political party prepares for its 52nd congress, LGBT groups have issued a manifesto asking for a clear commitment to equality. The African National Congress, which will meet this weekend to decide the next leader of the party and its future political stance, has been asked by the Joint Workers Group to uphold the Constitution’s promise of "freedom, justice and equality for all." The ANC has been South Africa’s governing party since 1994. The current party leader Thabo Mbeki is the country’s President.
Vanessa Ludwig, leader of the LGBT organisation Triangle Project, said that the manifesto was meant to clarify LGBT requests and explain that homophobia and discrimination are still wide-spread in the country. "There’s a lot of gay bashing and murders and nothing has been said about it by the country’s leadership," she said. "This gives people licence to be homophobic. The policy documents to be discussed at the conference say nothing about LGBT people."
The manifesto was issued on December 5th by LGBT activists, human rights activists, trade unions, and other groups from diverse backgrounds. It calls on the ANC Conference to "fully and publicly affirm the rights of LGBT people as full and equal citizens." A series of points are listed in order to reach full gender equality.
* Publicly affirming that LGBT issues are part of gender issues "instead of the current silence in gender debates on LGBT issues, as well as address the hetero-sexist bias against LGBT issues"
* Committing to defend and protect human rights
* Addressing the needs of LGBT people in the policies on AIDS
* Integrating sexual orientation education in sexuality education in schools
* Taking effective action to end hate crimes against LGBT people
* Taking disciplinary action against ANC members that are homophobes.
In 1996 a new constitution was introduced in post-apartheid South Africa which outlawed discrimination on sexual orientation.
In 2006 it became the first African country to legalise gay marriage.
While the equality is formally guaranteed, LGBT groups have warned that especially in the less urbanised areas homophobia is still rampant.