Nigeria bans their love, but same-sex couples persist

rainbow-heartSame-sex couples in Nigeria find healthy relationships difficult to establish and sustain because of the country’s anti-gay laws and society’s hostility toward homosexuality.  But some LGB Nigerians who are giving it a try have told told their stories to the NoStringsNG website:

Gay man plans to marry a woman

Bola, a 31-year old Nigerian gay man living in Lagos, is in a five-year relationship with his boyfriend. He says he is deeply in love with him, but still plans to marry a woman because the country criminalizes same-sex marriage and because of pressure from his family. He said:

“I have been dating my boyfriend since February 2013. I am 31 years old now. I love my boyfriend because he is humble, intelligent, calm, and spiritual. We met at the church in November 2012 and started dating in February 2013.

“We have no real plans for the future, because marriage is inevitable in Nigeria. We will just remain best of friends.”

Maintaining a same-sex relationship is “a battle,” he says, because gay men are in a “spotlight.”

Rainbow hands.jpgLesbian plans to marry her lover

Linda, a lesbian, said she connected with her lover online and plans to marry her in Nigeria, even though Nigerian law forbids it. She said:

“My relationship with my girlfriend is a month old. I am 20. I love everything about her especially her flaws. We met on Facebook. I really wish/plan on walking down the aisle with her.”

32-year-old lesbian is scared to marry

Jennifer, a 32-year-old lesbian from Benin who is in a four-year relationship with her lover, said that she doesn’t have plans to marry her lover because she is afraid. She said:

“My girlfriend and I have been together for four years. She is everything God made her [to be]. We met on one of these social networks. For now we have no [wedding] plans for the fear of our family and country, but we are really happy together.”

Nigerian law keeps gay lovers apart

Samson a 28-year old Nigerian gay man, has been in a six-month monogamous relationship with his boyfriend, but has no plans to marry him because of Nigeria’s anti-gay law. He said;

“I have been dating my boyfriend for 6 months. We met through the [dating-focused social network] Baddo. Our goal right now is to keep the friendship burning and lovely. We have no plans of settling down together because of the societal values and as well the constitution.”

Lesbian wants her lover for a lifetime

Rainbow, a 23-year-old Nigerian lesbian, said she is determined to work towards a lifetime commitment with her lover and the law won’t stop her. Describing how she met her lover, she said;

“I had always known her, friends of friends. But then I really saw her face at a party. After that, we met again among friends and we clicked. We followed each other on social media, texted regularly and all. …

“We do plan on settling down together — out of Nigeria. But if we do stay, [Nigeria’s homophobia] won’t be a hindrance. We are determined to be together.”

Gay man and partner plan to raise kids

Harry, a 40-year-old Nigerian gay man, said that together with his partner he intends to “build a home and raise kids.”

All names in this article have been changed to protect the identity of the contributors.


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Trans activists welcome new Russian gender rules

Russian regions where the Transgender Legal Defense Project has assisted trans people. (Map courtesy of the Transgender Legal Defense Project)

Russian regions where the Transgender Legal Defense Project has assisted trans people. (Map courtesy of the Transgender Legal Defense Project)

Russia has adopted a new procedure for officially recognizing the new gender of trans people.  The new rules, which took effect early this month, were greeted favorably by trans activists, though the activists said the procedures were still less than ideal.

The Russian Transgender Legal Defense Project issued this statement last month:

On 22 January 2018, the Russian Ministry of Health’s order approving a form of medical certificate for change of trans persons’ gender marker, as well as a procedure for issuing such a certificate, was published. The order will come into force on 2 February 2018.

There has been no legally established legal gender recognition procedure in Russia for many years. According to the federal law, in order to change their gender marker, a trans person has to submit a “medical certificate on gender/sex change” to civil registry office. The duty to approve a form for this medical certificate was assigned to the Ministry of Health as long ago as in 1998, however, the Ministry has neglected this duty for twenty years.

Colors of the Transgender Legal Defense Project banner. (Image courtesy of the Transgender Legal Defense Project)

Colors of the Transgender Legal Defense Project banner. (Image courtesy of the Transgender Legal Defense Project)

Throughout this period, it was for individual civil registry servants to decide if a person’s documents could be changed, and excessive requirements violating applicants’ human rights have been posed frequently. For example, gender reassignment surgeries could be required, or a person having minor children, could be refused. In many cases, in order to get legal gender recognition, transgender persons had to resort to a lengthy and complicated judicial procedure which did not necessarily result in a judgment in favour of the applicant.

A draft order approving the form of the “medical certificate on gender/sex change” and the procedure for its issuance was published for a public discussion in October 2017. This document became a matter of concern for trans community – mostly, because of the mandatory one-and-a-half-year psychiatrist observation, without which it would not be allowed to change documentation. Apart from that, the draft order used a term “sexual re-orientation” – a term that is not mentioned by any other orders or laws affecting trans persons’ rights.

Many trans human rights organisations, including the Transgender Legal Defense Project, submitted to the Russian Ministry of Health their comments and proposals to amend the text of the draft.

Fortunately, most of the concerns have been addressed by the order’s drafters.

First, the order does not require a mandatory period for psychiatrist observation before legal gender recognition. Second, it neither require trans people to undergo any medical procedures, such as hormone replacement therapy or surgery, in order to get their gender marker changed. Third, it does not impose any restrictions on legal gender recognition for those trans people who are married or have underage children. Last but not least, according to the order, a referral to a medical board that establishes a person’s “sexual re-orientation” is to be issued if they are diagnosed with “transsexualism”. That makes the criteria for establishing a “sexual re-orientation” more transparent.

“We welcome the adoption of the Ministry of Health’s order in its final version, and we believe that its entry into force will significantly improve the situation of trans people in Russia,” says Tatiana Glushkova, Transgender Legal Defense Project’s Legal Programme Coordinator, “The document establishes a transparent procedure for legal gender recognitionwhich would allow trans people to change their documentation without applying to court. In addition, the adoption of the order would bring the Russian legislation in accordance with the European Court of Human Rights’ case law.

At the same time, we regretfully note that the order did not reflect either the global depathologisation process, or the forthcoming reform of the International Classification of Diseases. The key actors who take decisions regarding trans persons’ legal gender recognition, are still psychiatrists. Transgender people will still face all the challenges coming from the psychiatrist diagnosis.”

Transgender Legal Defense Project is organizing now a system of events to consult trans people on the new procedure and its implications.

For more information visit the Transgender Legal Defense Project’s website.

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Cameroon: Stepmother evicts 13-year-old for liking boys

Le quartier Nkolnda

A street in the Nkolnda district of Yaoundé (Photo by Steeve Winner)

A teenager in Yaoundé, Cameroon, thought it was safe to confide in a friend about his sexual attraction to other boys. The next thing he knew, he had been thrown out of the family home by his stepmother while his father looked on.

EXCLUSIVE REPORT. Reporting like this depends on your support.

By Steeve Winner

The story began on Friday, Feb. 16, in the Nkolnda district of Yaoundé, the capital of Cameroon. Thirteen-year-old student Barleys was walking home with a neighbor, his close friend Joss, age 15. (Both of those names are pseudonyms.)

Barleys lives with his father and his stepmother, who often argued with him.

Une rue dans le quartier Nkolnda (Photo de Steeve Winner)

Nkolnda scene (Photo by Steeve Winner)

After school on Feb. 16, Barleys met at a neighborhood field to play soccer. When the game ended, Barleys and Joss walked home. On the way, they got into a heart-felt conversation. As part of that interchange, Barleys confided to Joss: “I don’t know why, but sometimes I have a feeling of being attracted by men. Is that normal?”

Joss told him, “No. That’s not normal. Boys are supposed to be attracted to girls. If you’re attracted to boys, that means you’re a faggot.”

Barleys did not reply, and Joss fell silent too. Without speaking a word, each boy went to his own house.

In the early evening, Joss went to Barleys’ house to talk more about what Barley had said.

As they were speaking, the stepmother listened. She decided that her stepson was a homosexual and therefore should be evicted from the house. She ordered this innocent 13-year-old boy to leave the home immediately.

His father heard what she was saying and did nothing to stop her.

Joss was horrified by what had happened. He invited Barleys back to his house. There they talked with Joss’s father, who is an open and accepting man. He agreed that Barleys could spend the night at his home.

The next morning, Joss and his father escorted Barleys back to his family. The two fathers had a long, private conversation. In the end, Barleys’ father agreed to allow his son to return home.

Steeve Winner, the author of this article, is a Cameroonian activist for LGBTI rights who writes under a pseudonym.

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Meet Frankie Edozien, writer of Nigeria’s first gay memoir

Nigerian-American  journalist Chike Frankie Edozien wants to help his readers learn about the lives of LGBT Africans, including himself.  He says that his recently published memoir aims to remedy a lack of understanding of today’s African men and women “who don’t fit into a hetero-normative box.”

The book, titled Lives of Great Men, describes his life growing up in Nigeria as a teenager and his journey as a gay man.

True to its title, Lives of Great Men describes the experiences of gay African men. But contrary to what the title implies, it also explores the lives of queer African women.

The title “is a little bit of a misnomer,” Edozien acknowledged.

As an author, Edozien has written for Time magazine, The New York TimesThe Times (UK), Vibe magazine, Out, The AdvocateQuartz, etc.

His book has attracted positive reviews for its non-aggressive narrative about being black and queer.

Maaza Mengiste, author of Beneath the Lion’s Gaze, wrote:

“Frankie Edozien’s The Lives of Great Men is an incredibly powerful portrayal of what it means to be a gay Nigerian man. But what makes this book so outstanding is its tender and insightful exploration of all the complicated, unspoken bonds in our most intimate relationships. In prose that is at once engaging and inquisitive, Edozien holds the human heart to light and finds the ways it manages to survive despite it all.”

Chris Abani, author of GraceLand and The Secret History of Las Vegas, wrote:

“Frankie Edozien writes with an urgency that is compelling, with a vulnerable honesty that is disarming and impressive, and with about his life and a subject so risky and yet necessary. This is not a memoir of coming out gay in Nigeria as much as it is a call to step into our humanity. A necessary and courageous book.”

Edozien left Nigeria at the age of 19 to study in the United States. At that time, he said, people were more tolerant toward homosexuals:

“The first gay people I knew were people who worked down the streets from where I lived.. this cluster of men who were hairdressers and they lived in the boys’ quarters, sort of everybody knew who they were and everybody kind of left them alone.”

He added:

“Growing up in Nigeria for me was just a wonderful, wonderful experience; what I remembered most were the 1970’s and 80’s Lagos… I had the opportunity to witness a diversity that we no longer see openly.”

In contrast, Nigeria is now very homophobic, Edozien said. The dehumanization of gay men in the country is “shocking and staggering.” he said.

To buy Edozien’s new memoir, CLICK HERE.

To listen to a podcast containing an interview with him, CLICK HERE.

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LGBT in Zimbabwe: A glimmer of hope

Protesting against Zimbabwe's homophobia. (Juda Ngwenya photo courtesy of Reuters and The Conversation)

Protesting against Zimbabwe’s homophobia. (Juda Ngwenya photo courtesy of Reuters and The Conversation)

The end of Robert Mugabe’s nearly 40-year reign and the arrival of new President Emmerson Mnangagwa provides a “glimmer of hope” for Zimbabwe’s sexual minorities that they will not always be considered criminals and denied access to health care.

In the online site The Conversation, scholar Candice Chikura-Mtwazi  writes:

Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa (Photo courtesy of Southern Times)

Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa (Photo courtesy of Southern Times)

Zimbabwe’s new president Emmerson Mnangagwa was asked during a recent interview at the World Economic Forum in Davos whether his country might change its stance on sexual minorities.

He replied that the law would continue to prevail, saying:

In our Constitution it is banned – and it is my duty to obey my constitution.

He then went on to say that “those people who want it [decriminalisation] are the people who should canvass for it.”

This sort of tacit acknowledgement of LGBT people as a group that could advocate for their rights and inclusion offers a glimmer of hope. After all, Mnangagwa’s predecessor offered no space at all for sexual minorities to argue their case. Perhaps change may yet come to Zimbabwe’s LGBT community – and to the country’s laws.

The author,  is a Human Trafficking & Sexual Exploitation Training & Development worker and an associate lecturer in law at the University of Kent.

Her article in The Conversation begins thus:

Zimbabwe’s LGBT community: why civil rights and health issues go hand in hand

Styling with Robert Mugabe. (Photo courtesy of Unicorn Booty)

Former Zimbabwe president Robert Mugabe. (Photo courtesy of Unicorn Booty)

Zimbabwe’s recently deposed president Robert Mugabe made no secret of his loathing for gay men and lesbians. He once famously described them as “worse than pigs and dogs”. In 2015, he stood before the UN General Assembly and declared “we [Zimbabweans] are not gays”.

After nearly four decades, Mugabe’s reign is over. Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) groups are among those celebrating his departure.

But his ouster is unlikely to change the lives of LGBT Zimbabweans, for two main and interlinked reasons. The first is that this group of people remains marginalised and excluded from health policies, particularly around testing and treatment of HIV. The second is that Zimbabwe’s law frames LGBT people as criminals or “would-be” criminals – a constant threat to “normal” (that is, heterosexual) people’s health.

My ongoing research suggests that work is needed to change the perception of LGBT people as both victims and carriers of HIV. Addressing the country’s laws is an important starting point. …

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Trans model: ‘I fight every day to look more feminine’

Veso Golden Oke, a Nigeria-born trans woman currently working in Ghana, says her goal is to continue to look more beautiful despite hateful comments from transphobic people.

In a chat with NoStringsNG, the gorgeous 24-year-old model and professional make-up artist describes herself as “unique and beautiful.”  The negative comments she receives from people do not bring her down at all, she says. Instead, they motivate her.

“What keeps me going is the negative utterances from people, because they help build me up. I fight every day to look more feminine, they don’t even recognize that I am trans.”

Most people think effeminate men are gay, but Oke says she has never considered herself gay despite the fact that she is very feminine; instead, she has always known that she is a woman and that’s why she is currently transitioning.

“I have never been gay.  I am a woman from childhood. I have always thought, dressed and walked as a girl and sometimes when I was much younger I prayed before going to bed that by morning God should transform me into a girl.”

“I consider myself a Trans because am on hormone pills already,” she says.

Unlike most African parents who object to their children embracing their true nature as LGBTQ, Oke’s parents support her fully, she says. They know that she lives openly as a trans woman.

Oke, who has both Nigerian and Ghanaian citizenship, lives in Accra, Ghana, where she mentors young female models. With her guidance, some of them have won beauty pageants.

Follow Oke
On Facebook:
On Instagram: @Goldenokes

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Egyptian video explores fulfilling life with HIV

Scene from HIV informational video

Scene from Egyptian HIV informational video “It Is Not the End of the World”

Despite the Egyptian government’s ongoing wave of arrests of LGBT Egyptians, the LGBTIQ community continues to wage war against AIDS.

Bedayaa, an advocacy organization for LGBTIQ people in the Nile Valley area of Egypt and Sudan, has published an informative video for people who discover they are HIV-positive.

Titled “It Is Not the End of the World,” the video shows the perceptions of a person when he first learns that he is infected with HIV and how he moves on from there.

“The video shows the wrong perceptions of a person when he knows that he is infected with HIV and how he overcomes these perceptions,” says Noor Sultan, co-founder and executive director of Bedaya. You can watch the video here or by clicking the image above:


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$5,500 per rescue from Chechnya, and more is needed

Russian LGBT Network logo

Logo of the Russian LGBT Network

The Russian LGBT Network released an accounting of the work they have undertaken to rescue and resettle victims of the Chechen police detainment and abuse of suspected gay people.

The Network noted that they raised over €479,000 and spent an average of €4,500 (U.S. $5,500) per evacuated person. The group is fundraising to continue work into 2018.

What were the funds spent on?

The Russian LGBT Network reported this breakdown of spending:
– 18.5% – social workers
– 14.5% – travel expenses within Russia
– 13.2% – visas and departure from Russia
– 10.8% – housing
– 10.8% – food
– 9.2%    – medical assistance
– 6.5% –   advocacy
– 5% – salaries for people working around the clock to help the victims
– 4% – documents replacement
– 2.9% – necessities (warm clothing, dishes, hygiene products, and much more)
– 2% –   psychological help
– 2% – psychological and medical assistance to people involved in the evacuation process
– 0.6% – means of communication

The Russian LGBT Network added:

“In 2018, detentions and torture of homosexual people in Chechnya continue.  People in trouble are still contacting us, and we are doing our best to help them. Now, we have run out of the funds needed to keep on evacuating.  Absolutely.

“Before the New Year, we had raised some money to make small gifts to our wards but were forced to spend this money on the most basic things – housing and food.”

This article includes information from a recent UNAIDS Equal Eyes recap of the world’s LGBT news.

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Sit-in success: Uganda police promise armed guards

HRAPF legal officer Betty Balisalamu confronts poilce during the Feb. 12 sit-in at the Old Kampala Police Station. (Frederic Noy photo courtesy of HRAPF)

HRAPF legal officer Betty Balisalamu confronts poilce during the Feb. 12 sit-in at the Old Kampala Police Station. (Frederic Noy photo courtesy of HRAPF)

Human rights advocates at gay-friendly HRAPF held a sit-in at a Ugandan police station Monday to protest the failure of police to arrest criminals who have twice broken into their offices and previously murdered a security guard. As a result of the protest, police agreed to assign armed guards to protect HRAPF headquarters while investigations continue.

This account of the sit-in and related events was provided by HRAPF (the Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum). For more information, see HRAPF’s full report and previous articles in this blog, starting with “Sit-in at Ugandan police station: ‘the only secure place’.”


HRAPF and partners went through with the promised sit-in at Old Kampala Police station. The sit-in was also blessed by the Board of Directors, which sat in an emergency extra-ordinary board meeting on Saturday 10th February 2018. The sit-in was aimed at putting pressure on the Police to provide the report of the earlier break-in, to ensure commitment to the current investigations, and above all, there was genuine fear among HRAPF staff that a third and immediate attack was possible and therefore there was need for the Police to reassure staff of security.

The sit-in was held on Monday 12th February 2018 by different HRAPF staff and partners. The Police only allowed five HRAPF staff to enter the station with two lawyers. A meeting was held where HRAPF tabled its request for the report formally. …

Police officers trying to stop HRAPF staff and partners from participating in the sit-in. (Photo courtesy of HRAPF)

Police officers trying to stop HRAPF staff and partners from participating in the sit-in. (Photo courtesy of HRAPF)

HRAPF indicated its intention to sit-in at the station until the station provided the full report of the investigations into the last break-in at HRAPF. HRAPF also asked for protection by the Police, and reassurance of the HRAPF staff that they would be secured. The Police representatives informed HRAPF that the file for the first break-in had been called by the Directorate of Criminal Investigations and Crime Intelligence and as such, the Division was not in a position to provide the report. They however promised to follow up formally and provide a response. It was agreed that HRAPF’s lawyers should write formally to headquarters asking for the report upon which letter the Division would act to ask for the report from headquarters and give feedback to HRAPF. They also stated that the whole team was new and were not part of the old team that was there at the time of the first break-in. They promised to fully investigate the case and follow up on all leads.

The Police also promised that in the interim, two armed police guards would secure HRAPF’s premises every night until the investigations were complete. The Division Police Commander and a team of other officers also agreed to address HRAPF staff and reassure them of the Police commitment to secure their place of work. As a result of these concessions, the sit-in was called off as the Police is given time to work on its promises.

In the meantime, the rest of the HRAPF staff who were not allowed inside as well as partners demanded entrance to the police station and were repulsed by the Police. Journalists were also stopped from coming closer to the police station. The group then resorted to carrying placards and matching, which the police also stopped. One of the HRAPF staff, Mr. Eriya Nawenuwe was arrested by the police, but he was later released as part of the agreement between the HRAPF team and the Police.


The Division Police Commander …   and her team promised that all leads would be followed. HRAPF remains optimistic that the team will follow through on their promises and investigate the case to its conclusion as well as bring the culprits to book.

Back door was broken to allow  burglars to enter HRAPF offices. (Photo courtesy of HRAPF)

Back door was broken to allow burglars to enter HRAPF offices. (Photo courtesy of HRAPF)


It remains hard to know or speculate about what the motive of the attack was. Like for the previous attack, this too did not seem like an ordinary robbery. The intruders had access to computers and other electronic gadgets but they did not take any of these. This makes it improbable that the intruders were after property or money. Since the last attack was never properly solved, it remains unclear what the motive of the break-ins are.

There are speculations that it could be the work done by HRAPF, but the organisation has not received work related threats in the recent past. The two guards say that the intruders kept asking them the whereabouts of money in the office and also were apparently on phone asking the person they were calling to describe where the money was. The guards however feel that this seemed to be intended for their ears in order to disguise the motive. It is improbable that a thief who is interested in money would not take electronics.

Again the guards state that the attackers were loudly speaking about the incomplete mission last time, and that they were ready to complete it this time round. For now, it remains unclear what the motives of the attacks are.


Staff members were visibly shaken by the break-in especially this being the second in less than two years. The most frustrating part for staff is the fact that no one knows what the motives of these two attacks are. This leaves staff members wondering about their safety and whether it is the work they do that is putting them in danger or not. Some staff members reported failing to sleep because they are worried and scared.

A debrief was held for staff where they shared their feelings about the incident and what they thought the motives of the attacks are. They were then given a week off to recuperate and recover from the incident before resumption of work. It was also resolved that staff will get access to psychosocial support and also have a formal forum to discuss the incident as the case was for the first break-in.

At press conference, HRAPF supporters hold placards demanding a full investigation of the break-ins. (Photo courtesy of HRAPF)

At press conference, HRAPF supporters hold placards demanding a full investigation of the break-ins. (Photo courtesy of HRAPF)


HRAPF with the support of partners is currently working to rebuild its security systems. Fundraising efforts to this end are going on, and the management is using the week when staff are off to reconnect the broken CCTV and alarm systems. The Uganda Police together with [security company G4S Secure Solutions] re providing night security. With support from partners, HRAPF is sure to beef up its security. Long-term solutions are also being considered and assessments for such long-term support are being done. We thank our partners for this support. The Board of Directors is due to sit again on Saturday to discuss the more permanent solutions further.


Like was the case in the first break-in, HRAPF recommends the following to its partners:

i) Support the organisation during its period of reconstruction and rebuilding of its security systems and staff morale. Funds are still needed to support HRAPF. For individual donations to HRAPF, please visit

ii) Speak out against the attack and call upon the Government to fully investigate this attack and the earlier one, and to provide answers to HRAPF, G4S and the family of the deceased guard, Emmanuel Arituha, as well to Mr. Bwambale and Mr. Okwii.

iii) Call upon the state to investigate the rampant break-ins at the offices of civil society organisations

iv) Call upon the Police to finalise investigations and to provide updates to HRAPF and G4S.

v) Call for the protection of human rights organisations and human rights defenders generally.


HRAPF sends its appreciation to the Uganda Police Force, particularly the Division Police Commander of Old Kampala Police Division, Grace Nyangoma for the professionalism exhibited since the incident happened, and for working closely with HRAPF afterwards. We also appreciate our two guards, Mr. Seezi Bwambale and Mr. Godfrey Okwii for fighting the intruders in order to keep HRAPF secure. We wish them quick recovery. We thank our security service provider G4S for the emergency response and providing medical support to the injured guards; all our partners who came to commiserate with us, attended the press conference and braved the sit-in at Old Kampala Police Station; our neighbours who called the police and also called us and in a large measure helped to foil the break-in; and our staff members for their commitment to HRAPF and its work, even in the face of such adversity.


HRAPF is thankful for the endless support from partners, friends and colleagues and for standing with us in this difficult time. We are grateful for the messages of support. We call upon the Police and the state to thoroughly investigate these incidents and provide adequate protection to human rights defenders in the country and the civil society sector.

For more information, contact: Adrian Jjuuko, Executive Director, Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum (HRAPF) Plot 390 Prof. Apolo Nsibambi Road, Namirembe PO Box 25603, Kampala, Uganda TEL: +256-782 169505 E-mail: Website:

Previous articles:


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Court nixes ‘Prove You’re Gay’ tests for asylum-seekers


The European Court of Justice in Luxembourg

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that officials cannot require asylum seekers to undergo “sexual orientation tests”.

The case stems from a gay Nigerian man seeking asylum in Hungary where authorities required the man take psychological tests to prove he was gay. The ECJ said that, while expert opinions are allowed, sexual orientation tests are “a disproportionate interference in the private life of the asylum-seeker”.

This article comes from a recent UNAIDS Equal Eyes recap of the world’s LGBT news.

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