Pessimism: LGBT communities fear criminalization in Indonesia

Indonesians’ increasingly anti-LGBT attitudes have many activists worried that the country will soon pass a law criminalizing both same-sex intimacy and all other types of sex outside of a traditional heterosexual marriage.

Anti-LGBT protest in February in Banda Aceh, the capital of Aceh province. (Photo courtesy of Anfara Foto/Reuters/The Telegraph)

Anti-LGBT protest in February in Banda Aceh, the capital of Aceh province. (Photo courtesy of Anfara Foto/Reuters/The Telegraph)

Events pointing in that direction include:

OutRight International’s Asian program coordinator, Grace Poore, reports pessimistically:

LGBT communities brace for criminalization

By Grace Poore

The Indonesian parliament is expected to vote in favor of proposed Criminal Code amendments that will criminalize consensual same-sex behavior and sex outside of marriage (extramarital and premarital). This vote will disproportionately impact lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people along with thousands of heterosexual adults in intimate non-marital relationships.

Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo (Photo courtesy of abc.net.au)

Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo has not made good on his call for an end to anti-LGBT discrimination. (Photo courtesy of abc.net.au)

For the LGBT community, this is blatant betrayal; betrayal by fellow Indonesians, betrayal by moderates in parliament, and betrayal by President Joko Widodo, who campaigned on a platform for human rights in 2014 – the first president in nearly 70 years who is not from the political elite or the military, often celebrated as the “people’s president.”

From the outside, what I see in Indonesia is an unfettered rise of Islamist power, shredding the reputation that Indonesia has long held: a country with the largest Muslim population in the world that practices a tolerant, moderate Islam. For the last 26 months, there has been an erosion of pluralist, moderate Islam fueled by Islamist hardliners.

Moving away from moderate Islam

The majority religion of Indonesia has been moderate Islam. In 2017, Widodo declared that Indonesia is still a nation of moderate Islam despite indications that the country is moving backwards on social tolerance and acceptance. The attacks on LGBT people are part of a growing trend, one which sees a particularly narrow interpretation of Islam encroaching on more tolerant ways of being Muslim in Indonesia. The result – Indonesia is devolving from a moderate Muslim nation into this current horrifying state of intolerance.

Indonesian police escort several of the 141 people arrested in the May 22 raid. (Photo courtesy of Inquirer News)

Indonesian police escort several of the 141 people arrested during a raid in May 2017. (Photo courtesy of Inquirer News)

By no stretch has all of Indonesia been openly accepting of LGBT people prior to the ongoing anti-LGBT campaign, but the level of coordinated fearmongering, hostility, and terror tactics being used against LGBT communities since 2016 is unprecedented
By no stretch has all of Indonesia been openly accepting of LGBT people prior to the ongoing anti-LGBT campaign, but the level of coordinated fearmongering, hostility, and terror tactics being used against LGBT communities since 2016 is unprecedented. Now, assaults against LGBT people have escalated and become more frequent and more brazen.

In late 2017 and early 2018, women suspected of lesbian activity were reported to police, their homes were raided, and, at times, their identities exposed by the media. Waria, the indigenous transgender women of Indonesia, were dragged from their workplaces and publicly humiliated. Private establishments for gay men were raided and patrons arrested. Local government and police have even formed task forces with the intent of forced rehabilitation, corralling anyone who is or is perceived to be LGBT, or chasing them away from certain cities and towns. Last September, village leaders raided a private residence and evicted 12 lesbians who were sharing a house.

In general, Indonesia has a poor record of advancing women’s safety and security. In 2017, violence against women increased 25%, according to the Indonesian Commission on Violence Against Women. Rape is severely under-reported in the country, according to one report, as much as 90% of cases go unreported, and two-thirds of rape victim-survivors are under the age of 18.

Ramifications of changing the Criminal Code

If parliament votes in favor of the proposed Criminal Code amendments, adultery and premarital sex will both be criminal offenses, with a proposed penalty of five years imprisonment for adultery and one-year imprisonment for premarital sex. Today, the existing Criminal Code imposes a nine-month jail term for adultery; consensual premarital sex is not criminalized. Under the current Criminal Code, adultery is charged only after an aggrieved spouse reports it. The proposed articles, however, expand adultery complainants beyond an aggrieved spouse to close relatives; they expand pre-marital sex complainants to anyone, opening the door for privacy violations, false accusations, and public humiliation of suspected offenders by vigilante mobs or neighbors – all done in the name of protecting public morality.

Location of Indonesia (Map courtesy of Geology.com)

Location of Indonesia (Map courtesy of Geology.com)

Another major change proposed by these new Criminal Code amendments is the criminalization of same-sex relations. The current Criminal Code is modeled after a single kind of sexuality and partnership between married partners of different sexes. Article 469 calls for criminal penalties against adults having same-sex relations, regardless of consent, which will increase home raids, surveillance, and vigilante violence against LGBT people, as well as imprisonment.

The amendments to the Criminal Code will also have cascading repercussions on different marginalized communities. The proposed adultery provisions will harm indigenous couples in customary non-legally binding marriages. At the same time, cases of rape, including acquaintance and marital rape, will be swept further under the rug, as many rape victims in Indonesia fear blame, shame and retaliation, and even criminal punishment, while also having no one to corroborate what happened.

Moving forward

President Widodo plans to run again for a second term in 2019. I repeatedly hear that he and moderate politicians are too afraid of losing votes to defy Islamist political parties that are pushing for national-level criminalization of LGBT people. Caving to Islamists is to abandon not only LGBT communities but also other groups in Indonesia, from non-Muslims to indigenous communities to families with pre-existing diverse family formations to women in general whose traditions are no longer deemed acceptable by religious hardliners.

Indonesian LGBT people are not limited to a singular “identity.” They are also, for instance, members of minority religions, members of the aging population of Indonesians, people who are healthcare providers and breadwinners for their families. They are also voters, police officers, business and community leaders, and sons and daughters of politicians. Compartmentalizing people disregards the intersectionality of discrimination and violence.

In order for Indonesia to move forward, there must be convergence toward inclusive pluralism and moderate Islam.

The author of this article, Grace Poore from Malaysia, is the regional program coordinator for Asia and the Pacific Islands at OutRight Action International, the international organization working to advance the human rights of LGBTIQ people globally. She oversees multi-country documentation and advocacy projects in Asia, conducts training on human rights documentation, and facilitates lesbian, bisexual and transgender engagement with UN mechanisms, specifically the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).

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Activist’s video urges Nigerian parents to love gay children

“People really believe that, for you to be gay, you have to be under some sort of demon, or something has to be wrong with you.” That’s how LGBT rights activist Micheal Ighodaro describes the harsh attitudes that lead to deteriorating living conditions for gay people in Nigeria.

Micheal Ighodaro. (Photo courtesy of Facebook)

Ighodaro made that comment in a short video by Brut – an American digital media company.

Ighodaro, who faced multiple threats of physical violence and family rejection, lived in the city of Abuja in Nigeria before fleeing to the U.S in 2012 to seek asylum.

In the video, Ighodaro stated that in Nigeria, parents still reject their gay children, and the situation has since worsened since the country’s anti-gay Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition Act took effect in 2014.

The video calls on Nigerian families to give their gay children a chance — and to stop evicting them, which often forces them into a life of homelessness and unemployment

This is not the first time that Ighodaro has publicly spoken about the situation of gay people in Nigeria. In 2014, he confronted former Nigerian president, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan over the country’s anti-LGBT law at a dinner held in Washington.

Watch the video below.

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Cameroon’s strong voice spewing hatred of homosexuals

An ongoing campaign against homosexuality has erected banners and posters  to spread its homophobic messages of anti-LGBT hate and rejection in Cameroon.

La Journée mondiale contre l’homosexualité en 2013. (Photo de Cameroun24.net)

World Day Against Homosexuality in 2013. (Photo courtesy of Cameroon24.net)

By Steeve Winner

Since 2012, the Movement of Young Cameroonians has targeted LGBT people, declaring August 21 as a supposed World Day Against Homosexuality.

The organization, known by its French name — the Rassemblement de la jeunesse camerounaise, or RJC — hopes that its annual homophobic celebration won’t be limited to Cameroon but will extend worldwide. There has never been any evidence that the group’s ambitious goal is anything other than a homophobic dream.

The association claims that a World Day Against Homosexuality is needed because of “the law, common sense, the Bible and African traditions.” In a more detailed explanation, the RJC tells about a 12-year-old crime that Cameroonian journalist and RJC leader Sismondi Barlev Bidjocka says occurred in Yaoundé, the Cameroonian capital. He claims, with no evidence at all, that homosexuals attack opponents of homosexuality in the same manner that a young man was killed on Aug. 21, 2006:

“In view of the law of the Republic of Cameroon, the Holy Bible, the need to preserve the human species, serious harm done to humanity, to our traditions, in our African culture in general and Cameroon in particular, homosexual excesses observed throughout the world, their propensity to turn into executioners of people who condemn their behavior — the rape and murder of young Djomo Pokam who was sodomized and murdered by homosexuals who threw him from the eighth floor of the Hilton Hotel of Yaoundé, on August 21, 2006.”

In the past, the RJC has encouraged violence against LGBT people. Participants in their 2013 march carried signs stating:

  • “Kill the faggots. They don’t deserve to live.”
  • “Cut off the penises of fags. Plug the sex of lesbians.”

At the time, Sismondi Barlev Bidjocka claimed that an anti-gay RJC vigilante brigade patrolled the streets of Yaoundé every weekend, hunting for homosexuals.

Gay-friendly attorney Alice Nkom challenged the RJC in a televised debate with Sismondi Barlev Bidjocka in 2012.

Le débat entre Me Alice Nkom (à droit) et Sismondi Barlev Bidjocka (à gauche).

The debate between Alice Nkom (right) and Sismondi Barlev Bidjocka (left).

In the debate, Nkom declared:

“Rights are universal and homosexuals are not animals, therefore they have rights and should be respected as all other citizens. Homophobia has no place in this changing world. Homosexuality is not an imported practice; what’s imported is the repression of it.”

In 2016, Sismondi Barlev Bidjocka used radio and television broadcasts to advocate for harsher punishments for homosexual activity. Under Article 347-1 of the Cameroonian penal cod, homosexual activity is punishable by up to five years in prison, but the law is often imposed much more broadly, subjecting people to arrest and imprisonment if they appear to belong to a sexual minority, even with no evidence of sexual activity.

Sismondi Barlev Bidjocka

Sismondi Barlev Bidjocka

In advance of a further RJC protest that might occur on Aug. 21, the RJC has installed anti-LGBT posters and banners at several intersections in Yaoundé, bearing threatening messages hatred and rejection of sexual minorities.

Sismondi Barlev Bidjocka also has a radio show at 105.7 FM in Yaoundé. On it, he rails against homosexuality throughout the day.

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

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Petition to Commonwealth: Repeal your old anti-LGBT laws

Petition seeks repeal of anti-LGBT laws in Commonwealth counties.

Petition seeks repeal of anti-LGBT laws in effect in 37 Commonwealth countries. The total of 53 member countries in the Commonwealth are shown on this map.

The time has come for the leaders of former British colonies to discuss the repeal of anti-LGBT laws left over from their days as subjects of the British Empire, more than 100,000 petitioners say.

The online petition, titled “Stop LGBTI persecution in the Commonwealth,” states:

Logo of the Commonwealth

Logo of the Commonwealth

The Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) will take place in the UK in April 2018. We urge the CHOGM 2018 organisers to:

  • Include lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and inter-sex (LGBTI) human rights on the main CHOGM agenda.
  • Invite openly LGBTI people from the Commonwealth to address the CHOGM leaders.

We appeal to all Commonwealth countries to:

  • Decriminalise same-sex relations.
  • Prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation & gender identity.
  • Enforce laws against threats & violence, to protect LGBTI people from hate crime.
  • Consult and dialogue with LGBTI organisations.

37 out of the 53 member countries of the Commonwealth criminalise same-sex relations. They account for half of the world’s nations where homosexuality is illegal. Most of these countries inherited their anti-gay laws from Britain during the period of colonial rule; making these laws a hang-over from the colonial era.

At least nine of these 37 countries have a maximum sentence of life imprisonment for same-sex acts and there is the death penalty in parts of northern Nigeria and rural Pakistan.

Hate crimes against LGBTI people often pass unchecked in most Commonwealth countries, with frequent mob violence. The majority of LGBTIs living in Commonwealth states have no legal protection against discrimination in employment, housing and the provision of goods and services.

This makes a mockery of Commonwealth values and the Commonwealth Charter 2013.

We urge CHOGM 2018 to lead the way in raising awareness of LGBTI rights as human rights and to act to remedy LGBTI rights abuses.

Four out of five Commonwealth countries, which are signatories to the Charter, have failed to adhere to its principles and the Commonwealth has failed to ensure that these nations respect the human rights of their LGBTI citizens.

The criminalisation of LGBTI people in Commonwealth countries often goes hand-in-hand with other human rights violations, such as restrictions on free speech and the right to protest/strike, media censorship and discrimination against women and ethnic and faith minorities.

We stand in solidarity with all Commonwealth citizens who are victims of human rights abuses.

 

African LGBTI activist Edwin Sesange (Photo courtesy of WorkersLiberty.org)

African LGBTI activist Edwin Sesange

The petition was organized by Edwin Sesange of the London-based African Equality Foundation.

He said:

“The demand for equality in the Commonwealth is no longer an issue for the minority but for the majority. I therefore thank all those who have managed to bring this issue to light.

“These signatures represent a need  which can no longer be ignored by the leadership of the Commonwealth.  Thus I appeal to the leaders and other stakeholders to represent the views and voices of the innocent, oppressed, discriminated and persecuted LGBTI people in the Commonwealth.”

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‘400 million LGBT people in jeopardy worldwide’

In a world where dozens of countries (shown in red) have anti-LGBT laws, about 400 million LGBTQI people are in legal jeopardy.

In a world where dozens of countries (shown in red) have anti-LGBT laws, about 400 million LGBTQI people are in legal jeopardy.

In a world where 400 million LGBTQI people are in legal jeopardy, Canada’s refugee screening system needs reform so it will stop its unfair, dehumanizing suspicions of them, says Jamaican-Canadian LGBTQI rights activist Maurice Tomlinson.

Below are the remarks that Tomlinson made yesterday to the Canadian House of Commons’ Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration, which is studying the work of the Canadian Immigration and Refugee Board. Excerpts from his written submission (at the bottom of this file) include an overview of life in dozens of homophobic countries where LGBTQI refugees often originate.

‘Approximately 400 million LGBT persons live under the threat of criminal imprisonment, violence or even death.’

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

By Maurice Tomlinson

Jamaican-Canadian activist prepares for his appearance before the Canadian House of Commons' Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration. (Photo courtesy of Maurice Tomlinson)

Jamaican-Canadian activist prepares for his appearance before the Canadian House of Commons’ Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration. (Photo courtesy of Maurice Tomlinson)

I am an immigrant to Canada and I lead the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network’s LGBTQI initiatives. I am privileged when compared to many other LGBT immigrants and refugees to this country. Coincidentally, tomorrow I will sit my Canadian citizenship test here in Ottawa.

As a gay Jamaican, the path to this momentous day was possible because of my Canadian marriage to my husband, Tom. While our marriage led to multiple death threats upon my return to Jamaica, forcing me to flee to Canada, I did not have to endure the challenges of an Immigration and Refugee Board [IRB] hearing, which for so many already traumatized individuals is dehumanizing and unjust.

Approximately 400 million LGBT persons live under the threat of criminal imprisonment, violence or even death. [Editor’s note: Many sources cite that estimate, including parliamentarians in the United Kingdom. But Goldman Research and other industry analysts cite that same number for the total worldwide LGBT population.]

The IRB faces thousands of refugee claimants each year trying to escape persecution in their home country simply because of their sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression. While strides have been made to improve the cultural sensitivity of IRB members, more could be done to enhance their cultural competence.

LGBT claimants report that the IRB still requires excessive evidence of self-identification. For example, in one case the IRB spontaneously asked to examine a claimant’s cell phone for proof of communication on a gay relationship mobile application. In another case, social media pictures with opposite-sex individuals were seen as disproving a gay claimant’s sexuality. These experiences are both humiliating and wrong-headed.

In countries that still criminalize non-heteronormative sexualities and gender expression, it is often too risky to self-identify, and having an opposite-sex partner is often a “mask” or perceived “cure” for homosexuality. IRB members have also requested police records as proof of homophobic attacks. However, LGBT people in many countries distrust the police. When they do report homophobic attacks, they can be implicated in illegal same-sex activity.

Wall sign for the Canadian Immigration and Refugee Board. (Photo courtesy of Radio Canada International)

Wall sign for the Canadian Immigration and Refugee Board. (Photo courtesy of Radio Canada International)

There is also the unfounded belief that Canada’s LGBT refugee process is the easiest way to get asylum and is therefore being abused. There is an untrue notion that, “If you say you are gay, you get to stay.” However, to date the IRB has only found three percent of LGBT refugee claims to lack credibility, so this is hardly an epidemic of abuse.

To ensure that IRB officers improve their cultural competency and fairly assess LGBT refugee claimants, we recommend:

  • Multi-day LGBT sensitivity training for IRB members engaging individuals from refugee source countries with lived experience;
  • Meaningful dialogue between the IRB and agencies and lawyers serving LGBT refugees, to establish clearer guidelines and expectations; and
  • An opportunity for claimants/counsel to provide post-hearing feedback that can improve IRB members’ questioning and not adversely affect claims.

Canada cannot and must not compound the worldwide discrimination against LGBTQI people, while simultaneously touting our human rights track record. The time is now for meaningful IRB reflection and reform.

Excerpts from Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network’s written brief to the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration:

The Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network (“Legal Network”) is an internationally recognized leader in researching the impact of laws on groups affected by the HIV epidemic, including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) communities. The Legal Network is also a founding member and the current secretariat of the Dignity Network (DN), which is a network of organizations and individuals from across Canada working to encourage a stronger Canadian voice on human rights issues facing LGBT communities around the world. A major part of DN’s work involves informing Canada’s refugee policy so that it fairly treats LGBT persons who have to flee persecution in their home countries.

By some estimates, approximately 400 million LGBT persons live under the threat of criminal imprisonment or even death in their home country. [Those countries include the following:]

AFRICA

Logo of the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights. (Click on the image to donate to Justice 4 Eric Lembembe)

The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (logo above) condemns anti-LGBT violence, but it continues throughout the continent.

In Africa (the region of origin for many refugee claimants in Canada), cases of violence and stigma persist, despite the adoption of a resolution condemning violence against LBGT persons by all 54 member states of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights three years ago.

In Tanzania, the government threatened to publish the names of known LGBT people in early 2017.

In Egypt, the police used online dating applications to identify, arrest and detain LGBT people.

In Tunisia, Cameroon, Egypt, Kenya [until this month’s court ruling against anal exams], Lebanon, Turkmenistan, Uganda and Zambia, gay men are routinely forced to undergo anal examination as a means of gathering evidence for charges of same-sex conduct, despite the UN declaring it a form of torture.

The climate of homophobia—especially in the countries of Sudan, Somalia, Nigeria and Mauritania that retain the death penalty for same-sex conduct—makes social organizing all but impossible.

In 2016, police blocked Uganda’s fifth annual Pride Parade. (Photo courtesy of Facebook)

In 2016, police blocked Uganda’s fifth annual Pride Parade. (Photo courtesy of Facebook)

In Kampala, Uganda, the police raided a gay pride event in August 2016, taking 20 LGBT-identified individuals and human rights defenders into custody as a means of intimidation. The formal and informal persecution of LGBT persons remains unchallenged in most African countries, causing LGBT persons to not only hide their sexuality and gender expression, but flee to places like Canada when the situation becomes untenable.

WESTERN AND CENTRAL ASIA

In Western and Central Asia, many countries including Iran, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Qatar, the UAE, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and India either actively enforce the death penalty for same-sex offences or still criminalize same-sex conduct.  In a stunning symbolic global statement in 2016, India voted against the UN General Assembly resolution extending marriage benefits to same-sex couples working for the UN.

Alesha in the hospital. (Photo courtesy of Facebook)

Alesha was the victim of an anti-trans attack in Pakistan in 2016. (Photo courtesy of Facebook)

Pakistan is still a hostile climate for LGBT persons who risk sanctions from their family, societal isolation, legal problems and ever-present violence.

Some countries in this region incorporate various interpretations of Shari’a law into their legal systems, which punishes homosexuality—and even positive opinions about same-sex intimacy— by death, severe beatings or brutal prison sentences. LGBT refugees are particularly vulnerable in Iraq, Syria and Yemen where internal wars have displaced approximately 11 million people, with a further 40 million in need of humanitarian assistance. In ISIS/ISIL-controlled areas, LGBT persons are assaulted or murdered in the name of “moral cleansing”. If internally displaced people are able to make it to safe camps, the security screening centres are known to be sites of serious abuse against LGBT persons.

CARIBBEAN

The Legal Network works closely with LGBT communities in the Caribbean and one of our Canadian partners in the Dignity Network is Rainbow Railroad. A significant number of refugees that the Rainbow Railroad assists come from the Caribbean. In the Caribbean, despite the landmark ruling in Belize striking down the criminalization of same-sex sexual acts in 2016, 10 other Anglo-Caribbean countries still refuse to follow suit.

Antigua’s first murder for 2018 was a homophobic attack that left a father dead. It is not rare to see graphic photos in the Antiguan press about another homophobia-related attack.

Dexter Pottinger (Photo courtesy of The Independent)

After the 2017 murder of Dexter Pottinger, the “face” of Pride Jamaica, his partner fled to Canada and was accepted as a refugee. (Photo courtesy of The Independent)

In 2017, Dexter Pottinger, the “face” of Pride Jamaica 2016, was murdered in his home and although his neighbours admitted hearing his multiple cries for help and seeing his stolen car being driven away, they did not call the police. Friends discovered Dexter’s body days later. This was the breaking point for Dexter’s same-sex partner, who has recently been accepted as a refugee to Canada and was interviewed for this submission.

In Trinidad and Tobago, a young man was shot after an alleged homosexual relationship with the country’s Chief Justice was made public; he is now seeking asylum in the UK.

In Barbados, a trans woman was savagely attacked and nearly killed by a former lodger wielding a meat cleaver and, despite knowing the perpetrator’s whereabouts, the police allowed him to remain free for two days before pressure from local groups forced them to apprehend him.

The official anti-discriminatory stance of some Anglo-Caribbean governments is countered by the personal statements of many political and religious leaders.

In response to the Belize ruling, Evangelical Bishop Charlesworth Browne said that if homosexuality is legalized in Antigua, the country will suffer from God’s wrath, just like Canada did during the 2016 Fort McMurray fires, which destroyed an entire town and forced 88,000 people to flee for their lives. In 2017, Prime Minister Gaston Browne responded to a comment on his public Facebook page saying, “Sir, you are behaving like an anti-man” (a homophobic slur). He would not apologize when called upon to do so by other politicians.

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Photos of African LGBTQ diaspora as ‘radical self-love’

Taib, who is queer Ethiopian-Kenyan in Toronto (Mikael Owunna photo courtesy of The New York Times)

Taib, who is queer Ethiopian-Kenyan, in Toronto. (Mikael Owunna photo courtesy of The New York Times)

Photographer Mikael Owunna is continuing his mission of debunking the myth that it is “un-African” to be LGBTQ. To that end, he photographs LGBTQ African immigrants and tells their stories. Last week, 12 of those photos were published by The New York Times.

Photographer Mikael Owunna (Photo courtesy of YouTube)

Photographer Mikael Owunna (Photo courtesy of YouTube)

Part of his story was told on this blog last May in the article “Photos’ goal: Prove that being LGBTQ isn’t ‘un-African’,” which included six of his photos from his “Limit(less)” project.

The latest episode in his story is told in the Times article “Pride and Self-Love in the L.G.B.T.Q. African Diaspora,” along with 12 of his photos of queer Africans. They’re from Algeria, Burundi, Ethiopia, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Liberia, Nigeria, Rwanda and Somalia. Two of those photos are reproduced here.

In the Times piece, Owunna tells how the project grew in importance for him:

For Mr. Owunna, a project that began as filling a void and reclaiming space for a group left out of our narratives of both queerness and African-ness, quickly became an act of radical self-love and community building, too.

“I definitely thought I was just going to do something around people’s relationships with their parents, and all this pain,” he said. But one of the first people he photographed urged him to use his project to showcase love and empowerment instead, and so Limit(less) took on a new direction.

The Times article states, “Mr. Owunna’s work exemplifies the power that comes from insiders documenting their own community.” It adds:

The pictures are defiant and arresting, challenging notions of what queer people look like, what African people look like and the grace that comes from loving oneself. Bearing witness to that power had a profound impact on Mr. Owunna. Meeting so many proud L.G.B.T.Q. people of African descent taught him how to love himself.

Gesiye, who is queer Nigerian-Trinidadian, in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago (Mikael Owunna photo courtesy of The New York Times)

Gesiye, who is queer Nigerian-Trinidadian, in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago. (Mikael Owunna photo courtesy of The New York Times)

Contact information:

Website: www.mikaelowunna.com
Instagram: @mikaelowunna
Twitter: @mikaelowunna

Related articles:

 

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John Okafor (Mr. Ibu) in Nollywood film taking on homophobia

Nollywood comic actor John Okafor (well known for playing Mr. Ibu) is one of the stars in a new romantic movie that tackles homophobia.

John Okafor AKA: Mr.Ibu in the film ‘The Eve’

Nollywood is far behind when it comes to authentic representations of LGBTIQ characters in its films. It is known for its biased, sensationalized and stereotypical approach to telling stories with LGBTIQ characters.

Okafor has spoken against homosexuality in the past. In 2012, he said gay actors were a “virus” in Nollywood. In 2016, he was quoted saying that homosexuals were taking over the Nigerian movie industry and “They are killing the industry.”

Okafor has appeared in more than 200 movies and is known as one of Nigeria’s most talented comic actors.  His movies have included Mr. Ibu (2004), Mr. Ibu in London (2004), and Ibu in Prison (2006).

The new film, titled “The Eve,” was scheduled to be screened in Lagos on March 24 at the Day Dream Pool Club, Landmark Towers, Victoria Island. It will premiere nationwide just before Easter weekend (on Thursday, March 29).

An initiative of Cut24 Productions, the film is directed by rapper-turned-director Tosin Igho. It is about preparations for a supposedly happy couple’s wedding day. The young couple, Funsho and Yewande, have shockingly different personalities.

Just before the wedding, Funsho and his three childhood friends set out on a pre-wedding getaway and a bachelor’s night. Things quickly go awry, as events and revelations raise more questions than answers for the couple.

The producers say it is the first Nollywood movie of the modern era to tackle homophobia as a subplot.

The film, which lasts under two hours, explores many themes, including homosexuality.

“The movie is an engaging love story that explores the themes of weddings, marriage, sex, friendship, dating, cheating, celibacy, partying, and homosexuality in a refreshing, comical and thrilling manner. It’s definitely a must-see for everyone,” said executive producer Femi Odugbemi.

If the film lives up to its promise, it will be a positive step for mainstream media toward the recognition of LGBTIQ people’s struggles.

The film stars John Okafor, Beverly Naya, Meg Otanwa, Kunle Remi, Adeolu Adefarasin, Mawuli Gavor, Ronke Oshodi, Ronke Odusanya and Uche Nwaefuna.

Source: https://www.premiumtimesng.com

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English-speaking Caribbean lags its neighbors on LGBT rights

An LGBT rights activist looks out over a beach and the Caribbean Sea on the eastern Caribbean island of Barbados. (Amy Braunschweiger photo courtesy of Human Rights Watch)

An LGBT rights activist looks out over a beach and the Caribbean Sea on the eastern Caribbean island of Barbados. (Amy Braunschweiger photo courtesy of Human Rights Watch)

Seven English-speaking island nations in the Caribbean cling to their homophobic past, creating misery for their LGBT citizens.


Human Rights Watch reports:

Eastern Caribbean: LGBT People Face Bias, Violence
Repeal Colonial-Era Laws

(Bridgetown, Barbados, March 21, 2018) – Discriminatory laws in Eastern Caribbean countries make lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people targets for discrimination, violence and abuse, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today.

The 107-page report “‘I Have to Leave to Be Me’: Discriminatory Laws against LGBT People in the Eastern Caribbean” covers seven countries: Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. All seven countries have versions of buggery and gross indecency laws, relics of British colonialism, that prohibit same-sex conduct between consenting persons. The laws have broad latitude, are vaguely worded, and serve to legitimize discrimination and hostility toward LGBT people.

“While people are rarely prosecuted for these crimes, the laws single out a vulnerable social group,” said Boris Dittrich, LGBT advocacy director at Human Rights Watch. “The laws give social and legal sanction for discrimination, violence, stigma, and prejudice against LGBT people.”

The report is based on interviews with people from all seven countries during February 2017 with a total of 41 self-identifying LGBT people between the ages of 17 to 53 by Human Rights Watch researchers, working closely with the Eastern Caribbean Alliance for Diversity and Equality (ECADE). All of those interviewed described being harassed by family members at some point in their lives because they are LGBT or were suspected to be.

Kenita Placide, executive director of ECADE

Kenita Placide, executive director of ECADE

“LGBT citizens contribute to the economic development, create homes, family, and safe spaces in home countries that hold on to colonial laws which discriminate against them and make their lives difficult,” said Kenita Placide, executive director of ECADE. Placide is based in Saint Lucia. “Some go to extreme lengths to protect themselves and maintain these safe spaces, including entering into heterosexual relationships. Fear of isolation, violence, and homelessness are the root causes of misery for many LGBT people living in the closet in the Caribbean.”

In the eastern Caribbean, family and church are cornerstones of social life. Interviewees said that they were afraid to come out in their typically close-knit communities, where social networks are tight and information travels fast. They also face the risk of being ostracized by their own families.

Some said they had been forced by their families to leave home or had been cut off from financial support. Many said that family rejection was often couched in moralistic terms, echoed in local church rhetoric. Many faced homelessness and life at the margins of society, leaving them vulnerable to violence and ill health.

“The fear of harassment, rejection, stigmatization, and even physical violence begins in the home and translates to key social spaces, including church and school,” said Richie Maitland, vice-chair of ECADE, who is based in Grenada.

Human Rights Watch and ECADE found that discrimination and stigma against LGBT people seeps into everyday activities, including access to services such as health care, school, or public transportation, or social activities such as going to the movies or shopping. Some said they had changed their lifestyle and behaviour to avoid contact with hostile members of their family, church, or community. Some opted to socialize only with a few trusted friends in the safety of their homes.

Verbal abuse and harassment can quickly escalate into physical assault. Interviewees described being stabbed, struck, pelted with bottles and bricks, beaten, slapped, choked and, in one instance, chased with a harpoon.

“People don’t understand how much pressure it is not to be your true authentic self and how that is such a mental strain – to the point where that is so detrimental to you as a person,” said Jason (a pseudonym), a 40-year-old man from Barbados. “It hinders our education opportunities, and work opportunities and taking part in your community.”

The English-speaking Caribbean is an outlier in the region. The fact that buggery and gross indecency laws are still on the books there is in stark contrast with recent developments in Latin America, where countries including Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador, Mexico, and Uruguay have been progressive in enacting non-discrimination policies and anti-bias legislation. Latin American countries, including Argentina, Brazil, and Chile have taken an international lead advocating for the rights of LGBT people at the United Nations. Several, including Costa Rica, Mexico, and Uruguay, are members of the Core Group of LGBT-friendly states at the United Nations in New York and of the Equal Rights Coalition, a group of 33 countries committed to the rights of LGBT people.

Local activists and their organizations have been at the forefront of efforts to advance the rights of LGBT people in the region, including by challenging discriminatory laws in court and exposing human rights violations. In some countries, activists have participated in LGBT awareness training for law enforcement agents. In others, advocates have challenged discriminatory legislation including by petitioning the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR). Groups in the region have participated in strategic litigation initiatives.

The governments of Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines should repeal all laws that criminalize consensual sexual activity among people of the same sex. They should pass comprehensive legislation that prohibits discrimination, including on grounds of gender identity and sexual orientation, and that includes effective measures to identify, prevent, and respond to discrimination.

“Eastern Caribbean governments should provide LGBT people with the same protections the governments provide to everyone else,” Dittrich said. “The Eastern Caribbean governments should take the initiative to address the stigma that subjects LGBT people to discrimination and violence.”

Map shows punishments for same-sex intimacy according to the laws of seven Eastern Caribbean nations. (Map courtesy of Human Rights Watch)

Map shows punishments for same-sex intimacy according to the laws of seven Eastern Caribbean nations. (Map courtesy of Human Rights Watch)

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Source: 76crimes

Kenya court nixes forced anal exams

In a significant win for human rights in Kenya, the Court of Appeal ruled today that the use of forced anal examinations is unlawful. Such exams have been used in many nations in a mistaken belief that the intrusive tests can determine whether a man is homosexual.

Logo of the National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission of Kenya

A logo of the National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission of Kenya

“We are thankful that the Appeal Court has put Kenyan citizens’ rights first. With this ruling, the judges are saying that we all deserve to be treated with dignity and afforded our basic rights, as enshrined in the Kenyan Constitution,” said Njeri Gateru, head of legal affairs at the National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (NGLHRC), Kenya’s non-governmental LGBTI legal advocacy organization.

In September 2017, the Kenya Medical Association (KMA), which is the leading professional body working to improve the welfare of doctors and advocating for quality healthcare for all Kenyans, released a statement condemning forced examinations.

The NGLHRC today issued this press release:

Kenya Appeal Court Moves to End Forced Examinations of Men Suspected of Being Gay

NAIROBI — In a significant win for human rights in Kenya, the Court of Appeals has ruled that the use of forced anal examinations by the state is unlawful.

On Thursday 22nd March 2018, a three-judge bench handed down a ruling in a case appealing the state’s cruel and degrading treatment of two Kenyan men while under arrest in 2015. The men were arrested in Kwale county on suspicion that they were gay. They were subjected to forced anal examinations and HIV testing under a magistrate’s order to determine if they had engaged in consensual sexual acts in private.

The violating examinations, which include being made to lie with legs up in a humiliating position and having instruments forced into your rectum, are widely accepted to have no medical merit.

Rights organisation, the National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (NGLHRC), which is representing the two men in the case, has long argued that the tests are a violation of rights to privacy and dignity and amount to torture.

Njeri Gateru, head of legal affairs for the NGLHRC Kenyan LGBTI rights advocacy group. (Photo courtesy of YouTube)

Njeri Gateru, head of legal affairs for the NGLHRC Kenyan LGBTI rights advocacy group. (Photo courtesy of YouTube)

Head of Legal Affairs at NGLHRC, Njeri Gateru, said:

“We are thankful that the Appeal Court has put Kenyan citizens’ rights first. With this ruling, the judges are saying that we all deserve to be treated with dignity and afforded our basic rights, as enshrined in the Kenyan Constitution.
The humiliation and pain caused by these useless anal examinations will follow our clients for the rest of their lives. However, we are emboldened to see our constitution at work, ensuring that all Kenyans have the right to dignity.”

NGLHRC, which provides free legal assistance to LGBT individuals in Kenya, reports increasing use of threats of forced anal examinations by police officers in the last two years against men suspected of being gay.

Kenya Medical Association logo

Kenya Medical Association logo

In September 2017, The Kenya Medical Association (KMA), which is the leading professional body working to improve the welfare of doctors and advocating for quality healthcare for all Kenyans, released a statement condemning forced examinations. The KMA resolved to:

“Condemn and discourage any form of forced examination of clients, even in the guise of discovering crimes.”

In the accompanying press release it further advised medical practitioners to:

“ALWAYS adhere to the Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct in their actions with all clients under all circumstances, including those under police custody.”

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It’s called ‘human’ rights, not ‘straight’ rights

Kaluso says: “You can’t say this one has rights because he’s straight, this one doesn’t because he’s gay. It’s called 'human rights,' not 'straight rights'.” (Gemma Taylor photo courtesy of International HIV/AIDS Alliance)

Kaluso says: “You can’t say this one has rights because he’s straight, this one doesn’t because he’s gay. It’s called ‘human’ rights, not ‘straight’ rights.” (Gemma Taylor photo courtesy of International HIV/AIDS Alliance)

Kaluso, a 28-year-old trans woman from Malawi, speaks out about the need for zero discrimination when it comes to the rights of sexual minorities.

These are some excerpts from the article, which appears on the AIDS Alliance website:

“I didn’t choose to be trans. I was born like this.”

Kaluso is accepted and loved by her family and neighbors living in Blanytre, Malawi, but elsewhere faces stigma and violence:

“A few years back when I was attacked,” she says, “I went to the police and I was further victimised.”  She recalls being followed and attacked during a night out with her friends. They were targeted because they stood out as LGBT people.

Mphatso (Gemma Taylor photo courtesy of International HIV/AIDS Alliance)

Kaluso with her friend Mphatso (Gemma Taylor photo courtesy of International HIV/AIDS Alliance)

Kaluso’s friend, Mphatso, 31, says: “Here in Malawi, people are so homophobic, because it’s not allowed in the law.  Stigma and discrimination leads to increased risk of HIV for LGBT people in Malawi. It results in less check-ups, less condom use, and because it’s hidden, people are sleeping with married men, who also sleep with their wife.”

In a change from the past, Superintendent Horace Chabuka, Blantyre’s community policing coordinator, is at ease with the current situation in Malawi, where enforcement of the country’s law against same-sex intimacy has been suspended. He says of same-sex couples:

“They are not doing anything wrong.”

Chabuka has learned about sexual minorities through conversations and workshops with Community Health Rights Advocacy (CHeRA). He says:

“After attending discussions with CHeRA I realised we cannot deny [that homosexuality exists], otherwise, at the end of the day, we will lose more lives. People will not come forward to get services, for sexual health or HIV services for example, or it might be that they have been attacked and will not ask the police to assist them.”

Kaluso’s friend Shy Amanda, 29, is relieved that there is progress. “If the police can arrest us, where else can we go?” she says. Both women receive support from CHeRA and have attended their workshop, which brought them together with officers and health workers to discuss the challenges they face. (Gemma Taylor photo courtesy of International HIV/AIDS Alliance)

Kaluso’s friend Shy Amanda, 29, is relieved that there is progress. “If the police can arrest us, where else can we go?” she says. Both women receive support from CHeRA and have attended their workshop, which brought them together with officers and health workers to discuss the challenges they face. (Gemma Taylor photo courtesy of International HIV/AIDS Alliance)

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The post It’s called ‘human’ rights, not ‘straight’ rights appeared first on Erasing 76 Crimes.


Source: 76crimes