Challenge to Botswana anti-gay law is ready; court isn’t

LGBT rights advocates in Botswana are preparing to challenge the country’s law against same-sex intimacy, but the court system in Botswana isn’t quite ready to hear their challenge.

Legabibo members at court. (Thalefang Charles photo courtesy of Mmegi Online)

Legabibo members at court. (Thalefang Charles photo courtesy of Mmegi Online)

MmegiOnline reported today about the legal challenge planned by the Botswanan LGBT rights group Legabibo:

Legabibo was to go head to head against the government today challenging for the recognition of homosexuality in the country.

Legabibo legal representative Tshiamo Rantao in a brief interview said the case was yet to be given a judge and that they are in limbo as to when it will be called.

”We were hoping to argue the matter today but it seems the case is not yet allocated a judge and as it stands we will have to wait,” he said.

Meanwhile the society that has been advocating for the rights of homosexuals and minority groups has already won a battle against the government for its registration in 2016.

Legabibo has been in court to overturn Botswana’s anti-LGBT law since last year, when it received court authorization to take part in a case challenging the constitutionality of Sections 164 and 165 of the Penal Code.

Legabibo had hoped the case would be heard today, as News24 reported yesterday:

Group challenges criminalisation of same-sex relationships in Botswana

Botswana’s High Court is expected on Thursday to hear a case in which the constitutionality of the provisions that criminalise same-sex sexual acts between consenting persons will be challenged.

In a statement, a human rights advocacy group, Lesbians, Gays, and Bisexuals of Botswana (LEGABIBO), said that it had submitted factual evidence that sought to demonstrate that continued criminalisation of consensual same-sex sexual acts perpetuated stigma, intolerance, homophobia and violence against members of the LGBT community.

Logo of LEGABIBO (Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals of Botswana)

Logo of LEGABIBO (Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals of Botswana)

“LEGABIBO will argue that decriminalisation of same-sex sexual acts would not only greatly enhance public health – by assisting with treatment, care and education in the fight against HIV in particular – but it will also affirm basic human rights and the diversity of the Botswana nation,” read part of the statement.

This will not be the first time the country’s vulnerable LGBT community has sought the courts to decide on rights issues affecting its members.

According to Human Rights Watch, the country’s High Court last year ruled that a transgender man should be allowed to hold official documents that reflect his gender identity.

The rights group described the judgment as a “huge victory for transgender people in Botswana, who face considerable challenges when their gender identity is not reflected in official papers”.

Botswana is touted as one of Africa’s most democratic nations, yet homosexuality is outlawed under the penal code of 1965, and punishable by prison term of up to seven years.

Homosexuality is a crime in most African countries.

South Africa is the only country on the continent whose constitution forbids discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, and recognises same-sex marriages.

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Source: 76crimes

LGBT+ in Trinidad: Clean up the laws, now clean up litter

The LGBT+ community of Trinidad is on its way to ridding their nation of its unjust anti-gay law. Now they’re going further to serve the public good — by picking up litter.

LGBT+ community and friends clean up litter in Woodford Square during anti-LGBT rally. (Photo courtesy of Facebook)

LGBT+ community and friends clean up litter in Woodford Square during anti-LGBT rally. (Photo courtesy of Facebook)

Over the weekend, as anti-LGBTI partisans held a rally in Woodford Square in Port of Spain, members of the LGBT+ community and friends were on hand to remove six bags’ worth of litter.

Pastor Keith Ramdass told the Council of Evangelical Churches rally that the repeal of the nation’s anti-sodomy law (currently under appeal) would just be the beginning. The LGBT community wants to end all forms of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, he said.

Of course, those weren’t the words he used. He described that “gay agenda” as a plan to discriminate against persons who are not LGBT.  He claimed that the LGBT community has “planted judges and lawyers to further their agenda legislatively.”

The LGBTI group said they were taking action to move the spotlight to real issues facing the nation. Rampant littering is a more urgent matter than what the rally, they said.

So members of the LGBT+ community spread out to clean up Woodford Square. Below is their story, as told on Facebook by the Trinidad-based Silver Lining Foundation, which advocates for marginalized youths, including bullied LGBT teenagers and those considering suicide.

LGBT+ community and friends picked up six bags' worth of litter in Woodford Square during anti-LGBT rally. (Photo courtesy of Facebook)

Rampant littering and its impact on the environment are important issues in Trinidad, the LGBT+ community declared as they worked to rid Woodford Square of litter this past weekend. (Photo courtesy of Facebook)

‘We have to stand as one nation, in love’

Members of the LGBT+ Community of Trinidad & Tobago and their friends came out today to clean Woodford Square, Port of Spain, at the same time that members of T&T Cause were assembling to begin their rally against decriminalization of the buggery law.

This latest public mobilization activity of the LGBT+ Community aimed to place a spotlight on real issues facing our nation – such as rampant littering and its impact on the environment – which is a clear breach of laws and regulations. Yet, it seems that some persons choose to focus on matters which have little or no real effect on the wider society.

Twenty-two year old Josh Ryan, one of the organizers of the clean-up, commented that “what consenting adults do in their bedrooms, should not be what citizens expend their energy, time and prayers on. We have to stand as one nation, in love, and confront issues of crime – especially against young children and women; the depressed economy; and corruption and inefficiency which has cost many their lives.”

LGBT+ community and friends picked up six bags' worth of litter in Woodford Square during anti-LGBT rally. (Photo courtesy of Facebook)

LGBT+ community and friends picked up six bags’ worth of litter in Woodford Square during anti-LGBT rally. (Photo courtesy of Facebook)

The group of LGBT+ activists sang along with the crowd while receiving some stares and a few comments about their eventual judgment to ‘fire and brimstone’, but most persons sat quietly watching as the square was cleaned, a few offering their empty water bottles or snack wrappers to the group for their garbage bags. Nefertiti Orr-Thompson, another member of the clean-up crew, mused on the fact that “it is interesting that people can sit and ignore the trash just around them – this is an example of the general desensitization of our people. Our nation needs us to take care of it – not encourage division, hate and fear.”

The LGBT+ Community continues its public outreach over the next few months with T&T Pride to be commemorated from June 22nd – July 22nd.

 

#StandWithUs #United4Love #QueerTT #QueerTT.com #AJD #TTPride #SLFtt

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Source: 76crimes

Nigerians take to the streets to protest LGBTI killings

A group of brave Nigerians took to the street yesterday to say enough is enough to the endless persecution and numerous unjust killings of LGBTI Nigerians.

 

“LGBTI people are being killed too. Why are we so silent?” protesters in Lagos ask. (Photo courtesy of Bisi Alimi via Facebook)

The protest was launched in Lagos yesterday (May 28) in solidarity with a countrywide National Day of Mourning and Remembrance that civil society organizations held for many types of victims of violence in Nigeria. Those included many mass killings, the kidnapping of hundred of schoolgirls in Chibok in 2014, and violent clashes in northern Nigeria between farming communities and nomadic herdsmen.

The protest against anti-LGBTI violence was organized by a group of Nigerians working with the London-based Bisi Alimi Foundation, which one-time Nigerian TV personality Bisi Alimi established to work for justice for LGBT people after he was forced into exile for coming out as gay on Nigerian television in 2004.

The group marched with memorial placards for LGBTI Nigerians who have been killed in violent homophobic attacks and with messages declaring that enough is enough to jungle justice, discrimination and all forms of violence toward LGBTI Nigerians. Placards included these statements:

“Our Silence is Not Golden Anymore on the Killings of LGBTI Nigerians.”

“We also remember LGBT people in Nigeria killed for being who they are.”

“LGBTI people are being killed too. Why are we so silent?”

Every day, innocent Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender [LGBT] Nigerians are targeted by homophobic people, and many have been killed in violent homophobic attacks, after which which the perpetrators often go unpunished.

Protesters in Lagos seeking an end to killings of LGBTI Nigerians. (Photo courtesy of Bisi Alimi via Facebook)
Protesters in Lagos seek an end to killings of LGBTI Nigerians. (Photo courtesy of Bisi Alimi via Facebook)

About the countrywide protest, the Joint Nigeria Crisis Action Committee stated:

“From Abia to Zamfara, Nigerians wake up daily to fresh news of mass atrocities which are barely acknowledged by government and a vast majority of fellow citizens. This is an anomaly that must end. “As a country, we seem to have normalised the violent killings of our own citizens and the pillage of our communities. Reports have reduced human lives lost to mere numbers that are bandied and argued about without thought of properly accounting for them, or according them dignity by naming them.”

In a piece which appeared on The Rustin Times website, Peter Okeugo, a media justice fellow of the Bisi Alimi Foundation, stated that even though the national event was not about homosexuality, still it was necessary to also remember LGBT persons who have lost their lives due to homophobic violent attacks and jungle justice.

Protesters in Lagos seek an end to murders of LGBTI Nigerians. (Photo courtesy of Bisi Alimi via Facebook)
Protesters in Lagos seek an end to murders of LGBTI Nigerians. (Photo courtesy of Bisi Alimi via Facebook)

He wrote:

“While we mourn these people who have been killed through insurgence or conflict, may we not forget our brothers, sisters, fathers, nephews, nieces, uncles, aunts and children who were lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender and have been killed for who they are.”

Source: Rights Africa

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65 groups protest Tanzania repression, LGBT arrests

A total of 65 civil society groups have challenged the government of Tanzania over “the worrying decline in respect for human rights,” citing persecution of LGBTI human rights defenders among the reasons for their concern.

Tanzania President John Magufuli (Photo courtesy of eNCA)

Tanzania President John Magufuli has overseen a “rapid decline in human rights.” (Photo courtesy of eNCA)

The groups issued their challenge in an open letter. Among many citations of human rights abuses affecting journalists, politicians, protesters and others, the letter included a section on last fall’s arrests of LGBTI human rights defenders. At the time, this blog reported on those arrests in several articles, including “Tanzania cries ‘homosexuality’ to block health-care lawsuit.”

The letter stated about those arrests:

Groups and defenders advocating for the rights of LGBTI individuals have also been equally persecuted. Among a wave of recent attempts to suppress organisations and activists working on SOGI issues, in October 2017, 13 human rights lawyers and defender were arbitrarily arrested and detained on allegations of promoting “promoting homosexuality”. Three civil society representatives, including Ugandan and South African lawyers from the Initiative for Strategic Litigation in Africa and nine members of Tanzanian Community Health and Education Services and Advocacy (Chesa), were arrested during a private meeting.

This is the letter in full:

Tanzania: Civil society groups express concern over rapid decline in human rights

To: President John Magufuli

Your Excellency,

Location of Tanzania in East Africa. (Map courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Location of Tanzania in East Africa. (Map courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

We, the undersigned civil society organisations (CSOs) from across the world, write to express our deep concern over the worrying decline in respect for human rights, including the rights to freedom of association, expression and peaceful assembly, in Tanzania. We urge your government to take proactive measures to protect these rights which are crucial to civic space and publicly recognise the essential role that a vibrant civil society and an independent media play in creating peaceful and equal societies.

Tanzania’s long-standing commitment to improving the human rights of all people, both nationally and within the region, is notable and should be acknowledged as such.  However, we are deeply alarmed that these human rights issues are being precipitously undermined by the unwarranted closure of media outlets, judicial persecution and harassment of independent journalists, the targeted assassination of opposition party members, blanket restrictions on peaceful protests and the introduction and invocation of a raft of laws to undermine freedom of speech online. These and other forms of harassment and persecution of civil society and media discussed below erode Tanzania’s role as a regional champion of public freedoms, peace and stability and represent a breach of its international, national and regional human rights obligations and commitments.

New legal restrictions criminalizing freedom of expression on social and traditional media

The Electronic and Postal Communications (Online Content) Regulations, which was signed into law in March 2018, criminalises a broad scope of legitimate forms of online freedom of expression. Under the regulation, all bloggers and persons operating online radio and television streaming services must secure a license and pay an annual fee of over $900 before they can publish any material online. Such fees are not only financially prohibitive but place an arbitrary bar to entry to exercise the right to freedom of expression. We are also deeply concerned by provisions which endow the government with the authority to revoke a permit if a site or blogger publishes content that “causes annoyance” or “leads to public disorder.”

Of equal concern are vague and overbroad provisions of the 2015 Cybercrimes Act which empower the government to arbitrarily ban and sanction the dissemination of newspaper articles or social media posts which it deems critical, including insulting the President. In particular, Article 16 criminalizes the publication of all information deemed “false, deceptive, misleading or inaccurate.” Persons found to have contravened the Act are subject to draconian prison sentences and harsh fines of not less than five million shillings ($2,190) or a term of not less than three years or both. Since coming into force, the law has been invoked to persecute dozens of individuals and journalists. In one week alone, five private citizens were charged under the Cybercrimes Act for statements made on Facebook, WhatsApp and other social media platforms, including a three-year sentence handed down to a private citizen for insulting President John Magufuli on Facebook.

Moreover, the Media Services Act, which came into force in November 2016, allows the authorities to unilaterally determine which journalists receive licenses, forces all journalists to obtain a license, and makes defamation and sedition a criminal offense. Under the law,  the government-run Accreditation Board is empowered to “suspend or expunge journalists” for committing “gross professional misconduct as prescribed in the code of ethics for professional journalists.” The penalties for violating provisions of law are severe. According to the law, anyone found guilty of acting with a seditious intention who commits an offence is liable to a fine of not less than 5 million Shillings (approximately $2,260) or three years in prison or both.

Suspensions, fines and banning media outlets

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

Logo of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, which condemns anti-LGBT violence, though it continues throughout the continent.

Despite strong constitutional, United Nations and African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights safeguards protecting the right to freedom of expression, the government has systematically targeted Tanzanian media outlets through a combination of closures and hefty fines on newspapers. This campaign of harassment, which appears to be an attempt to suppress their work to report on government policy and conduct, has resulted in four prominent newspapers being banned in 2017 and four other papers being heavily fined in early 2018.

On 24 October 2017, the government banned the Swahili-language Tanzania Daima for a period of 90 days on specious claims of publishing false news about anti-retroviral drug use for people with HIV. This was the fourth newspaper banned since June 2017 including Mwanahalisi which was banned for 24 months in September 2017; the weekly Raia Mwema for 90 days in September and Mawio newspaper for 24 months in June 2017.

On 2 January 2018, the Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA) fined five television stations a combined 60 million Tanzanian shillings ($27,000) for broadcasting “offensive and unethical” content, in particular for airing a press statement issued on 30 November by the Legal Human Rights Centre (LHRC). The report by LHRC documented violations such as detentions, intimidation and physical abuse in the context of  the 6 November 2017 elections of councillors in 43 wards. The TV stations that featured the LHRC’s press statement and were subsequently penalised include: Star TV, Azam Two, East Africa TV, Channel 10 and ITV.

Poster calls for the return of missing journalist Azory Gwanda. (Photo courtesy of Media Institute of Southern Africa)

Poster calls for the return of missing journalist Azory Gwanda. (Photo courtesy of Media Institute of Southern Africa)

Judicial harassment and persecution of journalists and human rights defenders

In stark contrast to the authorities’ human rights obligations to uphold and protect the safety of journalists, several independent media practitioners have recently been subject to physical attacks and judicial persecution. Recently on 21 November 2017, newspaper journalist Azory Gwanda was abducted by a group of unknown assailants in the Coast Region. Prior to his enforced disappearance, Gwanda who is a journalist with newspapers, Mwananchi and The Citizen, had authored a number of articles documenting the murders of several local officials and police officers. To date Gwanda’s whereabouts remain unknown.

In August 2017, a Tanzania court began hearing a case against Micke William and Maxence Melo Mubyazi, co-owners of the whistleblower website, Jamii Forums. Both journalists were charged under the Cybercrimes Act on spurious accusations of obstructing justice for failing to disclose the identities of persons who posted details of allegedly corrupt officials on Jamiiforums. There have been over 40 adjournments of the case, including most recently on 3 May 2018. If convicted, they face fines up to 3 million shillings ($1,300) or a jail term of at least one year, or both.

Lazaro Mambosasa, police chief of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. (Photo courtesy of Swahili Times)

In October 2017, when police arrested activists and lawyers seeking to reopen HIV clinics closed by the Tanzanian government, Lazaro Mambosasa, police chief of Dar es Salaam, claimed, ““We arrested the criminals at (the hotel) Peacock – they were promoting homosexuality.” (Photo courtesy of Swahili Times)

Groups and defenders advocating for the rights of LGBTI individuals have also been equally persecuted. Among a wave of recent attempts to suppress organisations and activists working on SOGI issues, in October 2017, 13 human rights lawyers and defender were arbitrarily arrested and detained on allegations of promoting “promoting homosexuality”. Three civil society representatives, including Ugandan and South African lawyers from the Initiative for Strategic Litigation in Africa and nine members of Tanzanian Community Health and Education Services and Advocacy (Chesa), were arrested during a private meeting.

Killings and criminal cases against political opposition members

Since the start of 2018, scores of political opposition members and parliamentarians have been violently attacked and even killed. On 22 February, Godfrey Luena, a member of parliament with Tanzania’s main opposition party Chama Cha Demokrasia Na Maendeleo (CHADEMA) and a vocal land rights defender, was killed with machetes outside of his home. Mr Luena had been a critic of alleged state sponsored land-grabbing. Days earlier, on 13 February, Daniel John, a CHADEMA official in Dar es Salaam, was abducted and killed by unknown assailants using machetes. Mr John was supporting an opposition political campaign for a contested parliamentary seat in Dar es Salaam.

A number of opposition party members and lawmakers have also been targeted in what appears to be a systematic campaign of judicial harassment. Among other worrying cases, two opposition leaders, CHADEMA MP Joseph Mbilinyi and local party leader Emmanuel Masonga were sentenced to five months on 26 February 2018 for insulting President John Magufuli during a political rally.

Harassment, intimidation arbitrary arrest of peaceful protesters

In response to growing public frustration over human rights backsliding in the country, individuals and groups have increasingly sought to exercise their rights to peaceful assembly to air their legitimate grievances. Worryingly, the authorities, including members of the government and security apparatus, have resorted to arbitrary arrests, excessive use of force and intimidation to silence these protests.

In April 2018, Tanzanian activists called for national demonstrations to bring attention to the decline in respect for human rights in Tanzania. However, in contravention of international standards, the authorities, which require anyone seeking to hold a public assembly to secure a permit, declared the protests illegal.

The government and police forces responded to these calls to stage public protests with severe intolerance, including hostile statements by senior government and police officials, including threats that protesters “will be beaten like stray dogs.” Days before the planned 26 April demonstrations seven people were arrested in Arusha for their purported role in organising the protests. The few who dared to take part in the protests were quickly persecuted; nine protesters, who marched in Dar Es Salaam, were almost immediately arrested.

Recommendations to the Government of Tanzania

Logo of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights

Logo of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights

The undersigned groups urge your government to create an enabling environment for civil society and the media to operate in accordance with the rights enshrined in the Constitution of Tanzania, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, including the guidelines on freedom of association and peaceful assembly. Tanzania has ratified both the ICCPR and the African Charter. At a minimum, the following conditions should be ensured: freedom of association, freedom of expression, the right to operate free from unwarranted state interference, the right to seek and secure funding and the state’s duty to protect. In light of this, the following specific recommendations are made.

1) All disabling and restrictive provisions in the Cybercrimes Act, the Electronic and Postal Communications (Online Content) Regulations and the Media Services Act must be amended and replaced by progressive sections that will guarantee freedom of expression and the media in line with international human rights standards.

2) The cases of newspapers banned, suspended or fined under the Media Service Act 2016 should be reviewed to enable them to continue their operations without undue interference.

3) Independent investigations should be conducted into cases of attacks and assaults on journalists, human rights defenders and opposition party members with a view to bringing suspected perpetrators to justice and these attacks should be publicly and unequivocally condemned.

4) Government officials should desist from publicly threatening human rights defenders including when activists that are working to expose corrupt practices in government or are critical of government policies and actions.

5) Best practices on the right to freedom of peaceful assembly prescribed by the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association should be adopted by the Government of Tanzania including removing the permission regime and providing recourse in cases of unlawful denial of the right to freedom of peaceful assembly.

Sincerely,

  1. Access Now
  2. African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies (ACDHRS)
  3. Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB)
  4. Amnesty International
  5. ARTICLE 19 East Africa
  6. The Article 20 Network
  7. Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC)
  8. Association for Human Rights in Ethiopia (AHRE) – Ethiopia
  9. Association for Progressive Communications (APC)
  10. Bahrain Center for Human Rights – Bahrain
  11. Balkan Civil Society Development Network (BCSDN)
  12. Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS)
  13. Caucasus Civil Initiatives Center (CCIC)
  14. Center for Civil Liberties – Ukraine
  15. Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) – Malawi
  16. Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations
  17. Chapter Four – Uganda
  18. Citizens for Democratic Rights in Eritrea (CDRiE) – Eritrea
  19. CIVICUS
  20. Civil Rights Defenders (CRD)
  21. Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)
  22. Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI)
  23. Community Empowerment for Progress Organization (CEPO) – South Sudan
  24. DefendDefenders (East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project)
  25. End Impunity Organisation
  26. Ethiopia Human Rights Project (EHRP) – Ethiopia
  27. Freedom House
  28. Front Line Defenders
  29. Greenpeace Africa
  30. Governance, Elections, Advocacy, Research Services (GEARS) Initiative – Zambia
  31. Groupe d’Action pour le Progrès et la Paix (ONG GAPP-BÉNIN) – Bénin
  32. HAKI Africa – Kenya
  33. Human Rights Defenders Network – Sierra Leone
  34. International Civil Society Center (ICSC)
  35. International Rivers – Africa Program
  36. Iraqi Network of Social Media – Iraq
  37. Jamaa Resource Initiatives – East Africa
  38. JOINT Liga de ONGs em Mocambique – Mozambique
  39. Karapatan Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights – Philippines
  40. Kepa – the Finnish NGO platform – Finland
  41. Latin American and Caribbean Network for Democracy (REDLAD)
  42. Liberia Coalition of Human Rights Defenders (LICHRD) – Liberia
  43. Ligue Djiboutienne des Droits Humains (LDDH) – Djibouti
  44. Ligue Iteka – Burundi
  45. Lumiere Synergie pour le Developpement – Senegal
  46. Malawi Human Rights Defenders Coalition  – Malawi
  47. Minority Rights Group International
  48. National Civic Forum – Sudan
  49. Observatoire des Droits de l’Homme au Rwanda – Rwanda
  50. Odhikar – Bangladesh
  51. OutRight Action International
  52. Pan-African Human Rights Defenders Network (PAHRDN)
  53. Public Interest Law Center (PILC) – Chad
  54. RESOCIDE – Burkina Faso
  55. Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights
  56. Robert L. Bernstein Institute for Human Rights | NYU School of Law
  57. Servicios y Asesoría para la Paz (Serapaz) – México
  58. Sinergia – Venezuela
  59. Solidarity Center
  60. Sudanese Development Initiative (SUDIA) – Sudan
  61. Tournons la page (TLP)
  62. West African Human Rights Defenders’ Network (WAHRDN)
  63. World Movement for Democracy
  64. The Zambia Council for Social Development (ZCSD) – Zambia
  65. Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum – Zimbabwe

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Source: 76crimes

With a boost from Rihanna, Barbados rejects homophobia

Barbados elected its first female prime minister on Thursday as the opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP) took all the seats in parliament. The BLP’s platform calls for a referendum on LGBT issues.

The new prime minister of Barbados, Mia Mottley (Photo courtesy of St. Lucia Times)

The new prime minister of Barbados, Mia Mottley (Photo courtesy of St. Lucia Times)

The new prime minister, Mia Mottley, won after overcoming a homophobic campaign by the ruling Democratic Labour Party, which criticized her presumed sexuality.

Mottley previously served as the country’s Attorney General, starting in 2001. In that position, she commissioned a study on laws that affected HIV interventions.

Rihanna (Photo courtesy of Loop News Barbados)

Rihanna (Photo courtesy of Loop News Barbados)

The study recommended scrapping the country’s anti-sodomy law. Though largely unenforced, it is the worst in the Western Hemisphere, calling for life imprisonment. At the time, the proposal to repeal the anti-sodomy law ran into strong public opposition and was dropped.

Late in the campaign, Barbadian pop star Rihanna gave Mottley a boost by commenting on Instagram that Mottley deserved to be elected prime minister.

In return, Motley thanked Rihanna for “all that love and support and blessings.”

The BLP has been out of power for a decade.

This article includes information from activist Maurice Tomlinson.

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Scott Lively targeted him in Uganda. Now he targets Lively in U.S.

Arch-homophobe the Rev. Scott Lively was a driving force behind the passage of Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act of 2014, which incited an anti-LGBTQ panic that forced Ugandan LGBTQ rights leader John Wambere into exile. Now, as Lively runs for governor in Massachusetts, Wambere is there to oppose him.

Ugandan exile John Wambere (left) has spoken out against Pastor Scott Lively (right), the gubernatorial candidate who inspired Uganda's Anti-Homosexuality Act.

Ugandan exile John Wambere (left) urges voters to reject Pastor Scott Lively (right), the gubernatorial candidate who inspired Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act.

This is Wambere’s letter to the editor of The Boston Globe:

He fled Uganda in wake of Lively’s anti-gay push — only to witness his rise here

As a gay Ugandan activist who found asylum here, I urge Massachusetts residents to reject the candidacy of Scott Lively for governor (“No more Gov. Nice Guy,” Yvonne Abraham, Metro, May 10).

I am a victim of Lively’s homophobic campaign in Uganda. In 2009, he came to my former country to sow hatred and tell lies, preaching that homosexuals, peace-loving citizens, had an agenda and were a danger to society.

Lively’s propaganda opened an avenue for the administration of President Yoweri Museveni to incite a witch hunt against LGBTQ Ugandans. I bear witness to the violence, persecution, and painful divisions his words created. Many have been forced to flee a country we love for our safety, leaving behind our life’s work, family, and friends.

In 2014, the Anti-Homosexuality Act, Lively’s brainchild, was signed into law (then subsequently ruled invalid). Facing threats of death or life imprisonment, I too was forced to seek asylum here in the United States.

My new home, Massachusetts, which championed marriage equality, is better than this. Lively’s place on the Republican primary ballot would set a dangerous precedent, risking a backlash against LGBTQ people. We must not lend him new authority to push his agenda of hatred around the world.

John Abdallah Wambere
Woburn, Massachusetts, U.S.A.

The writer is cofounder of the Kampala-based gay rights organization Spectrum Uganda Initiatives.

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Source: 76crimes

Pope: ‘God made you this way.’ Jamaicans: Let’s debate

Jamaicans on different sides of LGBTI rights debates are grappling with the reported affirmation that Pope Francis gave to a gay man: “God made you this way and he loves you”.

Pope Francis (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Pope Francis (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Archbishop Kenneth Richards, head of the Roman Catholic Church in Jamaica, insisted that, even if sexual orientation is not a choice, homosexuality is “a disorder and a same-sex relationship is disordered activity,” the Jamaica Observer reported. The newspaper quoted from its interview with several Jamaican leaders, including Richards:

‘Disordered activity’

Roman Catholic Archbishop Kenneth Richards (Photo courtesy of Nationwide 90FM)

Roman Catholic Archbishop Kenneth Richards (Photo courtesy of Nationwide 90FM)

“Some people want to be defined by their orientation, but in church we have people. I don’t relate to them as heterosexual or homosexual. A man is a man and a woman a woman, and we have to respect that.”

Noting that the statement is a report from a private meeting and not from the Holy Father himself, Archbishop Richards said the conversation on homosexuality has become so political that everyone has to be sure not to offend, but the Catholic Church still subscribes to the principles and teachings of the universal church.

“God was sure in creating the complementarity of the sexes for procreation, and sexual activity is for the purpose of procreation… and we must never confuse His meaning and purpose. Yes, there are people who struggle with the human condition of their particular orientation. It is a disorder and a same-sex relationship is disordered activity,” the archbishop said.

Pressed as to what would be his stance if it is confirmed that Pope Francis indeed made the controversial statement, Richards said that he would not speculate. He added, however, “If a person is known to have the maladaptive behaviour of stealing, does that mean he was born a thief?”

The Observer also quoted from other interviews:

Increasing acceptance of LGBT people as ‘deserving of respect and made in the image of God’

Jaevion Nelson, program and advocacy director for J-FLAG, the Jamaica Forum of Lesbians, All-Sexuals and Gays.

Jaevion Nelson, executive director for J-FLAG, the Jamaica Forum of Lesbians, All-Sexuals and Gays.

Executive Director of J-FLAG Jaevion Nelson said that the statement attributed to the pope is welcomed.

J-FLAG is a human rights and social justice organisation for LGBT Jamaicans.

“I think this is symbolic of the kind of changes that you see in society where members of the clergy at a higher level express the view that all people, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, are created in the image and likeness of God, and I think we are seeing that now where a number of our religious leaders have expressed similar sentiments,” he said.

According to Nelson, the statement does not, however, represent a complete departure from previous ones made by the pope.

“He does have some kind of understanding that LGBT people are deserving of respect and made in the image of God, and so I think it (statement) is welcomed that he would have made such a comment publicly and at such an important time in history.

“I think it will definitely contribute to how people are treated globally. I think the fact that the pope has made such a statement will influence that change in the Catholic Church and might also impact other denominations as well,” he said, adding that this might also have an impact on Jamaica, whether great or small.

‘God’s family would be incomplete without those deemed queer’

Anglican priest the Very Rev. Fr. Sean Major-Campbell, host of the conference, explained that speakers would review the history of criminalization of LGBTIQ people, identify the current position of different Christian groups, analyze anti-LGBT attitudes, and -- he hopes -- propose an international approach to ending the criminalization of LGBTIQ people.

The Very Rev. Sean Major-Campbell, Anglican rector of Christ Church, Vineyard Town, Kingston, Jamaica

Very Reverend Sean Major-Campbell, rural dean of Kingston, told the Observer that he could not readily attribute the statement to the pope, but noted that sexual orientation and gender identity are complex issues on which people continue to get more information in the broad studied areas of gender and sexual diversity.

“In Jamaica and the wider Caribbean, we continue to see the need for more education on this matter of human sexuality, which includes everyone. Increasingly, more individuals and groups are acknowledging that sexual orientation is not something that is necessarily determined as one would make a choice for lunch. This is because sexual orientation is an enduring, emotional, romantic, or sexual attraction for someone of a particular gender. Much of the information about human life and experience today was not available to the ancient world in whose time our various religious texts were born,” he told the Observer in an e-mailed response.

He said that LGBT people have been members of the church and religion for millennia and that they have served at all levels of the church which will continue to know the blessings of their many gifts and talents.

“The statement attributed to the pope interestingly affirms the biblical position that God is impartial. More of us in church should remember that one of the earliest converts to Christianity was a sexual minority — the Ethiopian Eunuch — who was not married; never had a woman; never had children, and would have met with much disdain in our Caribbean church. In accordance with the biblical (New Testament) ethic of impartiality, God’s family would be incomplete without those deemed queer,” Major-Campbell said.

Needing ‘some time to try to understand this’

Reverend Gary Harriott, general secretary of the Jamaica Council of Churches (JCC), did not offer a position, noting that “the debate is ongoing”.

“There is a need for us to spend some time to try to understand this from the various perspectives. So, I do not know at this time whether JCC would say a person is born this way or not. We have not had any such position for me to be able to indicate any kind of direction or view,” Harriott told the Observer.

Related articles:

 

 

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Source: 76crimes

Ugandan diaspora activists: Come learn about new anti-HIV drug

Ugandans living in the United Kingdom are the target audience for this weekend’s UK Uganda Youth Convention, which aims to inform gay and straight black men about the latest technique for combating HIV.

uGANDA-YOUTH-CONVENTION-LOGO-copy

Ugandan LGBTI rights activist Edwin Sesange issued the following press release on behalf of UK Uganda Youth Convention 2018. It has been modestly edited for technical accuracy by the blog’s editor emeritus, Denis LeBlanc:

UK Uganda Youth Convention 2018

The UK Uganda Youth Convention 2018, Saturday, May 26, 2018, meets at the Royal Regency London starting at 9:30am. This year we will introduce to you a pill designed to prevent most HIV transmission within the HIV-negative population.

It is rare to find any Ugandan family that has not lost a loved one due to HIV related illness. The HIV/AIDS epidermic has had a devastating effect on people from countries in Sub-Saharan Africa where over 35 million have died due to AIDS related illnesses. The UK Uganda Youth Convention 2018 acknowledges all those who lost their lives and commends those who work to bring an end to HIV.

Model of the HIV virus

Model of the HIV virus

The Convention will present a special session to discuss the discovery of a pill that prevents most HIV infections. It is a breakthrough in the struggle to bring an end to HIV. This pill, called PrEP for Pre Exposure Prophylaxis, is scientifically proven effective in preventing most HIV transmission to HIV-negative persons.

The drug is available on NHS in Scotland. In England and Wales, it is still only available on a trial basis. However, the UK Uganda Youth Convention 2018 discovered that PrEP can be bought at the 56 Dean Street Clinic in London for a reasonable fee.

The Convention invited Dr Nneka Nko, a world-leading HIV doctor, to present this new HIV prevention medication to the community and to answer questions. The Ugandan ambassador to the UK will also attend.

PrEP is very effective when taken as prescribed. Studies have shown that the recent large reduction of HIV transmission among gay men in the UK is due to PrEP. However, only a small number of black heterosexuals are using this modern drug to prevent HIV. We invite everybody to come and learn about this breakthrough biomedical discovery.

The UK has been praised for its magnificent work of preventing HIV among its population. Recent figures show that 96.5% of people with HIV are taking effective medication and that 94% of these people successfully suppress the virus with treatment, eliminating the risk of transmitting the virus to their sexual partner(s).

Unfortunately, a large proportion of the black community, including Ugandans, do not know they are HIV positive. They are tested much too late, when HIV has already severely damaged their immune system. This is dangerous because late HIV diagnosis means that such people are more likely to progress to AIDS. This is unnecessary because effective medication is available to allow most people living with HIV to live a normal life. Late testing also increases the spread of the HIV virus within our community. The Convention believes that youth needs to champion the cause to bring an end to HIV transmission.

According to Barbra Kemigisha, “It is shocking to find out that an estimated 10,400 people living with HIV (in the UK) do not know that they are living with the (HIV) virus, thus putting their loved ones at a greater risk of being infected.”. She stated that it is our responsibility take up the available prevention measures like PrEP. She called on the people in the Ugandan diaspora to join us for for this special session. “The issue of HIV is like a taboo among the Uganda community in the UK, and we do not want to talk about it openly.  I appeal to every member of the community to attend the Convention this Saturday, May 26, at the Royal Regency London from 9:30am.

UNAIDS has set 90-90-90 targets by 2020. This means that an estimated 90% of people living with HIV will be diagnosed, 90% of those will be on treatment, and 90% of those will undetectable, unable to transmit the virus to other people. London is a Fast Track City determined to eliminate HIV transmission in the next few years.

According to the 2011 UK population census, the black population is 1.8% of the UK population. However, HIV figures from 2016 estimate that 39% of new HIV infections in the UK were from the black community. Some of these HIV infections occurred outside the UK. However, a larger proportion of all the new infections in heterosexual men and women were acquired in the UK. Many Ugandans holiday in other countries including Uganda which has seen a recent increase in HIV infections.  These figures are shocking, and more must be done to bring them down.

home_56_dean_stThe Convention is working with stakeholders including the African Advocacy Foundation, the African Equality Foundation, and the 56 Dean Street Clinic to try to reduce new infections. There is growing evidence of a lack of knowledge about HIV transmission.  A recent study shows that only 45% of the UK population could rightly tell how HIV is transmitted. The stigma attached to HIV among the black community in the UK is high.

The black African community fare particularly worse in terms of knowledge of the improved HIV testing available as well as on the excellent treatment and care available. There is lack of knowledge about new prevention methods such as PrEP.

The UK Uganda Youth Convention 2018 is raising awareness on how these issues can be addressed and the how the UNAIDS targets can be achieved among the Ugandan community and others. The Convention believes that HIV can be brought under control, but this can only be achieved if we all address the issues openly without any fears of being judged by the community.

The Convention will also address other social issues including mental health, gangs, and crime, the impact of social media, and how to climb the economic ladder.

Immediately after the summit, there will a concert headlined by Dr Jose Chameleone, Clinton Elvis, Kleo, Edith Nabulime, Wool Betah, and Gal Power. Doors for the show will open at 7pm at the same venue.

 

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Appeal: Help me tell Texas judge of dangers of gay life in Uganda

The U.S.-based African Human Rights Coalition is raising money to provide expert testimony before an American judge in Texas who will decide whether to grant asylum to a gay Ugandan who escaped from the violent homophobia of his homeland.

With this photo, the African Human Rights Coalition explains its support for asylum-seekers from Uganda and other anti-LGBT nations.

With this photo, the African Human Rights Coalition explains its support for asylum-seekers from Uganda and other anti-LGBT nations.

This is the appeal from Melanie Nathan, executive director of the African HRC:

Dear Friends,

In addition to  humanitarian and advocacy work, African HRC has been providing pro bono Country Conditions Reports and expert testimony for LGBTI asylum seekers from African Countries.

I am writing to draw your attention to the case of Peter, (real name withheld) a gay man from Uganda.  In a perilous five-month journey, he made his way to the U.S. El Paso border, where he has been in detention for the past ten months.  He hopes he will be given asylum in the United States.

Peter’s case is being heard in a notoriously unfriendly jurisdiction where he will face a Judge who has only an 8% grant rate.

I am not sure if this Judge has ever adjudicated the case of a gay Ugandan. This is also a first for Peter’s experienced pro bono attorney.

After providing a Country Conditions Report and Affidavit in support of Peter’s case, his attorney has requested that I appear in Court to give expert witness testimony in person, saying that he believes my presence is critical to the case. Of course I agreed to travel to Texas and appear.

Unexpectedly, Peter’s Court date was brought forward from September to early June, with not enough notice to raise much needed funds.

As I think of Peter’s extraordinary journey to get to this point, I realize that his persistence through all the danger and uncertainty reflects a desperation for sanctuary that only trauma of great magnitude could spur.  Peter’s story is heart wrenching. He is alone. He has no family. He has no friends.  Suffering greatly, there can be no going back for Peter. He is relying on strangers to come to his aid: The American LGBT community is the only family he can turn to, as he clings to his faith.

We are asking for donations to help cover costs, as well as for the extensive work involving several other asylum seekers who we are providing reports for at this time.

African Human Rights Coalition is an all-volunteer organization, with no operational funding.

www.AfricanHRC.org/donate

Thank you for giving this your kind attention and please feel free to pass along to anyone who think may be able to help.

Melanie Nathan
Executive Director
African Human Rights Coalition

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Lebanon: Trans model breaks taboos

Trans model Sasha Elijah is on a mission to challenge the stigma and taboo of being transgender in the Middle East.

Trans model Sasha Elijah (Heba Kanso photo courtesy of Thomson Reuters Foundation)

Lebanese trans model Sasha Elijah (Heba Kanso photo courtesy of Thomson Reuters Foundation)

Thomson Reuters Foundation reports:

Beyond glitz and glamor, Lebanese transgender model breaks taboos

In a central Beirut cafe, transgender model Sasha Elijah flips open a paper fan and whips out her new ice cream cone-shaped high-heeled shoes for a potential drag costume.

It is a deliberately provocative display of femininity from Sasha, who is on a mission to challenge the stigma and taboo of being transgender in the Middle East through her modeling, drag shows and social media.

Click this image to read the story of trans model Veso Oke of Ghana and Nigeria.

Click this image to read the story of trans model Veso Oke of Ghana and Nigeria.

[Editor’s note: Sasha has some similarities to Veso Oke, a trans model in Ghana whose story is told in the article “Trans model: ‘I fight every day to look more feminine’ “]

The 21-year-old’s costumes are as colorful and complex as the journey that led to her coming out as Sasha in Lebanon, a seemingly progressive society that she says remains deeply rooted in religious and political conservatism.

“I created Sasha so I can face society … I had to elevate myself, not just the physical self, but with my mindset,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in the capital Beirut.

“If I was still the person who I was six years ago, I couldn’t survive, and I couldn’t walk within the society,” said Sasha, who battled low self-confidence and depression before coming out as transgender.

Lebanon will on Saturday [May 12] launch its second gay pride week in Beirut, after breaking new ground last year by becoming the first Arab country to hold such an event.

[Editor’s note: In retrospect, that description sounds much too optimistic. Police arrested Hadi Damien, the organizer of Beirut Pride. He canceled future events in exchange for his freedom.]

While the gay rights movement has steadily grown in Beirut, homosexual acts are still punishable by up to a year in prison under Lebanese law – although a judge last year threw that into question when he said homosexuality was not a crime.

Gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people face persecution in many countries in the region, where some risk fines, jail and even death. Social exclusion and abuse are common.

Homosexuality is not explicitly criminalized in Egypt, but LGBT people have long been targeted under laws on debauchery.

Dozens of people were detained in a recent crackdown in Egypt when fans attending a rock concert raised a rainbow flag in a rare show of public support for LGBT rights in the conservative Muslim country.

Ameen Rhayem, representative of the Arab Foundation for Freedoms and Equality (AFE) which campaigns for gender and LGBT rights, said many in Lebanon still struggled to accept difference.

“Lebanon is better than Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Egypt. But people think life in Lebanon for the LGBT community is easy, but to be honest it is not,” said Rhayem.

“Yes, Lebanon is more visible with the LGBT community than anybody else in the region, but there are still attacks and arrests of trans people in Lebanon.”

NO MORE FEAR

Growing up, Sasha says she used to play with her sisters’ make-up and dress up in girls’ clothes. From an early age, she knew she was different from other children.

She remembers that time fondly, but started to struggle in her early teens when she came out to her devoutly Christian family, who opposed her desire to undergo hormone therapy.

Scene from a photo shoot for Lebanese trans model Sasha Elijah (Heba Kanso photo courtesy of Thomson Reuters Foundation)

Scene from a photo shoot for Lebanese trans model Sasha Elijah (Heba Kanso photo courtesy of Thomson Reuters Foundation)

She did so anyway, a decision she says she does not regret, even though it took years to mend the relationship with her parents.

“It was a breakthrough moment for me when I first started to accept myself officially, because I had no more fear from my parents, no more fear from society,” she said.

From then on, Sasha went public with her new identity, doing fashion shows, drag performances and television appearances in which she talked about being transgender.

She designs every costume for her performances herself, basing them on her emotions – some are dark colored with feathers, while others are bright and feature flowers, seashells and sequins.

Her outspokenness is her form of activism, which she hopes will empower transgender people in the Middle East to be who they want to be, and help improve society’s understanding of the issues they face.

GOING PUBLIC

“Behind all the glamor and glitter of modeling and drag shows is just a person trying to live and survive,” said Sasha.

“Sexual harassment, bullying, judgment, prejudice – I have gone through a lot just for walking down the street, just because they know that this person is a transgender.”

Campaigners say the false belief that all transgender people are sex workers and difficulties with identification papers add to their daily struggles.

People in Lebanon who undergo gender reassignment surgery can change their sex in legal documents.

But campaigners say that option should also be open to those who have not undergone surgery.

“Somebody should be able to change their gender identity without having to transition fully,” said Joseph Aoun, spokesman for Helem, a Lebanese NGO that advocates for LGBT rights.

“A transgender person should have the choice to identify as a woman or man.”

Sasha, who wishes to keep the details of her transition private, is not looking to change her identity legally – she says she feels secure with who she is.

“At the end of the day I know who I am and what I am,” she said.

“I am at a point where I am very comfortable with myself. I am ready to face anything, and I am ready to do anything and everything that I want – nothing can stand in my way any more.”

Related articles:

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Source: 76crimes