Goal after prison for homosexuality: Reopen a restaurant

Albert, age 24, hopes to become a restaurant owner once again after he completes his four-year sentence for homosexuality at Yaoundé’s Central Prison.

This is the third of three articles about the three prisoners in Yaoundé, Cameroon, who are serving prison sentences for homosexuality. Under Article 347bis of Cameroon’s penal code, same-sex intimacy is punishable by a prison sentence of six months to five years.

By Steeves Winner

Image symbolique d'Albert, prisonnier gay à la prison centrale de Yaoundé, Cameroun. Les photos ne sont pas autorisées dans la prison.

Albert is one of the three victims of Cameroon’s anti-gay law who are imprisoned at Yaoundé’s central prison. This is a symbolic image, because photos are not allowed in the prison.

Curious, intelligent and strong, Albert is a young man who is passionate about food. The youngest in a family of five, he stopped his academic education at age 16 so he could  enter a restaurant training course because of his love for cooking.

Albert has a strong temperament, a medium build and a chocolate complexion. He is ambitious despite his current situation as a prison inmate.

In the past, he has not allowed troubles to defeat him.

After he realized his sexual orientation and made it known to others, he was rejected by his family. A fervent Christian, he began attending events at LGBTI support groups in Yaoundé such as Affirmative Action and Humanity First Cameroon. There he met Olivier and they soon became a couple.

Both had trained for jobs at restaurants, and Albert was already working at one. They decided to open a small restaurant of their own with funds they had saved, plus financial support from friends who were better off.

All went well until the two young men were arrested, charged, convicted and imprisoned for homosexuality.

Now, a few months before the end of their prison sentence, Albert is looking to the future:

“I intend to rebuild my life, to start from scratch again. Cooking remains my passion so I would like to open a restaurant again.

“I’m still wondering what life will be like after prison. I will need housing, because I don’t have the courage to go home.”

Steeves Winner, the author of this article, is an activist for LGBTI rights in Cameroon who writes under a pseudonym. Contact him at steeves.w@yahoo.com.

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Now more than ever: We need LGBTQI allies to ‘come out’

Kenyan activist Denis Nzioka celebrates the courage of LGBTQI allies in the struggle for LGBTQI rights — and asks that their voices be more widely heard in conversations about sexuality and human rights for all.

On the Hivos / People Unlimited blog, Nzioka writes:

Now, more than ever, we need allies to ‘come out’

Image from Hivos / People Unlimited

Image from Hivos / People Unlimited


Even though international sources recognise East African media as one of the most vibrant in the continent, Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Queer and Intersex (LGBTQI) voices are virtually and deliberately silenced. They are  only used for publicity and distraction from  the issues that affect the community. Even more non-existent are “ally” voices – persons who, though not identifying as LGBTQI, are equally important, in conversations around sex and sexuality.

We should also celebrate allies

An ally is someone who supports equal civil rights, gender equality, the LGBTQI social movement and oppose systems of oppression that shame LGBTQI persons for who they are.

Allies believe LGBTQI people face discrimination making them socially and economically disadvantaged. They aim to use their position to fight against these injustices by raising awareness on the lived realities of LGBTQI persons, while promoting the human and health rights of all persons.

An ally spearheads conversations we have around LGBTQI rights – to show that the pursuit for human rights is not just something LGBTQI persons or activists are doing on their own, but they have a pool of friends, family and acquaintances who are supporting their efforts.

This year’s IDAHOT theme was ‘Alliances for Solidarity,’ and was chosen to reach out to new partners to raise awareness of our commonalities and build solidarity within the communities of sexual and gender minorities. This clearly showed that the rights of one specific group cannot be solidly secured if the rights of other groups are not challenged.

Allies are uniquely placed to use their spaces and platforms to discuss and promote conversations around sex and sexuality. They are uniquely positioned to inform, direct and promote open dialogues wherever they are. By doing so, they will respond to some of the reservations that the general population may have on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity or Expression (SOGIE) and LGBTQI.

Everybody deserves to live free from discrimination and violence.  Furthermore they deserve the right to grow up being cared for by their families, freely express themselves and simply enjoy humanity.  None of us would dispute that except when it comes to those who may identify as being gay or transgender.

We need to change the narrative in East Africa where your choice of sexuality or gender orientation may result in society disowning you. The resulting effect has been witnessed through being forced out of school and subjection to repressive medical/psychiatric procedures to ascertain your mental health. Or even worse take away your choice of bodily expression.

It is our collective responsibility to stand up alongside those persons who identify as gay or transgender.  There are those critical allies who have been courageous and brave in doing so.  We salute their courage, which we hope will inspire all East Africans to do the right thing as well.  It is long overdue.

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Cameroon: ‘Get out of this hell’ is gay prisoner’s first goal

“First get out of this hell.” That’s the future that a prisoner at Yaoundé’s Central Prison envisions for himself after spending four years of his life there for homosexuality.

Next he plans to move away from Yaoundé. Then maybe open a restaurant once again.

This is the second of three articles about the three prisoners in Yaoundé, Cameroon, who are serving prison sentences for homosexuality. Under Article 347-bis of Cameroon’s penal code, same-sex intimacy is punishable by a prison sentence of six months to five years.


A symbolic image of Oliver, imprisoned since 2014 for violating Cameroon's law against homosexual activity. Photos are not allowed in Yaoundé's central prison.

A symbolic image of Oliver, imprisoned since 2014 for violating Cameroon’s law against homosexual activity. Photos are not allowed in Yaoundé’s central prison.

By Steeves Winner

Olivier, age 26, has been living since Sept. 25, 2014, in the central prison of Yaoundé.

Originally from the Central Cameroon region, he is a large young man with a dark complexion, shy, perceptive and ambitious.

He was trained in the restaurant business at a young age, with financial support from his mother.  (That was long before he came out.) Fatherless, he was always strongly influenced by his mother, who pushed him to excel in his education.

From a Christian family, he grew up in fear of God. He went through a very difficult time when he began to realize his sexual orientation. When he came out at age 17, he felt misunderstood, rejected and abused by his family.

He endured that for three years, then left home to settle with his friend, Albert, and open a little restaurant together.

All went well until a homophobic neighbor complained to police. Albert and Olivier were arrested, charged, and convicted of homosexuality.

In four years, Olivier has not seen his family except one prison visit by his mother. He says:

“I feel exhausted. My life has been ruined.

“My dream was to persevere in my business so I could eventually open a great restaurant on my own. Is it still possible? I don’t know.

“Reviving my restaurant would be the best reintegration strategy for me. But I have no funding and no support.

“I will need to find housing because my family will never let me return home.

“For now, first I’d like to get myself out of this hell. Then I will see if I can find a way to  settle outside the city of Yaounde. Here the people who know me discriminate against me.”

That’s what remains of the ambitions of a young man whose dream has been broken.

Steeves Winner, the author of this article, is an activist for LGBTI rights in Cameroon who writes under a pseudonym. Contact him at steeves.w@yahoo.com.

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Homosexuality is not illness, says Indian Psychiatric Society

While the Indian Supreme Court ponders whether to overturn the country’s law against same-sex intimacy, the Indian Psychiatric Society has taken a stand on homosexuality: “Stop considering homosexuality as an illness,” it said.

Protest targeting India's anti-gay law, Section 377 (Mujeeb Faruqui photo courtesy of Hindustan Times)

Protest targeting India’s anti-gay law, Section 377 (Mujeeb Faruqui photo courtesy of Hindustan Times)

“It should have been done 20 years ago, but I am glad they have come up with it now,” said one LGBTQ activist in Mumbai. Indeed, it’s a position that other mental-health professionals adopted decades ago.

The American Psychiatric Society did so in 1973.

“All major professional mental health organizations have gone on record to affirm that homosexuality is not a mental disorder,” says that American professional society. (For more information, see “‘Ex-gay therapy’: What reputable experts have to say.“)

The Hindustan Times reported earlier this month:

Stop treating homosexuality as an illness, says Indian Psychiatric Society

In 2016, IPS had set up a group to deal with issues faced by members from lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer community.

Ajit Bhide, president of the Indian Psychiatric Society, discussed the society's declaration that homosexuality is not an illness. Click the image to watch the video.

Ajit Bhide, president of the Indian Psychiatric Society, discussed the society’s declaration that homosexuality is not an illness. Click the image to watch the video.

For the first time, Indian Psychiatric Society (IPS), country’s largest body of mental health professionals, announced its official stance on homosexuality. The society has asked its members to ‘stop considering homosexuality as an illness’.

In 2016, IPS set up a group to deal with issues faced by members from lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer (LGBTQ) community. But it is now that the organisation made an official statement on homosexuality. The announcement is important because some psychiatrists have been allegedly practising ‘conversion therapies’ to ‘cure’ their patients of homosexuality. The IPS has around 5,000 members.

Dr Ajit Bhide, IPS president, in a video uploaded on social media, said most respectable psychiatric societies have removed homosexuality from nomenclature of mental illness.

He added;

“It is a step in the right direction and is backed by plenty of scientific proof. Some individuals are just not cut out to be heterosexuals and we don’t need to castigate them, we don’t need to punish them, we don’t need to ostracise them. Mental health professionals are largely oriented to accepting this as a variation rather than an aberration of nature. Whatever your sexual orientation, whatever your sexual preference, as long as no other party is being hurt, an individual should be allowed to practice whatever he wants.”

Dr Kersi Chavda, chairperson of IPS task force, which deals with emotional issues faced by members of LGBTQ community, said, “This statement is our official stand on homosexuality, that it’s not a disease and should not treated like one. This is the first time we have released an official stand.”

Doctors and LGBTQ activists have welcomed the statement and are hopeful that it will prevent doctors from practising ‘conversion therapies’ to seek to change a person’s sexuality.

“This is for the first time that IPS has publicly clarified its stand on homosexuality. Now, they must inform all IPS members to stop practising conversion therapies that range from brainwashing, hormonal treatments, electroconvulsive therapy and lot of religious and philosophical indoctrination,” said Dr Bhooshan Shukla, a Pune-based psychiatrist, who along with eleven other colleagues aided with the petitioners to decriminalise homosexuality in 2013.

Legal battle against Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), which criminalises any form of sexual intercourse that is not penovaginal, irrespective whether it is consensual or not, is almost two decades old.

A petition filed in Delhi high court in 2001 by Naz Foundation, eventually led to the reading down of the section in 2009, such that it did not apply to consenting adults. The verdict was challenged by organisations representing Hindus, Christians and Muslims and in 2013, the Supreme Court reversed Delhi high court judgment. This was challenged and multiple curative petitions have been filed in the Supreme Court.

Vikram Doctor, activist associated with Gay Bombay, a city-based LGBTQ support group started in 1991, said it was high time the society made its stand clear.  “It should have been done 20 years ago, but I am glad they have come up with it now.”  …

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Gay Cameroon inmate is eager to get back to songs and dance

Eric, a gay singer/dancer in the capital city of Cameroon, is more than half-way through his prison sentence for homosexuality and eager to get out to resume his singing and dancing career.

Cameroon's location in west-central Africa

Cameroon’s location in west-central Africa

This is the first of three articles about the three prisoners in Yaoundé, Cameroon, who are serving prison sentences for homosexuality. Under Article 347bis of Cameroon’s penal code, same-sex intimacy is punishable by a prison sentence of six months to five years.

By Steeves Winner

Since Jan. 24, Eric, age 24, has been locked in the central prison of Yaoundé.

He is a handsome, light-skinned young man of medium height with a deep look in his dark black eyes. He comes from a devout Roman Catholic family, but he is also a joker.

After obtaining a high school study certification, he halted his formal education for lack of money.  He became a dancer and cabaret singer.

Everything went well until the day when rumors about his sexual orientation spread through the neighborhood. He was a victim of being unwillingly outed. His parents were not surprised, he said, because he has effeminate manners and behavior.

Outed, Eric made a big change:

At that moment, I decided to leave home, because I could not stand how I was treated there. I was not forced out, but I was the victim of my family’s discriminatory attitudes.  Living there was a psychological pain. Because of my sexual orientation, I felt guilty and on the outs with my family.

Article 347bis [SEXUAL RELATIONS WITH… SAME SEX] ‘Whoever has sexual relations with a person of the same sex shall be punished with imprisonment from 6 (six) months to 5 (five) years

Symbolic image of Eric, a prisoner at the central prison in Yaoundé, Cameroon. Photos are not allowed in the prison.

My family did not agree to my departure, but I chose to leave for my own happiness, my peace of mind, and especially my freedom of conscience, because I did not like the fact that my sexual orientation was hurting my family.In October 2017, I settled down with a friend in a room we rented together. That  was in a neighborhood far from the family home.

Then, in the middle of the night on Jan. 21, 2018, police stopped me in the street after I had left the cabaret where I was singing. They searched me and found lubricating gel in my pockets. They seized my phone without legal authorization; on it they found naked pictures of me.

We argued. They took me to the police station and charged me with homosexuality.

I was held for three days at the police station without receiving a visit from anyone in my family, even though my roommate had called to tell them what had happened.

I appeared in district court on Jan. 24 and was ordered to be detained at Yaounde Central Prison pending trial.

Four months later, on April 10,  I was convicted and fined 38,000 CFA francs [about 58 euros or U.S. $68] and sentenced to eight months in prison, counting from Jan. 24.  My official release is scheduled for Sept. 24.

Eric has used his time behind bars for reflection and personal growth, he says.

But he has been the target of aggression and insults because of his effeminate behavior.

“We are not welcome in the midst of all these criminals,” Eric says. “I want to get out of this hell and revive my dream of  a singing career.”

When he is freed in September, he hopes he will be accepted by his family and allowed to return to his home. Whether that will happen remains to be seen, because no member of his family has visited him since he was imprisoned.

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Tunisian officials propose repeal of anti-gay law

An official presidential advisory committee in Tunisia has recommended repeal of the country’s anti-gay law.


Beji Caid Essebi, president of Tunisia (Photo courtesy of Reddit)

Beji Caid Essebi, president of Tunisia (Photo courtesy of Reddit)

NBC News reported:

The decriminalization of homosexuality was one of several progressive changes recommended to Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebi by the country’s Individual Freedoms and Equality Committee (also known by the acronym COLIBE), a presidential commission comprised of legislators, professors and human rights advocates.

In its final report, the committee also recommended abolishing the death penalty, giving women more rights and dismantling patrilineal citizenship and inheritance.

“Some laws pose an assault on the sanctity of individuals’ privacy, including their sexual relations,” the report, published earlier this month, states. The report specifically cites Article 230 of the country’s penal code, which criminalizes same-sex sexual activity.

Bochra Belhaj Hmida, a member of Tunisia’s parliament and the president of the COLIBE committee, told NBC News the report’s top recommendation regarding homosexuality “is the outright repeal of Article 230.” The committee did, however, propose a second option that would amend Article 230 by lowering the punishment from three years in prison to a cash fine of 500 dinars (around $200) and no risk of jail time.

“The state and society have nothing to do with the sexual life amongst adults … sexual orientations and choices of individuals are essential to private life,” the COLIBE report states. “Therefore the commission recommends canceling [article 230], since it violates the self-evident private life, and because it has brought criticism to the Republic of Tunisia from international human rights bodies.” …

According to Bouhdid Belhedi, executive director of Tunisian LGBTQ rights group Association Shams, gay Tunisians face not only government discrimination but also “discrimination based on sexual orientation at the social level.”

“Family rejection, violence in public spaces, violence within families, suicide … and issues that affect institutional rights such as access to justice and access to public service,” are also issues impacting the country’s LGBTQ population, said Belhedi, who added that he is pessimistic about Tunisia repealing article 230.

While Tunisia has a long way to go in order to reach equal rights for LGBTQ people and women, its post-revolution government has pursued more aggressive human rights and equality legislation over the past several year. In 2016, Tunisia passed a bill that calls for gender parity in elections. The country already has the highest percentage of women legislators of any Arab parliament.

Like Belhedi, [Neela Ghoshal, acting director of the LGBTQ rights program at Human Rights Watch] said she is not optimistic about the chances for a full repeal of article 230. However, she said the COLIBE report “provides fuel for the dynamic LGBT rights movement in Tunisia, and it will strengthen activists’ message that it is time for change.”

For more information, read the full article, “Tunisian presidential committee recommends decriminalizing homosexuality.”

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Kenya: Death threats follow refugees’ successful Pride

Last weekend’s successful first-ever Pride at Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya attracted hundreds, but the camp’s LGBTI residents now fear for their lives.

Scene from Pride at Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya. (Photo courtesy of Rainbow Flag Kakuma)

Scene from Pride on Saturday, June 16, at Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya. (Photo courtesy of Rainbow Flag Kakuma)

Gay Star News reported:

Despite the success, two LGBTI refugees were violently attacked after the Pride parade

The first pride parade held in one of the world’s biggest refugee camps was a remarkable success despite being marred in violence.

About 200 people attended the different Pride events at the Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya.

Kenyan government officials and representatives from the United Nations attended the events which featured a trans fashion show and pride parade.

About 200 LGBTI refugees live in the camp. They come mainly from Uganda, but all have fled persecution in their home countries for their sexuality or gender identity.

Mbazira Moses of the advocacy group Rainbow Flag Kakuma organised the event and is a refugee himself.

Moses faced threats and homophobia in the lead up to the Pride celebrations.

He is proud of how everything went even though some spectators threatened them with violence.

While Moses hoped the visibility would help raise awareness and acceptance of the camp’s LGBTI population but it seems to have had the opposite effect.

‘The event started with a (soccer) match around Kakuma in the morning,’ Moses told Gay Star News.

‘It was successfully attended by 180 of the LGBTIQ refugees and they were joined by many other refugees in the camp who didn’t know about the event. They initially embraced it but later on proved to be violent.’

Trans model at Kakuma Pride. (Photo courtesy of Rainbow Flag Kakuma)

Trans model at Kakuma Pride. (Photo courtesy of Rainbow Flag Kakuma)

The refugees who turned violent started yelling at the Pride participants and according to Moses, spit at them and also tried to throw dirt on the trans models.

Security who had been hired for the event, manage to keep the violent refugees under control.

But later on in the day a group of refugees at the camp allegedly attacked a lesbian and trans refugee. The lesbian received serious lacerations to her heel. The trans woman is in hospital getting treatment after the attackers punched her in the stomach.

Despite the violence, Moses said he’s happy and grateful how the first Pride event at Kakuma refugee camp turned out.

NBC News reported:

Following pride event, Kenya’s gay refugees fear for their lives

Approximately 600 people showed up for the first pride event held at one of the world’s largest refugee camps.

The Kakuma Refugee Camp in northwestern Kenya held its first LGBTQ pride event on Saturday, but now the event’s organizers are in fear for their lives.

Posted warning to LGBTI refugees at Kakuma Camp in Kenya contains death threat:

Posted warning to LGBTI refugees at Kakuma Camp in Kenya contains death threat: “If you don’t leave the camp, we are going to kill you one by one.” (Photo courtesy of Rainbow Flag Kakuma)

After the event, which organizers said drew approximately 600 people, threatening messages were “pinned all over the camp on notice boards,” according to Mbazira Moesa [also known as Mbazira Moses], a Ugandan refugee and one of the event’s organizers.

Moesa said he does not know who wrote and posted the threats — which warned LGBTQ refugees to “leave the camp” or “we are going to kill you one by one” — but he said they made him “anticipate danger that may happen to me and all the LGBTIQ refugee members in Kakuma Refugee Camp.”

Kakuma, one of the largest refugee camps in the world, was established in 1992 and is run by the U.N. Refugee Agency. The camp, along with its 2015 expansion site, the Kalobeyei Integrated Settlement, have a cumulative population of about 185,000 people, according to refugee agency. The refugees and asylum-seekers living at the two sites come from 19 countries, though more than half are South Sudanese.

Moesa said he was inspired to organize Saturday’s pride event along with other members of Refugee Flag Kakuma to address “the ignorance” and “myths” about LGBTQ people among the camp’s residents. Moesa said the Kakuma camp is “mainly populated by Islamic settlers and refugees” from South Sudan, Somalia and Ethiopia who are intolerant of homosexuality.

While he considered Saturday’s turnout “huge,” Moesa said homophobic violence at the event led to a lesbian and a transgender person sustaining “serious injuries.”

Despite that, Moesa said he hopes Kakuma has a pride event next year and “every year” after that.

Moesa, 25, said he left Uganda — one of the world’s most notoriously anti-gay countries — in 2016 following multiple arrests and beatings by law enforcement due to his sexuality. He recalled an August 2016 incident in which police raided a gay social event at a bar in the Ugandan capital, Kampala, that finally made him flee his home country. …

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How Caribbean courts and LGBT activists nudge us toward justice

As courts strike down anti-sodomy laws across the Caribbean, the region’s governments have been freed to embrace LGBTI rights, says Jamaican/Canadian activist Maurice Tomlinson.

Map of the Caribbean shows Guyana at lower right and Jamaica at center left. (Map courtesy of Caribbean Association of Pharmacists)

Map of the Caribbean shows both Belize, at left, and Trinidad & Tobago, at lower right — two nations where courts have struck down anti-sodomy laws. (Map courtesy of Caribbean Association of Pharmacists)

On June 5 the 48th General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS) adopted another resolution on Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Expression.  This is the 10th anniversary of such a resolution, which had met with strong opposition when it was first introduced in 2008. However, in a wonderful reversal one of the states that had initially sought to block the resolution, Belize, was this year a proud co-sponsor! This remarkable result was due to the hard work of many activists as well as a successful court challenge.

There have been many changes since that first ground-breaking resolution, which initially only condemned violence against LGBT people. Among other things, the language has progressively become stronger and now also condemns discrimination against LGBT people. This has prompted a broader discussion on all aspects of discrimination, including laws that criminalize same-sex intimacy, which are present in nine Anglophone Caribbean countries.

Logo of the Organization of American States (OAS).

Logo of the Organization of American States (OAS).

These countries and other members of the 15-nation Caribbean Community (CARICOM) nearly scuttled the first resolution in 2008 by announcing that as a bloc they would oppose it. As the 35-nation OAS tries to work by consensus, opposition from the CARICOM bloc would have been fatal to the resolution. However, after intense lobbying by Caribbean activists (including yours truly) this bloc was broken and the first resolution passed. Caribbean nations have subsequently included footnotes expressing reservations about aspects of the resolution (such as language relating to trans identity) but these states have not been able to mount another credible effort to block the resolution’s adoption.

Belize criminalized same-sex intimacy up until 2016 and as such was opposed to the first resolution. But, their position changed significantly after a successful court challenge brought by tenacious Belizean activist Caleb Orozco, which struck down the archaic anti-sodomy law. Caleb was one of the Caribbean activists lobbying for the resolution in 2008, along with other members of the OAS LGBTTTI coalition [the Coalition of Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, Transgender, Transsexuals, Travestis and Intersex people of Latin America]. This coalition that now has over 50 civil society organizations from across the Americas (including my own organization, the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network) is working within the Inter-American human rights system to achieve the full realization of LGBTI human rights across the hemisphere.

Belize activist Caleb Orozco

Belize activist Caleb Orozco

Belize’s U-turn on this year’s resolution shows the powerful impact that legal challenges to anti-sodomy laws can have. The Anglophone Caribbean countries that enter reservations to the resolution usually claim that the document runs counter to their own domestic law. At the same time, the governments of these countries are simply too afraid of powerful right-wing religious lobby groups (many of which are supported by American churches and are becoming more visible at the OAS) to repeal these statutes. Since the parliament of The Bahamas struck down their anti-sodomy law in 1991, no other CARICOM legislature has followed suit. So, the courts have to do the job that the politicians are too timid to take on.

After Belize’s sweeping court decision a court in Trinidad has also jettisoned that country’s anti-sodomy law. Legal challenges have also been launched in Jamaica and Barbados supported by the Legal Network, including a petition to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, which is an arm of the OAS.

Although non-binding on states, the resolution has prompted some significant initiatives by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to protect LGBTI people. These include the establishment of a special rapporteur on LGBT human rights and a report on violence against LGBTI people.

The OAS resolution was also the precursor to a similar one at the UN, which also created the first independent expert (IE) on sexual orientation and gender identity.  The current IE is from Costa Rica and was very active in the process for the original OAS resolution.

The work of protecting LGBT human rights in the Americas is far from complete and the rise in populism across the hemisphere coupled with increased activism by anti-rights religious groups poses significant threats to the gains that have been made. However, as courts strike down anti-sodomy laws across the Caribbean this will free their governments to join the cause for equality. I therefore look forward to a day when the OAS resolution on Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Expression is unanimously sponsored by all of CARICOM. I hope that it will not take us another ten years to get there.

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Cameroon: Attacks hit new group for LBTQ women

Two homophobic attacks have injured leaders of the new LBTQ advocacy group Women in Front Cameroon.

This is a translation of a June 13 press release from the organization:

Homophobic attacks on two lesbian activists in Cameroon

Logo of Women in Front Cameroon

Logo of Women in Front Cameroon

Renée and Soltera are two leaders of the association Women in Front Cameroon, which works for sexual and reproductive health and lesbian, bisexual, trans * and queer human rights in Yaoundé, Cameroon.

Renée is the association’s president; Soltera is its administrator. They are committed activists who have been working on behalf of LGBTQ Cameroonians since 2012.

To response to the needs of lesbian, bisexual, trans and queer women and girls, in 2014 they created an informal organization to work specifically for the LBTQ women and girls. In May 2018, the association was legally organized as Women in Front Cameroon (WIFC).

The facts:

For more than a year, Renée and Soltera have been facing insults, intimidation and death threats from the son of their deceased landlord, who wants to evict them from their home on the grounds of their sexual orientation. When they refused to leave, he savagely assaulted them at home and beat them with a thick board. He ignorantly declared that, as lesbians, they must die because they are witches.

After his crime, the man escaped, carrying with him the murder weapon and leaving the victims in terrible suffering, including various bruises, a broken arm and a broken hand.

The attacker returned at night three days later with accomplices who were armed with knives and iron bars. Their goal was to “finish off the witches.” They chased Renée and Soltera through the neighborhood. Had it not been for the intervention of a few neighbors, they would surely have been stabbed or even killed.

Renée and Soltera received emergency medical services for their injuries, as well as psychological counseling. They also started legal proceedings with the help of a lawyer.

The current situation:

Currently, their attacker and one of his accomplices are incarcerated. Unfortunately, his other accomplices are still at liberty and the victims continue to live in fear because the death threats.

They have received financial assistance toward their medical care from the LGBTQ association where they work and from some WIFC members.

They still need money to pay for relocation outside the neighborhood for security reasons, continuing medical and psychological help, lawyer’s fees and transportation related to the ongoing investigation.

Today, they do not know where to go. They are barricaded in their home, fearing for their lives because the attackers threatened to kill them and inflict terrible suffering.

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‘Please tweet’: June 17 plea by Turkey’s LGBT Iranian refugees

A group of 700 or more Iranian refugees who are stranded in Turkey are seeking international recognition and relief. Their latest plan: An international Twitter storm tomorrow, June 17, at 12:30 pm Eastern Time in the U.S., 4;30 p.m. London time, and 9 p.m. Iran time.

IranianRefugees in Turkey 6 2018

Supporters are asked to use the hashtag #SaveLGBTRefugeesInTurkey.

The refugees are also seeking signatures on their online petition to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and other world leaders, asking for immediate asylum. The petition, which currently has more than 1,400 signatures, asks countries to “urgently start interviewing and processing the abandoned Iranian LGBT refugees in Turkey and bring them to safety as soon as possible.”

For more information about Iranian LGBT asylum seekers in Turkey, read the text of that petition, including statements such as:

They are forced to get employed in the black-market, where the LGBTI individuals are subject to abuse, sexual harassment, exploitation, and then, large amounts of fines that they have to pay to the police authorities for working underground. When found doing under the table jobs, many have been jailed and some have faced deportation by Turkish immigration and police, which is against the UN convention refugee act.

Anonymous participants in Iran's Pride celebration in 2010.

Anonymous participants in Iran’s Pride celebration in 2010.

Unlike other refugees from Iran and other countries who are welcomed into the satellite cities and its job market, the LGBTI refugees are isolated and are shunned from the job market. The LGBTI individuals are considered untouchable and dirty for the Muslim community that believe if touched by the LGBT, their money would become Haram (ill-gotten)….

Many of us are educated, skilled and creative men and women, struggling to survive in Turkey, but our lives are being wasted here. Please give us a chance to live whatever is left of our lives in peace and dignity in a safe environment where waking up every day wouldn’t be a nightmare. We did not leave our countries to come and live here in these conditions endlessly, nor did we leave in the greed of going to a western country. We were compelled to do so just because of the persecution we faced in our own country.

Also read The New Yorker’s “The L.G.B.T. Refugees in Turkey Who Refuse to Be Forgotten”. These are excerpts from that article:

Ali [an activist LGBT Iranian refugee] estimates that between seven and eight hundred L.G.B.T. refugees are now stuck in Turkey without the prospect of resettlement. Most of them are from Iran, with some from Iraq, Afghanistan, and other countries in the Middle East. Over the past couple of years, as their hopes of finding a home in the world have dwindled, their life in Turkey has grown harder.

Ali was careful to again acknowledge that things are hard for all refugees—all of them have to fend for themselves; all face ever-increasing bureaucratic hurdles to securing work permits; all face increasing impatience, and sometimes hostility, from local residents. Still, Ali said, “if we were from a war-torn country and we entered Turkey, we would be safe in Turkey because there is no war here. But we are fleeing homophobic and transphobic attacks, and we face them here.”

Logo of the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.

Logo of the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.

The U.N.H.C.R. assigns refugees to small towns in Turkey, where they are expected to stay as long as they are in the country; the Turkish authorities require them to check in weekly in their assigned town. Far from the thriving queer scene in Istanbul, small towns and cities in Turkey tend to be socially conservative, and have grown only more so during the country’s recent political crackdown. Ali told me that, during the first ten days of June, five L.G.B.T. refugees were attacked in Yalova, a small coastal city on the Sea of Marmara where many of Istanbul’s secular élite historically kept summer homes. One of the victims, a trans woman, had to be hospitalized for three days following a stabbing. This is not unusual, Ali said: “People are beaten up, raped, gang-raped.” …

Earlier this month, a number of the L.G.B.T. refugees gathered to try to figure out what to do. “After losing hope for U.S. resettlement, we see that there is no option ahead of us,” Ali said. “We decided to show our own desperation.” This was no small decision. Under the provisions of the state of emergency that has been in effect in Turkey for nearly two years, protest is effectively banned. Refugees have every reason to fear being deported if they protest.

Such was their despair, however, that, on June 4th, several of the refugees went to the offices of the Association for Solidarity with Asylum Seekers and Migrants, a Turkish organization that is largely funded by the European Union, in two cities—Yalova and Denizli—and stood in silent protest. They held placards with summaries of their stories (“Gay refugee. 5 years. 60 months. 240 weeks. 1680 days. Still in Turkey. Future: uncertain!!!”) and slogans (“We demand urgent resettlement of all LGBT refugees to a safe country!!”). More than two hundred of the refugees also signed a petition addressed to European, North American, and international officials. The online version of the petition is titled “Save LGBT refugees in Turkey who are abandoned in unsafe conditions for years with no help.”

For all the courage the protest took, it received no media coverage. A few days later, Ali reached out to me. “We are requesting the world to help us reach to safety before its too late,” he wrote.

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Source: 76crimes