Plea to to Pope: Restrain Cameroon’s gay-bashing Catholics

In Cameroon, a recent resurgence of anti-LGBTI rhetoric from the Catholic Church has come in for criticism from the Douala-based advocacy group Alternatives-Cameroon, which fights Aids and supports human rights for sexual minorities.  In this press release, Alternatives-Cameroon asks Pope Francis to intervene:

Cameroon: The Catholic Church continues to preach hate

Cardinal Christian Tumi, retired archbishop of Douala: Homosexuality is "a threat to the human race.” (Photo courtesy of LeffortCamerounais.com)

Cardinal Christian Tumi, retired archbishop of Douala: Homosexuality is “a threat to the human race.” (Photo courtesy of LeffortCamerounais.com)

Media releases and speeches from dignitaries of Cameroon’s Catholic Church in recent weeks have become even more radical with respect to homosexuality. The latest example came during the meeting of the National Episcopal Conference of Cameroon, held in Batouri on Jan. 12, 2016, during which churchmen prescribed “zero tolerance” for homosexuality.

The facts

The National Episcopal Conference of Cameroon held a meeting on Jan. 12 in Batouri, bringing together the bishops of Cameroon. This resulted in a unanimous appeal from the bishops to all Catholics to exhibit “good morality” by blocking the way to homosexuality, on the grounds that “this abominable thing that goes against nature risks becoming a social outbreak.”

We recalled that during the Synod on the Family, held a few months ago, the same prelate declared homosexuality to be a threat to the family. Cardinal Tumi [Cardinal Christian Tumi, the retired archbishop of Douala] even declared that homosexuality was a “threat to the human race.” Catholic lawyers depicted homosexuality to be a clinical pathology that should attract the attention of different hospitals.

The Catholic Church failed to demonstrate how an individual’s sexuality could influence social cohesion and equilibrium or the sustainability of the family. To the contrary, we believe an individual’s sexual fulfilment can’t help but contribute to cohesion, stability and sustainability.

With this hypocritical and hateful language condemning homosexuality, the Catholic Church (which accounts for about 37 percent of the Christian population) is contributing yet again to the destabilization of society and the family and their cohesion.

Pope Francis (Photo courtesy of Sourcefed.com)

Pope Francis (Photo courtesy of Sourcefed.com)

This Church wants more than ever to set Cameroonians against each other, ignoring its mission to promote love, tolerance and peace. Has history not taught it a lesson? From slavery to the Holocaust to the Rwandan genocide — now it’s the turn of homosexuals.

If Pope Francis seems to have a more conciliatory approach to the subject, it is clear he is struggling to implant this approach within the church he leads.

We — Alternatives Cameroun — say “NO” to this institutionalization of hatred in the Catholic Church.

We call on the Catholic Church to fulfill its primary mission to promote peace, love and tolerance and finally to be at the sides of the oppressed and those left behind.

Finally, we call on Pope Francis (the head of the Catholic Church) to get control of the Cameroonian prelate, including the bishops of the National Episcopal Conference, and to harmonize the discourse of the Church.

Posted in Africa, Africa (Sub Saharan), Faith and religion | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Europe’s parliament cites human rights abuses in Crimea

The European Parliament’s Intergroup on LGBT Rights reports:

European Parliament gravely concerned over situation LGBTI people in Crimea

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Map shows the locations of Crimea, Ukraine and Russia. (Map courtesy of GeorgetownSecurityStudiesReview.org)

Map shows the Black Sea and the coasts of Crimea, Ukraine and Russia. (Map courtesy of GeorgetownSecurityStudiesReview.org)

Last Thursday, the European Parliament adopted a resolution on the human rights situation in Crimea and the severe restrictions on the freedoms of expression, association and peaceful assembly.

The resolution starts out by strongly condemning “the unprecedented levels of human rights abuses perpetrated against Crimean residents” (paragraph 2) following the Russian annexation.

Zooming in on LGBTI rights, the resolution “[e]xpresses its grave concern regarding the situation of LGBTI people in Crimea” and adds that this has “substantially worsened” following the occupation.

It highlights furthermore, that the Parliament is alarmed about “repressive action and threats by the de facto authorities and paramilitary groups” (paragraph 17).

All LGBTI organisations and facilities in Crimea have had to cease their activities, due to the Russian federal law banning ‘homosexual propaganda’ as well as repression and threats from occupation authorities and paramilitary groups.

Tanja Fajon (Photo courtesy of Sarajevo Times)

Tanja Fajon: “Many see no other option than leaving the peninsula.” (Photo courtesy of Sarajevo Times)

Tanja Fajon MEP, Vice-President of the European Parliament Intergroup on LGBTI Rights, reacted:

“I am deeply concerned about the situation for LGBTI people in Crimea. With homophobic rhetoric coming from the highest levels, and violence going completely unpunished, it is no wonder that many see no other option than leaving the peninsula.”

“As an occupying power, Russia has a responsibility to ensure the safety of the whole population, including LGBTI people. I call on the EU Member States, the European Commission and the Council of Europe to maintain pressure on Russian authorities.”

Fabio-Massimo Castaldo MEP, also Vice-President of the LGBTI Intergroup, added: “The Parliament has emphasized the importance of ensuring the human rights of the whole population, including LGBTI people.”

For more information, read:

Posted in Europe, Harassment / murders, International pressure for LGBT rights | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Death of a Ugandan refugee; advice for those he left behind

John Paul Mulumbi (Photo courtesy of Sebaspace)

John Paul Mulumbi (Photo courtesy of Sebaspace)

The LGBT-friendly Sebaspace blog has tough advice for LGBT Ugandan refugees in Kenya, inspired by the sad recent death of refugee John Paul Mulumbi.

The blog states:

“Life’s tough … for the Ugandans who’re claiming LGBT asylum in Kenya and, without a proper income, strict medication adherence and no firm economic and social anchor, John Paul’s end was as tragic as it was predictable.”

A brief version of Mulumbi’s life and death, as presented by Sebaspace:

“John Paul seems to have been hit from all sides before he eventually succumbed and slipped away. While still in Uganda, he had acted in some awful porn movies some years back. Then he went to Kenya and sought asylum, hoping to be relocated to a friendlier clime. Reports suggest that his HIV status was a stumbling block in his attempts to be resettled. As he had done in Uganda, he resorted to sex for money, which likely led to depression because sex workers are more used and abused than respected everywhere in Africa.”

The blog’s advice for LGBT refugees in Kenya is:

Do your homework: It is true that some countries, for instance Australia, have dropped resettlement applicants when they learn of their HIV status. It is thus important that you do your homework and, wherever possible, try to find ways of being relocated to more friendly countries to those afflicted with HIV. For example, since 2010 the Obama administration dropped automatic inadmissibility into the USA on the basis of HIV status so that is one of the more friendly countries to HIV+ asylum applicants.

Take care of your health, including medication: If you are HIV+ and are on medication, you must adhere to your regimen. Cut back on non-essentials, reduce your discretionary expenditure until you have taken care of your health because no one else will do it for you.

Jobs are hard to find; sex workers are often exploited: Jobs are difficult to come by in Kenya, just as they were in Uganda where you fled from. You should have known this before you boarded that bus to Kenya and prepared yourself mentally for a life of hardship while your asylum application was being processed. Kenyans understandably employ their own, so don’t take it personally if they overlook you for their own. You would do the same in Uganda.

That said, before you resort to sex work, remember that it is going to lead you into the murky world of being exploited, used and abused and likely also lead to depression which can be a slippery slope to losing your life. Sex workers everywhere in Africa face tough conditions so you will not find any different treatment in Kenya. Explore other ways of earning some money, without however, abrogating the conditions of your asylum status because that could also affect your chances of relocation.

Behave: You know it is true that some Ugandan LGBTs have been involved in repeated cases of indiscipline in Kenya; throwing raucous gay parties in rented accommodations, making scenes in bars and on the streets, muscling in on Kenyan gays’ relationships, and generally carrying on as if they went to Kenya to be divas. The result has been enmities and jealousies created, brawls in public places, brushes with the law, … you name it … a lot of which has been reported to the UNHCR and the Kenyan authorities. You will be your own worst enemy if you continue with that kind of recklessness, and you must be prepared to pay the price if you don’t desist from such destructive behavior.

Don’t look for an easy life: A number of you have notified me that you were offered relocation to countries such as the United States and you rejected them, opting instead to wait for “more friendly” offers from Sweden or Norway for instance. The reason for this is that apparently word had gotten to you that Sweden provided softer landings than the USA. You’d found out that in Sweden or Norway refugees got full welfare provisions for two years, they didn’t work while they were learning the language culture and basic courses. In contrast, the USA paid limited initial rent and food stamps, and then you had to take any job to fend for yourself.

Listen up and listen up carefully:

You must change that type of foolish entitlement mentality. Many of you have fled Uganda for Kenya, with little or no money, limited education and skills to do anything professional right off the bat. You cannot thus also expect to be looked after by the taxpayers of other countries until you decide you are ready to start working. You ought to be grateful if you can start working “yesterday” at any job. The world doesn’t owe you a living simply because you are a refugee or homosexual and so you must desist from looking for ways to live as a jigger.

For more information, read the full article in Sebaspace, entitled “An LGBT death in Kenya to wake up the living.”

Posted in Africa, Africa (Sub Saharan), Deportation / asylum, HIV / AIDS, International pressure for LGBT rights | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Akwaaba! (Welcome!), says Ghana — but not if you’re gay

By Yaw Amanfoh

Sign at Ghana International Airport makes clear that LGBTIQ people are not welcome.

Sign at Ghana International Airport makes clear that LGBTIQ people are not welcome. They’re called “sexual deviants” and lumped in with pedophiles.

“Wecome!! Akwaaba!!” says the sign at Accra International Airport. In the photo, taken in 2010, the mixed message is framed by a traditional kente print.

It starts off with a warm welcome, then quickly reverts to the hatred of “sexual deviants.”

In the Ghanaian Criminal Code, Article 104 of Chapter 6 defines this “sexually aberrant behavior” as “unnatural carnal knowledge.” This means that Ghana  criminalizes same-sex intimacy between men. If men of sixteen years or older are caught having consensual sex, they can be sent to prison for that misdemeanor for up to three years. The law makes no distinction between  homosexuality and bestiality. Same-gender love between women isn’t criminalized under the law but is still highly discriminated against.

So, in the same breath, as Ghanaians extend their “akwaaba,” they also condemn and reject everyone with a queer identity, including Africans from the diaspora.

“Seeing this sign when going through customs stands out in my mind as one of my most vivid experiences in Ghana” says Robert Reid Drake, a white, queer-identified graduate from the University of North Carolina at Asheville.

Every summer, students from UNC-Asheville spend a month in Ghana to take a few classes and to explore the land of the Gold Coast. Reid says:

“I was well aware of Ghana’s anti-LGBT laws before arriving, but thinking about it in a classroom is something entirely different from being in a room, about to go on a month-long trip, and being directly confronted by it.

“It felt like ‘Okay…how are you going to process this, Reid? Is this something for me to feel personally outraged, saddened, attacked by? Or is this something that I need to wade through with the patience of an outsider?’”

Location of Ghana in West Africa

Location of Ghana in West Africa

Despite Reid’s inner conflicts and skepticism before and during the trip, Reid had a good time in Ghana, without raising the issue of how Ghana treats sexual minorities:

“I felt welcomed in Ghana. But I think that a lot of that was due to the fact that unless I intentionally inserted queerness, my own or otherwise, into the conversation, it went unconsidered and undiscussed.”

As a visitor from the United States, Reid knew that whiteness would be a dominant identity in Ghana. But Reid also thought that hidden queerness could be used to try “to remain in the moment and have genuine experiences.”

As a queer person in the United States, Reid’s aesthetic of “cut-off short-shorts and glitter makeup” is noticeable but not hazardous in the tolerant American town of Asheville, North Carolina. Reid felt the need to shelter that queer identity while in Ghana, where “queerness could [prohibit] access to so much” or potentially could result in harm.

This may simply be what’s required of  a person of LGBT+ identity visiting Ghana, or any country with anti-queer practices. In order for visiting queer Africans of the diaspora and varied ethnicities to be socially accepted in Ghana, they simply must “[go] back in the closet,” an experience that “holds different meaning for different people,” Reid suggests.

“It was kind of good to fall back inside it,” Reid says. The experience was actually enriching, Reid found, allowing critical analysis of  the identities of race, gender and sexuality in the U.S. versus in Ghana. For other people, unfortunately, it could mean a reeling back into depression or suicidal thoughts.

“I acted as straight as possible because I didn’t want attention drawn to me during my trip,” says Titi Adeniyi, a current student at UNC-Asheville who also went on the Ghana trip. “I felt it was of utmost importance to be as straight as possible and be vague of my sexual history as a female.”

Titi, a queer-identified Nigerian, acknowledges that the homophobia of Ghanaian society led to the decision to keep quiet about that queer identity.

Of course, homophobia isn’t a problem only for visiting queer individuals. “[My employer learned] information [about my] orientation and sacked me,” says Eddie, a lesbian living in Ghana who wants to remain anonymous for safety’s sake.

Eddie is no stranger to the process of switching from her queer persona to a  “straight” appearance. Around her queer friends and in comfortable spaces, Eddie doesn’t hide anything about herself. But when she is in the public eye, she “doesn’t even feel [safe]” and is “always in the closet.”

“I might be at risk if I show off my sexuality since [it’s] not accepted in my country,” she says.

That lack of acceptance is evident in the airport’s hate-filled message and in a Pew Research finding that  96% of Ghanaian citizens disapprove of homosexuality. Ghana, along with many other African countries, has a long way to go in recognizing human rights for all citizens and eradicating anti-queer practices.

Yaw Amanfoh is a Ghanaian-American, queer-identifying, gay man who recently graduated from the University of North Carolina at Asheville with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics.

Posted in Africa, Africa (Sub Saharan), International pressure for LGBT rights | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Same-sex affair in Morocco leads to 18 months in prison

Map of Morocco shows the locations of Casablanca and Tiznit. (Map courtesy of ikuska.com)

Map of Morocco shows the locations of Casablanca and Tiznit. (Map courtesy of ikuska.com and Encyclopedia Britannica)

Two young gay men were convicted of homosexuality on Feb. 1 and sentenced to 18 months in prison and a fine of 2,000 Moroccan dirham (about US$205), the Morocco World News reports.

That article stated:

The charges resulted after a 20-year-old from Casablanca who lives in Tiznit in southwestern Morocco went to the authorities to file a lawsuit against another person he claimed threatened him with knives.

After completing an investigation, the Royal Gendarmerie alleged that there was a secret homosexual relationship between the two young men that ended with threats of physical violence.

The Casablancan native revealed during police questioning that he had several homosexual relationships, mostly with men in Tiznit, but he retracted this confession once in court.

Article 489 of the Moroccan Penal Code punishes sexual activities between people of the same sex by prison terms of six months to three years. It also asserts that sexual relations out of wedlock are punishable by Moroccan law.

In June 2015, a daily Moroccan Arabic-language newspaper reported that Moroccan authorities arrested 20 homosexuals and transgender individuals.

The Towleroad news website also noted several previous arrests of LGBTI Moroccans:

In May of 2015, three men were jailed for gay sex in the country.

The police were tipped off by neighbors to two of the men, who were caught having sex in the workshop of one of the men who works as a professional mechanic. While detained the men said that they were introduced by a mutual friend, who was subsequently arrested and apparently admitted to also engaging in homosexual sex.

At that time  the LGBTI rights group Aswat renewed their push for the repeal of Article 489 with a manifesto signed by 50 Moroccan human rights activists, feminist activists, journalists, academics, writers, and others.

Unfortunately, there was a mob attack on a gay man just a few months later.

And just last month, authorities in Morocco arrested two men who were seen kissing in a video that went viral on social media. The men were arrested in the southeastern city of Inezgane after residents were reportedly outraged by what they deemed to be “immoral” behavior.

Posted in Africa, Middle East / North Africa, Trials / punishments | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Podcast seeks help telling stories of LGBTIQ Nigerians

Logo of the No Strings podcast

Logo of the No Strings podcast. (Click image to visit its fundraising site.)

No Strings, the Nigerian LGBTIQ podcast, is seeking support for its efforts to maintain and expand its coverage of the lives of the persecuted sexual minorities of Nigeria.

In a fundraising campaign on the Generosity crowdfunding site, No Strings founder and podcast host Mike Daemon states:

It’s a new year, marking another beginning of hard work for us here at NoStrings.

Let’s start by introducing the project:

NoStrings Podcast is a Nigerian LGBTIQ Advocacy Media Project that uses journalistic approaches to capture, investigate and report issues concerning the Nigerian LGBTIQ Community, seeking to educate and inform the general public about the subject of homosexuality in Nigeria, thus, giving the community its own unique true voice.

We are therefore using this opportunity to seek for support for NoStrings, as it is never easy operating under the tight homophobic condition here in Nigeria, with very little and limited financial assistance coming from individuals who believe and support the project.

We are seeking support to be able to continue with the NoStrings project, we will need help with the following:

Detail of the No Strings website.

Detail of the No Strings website.

  • Website upgrade: (We will soon run out of bandwidth as our listenership base has increased)
  • Buy a new additional podcast Microphone: (this is needed for live in-house recordings)
  • Production Speakers / Headphones:  (This will be used to master sound during its final stages of mixing and mastering podcast episodes)
  • 12-months Internet Data Subscription: (this will enable us continue to monitor our activities, upload episodes on our website and our other social media platforms)

We have estimated that $500 will take care of all the listed items above.

Whatever you can do, please do to help NoStrings continue to do more!!!

The Generosity site also reveals a bit about Daemon himself:

Mike Daemon is a Nigerian activist, with a passion in LGBTIQ rights activism, serving as the founder, host and the project coordinator for NoStrings, currently holding certifications in both journalism and broadcasting, with an extensive knowledge in the media.

For more information:

The No Strings podcasts, which can be streamed or downloaded, provide a voice for the LGBTIQ community in  Nigeria; they are the first of their kind in Nigeria. They are presented in the form of a traditional radio program that  chronicles the struggles, tells the stories, and reports on issues affecting the lives of LGBTIQ Nigerians.

Posted in Africa, Africa (Sub Saharan), Commentary, Positive steps | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

OK to block TV tolerance ad? Jamaican court will decide

The Jamaican Court of Appeal is in the midst of hearings on whether TV stations that serve the public have the right to refuse a public-service advertisement promoting tolerance of LGBTI people. The hearings, scheduled for Feb. 1 to Feb. 4, are described in this Feb. 1 press release from the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, which is supporting the appeal:

Jamaican gay activist challenges TV stations in court

Stations refused to air LGBTI tolerance ad; one station now withdrawing its defence

Feb. 1, 2016:

Scène de "L'amour et le respect" vidéo rejetée par les radiodiffuseurs jamaïcains. (Cliquez sur l'image pour voir la vidéo.)

Scene from the “Love and Respect” video, rejected by Jamaican broadcasters. (Click the image to watch the video.)

Today the Jamaican Court of Appeal will begin hearing a landmark case brought forward by Jamaican attorney and human rights activist Maurice Tomlinson. The case is challenging national television stations that refused to air a “tolerance ad” promoting respect for the human rights of LGBTI people. The original hearing, set for July 22–24, was rescheduled to allow the Attorney General’s office more time to prepare.

This landmark constitutional case is the first appeal in Jamaica to raise the issue of human rights of LGBTI people. It is also the first time the Court will consider how the rights protected under the 2011 Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms should apply against private corporations and not just the government. Notably, one of the TV stations won’t appear to defend its original decision refusing the ad, while the remaining station has dropped one of its main arguments that Jamaicans cannot sue private individuals, such as TV stations, for breaches of their constitutional rights.

The tolerance ad, produced by AIDS-Free World, features Tomlinson in conversation with leading Jamaican human rights advocate, Yvonne McCalla Sobers, who now also works in a group committed to providing shelter for homeless LGBTI youth. The ad itself simply calls on Jamaicans to love and respect their gay family members, and the Broadcasting Commission of Jamaica had confirmed it did not breach any of the country’s broadcasting regulations or standards. The ad can be viewed at https://youtu.be/AZwCW1LREXk. [Or by clicking the image above.]

Maurice Tomlinson displays the Jamaican flag. (Photo courtesy of Maurice Tomlinson via Facebook)

Maurice Tomlinson displays the Jamaican flag. (Photo courtesy of Maurice Tomlinson via Facebook)

“With this ground-breaking case on freedom of expression, we hope to chart a new course not only for LGBTI Jamaicans, but also for all those who want Jamaica’s constitution to deliver on its promise of protecting human rights,” says Tomlinson. Forced to flee his homeland because of homophobia he personally experienced, Tomlinson now works as a senior policy analyst with the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, which is supporting the appeal.

Stigma, discrimination and sometimes murderous violence remain pervasive threats to the health and human rights of LGBTI people in Jamaica, and consensual sex between men is punishable by 10 years’ prison with hard labour. Homophobia and transphobia force LGBTI Jamaicans underground, creating further barriers to HIV prevention, treatment and support services. Indeed, the Caribbean has the world’s second-highest HIV-prevalence rate following sub-Saharan Africa — and the highest prevalence of HIV among gay men and other men who have sex with men (MSM) in the Americas.

“We have young LGBTI Jamaicans living in desperate conditions on the streets. They are forced from their own homes by their families, and are harassed out of vacant spaces and even sewers. They have no place to go where they can feel safe and protected,” says McCalla Sobers. “This ad is only the first step in trying to change hostile attitudes toward LGBTI family members, classmates, co-workers and fellow citizens in Jamaica and around the world. All deserve the right to live freely and safely without discrimination.”

Tomlinson and AIDS-Free World originally filed the claim against Television Jamaica and CVM Television — the two largest private TV broadcasters in Jamaica — on the grounds that their refusal to air the ad violated the constitutional rights to freedom of expression and to disseminate information and ideas through the media. That claim was denied in late 2013 by the trial court, but Tomlinson chose to appeal that decision.

In his appeal, Tomlinson is arguing that the Court failed to sufficiently consider the role of TV stations in a healthy democracy. In Jamaica, private citizens are allowed to challenge other private citizens (including TV stations) for breaches of Charter rights — but this is the first appellate case to consider such a scenario.

The hearing takes place before the Jamaican Court of Appeal from February 1–4. For more information on the court case, see this Q&A document: http://www.aidslaw.ca/site/qa-on-jamaican-tv-ad-court-case/.– 30 –

The Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network (www.aidslaw.ca) promotes the human rights of people living with and vulnerable to HIV/AIDS, in Canada and internationally, through research and analysis, advocacy and litigation, public education and community mobilization. The Legal Network is Canada’s leading advocacy organization working on the legal and human rights issues raised by HIV/AIDS.

Posted in Americas, HIV / AIDS, International pressure for LGBT rights, Trials / punishments | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment