Jamaica youth minister to develop plans for LGBT homeless youth

Edited by Denis LeBlanc

LGBT youths living in drainage sewer system in New Kingston, Jamaica. (Click image for video.)

LGBT youths living in drainage sewer system in New Kingston, Jamaica. (Click image for video.)

The Jamaican Minister of Youth and Culture the Hon. Lisa Hanna announced on April 15 that the Youth Ministry is in the process of developing new services, initiatives and programmes to address the needs of Jamaica’s children and youth. These groups include youth with sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) issues.

The announcement appeared Wednesday, April 16, on the Facebook page of the Jamaican Ministry of Youth and Culture. Regrettably there was no reference to any timeline for the implementation of these plans to help Jamaica’s very vulnerable LGBT youth.  I hope this is not just another political platitude, like the Jamaican P.M.’s 2011 campaign promise to call for a Parliamentary review of the anti-sodomy law.  On April 3, the PM stated that this review would not happen any time soon as it did not affect “the majority of Jamaicans who are poor.

I suspect the April 15 meeting called by the Youth Minister and the subsequent announcement were the result of the work being done by Dwayne’s House to bring local and international attention to the barbaric conditions under which Jamaican homeless LGBT youth are forced to live.  Some of these youngsters were kicked out as young as 10 years old and are now living in the sewers of the capital city, Kingston, where they sell sex to survive.

The Chair of Dwayne’s House, Yvonne McCalla-Sobers, gave a presentation to the Minister and others at Tuesday’s meeting and provided an update on what Dwayne’s House is doing to assist the homeless LGBT youth.  These interventions include providing food and clothing as well as, arranging for basic medical care and coordinating legal assistance (e.g., finding legal aid lawyers, paying some small fines and posting bail).

The following was posted April 16th on the Facebook page of the Jamaican Ministry of Youth:

Youth Ministry to develop programmes to address LGBT youth, homeless, destitute and vulnerable children

Kingston, April 15, 2013: The Minister of Youth and Culture the Hon. Lisa Hanna has disclosed that the Youth Ministry is now in the process of developing new services, initiatives and programmes to address the ever- changing and complex needs of today’s children and youth. This, she says is necessary, if the Government is to adequately and effectively address the challenges, concerns and needs of the different types of youth the Ministry serves.

These groups include, but are not limited to, Lesbian, Gays, Bisexual and Transgender(LGBT) youth, Men who have sex with Men (MSMs) and youth with sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) issues.

The Youth Minister was speaking at the Panos Caribbean Stakeholder Conference held at the Terra Nova Hotel this morning, April 15, 2014.

” As the Minister of Youth and Culture, I’m responsible for all children and this is not to dismiss the individual and specific challenges of any grouping but to make it clear that we will have to do away with the hypodermic needle approach and develop and implement targeted interventions for each grouping”

Minister Hanna explained that given the lack of data on LGBT youth, the stakeholder consultation is  not only timely but necessary as it will provide the Ministry with a better understanding  of what the issues are. Additionally, the consultation will identify workable solutions and best practices on how to care and protect those young people who are homeless, destitute and vulnerable especially those belonging to a sexual minority or who are viewed as ‘different’ in any way.

“Jamaica has to now understand the issues facing our children. It is not only our duty provide shelter and protection for those children who have been abandoned and abused but to also provide the therapeutic intervention to address the physical and psychological harm they have suffered.”

Minister Hanna says given the diversity of our youth population, it is clear that the Government will not only have to rethink how they plan, develop and implement programmes geared towards youth development but there will also have to be a ‘resetting’ of the mind and of the way in which we treat each other.

The Stakeholders Consultation was sponsored by Panos Caribbean in collaboration with the World Learning Organization and USAID and was attended by members of the Ministry and the Inter-Ministerial Working Group on Children, Panos Caribbean, UNICEF, the Child Development Agency, OCR,Ministry of Health, Ministry of  Justice, Ministry of National Security, Ministry of Education, Board-chair of the Maxfield Children’s Home, JFLAG, Jamaica Youth Advocacy Network.

Enhanced by Zemanta
Posted in Americas, Human Rights, Positive steps | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Anti-gay Ethiopia eases away from new crackdown

Flag of Ethiopia

Flag of Ethiopia

Ethiopia has backed away from the latest plans for intensifying anti-gay repression there.

Plans for a large anti-gay rally in the capital on April 26 have been cancelled, the Associated Press reports.

In addition, government spokesman Redwan Hussein said plans have been dropped for adding homosexual activity to a list of crimes ineligible for a presidential pardon.

But the country remains hostile to LGBT people.  As one activist noted, “Although the government cancelled the rally and dropped the bill, there is still a lot of government surveillance and violence on the LGBT community. … People are very scared even to socialize.”

Dereje Negash, chairman of a religious group affiliated with the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, said the planned rally was cancelled after people inside the church asked the government to prevent it, AP reported.

Homosexual activity in Ethiopia is punishable with a prison sentence of one year or up to 10 years for sex workers or people who abuse a position of authority to encourage another into same-sex acts, according to ILGA’s 2013 report on anti-homosexuality laws worldwide.

Anti-gay organizations in Ethiopia, including the Ethiopian Inter-Religious Council Against Homosexuality (EICAH) and United for Life Ethiopia, last year proposed passage of a law that would impose the death penalty for homosexuals.

Redwan Hussein said  the government does not support anti-gay movements in Ethiopia.

“It is not a serious crime. Plus, it is not as widespread as some people suggest. It is already a crime and a certain amount of punishment is prescribed for it. The government thinks the current jail term in enough,” he said.

The AP also reported unsupported claims by church group chairman Dereje Negash about alleged threats by LGBT people, an increase in “gay tourism” to Ethiopia, and “hundreds of people” in Ethiopia turning away from homosexuality:

“Currently I’m being threatened by the gay community for organizing the rally. Despite the threat, I will continue to pursue my struggle against the gay community. I believe I have been given a task by God to do this. I will do this even if it means life or death,” Dereje said.

Dereje said his group is not seeking the harassment of gay people, but he wants Ethiopian law to increase punishments for gay sex. Dereje said that gay sex tourism is increasing in the country and he wants it stopped.

“We believe the gay people should be supported to get out of their bad life. We have helped hundreds of people to abandon gay acts so far,” he said.


Enhanced by Zemanta
Posted in Africa (Sub Saharan), Faith and religion, Harassment / murders | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

African LGBTI activists unite at Nairobi conference

Pan Africa ILGA conference site, March 2014.

Pan Africa ILGA conference site, March 2014. (Colin Stewart photo)

About 150 activists from throughout Africa  revived the continent’s LGBTI rights organization last month at a conference held in Nairobi, Kenya.

The conference of Pan Africa ILGA (PAI) provided a regional platform to discuss issues affecting LGBTI people in Africa, develop strategies to combat violence and discrimination of people on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, adopt a constitution for PAI and elect officers who will carry the work forward.

Delegates at the Pan Africa ILGA conference in Kenya in March 2014. (Colin Stewart photo)

Delegates at the Pan Africa ILGA conference in Kenya in March 2014. (Colin Stewart photo)

“The conference brought together Africa’s diversity in race, gender, regional representation, language and politics, resulting in rich conversations on how to move Africa’s sexual orientation and gender identity politics forward,” organizers said.

Conference sessions were conducted in English and in French, with simultaneous translation.

Workshops during the conference focused on topics including LGBTIQ refugees, media strategies in the quest for recognition of human rights, organizing on behalf of LGBTI people in rural communities, online advocacy and emotional support for LGBT people in the Middle East and North Africa, and the needs of French-speaking activists.

The Rev. Jide Macaulay, founder of the House of Rainbow Fellowship in Nigeria. (Colin Stewart photo)

The Rev. Jide Macaulay, founder of the House of Rainbow Fellowship in Nigeria. (Colin Stewart photo)

Many Christian and Muslim activists at the conference represented  religious organizations that welcome LGBTI people. An interfaith pre-conference focused on the work of the House of Rainbows in Nigeria, Ghana and London and of the new Global Interfaith Network (GIN), which held its first conference in South Africa in January. Workshops were also scheduled on “Islam: With or Against LGBTI,” Islamic fundamentalism, and “Reconciling  Spirituality with Sexuality,” including activist faith leaders from Algeria, Ghana, Kenya, Morocco, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Security was a concern, especially since some Kenya politicians had recently proposed that the country follow Uganda and Nigeria in passing harsh new anti-homosexuality laws, but conference organizers reported no  security breaches. For the conference’s security plan, they expressed appreciation  to UHAI  (the East African Sexual Health and Rights Initiative) and to the Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya (GALCK), as well as to the local host organization, Ishtar MSM, which provides HIV/AIDS outreach to men who have sex with men.

The following PAI board members were elected:

Co Chair (Male): Yahia Zaidi (Algeria, Belgium)
Co Chair (Female): Monica Tabengwa (Botswana, Kenya)
Co Chair Alternate (Male): Richard Lusimbo (Uganda)
Co Chair Alternate (Female): Akudo Oguaghamba (Nigeria)
Secretary: Anthony Oluoch (Kenya)
Treasurer: Caine Youngman (Botswana)
Supporting Board Member: Kholoud Bidak (Egypt)
Supporting Board Member: Bachir Ali Toudert (Algeria, South Africa)
Supporting Board Member: Samuel Opio (Uganda)
Supporting Board Member: Jabulani Pereira (South Africa)

For more information, see a statement about the PAI conference on the website of ILGA (the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association).

Enhanced by Zemanta
Posted in Africa (Sub Saharan), Faith and religion, International pressure for LGBT rights, Middle East / North Africa | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

India Supreme Court opens a path toward LGBTI rights

BuzzFeed reports:

Supreme Court of India

Supreme Court of India

A victory for transgender rights in India’s Supreme Court on Tuesday [April 15] may have rescued the country’s LGBTI movement from the brink of legal disaster.

For the past 12 years, the Indian LGBTI rights movement had pinned its hope to a challenge to the country’s colonial-era sodomy law, known as Section 377. In December, a two-judge panel of the Supreme Court dealt the effort a crushing defeat, overturning a ruling by the Delhi High Court that had found broad protections for LGBTI rights under the country’s constitution.

Tuesday’s decision, though, could flip the dynamic for lawyers trying to get the Supreme Court to reconsider the ruling in a petition now under consideration. Before Tuesday’s ruling, the Supreme Court basically would have to say that two of its judges committed a gross miscarriage of justice in order to overturn the sodomy law ruling, with very little foundation in Supreme Court jurisprudence. But with the new ruling on the table — which directly contradicted the sodomy ruling on several key points— it is instead being asked to reconcile two wildly divergent opinions of its own justices.

This doesn’t make the petition lawyers have filed in the sodomy law case a slam dunk for LGBTI advocates, but it is a lot easier to make their argument with two judges of the court on their side. And it arrives just in time to factor into the decision on whether to consider the petition at all.

After the court upheld the sodomy law in December, the Indian legal system left lawyers two last-ditch ways to get the ruling overturned. The first, what’s known as a review petition, was summarily dismissed by judges on January 28. Advocates are now awaiting to hear whether a new five-judge panel will consider the lawyers’ curative petition, a filing used to challenge violations of fundamental rights. The court is expected to announce this week or next whether it will consider arguments for a curative petition.

For more information, read the full article in BuzzFeed: “How A Trans Rights Ruling Could Save Gay Rights In India.”

Enhanced by Zemanta
Posted in Anti-LGBT laws and legislation, Asia, Trials / punishments | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Muslim-ruled Brunei OKs stoning for gay sex

Location of Brunei (on the island of Borneo)

Location of Brunei (on the island of Borneo)

The predominantly Muslim nation of Brunei has adopted a new penal code that calls for death by stoning for sexual crimes, including gay sex, adultery, rape and extramarital sexual relations, and for declaring oneself to be non-Muslim.

The United Nations human rights office appealed to Brunei to hold off enforcement of the new penal code, scheduled to take effect April 22.

Homosexual activity has long been a crime in Brunei, but the maximum punishment had been a 10-year prison sentence, as noted in ILGA’s 2013 edition of “State-Sponsored Homophobia” (PDF version).

This is the U.N. office’s statement:

11 April 2014 – The United Nations human rights office today voiced deep concern about the revised penal code in Brunei Darussalam [the Nation of Brunei, the Abode of Peace] which stipulates the death penalty for numerous offences, including robbery, adultery, and insult or defamation of the Prophet Mohammed, and introduces stoning to death as the specific method of execution for crimes of a sexual nature.

Rape, adultery, sodomy, extramarital sexual relations for Muslims, insulting any verses of the Quran and Hadith, blasphemy, declaring oneself a prophet or non-Muslim, and murder are the other offences for which the death penalty could be applied under the revised code, which is due to come into force on 22 April.

“Application of the death penalty for such a broad range of offences contravenes international law,” said Rupert Colville, spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

“We urge the Government to delay the entry into force of the revised penal code and to conduct a comprehensive review ensuring its compliance with international human rights standards,” he told a news conference in Geneva.

Noting that Brunei has maintained an effective moratorium on the use of the death penalty since 1957, OHCHR urged the Government to establish a formal moratorium and to work towards abolishing the practice altogether.

Among other measures, the revised code introduces stoning to death as the specific method of execution for rape, adultery, sodomy and extramarital sexual relations.

“Under international law, stoning people to death constitutes torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and is thus clearly prohibited,” stated Mr. Colville.

He added that a number of UN studies have also revealed that women are more likely to be sentenced to death by stoning, due to deeply entrenched discrimination and stereotyping against them, including among law enforcement and judicial officers.

The criminalization and application of the death penalty for consensual relations between adults in private also violates a whole host of rights, including the rights to privacy, to equality before the law, the right to health and freedom from arbitrary arrest and detention, Mr. Colville noted.

“The provisions of the revised penal code may encourage further violence and discrimination against women and also against people on the basis of sexual orientation,” he warned.

Enhanced by Zemanta
Posted in Anti-LGBT laws and legislation, Asia, Faith and religion | Tagged , , , | 5 Comments

Will UN goals exclude gays, lesbians and transsexuals?

English: Ban Ki-moon, South Korean politician

Ban Ki-moon, UN Secretary-General (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Advocates for women, LGBTI people and other disadvantaged people worldwide have launched a campaign to persuade the United Nations to ensure the inclusion of human rights and justice as it makes plans for post-2015 development.

Are gays, lesbians and transsexuals again going to be left out as the world is setting its priorities? So far in the process, there has been strong resistance to including and naming specific vulnerable groups that require human rights protection in the documents to be presented to the world’s leaders.

The goal articulated by hundreds of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) is to ensure that “no one is left behind” as the U.N. sets goals for action from 2015 onward.  How can this be done unless the vulnerable groups are specifically identified?

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has repeatedly promised to exclude “no one,” but the NGOs’ letter presented to the U.N states that sustainable development is impossible unless human rights are at its center as a foundational pillar of vibrant, equal and prosperous societies.”

Alessandra Cabral dos Santos Nilo delivered a strong statement a few days ago to the United Nations on human rights in the implementation of the Post-2015 Development Agenda.  She called for “a new cycle where human rights and justice will prevail” instead of a process too focused only on old-style economic growth while leaving behind the most vulnerable.

The U.N. is set to debate what comes next after the Millennium Development Goals. These included cutting extreme poverty by half, stopping the spread of HIV/AIDS and universal primary education.  Now the process is under way to plan goals for the world after 2015, in a process launched two years ago.

Over a million people from 88 countries have participated so far in creating a vision with key messages (“A Million Voices: The World We Want”) directed to the world’s leaders who will eventually decide the post-2015 agenda at the U.N.  Among the key messages to world leaders:

  • “People call for a new agenda built on human rights, and universal values of equality, justice and security. Better governance underpins many of their calls.
  • “The focus on concrete, measurable goals should be retained but measurement of progress needs to be improved. A data revolution will support an accountability revolution.”

We all have a stake in this process; goals and mechanisms will be adopted by the world’s nations which will affect us all for most of the next generation.

On April 9, 2014, Alessandra Cabral dos Santos Nilo co-founder and executive director of GESTOS, a human rights, democracy and AIDS NGO out of Recife, Brazil, spoke out at the U.N. in New York at the opening  joint session of the General Assembly and of the Economic and Social Council. In a hard-hitting statement, Alessandra spelled out what she meant by human rights and, in her speech, listed the issues and people traditionally left behind.  She said in part:

Alessandra Nilo, executive director of GESTOS, Brazil

Alessandra Nilo, executive director of GESTOS, Brazil

“There will only be sustainable development if human rights are a reality for all. And this is why I come before you here today, to inform you that Civil Society has raised a Red Flag…

“We express our concern that the current Post-2015 debates are still too much focused on economic growth only, without strengthening the commitments towards a new cycle where human rights and justice will prevail.

“Despite the call from the UN Secretary General that ‘no one will be left behind’ we witness the growth of conservative forces at the UN from different sides. We still have some untouchable themes in this house:  sexual rights, gender identity, safe abortion, recognition of the rights of people who use drugs, gays, lesbians, transgender and sex workers are among the pending issues at the UN.

“This means that the people that historically have been left behind will continue to be so, because at this point of the UN history, despite all agreements and commitments affirming they are inter-linked, there is still a dangerous disconnection between development and human rights.”

At the end of her presentation, she delivered the letter to the U.N. “The letter, titled “The actions we need for the future we want – a civil society red flag,” was signed by over 750 NGO’s world-wide.

The letter was initiated by NGOs after the March 10-21 meeting of the U.N.’s Commission on the Status of Women in New York. from March 10 t0 21.  Attended by member states, U.N. entities, and accredited NGO’S world-wide, the theme of discussions was the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals for women and girls.  Despite efforts by the attending NGOs, the 44 agreed conclusions remain conservative and do not mention any specific vulnerable group of women needing human rights protection and inclusion in the process.

The NGOs’ letter states: “…we are alarmed that within the post 2015 discussions, little seems to be underway to reverse the trend of doing business as usual…”.  The letter is critical of the current trends stating the post 2015 agenda is: “not on track to be built on the essential priorities for a sound and effective post 2015 global agenda, namely human rights and dignity for all” despite explicit commitments by governments, …“there is still a dangerous disconnection between development and human rights”. The letter adds: “that sustainable development is impossible unless human rights are at its center”

Among the signatories are some of the major international LGBTI groups across the globe including the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, COC Netherlands, the Global Initiative for Sexuality and Human Rights, International Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA), the Global Forum of Men who have Sex with Men (MSMGF), and the Coalition of African Lesbians.


Enhanced by Zemanta
Posted in Commentary, Human Rights, International pressure for LGBT rights | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Senegal art show to feature LGBT Africans

Photo from Andrew Esiebo's "Who We Are" project showing images of gay men in Nigeria. (Photo courtesy of AndrewEsiebo.com)

Photo from Andrew Esiebo’s “Who We Are” project showing images of gay men in Nigeria. (Photo courtesy of AndrewEsiebo.com)

The Art Newspaper reports:

An exhibition about homosexuality in Africa is due to go ahead in Senegal next month, despite a leading academic advising the gallery against it. “The show will cause controversy, but we will not censor ourselves,” says the independent curator Ato Malinda, although she declined to reveal the name of the academic.

“Precarious Imaging: Visibility and Media Surrounding African Queerness” (7 May-18 July), will feature works by Kader Attia, Andrew Esiebo, Zanele Muholi, Amanda Kerdahi M. and Jim Chuchu. Malinda is co-organising the show with Koyo Kouoh, the artistic director at Raw Material Company, a non-profit art centre in Dakar where the exhibition opens as part of the informal programme for Dak’Art 2014, the 11th Biennale of Contemporary African Art (9 May-8 June).

The aim, says Malinda, is to shed light on a persecuted African minority and to examine the African media’s often denigrating coverage of same-sex-couples. Homosexual [activity] is illegal in Senegal, as it is in 37 other African countries. …

Zanele Muholi, an activist and photographer from South Africa, is showing her popular “Faces and Phases” series, which she has worked on since 2007. The photographs, depicting black lesbian and transgender women, have not been shown in Senegal before. … “They might be our daughters or the girl next door,” Malinda says. “It is important that people see these women in this light.”

Detail of work by Jim Chuchu from his "Pagans" series. (Photo courtesy of JimChuchu.com)

Detail of work by Jim Chuchu from his “Pagans” series. (Photo courtesy of JimChuchu.com)

The Egyptian-American artist Amanda Kerdahi M. is also presenting a work about African women. 100 Conversations, 2014, is a video of Kerdahi interviewing 100 women in Cairo about their sexualities while smoking with them. Women are forbidden from smoking in public in Egypt. To protect their identity, the camera zooms in on the interviewees’ mouths and the conversations were filmed without sound.

Gay men from Lagos are the subject of the Nigerian photographer Andrew Esiebo’s ongoing project “Who We Are.” …

Jim Chuchu, who is from Kenya, where homosexuality is illegal but accepted in some parts of society, is showing three works from his “Pagan” series, which explores the idea that homophobia was a concept introduced by missionaries and colonials. “Chuchu’s work speaks to a known past when the word ‘sodomy’ was unknown by us, and same-sex activities were an accepted preference,” Malinda says.

Meanwhile, the French-Algerian artist Kader Attia presents Collage, 2011, an hour-long video about the lives of transsexuals in Algiers and Mumbai.

“The time is ripe to talk about homosexuality in Africa,” Malinda says.

For more information, see the full article in The Art Newspaper,  “Gay art show to go on in Senegal.”

Posted in Africa (Sub Saharan) | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment