2 LGBTI defendants win their freedom in Uganda

A Ugandan judge has dismissed homosexuality-related charges against two LGBTI defendants who had been forced to appear in court four times since their arrest in January. Each time the case was adjourned after the  prosecution failed to produce any witnesses against them.

Defense attorney Fridah Mutesi (Photo courtesy of  HRAPF)

Defense attorney Fridah Mutesi (Photo courtesy of HRAPF)

Again today, no prosecution witnesses appeared in court. But this time Magistrate Lilian Bucyana granted defense counsel Fridah Mutesi’s request that the case be dismissed for lack of prosecution.

The court case began in May against gay businessman Kim Mukisa, then 24, and Jackson Mukasa, 19, a transgender woman.

Before they were granted release on bail in May, the defendants had spent four months in detention, said Adrian Jjuuko, executive director of the Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum (HRAPF), which provided their defense.

Mukisa and Mukasa were arrested in January after Mukisa was thrown out of his house and beaten by local officials and neighbors on the basis of allegations that he was a homosexual. The pair was subjected to HIV examinations without their consent, an anal examination was performed, they were paraded before the media as homosexuals and were sent to Luzira Prison.

Jjuuko stated:

“Though dismissal of charges does not bar future prosecution as the charges could be reinstated by prosecution, the two accused persons are now free. Of course their lives have been shattered by the charges and this indeed is the greatest effect of laws criminalising consensual same-sex relations in a country that is largely homophobic.

“The dismissal of the charges is very exciting news but it also underlines the danger of having such laws on the law books.”

Today’s action concluded what was the first trial in the recent history of Uganda’s old anti-gay law, Section 145, according to LGBTI advocacy group Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG). Section 145 provides for up to life imprisonment for sex “against the order of nature.” ‘

Although their arrest came in the anti-gay panic that accompanied the passage of Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill in December 2013, the defendants were not accused of violating that law, which was in effect from its signing in February until the Constitutional Court overturned it on procedural grounds on Aug. 1.

This is Jjuuko’s full report on today’s court action:

The Chief Magistrates Court at Buganda Road has agreed with the prayers of the accused’s lawyer and dismissed the charges against Kim Mukisa and Jackson Mukasa.

Jackson Mukasa, left, and Kim Mukisa

Until the case against them was dismissed today in Uganda, the possibility of life in prison confronted Jackson Mukasa, left, and Kim Mukisa.

This is in the case of Uganda v. Mukisa Kim and Mukasa Jackson, Criminal Case No. 0085 of 2014. The two accused persons, a gay man and transwoman were arrested on the 27th and 28th of January 2014 respectively by the Police following a mob’s attempt on the former’s life.

The two were arrested on 27th January 2014 after Kim Mukisa was thrown out of his house and beaten by local council authorities assisted by residents on the basis of allegations that he was a homosexual. The police arrested Jackson first and used her to call Kim to the police station where he was also arrested. The two were subjected to HIV examinations without their consent, and one of them had an anal examination performed on him. Both were paraded before the media as homosexuals.

Kim was charged with ‘having carnal knowledge of a person against the order of nature’ contrary to Section 145(a) of the Penal Code Act Cap 120 and Jackson was charged with ‘permitting a male person to have carnal knowledge against the order of nature’ contrary to Section 145(c) of the Penal Code Act Cap 120.

They spent seven days in police custody without being produced in court. They were only produced before court when their lawyers from Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum (HRAPF) wrote to the Inspector General of Police and the Uganda Human Rights Commission complaining about the continued illegal detention.

Kim Mukisa et Jackson Mukasa étaient détenus dans la prison de Luzira en Ouganda jusqu'à ce qu'ils soient libérés sous caution en attendant leur procès.

Kim Mukisa and Jackson Mukasa were held at Luzira Prison for months before their release on bail.

They were then remanded to Luzira Prison, and produced in court again on 21st January 2014 and though they were granted bail, the Magistrate insisted on a letter from the same local council officials who had thrown Kim out of his home, and also on two sureties. The Local Council authorities refused to write the letter until HRAPF lawyers told them that they would be in contempt of court if they continued to do so. A letter with a disclaimer was later written. For the sureties, the magistrate eventually accepted one surety and both accused persons were released on bail on May 7th for Jackson and May 12th for Kim, after spending a period of 4 months in detention.

From the time of their release to date, the case has been adjourned four times and each time the prosecution failed to produce any witnesses. Prayers to dismiss the case by the accused’s lawyers were not granted in order to give the prosecution more time.

Today, when the prosecution again failed to produce its witnesses, the State Attorney requested for another adjournment. The accused’s lawyer, Ms. Fridah Mutesi from HRAPF responded by asking the Magistrate, Ms. Lilian Bucyana to dismiss the case for want of prosecution. She recounted the number of times that the accused had been appearing in court without the state producing its witnesses and she concluded that the failure of the state to produce witnesses was prejudicial to her clients who have had charges that attract a penalty of life imprisonment hanging over their heads since January 2014.

The Magistrate agreed with Ms. Mutesi  and ruled that “The prosecution was granted the last adjournment and has no sufficient reason to ask for further adjournment the case is hereby dismissed under S.119 of the Magistrates Courts Act.”

Though dismissal of charges does not bar future prosecution as the charges could be reinstated by prosecution, the two accused persons are now free. Of course their lives have been shattered by the charges and this indeed is the greatest effect of laws criminalising consensual same-sex relations in a country that is largely homophobic.

The dismissal of the charges is very exciting news but it also underlines the danger of having such laws on the law books.

Posted in Africa, Africa (Sub Saharan), Positive steps, Trials / punishments | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Setback in court challenge to Nigerian anti-gay law

BuzzFeed reports:

“A judge with Nigeria’s Federal High Court threw out a challenge to a sweeping anti-LGBT law enacted in January on Wednesday, ruling that the person bringing the case did not have standing to challenge the law.

“The case was brought by Teriah Joseph Ebah, a 42-year-old Nigerian who has lived in the United Kingdom for the past 14 years. Ebah, who is married to a woman and has children, told BuzzFeed News by phone that he decided to sue even though he is not LGBT because, ‘I decided I wasn’t going to accept a Nigeria that was discriminatory.’ His lawyer, Mike Enahoro Ebah, said the judge had tossed out the case because he could not prove he had been directly harmed by the law.”

That confirmed an earlier report from the O-blog-dee blog:

Preliminary reports, yet to be verified by the Court, indicate that the Nigerian Abuja High Court has delivered a ruling dismissing the case where the Court was asked to nullify the new “Jail the Gays” Act, signed into law by President Goodluck Jonathan in January of this year.

Nigeria Justice Abdul Kafarati (Photo courtesy of 247ureports.com)

Nigeria Justice Abdul Kafarati (Photo courtesy of 247ureports.com)

An update on the LGBT Christians in Exile page on Facebook stated that the court made no ruling on the substance of the lawsuit.

The O-blog-dee blog added, “We are informed that Attorneys will appeal the ruling.”

BuzzFeed quoted London-based Nigerian LGBTI activist Bisi Alimi as saying that the ruling opened the way for other challenges to the law.

In his suit, Ebah alleged that the “Same-Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act” violates Nigerians’ human rights as protected by the country’s constitution and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

In the court filing, Ebah stated that:

“Nigerians, particularly those whose sex is Gay, Lesbian, bisexual or transgender are, by natural design, biologically and physiologically, without any fault of theirs, share unique sexual orientation. …

“I know as a fact that there is a constitutional provision in Nigeria which forbids discrimination against any Nigerian on the basis of their sex, community and/or circumstances of their birth.

“That I know as a fact that the recently assented Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act, 2013, by the President Jonathan violates the Nigerian Constitution which forbids discrimination against any Nigerian by virtue of their sex, community and/or circumstances of their birth. …

“That I know as a fact that Individuals do not choose their sexual orientation, be you straight, gay, lesbian or bisexual. It is not a matter of choice. You are who you are. By circumstance of our Birth, we are born straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender.

“That I know as a fact that the sexual orientation of a citizen of Nigeria does not impair upon his or her ability to participate fully in all economic and social activities and/or institutions in Nigeria or elsewhere in the world. …

“That I am aware that since the inception of Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act, 2013, an estimated number of about Thirty Eight (38) Nigerians have been arrested in about four (4) states of the federation on the basis of their sexual orientation.

“That I am aware that in Bauchi alone, an estimated number of about 12 Nigerians were arrested and subjected to prosecution on the basis of their sexual orientation.

“That I verily believe that this arrest, persecution and prosecution of these Nigerians is an attempt at genetic genocide meant to exterminate these Nigerians. …

The law calls for prison sentences of up to 14 years for any Nigerian who enters into a same-sex marriage and up to 10 years to anyone who attends or assists in a same-sex wedding in Nigeria.

The new law expands on a harsh existing Nigerian law that already provides for a 14-year prison sentence for homosexual acts involving either men or women. The old law apparently applied to same-sex intercourse; the new law also prohibits a “public show of same-sex amorous relationship” and would impose a 10-year prison sentence for those convicted.

It also threatens 10-year prison terms for anyone who organizes or takes part in a meeting of gay men in order to inform them about how to avoid HIV infection, as well as anyone who belongs to any organization that could be classified as a “gay organization,” whether it is seeking recognition of human rights for LGBT people, meeting the spiritual needs of LGBT people, or providing health care for LGBT people.

More information about the case will be reported here as it becomes available.

Posted in Africa, Africa (Sub Saharan), Anti-LGBT laws and legislation, International pressure for LGBT rights, Trials / punishments | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Shame: Anti-gay African bishops ignore ‘love thy neighbor’

Davis Mac-Iyalla (Photo courtesy of LGBT Asylum News)

Davis Mac-Iyalla (Photo courtesy of LGBT Asylum News)

Commentary by Nigerian activist Davis Mac-Iyalla, currently based in London:

As a Nigerian gay man, forced to flee my homeland after standing up for the human rights of LGBTI people there, I followed the “Extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the Family” in Rome with great interest. I am appalled but not surprised that it was African Roman Catholic bishops who fought hardest against paragraphs in the [report to the synod] which extended a loving hand to gay people.

In Nigeria, gay people now face beatings, torture and exile as a consequence of absurd and farcical laws forbidding two men from even holding hands.

Pope Francis opens the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the Family with a mass.

Pope Francis opens the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the Family with a mass.

When African church leaders should be standing up for human rights, and protecting gay people, they have become modern Pharisees, using idiotic and outdated interpretations of scripture to support crass prejudice. I am thoroughly ashamed of them.

Instead of basing their ministry on love, they are stoking the fires of destruction, for others and ultimately for themselves. Jesus said “Love thy neighbour as thyself.” What part of this don’t you understand, your Graces?

Listen to your master. Listen to your Holy Father. Listen and learn.

This commentary was also published today on the Nigerian news website PM News.

Although Mac-Iyalla’s commentary does not mention same-sex marriage, its PM News headline is “Gay Marriage: African Catholic Bishops ‘Love thy neighbour as thyself.’ “

Nigerian officials and news media tend to focus on the issue of gay marriage at the expense of discussing other harsh aspects of the country’s new anti-gay law such as the section that provides a 10-year prison sentence for people who engage in a “public show of same-sex amorous relationship.”

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

Allies, stop sensationalising the plight of African LGBTs

Yemisi Ilesanmi (Photo courtesy of This Day Live)

Yemisi Ilesanmi (Photo courtesy of This Day Live)

“African LGBTs are not looking for Western saviours,” says Nigerian author and activist Yemisi Ilesanmi.  “We must all stand as equal partners in our quest to rid the world of inequalities. We don’t need sensationalism, we need our allies to walk their talk.”

To Ilesanmi, allies who “walk their talk” would present a realistic view of the complexities of LGBT life in Africa, without sensationalistic portrayals of “African lesbians and gays as helpless, unemployed, abused, victimised people who want to, nay NEED, to be saved.”

Cover of the book "Freedom to Love for All" by Yemisi Ilesanmi

Cover of the book “Freedom to Love for All” by Yemisi Ilesanmi. (Click image for link to the book on Amazon.com.)

They would also assure African LGBT job applicants with equal treatment in employment. “One way our concerned Western LGBT comrades can help is not just parade us as unpaid storytellers but give us fair consideration when we apply for advertised jobs in their organisations,” she writes.

 

Ilesanmi, currently living in the United Kingdom, is founder and coordinator of the activist group Nigerian LGBTIs in Diaspora Against Anti-Same Sex Laws.  She is also the author of the book Freedom To Love For ALL: Homosexuality is not Un-African,” available from Amazon in paperback and in Kindle editions.

In a recent blog post, she criticized Western journalists, film makers and advocacy organizations that focus almost exclusively on horror stories of LGBT life in Africa:

Whenever I am invited to LGBT workshops as a speaker, panel member or participant, I wonder if I am on display as the face of victims who need saving. Are African LGBTs activists living in diaspora now paraded as example of how we need to save African LGBTs?

As invited speakers, we are expected to regale the audience with horror stories of living in Africa. The audience expects to hear stories of how we were beaten, tortured and kicked out by our families.  They want to hear about how we were persecuted and almost lynched before we escaped to Europe or America. When we don’t deliver the expected story, the disappointment in the room is almost always palpable.

There is no doubt some African LGBTs find themselves in these deplorable conditions, but this is not the only story of African LGBTS. This is not the only face of African LGBTS. African LGBTS are not mostly young people who are barely out of school, eager to be refugees.

  • There are African LGBTS of all ages and sex living in Africa.
  • There are African LGBTs living in Africa who have successful careers, own their own businesses, and are employers of labour.
  • There are African LGBTS living in Africa who are not homeless, are self-sufficient and do not need their family to financially support them.
  • There are African LGBTs living in Africa who do not wish to abandon their careers, leave their family and friends to seek asylum in western countries.

She adds:

Protest by Nigerian LGBTIs in Diaspora Against Anti-Same Sex Laws.

London protest by Nigerian LGBTIs in Diaspora Against Anti-Same Sex Laws.

Not all violence is physical in nature. The fact that some of us do not have physical bruises from being out and proud LGBTs while we lived in

LGBTphobic countries does not mean we did not suffer and still do not suffer abuse and various forms of discrimination.

Psychological abuse, blackmails, threats of losing our comfortable jobs, threats of being outed to families, colleagues, employers or rival companies are issues African LGBTs face daily.

African LGBTs who are politically active face the threat of having their political career cut short and ostracised in political and social circles.

African LGBTs who are business owners face the threat of having their businesses boycotted which might lead to the loss of their livelihood.

Violence and abuse come in different shades. We need to highlight these varieties of shades and not just stick to a single shade because it sells papers, win awards, bring in the money, donations or appeal to ‘click activism’.

Another point to note is that not all African homophobes are illiterate rural dwellers. LGBTphobic Africans also live in cities, not just in the rural villages as often portrayed in these documentaries.

However, it is also important to note that there are Africans who are not homophobes, biphobes or transphobes. Indeed many African straight allies are willing to support LGBT rights in public. Western journalists and filmmakers should understand that:

  • There are Africans who are sitting on the fence about LGBT rights
  • There are Africans who do not want to behead gays.
  • There are Africans who do not condone the lynching of gays or support jail term for LGBTs.

The problem is that the media, filmmakers, writers, LGBT organisations, and grant seekers attention is so focused on the ‘Helpless Victim vs Barbaric Homophobe‘ stereotype that they lose sight of the other demography. There are many facets on the plight of African LGBTs, why focus on a single story?

For more information, see Ilesanmi’s full article “Sensationalising the Plight of African LGBTs” on Freethought Blogs.

Posted in Africa, Africa (Sub Saharan), Commentary, International pressure for LGBT rights | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Catholic setback? LGBT hope remains for long-term change

The Rev. Canon Albert Ogle

The Rev. Canon Albert Ogle

In the short term, the final report of this month’s gathering of Roman Catholic bishops discussing homosexuality and family issues eliminated the welcoming words that the preliminary report had included about LGBTI people. The news of that reversal was reported here:

But the Rev. Canon Albert Ogle says that a longer-term view is needed, especially a view that focuses on more than same-sex marriage and that recognizes the importance of simultaneously combating hostility to gays and to women.

Jesus, protect us from your followers

By the REV. CANON ALBERT OGLE

Pope Francis (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Pope Francis (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

The medieval Irish pilgrim once quipped: “Going to Rome is a lot of work and is exhausting, but you will not find your God there unless you take God with you.”

The quest for the perfect family, even in Rome, may be equally hazardous or fruitless.

My RGOD2 column last week intimated the important significance of the Roman Catholic Synod on the Family but nobody could have anticipated the enormous attention that has been given to LGBT issues by the media, over other equally, if not more important issues.

Although Pope Francis encouraged the 190 bishops and 60 additional advisors to have a frank and candid discussion, as they prepared a preliminary document for greater exploration and discussion over the next 12 months, the media defaulted to our “instant news, instant gratification” cycle that removed any sense of confidentiality and ongoing debate such Papal candor requires. The carefully prepared document released on Monday was meant to be a springboard for the church universal to dive into important and contentious issues as we try to swim towards a common shoreline in the next 12 months, rather than liberals or conservatives struggling to win a race by the close of business tomorrow.

Context, context, context!

The preliminary document is really worth everyone reading and taking a collective long and deep breath.

LGBT people cannot de-contextualize our own issues from those of the rest of the community. This document is complex and sensitive, and however flawed and couched in churchy language, it is an attempt to include our issues with the wider issues. Poverty and sexism are integrally connected to LGBT global issues. They are much more important in my list of priorities than say, gay marriage. The media and the Vatican Curia often disagree about these priorities. It is a shame western gay marriage debate takes center stage to more significant issues that the church and society has difficulty facing like LGBT poverty or sexism.

This document includes everything from the issue of gender inequality, domestic violence and polygamy. Sexism is the deep root of homophobia and we will never experience equality and dignity while the majority of women on the planet are seen as the possessions of men and their patriarchal structures. What linkages might we, within the LGBT movement globally, create with the women’s community in the coming year, as this document stimulates discussion and policy changes, towards this greater task?

LGBT and gender equality must be linked more strategically

Maxensia Nakibuuka

Maxensia Nakibuuka

For example, Maxensia Nakibuuka from Uganda, a leading Catholic lay woman and straight ally, told me last week before she left California that she would like to return to New York to take part in discussions during the Commission on the Status of Women at the United Nations in March 2015. How do we build a case for global equality for women and LGBT people?

This past week, activists from several countries where LGBT people are still criminalized met with the president of the World Bank to build a case for safeguards for gender and LGBT equality. This is an important strategic and in my framework, a theological priority. St. Paul’s Foundation was invited by the LGBT community in Cameroon last February to offer papers at the African Sexual and Reproductive Rights Conference in Yaoundé beginning to link these two issues. Maxensia and I were well-received by the conference, but it is difficult to ask for LGBT rights in a country like Cameroon where 40% of the population still sell their girl children into sexual abuse by older men. It is called by a number of names including “child brides” or even the practice of female genital mutilation is allowed to exist, without little condemnation from religious bodies in Cameroon including the Roman Catholic Church.

We need to develop a moral framework where all forms of sexual violence is not only outlawed, but repaired. Because it may be culturally and socially acceptable to sell children or lock up LGBT people, the church is failing to give moral leadership to these obvious forms of socially acceptable dysfunctions. The more issues of sexual violence and injustice are worked on in isolation from one another, the longer it will take us to find sexual wholeness as a human race.

How long, Lord? How long?

Two observations may be helpful to how we see the Synod both as an opportunity for deeper dialogue, if the LGBT community will hold back on our own forms of (media driven, instant results) judgment and re-tool that energy into constructive debate and deeper and more strategic collaboration with the gender equality movement.

Malcolm Boyd on the cover of his book "Are You Running With Me, Jesus?"

Malcolm Boyd on the cover of his book “Are You Running With Me, Jesus?”

The first comes from a story told by pioneer LGBT and civil rights activist Canon Malcolm Boyd of Los Angeles. He describes a mainstream church in the Southern part of the USA struggling with the issue of racial equality in the 1960s. This all-white congregation, like the nation, was deeply divided on the issue of racial equality and for several years the congregation debated and struggled with the issue of how they might reflect a more inclusive interpretation of the gospel to welcome everyone, including African-Americans, who were still seen as “the other.” Many of this all-white congregation had little experience or relationship with the African-American community and what experience they had was often expressed in employee/employer terms only.

The congregation polarized, fought, some left and eventually, after years of struggle, the leaders of the congregation came to a place where they agreed to welcome African-Americans to pray and share the good news of the love of God in Jesus. They opened their doors, but to their surprise, no African-Americans joined them. Week after week, month after month, the doors were open, but no-one came. There were other places and forms of community and worship that were fulfilling this important community need, but the deep wounding and damage had been done, and institutions like the congregation Boyd described, were not going to be part of the fabric of the new America that many had worked for. America at prayer is still a divided nation. There is still enormous repairing to do, even though most congregations in this country claim to be inclusive and welcoming of their neighbors.

The Synod on the Family is a welcomed and refreshing change in the often one-sided conversation between church and society, but is it too little and too late? I don’t see hordes of remarried straight couples flocking to church or LGBT people sitting in the pews these days because of a few symbolic gestures from a deeply loving pastoral Pope.

All of our churches continue to give answers to questions that most people I know, are simply not asking. We are simply and largely out of touch. We are becoming irrelevant and yet global religious extremism has become one of the most important forms of political exchange in recent years that we cannot simply disown religious traditions and institutions. The recent report from Maurice Tomlinson, a fearless advocate for LGBT people in Jamaica, shows how important the churches can be to our work, mainly in opposition.

Maurice Tomlinson (Photo courtesy of Macalester.edu)

Maurice Tomlinson (Photo courtesy of Macalester.edu)

The parliament is struggling with the question about how to be an inclusive state, or is Jamaica, basing its laws on Judeo-Christian values, merely a theocracy? These are bigger questions and often LGBT issues prove to be the litmus test for the majority community to decide on bigger issues. All the more reason for us to be part of the debate, as Maurice and people like Angeline Jackson are doing. They have spent all week in parliament. They understand the difficult work ahead.

Like a mighty tortoise, moves the church of God

The second story is about how my own global church comes to decisions and, as Anglicans, we are very similar to Roman Catholics with the important leadership of senior management (the bishops) taking a significant role in debating church teaching and pastoral practices. Every year (until recently) for the past century, bishops from around the world meet for the Lambeth Conference in England.

Bishop Gene Robinson (Photo courtesy of CambridgeBlog.org)

Bishop Gene Robinson (Photo courtesy of CambridgeBlog.org)

The conference provides us with a remarkable photograph on where the management of the church is on a particular issue (not always where the laity and clergy are on an issue) at a particular period in history. The pattern can be seen woven through our handling of contentious issues like birth control, (hotly opposed by the conference at the beginning of the 20th century) women’s ordination, (hotly opposed at the end of the 20th century) and the place of LGBT people in society, which still deeply divides our bishops globally. It takes 30 years for an institution like Anglicanism to first raise an issue on their radar, (often in fear and opposition) then for another 10-20 years, to struggle and study the issue at a local level, but within 30 years, that which we feared and excluded most, has often become part of the management and polity itself. Women bishops sat in several Lambeth Conferences and Gene Robinson, our first openly gay bishop was more present in Lambeth than absent because of the sheer fuss of excluding him from the last conference. The fact that it is raised and discussed at all, signifies the beginnings of its inclusion.

Turning the Queen Mary

The Roman Catholic Church is much, much larger than our 80-million-member Anglican Communion, so we cannot expect these issues of gender and LGBT sexual violence to be changed significantly, even when the final report comes out of the 2015 gathering. Our institutions just cannot function in this way and to expect them to do so is simply a waste of time.

In the meantime, criminalization of LGBT people will continue, the degradation of women will be tacitly or sometimes explicitly endorsed by our major world religions and the difficult process of changing hearts and minds will go on. This is the work we are called to do, but we cannot do so in isolation from many of the issues this closing Synod has named. The more we engage these other issues, the more we will be taken seriously and build allies who are struggling as much as we are to repair a bad theology, limited and contradictory interpretations of holy texts and a broken world.

This commentary appeared first in the San Diego Gay & Lesbian News.

Posted in Africa, Africa (Sub Saharan), Anti-LGBT laws and legislation, Commentary, Faith and religion, International pressure for LGBT rights | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Egypt: New legal guide for LGBT communities; please share

Illustration from legal guide for LGBT Egyptians.

Illustration from legal guide for LGBT Egyptians.

In response to Egypt’s ongoing crackdown on LGBT people, Egyptian activists and legal experts have drawn up a guide on how LGBT people can reduce their chances of being arrested and how to act if they are arrested.

In the past year, police in Egypt have arrested more than 80 people for the “crime” of being gay or transgender.  They can be sentenced to as much as 10 years for alleged “debauchery” (an Egyptian legal term for same-sex intimacy), in addition to suffering from anal examinations by medical officials, physical violence and rape threats while in detention.

The guide cannot be published on the websites of gay-friendly Egyptian organizations because they are currently under threat from the government. It is available online (in Arabic only) on the “A Paper Bird” blog of activist Scott Long.

Other blogs and websites are invited to share the link or republish the text in order to reach the greatest number of people.

Posted in Africa, Middle East / North Africa | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Two tiny nations drop anti-gay laws: Palau and Sao Tome

Location of the island nation of Palau.

Location of the island nation of Palau.

Two tiny island nations have dropped their laws against same-sex intimacy.

Palau in the western Pacific Ocean, north of Indonesia, took that step earlier this year.

São Tomé and Príncipe, in the Atlantic Ocean off Gabon in central Africa, did so two years ago, but that fact wasn’t widely known.

In addition, the island nation of Seychelles in the Indian Ocean, northeast of Madagascar, has made a commitment to take the same step, but has not yet done so. Seychelles is one of a handful of countries that still have anti-gay laws on the books along with laws that prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

This blog has revised its list of countries with laws against same-sex intimacy, eliminating Palau and São Tomé / Príncipe. That brings the list’s total to 79 countries, excluding Iraq, where the situation is unclear, and Russia, where same-sex intimacy is legal, but which in 2013 adopted a repressive law against making positive statements about homosexuality in the presence of minors.

A similar tally from Human Dignity Trust lists 80 countries, including Iraq but not Russia.

PALAU

Regarding Palau, Human Dignity Trust reported:

Human Dignity Trust logo

Human Dignity Trust logo

The Attorney General of Palau has confirmed that the country has decriminalised homosexuality by removing its sodomy laws.

Palau repealed its legal provisions that criminalised consensual same-sex sexual activity between gay men, introducing a new Penal Code with no such provisions, which was signed by the President in April 2014. …

The benefit of legislating, rather than litigating to do away with laws criminalising gay men means that an individual need not be forced to use the courts to uphold his rights. …

The Attorney General of Palau has confirmed directly, in an email to the Human Dignity Trust, that the former crime of sodomy has been repealed and a new penal code has been adopted.According to the previous provisions, sodomy was banned under section 2803, Chapter 28 ‘Sex Crimes’ of Title 17 of the Palau National Code and was punishable by up to 10 years imprisonment. …

The Government of Palau has engaged constructively with the United Nations on the issue of decriminalisation of consensual same-sex sexual activity between adults.In 2011, at its Universal Periodic Review (UPR) at the UN Human Rights Council, Palau accepted the recommendations to repeal all provisions in domestic legislation criminalising consensual sexual activity between same sex adults and to combat discrimination against LGBT people through political, legislative and administrative measures.

Location of Sao Tome and Principe off the west coast of Africa.

Location of São Tomé and Príncipe off the west coast of Africa.

SAO TOME / PRINCIPE

In São Tomé and Príncipe, the repeal of the former anti-gay law occurred with the adoption of a new penal code in 2012.

ILGA’s latest “State-Sponsored Homophobia” report states that the new Penal Code of São Tomé and Príncipe took effect in November 2012. It cited the Portuguese-language articles “Código Penal: Aprovado pela Lei 6/2012″ and “Novo Código Penal já entrou em vigor.”

SEYCHELLES

Seychelles location in the Indian Ocean. (Map courtesy of WorldAtlas.com)

Location of Seychelles in the Indian Ocean. (Map courtesy of WorldAtlas.com)

The newspaper Today in Seychelles reported recently on its Facebook page about a discussion of decriminalization by LGBTI advocates, legal experts and religious leaders, who opposed it:

The context for the discussion was that “At the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process in 2011, the Seychelles Human Rights record was considered and Seychelles confirmed its commitment to the decriminalization of homosexual activities.” The report added:

“The British High Commissioner, Mrs. Lindsay Skoll was also present at the discussion and she said that if Seychelles went ahead and decriminalized homosexual activities, the country ‘would be making an important step from politics to humanity. Despite conservatism and the power of the church power, the step will be easy,’ she said adding that she was pleased lawyers had taken the first step towards this goal.”

In the panel discussion, one panel member noted:

“The government of Seychelles has already committed to the United Nations to repeal these laws in conformity with its international obligations.”

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Posted in Africa, Africa (Sub Saharan), Anti-LGBT laws and legislation, Oceania, Positive steps | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment