Activists go head-to-head with unaware Trinidad boosters

Trinidadian journalist (right) gets a lesson from  Maurice Tomlinson (left) during the Stand for Liberty on Aug. 28, 2015. (Photo courtesy of Maurice Tomlinson)

Journalist (right) gets a lesson from Maurice Tomlinson (left) during the Stand for Liberty on Aug. 28, 2015. (Photo courtesy of Maurice Tomlinson)

The Republic of Trinidad and Tobago is one of only two countries in the Western Hemisphere that still legally bans the entry of homosexuals, and one of only 11 that continues to criminalize same-gender intimacy.

As the country prepares to celebrate its 53rd year of independence on Aug. 31 and prepares to select a new national government on Sept. 7, a group of Caribbean LGBTI activists and allies in Toronto decided to hold a Stand for Liberty on Aug. 28 in front of the country’s Consulate General to highlight those facts.

Trinidad's consul general, Dr. Vidhya Gyan Tota-Maharaj (right), pleads with the protesters at the Stand for Liberty on Aug. 28, 2015. (Photo courtesy of Maurice Tomlinson)

Trinidad’s consul general, Dr. Vidhya Gyan Tota-Maharaj (right), invited participants in the Stand for Liberty on Aug. 28, 2015, to abandon their protest and join the celebration inside. (Photo courtesy of Maurice Tomlinson)

There was a heated exchange at the Stand because, unbeknownst to us, we seemed to have “crashed the party.” There was a pre-independence celebration inside the Consulate and, although we tried to join the fun out front by singing the national anthem of TnT, several Trinibagonians took umbrage to the fact that we chose that occasion to “show up” their country, especially when “Jamaica kills more gays than Trinidad, so why you don’t go protest at their Consulate!”

I assured them that we had protested in front of the Jamaican Consulate (on Aug. 5). Even so, unlike Jamaica, Trinidad actually has a legal barrier against  gays entering the country AND a law that would impose up to 25 years in prison for sodomy while Jamaica’s law is “only” for up to 10 years.

But the most amusing moment came when one lady claimed that, although she supported everyone’s right to “choose,” she was upset that we were “forcing” things down people’s throat. When I pressed her on what she thought that we were imposing on heterosexuals, she claimed that we were trying to make everyone become gay! I assured her that nothing could be further from the truth.

Quite “graciously” the Consul General came out and invited us in for refreshments (no doubt so that we would call off our demonstration). We assured her that we were quite comfortable on the sidewalk.

Stand for Liberty in front of the Trinidad consulate in Toronto on Aug. 28, 2015. (Photo courtesy of Maurice Tomlinson)

Stand for Liberty in front of the Trinidad consulate in Toronto on Aug. 28, 2015. (Photo courtesy of Maurice Tomlinson)

However, it would have been nice, and a reflection of true Trini hospitality, if she had actually brought refreshments out to us! :)

The dear woman also seemed confused as she claimed that TnT does not ban gays, and I had to remind her about her own country’s laws. She must have missed that part in her posting briefing.

One gentleman who identified himself as a journalist from TnT was visibly upset at our presence and declared that I should have taken the matter of the gay ban to court. I of course had copies of news reports covering my case before the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) in March where, with the support of AIDS Free World​, I had done exactly as he suggested.

The trial was actually held in Trinidad (the seat of the CCJ) and I appeared via video link from Jamaica. Further, the matter was extensively covered in the TnT press, and the decision should hopefully be handed down soon.

When he realized that he had been checkmated, he then changed strategy and questioned my competence as a lawyer and declared that I have no case. I did not sink to his level and question his competence as a journalist for missing the obvious story of the gay ban case, but I will say that I have every faith in the representation and counsel of my all-Trinidadian legal team which appeared for me, including Imran Ali; Westmin James​, deputy dean of the UWI Faculty of Law at Cave Hill; and senior counsel Douglas Mendes. (See his take on the case in this article in the popular TnT paper the Trinidad Express.)

As Trinidad and Tobago will go to the polls on Sept. 7, I also supplied the journalist and those in attendance with copies of the election manifesto prepared by local TnT LGBTI groups entitled: “12 Initiatives to Improve LGBTI Lives & Options for Decision Makers.”

This exchange in front of the Consulate demonstrates just how much lack of knowledge exists in and outside of the Caribbean about the fact that the region still has the only countries in the western hemisphere where consensual same-gender intimacy is criminalized. Additionally, the fact that our region defends these laws, even while claiming that they have no intention of enforcing the acknowledged British colonial relics, means that the statutes serve only one purpose: to legitimize stigma and discrimination against LGBTI people.

In fact, during the CCJ case the lawyer for the state of Trinidad said that although the government has no intention of enforcing the ban on gays, it was still necessary to keep it on the books in order to keep out “terrorists.” That, in a nutshell, describes how LGBTI people are sometimes viewed in the region. And that is why we must stridently continue the push for full-equality and inclusion across the Caribbean.

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In Uganda, new bill threatens LGBTI advocates

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni

LGBTI rights activists in Uganda have sounded an alarm about a new threat to their advocacy of justice and fair treatment for the country’s sexual minorities.

While the now-overturned Anti-Homosexuality Act of 2014 targeted individual LGBTI Ugandans and the organizations representing them, the NGO Bill focuses only on the LGBTI rights organizations, along with every other non-governmental organization working in Uganda.

Parliament is scheduled to consider the NGO Bill starting Sept. 1.

In an Aug. 3 letter to the leader of the Uganda Aids Commission and the Global Fund’s health policy council for Uganda, the elected representative of the country’s sexual minorities urged those groups to oppose the current version of the NGO Bill. On behalf of the country’s most at-risk Key Affected Populations (KAPS) in the fight against HIV, KAPS representative Kikonyogo Kivumbi stated:

Kikonyogo Kivumbi (Photo courtesy of the Global Fund)

Kikonyogo Kivumbi (Photo courtesy of the Global Fund)

“If passed in its current form, we have a founded fear that the bill would make LGBTI and sex workers organisations and safe spaces closed down and leaders jailed.  It will also make KAPS groups that are not registered, unable to reach out to vulnerable and undeserved populations. This is particularly important because both registered and , unregistered KAPS  groups help in reaching out to hard-to-reach Key Affected Populations in Uganda’s fight against the HIV pandemic.

“The  proposed bill in its current form, calls for closure of NGOs in ‘public interest,’ a clause so vague that it can be  used to  harass and close down KAP groups through which health services are delivered in Uganda.

“The bill  also seeks to subject independent groups to extensive and unjustified government control and interference and violate basic rights. The new Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO) bill would grant Uganda’s internal affairs minister and the National Board for Non-governmental Organisations broad powers to supervise, approve, inspect, and dissolve all nongovernmental, community-based, and faith-based organizations, and impose severe criminal penalties for violations.

“Among several troubling, broad, and vaguely worded provisions, it would require organizations to ‘not engage in any activity which is …contrary to the dignity of the people of Uganda.’ ”

“Vulnerable and isolated communities including men who have sex with men, typically experience higher HIV Infection rates as stigma and bigotry deter them from accessing essential medicines, prevention services, counselling, and public health information.

“This endangers not only them and their communities but also the Ugandan population at large. The NGO bill would criminalize further NGOs trying to reach out to help with service provision to LGBTI and sex workers by claiming they are violating the dignity of Ugandans in supporting outlawed people, based on sexual orientation and, or gender identity.”

BuzzFeed reported:

Clare Byarugaba in Los Angeles (Photo by Joe Kohen courtesy of The Daily Beast)

Clare Byarugaba (Photo by Joe Kohen courtesy of The Daily Beast)

LGBT activists say [Ugandan President Yoweri] Museveni’s political party is able to generate support for the bill in part because it promises to allow them to close LGBT rights organizations. And doing so as part of a far broader proposal may be attractive to lawmakers because Museveni has already staked out his opposition to passing a new law targeting LGBT rights because it would alienate the country from Western powers.

“These guys are cunning,” said Clare Byarugaba, who co-chaired the coalition of human rights groups that fought 2014’s anti-LGBT law. “They understand that having a stand alone anti-gay law shall be met with backlash and resistance and they shall be accused of targeted discrimination…. On the surface [the NGO bill seems] to be affecting broader civil society space but have very targeted consequences towards LGBT organizing.”

Dr. Vinand Nantulya, chairman of the Uganda AIDS Commission

Dr. Vinand Nantulya

KAPS representative  Kivumbi wrote to Prof. Vinand Nantulya, who chairs the health panel known as the Country Coordinating Mechanism (CCM) health panel, asking him, “Being at the forefront in the HIV  pandemic fight, I am requesting that your office as Board Chairperson of Uganda Aids Commission and the Global Fund CCM Board advise Parliament and government  on the implications of such clauses in the bill; and also help us reduce the renewed fear among KAPS that they are going to all be arrested.”

Representatives of more than 80 NGOs met in May to discuss the proposed NGO Bill. They concluded that nearly half of the provisions of the bill were unacceptable:

“The draft Bill is littered with problematic clauses that undermine the very essence of some of the stated positive objectives of the proposed law,” their report stated. “In its current form, the NGO Sector cannot support the bill.”

“The analysis that informed this position is collated from consultations with representatives from NGOs and networks across the country that met for two days in a retreat and went through the bill clause by clause. …

“[A close] inspection of the proposed bill reveals that it is a roll-back on the Constitution and major human rights guarantees and its intentions are largely to control rather than facilitate the NGO sector. …

“The Bill is littered with broad and vaguely worded provisions which open the door to silence peaceful government critics and activists. Provisions such as ‘public interest,’ ‘act which is prejudicial to the security of Uganda and the dignity of the people of Uganda,’ ‘at any reasonable time,’ ‘opinion of the Board,’ ‘for any other reason that the Board may deem relevant,’ ‘any other disciplinary action that the Board may deem fit’ violate the principles which guide establishment of limitations to the freedom of association and other related human rights.”

The NGO group also objected to provisions that would “criminalise legitimate behaviour of people exercising their freedom to associate. The section provides that any person who ‘contravenes any provision of this Act’ would amount to a criminal offence and is liable, on conviction to a fine of up to 4 million [Ugandan shillings, valued at about US $1,100] or imprisonment of up to 4 years or both … [and] further provides for up to 8 years imprisonment terms for directors or officers of organisations.” They stated:

“The section further criminalises right to freedom of association by providing that it is an offence to carry out any activity ‘without a valid permit’ or deviate from ‘the conditions or directions specified’ in the permit.

“The section places personal liability for insignificant administrative actions or omissions committed during official duties yet at the same time, penalises the organisation by revoking the permit or ordering for its dissolution. The offences that this section seeks to criminalise are civil in nature and must not be subjected to the criminal code. If any individual commits a cognizable criminal offence, the established criminal legislation can deal with that more effectively.

“Criminal sanctions must not be smuggled into a law that seeks to regulate exercise of legitimate human freedom.”

Although NGOs provide nearly 11 percent of Uganda’s jobs and up to 40 percent of its health care, the group said “the NGO sector is still viewed as a threat and that must be controlled rather than allowed to flourish.”

They vowed to challenge the law in court if the bill is enacted in its current form.

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LGBTI briefs: Stigma and HIV in Africa, India, Russia

News briefs about LGBTI-related health issues in countries with anti-gay laws, excerpted with slight modifications from UNAIDS’s Equal Eyes recap of the world’s LGBTI news.

Involving LGBTI people in the fight against Aids

Scenes from this month's HIV meeting in South Africa. (Photo collage courtesy of MSMGF blog)

Scenes from this month’s HIV meeting in South Africa. (Photo collage courtesy of MSMGF blog)

In South Africa, the Global Forum on MSM & HIV brought together health workers, government officials, and advocates to discuss HIV needs of men who have sex with men (MSM) in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Representatives came from Angola, Botswana, Cameroon, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria, South Africa, South Sudan, Swaziland and Zimbabwe. In some instances, this is the first time that advocates had sat across the table from government officials of their own country.

Participants were briefed on the latest developments at the Global Fund and Pepfar (the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief), which are the  two largest funders of anti-HIV programs in Africa. Recently, both organizations have opened up their processes to ensure that the voices of communities of people most affected by HIV, including MSM, are adequately engaged in funding decisions and in HIV programs.

The East African used this photo of an anti-gay  demonstration in Kenya to illustrate its article about anti-gay stigma in Rwanda.

The East African used this photo of an anti-gay demonstration in Kenya to illustrate its article about anti-gay stigma in Rwanda.

LGBTI stigma gives Aids a boost

Stigma against LGBTI Rwandans hampers the battle against Aids there, the Rwanda Biomedical Centre said, while reporting an increase of HIV prevalence among sex workers and gay men. Rwanda does not have a law against homosexual activity, but anti-LGBTI stigma remains strong.

The East African reported:

Findings also reveal that the reason behind the high spread of HIV among the gay community in the country is the stigma and resentment which is subjected to them by society and their families, which has made them continue practising it discreetly and dangerously.

Many of the homosexuals and other members of the LGBT community who live with HIV do not seek treatment while others do not go for HIV testing because they fear mistreatment from the public and medics, which many have been subjected to.

“There is always discrimination and other forms of mistreatment,” said Enoc Ndahenyuka, a member of the Rwanda Rainbow Rights, an association advocating for gay rights.

“We have had cases of our members who have sought medical treatment, and when the doctor sees that the infection is anal, they put you on the side and call other medics, who begin to ridicule them.

“This has made many shy away from anything related to medication.”

HIV/AIDS prevalence is increasing among female commercial sex workers and the gay community, according to a report by the Rwanda Biomedical Centre. Findings reveal one reason behind high HIV among the Rwandan gay community is stigma and resentment, which has made them continue practising their lifestyle discreetly and dangerously. Many of members of the LGBT community who live with HIV do not seek treatment, while others do not get HIV tested because they fear mistreatment from the public and medics.

The survey also indicates that some MSMs are involved in commercial sex. Some 42.5% reported having ever been paid with money, goods, or services for sex. “It is true, commercial sex among LGBT is high,” said Enoc Ndahenyuka, member of Rwanda Rainbow Rights, an association for gay rights. “It’s because most of them are really vulnerable; some have no jobs, others have been rejected by their families & others have kept their orientation secret so that they don’t get thrown out of home.”

Authorities at Rwanda Correctional Services recently confirmed the existence of homosexuality in prisons, raising concerns that many of those who are HIV-positive go on to spread it when they are released. However, calls to distribute condoms in prisons have been suppressed by state health authorities.

Condomless in Zimbabwe

David Parirenyatwa, health minister of Zimbabwe. (Photo courtesy of iCASA 2015)

David Parirenyatwa, health minister of Zimbabwe. (Photo courtesy of iCASA 2015)

In Zimbabwe, Health Minister Dr. David Parirenyatwa focused attention on HIV in prisons, where a reported 28 percent of prisoners are HIV-positive. His response to that statistic: “Either prisoners are infected already before they get into prisons” or “homosexuality is rampant” in prisons.

Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ) disputed that response, as New Zimbabwe reported in the article “GALZ disputes claims homosexuality to blame for rise in prison HIV cases.”  GALZ  director Chesterfield Samba said “prison culture encourages men to have sex with men” and that it isn’t a homosexual issue. Furthermore, he said, “Not providing condoms to prisoners has serious implications that when prisoners are released and come back into society to wives and girlfriends they may infect healthy partners and spread HIV.”

Playing politics with condom supplies in Russia

In Russia, officials are considering banning foreign brand condoms. Many warn the ban will adversely impact HIV prevention: it will reduce condom access and the quality of Russian brands is questionable. Government advisor Dr. Onischenko claims the ban will “make one more disciplined, more strict, and discriminating in choosing partners, and maybe will do a favor to our society in respect to solving demographic problems.”

Transgender issues

The World Health Organization released a report that finds widespread discrimination significantly impacts HIV rates and poor healthcare for transgender people.

India has more foreign transgender people travelling to the country to seek low-cost, high quality sex reassignment surgery.

Also in India, the Census Bureau acknowledged transgender people for the first time in a survey on deaths and suicides. Though an important ‘first step,’ activists noted that recognition is more needed for the living, as in separate prison cells and hospital wards.

For more information, read the full edition of Equal Eyes.

Posted in Africa, Africa (Sub Saharan), Asia, Europe, HIV / AIDS | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

March for justice, or stand? 2 experts compare tactics

Crowded scene from Ottawa Pride 2015

Crowded scene from Ottawa Pride 2015

Denis LeBlanc is a pioneer of the LGBTI liberation movement in Canada and has been a visible activist for SOGI equality for over 40 years.  He was among the first Grand Marshals for Ottawa Pride.

Maurice Tomlinson is a leading LGBTI activist from Jamaica and has also been collaborating with local activists across the Caribbean to hold public visibility campaigns.  These included the first-ever Stand for Equality and Inclusion in Barbados in mid-August.

Both Maurice and Denis were honored as marshals at the 30th anniversary of Ottawa Pride on August 23.

In this post, each of them reflects on the different approaches to visibility that they pursued based on their local contexts.

Denis LeBlanc

Denis LeBlanc

Denis LeBlanc:

Maurice Tomlinson and his colleagues, Caribbean activists, have invented a new activist term and method of action — a stand. This is not quite a picket, as there is not the usual moving about in circles to avoid arrest, and it’s not a demonstration, as it usually involves  four to six people — a small, intimate show of solidarity at an important place — a stand.  Congratulations, Maurice, for doing things your unique way — organizing an effective Stand for Equality & Inclusion in beautiful Barbados. Visibility is very liberating.

Sign at Ottawa Pride 2015 lists Denis LeBlanc as the grand marshal of the Pride Parade in 1994.

Sign at Ottawa Pride 2015 lists Denis LeBlanc as the grand marshal of the Pride Parade in 1994.

In Canada, we picket when we have small protests. We move around, usually in line, with turnabouts not far from our picketing object. We had to remain on the sidewalk to avoid getting fines or risking arrest back in the 1970’s. We couldn’t just stand about. I think that comes from the unions here having the legal right to picket anywhere. We used to fasten our signs on pickets (from the hardware store, used to make picket fences, still common in those days). I think the logic goes that if we had to move about while picketing, we would eventually go away; we did — after the media had taken photos and interviewed spokespersons.

Maurice Tomlinson (Photo courtesy of International Planned Parenthood Federation)

Maurice Tomlinson (Photo courtesy of International Planned Parenthood Federation)

Maurice Tomlinson:

In the Caribbean a moving parade requires a police permit, while standing still does not!

And the last time I tried to arrange a police permit for a Walk for Tolerance in Jamaica, the police “lost” my application three times. I finally had to do a “solo sit-in” in the police station until my request was granted. On the day of the walk, only one police officer on a motorbike showed up for a walk that we notified them would have at least 200 persons. Then the officer rode at the front of the parade so, even if there was any trouble, he would have been of little help.

Sign at Ottawa Pride 2015 lists Maurice Tomlinson as the international marshal of the Pride Parade in 2013.

Sign at Ottawa Pride 2015 records Maurice Tomlinson as the international marshal of the Pride Parade in 2013.

Our 15 minutes to half-hour flash stands are now usually unannounced, and conducted where there is high vehicular but low pedestrian traffic. We therefore get many eyeballs for our demonstration, with minimal risk of retaliation.

We also provide masks and blank t-shirts for those stand participants who wish to remain anonymous.

In our small micro-states of the Caribbean, where there is generally no protection against SOGI discrimination, anonymity is essential to minimize professional, educational and housing backlash.

All these methods will be employed for the Flash Stand for ‪Montego Bay Pride 2015 on Oct. 25!

Small stand in Barbados in August 2015. (Photos courtesy of Maurice Tomlinson)

Small stand in Barbados in August 2015. (Photos courtesy of Maurice Tomlinson)

Click below for more photos:

Posted in Americas, International pressure for LGBT rights, Positive steps | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Denial, prayer, fasting — growing up LGBTIQ in Nigeria

Promo for the latest No Strings podcast, "Growing Up LGBTIQ in Nigeria."

Promo for the latest No Strings podcast, “Growing Up LGBTIQ in Nigeria.”

“When I first came out to my parents, they subjected me to a compulsory everyday prayer and fasting session,” a young gay Nigerian tells the No Strings podcast. “After my coming out, my parents never looked at me the same way again.”

He calls himself “Scarface,” indicating that he has to be strong-willed to survive. Because of the dangers that LGBTIQ people face in Nigeria, neither his real name nor his real photo is used.

In reminiscing about his life before and after he outed himself to his family, Scarface talks with podcast host Mike Daemon about life, denial, and coping with the everyday challenges that come with being gay in Nigeria.

The discussion is contained in “My Life As A Gay Man In Nigeria – Scarface,” the latest edition of the No Strings podcasts, which provide a voice for the LGBTIQ community in  Nigeria.

“Just to fit in, I had to change walk patterns for like a hundred times, and try really hard to muscle up, as I was so much of a girly dancer,” Scarface recalls.

To hear his story, listen to “My Life As A Gay Man In Nigeria,” which can be streamed or downloaded.

For this and future podcasts, visit the No Strings podcast website.

Posted in Africa, Africa (Sub Saharan), Commentary | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Story with a moral: 2 gay tourists, 1 anti-gay merchant

Two tourists in Barbados come across a small protest against the country's buggery law.

Two tourists in Barbados come across a small protest against the country’s buggery law …

Two gay tourists arrived on a cruise in Bridgetown, Barbados, on Aug. 19 and decided to explore the beautiful capital. On their stroll they passed a shop at the same time as a group of local boys who, according to the tourists, looked gay.

The Barbadian shopkeeper hurled homophobic insults at the youngsters and then turned to the tourists and asked if they wanted to come in for a drink.

The visitors indignantly said, “Not from you!”

The shopkeeper was left dumbfounded and with a lot to think about.

The gentlemen saw our little Stand for Equality and Inclusion in front of the Parliament mounted by the brave Barbadian trans* activist, Alexa D V. Strauss-Hoffmann. They decided to join us, and were shocked to learn that Barbados has up to life imprisonment for private consensual male same-gender intimacy.

The moral of the story for Caribbean business people: If you treat local LGBTI people with disrespect, you may be chasing away foreign guests, and business.

... so the tourists join the protest. (Photos courtesy of Maurice Tomlinson)

… so the tourists join the protest. (Photos courtesy of Maurice Tomlinson)

Posted in Americas, Commentary, International pressure for LGBT rights | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Cameroon: 290 march and pray for human rights

Rassemblement préparatoire pour la marche soutenant les défenseurs des droits humains au Cameroun le 15 juillet 2015. (Photo de CAMFAIDS)

Supporters gather on July 15, 2015, to prepare for that day’s march against violence targeting human rights defenders in Cameroon. (Photo courtesy of Camfaids)

Last month, hundreds of Cameroonians marched in support of the country’s human rights defenders in a protest organized by Camfaids and its partners.

Camfaids (the Cameroonian Foundation for Aids) combats HIV/Aids and works to achieve recognition of the importance of guaranteeing human rights for LGBTI people.

The peaceful march by nearly 300 people was part of a two-day protest against violence targeting defenders of human rights in Cameroon. It was scheduled for July 15 in memory of Eric Ohena Lembembe, the LGBTI rights activist, journalist for this blog, human rights activist and executive director of Camfaids, who was found murdered on that day in 2013.

75 personnes ont visité la tombe du militant/journaliste Éric Lembembe le 14 juillet 2015. (Photo de CAMFAIDS)

A total of 75 people — family, friends and activists — visit the grave of murdered human rights defender / journalist Eric Lembembe on July 14, 2015, as part of the celebration of human rights defenders. (Photo courtesy of Camfaids)

The commemorative events in support of human rights defenders also included a visit to Lembembe’s grave, a panel discussion attended by 120, and a thanksgiving mass for dozens of people.

The theme of the day was “No to discrimination, assaults and assassinations of defenders of human rights in Cameroonian society. ”

Organizers said that event’s aims were to “challenge the authorities about the poisonous atmosphere surrounding human rights defenders” in Cameroon and to give moral support to the Lembembe family.

The marchers wore T-shirts in Cameroon’s national colors — green, red and yellow — and carried placards and banners bearing messages such as: “Stop violence against human rights defenders,” “Equal safety for all,” “Human rights defenders work with the state in its sovereign mission,” “Defenders fight for life, not for death” and “Rights are innate.”

Before the march started at 7:30 a.m., participants were urged to remain dignified, well-behaved and tolerant, without smoking, drinking alcohol or saying anything provocative.

Because the event organizers had obtained authorization from the prefect of the Mfoundi province, which includes Yaoundé, the march was escorted by police from Yaoundé’s Central Commissariat No. 1, including a police car and an officer on a police motorcycle.

The march was led by officials of Camfaids and by Michel Togue, a Cameroonian lawyer who defends LGBTI people. Among the marchers were members of the Lembembe family and leaders of Cameroonian human rights organizations,  including Trésor Progrès (from Yaoundé), Enfants d’Afrique (Yaoundé), Humanity First (Yaoundé), Cerludhus (Yaoundé), CEPROD (Yaoundé), Affirmative Action (Yaoundé), ADEFHO (from Douala), REDHAC (Douala), Cofenho (Douala), SID’ADO (Douala) and Alternatives Cameroun (Douala).

Des représentants des médias Ariane Télévision, Equinoxe Télévision et Afrique Média ont observés et rapportés sur la marche. (Photo de CAMFAIDS)

Media representatives from Ariane Television, Equinox TV and Media Africa reported on the march. (Photo courtesy of Camfaids)

 

Two observers from the National Committee for Human Rights and Freedom attended, along with representatives of Ariane Television, Equinox TV and Africa Media.

After the march, the panel discussion was held in the conference hall of the French Institute of Cameroon. The theme was “The Cameroonian defender of human rights in a socio-professional environment.”

The discussion was attended by 121 people, including members of the diplomatic corps, media representatives, leaders of local advocacy groups, and representatives of the National Committee for Human Rights and Freedom. The panel consisted of:

  • Attorney Michel Togue, who explained his own role and that of human rights defenders;
  • Sociologist Dr. Roger Onah, who explained the importance of human rights defenders for society;
  • Elisabeth Benkam, vice president of SOS Racisme and president of the Cameroon Union of Journalists, as an activist;
  • LGBTI activist Lambert Lamba, president of the advocacy group Cerludhus,  who described violence against human rights defenders.
Dans une conférence-débat, Me Michel Togué a expliqué le rôle de défenseurs des droits humains (Photo de CAMFAIDS)

In the panel discussion, attorney Michel Togué explained the role of human rights defenders. (Photo courtesy of Camfaids)

Journalist Pondo Prince served as moderator.  Jean Jacques Dissoke was master of ceremonies.

Panelists suggested setting up a study committee that would urge the National Assembly to pass a law to protect human rights defenders.

The conference was covered by several media: radio (Africa 2, Kalak FM, LTM, FM Amplitude), television (TV Ariane, Equinox TV, LTM, Africa Media), and print (Le Messager, Nouvelle Expression, EDEN).

Une messe d’action de grâce a été dite dès 16h à 17h30 au siège de la CAMFAIDS car le regretté Éric Lembembe était d’obédience catholique. Au cours de cette célébration, le prêtre a prié pour le pardon des péchés de toute l’assistance tout en donnant des directives de vie chrétienne. Ce dernier insista sur le pardon et la tolérance envers le prochain car, dit-il« Dieu est miséricorde et est amour » . (Photo de CAMFAIDS)

A thanksgiving mass was held from 4 to 5:30 p.m. at Camfaids headquarters in recognition of the fact that Lembembe was a faithful Catholic. The priest at the mass prayed for the forgiveness of sins for all in attendance and urged them to live Christian lives. That includes practicing forgiveness and tolerance towards their neighbors, he said, because “God is mercy and love.” (Photo courtesy of Camfaids)

 

In addition to Camfaids, partner organizations that organized and supported the events of July 14-15 were:

  • Trésor Progrès
  • Cerludhus (Cercle de Réflexion et de Lutte pour les Droits Humains et contre le Sida; or Circle of Reflection and Combat for Human Rights and Against Aids)
  • Enfants d’Afrique
  • Lady’s Cooperation
  • Goodwill Cameroun
  • CEPROD

The visit to Lembembe’s grave was organized by a committee headed by Angel Olina, president of Trésor Progrès.

The march organizing committee was led by Lambert Lamba, president of Cerludhus.

The panel discussion committee was led by Brice Evina, president of Camfaids.

The committee that arranged for the thanksgiving mass was led by Sandrine Bohn, coordinator of the gender section of Camfaids.

Posted in Africa, Africa (Sub Saharan), Harassment / murders, Positive steps | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment