99 who are in prison for being gay, 148 more awaiting trial

Maurice Okello and Anthony Oluku (Photo courtesy of NTV)

Maurice Okello and Anthony Oluku are awaiting trial in Uganda on homosexuality charges. (Photo courtesy of NTV)

Worldwide, at least 99 people are currently in prison for allegedly violating laws that punish those who are born gay, lesbian or bisexual. In addition, at least 148 other people are awaiting trial on charges related to homosexuality.

Those are the latest tallies in this blog’s updated list of victims of 76-plus countries’ repression of LGBTI people.

The prison sentences that have been imposed range up to nine years, which is toward the lower end of punishments that are on the books in the 76-plus countries where homosexuality is currently illegal. As many as 11 people currently awaiting the outcome of their trials in Uganda and Zambia face the possibility of life sentences.

Listing 247 people is probably an extreme understatement of the number of people who are behind bars or awaiting trial on homosexuality-related charges, but finding out about specific cases is difficult, especially in countries without a free press.  Where the latest information is unavailable, some estimates of  cases’ current status are included in the figures above and are explained in the detailed list.

The list provides a narrow window into just one of many types of injustice affecting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people, sometimes with fatal results. (See the section “Other injustices facing LGBTI people.”)

At present, the lists are led by:

  • Nigeria (an estimated 23 people in prison and 15 free awaiting trials)
  • Egypt (an estimated 13 in prison and 47 free awaiting trials)
  • Saudi Arabia (an estimated 22 in prison, according to specific reports; hundreds of other cases cited without any specifics)
  • Gambia (12 recently reported as arrested and detained during ongoing investigations)
  • Morocco (8 specific cases of people imprisoned; dozens more people reportedly arrested and tried)
  • Lebanon (7 people in jail awaiting charges; 20 more released on bail awaiting court action)
  • Cameroon (6 people in prison; 12 free awaiting court action)

Other countries on the list are Iran (24 awaiting court action), India (13 awaiting court action), Uganda (11 awaiting court action), Malawi (3 in prison), Zambia (3 awaiting court action), United Arab Emirates (2), Zimbabwe (2), Ghana (2), Senegal (1) and Malaysia (1).

For details, read the case-by-case specifics on this blog’s page “99 imprisoned for being gay, 148 more awaiting trial.”

Posted in Africa, Africa (Sub Saharan), Anti-LGBT laws and legislation, Asia, Middle East / North Africa, Trials / punishments | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Death threats lead to cancellation of Bahamas pride

Maurice Tomlinson (Photo by Jalna Broderick, courtesy of Gay Star News)

Maurice Tomlinson in an earlier protest. (Photo by Jalna Broderick, courtesy of Gay Star News)

Death threats led to the cancellation of this past weekend’s gay pride events in the Bahamas.

This is the pride event that Jamaican activist Maurice Tomlinson promoted in a recent blog post and planned to attend.

The Nassau Guardian reported:

A gay pride event that started on Friday on Grand Bahama that was supposed to continue through tomorrow was cut short as members of the lesbian gay bisexual and transgender community abandoned it out of fear of repercussions from irate members of the public even as police remained on high alert for any signs of trouble, Victor Rollins, one of the organizers of the event, told The Nassau Guardian yesterday.

Rollins said he received death threats on his Facebook page after posting pictures of event attendees holding gay pride flags along with Bahamian flags on a beach yesterday.

Rollins said the backlash came quickly starting Thursday after organizers issued a press release in support of the event, which was held at Viva Wyndham Fortuna Beach Resort.  He said local talk shows were a particular source of vitriol, with many claiming God would judge The Bahamas for allowing a gay pride event to take place and some people wishing harm on those involved and members of the LGBT more generally.

He said that no one from the Bahamian LGBT who said they would come to the event and even those who were to be honored at the event showed up.

“Everyone is scared,” he said. “But that’s normal for this type of thing.”

For more information, read the full article in the Nassau Guardian: “Death threats over GB gay pride event.”

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Fear for family safety dissolves lawsuit vs. anti-gay law

As this blog reported yesterday, Jamaican activist Javed Jaghai has ended his challenge to Jamaica’s anti-sodomy law. Here’s why:

“I am no longer willing to gamble with my life or the lives of my parents and siblings.” — Javed Jaghai

Javed Jaghai (Photo courtesy of TelevisionJamaica.com)

Javed Jaghai during an interview (Photo courtesy of TelevisionJamaica.com)

 

In a signed affadavit to the Supreme Court of Judicature of Jamaica, plaintiff Javed Jaghai cited nine recent incidents of anti-gay violence and protests in Jamaica. He added:

“While I have never been harmed physically, I have been threatened enough times to know I am vulnerable. I know as well that my loved ones are under threat and they are fearful for my safety. Though the cause and the case are noble, I am no longer willing to gamble my life or the lives of my parents and siblings.”

Considering the expected length of the judicial process, Jaghai said he could no longer accept “another few years of looking over my shoulders for the next possible threat to my physical safety and that of my family.”

Press release from AIDS-Free World and J-FLAG:

Fears for family’s safety force claimant to close lawsuit against anti-gay laws

Javed Jaghai, a gay man who brought a legal challenge to Jamaica’s anti-buggery laws in the country’s Supreme Court, has discontinued his case following threats of violence. Mr Jaghai argued that these laws violated his and others’ constitutional rights.

In a signed affidavit [which is difficult to read without using Adobe Readers's View>Rotate View function], Mr Jaghai attributes his decision to personal threats, the burden that the litigation was putting on his family, and continuing incidents of violence against Jamaica’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community. In his affidavit, Mr Jaghai told the court:

“Though the cause and the case are noble, I am no longer willing to gamble with my life or the lives of my parents and siblings.”

Janet Burak of AIDS-Free World, which supported Jaghai in his case from the beginning, said:

AIDS-Free World logo

AIDS-Free World logo

“The fear that drove Javed to withdraw from the case is the same fear that keeps gay men in Jamaica underground, away from effective HIV testing, prevention, treatment, care, and support interventions.

Jamaica’s own Minister of Health has publicly stated that stigma and discrimination are driving the HIV epidemic among men who have sex with men. The country’s HIV prevalence rate for this at-risk population is the highest in the western hemisphere (33%), and Jamaica’s anti-gay law is among the most severe in the Caribbean region, with sentences of up to 10 years in prison for consensual sexual relations between men.”

J-FLAG, which had brought the claim alongside Mr Jaghai, said it understood his situation and that it fully supported his decision. J-FLAG has therefore consented to a Notice of Discontinuance.

Dane Lewis, Executive Director of J-FLAG, said:

Logo of the Jamaica Forum of Lesbians, All-Sexuals and Gays (J-FLAG)

Logo of the Jamaica Forum of Lesbians, All-Sexuals and Gays (J-FLAG)

“A law criminalising what two consenting adults do in the privacy of their own home has no place in a free society that values and protects all its citizens.

“The existence of this law and the closely related cultural hostility experienced by LGBT Jamaicans should be carefully considered in light of the reasons for Javed requesting that the case be discontinued. This is a live example of the ways in which the continued existence and enforcement of the anti-buggery law contributes to the lack of access to justice for sexual and gender minorities in Jamaica.”

All parties involved hope that in the aftermath of this there will be an opportunity to engage in a series of consultations with multiple stakeholders, including government, geared at sensitising Jamaicans about the LGBT community.

AIDS-Free World has been working, and will continue to work, in the Caribbean and elsewhere, to eliminate laws and policies that inhibit a more effective HIV response, including Jamaica’s anti-sodomy laws.

J-FLAG remains committed to advocating for the rights of Jamaica’s LGBT community and will continue to support any legitimate means to effect meaningful change to improve their lives and to ensure that the community enjoys the rights afforded to all.

Notes

  • Mr Jaghai filed a constitutional challenge to the buggery laws against the Attorney General on 6 February 2013. On 3 September 2013, J-FLAG was added to the action as a claimant.
  • AIDS-Free World is an international advocacy organization working for more urgent and effective global responses to HIV and AIDS. To learn more, visit www.aidsfreeworld.org.
  • J-FLAG is the foremost organisation in Jamaica advocating for the rights of LGBT people, and is committed to promoting social change, empowering the LGBT community, and building tolerance for, and acceptance of LGBT people. Through our programmes we seek to foster the acceptance and enrichment of the lives of same-gender-loving persons who have been, and continue to be an integral part of society. To find out more, please visit http://jflag.org/.
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Jamaican activist ends challenge to anti-sodomy law

The Associated Press reports:

Javed Jaghai

Javed Jaghai of the LGBT rights group J-FLAG.

A young Jamaican gay rights activist who brought an unprecedented legal challenge to the Caribbean island’s anti-sodomy law has withdrawn the claim after growing fearful about violent backlashes, advocacy groups and colleagues said Friday.

Last year, Javed Jaghai made headlines after initiating a constitutional court challenge to Jamaica’s 1864 law that bans sex between men. He argued that the anti-sodomy law fuels homophobia and violates a charter of human rights adopted in 2011 that guarantees people the right to privacy.

But in an affidavit, Jaghai said he has been “threatened enough times to know that I am vulnerable.” The 25-year-old man believes his “loved ones are under threat” by intolerant people and the drawn-out court challenge is causing too much stress and anxiety.

(Read the full article here.)

Jamaican activist Maurice Tomlinson provided some context for Jaghai’s decision, posting the following list of anti-gay attacks and protests since the challenge to the anti-sodomy law was filed in February 2013:

JAMAICAN ANTI-GAY ATTACKS AND PROTESTS

July 22, 2013: 16 year-old Dwayne Jones was stabbed, shot, run over by a car, and subsequently dumped in a nearby ditch for wearing a dress to a public street dance in Montego Bay. No one has been arrested for this murder.

Dwayne Jones in his casket

Dwayne Jones in his casket

Aug 1, 2013: A mob attacked a police officer in downtown Kingston because they accused him of being gay. He had to be rescued by other officers firing shots in the air and teargas into the crowd. No one was arrested.

Aug. 1, 2013: A mob attacked the home of two gay persons in St. Catherine. They too had to be rescued by police. No one was arrested.

Aug. 10, 2013: A mob attacked a cross-dresser in St. Catherine. The police again had to rescue the individual. No one was arrested.

Aug. 22, 2013: A mob attacked five allegedly gay men, who were trapped in their house in Green Mountain until police arrived and escorted them to safety. No one was arrested.

Aug. 26, 2013: A mob surrounded two allegedly gay men who were involved in a minor traffic accident in Old Harbour, St. Catherine. A member of the mob said that homosexuality might be acceptable elsewhere, but not in Old Harbour. The men had to flee into a nearby police station to escape harm. No one was arrested.

Oct. 8, 2013: A mob firebombed the abandoned building in Montego Bay which was the former home of murdered teen, Dwayne Jones, and where his surviving friends continued to live. No one was arrested.

June 14, 2014: A mob attacked a young man at a shopping mall in May Pen, Clarendon because he was allegedly seen putting on lipstick.

June 29, 2014: There was a massive anti-gay protest in Kingston with allegedly 25,000 people in attendance.

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Sierra Leone threat: Stop activism or we’ll spread ebola rumor

Front Line Defenders, which supports human rights activists, issued this press release on Aug. 28:

Sierra Leone – Threats against human rights defender Ms Mary Conteh

Location of Makeni in Siera Leone. (Map courtesy of WIkimedia Commons)

Location of Makeni in Siera Leone. (Map courtesy of WIkimedia Commons)

On 28 August 2014, human rights defender Ms Mary Conteh received a call from an unknown number where the caller threatened to spread false information that she contracted Ebola if she does not stop her human rights work. This comes just two days after she recorded a police statement denouncing the threats pronounced against her as a result of her recent investigation on reports of misuse of public funds.

Mary Conteh is the national coordinator for Women’s Centre for Good Governance and Human Rights (WOCEGAR), an organisation based in Makeni, in the northern part of Sierra Leone. Due to their work on women’s rights, women’s empowerment, good governance and the rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people, WOCEGAR and its national coordinator have been the subject of instances of harassment.

In early August 2014, Mary Conteh and her colleagues received information suggesting that members of the Sierra Leonean parliament had each received from the government a grant estimated at US$20,000 for the purpose of fighting the outbreak of Ebola in their respective constituencies.

On 24 August, she visited the office of Mr. Osman O. Sesay, who represents the constituency in which WOCEGAR is located, to inquire about reports suggesting that the grant assigned to his constituency had not been used for its original purpose. The member of parliament reportedly argued that the fund was placed on a personal account and that he was not accountable to any member of the local human rights groups. As the discussion proceeded, he reportedly started hurling insults at her and eventually threatened that he could make her disappear.

On 4 August 2014, during a radio interview Mary Conteh had criticised the way relevant civil society groups such as her own were being sidelined in the fight against Ebola. In what the human rights defender considered as an angry response to the interview, the Resident Minister in the North, Mr Ali Kamara, during a stakeholder meeting organised two days after the interview, on 6 August, reportedly threatened that since the country was going through an emergency period, he would not hesitate to order the arrest of journalists and human rights defenders who criticise governmental action as well as the closing of their organisations.

Following the threats proffered against her on 6 and 24 August, Mary Conteh recorded a statement with the police on 26 August. Two days later, she received a call from a masked number threatening to spread false information that she contracted Ebola if she continued her work.

Front Line Defenders is concerned at the threats directed against human rights defender Mary Conteh, as they appear to be the direct result of her legitimate work in support of good governance and human rights in Sierra Leone.

Front Line Defenders urges the authorities in the Sierra Leone to:

1. Take all necessary measures to guarantee the physical and psychological integrity and security of Mary Conteh;

2. Take measures to ensure that public officials, including government representatives and members of parliament, recognise the legitimate role of human rights defenders and refrain from issuing threats against them;

3. Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in the Sierra Leone are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions.

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Jamaican police propose LGBT shelter, raid gully again

New Kingston Police Supt. Christopher Murdock. (Photo courtesy of CVM News)

New Kingston Police Supt. Christopher Murdock. (Photo courtesy of CVM News)

Jamaican police have again raided the gully where dozens of homeless LGBT youth have taken refuge.

Police have often raided the storm water diversion gully, sometimes called a sewer, even though a Jamaican court ruled  in March that the youths, who have nowhere else to go, have a right to be there because gullies are public spaces.

The raid came a month after Supt. Christopher Murdock, who heads the New Kingston Police, gave his support to the idea of establishing a shelter where homeless LGBT people can have access to medication, psychological help, counselling and vocational training.

Dwayne's House logo

Dwayne’s House logo

Similar proposals have been made in the past, but so far they have not come to fruition.  Murdock did not mention the most recent proposal, Dwayne’s House, which has been put forward by supporters of the homeless youths.

In the latest raid, Murdock said, police were searching for several people suspected of criminal activity in the area, including the theft of J$100,000 (US$888).

Stone-throwing skirmishes broke out between the homeless youths and onlookers, according to a CVM News video posted on YouTube by GLBTQ Jamaica. The Jamaica Observer said that two of the police were injured in the raid, which occurred after the youths started throwing bottles at them.

Six people were arrested, including a man who Murdock said tried to choke him and inflicted a cut on Murdock’s arm.

Last month, after Murdock presented his statement in favor of establishing a shelter, the proposal attracted support.

Dane Lewis, president of J-FLAG

Dane Lewis, president of J-FLAG

“If we could convince members of the civic coalition and those who are spending millions on security to help, we could go a far way,” said Dane Lewis, president of J-FLAG (the Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All-sexuals and Gays).

“We have to have land, pay people who are going to come and look after health care and other benefits. We’ve had enough of these sessions; we need to come to a solution,” Lewis added.

Member of parliament Julian Robinson, whose constituency includes the affected area, said he would help find land for the shelter. Murdock said a small group should be chosen to organize the project.

Representatives from the  National Council on Drug Abuse and the Caribbean Vulnerable Communities Coalition said they would help after adequate funding is assured and the Government steps out to provide more than simply a location for the shelter.

 

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Ghana student faces anti-gay threats, so police arrest him

Yakubu Abdul Kadrito in police custody. (Photo courtesy of PeaceFMonline.com)

Yakubu Abdul Kadrito in police custody. (Photo courtesy of PeaceFMonline.com)

Police in northern Ghana in West Africa have arrested a 21-year-old student in response to area residents’ threats that they would kill him for wearing women’s clothing, having gay sex and seeking gay partners.

The police commander in the small town of Walewale, capital of the West Mamprusi district, said police arrested Yakubu Abdul Kadrito, age 21, to save him from a lynching, the website of Peace FM radio reported.

It also published pictures of the suspect in handcuffs and in women’s clothing. Gay Star News reported:

A Muslim sheik, Mahamadu Alhassan, condemned the young man and reportedly led a crusade of locals against him.

The suspect’s family were targeted by an angry group with weapons at their home, and were told their son should not return if he is released, and are now living in fear.

Commission for Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) have spoken out against the uproar, saying the treatment of the suspect and his family is a violation of human rights.

They have called for protection of the suspected gay man and his family.

According to PeaceFMonline.com, police had not decided how to handle the situation, in which area residents threatened to kill the young man and his family if he is released locally.

Sheik Mahamadu Alhassan led a raid on the family home by “angry weapon-wielding residents,” the website said.

Under the laws of Ghana, sex between men is a misdemeanor punishable by one to three years in prison.

In addition, mob justice is a problem. Gay Star News reported that in May, a gay man was lynched by an anti-gay mob of 30 Muslim young men.

PeaceFMonline also reported that Alhaji Ismael Ridwan, age 35, was arrested near Tamale, also in northern Ghana, on charges of engaging in “gay practice with a number of boys.” He was granted release on 500 GHc bail (US $132) while police conduct an investigation.

Ghana President John Dramani Mahama (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Ghana President John Dramani Mahama (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

In an interview last year, Ghana President John Dramani Mahama said that the country’s intense anti-gay hostility creates barriers to even  discussing the possibility of fair treatment for LGBT people, especially by politicians.

“I believe that laws must prevail,” he said. “For instance, people must not be beaten or killed because of their sexual orientation, but in my country there is a strong cultural hostility towards it,” Mahama told the Marietta Daily Journal in Marietta, Georgia.

“It’s a difficult situation, but I guess it’s something that –– it’s very difficult to comment on because often it creates more problems,” Mahama said.

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