Civil Rights worker seeks an end to anti-gay hatred in Africa

The Rev. Gilbert H. Caldwell (Photo courtesy of

The Rev. Gilbert H. Caldwell (Photo courtesy of

The Rev. Gilbert H. Caldwell, an African-American former Civil Rights activist and a retired United Methodist minister, responded with passion to the recent commentary by South African Justice Edwin Cameron, who bemoaned the repression of LGBT people in Africa.

In a commentary titled, “The Sexual Minority of Africa Should Also Be Heard,” Cameron wrote that “A destructive wave of hatred against lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender persons seems to be gaining force across Africa.”

Caldwell described his “deep agony” over mistreatment of LGBT people in parts of Africa and asked, “Why then would Africans in Africa … mistreat persons because of their sexual orientation in some of the ways we were once treated because of our race?”

This is Caldwell’s full response to Cameron’s commentary:

Edwin Cameron (Photo courtesy of WIkimedia Commons)

Edwin Cameron (Photo de Wikimedia Commons)

I respond with appreciation for Justice Cameron’s words for the following reasons:

1. I am a veteran “foot soldier” in the American Civil Rights Movement that Martin Luther King led. He and I are graduates of Boston University School of Theology where I met him in 1958.

2. I attended the 1963 March on Washington where Dr. King delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech, participated in “Mississippi Freedom Summer” when three young civil rights volunteers were killed, and I marched in the Selma to Montgomery March after the infamous “Bloody Sunday.”

3. I am an African-American who made my first trip to Africa in 1971 believing that Africa was the “Motherland” of those of us who represented the African Diaspora in America.

4. East Africa is viewed as the “Motherland” of all human beings and because of that
I have said over and over again, all human beings are “An African People.”

It is with a sense of deep agony that I read of the mistreatment of LGBT persons in some
of the nations of Africa. And, my prayer is that what Justice Cameron describes as a
“groundswell of hate” will soon be ended. My reasons:

The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/Library of Congress)

The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/Library of Congress)

1. Martin Luther King said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” How strange, peculiar and tragic it is that African nations that have known the injustices of colonialism that prompted successful independence struggles are now
engaging in acts of injustice directed at persons because of their homosexual orientation and practice. This contradicts the words that were spoken to justify the struggles for African Independence.

2. We who are Christians have just completed our observances and celebrations of Easter. We celebrated the life, mission and ministry of Jesus Christ who lived and died on behalf of ALL of God’s children. The Scriptures tell us of how Jesus wept over Jerusalem. Today, Jesus must be weeping over those nations in Africa where God-created and loved people are being persecuted because of their sexual orientation. Christians who engage in this persecution, or who are silent as it takes place, diminish the power of the Resurrection that we celebrated on Easter!

3. My wife and I are the grandparents of one grandchild, who is 9 years old. We do not know what her sexual orientation will be, but regardless of what it might be, how can we explain to her the wave of hatred that Justice Cameron describes?

4. When I first traveled to Africa in 1971 (Tanzania), I rejoiced in the sense of respect, community, togetherness and family that I experienced there. I realized that the poverty that exists in the USA represented plenty when compared to the poverty that exists in Africa. I came back to the USA and shared with my Black congregation that I saw hope and love and commitment in Africa, despite the poverty, that should inspire us amidst the poverty of our inner cities. But, what can I say to African-American Churches about the legally sanctioned hatred against gays in some African nations that is taking place today?

5. We in the African-American community in the USA sing a sing that is titled; “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” Some describe it as our National Anthem because it
describes the journey of African-Americans in the USA with these words: “We have
come over a way that with tears has been watered; we have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered.”

The journey of Africans in Africa or Africans in America has not been an easy journey.
Why then would Africans in Africa, or African-Americans, mistreat persons because of their sexual orientation in some of the ways we were once treated because of our race?

– The Rev. Gilbert H. Caldwell
Retired United Methodist Minister
Co-Partner in Truth in Progress and
A Board Member of PFLAG (Parents, Family and Friends of Lesbians and Gays)
One of the African-American clergymen in the film “Love Heals Homophobia”
Asbury Park, New Jersey, U.S.A.

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No bail for 2 Ugandans facing trial on gay-sex charges

HRAPF logo

HRAPF logo

Human rights workers have been seeking the release of two Ugandans who face trial starting May 7 on homosexuality charges. The case of Kim Mukisa and Jackson Mukasa, was reported in the article “2 Ugandans face trial on gay-sex charges.”


The advocacy group Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum — Uganda (HRAPF) has provided the defendants with lawyers who have tried to arrange their release on bail, so far unsuccessfully.

Adrian Jjuuko, executive director of HRAPF, released this description of the events in the case so far:

I have got many inquiries about this case, and since HRAPF’s lawyers have been representing the two since they were arrested, I would like to make a few comments in order to give the whole story behind the continued incarceration of the two.

It is true that Kim Mukisa and Jackson Mukasa were arrested and charged with ‘carnal knowledge against the order of nature’ and ‘permitting a male person to have carnal knowledge of oneself against the order of nature’ contrary to Section 145(a) and (c) of the Penal Code Act — not under the Anti Homosexuality Act 2014. This was on January 27th and 28th 2014 and not December 2013 as alleged in the article [in The Guardian].

The first one Kim Mukisa was being beaten up by a mob when HRAPF intervened. Jackson had complained to the local officials that Kim was ‘sodomising’ him. They were arrested separately.

Luzira Prison (Photo courtesy of

Luzira Prison, where Kim Mukisa and Jackson Mukasa are being held. (Photo courtesy of

They were held in detention for more than 48 hours, and on 3rd February 2014 we wrote a letter to the Police complaining about the violation of their rights. We copied in the Divisional Police Commander, the Inspector General of Police, and Uganda Human Rights Commission.

We also applied for the an unconditional release order for them to be released from custody. They were hurriedly taken to court as soon as the letter was delivered. They were remanded to prison until 21st February 2014.

An application for a production warrant was rejected and on their next appearance in court on 21st February 2014, bail was applied for. However, there was only one surety — Jackson’s father. Bail was denied because of the lack of sureties. The matter was stood over for four hours to allow sureties to come, but to no avail.

They were taken back to prison and appeared again in court on 10th March and still there were no sureties for Kim and only one for Jackson. The Court once again denied them bail on this basis. They case was adjourned to 25th of March.

Meanwhile the lawyers implored with the accused persons and Jackson’s father to get another surety, and also the lawyers convinced one community member to stand surety for Kim. All the other attempts to get sureties failed.

On 25th March, the lawyers applied for bail which was granted on the following conditions:
i) A deposit of Uganda Shillings 300,000 cash as bail money each.
ii) Uganda Shillings 2,000,000 not cash for sureties.
iii) Introduction letters of the accused from the respective Local Council Chairpersons with the photographs of the accused persons accused.

The cash bail was paid by HRAPF. The Local Council letter was brought for Jackson but that for Kim was not secured since the Local Council chairperson denied knowing Kim.

However, the second surety for Jackson did not return to court to sign the Bond forms and all attempts to reach him by the lawyers and Jackson’s father were futile. His phones were off and he also refused to pick the calls after that. As such both were returned to prison and the case adjourned for 16th of April for mention.

Meanwhile attempts to get sureties for Kim failed and attempts to reach Jackson’s other surety were still futile.

On 16th April, the lawyer asked the magistrate to allow for a new surety of Jackson, but the magistrate refused and demanded for the old surety. For Kim, there was one surety who was accepted but the absence of the LC letter ensured that he was not released. This is the stage at which the newspaper article was published.

The State intimated that they were ready to proceed and suggested 7th May for the trial. This date was accepted by our lawyers, and the accused remanded until then. It is an unfortunate development, but not unknown for LGBTI persons, as people are really willing to stand surety for them. In fact we had represented Jackson before but he skipped bail and the sureties were unwilling to stand surety for him again.

Today, we managed to get in touch with Jackson’s other surety but the court refused to issue a production warrant until 7th May.

So right now, we are preparing for the trial, which if indeed it takes off will be the first one recorded in the history of Section 145 for consensual same sex relations.

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Cameroon: Prison sentence ends for man denounced as gay

Interior of Yaoundé Central Prison. (Photo courtesy of

Interior of Yaoundé Central Prison. (Photo courtesy of

A Cameroon man, age 29,  has been released from prison, putting an end to incarceration that  began when a friend reportedly claimed the man was a homosexual, attorney Michel Togué reports.

The man (called Myan in this blog to protect him from homophobic attacks) was one of 10 prisoners who had all been arrested for homosexuality, who made contact in October 2013 with representatives from Camfaids (the Cameroonian Foundation for AIDS), an anti-AIDS, pro-human rights association based in Yaoundé that helps LGBT prisoners.

Myan said he was arrested after a friend, Nyman, named him as a homosexual in hopes of putting an end to a public caning that people at the Mfoundi market were giving to Nyman. That arrest was in 2012, he said.  Separately, Togué said Myan was arrested in the fall of 2013.

After being denounced by Nyman, Myan was seized at home by police without an arrest warrant and without giving any explanation of why it was happening.  He was then detained for three days at police headquarters in Yaoundé.

Myan and Nyman were taken to the district court in Yaoundé, then  transferred to the central prison, where for about a year they have been harassed and shunned by other inmates, Camfaids reported in October 2013. They also had to sleep on the floor.

Visitors from Camfaids gave Myan a package containing tapioca, sugar and antiseptic soap and 1,000 CFA francs (U.S. $2) for their needs within the prison.

After being sent back to prison repeatedly by the judge,  Myan said his lawyer has assured him that at his next court appearance he would be released.

That occurred on Nov. 29, 2013, during Myan’s appearance at the Court of First Instance of Ekounou in Yaoundé, Togué said.

No further news has been received from Myan, Togué said.

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African plea: The silence of good people hurts most

Edwin Cameron, justice of the Constitutional Court of South Africa, writes on the Global Fund website:

The Sexual Minority of Africa Should Also Be Heard

Edwin Cameron (Photo courtesy of WIkimedia Commons)

Edwin Cameron (Photo courtesy of WIkimedia Commons)

A destructive wave of hatred against lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender persons seems to be gaining force across Africa.

In this groundswell of hate, Nigeria this year enacted punitive laws that criminalise not only same-sex marriages but belonging to gay rights organisations.

And Uganda now has a like-minded law imposing harsh sentences for same-sex acts, including in some cases life imprisonment.

Voices of reason and goodwill must speak out against this hatred and irrationality. …

As Archbishop Desmond Tutu has said, our continent has more than enough wars, famine, bad governance, tyranny and injustice to worry about. We shouldn’t worry about how adult people express their love for one another.

What is unAfrican is this: the criminalisation, persecution, prosecution, imprisonment, rape, torture and killing of adults whose only crime is to love one another. We should actively speak out against these harmful actions. And we should remember a poignant truth: it is not so much the deeds of our oppressors that serve to injure us, as the silence of good people.

Africans of goodwill must raise their voices. The right to justice of LGBTI people is the keenest civil-rights issue at present. We who love our continent must not collude with oppressors by remaining silent in this wave of grotesque abuse. Instead, we must join to affirm African values of humanity – and rejoice in our diversity as humans.

Edwin Cameron was appointed to the High Court by President Nelson Mandela in 1994. Previously, at the University of the Witwatersrand’s Centre for Applied Legal Studies, he  co-drafted the Charter of Rights on AIDS and HIV, co-founded the AIDS Consortium and founded the AIDS Law Project. He was the first senior South African official to state publicly that he is living with HIV.

For his full commentary, visit the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria website:  “The Sexual Minority of Africa Should Also Be Heard.”

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Glimmer of hope for overturning India’s anti-gay law

Scene at a gay parade in Delhi. (Jasjeet Plaha photo courtesy of Hindustan Times /

Scene at a gay parade in Delhi. (Jasjeet Plaha photo courtesy of Hindustan Times /

BuzzFeed reports:

India’s Supreme Court said [today] it would hear arguments in open court on whether to reconsider a December decision upholding the country’s colonial-era sodomy law, known as Section 377.

This is LGBTI rights’ advocates last chance to toss out the decision, which was a harsh blow after a 12-year litigation process. …

But the lawyers in this case got a major boost last week when a different two-judge Supreme Court panel issued a sweeping verdict recognizing broad rights for transgender people. Though the judges in the transgender rights case were careful to explicitly say they were not offering an opinion on the 377 case, their ruling reads almost like a point-by-point rebuttal to the ruling.

For more information, read the full article in BuzzFeed: Indian Supreme Court To Reconsider Sodomy Ruling.

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Easter dinner for homeless Jamaican LGBT youth

Easter dinner for homeless LGBT youths in Jamaica. (Photo courtesy of Yvonne McCalla-Sobers)

Easter dinner for homeless LGBT youths in Jamaica. (Photo courtesy of Yvonne McCalla-Sobers)

From Jamaica, activist Yvonne McCalla-Sobers reports on Sunday’s Easter dinner, made by LGBT youth supporter Nevin Powell, who also arranged a Christmas dinner for them a few months ago:

Homeless LGBT youths in Jamaica line up for Easter dinner. (Photo courtesy of Yvonne McCalla-Sobers)

Homeless LGBT youths in Jamaica line up for Easter dinner. (Photo courtesy of Yvonne McCalla-Sobers)

Once again, Nevin Powell provided a special dinner for the homeless LGBT youth forced to live in the sewers of Kingston, Jamaica. This time Nevin and a group of friends, including two brother Christian ministers, came from Los Angeles specifically to provide an Easter meal, just as they did last December when they treated the youngsters to Christmas dinner.

The youth, 31 in all, enjoyed the spread of chicken, curried goat, rice and peas, tossed salad, drink, and Easter bun and cheese (a beloved and much-anticipated Jamaican Easter tradition).

After lunch, gift packages containing clothing, shoes and some toiletries were handed out. The youngsters expressed a particular need for shoes, which are a premium item. Those youth who are barefoot often injure the soles of the feet just walking around and most of all jumping down into the sewer. In addition, if they are to leave the sewer they need shoes, and hopefully reliable shoes.

Homeless LGBT youths at  Easter dinner. (Photo courtesy of Yvonne McCalla-Sobers)

Homeless LGBT youths at Easter dinner. (Photo courtesy of Yvonne McCalla-Sobers)

Dwayne’s House has been collecting the sizes of pants, shirts, and shoes for the youth and has tried to match these with donated items. However, it is sometimes difficult to meet the specific needs from this source. Nevin has therefore committed to source some of these items in the U.S., which he will then try to ship to Jamaica.

Pastors and others provided Easter dinner for homeless LGBT youths in New Kingston, Jamaica. (Photo courtesy of Yvonne McCalla-Sobers )

Pastors and others provided Easter dinner for homeless LGBT youths in New Kingston, Jamaica. (Photo courtesy of Yvonne McCalla-Sobers )

The individual attention to the specific needs of these youngsters will help them to feel that they are not forgotten by a society that is often so hostile towards them. This is also a critical first step to ensuring that the youth abandon anti-social survival behavior and start contributing as productive members of Jamaican society.

See the Web page of Dwayne’s House for more information or to contribute to the effort to relieve the desperate conditions of LGBT youths who have been evicted from their homes by families and police. (Contributions from the United States and Canada are treated as charitable donations.)

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Easter reflections on Christians who crucify LGBT people

Excerpts from a Holy Week meditation by the Rev. Canon Albert Ogle:

Jesus imagined as Warrior King (Photo courtesy of

Jesus imagined as Warrior King (Photo courtesy of

The passion story will be read all over the world this weekend as the Christian community celebrates Easter, but in most of the countries where LGBT people are criminalized, there will be little connection in what religious authorities continue to do in conjunction with their politicians to persecute and crucify LGBT people.

“Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing” is not a Jesus prayer only for the people who shortened his young life, but as much for the Christian church and others today. …

What we are seeing, in countries like Uganda, is the rise of a militant fundamentalist form of Christianity that is both frightening and yet inevitable, if their sincere interpretation of holy texts concludes that Jesus will return to Earth as a Warrior King. The state becomes the instrument of this violent imposition of the reign of God.

We cannot truly understand the place homosexuality has in the psyche of these fundamentalist leaders without understanding the Warrior King discussion as a kind of internal code and conversation. Homosexuality is seen as against God’s natural order and therefore evil and needs to be eradicated so the reign of God can come. Violence and all the weight of the criminal justice system (and even mob justice) is justified because it is a sign of moral degeneration.

Rainbow cross (Image courtesy of Birmingham LGCM)

Rainbow cross (Image courtesy of Birmingham LGCM)

Sadly, if we asked Christians in the world today “Is Jesus the warrior king or something else?” I would expect the vast majority would vote for Jesus as the Warrior King. I look at many of the churches in Africa, including our own Anglican church, and some churches in this country and there is an imperial militancy about our theology and public policy that can be traced back to … early Christian/Jewish interpretations of holy texts.

The church [is] often in the front row calling for the death penalty for LGBT people, for life or long-term prison sentences, in permitting the mob to adjudicate, not unlike the passion story.

The 21st century church all over the world will dramatize this story over this weekend, but is still looking for a Warrior King who will come a second time to violently transform the world. It is the ultimate conversation around biblical interpretation that we need to have and, like the early church, we just may agree to disagree.

The text today reminds us that religious leaders who were around in Jesus’ time used holy texts, culture and religious law and values to put Jesus to death. The 30 pieces of silver used to bribe Judas into betraying Jesus was holy money, straight out of the temple’s collection plates and was a strategic decision by holy leaders to protect their religious traditions. We forget that holy people conspired with the state to put Jesus to death. I am seeing this happening all over Africa today in the context of LGBT people and with laws in Nigeria, Uganda and even Russia, we find ourselves in the story in a new and tragic way. …

Prison centrale à Yaoundé.

Central prison in Yaoundé

I recently visited LGBT prisoners in Cameroon, one of the worst places in Africa for being LGBT. Families and even the churches do not visit these young men and women who are inhumanely treated. I call them, not prisoners of conscience, but prisoners of being. They have done no crime or harm, but are in prison simply for living and loving the way God meant them to be.

Interpretation of Scripture, colonial laws and a growing Warrior Jesus mentality in these churches has made it socially acceptable to unleash all the violence, sexual abuse and injustice that we read about in the passion story.

The bribery by American churches and development institutions to make homosexuality a wedge issue for many African countries is well documented. Holy money still goes to persecute and kill innocent children of God.

You can read about the prison visit in detail in something I wrote and an article Andy Kopsa wrote in the Nation.

It was chilling and the inhumanity of what religious well-meaning leaders are doing to their children and fellow citizens is as harrowing as the story we read today. After the visit, I felt ill and appalled by what we religious leaders are doing in the name of God.

As I looked into their eyes, I shared with them my belief that they have not been forgotten but God was with them. My words seemed empty and false, knowing that the churches in Cameroon had largely created the climate in which these young people were denied their freedom and access to proper health care and earning an income.

The collusion of religion and state is as real today as it was 2,000 years ago. So all I could do was to write a prayer. The invitation of the passion story is to ask ourselves: Where are we? Where am I in this story? Am I one with the crucified, or am I participating in the crucifying? Is my savior the Warrior King or the Suffering Servant? Is my church the Imperial one, wrapped in flag and culture, or am I creating an alternative community of justice and equality that may be in direct opposition to the dominant forces of our own day?

Can I step out from the crowd, like Veronica, to make a difference in the life of someone on their road of suffering? I see her as a prototype for straight allies in these violent contexts who step out and do courageous things, risking all for what is right and decent and humane.

Click HERE to read that prayer for all LGBT prisoners of being. May we find ourselves and each other as one with them, one with the suffering and crucified.

Read the full commentary in the San Diego Gay and Lesbian News:  RGOD2: Easter reflections on effects of Christian militancy on LGBT people

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