Rural Uganda: 9 gay youth still on the run; anyone care?

“They put their lives in jeopardy by being responsible young men attending an HIV / STI screening clinic.”

Publicity for HAMIAM campaign for funds to help endangered Ugandans in 2014. (Photo from HAMIAM via Facebook)

Publicity for HAMIAM campaign for funds to help endangered Ugandans in 2014. (Photo from HAMIAM via Facebook)

Nine young gay men remain homeless and at risk of violence in the countryside of western  Uganda, afraid to return home after escaping from a mob that threatened to attack them because of their sexual orientation.

As reported here last month, the mob pursued the youths after they  attended an HIV / STI screening on Jan. 15 at an outreach medical clinic.

Police took them into custody for five days, subjected them to anal examinations, then released them with nowhere to go.  They all returned back to their own towns, to the same places that wanted them dead. But, they could not safely return to their homes as they had been exposed as gay.  Suddenly homeless, some hid in the area’s agricultural plantations.

An international plea for financial assistance fell on deaf ears, and the local clinic that organised the testing has no money to provide them with a safe house or money for relocation.

The boys are still on the run, and homeless now for over a month, never having imagined the consequences of going for HIV / STI testing.  They put their lives in jeopardy by being responsible young men attending an HIV / STI screening clinic.

Some planned to travel to Nairobi to seek refuge, but that avenue was closed when the UNHCR (United Nations High Commission for Refugees) temporarily halted registrations of new Ugandan refugees. They are stuck in Uganda. They are to report back to police on March 3.

The article on Jan. 27 appealed to readers for urgent financial assistance, because although the RHF (Rainbow Health Foundation) Clinic has the human resources to counsel these suddenly homeless youth, it has no funds even for basic emergency shelter.

The fundraising effort failed. Only about US $150 was raised. The clinic’s director Dismus Kevin Aine, nonetheless thanked those few donors who contributed. “At least a few people care. Thanks,” he said.

Contributions can still be made via PayPal to RHF’s account. To donate, go to PayPal and click on “Send.” Then enter the address “donate2rhfm@gmail.com” and the amount you wish to contribute.

Click here to see our news archives on Uganda from 76crimes.com

Posted in Africa, Africa (Sub Saharan), Harassment / murders, HIV / AIDS | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Uganda: “Where Do We Go for Justice?”

Chapter Four 2015 Report, Uganda

Chapter Four 2015 Report, Uganda

A report on the criminal justice system was issued today by Chapter Four in Uganda. Titled: Uganda: “Where Do We Go for Justice?” The Abuse of the Rights of Sexual Minorities in Uganda’s Criminal Justice System. 

“UGANDA’s criminal justice system should cease the practice of intrusive, non-consensual and dehumanizing anal/rectum examination of persons of different sexual orientation and gender identity”, a new report by Chapter Four Uganda, a civil rights organisation, demands.

Chapter Four, a group formed in 2013 was inspired by other civil liberties organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union. It derives its name from the bill of rights, contained under chapter four of the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda. The report was funded, at least in part, by Canada’s Fund for Local Initiatives.

In its news release, Chapter Four says that it reports on the practice of anal/rectum examination, a routine practice in the investigation of cases against LGBTI persons, usually conducted in the presence of third parties and in unscientific manner is a violation of medical code of practice and a vile affront on the dignity of the persons involved.

‘The practice(s) that we found in this research are deeply troubling. It includes the fondling of private parts and insertion of fingers in the rectum/anus of victims/suspects’ said Nicholas Opiyo, the Team Leader, Chapter Four.

‘The method is unscientific and of no evidentiary value in criminal prosecutions and amounts to torture, cruel, inhumane and degrading practice’ Opiyo said.

“This report reveals profound denial of access to justice for sexual minorities in Uganda,” said Asia Russell, Executive Director of Health GAP, Global Access Project. ‘

The Anti-homosexuality Act, now nullified, resulted in a spike in cases of rights violations including assault, discrimination and extortion. When LGBTI Ugandans sought justice, they faced yet another wave of abuse–but this time from the criminal justice system itself, the very system that is required to protect all Ugandans. Unfortunately, rather than being an exception, the
conduct described in this report is consistent with a deteriorating environment for human rights in Uganda overall’ says Russell.

The media release issued by Chapter four says that the reports highlights cases in which persons of different sexual orientation and gender identity being prosecuted for their sexuality when they seek protection from the criminal justice system, routinely abused and ridiculed at police stations and paraded to the press by police officers, exposing them to wider societal violence and discrimination.

Bernard Randall

Bernard Randall

The report cites the case of Bernard Randall, a British national deported from Uganda on January 26th, 2014 after being charged with the offences of having carnal knowledge of a person against the order of nature and trafficking in obscene publications. In this particular case, the report notes that after reporting a robbery, suspects were arrested, arraigned in court and weeks later turned into witnesses in a case against Randall who had in the first place sought police protection. In a charge an caution statement recorded at the police, the robbery suspects reveal their blackmail plot against Randall and his partner. ‘The criminal justice system to which he ran for protection became his tormentor for no other reason other than his sexuality’ the report notes.

Between the months of December 2014 and February 2015, Chapter Four Uganda states it embarked on a research project in the districts of Buikwe (Lugazi township), Entebbe, Kampala and Mbarara.

The news release also states that the report focuses on the real life experiences of individuals, who have gone through the criminal justice system on accusations of homosexuality. The report focuses on the actions of criminal justice actors; the people, who on a day-to-day basis conduct investigations, hear cases and examine suspected homosexuals. It also focuses on the lawyers who defend or prosecute cases related to sexual minorities.

Chapter Four Uganda says it traced, obtained and reviewed volumes of documents including police statements, police files, court files, charge sheets, medical examination reports, and media reports relating to sexual minorities between the years 2012-2015. In all, 11 police files and 10 court files were obtained.

Click here to view or download a full copy of the report  Uganda: “Where Do We Go for Justice?”

 

Click here to view all of our Uganda story Archives.

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

Nigerian safe house might close without your help

Anti-terrorism protest (Photo courtesy of Jide Macaulay via Facebook)

Anti-terrorism protest (Photo courtesy of Jide Macaulay via Facebook)

 

A safe house for persecuted LGBT people in Nigeria needs financial help — specifically, US $2,000 to pay the annual rent for the shelter, which has been operated by the gay-friendly House of Rainbow Fellowship for the past three years. 

If the safe house has to shut down, its five current residents would have to leave its protection and again be exposed to whatever homophobic threats they had endured before turning to House of Rainbow for sanctuary. The shelter opened in 2012, long before Nigeria enacted its latest repressive anti-gay law in January 2014.

This is House of Rainbow’s appeal on the fund-raising site YouCaring.com:

Safe House @HouseOfRainbow in Nigeria

House of Rainbow safe house appeal. (Click image for link to YouCaring.com fundraising site)

House of Rainbow safe house appeal. (Click image for link to YouCaring.com fundraising site)

Since March 2012, House Of Rainbow has provided a Safe House for the safety and protection of persecuted LGBT people in Nigeria. The work by the House became more poignant in the rise of violence against LGBT persons since January 2014.

The house is in danger of closing down by 31st March 2015.

Since 2012, we have provided emergency accommodation to LGBT people. We continue to maintain a safe place for those who needed somewhere when there is violence and or crisis at their homes or communities based on [their sexual orientation or gender identity].

We need your HELP NOW to save this project.

The Safe House provides immediate shelter to LGBT people in Nigeria. We have been supported by NGOs [non-governmental organizations] in Nigeria and others abroad, however the demand on this unique service is unprecedented in the wake of Nigeria government’s sponsored criminalisation of gay people.

We support those:

  • Fleeing physical abuse and or harassment
  • In fear of being ostracised
  • Made homeless by families or careers

There are currently 5 out of a possible 9 residents in the house, we are fearful we would ask them to leave placing them in further danger.

We need your help to raise as much as US$2,000 to cover the annual rent due on the 31st March 2015.

Your donations will help towards the cost of providing:

  • Housing (less than US$1 a night per person to keep them safe);
  • Free counseling, welfare and support;
  • Free sexual health information.

We are appealing to you to support this incredible and life-saving project.

For more information, visit us at HouseofRainbow.org.

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

Uganda interview helps launch LGBTI refugee support group

FARUG logo

FARUG logo

A new European ally for African LGBTI rights activists — International LGBTI Support  (ILS) — will soon launch its Ugandan support program at the European Parliament in Brussels.  As the group prepares to unveil its  International Support Uganda (ISU) project, the executive director of ILS  interviewed long-time Ugandan activist Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera, founding editor of “Bombastic” magazine.

Freedom and Roam Uganda (FARUG) is the sort of long-standing Ugandan organization that a new international organisation wants to consult before launching. To make that point, Tobias Pellicciari, executive director of ILS, interviewed FARUG’s co-founder Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera. (See his questions and her answers below.)  Her advice to international allies:

“We know our situation better…  always consult before taking any action.”  

ISU is a refugee-support program initiated by the Brussels office of ILS with strong support in Italy. (The ILS and ISU Web pages and Facebook page are in Italian. Some Internet browsers can be adjusted to translate such sites automatically into the language of your choice.)

International LGBTI Support seeks to help LGBTI refugees in Uganda, Kenya and eventually Senegal.

International LGBTI Support seeks to help LGBTI refugees in Uganda, Kenya and eventually Senegal. Click image to enlarge.

International Support Uganda’s program aims to support refugees in Kenya and Uganda. Many LGBTI people, particularly since the approval last year of Uganda’s anti-gay bill, were forced to leave their country looking for safety, for more freedom and tolerance.

The group is working in partnership with ILGA World, Pan Africa ILGA, ORAM and with other LGBTI organizations to create better conditions for LGBTI people in their countries, to ensure safer places for refugees and to improve the bureaucracy for asylum seekers. For further information, contact: isp.uganda@hotmail.com or visit their Facebook page.

To obtain an overview of the current Ugandan context, ISU’s Tobias Pellicciari interviewed Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera, who is one of the few founding members of Uganda’s LGBTI movement from the ’90s still living there.

Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera (Photo courtesy of Amnesty.fr)

Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera (Photo courtesy of Amnesty.fr)

Kasha has received numerous honors for her work. These include the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders in 2011 and the Nuremberg International Human Rights Award in 2013.

Here is the interview:

Can you tell us about your organization? What are the main activities?

I founded and headed Freedom and Roam Uganda from 2003 to 2013. I have since stepped down from its leadership to pave the way for more growth.

We work in four thematic areas:

  1. Advocacy and lobbying. This, through policy change, international lobbying at the UN and African Commission, through regional and national bodies.
  2. Information dissemination. By providing our community and the general public with information regarding sexual orientation and gender identity in the hope of attitude change, in order to reduce and ultimately eradicate all forms of phobias directed to sexual minorities.
  3. Research and Documentation about the lived realities of our community, abuses, violations and health to use it for litigation purposes but also to use it for policy inclusion like national health policy.
  4. Movement building, so that we can lay a strong foundation for the future generation to continue the struggle. My stepping down after a decade is one example of transformational leadership.

Are there new elements in the new draft “Prohibition of promotion of unnatural sexual offence” bill?

Since it is not an official document of the state, I cannot really talk much about it until it is published in the Gazette as a formal document. We have not done anything about it.

What kind of actions will you take in order to fight against the “Prohibition of promotion of unnatural sexual offences” bill?

If and when it becomes a formal document, we shall also challenge it in the constitutional court. But for now, I don’t want to give it much weight by speculating about it.

After the approval of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill in February 2014, many people left Uganda and asked for asylum in other countries. Do you think that it will happen again if the government approves a new law?

There is no doubt that many people will continue to leave the country as long as the environment remains harsh and hostile; people need to live healthy and secure lives and many don’t feel they can do that in Uganda right now.

So we support all those who don’t feel safe anymore so that they can go and look for safer places. It’s unfortunate that it has come to this, that many people are being forced out.

It breaks our heart when we see our friends and family leaving all their lives behind, and that’s why we continue to strive every day, waiting for the day when they will return in a safer place than it is today.

On December 3rd you attended a conference in Brussels called “Europe, Let’s Speak Out for LGBTI Rights in Africa.” What were the outcomes of the conference? Would you share a comment with us?

The aim of the conference was to share with our European partners our stories and to explain to them how they can support us on the African continent without causing more harm. That was the main objective and we did give great strategies that they can use to support us.

What could International Support Uganda and other LGBTI rights non-governmental organizations (NGOs) do to help Uganda? Would you like to say something to other activists?

Already by starting such an NGO, it shows how much support and love they have for us. Please continue the support in many ways: technically, emotionally and yes, financially as we need a lot of all this support to execute our objectives.

But also remember, we know our situation better. So please always consult before taking any action. Always consult.

 

Posted in Africa (Sub Saharan), Anti-LGBT laws and legislation, Commentary, Positive steps | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Video: The human cost of Russia’s anti-gay campaign

Introductory slide for Anastasia Smirnova (Photo courtesy of The Daily Beast)

Introductory slide for Anastasia Smirnova (Photo courtesy of The Daily Beast)

Russia’s “concerted, government-run anti-gay propaganda campaign” is the focus of this week’s video in the “Quorum” series of 11 discussions of international LGBTI issues.

In the latest Daily Beast video, activist Anastasia Smirnova, who was arrested in Russia for posting an LGBT banner at the Sochi Olympics, talks with Russian-American journalist Masha Gessen.  Although Smirnova had to flee from Russia, she is working abroad with International LGBT Association (ILGA) to combat Russian President Vladimir Putin’s anti-LGBT campaign. Some excerpts from the video:

Gessen:

“There is a concerted, government-run anti-gay propaganda campaign that is resulting in ever-brewing anti-LGBTQ violence that has cost people their lives, has cost people their homes, that people are afraid is going to cost them their children, and for all of those reasons people are either going underground or leaving the country.”

Anastasia Smirnova (Photo courtesy of The Daily Beast)

Anastasia Smirnova (Photo courtesy of The Daily Beast)

Smirnova described the disruption of a plan during the Sochi Olympics in 2014 to hang a banner in St. Petersburg displaying Principle 6 of the Olympic Charter (“the practice of sport is a human right” which every individual must be able to practice “without discrimination of any kind.”):

“We were surrounded by five police cars, maybe even more. And it was not just police. Different law enforcement agencies were there, like Center for Extremism Prevention, the prosecutor’s office, like I said several police cars, and we were detained even before our action had started.”

Smirnova is currently working with ILGA Europe to support LGBTI activists in Russia, Ukraine, Moldova and other countries in Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

The Smirnova video is the fifth of 11 discussions of international LGBTI issues that overall are designed to “reverse the megaphone,” allowing activists from abroad to tell Western viewers about the challenges that LGBTI people face worldwide. The videos were recorded at a December 2014 meeting in New York.

The series, under its full title “Quorum: Global LGBT voices,” is presented by The Daily Beast. The Erasing 76 Crimes blog, as a member of the advisory board for the project, helped The Daily Beast select Quorum speakers.

The video is on the Quorum page and on YouTube.

Posted in Europe, Harassment / murders, International pressure for LGBT rights | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Turkish police beat 2 gay Iranian refugees

IRQO LogoIn a country that LGBT Iranian refugees are finding increasingly hostile, two gay Iranian men were severely beaten on Jan. 26 by a police officer at the police station in a town (name withheld to protect the men) in southern Turkey.

The two men are same-sex partners, in their 30s. They had asked the police officer how they could obtain insurance for medical treatment. The policeman became hostile after he heard one of them say they were partners. Both men were very frightened, humiliated and insulted by the assault.

This case was documented by Omid Parsa, who works with the LGBT Refugee Outreach Program of the Iranian Queer Organization (IRQO), based out of Toronto, Canada, a registered non-profit since 2008. The organization promotes and protects the rights of Iranian gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transsexuals in Iran and abroad.

IRQO also reported that on Feb. 4, an Iranian trans refugee, who had been pre-interviewed by Turkish police, but not yet pre-interviewed by UNHCR (the United Nations High Commission for Refugees), was informed that his application for refugee status had been denied. He was told to sign forms to confirm his rejection and informed of his right to appeal within 30 days.

This is the first known case of a trans refugee from Iran rejected by Turkey. IRQO is attempting to decipher the new Turkish immigration law and how it might apply to Iranian LGBT refugee applicants. Parsa says that decisions about claims are supposed to be officially made in Ankara, and not by the teams in satellite cities.

IRQO has documented complaints from gay, lesbian and trans refugees in satellite cities outside Ankara on the increasingly homophobic behavior of police.

The group believes that the many LGBT from Iran experience violence, blackmail and humiliation and that many may also suffer from depression and anxiety as a result. They have difficulty coping with incidents such as these.

The increasing hostility that Iranian LGBT refugees are experiencing in Turkey has come at a time of increased difficulties for LGBT people in Iran. IRQO’s Omid Parsa stated:

“The past couple of years have been even more difficult than before for the LGBT community and individuals inside Iran. We’ve been dealing with an increasing number of arrests and detentions that would end with release on bail, but exposed their (sexual) identity” to families and other detainees, resulting in torture while in detention and blackmail afterwards.

Parsa added that: “The number of teenagers and adult individuals who were handed to mental health professionals by parents in order to have them “cured” of their sexual orientation and gender identity, also increased. Forced marriages for the lesbian and gays happened more during this time in hope that the homosexual individual would be cured after the marriage. Naturally the number of refugees increased, most of them choosing Turkey for escape.”

“The conditions of Iranian gay, lesbian, and transsexual refugees in Turkey is getting more and more confusing since the new law on Foreigners and International Protection came to effect in 2013. No one knows with certainty what the actual extent of power, responsibilities and areas of authority of police is with regards to refugees,” Parsa said. “There are issues of black-market jobs, health insurance, length of wait-time for interviews with police and with the UNHCR  and, now, reported police violence against the LGBT refugees.”

“The IRQO team works on refugees’ case-files, and our clients are getting more and more worried,” said Parsa. “The extended length of time it takes to determine a refugee’s resettlement, since Canada and USA have much harder security checks in place now, makes the situation much harder, and brings into the life of the LGBT in Turkey more disasters.”

According to IRQO, some 200 Iranian LGBT individuals residing in Turkey are waiting for refugee determination by the UNHCR and for the resettlement process elsewhere to be completed.

IRQO is reaching out to Turkish LGBT organizations for advice as to how best to influence and initiate communications with Turkish officials.  The group is looking for ways to encourage Turkey to train its officials and police outside the capital city of Ankara about sexual orientation and gender identity, refugee protection laws, homophobia and tolerance. Homophobia is most frequently experienced in smaller cities where many Iranian LGBT refugees are assigned to live while they await resettlement in a third country.

Parsa stated that “as IRQO, we’re expressing concern about the new (Turkish) law and the police’s treatment of LGBT.”

IRQO has strongly recommended that Canada and the United States provide a faster process for resolving the cases of Iranian LGBT refugees who live temporarily in Turkey while seeking resettlement.

Posted in Deportation / asylum, International pressure for LGBT rights, Middle East / North Africa | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

New U.S. strategies for combating anti-gay laws

78 countries with laws against homosexual activity

78 countries with laws against homosexual activity (Click image for the list)

United States officials are pushing two relatively new strategies for promoting the human rights of LGBTI people worldwide.

Over the opposition of Global South politicians and others who complain of neo-colonialism whenever the U.S. tries to dissuade homophobic nations from persecuting their sexual minorities, LGBTI advocates are promoting these two endeavors:

1. Using free-trade pacts as a tool for expansion of human rights of LGBT people in countries with repressive laws. (See coverage in BuzzFeed.)
2. Appointing a special LGBT envoy in the U.S. state department to push for recognition of the human rights of LGBT people worldwide. (See coverage first in BuzzFeed and then in the Washington Blade.)

Excerpts from coverage by BuzzFeed and the Blade are below. First, from BuzzFeed:

LGBT Members Of Congress Object To Free-Trade Deal With Countries Criminalizing LGBT People

The Sultan of Brunei, Hassanal Bolkiah, who has imposed a version of sharia law that restricts women's rights and provides for death by stoning as a punishment for homosexual activity.

The Sultan of Brunei, Hassanal Bolkiah, who has imposed a version of sharia law that restricts women’s rights and provides for death by stoning as a punishment for homosexual activity.

Five out LGBT members of Congress objected to the inclusion of two countries with anti-LGBT laws in a free trade deal that the Obama administration is currently negotiating and seeking to fast-track it for adoption.

In a letter sent to the president on [Feb. 11], the members asked why Malaysia and Brunei are part of a trade deal called the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which also includes several other nations in Asia and Latin America. The Obama administration has been seeking “fast-track” authority from Congress for the deal, which means whatever deal they negotiate is guaranteed an up-or-down vote.

Labor unions and other advocacy groups have long voiced concern that TPP could set too low a bar for signatories, but the pact only became a serious concern for LGBT-rights groups last spring after the sultan of Brunei imposed a version of sharia law that included a punishment of death by stoning for homosexuality along with other sexual offenses. The states of neighboring Malaysia also have criminal sharia codes, and the government is appealing a recent court ruling striking down their provision criminalizing transgender people. The courts of another potential TPP member, Singapore, have recently rejected challenges to its sodomy law, but it was not singled out by the members of congress who signed this letter.

The letter is signed by Reps. Mark Pocan (D-WI), David Cicilline (D-RI), Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) and Mark Takano (D-CA), five of the six co-chairs of the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus. The sixth caucus co-chair, Rep. Jared Polis, is the only out member of Congress who did not sign the letter. A Polis spokesman did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment about why he did not sign onto the letter.

The five representatives wrote that the negotiations were continuing with Brunei and Malaysia in the wake of the Obama administration’s announcement in December that it would kick the Gambia out of a trade pact for African nations, in part because of the country’s recent crackdown on LGBT rights.

(For more information, read the full BuzzFeed article.)

The Washington Blade covered the appointment of the new LGBT rights advocate:

State Department names Randy Berry as LGBT envoy

Randy Berry, the U.S. state department's special envoy for LGBT rights.  (Photo courtesy of U.S. Department of State)

Randy Berry, the U.S. state department’s special envoy for LGBT rights. (Photo courtesy of U.S. Department of State)

The State Department on [Feb. 23] announced it has named Randy Berry as its special envoy to promote global LGBT rights.

Berry, who is openly gay, has been the consul general at the U.S. Consulate in Amsterdam since August 2012. …

“Randy’s a leader,” said Secretary of State John Kerry in a statement to the Washington Blade. “He’s a motivator. But most importantly for this effort, he’s got vision. Wherever he’s served — from Nepal to New Zealand, from Uganda to Bangladesh, from Egypt to South Africa, and most recently as consul general in Amsterdam — Randy has excelled. He’s a voice of clarity and conviction on human rights. And I’m confident that Randy’s leadership as our new special envoy will significantly advance efforts underway to move towards a world free from violence and discrimination against LGBT persons.” …

Kerry in his statement to the Blade highlighted the State Department’s Global Equality Fund that seeks to promote LGBT rights around the world. He also noted homosexuality remains criminalized in more than 70 countries.

“At the same time, and often with our help, governments and other institutions, including those representing all religions, are taking steps to reaffirm the universal human rights of all persons, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity,” said Kerry. “So while this fight is not yet won, this is no time to get discouraged. It’s time to stay active. It’s time to assert the equality and dignity of all persons, no matter their sexual orientation or gender identity. And with Randy helping to lead our efforts, I am confident that’s exactly what we can and will do.”

(For more information, read the full Washington Blade article.)

This article was updated on Feb. 24 to cite the Buzzfeed article about Randy Berry.

Posted in Americas, Anti-LGBT laws and legislation, Asia, International pressure for LGBT rights | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment