How to aid LGBTI people in earthquake-devastated Nepal

Sunil Pant (Photo courtesy of TowleRoad.com)

Sunil Pant (Photo courtesy of TowleRoad.com)

In the wake of the massive earthquake in Nepal, activist Sunil Pant sent the following message on behalf of Blue Diamond Society, Nepal.

In addition, the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation is collecting United States tax-deductible donations that will be sent to the Blue Diamond Society. To donate, visit the foundation’s donation page and select “Nepal” from the drop-down menu under “Donated For.”:

Blue Diamond Society (BDS) is the lifeline for more than 200,000 LGBTI members and more and more LGBTIs, as always, are reaching to BDS for help. Our massive responsibilities now increase to provide rescue, relief and rehabilitation to all LGBTIs that are in now need, due to this earthquake. As communication is improving in Nepal we are hearing of more and more cases of “casualties, injured, missing LGBTIs or their homes have been  destroyed” coming to us.

At this difficult time we expect all of our friends and well-wisher’s promptness and greater generosity.

Thank you very much,

Sunil Pant on behalf of Blue Diamond Society, Nepal

Nepal earthquake damage. (Photo courtesy of LionsRoar.com)

Nepal earthquake damage. (Photo courtesy of LionsRoar.com)

LATEST NEWS
(April 28, 2015)

Dear friends and colleagues,

With heavy hearts, sadness and sense of fear, Blue Diamond Society, on behalf of Nepalese sexual and gender minority communities, sends this updates on aftermath of recent devastating earthquake that hit Nepal hard. You must have heard the news and some information already shared from our founder Sunil Babu Pant and other colleagues of BDS that LGBTI community are also equally affected, if not more.

The level of devastation in Nepal is huge and much is still not known. Even before the earthquakes, Nepal had electricity power load shading. There is now an acute electricity shortage which severely limits mobile coverage too. Since the earthquakes the BDS has been trying to contact and search for our members and staff.

We found the body of Ciatala (Kumar Bhujel), who identifies as third gender, in a teaching hospital. We reached her in time and found her. Otherwise the security force were ready to do a mass funeral of unidentified bodies    We have informed her mother in Dharan and we did funeral at Pashupati Aryeghat today.

 

Crowds of people left homeless by the Nepal earthquake. (Photo courtesy of Unicef)

Crowds of people left homeless by the Nepal earthquake. (Photo courtesy of Unicef)

A member of BDS’s care and support team, Jyoti Prakash KC, is still missing. We visited several hospitals in Kathmandu and are unable to find him. Moreover we have got information today  that two more transgender, Melina and Bhawani, are also missing.

The BDS’s main building and its care and support building are both cracked and damaged. Friends’ and colleagues’ houses have collapsed. Most of  LGBTI people are spending nights under some tents with BDS banner for security and identification. There is shortage of gas and food and the BDS has run out of food for the care and support and hospice for HIV-positive LGBTI.

Around 300 trans women / metis in Kathmandu survive through sex work. They now have no way of earning money.

Many LGBTI members from Kavre, Gorkha, Dhading, Nuwakot, Kathmandu, Makwanpur, Bhaktapur,  Jhapa, Saptari and several other districts have lost their homes. Relief camps are there but only for general population, segregated facilities into binary genders, excluding THIRD gender. Even accessing toilets is a big issue for TG.

This is just a preliminary report, we will keep updating you as get more information from the ground, especially from remote districts of Nepal.

The needs are huge and for many months to come.

The immediate needs: tents, clothes, blankets, umbrellas, water, food and medicine, fuel for generator and BDS’s vehicle for about 4 to 6 months. It’s difficult to estimate the amount needed just now but we can suggest something in a week’s time, however it is going to be a significant amount in BDS terms, anything from $100,000s to a couple of million US dollars.

For longer term: fund to repair both the damaged building of BDS, rehabilitation of LGBTI who have lost their homes and income/job creating program to support livelihood of LGBTI, mostly for those sex workers whose income is completely stopped now.

People have been asking us  how to support LGBTI people in Nepal. This request  has details of the an appeal that has been launched by the Blue Diamond Society. Please forward it to your networks – we need your support right now.

You can support by different ways, for bigger amount please send fund directly to BDS bank account, Its details are:

Account Name: Blue Diamond Society
Account Number: 01400105200316
Swift Code: EVBLNPKA
Bank Name: Everest Bank Limited, Branch Office, Lazimpat
Kathmandu Nepal

Physical Address: Blue Diamond Society
Dhumbarahi Height-4, Kathmandu.
Ph: +977 1 4443350, +977 1 4426652

For smaller amounts, any agency in each country can initiate collection of funds for BDS and send it later to BDS. The St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation is collecting tax-deductible donations that will be sent to the Blue Diamond Society. To donate,  visit the foundation’s donation page and select “Nepal” from the drop-down menu under “Donated For.”

Thank you for your generosity, concerns and solidarity.

 

Posted in Asia, Positive steps | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Profile of a busy queer Ugandan sex worker activist

Frank Kamya (Kanobana Mwanje Franco). (Photo courtesy of Stella Nyanzi)

Frank Kamya (Kanobana Mwanje Franco). (Photo courtesy of Stella Nyanzi)

Ugandan anthropologist and social science researcher Stella Nyanzi writes here about Frank Kamya (Kanobana Mwanje Franco), a queer sex worker activist who has been a driving force behind two activist organizations fighting HIV in Kampala’s poorest neighborhoods, the Youth on Rock Foundation and the Come Out Post-Test Club. She wrote this commentary in advance of the March 28 concert that Kamya organized to raise money to help beleaguered Ugandan LGBTQ asylum seekers in Kenya. Kamya has since moved on to organize an LGBTI and sex workers’ celebration for May 16, in conjunction with the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia. By Stella Nyanzi This morning, I celebrate Kanobana Mwanje Franco – one of the young fiery LGBTIQ rights defenders in Uganda today. Secretary of a slum-based support association for same-sex loving individuals living in Uganda, Franco is also a transgender activist who was at the helm of organising the first self-support organisation for HIV-infected transgender women who are HIV-infected and sell sex to men on the streets of cities in Uganda. As a gay man/ trans-woman, sex worker, human rights activist who is Born Again and living in Kampala, Franco has variously mobilised resources and outreach missions to Ugandan refugees currently based in Kenya where they are at different stages of the process of applying for resettlement into a third country because of persecution on grounds of their sexual orientation or non-conforming gender identity. Suffering a range of challenges as they wait for their refugee status determination, assessments for resettlement and eventual travel out of Kenya, these asylum seekers often lack multiple forms of support back home in Uganda as well as in their host country.

Frank Kamya (Photo by Colin Stewart)

Frank Kamya during an earlier trip to Kenya. (Photo by Colin Stewart)

Recent stoppages of monthly funding allowances for Ugandan LGBTIQ asylum seekers have yielded a chain of several challenges from food shortages, failure to meet rent payments, lack of adequate clothing to stand the coming Kenyan winter, security and emergency evacuations, bond and bail in case of arrests, blackmail and extortion by citizens, all of which have led individuals to sell their sexual bodies in order to make ends meet. Franco in collaboration with other Uganda-based LGBTIQ performers specialised in music, dance, drama and fashion is putting up a fundraising drive to collect money to provide some basic support to Ugandan asylum seekers faced with challenges in different parts of Kenya. Franco is not waiting for the assistance of wealthy foreigners, but rather utilising skills to collect money and offer a local Ugandan hand to our folk suffering in Kenya.

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

Great generosity aids Caribbean fight vs. anti-gay hatred

On April 25, Canadian philanthropist and businessman Salah Bachir received this year’s Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art award, worth $25,000.  He immediately donated it to lawyer/activist Maurice Tomlinson to support his LGBTI rights work in the Caribbean.

Salah Bachir (left) and Maurice Tomlinson at the MOCCA Award ceremony. (Photo courtesy of Maurice Tomlinson)

Salah Bachir (left) and Maurice Tomlinson at the MOCCA Award ceremony. (Photo courtesy of Maurice Tomlinson)

THANKING SALAH

By Maurice Tomlinson

Last Saturday night Salah Bachir silenced me with his generosity, and I think that I have finally found my voice to tell him thanks.

For years I have been trying to identify sustainable funding to restore my country’s “One Love” culture. Our society has largely been coarsened and corrupted by imported homophobia, which was produced by global north Christian fundamentalists, and their local clones. The results of this anti-gay animus have been devastating. One palpable example is the fact that Jamaican men who have sex with men (MSM) have been driven into hiding, away from effective HIV interventions. As a group, they now account for the highest HIV prevalence rate among this vulnerable population in the western hemisphere, if not the world (33%).

Intense societal homophobia (measured at 91% in a recent poll) also forces many MSM to have sex with women as “masks” or “cures” for their homosexuality. Even more tragic is the fact that LGBTI kids as young as 10 years old have been driven out of their homes by indoctrinated parents. Some of these youngsters resorted to living in sewers, and many sell sex to survive. They are paid extra for condomless sex with their (mostly married) male partners, which increases their vulnerability to HIV.

The Caribbean (courtesy Wikipedia)

The Caribbean (Map courtesy of Wikipedia)

Several persons and institutions have graciously supported my work combating Caribbean homophobia and HIV. This includes the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network where I am now part of an exciting and dedicated team that collaborates with local partners to tackle barriers to prevention, treatment, care and support interventions for persons infected with, and vulnerable to, HIV. Together, we challenge anti-gay laws across the Caribbean, conduct LGBTI sensitization sessions for police and other stakeholders in the HIV response, provide human rights and documentation training for groups working with vulnerable populations, and support local initiatives to provide immediate assistance to marginalized individuals.

Sadly, many potential funders spurned my requests because, in their eyes, homophobia in Jamaica and the Caribbean, as well as the chronic HIV epidemic that it sustains, are just not that urgent. Not when there are “starving children in Africa.” As a result, only about 0.5% of private funds supporting human rights and HIV goes to the Caribbean.

The shortsightedness of these donors is exemplified in the fact that the region has the second highest HIV prevalence rate after sub-Saharan Africa. We also have possibly the highest HIV prevalence rate among MSM is the world while our porous borders and heavy dependence on tourism (mostly from the global north) means that we are incredibly susceptible to external pressures. Indeed, our population almost triples every year due to visitor arrivals and we have played host to many of these very same donors and their families, friends, and acquaintances at some point. Further, the micro-size of many Caribbean countries means that donor funding can go very far very quickly. Finally, the states of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) account for 15 votes in the UN where the issue of LGBTI human rights are constantly being debated. Helping the Caribbean to embrace full equality WILL have global impact.

That said, I never want to be in a competition for resources with other social justice groups and I reject the scarcity mentality associated with charitable giving. There ARE enough funds to do good in ALL the world. And Salah demonstrated that handsomely on Saturday. He is possibly one of the most generous persons that I know, and on the night when he was being honored and rewarded for his selfless sponsorship of the arts, he unhesitatingly made a charitable donation of his entire prize money. Classic, and classy Salah.

Salah, like me, you are probably at the stage in life where you wish to “collect experiences, not things.” Therefore, my gift to you for your overwhelming benevolence is an experience of my homeland that sustains my passion and hope in our future. Thankfully, there are places on the island where one can still enjoy a sweet generosity that envelops strangers in hugs as warm as our sunshine, differences dissolve in copious mounds of rolling laughter, and gregarious generosity is second nature.

Salah, please indulge me a bit and close your eyes for a moment. And imagine rich, green hills, which are only accessible by unpaved roads that give you a “therapeutic massage” for miles. They wind into the very heart of the deep countryside through dense forests, then drop into clearings with broad cultivated plots, passing waterfalls that bubble up right by the roadside, alongside tumble-down shops where no one is really interested in commerce and everyone is primed for conversation (what is lacking in material goods will be made up for by barter, so deficiencies never persist).

Our destination is “Cottage,” my mother’s ancestral village. Upon arrival you will immediately be dubbed “Mass Sal.” That’s both a title of respect and of access. There will be timid smiles and quizzing looks at your broad broach and rich attire, but they will only be fleeting. And then you will be accepted, normalized and allowed to observe and partake as you wish.

There will be unfamiliar foods, in large quantities, and you will smell pungent spices mixed in with incredibly clean air just washed by the rain. There is no chlorine, so the water comes unfiltered from the heavens, and the taste lingers longer than any Perrier.

Logo of the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network

Logo of the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network

You see, Salah, your largess reminds me of my mother’s cousin, Sonny, who was also from Cottage. I didn’t know much about Sonny, except that, like you, he was larger than life and easily and effortlessly owned any space that he entered. Sonny was similarly passionate about people, and quite possibly gay. But that last detail was never the topic of public conversation. He was simply allowed to live and pass on without let or hindrance. There were no anti-gay mobs chasing Sonny. And while I am sure that he faced his fair share of teasings for his difference, nevertheless his place in the community was secure.

And, Salah, that is the Jamaica I want to see re-established. A Jamaica where, as my mother tells it, everyone knew someone in the village who was gay, but no one cared. There were certainly the petty jealousies and hypocrisies that define any human community. However, common courtesy was far more important than pandering to intolerance.

Mass Sal, when you are ready, I want to hold your hand and take you on this physical or emotional journey. Because, thanks to your lavish gift, that reality is drawing a little bit closer today.

Thank you, Salah. From the bottom of my heart. Thank you.

And for those of you who may wish to join Salah in restoring equality to Jamaica and the Caribbean, please consider donating to the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network. There is a lot of work to be done, and every little bit helps! Thanks.

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

Court orders Kenya to register LGBTI activist group

Kenya’s High Court has ruled that the government cannot refuse to give official recognition to LGBTI organizations on the basis of Kenyan law prohibiting same-sex intimacy. The April 24 ruling came in a case brought by the National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (NGLHRC).

The news was announced in this press release from NGLHRC:

Press Release: High Court Judgment on Petition 440 of 2013

NGLHRC logo

NGLHRC logo

The High Court of Kenya, in a groundbreaking precedent, ruled on April 24, 2015, that lesbian, gay, bisexual, intersex, transgender and queer (LGBTIQ) persons can formally register their organizations and welfare groups. That popular morality should not be a basis for limiting rights in Kenya. 

The decision was issued in response to a petition filed by the National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (NGLHRC) to register under the Non-Governmental Organizations Coordination Board Act. The Non-Governmental Organizations Coordination Board had rejected the request to register NGLHRC more than five times since April 2012. In denying the application, the board said that the name of the organization was “unacceptable,” and that it could not register it because Kenya’s penal code “criminalizes gay and lesbian liaisons.”

In their judgment, the three judges held that AG’s preliminary objection that the petition was premature and baseless was not meritorious and ruled that the petition is warranted and petitioners do have a right to form an organization.

Regarding the petitioner’s prayer to have the court give interpretations on what the Constitution means by the words “Every person” when prescribing rights, the court ruled that the words every person includes all despite their sexual orientation.

National Gay and Lesbian Eric Gitari, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission of Kenya. (Photo courtesy of the Daily Nation)

National Gay and Lesbian Eric Gitari, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission of Kenya. (Photo courtesy of the Daily Nation)

The court also found that the NGO Board violated Article 36 of Constitution (Freedom of Association) when they frustrated the registration application by the petitioners. The Constitutional Court further held that morality should not be justification for limiting rights in an open and democratic society under article 24 of the Constitution of Kenya. An order of mandamus has been issued to the NGO board to comply and register the NGLHRC

Mr. Kinyanjui for the interested party (Kenya Christian Professional Forum) shall seek to appeal the judgement. The court has granted him leave to.

​This judgement from the constitutional court is ground breaking; it marks a historic momentum towards the inclusion of sexual and gender minorities into the Kenyan democratic space. It alludes to a country that is keen to becoming much open and democratic despite the challenges. By underscoring the constitutional morality of inclusion at the expense of religious morality, the judges honoured the spirit and aspirations of Kenyans who enacted this constitution after a period of post-election violence that had been simmering after years of virulent exclusion of others. This rejection of popular morality as a limitation to rights will hopefully be a beckon of jurisprudence to other thirty eight African nations that are still moral arguments to limit rights of minorities.

We welcome the appeal by the Kenya Christian Professional Forum and look forward to enhancing the equality jurisprudence of our nation through the legal process. As we welcome the victory, we honour the path of struggle by many activists and allies who have walked before us and helped us along the way. We share our victory with the Kenya LGBTIQ movement, the LGBTIQ litigation collective, our domestic and international research teams and the stellar counsels for coming through.

 

Posted in Africa, Africa (Sub Saharan), Positive steps, Trials / punishments | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

LGBTI news briefs: Russia, Jamaica, Egypt, Nigeria, India, more

News briefs about countries with anti-gay laws, excerpted from the Equal Eyes recap of the world’s LGBTI-related news:

Equal Eyes labeled this photo

Equal Eyes labeled this photo “Obama Shoots Giant Rainbow Out Of His Hand in Jamaica” and states, “Pres. Obama visited Jamaica, the 1st US president to do so 30 years. Departing, he shot a beautiful, giant rainbow at the island nation, proving he has some tricks up his gay wizard sleeve! Caught on camera by White House photog Pete Souza, we guess Obama is okay with his magical powers not being a secret.”

The UN Human Rights Committee has recommended to Russia that it consider the “hate motive” when investigating crimes of possible homophobic or transphobic nature. Lawyer Kseniya Kirichenko said this is of “truly historical significance” as the recommendation acknowledges LGBT people as a “social group” and will potentially enable more effective criminal proceedings in Russia.

World Bank President Jim Young Kim discusses how the Bank is updating “safeguards” for human rights to include LGBT people, including the decision to block a $90 million loan to Uganda following its adoption of the Anti-Homosexuality Act.

Jamaica PLe Premier ministre jamaïcain, Portia Simpson-Miller (Photo de Wikimedia Commons)rime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller (Photo courtesy of Wiki Commons)

Jamaica Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller (Photo courtesy of Wiki Commons)

Jamaica‘s first female prime minister, Portia Simpson-Miller, was interrupted during a speech in New York City by members of Jamaica Anti-Homophobia Stand who protested that the government has insufficiently responded to the recent flux of anti-LGBT violence.

During an official visit by Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambaev last week, EU leaders sought reassurances over pending new bills seeking to limit the rights of LGBTI people and civil society in general.

The Anglican Communion, the international association of Anglican churches, has raised concerns over the appointment of Nigerian Bishop Dr Josiah Atkins Idowu-Fearon as Secretary General. The Bishop has openly supported anti-gay laws and called the criminalization of homosexuality “good.”

The Egyptian National Council for Human Rights (NCHR) has rejected all UN UPR recommendations on human rights that are considered “incompatible” with Muslim faith. The NCHR is also supporting an administrative court ruling that forbids suspected gay people from entering the country. However, Mohammad Zare, a human rights lawyer and the President of the Arab Organization for Penal Reform, called the court’s ruling unenforceable and said it will only tarnish Egypt’s international image.

Russian ombudsman Alexander Shislov presented his report to St Petersburg’s Legislative Assembly on violence perpetrated on LGBT Russians and expressed concern over “increasing aggression in society.” Meanwhile, a Russian court has authorized the closure of LGBT youth support group “Children-404″ for violating the gay propaganda ban.

Poster for the Indian film

Poster for the Indian film “Unfreedom”

From India, gay men reveal the blackmail and abuse they have suffered since the Indian Supreme Court reinstated the ban on gay sex.

Nigerian gay rights activist Aderonke Apata has lost her long struggle for asylum and faces deportation after a UK High Court judge ruled she “fabricated” her sexuality. Several hundred thousand people had signed a petition urging the court to grant her asylum.

India‘s Film Board has banned local film Unfreedoma story of the entwined relationship between religion, violence, sexuality and intolerance. Featuring a lesbian couple, the controversial film will screen in North America.

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

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

Tolerance 101: From the mouths of teenagers

rainbow flagComment posted in this blog about anti-gay repression:

Dear Colin Stewart,

My name is Dawson Wright. I am 14 and i just don’t get why we argue over such things like this. It should be legal everywhere because it is just how that person is and we should not discriminate them because of that. Personally I have 2 gay friends and I see nothing wrong with that.

Dawson Wright

Thank you, Dawson.

 

Posted in International pressure for LGBT rights | 1 Comment

African-American pastors’ Africa tour seeks end to anti-gay bias

Worship service in Uganda. (Photo courtesy of Nathan Hale Williams blog)

Worship service in Uganda. (Photo courtesy of Nathan Hale Williams blog)

 

Excerpt from the Equal Eyes recap of worldwide LGBTI-related news:

Clergy prepare for Africa tour organized by The Fellowship Global.

Clergy prepare for Africa tour organized by The Fellowship Global.

US: Black pastors launch African tour to counteract Rick Warren’s anti-gay movement
Spearheaded by The Fellowship of Affirming Ministries, Bishop Rev. Dr. Yvette Flunder and Bishop-Elect Pastor Joseph Tolton, the organization’s international outreach ministry has launched a month-long tour of key African nations where LGBTI communities continue to experience extreme discrimination and persecution. These countries include: Uganda, Rwanda, Cote D’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo and Kenya.

Until April 30, 2015, Pastor Tolton will be on the ground working to provide an uplifting alternate Christian narrative. The message advocates for inclusion, economic justice and the reconciliation of all people of African descent globally.

“As black gay Christians who identify with Pentecostal worship and as people of social justice, we are countering the work of conservative, mostly white American evangelicals who are doubling down on their attempt of spiritual colonization of Africa,” said Pastor Joseph Tolton.

Excerpt from the Nathan Hale Williams blog and the tour’s press release:

The mission of the tour is to:

  • Bring global attention to these human rights issues in Africa;
  • Support affirming African organizations and local movements; and
  • Promote governmental policies and the policies of organized religious structures that support LGBTI dignity, inclusion, and justice.

A variety of certified academic trainings, worship events and economic development opportunities will be made available.

Rick Warren

Rick Warren

One of the tour’s primary goals is to clearly articulate the inextricable link between the global agenda of US conservative Christians like Rick Warren, the future of Christianity, and the fate of LGBTI people in Africa. “The future of Christianity is not Europe or North America, but Africa, Asia, and Latin America,” said Pastor Rick Warren. Africa is ground zero for the Christian evangelical right-wing movement. Under the veil of economic development, Rick Warren is also planning a conference in Rwanda that sells a dangerous theology. This anti-gay propaganda has spawned the passage of anti-gay legislation across Africa and notably in Nigeria, Uganda and Gambia.

For more information, read the full article/press release in the Nathan Hale Williams blog: “Black pastors launch African tour to counteract Rick Warren’s anti-gay movement.”

Posted in Africa, Africa (Sub Saharan), Americas, Faith and religion, International pressure for LGBT rights | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments