Gay man frequents Cameroon cybercafe; crowd attacks

Henry O. (Photo courtesy of CAMFAIDS, published with approval from Henry O. and CAMFAIDS)

Henry O. (Photo courtesy of Camfaids, published with approval from Henry O. and Camfaids)

A homophobic crowd attacked a Yaoundé resident in a cybercafe last month, the Cameroonian LGBTI activist organization CAMFAIDS reports.

After the attack, Emmanuelle Ndjock, the owner of the cybercafe, filed charges against Henry O. of Yaoundé and Elvis T., a visitor to Cameroon, accusing Henry of obscene behavior, seeking prosecution on homosexuality charges and demanding payment for damages her establishment suffered during the attack.

Camfaids described the incident as “incredible,” “infamous” and “ignominious.” It occurred Oct. 1 in the Tsinga neighborhood in Yaoundé, Cameroon’s capital.

According to a report by Camfaids:

Henry, a frequent customer of the cybercafe, had been warned by employees there not to speak aloud to a man online whom he called “my love” and “my heart.” The employees warned Henry that they would denounce him to police.

In Cameroonian law, same-sex intercourse is punishable by up to five years in prison and that law has often been used to target LGBTI Cameroonians simply because they are gay or lesbian, rather than for committing specific acts.

On Oct. 1, staff of the cybercafe complained that Henry acted obscenely there — which he denies. They stated that he pulled down his pants and masturbated in front of a camera that he had rented from the cybercafe.

A crowd seized Henry and tried to drag him away. To prevent himself from being hauled away, Henry grabbed onto the webcam and other electronic equipment, which fell and broke.

Police then intervened and saved Henry from the crowd.

Henry told police that he had not misbehaved and was attacked just because he is gay.

Elvis (Photo courtesy of CAMFAIDS, published with approval from Elvis and Camfaids)

Elvis T. (Photo courtesy of Camfaids, published with approval from Elvis T. and Camfaids)

Ndjock said he was behaving obscenely to please his boyfriend, Elvis, with whom shared an apartment in the Kondengui neighborhood.

Henry stated:

“I was pummeled, dragged outside, covered with blows by the crowd.  To survive, I had to agree to what they accused me of.”

Jean Jacques Dissoke, legal coordinator for Camfaids, commented that people seem never to be willing to allow homosexuals to find a place in Cameroonian society:

“Once again, society has attacked as if by reflex, without investigation and without morality.”

Camfaids said that the obscenity charge against Henry was absurd: “Why would an individual who had not lost his faculties engage in such an intimate act in front of everyone?”

The organization added, “Once again, we must decry Cameroonian society’s behavior, which is based on a belief that homosexuals have no right to life.”

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

Ukraine victory: ‘Celebration with tears on our eyes’

LGBT Ukrainians won a victory Nov. 12 with the passage of a ban on employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. But was it a hollow victory, and perhaps just a temporary victory?

Olena Shevchenko, chair of the Ukrainian LGBTI advocacy organization Insight, analyzes what led up to the Nov. 12 parliamentary vote in favor of the ban, what was achieved, the harms that were done in the process, and the likely next steps:

Celebration with tears on our eyes

Protesters on Nov. 10 in Kiev push for a ban on discrimination against LGBT people in the workplace. (Photo by Anastasia Vlasova courtesy of Kyiv Post)

Protesters on Nov. 10 in Kiev push for a ban on discrimination against LGBT people in the workplace. (Photo by Anastasia Vlasova courtesy of Kyiv Post)

Nov. 12, 2015, will remain a meaningful symbolic date in the history of Ukrainian LGBT movement. On that day, we can say, we made the first visible step towards equality and human rights values. But is it a real achievement? We will see in the future.

Here is my analysis of what really happened during the past few weeks.


In 2014, Ukraine failed to add the prohibition of discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity (SOGI) to its anti-discrimination law. We made a number of attempts, which mostly came from the civil society sector. However, citing the war in Eastern Ukraine, our government was able to reach a compromise with the European Union that left open the list of characteristics on which discrimination is prohibited. Ukraine’s main argument was that adding “sexual orientation” and / or “gender identity” to the list would provoke a wave of provocations and conflict escalation.

Of course, even then, we had heard all the familiar arguments — that there is no discrimination against LGBT people in Ukraine, that Ukraine is a tolerant country, that adding SOGI would create “special rights” for LGBT people and so on. The result was the adoption of the law without any protection of LGBT people.

But at the same time, Ukraine also promised the EU that non-discrimination at the workplace would include SOGI, as required by the EU directive.

Speeding up work on a new labor code

Olena Shevchecko, chair of the LGBTI advocacy organization Insight

Olena Shevchecko, chair of the LGBTI advocacy organization Insight

Since 2003, Ukraine had been in the process of developing a new labor code to replace the one we had from Soviet times. That process was difficult and slow.

In the end, though, just because of the process of visa-liberalization, officials decided to finish it quickly.

Quickly, but not well. This new code is bad — it’s nothing, it’s awful. It gives all rights to the employer, the role of trade unions is minimized, etc. Many social organizations and movements expressed their expert opinions about this, but unfortunately, in Ukraine, they don’t usually have any impact. What matters are the government and international pressure.

Since the new labor code was developed under the heading of visa liberalization, the parliament (the Verkhovna Rada) quickly adopted it on its first reading. An amendment to prohibit discrimination, of course, didn’t pass, because of the presence there of “sexual orientation.” It is worth noting that the presence of “gender identity” wasn’t a problem, because nobody had a real sense of what that meant. But “sexual orientation” was like a red flag for a bull.

Next came consultations and pressure from the EU on the need to adopt the whole package of visa-liberalization laws. (At this point, it is worth noting that other laws in the package also remained not adopted, including anti-corruption, the removal of parliamentary immunity and so on.)

It took the intervention of the President and some pressure from political clans to convince the deputies that, if they do not vote, their comfortably warm chairs under them in parliament will disappear.

Demonstration and disputes on Nov. 10

On Nov. 10, we staged a joint action urging the adoption of 10 laws from the “visa liberalization package.”

Uniting our efforts with non-LGBT activists was not easy. When they realized that LGBT people would share in the protest, they stiffened and began to demand that we come without any rainbow flags. Discussions in social networks were intense and intolerant. We were told that we already had an LGBT Gay Pride and that this action was not an LGBT event.

They said LGBT symbols attract too much attention to LGBT people and that now is not the best time to discuss LGBT issues, because that is provocative. Those non-LGBT activists’ rhetoric was basically the same as that of our deputies and government officials.

That was the first disappointment for the LGBT community. But in the end we came anyway, displaying our symbols and flags. We had decided there is no place for compromises anymore. And this time many of the protesters were LGBT people and allies.

But deputies failed to approve the anti-discrimination amendment. (It received 117 out of the 226 votes necessary for passage.)

“Sexual orientation” became the No. 1 hurdle on the path to European integration for Ukraine.

After Nov. 10, Ukraine was given one last chance from the EU to approve the remaining four laws, including the anti-discrimination amendment to the labor code.

Symbols and speeches

On Nov. 12, we LGBT people again came to the Verkhovna Rada.

The worst thing we experienced was hearing non-LGBT activists say that we were disrupting a protest again, paying attention only to our own LGBT issue. This is very strange rhetoric and has nothing to do with human rights, but many activists simply do not understand and do not want to analyze it. In addition, I want to mention here some protesters’ posters were misogynistic — for example, “Work, whore!”  (Members of our parliament are predominantly male.)

Petro Poroshenko, president of Ukraine (Photo courtesy of

Petro Poroshenko, president of Ukraine (Photo courtesy of

The day before the vote, President Petro Poroshenko made a statement that he is a man, a husband, and a traditional man who loves his wife and children. He said he supports traditional family values but, as the guarantor of the Constitution, he must protect everyone from discrimination.

In other words, he said that LGBT families are not normal and not valuable at all.

On the day of voting, the deputies made six attempts at adopting the  anti-discrimination amendment. After five failed attempts they had a break for consultations. The pressure was enormous.

Volodymyr Groisman, speaker of the parliament. (Photo courtesy of

Volodymyr Groisman, speaker of the Verkhovna Rada, Ukraine’s parliament. (Photo courtesy of

The speaker of the Verkhovna Rada, Volodymyr Groisman, said, “We are protecting traditional values in Ukraine. And we are not talking about same-sex marriages; we will never let it happen! God forbid same-sex marriages in our country!”

He also added a provision to establish a special ombudsman to protect traditional family values in Ukraine. After that, the deputies managed to press the necessary buttons.

Victory and misery

After they adopted the law, I wasn’t happy.  In fact, I felt miserable and frustrated. I realized that thousands of people in front of TVs had strengthened their negative attitude towards the LGBT community. They had been told that  it is not normal and will never become the norm, that Ukraine will do everything possible to avoid that!

Honestly, we need to recognize that this law was not adopted because of our pressure. It was adopted because of international pressure.

Another important point: The amendment was included in the existing labor code. The new labor code — without an anti-discrimination amendment — was also approved on its first reading, and now awaits a further vote after a second reading at least two weeks from now. There are several views about what will happen next, such as:

1. Ukraine will keep its old labor code, with its prohibition of discrimination.

2. Ukraine will receive approval for visa-free travel to the European Union and then will adopt the new labor code without any prohibition of discrimination based on SOGI.

Ukraine's location in Europe

Ukraine’s location in Europe

The future is not promising. LGBT people were showered by mud.  Everybody understands that the law was adopted only under pressure from the European Union.

On a symbolic level, the new law is a good thing. It’s very important for LGBT visibility and it’s the first time the concepts of “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” have been introduced into the legal field.

But how to use it in practice, if the laws are not respected in Ukraine and, in any case, most Ukrainians work in the shadow economy, without formal employment?

One last point: Voting on the same bill six times, without any public hearings or approval in a parliamentary committee — that is not the rule of law.

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

In rural Uganda, 5 years of successes and challenges

Rainbow Health Foundation coordinators attend a recent communication skills workshop

Rainbow Health Foundation coordinators attend a recent communication skills workshop

Rainbow Health Foundation is celebrating its fifth anniversary as a champion for LGBTI people in western Uganda, advocating in particular for access to health services.

Its history is “a story of humble beginnings, a slow steady start, which soon kicked into gear, propelling it to soaring heights of service provision, fighting stigma and creating a world that accepts and tolerates diversity,” as RHF states in its newsletter.

Among its achievements since its founding in 2010, RHF noted:

  • Growing from five members in 2010 to 230 today, with five full-time staff.
  • Presenting workshops, seminars and training sessions for more than 140 members about security, legal aid, HIV /AIDS and communication skills.
  • Establishing an office where members meet and access information. The office has a boardroom and resource centre equipped with journals, free wi-fi and educational materials.
  • In partnership with others, publishing human rights violation reports in 2014 and 2015 under the Uganda Consortium.
  • Launching an economic empowerment program to train youth in business skills and income-generating activities such as beekeeping and making crafts.
  • Distributing condoms and lubricants, carrying out HIV awareness outreach programs, distributing informational brochures, and providing HIV testing and counseling for more than 250 people in the LGBTI, sex worker and general communities.

But the organization has also experienced setbacks and ongoing challenges. RHF cited in its newsletter:

  • High levels of insecurity.
  • Media outings.
  • High rates of arrests and imprisonments.

One example occurred in January, when a mob pursued youths who had participated in HIV / STI screening at a mobile clinic. Police protected them from the mob, but then detained them for five days and subjected them to anal examinations before releasing them.

RHF said:

“The biggest challenge is that rural LGBTI face high homophobia, information is not readily available, and illiteracy levels are high.

“Societal factors like homophobia, rejection, and isolation by traditional sources of support like family, school and religious community in these areas has driven most young gay men and sex workers to despair and stigmatization, making them ignore the message of HIV prevention and behaviour change, as they don’t feel accommodated in the society.

“The majority of young gay men and sex workers in these towns are unemployed and very much economically disenfranchised.”

Looking to the future, RHF predicts that it will increase its membership to 400 in the next five years, while expanding its services. Among its aims are to open:

  • RHF crafts on display. (Photo courtesy of RHF)

    RHF crafts on display. (Photo courtesy of RHF)

    A well-equipped clinic for LGBTI people and sex workers — a first for  the area.

  • A youth training center and a Rainbow Crafts Centre that will train members in life skills and business skills, including money management, financial literacy and human rights.
  • A research center, which will extend the organisation’s geographic reach.

Currently, RHF is conducting a survey of LGBTI people in western Uganda. This research will help the organization understand the area better and provide guidance in selecting appropriate services to offer.

Next month, RHF plans to launch a music and dance group that will promote LGBTI people’s talent and convey messages of acceptance and tolerance.

To support RHF’s efforts financially, use PayPal to send contributions to

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

​On third try, Ukraine passes law against anti-LGBTI bias

Dozens of demonstrators supporting a ban on anti-LGBTI bias protested outside the Ukrainian parliament on Nov. 12 before the ban was approved. (Photo by Kostyantyn Chernichkin courtesy of Kyiv Post)

Dozens of demonstrators supporting a ban on anti-LGBTI bias protested outside the Ukrainian parliament on Nov. 12 before the ban was approved. (Photo by Kostyantyn Chernichkin courtesy of Kyiv Post)

Kyiv Post reports:

Ukraine finally passes anti-bias law, a prerequisite for visa-free travel to EU

In its third attempt, Ukraine’s parliament passed amendments to the Labor Code on Nov. 12 that will end lingering Soviet-era workplace discrimination over sexual orientation, political and religious beliefs.

The law, which received the support of 234 lawmakers, was the most controversial bill in parliament among a package of anti-corruption and other legislation the European Union requires in its visa liberalization action plan.

The voting process has been excruciating, however, requiring six rounds of voting and frantic consultations before it finally passed. …

After [a] break, lawmakers returned to the vote, and managed to pass the bill at the first attempt.

The extra votes needed were provided by the president’s faction, 108 of whom eventually voted for the bill, compared to 99 before the break, and by the prime minister’s faction, where 65 voted in favor as opposed to 62 before the break.

Parliament twice failed to pass the amendments in earlier voting: On Nov. 5 a similar measure garnered only 117 votes, while on Nov. 10 the draft bill gained 207 votes – still far short of the 226 votes that are needed for a bill to pass in the 423-seat parliament.

For more information, read the full article in the Kyiv Post ​”Ukraine finally passes anti-bias law, a prerequisite for visa-free travel to EU.”

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

Ukraine activists, ambivalent allies seek ban on anti-LGBTI bias

LGBTI rights activists have vowed to keep pushing for passage of a Ukrainian law against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

They fell short this week in the Ukrainian parliament, although they amassed more votes than in the previous attempt.

Olena Shevchenko, chair of the LGBTI advocacy organization Insight, explains here what’s at stake and how LGBTI activists joined an uneasy coalition in favor of the proposal. Her statement has been lightly edited:

Kiev protesters seek passage of ban on anti-LGBTI discrimination. (Photo courtesy of Anastasia Vlasova via Kyiv Times)

Kiev protesters seek passage of ban on anti-LGBTI discrimination. (Photo courtesy of Anastasia Vlasova via Kyiv Times)


Action for adoption of “visa-free” laws

On Nov. 5, Ukrainian MPs failed to vote for some laws necessary for visa liberalization between Ukraine and European Union. Nov. 10 was almost the last opportunity for them to correct their mistakes and adopt all the 10 laws. However, these laws are important primarily not for Europe but for Ukraine itself.

Olena Shevchenko (Photo courtesy of Facebook)

Insight leader Olena Shevchenko (Photo courtesy of Facebook)

In particular, there are laws aimed at strengthening the fight against corruption, as well as amendments to the Labour Code of Ukraine, which would prohibit discrimination at workplace on several grounds, including sexual orientation and gender identity.

In order to pressure the deputies, concerned citizens who are not affiliated with any political parties and movements organized an action called “Don’t FU€K with us! 101010” (The numbers refer to 1o laws and 10 a.m. on Nov. 10.)

The active part of the LGBTQ community, including Insight NGO, decided to join this action, particularly focusing on anti-discrimination rules, as homosexual, bisexual and transgender people often have problems at workplace and find themselves in situations when they are dismissed or can’t get a job because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.  These rules would not be not “special rights” for LGBTQ, as sometimes is said, since in some cases they can also be applied to protect heterosexual and cisgender people.

“And this is not just sexual orientation. This is, for example, sex – of women who have not given birth yet. They are not hired because they can suddenly give birth. But this is their right, you know? People need to be hired regardless of their nationality, orientation, ethnicity, gender identity, gender, age,” said Olena Shevchenko, chair of the Insight NGO.

It should be noted that some of the action organizers, although declaring tolerance, were at the same time against open LGBTQ participation under rainbow flags. Such a position indicates that, unfortunately, the attitude to modern European values ​​in Ukraine is often selective, accompanied by latent homophobia and lack of understanding of human rights.

However, despite the contradictions and even the direct prohibition of flags, LGBTQ activists didn’t fall back, but manifested themselves.

The action began in front of the Ukrainian Parliament at 10 a.m. Activists unfurled a large banner with the slogan “Stop Discrimination” in front of them. There was also general action symbolics, transgender and rainbow flags and umbrellas, posters with the slogans “All different – all equal,” “Come out of the closet,” “Human rights are for all” as well as the numbers of the bills to be voted on.

Despite the conflicts on the preparatory phase, there was no misunderstanding between participants during the action, as everybody came out for a common goal. The action attracted much interest from television and other media, so in addition to its direct purpose it has also helped to increase the visibility of the LGBTQ community. And, hopefully, showed to those who remain invisible  that it is possible to come out and fight for rights in Ukraine.

In the evening, when only the anti-discrimination bill with amendments to the Labour Code was left, it got only 207 votes. This is 90 more than at the first voting on Nov. 5, but still not enough.

Unfortunately, homophobia in Parliament once again gained a victory over Europe. So this is the reason to organize more actions and continue fighting.

Posted in Anti-LGBT laws and legislation, International pressure for LGBT rights | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Praise from honored director: ‘She broke the anti-gay wall’

Elizabeth Funke Obisanya poses with her BEFFTA award and (on left) Sabrina Chiemeka, who played Magda, and Louisa Warren, who played the role of racist homophobe and bully Laura.

Elizabeth Funke Obisanya poses with her BEFFTA award and with Sabrina Chiemeka (left), who played Magda, and Louisa Warren (right), who played the role of racist homophobe and bully Laura. “She is lovely in real life, though,” Obisanya adds. (Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Funke Obisanya)

The movie “Magda’s Lesbian Lover” by Nigerian director Elizabeth Funke Obisanya won the prize for best short film at the Black Entertainment Film Fashion Television and Arts (BEFFTA) awards ceremony in London on Oct. 30.

A scene from

A scene from “Magda’s Lesbian Lover.” Click the image to watch a trailer for the film. (Photo courtesy of British Council)

Obisanya praised BEFFTA founder Pauline Long for opening the awards to all.

“She broke the anti-gay wall that was placed on LGBTI creatives, even in the UK,” Obisanya said. “I can tell you. I have been around the black film festival block — even UK Nollywood — and they have ignored me. Some have even said it was because of the gay thing.”

“But Pauline said, ‘No discrimination!’ and every LGBTI creative should know that,” Obisanya said.

Pauline Long, BEFFTA awards founder and TV host (Photo courtesy of

Pauline Long, BEFFTA awards founder and TV host (Photo courtesy of

Long said of the gathering, “I’m extremely proud of what we have achieved. BEFFTA Awards has clocked 7 wonderful years celebrating African, Caribbean and Asian personalities; raising and praising a truly talented community. It has become the annual community award of the year that thousands look forward to attending.”

Obisanya is the screenwriter as well as the producer of “Magda’s Lesbian Lover,” which has been shown at many film festivals in the United States, the United Kingdom and Germany.

The Internet Movie Database describes three versions of the film — an original 29-minute one in Swedish and English, “Min Mamma alska Lesbiska”; an English version in which “Magda’s conflict with her homosexuality is seen more and her faith questioned,” and an eight-minute version consisting of “the beginning story – the coming of age.”

Obisanya, who is also a minister, described her experiences as an LGBTIQ Christian in the Nigerian podcast “No Strings” in June.

Posted in Africa, Africa (Sub Saharan), Europe, International pressure for LGBT rights, Positive steps | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Ukraine homophobia blocks visa-free European trips

Foreign Policy magazine analyzes Ukraine’s vote yesterday against closer ties to the European Union and against a ban on anti-LGBTI discrimination. This is an excerpt from the Foreign Policy article:

Ukraine Chooses Homophobia Over Europe

Anti-LGBT protesters attack police who guarded LGBT marchers in Kiev on June 6. (Photo courtesy of Bogdan Globa via Facebook)

Anti-LGBT protesters attack police who guarded LGBT marchers in Kiev on June 6, 2015. (Photo courtesy of Bogdan Globa via Facebook)

This spring, Ukraine’s government decided to purge the country of its Soviet past. All through the land, chisels and winches went to work chipping away Communist symbols and toppling Lenin statues by the dozens. But the Soviet dictatorship was composed of more than stone. It was also an ideology, the chief component of which was a callous disregard for human rights. Recently, however, the Rada, Ukraine’s parliament, proved that this part of its Soviet past is very much alive in modern Ukraine.

On Nov. 10 the Verkhovna Rada refused to pass a law that would have allowed Ukrainian citizens to have the long-awaited privilege of visa-free travel in the European Union. The reason behind the legislation’s resounding defeat? A provision preventing discrimination against gays in the workplace. This provision, which is a precondition for visa-free travel set by the EU, ignited a vociferous outcry, and ultimately turned into a red line which the Rada refused to cross.

“As a country with a thousand-year-old Christian history, we simply cannot allow this,” is how Rada deputy Pavlo Unguryan, a member of Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk’s own party, explained it after a previous attempt to pass the legislation on Nov. 5 failed.

This isn’t the first homophobic news to come out of Ukraine this year: On June 6, members of the ultranationalist group Right Sector attacked Kiev’s gay pride parade, brutally injuring numerous marchers as well as police. In July, when a pair of gay activists decided to test the extent of Ukraine’s new Western values by holding hands in the middle of Kiev, they were quickly assaulted by thugs. On Nov. 2, the Kyiv Post profiled Mykola Dulskiy, the founder of a vigilante group called Fashion Verdict, whose mission, according to the article, is to “sweep promiscuity, gambling, sexual offenders and homosexuality from the streets of Ukraine’s cities.” The “verdict” is delivered in a rather straightforward manner: Members of the organization track down and beat anyone they deem degenerate.

But the damage caused by the Rada’s refusal to pass anti-discrimination laws extends far beyond generating just one more negative headline for Ukraine. It undermines the two biggest factors that enabled the country to survive the horrors of the two previous years: Western support and the dream of European integration.

EU association is the issue that ignited Ukraine’s Euromaidan revolution in November 2013. “Ukraine is Europe” was the rallying call for the hundreds of thousands who flocked to Kiev bearing EU flags following then-president Viktor Yanukovych’s decision to go against the will of his people and cast Ukraine’s lot with Russia. Today, billions of dollars, over 2 million refugees and internally displaced persons, and thousands of lost lives later, a new group of politicians is once again dealing a blow to the dream of EU integration — all in the name of homophobia.

For more information, read the full article in Foreign Policy: “Ukraine Chooses Homophobia Over Europe.”

Posted in Anti-LGBT laws and legislation, Europe, International pressure for LGBT rights | Tagged , , , | 5 Comments