As Morocco reviews its laws, 2 jailed on gay-sex charge

Morocco has imprisoned two men on homosexuality charges at a time when the Moroccan parliament is considering changes in the Penal Code, Human Rights Watch reported today. Many local organizations are urging parliament to drop the law’s anti-LGBT provisions.

This is HRW’s press release:

Morocco: 2 Jailed for Homosexuality
Parliament Should Decriminalize Same-Sex Acts

Map of Morocco shows the locations of Casablanca and Tiznit. (Map courtesy of ikuska.com)

Map of Morocco shows the location of Agadir on the country’s south coast and Guilmine (Guilmim) nearby. (Map courtesy of ikuska.com)

Moroccan authorities imprisoned two men on charges of homosexual activity, the latest in a series of such cases, Human Rights Watch said today. Parliament is preparing to examine revisions to the penal code and should remove from the draft the provisions that leave intact criminal charges for same-sex “deviant acts,” with possible prison terms of up to three years.

The Agadir Court of Appeals on June 30, 2016 upheld the conviction of the two men, from the southern city of Guelmine, who gendarmes said they had caught in the act in a car parked in a remote location on May 20.

Sarah Leah Whitson, directrice de la division Moyen-Orient et Afrique du Nord pour Human Rights Watch

Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director for Human Rights Watch

“If legislators want to harmonize Morocco’s laws with its 2011 Constitution, which guarantees the right to privacy, they should decriminalize the intimate lives of consenting adults,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch.

Morocco has repeatedly imprisoned men under penal code article 489. In this case, according to the judgment by the Guelmine Court of First Instance, the gendarme approached a parked car on a remote location away from the road outside the city and found the two men engaged in sex. In custody, the two men confessed to the police. During their brief trial on May 26, J., 23, affirmed his confession while A., 46, repudiated his statement and said he was innocent. For reasons that are unclear, neither had a lawyer during the trial.

The court convicted the two, saying that A.’s repudiation of his confession was “nothing but a means of evading criminal responsibility and escaping punishment, belied by the fact that his confession [to the police] was detailed and not proven to be false.” The court sentenced each of the men to six months in prison and a fine of 500 dirhams (US$50) on a single charge of homosexual acts.

The Agadir Appeals Court affirmed the verdict but reduced sentence to a month and a half for J. and three months for A. The court did not explain the disparate sentences.

J. recently left prison after serving his term. A. is due to be released on August 20 from Ait Melloul prison in Agadir. A lawyer who visited A. in prison on July 22 told Human Rights Watch that A. continued to insist on his innocence.

On June 9, the Council of Government approved and sent to Parliament a draft overhaul of the penal code that maintains the punishments, which include prison terms, for prohibited consensual intimate relations between adults, including homosexuality (article 489), sex outside marriage (article 490), and adultery (article 491). The draft law increases the fines that accompanies the prison term that a judge can impose under article 489, to a maximum of 20,000 Dirhams (US$2,000).

At least 20 nongovernmental organizations in Morocco have called for the repeal of penal code article 489.

Criminalizing consensual, adult homosexual conduct violates international human rights law. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) bars interference with the right to privacy, which Morocco’s constitution protects in article 24. The United Nations Human Rights Committee, international experts who interpret the covenant, has condemned laws against consensual homosexual conduct. The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has held that arrests for consensual homosexual conduct are, by definition, human rights violations.

“If parliament, in updating the penal code, is supposed to harmonize it with Morocco’s 2011 constitution and the rights it provides, then it should decriminalize homosexual conduct,” Whitson said.

More HRW reporting on LGBT rights in Morocco:

Related articles in this blog:

Posted in Africa, Anti-LGBT laws and legislation, International pressure for LGBT rights, Middle East / North Africa, Trials / punishments | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

A busy month seeking LGBT rights in Cameroon

LGBT rights activists have worked hard this month seeking public recognition of the human rights of LGBT citizens of Cameroon. During the month, activists have been:

This month's march in Yaoundé, Cameroon, opposing violence targeting human rights defenders. (Photo from Facebook)

July 13 march in Yaoundé, Cameroon, protested violence targeting human rights defenders. (Photo from Facebook)

Marching against violence

A peaceful march on July 13 challenged and educated policymakers and society in general about the problem of violence perpetrated against human rights defenders in Cameroon.

Camfaids (the Cameroonian Foundation for AIDS) and a group of several other human rights defenders’ groups organized the march.

It was held to mark the groups’ declaration of July 15 as Human Rights Defenders Day. Specifically, July 15 was declared the Day Honoring the Struggle Against Violence Targeting Human Rights Defenders.

La semaine du 18 juillet, Humanity First (LBTQFSF, Yaoundé) a presenté un programme de gestion de risques.

In mid-July, Humanity First (LBTQFSF, Yaoundé) convened a discussion of risk management. (Photo from Facebook)

Discussing risk management

Humanity First in Yaoundé (LBTQ and Women Who Have Sex With Women) presented a discussion of risk management, in particular a discussion of the idea of establishing a program of risk management for sexual minorities.

Working to end violence targeting human rights defenders

Other activities of Human Rights Defenders Day included:

L'atelier de renforcement de capacité des défenseurs des droits humains. (Photo de Facebook)

Capacity-building workshop for human rights defenders. (Photo from Facebook)

  • A workshop for human rights defenders on how to improve their effectiveness, using both Cameroonian laws and international treaties. The workshop was organized by Camfaids and funded by  Lawyers Without Borders Switzerland.
La visite à la tombe d'Éric Ohena Lembembe. (Photo de Facebook)

Activists and famiy visit the grave of former Camfaids leader Eric Ohena Lembembe, who was murdered three years ago. (Photo from Facebook)

  • A religious ceremony marking  the third anniversary of the assassination of activist/journalist Eric Ohena Lembembe, former executive director of Camfaids and a writer for this blog. The ceremony, organized by Camfaids, took place at its headquarters at Titi Garage, Yaoundé. The gathering included members of several human rights organizations and Lembembe’s family.
  • A visit to the Lembembe’s grave.  This month is the third anniversary of his 2013 murder.
La conférence débat lors de la Journée commémorative de lutte contre les violences faites aux défenseurs des droits humains. (Photo de Facebook)

La conférence débat lors de la Journée commémorative de lutte contre les violences faites aux défenseurs des droits humains. (Photo de Facebook)

  • A panel discussion, organized by Camfaids, focused on how to end violence against human rights defenders  The event, held at the French Institute, was attended by several associations, including Alcondoms, Camfaids, Alternative Cameroon and Camnafaw.
Posted in Africa, Africa (Sub Saharan), Positive steps | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

New hotline is for LGBT Nigerians seeking help

Mike Daemon, the founder and host of the NoStrings podcasts and NoStringsNG website, announces the launch of a hotline for LGBT Nigerians:

Hotline

NoStrings launches its official hotline for LGBT Nigerians

Good news everyone!

Here at NoStrings, we believe that all lives matters, and LGBT persons are humans, and so their lives matter.

We have decided to launch the official NoStrings hotline to tackle issues affecting the lives of LGBT persons living in the country. The aim is not just to bring the community together but to provide access to accurate information whenever it is needed.

So, are you an LGBT person living in Nigeria and going through some serious challenges and need help? Do you need access to counseling and support? Do you need to access free HIV testing services, or are you having some health concerns you will need to discuss with experts and professionals?

Also, have you experienced any human rights violation, or you have witnessed this happen to someone else and need to report it? Are you in danger? Is anyone trying to blackmail you? Or you just need to make a general inquiry with us here at NoStrings?

The phone number you can use is +234 813 242 0473. It is a 24-hour open phone line for SMS and phone calls. Call today to speak with someone confidentially who will listen and won’t judge.

Please note:

  • Call or send an SMS if you would like to subscribe to our SMS alert notification service to get periodic updates from us.
  • We will not entertain phone calls from people directly seeking for financial assistance of any kind or for hook-up arrangements.
  • Your confidentiality is our priority. All calls will be monitored and recorded for reference purposes, but we assure you that whatever you discuss with us will be kept safe and will not be shared with any individual or organization without your consent. Please feel free to read our PRIVACY POLICY and STATEMENT OF CONFIDENTIALITY.

Best wishes,
The NoStringsNG Team

Related articles:

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

Seeking to limit gay sex, Tanzania bans lubricants

Tanzanian Health Minister Ummy Mwalimu claims that lubricants encourage homosexuality. (Photo courtesy of Alchetron.com)

Tanzanian Health Minister Ummy Mwalimu claims that lubricants encourage homosexuality. (Photo courtesy of Alchetron.com)

Tanzania is cracking down on import and sales of sexual lubricants on the theory that, without them, homosexuality will decrease, Agence France-Press reports.

It’s a misguided idea that’s likely to make matters worse in the fight against HIV / Aids.

As the AIDS Foundation of Chicago states about both homosexual and heterosexual intercourse:

“Using condoms with condom-compatible lube is an important HIV prevention intervention. … Importantly, the use of condom-compatible lubricants (lube) facilitates condom use and is associated with decreased risk of male condoms breaking or slipping. Condoms simply work better in conjunctions with condom-compatible lube.”

On paper, sexual intimacy between men is punishable by up to life imprisonment in Tanzania, although that law is rarely enforced.

Agence France-Presse reported:

Dar Es Salaam — The Tanzanian government has banned imports and sales of sexual lubricants in its latest move targeting the gay community, officials say.

Health Minister Ummy Mwalimu justified the move on the grounds that the product encourages homosexuality, which is banned in the east African nation.

“It is true that the government has banned the importation and use of the jelly to curb the spread of HIV,” the minister told local media on Tuesday.

“It is estimated that 23 percent of men who have sex with men in Tanzania are living with HIV/AIDS,” [she] added.

“I have instructed stakeholders working with gay people to remove the products from the market.”

Paul Makonda (Photo courtesy of HIVisasa.co.tz)

Paul Makonda announced crackdown on Tanzanian gays. (Photo courtesy of HIVisasa.co.tz)

Groups working with the gay community were handing out the lube for free, the minister said.

“The ministry has agreed to work with stakeholders to give the ministry the money they were using to buy and import the lubricants so we could use it to buy beds for the maternity wards.” …

The newly appointed regional commissioner for the port city of Dar es Salaam, Paul Makonda, announced a major crackdown against gay people this month, followed by arrests of suspected gays in clubs.

Some people who have been openly gay on the internet stopped posting after Makonda threatened that police would arrest those who follow them on social media.

Related articles:

Posted in Africa, Africa (Sub Saharan), HIV / AIDS | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

LGBTQ magazine publishes in Arabic, not without opposition

The cover of My.Kali's May-June issue, its first edition that was published both in Arabic and in English.

The cover of My.Kali’s May-June issue, its first edition published both in Arabic and in English.

The Jordan-based online LGBTQ magazine My.Kali has introduced an Arabic edition, which provoked a strong negative response from anti-gay conservatives in the Middle East.

My.Kali describes itself on Instagram as an “online social & conceptual Arab webzine [which] covers issues of LGBTQI, sexuality, & gender, through art-therapy, photography, psychology, new media.”

Continue reading

Posted in Middle East / North Africa, Positive steps | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Russian ‘cat and mouse’ game targets LGBT protesters

Protesters from Coming Out, shortly before their arrest on July 12 at Marsovo Polye in St. Petersburg, Russia.

Protesters from Coming Out, shortly before their arrest on July 12 at Marsovo Polye in St. Petersburg, Russia.

The government of St. Petersburg has begun routinely denying freedom of assembly for Russian LGBT activists, the LGBT rights organization Coming Out reports.

The situation has deteriorated sharply from previous years. The group states:

Freedom of assembly in St. Petersburg:
A game of cat and mouse

Marsovo Polye (the Field of Mars)  is supposed to be the place where public rallies can be organized. It’s the “Hyde Park” of St. Petersburg.  Supposedly, all one needs to do is notify the administration.

But in reality, the administration is using all possible loopholes to violate activists’ rights to freedom of assembly in a game of “cat and mouse.”

The government issued a denial in response to the first notification by Coming Out that it planned a rally on Marsovo Polye. Organizers were told that the time was taken up by a mass cultural event. They were invited to apply for the next day.

Activists immediately submitted a new application and again received the response that the space -– oops — again was already taken, and the next day was again suggested. This cycle repeated itself 11 times.

A court ruled that the administration’s reply was not a “ban.” Activists monitored the site every day a “mass cultural event” was supposed to take place there. This, or similar to this, is what activists saw:

Empty field at Marsovo Polye in St. Petersburg, Russia, on a day when LGBT activists were denied permission to protest there because the field supposedly was already full.

Empty field at Marsovo Polye in St. Petersburg, Russia, on a day when LGBT activists were denied permission to protest there because the field supposedly was already full.

Activists notified police of the court’s ruling and their intent to exercise their right to assembly. The reply from the police was straightforward:

“If you come out, you will be detained.”

On July 12, two activists went to Marsovo Polye with a rainbow flag and posters reading:

  • COMING OUT for Freedom of Assembly” and
  • 11 Applications from LGBT Movement, 11 Excuses from the Administration. We Have the Right to Be Here.

The activists were detained and charged with violating article 20.2 on organizing public rallies, as police said that they “participated in action without receiving approval, impeded carrying out of a sports event, and refused to comply with the police directive to stop the action.” Fines for those violations are as much as 30,000 rubles (425 euros or US $470) each.

The next step is litigation to demonstrate unequivocally that, under the current legislation and administrative practice, it is impossible to realize the constitutional right to freedom of assembly.

The action generated a lot of local media interest as well as attention from the St. Petersburg ombudsman for human rights, whose position is aligned with that of the activists.

Protester from Coming Out, shortly before arrests began on July 12 at Marsovo Polye in St. Petersburg, Russia.

““COMING OUT for Freedom of Assembly” reads the LGBT rights protester’s sign shortly before arrests began on July 12 at Marsovo Polye in St. Petersburg, Russia.

Related articles:

Posted in Europe, Harassment / murders | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Jamaican official appeals: Let me join gay-rights case

Arlene Harrison-Henry, Jamaica's public defender (Photo courtesy of the Jamaica Gleaner)

Arlene Harrison-Henry, Jamaica’s public defender (Photo courtesy of the Jamaica Gleaner)

Jamaica’s official Public Defender, Arlene Harrison-Henry, has appealed her exclusion from a lawsuit before the Jamaican Supreme Court that seeks to overturn the country’s anti-LGBT sodomy law.

Earlier this month, the court blocked the LGBT-friendly Public Defender from participating in the suit as an interested party, but opened it to nine conservative Christian groups.

Harrison-Henry alleges that the judge based his decision on errors of fact and incorrect interpretations of the law.

Continue reading

Posted in Americas, Trials / punishments | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment