Good news from Malaysia, Namibia, Ukraine

Recent weeks have seen advances for trans people in Ukraine and Malaysia and perhaps for all LGBT people in Namibia. The news items in this recap were excerpted with slight modifications  from  ILGA’s LGBulleTIn round-up of the world’s LGBTI-related news and UNAIDS’s Equal Eyes:

A quick explanation of gender identity, gender expression, sex, and sexual orientation, published by Justice for Sisters.

A quick explanation of gender identity, gender expression, sex, and sexual orientation, published by Justice for Sisters.

In Malaysia, the Kuala Lumpur High Court ordered the National Registration Department (NRD) to update a trans man’s information on his identity card to better reflect his gender identity and chosen name. The decision, according to Justice for Sisters, “gives new hope” for the trans community in the country.  According to Autostraddle, previous attempts in Malaysian courts to allow trans people to change their names and gender markers on their identity cards had been unsuccessful. This time, though, the judge argued that “the plaintiff has a precious constitutional right to life under Article 5(1) of the Federal Constitution, and the concept of ‘life’ under Article 5 must necessarily encompass the Plaintiff’s right to live with dignity as a male and be legally accorded judicial recognition as a male.” The NRD has appealed.

John Walters, Namibia's official ombudsman. (Photo courtesy of The Namibian)

John Walters, Namibia’s official ombudsman. (Photo courtesy of The Namibian)

In an interview with The Namibian, John Walters, the ombudsman of Namibia, claimed that provisions prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation “should be in the Constitution,” and that the old anti-sodomy law “has served its purpose.”  “How many prosecutions have there been?” he was quoted as saying in reference to that law. “I believe none over the past 20 years. If we don’t prosecute people, why do we have the act?” According to reports, the debate around LGBTI issues has recently taken centre stage in the country, following a visit to the country by two members of the UN Human Rights Committee. In a recently adopted document, the Committee urged the government to “adopt legislation explicitly prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation […,] adopt hate crime legislation punishing homophobic and transphobic violence, “abolish the common law crime of sodomy and include same-sex relationships in the Combating of Domestic Violence Act so as to protect same-sex partners.”

However, as Equal Eyes noted, separate from the Walters interview, “All the authorities met by the Delegation expressed that Namibia does not prosecute LGBTI people, but the culture, religion and tradition does not permit any recognition of LGBTI rights in the laws of Namibia. None of the authorities met agreed with the Committee’s recommendations of the need to eliminate the crime of sodomy and the need to include sexual orientation as ground of discrimination and against including the protection of same-sex relations in the Domestic Violence Act as recommended by the Committee.”

In Ukraine, a court ordered changes requested by two trans persons to their   passports and all other documents without requiring them to undergo sterilization.

This article was updated on Aug. 30 to include the Equal Eyes account of developments in Namibia.

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After anti-trans attacks in Pakistan, abuse by doctors, police

Human Rights Watch reported:

Pakistan: Attacks on Transgender Women Surge
Promptly Investigate, Prosecute Those Responsible

Location of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa within Pakistan (Map courtesy of WIkipedia)

Location of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa within Pakistan (Map courtesy of WIkipedia)

(New York, August 23, 2016) – Pakistani authorities should urgently investigate the surge in violent attacks on transgender women in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, Human Rights Watch said today. They should also investigate allegations that medical staff and police failed to assist victims and pursue justice in cases involving transgender people.

On August 9, 2016, unidentified assailants in Abbottabad, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, shot Sumbal, a transgender woman, three times in the abdomen when she resisted abduction and rape. The district hospital refused to admit her, saying they only have male and female wards, and therefore could not treat a transgender person. The district police also refused to register a case until transgender activists protested outside the hospital.

“The surge in brutal attacks on transgender women in Pakistan will only end when authorities signal that they will hold the attackers to account,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Hospital staff and police need to stop their humiliating treatment of transgender people and start protecting their rights.”

The attack on Sumbal was the latest of several recent attacks against transgender people in this province in northwestern Pakistan, Human Rights Watch said. Farzana Jan, president of the Shemale Association, a transgender rights group based in the province, told Human Rights Watch that activists in the Mardan district have responded to cases in late 2015 and early 2016 in which police apprehended transgender women. She said the police typically took them to the police station, taunted them, forcibly removed their clothing, ordered them to dance, and poured cold water on them when they refused. When they complained, they were subjected to further abuse.

Ayesha, a 22-year-old transgender woman in Peshawar, the provincial capital, said that last year a mob threatened her house and robbed her. Attackers shouted that she was “spreading vulgarity” in the area. “When I went to the police station, the guard at the police station gate did not even let me enter,” Ayesha said. “Each time I go to the police station [to follow up on the progress of the case], the police staff mock me and make inappropriate remarks. They have refused to take any action against the perpetrators.”

On July 3, unidentified people attacked the home of Arzu, a 26-year-old transgender woman in Peshawar, and set it on fire. Arzu said the attack occurred within days after she took in a transgender friend who had escaped from an abusive male partner and his extended family, who had forced her into sex work.

 

Pakistan Supreme Court (Photo courtesy of PakistanToday.com.pk)

Pakistan Supreme Court building (Photo courtesy of PakistanToday.com.pk)

Pakistani law includes provisions to protect the rights of transgender people, Human Rights Watch said. In 2009, Pakistan’s Supreme Court called on all provincial governments to recognize the rights of transgender people. The judgment specifically called for more communication with transgender communities and better coordination on cases reported to the police.

The Supreme Court also directed provincial social welfare departments to improve the civil registration process for transgender people and allow them to register as a third gender. The court directed provincial governments to submit reports on the conditions for transgender people in the provinces, instructing authorities to include transgender people in voter lists and to protect their inheritance rights. The court also ordered the relevant authorities to ensure the right of transgender people to basic education, employment, and protection.

Some local governments have carried out parts of the court’s order, including by creating employment programs – for example by hiring hijras, a term for some transgender women – as tax collectors in Karachi.

In June 2016, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provincial government said that it had allocated PKR200 million (US$2 million approximately) for the welfare of transgender people in the province. However, activists told Human Rights Watch that even this positive move by the government came with threats. “Senior members of the K-P government have told us that this money will only be spent on our welfare if we [transgender activists] stop bringing a bad name to the government by continuing to talk about the attacks on transgender people,” a transgender activist said. “It [was] offered as a political bribe.”

The Supreme Court judgment came at a time when governments in South Asia began to allow for legal recognition of transgender people – a crucial step in upholding their fundamental rights and ensuring their ability to manage daily life safely. These developments include a 2007 Supreme Court judgment in Nepal, a 2014 cabinet decision in Bangladesh, and a 2014 Supreme Court judgment in India. Sri Lanka has in recent years taken some steps toward legal gender recognition for transgender people.

The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa authorities should undertake prompt, thorough, and impartial investigations into the recent attacks on transgender people in the province, Human Rights Watch said. They should also ensure that those responsible for these crimes are appropriately brought to justice. The provincial government should end surveillance, intimidation, and harassment of transgender people by the local authorities.

The provincial government should arrange for the police to work with transgender communities and organizations to introduce sensitivity training in accordance with the 2009 Supreme Court judgment on ending discrimination against transgender people and with international human rights principles.

“Police involvement in abuses against transgender people has generated profound mistrust between the community and provincial authorities,” Adams said. “Authorities abusing transgender women and threatening them when they seek justice should be seen as a threat to all Pakistanis – a sign of the government’s failure to ensure basic safety for all.”

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Caribbean: Anti-gay law is ripe for reversal, Antigua says

Location of Antigua in the Caribbean Sea. (Map courtesy of TuchmanTravelGuide.com)

Location of Antigua in the Caribbean Sea. (Map courtesy of TuchmanTravelGuide.com)

If LGBTI rights activists in the Caribbean nation of Antigua & Barbuda mount a legal challenge, the courts there would likely nullify that nation’s ban on sexual relations between men, according to Antigua’s cabinet.

But the Antiguan government won’t take such action on its own.

As Antigua’s Daily Observer reported:

The government has said an outright no to repealing the laws [criminalising] buggery, a decision which has disappointed the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LBGT) community.

The Cabinet of Antigua & Barbuda, on [Aug. 24], agreed that “the buggery law will remain unchanged”.

In the same breath, government acknowledged that the results which were obtained in the recent historic Belize case are likely to follow, should an interest group pursue this matter in the courts, since “our jurisprudence is similar”.

The Supreme Court in Belize ruled a few weeks ago that a law which criminalises homosexuality was unconstitutional.

The decision was handed down six years after a gay citizen advocate, 42-year-old Caleb Orozco, brought the challenge against the attorney general of Belize.

LBGT activist Tasheka Lavann said she is gravely disappointed by the declaration, however she will remain undaunted.

Samantha Marshall, Antigua's minister of social transformation (Photo courtesy of CaribbeanElections.com)

Samantha Marshall, Antigua’s minister of social transformation (Photo courtesy of CaribbeanElections.com)

Antiguan law provides for up to 15 years in prison for consensual anal intercourse, whether between men or between a man and a woman.

The country’s minister of social transformation, Samantha Marshall, says the  law is antiquated and should be repealed.

Antigua is one of several Caribbean countries where the possibility of repealing such laws is at least being discussed. In Guyana, the prime minister has talked several times about repealing them. In Dominica, the prime minister says they’re not enforced.

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Belize fundamentalists hope to appeal sodomy ruling

Anti-LGBT advocates formed a prayer circle seeking a Belize Supreme Court ruling in favor of the country's anti-sodomy law. (Photo courtesy of the Belize Prayer Network)

Anti-LGBT advocates formed a prayer circle seeking — unsuccessfully — a Belize Supreme Court ruling in favor of the country’s anti-sodomy law. (Photo courtesy of the Belize Prayer Network)

In the Belize court system, the last word hasn’t yet arrived regarding the Aug. 10 victory by LGBT rights activist Caleb Orozco, who, with support from his United Belize Advocacy Movement (Unibam), successfully challenged the country’s anti-sodomy law.

Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin ruled that the sodomy provisions of Section 53 of the criminal code were unconstitutional.

That decision can be appealed, but no appeal has yet been filed.

The government of Belize decided not to appeal. Anti-gay fundamentalist Christians hope to do so, however.

If they decide to, they would need to overcome both legal and financial obstacles.

Churches would have to prove that they have legal standing to file an appeal, Orozco noted. He is optimistic that they would not be able to do so, since even Unibam was unable to establish its standing to challenge Section 53 in the original lawsuit.

Caleb Orozco, claimant and leader of United Belize Advocacy Movement

Caleb Orozco, leader of the United Belize Advocacy Movement

It’s “a difficult thing,” he said. “The violation has to be in direct relation to [the organization]. The church has to prove it can have sex. For me, on that basis, the court struck out Unibam as co-claimant in the beginning of my case, so what’s good for Unibam is good for the churches.”

“It’s at the court’s discretion. We shall see in time,” Orozco added.

In addition, “the fundamentalists are saying they don’t have the money to pursue an appeal,” he said.

However, Orozco added, “Extremism is alive and well” in Belize. As an example, he cited the fundamentalist website of the Belize Prayer Network, which called Benjamin’s decision an “unjust ruling” that opened a legal door to “the spirit of sodomy.” Regarding LGBTI rights activists, that fundamentalist network says:

“They intend to redefine sex and gender in Belizean schoolbooks. In effect they intend to rewrite Genesis One, to say God created them in His own image to be LGBTQI and to be fruitful and multiply. Except that, since they can’t procreate, they would multiply bad fruit by corrupting other people’s children.”

Orozco, in the meantime, is “preparing for round two. The battle continues.”

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Indonesians push to prohibit gay sex, unmarried sex

BuzzFeed world correspondent J. Lester Feder and contributor Rin Hindryati in Jakarta, Indonesia, report:

Homosexuality Must Be Criminalized To Protect Indonesian Values, Court Told

“Our country has legalized fornication, male rape and homosexual acts. We’ve allowed our constitution to become too liberal — is that what we want?”

JAKARTA — A group of academics and activists urged the Constitutional Court of Indonesia to criminalize fornication and homosexuality on [Aug. 23] in the latest hearing in a lawsuit that began earlier this year.

Asrorun Ni’am Sholeh (Photo courtesy of Panjimas.com)

Asrorun Ni’am Sholeh (Photo courtesy of Panjimas.com)

The suit, which has been brought by 12 academics and activists, has already had several hearings, but captured international attention earlier this month when it was reported that the petitioners sought the criminalization of homosexuality. But they are actually seeking a broader reform of the country’s criminal code, according to court filings, that would not only criminalize homosexuality but also make sex between unmarried people a crime.

Tuesday’s hearing, which was attended by a large group of activists from Islamic women’s organization, was the second in which the petitioners were able to present witnesses in support of their case. They argued that not only was the country on the verge of a crisis of sexual morality, but at risk of having its core Muslim values overridden by international human rights claims that embrace LGBT rights.

Tuesday’s testimony began with Asrorun Ni’am Sholeh, chairman of the National Child Protection Commission, who said the court needed to take urgent action to curtail a crisis of sexual morality that put the nation’s children at risk. He called for a five-year prison sentence to be imposed for homosexual acts — which he warned “tend to be repeated because there is a factor of addiction in it” — and raised concerns that same-sex marriage could come to Indonesia.

For more information, read the full article in BuzzFeed.

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Nigeria: Feminine man provokes police raid

Sokoto scene (Photo courtesy of NoStringsNG)

Sokoto scene (Photo courtesy of NoStringsNG)

Police last weekend raided a celebration in Nigeria’s northwestern region in an attempt to break up a reported “gay wedding.”

The owner of the wedding venue was reportedly arrested, but police on Monday acknowledged that the raid was based on a misunderstanding.

They said they stormed the alleged gay marriage venue because they were informed that a man — a member of Muslim Nigeria’s “yan daudu” subculture — was there acting like a woman.

Deputy Superintendent of Police Almustapha Sani, who spoke to on behalf of the Sokoto State Police Command to the Daily Trust newspaper, said that police investigations revealed that there was no gay marriage. He said:

Police logo
“There was actually marriage between a male and female, but because of the presence of ‘Yan Daudu,’ who were mimicking female mannerisms, people in the area thought it was a gay marriage and alerted the police.”

However, the police, without proper initial investigations into the matter, hurriedly went ahead to wrongfully arrest two men in relation to the allegation. This was also confirmed by Sani.

Alhaji Shehu Adamu, the house owner who was rumored to have been arrested in relation to the matter, confirmed that a ceremony actually took place there, but said that those who hired the venue were women with whom he is well acquainted and that they told him it was a wedding ceremony.

Yan daudu, the Guardian reports, are members of a previously accepted subculture who in recent years have been targeted for persecution:

Ameera, a member of the Yan Daudu community in northern Nigeria. (Afolabi Sotunde photo courtesy of the Guardian)

Ameera, a member of the Yan Daudu community in northern Nigeria. (Afolabi Sotunde photo courtesy of the Guardian)

[Yan daudu is] shorthand for “men who act like women” in northern Nigeria’s Hausa language. The phrase means “sons of Daudu,” a fun-loving, gambling spirit worshipped in the Muslim Bori practice, whose trance and dancing rituals are traditionally associated with marginalised poor women, sex workers and disabled people.

For more than a century, hundreds of yan daudu were tolerated as part of an unremarkable but fringe subculture in the Muslim north, famed for their playful use of language, sometimes even accompanying politicians during election campaigns. …

But now, with a religious revival sweeping Africa’s most populous country, the yan daudu are increasingly being persecuted.

Nigeria’s of 2014 provides for prison sentences of up to:

  • 14 years for entering into a same-sex marriage.
  • 10 years for attending a same-sex wedding.
  • 10 years for a “public show of same-sex amorous relationship.”
  • 10 years for belonging to any “gay organization,” whether it is seeking recognition of human rights for LGBT people, meeting the spiritual needs of LGBT people, or providing health care for LGBT people.

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Q. Why expose gay celebrities? A. Bravery … Really?

Kinto Rothmans before and after February attack. (Photo courtesy of Flex Newspaper and others)

Kinto Rothmans Kwesi before and after February attack. (Photo courtesy of Flex Newspaper and others)

By Yaw Amanfoh

What leads a person to ruin the lives of other people for nothing but a paycheck?

This year, on Feb. 26, Ghana’s Flex Magazine published an article called “Exposing Gays and Lesbians in the Showbiz Industry.” Its author, Ebenezer Narh Affum, stated in the article that there was a “dire need” to expose the sexual preferences of Ghana’s entertainers.

That didn’t make sense to me. I responded to what I thought was an evil (and lazy) news “story” with the article “Outed! Can LGBT Africans Ever Be Safe?”  in this blog, condemning Flex magazine and the harm it has undoubtedly done. I included a bloody photo of music promoter Kinto Rothmans Kwesi, who was attacked last year in Ghana after a similar allegation about his sexual orientation.

I contacted Affum for an interview and three months later he agreed. This gave me an opportunity to discuss with him his apparent fascination with queer people in Ghana and his responsibility for what happens after he outs them.

This is a modestly edited transcript of that interview:

Q: Thank you for being willing to do this interview. I know we’ve tried this is the past and it was unsuccessful. I will be asking you questions about the article you wrote on outing celebrities as gay, lesbian, etc. Is this okay?

Affum: Sure.

Q: Thank you for your participation. First off, please be as honest as you possibly can. If you don’t feel comfortable with a question, feel free to not answer.

Affum: Okay.

 

Flex logo

Flex logo

Q: What is your title with Flex Magazine and how long have you been with the company?

Affum: I am a columnist. I’ve been with Flex for about four years now.

Q: What is that you usually write about?

Affum: I write only on showbiz in Ghana.

Q: Was that always a passion of yours, to write about the lives of celebrities in Ghana?

Affum: I have always had the passion of writing about showbiz but not necessarily about celebrities.

Q: Okay. So what motivated to write your article about outing celebrities? Was that an idea you had in mind or more so the team’s idea?

Affum: I come up with my own ideas and follow up on them.

Location of Ghana in West Africa

Location of Ghana in West Africa

Q: So that was your idea? What motivated you to write that piece?

Affum: I have reliable sources who give me clues as well. My motivation for the kind of stories I do is to ensure that there is sanity in the showbiz industry and disabuse the minds of people who think that one cannot morally upright if one finds himself in the showbiz industry.

Q: Is being LGBT+ insane?

Affum: Being a gay or lesbian, in my opinion, isn’t the right way to go. Why was a man and a women created in the first place by God if a man’s companion could be another man? Have we considered the side effects of gayism and lesbianism? There are so many gays and lesbians in the showbiz but they are just not brave to come out, all because they know it’s not right by Ghanaian standards.

Q:  Let’s say there are “many” gays and lesbians in showbiz who aren’t out. What would be their reasoning?

Affum: They are just not brave enough to make their preferences known, as they know it’s not right.

Q: What would be their reason to not be “brave” and come out?

Affum: They would be seen as strange, morally bankrupt.

Q: Would you blame them for not coming out to stay safe?

Affum: I would not blame them, but the practice of gayism and lesbianism isn’t right.

Q:  You have mentioned bravery a couple of times. Would the people whom you all are trying to expose feel “brave” afterwards?

Affum: I don’t think so.

Q: How do you think they would feel after being exposed?

Affum: Definitely they would feel embarrassed and disgraced.

Q: As well as terrified for their lives considering what happened to He’, correct?

Affum: No.

Q: Don’t you think that they would be scared of potential physical and emotional harm after being exposed?

Affum: When exposed, they would only be embarrassed. I don’t think they would be any physical harm.

Q: How do you know that they would only be embarrassed?

Affum: Ghana is quite peaceful and no one would physically harm a gay or a lesbian.

Q: But that has happened to people believed to be gay or lesbian.

Affum: No.

Q: Kinto Rothmans was suspected of being gay and was brutally beaten for it. Is that not the same thing? 

Affum: It won’t happen in Ghana.

[Editor’s note: It did.]

Me: Unfortunately, I’ve heard discrimination, physical abuse and homicides associated with gay, lesbians and trans people have occurred in recent years. Those reports are from reliable news sources.

Affum: In Ghana??

Q: Yes.

Affum: No.

Q: I would want to not think that, but it has happened and will, unfortunately, continue. So how long will your expose-the-gays raids continue?

Affum: So long as I am still writing.

Q: Is it necessary? Aren’t there more worthwhile stories that you can write?

Affum: I don’t concentrate on that alone.

Q: I understand, but is it necessary?

Affum: Sure. Why not?

Q: Well, they are just rumors if they aren’t coming from the person in question.  Knowing that queer people could be harmed in Ghana (including the people whom you out), do you feel compelled to write these stories?

Affum: (No response)


Here’s what’s really going on

Affum and Flex Magazine claim that they are doing a service to the Ghanaian community by outing celebrities. They are not.  It is contradictory to condemn gay celebrities while simultaneously claiming that involuntarily outing them encourages them to be brave and results in no harm.

Braimah “Bukom Banku” Kamoko

Braimah “Bukom Banku” Kamoko

Who LGBTQ+ Ghanaian celebrities sleep with is no one’s business but their own.

At the same time, these same journalists ignore crimes and misbehavior by straight celebrities. Braimah “Bukom Banku” Kamoko, the professional boxer, admitted to racism, adultery and domestic violence in an interview with Joy News on May 7.  Many of Ghana’s politicians, including President John Mahama, are guilty of corruption. Flex apparently doesn’t consider any of that to be newsworthy.

What bothers me most is Affum’s claim that he knows nothing about
attacks on queer people in Ghana. He’s obviously lying, because his article about outing gay celebrities included photos of Kinto Rothmans Kwesi before and after he was beaten in the streets of Nima, Ghana. Rothmans was attacked after being accused of having same-sex relations with a friend. An anti-gay group in Nima then video-recorded him being whipped by canes.

That incident provoked a vigorous discussion within Ghana’s entertainment sector. Notable celebrities such as IWAN and Efya criticized the attack and supported their friend and colleague.

But Affum doesn’t care about queer lives. He’s not alone in that heartlessness — one need only look as far as Ghana’s anti-LGBTQ+ law (Article 104 in Ghana’s Criminal Code), which provides for up to three years in prison for consensual same-sex relations between men.

Affum claims that he wants to encourage “bravery” in the people they are outing, but he doesn’t care — and claims not to know — what happens afterward.

So he and Flex publish articles that are poisonous.

He and Flex don’t understand the lives of the average LGBTQ+ Ghanaian. How could the Flex team understand what bravery is in a marginalized and targeted community when they have no idea what life in that community is like?

Yaw Amanfoh is a Ghanaian-American, queer-identifying, gay man who recently graduated from the University of North Carolina at Asheville with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics.

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