Nigeria: Womanly 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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3 musicians challenge anti-LGBT hate in Africa

3 africans

Three courageous African musicians recently spoke to NoStrings about their personal struggles and their use of music to combat homophobia in Africa, despite strong oppositions and death threats.

The three musicians who spoke to NoStrings are Mista Majah P, an African-American reggae artist from Jamaica; Grammo Suspect, a lesbian rapper from Kenya; and Chisom Iheangwaram, a singer from Nigeria.

On the podcast interview, they all spoke about their personal struggles and why they decided to use music as tool to advocate for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons in Africa.

Chisom Iheangwaram, who recently released an LGBT-themed song in Nigeria, said:

“The energy and passion to advocate for gay rights in Nigeria comes from my attention to the last survey. In that survey, we had about 87 percent of non-acceptance of LGBT persons in Nigeria from the score card. There is still a huge gap of non-acceptance, so that’s why I keep advocating strongly.”

Grammo SuspectKenya’s first lesbian rapper, Grammo Suspect, who has two LGBT-themed singles to her credit, said that since she came out, things have changed so much for her. She said:

“My music career has been on and off since I came out of the closet and decided that I am going to use my talent to fight for LGBTIQ rights.”

Mista Majah P, a four-time winner of the Canadian Reggae Music Awards, was Jamaica’s first reggae artist to release a full reggae CD dealing with homophobia and the LGBT experience in Jamaica. He spoke about the importance of using music and social media in LGBT activism. He said:

“Music is very effective to reach the masses, because everybody listens to music, and so it is a very good way of reaching people”

Homosexual activity is currently illegal in Nigeria, Kenya, and Jamaica.

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Support for Iraqi rejection of anti-LGBT attacks

Human Rights Watch has endorsed Iraqi Shiite clergyman Muqtada al-Sadr’s call for an end to violence against sexual minorities, reported last month on this blog. HRW issued this press release:

Iraq: Cleric’s Call Against Anti-LGBT Violence
Fighters Should Heed al-Sadr’s Statement; Government Should Follow Suit

Muqtada al-Sadr (Photo courtesy of Unaknet.do)

Muqtada al-Sadr (Photo courtesy of Unaknet.do)

(Beirut, August 18, 2016) – State and non-state actors in Iraq should heed the prominent Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr’s July 2016 statement banning violence against those who do not conform to gender norms, Human Rights Watch said today.

Since early 2009, Human Rights Watch has documented kidnappings, executions, and torture by militia groups, including al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army, of gay men and men perceived to be gay. The killings have continued unabated.

“Finally, the head of one of the groups whose members have carried out serious abuses against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in Iraq is condemning these heinous attacks,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “We hope this will change behavior in successors to the Mahdi Army and other ranks, and spur the government to hold accountable those who commit these crimes.”

A Human Rights Watch report found that in early 2009, Iraqi militia members began a wide-reaching campaign of extrajudicial executions, kidnappings, and torture of men suspected of homosexual conduct, or of not conforming to masculine gender norms, and that Iraq authorities did nothing to stop the killings. The killings began in the Baghdad neighborhood of Sadr City, a Mahdi Army stronghold, and were then replicated by members of militia groups in many cities across Iraq. Mahdi Army spokesmen promoted fear about the “third sex” and the “feminization” of Iraqi men, as well as suggesting that militia action was the remedy.

In 2012, militia members opened a second wave of attacks on people categorized as part of the “emo” subculture, styles that critics associated with heavy metal music, and rap. In early February 2012, signs and fliers appeared in the Baghdad neighborhoods of Sadr City, Hayy al-Habibiyya, and Hayy al-‘Amil that threatened people by name with “the wrath of god” unless they cut their hair short, concealed their tattoos, maintained “complete manhood,” and stopped wearing so-called “satanic clothing.” Similar posters appeared in other neighborhoods, also listing names.

Logo of Human Rights Watch

Logo of Human Rights Watch

In the following weeks, Human Rights Watch received reports of several dozen youths killed as part of the campaign. While it was unclear who was behind the campaign, at the time al-Sadr called the targets of the campaign “crazy fools” and a “lesion on the Muslim community” in an online statement, but also maintained that they should be dealt with “within the law.”

In a 2015 report, the Iraqi group Iraqueer and the US-based organization OutRight Action International (formerly the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission) documented the kidnapping and murders of gay men by members of Iraqi militia groups, including the Brigades of Wrath (Saraya al-Ghadhab) and League of the Righteous (Asa’ib Ahl al-Haqq) between 2009 and 2015. The groups condemned the Iraqi government for “stand[ing] by and allow[ing] murderous hate violence to occur, fully aware of what is happening.”

The government responded by establishing an LGBT committee in late 2012 to address abuses against the LGBT community. However, LGBT activists in Baghdad have told Human Rights Watch that this committee has taken few tangible steps to protect LGBT people. In addition, a member of the committee said, two of the original nine members vanished in 2015 in what he believed was related to their role on the committee. The committee has had no news of them since. Other members have left the committee without explanation, he said, leaving only four remaining.

"Islamic State" logo

“Islamic State” logo

With the rise of the extremist group Islamic State, also known as ISIS, gay men, transgender women, and gender non-conforming people are at even greater risk. The group has executed a number of people accused of sodomy or perceived to be gay.

While Iraq’s Penal Code does not directly criminalize same-sex intimacy, article 394 criminalizes extra-marital sexual relations. That provision effectively criminalizes all same-sex relations, since the law does not provide for same-sex marriage.

Al-Sadr’s July 7 2016, statement expresses his view that same-sex relationships and cross-dressing are not acceptable, but that gender non-conforming people – whom al-Sadr claims are suffering from “psychological problems” – nevertheless deserve the right to live. “[You] must disassociate from them [but] not attack them, as it increases their aversion and you must guide them using acceptable and rational means,” the statement read.

Despite the lack of full tolerance in al-Sadr’s statement, his call to end violence against LGBT people is an important step, Human Rights Watch said. He should ensure that those in the ranks of the militia under his command, the Peace Brigades (Saraya alSalam), obey the order and should hold accountable commanders who do not.

Iraq’s government should take its own measures to ensure that attacks on LGBT people are punished, and the LGBT committee should actively monitor and report on human rights abuses against LGBT people and advise the government on concrete steps to protect LGBT people from violence and discrimination. Iraq’s legislature should quickly decriminalize extra-marital sexual relations.

“While al-Sadr is still a long way from fully embracing human rights for LGBT people, his statement shows that he understands the importance of stopping abuses against them,” Stork said. “The statement represents an important change in the right direction, and should be followed by concrete actions to protect LGBT people from violence.”

For more Human Rights Watch reporting on Iraq, please visit: https://www.hrw.org/middle-east/n-africa/iraq

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Jamaicans quickly reject anti-gay Olympic slur

Omar McLeod, Olympic gold medalist

Omar McLeod, Olympic gold medalist (Photo courtesy of the Jamaica Gleaner)

Jamaica Gleaner's invitation to suggest a caption for Omar McLeod's photo, followed by the offensive Lasco tweet.

Jamaica Gleaner’s invitation to suggest a caption for Omar McLeod’s photo, followed by the offensive Lasco tweet.

Even an Olympic gold medalist from Jamaica isn’t spared from being insulted by a homophobic fellow countryman, but Jamaican culture has evolved to the point where such hostility now has stern consequences.

Omar McLeod, who won the men’s 110-meter hurdles on Aug. 16,  was called a “goldfish” in a tweet from a major Jamaican company. “Fish” — a derogatory term for a gay man — was applied to McLeod even though his sexual orientation is unknown.

lasco

In response to its employee's homophobic tweet, Lasco issued this apology not only to Omar McLeod but also to "our fans, friends, customers, consumers, partners, Jamaicans and everyone."

In response to its employee’s homophobic tweet, Lasco issued this apology not only to Omar McLeod but also to “our fans, friends, customers, consumers, partners, Jamaicans and everyone.”

An employee of Lasco Affiliated Companies used the company’s Twitter account to propose the label “goldfish” for McLeod in response to the Jamaica Gleaner’s request for readers’ suggestions for a caption under McLeod’s photo on the newspaper’s front page.

Lasco is a Jamaican holding company involved in a Jamaican holding company with operations in food products and financial services.

At first, Lasco said its Twitter account had been hacked, but then it acknowledged that the post had been made by an employee and, as a result, that he had been fired. The company apologized to McLeod and to Jamaicans, saying that the post did not represent its values.

In further response to the tweet, Portia Simpson-Miller, former prime minister and current opposition leader, issued her own tweet condemning homophobia.

This tweet from Portia Simpson-Miller rejected the Lasco employee's homophobic tweet.

This tweet from Portia Simpson-Miller rejected the Lasco employee’s homophobic tweet.

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Uganda: Harassment of Sandra Ntebi must stop

Front Line Defenders demands an end to ongoing harassment of Ugandan human rights defender Sandra Ntebi, an LGBTI activist who focuses on the safety of members of Uganda’s LGBTI community. This is today’s press release from Front Line Defenders:

Uganda -– LGBTI human rights defender Sandra Ntebi target of persistent harassment

Sandra Ntebi (Photo courtesy of Front Line Defenders)

Sandra Ntebi (Photo courtesy of Front Line Defenders)

On 16 August 2016, Sandra Ntebi was driving home from a press conference when another driver purposefully bumped into her vehicle, causing damage. Following the police disruption of LGBTI Pride events in Kampala on 4 August 2016, Sandra Ntebi has been the target of ongoing harassment.

Sandra Ntebi is an LGBTI activist who works with the Ugandan LGBT Security Committee and Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), among other organisations. On a daily basis, she works to report threats against her colleagues in the Ugandan LGBTI community, and manages a hot-line to support LGBTI people who are at risk of attack, to find alternative and safe accommodation.

At approximately 11 pm on 4 August 2016, during an LGBTI Pride event at Venom Night Club in Kabalagala, Kampala, police entered the venue, disrupted the event, harassed attendees, locked them inside the venue for one hour, and confiscated personal property, including mobile phones, without a warrant. Additionally, it is reported that police officers sexually harassed trans-gender persons who were in attendance by groping them and taking photos without their consent while threatening to publish the photos to reveal their identities.

Uganda Pride logo

Uganda Pride logo

The police alleged that the event was held in violation of the principles of the Public Order Management Act of 2013. Sandra Ntebi attempted to speak with the police officers after their arrival, however she was arrested with 15 other event organisers and defenders, and brought to Kabalagala police station where all 16 were detained overnight. During her detention, Sandra Ntebi was beaten by the police officers and denied access to her lawyer.

After being released from detention without charge on 5 August 2016, Sandra Ntebi started receiving harassment from members of the police department and civilians by phone, text, and in-person. The Minister of State for Ethics and Integrity, Hon. Rev. Fr. Simon Lokodo, visited the police station soon after the 16 were released and demanded that the police bring them back to the station. Since then, members of the police department incessantly harass Sandra Ntebi to appear at the police station via phone calls and texts, although there is no formal request from the department for her to appear at the station. Her lawyers have advised her not to go to the station.

On the 16 August 2016, a coalition of human rights organisations held a press conference concerning the police disruption of the events on 4 August 2016 at the Fairway Hotel in Kampala. As Sandra Ntebi was driving home from the press conference, another driver bumped into her car, causing damage to it. The person got out of their car and demanded that the human rights defender go to the police station. Sandra Ntebi refused to go to the police station, and returned home without making any more stops.

Front Line Defenders recognises the harassment faced by Sandra Ntebi as part of a larger trend in Uganda of harassment and threats of human rights defenders and a crackdown on civil society and on the LGBTI community in particular. Front Line Defenders is concerned that the harassment of Sandra Ntebi is politically motivated by her legitimate and peaceful work for LGBTI rights, and urges Ugandan authorities to uphold their responsibilities in protecting human rights as outlined in international documents such as the ICCPR [the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights] to which they are a signatory.

Front Line Defenders urges the authorities in Uganda to:

  1. Take all necessary measures to guarantee the physical and psychological integrity and security of Sandra Ntebi;
  2. Carry out an immediate, thorough and impartial investigation into the threats and harassment Sandra Ntebi is facing as well as into the ill-treatment she received while in police detention, with a view to publishing the results and bringing those responsible to justice in accordance with international standards;
  3. Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in Uganda are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions.

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Letter to Uganda police: Let’s chat about anti-gay brutality

Sylvia Tamale (Photo courtesy of african.cam.ac.uk)

Sylvia Tamale (Photo courtesy of african.cam.ac.uk)

If LGBT-friendly Ugandan scholar Sylvia Tamale has her way, the Ugandan district police commander in charge of an anti-LGBT raid on Aug. 4 will meet her over a cup of tea to discuss tolerance. That invitation was contained in an open letter from Tamale, published in The Observer, that chided police for brutality, illegal arrests and human rights violations.

Using the respectful Swahili term “afande,” she addressed the letter to Isaac Mugerwa, district police commander of the Kabalagala police station:

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