2021 in review: A year of arrests and harassment of LGBTQ people

Again and again in 2021, the arrests continued — 12, then 13, then 14, then 44, then 21 — all of them targeted aT suspected sexual minorities. In each case, the arrests were mere harassment. Even though the arrests were made in Cameroon, Ghana, and Uganda, all of which have laws against homosexual activity, none of the arrests led to a conviction.

Arrestees at the Happy Family youth shelter in May 2021 were forced to sit on the floor. (Photo courtesy of Nile Post) (Arrestees’ faces are blurred for their safety.)

That disturbing pattern of group arrests was a lowlight of a year of continuing harassment of LGBTQ people, often aggravated by discriminatory enforcement of Covid-19 control regulations.  Below is a sampling of the distressing news of such harassment, selected from articles in Erasing 76 Crimes, which focuses on the human toll of 70+ countries’ anti-LGBTI laws and the struggle to repeal them.

In contrast with this bleak tally of human rights abuses, some hopeful developments occurred in 2021. They are presented in a separate article, “2021 in review: Some glimmers of hope for LGBTQ rights.”

 

Twenty-one people, arrested in May 2021 by Ghana police on suspicion of promoting an LGBT+ agenda at an unlawful assembly, are escorted out of court after a bail hearing. They were held without trial for three weeks and then released. (Francis Kokoroko photo courtesy of Reuters)

 

MASS ARRESTS

Cameroon: Police arrest 12 teens on homosexuality charges (Feb. 14, 2021)

Cameroon: Arrest of 13 presumed homosexuals, anti-AIDS workers (March 3, 2021)

Ghana: Police arrest 14 at party, suspecting it was a ‘lesbian wedding’ (March 29, 2021)

Uganda: 44 arrests came at alleged gay wedding. (June 1, 2021)  Not all of the 44 arrests were even charged. Three days later, Uganda court OKs bail for 42 arrestees (June 4, 2021)  The arrests largely mirrored the March 2020 mass arrests of 19 Ugandans accused of violating Covid-19 rules by living at a shelter for homeless LGBTQ youths. They were tortured while imprisoned for 50 days without a trial and never were even allowed to apply for bail.

Ghana: 21 people arrested at LGBTQI rights training session (May 21, 2021). They were held for three weeks before being released. Then, months later: Ghana court admits: 21 LGBT+ activists won’t go on trial (Aug. 6, 2021)

 

Internet trans celebrity Shakiro and her partner, Patricia, were arrested  in Douala, Cameroon, in February, convicted of “attempted homosexuality” and held in prison until July, when they were released pending an appeal of their conviction. (Photo courtesy of Facebook)

 

CELEBRITY ARRESTS

Cameroon: Trans celebrity Shakiro under arrest in Cameroon (Feb. 11, 2021)

Cameroon: Court orders Shakiro and Patricia to be set free (July 13, 2021) 

 

Tunisian LGBT rights activist Rania Amdounion was sentenced to six months in prison for shouting outside a police station after officers refused to register her harassment complaint. (Hamza Nasri photo courtesy of Hamza Nasri and HRW)

MORE ARRESTS

Cameroon: A flash of red thong leads to arrest  (Jan. 4, 2021)

Egypt: Appeal to Europe: Stop Egypt’s human rights abuses (Jan. 22, 2021)

Senegal: 6 months in prison for man who escaped anti-gay mob (Jan. 25, 2021)

Tunisia: LGBT rights activist imprisoned for shouting (March 11, 2021)

Ghana, Cameroon, Senegal, Nigeria and Uganda:  LGBTQ life in Africa: Arrests, arrests, arrests, arrests (May 31, 2021) 

Senegal: In first year, Free Senegal rescued dozens of victims of homophobia (Oct. 12, 2021)

Kuwait: Two years in prison for trans woman (Oct. 15, 2021)

 

MORE HARASSMENT

Ghana: Police raid LGBT+ center; activists call for boycott (Feb. 25, 2021)

Uganda: Break-in at offices of LGBT ally lawyer Nicholas Opiyo (March 22, 2021)

Senegal: Religious militants use dating apps to trap, then torture gay men (March 23, 2021)

Uganda: Human rights violations against queer and trans Ugandans on the increase (March 31, 2021)

Iran: Military outed a gay youth; his family murdered him (May 14, 2021)

Trinidad: Mourners protest murder of Caribbean drag artist (May 20, 2021)

Cameroon: Vandalism of another LGBT center  (July 26, 2021)

Cameroon: Trans celebrity Shakiro attacked (Aug. 9, 2021)

Jamaica: TV stations blocked pro-tolerance ad; court says that’s OK  (Oct. 31, 2020)

Russia labels main LGBT group, the Russian LGBT Network, a ‘foreign agent’ (Nov. 13, 2021). Under that same law, Russia’s Supreme Court in late December ordered the disbanding of the country’s top human rights organization, the International Memorial Society, (Dec. 28, 2021)

Cameroon: As anti-LGBTI abuses worsen in Cameroon, even the government admits it (Dec. 3, 2021)

A Ugandan man begs for his life at the hands of Uganda Police. During the pandemic, state-sponsored human rights abuses have increased, especially affecting vulnerable people accused of Covid-19 control violations. (Photo courtesy of the Daily Monitor)

 

HARASSMENT IN THE GUISE OF COVID-19 CONTROL

Public health regulations seeking to limit the spread of Covid-19 hit LGBTQ people especially hard and often were used as an excuse for anti-LGBTQ harassment. In Uganda, where news coverage by Erasing 76 Crimes is relatively strong, Covid-related harassment included mass arrests (See above) and blockages of food and medication deliveries (See below):

Uganda lockdown hampers rural LGBT access to life-saving HIV/AIDS drugs (July 1, 2021)

Trans Ugandans issue desperate food appeal as lockdown bites harder (July 16, 2021)

Food starts to reach hungry LGBT Ugandans stranded by lockdown (July 28, 2021)

COVID-19 complicates access to TB, HIV services for Uganda MSM (Aug. 10, 2021)  

The LGBTQ rights organization Pan-Africa ILGA reported that similar impacts on LGBTQ people were felt in Southern Africa countries — Botswana, Malawi, Namibia, South Africa, Eswatini, Zambia, and Zimbabwe — as well as in the East African nations of  Uganda, Burundi, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Tanzania and Kenya. Report: Covid-19 threatens LGBTIQ+ Africans and their organisations (Oct. 22, 2021)

Written by Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart is a 45-year journalism veteran living in Southern California. He is the president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which supports LGBTQ+ rights advocacy journalism, Erasing 76 Crimes. Contact him at [email protected]

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