Saturday, 29 June 2013

Africa's Anti-Gay Laws

Image from Red Room

Huffington Post has written an article: Africa's Anti-Gay Laws: A Look At Uganda, Malawi And More

In December 2011, President Barack Obama signed a memorandum instructing federal agencies to promote the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people overseas. The memorandum coincided with a speech by then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the Human Rights Council in Geneva declaring that "gay rights are human rights, and human rights are gay rights." Here are some developments concerning anti-gay legislation in Africa since the memorandum was issued.

UGANDA: A bill originally calling for the death penalty for "aggravated homosexuality" was re-tabled in February 2012. "Aggravated homosexuality" includes engaging in gay sex three times or while HIV-positive. The bill would also punish Ugandans who fail to turn in homosexuals to the authorities. President Obama called the bill "odious" in 2010. Its author has since said the death penalty provision has been removed.

However, they really shouldn't be quoting Bahati on the death penalty provision. He might have said that but, at the last look, the bill itself wasn't amended. They cite Amnesty International as their source for this article, but in Amnesty's most recent report on the matter, they state: "The Bill, if passed, would impose the death penalty for ‘aggravated homosexuality’, and would impose life imprisonment for the ‘offence of homosexuality’."  It is absolutely clear that the death penalty still stands.

David Cecil Update

Quick update on Devid Cecil, the British playwright deported from Uganda for staging an LGBTI play. He is trying to overturn his expulsion so that he can rejoin his family in the country.

Thrown out of Africa for staging a gay play – but desperate to return again: A British film producer deported to the UK is fighting to get back to his family in Uganda

After staging the first play in Uganda which addressed the theme of homosexuality, The River and the Mountain, the British film producer was arrested and deported back to the UK without a proper police investigation or court hearing. He left behind two children, aged one and two, his girlfriend of eight years, and his business. Uganda’s Media Council insisted that the play promoted homosexuality and was against the national culture...

Cecil’s opinions on gay rights, which he describes as “complicated”, have brought him on a collision course with both human rights activists, who believe he is not committed enough to the cause, and the Ugandan government. “I think people who support homosexuality do not understand the anxiety in African countries about the disintegration of the family,” he says...

He adds: “I did not come to Uganda to piss anyone off. It is a vibrant African country that belongs to Africans. All I wanted to do was make my humble contribution.”...

He adds that while he does not support the Anti-Homosexuality Bill that was proposed by Ugandan MP David Bahati, the solution is not legislating either for or against it. “When you legislate, you leave the power of guidance to the state. It becomes a question of legal or illegal and it is devoid of humanity,” he says. “Legislation will only antagonise people.”

Not sure we entirely agree with David on that one. Legislating for human rights being devoid of humanity? It's hard to argue that legislating against slavery, rape, or hate crimes has stripped countries implementing those laws of their humanity. 

So far, Uganda hasn't needed to legislate against LGBTI people for them to be beaten and murdered. If you continue without legislation to protect LGBTI people, it's little different to criminalising it, as attacks will continue on a community scale and victims will have nowhere to turn to for protection. A government may be elected by a proportion of the people, but it also has a duty of care to all of its citizens.

We wish him the best of luck in returning to his family.

Friday, 28 June 2013

Senyonjo Condemns Punishment

Clinton Global Citizen award winners Pepe Julius Onziema, left, and Bishop Christopher Senyonjo at Clinton Global Initiative 2012 in New York. at
Bishop Senyonjo (right) picking up the Clinton Global Citizen
award in New York
with Pepe Julius Onziema, 2012

One of the key non-gay Ugandan campaigners for LGBTI rights, Bishop Christopher Senyonjo, has spoken out, telling govrnments to: Stop Punishing People for Their Sexual Orientation

Bishop Christopher Senyonjo said the number of LGBT people with HIV/AIDS in the east African country is on the increase and prejudice and ignorance mean they are often marginalised and forced into hiding...

Senyonjo called the bill, which is awaiting debate in parliament, "draconian"...

Senyonjo takes the approach of a "straight-gay people alliance" in which straight and gay people work together to eliminate prejudice and discrimination.

"I think educated people are coming to understand more that LGBT people are also humans who should be respected," although there remains a good deal of fear among large segments of the population who are less well educated, he said.

For more on Senyonjo, pick up a copy of Call Me Kuchu.

Frank Mugisha Q&A

Frank Mugisha

Leading Ugandan LGBTI rights campaigner Frank Mugisha, who recently headed to Canada to give some advice on campaigning, and who was awarded a doctorate by Ghent University earlier this year, has answered a Q&A session with the Ottawa Citizen.

What is the status of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill?

The anti-gay bill right now is in the legal and parliamentary affairs committee. The committee (is) ready to submit (its report) to the floor of parliament, so when this report is submitted, the bill can go ahead for debate.
What can activists who aren’t in Uganda do to support your efforts?

Activists? I think that would have been the frustrating question, that the LGBT community has not helped us, has not stood by us. Because, like you said, people have gotten their rights here, they feel there is no need to get engaged in the other global civil rights for LGBT people, so the LGBT people have sort of taken a step back, they don’t really care. People in Uganda think we receive tons and tons of support from gay groups in the U.S. and Europe. Not at all. It is mostly human rights organizations that are not entirely focused on LGBT issues that work in supporting us.

Other questions include:

  • What effect is the presence of evangelical Christian groups from the United States having on the debate in Uganda?
  • Is it safe to say that Baird didn’t actually do LGBT activists in Uganda a favour?
  • What would be more helpful? What can other countries do and what forum should they do it in?
  • Given the struggles you face, what keeps you going?

Senegal Confirms Homophobia

US president Obama called upon Senegal to treat gays equally before the law while his host, president Macky Sall, insisted that gay sex will stay illegal
US President Barack Obama and
Senegalese President Macky Sall

We've been a bit unsure about Obama's commitment to LGBTI rights in Africa since breakfasting with The Family and an interminably long silence on the matter, referring to Uganda's bill in terms no stronger than 'odious'.

However, his recent trip to Senegal seems to have nailed his colours to the mast.

Obama clashes with Senegal's president over gay rights

US President Barack Obama called for Senegal to decrimilize gay sex, stating that LGBT people should be treated equally before the law...

Senegalese President Macky Sall rebuffed Obama's call for his and other African countries to stop punishing people for being gay and legislate equal rights for all.

Sall answered: 'We are not ready to decriminalize homosexuality. But this does not mean we are homophobic.

Actually, Sall, yes. That's exactly what it means.

That's like saying 'We practice apartheid, but that does not mean we are racist.'

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Defining Marriage: Supreme Court Ruling

Gay rights advocate waves a rainbow flag in front of the Supreme Court on 26 June 2013 in Washington DC  

Landmark ruling in America today:

The US Supreme Court has struck down a law that defines marriage as between a man and a woman only, in a landmark ruling.

The court's 5-4 vote said the Defense of Marriage Act, known as Doma, denied equal protection to same-sex couples...

Opinion polls show that most Americans support gay marriage. 

Twelve US states and the District of Columbia recognise gay marriage, while more than 30 states ban it.

Following on from the EU's recent policy in support of LGBTI rights, this sends a clear message that the time for bullies and bigots is drawing to a close. What is happening in Uganda appears to be forcing this issue on the global stage.

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Amnesty International Issues Report

Tim is a young Cameroonian man who has been frequently beaten in his neighborhood and evicted from his home, because of his sexual orientation and gender identity.
Image from this report

Yesterday, Amnesty International issued a report on the state of homophobia in sub-Saharan Africa.

The report — Making Love a Crime: Criminalization of Same-Sex Conduct in Sub-Saharan Africa — notes 38 African countries continue to criminalize consensual same-sex conduct. These include South Sudan, Liberia and Burundi...

The Amnesty International report further notes at least seven LGBT South Africans were murdered between June-Nov. 2012 because of their sexual orientation or gender identity and expression...

Widney Brown, director of law and policy for Amnesty International, stressed African governments have a responsibility to protect the rights of their LGBT citizens.

Homophobic attacks and harassment across sub-Saharan Africa are becoming more visible, indicating that homophobia is reaching dangerous levels, Amnesty International said today as it launched a comprehensive report documenting the discrimination faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual and intersex (LGBTI) people on the continent.

Monday, 24 June 2013

Parliament Reconvenes (Again)

Sorry we've been a little quiet. Parliamentary lull, which is about to come to an end. Latest news from SMUG:

The legislation that seeks to criminalise homosexuality is expected to be debated in the third session of the House. The committee on Legal and Parliamentary Affairs will table its report on the Anti-Gay Bill for the third reading before it is passed or rejected by the House. The Daily Monitor is reliably informed that the Committee completed its work and what is remaining is to get space on the order paper. The donors have threatened more aid cuts if Parliament passes the Bill but MPs have vowed to pass the Bill. 

Legislators reconvene tomorrow to deal with a clogged agenda in the House. Top on the agenda will be the consideration of a controversial supplementary request in which the government is asking Parliament to approve an additional Shs46.9b needed to pay salary arrears for teachers, health workers and other public servants, who have not been paid for months...

A leaked report recommended that several officials be held responsible for their roles in the misuse of more than Shs50b meant for the Peace, Recovery and Development Plan project in northern Uganda and Karamoja sub region. 

The legislation that seeks to criminalise homosexuality is expected to be debated in the third session of the House.

The anti-gay bill has long been seen as a distraction to help draw attention from Uganda's insidious corruption issues. Brace yourselves for a tough few weeks ahead.

EU Ground-breaking LGBTI Policy

Catherine Ashton, High Representative of the EU, at today's Foreign Affairs Council
Catherine Ashton, High Representative of the EU

Today the EU’s 27 foreign affairs ministers adopted a ground-breaking global policy. The LGBTI Guidelines instruct EU diplomats around the globe to defend the human rights of LGBTI people.

The Council of the European Union*, the body that represents the 27 national governments in the EU, had already adopted a non-binding toolkit to promote LGBT people’s human rights in June 2010...
The Guidelines will be binding. The EU’s diplomatic efforts will revolve around four priorities:
  1. Eliminate discriminatory laws and policies, including the death penalty
  2. Promote equality and non-discrimination at work, in healthcare and in education
  3. Combat state or individual violence against LGBTI persons
  4. Support and protect human rights defenders

Excellent news.

Saturday, 22 June 2013

Ex Exodus: Gay 'Cure' Abandoned

Image from this article

Interesting news from America:

World's largest 'gay cure' ministry shuts down, says sorry: Exodus International president Alan Chambers has officially apologized to the harm they have caused to the LGBT
The 'gay cure' Christian ministry claiming to be the oldest and largest in the world has shut down and the directors have apologized to the LGBT community.
In a press release posted on the ministry’s website Wednesday night (19 June), the US-based Exodus International announced the decision to close after nearly four decades.
- See more at:

The 'gay cure' Christian ministry claiming to be the oldest and largest in the world has shut down and the directors have apologized to the LGBT community.

In a press release posted on the ministry’s website Wednesday night (19 June), the US-based Exodus International announced the decision to close after nearly four decades.

However, human rights reporter Cathy Kristofferson warns there is still a long way to go:

Exodus International “closing shop” has absolutely no effect on Exodus Global Alliance.  An alliance whose website proclaims “155 Million Homosexuals Need To Be Reached. Is God Calling You?”  They provide a pie-chart, which can be seen... purporting to illustrate the locations of the 155 million homosexuals supposedly in need of saving (based on the presumption that we are 3% of the general population).


Still, it sends a strong message that it's never too late to change.
The 'gay cure' Christian ministry claiming to be the oldest and largest in the world has shut down and the directors have apologized to the LGBT community.
In a press release posted on the ministry’s website Wednesday night (19 June), the US-based Exodus International announced the decision to close after nearly four decades.
- See more at:

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Uganda's Message to Canada

In the past, Canada has cut funding to evangelical organisations supporting the Bahati Bill and spent at least $200,000 on supporting LGBT campaigns in Uganda.

Lead campaigner Frank Mugisha visits Canada to deliver a message calling for greater consultation with grassroots organisations:

“The problem we have with public statements is that we get the problems — the people on the ground — because we are scapegoated,” Mugisha says.

He instead urges diplomats to consult with groups, such as SMUG, that have a better sense of what's happening on the ground and how statements will be received.  

More in the video above.

Monday, 10 June 2013

The African Revolution

Kicking off the week with an article by The Independent's Patience Akumu:

Blame it on passionate politicians screaming as loud as they can that being gay is un African, but somehow Africa has managed to be known as the continent that hates gays. My country, Uganda, has been dubbed the worst place to be gay, following the anti-homosexuality ‘Kill the gays’ bill...

Africa has however managed to inspire the homosexuality debate world over. In the recent House of Commons debate on the UK Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill, a member called upon the house to vote for the bill because of Africa rather than vote against it for the same reason.

Really inspiring stuff.

Friday, 7 June 2013

PEPFAR Props Up Anti-Gay Bill

President Musevene awarded a $40,000 SUV to Anglican and Catholic bishops during Orombi’s reign as Archbishop.
President Musevene awarded a $40,000 SUV to Anglican and
Catholic bishops during Orombi’s reign as Archbishop.

Full Article

America's President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) has had a number of controversies over the years.

One of the main ones being their focus on A + B, skip the C. For those not in the know, that's the focus of funding for HIV/AIDS prevention on ABSTINENCE, BEING FAITHFUL and (using condoms - shhhh!).

Ask many African HIV/AIDS campaigners, they laugh and say: "Why teach us that when it's the other way around in the West? For you it is condomize, be faithful, and - last resort - abstain."

For more of an overview, check out: The Politics of PEPFAR

Still, it's a brand new approach to reducing HIV/AIDS by financially supporting the murder of LGBT people in Uganda: African architect of homophobia supported by PEPFAR?

While visiting the U.S. Embassy in Kampala, Uganda last week and accompanied by a delegation of LGBT service providers who are in need of PEPFAR and USAID resources, I met the retired Anglican Archbishop of Uganda, Henry Luke Orombi, as he was exiting the compound. He was either meeting with U.S. officials to discuss funding for his $15 million new Orombi Foundation or seeking a visa to return to the USA where he will raise money from American taxpayers and faith communities for his work in Uganda and throughout Africa.

While the LGBT community globally struggles to find funds for basic human services and HIV prevention we are discovering disturbing trends in the allocation of PEPFAR and USAID funds to Christian fundamentalist organizations that are often in the front lines of encouraging the further criminalization of homosexuality. My recent visit to Uganda also uncovered a disturbing trend among religious NGO’s who have agreed to serve most vulnerable populations including LGBT and men who have sex with men (MSM), signed contracts with the U.S. government but define their own vulnerable populations excluding these two target populations. There is no recourse when these contracts are not fulfilled. A recent report from amfAR shows how this problem is affecting eight southern African countries and may be systemic in many of the countries we are supporting with PEPFAR and USAID funds.

Well said Rev. Canon Albert J. Ogle. This is an issue that has gone unchallenged for far too long.

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Support Ugandan Pride

Image from this article

The makers of Call me Kuchu have set up a way to donate to Uganda's Pride event online.

Last year, Ugandan kuchus hosted the first ever Uganda Pride – a momentous and joyous occasion for the whole community. We were honored that CALL ME KUCHU was screened on the opening night, and days later a small group of courageous folks walked in the first ever Pride parade. Their efforts didn’t go unnoticed by the authorities: the Parade was raided by the police, and three people were detained and later released. But that hasn’t discouraged the community from planning a second bigger and better Pride for this August. 

Meanwhile, if you'd like to donate to the Throw the Bigots Out of the House of Lords campaign, we're hoping to set something up shortly:

What a bunch of antiquated morons.

Sunday, 2 June 2013

International Criminal Court Appeal

The International Criminal Court has recieved a formal complaint calling for the arrest of the author of Uganda's 'Kill The Gays' bill. 

Our hero of the week:

[Magembe] Norman has submitted a complaint to the International Criminal Court (ICC) requesting the immediate arrests of Uganda MP David Bahati, pastor Martin Ssempa and Rolling Stone editor Giles Muhamel for their roles in persecuting the LGBT community in Uganda.

Norman said he’s received death threats from fellow Ugandans who see him as someone who betrayed the country. He also said his father has accused him of disgracing the family and has since kicked him out of his home...

‘I am neither a gay, high profile, an influential or powerful person and so people may ask "who am I to file such a high profile complaint"?

‘But please don’t look at my personality but do your work professionally to ensure that the culture of homophobia is destroyed in Uganda. As you read my complaint now, there is a gay person being tortured and why should we allow such attacks to happen when you can do something to stop them?’

Stay safe Norman. That was an incredibly brave thing that you have done in the name of human rights.

Come on ICC - your turn.

Saturday, 1 June 2013

Simon Lokodo: Raping Girls is Natural

(from 5:00)

This incredible footage recounts Simon Lokodo, minister for Ethics and Integrity for Uganda, claiming that men raping girls is 'the right kind of rape' and perfectly natural.

It starts at 05:00:

I actually got a Ugandan Minister to say on camera- he's the Minister for Ethics and Integrity, it's the only such ministry in the world. I said to him... there's so much more to worry about in your country than the odd gay person going to bed with the other gay person. For example, you have almost an epidemic of child rape in this country, which is just frightening.

And he said "Ah, but it is the right kind of child rape."

I said "That was on camera. Do you know that was on camera?"

He said "Yes."

I said "Can you just explain what you meant?"

"Well, it is men raping girls. Which is natural."

The interview with Simon Lokodo was filmed for a BBC documentary Out There. Watch it online.

For more on Stephen Fry and Uganda, check this post.