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Three gay men sentenced to death in northern Nigeria

Sharia court in Bauchi state issued ruling on July 1

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Advocacy groups in Nigeria have expressed alarm over the fate of three men who were sentenced to death because they are gay.

According to a Sharia, or Islamic law, court in Ningi in Bauchi state in northeastern Nigeria, the three men — Abdullahi Beti, 30, Kamilu Ya’u, 20, and Mal. Haruna, 70 — were arrested in the village of Gwada on June 14.

After hearing the statements by witnesses as well as admittance of guilt by the accused, Judge Munka’ilu Sabo-Ningi on July 1 sentenced them to death by stoning under Section 134 of the Bauchi State Penal Law of 2001 and a provision of Fiquhussunah Jizu’i, a book that is used to interpret Sharia law.

The three men have yet to be executed.

“First of all, the silver lining is that it’s not too late. Normally, the governor has to sign off on the execution before it happens and there is a one month period in which the convicts can appeal their death sentences,” noted the Queer Union for Economic and Social Transformation, a coalition of queer Nigerians.

The group, known by the acronym QUEST, noted the men could not afford a lawyer. 

“Their trial continued without them being provided legal representation as the constitution requires and they were all made to plead guilty,” said QUEST. “We need to put pressure on national and religious leaders to weigh in on the unconstitutionality that went on in this process. These people will watch us all die if it means keeping their power. We cannot let their silence go unacknowledged.”

Jide Macaulay, an openly gay Nigerian pastor who was recently appointed chaplain of St. Peter’s House Chaplaincy at Manchester University in the U.K., on social media described the death sentences as barbaric and a violation of human rights.

“This is heartbreaking and the very reason that Pride is a protest. Killing gay people because of who they love is barbaric and an abuse of human rights,” said Macaulay. “We need a new voice of reason to protect the lives of lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender citizens in Nigeria. We must seek justice for the lives of these men. Queer Nigerians desperately need a change, a government that will deliver on their human rights, end police brutality and decriminalization of homosexuality. Any sane government will include those who deeply care about the welfare and justice for those most vulnerable. Queer Nigerians contribute to society and the economy. We cannot be ignored.”

Nigeria has penal and criminal codes that dictate crime and punishments for them in the country.

The penal code applies in the north, where there is a Muslim majority, and the criminal code in the southern part of the country, where there is a Christian majority.

Twelve states in northern Nigeria — Zamfara, Kano, Sokoto, Katsina, Bauchi, Borno, Jigawa, Kebbi, Yobe, Kaduna, Niger and Gombe — have implemented Sharia law that is applicable in marriage, divorce, inheritace, succession and other personal matters. Sharia courts impose sentences that can range from floggings and amputations to the death penalty.

The 12 Nigerian states that have implemented Sharia law are among the handful of jurisdictions around the world in which homosexuality remains punishable by death.

The last time a Nigerian Sharia court passed a death sentence was in 2016 when Abdulazeez Inyass was sentenced to death for blasphemy against Islam.

Daniel Itai is the Washington Blade’s Africa Correspondent.

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Landmark intersex rights law takes effect in Kenya

Activists praise Children Act 2022

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(Photo courtesy of Rarrarorro via Bigstock)

A new law that took effect late last month in Kenya has granted equal rights and recognition to intersex people 

Intersex people are now recognized as Kenya’s third gender with an ‘I’ gender marker in response to the Children Act 2022. Kenya is the first African country that has granted the intersex community this universal right.

The new law requires intersex children to be treated with dignity and have equal access to basic services like medical treatment and education, in addition to social protection services as a special need. It also requires the accomodation of intersex children in child protection centers and other facilities.

Courts are also required to consider the needs of intersex children who are on trial — including the calling of an expert witness — before they issue any ruling. The law further stipulates that anyone can be a foster parent without restrictions of gender, age or marital status.

It also protects intersex children from so-called sex normalization surgeries, and such procedures will only be done with a doctor’s recommendation. Those who violate the law will face at least three years in jail and a fine of at least $5,000.

“This is a great and major milestone globally for Kenya. We are now way ahead and can teach our neighbors and the whole globe good practices,” said Jedidah Wakonyo, a human rights lawyer and former chair of the Intersex Persons Society of Kenya

The long journey for recognition started dramatically in 2006 when some human rights organizations petitioned courts about a detainee who had been accused of a violent robbery.

Authorities perceived the suspect was a man after police strip-searched him before he entered prison.

This followed numerous court battles by intersex people who demanded the right to recognition as another gender in their birth certificates.

Being denied birth certificates from the discriminatiory law that only recognized male and female genders further limited their access to national identity cards, passports and other crucial documents and government services.      

The Births and Deaths Registration Act under the new law’s Section 7 (3) “shall take measures to ensure correct documentation and registration of intersex children at birth.” 

Intersex people commonly have a combination of male and female gonads (ovaries or testicles) or ambiguous genitalia. 

Wakonyo, who also chaired the Intersex Persons Implementation Coordination Committee and was named the International Court of Justice’s 2020 jurist of the year, describes the law’s enactment as a historic moment because of its comprehensive definition of an intersex person.

It defines an intersex child as “a child with a congenital condition in which the biological sex characteristics cannot be exclusively categorized in the common binary of female or male due to inherent and mixed anatomical, hormonal, gonadal or chromosomal patterns which could be apparent before, at birth, in childhood, puberty or adulthood.”

Kenyan law considers anyone under 17 to be a child.

“Defining an intersex from a child’s perspective while taking care of many aspects and not just the physical notion of being intersex is the best practice because in future they don’t find themselves in the state of gender confusion between males and females like the current situation,” stated Wakonyo. 

This provision essentially protects intersex persons from being deprived of their constitutional rights of gender recognition under the country’s Bill of Rights.

Veronica Mwangi, the deputy director at Kenya’s National Commission on Human Rights, that helped secure the law’s implementation, said it addresses issues for which the intersex community has been fighting for years.    

“It is very progressive and we are glad about the gains because it provides for the existence of the intersex which all state actors have to accept. Full implementation is what we now need to focus on,” she said.

The law took effect roughly five years after Kenya became the first African nation and the second country in the world after Australia to count intersex people in a Census. The 2019 survey showed 1,524 Kenyans were intersex.

Intersex rights groups had initially petitioned the courts for a total ban of surgeries on intersex children unless they were a medical emergency.

Wakonyo backs the provision for a doctor’s approval on grounds that the surgeries will only be done “in the best interest of the intersex child, informed consent of the parents and the participation of the child depending on the age.” Wakonyo and other activists say the relaxation of the requirements for adopting intersex children not only seeks to end the problem of neglect and abandonment but also the stigma that has left some to die by suicide.

The law safeguards adoptive parents’ rights and parental responsibility and intersex children from child labor, online expuse and other forms of exploitation.

“Intersex children who are just like other children will no longer be killed at birth because of their gender ambiguity,” said Wakonyo.   

Despite the law’s huge benefits for the intersex community, Wakonyo notes it is a “very significant foundation” for the group because gender-specific accommodations in social gatherings and facilities remain needed.

Another historic win for intersex Kenyans this year was the Kenyan National Commission on Human Rights’ decision to hire an intersex commissioner.

“Dr. Dennis Wamalwa applied as an intersex (person), interviewed as an intersex (person), and the shortlist comprised male, female, and ‘I’ gender for intersex. He emerged (at the) top and his intersex friends and associates came to witness his swearing,” stated Wakonyo, who also served as a Kenyan National Commission on Human Rights commissioner.

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Uganda government forces advocacy group to shutdown

Sexual Minorities Uganda says NGO Bureau ‘halted’ operations

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An LGBTQ and intersex rights group in Uganda says the country’s government forced it to shutdown on Wednesday.

Sexual Minorities Uganda in a press release said Uganda’s National Bureau for Non-Governmental Organizations, which oversees NGOs in the country, on Wednesday “halted” its operations “for non-registration with the NGO Bureau.”

The press release notes current Sexual Minorities Uganda Executive Director Frank Mugisha is among those who submitted an application with the Uganda Registration Services Bureau in 2012 “for the reservation of the name of the proposed company,” which was Sexual Minorities Uganda. 

David Kato, who was Sexual Minorities Uganda’s advocacy officer, was murdered in his home outside of Kampala, the Ugandan capital, on Jan. 26, 2011. A Ugandan tabloid a few months earlier published Kato’s name and picture as part of an article that called for the execution of LGBTQ and intersex people. 

The Uganda Registration Services Bureau on Feb. 16, 2016, rejected Sexual Minorities Uganda’s application based on grounds that it was “undesirable and un-registrable” because it sought “to advocate for the rights and wellbeing of lesbians, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer persons, which persons are engaged in activities labeled criminal acts under Sec. 145 of the Penal Code Act.” 

Uganda is among the dozens of countries in which consensual same-sex sexual relations remain criminalized.

President Yoweri Museveni in 2014 signed the Anti-Homosexuality Act, which imposed a life sentence upon anyone found guilty of repeated same-sex sexual acts. The law was known as the “Kill the Gays” bill because it previously contained a death penalty provision.

The U.S. subsequently cut aid to Uganda and imposed a travel ban against officials who carried out human rights abuses. Uganda’s Constitutional Court later struck down the Anti-Homosexuality Act on a technicality.

The Uganda Registration Services Bureau’s decision to reject Sexual Minorities Uganda’s registration application was upheld. Ugandan lawmakers in 2019 passed the Sexual Offenses Bill 2019, which further criminalizes homosexuality in the country.

“The refusal to legalize SMUG’s operations that seek to protect LGBTQ people who continue to face major discrimination in Uganda, actively encouraged by political and religious leaders was a clear indicator that the government of Uganda and its agencies are adamant and treat Ugandan gender and sexual minorities as second-class citizens,” said Sexual Minorities Uganda in their press release. “These further compromises efforts to demand for better health services and escalates the already volatile environment for the LGBTQ community.”

Mugisha described the decision as “a clear witch-hunt rooted in systematic homophobia that is fueled by anti-gay and anti-gender movements that have infiltrated public offices aiming to influence legislation to erase the LGBTQ community.” 

Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, which honored Mugisha in 2011, on Friday said it is “outraged by the utterly discriminatory and arbitrary decision of the NGO Bureau in Uganda to shutdown SMUG operations.”

“This endangers the lives and rights of LGBTQ+ (people) in Uganda and shows the extent homophobia has permeated Ugandan authorities,” said Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights in a tweet.

The Council for Global Equality, OutRight Action International and Pan Africa ILGA are among the other organizations that sharply criticized the Ugandan government.

“Very disturbing news out of Uganda,” tweeted Pan Africa ILGA. “SMUG, one of the most influential LGBTIQ+ focused networks based in Uganda, has been suspended.”

U.S. Mission Uganda on Saturday tweeted a link to President Joe Biden’s 2021 memorandum that committed the U.S. to promote LGBTQ and intersex rights abroad as part of American foreign policy.

“We reiterate our support for those committed to ensuring all people are treated with respect and dignity and able to live without fear no matter who they are or whom they love,” tweeted U.S. Mission Uganda.

Sexual Minorities Uganda, for its part, remained defiant.

“We shall be back,” it tweeted.

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Grindr user kidnappings spark concern in South Africa

One victim forced to pay $600 for release

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(Image via Grindr)

The number of kidnappings linked to popular gay hookup site Grindr are surging in South Africa.

Queer sex workers are the ones who are particularly vulnerable to these kidnappings. They are often robbed and attacked by people who pose as potential clients, but do not report the crimes because they are afraid law enforcement will ridicule them. Queer sex workers who are targeted on Grindr do not report their cases for the same reason.

One such victim is Jake.

He told Exit, an LGBTQ and intersex newspaper, that he was held hostage for six hours and was only released after his kidnappers extorted $600 from him and his family. 

According to Jake, which is not his real name, a man on Grindr who posed as a potential client refused to send his picture because he said he had a wife and children. Jake agreed to meet him at his home and upon his arrival, four more men arrived and then then threatened to kill him if he didn’t give him the money. 

Jake managed to gather the funds, and was let go unharmed. 

“We continue to learn about the worrying trend in kidnappings that have been emanating from Grindr connections in areas around Gauteng province. We view this as a form of conversion in itself,” said Access Chapter 2, a South Africa LGBTQ and intersex rights organization. “Queer people cannot continue to be victimized for seeking and accessing their erotic justice while law enforcement is not reactive. At Access Chapter 2 we support everyone’s right to freely engage, interact and make meaningful connections online, without fear.”

“We will continue to monitor this trend as we engage with survivors and law enforcement to access justice for those dehumanized and victimized,” added Access Chapter 2. “We urge the community to exercise more precaution in screening connections that they may want to meet in person. Remember if you notice anything suspicious report to Grindr and block the questionable profile.”

A Grindr spokesperson on Monday told the Washington Blade the site “takes the privacy and safety of our users extremely seriously.”

“Grindr publishes a Holistic Security Guide and Safety Tips available from within the Grindr App and on Grindr’s public website, and we encourage users to be careful when interacting with people they do not know,” said the spokesperson. “We encourage our users to report improper or illegal behavior either within the app or directly via email to [email protected], and to report criminal allegations to local authorities and, in these cases, we work with law enforcement as appropriate.”

Grindr has also shared a safety message with its South Africa users.

“Grindr wants to ensure all dating app users can maintain their personal safety, both online and off,” reads the message. 

Grindr also advises users to take these precautions to protect themselves.

• Do A Background Check on Your Date: If you’re talking to someone on Grindr and you decide to meet in real life, it’s best to check them out via people who may know them or search for them on Google or social media. 

• Meet First in A Safe Public Space: When meeting for the first time with people you don’t know, it’s best to meet in a public place. It’s important to meet somewhere LGBTIQ+ friendly, or at least not known to be “unfriendly.”

• Let A Friend Know Where You’re Meeting: It’s always a good idea to have people know where you’ve gone. It is also best to have an emergency plan. For example, have a friend come meet you if you don’t call them after a certain period. Also, when you meet someone for the first time, try not to carry too many personal items such as credit cards or cash. There are some useful applications that help you track your steps for your personal safety such as “Trusted Contacts” and “My Family Tracker.”

• Clear Phone When Meeting Strangers: When you go to meet a date from the app, clear any sexual conversations, images, and videos. Don’t save contact names in your phone that contain sexual identifications such as Top/Bottom/Hornet/Grindr or any other sexual description. 

• Avoid Excessive Alcohol and Drug Use: If you go on a date with someone you don’t know well, avoid drinking too much alcohol or using drugs. Don’t agree to take any unknown drinks or substances. Drinking and using drugs may decrease your ability to identify a situation as potentially dangerous. 

• If You Get Arrested: If you should get into a situation where you are arrested, do not confess or admit to anything. Even if they have proof, stay silent. Find out about organizations or groups in your area that provide direct legal services like an LGBTIQ+ organization or a more general human rights organization. 

Daniel Itai is the Washington Blade’s Africa Correspondent.

Michael K. Lavers contributed to this article.

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