Connect with us

Africa

Grindr user kidnappings spark concern in South Africa

One victim forced to pay $600 for release

Published

on

(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.

Advertisement
FUND LGBTQ JOURNALISM
SIGN UP FOR E-BLAST

Africa

Ghanaian MPs approve anti-LGBTQ bill

Measure would criminalize advocacy, allyship

Published

on

Ghanaian flag (Public domain photo from Pixabay)

Ghanaian lawmakers on Wednesday approved a bill that would further criminalize LGBTQ people and make advocacy on their behalf illegal.

Advocacy groups and their supporters had urged MPs to oppose the Promotion of Proper Human Sexual Rights and Ghanaian Family Values Bill that would, among other things, criminalize allyship.

Consensual same-sex sexual relations remain criminalized in Ghana. Discrimination and violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity is also commonplace in the country as the Washington Blade has previously reported.

“The Human Sexual rights and Ghanaian Family Values Bill, a private member’s bill passed by parliament, has not yet become a law in Ghana,” said UNAIDS Executive Director Winnie Byanyima in a press release. “If the bill does become a law, it will affect everyone.” 

Human Rights Campaign Vice President of Government Affairs David Stacy also criticized the bill’s passage.

“We are outraged to hear about the Ghanaian Parliament’s passage of the so-called ‘Promotion of Proper Human Sexual Rights and Ghanaian Family Values Act’ — a cruel bill that violates the fundamental rights of LGBTQI+ people and allies throughout Ghana,” he said. “Every single lawmaker who voted to pass this bill is wrongly using their power to strip away the basic humanity of the people they are supposed to represent.” 

Outright International Senior Director of Law, Policy and Research Neela Ghoshal said the bill “tramples human rights, undermines family values of acceptance and unity, and risks derailing economic development and eroding democratic gains.”

“Banning the very existence of queer people and their allies is unprecedented,” she said. “The hostility this bill displays toward LGBTQ Ghanaians will put lives and livelihoods at risk.”

The bill now goes to President Nana Akufo-Addo for his signature.

Continue Reading

Africa

Kenyan advocacy groups join fight against femicide

30 women have been murdered in the country this year

Published

on

Kenyan flag (Photo by rarrarorro/Bigstock)

Some LGBTQ rights groups in Kenya have devised new security strategies to protect female community members from the risk of femicide that has been on the rise in the country in recent years. 

The strategies employed include hiring trained security response teams, emergency toll-free numbers for swift intervention and training queer women on safety as they go about their daily lives in homophobic societies.  

The LGBTQ rights organizations’ move to come up with their safety measures is driven by laxity by security agencies that they accuse of “personal bias, discrimination and victimization” of the complainants based on their sexual orientation whenever they seek help.

Consensual same-sex sexual relations are outlawed in Kenya under Sections 162 and 165 of the Penal Code and the queer rights groups the Washington Blade interviewed said the authorities exploit this criminalization. 

“We have contracted two security response focal persons in our organization to respond to violations of LBQ womxn in Kenya,” noted Elly Doe, the executive director of KISLEB, a Kisumu-based organization that champions the rights of lesbian, bisexual and queer women.

Doe, whose organization also advocates against femicide, said KISLEB is part of a special security situation room formed to explore ways of tackling rising cases of insecurity among the LGBTQ community in the country. 

The Initiative for Equality and Non-Discrimination, an LGBTQ rights organization also contacted by the Blade, stated it has been conducting advocacy programs that include creating safer spaces forums to address femicide and violence against women both physical and online.   

One of the forums convened last September in Mombasa, for instance, explored how communities and institutions can work together to prevent violence against marginalized women, effective support for survivors, mentorship and awareness campaigns. The participants included lesbian, bisexual, queer and transgender women, women in politics, sports, media, women living with disabilities and sex workers.    

INEND Communications Officer Melody Njuki, who expressed her organization’s concern over growing cases of femicide, oppression and violence against women, including those who identify as queer that go unchecked is caused by several social factors that include economic exclusion. 

“The intersectional issues faced by marginalized communities and structurally silenced women particularly sex workers and LBQT+ individuals adds complexity to the challenges experienced by victims of femicide due to discrimination, stigma and systemic inequalities exacerbating the vulnerability of women to violence,” Njuki said. 

Both INEND and KISLEB last month joined other LGBTQ rights groups, feminists and dozens of human rights organizations in Kenya in a nationwide street protest against rising cases of femicide and violence against women. 

The Jan. 27 protests were in response to the brutal killing of 16 women across the country since the beginning of the year. Hundreds of women, including those who identify as queer, during a Valentine’s Day vigil donned black outfits and held lit candles and red roses in honor of this year’s femicide victims, whose number had risen to more than 30.

“KISLEB as an organization that champions the rights of the LBQ womxn could not sit back and watch as women are being intentionally violated and killed yet in recent years the number has been rising rapidly and so many culprits go unpunished,” Doe said over her organization’s participation in the protest. “Participating in the protest was our way of expressing our solidarity with other women’s rights organizations in condemning femicide.”

Doe raised a concern over a rise in the number of homophobic threats against queer women, particularly on social media and residential areas, and called for police officers to be sensitized on LGBTQ issues to deal with this menace without discrimination. 

“We have also seen the cases of the murders of the LGBTQ community rising such as a trans woman activist Erica Chandra in August in Nairobi and a nonbinary lesbian woman Sheila Lumumba in April 2022,” she said. 

INEND, together with the National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, and Galck+ which participated in Lumumba’s murder case last December, were disappointed with the court after sentencing the suspect Billington Mwathi to 30 years in jail. The three LGBTQ rights groups described the sentence as “lenient” and said it didn’t meet the justice Lumumba deserved — the suspect raped her before killing her.

The organizations said they wanted Mwathi to receive a life sentence because Lumumba’s killing was not just an act of violence on an individual, but an attack on the dignity and safety of the LGBTQ community.  

INEND, nonetheless, attributes the rise in femicide to victim blaming on the part of the public and some leaders, which leads to a disconnect on the protection of the victims’ rights and its subsequent erosion as witnessed in the LGBTQ community.  

“The road to genocide starts with the dehumanization of the most marginalized, then continues to devour its way up the hierarchy of patriarchal systems,” Njuki said.  

She disclosed INEND was organizing a collective movement dubbed “#EndFemicideKe” to enlighten policymakers on the dire need to enforce strict measures on the killing of women. Njuki, however, commended jurists who are members of the Kenya Magistrates and Judges Association for their partnership with INEND and willingness to show a deeper understanding of human rights particularly the protection of LGBTQ rights.

She cited last year’s launch of a judicial guidebook to help judges better protect queer people’s rights and the High Court’s ruling that allowed the National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission to register as a non-governmental organization in promoting freedom of association.

Continue Reading

Africa

Zimbabwean vice president reiterates strong opposition to LGBTQ rights

Constantino Chiwenga condemned advocacy group’s scholarship

Published

on

Zimbabwean Vice President Constantino Chiwenga (Screen capture via SABC News YouTube)

Zimbabwean Vice President Constantino Chiwenga has expressed concerns over what he has described as foreign recruitment of LGBTQ people in the country.

Chiwenga on Feb. 15 described Zimbabwe as a Christian country and therefore does not have room to accommodate those who identify as LGBTQ. His comments were in response to Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe and the advocacy group’s annual scholarship program that provides funds to people who identify as LGBTQ.

“The government of Zimbabwe strongly and firmly rejects and denounces as unlawful, un-Christian, anti-Zimbabwean and un-African, insidious attempts by foreign interests to entice, lure and recruit Zimbabwe’s less privileged, but able students into lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender activities and malpractices through offers of educational scholarships,” he said.

“Zimbabwe has legislated against all such deviances, making any offers predicated on the same aberrations both unlawful and criminal, and a grave and gross affront on our national values and ethos as a Christian nation,” he added.

Chiwenga said such scholarships are a national threat and highlighted that anyone who identifies as LGBTQ shall not be enrolled at any educational institution.

“To that end, government sees such scholarship offers as a direct challenge on its authority, and thus will not hesitate to take appropriate measures to enforce national laws, and to protect and defend national values,” he said.

“Our schools and institutions of higher learning will not entertain applicants, let alone enroll persons associated with such alien, anti-life, un-African and un-Christian values which are being promoted and cultivated by, as well as practiced in decadent societies with whom we share no moral or cultural affinities,” added Chiwenga.

The vice president also said Zimbabwe shall not be influenced by any country to change its stance with regards to the LGBTQ community.

“Zimbabwe is a sovereign, African state with definite laws and values which typify it, cutting it apart from other mores,” said Chiwenga. “Young Zimbabweans who qualify for enrolment into tertiary institutions here and elsewhere, should approach government departments tasked to give grants and scholarship support to deserving cases. They should never be tempted to trade or sell their souls for such abominable and devilish offers.”

Activists and commentators have sharply criticized Chiwenga’s comments, saying people’s sexual lives should not be of public concern.

“This scholarship has been going on for years and many graduates have been supported and gainfully employed,” noted GALZ Programs Manager Samuel Matsikure. “In the 90s it showed LGBT (people) who were bullied, outed and faced harassment would drop out of school, hence, it was important to provide them with basic education so they can support themselves in life.”

Stacey Chihera, a social commentator, said what consenting adult individuals decide to do behind closed doors should never be up for public discussion. 

“I wish this entitlement about individual sexuality was applied to corruption, service delivery and infrastructure development,” said Chihera. “What consenting adult individuals decide to do behind closed doors with their private parts should never be up for discussion! Not even by the government.”

Namatai Kwekweza a lawyer and an activist, said the vice president was scapegoating the real issues on the ground that are affecting the country on a daily basis.

“The facts being a scapegoat is necessary for an underperforming and evil government that will overzealously and hypothetically talk about morality and Christian values except when it comes to corruption, looting, genocide, abductions, torture, elections fraud, abuse of office, sexual abuse,” said Kwekweza. “These leaders must be seen more, major more and heard loudest in matters of public accountability and returning stolen loot, than in matters of moral grandstanding of which they have no moral authority in the first place.”

Consensual same-sex sexual relations remain criminalized in Zimbabwe with up to 14 years in prison.

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Advertisement

Sign Up for Weekly E-Blast

Follow Us @washblade

Advertisement

Popular