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Human rights groups condemn victimization of LGBTQ, intersex people in Zambia

Country’s Catholic archbishop backs anti-gay campaign

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(Photo courtesy of LGBT Zambia's Facebook page)

Human rights organizations and activists have condemned the continued victimization of LGBTQ and intersex people in Zambia.

Anti-LGBTQ and intersex sentiments have been gaining momentum in recent weeks, including Dr. Brian Sampa’s #banbeardtobeard campaign in relation to gay couples. Alick Banda, the archbishop of the Catholic Diocese of Lusaka, and other Zambian religious leaders have also echoed these sentiments.

“In the last 12 months, we have witnessed an increase in the number of incidents and events that promote LGBTQ tendencies contrary to the laws of Zambia and our Zambian culture. Additionally, there has been an increase in the number of incidents of sodomy where boys and men are raped by fellow boys and men with impunity,” said Banda on Sept. 25. “We have witnessed several cases of sodomy and homosexuality on the increase in our society much to the displeasure and disapproval of the general public. Unfortunately, the law enforcement agents and the president who took an oath to protect the Constitution seems to be paying a blind eye. The question that begs an answer is, is it by design or by default.”

Consensual same-sex sexual relations remain criminalized in Zambia.

President Hakainde Hichilema last month reiterated his government does not support LGBTQ and intersex rights in response to Sampa’s protest.

The Global Interfaith Network, a global NGO that promotes safety and inclusion for all people of faith and especially for people who suffer discrimination because of their sexual orientation, criticized Banda’s comments.

“The statement by the archbishop has the potential to further escalate violence and we are deeply concerned for the wellbeing and safety of members of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community in Zambia,” said the Global Interfaith Network in a statement it released on Sept. 26. “Religious leaders are the shepherds of their flocks and have a responsibility to provide guidance, care and support to the faith community. Although we understand that for the Archbishop of Lusaka, same sex sexualities and non-normative gender identities are unfamiliar, we do not believe that it is appropriate, especially in a context in which people are already marginalized and subjected to violence and discrimination, for the archbishop to put his stamp of approval on further violence.”

The Global Interfaith Network in its statement encouraged Banda and the country’s Catholic Church “to enter into a process of fellowship and discernment alongside 2SLGBTQIA+ people of faith and skilled dialogue facilitators in Zambia and to collectively grow in the mission to offer compassion, care and love to the most vulnerable.” 

“The people of Zambia, just as it is the people of the African continent, deserve an opportunity to see humanity beyond heterosexuality,” it said. “That opportunity has the potential for a reclamation of the African people’s history of dealing with diversity, an opportunity of understanding beyond the common narrative of dehumanization.”

Mino, a Zambian LGBTQ and intersex activist, said Sampa has been sharing misleading information on his social media platforms that has influenced religious leaders and others across the country.

“The leader of this ban homosexuality movement has jumped from one cause to the other without success and unfortunately, this has seen him get heavy backing from people who share similar religious views. The whole thing has not been objective, the information he is disseminating is highly inaccurate, and full of untruths about 2SLGBTQIA+ persons. Sadly, the church and in a way the State has also jumped on this bandwagon,” said Mino. 

“Nevertheless, despite the current situation facing the 2SLGBTQIA+ community in Zambia, it is my hope that this opens a balanced dialogue of issues of sexuality and gender,” added Mino. “People must have accurate information on who we are as people and begin to see us as human beings with lives, families, interests, jobs, struggles, just like any other person as currently the 2SLGBTQIA+ community has been reduced to being only sexual beings and cannot be seen beyond that.”

Daniel Itai is the Washington Blade’s Africa Correspondent.

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Africa

Kenyan LGBTQ rights groups honor transgender refugees, asylum seekers

Event coincided with the Transgender Day of Remembrance

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The Refugee Trans Initiative and the Entrepreneur Empowerment and Advocacy Health used the Transgender Day of Remembrance to honor transgender refugees and asylum seekers in Kenya. (Photo courtesy of Entrepreneur Empowerment and Advocacy Health)

Two LGBTQ rights groups in Kenya this month used the Transgender Awareness Week and the Transgender Day of Remembrance to honor transgender refugees and asylum seekers in the country. 

The Refugee Trans Initiative and Entrepreneur Empowerment and Advocacy Health on Nov. 20 hosted an event in Nairobi, the Kenyan capital. It did not take place in the Kakuma refugee camp; but former residents who now live in Nairobi, Kisumu and Mombasa attended. 

“The event was to celebrate Trans Awareness Week for trans refugees and asylum seekers and we invited other individuals who are part of the 2SLGBTQIA+ refugee community,” Entrepreneur Empowerment and Advocacy Health Director Vanilla Hussein. “We had time to reflect on the memory of our friends we have lost and most recently Francis, who was murdered in Uganda.”

Hussein said the conditions in Kakuma made it unsafe for the group to hold an event in the refugee camp.

Two gay men in March 2021 suffered second-degree burns during an attack on Block 13 in Kakuma, which the U.N. Refugee Agency created specifically for LGBTQ and intersex refugees. One of them died a few weeks later at a Nairobi hospital. 

A report the Organization for Refuge, Asylum and Migration and Rainbow Railroad released in May 2021 indicates nearly all of the LGBTQ and intersex people who live in Kakuma have experienced discrimination and violence because of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity. UNHCR in a statement after the March 15, 2021, attack noted Kenya “remains the only country in the region to provide asylum to those fleeing persecution based on sexual orientation, gender identity or expression,” even though consensual same-sex sexual relations remain criminalized.

“Trans refugees continue to live in appalling conditions due to poor welfare, lack of access to jobs, affordable healthcare and opportunities in Kenya,” said Hussein. “Currently, some trans refugees and gender non-conforming refugees lack proper documentation.”

Hussein further noted NGOs “are not funded by the donors adequately because of bureaucratic hurdles and requirements to access funding such as bank statements, which have made it hard to get access to funds that can provide food, shelter, and relief emergency assistance.”

“To sum up, Kenya remains a threat to the 2SLGBTQIA+ community due to transphobia and homophobia,” said Hussein.

Alvin Mwangi, a reproductive rights activist, stressed trans people simply want basic human rights.

“Basic human rights are not special rights, the right to get and keep a job based on merit is not a special right, the right to be served food in a restaurant is not a special right, the right to have a roof over one’s head is not a special right, the right to walk down a street and not be attacked because of who you are and whom you love is not a special right,” said Mwangi. 

“The government of Kenya should ensure its laws and systems protect transgender persons just like any other citizen of Kenya against all forms of violence and discrimination,” added Mwangi. “The government of Kenya should commit to end all forms of violence and discrimination against transgender persons, by publicly condemning any major instances of homophobic and transphobic violence that occur in the counties and in the country in general.”

Mwangi also stressed trans people are “beautiful” and “deserve love.”

“We all have the right to live with dignity and respect,” said Mwangi. “As we just marked and celebrated the Transgender Day of Remembrance, which memorializes victims of transphobic violence, and as we continue to celebrate Transgender Awareness month until the end of November, we remember those in the transgender community who have lost their lives due to violence brought by hate and ignorance and we honor, celebrate, and advocate for the respect of the rights of transgender and gender diverse communities.”

“All transgender persons have a right to equality and freedom from discrimination of all forms. All transgender persons require equal protection against any form of violence,” added Mwangi. “The right to equality includes the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms.”

Daniel Itai is the Washington Blade’s Africa Correspondent.

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Uganda lawmaker: International agreement has ‘hidden clauses’ to promote homosexuality

Deputy Parliament Speaker Thomas Tayebwa made comment at Mozambique conference

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Deputy Uganda Parliament Speaker Thomas Tayebwa (Screen capture via Next Media Uganda YouTube)

Several LGBTQ and intersex rights groups in Uganda have sharply criticized Deputy Parliament Speaker Thomas Tayebwa’s assertion that an agreement between the European Union and the Organization of African, Caribbean and Pacific States has “hidden clauses” designed to promote homosexuality.

Tayebwa made the remarks during the 42nd session of the Organization of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS) — EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly that took place in Maputo, Mozambique, from Oct. 29-Nov. 2.

“We have discovered that with the Cotonou Agreement — an agreement between the EU and OACPS based on three complementary pillars: Development cooperation, economic and trade cooperation and the political dimension — there are hidden clauses concerning human rights,” said Tayebwa. “Clauses to do with sexuality, promotion of LGBT or homosexuality and clauses to do with abortion. We are a society that is not ready for homosexuality and we are a society that is not ready for abortion. It can never be accepted in Uganda.”

“It’s not a surprise to me and most of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community at large in Uganda that the deputy speaker of Parliament made such homophobic comments because the government he represents is homophobic too,” said Happy Family Uganda Executive Director Iga Isma. “According to me, he has no right to think about our own lifestyle. Everyone lives a life that they naturally want. If someone doesn’t eat meat, it does not mean that everyone doesn’t. I am in full support of donor countries to stop funding African countries that fail to legalize same sex relationships however, we might be affected too.” 

Pastor Ram Gava Kaggwa from Adonai Inclusive Christian Ministries, who is the executive director of Wave of Legacy Alliance Initiative Uganda, said sexual orientation does not have anything to do with whether one is African or not.

“Sexual orientation totally differs based on personal desires and wishes, it’s time to change the biased perspective on our sexual differences, just because you are practicing a different sexual narrative does not necessarily mean the other is wrong otherwise we are bound to see the spread of gender-based violence due to differences in sexual identity which may and can arise from hate speech spread through the heteronormative narrative which is taught in a manner that does not create room for respect of sexual differences,” said Kaggwa. “It is important to acknowledge the differences, variations and diversities of the community and modern-day society and respect each other regardless of such differences for we are all human and this is what exactly bonds us regardless of the different beliefs and values embodied in us.”

Kaggwa further encouraged lawmakers in Uganda and across Africa “to let and affirmatively acknowledge the rights and existence of 2SLGBTQIA+ persons and their rights at a common law level.” 

Buwande Anthony, executive director of the Uganda Youth Society for Human Rights, said Tayebwa does not speak for Africa since African countries are sovereign states with different legal systems.

“The remarks by the deputy speaker of the Parliament of Uganda can only be attributed to hypocrisy that is normally exhibited by government officials during overseas tours, if not, it was an act of ignorance of the provisions of the Constitution of Uganda,” noted Anthony. “Article 24 of the Ugandan Constitution and the Article of the African Charter on Human and Peoples rights provides against inhuman and degrading treatment. The above provisions have laid a foundation against any enactment by the state or individual initiatives against violation of individual human rights of citizens and non-citizens in Uganda.”

“Furthermore, Hon. Thomas Tayebwa cannot purport to speak for Africa since African countries are sovereign States which are governed by different legal dispensations, and whereas some African countries have moved a notch higher to respect their citizens’ human rights, others are still slow and struggling,” he added. “Therefore, it can only be fair that he speaks for Uganda where he is deputy speaker of Parliament.”

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

President Yoweri Museveni in February 2014 signed into law a bill that sought to impose a life sentence upon anyone found guilty of repeated same-sex sexual acts. The Obama administration subsequently cut or redirected aid to Uganda and announced a travel ban against Ugandan officials responsible for human rights abuses. The World Bank also postponed a $90 million loan to the Ugandan government after Museveni signed the Anti-Homosexuality Act.

The Ugandan Constitutional Court subsequently struck down the law. 

Daniel Itai is the Washington Blade’s Africa Correspondent.

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Ghana Parliament speaker: Harsh anti-LGBTQ bill will pass before presidential election

Advocacy group dismissed Alban Bagbin’s comment

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(Public domain photo)

Ghanaian Parliament Speaker Alban Bagbin on Oct. 28 told reporters a bill that would criminalize LGBTQ and intersex identity and allyship will pass before the next presidential election in 2024.

A cross-party group of MPs led by opposition MP Sam George, who is one of the country’s most prominent anti-LGBTQ and anti-intersex figures, first introduced the Promotion of Proper Human Sexual Rights and Ghanaian Family Values Bill in March 2021. Lawmakers in August of that year considered it for the first time.

The bill, if passed, could see Ghanaians who identify as LGBTQ or intersex sentenced up to five years in prison. The measure would also criminalize cross-dressing, public affection between two people of the same sex, marriage among same-sex couples or the intent to marry someone who is the same sex.

The measure would criminalize corrective therapy or surgery for intersex people. 

Any person or group seen as promoting identities or prohibited acts in the bill or campaigning in support of LGBTQ and intersex people would face up to 10 years in prison. Any person who does not report consensual same-sex sexual acts could also face charges.

“The sexual rights and human values Bill that is being handled by the (Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs) Committee will be passed before the next elections. We will pass it. That will go through,” Bagbin told reporters. “When we talk about sexual rights, we are talking about things that will add value to human beings by way of creating opportunities, of creating an equal playing ground of giving some privileges and rights to each and every one of us, of removing all the restriction and hurdles to make you more free. “

“That is what we call human rights. Anything negating that cannot be a right and don’t forget that rights go with responsibilities and duties go with obligations,” added Bagbin.

Abdul-Wadud Mohammed with LGBT+ Rights Ghana dismissed Bagbin’s comments.

“The statement from the speaker isn’t something new. He previously mentioned the passage of the bill by the end of 2021 and that didn’t happen,” said Mohammed. “Clearly, this is an attempt to divert attention from the current economic situation of the country. We already know the process for which the bill has to go through before it is passed and we are nowhere near the end of the process. We are following the bill closely. However, the situation of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community in Ghana is getting worse with this bill being discussed. We as LGBT+ Rights Ghana are putting in all the work and effort in making sure the bill is not passed.” 

The bill has received significant support from within Ghana, including from the Ghana Catholic Church.

The Ghana Anglican Church has described the bill as too severe. It has also been widely condemned around the world, including from NGOs and Victor Madrigal-Borloz, the independent U.N. expert on LGBTQ and intersex issues, and Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby.

Consensual same-sex sexual relations are currently prohibited in Ghana under the Criminal Code 1960. This provision carries a maximum penalty of three years’ imprisonment and only men are criminalized under this law.

The law was inherited from the British during the colonial period, in which the English criminal law was imposed upon Ghana. The West African country then retained the provision in its first Criminal Code upon independence, which remains in force, and continues to criminalize homosexuality today.

Daniel Itai is the Washington Blade’s Africa Correspondent.

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