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Lesbian, transgender women across Africa forced into heterosexual marriages

Poverty, lack of government recognition contributes to problem

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(Photo by NASA)

Lesbian, queer and transgender women across Africa are still forced into heterosexual marriages, and many of them have to keep their sexual orientation and/or gender identity a secret because they are afraid of being victimized or even killed.

Guadalupe Dansokho, a lesbian woman from Senegal, was forced to marry a man. The couple divorced in 2019 after they were married for three years.

“I was forced to marry Magatte at the age of 23, someone who ignored me as much as I ignored him at first. It didn’t last and after two months we separated in March 2016. He quickly understood that I was not interested in men and he soon complained about it to my parents, so that they would cure me,” said Dansokho after the Washington Blade was able to make contact with her. “The rest was only moral violence and psychological pressure from my relatives, following the failure of this marriage in 2019, we formally divorced. The worst part of my story is that this project of marriage with Magatte was already in the cards since my early childhood, because often the arrangements between families take place several years in advance.”

“The issue of forced marriages is not uncommon,” said Dansokho. “In general, it happens when parents discover the homosexuality of their daughters as they are married in the hope of changing their sexual orientation and to guarantee a certain social respectability of the family.” 

“Boys also experience and live forced marriages, especially when they are gay. Nevertheless, social pressure seems to be stronger towards lesbian girls,” she added. “Young girls who are not ready to take on this life do not always feel well, but the social pressure is there. Recently, a lesbian acquaintance of mine took her own life to escape this life.”

Vanilla Hussein, the director of Entrepreneur Empowerment and Advocacy-Health, an LGBTQ and intersex rights group in Kenya, said traditional beliefs and a lack of government acknowledgement of LGBTQ and intersex issues are among the reasons why forced marriages of queer, lesbian and trans women are still rampant across Africa.

“Marriage is a legal institution both at local and national level and therefore, requires parties involved to have consensus when fulfilling this contractual obligation or agreement for both the male and female, male and male-male as well as female-female, respectively,” said Hussein. “Forced marriages still exist in urban and rural areas and communities because of social and economic factors. The economic factors such as unemployment, poverty rates and poor welfare has forced queer, trans women and lesbians to get married to those with better jobs, lifestyle and money.” 

“However, forced marriages within the queer, trans women and lesbian communities can be stopped by creating education and sensitization within various African communities, sharing of educational resource materials and the creation of a fund to support poor queer, trans women and lesbian communities as well as supporting organizations through their advocacy work campaigns,” added Hussein. “Moreso, governments and organizations should carry out campaigns against forced marriages, creating empowerment programs to improve the welfare and economic conditions of young men and women, offering free educational programs to improve on the capacities, knowledge as well as creating research and data collection on queer, trans women and lesbian forced marriages across Africa as this data will be used to create awareness that will help in raising voices and helping victims of forced marriages.”

Daniel Itai is the Washington Blade’s Africa Correspondent.

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Africa

Ugandan activists appeal ruling that upheld Anti-Homosexuality Act

Country’s Constitutional Court refused to ‘nullify’ law

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(Image by rarrarorro/Bigstock)

Twenty-two LGBTQ activists in Uganda have appealed this month’s ruling that upheld the country’s Anti-Homosexuality Act.

The Constitutional Court on April 3 refused to “nullify the Anti-Homosexuality Act in its totality.”

President Yoweri Museveni last May signed the law, which contains a death penalty provision for “aggravated homosexuality.”

The U.S. subsequently imposed visa restrictions on Ugandan officials and removed the country from a program that allows sub-Saharan African countries to trade duty-free with the U.S. The World Bank Group also announced the suspension of new loans to Uganda.

Media reports indicate Sexual Minorities Uganda Executive Director Frank Mugisha and Jacqueline Kasha Nabagesara are among the activists who filed the appeal.

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Africa

Congolese lawmaker introduces anti-homosexuality bill

Constant Mutamba’s measure seen as distraction from country’s problems

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Congolese MP Constant Mutamba (Photo courtesy of Mutamba's X account)

A member of the Democratic Republic of Congo’s National Assembly who is a leader of the country’s opposition party has introduced a bill that would criminalize LGBTQ people.

Part of the bill that Constant Mutamba, leader of the Dynamic Progressive Revolutionary Opposition platform, has put forth states anyone who “commits a homosexual act (including acts and gestures) will be liable to a 5- or 10-year prison sentence.”

The country in recent years has seen government leaders and civic society target the community with anti-LGBTQ sentiments.

The Superior Council for Audiovisual and Communication, Media Regulatory Authority  last June cautioned the media against showing LGBTQ-specific conversations. Several activists have criticized Mutamba’s bill, saying it seeks to move attention away from governance, service delivery and other pertinent issues in the country.

Sirius Tekasala, a human rights activist, said a person’s sexual orientation does not impact issues of governance.

“The proposed bill does not go in the direction of improving the socio-economic life of the Congolese people,” said Tekasala. “It’s not homosexuals who prevent you from doing your job well or from breathing. This is a violation of human rights.”

Mbuela Mbadu Dieudonné, a social analyst and trade unionist, said the bill is just a way of deviating people from the pertinent issues.

“He should suggest how to get the Congolese people out of this precariousness of life which is growing on a daily basis,” said Dieudonné. “When we don’t know the real problems of the Congolese people, he sets himself up as the great director of scenes to distract the Congolese people.”

Many Congolese, however, seem to support the bill and have applauded Mutamba for drafting it.

This is not the first time that such kind of a bill has been drafted.

An anti-homosexuality bill introduced in 2010 would have sentenced people who engage in consensual same-sex sexual relations to between three and five years in prison. The measure, however, did not become law.

Mutamba’s bill, however, may pass with Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act in effect. The country’s Constitutional Court earlier this month upheld it. Burundi, Tanzania and other neighboring countries are also considering similar measures.

Many Congolese people view LGBTQ rights as a Western phenomenon that disregards their religious and cultural beliefs. LGBTQ Congolese are among those who have fled the country and sought refuge in the Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya and other places.

Consensual same-sex sexual relations are not criminalized in the Democratic Republic of Congo, but Congolese law does not recognize same-sex marriages.

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Africa

Prominent transgender woman in Nigeria arrested, charged with defacing currency

Authorities say Idris Okuneye, known as Bobrisky, flaunted money

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Bobrisky's arrest has sparked concern among Nigerian activists. (Photos courtesy of Bobrisky's Facebook page)

Nigeria’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission’s decision to arrest a well-known transgender woman over the practice of flaunting money has sparked questions among several human rights activists.

Idris Okuneye, who is known as Bobrisky, was first arrested last Wednesday.

Justice Abimbola Awogboro of the Lagos Federal High Court on April 5 charged her with four counts of mutilating N490,000 (roughly $375.)

The EFCC alleges Bobrinsky between last July and August flaunted N50,000 (roughly $36) during a social event and N400,000 ($306) at another gathering last month. Bobrinsky has been charged with violating section 21(1) of the Central Bank Act of 2007.

“The Lagos Zonal EFCC, on Friday, April 5, 2024, secured the conviction of Idris Okuneye, (Bobrisky), before Justice Abimbola Awogboro sitting at the Federal High Court, Ikoyi, Lagos over mutilation of the Naira notes,” reads the EFCC complaint that misgenders Bobrisky. “He was arraigned on Friday on a four-count charge bordering on mutilation of the Naira notes to the tune of N490,000.”

“Justice Awogboro, thereafter, ruled, that upon the admission of guilt by the defendant, and following the evidence tendered, the defendant is declared guilty as charged,” adds the statement.

The EFCC said after listening to both parties, Awogboro delayed his ruling and also ordered that Bobrisky remain in EFCC custody. Activist Felix Abayomi said the EFCC was simply using Bobrisky as a scapegoat due to the fact that she is a vulnerable member of the society.

“Discrimination in the name of implementing a pick and choose law! Why go after someone that is a vulnerable member of our society? Someone that is clearly dealing and coping with stigmatization of her lifestyle choices which is innate. Using her as a scapegoat is uncalled for,” said Abayomi. “How does spraying the Naira that is cultural to us as a people ever even become a financial crime? People who commit economic and financial crimes against us as a people and against our nation state are sitting comfortably in the hollows of our legislative chambers and power.”

Chidi Odinkalu, the former chair of the National Human Rights Commission, said the arrest was not about the mutilation of the Naira notes, but about Bobrisky’s gender identity.

“The EFCC should be ashamed of themselves,” said Odinkalu. “The power of arrest and prosecution is a public trust that should not be weaponized for the persecution of those whom they don’t like. It is either the EFCC is evidently idle or this is a clear abuse of power.” 

EFCC spokesperson Dele Oyewale said Odinkalu’s statements were reckless.

“The commission views such commentaries from Odinkalu as unbecoming of a former head of a major government agency,” said Oyewale. “Okuneye was arrested and arraigned by the commission on the basis of clear cases of abuse of the Naira to which he has pleaded guilty.”

“Odinkalu has a right to free speech as a Nigerian, but such a right should be exercised with decorum and responsibility,” added Oyewale. “The commission would not hesitate to take appropriate legal actions against such uncouth commentaries against its lawful mandate by anyone. Odinkalu is warned and advised to ventilate his rascally opinions more responsibly in future situations.” 

Bobrisky is one of the few individuals on the African continent who has publicly discussed their gender transition.

Ever since she started to publicly show her transition, several Nigerian political pundits have been calling for her arrest. There are no laws that specifically target trans Nigerians, but the Same-Sex Marriage Act criminalizes same-sex marriages and prohibits the public display of same-sex relationships with up to 14 years in prison.

In states where Sharia law is practiced, those found engaging in same-sex sexual activities can be sentenced to death by stoning. Even those who identify as trans can receive 50 lashes or more.

Update: Awogboro on Friday sentenced Bobrisky to six months in prison without the option of paying a fine. Reports indicate authorities will send her to a men’s prison.

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