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Kenyan anti-homosexuality bill would expel LGBTQ refugees

Kakuma and Dadaab refugee camps are located in the country

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Kenya flag (Photo by rarrarorro/Bigstock)

Refugees and asylum seekers who identify as LGBTQ would be expelled from Kenya under a proposed anti-homosexuality law.

The Family Protection Bill, 2023, that would criminalize homosexuality with a life sentence, is currently under consideration by a parliamentary committee. 

The measure, which opposition MP Peter Kaluma has sponsored, proposes changes to Kenya’s Penal Code that prohibits consensual same-sex relations with a 14-year prison term. The lawmaker notes that homosexuality, same-sex marriages and other so-called unnatural sexual acts go against “public morality” that threaten the family unit under Article 45 of Kenya’s constitution, which recognizes marriage as between people of the opposite sex.

“The bill contains miscellaneous provisions that allow the expulsion of refugees and asylum seekers who breach the law, contains provisions for psychotherapy and rehabilitation of offenders and consequential amendments to other acts of Parliament,” the proposed law reads. 

Kenya hosts more than half a million refugees in its Kakuma and Dadaab camps from neighboring nations: Burundi, Somalia, South Sudan, Ethiopia, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo that face long-standing conflicts and insecurity.

Kenya is also the only East African nation that has been accepting LGBTQ refugees and asylum seekers without questioning the individuals’ sexual orientation. This is despite rampant cases of homophobia in the country and some LGBTQ refugees complaining about discrimination, violent attacks and destruction of their property by other refugees and residents.      

Several LGBTQ human rights groups, including the Organization for Refuge, Asylum and Migration, have released a report on violations the LGBTQ people face in Kakuma, which is one of the world’s largest refugee camps.

The U.N. Refugee Agency in Kenya in March 2021 issued a statement in response to homophobic attacks on LGBTQ refugees in Kenyan camps by assuring its commitment to their safety.  

The move to curb homosexuality in Kenya through the new law comes barely three months after more than 300 LGBTQ refugees at Kakuma camp launched an online signature collection initiative to petition the authorities to stop discrimination, torture and mistreatment.  

In the petition, the group decries rampant incidents of brutal attacks in the camp that have left them with “deep wounds and scars” that often result in disability and death for some victims.  

“As refugees who have sought safety and refuge from conflict and persecution, we should not have to endure further suffering and discrimination within the confines of the camp. Yet, this is the reality for many of us,” reads the petition. 

The group also laments police brutality and mistreatment, even though they are supposed to protect them like other refugees regardless of their sexual orientation.   

“This has led to a climate of fear and insecurity within the camp, where we are unable to live freely and openly as members of the LGBTIQ+ community. We are tired of living in fear and we demand an end to these injustices,” it reads. 

The proposed Family Protection Bill, 2023, has sparked mixed reactions from Kenyans, with some supporting it and others opposing it for infringing and undermining other people’s rights. 

“A very human plea to a Kenyan MP who’s pushing an agenda of hate against a section of Kenyans. I live for the day we’ll see all humans as persons deserving to be treated with dignity and love, and not be victimized for who they are, how they live, and who they love,” Lukoye Atwoli, a celebrated Kenyan scientist and dean, said

He argued that it is not his or anyone’s duty to police consenting adults in a consensual same-sex relationship. The MP who sponsored the Family Protection Bill, 2023, however, holds that whatever consenting adults in same-sex relationships do in private affects the entire society. 

“Same-sex sexual acts and unions are sterile by nature,” Kaluma said. “If tolerated or supported and propagated, would lead to the extinction of the human race.” 

The legislator joined other anti-LGBTQ African MPs in Kampala, Uganda, early this month to champion so-called family values. They demanded fresh scrutiny and repeal of international laws used by individuals and organizations that push the “anti-African cultural agenda.”  

The proposed Kenyan law seeks to limit several constitutional rights and freedoms in restricting LGBTQ practices and associated activities in the country.

It would impose a jail term of not less than five years on people found guilty of assembling, picketing, promoting, or supporting LGBTQ-specific activities. The bill also seeks to limit the right to information by restricting the media from publishing or broadcasting LGBTQ-specific content and would ban the recognition or registration of any LGBTQ group or organization in Kenya.

This provision is in response to the Kenyan Supreme Court’s controversial ruling in February that allowed the National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission to register a non-governmental organization.

The ruling attracted criticism from religious leaders and government officials including President William Ruto, who has instructed the attorney general to challenge the court’s decision for violating the country’s laws and morality.    

With the Family Protection Bill, 2023, the country now joins Uganda whose MPs in March passed a bill that would criminalize anyone who identifies as LGBTQ with life imprisonment amid international criticism. President Yoweri Museveni has returned it to Parliament for further consideration before he signs it.  

Embattled U.S. Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.) last month introduced a bill that would ban U.S. foreign aid to countries that criminalize LGBTQ people.      

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Africa

Prominent South African activist elected to country’s parliament

Steve Letsike founded Access Chapter 2

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Steve Letsike (Photo courtesy of Steve Letsike)

A prominent South African LGBTQ activist has won a seat in the country’s parliament.

Steve Letsike, a lesbian woman who founded Access Chapter 2, a South African advocacy group, is a member of the African National Congress. She is also part of the ANC’s National Executive Committee that determines the party’s direction.

Letsike won a seat in the South African National Assembly in national and provincial elections that took place on May 29.

The ANC lost its parliamentary majority that it had had since Nelson Mandela in 1994 won the South African presidency in the country’s first post-apartheid elections. MPs earlier this month re-elected President Cyril Ramaphosa after the ANC invited the Democratic Alliance and other parties to form a Government of National Unity.

Letsike in a statement to the Washington Blade described her election as “a milestone for the people of South Africa, and also affirmative of our party’s posture that is inclusive and intention to transformation agenda.”

“I am not in parliament for myself but the people that trusted the ANC to send individuals that will put people first,” said Letsike. “In that cohort that includes the LGBTI people like myself. Rooted in the teaching of a just society, that seeks equality and believes in the rule of law. That demand on developmental agenda from a queer lens and clear priorities of the people is important.” 

“I am delighted by this task, trust and hope for our people,” she added.

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Namibian High Court strikes down Apartheid-era sodomy laws

Gay activist challenged statutes in 2020

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(Bigstock photo)

The Namibian High Court on Friday ruled laws that criminalize consensual same-sex sexual relations in the country are unconstitutional.

Friedel Dausab, a gay activist, in 2020 challenged the Apartheid-era statute.

The Washington Blade previously reported Dausab said the Criminal Procedure Act 51 of 1977, which listed “sodomy” as a Schedule 1 offense, and a second law that criminalized “unnatural” sexual acts, promote stigma and exclusion of LGBTQ Namibians. Equal Namibia, a Namibian LGBTQ advocacy group, on its X account praised the ruling.

“Welcome to a new Namibia. A born-free Namibia,” it said.

Dausab, who challenged the laws with the assistance of Human Dignity Trust, a British NGO, told Reuters he is “just happy.”

“It’s a great day for Namibia,” he said. “It won’t be a crime to love anymore.”

Namibia is the latest country in which consensual same-sex sexual relations have been decriminalized in recent years.

The Namibian Supreme Court in May 2023 ruled the country must recognize same-sex marriages legally performed elsewhere. The landmark decision sparked criticism among leading politicians and religious officials.

Activists say their rhetoric has contributed to increased harassment of LGBTQ Namibians and hate speech against them.

Amnesty International in a press release notes MPs last June passed two bills that “seek to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman, discriminate against trans people and criminalize any support, celebration or promotion of same-sex unions with up to six years in jail and hefty fines.” Khanyo Farise, the group’s deputy regional director for East and Southern Africa, said the organization in recent weeks has “observed alarming rhetoric threatening LGBTI persons in Namibia.”

“Whatever the outcome of the High Court decision on June 21, violence and discrimination against LGBTI people has no place in Namibian society,” said Farise. “Authorities should take decisive action to prevent human rights violations against LGBTI persons and hold perpetrators accountable.”

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Protesters vandalize Zimbabwean LGBTQ rights group’s offices

GALZ has reported the incident to the police

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Protesters vandalized GALZ's offices in Harare, Zimbabwe, with homophobic graffiti. (Photos courtesy of GALZ)

A handful of protesters over this past weekend vandalized the offices of Zimbabwe’s largest LGBTQ rights organization.

Although they did not enter GALZ (an Association of LGBTI People in Zimbabwe)’s building in Harare, the country’s capital, they did gather at the gate and sang homophobic songs. The protesters also left anti-gay graffiti on the gate and walls.

Several people after the incident started to question the authenticity of the protesters, arguing GALZ itself organized the protest in order to get funding. They said some of the protesters “looked gay” and even argued the organization had yet to approach the police.

GALZ has sought to discredit some of the reports, while calling the protest disrespectful and uncalled for.

“We categorically condemn the acts of vandalism and intimidation that occurred on Sunday afternoon,” said GALZ in a statement. “A group of individuals claiming to represent various Christian churches descended at our offices. They proceeded to vandalize the property, painting hateful graffiti on the walls. While we respect differences in values, it is utterly unacceptable to deploy acts of vandalism and intimidation against communities who hold different values.”

GALZ said it has filed an official police report, and is “cooperating fully with the ongoing investigations.” 

“We call on the authorities to hold the perpetrators accountable for these criminal actions,” said the organization. 

GALZ also said it remains steadfast in its commitment to LGBTQ rights, and urged religious and political leaders to be at the forefront of fostering unity in Zimbabwe.

“This act of violence has not been committed in isolation, it is a stark reminder of the ongoing discrimination and hostility that our community faces,” said GALZ.

“We urge religious and political leaders to condemn such acts of hate and to uphold the  constitutional rights and freedoms for all citizens to be protected by law regardless of their diverse backgrounds including sexual orientation, gender identity and expression. We encourage Zimbabweans to resort to open and respectful dialogue to address indifferences,” added the organization.

Several United Methodist Church parishioners last month held a protest in Harare during which they protested the church’s recent decision to allow LGBTQ clergy and same-sex marriages. James Kawadza, one of the protest organizers, said it was un-African to engage in same-sex relations.

“Homosexuality is unlawful in Zimbabwe and marriage is between a man and a woman,” he said. “The church has aligned with the rainbow movement, and this is also a threat to our African traditions and human existence at large. Homosexuality is not contextual, it is an abomination where Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed by fire.”

Section 73 of Zimbabwe’s Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act on sexual crimes and crimes against morality says any “male person who, with the consent of another male person, knowingly performs with that other person anal sexual intercourse, or any act involving physical contact other than anal sexual intercourse that would be regarded by a reasonable person to be an indecent act, shall be guilty of sodomy and liable to” a fine, up to a year in prison or both.

Cases of people being arrested under this provision are rare.

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