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LGBTQ Congolese in Kamituga under attack

Advocacy group says gangs, young people target community members

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(Photo by Baloncici/Bigstock)

A Congolese advocacy group says gangs and young people have been attacking LGBTQ and intersex people in Kamituga, a rural area in the eastern part of the country.

Rainbow Sunrise Mapambazuko says traditional chiefs and community leaders, together with the local police, since the beginning of January have been implementing new methods to punish people who they suspect are LGBTQ or intersex.

“Imagine being targeted with mob violence as a form of public punishment for who you are. This is what gangs of youngsters are doing to queer folk in Kamituga, with the complicity of community leaders, customary chiefs and the local police,” said the advocacy group.

The Superior Council for Audiovisual and Communication, Media Regulatory Authority in the country also cautioned all media to desist from what it described as the promotion of LGBTQ and intersex-specific content. The regulatory body has also said any media outlet or journalist who promotes LGBTQ and intersex-specific content could face heavy penalties.

“The severity of anti-LGBT+ hate crimes and homophobic violence suffered by LGBT+ people have left us weakened and forced many to live in hiding. This has also increased our social isolation, worsened our living conditions and hindered our access to health and justice services,” said Rainbow Sunrise Mapambazuko. “We, LGBT+ people in the DRC (Democratic Republic of the Congo), have always lived in an unacceptable situation of serious and systematic violations of our human rights. Our marginalized status denies us any national protection from the abuse of any kind, it excludes us, and it puts us beyond the reach of our fundamental rights but these new forms of public torture are brutalities never before seen, not even in the DRC.”

Rainbow Sunrise Mapambazuko also said LGBTQ and intersex people are publicly used as a source of discrimination in the name of protecting Congolese mores.

“Our sexual orientation and gender identity are used publicly as a source of discrimination, prejudice and rejection and unjust regulation in the name of protecting Congolese mores and customs,” said the group. “They have set up groups of young people in every locality for a veritable manhunt. LGBT+ people who are caught are beaten and publicly stripped in order to punish them and make them change their sexual orientation or gender identity,”

Rainbow Sunrise Mapambazuko has started a petition to end the violence against LGBTQ and intersex people in Kamituga, even though it acknowledges there is no hope these attacks will stop.

LGBTQ and intersex Congolese continue to suffer violent attacks from government officials, society, religious sects and traditional chiefs. 

The Washington Blade in January reported M23 rebels in Congo’s North Kivu province forcibly displaced a number of transgender people. A local activist said residents of a refugee camp refused to help them, in part, because they consider them to be “sorcerers, bad luck charms and of being the origin of the war following their evil practice.” 

There is no specific law that criminalizes consensual same-sex sexual relations in Congo apart from marriages between people of the same-sex. Congolese MPs in recent years have called for the enactment of laws that specifically criminalize any form of same-sex relations or those  who advocate for them. 

Congolese who identify as LGBTQ or intersex are not open about their sexual orientation or gender identity because they are afraid they will be attacked. Those who are open about their sexuality often face hostility, widespread discrimination, rejection, social exclusion and harassment. 

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Kenyan Supreme Court dismisses challenge to ruling that allowed LGBTQ group to register

Opposition MP Peter Kaluma was not part of original case

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Kenyan flag (Photo by rarrarorro/Bigstock)

Kenya’s highest court on Tuesday dismissed a challenge to its February ruling that allowed the National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission to register as a non-governmental organization. 

The Supreme Court established the petitioner, opposition MP Peter Kaluma, is not an aggrieved party to its ruling since he was never involved in the case under rules that govern case hearings.  

Kenya’s NGO Coordinating Board refused to register NGLHRC for more than a decade on grounds that it promotes same sex behavior, which the country’s penal code criminalizes. 

The February ruling sparked heated criticism from Kenyans, clerics and politicians against the Supreme Court judges and demanded it be reversed. The decision prompted Kaluma, who is a fierce critic of homosexuality, to challenge it in March and demand the term “sex” be redefined to exclude same sex practices.  

The MP has sponsored a stiffer anti-homosexuality bill that awaits introduction in the House of Representatives.

The Parliamentary Budget Office has already considered the bill’s financial costs to the government. The measure is currently pending before the Social Protection Committee, which will consider its implications for Kenyans.  

The Social Protection Committee was to consider the bill within a month as House rules requires, but the period is now three months. Kaluma has confirmed to the Washington Blade that he wrote to National Assembly Speaker Moses Wetangula two weeks ago to complain about the committee’s delay.

While challenging the Supreme Court’s ruling, Kaluma in his petition argued it misinterpreted the term “sex” under Article 27 (4) of the Kenyan Constitution by “referring also to sexual orientation of any gender, whether heterosexual, lesbian, gay, intersex or otherwise” not to be discriminated based on sexual identity.  

Kaluma claimed the court’s ruling “usurped the sovereign power of the people” and it was “obtained through fraud, deceit and misrepresentation of facts” by the NGLHRC defendants, which are some of the grounds the court can consider when it reviews its decision. The court, however, dismissed his petition because it failed to substantiate the claims and he was not a party to the case when it was heard and when the judges issued their ruling.

“The court cannot entertain an application for review of its judgment filed by an applicant who was not a party to the proceedings as this goes to the root of the matter and sanctity of the already determined suit which was contested by the parties,” court noted. 

The ruling cited Article 163 of the constitution and subsequent procedural laws that allows the court to only consider a challenge of its ruling from an aggrieved party to the case.

Eric Gitari, who is NGLHRC’s former executive director, also filed a motion in opposition to Kaluma’s petition on grounds that “it is frivolous and without merit” because he wasn’t a litigant in the case. Gitari had also warned the court against entertaining the petition for being “procedurally irregular” and that it would undermine the court’s authority and the finality of its proceedings.   

Anti-LGBTQ crackdown continues, MPs challenge PEPFAR funding

Although the court’s latest verdict affirming its initial decision for NGLHRC to be registered as an organization is a reprieve for Kenya’s LGBTQ community, all eyes are now on Attorney General Justin Muturi. He has vowed to challenge the NGLHRC ruling on behalf of the government. 

Muturi’s anticipated move to have the judges review the ruling is part of efforts to crackdown on consensual same-sex sexual relationships the constitution does not recognize and Section 162 of the penal code outlaws.

A group of 10 Kenyan MPs and religious leaders in June in a letter to the U.S. Congress said President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief funding to Kenya no longer serves its original purpose of fighting HIV/AIDS because it supports homosexuality and abortion. The letter — titled PEPFAR and African Values — went to several members of the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate.

“We wrote that letter to the U.S. Congress not to stop PEPFAR funding to Kenya, but to demand the initiative to revert to its original mission without conditioning it to also supporting LGBTQ as human rights,” reads the letter that Kaluma signed.

Kaluma called on Congress to pressure the Biden-Harris administration to reverse policies and executive orders that condition U.S. funding to developing countries with recognition of LGBTQ and intersex people against what the MP said is the will and cultural beliefs of beneficiary nations.

Kenya expects to receive more than $341 million in PEPFAR funding for the 2023-24 financial year. The current funding period ends on Sept. 30. 

Republicans last month seized upon the letter addressed to Congress and demanded the suspension of PEPFAR funding to Kenya for the upcoming fiscal year. Some Republican lawmakers have also sought to stop the U.S. Agency for International Development from funding LGBTQ and intersex rights efforts around the world. 

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Anti-LGBTQ Ugandan pastor defends Anti-Homosexuality Act

Martin Ssempa made ‘Eat Da Poo Poo’ sermon in 2010

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Martin Ssempa (Screen capture via NTVUganda YouTube)

Ugandan pastor and anti-LGBTQ activist Martin Ssempa became infamous in 2010 when he endorsed the idea of criminalizing consensual same-sex sexual acts with up to life in prison or even death in his “Eat Da Poo Poo” sermon.

He was a strong supporter of the 2009 “Kill the Gays” bill that eventually passed in 2013 under its new name: The Anti-Homosexuality Act. The country’s Constitutional Court rejected the law in 2014, but a new bill passed in the Ugandan Parliament in May. The U.N. Human Rights Office stated it is “appalled that the draconian and discriminatory anti-gay bill is now law” and that this law is a “recipe for systematic violations” of LGBTQ people. 

Ssempa in an interview with the Washington Blade said Ugandans in general reject LGBTQ people and overwhelmingly support the law that President Yoweri Museveni signed on May 29.

Ssempa denied the law is too extreme, stating many Islamic countries in the Middle East have an automatic death penalty for LGBTQ people. Ssempa said the West’s focus on the law is a form of racism.

Ssempa’s claim that Ugandans overwhelmingly support the Anti-Homosexuality Act is disputed — an ILGA poll from 2017 found 59 percent of Ugandans agreed that LGBTQ people should enjoy the same rights as straight people, while 62 percent said transgender individuals should be protected from discrimination.

Social attitudes have actually shifted towards acceptance of LGBTQ people over the past decade. 

2007 survey showed 96 percent of Ugandans believe that LGBTQ relationships should be prohibited by law. The ILGA poll found that number dropped to just 54 percent a decade later.

When asked about why many Africans vehemently reject LGBTQ people, Ssempa said European and American politicians use deception to try and change the culture and mentality of Africa. He believes the rise of anti-LGBTQ laws in Nigeria, Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda is a reaction to the West — a rejection of colonialism. Ssempa and other anti-LGBTQ activists maintain being LGBTQ is a choice or identification with an ideology, instead of accepting the fact that people are born LGBTQ or feel the need to change their gender to one with which they feel comfortable.

On the topic of gender affirmation surgery, he stated “what gives the White man the right to say ‘cut off your breasts and genitals’ as long as you give it a new name of transgenderism?” He said he rejects trans people and said that there is a paradox because Europeans and Americans scold Africa for performing female genital circumcision, yet are trying to push acceptance of trans individuals. 

Pepe Julian Onzeima is a leading human rights activist who came under attack in 2012 when Ssempa barged onto the set of “Morning Breeze,” a Ugandan television talk show, and began to interrogate and mock him for his activism in Africa as a trans man. 

After reaching out to Ssempa to ask what is become of Onziema and other trans Ugandans, Ssempa showed indifference to the situation. Ssempa added anyone who is against the “Ugandan way of life” or doesn’t feel safe under the new law can leave Uganda. 

When pushed further to answer what LGBTQ people should do if they wish to stay in Uganda instead of fleeing, Ssempa noted all of them must make the decision to sit down with village leaders for guidance to change their “thoughts.” 

“Europeans think individual thought is how people make decisions. Africans don’t think ‘I like this person, I want to marry.’ No, we have rules! We can’t marry specific people. There are taboos, and we have specific rules and guidelines. It is our elders who give guidance and advice,” Ssempa added. 

Ssempa said being LGBTQ is a decision or lifestyle that one chooses, and so-called conversion therapy and discussions with community leaders can guide them towards a “correct path.” 

Since Museveni signed the Anti-Homosexuality Act, videos have emerged from Uganda that show trans people being paraded naked in public as a form of humiliation and public shaming, while community members jeer and ridicule them in the background. Many LGBTQ people across Uganda face eviction, unemployment and expulsion from clans with the support of the new law. Many feel emboldened to attack and violate the human rights of LGBTQ individuals because they are not afraid of punishment for their crimes.

Activists believe the law will also damage any progress made to the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Uganda, because people will be hesitant to visit a clinic for STI testing, even if they are straight men because of the stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS and the potential to be falsely identified as LGBTQ. HIV treatment services have already dropped by 60 percent since the law’s passage.

Ssempa was adamant that attempts to advance LGBTQ rights in Africa are a form of Western colonialism. 

When asked to comment more, he said LGBTQ rights in Uganda for which Western human rights NGOs advocate is a way to keep Africa down because of White nationalism. 

“What gives a man the right to turn a human vice into a human right?,” he said. 

The Blade asked Ssempa if he had a message for Americans and Europeans.

“They need to worry about socioeconomic problems there. And what’s going on over there in Amsterdam and San Francisco,” he said. “Stop obsessing over what needs to be done for change in Africa.”

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Nigerian police arrest more than 200 people at gay wedding

Authorities paraded detainees in front of journalists

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(Bigstock photo)

Nigerian police on Monday arrested more than 200 people at a gay wedding in the country’s Delta state.

CNN and other media outlets reported officers made the arrests in Ekpan, a town that is roughly 250 miles south-southeast of Lagos, the country’s commercial capital and largest city, after they stormed the hotel where the wedding was taking place. 

The Associated Press reported a police spokesperson said 67 of those who were arrested remain in custody. Authorities “paraded” them in front of journalists who were at a police station.

“The amazing part of it was that we saw two suspects, and there is a video recording where they were performing their wedding ceremony,” said the police spokesperson, according to the AP. “We are in Africa and we are in Nigeria. We cannot copy the Western world because we don’t have the same culture.”

Nigeria is among the countries in which consensual same-sex sexual relations remain criminalized. Homosexuality remains punishable by death in areas of the country that are under Sharia law.

Then-President Goodluck Jonathan in 2014 signed the Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition Act that, among other things, punishes those who enter into a same-sex marriage with up to 14 years in prison and bans membership in an LGBT advocacy group.

Police in Delta state in November 2015 arrested 21 men who allegedly engaged in same-sex sexual activity. Authorities in the city of Ikorodu in July 2017 arrested 42 men who were attending an HIV awareness event. 

Reverend Jide Macaulay, a gay minister of Nigerian descent who was born in London and founded House of Rainbow, on Tuesday told the Washington Blade the arrests in Delta state highlight “the restrictions on gatherings and social interactions for queer individuals in Nigeria, prompting concerns about the increasing challenges faced by the LGBTQ+ community. “

“Rather than addressing genuine security concerns, these actions seem to exacerbate the difficulties experienced by LGBTQ+ people,” said Macaulay. “It’s important to recognize that the LGBTQ+ community is not a threat to the nation; their desire is simply to live without interference. Redirecting law enforcement resources toward addressing insurgent activities and preventing hate crimes could be a more effective use of Nigeria’s police forces.” 

Macaulay added “the prevailing perception of corruption and brutality within the Nigerian police raises concerns about their understanding and application of the law.” 

“It’s crucial to note that the existing anti-gay legislation primarily aims to prosecute same-sex relationships and intimate encounters, rather than social interactions,” Macaulay told the Blade. “Allowing LGBTQ+ individuals in Nigeria to live openly and peacefully should be a priority. The anguish expressed by the LGBTQ+ community resonates deeply, as they navigate an environment marked by hostility and anxiety.” 

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