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What’s next for LGBTQ rights in South Africa after the country’s elections?

African National Congress lost parliamentary majority on May 29

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Pretoria and Cape Town are the first cities in Africa to install Pride crosswalks. Activists are wondering what the outcome of South Africa's May 29 elections will mean for LGBTQ rights. (Photo courtesy of Bruce Walker/Pretoria Pride)

More than 50 independent candidates and political parties participated in South Africa’s national and provincial elections that took place on May 29. The Electoral Commission of South Africa declared the results on June 2.

No independent candidate or political party managed to secure the outright parliamentary majority of more than 50 percent of the votes, which prompts the creation of a coalition government. None of the 18 political parties that managed to win at least one seat in the National Assembly wholly represented the LGBTQ community.

Although South Africa is the only African country that constitutionally recognizes the rights of the LGBTQ community, some of the political parties that managed to secure seats in the National Assembly had signaled they would reserve these gains.

Former President Jacob Zuma, who leads the uMkhonto weSizwe (MK) party, during a January debate said the thought of dating within the same gender was unpalatable and un-African. The MK is now the country’s third largest political party after it won 14.58 percent of the vote, making it a pivotal player in the formation of a coalition government.

Dawie Nel, the executive director of OUT LGBT Well-being, said undermining the constitution is “a dangerous, misguided, and populist strategy to avoid acknowledging the failures of governance and the lack of implementation of constitutional values that are meant to improve the lives of South Africans.”

“South Africa’s constitution is celebrated as one of the most significant achievements of our transition to democracy, ensuring that all citizens are treated with dignity and respect, and that their rights are protected in all aspects of life,” said Nell. 

There now seems to be an impasse on who becomes the government’s next leader because of some of the demands that political parties made before they entered into any negotiations.

Bruce Walker of Pretoria Pride said the best possible outcome for the preservation of LGBTQ rights in South Africa would be if the former governing political party, the African National Congress (ANC), which garnered the most support with 40.18 percent of the vote, partners with the Democratic Alliance (DA), which finished second with 21.81 percent of the votes, to form a coalition government.

“I think it will be a good outcome for the community if the DA has some power in a coalition government,” said Walker.

Rise Mzansi, which managed to secure 0.42 percent of the votes with two seats in the National Assembly, said it will continue protecting the rights of the LGBTQ community.

“Rise Mzansi reaffirms its commitment in protecting LGBTQ+ rights in South Africa, as outlined in Section 9 of our constitution,” said the party.

Zubenathi Daca, program coordinator for student employability and entrepreneurship development in Nelson Mandela University’s Department of Student Governance and Development said the fight for LGBTQ rights in South Africa will continue.

“The battle has not yet been won,” said Daca. “Queer people are still being killed and homophobic remarks are still being made towards us daily, and we need people who have found the confidence to voice out their dissatisfactions against how they are treated and also speak out for the voiceless.” 

“This society is ours just as it is everyone else’s,” added Daca. “We are in corporate spaces, leadership positions, and political spaces to show that we belong here, and that we are here to stay.” 

The constitution says National Assembly members should be sworn in within two weeks of the elections. They will then meet for the first time and elect a new speaker, deputy speaker and president.

Chief Justice Raymond Zondo who will preside over the entire process, on Monday said the National Assembly will meet for the first time since the elections on Friday.

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Africa

Cameroon president’s daughter comes out

Brenda Biya acknowledges relationship with Brazilian model

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Brenda Biya (Photo via Instagram)

The daughter of Cameroonian President Paul Biya has come out as a lesbian.

Brenda Biya, 26, on June 30 posted to her Instagram page a picture of her kissing Brazilian model Layyons Valença.

“I’m crazy about you and I want the world to know,” said Brenda Biya.

Her father has been Cameroon’s president since 1982.

Consensual same-sex sexual relations remain criminalized in the Central African country that borders Nigeria, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, the Republic of Congo, the Central African Republic, and Chad. The State Department’s 2023 human rights report notes harassment, discrimination, violence, and arbitrary arrests of LGBTQ people are commonplace in the country.

Brenda Biya is a musician who does not live in Cameroon.

The BBC reported she told Le Parisien, a French newspaper, in an exclusive interview published on Tuesday that she and Valença have been together for eight months. The women have also traveled to Cameroon together three times, but Brenda Biya did not tell her family they were in a relationship.

Brenda Biya said she did not tell her family that she planned to come out, and they were upset when she did. Brenda Biya told Le Parisien that her mother, Cameroonian first lady Chantale Biya, asked her to delete her Instagram post.

The Washington Blade on Thursday did not see the picture of Brenda Biya and Valença on her Instagram account.

“Coming out is an opportunity to send a strong message,” Brenda Biya told Le Parisien.

Brenda Biya described Cameroon’s criminalization law as “unfair, and I hope that my story will change it.”

Activists applauded Brenda Biya for coming out. The BBC reported the DDHP Movement, which supports Cameroon’s anti-LGBTQ laws, filed a complaint against her with the country’s public prosecutor.

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Ugandan activists again appeal ruling that upheld Anti-Homosexuality Act

Country’s Constitutional Court in April refused to ‘nullify’ law

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(Image by rarrarorro/Bigstock)

A group of LGBTQ activists in Uganda on Thursday once again appealed a ruling that upheld the country’s Anti-Homosexuality Act.

President Yoweri Museveni in May 2023 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.

The Ugandan Constitutional Court on April 3 refused to “nullify the Anti-Homosexuality Act in its totality.” Sexual Minorities Uganda Executive Director Frank Mugisha and Jacqueline Kasha Nabagesara are among the activists who appealed the ruling to the country’s Court of Appeal on April 16.

A picture that Mugisha posted to his X account on Thursday notes he, along with Nabagesara, are two of the 22 activists who filed the latest appeal with the Supreme Court, which is the country’s highest court.

“Today, we have filed an appeal in the Supreme Court of Uganda to overturn the Constitutional Court decision that upheld the Uganda Anti-Homosexuality Law,” said Mugisha.

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LGBTQ Kenyans join protests against controversial tax bill

More than 40 people killed after protesters stormed parliament on June 25

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There were clashes between police and protesters in Nairobi, Kenya, on June 2, 2024. (Screen capture via AP YouTube)

Queer Kenyans have braved the risks of homophobic attacks and joined young people in the nationwide protests against the government’s proposed tax hikes on bread and other essentials.

The protests, which started mid-last month before the National Assembly on June 25 passed the country’s controversial Finance Bill 2024, have been led by the country’s Gen Z and millennial populations.

The nationwide protests, which culminated with angry mobs storming parliament when the bill passed, have also drawn LGBTQ Kenyans who have marched with Pride flags alongside other protesters with the national flag. The queer protesters, however, stopped carrying the rainbow flags out of fear of anti-LGBTQ attacks after other protesters warned the presence of the Pride flag threatened to spur a serious backlash from parents, clerics, and government loyalists who oppose the championing of homosexuality, which Kenyan laws criminalize.

President William Ruto, who defiantly pushed for the enactment of the bill to raise more revenues to implement projects, bowed to pressure from the protesters and the international community and declined to assent to the proposed law. This decision followed the ugly scenes on June 25 after riot police responded to the peaceful protesters with force that left more than 40 people dead and more than 300 others injured from live bullets, massive looting, and destruction of property.

GALCK, which is a coalition of 16 LGBTQ rights groups, while supporting the anti-tax protests and the participation of their members stated that the Finance Bill “disproportionately burdens Kenyans and threatens our most vulnerable communities including the LGBTQ+ individuals.”

“For LGBTQ+ Kenyans who often face additional healthcare challenges, these taxes pose a significant barrier,” GALCK said in a statement.

The group reiterated that introducing taxes on digital content creation on which the majority of Kenya’s unemployed youths rely as a source of income would have also severely impacted the LGBTQ organizations and activists who depend on online platforms for advocacy and awareness campaigns.

“This stifles crucial efforts to address systemic inequalities faced by the LGBTQ+ community,” GALCK noted.

GALCK also stated the government’s proposed tax hikes on transaction costs for bank and mobile money transfers through the Finance Bill would have impacted LGBTQ people in need of emergency support and smooth flow of funds within the queer community.

Regarding the government’s proposal that would have allowed the country’s tax collector, the Kenya Revenue Authority, to freely access crucial information from people regardless of the existing data protection laws, GALCK noted the move would have amounted to a serious privacy violation to the LGBTQ organizations, activists, and donors.

“This bill is not just about the proposed tax hikes, it is about basic rights and the future of Kenya,” GALCK affirmed. “As GALCK, we will continue protesting and raising awareness until our voices are heard. Together, we can build a safe and sustainable country for all of us.”

Although GALCK has expressed its condolences to the families of protesters killed during the nationwide protests, it has thus far not reported any queer person killed or injured, even as a memorial concert in honor of the more than 40 victims was held last Sunday at Uhuru Park in Nairobi, the Kenyan capital.

The Initiative for Equality and Non-Discrimination (INEND), an LGBTQ+ rights group, has also been instrumental in ensuring both the queer and non-LGBTQ protesters stay safe and healthy during and after protests by sharing informative tips.

INEND, for instance, informed the protesters on the need to bathe to get rid of teargas and other chemical compounds that riot police threw at them, residual dust, and sweat for healthy skin. The group also advised protesters to drink a lot of water to (re)hydrate their bodies, get enough rest after the protest, seek immediate medical care when injured, and receive psychological support.

“Once rested, movements (protesters) should regroup in a day or two to discuss follow-up steps for arrested members, successes or setbacks of the protest, opportunities created for movement-building and the next strategies involving media appearances, following up with institutions, social media campaigns, another protest, and suchlike activities,” INEND stated.

The nationwide protest movement, which is organic, has mostly been mobilized by social media influencers and human rights activists but with no de facto leaders. It is, therefore, difficult for authorities to deal with it and they have resorted to arbitrary arrests and abductions.

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