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Botswana attorney general seeks to again criminalize homosexuality

High Court heard case on Oct. 12

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(Public domain photo)

GABORONE, Botswana — On June 11, 2019, Botswana moved toward being a state that no longer held some of its citizens (and, by extension, visitors) as criminals if they identified within the LGBTQ spectrum. However, the government didn’t take too long before it declared its intention to appeal the High Court judgment that asserted that consensual same-sex sexual activity in private was not to be a criminal act.

The appeal hearing took place on Oct. 12.

There are some key things to understand about what the High Court did for people in Botswana. The judgment, written and delivered by Justice Leburu, not only put a clear delineation between the state’s powers to intrude in people’s private sexual lives, but it also stated that laws that served no purpose in the governance of the people they oversaw were most likely worthy of “a museum peg” more than being active laws of the land.

In the hearing on Oct. 9, a full bench of five judges of the Court of Appeal was treated to the government’s case—as presented by advocate Sydney Pilane of the Attorney General’s Chambers—along with hearing the rebuttals from the legal counsel representing Letsweletse Motshidiemang, who brought the original case against the government, and LEGABIBO, an NGO admitted as amicus curiae, a friend of the court. The appeal, two years in the making, would have been expected to be based on facts rather than opinions of what could and could not be accepted by hypothetical Batswana. Pilane even went so far as to contest that President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s utterances about how people in same-sex relationships were “suffering in silence” were taken out of context as he was talking about gender-based violence and not endorsing their relationships.

The 2019 ruling of the High Court, the most supreme court of incidence in the country, not only declared people who were or had interest in engaging in consensual same-sex sexual activity not criminals, but it also allowed non-queer people to engage in sex acts that would otherwise be considered “against the order of nature” freely. The latter clause had often been interpreted as being solely about non-heterosexuals but on greater interrogation one realizes that any sex act that doesn’t result in the creation of a child was considered against this ‘order of nature’ and that nullified much of heterosexual sexual exploration—further painting these clauses as out of touch with contemporary Botswana as Leburu expressed.

In some of his appeal arguments, Pilane stated that Batswana “do not have a problem with gay people”, yet he based his contention on the fact that Batswana “respect the courts’ decisions;” as such they would not take up arms at the court’s decision to decriminalize consensual same-sex sexual activity. Pilane maintained that the decision to decriminalize should be left to the Parliament on the recommendation of the courts. The bench was swift to query whether a body of politicians elected by a majority would be the best representatives of a minority that was oppressed by laws that the very politicians benefitted from.

Botswana’s legal system allows for the High Court ruling to remain the law of the land until such a point as it’s struck down. The Court of Appeal ruling in favor of Batswana’s sexual liberties will be a nail in the proverbial coffin of residual colonial sex-related laws plaguing Botswana. This will not be the end by any means though. Where the attorney general can form a case stating that decriminalizing consensual same-sex relations could be likened to people locking themselves in their houses with animals and having their way with them, we know that mindset changes need to be prioritized to ensure that all Batswana understand their constitutionally protected rights to privacy, expression, and freedom of association as relates to their personal and sexual lives.

The 2010 Employment Act of Botswana already protects people from being discriminated against based on their sex or gender identity. The nation’s sexual violence laws were made gender neutral, thus covering non-consensual sex (rape) in all its possibilities. In upholding the ruling of the High Court, the Court of Appeal will allow the LGBTQ and SOGIESC (sexual orientation, gender identity and expression and sex characteristics) movements in Botswana some respite as attention is then channeled toward other pressing matters such as name changes, access to healthcare, and other culturally pertinent issues.

The Court of Appeal is expected to hand down a judgement following their deliberations in 4-6 weeks (mid to late November), however, this remains at their discretion. As it stands, since the High Court ruling in 2019, Botswana has experienced increased social accommodation for LGBTQ matters and figures—however, this is not to say there have not been any negative instances. With the continued sensitization, the expectation is that the courts, the government and NGO players will all contribute to a broad, national, culturing of LGBTQ rights in Botswana devoid of colonial residues.

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Uganda tightens grip on LGBTQ rights groups

Yoweri Museveni on July 16 dissolved country’s National Bureau of NGOs

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LGBTQ activists protest in front of the Ugandan Embassy in D.C. on April 25, 2023. Yoweri Museveni, the country's president, has signed a bill that tightens the grip on LGBTQ groups and other NGOs in the country. (Washington Blade photos by Michael K. Lavers)

The licensing, operation, and funding of LGBTQ organizations and other human rights groups in Uganda will now be under the government’s strict supervision.

President Yoweri Museveni on July 16 signed the Non-Governmental Organizations (Amendment) Act, 2024, that dissolves Uganda’s National Bureau of NGOs, which regulated the groups. The new law places its work under the Internal Affairs Ministry’s authority.

Museveni assented to bill after parliament passed it in April. MPs accused the NGOs Bureau of impeding the monitoring of NGOs activities, such as the promotion of homosexuality, that violate Ugandan law.

“I want you people (MPs) to be very careful when you are talking about NGOs,” Speaker Anita Among said during the parliamentary debate. “This is where money is being laundered into the country; this is how homosexuality money is coming into the country.”

The MPs noted that allowing the taxpayer-funded NGOs Bureau to operate independently without the State’s close supervision was putting Uganda at risk of losing its national objective of protecting its citizens from what they described as unwanted foreign practices through “funny money” given to LGBTQ rights organizations.

“I am aware of some NGOs that have been operating and doing things that are contrary to our own values and cultures, but I believe police and other agencies have been dealing with those other NGOs,” MP Sarah Opendi, who is a vocal LGBTQ rights opponent, said.

The MPs also backed the move for the NGOs Bureau to be under the Security Ministry’s oversight as “critical” by accusing it of bureaucracy in getting licenses and information. The NGOs regulator, however, does not allow the licensing of LGBTQ lobby groups for promoting homosexuality.

The NGOs Bureau in August 2022 halted the operations of Sexual Minorities Uganda, a group that fights discrimination against LGBTQ people in the country, because it was not registered by it or the Uganda Registration Services Bureau as Ugandan law requires. This decision came despite SMUG’s attempt in 2012 to reserve the name with the Uganda Registration Services Bureau for incorporation but the name was rejected for being “undesirable.”

The NGOs Bureau in stopping SMUG’s operations also noted the group did not have a physical office or location, and its representatives were reluctant to disclose it, despite partnering with the Health Ministry, the Uganda Human Rights Commission, and the Uganda police.

The NGOs Bureau, however, established government institutions that partnered with SMUG were unaware that it operated illegally.   

The NGOs Bureau’s move to halt SMUG’s operations “with immediate effect” prompted the group to challenge the decision in a lower court and then the Court of Appeal. SMUG lost both cases.    

SMUG Executive Director Frank Mugisha on Thursday, two days after Museveni signed the NGOs law, petitioned the Supreme Court to overturn the Court of Appeal’s ruling against SMUG.

“Today, we filed a case at the Supreme Court of Uganda to challenge the decision by the Court of Appeal rejecting the registration of Sexual Minorities Uganda,” Mugisha stated.    

Mugisha, together with two other LGBTQ activists, Dennis Wamala and Ssenfuka Joanita Wary, argue the Court of Appeal judges’ application of the principle of public morality in interpreting constitutional and human rights law in its March 12 ruling was erroneous.

“The learned justices of the Court of Appeal erred in law when they held that the proposed objectives of Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) are criminal and prohibited under Section 145 of the Penal Code Act,” reads the Supreme Court petition.

The three appellants also argue the Court of Appeal judges incorrectly maintained SMUG’s name was “undesirable” and the NGOs Bureau was within its mandates to disallow the registration in the “public interest” under the Companies Act. They also argue the Court of Appeal judges erred when they dismissed their appeal and want the Supreme Court to grant them to fully consider their petition.

 “It is proposed to ask the Supreme Court for orders that the decision and orders of the Court of Appeal be set aside and substituted with orders of this honorable court,” reads the petition.  

Activists consider the NGOs Bureau and the Uganda Registration Services Bureau’s decision to reject SMUG’s registration a violation of the right to freedom of expression and association. 

The appeal of the Court of Appeal’s ruling to the Supreme Court comes on the heels of the appeal of the Constitutional Court’s ruling that upheld the Anti-Homosexuality Act that Museveni signed in May 2023. Mugisha is among the 22 activists who petitioned the Supreme Court to overturn the Constitutional Court’s ruling on July 11.

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Burkina Faso moves to criminalize homosexuality

Justice Minister Edasso Bayala made announcement on July 10

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Burkina Faso flag (Photo by rarrarorro/Bigstock)

Burkina Faso has become the latest African country to move to criminalize consensual same-sex sexual relations.

Justice Minister Edasso Bayala on July 10 after a Cabinet meeting said same-sex sexual acts and similar practices would now be prohibited and seen as a violation of the law.

Unlike other countries where lawmakers have to introduce and pass bills, this scenario will likely not be the case in Burkina Faso because the country is currently under military role. Captain Ibrahim Traorè in 2022 led a coup that removed President Roch Kaboré and Prime Minister Lassina Zerbo.

Although some have signaled there still needs to be a parliamentary vote, there will be “legal” ramifications for those who are found to be LGBTQ or advocating for the community.

Consensual same-sex sexual relations or identifying as LGBTQ were regarded as legal in Burkina Faso before the July 10 announcement. Same-sex marriages were — and remain — illegal.

Members of the Transitional Legislative Assembly last September met to discuss regional issues that included the prohibition of and penalization of homosexuality and restricting the creation of groups that advocate on behalf of sexual minorities. The TLA incorporated the suggestions into a report and submitted it to Burkina Faso’s leadership.

Some of the country’s LGBTQ groups and human rights organizations have called upon the current leadership to respect and acknowledge other genders.

“We are all equal in dignity and rights,” said the National Consultive Commission on Human Rights, which is known by acronym CNDH (Commission Nationale des Droits Humains in French), in a statement. “CNDH is fighting against all forms of discrimination based on race gender, religion or social origin.”

“In Burkina Faso, thousands of people suffer from prejudice and injustice every day,” added CNDH. “We must take action. Discrimination weakens our society and divides our communities. Every individual deserves to live without fear of being judged or excluded.”

The organization further stressed “every action counts. Every voice matters.”

“Together we can change mindsets,” it said. “We must educate, raise awareness and encourage respect for diversity.”

CNDH President Gonta Alida Henriette said the government’s decision “would be the greatest violation of human rights in Burkina Faso and would condemn hundreds of thousands of LGBT+ people in Burkina Faso.” Alice Nkom, an African human rights activist, echoed this sentiment.

“Why politicize a privacy matter among consenting adults while making it a crucial topic for Africa? I answer you: Stop spying on your neighbor for the wrong reasons,” said Nkom. “Mind your own life and, if you care about your neighbor, worry about their health, if water is coming out of the tap, if there is electricity in the house, or food to feed their children.”

“Why are they prioritizing the issue of saying no to homosexuality in Africa instead of no wars or armed conflict in Africa, no poverty in Africa, no hunger in Africa, no misery in Africa?,” asked Nkom. “We should stop being distracted by topics that take away nothing and add nothing to our lives.”

Other activists say the proposal would expose the LGBTQ community and its allies to imprisonment and other punishments. They say the repercussions would go beyond legal implications; making human rights and sexual minority activists more vulnerable to criminal action, persecution, and arbitrary arrests. 

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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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Transgender woman kidnapped, sexually assaulted in Zimbabwe

Sunflower Sibanda released on July 3, found refuge at LGBTQ group’s offices

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Sunflower Sibanda (Photo courtesy of Sibanda's Facebook page)

A transgender woman in Zimbabwe who was kidnapped late last month has been found alive.

Chayelle Cathro, a missing persons investigator, said Sunflower Sibanda was last seen at the Eclipse nightclub in Harare, the country’s capital, with an unknown assailant on June 28.

Sibanda, who lives in Bulawayo, the country’s second largest city that is roughly 288 miles from Harare, reserved an Airbnb in the capital’s Avonlea neighborhood before she went to the club.

“Sunflower was last spotted at Eclipse club in the inner city by multiple confirmed sources,” said Cathro. “She left the club with an unidentified man who was allegedly taking her to her reserved Airbnb in Avonlea. However, the Airbnb hosts confirmed that she never checked in.”

Cathro said two of Sibanda’s friends began to search for her on June 29 “when she did not make an appearance at an event she was meant to attend.” They looked for her at the Airbnb and then went to the police station and the nightclub “where guards confirmed that there was no unusual activity the previous night.”

They ended their search at Parirenyatwa Hospital, “where they checked the emergency room, resuscitation, and specialist services.” 

Sibanda on July 3 was dumped in a remote area along Bulawayo Road in the Harare suburb of Norton. She then walked 29 miles to GALZ (an Association of LGBTI People in Zimbabwe)’s offices where her family in a press release said she spent the night.

“She never checked in as she was abducted, taken advantage of, and left in a remote area after a night out with friends,” said her family. “She was abducted by someone claiming he would take her to the Airbnb when she was inebriated. He did not take her home but instead robbed and sexually assaulted her.”

“Sunflower is currently receiving support and assistance during this difficult time from loved ones, and has already received medical support,” added her family. “We shall respect her privacy and journey towards healing at the same time while wishing her the best moving forward. It has been a very difficult time for everyone but we are all relieved to have her back home.” 

Samuel Matsikure, a Zimbabwean human rights activist, said it was a huge relief that Sibanda had been found.

“As a citizen and someone I have learned to love I am humbled by the response from the country and worldwide,” said Matsikure

Sibanda’s friend, who asked to remain anonymous, echoed Matsikure.

“I am incredibly relieved and grateful to share that Sunflower has been found and is safe. I know many of you have questions about how, where, and with whom she was found, and I understand the concern and curiosity,” said the friend. “However, what’s most important right now is that she is in safe hands.” 

“I invite everyone to continue holding space for her as she recovers,” they added. “Rest assured, any necessary information will be shared in due time.”

Section 73 of Zimbabwe’s Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act on sexual crimes and crimes against morality states “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.”

Discrimination and violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity remains commonplace in Zimbabwe.

A handful of people last month stormed GALZ’s offices and spray painted homophobic graffiti on the walls. The assailants also made anti-gay slurs.

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Malawi’s Constitutional Court declines to legalize same-sex relationships

Binational couple brought case in 2023

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(Bigstock photo)

Human rights organizations in Malawi have criticized the country’s Constitutional Court over its June 28 ruling that declined to legalize same-sex relationships.

Wim Akster, a Dutch national, and Jana Gonani, a local transgender woman, through their lawyers last year approached the Constitutional Court over the legalization of consensual same-sex relations under the penal code, which criminalizes so-called acts of “carnal knowledge against the order of nature and gross indecency” with a maximum penalty of 14 years in prison with corporal punishment for both men and women.

The Constitutional Court heard the case and issued its ruling on June 28.

“We echo the concern voiced regarding the recent Malawi Constitutional Court ruling on consensual same-sex sexual conduct,” said U.N. Human Rights Southern Africa. “We urge the government to protect and stand up for the human rights of vulnerable groups, including LGBTQ+ persons, by ensuring domestic laws align with international obligations.” 

Khanyo Farise, Amnesty International’s deputy regional director for East and Southern Africa, described the ruling as a bitter setback for human rights in Malawi.

“The court’s decision to keep these discriminatory laws on the books is a bitter setback for human rights in Malawi. The ruling manifestly flies in the face of Malawi’s constitution, the African Charter and international human rights law, which all clearly prohibit discrimination,” said Farise. “It also makes Malawi an outlier in Southern Africa, where most countries have decriminalized consensual same-sex sexual conduct.”

Farise added “the court’s refusal to overturn these laws means LGBTI persons in Malawi will continue to face discrimination and persecution simply for who they love.” 

“In particular, this ruling translates to continued barriers in access to healthcare and other social services for LGBTI persons,” said Farise. “Amnesty International stands with all LGBTI people in Malawi, who deserve the right to live their lives with dignity and full humanity. We also demand that authorities ensure their safety in the face of threats of violence.” 

U.N. Human Rights said the provisions of the Malawian penal code that criminalize consensual same-sex sexual relations should be repealed.

“The Constitutional Court’s ruling upholding the criminalization of consensual same-sex conduct is deeply disappointing and contrary to the country’s own international human rights obligations,” it said. “The anti-gay law must be repealed and the rights of LGBTQ+ people protected.”

LGBTQ activists in Malawi say the recent surge in demonstrations and actions against the community that traditional and religious leaders have organized have raised serious concerns about the protection of human rights and the principles of equality and nondiscrimination. 

“Homophobic sentiments are leading to higher rates of mental health issues, unemployment and homelessness,” said the Nyasa Rainbow Alliance. “It takes no compromise to give people their rights. It takes no money to respect the individual. It takes no political deal to give people freedom. It takes no survey to remove repression.”

“Gay people are born into and belong to every society in the world,” added the group. “They are of all ages, races, and faiths. They are doctors, teachers, farmers, bankers, soldiers, athletes, and whether we know it or we acknowledge it, they are our family, our friends, and our neighbors.” 

Media reports indicate human rights organizations are considering an appeal of the ruling.

The Namibian High Court last month decriminalized consensual same-sex relations. Mauritius last year declared Article 250 of the country’s penal code that criminalized consensual same-sex sexual relations as unconstitutional following a four year legal battle that Abdool Ridwan Firaas (Ryan) Ah Seek, president of Arc-en-Ciel, the country’s largest LGBTQ rights group, initiated.

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Lesbian South African MP named to country’s new Cabinet

Steve Letsike won a seat in the National Assembly on May 29

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Steve Letsike (Photo courtesy of Steve Letsike)

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa on Sunday appointed lesbian MP Steve Letsike to his Cabinet.

Letsike, founder of Access Chapter 2, a South African advocacy group who is a member of the African National Congress that Ramaphosa leads, will be the country’s deputy minister of women, youth, and people with disabilities.

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. Ramaphosa on Sunday announced Letsike and other new Cabinet members after the ANC and nine other parties agreed to form a National Unity Government.

The Washington Blade has reached out to Letsike for comment.

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Congolese justice minister orders prosecutor general to arrest LGBTQ allies

Constant Mutamba issued directive on June 15, implementation unclear

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

Congolese Justice Minister Constant Mutamba has instructed his country’s prosecutor general to arrest LGBTQ allies.

The newly appointed justice minister in a June 15 communique said the prosecutor general should initiate legal proceedings against people who advocate for the LGBTQ community in Congo.

Although same-sex marriages are constitutionally prohibited, there is currently no law that criminalizes consensual same-sex sexual relations. The communique has raised a lot of eyebrows from social and LGBTQ activists who are asking on what grounds Mutamba issued the communique.

“He could have started by initiating a bill in this direction, but in the current Congolese legislation he is missing the point,” said Jean Claude Katende, a Congolese human rights activist who is the president of the African Association of Human Rights. “If he wants to repress homosexuals, he must initiate a law which must make this behavior an offense and have it punished. He will be arrested for complicity in arbitrary arrests. The constitution is clear, no one can be prosecuted for an act which does not constitute an offense.” 

Khelver Hermano, a Congolese social commentator, said the law should not be interpreted based on one person’s emotions. 

“LGBT marriage is already not applied in the DRC but the minister wants to incarcerate those who do it informally without a legal basis,” said Hermano. “The law is not interpreted according to our will.” 

“Does the penal code in the DRC recognize polygamy? Why don’t we arrest all these known polygamists?” asked Hermano. “Just as polygamists are not prosecuted, we cannot do so against LGBT people.” 

Many Congolese people, however, have welcomed the communique, arguing same-sex relations are un-African and unorthodox.

Article 172 of the country’s penal code states a person “who commits a moral crime by exciting, facilitating or promoting to satisfy the passions of others, debauchery or the corruption of persons of either sex under or apparently under the age of 21 years shall be punishable by a prison term of three months to five years or a fine.” Article 176 says a person “who engages in activities against public decency shall be punishable by a prison term of eight days to three years and/or a fine.”

Although not entirely applicable, the prosecutor general can use these two penal code articles to initiate the arrests — the country in recent years has seen some arrests of LGBTQ people.

The June 15 communique is not the first time Mutamba has come out against the LGBTQ community. 

Mutamba earlier this year introduced a bill that would criminalize acts of homosexuality. The proposal received widespread support, particularly on social media where many Congolese people described it as a turning point for the country and for the continent at large.

Although parliament has not formally debated the bill, activists are concerned it will pass without many major objections because most MPs have previously said they do not support the LGBTQ community. It remains unclear how the prosecutor general will executive Mutamba’s communique.

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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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