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Landmark Kenya intersex rights law takes effect

Activists praise Children Act 2022

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The Kenyan flag (Photo courtesy of Rarrarorro via Bigstock)

NAIROBI, Kenya — A new law that took effect late last month in Kenya has granted equal rights and recognition to intersex people 

Intersex people are now recognized as Kenya’s third gender with an ‘I’ gender marker in response to the Children Act 2022. Kenya is the first African country that has granted the intersex community this universal right.

The new law requires intersex children to be treated with dignity and have equal access to basic services like medical treatment and education, in addition to social protection services as a special need. It also requires the accomodation of intersex children in child protection centers and other facilities.

Courts are also required to consider the needs of intersex children who are on trial — including the calling of an expert witness — before they issue any ruling. The law further stipulates that anyone can be a foster parent without restrictions of gender, age or marital status.

It also protects intersex children from so-called sex normalization surgeries, and such procedures will only be done with a doctor’s recommendation. Those who violate the law will face at least three years in jail and a fine of at least $5,000.

“This is a great and major milestone globally for Kenya. We are now way ahead and can teach our neighbors and the whole globe good practices,” said Jedidah Wakonyo, a human rights lawyer and former chair of the Intersex Persons Society of Kenya

The long journey for recognition started dramatically in 2006 when some human rights organizations petitioned courts about a detainee who had been accused of a violent robbery.

Authorities perceived the suspect was a man after police strip-searched him before he entered prison.

This followed numerous court battles by intersex people who demanded the right to recognition as another gender in their birth certificates.

Being denied birth certificates from the discriminatiory law that only recognized male and female genders further limited their access to national identity cards, passports and other crucial documents and government services.      

The Births and Deaths Registration Act under the new law’s Section 7 (3) “shall take measures to ensure correct documentation and registration of intersex children at birth.”    

Intersex people commonly have a combination of male and female gonads (ovaries or testicles) or ambiguous genitalia. 

Wakonyo, who also chaired the Intersex Persons Implementation Coordination Committee and was named the International Court of Justice’s 2020 jurist of the year, describes the law’s enactment as a historic moment because of its comprehensive definition of an intersex person.

It defines an intersex child as “a child with a congenital condition in which the biological sex characteristics cannot be exclusively categorized in the common binary of female or male due to inherent and mixed anatomical, hormonal, gonadal or chromosomal patterns which could be apparent before, at birth, in childhood, puberty or adulthood.”

Kenyan law considers anyone under 17 to be a child.

“Defining an intersex from a child’s perspective while taking care of many aspects and not just the physical notion of being intersex is the best practice because in future they don’t find themselves in the state of gender confusion between males and females like the current situation,” stated Wakonyo. 

This provision essentially protects intersex persons from being deprived of their constitutional rights of gender recognition under the country’s Bill of Rights.

Veronica Mwangi, the deputy director at Kenya’s National Commission on Human Rights, that helped secure the law’s implementation, said it addresses issues for which the intersex community has been fighting for years.    

“It is very progressive and we are glad about the gains because it provides for the existence of the intersex which all state actors have to accept. Full implementation is what we now need to focus on,” she said.

The law took effect roughly five years after Kenya became the first African nation and the second country in the world after Australia to count intersex people in a Census. The 2019 survey showed 1,524 Kenyans were intersex.

Intersex rights groups had initially petitioned the courts for a total ban of surgeries on intersex children unless they were a medical emergency.

Wakonyo backs the provision for a doctor’s approval on grounds that the surgeries will only be done “in the best interest of the intersex child, informed consent of the parents and the participation of the child depending on the age.” Wakonyo and other activists say the relaxation of the requirements for adopting intersex children not only seeks to end the problem of neglect and abandonment but also the stigma that has left some to die by suicide.

The law safeguards adoptive parents’ rights and parental responsibility and intersex children from child labor, online expuse and other forms of exploitation.

“Intersex children who are just like other children will no longer be killed at birth because of their gender ambiguity,” said Wakonyo.   

Despite the law’s huge benefits for the intersex community, Wakonyo notes it is a “very significant foundation” for the group because gender-specific accommodations in social gatherings and facilities remain needed.

Another historic win for intersex Kenyans this year was the Kenyan National Commission on Human Rights’ decision to hire an intersex commissioner.

“Dr. Dennis Wamalwa applied as an intersex (person), interviewed as an intersex (person), and the shortlist comprised male, female, and ‘I’ gender for intersex. He emerged (at the) top and his intersex friends and associates came to witness his swearing,” stated Wakonyo, who also served as a Kenyan National Commission on Human Rights commissioner.

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Kenyan advocacy organizations join fight against femicide

30 women have been murdered in the country this year

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Kenyan flag (Photo by rarrarorro/Bigstock)

NAIROBI, Kenya — Some LGBTQ+ rights groups in Kenya have devised new security strategies to protect female community members from the risk of femicide that has been on the rise in the country in recent years. 

The strategies employed include hiring trained security response teams, emergency toll-free numbers for swift intervention and training queer women on safety as they go about their daily lives in homophobic societies.  

The LGBTQ+ rights organizations’ move to come up with their safety measures is driven by laxity by security agencies that they accuse of “personal bias, discrimination and victimization” of the complainants based on their sexual orientation whenever they seek help.

Consensual same-sex sexual relations are outlawed in Kenya under Sections 162 and 165 of the Penal Code and the queer rights groups the Washington Blade interviewed said the authorities exploit this criminalization. 

“We have contracted two security response focal persons in our organization to respond to violations of LBQ womxn in Kenya,” noted Elly Doe, the executive director of KISLEB, a Kisumu-based organization that champions the rights of lesbian, bisexual and queer women.

Doe, whose organization also advocates against femicide, said KISLEB is part of a special security situation room formed to explore ways of tackling rising cases of insecurity among the LGBTQ+ community in the country. 

The Initiative for Equality and Non-Discrimination, an LGBTQ+ rights organization also contacted by the Blade, stated it has been conducting advocacy programs that include creating safer spaces forums to address femicide and violence against women both physical and online.   

One of the forums convened last September in Mombasa, for instance, explored how communities and institutions can work together to prevent violence against marginalized women, effective support for survivors, mentorship and awareness campaigns. The participants included lesbian, bisexual, queer and Transgender women, women in politics, sports, media, women living with disabilities and sex workers.    

INEND Communications Officer Melody Njuki, who expressed her organization’s concern over growing cases of femicide, oppression and violence against women, including those who identify as queer that go unchecked is caused by several social factors that include economic exclusion. 

“The intersectional issues faced by marginalized communities and structurally silenced women particularly sex workers and LBQT+ individuals adds complexity to the challenges experienced by victims of femicide due to discrimination, stigma and systemic inequalities exacerbating the vulnerability of women to violence,” Njuki said. 

Both INEND and KISLEB last month joined other LGBTQ+ rights groups, feminists and dozens of human rights organizations in Kenya in a nationwide street protest against rising cases of femicide and violence against women. 

The Jan. 27 protests were in response to the brutal killing of 16 women across the country since the beginning of the year. Hundreds of women, including those who identify as queer, during a Valentine’s Day vigil donned black outfits and held lit candles and red roses in honor of this year’s femicide victims, whose number had risen to more than 30.

“KISLEB as an organization that champions the rights of the LBQ womxn could not sit back and watch as women are being intentionally violated and killed yet in recent years the number has been rising rapidly and so many culprits go unpunished,” Doe said over her organization’s participation in the protest. “Participating in the protest was our way of expressing our solidarity with other women’s rights organizations in condemning femicide.”

Doe raised a concern over a rise in the number of homophobic threats against queer women, particularly on social media and residential areas, and called for police officers to be sensitized on LGBTQ+ issues to deal with this menace without discrimination. 

“We have also seen the cases of the murders of the LGBTQ community rising such as a trans woman activist Erica Chandra in August in Nairobi and a nonbinary lesbian woman Sheila Lumumba in April 2022,” she said. 

INEND, together with the National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, and Galck+ which participated in Lumumba’s murder case last December, were disappointed with the court after sentencing the suspect Billington Mwathi to 30 years in jail. The three LGBTQ+ rights groups described the sentence as “lenient” and said it didn’t meet the justice Lumumba deserved — the suspect raped her before killing her.

The organizations said they wanted Mwathi to receive a life sentence because Lumumba’s killing was not just an act of violence on an individual, but an attack on the dignity and safety of the LGBTQ+ community.  

INEND, nonetheless, attributes the rise in femicide to victim blaming on the part of the public and some leaders, which leads to a disconnect on the protection of the victims’ rights and its subsequent erosion as witnessed in the LGBTQ+ community.  

“The road to genocide starts with the dehumanization of the most marginalized, then continues to devour its way up the hierarchy of patriarchal systems,” Njuki said.  

She disclosed INEND was organizing a collective movement dubbed “#EndFemicideKe” to enlighten policymakers on the dire need to enforce strict measures on the killing of women. Njuki, however, commended jurists who are members of the Kenya Magistrates and Judges Association for their partnership with INEND and willingness to show a deeper understanding of human rights particularly the protection of LGBTQ+ rights.

She cited last year’s launch of a judicial guidebook to help judges better protect queer people’s rights and the High Court’s ruling that allowed the National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission to register as a non-governmental organization in promoting freedom of association.

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Zimbabwean vice president reiterates strong opposition to LGBTQ+ rights

Constantino Chiwenga condemned advocacy group’s scholarship

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Zimbabwean Vice President Constantino Chiwenga (Screen capture via SABC News YouTube)

HARARE, Zimbabwe — Zimbabwean Vice President Constantino Chiwenga has expressed concerns over what he has described as foreign recruitment of LGBTQ+ people in the country.

Chiwenga on Feb. 15 described Zimbabwe as a Christian country and therefore does not have room to accommodate those who identify as LGBTQ+. His comments were in response to Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe and the advocacy group’s annual scholarship program that provides funds to people who identify as LGBTQ+.

“The government of Zimbabwe strongly and firmly rejects and denounces as unlawful, un-Christian, anti-Zimbabwean and un-African, insidious attempts by foreign interests to entice, lure and recruit Zimbabwe’s less privileged, but able students into lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender activities and malpractices through offers of educational scholarships,” he said.

“Zimbabwe has legislated against all such deviances, making any offers predicated on the same aberrations both unlawful and criminal, and a grave and gross affront on our national values and ethos as a Christian nation,” he added.

Chiwenga said such scholarships are a national threat and highlighted that anyone who identifies as LGBTQ+ shall not be enrolled at any educational institution.

“To that end, government sees such scholarship offers as a direct challenge on its authority, and thus will not hesitate to take appropriate measures to enforce national laws, and to protect and defend national values,” he said.

“Our schools and institutions of higher learning will not entertain applicants, let alone enroll persons associated with such alien, anti-life, un-African and un-Christian values which are being promoted and cultivated by, as well as practiced in decadent societies with whom we share no moral or cultural affinities,” added Chiwenga.

The vice president also said Zimbabwe shall not be influenced by any country to change its stance with regards to the LGBTQ+ community.

“Zimbabwe is a sovereign, African state with definite laws and values which typify it, cutting it apart from other mores,” said Chiwenga. “Young Zimbabweans who qualify for enrolment into tertiary institutions here and elsewhere, should approach government departments tasked to give grants and scholarship support to deserving cases. They should never be tempted to trade or sell their souls for such abominable and devilish offers.”

Activists and commentators have sharply criticized Chiwenga’s comments, saying people’s sexual lives should not be of public concern.

“This scholarship has been going on for years and many graduates have been supported and gainfully employed,” noted GALZ Programs Manager Samuel Matsikure. “In the 90s it showed LGBT (people) who were bullied, outed and faced harassment would drop out of school, hence, it was important to provide them with basic education so they can support themselves in life.”

Stacey Chihera, a social commentator, said what consenting adult individuals decide to do behind closed doors should never be up for public discussion. 

“I wish this entitlement about individual sexuality was applied to corruption, service delivery and infrastructure development,” said Chihera. “What consenting adult individuals decide to do behind closed doors with their private parts should never be up for discussion! Not even by the government.”

Namatai Kwekweza a lawyer and an activist, said the vice president was scapegoating the real issues on the ground that are affecting the country on a daily basis.

“The facts being a scapegoat is necessary for an underperforming and evil government that will overzealously and hypothetically talk about morality and Christian values except when it comes to corruption, looting, genocide, abductions, torture, elections fraud, abuse of office, sexual abuse,” said Kwekweza. “These leaders must be seen more, major more and heard loudest in matters of public accountability and returning stolen loot, than in matters of moral grandstanding of which they have no moral authority in the first place.”

Consensual same-sex sexual relations remain criminalized in Zimbabwe with up to 14 years in prison.

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Queer man murdered in Cape Town

Activists call for president to sign Combating of Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill

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Diego Jacobs (Photo courtesy of Jacobs' Facebook page)

CAPE TOWN, South Africa — LGBTQ+ rights groups in South Africa have condemned the brutal murder of Diego Jacobs, a queer man in Cape Town earlier this month.

Reports indicate Jacobs, 21, was brutally murdered on Feb. 3 while walking home with two friends. A former neighbor who had previously harassed him about his queer identity reportedly attacked him.

The 20-year-old former neighbor who is currently in police custody is alleged to have started uttering homophobic slurs before stabbing him in the neck with a knife. Reports indicate Jacobs tried to avoid a conflict with him.

OUT LGBT Civil Society Engagement Officer Sibonelo Ncanana has urged law enforcement officials to thoroughly investigate the incident and ensure the alleged suspect is given a hefty sentence.

“No individual should ever face violence or discrimination because of their sexual orientation or gender identity,” said Ncanana. “This tragic incident serves as a stark reminder of the ongoing challenges and dangers faced by LGBTIQ+ individuals in South Africa.”

“The attack also highlights the importance of enacting the long-awaited Prevention and Combating of Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill, which was passed by Parliament in December last year. Two months later, the bill continues to await President Cyril Ramaphosa’s signature,” added Ncanana. “We once again call on the president to take action and assent to the bill urgently, before any more lives are lost to hate and intolerance.”

Embrace Diversity Movement Secretary General Mpho Buntse said Jacobs’ death was a heinous attack that required law enforcement officials’ urgent attention. 

“The EDM is shocked to learn of the brutal killing of Diego,” said Buntse. “This act comes at a time when we had thought that the spike in hate crimes of this nature are a thing of the past. We view this as a deliberate push back to our efforts to end hate related crimes. Beyond this obvious knowledge, we call upon law enforcement officials to ensure that justice is served.” 

Buntse, like Ncanana, urged Ramaphosa to sign the Hate Crime and Hate Speech Bill into law “to ensure that hate is punished by law.”

“As a movement we demand that this be done before the upcoming elections,” said Buntse. “Failure to do this will be a clear demonstration that there is a lack of political will to protect the queer community.”

Ruth Maseko of Fantastic Family LGBTIQ said they were aggrieved Jacob’s death and echoed other activists who urged Ramaphosa to sign the Prevention and Combating of Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill.

“We are deeply saddened by the needless loss of another young life,” said Maseko. “The fact that these crimes continue based merely on how a person identifies in terms of their sexual orientation, gender identity, and /or expression is an insult to our humanity or lack thereof.”

South Africa is the only African country that constitutionally recognizes LGBTQ+ rights. The country’s LGBTQ+ community, however, continues to face attacks based on sexual orientation and/or gender identity that often lead to death.

The attacks have largely been attributed to religious and cultural beliefs that run counter to LGBTQ+ rights. 

Activists who support the Prevention and Combating of Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill say it will help curb homophobic and transphobic attacks. Some religious leaders, however, have criticized it and urged Ramaphosa not to sign it.

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Kenyan MPs to consider anti-LGBTQ+ measures when Parliament reconvenes

Lawmakers urged to crackdown on homosexuality in the country

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Kenya Parliament (Photo by Sopotniccy/Bigstock)

NAIROBI, Kenya — Kenyan MPs are set to consider several anti-homosexuality proposals when Parliament reconvenes on Tuesday after a two-month break.

A group of more than 70 Kenyans from anti-LGBTQ+ lobby groups and religious organizations under the Kenya Christians Professional Forum and the Muslim Council of Imams and Preachers of Kenya petitioned Parliament on Feb. 1 to probe what they describe as the proliferation of homosexuality in the country.

The groups in their petition claim there have been “persistent, well-choreographed and well-funded” attempts by LGBTQ+ rights activists over the last decade to have anti-homosexuality laws declared unconstitutional. 

“They have filed numerous court cases and petitions in our courts,” reads the petition submitted to the National Assembly that Speaker Moses Wetang’ula heads. “This has not only been witnessed in Kenya but also many African countries including Uganda, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia and many others.” 

The petitioners consider discrimination based on “sexual orientation and gender identity” used to push for the rights and freedoms of the LGBTQ+ community globally as “alien” terminologies not just to Africans but to “anyone with a moral fiber in their being.” 

They accuse the National Council on Administration of Justice, a judicial body of state and non-state members, of plotting to “revise our moral code” through amendments to the Penal Code that criminalize consensual same-sex relations. 

The petitioners also raise a concern over last year’s controversial Supreme Court ruling that allowed the National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission to register as a non-governmental organization, which they warn will have a serious impact on the family in Kenya if left unchallenged because it allows the legalization of LGBTQ+ people.

“There have been concerted efforts from foreign non-state actors through financial lobbying to effect changes to our penal law to decriminalize such acts long criminalized such as homosexuality,” reads the petition. “This is the beginning of a slippery slope from which the country may not recover if left unattended.”  

The petitioners further allege the infiltration of LGBTQ+-specific content in children’s school books and want Parliament to urgently investigate unsanctioned publishers and book distributors and hold responsible individuals accountable. 

MPs are expected to approve a presidential education reform working group report presented to President William Ruto last August. Its recommendations include hiring pastors and imams in public elementary and high schools to fight homosexuality and other so-called immoral practices. 

The petitioners want MPs to also inquire into what they describe as public recruitment of students into the LGBTQ+ community in universities and colleges through meetings on sexual freedoms and minority rights. 

“These are inoculation and breeding grounds for the LGBTQ agenda,” reads the petition. “Unless Parliament intervenes and has these activities nipped in the bud, the moral decay we have seen over the last couple of years will continue to dizzying levels.”

Government officials the petitioners want to grill over LGBTQ+ activities and foreign funding of them in the country include Education Minister Ezekiel Machogu, Health Minister Susan Nakhumicha, Foreign Affairs Minister Musalia Mudavadi, Labor and Social Protection Minister Florence Bore and Police Inspector General Japhet Koome.    

Another proposed anti-homosexuality law expected to be introduced in the National Assembly during the session is the long-awaited Family Protection Bill, sponsored by opposition MP Peter Kaluma, which contains punitive provisions that include a 50-year prison sentence for gays and lesbians convicted of non-consensual sex. 

Kaluma’s bill, which the petitioners on the proliferation of LGBTQ+ practices in the country want its legislation fast-tracked, also proposes a ban on gay Pride parades, assemblies, street marchers, cross-dressing in public and all LGBTQ+-related activities. The bill has been pending before Parliament’s Social Protection Committee since last June.

Kaluma complained about the committee’s delay to Wentang’ula in August. 

MPs are also expected to consider a proposed law on surrogacy, the Assisted Reproductive Technology Bill 2022, which seeks to help individuals with infertility problems to use surrogate mothers and in vitro fertilization to have children. 

The bill, which is sponsored by another opposition MP, Millie Odhiambo, however, would prohibit gays and lesbians from having children via surrogate. 

The National Assembly first approved it in November 2021, but its finalization stalled in the Senate when the 12th Parliament’s term ended in August 2022 before the general election.  This delay rendered the bill “dead” under National Assembly rules because it can only proceed after its reintroduction in the current Parliament.

Odhiambo, who retained her parliamentary seat, reintroduced the bill in the National Assembly last May. The Health Committee will also accept additional proposals. 

The committee who Dr. Robert Pukose chairs last September tabled the report with numerous amendments to the bill for adoption. Some of the proposed amendments included the deletion of the term “couple or parties to a marriage” defined as a man and a woman who are in an association that may be recognized as a marriage under any law in Kenya and replaced with the term “intending parents” for individuals seeking to have children using surrogacy and IVF.

The committee argues the term “couple or parties to a marriage” is discriminatory and that marriage should not be a requirement for individuals to access assisted reproductive technology services, although same-sex marriages are outlawed in Kenya.         

“The bill aids couples or individuals with challenges of conceiving naturally and in this way, it addresses the reproductive health needs of Kenyans,” the committee’s report reads, a position which locks out gays and lesbians from parenting through surrogacy.

The bill would also criminalize the commercialization of surrogacy or related activities, such as procuring a surrogate mother by any person, an organization and any medical facility with hefty fines and jail terms.  

During the session, MPs are also expected to approve Kenya’s revised National Policy and Action Plan on Human Rights that Attorney General Justin Muturi’s office is drafting to replace the 2014 one whose 5-year implementation period has lapsed. 

The new policy, which should be in place by this year, according to the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights, involved gathering views on human rights from the public, state and non-state actors including LGBTQ+ lobby groups in nationwide dialogues between August and October last year.   

The regional dialogues culminated in a national conference in Nairobi late last year on developing the policy.

Li Fung, senior human rights advisor to the U.N. Resident Coordinator in Kenya, attended the gathering during which Kaluma, while representing Wetang’ula, expressed Parliament’s concerns over “constant erosion of hard-fought rights” in the country and Africa with LGBTQ+ rights.  

“Until LGBTQ rights are universally agreed to by the U.N. General Assembly, as long as we (MPs) sit in the Parliament, we will not accept them as human rights in Kenya and they will not find space in our body of laws,” Kaluma stated.  

The lawmaker’s warning followed criticism of his anti-homosexuality bill by Irungu Houghton, executive director of Amnesty International Kenya and chair of non-state actors on National Human Rights Dialogues, who said it promotes hate against LGBTQ+ refugees and the queer community at large. 

“We do not need any form of identity-based discrimination and more hatred in this republic,” Houghton said. He reiterated the “greatest threat” to Kenya and the constitution is the belief that “some human beings” do not deserve equality, dignity and protection under the law. 

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Man in Ghana assaulted for being gay

Alleged assailants told victim that anti-LGBTQ+ bill was law

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Ghanaian flag (Public domain photo by Jorono from Pixabay)

ZUARUNGU, Ghana — Four people last week assaulted a Ghanaian man who they accused of being gay.

According to the Queer Ghana Education Fund, the four men who attacked the man in Zuarungu in the country’s Upper East Region referenced the Promotion of Proper Human Sexual Rights and Ghanaian Family Values Bill, an anti-LGBTQ+ bill that is currently before MPs. The assailants, according to QuGEF, told the 25-year-old man, who the group identified as Francis, that the measure had become law.

QuGEF also said two of the four men who attacked Francis have been arrested and charged with “assaulting and stealing from” him.

“They ambushed and accused him of homosexuality and told him that the bill had been passed into law and that they were acting according to the law,” said QuGEF in a press release.

Rightify Ghana, another LGBTQ+ rights group, commended the police’s swift response. 

“The misinformation has gone far and bad actors are targeting LGBTQ persons believing that the bill has been passed and they can act unlawfully,” said Rightify Ghana. “Good that two out of four of the perpetrators have been arrested by the police in Bolgatanga, following a report made by QuGEF.” 

Although President Nana Akufo-Addo has not signed the bill, many politicians and religious leaders have given Ghanaians the impression that it is now law. Many LGBTQ+ Ghanaians as a result have been ridiculed and assaulted in public, leaving many of them in fear to publicly disclose their gender identity or sexual orientation.

Apostle Kadmiel E.H. Agbalenyoh, founder and leader of the Seventh Day Congregation of Theocracy, and his church on Jan. 1 organized an anti-LGBTQ+ seminar and protest that took place at the Achimota Girls’ Guide in Accra, the country’s capital. Greater Accra Regional Chief Imam Alhaji Sule Issa chaired the event that other faith leaders and radio personality Blakk Rasta attended.

Rightify Ghana described the protest as “the first anti-LGBTQ event this year” and it was “organized by a long time homophobe whose hate campaign is not new.” The group also said the remarks by MP Sam George, one of the bill’s sponsors who said lawmakers will pass it before the end of next month, are not true. 

“Whilst the Parliament of Ghana has only done up to Clause 6 in the Consideration Stage, the MP falsely claimed that they had worked on 11 clauses. He is setting deadlines and lying about work they have not yet done,” said Rightify Ghana. 

“Contrary to what he said, only s out of the 25 clauses have been considered by Parliament,” the group further noted. “Even with those six, some were referred to the drafting division to be worked on and those that were proposed to be deleted are to be reintroduced under other yet-to-be-discussed clauses or separately at the end.” 

Activism Ghana, another advocacy group, also accused George of giving false timelines. 

“He keeps lying, even about his own bill,” said Activism Ghana. 

Former President John Mahama, who is a presidential candidate for the National Democratic Congress, the leading opposition party, has encouraged MPs to pass the bill and for Akufo-Addo to sign it into law.

“I am against LGBTQ, my faith doesn’t support it a man is a man, a woman is a woman,” said Mahama.

Presidential and Parliamentary elections will take place in December.

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Kenyan advocacy organization releases guidebook for young LGBTQ+ people

Homosexuality remains criminalized in the country

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The National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission in Kenya has released a guidebook for young LGBTQ+ people. (Image courtesy of the National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission)

NAIROBI, Kenya — An LGBTQ+ advocacy organization in Kenya has unveiled a sexual reproductive health and rights guidebook that targets young queer people in the country and provides them with information to help them come out.

The National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, which is behind the new guidebook, cites misinformation, stigma and homophobic discrimination among several obstacles that young LGBTQ+ people face when they publicly disclose their sexual orientation or gender identity. 

Thus, NGLHRC considers the 20-page booklet that also details the latest legal and policy frameworks on the topic an essential resource to help young queer people get knowledge and assistance in overcoming homophobia.    

“This resource is designed to support, educate and empower our diverse community in ensuring there is access to accurate and affirming information regarding sexual and reproductive health rights,” states the guidebook. 

The newly unveiled toolkit comes amid several government policy measures to protect school-age children from so-called same-sex practices that Section 162 of the penal code criminalizes.

The Education Ministry this year, for instance, plans to hire pastors and Imams in more than 32,000 public elementary and high schools to promote value-based education that includes fighting homosexuality and other practices deemed immoral. A working group that presented a report to President William Ruto last August made the recommendation. 

Education Minister Ezekiel Machogu in March 2023 confirmed to MPs the ministry’s decision to set up a Chaplains Committee led by Anglican Church Archbishop Jackson Ole Sapit to stop what they have described as the infiltration of LGBTQ+ practices in schools. 

Machogu’s revelation followed the government’s crackdown on teenage books with gay content from abroad after an uproar from parents and religious leaders. 

The stiffer anti-homosexuality bill sponsored by an opposition MP Peter Kaluma, which awaits introduction in the National Assembly, would also prohibit the teaching of comprehensive sexuality education to school-age children in Kenya’s curriculum. The bill lists sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, Transgender identity, sex reassignment and homosexuality among the subjects to which students should not be exposed in school. 

“A teacher, an instructor or any other person who teaches, instructs or discusses with a learner the subjects set out commits any offense and shall upon conviction be liable to a fine not exceeding one million shillings ($6,163) or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding ten years, or both,” reads the bill.      

The NGLHRC guidebook, however, cites the Bill of Rights in Kenya’s constitution, the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that Kenya has ratified as among the laws that protect people from any forms of discrimination. The advocacy organization instead calls for accessibility of queer-friendly educational materials, and family and community support to young people who identify as LGBTQ+.  

“Bodily autonomy means my body is for me; my body is my own. It is about power, and it is about agency,” reads the guidebook. “It is about choice, and it is about dignity.” 

“Bodily autonomy is the foundation for gender equality, and above all, it is a fundamental right,” it adds.  

NGLHRC urges young queer people to be “open and honest” about their sexual orientation instead of hiding it, but only after they seriously consider the situation in which they find themselves. Coming out, according to the guidebook, should only happen after they discover their sexuality through self-identity, acceptance and connecting with others for empowerment and growth.  

It asks, for example, a young person to trust their instincts without bowing to pressure from friends and situations to come out openly.  

“Coming out is your decision and your decision alone. It is a lifelong process,” reads the guidebook. “Even if other people you know have come out or if you have come out to some but not others, no one has a say in when, how, or who you come out to?”

It notes there is no right way to come out, and challenges young LGBTQ+ people to be mindful of their privacy while sharing information with friends after coming out since one might be at risk of harm when other people find out.

“If you choose to come out, that is important to remember — and not to be discouraged by,” states the guidebook. “You will make new friends and family, meet new partners and join new companies throughout your life. If you choose to come out, then you will have to do it countless times.” 

The guidebook further advises young queer people about the importance of consent between partners in same-sex relations, and cautions them the law forbids consent for underage persons under 18 years. It also debunks myths surrounding homosexuality: Same-sex couples cannot transmit sexually transmitted infections, do not need to practice safe sex or get tested for STIs and all queer people are promiscuous and engage in risky sexual behaviors. The guidebook also addresses puberty, menstruation, hygiene, sexual and reproductive health needs and challenges, such as access to contraceptives for young LGBTQ+ individuals, queer parenting and centers to seek queer-friendly services in Kenya. 

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Ghanaian LGBTQ+ groups condemn attack of gay man at university

Incident took place at the University of Ghana’s Legon campus

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University of Ghana, Legon (Screen capture via EfyaKimora YouTube)

LEGON, Ghana — Several LGBTQ+ organizations in Ghana have condemned last week’s attack on a gay man at the University of Ghana’s Legon campus.

The university said a woman and a garbage director assaulted the man, who was dressed as a woman, when they discovered he was not female.

“A young man dressed like a female was seen in the Okponglo area, seeking accommodation, and was accommodated by some women in the area,” reads a statement that Dr. Elizier Ameyaw-Buronyah, the university’s director of public affairs, released. “During the night, his true identity was revealed, leading to physical assault by the women who accommodated him.”

The statement notes the assault took place behind a dorm.

“Realizing the true gender the following morning, the refuse collector also assaulted the young man, instructing him to leave the area,” said Ameyaw-Buronyah. “Security personnel were alerted by the University of Ghana students to intervene who handed both the young man and the refuse collector (both of whom are not students of the university) over to the Legon Police for investigation.” 

Ameyaw-Buronyah said the university condemns the assault, while noting anyone affiliated with the university who is determined to be involved in the incident will be appropriately punished.

“The University of Ghana strongly denounces the assault and denigration perpetrated by the persons seen in the videos posted on social media on the victim, and strongly condemns such acts of lawlessness,” said Ameyaw-Buronyah. “The University of Ghana would like to affirm its commitment to the safety, dignity and inclusivity of all persons, as stated in its statutes.

LGBT+ Rights Ghana dismissed Ameyaw-Buronyah’s statement, and urged the university to reassess its position.

“The assertion that the victim was first assaulted by women and then by a refuse collector upon the discovery of their ‘true gender’ appears unsubstantiated and seeks to rationalize the victim’s abuse as a consequence of crossdressing,” said LGBT+ Rights Ghana. “Moreso, the assertion that the refuse collector would intervene and continue the assault without questioning, involving, stripping, beating, parading, filming and posting the video online flies in the face of logic and raises concerns about the level of security provided to students and visitors at the Legon campus. This claim does not just make any sense and depicts an attempt by the University authorities to cover up the truth as to what happened.”

“Even without having done any cursory investigation, the university authorities seem to excuse the actions of the perpetrators while unfairly placing the blame on the victim,” added the advocacy group. “This approach further blames the victim as the cause of what harm was perpetrated against them rather than seeking the justice they deserve.” 

LGBT+ Rights Ghana urged other human rights organizations to work together to safeguard the rights and dignity of LGBTQ+ individuals in Ghana. It also said it is willing to work closely with the university if needed.

Rightify Ghana also criticized Ameyaw-Buronyah’s statements.

“Unfortunately this seems to indirectly victim-blame the individual involved, despite the claim that neither of the parties is a student,” said Rightify Ghana. “The university has a responsibility to address such incidents transparently, protect the rights of individuals on its campus, and ensure the safety and well-being of all students.”

Rightify Ghana further urged the university “to reevaluate and improve its response to this incident, taking into account the serious nature of the crimes committed.” 

“It is essential to prioritize the rights and safety of individuals over preserving an image that fails to address the gravity of the situation at hand,” said Rightify Ghana.

The Center for Democratic Development – Ghana demanded the university launch an immediate investigation into the incident.

“CDD-Ghana condemns the recent incident involving the beating, abuse, and violations of the rights of an individual at the University of Ghana for allegedly being gay,” said the organization. “The center also condemns the filming of this barbaric action and the circulation of videos across social media. All individuals, including the victims involved in the incident, are presumed to be students at the university.”

Eduwatch called for increased security on all university campuses in the country.

“We regret that such cruel treatment was recorded on video and circulated on social media,” it said. “Eduwatch condemns in no uncertain terms this criminal inhumane and degrading act which violates the individual’s right to dignity and freedom from inhumane and degrading treatment as enshrined in Article 15 of the 1992 constitution.”

The Ghana Education Service earlier this month issued a code of conduct in primary and secondary schools. Section 2.16 (k) states any sexual conduct between students of the same sex shall constitute misconduct.

The new code of conduct has sparked concern among advocacy organizations that see it as a way to ensure those who identify as LGBTQ+ are silenced and treated as social delinquents. The Promotion of Proper Human Sexual Rights and Ghanaian Family Values Bill, which MPs first introduced in 2021, is meant to augment the 1960 criminal code that criminalizes so-called acts of unnatural carnal knowledge with up to three years’ imprisonment. 

The measure would prohibit same-sex sexual activities; same-sex marriages; use of sex toys; identifying as LGBTQ+; advocating for the LGBTQ+ community, even on social media platforms, and gender affirming surgeries, among other things.

The bill will most likely pass this year since most MPs are in favor of it.

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Trans woman brutally attacked in Namibia

Two men have been charged in connection with Jan. 4 attack

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Stay-C Lapworth (Photo courtesy of Lapworth's Facebook page)

WALVIS BAY, Namibia — Namibian advocacy groups have condemned the brutal attack of a 30-year-old Transgender woman on Jan. 4.

According to Namibia Equal Rights Movement, Shabombee Gift Shiaimenze and Jonathan Kamfwa attacked Stay-C Lapworth at a truck stop near the Narraville area of Walvis Bay, a city on the country’s coast.

The alleged suspects are said to have attacked Lapworth, who remains in intensive care after they left her for dead with a fractured skull, when one of the men realized she is a trans woman after sexually assaulting her.

“The rise in hate crimes and violence towards LGBTQI+ Namibians is a direct result of the passage of the anti-LGBTQI+ bill by the Namibian Parliament and the rise in religious extremism in Namibia, fanning the flames of hate by church leaders,” said Namibia Equal Rights Movement Campaign Manager Omar van Reenen. “By passing that bill, Parliament sent a license to discriminate, to assault, to incite violence and to kill, towards LGBTQI+ persons.” 

“Transgender Namibians are one of the most marginalized minority groups and have become increasingly at risk,” added van Reenen. “The heinous crime that took place showed that we have no safety measures or protection for our community. We will follow this case to ensure justice is served for Stay-C and homo-transphobes to be sent a message that hate will be held to account.” 

Wendelinus Ndiwakalunga Hamutenya-Jeremiah, a Namibian activist, said it remains a travesty that LGBTQ+ people in the country continue to face such attacks.

“Trans justice is justice for all. Discrimination against LGBTI people undermines the human rights principles outlined in the Namibian Constitution, yet discrimination and violence against LGBTI people particularly in the Trans community are all too common,” said Hamutenya-Jeremiah. “We fight for Trans liberation, we fight for a better world for us all. We are tired. We are angry and we are devastated, but we will not stop fighting for justice for Stay-C.” 

Hamutenya-Jeremiah noted some members of Namibia’s armed forces and police officers have been involved in racketeering, as opposed to protecting LGBTQ+ people. This mistreatment includes verbal harassment.

“More often than not, our people, their human rights are abused by the community including the Namibian Police who have a mandate to serve and protect all individuals, some LGBTI persons have been pushed to extremities including considering suicide as an escape to the pressures of their often constricted world,” said Hamutenya-Jeremiah. 

The Namibia Equal Rights Movement said authorities have denied bail to the two men who have been charged with attacking Lapworth. They will remain in custody until March 27, when the Walvis Bay Magistrate Court will hear their case.

The Namibia Equal Rights Movement has also cautioned President Hage Geingob from signing the 2023 anti-LGBTQ+ bill into law, which the group says would subject activists and businesses, organizations and corporations who openly support LGBTQ+ people or their queer employees to prison time and N$100,000 ($5,000.)

Advocacy groups maintain the measure is unconstitutional.

“Mothers, fathers, families and friends of LGBTQI+ persons who openly support them may be imprisoned or fined, LGBTQI+ organizations and non-profits will be prohibited and outlawed from operating or registering,” said the Namibia Equal Rights Movement. “LGBTQI+ children who openly identify as queer may be imprisoned or fined, same-sex marriages recognized abroad will be nullified and prohibited domestically.” 

The country’s Supreme Court last year ruled Namibia must recognize same-sex marriages that are legally performed abroad.

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Ugandan activist blames anti-LGBTQ+ politicians, religious leaders for stabbing

Steven Kabuye attacked outside home on Jan. 3

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Steven Kabuye (Photo via X)

KAMPALA, Uganda — A prominent Ugandan activist who was stabbed last week said politicians and religious leaders who are stoking anti-LGBTQ+ sentiments in the country are responsible for the attack.

“The situation in the country where our politicians and religious leaders, people are calling for the death of LGBTQI+ (community) members in Uganda has led to people to think it’s okay to kill someone just because he’s different, just because he was born different,” Steven Kabuye told the Washington Blade on Monday during a telephone interview.

Kabuye is the co-executive director of Coloured Voice Truth to LGBTQ Uganda.

He told the Blade that two men on motorcycles who were wearing helmets attacked him near his home on Jan. 3 while he was going to work. Kabuye said one of the men stabbed him while the other remained on the motorcycle.

“I don’t know who tried to end my life,” he said.

Kabuye posted a video to his X account that showed him on the ground writhing in pain with a deep laceration on his right forearm and a knife embedded in his stomach.

Paramedics brought Kabuye to the hospital after his roommate found him. Kabuye on Saturday left Uganda in order to receive additional treatment outside of the country.

Kabuye did not identify the country from which he spoke to the Blade.

“I left the country because my security couldn’t be guaranteed,” he said, noting the doctors who were treating him in Uganda received threatening phone calls. Kabuye also said Ugandan authorities did not allow journalists to interview him at the hospital. “It put my security at risk, and it was recommended I should move outside of the country to get more treatment … for my own safety.”

The stabbing took place less than seven months after Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni signed his country’s Anti-Homosexuality Act, which contains a death penalty provision for “aggravated homosexuality.”

The State Department a few weeks after the Anti-Homosexuality Act took effect announced visa restrictions against unnamed Ugandan officials. The World Bank Group later announced the suspension of new loans to Uganda.

The Biden-Harris administration has removed Uganda from a program that allows sub-Saharan African countries to trade duty-free with the U.S. and has issued a business advisory for the country over the Anti-Homosexuality Act. Secretary of State Antony Blinken last month announced sanctions against current and former Ugandan officials who committed human rights abuses against LGBTQ+ people and other groups.

Uganda’s Constitutional Court on Dec. 18 heard arguments in a lawsuit that challenges the Anti-Homosexuality Act.

Kabuye said he had received death threats online before the attack “because of the work I do,” and added he continues to receive them. 

“According to what was transpiring on the internet, the death threats and everything and what transpired after that video went viral on Twitter really shows that the people who wanted to end my life wanted to end my life because of my sexuality,” said Kabuye. 

Kabuye told the Blade a police spokesperson concluded he “stabbed myself” after authorities took a report from him. 

A State Department spokesperson last week in a statement to the Blade urged the Ugandan government to investigate Kabuye’s stabbing and prosecute those who perpetrated it. Kabuye told the Blade the U.S. Embassy in Uganda asked for his phone number, but American officials have yet to reach out to him directly. 

Republican Michigan Congressman Tim Walberg last October defended the Anti-Homosexuality Act in a speech he gave at Uganda’s National Prayer Breakfast. The Young Turks reported Museveni is among those who attended the event.

The Blade asked Kabuye about Walberg and his defense of the Anti-Homosexuality Act.

“If it wasn’t for these people, the evangelists that have been flocking in Uganda preaching their anti-gay agenda all over the country, funding the Anti-Homosexuality Act 2023, this wouldn’t have happened,” said Kabuye, referring to the stabbing.

‘I’m going to come back stronger’

Kabuye said he lost “a lot of blood” when the men stabbed him, but he remains hopeful that he will recover. A fund has also been established in order to help Kabuye pay for his treatment.

“I can barely stand or sit for more than five minutes, but the doctors say I’ll be fine as time moves on as I continue my medication,” Kabuye told the Blade.

Kabuye said he plans to return to Uganda once he recovers.

“Even though it’s not safe for me, that’s where my home is and that’s where I should return,” he said.

Kabuye added the stabbing “will just make me stronger.”

“This really showed that what I’m doing is putting up an impact on the society,” he said. “That’s why they are scared of me. That’s why they want to end my life.” 

“This really shows that yes, Steven, the little work you’ve done is seen out there and we are in fear that the more you continue doing this work, the more you’re going to win your freedom,” added Kabuye. “I’m not going to back down and I’m going to continue with my activism the moment I’m back on my feet and I’m going to come back stronger.”

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Catholic bishops in Africa oppose blessings for same-sex couples

Pope Francis pronouncement has sparked criticism among clergy

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Pope Francis celebrates Mass at a Roman military cemetery. (Photo Credit: Vatican Press Office)

NAIROBI, Kenya — The Vatican on Thursday moved to quell opposition to Pope Francis’ approval for Catholic priests to bless same-sex couples in response strong resistance from some bishops’ conferences, mostly in Africa. 

 The Vatican’s statement clarifying the pope’s controversial declaration last month acknowledged the dissenting bishops’ concerns by assuring them that the move was not “heretical” or “blasphemous” to the Catholic Church’s doctrines on marriage and sexuality. 

The statement from the Vatican’s doctrinal office, the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, also holds that the blessings for same-sex couples should not be perceived as “a justification of all their actions and they are not an endorsement of the life that they lead.” 

The five-page statement that Cardinal Victor Manuel Fernández, who is an advisor to Francis, signed further notes “if there are laws that condemn the mere act of declaring oneself as homosexual with prison and in some cases with torture and even death, it goes without saying that a blessing would be imprudent.”

The Vatican observed that Catholic bishops from such homophobic environments “do not wish to expose homosexual persons to violence” and urged “pastoral prudence” to navigate punitive local laws and situations in administering simple, short blessings to same-sex partners, but not as church rituals or resemble a wedding.  

Despite this clarification on Catholic priests blessing people in same-sex relationships, the dissenting African bishops’ conferences have vowed to stick to the church’s old, Biblical order that recognizes marriage between a man and a woman, and homosexuality as a sin. 

The Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops through a statement maintains that they do not bless people for what it asserts are immoral actions in which they engage. The KCCB said it hopes the blessings and prayers offered to them as human beings would provoke them to return to God’s ways. 

“The work of the church is to gather the scattered, recover the lost and redirect all sinners back to the fount of salvation and eternal life and that is Jesus Christ our savior,” said Rev. Martin Kiviva, who chairs the KCCB. “No blessing can be understood outside the context of God’s will and the salvation and invitation to Communion with God.”

The Nairobi Archbishop Philip Anyolo concurred with Kivuva and prohibited priests in Kenya’s capital from blessing “irregular relationships, unions or same-sex couples.”     

“Any form of blessing of same-sex unions and activities would go against God’s word, the teachings of the church, the African cultural traditions, the laws of our nations and would be scandalous to the faithful,” Anyolo stated. 

Catholic Bishops in Tanzania, where homosexuality is prohibited under the law with prison terms just like in Kenya, have also opposed the blessing of same-sex partners. 

Bishop Flavian Kassala, vice chair of the Tanzania Episcopal Conference, on Dec. 25 dismissed the existence of same-sex unions which he termed as “dirty” and contravenes God’s covenant on marriage and procreation. He vowed that he would rather bless a “stone” for his faithful to construct a house with than blessing same-sex couples. 

Uganda’s Episcopal Conference, which Bishop Anthony Zziwa chairs, on Dec. 25 weighed in Vatican’s declaration by stating that his country criminalizes homosexuality and affirmed that blessing same-sex couples would be breaking the law.   

“Culturally, same-sex marriage has no room in Uganda and Africa,” Zziwa said at a press briefing. “The purpose of marriage is to have children. People of the same sex can’t get married and fulfill this purpose as stated in the book of Genesis.” 

The East African clerics’ position on Francis’ pronouncement also received Burundian President Évariste Ndayishimiye’s backing. The staunch Catholic on Dec. 30 criticized same-sex unions as “abominable practice” and that gay couples should be publicly stoned.

Other Catholic bishops’ conferences in Africa that have opposed the Vatican’s declaration for priests to bless same-sex couples include those in Rwanda, Zambia, Nigeria, Malawi, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, Togo and Angola. 

The Zambia Conference of Catholic Bishops noted that same-sex unions and activities are illegal in the country and that the blessing of gay couples cannot be implemented there. 

“The conference would like to earnestly invite all those involved in same-sex unions to embark on the path of conversion with greater trust in God’s mercy and love; God whose ‘eyes are drawn to the person of humbled and contrite spirit,’” Archbishop Ignatius Chama, who is the ZCCB’s president, said in a statement that other clerics signed.    

Archbishop Lucius Ugorji, president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria, meanwhile, also held that it is impossible to bless same-sex unions and acts as it goes against God’s law, the church’s teachings, Nigeria’s laws and the cultural sensibilities of citizens.  

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