Namibian Supreme Court hears three LGBTQ+ rights cases
Consensual same-sex sexual relations remain criminalized
WINDHOEK, Namibia — The Supreme Court of Namibia will soon issue rulings in three pivotal cases involving LGBTQ+ and intersex people that will set a precedent for the recognition of same-sex marriages and spousal immigration rights for non-Namibian partners.
Furthermore, a case is soon to be heard in the country’s high court that will challenge the southern African nation’s antiquated sodomy law.
These cases have incited public debate around LGBTQ+ and intersex rights in a country where homosexuality is a controversial and polarizing subject.
This is the first time since 2001 that Namibia’s highest court will hear cases regarding same-sex relationships. It is also the first time the high court will hear arguments regarding the sodomy law.
The first hearing, which took place on March 3, was the joint cases of Digashu and Seiler-Lilles versus the government.
The applicants — both foreign nationals married to Namibian citizens — in both cases are seeking recognition of their marriages concluded outside Namibia in order to access spousal immigration rights such as permanent residence and employment authorization.
The second hearing, which took place on March 6, was in the case of a Namibian man married to a Mexican man seeking citizenship by descent for their children born via surrogate. The government has demanded DNA testing to prove that the Namibian national is the biological father to the children.
In the last case, a gay Namibian man is not only challenging the constitutionality of the country’s sodomy law but also the prohibition of “unnatural sexual offenses.”
While the cases represent a crucial moment for the country’s LGBTQ+ and intersex community and their rights, individual people and families fighting a fight bigger than they had foreseen are at the center of these cases.
Marriage, immigration and the law
South African citizen Daniel Digashu married Namibian national Johann Potgieter in South Africa in 2015. The couple and their son moved to Namibia in 2017.
While the move was favorable for the family, the law around same-sex marriage was not.
Digashu’s first encounter with the Home Affairs and Immigration Ministry was not to have them officially recognize his marriage. He was applying for a permit allowing him to work in the country in the company that he jointly started with his husband.
“We’ve always had a dream to live on a farm and run this tourism company. We registered the company first, about six months before we officially moved,” Digashu said.
He said the ministry advised him against applying for permanent residency because the country does not recognize his marriage. Officials instead told him to seek a work permit.
Despite assurances from the ministry’s personnel, the application was denied. Digashu filed an appeal, and that was denied too.
From this moment to today, Digashu has lived a life in limbo.
Due to the ongoing court cases, he is able to renew his visitor’s visa every few months. This, he said, comes with exhausting administrative costs that legal fees exacerbate.
Digashu said the process has put psychological, emotional and financial strain on his family.
“Prior to finding funding it had been quite difficult financially. It is not something that a lot of people would afford. I don’t think we even could afford it. That’s why we sought out and looked for funding and luckily we found that,” he said.
As they await the judgment of their hearing, everything remains the same for Digashu and his family: His husband remains the sole breadwinner as Digashu himself still cannot work.
Namibian citizen Anette Seiler and her German wife Anita Seiler-Lilles face the same dilemma.
Neither expected to become cornerstones of the advocacy around marriage equality and LGBTQ and intersex rights in Namibia.
“We didn’t plan to come to Namibia in the early 2000s,” said Seiler. “We thought we might want to come back when Anita didn’t have to work anymore, and that would be many years later. So, we didn’t think so much in terms of gay rights in Namibia at that time.”
“It was a very personal thing for us to get married. We were not active in Namibia or Germany in the gay community,” she added.
Both couples have received copious amounts of support from the local LGBTQ+ and intersex community and civil society as they fight to be afforded the same spousal rights that would be granted to opposite-sex couples.
Citizenship by descent and the right to family
As Namibia grapples with the recognition of same-sex marriages, the right to family and protections of them is another matter that has come under scrutiny.
Namibian citizen Phillip Lühl and his husband, Mexican national Guillermo Delgado, are fighting for their children born via surrogacy to be granted Namibian citizenship by descent.
Delgado and Lühl say they are fighting for their children’s birthright.
While both fathers are listed on the children’s South African birth certificates, the Namibian government has demanded DNA proof that Lühl is the biological parent of the children.
“The fact is that any other South African birth certificate is accepted but in our case it’s not because we’re of the same sex. In the case of a heterosexual couple, nobody will ever ask for any proof or dispute the validity of the document, but in our case it is,” Lühl said.
The children have been granted Mexican citizenship by descent after a rigorous process that ended with the country’s Foreign Affairs Ministry granting it.
“They initially were not favorable but concluded that Mexico would recognize a process that was duly and procedurally done in a constituency that they recognize, namely South Africa,” Delgado explained.
The family nevertheless plans to stay in Namibia and continue to fight the government for their children’s birthright and the recognition of their family.
Their case scrutinizes the ambit of the Namibian Constitution, which affords all its citizens protection against discrimination and the right to family.
‘Apartheid-era’ sodomy law
In the final case, Namibian gay activist Friedel Dausab has filed a constitutional challenge against the common law crime of sodomy and the prohibition of “unnatural” sexual acts.
Dausab brought a case against the government in June 2020 stating that the law promotes stigma and exclusion, and instigates the criminalization of consensual same-sex sexual acts between men.
Dausab argues that the offenses under the law are incompatible with the constitutional rights to equality, dignity, privacy, freedom of association and freedom of expression. He also argues that the crime of “unnatural sexual offenses” is too vague to be compatible with the constitution.
“I am challenging these laws as a lifelong and dedicated activist because I am acutely aware that criminalization is a clear obstacle to living a full, open, honest and healthy life,” he said.
Namibian Attorney General Festus Mbandeka in a recent affidavit he submitted to the high court said same-sex sexual conduct is immoral and unacceptable to many Namibians. Mbandeka further denied the existence of the sodomy law stigmatizes gay men.
“If these men suffer any stigma it is in consequence of their choice to engage in sexual conduct considered to be morally taboo in our society,” Mbandeka said.
While it is reported that 64 sodomy-related arrests were made between 2003-2019, the offenses are rarely enforced. The country’s Criminal Procedure Act 51 of 1977 nevertheless lists “sodomy” as a Schedule 1 offense.
The U.K.-based organization Human Dignity Trust says this listing means that either a police officer or an ordinary citizen can arrest anyone who is reasonably suspected of having committed the offense without needing a warrant. It is legal to use lethal force to kill them if the suspect attempts to evade arrest.
Namibia remains one of the few countries in southern Africa that is yet to abolish its sodomy law. Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique and South Africa have already done so.
Kenyan MPs approve resolution to ban public discussions of LGBTQ+ issues
Some lawmakers argue motion threatens freedom of expression
NAIROBI, Kenya — Kenya’s parliament has overwhelmingly passed a motion for the government to enforce an immediate ban on “public discussion, reporting and distribution” of LGBTQ+ content in the country.
It passed on Wednesday, despite some legislators raising concerns that it is a threat to the freedom of expression, information and the media protected under the Kenyan Constitution.
Owen Baya, an MP from the ruling United Democratic Alliance party who also serves as National Assembly’s deputy majority leader, termed the motion “controversial” and questioned why it was allowed for debate in the House, even though it violates the law.
“The republic of Kenya is governed by the Constitution. How can we prohibit freedom of speech? Freedom of speech, reporting and distribution of information are constitutional rights even if same-sex relations are illegal in Kenya,” Baya said.
The Article 33 of the Constitution under the freedom of expression requires every person to respect the rights and reputation of others.
Section 2 of the same Article 33, however, curtails freedom of speech when it amounts to war propaganda, incitement to violence, hate speech and advocacy to hatred such as ethnic incitement, vilification of others or incitement to cause harm.
Article 32, which Baya also cited, provides the right to freedom of conscience, religion, thought, belief and opinion in addition to Article 34 which guarantees the freedom and independence of electronic, print, and all other types of media.
The sponsor of the anti-gay motion, Mohamed Ali, an MP from the ruling party and a celebrated investigative journalist, in response argued that publicizing homosexuality, which is outlawed in the country, violates the constitution that only recognizes marriage between a man and a woman.
“The constitution gives us the freedom of expression, but not about gay and lesbianism which are unlawful practices in Kenya,” Ali said.
The legislator stated that his motion banning LGBTQ+ publicity is motivated by an increase in homosexuality in the country because of LGBTQ+-specific content in books and in print and broadcast media.
The government is already cracking down on foreign teenage books with LGBTQ+ content.
The Education Ministry and the church have also formed a Chaplains Committee chaired by Kenya’s Anglican Bishop Jackson Ole Sapit to counter what he describes as the infiltration of homosexuality in schools. The committee’s mandate include counseling students who identify as LGBTQ+.
“We recognize that publishing and distributing homosexual content through the press has serious consequences to the family values and opposite-sex relations that should be protected since the increase in same-sex relations threatens the extinction of human beings in the country,” the motion reads.
The move to curtail homosexuality is also in response to last month’s Supreme Court ruling that granted the LGBTQ+ community the right to register as non-governmental organization.
The judges’ decision sparked anger and criticism from religious leaders and politicians, including President William Ruto, who has instructed the attorney general to have it overturned through an appeal.
The motion that lawmakers approved on Wednesday calls for the police and judiciary to enforce it through the Section 162 of the Penal Code that criminalizes consensual same-sex relations with a 14-year jail term and sets the pace for the introduction of an anticipated anti-homosexuality bill that is being drafted.
Opposition MP Peter Kaluma, who sponsored the bill that seeks to further criminalize and punish homosexuality and the promotion of LGBTQ+ activities in Kenya, last month notified the National Assembly Speaker about its introduction in the House.
U.S. Ambassador to Kenya Meg Whitman came under fire during the debate on the motion because of her recent remarks in defense of the LGBTQ+ and intersex community that she made after she met with a group of activists.
“She should respect our religious beliefs, African and Kenyan culture, and our constitution the way we respect the U.S. Constitution. We won’t allow the American culture of gay and lesbianism to rule in Kenya and I ask Whitman to practice the American in the U.S. and the Kenyan culture be left to Kenyans,” Ali said.
The lawmakers also criticized the West, particularly the U.S., for championing LGBTQ+ and intersex rights in what they termed as engaging in serious reengineering of the world order to destroy other people’s cultures and humanity.
The parliament’s move to curtail consensual same-sex rights in Kenya comes at a time when Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni is being pressured by the U.N., the U.S. and other Western nations not to sign into law a bill that bans people from identifying as LGBTQ+ or intersex. Kenyan lawmakers have applauded their Ugandan counterparts for passing the measure, while urging Museveni to assent to it without bowing to any pressure from the Western nations since his firm opposition to homosexuality has made him East Africa’s role model.
Uganda lawmakers approve new anti-homosexuality bill
Measure would ‘criminalize’ LGBTQ, intersex people
KAMPALA, Uganda — Ugandan lawmakers on Tuesday approved a bill that would further criminalize consensual same-sex sexual relations and LGBTQ+ and intersex people in the country.
The Associated Press reported nearly all Ugandan MPs voted for the 2023 Anti-Homosexuality Bill, which would punish the “promotion, recruitment and funding” of LGBTQ-specific activities in the country with up to 10 years in prison.
Human Rights Watch notes “any person who ‘holds out as a lesbian, gay, transgender, a queer, or any other sexual or gender identity that is contrary to the binary categories of male and female'” would face up to 10 years in prison.
President Yoweri Museveni has said he supports the bill.
“We shall continue to fight this injustice,” tweeted Jacqueline Kasha Nabagesara, a Ugandan LGBTQ+ and intersex activist, after the bill’s passage. “This lesbian woman is Ugandan, even (though) this piece of paper will stop me from enjoying my country. (The) struggle (has) just begun.”
Anti homosexuality bill passed by @Parliament_Ug of Uganda. Organized crime in e house of our country is very unfortunate. We shall continue to fight this injustice. This lesbian woman is Ugandan even this piece of paper will stop me from enjoying my country. Struggle just begun pic.twitter.com/v3Pf0p9FPX
— Bombastic Kasha (@KashaJacqueline) March 21, 2023
Uganda is among the dozens of countries in which consensual same-sex sexual relations remain criminalized.
Museveni in 2014 signed the Anti-Homosexuality Act, which imposed a life sentence upon anyone found guilty of repeated same-sex sexual acts. The law was known as the “Kill the Gays” bill because it previously contained a death penalty provision.
The U.S. subsequently cut aid to Uganda and imposed a travel ban against officials who carried out human rights abuses. Uganda’s Constitutional Court later struck down the 2014 Anti-Homosexuality Act on a technicality.
“One of the most extreme features of this new bill is that it criminalizes people simply for being who they are as well as further infringing on the rights to privacy, and freedoms of expression and association that are already compromised in Uganda,” said Oryem Nyeko of Human Rights Watch in a press release that condemned the 2023 Anti-Homosexuality Act. “Ugandan politicians should focus on passing laws that protect vulnerable minorities and affirm fundamental rights and stop targeting LGBT people for political capital.”
Secretary of State Antony Blinken and State Department spokesperson Vedant Patel on Wednesday both criticized the bill.
“The Anti-Homosexuality Act passed by the Ugandan Parliament yesterday would undermine fundamental human rights of all Ugandans and could reverse gains in the fight against HIV/AIDS,” tweeted Blinken. “We urge the Ugandan government to strongly reconsider the implementation of this legislation.”
“We note with deep concern the Anti-Homosexuality Act passed by the Ugandan Parliament,” echoed Patel. “This bill could reverse gains in the fight against HIV/AIDS, discourage foreign investment, threaten tourism, and decrease visits of technical experts helping to advance Ugandan prosperity.”
We note with deep concern the Anti-Homosexuality Act passed by the Ugandan Parliament. This bill could reverse gains in the fight against HIV/AIDS, discourage foreign investment, threaten tourism, and decrease visits of technical experts helping to advance Ugandan prosperity. https://t.co/ASLHpqrcSF
— Vedant Patel (@StateDeputySpox) March 22, 2023
U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk in a statement described the bill’s passage as “devastating and deeply disturbing.”
“The passing of this discriminatory bill — probably among the worst of its kind in the world — is a deeply troubling development,” said Türk. “If signed into law by the president, it will render lesbian, gay and bisexual people in Uganda criminals simply for existing, for being who they are. It could provide carte blanche for the systematic violation of nearly all of their human rights and serve to incite people against each other.”
LGBTQ+, intersex Ghanaians in limbo as lawmakers consider harsh ‘family values’ bill
Soldiers earlier this month raided gay party in Accra
ACCRA, Ghana — Ghana’s LGBTQ+ and intersex community is currently in limbo over whether the government will impose more harsh penalties upon those who identify as LGBTQ+ or intersex.
Parliamentarians in 2021 introduced the Promotion of Proper Human Sexual Rights and Ghanaian Family Values Bill that would fully criminalize LGBTQ+ and intersex people, along with advocacy groups and anyone who comes out in support of them.
The measure would criminalize cross-dressing, public affection between two people of the same sex, marriage among same-sex couples or the intent to marry someone who is the same sex. The bill would also prohibit corrective therapy or surgery for intersex people.
Any person or group seen as promoting identities or prohibited acts in the bill or campaigning in support of LGBTQ+ and intersex people would face up to 10 years in prison. Any person who does not report consensual same-sex sexual acts could also face charges.
A parliamentary committee is currently reviewing the measure, but LGBTQ+ and intersex Ghanaians continue to be victimized and assaulted under existing law that criminalizes consensual same-sex sexual relations.
Ghanaian soldiers earlier this month stormed a gay party in Accra, the Ghanaian capital, and assaulted two people who were attending it.
“Military men stormed and disrupted a birthday party of alleged gay men in James Town, Accra. According to reports, some of the partygoers were injured and bled, following the military attack on the alleged LGBTQ+ persons at the party,” said Rightify Ghana, an LGBTQ+ and intersex rights group, in a statement. “We urge the authorities to investigate these incidents and hold those responsible accountable for their actions. The use of excessive force against civilians is never justifiable and only serves to create further division and mistrust.
“We stand in solidarity with the victims of these attacks and call on all Ghanaians to come together in support of peace and tolerance,” added Rightify Ghana. “Discrimination and violence have no place in our society, and we must all work together to create a safe and inclusive environment for all.”
Kwame Afrifa, CEO of Reflex Ghana, another LGBTQ+ and intersex rights group, said the Accra raid was not the first time such an event has happened. Afrifa said making the country’s armed forces more sensitive to LGBTQ+ and intersex rights would help curtal such incidents.
“There have been a few cases I have heard of this year and in previous years such as the closing of the LGBT+ Rights Ghana safe space, the destroying of billboards belonging to LGBT+ Rights Ghana, the arrest of human rights activists which also happened somewhere last year amongst others I haven’t come across,” said Afrifa. “Nevertheless, sensitizing LGBT+ issues would help in abating the victimization as most people are ignorant of the laws of the land and try to abuse the rights of queer persons.”
Rightify Ghana said categorizing the existence of LGBTQ+ and intersex people and labeling consensual intimacy between people of the same sex as deviant is a legacy of colonialism.
“The Promotion of Proper Human Sexual Rights and Ghanaian Family Values Bill, 2021 will continue to be a pattern of dehumanizing and silencing LGBTQ+ people, isolating them from support networks. It will also minimize, and even cover up, human rights violations,” said Rightify Ghana. “We therefore, recommend that the Committee on Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs recommend that the Parliament of Ghana reject the Promotion of Proper Human Sexual Rights and Ghanaian Family Values Bill in its entirety.”
Ghana is among the dozens of countries in which consensual same-sex sexual relations remain criminalized.
The country is one of the 10 non-permanent U.N. Security Council members. A representative from Ghana on Monday during a meeting that U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield hosted said the Security Council is not an appropriate venue to discuss LGBTQ+ and intersex rights.
Daniel Itai is the Washington Blade’s Africa Correspondent.
U.S. ambassador to Kenya: Every country must make ‘own decisions’ about LGBTQ+ rights
Meg Whitman’s March 3 comments raised eyebrows
KAJIADO, Kenya — U.S. Ambassador to Kenya Meg Whitman earlier this month said every country “has to make their own decisions about” LGBTQ+ and intersex rights.
“Every country has to make their own decisions about LGBTQ rights,” she said on March 3 while speaking to reporters in Kenya’s Kajiado County. “In the United States we probably have a different position, which is we view LBTQ rights as human rights, but we respect every country’s point of view on what position they want to take on this and we will respect that, but of course our democratic values and the way we feel is different and that’s okay.”
“Countries have differences,” added Whitman. “We have a very strong working relationship over many years and I think the Kenyan government probably knows the U.S. perspective, in fact I know they do, but we also respect Kenya’s right over this particular issue.”
Kenya is among the countries in which consensual same-sex sexual relations remain criminalized.
The Kenyan Supreme Court on Feb. 24 ruled the National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, an LGBTQ+ and intersex rights group, must be allowed to register as a non-governmental organization. The country’s groundbreaking intersex rights law took effect last July.
President William Ruto last September told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour before he took office that LGBTQ+ and intersex rights are “not a big issue” in his country. His government last month began to crack down on foreign books with gay content that it feels targets teenagers.
President Joe Biden in 2021 signed a memo that committed the U.S. to promoting LGBTQ+ and intersex rights abroad as part of the Biden-Harris administration’s overall foreign policy.
First lady Jill Biden on Feb. 25 spoke with young people about condoms, contraception and safer sex practices during her visit to the Shujaaz Konnect Festival in Nairobi, the Kenyan capital. Whitman on March 3 told reporters the $123,124,278.40 (16 billion Kenyan shillings) in aid the U.S. has given to Kenya for food and drought relief is not connected to the country’s LGBTQ+ and intersex rights policies.
“I want to underscore there is absolutely no linkage at all between that food and drought relief and Kenya’s stance on LGBTQ,” said Whitman.
A State Department spokesperson on Monday in a statement to the Washington Blade said “our position on the human rights of LGBTQI+ persons is clear. Human rights are universal.”
“A person’s ability to exercise their rights should never be limited based on sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or sex characteristics,” said the spokesperson. “Governments should protect and promote respect for human rights for each and every human being, without discrimination, and they should abide by their human rights obligations and commitments.”
Whitman on Monday in a tweet reiterated this point. She also said she met with LGBTQ+ and intersex activists.
“Over the past week my team and I met with the LGBTQI+ community and stakeholders to support human rights of LGBTQI+ persons,” tweeted Whitman. “The U.S. proudly advances efforts to protect LGBTQI+ persons from discrimination and violence and will continue to stand up for human rights and equality.”
Over the past week my team and I met with the LGBTQI+ community & stakeholders to support human rights of LGBTQI+ persons. The U.S. proudly advances efforts to protect LGBTQI+ persons from discrimination & violence and will continue to stand up for human rights & equality.
— U.S. Ambassador Meg Whitman (@USAmbKenya) March 14, 2023
South Sudan curtails security agency’s ability to arbitrarily arrest people
National Security Services accused of targeting LGBTQ+, intersex people
JUBA, South Sudan — Human rights groups have welcomed the scrapping of South Sudan’s National Security Services’ unfettered powers to arrest people.
President Salva Kiir Mayardit and First Vice President Riek Machar last month scrapped Section 54 and 55 that allowed an arrest without a warrant and arrest with a warrant respectively under the National Security Service Act of 2014. Many human rights organizations had called for the government to restrict the powers of the NSS, which has caused many LGBTQ+ and intersex people to flee to the Kakuma refugee camp in neighboring Kenya.
“The SSHRDN (the South Sudan Human Rights Defenders Network) welcomes the recent proclamation by the Cabinet Affairs Minister, Dr. Martin Elia Lumoro, on behalf of the Revitalized Transitional Government of National Unity declaring that the NSS no longer has the power to arrest with or without a warrant,” said the South Sudan Human Rights Defenders Network National Coordinator James Bidal.
Bidal in his statement notes human rights activists “have faulted” the National Security Service Act of 2014 “for giving” the NSS “police-like powers to arrest, detain conduct searchers and seize property without adequate safeguards and exceeding the NSS’ constitutional mandate, which limits its powers to information gathering, analysis and advice to the relevant authorities.”
“Human rights organizations have documented human rights violations by the NSS including arbitrary arrests and prolonged detention, including of political opponents and government critics,” said Bidal. “As the Human rights defenders’ network, we commit to continue defending and advocating for human rights of every person in the country and continue to exploring meaningful ways to collaborate and work with government, legislature, the judiciary, civil society, the South Sudan Human Rights Commission, media, academia, individual human rights defenders, international non-profit organizations, United Nations agencies and the diplomatic corporations.”
Carine Kaneza Nantulya, the deputy director of the Human Rights Watch in Africa, notes the NSS was established at independence in 2011 to collect information, conduct analysis, and advise relevant authorities however. It, however, repeatedly overstepped this constitutional mandate.
“Worryingly, NSS abuses also stretch beyond South Sudan’s borders,” said Nantulya. “In some cases, it has harassed and repressed South Sudanese activists in Kenya and Uganda with the aid of local authorities. South Sudanese authorities should immediately open an investigation into the security service abuses and hold officers to account while ensuring redress for victims. The investigation should include the role of senior leadership of the NSS in perpetuating abuses. The African Union and South Sudan’s neighbors should apply consistent diplomatic pressure to ensure these reforms. This could help transform the NSS into an agency that respects fundamental rights and freedoms not only in South Sudan, but the region.”
Flavia Mwangovya, Amnesty International’s deputy regional director for East and Southern Africa, also said the NSS operates a spy network that extends throughout East Africa where many South Sudanese have found refuge.
Mwangovya said at least four South Sudanese men — three of whom were refugees who had received protection in Kenya — since January 2017 have been illegally picked up and transferred back to South Sudan. They were held in prolonged detention at Blue House, the NSS’ detention facility, and two of them were reportedly killed extrajudicially.
“Since the NSS Act in 2014, the NSS has accumulated unchecked powers, becoming one of the main perpetrators of human rights violations and the most powerful security actor in South Sudan,” said Mwangovya.
Consensual same-sex sexual relations remain criminalized in South Sudan under the country’s 2008 penal code that criminalizes “acts of carnal knowledge against the order of nature” and “gross indecency.” These provisions carry a maximum penalty of 14 years in prison and a fine.
Daniel Itai is the Washington Blade’s Africa Correspondent.
Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania move to further curtail LGBTQ+ rights
Ugandan MPs considering another anti-homosexuality bill
KAMPALA, Uganda — Three East African countries are tightening the noose on the so-called promotion of homosexuality through new laws and banning LGBTQ+-specific content.
Lawmakers in Uganda and Kenya have introduced bills that would curtail the promotion of LGBTQ+-specific activities with stiff penalties above their respective penal codes that criminalize consensual same-sex sexual relations. Tanzania has recently banned LGBTQ+-specific books.
Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill, 2022, would sentence anyone who identifies with “lesbianism, gay, transgender, queer or any other sexual or gender identity contrary to the binary categories of male and female” to 10 years in prison.
The proposed law that was set to be tabled any time after its postponement on Wednesday for further preparation would impose a 5-year prison sentence or a fine of around $27,000 or both to anyone who is found guilty of promoting homosexuality in Uganda. The measure’s definition of promotion includes production, procuring, marketing, broadcasting, disseminating using electronic devices, publishing LGBTQ+ pornography and funding or sponsoring homosexuality.
Uganda’s latest move follows a growing number of LGBTQ+-specific activities in the country that include the painting of rainbow colors at a children’s park in January that a local council removed because it went “against the norms of the people of Uganda.”
Moreover, Uganda’s NGO Bureau, which monitors NGOs that operate in the country, in January recommended a new law that “prohibits the promotion of LGBTQ activities in the country.”
Also, the move results from the Church of England’s decision earlier this year to allow its priests to bless same-sex couples. This angered the Anglican Church of Uganda and Muslims who called upon MPs to crack down on homosexuality through legislation.
Anyone convicted of providing a house, a brothel or any other place in which LGBTQ+-specific activities can take place could face up to seven years in jail under the new bill.
“Where the offender is a corporate body or a business or an association or a non-governmental organization, on conviction its certificate of registration shall be canceled and the director, proprietor or promoter shall be liable to two years imprisonment on conviction,” the bill reads.
Anyone found guilty of conducting a same-sex marriage could face up to two years in prison and the business that hosts such a ceremony could lose their business license.
The Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights has cautioned Uganda’s Parliament against proceeding with the bill, while noting that the “State has a duty to ensure full protection of all people from violence and discrimination regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.”
Frank Mugisha, a Ugandan LGBTQ+ and intersex rights activist, has raised concerns about a rising number of homophobic attacks committed by people and security officials in the country since January.
“The LGBTQ community continues to face a harsh operational environment, an increase in direct and indirect attacks, and surveillance in its spaces. This has made it difficult for LGBTQ organizations to do advocacy and deliver services to the communities because of the fear of being arrested by security agencies,” Mugisha said in a statement.
He has documented dozens of harassment and assault incidents to LGBTQ+ and intersex people, including one on February 18 where a Transgender woman residing in Kampala, the Ugandan capital, was assaulted at a friend’s party after discovering her gender.
In Kenya, a bill that would further criminalize and punish people who engage in homosexuality and promote it is poised to be introduced in the country’s Parliament.
“The proposed law intended to further the provision of Article 45 (2) of the Constitution of Kenya and to protect the family will not only consolidate the existing laws relating to unnatural sexual acts but also increase the penalty for those convicted of engaging or promoting the acts to imprisonment for life or consummate sentence,” reads the notification. “Article 45 (2) of the constitution provides that every adult has the right to marry a person of the opposite sex based on the free consent of the parties to start a family, which is recognized as the natural and fundamental unit of society.”
Last week’s Supreme Court ruling that allows an LGBTQ+ and intersex rights group, the National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, to register as an NGO after years of court battles with the country’s NGOs Board has elicited criticism from religious leaders, lawmakers, the president and Kenyans themselves.
“We respect our court’s decisions but in Kenya, we have our culture, traditions, and religious beliefs. We can’t go the road of women marrying women or men marrying men. Same-sex marriage will happen somewhere else and not in Kenya,” President William Ruto stated on March 2 at a women’s function in Nairobi, the country’s capital.
Pressure is mounting on the seven Supreme Court judges to reverse the ruling, with Attorney General Justin Muturi vowing to challenge it. Muslim and Christian groups have planned a March 17 protest against the ruling.
The ruling has put the judges in a bind since a Supreme Court decision is final and cannot be appealed in any court in the country. The East African Court of Justice, which is based in Arusha, Tanzania, can consider an appeal.
Critics of the ruling argue that the queer group does not deserve an association, since Kenya’s penal code criminalizes homosexuality and the Supreme Court decision gives leeway for legalizing it from an appeal pending in the country’s second highest court.
Thirteen groups that include the American Jewish World Service, Amnesty International-Kenya, the National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission and the Kenya Human Rights Commission on Thursday issued a joint statement in support of the ruling.
“The judgment has demonstrated the great strides that Kenya has taken to promote the rule of law, democracy, and human rights,” it reads.
The groups insist that granting the LGBTQ+ and intersex community the right to form associations is in line with the spirit of Kenya’s constitution, which guarantees freedom of expression under Article 33 and freedom of association under Article 27 without any form of discrimination.
Tanzania, which also criminalizes same-sex relations, has joined neighboring Kenya and Uganda in restricting LGBTQ+ and rights.
President Samia Suluhu last month described LGBTQ+ rights as “imported cultures” as she cautioned university students against it.
The Tanzanian government recently banned a popular series of children’s books from schools that contain LGBTQ+-specific content.
“The Diary of a Wimpy Kid” by U.S. author Jeff Kinney and another book, “Sex Education: A Guide to Life” were removed from libraries in public and private schools. The government has also committed to increasing its surveillance on books with LGBTQ+-specific content.
Kenyan Supreme Court rules LGBTQ+, intersex group can register as NGO
Former NGLHRC executive director brought case in 2013
NAIROBI, Kenya — The Kenyan Supreme Court on Friday in a 3-2 ruling said an LGBTQ+ and intersex rights group must be allowed to register as a non-governmental organization.
Eric Gitari, the former executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, in 2013 challenged the Kenya NGO Coordination Board’s decision not to allow him to register the NGLHRC as an NGO because it contained the words “gay” or “lesbian.”
The Kenyan High Court and the country’s Court of Appeal ruled in Gitari’s favor in 2015 and 2019 respectively.
“The court was of the view that the appellant’s decision was discriminatory and that it would be unconstitutional to limit the right to associate, through denial of registration of an association, purely on the basis of the sexual orientation of the applicants,” reads the ruling. “The court noted that by refusing to register the NGO, the persons were convicted before they contravened the law. The court however pointed out that all persons, whether heterosexual, lesbian, gay, intersex or otherwise, will be subject to sanctions if they contravene existing laws, including Sections 162, 163 and 165 of the Penal Code.”
NGLCC in a tweet described the ruling as a “victory for Kenya’s LGBTIQ+ community.”
BREAKING: Victory for Kenya’s LGBTIQ+ community as the Supreme Court affirms the right of the National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission to register as an NGO. #EqualityWins #FreedomOfAssociation #Victory #JusticePrevails pic.twitter.com/Uk4Pg2NXeV
— #Repeal162 because #LoveIsHuman (@NGLHRC) February 24, 2023
“The Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the lower courts’ rulings is a triumph for justice and human rights,” said NGLHRC Executive Director Njeri Gateru in a press release the Human Dignity Trust, a London-based human rights group, issued. “At a time where the Kenyan LGBTIQ+ community is decrying the increased targeting and violence; this decision affirms the spirit and intention of the Constitution to protect all Kenyans and guarantee their rights.”
Kenya is among the countries in which consensual same-sex sexual relations remain criminalized.
The Washington Blade earlier this month reported the Kenyan government is cracking down on foreign books with gay content that it feels targets teenagers. Discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity remains commonplace, but the country’s law that extended legal recognition and protections to intersex people took effect last summer. Kenya, according to the U.N. Refugee Agency, is the only country in the region that offers asylum to those who are fleeing anti-LGBTQ+ persecution.
The Supreme Court issued its ruling on the same day U.S. first lady Jill Biden arrived in Nairobi, the Kenyan capital.
President Joe Biden in 2021 signed a memo that committed the U.S. to the promotion of LGBTQ+ and intersex rights abroad as part of his administration’s overall foreign policy. State Department spokesperson Ned Price, who is openly gay, in a previous interview with the Blade noted the decriminalization of consensual same-sex sexual relations is a priority under this directive.
Four men linked to targeting Grindr users in South Africa arrested
Advocacy organizations have welcomed arrests
JOHANNESBURG — Access Chapter 2 and the Triangle Project are two of the South African LGBTQ+ and intersex rights organizations that have welcomed the arrest of four men who authorities say used Grindr to extort and victimize LGBTQ+ and intersex South Africans.
Brigadier Athlenda Mathe, a spokesperson for the Gauteng Police, said a 26-year-old man “who had been chatting to one of the suspects” on Feb. 13 “was lured to an area where he was hijacked, kidnapped and robbed of his personal belongings, including bank cards.”
“The suspects proceeded to make several purchases with the victim’s bank cards,” noted Mathe. “When the matter was reported to the Mondeor Police Station, the anti-kidnapping task team operationalized information and swooped on the four men who were meeting at the restaurant on the same day of the kidnapping.”
In response to the recent developments, Access Chapter 2 spokesperson Mpho Buntse said the organization commended the arrest by the South African Police Service.
“AC2 would like to take this opportunity to congratulate SAPS (South African Police Service) for the groundbreaking arrest of the terror-striking and so-called Grindr gang,” said Access Chapter 2.
Access Chapter 2 noted in 2022 it “kick-started a campaign to highlight the persistent cases of kidnapping, extortion and robbery in the hands of a group of Johannesburg men who used Grindr to lure gay men across the Gauteng province.”
“We are excited that this arrest may bring some form of justice and recourse for many victims and survivors,” said Access Chapter 2. “These incidents have instilled fear among users of the app, as a result, rang a terror alarm among the 2SLGBTQIA+ community. Although this arrest may signal some victory, we are still committed to working with SAPS to ensure that no other groups will emerge. We continue to urge the community to come forward should there be any similar incidents in the future.”
Thabo Ndlovu, 33, Ndumiso Mahlangu, 27, Sibusiso Tshabalala, 27 and Elson Nyati, 25, are the four men who have been arrested.
Buntse said Access Chapter 2 is “confident in the work of SAPS, as well as the judicial arm, in particular, the National Prosecuting Authority to ensure” the four men “are prosecuted and an exemplary precedence is set for future similar cases.”
We also call on Grindr to take a leap of responsibility in ensuring the safety of its users,” added Buntse.
The Washington Blade last August reported on a number of Grindr users who had been kidnapped.
One victim, Jake, told Exit, an LGBTQ+ and intersex newspaper, he agreed to meet a man he met on the gay hookup app at his home. Four men arrived and threatened to kill him if he didn’t give them money. Jake said the men released him six hours later after he paid them $600.
“We have always held a position that Grindr is a volatile space in itself and as much as people are free to engage in any digital space without fear or prejudice, we equally strongly advice that those that choose to use the space, do so with the highest caution and safety,” said Buntse. “Moreso, safety in South Africa is a matter of concern for everyone, every community, sector or wherever you may be at this juncture. So in essence, no one is feeling completely safe in South Africa. The overwhelming socioeconomic factors and the fact that we are the most unequal society in the world, are just some realities that lead to the high rates of violence and murders”
Ruth Maseko, convenor of the Triangle Project, nevertheless said Grindr was still one of the best dating apps and cited those who take advantage of the app should be prosecuted to the fullest.
“Some people may argue that apps like Grindr are an invitation to get hurt, but these apps provide freedom to many 2SLGBTQIA+ folk who cannot be out,” said Maseko. “They may have no other option to engage in socializing and finding friends who are part of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community. No matter what you think of Grindr, it is about finding connection and community. Those who are taking advantage of that and targeting the 2SLGBTQIA+ community are criminals. They are targeting an already vulnerable group who are susceptible to violence in South Africa every day.”
“Moreover, when it comes to the safety of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community, we unfortunately must be hyper vigilant,” added Maseko.
The Triangle Project offers these suggestions to hook up app users:
• Where possible try and get background information of the person you are meeting or hooking up with
• Tell a friend or family member about your date or party you will be attending
• There are apps where you can let a friend or family member track where you are
“2SLGBTQIA+ folk are also human beings, this means we have the right to safety and security as we navigate our lives,” said Maseko.
SAPS recently released its latest quarterly crime statistics which have left many scratching their heads.
South Africa between last October and December recorded 12,419 rapes and 7,555 murders with an average of 82 murders per day during that period.
Daniel Itai is the Washington Blade’s Africa Correspondent.
Church of England’s blessings of same-sex couples sparks anger among Anglican churches in Kenya, Uganda
Denominations consider breaking with mother church
KAMPALA, Uganda — The Church of England’s decision to allow clergy to bless same-sex marriages has angered the Anglican churches of Uganda and Kenya to the point that they are considering a total disassociation with it.
The Kenya and Uganda churches are now looking upon a conservative Anglican breakaway group — the Global Anglican Future Conference (Gafcon) — to which they also belong to give them direction on their association with their mother Church of England in April. Anglican Church of Uganda Archbishop Stephen Kaziimba revealed this while condemning the General Synod of the Church of England, its top governing body, for, in his words, embracing sin by recognizing homosexuality against God’s word.
Gafcon’s 4th conference will begin in Kigali, Rwanda, on April 17. More than 1,000 people, who include “Bible-believing” archbishops, bishops and Anglicans from across the world are expected to attend.
The General Synod, which comprises hundreds of elected members who meet at least two times a year, on Feb. 9 supported the proposal for priests to bless gay couples. Two hundred and fifty bishops, clearly and lay people voted for it, while 181 opposed it and 10 abstained.
The meeting took place in London.
“The Church of Uganda has more than 200 members traveling to Kigali in April,” Kaziimba said. “We shall pray, sit together and discern the mind of Christ for the way forward. We need the wisdom of Solomon to know how to faithfully respond to the crisis at hand.”
Kaziimba through his press statement in response to the Church of England’s decision demands it to abandon the Anglican Communion and form a Canterbury Communion with other liberal Anglican churches that include the Episcopal Church in the U.S. and others in Brazil, Scotland and Canada.
All country Anglican churches have the freedom of conducting their affairs independently.
The Anglican Church of Uganda started to distance itself from the fellowship of the Church of England when the Episcopal Church in 2003 consecrated now retired New Hampshire Bishop V. Gene Robinson, who is openly gay. The Archbishop of Canterbury refused to take any disciplinary action against the Episcopal Church, which led to Gafcon’s emergence in 2008.
Kaziimba accuses the Church of England of departing from the Anglican faith and turning into “false teachers” by condoning same-sex marriages, while noting the Bible only recognizes marriage as between a man and a woman.
Archbishop Foley Beach, who chairs Gafcon, in a statement also criticized the Church of England and called for Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby’s resignation for breaking his vows to forbid “all erroneous and strange doctrine contrary to God’s word” in the church.
“This decision by the Church of England raises questions regarding the relationship of Anglican Provinces around the world with the Church of England and the continued role of the Archbishop of Canterbury,” Beach stated.
He noted that “we shall have more to say and do about these matters” in the Kigali conference.
The Anglican Church of Kenya Archbishop Jackson Ole Sapit also criticized the Church of England’s decision of blessing gay couples as “devious.”
He noted the liberal Anglican churches have lost all theological and doctrinal legitimacy and have resorted to using their political dominance to secularize the church by normalizing all manner of sin.
“It is ridiculous that the Church of England affirms to remain faithful to the traditional teachings of marriage yet it has sanctioned the so-called prayers of love to be used in its churches to bless unions between persons of the same sex,” Sapit said.
He warned what he described as political and secular correctness that exists in liberal Anglican churches only seeks to undermine the true Gospel, thereby rendering them irrelevant after losing their church identity.
Sapit maintained the Anglican Church of Kenya recognizes marriage as the union between a “man and a woman, monogamous and heterosexual.” He added that any deviation from this Godly union is sinful and unacceptable.
“If there are people who are not called to marriage and are faithful followers of Christ, let them embrace celibacy, and live a life obedient to the teachings of the bible as they so profess to believe in,” Sapit said.
Kenya and Uganda criminalize consensual same-sex sexual relations. The churches have been at the forefront of supporting these laws.
For instance, Kaziimba on Feb. 13 challenged Ugandan lawmakers not to relent in the fight against homosexuality in order to protect the country’s morality.
His comments come against the backdrop of plans to introduce a new bill in the Ugandan Parliament that seeks to further curtail homosexuality by criminalizing LGBTQ and intersex organizations and activities in the country. Uganda’s NGO Bureau, which monitors NGOs that operate in the country, last month recommended a new law that “prohibits the promotion of LGBTQ activities in the country.”
Kenya cracks down on youth books with gay-specific themes
Nairobi bookstore ordered to stop selling ‘What’s happening to me?’ from UK
NAIROBI, Kenya — The Kenyan government is cracking down on foreign books with gay content that it feels targets teenagers.
This crackdown follows a public outcry from parents with school-age children and religious officials who are demanding the government to do a thorough audit of books in the market and ban the ones with gay content.
Text Book Centre, one of Kenya’s leading bookstores in Nairobi, was ordered to stop selling a controversial teen book from a renowned British publisher that specializes in children’s books.
“What’s happening to me?” by Usborne publishers sparked outrage among those who feel it lures male teens into LGBTQ+ practices that are illegal.
“It is about a month since we removed the book from our shelves and returned it to the warehouse after the retail manager received an order from the U.K. manager,” a manager at Text Book Centre confirmed to the Washington Blade.
Part of the book states “it isn’t unusual to fancy someone the same sex as you when you’re growing up.” It adds, “Usually people go on to have stronger feelings for the opposite sex, but this doesn’t always happen.”
The book further states that “it’s possible to fancy both boys and girls” and then it defines lesbian and gay dating.
A group of Christian, Muslim and Hindu clerics earlier this month issued a joint statement that asked President William Ruto and his government to protect teens from so-called same-sex doctrine through books from Western countries.
“We will defend the defensible moral rectitude acceptable by the majority, and frown upon any socialization that raises a mortal threat,” reads part of the statement issued on Feb. 2.
“We cannot close our eyes to the incontrovertible fact that this slice of Western liberalism is a Trojan horse which will lead to the destruction of the family unit,” it adds. “We cannot christen evil as LGBTQ rights so that it can be embraced.”
The country’s penal code outlaws same-sex relations with a jail term of 14 years for “carnal knowledge against the order of nature” under Section 162. Section 165 proscribes a five-year prison term for “indecent practices between males.”
The clerics asked the police to install reporting desks in stations that would allow the public to report what they describe as suspected cases of minors “being recruited” to become LGBTQ+ and to have those responsible punished.
“If we freely and openly embrace LGBTQ as the diversity of sexuality and identity, we will soon find ourselves accepting bestiality on the same grounds,” reads the statement.
The clerics stated at the time the teachers’ employer fired six elementary school teachers who were captured on camera forcing male students to “engage in indecent/inappropriate acts depicting homosexuality within the school compound” as punishment. The teachers were subsequently charged with breaching the school’s code of conduct and ethics guidelines.
A senior official from Kenya’s Education Ministry who was not authorized to speak to the press questioned how the children’s books with LGBTQ+ content were stocked in bookshops against the country’s norms and laws.
“The person who ordered the books should have been arrested. Bookshops should strictly stick to the existing rules of operation,” the official said.
He stated that Ruto’s government has already affirmed the position of his predecessor, Uhuru Kenyatta, to not bow to pressure from Western countries to decriminalize consensual same-sex sexual relations.
Ruto during an interview with CNN last September as president-elect maintained that focusing on LGBTQ+ issues was like creating a “mountain out of a molehill” since it was not a big issue for Kenyans.
KICD, Kenya’s agency that is responsible for approving curriculum books, noted the proliferation of foreign materials including children’s books into the country’s open market with poor control regulations putting buyers at risk of consuming restricted information.
“We are not law enforcers instead it is only the police who can apprehend the culprits behind the LGBTQ materials to children after being reported by parents. Regulation of such foreign content is the weakness we are grappling with,” KICD Communications Manager Erick Omulo said.
Omulo noted there should be enough tough regulations to limit the flooding of book content that violates Kenyan laws into the market.
Apart from Kenya cracking down on teen books with same-sex content, the government last September revealed it was in talks with Netflix to ban the streaming of LGBTQ+ movies.
“Usborne is one of the world’s leading independent children’s book publishers,” Usborne Head of Publicity Fritha Lindqvist told the Blade in an emailed statement. “We have over 3,000 books available in the English language, aiming to cover all subjects for all ages, from which customers around the world select the titles that work best for their market. All Usborne books are written in an age-appropriate way by experts in writing for children.”
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