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Museveni signs Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act

Law calls for death penalty for ‘aggravated homosexuality’

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Uganda President Yoweri Museveni (Photo courtesy of the State Department)

KAMPALA, Uganda — Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni on Monday signed his country’s Anti-Homosexuality Act into law.

MPs in March approved the Anti-Homosexuality Act, but Museveni on April 20 sent it back to Parliament for additional consideration.

Lawmakers earlier this month once again approved the measure without provisions that would have required Ugandans to “report acts of homosexuality” and would have not criminalized LGBTQ+ people simply because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. The second version of the Anti-Homosexuality Act that MPs passed calls for the death penalty for anyone found guilty of “aggravated homosexuality.” 

“As the Parliament of Uganda, we have answered the cries of our people. We have legislated to protect the sanctity of family as per Article 31 of the Constitution of Uganda,” said Ugandan Parliament Speaker Anita Among in a statement after Museveni signed the bill. “We have stood strong to defend our culture and aspirations of our people as per objectives 19 and 24 of national objectives and directive principles of state policy.”

Jacqueline Kasha Nabagesara, a Ugandan LGBTQ+ and intersex activist, described Museveni’s decision to sign the Anti-Homosexuality Act as a “dark day for human rights of LGBTQIA+ and allies.”

Human Rights Campaign President Kelley Robinson in a statement condemned the law.

“This new law to restrict the rights of LGBTQ+ Ugandans is by far the most horrific display of bigotry we have seen in recent memory in Uganda, and in all of Africa,” said Robinson. “The Ugandan Parliament should be ashamed of themselves for considering this draconian law that erases the internationally recognized rights of LGBTQ+ Ugandans, and President Museveni should be condemned for not using the full power of his position to stop it. We at the Human Rights Campaign stand in solidarity with human rights defenders and the LGBTQ+ community in Uganda.”

The U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, UNAIDS and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria in a joint statement said they “are deeply concerned about the harmful impact of the Ugandan Anti-Homosexuality Act 2023 on the health of its citizens and its impact on the AIDS response that has been so successful up to now.”

“Uganda’s progress on its HIV response is now in grave jeopardy,” reads the statement. “The Anti-Homosexuality Act 2023 will obstruct health education and the outreach that can help end AIDS as a public health threat. The stigma and discrimination associated with the passage of the act has already led to reduced access to prevention as well as treatment services. Trust, confidentiality and stigma-free engagement are essential for anyone seeking health care. LGBTQI+ people in Uganda increasingly fear for their safety and security, and increasing numbers of people are being discouraged from seeking vital health services for fear of attack, punishment and further marginalization.”

Museveni, with the support of anti-LGBTQ+ evangelicals from the U.S., in 2014 signed a version of the Anti-Homosexuality Act that 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.

The U.S. last month postponed a meeting on the PEPFAR’s work in Uganda in order to assess the potential impact the Anti-Homosexuality Act will have on it. Jessica Stern, the special U.S. envoy for the promotion of LGBTQ+ and intersex rights, and other American officials have said the Biden-Harris administration is considering “the potential impact of the Anti-Homosexuality Act on U.S. foreign assistance.” 

“The United States is deeply troubled by Uganda’s passage of the Anti-Homosexuality Act, a law that undermines the human rights, prosperity and welfare of all Ugandans,” said Secretary of State Antony Blinken in a statement. “Uganda’s failure to safeguard the human rights of LGBTQI+ persons is part of a broader degradation of human rights protections that puts Ugandan citizens at risk and damages the country’s reputation as a destination for investment, development, tourism and refugees.”

Blinken said the U.S. “urges the government of Uganda to refrain from implementing laws that undermine human rights.”

“In the context of the serious concerns conveyed by President Biden, I am announcing today that the Department of State will develop mechanisms to support the rights of LGBTQI+ individuals in Uganda and to promote accountability for Ugandan officials and other individuals responsible for, or complicit in, abusing their human rights,” added Blinken. “I have also directed the department to update our travel guidance to American citizens and to U.S. businesses as well as to consider deploying existing visa restrictions tools against Ugandan officials and other individuals for abuse of universal human rights, including the human rights of LGBTQI+ persons.”

Nabagesera and Sexual Minorities Uganda Executive Director Frank Mugisha are among those who challenged the Anti-Homosexuality Act in the Ugandan Constitutional Court after Museveni signed it.

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LGBTQ+ Congolese in Kamituga under attack

Advocacy group says gangs, young people target community members

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Congolese flag (Photo by Baloncici/Bigstock)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Opposition MP Peter Kaluma was not part of original case

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Kenyan flag (Photo by rarrarorro/Bigstock)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anti-LGBTQ+ crackdown continues, MPs challenge PEPFAR funding

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Anti-LGBTQ+ Ugandan pastor defends Anti-Homosexuality Act

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

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Martin Ssempa (Screen capture via NTVUganda YouTube)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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LGBTQ+, intersex Indians hope marriage equality will spur family acceptance

Familial rejection has spurred same-sex couples to die by suicide

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People for Change founder Souvik Saha. (Photo courtesy of Saha)

NEW DELHI — As LGBTQ+ and intersex Indians continue to eagerly await a ruling from the country’s Supreme Court on whether same-sex couples can legally marry; they must still confront a lack of acceptance from their families and from society-at-large.

A lesbian couple in Gujarat state in January 2018 died by suicide when they jumped into a river. They left a chilling suicide note behind.

“We have left this world to live with each other,” the note left by Asha and Bhavna Thakor read. “The world did not allow us to stay together. We did not have any men with us. This world did not allow us to stay together. When will we meet again? When will we meet … perhaps in the next birth we will meet again.”

Another chilling incident took place in West Bengal state in 2011. 

A lesbian couple, Swapna Mondol and Sujata Mondol was found dead in a rice paddy near a village. After two years together, villagers found out about their love for each other and ordered the girls to stay away from each other. Their families also tried to separate them. 

Sujata Mondol’s parents married her off to an engineer, but she stayed in contact with Swapna Mondol. A local police report notes the couple took poison when they met again after Sujata Mondol’s husband left. 

Souvik Saha, an LGBTQ+ activist and founder of People for Change, told the Washington Blade that marriage equality can influence families to be more accepting, but some of them may still struggle.

“Support networks and resources for families to understand and embrace their LGBTQ+ members will continue to be essential,” said Saha “Extend outreach efforts to regions where acceptance might be slower to come. Collaborate with local organizations, community leaders and activists to foster understanding and acceptance.”

Saha talked about the pending Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling and said a decision in favor of marriage rights for same-sex couples would mark a significant milestone in the fight for LGBTQ+ and intersex rights in the country. Saha added there are several important next steps to consider.

“Even after a positive verdict, there might still be misconceptions and lack of awareness about LGBTQ rights. Continue to conduct awareness campaigns, workshops and seminars to educate the public about the implications of the verdict and the broader LGBTQ rights movement,” said Saha. “Strengthen support systems for LGBTQ individuals, especially those who might face backlash or discrimination from their families or communities. Offer counseling, mental health services and safe spaces to help individuals navigate challenges that might arise post-verdict.”

Saha told the Blade that cultural sensitivity in the country needs to be taken into account if the Supreme Court rules in favor of marriage equality. He said monitoring the verdict’s implementation and its impact on the ground is essential.

“Holding institutions accountable for any failures in upholding the rights granted by the verdict,” said Saha. “Provide legal assistance to LGBTQ couples who may face challenges related to documentation, inheritance rights and other legal aspects that might arise due to the new legal status of their marriages.”

Shyam Konnur, managing director of Pune-based Mist LGBTQ Foundation, agreed the marriage equality ruling will have a big impact in India. 

Konnur said the decision would open more doors, build hope within the community and encourage more queer people to be free, which in turn, would help in creating more awareness and allow NGOs to do more in terms of creating a safer environment for LGBTQ+ and intersex Indians. Konnur, however, said it is not enough.

“I believe that marriage equality is just the start,” said Konnur. “The LGBTQ community in India doesn’t have any rights that other citizens enjoy. Whether or not the marriage equality case is in our favor, I believe we need to fight for non-discriminatory laws for the LGBTQ community. Every day we hear about a case where an LGBTQ person is denied of something just because they belong to the community.”

Konnur noted India’s LGBTQ+ and intersex community fights discrimination based on their gender expression every day in terms of how they dress, and pointed out legal assistance remains out of reach for most of them. The lack of mental health support tailored to queer people, along with navigating the country’s health care system and finding a gender-neutral restroom they can use without harassment are additional hurdles. 

Ankush Kumar is a freelance reporter who has covered many stories for Washington and Los Angeles Blades from Iran, India and Singapore. He recently reported for the Daily Beast. He can be reached at [email protected]. He is on Twitter at @mohitkopinion

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More than 200 people arrested at gay wedding in Nigeria

Authorities paraded detainees in front of journalists

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(Bigstock photo)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Man charged with ‘aggravated homosexuality’ in Uganda could face death penalty

Country’s president signed Anti-Homosexuality Act on May 29

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Ugandan flag (Image by rarrarorro/Bigstock)

KAMPALA, Uganda — A 20-year-old man in Uganda who has been charged with “aggravated homosexuality” could face the death penalty.

Reuters reported authorities on Aug. 18 charged the man after he “performed unlawful sexual intercourse” with a 41-year-old man. A spokesperson for Uganda’s Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions during an interview with Reuters confirmed the charge is a “capital offense.”

President Yoweri Museveni on May 29 signed the country’s Anti-Homosexuality Act, which contains the death penalty provision for “aggravated homosexuality.”

The U.S. in June imposed visa restrictions on Ugandan officials.

The World Bank Group earlier this month announced the suspension of new loans to Uganda. Museveni, for his part, in an open letter to Ugandans cites the “provocations by the World Bank and the thoughtless homosexual lobby” and said they “should not provoke us into being, automatically, anti-Western.”

Police in Buikwe, a town that is roughly 35 miles east of Kampala, the Ugandan capital, on Aug. 20 arrested four people who allegedly engaged in “acts of homosexuality” at a local massage parlor.

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Zimbabwean advocacy groups seek inclusion in country’s elections

Ruling ZANU-PF opposes decriminalization

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Zimbabwean flag (Image by rarrarorro/Bigstock)

HARARE, Zimbabwe — On the eve of Zimbabwe’s general elections that took place on Wednesday, the country’s LGBTQ+ and intersex rights groups for the first time has called for their inclusion in the political process.

The manifesto highlights the main issues facing LGBTQ+ and intersex Zimbabweans and offers policy proposals aimed at addressing them.

“It is grounded in the principles of human rights and seeks to promote and protect the rights of LGBTQ individuals in Zimbabwe. The manifesto is the result of a consultative process that involved engagement with the LGBTQ community, and the Zimbabwe LGBTQ sector parties among other civil society organizations. It is evidence-based and reflects the needs and concerns of the community,” it reads.

“Work towards implementing policies and proposals that address the priority issues identified by the LGBTIQ community, and ensuring that the human rights of all individuals, including the LGBTQ community, are protected and respected is vital,” it adds. “There is also a need to ensure that there is accountability for any instances of discrimination or violence against LGBTQ individuals during the electoral process, and lastly, there is a need to engage in ongoing consultations with LGBTQ organizations and other stakeholders to ensure that the needs and concerns of the community are being addressed.” 

The Zimbabwean Constitution does not specifically recognize same-sex relations, but they are not criminalized unless a person is caught engaging in sexual activities with a person of the same sex. The government and Zimbabwean society in general, however, continues to treat LGBTQ+ and intersex people as outcasts.  

The country’s governing ZANU-PF party, which has led the country since Zimbabwe won its independence from the U.K. in 1980, has remained against the decriminalization of consensual same-sex sexual relations. The 11 presidential candidates who ran have not mentioned LGBTQ+ and intersex Zimbabweans or their rights.

The Washington Blade reached out to Fadzai Mahere, spokesperson for the Citizens Coalition for Change, and Elisabeth Valerio, leader of the United Zimbabwe Alliance, for comment, but they did not respond.

Community Voice Zimbabwe, a civic organization, says LGBTQ+ and intersex Zimbabweans are determined to make their voices heard in the election and push for change.

“The election manifesto serves as a comprehensive blueprint to tackle key areas where the LGBTQI community faces challenges, ranging from political violence and discrimination in the community,” said the group. “In Zimbabwe, the LGBTQI community is widely stigmatized and seen as a violation of cultural and religious norms. Some people view LGBTQI as a culture imported from Western countries and is a taboo to the morals, and values of the African culture. The history of the LGBTQI community in Zimbabwe is characterized and marred by violence and discrimination which has been attributed to the political discourse of the country.” 

Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe, another advocacy group that signed the manifesto, said it is important LGBTQ+ and intersex people and their concerns are heard.

“The Zimbabwe LGBTQ General Elections Manifesto has been developed particularly to provide a platform for the community to express their priorities and expectations from government and political parties regarding LGBTQ issues,” said GALZ. “There is also a need to ensure that there is accountability for any instances of discrimination or violence against LGBTQ individuals during the electoral process, and lastly, there is a need to engage in ongoing consultations with LGBTQ organizations and other stakeholders to ensure that the needs and concerns of the community are being addressed.”

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission has yet to release the election results.

The Associated Press on Friday reported opposition and human rights groups have alleged President Emmerson Mnangagwa and the ZANU-PF party have sought to intimidate voters and carried out acts of violence.

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Four arrested for ‘acts of homosexuality’ in Uganda

Country’s president signed Anti-Homosexuality Act in May

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Ugandan flag (Image by rarrarorro/Bigstock)

BUIKWE, Uganda — The Washington Blade has confirmed media reports that indicate Ugandan authorities have arrested four people who allegedly engaged in same-sex sexual activity.

NTV Uganda, a Ugandan television station, published a report from Agence France-Presse that quotes a police spokesperson who says authorities in Buikwe on Sunday arrested “four people, including two women” at a massage parlor.

Buikwe is roughly 35 miles east of Kampala, the Ugandan capital.

“The police operation was carried out following a tip-off by a female informant to the area security that acts of homosexuality were being carried out at the massage parlor,” the police spokeswoman told NTV Uganda.

The Anti-Homosexuality Act that President Yoweri Museveni signed on May 29 contains a death penalty provision for “aggravated homosexuality.”

The U.S. in June imposed visa restrictions on Ugandan officials.

The World Bank Group earlier this month announced the suspension of new loans to Uganda. Museveni, for his part, in an open letter to Ugandans cites the “provocations by the World Bank and the thoughtless homosexual lobby” and said they “should not provoke us into being, automatically, anti-Western.”

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Advocacy groups: Ethiopian government’s anti-gay rhetoric spurs social media attacks

TikTok videos target LGBTQ, intersex people in African country

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Ethiopian flag (Image by rarrarorro/Bigstock)

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia — An advocacy group in Ethiopia has sharply criticized government institutions for homophobic statements they say have spurred online attacks against LGBTQ+ and intersex people.

The Addis Ababa Culture, Arts and Tourism Bureau on Aug. 5 released a statement that condemned acts of same-sex relations.

The statement cited reports of people engaging in same-sex relations, including public displays of affection, at restaurants and hotels in Addis Ababa, the country’s capital. The Addis Ababa Culture, Arts and Tourism Bureau reiterated consensual same-sex sexual relations violate the country’s cultural values and the majority of Ethiopians find them disrespectful. Ethiopian police also urged members of the public to report anyone who engages in same-sex relations, citing they go against social values.

House of Guramayle, an Ethiopian LGBTQ+ and intersex rights group that operates outside the country, said LGBTQ+ and intersex Ethiopians have been attacked on TikTok and other social media platforms since the police and the Addis Ababa Culture, Arts and Tourism Bureau made their comments.

House of Guramayle has documented more than a dozen TikTok videos with pictures of people who are identified as LGBTQ+ or intersex. These videos have emerged against the backdrop of those who encourage Ethiopians to beat, burn and kill LGBTQ+ and intersex people.

“In a dramatic expansion of the threat of violence; there have also been calls to kill, burn, and beat up families of those of who are openly LGBTQIA+ and live abroad in order to make their families understand the deep shame and wound that Ethiopian homophobes in the diaspora feel due to the outspokenness of those openly LGBTQIA+ individuals,” reads a statement that House of Guramayle issued this week. “While similar increases in attacks against LGBTQIA+ communities are being reported by human rights organizations in other parts of the African continent, the escalation in Ethiopia is especially concerning due to the country’s religious history, current worsening socio-political climate and growing nationalism. The topic of LGBTQIA+ rights has recently been sensationalized, with vitriolic opposition and scapegoating spreading around the country and the diaspora at an alarming rate.”

The Africa Queer Network, another LGBTQ+ and intersex rights organization, echoed House of Guramayle and urged the Ethiopian government to protect LGBTQ+ and intersex people from mob attacks.

The Ethiopian Constitution guarantees the right to equality and recognizes the importance of protecting human rights. It clearly states all people shall be equal under the law and are entitled to equal protection without distinction of any kind related to race, nation, nationality, color, sex, language, religion, political or social origin, property, birth or any other status. The country, however, continues to stigmatize, discriminate against and criminalize LGBTQ+ and intersex people.

Ethiopia’s criminal code defines marriage as a legal contract or as an engagement between a man and a woman and sees other forms of relations as illegal. Consensual same-sex sexual relations under this law are punishable by up to 15 years in prison — up to 25 years incarceration if an offender use violence, intimidation or coercion, fraud or takes advantage of a person who is unable to resist.

A recent study found 97 percent of Ethiopians believe homosexuality is a “very harmful way of life that society should not accept” and anyone in a same-sex relationship should be punished. Many LGBTQ+ and intersex Ethiopians are therefore forced to live in hiding because even talking about who they are is dangerous.

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Africa

New World Bank loans to Uganda suspended

Country’s president in May signed Anti-Homosexuality Act

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LGBTQ+ and intersex activists protest in front of the Ugandan Embassy in D.C. on April 25, 2023. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

WASHINGTON — The World Bank Group on Tuesday announced it has suspended new loans to Uganda in response to the country’s Anti-Homosexuality Act.

“Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act fundamentally contradicts the World Bank Group’s values. We believe our vision to eradicate poverty on a livable planet can only succeed if it includes everyone irrespective of race, gender or sexuality,” reads a statement the World Bank released. “This law undermines those efforts. Inclusion and non-discrimination sit at the heart of our work around the world.”

“Immediately after the law was enacted, the World Bank deployed a team to Uganda to review our portfolio in the context of the new legislation,” it says. “That review determined additional measures are necessary to ensure projects are implemented in alignment with our environmental and social standards. Our goal is to protect sexual and gender minorities from discrimination and exclusion in the projects we finance. These measures are currently under discussion with the authorities.”

The statement notes “no new public financing to Uganda will be presented to our Board of Executive Directors until the efficacy of the additional measures has been tested.”

“Third-party monitoring and grievance redress mechanisms will significantly increase, allowing us to take corrective action as necessary,” reads the statement. “The World Bank Group has a longstanding and productive relationship with Uganda; and we remain committed to helping all Ugandans — without exception — escape poverty, access vital services and improve their lives.”

The law that President Yoweri Museveni signed on May 29 contains a death penalty provision for “aggravated homosexuality.”

A press release the World Bank issued in 2020 notes it “has provided more than $10 billion in financing” to Uganda since 1963. 

The Human Rights Campaign and the Council for Global Equality are among the more than 100 advocacy groups that had urged the World Bank to suspend loans to Uganda. Nearly a dozen members of Congress last week reiterated this demand in a letter they sent to World Bank President Ajay Banga. 

The State Department in June announced the U.S. had imposed visa restrictions against Ugandan officials.

Then-World Bank President Jim Yong Kim in 2014 postponed a $90 million loan to the Ugandan government in response to Museveni’s decision to sign a version of the Anti-Homosexuality Act that did not contain a death penalty provision. (The Constitutional Court later struck down the law on a technicality.) 

Kim’s decision to postpone the loan without first consulting the World Bank board sparked widespread criticism among board members. Advocacy groups had asked the World Bank not to fund future projects in Uganda, but they did not ask for the cancellation of existing loans.

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